The Paleo Diet – Part 3
Paleo diet practices in our current era of industrial agriculture has several appealing factors. First of all, it makes sense scientifically. Humans developed a brain far larger than any other mammal in proportion to our size. While our genome only varies 1.5% from that of a chimpanzee, it is our dietary heritage that has made that difference. It is the consumption of protein from meat and fish that enabled our brain to grow and our digestive systems to get smaller. We have the shortest digestive system of all primates, primarily from eating meat.
There is no disagreement among anthropologists, humans have been hunters for a long time and our diet has been predominantly animal foods. We are not capable of digesting the anti-nutrients in most plant foods, and we cannot breakdown cellulose, the skin of all plant cell membranes. The study of anthropology also confirms that our brain size shrank 10% when we gave up hunting for farming.
Eating a paleo-like diet today does not mean we have to return to hunting, although wild game meat is some of the most nutrient-dense food. We can purchase grass fed meats and wild caught fish.
The other appeal about a paleo-like diet is that it works. Nearly everyone, on giving up sugar, grains and beans and including good quality fat, meat and fish, feels better, usually within a week or two. Weight loss, increased energy, better mood, better digestion, less pain and a reduction in disease symptoms are all common responses to this dietary change.
Here are things we hear our clients say after going paleo:
- “I lost 15 pounds in 30 days.”
- “The asthma I've had for years is gone!”
- “My pain level is less than half what it used to be.”
- “I can't believe it—my pain is gone!”
- “I've lost 40 pounds in the past year.”
- “My sinus problems are nearly gone.”
- “I have so much more energy. I feel fantastic.”
- “My brain works so much better.”
- “No more bloating.”
I realize that some people feel that they are natural vegetarians or that vegetarianism is morally, environmentally or health-wise a better choice for humans. However neither Weston Price nor anthropologists before or after him have ever found any human groups that were vegetarian by choice. Lierre Keith, in her eye-opening book, Vegetarian Myths, details how the destruction of the great plains, with its incredible biodiversity, so that we can have corn, soybeans and wheat resulted in an incomprehensible loss of billions of animals, birds, “fossil” water, by depleting our aquifers and “fossil soil.” The incredible rich topsoil that was once several feet deep, is now inches deep, either blown away or washed down our rivers to the sea. Wetlands, with their incredible biodiversity of plant and animal life – destroyed so that we can have rice.
Health Begins in the Soil
This abundantly fertile topsoil that Europeans discovered when they came to North America is nearly gone. Nature, left alone, will take several hundred years to build an inch of topsoil. However, heavy rotational grazing of animals has a remarkable ability to restore topsoil by stimulating the growth of perennial grasses and mixing their manure into the topsoil. Inches of fertile topsoil can be built in a decade through intense, rotational grazing. Michael Pollan in his book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, writes about Virginia farmer Joel Salatin restoring a topsoil depleted farm with rotational grazing using cows, chickens, and sheep. The growing of grains by huge corporations is unsustainable, as this destroys the fertile topsoil and uses vast amounts of petrochemicals.
Industrial agriculture is destroying our environment and human health along with it. With our food dollars, we “vote” for the kind of agriculture we want. A return to local farming by shopping at farmers markets and local ranches, and growing food ourselves is a very healthy societal trend that can improve our health and the health of our environment. By buying organic produce, we vote against the greedy, destructive practices of Big Ag, Big Food and Big Pharma, which is dependent on our poor health to keep drug sales soaring.
Civilization may have never begun without cereal grains, and we cannot feed the world's population without cereal grains. Lierre Keith estimates that twenty percent of the worlds present population is a result of the “green revolution,” the chemical fertilizers, produced after world war two from cheap fossil fuels, which doubled the world's grain supply. Grains can keep people alive, but can't produce good health.
There is the thought that this is an elitist diet, that most of the world's population cannot eat this way, it is selfish and lacks compassion. There may be some truth to this, and in addition, only 1% of the world's population has a computer, or an automobile, yet I don't see people tossing their computers or automobiles or televisions out of compassion for those who lack them. There is very little we can do to improve world health, but there is much we can do to improve our own, and diet is our greatest leverage point.