I have just listened to a lecture by Dr. Daphne Miller and now I am starting to doubt Paleo. No, not the whole foods approach. I do not doubt that it is healthy. I doubt the fact that Paleo diet is healthier than other diets. Of course, it is a healthier alternative to SAD, but it is still far from being perfect.
Why? Because Paleo's approach to food is too narrow. Dr. Miller pointed out that there are many components of traditional diets:
She views "diet" as a holistic term that is a part of culture rather than a list of foods that you need to eat and the way to choose them.
Also, after listening to her lecture, I have finally understood the answer to my questions (that Paleohackers were not able to answer) - why Japanese, Italian and French used to be healthy (before McDonalds and Dunkin Donats arrived) despite all the carbs in their diets.
Here is the link if you are interested:
My a-ha moment happened around 1:15.
I also am skeptical about the Paleo gurus now. If there are so many healthy ways to eat, why demonize some foods? All those so-called Paleo gurus - I am sure that they believe in what they preach - but... they are making money out of it too. Is it a new cash cow now? And to claim that Paleo is the ONLY healthy diet is (to say the least) misleading.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not against Paleo. I just don't think this is the only way to be healthy. I know I am going to get a lot of heat for this question. But I really do not care. I am not here for the money. I am just searching for answers.
In case if my question is not obvious:
Am I the only one who thinks that traditional diets (the way people used to eat before the food industry was developed) are way healthier and tastier than Paleo?
Interesting topic. Dr. Miller makes a lot of good points -- all 10 of those things you list are important factors in health, with the exception of eating seasonally (not much seasonality in the tropics where most human evolution occurred, and no real evidence for benefits from eating seasonally now that we can get fresh foods from all parts of the world where the seasons are different).
Re your questions: "If there are so many healthy ways to eat, why demonize some foods?... Am I the only one who thinks that traditional diets (the way people used to eat before the food industry was developed) are way healthier and tastier than Paleo?"
On the first point, there are many factors in health and many causes of ill health, including many dietary causes. We don't know which causes are salient in most diseases. So when we know that a food has the potential to cause disease, and its nutritional value is replaceable by safer/healthier foods, there's good reason to eliminate it from the diet rather than hope that you'll be one of the people for whom it doesn't cause trouble.
On the second question, first many traditional diets fit within a broad Paleo template. For instance, traditional East Asian, southeast Asian, and Pacific islander diets that use white rice, taro, yams, and sago as starches are Perfect Health Diet-compatible. Second, some Paleo-template diets like our Perfect Health Diet are designed to be tasty -- intentionally, because we believe evolution designed our food tastes to get us to eat what is healthy for us, so delicious food is healthier than non-tasty food -- and so we specifically recommend tasty food combinations like starch, fat, acid, salt, spice.
If by "Paleo" you mean a severely restricted lean-meat-and-vegetables diet, I might agree -- many traditional diets are certainly tastier and might be healthier too. But the Paleo/"ancestral" template is broader than that.
One side point: most of the things Dr Miller brings up, like the use of spices as medicines and the ways foods are prepared, were innovations developed during the Paleolithic and passed down into Neolithic and historical times. Thus, the Paleo template encompasses nearly all of the things you most respect about "traditional" diets.
Surviving does not equal thriving. Traditional diets were based on what was availble and often cheapest at the time, which is why many are based around starchy foods (rice, potatoes, corn..etc.). People didnt eat these diets to be healthy, they ate this way so that they didnt starve to death. Nutrition is a fairly new science still, hundreds of years ago people didnt scrutinize fat or carbohydrate grams. They ate what they needed to stay alive.
Be thankful that you live in a time and a place that allows you freedom and choice to what you put in your body.
Yes you are the only one....(that was the question right?)
I have no idea how 1-10 are not paleo, but whatever. Check out WAPF and I also the book Deep Nutrition (four traditional pillars of health) and Sally Fallons "Nurishing Traditions". Good resources. May also wanna read Steffansons (spelling?) "Fat of the Land". Good luck!
Actually old Paleo (lean) was replaced by new Paleo (dont be scurred of the fat) in large part due to considering how traditional societies actually treat the meat they eat i.e. prizing the fatty cuts and such.
Why get caught up in the politics of paleo..?? There are so many variations within the paleo movement. Have you checked out Perfect Health Diet by Paul Jaminet? (sp) He has done alot of research on traditional diets. Just find something that works for you (paleo or not)...simple.
First, you might need to reconsider what Paleo is. It is difficult to accept Paleo as distinctly different than "the way people used to eat before the food industry was developed."
Second, the recommended Paleo practice is to observe and learn what works best for you. This ALL BY ITSELF will allow you to adopt a variety of dietary practices an still be Paleo and healthy. Disparate practices are not necessarily in conflict with Paleo eating.
My take on paleo is that it's a starting point for people: it's sort of the baseline to follow, and then people can add things back as works for them. I probably got this perspective on it from the Robb Wolf camp, maybe?
But anyway: cut out grains, legumes, dairy, eat whole foods of the highest quality you can afford, and see how you feel (with further restrictions if you're dealing with autoimmune stuff). Then add things back if you want, and see how it makes you feel. I agree that it may leave stuff out that's important: for example, I found out that I do better if I include spinach and lentils in my diet due to some inborn errors of metabolism.
I also think of paleo as a call to eat simpler foods: to try living without eating processed foods, breads, prepared desserts, etc, and see how you feel. But then, I also see it as encouraging local, seasonal foods, too. And I'm not tied to the idea of what paleolithic peoples ate, but just the perspective of thinking about what people have adapted to eating or not.
But I definitely like to consider traditional/ancestral foods and food preparations as well.
I guess each person makes of it what they will.
