More and more health food blogs are popping up that tout the benefits of a primal or Paleo diet. What exactly is a Paleo Diet? Well, the easiest way to decipher what it is is to call it the caveman diet. Some of them even appear to want to club their veggie eating neighbors over the heads with a drumstick.
The basic idea is that we need to eat what cavemen ate before modern inventions like farming and food processing. So they eat fish, lean meats, eggs, nuts, fruit, greens, and seeds. They do not eat grains, legumes, dairy, bread, and processed foods. Overall I think the paleo diet is a million times more healthful than the SAD. It has many ideas that I already see value in due to my love of an even MORE primal diet, raw foods… no dairy, no grains, no legumes, but also no meat. That said though I think the paleo/caveman ideal is a bit false because it relies heavily on meat and certainly cavemen did not have meat on the menu every night seeing as how they had to catch and kill it. During warmer weather I am sure they would have much preferred to sit back and munch on fruits and nuts rather than go chasing after a wild animal. So it seems in my mind that meat may have been on the menu but not as the main course, especially when plant based foods were prevalent. And while they did eat lean meats they also ate WILD game… not pastured chicken and cows. Although I have seen some paleo diet enthusiasts proclaim they only eat wild game like elk, turkey, moose, buffalo, etc. I see some holes in the logic but I cannot deny that compared to what we see around us today it is a very healthy way to eat.
The paleo diet often has to defend itself against the raw foodies who declare their way of eating is even more primal. I would tend to side with the raw foodists. If we are the products of evolution and we evolved from primates… they are primarily raw vegans. If we are the products of creation than there is also a good Biblical case for the fact that we were intended to eat as herbivores.
I have also seen the argument that the paleo diet is more planet friendly than that of vegetarians and vegans but I see some problems with this argument. First because it assumes that vegetarians and vegans support mass agriculture of grains and legumes, which do negatively impact soil. But there are PLENTY veg enthusiasts that don't eat any of those things. Also let's not forget that much of the grains, corn, and soy that are being produced today are actually being grown as feed for livestock that can then be turned into meat. Its not the vegetarians and vegans growing all those crops! Paleo enthusiasts will then remind you they support grass fed livestock but any large scale livestock operation, even if it is grass fed, has environmental issues… top soil is eroded, trees are stripped away to make pastures, and mass amounts of waste can't be disposed of properly, etc.
Some paleo eaters also assume that vegetarians and vegans endorse plant only agricultural systems but actually I have been raw, vegan, vegetarian inclined for a couple years and I don't think that way at all. Even if we don't consume "meat" many would still raise chickens for eggs and sell or use chicken manure for crops. Others would raise cows for milk and cheese and use or sell the cow manure for crops. Others still would raise beneficial animals for their own enjoyment… like horses and goats. Everyone is so black and white about everything and a lot of assumptions are made all around when they should be agreeing that plant and animal farm operations are equally bad when they get huge in scale and the smaller, family farm model is what needs to make a comeback. It is often grudgingly admitted that a true paleo diet is not sustainable for the current population. I have actually read on several paleo blogs that their ideal is to eliminate all farming and let the population reduce itself (aka let people starve and die) so that we can get back to a true hunter gatherer society.
Overall I like what the paleo diet is all about I just wish that the more vocal supporters weren't so militant about their meat and about telling everyone that you NEED it to survive. That is just silliness IMO. But getting back to the basics is always a good thing and that is essentially what the paleo diet is about, getting closer to what we ate BEFORE farming and getting closer to what we should be eating as a species.
Also there are the popular Paleo Cookbooks.
Are you familiar with the paleo diet? What are your thoughts?
Tuesday, January 19th, 2010