Monday, November 22, 2010
Closing Thoughts (for now) on the Paleo Diet
Throughout my ongoing research on hunter-gatherer/Paleolithic eating, I've had a tortuous train of thoughts. Actually, let's be honest - it's been pretty bipolar up in here. Here's a cognitive rundown, in order.
1. Grains and legumes are ridiculous sources of "food" - why would we ever have chosen such difficult things to digest to be the bulk of our diet? Why were our ancestors so STUPID?
2. I'm going to go live with a modern day hunter-gatherer tribe on an island somewhere so I can have a clean diet, be one with the divine earth and feel virtuously healthy! Will they kill me if I try to become one of them? (Begins googling tribes (in tropical climates) with a known history of tolerating opinionated white women.)
3. Wait, if I go live with a modern day hunter-gatherer tribe, I won't be able to climb at Rifle and the Boulder Rock Club... And some of those tribes drink seal blood and that's freaking disgusting. Maybe I'll just study anthropology a lot instead. (Googles books on nutritional anthropology)...
4. Ohhh, modern man started farming grains because there was a giant drought and there was nothing to hunt or gather, and they needed something to eat. They chose grains and legumes because they have some protein in them. Geniuses. (Asks the Google how much protein wheat contains per cooked cup)...
5. Hold on - the only reason people can afford to not hunt and gather food all day is that we started farming enough food (grains and legumes) for everyone in a community to survive on. That way, people were all fed, whether they were farmers or not, and they could start doing other things like making metals and art and languages and homes, and doing academic RESEARCH. So the reason I am able to do this fascinating research about how much healthier people were before they started eating grains is that we decided to grow grains in the first place. What?!
6. I would have been so bored if I had lived during the time before grains and legumes. Thank you, grains and legumes.
You can see I've been in a moral fix. I've been deifying hunter-gatherer tribes and their uncomplicated ways, lamenting having been born in the age of high fructose corn syrup, treadmills, and the internet, when the truth is really that I would not be able to live without the Google. Or Whole Foods. What was I thinking? All of these modern privileges were born of grains and legumes (and domesticated animals) - the reasons we have the energy and surplus to do amazing things. Without them, we would be running around in loin cloths, chucking rocks at birds to get our next meal, and only killing them if we were lucky or skilled. What if we weren't lucky or skilled??
Yes, grains and legumes are hard on our bodies, but they've served a profound purpose. They've allowed us to evolve into a highly diversified, academic, and productive species. The bad news is that they've also had a large part in creating a gluttonous, eco-destructive and overwhelmingly sick species. The good news is that we can have the best of both worlds now. We can Google Paleolithic-style Thanksgiving recipes and make an entire spread of delicious, Paleo foods and only have to hunt and gather the ingredients from our local supermarket.
Don't be surprised if this blog comes to an abrupt halt one day, though, when I've finally made up my mind to strap on my loin cloth and get on a plane to Papua New Guinea. Maybe not in that order...