This blog is about the intersection between evolutionary biology and food. But also about practical applications, sustainable agriculture, and general tasty things.
The Paleo Flashmob at Chipotle Test Kitchen is tomorrow! I hope that you are coming if you can! If you are going, check out Stephan's newest post on omega-6.
Movement instructor Lee Saxby will be speaking on the 20th. I don't know much about him, but I'm looking forward to hearing about him!
On May 14th Chris Masterjohn will be talking about traditional foods! I'm super biased about Chris since he is my boyfriend, but I also think it will be awesome. Even before we were dating I was impressed by his talks.
For everyone, I created a new links page that's more up to date and dynamic than just having static links. I always had trouble because I'd discover great new blogs and then forget to link them or blogs I'd link to would become defunct. I hope you like what's there.
And a random song to remind us how little we know :)
I'm dedicating this week to Soybean Oil, an ingredient I think all rational people should be able to rally against. Despite massive amounts of scientific evidence that large amounts of omega-6 oils are bad for anyone, this ingredient remains common in our food supply.
This year I was VERY VERY disapointed to find that Chipotle uses it in almost all their ingredients besides their pork. I don't know why I never knew this, I guess it was an instance of "maybe if I don't look at the ingredients I don't be upset."
Chipotle is one of the rare fast food outlets that tries to source meat decently and the salad bowl has been a favorite of mine for a long time.
This week I'm going to devote a blog post a day on why we shouldn't use this ingredient. This will culminate in a paleo flashmob of sorts at the Chipotle Test Kitchen in NYC. If you are in New York, please join us!
When someone sent me the infamous soybean oil "paleo" cod, I didn't realize Robb Wolf was involved. He explained it all in a comment:
Robb Wolf here, part owner in Paleo Brands and apparently Satan himself.
Let’s tackle a few things here, the first being the soybean oil in the meal. This was, a complete fuck-up. We had recipes which contained nothing like this, we had someone working on finalizing the meals…and this person allowed our manufacturer to add “seemingly innocuous” ingredients like soybean oil. I had a fit, the person was fired and the meals were already in production. So, y’all appear to be looking for a Pound of Flesh, so here it is: I take full responsibility for this, it’s my fault. Melissa, if this is inadequate I’ll make myself available for a kick to the groin. Our next iteration of the meals will NOT have “seemingly innocuous” ingredients, but Dr. Harris is not a fan of Olive Oil so I suspect this will be an ongoing “thing”.
Before someone freaks out about honey in our grass fed beef jerky, it’s in there. There is SUGAR in our Gaia loving jerky. It’s there for a reason, as a PRESERVATIVE, and it has a pal with it, sodium chloride. We can sell jerky without these items and we effectively become a peddler of mold, packaged as jerky. I personally worked on stability studies on this formulation and it’s the minimum amount of salt and sugar we can use and still maintain some semblance of shelf stability. Now the funny thing here is honey is a large part fructose, which I think most folks generally agree is not the best stuff. So I could use granulated dextrose in the formula, it would chemically be BETTER, but the purists would cry foul for putting a “chemical” in the formula. Oi.
I’d also like to address the plan for Paleo Brands: It is a food company focused on grass fed meat, wild caught (sustainable) fish and local, organic vegetables. We are working on decentralized manufacturing and distribution centers to facilitate the locality element and it’s still a work in progress. I blog constantly on local, sustainable agriculture, CSA’s and similar decentralized food networks:
Given the high standards of the commentators I’m sure I’m getting something wrong with that project and the CSA’s and meat shares that are run out of my gym!
Melissa, you mentioned some things about transparency so here I am being transparent. My plan is to:
1- Build a network of Liberty Garden practitioners and mentors around the world. These people will break out of the mega-food mess and help their friends, family and neighbors do the same.
2-Connect those people who cannot or WILLNOT grow some of their own food to CSA’s, co-ops and meat shares. This will provide decentralized food production which will drive local economies and reduce total energy cost for food production.
3-Create CME education for primary healthcare providers and researchers in evolutionary medicine. These people can act as hubs for information related to the above, and to the notion that evolutionary medicine is the best medicine.
