A friend of mine recently sent me a link to this One Green Planet blog post entitled "10 Arguments Against The Paleo Diet."
Click here to read (or just browse quickly) over the 10 points they make against Paleo.
Below is my reaction to this article, point by point...
First off this argument is stupid from the get go "10 Arguments AGAINST the Paleo diet." We can argue 10 points against anything, but whatever, the important thing here is to clarify are we arguing about NUTRITION or ETHICS?? Because if it's about nutrition, then veganism doesn't have a leg to stand on. But let's talk about the ethics side too, when it comes to "SENTIENT" creatures (i.e. creatures that have feelings and bonds with their babies etc.) Vegans need to get off their high horse with this because harvesting grains is MASSIVE business and the process of doing so is a far greater horror show and decimation of sentient creatures and their habitats than the clean, modern methods of raising and killing of livestock (in the case of producing grassfed beef here in Ireland, the animals don't feel a thing when killed. Ploughing fields for grains kills MILLIONS of mice and other small creatures who actually cry and scream when their babies are killed. Farmers need to cut down trees and natural vegetation in order to grow grains and beans (aka legumes)... all this intensive farming is killing our soil quality too.. another days work to cover this. This cutting down destroys bird habitats, nests, rodents must up sticks and move somewhere else etc And you know what would be there if they didn't do this?? GRASS. Green grass, bushes and lush vegetation for cows to roam, birds to build nests, and provide habitats for many other small creatures But yes vegans are so caring, whilst wearing their leather shoes and handbags...
(ANYWAY, whilst I'm at it, the US system is NOT the Irish system so straight away this article annoys me.)
Let's respond to this piece point by point though:
1. "Eating a meat rich diet..."
Straight-away the article looses credit with a broad sweeping statement about Paleo, suggesting it's a meat "heavy" way of eating (notice I say "way of eating" as opposed to "diet") Paleo focuses on QUALITY and source of food, not just meat, meat, meat. It includes seafood, poultry, almost all low glycemic and nutritonally dense vegetables (mostly what are called superfoods), fruits (mostly small fruits like berries as opposed to pineapples which are very high in fructose (another word for sugar) and lastly nuts. SO to say Paleo is a "meat rich diet" is misleading on a number of levels as it includes the best parts of veganism too, only it doesn;t exclude the MOST nutrient dense food groups i.e. meat/seafood/poultry. Without avoiding the fact that yes paleo folk eat meat, it's important to be more specific than just saying "a meat rich diet" - what kind of meat? There's a whole spectrum of what can be termed meat... do they mean a burger from Mickey Dee's? Processed ham off the shelf in Tesco? or some salty processed chorizo? Do they mean local family butcher, organic meat? The term meat and especially "red meat" can mean ALOT of things.
1.2 Carbohydrates as the main fuel source
Carbohydrates are a great fuel source if your an athlete or indeed if you're a caveman who spends days hunting boars, deer etc. Modern man is mostly sedentary. Anyway the whole argument of now vs then is stupid because people who eat in a paleo style today, do so in a MODERN way (i.e. eating in a low GI, low carb, nutrient dense way that prioritises high quality produce in meat/seafood/poultry/vegetables/nuts.... not just MEAT MEAT MEAT.) and nobody tries to suggest that we don't. iNFACT, carbohydrates are the NON-Essential macro-nutrient and they also have a higher GI rating (effect on your blood-sugars, and fat storing rate) than protein and fat sources. Protein and fats are essential for health and well-being and you do NOT get these in any similar density through veganism.
1.3 Eating a meat rich diet didn't happen at all
Again a stupid way of looking at, comparing now vs then, but anyway... During the Paleolithic era we were "hunter gatherers", this is true. The fact is, is that we were not very skilled hunters, using pretty basic instruments to kill animals to feed on. It would take man days to make a killing and in the meantime, on the hunt, away from family etc they would scavenge and graze on anything to sustain them i.e. gathering berries, nuts and yes even grains and beans etc. HOWEVER, this was all just a way to sustain them til they made a killing for a PROPER feed of meat which is full of ESSENTIAL minerals and vitamins such as iron, zinc, magnesium as well as fats and protein. No wonder "plants were more accessible" they couldn't run away! Hunting was a full time preoccupation but even talking about this is pointless because nobody, including myself pretends to kill my own food, I live in a modern world like everyone else, the only difference is I prioritise eating a nutrient dense, concious way each day. I like to know where and how my food was raised etc Yes I like steak too.