EDITED TO ADD:
Watching the video, I'll offer a quick summary. The speaker, an MD, describes some cultures around the world and how they eat. She gives some studies (on bacterial populations and health markers) showing that people who eat traditional diets are healthier. She walks through some of the diets. The main aspects seem to be (1) combining foods in ways that make the most of their nutrition, (2) eatings foods that are high in micronutrition such as fresh plants, pastured animals, etc, and (3) utilizing aspects of the environment that match the genetics of that region.
She discounts/disregards genes as a factor, citing studies of brothers and similarly genetic groups who fare differently between their traditional diet and a modern one, but that only shows that there is a genetic by environment interaction. As someone with genetic mutations in my folate processing pathways, mutations very uncommon among Caucasians (which I am) but pretty common among western African populations, I was fascinated to learn in her talk that the west African diet was high in folate.
So the conclusion I'm coming to is that it's all about having high levels of nutrients, and accommodating any particular genetic peculiarities, such as high folate diets for those of us less capable of processing folate, or diets high in prickly pear cactus which acts to lower blood sugar in population prone to diabetes.
I don't see paleo gurus making blanket claims that paleo is the only healthy diet. Those sorts of claims you will however find being made by PaleoHackers on a regular basis. Paleo is not traditional, it's a diet based out of science, out of optimization, out of hacking.
I think traditional wisdom is both underrated, and overrated. Its something we dont use alot of these days, and we could stand to rely more on it. Theres some powerful medicine in herbs, plants and foods. Its a useful and productive system of knowledge, the subjective, intuitive and experential.
And yet, the body is extremely complex. Most things have both pros and cons. Whats an example...opium used to be used for poisoning (a long time ago). In fact, its not good at clearing toxins, but it does make the situation feel better. Tobacco was used by the native americans, but its a carcinogen (and so is their native sassafras). Cinnomin lowers the blood sugar, but it does so by altering the metabolism in other ways (more cellular heating, receded glut4 receptors).
Somethings are too complex, or too subtle for "wisdom" to pick up on. Many things in fact. Thats where we need medicine and science.
On the other hand of course, our modern minds tend to obfiscate the common sense, and the subjective. That way we miss things that should be self-evident, because we are waiting for 20 peer reveiwed studies to prove it.
I would not personally champion a way of eating, merely because its based on traditional practices and wisdom. That certain counts toward some intelligent practice, but it does not ensure their are no negative side effects.
I mean it goes without saying that traditional cultures are not aiming for optimal health, they are merely avoiding the more obvious harms, by their observable correlation with certain practices. A good form of intelligence, but hardly a perfect form of knowledge.
It somewhat depends on timespan, wisdom. If something has been done a certain way, for thousands of years, its probably better than something done for hundreds. But if one or two people slowly develop an illness from the practice, there is no way to make the connection, without understanding the mechanisms.
And moreso if everyone in the village or tribe, is at that point doing a range of potentially responsible behaviours. Either way people would just shrug their shoulders and put it down to bad luck, or evil spirits.
Paleo, on the other hand, tries to rely on genetics (what we are adapted to, rather than what we have experimented with in our landscape).
But paleo is also guesswork based on logic, and some evidence, just like traditional wisdom practices are guesswork based on experience and observation.
Id probably put some stock in information from both sources - the logic and science of the paleolithic (with tradition based on how many people did it, and for how many years) and science. Knowledge is elusive after all. People who beleive they have it, have not thought about the nature of knowledge.
I think you bring up an interesting issue in this idea of tradition/wisdom. For health direction: Some rely on the common sense of pre-agriculture, or pre-industrialism. Some rely on science and intellect, as well as beleif. I think its well worth considering into these other two, experience and subjective practice (tradition), and balancing them all against each other. They all have their faults and weakness, and are stronger when used together.
I actually beleive that a higher form of intelligence exists in the combination of the subjective and the logical, a form of knowledge that no society has exhibited, combined, and to its full potential, to date. But even still, you cannot have perfect knowledge.
I think the biggest problem with this presented conception of knowledge (and the one people commonly beleive in), is that its like a lost object. One day, your supposed to just find it after a long time looking.
But its more like looking for the ideal rock (you keep finding a better one, and throwing the other away), or better - trying to map out an island with flashlight in the dark. The search for knowledge is eternal, unending.
Basically put, to sum, subjective experience is underrated these days in terms of knowledge. We miss a whole load of things because we rely too heavily on "evidence" which is often itself biased, and not enough on what we learn, and intuit and experience.
But then again, that is all "wisdom" and tradition is, a period of collected experience and intuition. Observation cannot alone make all possible connections, it cannot fix to seeming or unseeming correlated elements into a causation. If it was a 100% superior form of knowledge to logic and science, wisdom would have discovered that tobacco was a carcinogen back in pre-colonial america etc.
Clearly both approaches have their benefits and failings.
I eat what my CSA brings me (this is how I ate prior to Paleo and then I learned that I was basically eating Paleo). It's veggies, meat and a few grocery items (some made on their farm-like salsa, others acquired from local vendors-like coconut milk). I make the rest (I have sauerkraut going right now).
I don't care about any of this. What I wanted to comment on was:
a. Seeing any of this as a strict either/or, instead of a personally adaptable eating plan. (Each of us can do what we want, no one is testing urine for membership).
b. That people that have an issue or any concerns keep acting like all paleos are sheep by declaring any person that espouses a paleo lifestyle a "guru". (I'm an atheist and a skeptic. Of everything. Yes, there are sites that I read because I think they are informative, encouraging, or entertaining. I in no way consider the authors wiser or more capable than myself. I also like Thomas Hardy, Don DeLillo, and Joss Whedon. It doesn't make me a slavish follower of Jude or Buffy.)