Monday, April 2, 2012

Paleo in 6 easy steps.

Step 1: Eat Meat, Not Birdseed

  • Eat more meat. If it’s not meat, it’s not a meal.
    • Favor ruminants—animals that eat grass and leaves. (That means red meat: beef, lamb, bison, elk, venison, goat.) Ruminants are far better at converting plants into essential fats, complete protein, and bioavailable nutrients than humans are.
    • Buy grass-fed beef whenever possible: it’s better for you, and better for the Earth. Cows didn’t evolve to eat corn and soybeans any more than humans did.
    • Buy fatty cuts, buy occasional organ meats. Do not avoid animal fat! If you try, you will become ravenous for fatty junk food. Fake low-fat ‘paleo’ is known as the Faileo Diet.
    • Pork and chicken are permissible in moderation, but are far less healthy due to excessive omega-6 fat content.
    • Frankly, you could stop here, as many native cultures did: as long as you eat organ meats and marrow, fatty, grass-fed ruminant meat provides 100% of your nutritional needs. But most of us enjoy more variety in our diets—and some vegetables and fruits offer tangible health benefits, even if they don’t provide meaningful calories.
  • Eat more fish and shellfish.
    Favor oily fish like mackerel, sardines, and wild salmon, but be careful of methylmercury content: keep your intake of tuna, shark, and other high-level carnivores low. (The FDA’s table of mercury content can be found here.) In a Paleolithic world we could eat all the fish we wanted…but we humans have polluted the entire Earth so badly (mostly by burning coal for power) that one of our healthiest food sources is now universally poisonous. Good job, ‘civilization’.
  • Do not eat anything made with ‘flour’.
    No bread, no pasta, no cereal, no crackers, no cookies, no donuts or danishes. Period. This is your most important step.
    Flour is ground-up seeds. What eats seeds? Birds and rodents. If it’s poisonous to humans until we grind it into powder and cook it, and it causes mineral deficiencies and birth defects unless we add vitamins, it’s not food. (Read more about lectins, phytic acid, and the role of grains in autoimmunity and heart disease.)
  • Do not drink your food.
    No soda (even diet soda), no sports drinks, no milk, no soy ‘milk’, no smoothies, no fruit juice, no yogurt or vegetable drinks. Tea, coffee, and mate are fine in moderation. Learn to drink water: once you get used to it, you’ll find that soda and juices no longer quench your thirst. (You can potentially add small quantities of dairy and fresh fruit/vegetable juices back in later, if you’ve met your other goals.)
  • Do not eat table sugar, or its equivalents.
    This includes circumlocutions like “brown rice syrup”, “agave nectar”, and my favorite, “evaporated cane juice solids.” That’s what sugar is! Sheesh. Even honey is basically just sugar, though it has useful medicinal properties. Diet sweeteners are out, too, as are those goofy Atkins sugar alcohols.
  • Get your ‘carbohydrates’ (sugars) from plants—not their seeds.
    Prefer foods that are high in glucose and low in fructose, particularly root starches like potatoes, and only eat what your body needs: 15-20% of calories is plenty. (Do you want to lose fat? Then you’d better accustom your body to burning it for energy.)

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