4-Build Paleo Brands into a successful company that sells meals composed of grass fed meat, wild caught fish and organic vegetables. This will serve a need which no matter how much the purists want to go away, will be here for he foreseeable future.
So, if the above makes me Satan or a sell out, guilty as charged. I’m pretty sure what I’m doing is helping a hell of a lot of people. I’ve taken responsibility the evils of soybean oil in our meals, future meals will NOT contain stuff like this, if you like the other projects I’m working on please support those. If this invalidates all of my motives, there are lots of other blogs and podcast to follow, projects to support. If anyone is in Chico, CA this weekend swing by for our Paleo Potluck where we teach people how to cook the great food they get at the CSA and farmers market. I’ll keep the soybean oil to a minimum.
Thanks Robb! Nobody thinks you are Satan! Only one thing can be Satan, and that's Soybean Oil.
Have you guys heard of Paleo 2.0 yet? If not, I recommend reading about it. Dr. Kurt Harris says that Paleo has become polluted by dumb ideas like:
- Hominin ancestors ate only lean meats and little saturated fat
- A paleolithic diet is characterized by plenty of cultivated nuts
- A paleolithic diet has plenty of sweet fruit year-round - fruits that did not even exist until they were artificially bred a few hundred years ago
- A Hunter-gatherer diet always had a precise balance between “acidic” and “basic” foods and failure to maintain this precision would lead to calcium being “leached” from your bones, resulting in osteoporosis.
- A paleolithic diet has plenty of grilled salmon and skinless chicken breasts.
- Eating fish is essential to brain growth and general health.
- Milk and cheese are causes of cancer.
- Eggs can be eaten, but you should throw away the yolks to avoid too much cholesterol.
I agree, but I'd add a few more:
I've noticed this quite a bit since Chris Masterjohn has two new posts on Gluten Sensitivity which attack the first two bad ideas:
Maybe I am sensitive because Chris is my boyfriend, but mostly I am amused by the comments he gets. I have thus dramatized a few of them from various authors in this video for your amusement:
As for the last point, I will just say that every time I read a blog post by a paleoautomaton recommending "yams" (sweet potatoes) and condeming the evils of white potatoes, I just chuckle at the botanical ignorace.
Overall, at this point I'm annoyed enough with the whole thing that I'm almost embarrased when people call me paleo. When I think about things that are important to me, are they really paleo? Is it worth being associated with this whole nonsense? But then I remember that Chris isn't even paleo and he still has to endure it :)
So, what's important to me at this point?
And these three things, while they have been shaped by my involvement in paleo, aren't paleo per se.
I understand that people what to have convenient paleo meal options and that people want to provide them. But I'd like to ask people promoting paleo out there to please remain from stamping products with modern industrial neolithic poisons as "paleo"
See Paleo Brands Almond Crusted Cod with Spicy Vegetables and Cauliflower Leek Puree
Cauliflower Leek Puree (cauliflower, leeks, mayonnaise (soybean oil, egg yolks, whole egg, water, distilled vinegar, contains less than 2% of salt, sugar, lemon concentrate, calcium disodium edta added to protect flavor, natural flavors), spices, black pepper, xanthan gum) Almond Crusted Cod, (rockfish, blanched almonds, spices, cracked black pepper)l Spicy Vegetables, (onion, green bell peppers, tomato, olive/granola oil, jalapeno peppers, red bell peppers, fresh garlic, cilantro, salt substitute, [potassium chloride, contains less than 1% of cream tartar, silicon dioxide, natural flavor], paprika, garlic powder, celery seed, black pepper ) l CONTAINS EGGS, NUTS AND FISH.
I don't care if this is a fallback meal. There is just no excuse to produce things that are "paleo" with these kind of ingredients. In fact, why aren't they using absolutely the best ingredients? Either way, I can walk into the local supermarket and get TV Dinners that are more paleo than this. On two occasions when I was traveling I've bought Garden Lite Souffles, which aren't perfect (they are made just with egg whites, yuck), but don't contain anything paleo folks know is truly bad for you. And they aren't pretending to be paleo either.
As for whether or not it's possible to produce a truly good commercial product, Wilderness Family Naturals produces a commercially viable mayo without soybean or canola oil.
