September 28, 2015
338 Learning from the Paleo Diet [28 Sept 2015]
My topic last week was “Debunking the paleo diet” based on a Ted Talks lecture by archaeologist Christina Warinner. She concluded her lecture with three things we can learn from what we do know of our ancestors’ diets. Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
1. There is no one correct diet for humans; diversity is the key ingredient. Never before has such a variety of foods from around the world been available year-round as in North American supermarkets. Yet most of our processed foods contain three species – wheat, corn & soy. Take advantage of the available diversity and try different fruits, vegetables and grains.
2. Ideally food should be eaten fresh, ripe, and in season. This is when foods have the highest nutrient content. Preservation methods extend the usefulness of foods but come with a price – salting adds excess sodium; drying, freezing, and canning deplete some nutrients; smoking and chemical preservatives have poorly understood effects on our health. They all work by inhibiting bacterial growth which can have undesirable effects on our beneficial gut bacteria.
3. Whole foods, with all the fiber and other nutrients intact, are best. Warinner illustrated this concept by showing that in a 34 oz. soda we can gulp down the sugar equivalent to 8 feet of sugar cane. We have not yet adapted to this sudden change in diet, resulting in the modern epidemics of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Processed foods in which real food is broken into constituent parts and recombined to look and taste good, rarely improves its nutritional value. One nutrient that is usually lost is fiber which is important for regulating bowel function, feeding our good gut flora, and slowing absorption of sugar.
I don’t think the Paleo Diet proponents are all Luddites as Warinner implies, eschewing modern food technology for a misplaced ideology. We can take the best of both worlds – enjoy a variety of modern cultivars and embrace technology that maximizes nutrient content. Eat more protein, including red meat. Avoid most processed foods. Reduce carbs, especially modern grains and sugars. Eat plenty of fresh raw vegetables and fruit. Include healthy fats from fish, nuts, seeds and fruit (olives and avocados). Limit dairy and alcohol. In moderation the Paleo Diet is just plain healthy eating.
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.