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  1. #1
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    Paleo diet - real or fantasy? From Scientic American

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    what did hunter gatherers REALLY eat?

    Interesting and thoughtful.
    I thought it was pretty balanced in observing the benefits of a healthy, less processed diet, while also examining the realities of what a real paleo diet might have looked like , and how healthy or not our prehistoric counterparts may have been.
    Last edited by Irulan; 06-11-2013 at 02:19 PM.
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  2. #2
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    I suppose you can't have a straw man without the grain the straw was threshed from...
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  3. #3
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    That IS a really interesting article. Thanks.
    "My predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved;I have been given much and I have given something in return...Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and an adventure." O. Sacks

  4. #4
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    Decent article but the problem is that a short article can never address all the issues. So, you get comments like Oak's. It is hard to say the article is battling strawmen when the diet is called paleo, and you can end up with arguments about what is the "one true paleo diet" much like arguing who is the one true Scotsman. After all, some are zealots. And some are not. But since a lot of the arguments concerning the diet are based on what people used to eat it is fair to talk about what people did in fact used to eat. Questions about adaptation to modern diets are often glossed over by the paleo proponents. Conclusions get drawn before there is evidence. Testimonials are used as if they are evidence. The paleo promoters have the burden of proof and they haven't met it for certain aspects of the diet, specifically, the prohibitions on dairy, beans and grains. Most people are not gluten intolerant, some are. If you are sensitive to gluten or have celiac disease, then don't eat wheat. If not, go ahead and eat wheat. It isn't poison. If you are lactose intolerant, treat it or avoid milk. Otherwise, show me the proof that milk products are bad. And no, the China study won't cut it.

    Humans evolved tremendous dietary flexibility. Dietary variances throughout the world likely show that there isn't one diet that works for all.
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  5. #5
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    I'm looking for what my ancestor, Beijing man, paleo era might have eaten.

    I nearly find it hard to believe that paleo didn't include some form of meat. Not surprising that Inuit diet would have been very meat based. Even now getting fresh veggies and fruit (cheaply, locally) is a (big) problem up North. Within the last 2 years, locals are trying community greenhouse,etc. This is the 21st century. We're still evolving.
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  6. #6
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    The paleo diet is very much meat based. However, it's supposed to be free range,grass fed, and organic etc as that is supposed to be closer to what Paleo man ate.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by shootingstar View Post
    I'm looking for what my ancestor, Beijing man, paleo era might have eaten.
    Well, those plants and animals don't exist any more than the contemporaneous European plants and animals do. That's the main point of the article (and the other article that made news last week, about how agriculture has bred all the nutrition out of food).

    I know this is of interest to archaeologists, and from an archaeological/anthropological standpoint it is interesting, but to me, from a dietary standpoint it has no more point than arguing about whether Dr Atkins's family changed the spelling of their name when they immigrated, or whether what's-her-face really killed the Scarsdale doctor.

    Much more interesting to me would be some discussion of the sustainability of a grain-free diet. It's unfortunate since my experience and, it seems, the personal experience of most everyone who's tried it, is that it feels much better to get most of your calories from vegetables, with some meat. And from an anthropological standpoint, it's undisputed that humans developed a lot of chronic illnesses at the same time they started eating grains. But the empty calories of grains are what allowed the population to explode, too. I have a feeling that there's no way the world's population could eat a reduced-grain diet, even if we all magically returned to an agrarian life. Which really does sharply accentuate the dietary differences between the haves and the have-nots. But it seems no one wants to talk about that angle.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Irulan View Post
    The paleo diet is very much meat based. However, it's supposed to be free range,grass fed, and organic etc as that is supposed to be closer to what Paleo man ate.
    For many of us it is more about the results rather than what Paleo man did, or didn't eat. When I dropped all grains/soy/preservatives out of my diet and focused on well sourced protein with organic veggies - almost all of my health issues disappeared and I feel great. For some it IS about what Paleo man ate - but personally I couldn't care less about that. What I DO care about are results. I do have to make decisions based on my budget of course, and have found local farmers that I get most of my meat and some veggies from. Not only is that keeping things local but I KNOW where my food came from I happen to like that quite a lot.

    Yes Oak, that is a hard topic. I am thankful to be in a position to have choices about what/how to eat - but so many do not.

  9. #9
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    I think a lot of it has to do with education and knowing what's available. A Big Mac Meal from McDonalds costs about $6.00. If you get 4 of those a week, you have paid for for the box of organic fruits and vegetables I get delivered. But, it also means you have to be willing to prep such things.

    I'm not a scientist; I don't generally read studies. I do know that 30 - 50 % of my students are overweight and will fail that portion of their 5th grade PE test. It's not a question of money because most of them have snacks every day. It's the quality of the snack. A bag of chips is highly satisfying to the child and makes life easy for the parents. I look at my own family and of my five siblings and my mom, only one other person is not on high blood pressure meds and all of them are carrying more weight than they should. My siblings are all financially able to eat better. One of my sisters insists that high blood pressure is genetic and I WILL get it. I was at the doctor Friday - 108/68. I thought that was pretty good.