Furthermore, shouldn't we hold ourselves to some higher standards? Where is the cod from? Is is fished sustainably? Because some rockfish is harvested through trawling, which is the most destructive way to fish. Maybe some of us paleo folks lean rightward, but I absolutely don't want to buy things that would preclude my children from enjoying seafood in the future.
Can we produce packaged frozen products that meet such higher standards? I say YES. A remarkable number of infrastructural projects are showing that frozen and other packaged foods can be made with local ingredients from small farms. Farm to Table Co-Packers in the Hudson Valley is such a project. When I don't have time to cook or chop vegetables, their products are a fallback I can feel good about.
I hate to say it, but there is absolutely no packaged paleo product out there I can endorse. They either contain absurd ingredients like sugar or soybean oil. Or they have so little supplier transparancy that I'm not sure what's in it. Some products say "grass fed beef." From where? They won't tell you. Maybe from Brazil, where the rainforest has been cut down? Or confined cows fed hay? Who knows. They won't tell you. Contrast that with the WAPF folks- at their Wise Traditions conference they showcased products made with truly good ingredients, with transparency, and with integrity.
To be honest, the more research I've done into paleo products, the less I want to be associated with paleo at all.
Each weekend I give myself free rein to eat gluten-free desserts. I don't find that eating sugar upsets my stomach at all, which makes sense because most sugar is digested in the small intestine before it gets into the fermentation chambers of the lower intestine. But really, having some treats once in awhile makes it way easier for me to comply with this diet on a day to day basis. Never having bread again doesn't seem so bad in a world of delicious ice cream.
My rules for treats are
Number 3 really limits things. I'm too much of a snob to eat most of the ice cream at the grocery store and have to trek to expensive restaurants to get a fix. 1 and 2 prevent overeating.
Either way, every day I like to have good tea, which is an excellent calorie-free indulgence. This week I am enjoying my order from Davidstea, a Canadian company. Someone asked me this week if I receive $$ or free food from the companies I review and the answer is pretty much no. There are a few restaurant's that reward me for being a regular customer by giving me free apps, but that doesn't have much to do with my blogging. When I do receive things for free, I will note it, but overall I am too disorganized to ask for samples and whatnot. Unfortunately, most "paleo" packaged products also aren't very good. Lots of nut flours that I can't digest well. Honestly, if it's between a but of ground nuts stuck together with agave nectar and real delicious ice cream, guess what I'm going to pick?
Back to Davidstea, I ordered a bunch and my favorites are:
I've been drinking lots of tea since I quit coffee and I look for teas that are high quality, have a strong flavor, and work well without cream/sweetener since I don't always want to use or have access to these things. These teas are great and I'll definitely buy them again. I love how the leave unfurl and you can see that they are whole leaves and not the dust you find in tea bags.
I also got my Foodzie tasting box today (it was a deal on Homerun.com) and was excited because only one item was truly off the menu, which was the Blue Cheese Fig Shortbreads (ack, my fav flavor combo). A non-gluten sensitive person in my life will receive those :)
I really liked to the kale pumpkin seed crackers, which would be a great way to serve rilettes or something. I often miss crackers because some meaty things like rilettes really don't shine without them. A lot of gluten free crackers are too heavy with nuts, made with gut-irritating whole flax seed, or have vegetable oil in them. These were perfect.
Also quite nice for an occasional paleo-friendly treat were Cocomels, caramels made with coconut milk, which tasted very good and not too coconutty.
Tonight I'm hoping to have some yuzu-buttermilk sorbet at one of my new favorite restaurants, Salt & Fat. And those will be my weekend treats!
What purpose in these deeds
Oh fox confessor, please
Who married me to these orphaned blues
"It's not for you to know, but for you to weep and wonder
When the death of your civilization precedes you,"- Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings The Flood
I've been reading Tyler Cowan's The Great Stagnation, which is what he calls the period we are in. I believe it. Maybe it's just the fact I graduated college in this period, but it does feel like stagnation is a very palpable part of my life. I sometimes imagine I am part of a new sort of people- the nouveau poor. We make much less money than our parents did at our ages and don't have many career advancement opportunities. We aren't impoverished, but some of us linger below the federal poverty line, as I did for the year or so after I graduated.
