Friday, September 30, 2011

Is Paleo Elitist?

Let me start off this post by saying I strongly believe in the many incarnations of the paleo/primal diet and have eaten this way for almost 5 years now.  I will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  This post is going to be a collection of thoughts I have had lately.  My question is, is this way of living elitist?

I got to thinking about this thanx to a blog post from Penniless Parenting.  She did a thought provoking, although somewhat flawed assessment of the paleo diet.  One of the objections she raised was how expensive the food was.  Despite many posts around the blogosphere about how affordable paleo can be, bottom line is it is more expensive than a self cooked, grain based diet.  

I have argued that when you factor in the health care costs of relying on grains as the bulk of your calories, the net outcome is a grain based diet will cost more in the long run.  This still may be true but many people could care less about that.  They need to figure out how to feed their family today while also coming up with rent at the end of the week.  They are not concerned about if and when they may get sick.  Their life is the here and now reality of getting by on a shoestring budget.

I read many free paleo blogs and they are written by well-intentioned people.  Most of them don't know the world of struggling to feed themselves or their family.  They can afford to go to the farmers market to buy high quality, paleo friendly food AND go to Starbucks for a $4 coffee afterwards.  That is great and I commend them for feeding themselves well.  There is yet another level of paleo eaters who make sacrifices in their budget so they can afford the high quality food.  They cut out things like Starbucks, the new shoes, and dinners out to have a healthy future.  This is also great and commendable.  For my family...we probably fall into the latter group.

In thinking about things in a primal framework, there is something else I wonder about.  Very few of what I will call the thought leaders in the paleo world talk about hunting or fishing for their own meat.  I can't think of something that would bring us closer to our primal roots than actively supplying one's family with meat.  It is great exercise, it is relaxing, and the food is the highest quality available.  We are talking about the ultimate in free range, organic, wild caught, local.....everything paleo pundits advocate.  Yet they rarely talk about it and I wonder if any of them do it.  Sure living like a caveman is good for you but hunting is only something toothless rednecks do, right?  I don't know, is that what the prevailing thought is?  I took up hunting last year because it fits very well into the paleo ideals.  Why does it seem like I am more of a minority in this movement?  Am I a savage for killing an animal and then butchering it for my family to eat later?  I can guarantee that my not too distant ancestors would have considered people who didn't hunt as being the unusual minority.

As I said, hunting is a great form of exercise.  In my first hunt last year, I had to hike up a steep hill (several times per day) that was probably about an 800 yard trek.  Despite no recent hiking experience....I got up there with relative ease and left my mates in the dust.  Later that day, I helped 2 other guys haul a 120 pound doe from a ravine up a hill to the main trail.  I did the bulk of the work as the other 2 guys took frequent breaks.  These guys were my age.  I credit my stamina to diet and workouts at my $9/month gym.  I also do a lot of hauling firewood wood by hand from my back yard woods as a form of exercise.  I don't do the $150/month Crossfit gym membership.  I just can't afford it.  I do those style workouts occasionally on my own.  Crossfit is MEGA popular in the paleo world.  Crossfit has done a great job of promoting this diet.  The Crossfit membership is even less affordable than paleo eating.  Many outsiders may think these two ways of thinking go hand in hand.

Then there is the toe shoes that are so popular in paleo circles.  $100 for these shoes that mimic being barefoot.  These are great for running while not strapping huge, padded shoes to your feet and are much more natural.  There are many who cannot afford to buy regular shoes for themselves let alone toe shoes.  When they want to mimic being barefoot, they take their shoes off. 

Oh well, I am gonna to stop my ranting now and wrap this up.  In the end, I feel paleo is definitely the best choice for people who can afford it.  Many more people can afford it than actually do it.  I have been judgemental in the past.  Its time for me to be a bit more sensitive to the fact that paleo principles can be a bit elitist.  There are some people who just can't afford this way of living and I need to respect that rather than get on my high horse about being healthy.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lets Put This Life Expectancy Crap To Rest

Ok, one of the most common criticisms of the paleo diet is that paleolithic man (of 15,000 years ago) lived to only 18 years of age.  This point is so ignorant that it requires a quick education.  What critics really mean is the average life expectancy was 18 years.  Let's be clear what "life expectancy" means.  What this statistic describes is the average length of life a baby would expect to have after they were born.  This average takes into account men who lived to 70, babies who died at birth, men who fell off cliffs at a young age, mothers who died during child birth and even young children who starved due running out of baby formula (there weren't as many Walmarts back then).  

