Hi I wonder if you know about studies comparing the effects of Paleo diet with other healthy, non Paleo diets. For instance traditional Maasai diet consisted (exclusively in the case of young males) of meat and dairy products, and those young Maasai had (and still seem to have) incredible health. Here is a link on this: http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2008/06/masai-and-atherosclerosis.html. On the other hand the traditional Okinawa diet, very successful in terms of longevity,which includes huge amounts of sweet potatoes is not exactly Paleo. Something similar could be said about the traditional Cretan diet, which includes bread, lentils and dairy products as an important staple. Of course all of this traditional diets share the exclusion of modern, industrial era processed foods, trans fats, and highly refined flour and sugar, but beyond that, they are quite different from each other and also different from the usual Paleo standard. Any thoughts?
Why aren't sweet potatoes paleo? Go read Catching Fire: How cooking made us human. Tubers are better for us than most vegetables...
Masai are raw milk. Milk is the only non "paleo" item here. Yet I'd wager to say most of us use real butter here. I drink fermented milk(kefir) but only if it's made from raw milk. I also eat grassfed raw cheese with no likelihood of stopping.
Milk is not broad paleo because the majority of the planet is lactose intolerant. And Cafo Milk is suboptimal nutrition.
Low carb is great for restoring insulin and hormonal sensitivities. It's completely unnecessary if you're not damaged.
The legume cultures soaked sprouted and prepared the legumes to neutralize some of the toxins, same for the grains, but those were not healthy staples. Wheat/gluten bread is not something we evolved on, legumes maybe, starch for sure. Milk is only for those of us that can produce our own lactase.
As Kurt Harris says tho: Tolerated is not Optimal.
Those cultures are/were paleo.
Just not Atkins paleo ;)
I used to wonder how to get Magnesium/Potassium etc without supplementing... Then I rediscovered tubers and feel EVEN Better!
No longer am I a carbo-phobe, now I just time my tubers to activity an I have more energy, better sleep, and I've put back on 20lbs of muscle
True, and it doesn't stop there either. Not only do the Okinawas eat plenty of rice, the best ultrarunners in the world, the Tarahumara, exist on a diet of pretty much solely corn and beans. If Cordain is your bible, that's the most unpaleo diet in the world. And the Kitavans living off potatoes all day too.
To me, Paleo is a simple a lesson in healthy respect for whole unprocessed foods. Where there's grain, there's dangers but they're not insurmountable. The Tarahumara are rigorous in their preparation of corn; their slow nixtamalization is nothing like the modern-day industrial scale high speed version for example.
My view at the end of all this is simple - a good diet is very high in nutrients. This way around sticks steak and spinach at the top of your food list and sugar/white flour right at the bottom. Is it strictly paleo? Probably not. What I do know is it makes sense when you look at healthy diets across the world, and healthy cultures mean far more to me than abstract theories
PS great post stephen-aegis
Good read: Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food" - talks a bit about looking at tribal diets in an environmental and whole context, rather than breaking down each nutrient as a possible miracle fix to things (like adding omega3s to twinkies will solve obesity issues - haha). Mentions the Maasai (meat and dairy), as well as Eskimo diets (largely fat), and others.
The idea that the Okinawa diet is starchy and based on sweet potatoes is BALONEY! I lived there for 5 1/2 years, and I can tell you the primary starch is Japanese style white rice and the diet consists of plenty if pork (and pork fat!), seafood, and vegetables with copious amounts of green tea--no sweetener. The Okinawans have a cultural bias against overeating, too.
The so-called "studies" of the Okinawa diet were done when the tiny island was still recovering from the utter devastation it suffered during WWII. The theories that they live longer and healthier lives because of a "starch-based" diet are pure fantasy.
Knowing what I know about this, I often wonder if the stories about Kitavans and others have it all wrong too? How many people citing these examples as the basis for their own theories ever went to these places to see for themselves???
I'm Greek, and I've written an article about why the Cretan diet was that good (up to about 1970s), and most importantly, why it wasn't that different from the Paleo/Primal diets: http://eugenia.queru.com/2012/08/23/why-the-mediterraneancretan-diet-was-the-best/
First lets define optimal.