    I try to do my part by educating my students. I have managed to convince a few over the years that it's important to pay attention to what you eat. This year I was thinking I might start doing monthly push up tests. That's another thing on their PE test. I'd also love to find time to do the mile run monthly. Weekly would be better... but I can't fit in all the academics as it is.

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  10. #10
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    I agree with Veronica. It's all about choices. Personally, I don't care what the caveman ate. It may sound simplistic, but I have experimented with many ways of eating over the years. And as Catrin said, it's all about results. I stopped eating junk food and processed stuff when I was 25 andf pretty much weigh the same as I did in high school at almost age 60. Other than that, first I ate mostly complex carbs and little meat. I was a vegetarian for awhile. I tried Paleo. It was hard for me, and I didn't feel any different. None of my health issues have changed, except when I cut down on my meat intake, my cholesterol goes down. Of course, I don't have high blood pressure or diabetes, so who knows. I find a Mediterranean type diet works best for me. I don't totally exclude meat, but in the past 4 months, since I stopped the Paleo, my weight has stabilized at a lower number and I don't feel deprived if I eat a piece of spelt bread or have some brown rice. I eat at least 2 meatless dinners a week and have red meat no more than 1x a week. I do eat plenty of chicken and fish.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Veronica View Post
    I think a lot of it has to do with education and knowing what's available. A Big Mac Meal from McDonalds costs about $6.00. If you get 4 of those a week, you have paid for for the box of organic fruits and vegetables I get delivered. But, it also means you have to be willing to prep such things.
    I was speaking more generally. I literally do not think there is enough arable land on the planet, to feed 7 billion people on a diet of meat and vegetables. The empty calories of grain, I think, are necessary to keep most people from starving. From an anthropological standpoint, it's grain that allowed the population to reach the already staggering numbers we had in modern pre-industrial times.



    Still, I wonder how many calories are in that CSA box of yours. And how it compares to the calories in those four McD meals. I doubt there's more than a thousand calories in my $20 CSA basket, though it would be interesting to add it all up. Probably depends somewhat on the season, whether it's heavier in calorie-dense late-season root vegetables and fruits, or early-season leaves and stalks. Never mind how someone working three or four jobs and caring for small children would find time to prep those vegetables, when I know it takes me at least an hour and a half in the kitchen just to cook for DH and myself. It's certainly true a low-income family could do better than McD's with the time and money they have available. But not without grain and beans, I don't think. Not without a very large proportion of grain.

    And I'm also betting that a lot of people who try to eat "Paleo" wind up overemphasizing meat just because meat is super easy to cook (when I started eating meat again, I was just dumbfounded at how much time I saved in the kitchen) - where veggies are just a lot of frickin' work.
    Last edited by OakLeaf; 06-18-2013 at 05:34 PM.
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  12. #12
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    I'm taking a MOOC from Coursera about Food Sustainability. It's fascinating. Since MOOCs have students from all over the world, it's really interesting hearing about food in other countries.
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  13. #13
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    I'd love to hear more about that course, Mel.

    This is a far drift from where this thread started ... but I've continued to think about the issues on both micro and macro levels ... and here are just some random musings.

    I think we have to start by recognizing that grains are valuable in the human diet mostly because they provide easily accessible calories. The less refined the grains, the more other trace nutrients will remain in them, since after all they start out as plants - but other than carbohydrate, there is NO nutrient in any grain that isn't MUCH denser, and often much more absorbable, in other types of food.

    Then we have to recognize that calories are not a bad thing. I don't think it's too big a leap to assume that no one on this board is food insecure, or that the vast majority of us have never been food insecure. The way western societies are segregated by wealth and income, food security might not even enter into most of our daily thoughts. But it is very real for a very large fraction of the world population, including in the United States, and the main reason acute malnutrition (aka starvation) isn't more common in the USA is because of grain agricultural subsidies, including the food stamp program (you did know that food stamps are a subsidy program administered through the USDA, and that only recently have programs begun to spring up that allow people to use food stamps at farmers' markets). And so what we have in the USA instead of people starving to death on street corners, are people wasting with chronic diseases from subacute nutritional deficiencies and the consequences of clearing excess acids from their systems.

    Speaking of acid-forming foods - remember that meats are also acid forming. If I ate meat (including fish and poultry) five times every week, I'd feel just as awful as I would if I ate grain at every meal. As I said before, I think it's easy for a lot of people to overemphasize meat just because it's soooooooo much easier to cook in comparison to vegetables. I guess personally, my meat consumption does resemble the way I *think* of hunter-gatherers eating meat - every now and then the "hunt" comes in and we'll eat the meat until we're sated with it. We might well wind up eating meat five times in a particular week, especially if I bring home a larger chicken. But not again the next week, and probably not for a couple of weeks after that, either.

