This blog is about the intersection between evolutionary biology and food. But also about practical applications, sustainable agriculture, and general tasty things.
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.
Last month I made the move from Brooklyn to Queens. There were several reasons for this, but I already love Queens, probably more than I love Brooklyn. I never felt perfectly comfortable there for some reason. Organic food, farmer's markets, coops...what's not to like? I guess I found it boring, kind of like the suburbs.
Brooklyn gets all the buzz, but Queens is really where culinary talent is. In Brooklyn's yuppie core, getting anything salty, spicy, of offal good is awfully hard. In Park Slope an owner of a restaurant I used to go to a lot told me he wanted to serve spicy food, but he couldn't sell it. When I would occasionally get Thai for takeout, it was mediocre and cloying.
Contrast that to Queens, which is a place where restaurants representing cuisines from all over the world serve things like bone marrow soup and spicy pork belly. All we need to go is get them to source the meat better, but that's a whole nother post.
Right after I moved to Sunnyside, a restaurant called Salt & Fat opened. It's become one of my favorites. Um, as you all know, Salt & Fat are my favorite things and unlike normal people, when I saw the sign I thought "yay, health food!"
Since I'm a weirdo and I think bacon fat is healthy, I've now eaten there several times. I definitely recommend it and if you go get the oxtail terrine, a block of delicious braised crispy fatty umani goodness with luscious silky mushrooms.
From an Edible Queens article that calls it "A carnivore’s answer to sticky toffee pudding" and a "meat brownie"
Also check out the Branzino. It's cooked with bacon fat and the skin is wonderfully crispy:
my own crappy pic
If you want more NYC recs check out my Dinevore Paleo Restaurant List. Create your own and add it to the list on Paleohacks!
There have been many articles written about the paleo diet. Almost all of them have been idiotic. GOOD Magazine just did one that is not idiotic. It actually involves talking to actual experts in the field instead of hot physical trainers. This article is an interview with four well-respected physical anthropologists and evolutionary biologists. We have Peter Ungar, author of the excellent Evolution of the Human Diet: The Known, The Unknown, and The Unknowable (a perfect title to describe the field). Also Katherine Milton, who has written some rebuttals to Cordain's papers. Amanda Henry is one of the authors of the infamous paleo "flour" paper I wrote about. I don't know much about Bill Leonard, but his latest papers sound interesting.
Overall, I found Ungar and Leonard's answers the most reasonable. Milton seems to be overreaching both in terms of making inferences based on limited evidence and in terms of her own nutritional expertise. Henry seems fixated on her own paper...
Here are the best quotes:
Leonard: Although there’s an extraordinary range of variation, based on the climate and the environment, hunter-gatherers get a fair amount of meat in their diet. We require a diet that is more energy-dense than other primates and historically, we may have reached that point by incorporating more meat. It’s reflected in evolutionary changes in our face, our teeth, and in our gastrointestinal tract. Indeed, the GI tract of modern humans looks more like a carnivore's than a large primate's. Because early humans increasingly used tools to hunt, we don't show the same kinds of dental adaptations as modern carnivores.
Leonard: There are lots of ways you can improve dietary quality—eating meat, cooking, or processing starchy carbohydrates. These are all human strategies for making food digestible and nutrients more bio-available. To argue that meats are the only strategy is as misguided as thinking that humans were evolved to be folivores, entirely vegetarian.
Ungar: While there’s increasing evidence of meat consumption from the first evidence of butchery 2.5 million years ago to around 1.8 million years ago, when we see sites with lot of bones, we still don’t know how that breaks down in terms of the ratio of meat to plant material. What we do know is that no single food provided a panacea.
Ungar: There was no single Paleolithic diet. Still, I think these are valuable diets in that they remind us what we shouldn’t be eating. Our ancestors didn’t have the processed foods we have today. To say what we should be eating is more difficult, but I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that australopiths did not eat corn dogs and drink milkshakes.
The worst come from Milton
Milton: Humans evolved to eat a high-quality diet, but that doesn’t mean eating a lot of meat—especially today. Even the Eskimos and Inuits don’t eat a lot of meat. They eat marine mammal fat. No one eats a lot of meat. The only people who eat way too much meat are Americans, who are addicted to eating huge steaks, chops, and roasts.
Um, so animal fat is OK and not meat? Great, I'm a vegan now!
Milton: No matter where they evolved, our diet changed continuously, just like if you’re a primate living in the tropical forest. Every day a monkey in a tree does not eat the same thing; it may eat four or five kinds of leaves, one or two fruits, maybe some flowers. The next day, there’s 50 to 75 percent turnover in what that same monkey is eating and I assume that Paleolithic humans were the same way. Each day, they need to take in a sufficiency of good quality energetic substrate (sugars and starches) and enough protein—say 70 grams or so—to meet their daily requirements for amino acids.
The vast majority of studies on hunter-gatherers show that nearly all of them have staples. Sure, they eat a large variety of plants and animals, but they get most of their calories from a staple source.
Milton: While I don’t know what the paleo diet is, what I do know is that if you’re talking about trying to eat unprocessed foods, a high percentage of fruits and vegetables, and only as much animal source as you need to meet protein and essentially amino acid requirements, then that’s a good diet, especially if you get up and around for an hour each day out in the fresh air.
Yes, because back in the paleolithic when they had killed a mammoth they would stop after eating half and say "Oh, let's leave the rest to the vultures, we've all had our daily 70 grams of protein." Snark. Proves that even scientists can let modern bias stand in the way of science.
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