Optimal health =
Physical fitness, ie Endurance, strength, balance & speed etc Physical wellbeing, ie lack of all illness, leanness, longevity etc Mental fitness & wellbeing, ie memory, logical skills, instinct etc Emotional wellbeing, ie stable and resiliant mood
I am certain that all of these diverse groups have not been tested for every element of optimal health, nor does every element come from food alone. We know for example that longevity is tied to community (for example married couples live longer than singles). So a group with a better society will have more longevity.
That said, if your highly active, metabolically healthy, I personally beleive your body can handle more carbs.
I am also inclined to beleive, personally, that the inclusion of wheat etc, being chemically dissimilar to gatherable foods, isnt optimal. It may allow for longevity however. I think its a mistake to equate longevity with optimal health. Severe caloric restriction provides longevity, but you cant perform well physically or mentally on it. Any group experiencing longevity could simply be under caloric restriction due to food scarcity or poverty. Then once you factor in social factors as well, what your really proving is simply that the things they do dont tend to kill them, they have good societies/are happy. That doesnt mean they are optimal diets, and the same could be said of many lifestyle factors.
Again this comes down to the fact that all elements of optimal health have not been evaluated in these groups. A good modern example is the japanese. They have a long lifespan but are more prone to diabetes, stroke etc. They also smoke, and have a high incidence of lung cancer (but not heart disease, the number 1 killer, hence the longevity). That example just shows that there is more to health than longevity. You can have a very high average lifespan, even be apparently "healthier" and still have health issues that others dont have. Longevity does not equal optimal health.
Equally if your epigenetics and current self are adapted, you can handle very low carbs, like the massai, or innuit. I beleive epigenetics explain why some people cant handle very low carb. It simply has to be in our range of flexibility because of periods of low vegetable foods during nomadic HGing, and the ice age etc, but its probable that people who come from families that have eaten alot of carbs find it hard to switch back. Seems logical.
It stands to reason, that we have ate different types of foods since humanity came about, including in the paleolithic. We were, after all, opportunitist nomadic hunter gatherers. We were not always in the same place, season, we did not always recognise or find the plant foods we were after, nor did we always catch the prey. Based on that, in a context of activity, sunshine, community etc, we can expect our bodies to tolerate a range of naturally occuring, whole foods diets that provide the essential nutrition (also allowing for epigenetics)
Where optimal fails would seem to be (outside of not enough nutrients), too much of particular chemicals or nutrients (like fructose or glucose without activity, or omega-6, or anti-nutrients) that our bodies do not expect based on all the prior years. But where it fails isnt obvious from some athropologist doing a breif study on one single element of health, or some kind of observation.
Any one of these populations would have had to have been studied for every aspect of the health I speak of above, as well as measured for the occurance of every disease, before we could claim with certainty any of them are optimal.
The traditional ancestor diets in my area were more paleo-like, with scant carbs (from berries/roots/bulbs/inner cambium/nuts) and lots of meat (seafood of every type, and meat from bear/elk/deer). Was this an optimal diet? Unknown. Was this a diet for longevity? Probably not. Was it a diet you could survive on? Definitely. I think the same applies to any ancestral diet. They're better than fast food and Cheetos, but none of them meets the very Neolithic standards of an optimal diet. You don't eat camas bulbs in an optimal diet, any more than you would set forest fires to improve game habitat.
Jamie's response was impressive. I've been reading Nourishing Traditions. After reading Jamie's post, I can't be completely certain that Weston Price did a thorough review off all aspects of traditional peoples' diets, before coming up with his recommendations that Sally Fallon wrote about.
I'm pretty sure for me personally, I need to eat more meat because I do Bikram yoga and have heavy periods so I'm losing a lot of iron.
I'm still confused and anxious about whether I should be drinking tea, coffee, and cocoa for the antioxidants however. Asian cultures drink a lot of tea but tea depletes minerals. So tea is life-preserving? Coffee and cocoa are similar to tea in that they have polyphenols, etc.
I add milk to my tea to counteract the iron loss. Who knows if this is what I'm supposed to do?
Yet the Japanese and Chinese drink their tea without milk. I find tea to be a very traditional drink and Paleo IMO but Sally Fallon writes against the consumption of tea, coffee, cocoa.