    And then, the way modern people eat grains, they're way easier to prepare than vegetables, too. We either throw some whole grains in a pot of water and simmer until they're edible, or do the same with storebought pasta, or eat some bread that someone else has baked. Cripes, rinsing quinoa is too much trouble for some people (which I know quinoa is not a grain, but anyway). It's a rare family that threshes and grinds their own flour; a bit less rare for a family to maintain a sourdough starter. A family that just bakes their own bread from flour and yeast that someone else has raised/refined/prepared is starting to approach the complexity of preparing vegetables, and that's why we tend to see the same issues surrounding home baking that we do around vegetable consumption - maybe even more so, because of the lesser nutritional value. Time and energy DO enter into it.

    On another note ... we eat what we eat. We're not married to our dietary choices, so it isn't "cheating" when we choose something outside our ideal. Some of us follow religious dietary laws, but we all make other dietary choices that, when we decide to choose differently, are NOT a moral failing ... and that's especially true of OTHER people's dietary choices. Is it frustrating to see someone we've tried to help, who's unable, for whatever reason, to feed themselves in a way that doesn't make them sick? Sure it is, just the same as it's frustrating to see a battered woman return to her abuser after we've given her legal help or shelter or whatever. But judging them doesn't help anyone, most especially them and including ourselves. Much more useful would be to acknowledge that we've tried to break a cycle at a point where our intervention was inadequate. Maybe partly because of the nature of our intervention. But much more so because of the enormous cultural and economic pressures pushing people back into the cycle. The more we can learn about the cycle, the better chance we have of changing it.

    Some recent discussions on the intersection between food/hunger/nutrition issues and class/ethnicity/gender issues: http://*****magazine.org/article/co-opting-the-coop - ETA - the site even censors valid URLs? Sigh ... the name of the magazine starts with B and rhymes with Witch, you'll have to type it in yourself if you want to read it, I guess ... http://inthesetimes.com/article/1511...nd_femnivores/

    A book I read a couple of years ago, very readable to a lay person - though I can't vouch for the accuracy of his sources, since I have no background in either anthropology or evolutionary biology: An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage

    Important discussions on how the people we trust for dietary advice have been largely co-opted by the processed food industry at the Dietitians for Professional Integrity Facebook page.
    Last edited by OakLeaf; 07-01-2013 at 08:01 AM.
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  14. #14
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    Interesting link Oak on femnivores.

    For me personally, I was never totally comfortable with the slow food movement and alot of the food trends. But I recognize for some people they need the structure of a "diet/food consumption" plan, to make some changes towards a healthier eating style.

    We can extoll about the virtues of slow food movement, organic food choices, etc. : if it works and you can afford it, great. This would have never sat well with people who are poor, who have several children to feed (tell that to my parents for 6 children).

    I would have never wished on my mother any slow food cooking methods nor organic food only. Yet, we hardly ate any processed food, alot of it was cooked from scratch and they didn't bother figuring out organic.. they just needed to save money and some time. (but not to the point of buying tv dinners which is way more expensive for a big family). They knew about pesticides, etc. But they don't gravitate towards organic...not now. They can't afford it. If something is local and cheap, they will buy it.

    They like grocery stores with lots of fresh choice of veggies, fruits and meat. I know, I used to accompany my mother on grocery shopping to help her pull the grocery buggy home.. (we didn't have a car until I was 14 yrs.).

    It IS a serious committment for parents to prepare healthy meals. Even as a teen , I heard my parents discuss food choices and preparation methods. We helped our mother by pointing out food price deals of the week when we read the local newspaper. But it was all done voluntarily on our part and very casually. My mother though saddled unhappily at times with a big family, was serious about feeding her family with the (centuries old) techniques and dishes that she and DAd knew were healthy for us.

    There is balance that parents and ourselves must work towards: committment vs. dogma of our food eating choices. But for certain, parents lay a powerful, highly influential foundation for their children...both the good and the bad.
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  15. #15
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    Interesting article and discussion. I agree with the statement that a lot of the benefits people are seeing from the "paleo" diet are due to cutting out all the processed garbage. The comment somebody made about the flexibility of the human diet reminded me of a book that some of you might be interested in..."The Jungle Effect" by Daphne Miller. The author is a family practice physician who noticed that one of her patients who went to stay with family in the jungle somewhere in South America lost weight and felt a lot better while there than she had at home. She then researched the diets in different parts of the world that are "cold spots" for certain health problems (diabetes, depression, colon cancer, heart disease etc.) and wrote this book. It's amazing how different the diets are from one another--Iceland, for example, has a diet with very few fruits and vegetables (lots of fish) while people in the Copper Canyons (Mexico) eat lots of corn tortillas, beans and vegetables and not much meat. (As an aside, the Copper Canyon people in this book are the same tribe that inspired the book "Born to Run"). Goes to show that there are many different diets that can be healthy, and some of them do include a fair amount of grains and/or dairy.
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