Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why I have issues with the Paleo hype

When ever any of my friends or family get excited about a subject, I want to learn as much as I can about it. So, let the research of Paleo begin.
First of all though, I will tell you the way I eat (most of the time). I do not eat Zone or Paleo. The approach I started to follow for the last few months is that laid out in the book "In Defense of Food". It is a simple set of rules to follow. Those rules are: Eat food, mostly green, not too much. What Pollan (the author) means by "eat food" is that we eat a lot of "food like substances," not real food. We as Americans consume things that are no longer the products of nature but the products of food science.

This philosophy is not too far from the Zone diet. It just isn't measured out. Paleo also follows the rule of eating natural, which is good. I credit this way of eating with my increased energy and my lack of tummy issues. If I had not greatly reduced my grain intake I would have never figured out that I have an intolerance to barley. I definitely needed to up my protein intake. I would go days with out eating any meat at all. I could eat nothing but side items and be happy. Hell, I could live off of mashed potatoes and soft rolls and be content. I would be sickly and would eventually die of scurvy but it would be a happy death.

So, why don't I buy the Paleo diet? First of all, I ave issues with anything that claims to solve all of our ailments in a single bound. web site claims that it can help:
Arthritis and Joint Pain
Autoimmune Diseases
Cholesterol and Blood Chemistry
Fitness and Athletic Performance
Headaches and Migraines
Inflammation, Arthritis, and Joints
Intestinal Disease and IBS
Menstrual Cramps
Multiple Sclerosis
Prader-Willi Syndros

Then there is the contradiction with its claim that we need to eat more meat and to stay away from grain (like rice) entirely to be healthy and all of Asia. The Asian approach is to use meat more as a garnish then the main event. In fact the Japanese have often been sited as having the healthiest diets on earth. Japan’s population has the lowest level of obesity in the developed world and people tend to live longer than any other country.

Then there is the latest study to come out in the Archives of Internal Medicine. They found that "the consumption of red and processed meat is associated with a modest increase in overall mortality, as well as cancer and cardiovascular mortality in both men and women," says study researcher Rashmi Sinha, PhD, a senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute. These were not people who ate all red meat. These were average American ages 50 to 70. The study advises an average daily limit of about 19 grams (0.7 ounces) of red meat for women, or 25 grams (almost an ounce) for men. Why do I bring this up you ask, because they tend to dismiss vegetarians and vegans.

Most vegetarians, as Dori said, do it for moral reasons. I know that I do not eat cows, sheep, pigs, octopus, etc. for that reason. It is just an added perk that it appears to help my health.

So, what do I take away from my research? Just eat smart. You know what you should and should not eat and a box of Kraft macaroni and (pretend) cheese with a Big Mac isn't it.

1 comment:

  1. Bea-

    Good news! You can have your cake and eat it too!! Just kidding—the Paleo Gods say, “NO CAKE!” BUT-- you CAN keep your views on food and follow the Paleo Diet. I know you stated that you’ve just begun your research, but I’ve been there and done that—so here is my two cents…

    First—the “acceptable foods” on the Paleo Diet are about as REAL as they come. You are supposed to eat freely (but within reason) of lean meats, vegetables, some fruit, nuts/seeds, and gloriously delicious oils. I’m not sure if you can get more “REAL” than that. I tried to get more real once… but the living cow got pissed when I bit him…and I won’t make that mistake again.

    Second—the Paleo Diet does not, in any way, condone or encourage getting the majority of your calories from meat. In fact, it encourages that the bulk of your sustenance comes from vegetables. A lot of them. The book actually says FIVE POUNDS of veggies (and SOME fruit) per day. That is a lot of fucking vegetables. In addition, the book suggests you take Selenium as a vitamin because you will be eating LESS meat on this diet than the normal American diet. While Selenium is present in vegetables, the most concentrated food source for selenium is the Brazil nut; a single one contains 120 mcg, (which is about twice the RDA). Seafood in general, as well as poultry and meat, are also good sources. Because we are going to eat less meat, the authors suggest we supplement—they DON’T suggest we rage on a crazy amount of meat.

    Finally, I know that you don’t buy the idea of a cure-all diet. BUT if there was one to buy into, or at least give a chance—the Paleo would be the one. Think about what causes a lot of the ailments that we experience these days—being overweight can cause high blood pressure, diabetes, joint problems, heart disease, etc.. Why are we overweight? Lack of exercise plays a role, but diet is even more important. (Read more about this here: and check out the article written in TIMES magazine for 8/9) I don’t feel like pulling research on effects of diet on skin and the other things that you listed—but its there. Bottom line… eating healthy can’t HURT...right?

    As for me, I'm doing a 40 paleo/zone challenge...see you on the flip side ;)