Darwin on a Diet

Yet more diets the world offers as alternatives to the Slow Carb Diet:


Have you ever wanted to look like a caveman? Well, shaggy hair and smelly animal pelts aside, they sure were fit and slim. That’s the idea behind the ‘caveman’ diets: the Paleo diet, most recently developed by Loren Cordain, and the Primal diet, by Mark Sisson. These diets are slightly different, but are the same in all the essentials, so let’s start with the premise behind them.

Cordain and Sisson say that the reason obesity and poor health are so prevalent in today’s society is a matter of evolution. Human biology develops slowly, over hundreds of thousands of years – yet our modern diet of farmed animals, vegetables and fruits  and cultivated grains is fairly recent at only a few thousand years. Even more recent inclusions are refined grains, industrialized animal farming and food preservatives and variations, such as trans fats, meal-replacement bars, and potato chips. Essentially, Paleo and Primal dieters say, our bodies have not evolved to process these new food sources:  the substances in these foods cannot be broken down effectively and digested, eventually accumulating as fat and/or inflaming the cells, leading to disease.

Thus, the Paleo and Primal diets encourage a return to those foods that the body is equipped to digest. This means things that our hunter-gatherer ancestors could hunt and gather.  ‘Evolutionarily approved’ foods include wild game and domesticated animals that were once wild, fish, most fresh produce, roots and some nuts. (Primal and Paleo differ somewhat on the specifics, which will be addressed later). Additionally, users should seek out organic and un-genetically modified produce. And remember, today’s meat isn’t the same as Stone Age meat –free range, grass fed and hormone-free are key, unless you have a large quality of wild game handy.

What the diets do NOT include is all grains, dairy products, legumes, most oils, refined sugar and alcohol. This long banned list seems to include many conventional ‘health’ foods: whole grains, low-fat milk and beans. Proponents of the caveman diets acknowledge that these foods do indeed contain good nutrients – however, our bodies are not evolved to process them. They point out to a growing number of people diagnosed with lactose- and gluten- intolerance and Irritable Bowel Syndrome as evidence, as well as growing incidents of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Paleo diet: Originally proposed by Walter Voegtlin in 1975, Paleo has been most visibly championed and extensively written about and developed by Loren Cordain. Besides the food choices listed above, Paleo is a big champion of physical activity. After all, our hunting and gathering ancestors needed to expend a lot of calories hunting and gathering.

Primal diet: Sisson gives users a ‘primal blueprint’ that differs from Paleo mainly in the role of saturated fats. As our ancient ancestors ate all parts of the animal, including the very fatty parts, he claims saturated fats shouldn’t be restricted. He also believes that his diet is somewhat more relaxed – with these two facts in mind, foods like butter and plant oils are allowed. Also, sugars of any kind, like honey and highly sugary fruits are discouraged, while the Paleo diet champions honey as a good alternative for refined sugar and consumption of fruits of all kinds.

Both of these diets have a lot of present day adherents.


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