Its not usually my thing to trash another’s work, but when I saw this article called “Don’t Eat Like a Caveman” by Melody Cherny on FoodSafetyNews.com, I felt that I needed to comment. And comment I did, although for some reason it didn’t get posted to the site. Coincidence?
I wasn’t the only one who thought this article required some form of comment. At current count there are 120 comments and the vast majority are taking Ms. Cherny to task about some aspect of Paleo she has wrong. There are also a few admirable “can’t we all get along?” comments that attempt to bring the Vegan and Paleo folks together. Indeed we have much in common. And as with any item on the web, there are the haters and trolls who poop on everything because they can.
I’m not going to do a point by point breakdown of the article, because many of the commenters have already done a better job than I would, and frankly anyone can find a study to back whatever point they’re trying to make. What I’d like to do is simply ask Ms. Cherny a couple basic questions and clarify a few points:
1. Do you really think the Paleolithic Diet is a fad?
Like many other misguided articles that paint the Paleo Diet in this way, they start out saying how much they agree with the reduction of processed foods, sugars, industrial seed oils, dairy and the focus on whole foods, but the authors get completely wrapped around the axel when it comes to the removal of grains and beans and the consumption of animal protein and saturated fat. This they cannot abide. Because of this, they say, the Paleo Diet is a “fad”, because EVERYONE knows that whole grains and beans are good for you and meat and fat are bad. Right?
Wrong. This “fad”, that more and more people are turning to every day, is an attempt to return to the diet humans have consumed for the 2 million years before the Agricultural Revolution, because that is how we evolved to eat. We were not vegetarians or vegans back then. Our ancestors who continued eating a plant based diet are still up in the trees. There are no ancestral or indigenous peoples who were vegetarian. Why do you think that is?
Oh and just because you cite other people who say its a fad, still doesn’t make it so.
2. If it is such a bad idea, why are so many vegetarians and vegans switching to a Paleo diet?
Because Paleo works! Many following the “fad” are former vegetarian and vegans who were not as healthy as they knew they should be. Indeed many folks who think they “eat healthy” (in the way you propose) are drastically overweight. Many are ill with chronic autoimmune conditions like Crohn’s, IBD, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Type-2 Diabetes which often times goes into remission when they switch to a Paleo Diet. Robb Wolf, author of The Paleo Solution, was vegan and was so sick with IBD he almost had to have a bowel resection. Guess what? It was those pesky grains and beans.
In addition, grains contain proteins and anti nutrients called Lectins that cause an inflammatory reaction in your gut and is the basis of gluten intolerance, Celiac and leaky gut syndrome. Gluten is one of these inflammatory proteins, perhaps you’ve heard of it? Check out this post on Mark’s Daily Apple for a more complete explanation. Beans have similar anti nutrients. While there may be ways to prepare and enjoy these foods (soaking, sprouting), hardly anybody does this and ultimately, why bother when you can get better nutrition from meat?
While whole grains and beans may be better for you than the garbage most Americans are eating on the SAD, they are not “essential” to a healthy diet. You may require them if you are not getting the essential nutrients found in animal fat and protein, but it is a poor substitute.
3. Carb O’ Load O’ Crap
The Paleo diet does NOT have a problem with ALL carbs as you suggest. There is a great variability in each individual’s carbohydrate tolerance. Some people who require more carbs to feel/perform better may include more in their diet, others may be very low carb or even ketogenic. Generally the carbs take the form of heaping amounts of non-starchy vegetables with the occasional sweet potato or other starch depending on the person and their needs. That said, refined carbs and sugars DO make you fat and are definitely out. More on that in “Why We Get Fat” by Gary Taubes.
4. Where’s the Fat?
You say that Paleo is a high protein diet, which is not actually true, but nowhere in your post do you mention fat. Paleo is actually more of a high fat, moderate protein, moderate – low carb diet. Good sources of fat (from pastured animals, coconut oil, pastured butter or ghee, olive oil, avocados, etc) are an incredibly important part of a Paleo diet. Interesting that you don’t even mention it.
Look, you have your opinion and I have mine (see blog title) but telling people not to go Paleo without fully understanding the basis of the diet, or the mechanisms behind obesity, or systemic inflammation and disease is just plain irresponsible. I recommend that YOU go Paleo for at least 30 days (see what happened to this reporter who did) and then take another crack at that article. Perhaps then we’ll hear a different opinion.
I look forward to it.