But we grew up in the middle or upper middle class and went to college, so we don't fit the "poor" stereotypes. We are used to a certain standard of living and maintain it somewhat, even if it means scrimping by to do it or approaching it in a novel way. We live in pretty nice areas, but share our tiny apartments with an inordinate amount of roommates. We eat good food, but save money on it through buying clubs, community gardens, and DIY processing. We shop in thrift stores and scavenge furniture from the trash. Time consuming things like canning or backyard chickens don't have a high opportunity cost for us because there isn't much work to go around. Most of us are "creatives," but almost all of us have college degrees that aren't easily convertible to work skills such as those in English or History. A lot of us pay the bills in unrelated fields as baristas or waiters.
If we can afford to have families, many of us chose to spend more time with the children realizing it doesn't make sense to work 40 hours of a job that has nothing to do with what you like so you can give 80% of your income to paying someone else to raise your children and quite a bit of the rest to a government that seems like a dying dinosaur. In fact, there is a general return to homemaking and a greater value placed on quality of life. More time is spent on things like cooking and gardening. The paradox is while we might make less money than our parents did, we might be much healthier since many of us have more time for good food, family, and exercise. The idea that housekeeping might be banal has fallen in the face of the fact that most of us will never posses the fulfilling careers our college counselors promised.
Other nouveau poors might be more stressed because they still have dreams about their creative career and are trying to balance it with bartending. But most of us have given up on that sort of thing. It's not that there is no innovation or ambition, we're just learning we shouldn't base our lives on our careers.
The downsides are real of course. There is a worry that men aren't "manning up", but in reality many men and women seem stuck in adolescence because they cannot afford to start households. Another problem is that some people spend an exorbitant amount of money on education that may not have much of a payoff, such as graduate school in British Literature or expensive private colleges. As a result, many of us have large amounts of debt and no hope of ever paying it off.*
*I've been lucky in this respect since I went to a state school
Mark Sisson posted a link to a sad essay called IBS Is Why I'm Still Single. Every day I'm able to eat and live normally, I am so grateful. You see, most of my life I had painful stomach problems. When I was four I remember crying in the bathroom. I remember at sleep away camp being too embarrassed to use the communal bathrooms and sneaking out in the middle of the night to the isolated outhouse. It wasn't until I was 15 or so that I was diagnosed with IBS. When I was a freshman in college it became so disruptive to my life that I was finally given Librax. At that point I was also on quite a bit of asthma medication. Then I started having serious heartburn. I went on proton pump inhibitors. At my low point I was on Allergra, Advair, Singulair, Albuterol, Librax, Nexium (Prilosec stopped working at some point), and continuously on and off antibiotics for various ailments ranging from yeast to sinus infections. I was miserable. I missed most of my classes.
The single part of that essay hit home because I remember my first Valentine's day with my first boyfriend. We had a delicious meal, but soon after I was bent double with incredible pain and spent most of the night in the bathroom. I didn't think I'd be able to do anything.
I honestly thought that my condition was caused by eating fat, tomatoes, and peppers. The handouts my doctor gave me insinuated as much. I really didn't like all the side effects of the medications I was on, but when I complained to one of my doctors he said I'd on them for the rest of my life. I tried all kinds of high-fiber low-fat veg*n diets to no avail.
I didn't want to live like this. But all the sudden my condition took a turn for the worst. I felt like my whole body was falling apart. One day I collapsed in the hallway of the dorm. I was diagnosed at the hospital with chronic salmonella. That's not something a 19 year old should have. Afterwards I had trouble with constant burping.
I vowed to do more research and found a small study on GERD and low carbohydrate diets. I also discovered Evolutionary Nutrition on Art De Vany's site through the blog Marginal Revolution. I learned about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and wondered if my symptoms were caused by bacterial overgrowth. My first attempts to get off my medicines didn't work. I tried to eat low-carb in the dining hall, but I guess the foods had too much crap on them. Luckily, I took summer school and lived dining-hall free in graduate student housing, though my "kitchen" had only a microwave. Looking back, my diet wasn't all that great. I didn't know that much about cooking and nothing about meat. The first meat I bought was some sausage, which I tried to cook in the microwave only to get a massive bowl of exploding grease. Gross. I had to eat out a lot, but stayed mostly paleo and very low carb. I tried lots of remedies like probiotics and drinking apple cider vinegar after each meal. I started drinking kombucha. I read everything I could get my hands on about traditional nutrition. It seemed clear my illness was a modern disease.