2. "There are no health parameters that are comparable to our current culture"
Ehh, OBESITY, from eating WAYYY to much CARBOYDRATES and processed foods! Paleo is a LOW CARB way of eating which is VERY relevant to the modern inactive culture we live in! Veganism promotes becoming a "skinny fat", nutrient deficient, weakling who rarely takes any form of exercise. Carbohydrates have a very simple structure and do NOT boost metabolism half as well as protein or fats. Also, carbs are assymilated far quicker than fats and protein, they "spike" insulin (the fat storing hormone) - and before you know it, you're hungry again which means you must eat more, therefore your caloric intake goes up, your fat increases, your bad cholesterol increases with fat storage NOT from eating fats and protein which "BALANCE" blood sugars and give a nice steady satiating sensation. Sugar is a carb, and grains,(including pasta, bread, cereals etc) white potatoes, fruits, etc are all sources of quick energy, but if you're not very active you do not need them in any amount of the same quantity as the government and other food authorities lead you to believe. Yes you need all the micronutrients and minerals, but there is NOTHING that you can get from grains and beans (i.e. legumes) that you can't get from paleo eating.
3. "Humans have not evolved..."
Paleo doesn't prescribe eating mountains of meat. It says to focus on the quality of your food and to minimize grains, dairy and beans (for very good reasons). I think everyone knows the benefits of eating a low carb diet also, when it comes to fat loss.
4. Research ...
This is based on an observational study over many years from people of all walks of life. It is not based on "test-retest" evidence. The participants had bad health from a "LACK" of veggies and overall healthy lifestyle. Therefore this claim of meat eaters being worse off for diabetes etc is ridiculous and any doctor or health professional who prescribes a diet high in carbs for diabetic or person with high blood-pressure should be fired. See "The Glycemic Index" for more. New evidence takes approx 17 YEARs to work it's way from lab to mainstream medical advice, so it is still catching on. Being FAT or skinny-fat (from not eating enough and being in a constant state of metabolic deficiency, yet only choosing to pick at carbs, which SPIKES insulin and your body then stores it as fat, along with no exercise whilst having a metabolic deficiency is the sure way to increase blood-pressure, bad cholesterol, and still be weak, easily fall ill etc.
5. Grains and legumes (beans) providing fiber...
THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN GET FROM GRAINS AND LEGUMES THAT YOU CAN'T GET FROM PALEO (I.E. meat/seafood/poultry, veggies, fruit, nuts/seeds all of which are high in fibre and FAR MORE nutrient dense AND Low carb, Low GI.). Veganism has nothing on paleo when it comes to nutrient density..
In-fact, gluten, the protein in grains (grains being mostly carbohydrates and having a high GI rating) is VERY damaging to serotonin levels, gut permeability i.e. your ability to absorb nutrients etc. Gluten is just one anti-nutrient that is not found ANYWHERE in Paleo eating. Gluten is actually used in pesticides to keep birds and other creatures away from eating plants, veggies etc They won't eat gluten because it really damages them! Beans again are full of anti-nutrients even when cooked. Yes beans are high in protein but so is all seafood, poultry and meat, just minus the nasties.
6. Grass-fed beef still damaging...
Again lets not compare US farming standards with Irish standards of beef (this being a US blog article)
This is due to OVER-POPULATION, I'm sorry but this is not the fault of people who eat paleo.
Also, if we weren't growing grains for you vegans we'd have ALOT less processed foods and obesity! We'd have far richer soil and vegetation and therefore meat to feed everyone.
8. Paleo is Expensive
Yeah well so is cancer, MS and motor neurons...
If something is expensive, this depends on what your priorities are doesn't it? Would you rather eat well and avoid a myriad of health problems associated with auto-immunity like irriatble bowel, crohns, diabetes, chronic diseases like MS, motor problems etc or scrimp each week on food (yet still spend most of your money on the weekend drinking etc) and pay for healthcare later? Also if you shop in a smart way, it isn't expensive, again this article only looks at the USD rates and nothing else. A friend of mine bought a load of sweatbreads from his local butcher last week for half nothing. These are HIGHLY nutritious and cheap. Processed foods are expensive now and expensive later when your body and nervous system starts to fail due to lack of nutrition, poor metabolic function, weak thyroid and little exercise.
I've made my point here already, and again the argument deviates away from what is actually proper NUTRITION to a question on ethics
10. Nutrient density
Yes you can get all of the nutrients from being a vegan BUT in piss-poor concentrations! You'd have to eat MOUNTAINS and mountains of vegan sources to get the same concentrations as you'd get from paleo. This leads to increased caloric intake each day and you getting fat, which leads to blood-pressure, high in bad cholesterol etc.
The Academy of who?? Again new research takes 17 YEARS to become mainstream, most authorities are very very outdated.