So at a basic level the Paleolithic Diet argues that humans have not evolved to properly digest grains, legumes, and dairy. Gluten intolerance and lactose intolerance are cited as examples to prove this point.
Certainly I will agree that some people got stuck with the short end of the stick, and their bodies have said, “No dice. No ice cream for you, and no Wonderbread for you”.
On the other hand, some of us seem to be doing just fine (although we should probably cool it on the ice cream and Wonderbread as well).Aside from the fact that there are numerous studies that suggest 10 000 years has been long enough for humans to adapt to an agrarian diet, I just cannot buy into the logic that “what was good for them, then is good for us, now“. SO MUCH has changed. How can we possibly make that comparison? I have so many objections to this way of thinking that it’s difficult for me to even know where to start, so I’ve decided to limit myself to four, in no particular order. 1. People in Different Parts of the World Eat Different Foods
This is one of the things I noticed when I conducted my highly scientific google/wikipedia search to learn what exactly a Paleolithic Diet consisted of. Nobody can really agree because everyone can cite a different group of people from somewhere who ate/eats “x” in low/high quantities and their people thrived/are thriving. As I mentioned in a previous hunter-gatherer related post, there are the Alaskan Nunamiut people who are said to consume up to 99% of their calories from animals, and the Gwi in Africa, who only get 25% of their calories from animals. Also, there are many traditional dairy consuming cultures such as the Massai, and Mongolians. And of course there is always ”The Asian Paradox” (how do they eat so much rice and stay so thin?)[Note: I don't agree with everything written in the linked article, but I do think it, and the blog it is attached to are interesting reads]. All of these examples simply serve to illustrate that there is enormous variability in the human diet. If people can adjust (happily and healthily) to a nearly plant-free diet, as well as other extremes, it seems to reason that we could adjust to eating grains? 2. We Cannot Sustain the Population of the World on a Diet of 50% Animal Calories
This was a huge wrap-your-head-around-this moment for me. Here I am on one hand priding myself on following a Paleo diet, which means I’ve had steak for dinner two nights in a row, and then on the other hand trying to follow Meatless Mondays. There are many reasons for going meatless (Mondays, weekdays or all-days), but possibly most compelling to me are the resources used and environmental cost of raising animals for meat. I also happen to think that the way animals are raised commercially for meat is very cruel, but that’s another topic all together. Some Facts and Stats
- animal food production requires 2-5 times the water needed to produce plant food of the same caloric value (2500 gallons of water for one pound of beef)
- one of the number one reasons for clear-cutting forests is to create more land to farm animals, and to grow the food to feed those animals
- Cows (and other ruminants) produce methane gas. Each day, the amount of methane pollution produced by a cow is equal to that of the pollution caused from driving a car. Check out this article to learn more.
- Fossil fuels, antibiotics, soil erosion, pesticides…. 3. I do Not Hunt, Nor do I Gather
Try as I might, I just can’t seem to convince myself that pushing my cart around the grocery store expends as much energy as searching for those same items outside would. I ride my bike to work. Then I am at work. I don’t have a desk job, but many people do. In other (less kind) words, we live a rather sedentary lifestyle. Sure, we bike, and run, and play ultimate frisbee, but unless your JOB requires you to be on the move all the time, it’s unlikely that you will be able to (move all the time). I feel like it’s just a little too easy to say that all of the “health benefits” enjoyed by people in a paleolithic society can be attributed to diet. What about the fact that they probably moved around all day, every day? What about running away from predators? What about the fact that there was probably no such thing as breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Unless I’m willing to fully adopt the lifestyle, I’m not ready to accept this diet as a miracle prescription for a healthy life.
4. FOOD Now is Not the Same as FOOD 15000-20000 Years Ago
A tomato isn’t the same tomato (were there even tomatoes?). This goes for virtually everything. Try as we might to get away from the evils of food production today (like GM foods…your call on the negativity/positivity of these), we just can’t. Even if it is not modified on purpose, by humans, it has still changed, and adapted BY ITSELF. We have also selected for desirable crops, traits, etc. The details of which I am not an expert on, but still. I think it is safe to say: Our Food Is Different. Sure, we could all try and eat “local, organic, grass-fed, free-range, etc.” But, back to my argument about not being able to feed the world on a diet of 50% meat, do you think we can feed the world all that stuff? Is there even ROOM for farms that grow food that way? One thing that proponents of a paleo diet just don’t seem to take into account is that THERE WERE LESS PEOPLE then. BILLIONS LESS. To eat the way they suggest would be a luxury. Sure, I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t be able to eat healthy foods because not every person in the world has access to healthy foods, but at least our definition of healthy food choices should allow for the possibility of being sustainable on a global scale.
There is my rant. I feel like I just wrote a high school essay. A+ for effort?