Sure their average life expectancy was short relative to today.  Paleolithic man had an average life expectancy of about 18 years vs. about 78 years in the US today.   There is little forensic evidence showing they died from chronic diseases vs. what people mostly die of today.  As recent as 1786 the average life expectancy in the US was only 24 years.  In a matter of about 15,000 years life expectancy went up a mere 6 years.  Not so impressive.  Consider that the increase from 1786 to today has increased 54 years.....that is very impressive.

You may ask why there has been such a jump in life expectancy in roughly 200 years verse a very small change in the previous 15,000.  Two advances deserve much of the credit, proper sanitation and modern medicine.  We can now prevent many early childhood deaths, better prevent plagues, and treat infections.  

This is a simple concept to comprehend and seems like it should be common sense.  It's not for many.  So the next time you hear someone drop the life expectancy bomb on your food choices, throw a little knowledge back at them.  Then ask them why our kids are expected to have shorter lives than us despite all the "great" nutrition advice being doled out in popular magazines like Time and US News.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Why Paleo Dieters Are More Healthy

Because, on the whole, they make healthier lifestyle choices.  They take the time to learn information about human physiology and nutrition.  They then apply their knowledge to themselves in pursuit of optimal health.  I have seen it time and time again in the comments of blogs.  We are a serious bunch of people when it comes to our food and our health.  The anti meat and the pro grain people frequently attempt to match wits and dispute the merits of this diet.  This may sound elitist but it quickly becomes obvious they have not taken the time to learn about nutrition like the paleo crew has.  It is also obvious that evolution and history are never considerations when proper nutrition is discussed. 

Let's face it, going paleo is a huge leap of faith.  It is very contradictory to conventional wisdom.  In that light, it even appears down right dangerous.  To make the leap, it takes a high level of confidence.  Some people can be confident because paleo was recommended to them by a loved one or a health care professional.  That isn't the typical case.  Paleo is usually a careful choice made after weeks or months of research and self education.  It sometimes is associated with a period of observing successful results of others.  

In the end, when it comes to nutrition, paleo practitioners are smarter than the average bear. If you want to match better know your stuff.  Please let me know your journey to going paleo or primal.  Was it a leap of faith or a careful and calculated transition?


Friday, September 16, 2011

What An Average American Eats in a Year

Something that was glaring to me is out of the 2,000 pounds of food eaten in a year, only 62 pounds of it is beef.  Seems like many people are barking up the wrong tree if they are targeting beef as a big problem in our diets. 

Draw your own conclusions.  I found this on  


Monday, September 12, 2011

Dr. Oz Softening Stance on Fat

I recently read an article in the 9-13-11 edition of Time Magazine.  It was the latest nutrition recommendations from Dr. Oz.  As some may know, I am not a big fan of his. He has a lot of influence over what people feel is a healthy way to eat.  That could be good or bad depending on what he has to say.  Typically his recommendations were in line with our government recommendations that has done nothing but correlated with our country getting sicker every year.  I believe, that unlike our government, Dr. Oz is starting to pay attention to the latest research coming out.                           

I don't actually have the article in front of me, so I am going to paraphrase.  Please tell me if I am inaccurate.  First he tells us that cholesterol in the food you eat does not raise cholesterol in the blood.  This has been know for a while but is now becoming more widely recogniozed.  Also, he goes on to tell us that eggs and whole milk aren't as bad as they've been made out to be and we should consume in moderation because they do have some health merits.  WHOA!  That kinda blew me away.  He also said the same thing about saturated fat filled coconut products.  
Although there was plenty more in the article I didn't agree with, I have a silver lining attitude today.  He is moving in the right direction.  Who knows, maybe next year he will be full blown paleo in his recommendations as he continues to pay attention to the latest nutrition info rather than perpetuating the ineffective status quo.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Cancer Post

OK, so this post has been in the back of my mind for a while.  Cancer comes up too often.  It pops up in conversation, in the news, and afflicts loved ones way too often.  Millions if not billions have been spent trying to cure this disease yet it afflicts greater numbers of people every year.  The most recent case that saddens me is the husband of one of my wife's co-workers.  The man spent the better part of his life as a pastor.  He is a noble man with nothing but great intentions.  He recently retired.  Not too long after his retirement and the birth of his first grandchild he has been diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer.  It's just not fair.  Cancer has also recently afflicted one of my family members and the wife of one of my co-workers.  It's everywhere and it aint no fun for anyone involved.