I had a goal in mind: as a freshman I had tried spicy food for the first time and learned to love it, but I had thought it was causing all my problems. When it was clear that this was a secondary problem to the inflammation and dysbiosis, I decided to make eating it without pain a goal. I didn't reach that goal until six months into the regimen, but I've been eating delicious curries without incident ever since.
I've also been able to travel extensively without incident, something I thought I'd never do.
Unfortunately I still had some residual IBS issues. I realized a year ago that I was going to have to let go of beer and gluten-containing cheat meals. The IBS has been gone ever since, but I really do miss some of those foods.
So basically the principals I went on were that bacteria was at the root of most of my problems. Being born by C-section, a low-nutrient diet, and constant antibiotic use had put my gut ecology into an imbalanced state. Probably some of my medications made it worse, like Prilosec/Nexium, which is known to allow bacterial overgrowth. My principles were to first starve out the bad bacteria, which was inspired a bit by Hyperlipid, and then gradually try to balance the gut through gentle traditional probiotic and nutrient-rich foods. I suspect I had both hypochlorhydria and small-bacterial overgrowth, which was why I was so excited by the paper I just blogged about.
I'm still quite fiber-intolerant. I can't really do brown rice, quinoa, or many other fiber-rich grains. But I am able to eat a fair amount of carbs, which I'm happy with. As an aside, even some in the alternative health community are very wrong about IBS. Giving up simple sugar will do nothing, as they are digested in the small intestine, which is a point made by the SCD diet. It's the complex sugars that cause the problems in the lower intestine.
As for romance, duh it's easier when you aren't a miserable gas-filled bloated cramped up woman who alternates between diarrhea and constipation (with hemorrhoids) every two days...
So when people say paleo or traditional foods are trivial, I'm just happy I can live a relatively normal life thanks to them. So I thank these things for my good health
Have you taken the paleo community survey? If not, you should take it since some folks worked pretty hard to put it together and will probably post some interesting data in the future.
The purpose of this survey is to collect information about paleo diet community members, including demographic information, medical conditions, dietary preferences, and physical activity.
The resulting data will be invaluable in terms of understanding the nature of the paleo movement. It will be provided to other bloggers and researchers with the goal of providing a clearer picture of how the paleo diet has affected the lives of its adherents.
Survey respondents will remain anonymous, your name or other identifying information will not be collected. The survey itself is relatively short and should only take a couple of minutes to complete.
Several incentives for completion of the survey have been provided, and will be explained further at the end of the survey. These include a coupon code for Paleo Treats products and the opportunity to win one of several giveaway Amazon.com gift cards.
So go take it here.
I leave you with the best of paleo discoteca
True or false:
Unfortunately, a lot of people out there would answer "true" to these questions. This makes me sad. Every plant food and many animal foods contain potentially toxic substances, but as Paracelsus said "the dose makes the poison." Besides that, there is ample evidence that paleolithic people ate potentially toxic foods like cycads, seeds, and roots. The advent of cooking is debated pretty heavily in anthropology, but everyone agrees it was invented in the paleolithic, though exactly when is heavily disputed. As my professors always said "it's hard to determine much with a sample size in the single digits." Unfortunately, in physical anthropology that's often the amount of samples available.
Beyond that, I strongly recommend listening to the Paleo Solution episode with Matt Lalonde on why this whole "what did paleolithic people eat exactly" discussion is stupid. And Dr. Kurt Harris' post on Orthorexia.
One of my favorite jokes with Chris Masterjohn is "I can't kiss you because you contain lectins" ;) Of course, after saying that, I do kiss him and I could not care less about the lectins he contains, which I also contain.
Avoiding specific lectins might be worth it for those of us battling illness, but only profound ignorance would condemn a food (or a man) because lectins are present. How about trying to figure what's wrong and eliminating foods as needed instead of looking for problems where there are none?