Awesome infographic explaining the evolution of our diets. For larger graphic, click here
If you eat a Paleo diet, chances are that you deal with a lot of questions. You try to be sly when you’re going out to eat with friends, quietly whispering to the waitress “Can I get the burger without a bun and extra side veggies instead of fries?” and try to play it off like it’s no big deal, but most likely you are going to get some weird looks from your friends, and have to repeat your order twice to the waitress since she’s used to customers asking for extra fries and onion rings. I legit had a cashier at a grocery store attack me with what I was buying..
Cashier-“Are you on a diet or something?”
Me- “No, why?”
Cashier- “Well.. it’s just everything you’re buying is really healthy…”
At the time, I was just doing my weekly run- lots of fruits and veggies, coconut milk, nuts, and meat. Looking around at all the other customers checking out, I realized that I did look like some kind of a freak- I was the only one without bags of potato chips, soda or 100-calorie packs of whatever cardboard bits they’re trying to sell. I don’t think I could ever be a grocery store cashier, I would sit and lecture every person walking through, and probably cause the store to go bankrupt.. “Um, excuse me, sir, you REALLLYYYY shouldn’t be buying that…”
ANyhoo! I definitely had my doubts when first starting off eating Paleo, but now find myself eager to dismiss any doubts that friends and family might have about it. The more I learn about it, and the better I feel after continuing to eat this way, the more I’m excited to share about it. A few of my friends have jumped on the Paleo bandwagon too (maybe just so they would just get me to shut up?) and are loving it. Still, it’s not uncommon to have to answer questions about my lifestyle change (totally understandable, since I did this to Erica when she started and I thought she was cray cray).
Fitbomb has an awesome blog entry called “Why I Eat Paleo” where he goes into crazy depth about the benefits and history of the Paleo diet. It’s definitely worth a read. The part that struck truest to me was the Mythbusting section, where he provides answers for common doubts about the Paleo diet.
Q: Didn’t cavemen die by the age of 30 or something? Doesn’t this suggest that their diets were crap?
A: Prehistoric humans certainly had shorter lifespans on average. (But only by about 10 years, actually.) What drove down their average number of years on earth? Hmm. Let’s see: High rates of infant mortality, zero medical care, a perilous existence in the wild, predators, accidents, trauma — the list goes on and on, though it probably doesn’t include Type II diabetes. (I wonder how long we’d last if we were dumped in the middle of the woods without our cell phones and pants. I’d give myself a day and a half. And that’s only if I had a good book and a Snuggie with me.)
Look: If 40 out of 100 cave-babies died before reaching the age of 10, even if every one of the survivors lived past the age of 60, the average age expectancy of the group will fall under 40 years.
In most hunter-gatherer populations today, approximately 10-20% of the population is 60 years of age or older. These elderly people have been shown to be generally free of the signs and symptoms of chronic disease (obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels) that universally afflict the elderly in western societies. When these people adopt western diets, their health declines and they begin to exhibit signs and symptoms of “diseases of civilization.”
Keith also counters the moral/ethical arguments that are often raised against meat-eating — a topic that other authors have also addressed. We can all agree that factory farming is evil and unsustainable, but even prominent pro-vegans like George Monbiot have finally come around to concede that meat-eating contributes to a healthy ecosystem. (Check out Monbiot’s Guardian column here.)
But just so you know, humans don’t actually need dietary carbs at all to function and thrive.
In the early part of the 20th century, Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson — after living among the Inuit — found that he and his fellow explorers suffered zero health problems from eating a hunter-gatherer diet consisting almost exclusively of high-fat meat and fish, and no carbs whatsoever. From Wikipedia:
When medical authorities questioned him on this, he and a fellow explorer agreed to undertake a study under the auspices of the Journal of the American Medical Association to demonstrate that they could eat a 100% meat diet in a closely-observed laboratory setting for the first several weeks, with paid observers for the rest of an entire year. The results were published in the Journal, and both men were perfectly healthy on such a diet, without vitamin supplementation or anything else in their diet except meat.
Stefansson published his thoughts on no-carb eating in Harper’s in 1935. You can read his first-person account of carnivorous life among the Inuit here.
So what happens when you take in no carbs? Your body still requires a bit of glucose, but it can manufacture its own out of lactate, pyruvate, glycerol and amino acids (from protein) via a process calledgluconeogenesis. As Lyle McDonald — a proponent of ketogenic diets — has said: “[A]s long as protein intake is sufficiently high (e.g. the diet is covering the increased breakdown of protein in the liver and elsewhere), the amount of carbohydrates which are truly required is still zero.”
Kurt Harris sums it up nicely:
Despite current nutritional dogma dating from the 1970’s, carbohydrate consumption is completely unnecessary for your energy (or any other) needs. Fat is the primary way we store energy in our bodies, and eating fat is the evolutionarily preferred food source in a food-abundant environment. During aerobic exercise, the predominant fuel source is fatty acids, supplemented by glycogen stores.It is possible to eat no carbohydrates at all and still do plenty of physical work. Any carbohydrates needed not provided from glycogen or food can be produced in abundance via gluconeogenesis. Glucose provided this way makes you literally burn fat, and keeps your insulin levels low.You have about about an hour or more of exercise in your liver and muscle glycogen.If you are a lean runner, you have enough energy in your body fat to walk about 800 miles.
You simply don’t need to eat carbohydrates to exercise.