This blog is about the intersection between evolutionary biology and food. But also about practical applications, sustainable agriculture, and general tasty things.
Some folks have wondered why I still recommend Gary Taubes' books on my Start Here post given that I have been vocally negative about him lately. Yes, I have a problem with his attitude and frankly find him stubborn. But the truth is that his books changed my life. Without Good Calories, Bad Calories, I might still think that eggs, butter, liver, and cheese are bad for you. I might still think that fat makes you sick and fat. These foods have been instrumental in improving my health and thus my life. The fact that his carbohydrate hypothesis of obesity has attracted so much energy and attention is an unfortunate distraction from the fact that his books mount an excellent defense of fat. The idea that carbohydrates per se cause obesity is only being debated by a few silly reductionists. For those of us who have read extensively about other healthy cultures, that doesn't even begin to make sense. What healthy peoples have in common is the nutrient dense foods they eat, not their macronutrient ratios. The rest of us have moved on to more relevant issues, like how to have sexy hair, or awesome babies, and stuff like that.
The Dinka Diet is based around porridge and dairy, insulinogenic foods, why aren't they fat? (note that the Dinka have suffered in recent years from warfare and famine and probably no longer look like this. I didn't want to post the Kitavans, the Aka, or any high-carb tribes I've written about already for the sake of diversity. As for whether this is the "ideal" for men, you have to realize that some of body composition is genetic. The Dinka do not bulk up like other men, they are very similar to the Maasai in that way. It is possible that sexual selection is at work here, as this body type is considered very attractive to the Dinka. The Wodabe are an extreme example of this.)
More porridge eating fatties. Scotland now has one of the highest rates of obesity in Western Europe. Hint: it's not the porridge!
As for not getting fat, we could argue about what makes people fat all day, but it's clear that it's not sweet potatoes and plantains making people fat. It's clear that it's something about industrial food, which has the unholy synergy of caloric density, hyperpalatibility, and nutritional poverty, along with bundles of rancid vegetable oils, improperly vetted synthetic chemicals, loads of refined sugar, and other garbage.
Gary Taubes = Diglett
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.
Between moving, work, school, and the very very sad state of my inbox, I haven't had much time to post.
I haven't had much time for anything, which is why I've been eating out quite a bit. I've had a bit of a sea change recently because I found out that my staple eating out food, Chipotle, isn't so great. It just reminds me that you have to question things you love after awhile or you'll get burned. First I found out via Diane from Balanced Bites that Chipotle uses soy oil. I hadn't looked at their site for awhile, so I guess I hadn't noticed. And since carnitas has SO MUCH natural fat WTF are they using soy oil for? It makes me very afraid that for "health" reasons they are skimming off the pork fat and replacing it with soy oil or something awful like that.
Also, it turns out the meat is sourced less carefully than I thought. A few years ago I heard some Chipotle executives speak at a conference and I thought they were pioneers at sourcing well, but according to Nate Appleman, their new spokesman "The chain uses local and organic ingredients when practical and meat from animals raised without antibiotics or added hormones."
What does "when practical" mean? And without antibiotics or added hormones is a sad low standard. It's like saying "we raise these animals without tormenting them with daily sessions of Justin Bieber's greatest hits."
Once I started getting disillusioned with Chipotle, I started thinking...why bother? NYC is full of nice restaurants using pastured lard, duck fat, and other good foods, but to be honest I don't live or work near those restaurants. So if Chipotle is not that great, why not patronize the local Thai joint that uses a mixture of olive and canola oil? I even found that after talking with the owner, I could get some dishes made with just coconut fat. Supporting a local business + delicious food = win. After moving I kind of went on a bonanza of doing this and honestly I feel great. Maybe it's because coconut is so dominant in many of the local cuisines (which include Thai and Filipino)? Maybe my gut is fully healed? Maybe conventional meat isn't so evil? (though I definitely want to get more local/grass-fed meat on the market). Either way, it's amazing to be eating out and having great digestion too. I'm really enjoying exploring all the cuisines of the world, which is a major benefit of living here. Whenever I can, I ask these local restaurants about what fat they use. If people ask, perhaps they'll change. The local Thai joint even brags about having wheat free food now. Trans fats are banned here, so the only ones I worry might be used are corn or safflower oil.
It brings me to the point that while I think lard/tallow/duck fat are great for me, they probably aren't a public health solution. If I went to a health conference and said restaurants should use them, I'd be laughed at. But high-oleic seed oils ARE definitely better for you and perhaps not even bad for you. They are possible to produce cheaply and are considered highly by almost every conventional standard. Imagine if they replaced soy and corn at restaurants and in schools? That would be a solution that would benefit everyone.
Instead we have public health programs that encourage things like eating low-fat and "moving more." I was somewhat amused when I read that Rush Limbaugh said Michelle Obama had gotten fat from eating ribs. It's quite clear that Michelle is not fat and I wonder if Rush got the right conclusion
Michelle My Belle, minus the husband, took the kids out to Vail on a ski vacation, and they were spotted eating and they were feasting on ribs, ribs that were 1,575 calories per serving with 141 grams of fat per serving. Now I'm sure some of you members of the new castrati: "This is typical of what you do Mr. Limbaugh, you take an isolated, once in a lifetime experience, and try to say that she's a hypocrite." She is a hypocrite. Leaders are supposed to be leaders. If we're supposed to go out and eat nothing -- if we're supposed to eat roots, and berries and tree bark and so show us how. And if it's supposed to make us fit, if it's supposed to make us healthier, show us how.
Hmm, I'd venture that she's healthy because she doesn't follow the government's advice- because she's eating ribs rather than tofu. Wouldn't that be hilarious. Kind of like how her kids don't attend government schools perhaps? Meanwhile, Rush is losing weight by restricting his calories, which may have caused a recent bout with chest pains. Maybe he should just eat ribs and stop worrying about calories?
Some of you asked if I could re-post my list of meat priorities I did on paleohacks. Here's how I chose my meat:
1. My first choice will always be grass-fed local meat from farmers I know.
2. Generic grass-fed beef or lamb, wild fish.
3. Organic beef or lamb because of highly favorable fat content.
4. Pastured poultry or pork.
5. Halal beef or lamb(or goat) is more likely to be grass-fed because it's often imported from New Zealand. In addition, some Hispanic restaurants import their meat, particularly Argentine places. New Zealand and Australia pasture most of their ruminants.
6. Natural beef or lamb. Natural is kind of vague, but it's better than nothing I guess.
7. Feedlot beef or lamb. Spends at least some of its life on pasture.
7. Natural chicken = really just a factory farmed mass of soy.
Things I won't eat: farmed salmon, CAFO pork
Notice I will eat a wide variety of meat. For me, not being hungry and being nourished is more important than anything. I'm not the kind of person who will order a plate of greens in the absence of perfect meat.
It's funny because when I eat out, the places that make me feel the worst are the healthy places. Ugh, I think hell is other people's idea of healthy. Like my office cafe, which stocks such healthy options as low-fat strawberry shortcake yogurt, those sugar-packed Odwalla smoothies, Special K, and Vitamin Water. I would definitely get really sick if I ate those things, but I feel awesome after going to the local Argentine place for a skirt steak and plantains. Another offender for me is BBQ places. At first I thought it was the meat that was bad for me, but then I realized that the sauces at most BBQ restaurants is full of total crap. Sugar + meat = bad.