The latest research being done is to prevent glucose hoarding by tumors.  This article discusses an experimental drug with promising results:

 ".....they showed that the new agent both stops glucose from entering cancer cells and suppresses the cells' ability to metabolize the sugar.

Starved for fuel, the cancer cells begin consuming themselves, a process called autophagy -- self eating -- accompanied by other biochemical events that lead to the cells' death by a natural process called apoptosis."
It has long been known that cancer cells thrive on and hoard glucose from the bloodstream.  All dietary carbohydrates get metabolized down and end up as glucose in the blood.  It doesn't matter whether it is high fructose corn syrup, table sugar, whole wheat, or fructose from fruit.  It all ends up at varying levels as glucose in the blood.  Here is a lecture from one of the top cancer research centers on this topic (credit to Fathead for bringing this gem to my attention).  If you don't want to learn the science then skip to the 27 minute mark for the real meaty part.


Like I said, this concept of glucose feeding cancer is not new stuff to the medical world.  Yet not many people seem to know about it.  Many of the medical students in the video, after watching a very well done 27 minute lecture that they should have easily comprehended, still felt too much fat verses too much carbohydrate would increase cancer rate.  Bottom line of this lecture is don't eat so much carbohydrate that it allows cancer cells to proliferate into tumors.

Another cancer treatment being explored is anti angiogenesis or the prevention of the growth of blood vessels.  There is a drug being studied that will cut off blood supply to tumors.  
"New 'anti-angiogenic' medications that attack the blood vessels within tumours are showing promise in starving many types of cancers by reducing their blood supply."
I first heard of anti angiogenesis from a lecture by William Li.  He believes that starving cancer can be accomplished via the right foods in the diet.  Here is a list of foods he recommends to prevent vascular proliferation into tumors:


As you can see, many of these foods are paleo friendly and definitely should be part of a well rounded diet.  Some do contain carbohydrates but raise blood glucose much less than say whole wheat for instance.  If one had cancer, it may be a good idea to avoid the foods on the list that raised blood glucose the most.

In my opinion, cancer doesn't happen by chance.  We may not yet know exactly what causes cancer.  Based on what we do know, it seems wise to eat a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, and spices but still keeps blood glucose levels low.  Fat is needed in order for us to be able to absorb many nutrients from plant based foods yet it also helps to keep blood glucose levels down.  The standard recommendations of avoiding nearly all fats and eating healthy whole grains seems very counter to a diet that today's cancer experts think may help prevent cancer.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Times of Plenty

A Recent Haul From the Garden
It is pretty common knowledge that most animals fatten up in the fall in preparation for times with little food in the winter.  It just so happens that there is plenty for them to eat throughout the summer and into the fall.  Our human ancestors followed the same cycles before refrigeration, food storage, and food preservation became accessible.  They took advantage of the plentiful food around them when they could.  

Well, right now food is plentiful for myself and my family.  Our garden is bursting with tomatoes, tomatilloes, green beans, cabbage, kale, peppers, and collard greens.  The same is happening at farmers markets and even grocery stores.  There is an abundance of fresh produce available at very good prices.  

Between our garden and what can come inexpensively elsewhere, we have a lot of quality food to deal with.  I hate to waste anything so we have been spending time picking, cleaning, and preparing what we have available.  When I do this I constantly think that not too long ago this is just what people did on a daily basis to survive.  It isn't hard labor but it requires time on your feet and patience.  There is no fast way to wash and trim 30 collard or kale green leaves by hand.  Then comes the cooking and preserving for the winter.  Our freezer is filling up with prepared greens and sauces.  There is also the blueberries and strawberries we picked earlier in the summer.  Although not recently, I have caught and cleaned deer and fish to freeze for the future.  This also is a tedious task.

I take pride in the fact that I have food in my freezer that I am largely responsible for.  From growing, to harvest, to cooking.  I also now realize that life used to revolve around the pursuit of nourishing food.  This lead to a daily activity level that most people don't come close to today.  So my hobby of gardening and my passion for feeding myself and my family with quality food has turned into a form of exercise I would have never considered.