Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Is it Paleo?

I'm not averse to people asking questions and I realize people read these blogs to educate themselves so questions are just part and parcel of the blogger's existence. Sometimes, though, you just have to use your own judgement and decide for yourself whether or not a particular food is Paleo.

As a scientist I suppose I get caught up in the semantics a little too often. First off, the real question should be is "is this food item Paleo-legal?" Hunh. I guess I don't like that either. After all, in the first case, "is it Paleo?" the problem is that nothing is truly Paleo in the sense that none of the food we eat today is the same as what existed during the time of our Paleolithic ancestors 10,000+ years ago. Secondly, there is broad disagreement among those of us in the movement as to what is, or is not, Paleo or Paleo-legal.

I guess that is why I just consider myself, well, myself. I eat what works for me and I don't eat what doesn't. How do I know? For starters, my health. I have to have twice-annual check-ups which I no longer dread because they show my health to be always improving. My weight is stable, my blood pressure is stable, my blood sugar is stable, my blood lipids are excellent, and on and on. Everything is working like it should. I am pain free and my bowels work. I can't ask for anything more.

I believe I live a good lifestyle even if it isn't, in the strictest sense, Paleo. Really, though, how many of the Paleo gurus do, though? Really. I'm going to say none. Not really. This does not mean that I don't agree with much of what some of them say. Take Mark Sisson for example. I'm about 85% in agreement with him and that is saying a lot. 85% is huge! If you can get 50% of your readers to agree with you, you are doing well, in my opinion. The areas in which we differ are really not that big, but we do differ. There are others with whom I agree very little but that has more to do with the bad science and non-sustainable advice they are peddling, rather than their basic philosophy. The worst of all the sins is the non-sustainable advice.

What do I mean by that? Well, I just read that even if you don't like organ meats (which I don't) you must eat them if you want to lose weight and get healthy--that the benefits outweigh your personal likes/dislikes. Can I call BS on this one? I have my own personal reasons for not eating OFAL--it is simply a line that I will not cross. I wouldn't care how it was prepared or how delicious it may be, I am not going to eat it. Period. I would just throw up. So, if someone tells me that I must eat liver in order to be in the club called "Paleo" well, I guess I will just have to say that I don't want to be in the club.

Whatever we do, it must be sustainable. Food is pleasurable and it should stay that way. We can eat well and healthy and still enjoy it. I am not going to go foraging for bugs and worms or rotten monkey meat just because Paleo guy might have done it. I wouldn't care how healthy. To me, it's gross. If I have to eat gross things I would be more inclined to slip back into my bad eating habits and say to hell with good health.

Then you have those that say eating/drinking dairy is not natural. That it is not good for you. Can I call BS on this too? Just because Paleo dude was intolerant doesn't mean we are. In fact, Paleo dude WAS intolerant. Evolutionary geneticists have evidence that 100% of them were lactose intolerant. However, as time went by, fewer and fewer were. Today, only about 20% of the humans are lactose intolerant. Our species survived and thrived because of this adaptation. So, while it may not have been natural thousands of years ago, it is perfectly natural now. Granted fresh, raw, dairy products are best because too much of what is on the store shelves has been irradiated to within an inch of its life, but to make a blanket statement that it is bad for us because Paleo guy didn't consume it is a load of lies.

What I really want to call BS on is those who say you cannot eat tubers like potatoes. Why on earth not? Potatoes have loads of good things in them as do most tubers. Yes, they are high in carbohydrates, but so what? It isn't as though you are going to only eat these starchy vegetables and nothing else and if you did then I'd have to say you're going to get fat and sick. However, we do need carbohydrates: more if we are very active and less if we are not.

To me, Paleo just means real food. Natural foods that are grown or raised in the manner in which they were meant to be grown or raised. This means that the chickens aren't stuffed by the tens of thousands in enclosed areas being fed fish meal and heaven only knows what else; that cows are grass fed and not grain fed; and that our fruits and vegetables aren't hosed down with chemicals such that not one single morsel goes to the birds, insects, or rabbits. They have to eat too, you know? Real food also means unpackaged and unprocessed. There are no colorings/flavorings, natural or otherwise, added to it. Nothing is removed, either. It isn't ground up, beaten, and processed until it no longer resembles or tastes like it is supposed to only to have it re-formed and re-flavored with chemical additives thrown in in order to extend the shelf life until the end of times.

Does Paleo involve grains? That is a tricky one. Most, if not all, in the community will tell you "no." I will tell you this: if a particular grain does not bother you, then for you, it is perfectly "legal." Of course, just because you don't have any outward signs that it is bothering you does not mean that it isn't. Sometimes things will only show up in lab work, or not, only after significant damage has been done. For instance, I think white rice is okee-dokee for me. Why? Because my labs are good. However, going back to my earlier statement that sometimes these things don't show up in your labs until serious damage is done, makes me a bit cautious such that I only consume small amounts on rare occasions.

If you want all the science behind why grains are most likely bad for you, especially whole grains, you really should visit Mark's Daily Apple. He explains, at length, with good science to back him up, all of the hazards associated with "healthy, whole, grains" without being hysterical, preachy, or off-putting. I actually checked every single reference he cited and though he did reference a few rat studies and a few in vitro studies, he is quick to point out those flaws followed by an explanation that human, in vivo studies were not available.

So, if you are a rebel like me, don't worry about what the rest of the so-called Paleo community says--eat what is good for you. Eat what tastes good to you and if that just happens to be organ meat or foraged bugs and worms, then go for it. If not, then leave it alone. After all, if you hate what you're eating, you won't continue to eat it and you'll end up back where you started.

Until next time!


  1. Thanks for the reasonable and well-considered post. I couldn't agree more; evolutionary arguments only go so far and then we have to remember that we've evolved to be large-brained and highly self-aware creatures who are perfectly capable of making decisions about what we eat based on how different foods affect our individual health and happiness!

    Thanks for the nice comment on my post today, too. :)


  2. well, thank you! and I really do like your blog--funny and informative :)