There is a great article in National Geographic this month as part of a series they are doing on Food and how we can feed the planet in 2050. It is worth the read.
This article highlights the Paleo diet; the Hunter-Gatherer style diet and questions whether eating a paleo style diet would be the best plan for global sustainability and make us healthier. I do think the Paleo diet could make us healthier IF people ate the way it was really meant to be.
I really liked the article because it points out what a Paleo lifetstyle really means. Forget the idea about going out to hunt and gather on your own. Here in the United States that ship had sailed. That is not what Paleo is about. We can grow our own gardens and even raise chickens but it will never resemble a hunter-gatherer way of life. What I enjoyed was it explained how much meat people actually ate in the Paleolithic area as well as today’s few surviving hunter-gatherer cultures.
If you are not up on the issues of global sustainability, in a nut shell, the main question is what type of eating lifestyle can we have as a planet that can be sustained over time? As meat consumption rises and more countries are infiltrated with the American style diet there is question if we can produce enough to feed the population. If the idea of mass produced cows and chicken in tight pens horrifies you now imagine what the future would be like.
The even bigger issue in my mind is can we sustain the way we eat today and not create more disease in the world. Most people think we are saving lives by introducing the American diet into under-served counties. What I love about the article is it points out that every time we change native peoples diets, we introduce heart disease and diabetes where it never existed before.
Per the article:
“Studies suggest that indigenous groups get into trouble when they abandon their traditional diets and active lifestyles for Western living. Diabetes was virtually unknown, for instance, among the Maya of Central America until the 1950s. As they’ve switched to a Western diet high in sugars, the rate of diabetes has skyrocketed. Siberian nomads such as the Evenk reindeer herders and the Yakut ate diets heavy in meat, yet they had almost no heart disease until after the fall of the Soviet Union, when many settled in towns and began eating market foods. Today about half the Yakut living in villages are overweight, and almost a third have hypertension, says Leonard. And Tsimane people who eat market foods are more prone to diabetes than those who still rely on hunting and gathering.”
We hear Paleo diet and think that it is about eating meat. So people go out and buy a massive steak and think this is the way to eat every night. Paleo is NOT a call to eat more meat. The hunter part is the meat but many people ignore the Gatherer. Then they wonder why they feel awful and don’t lose weight as they thought they would eating all those animal proteins. They have forgotten the plants!
So what are hunter-gathers of yesteryear and today eating? National Geographic says it best…….
“The real Paleolithic diet, though, wasn’t all meat and marrow. It’s true that hunter-gatherers around the world crave meat more than any other food and usually get around 30 percent of their annual calories from animals. But most also endure lean times when they eat less than a handful of meat each week. New studies suggest that more than a reliance on meat in ancient human diets fueled the brain’s expansion.”
“So how do hunter-gatherers get energy when there’s no meat? It turns out that “man the hunter” is backed up by “woman the forager,” who, with some help from children, provides more calories during difficult times. When meat, fruit, or honey is scarce, foragers depend on “fallback foods,” says Brooks. The Hadza get almost 70 percent of their calories from plants.”
Let’s review that: 30% meat and 70% plants. I don’t know about you but most houses I visit are the reverse. I would guess that most people I see eat a plate that is 75% animal protein and just 25% to other foods….often which are grains or breads and very little plants. If the meat portion is smaller there is usually a bigger portion of the grains, pasta and breads. The Plants still take a backseat to everything on most American plates.
The message I want you to take with you is, that the Paleo diet can be a very healthy diet. BUT that means eating closer to 70% plants.
Eat the Rainbow my friends (that’s the Plants)!
Pictures and quotes from National Geographic August 2014 issue.