Read the complete email interviews from healthy-eating experts Kris Carr, Nora Gedgaudas and Mark Hyman, MD.
Editor’s note: These are the original unedited emails that our experts answered for the Paleo Vs. Vegan feature in the May 2012 issue. The views and opinions stated are fully the views of the experts and do not necessarily reflect the views of Experience Life magazine or Life Time Fitness.
Kris Carr – Vegan Perspective
Kris Carr is a New York Times best-selling author, wellness coach and creator of CrazySexyLife.com. Carr is also the creator of the inspirational documentary Crazy Sexy Cancer. Her latest book is Crazy Sexy Diet: Eat Your Veggies, Ignite Your Spark, and Live Like You Mean It! (Skirt!, 2011).
What is a typical vegan breakfast, lunch and dinner for you?
A day in the life of a healthy plant-based diet is filled with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, phytochemicals, chlorophyll etc. Here are just a few of the options you’d get at my house. An organic vegetable juice or blended green smoothie, pecan encrusted French toast, seed pancakes, tofu scramble, sprouted grain bread (or gluten free bread) with almond butter or avocado, oatmeal with berries, millet porridge with peaches etc. For lunch and dinner, veggies are always the main players at the center of the plate. Salads, sautés, steamed veg with tasty sauces would accompany a slice of vegetarian lasagna or bean soup, a burrito, falafel or vegetarian Sheppard’s pie, perhaps a tempeh Reuben with sauerkraut or a hearty root vegetable stew. The options are endless.
Why did you choose to eat this way?
Can you touch on what you see as the key benefits (nutritional, ethical, aesthetic, etc.) of vegan eating? I was diagnosed with an incurable cancer. After thoroughly researching many diets, and consulting top functional medicine doctors, the vegan diet was the best plan to reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, and increase longevity. It contains all the necessary nutrition (including more than adequate amounts of protein and calcium) without any dangerous growth hormones or carcinogens. As I began to connect the dots beyond just my health, a compassionate plant-based diet became the corner stone of my activism and my spiritual practice. This way of living doesn’t contribute to suffering – cellular suffering (caused by poor diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors), animal torture and suffering, and planetary suffering (caused by the factory farm system). I choose to put my precious energy towards health and peace.
What appeals to you most about this way of eating?
Quite honestly, I feel healthier, have more energy, better blood work, I don’t get colds, and I no longer struggle with my weight. In the beginning of my diagnosis I was very symptomatic. Since changing my diet, (reducing stress and exercising more) the quality of my life has improved dramatically. Cancer aside, my body was breaking down. I had lots of “isms” and issues that I learned to live with – at 30 years old – terrible allergies, chronic bronchitis, infections, eczema, irritable bowel syndrome, high cholesterol and a host of other problems. All that changed when I changed what I put on my plate.
What do you think is generally misunderstood about the vegan approach to eating?
People worry that they can’t get enough protein and calcium if they aren’t eating and drinking animals. So let’s talk protein. First of all, we eat way too much of it in the US today – more than double our needs. This leads to all sorts of health problems. And, all protein is not created equal – animal is not as healthy as plant. We get hung up on the misbelief that we must get a “complete protein” from a single source. The word “complete” is what throws us off. While mammal flesh is technically complete – meaning it contains all the essential amino acids – it’s also complete with a host of problems. The fedex guy is a complete protein but that doesn’t mean you should eat him. Eating a varied plant-based diet, on the other hand, provides plenty of protein in a safe and easy to digest form. As for Calcium, proper consumption isn’t just about what you eat and drink it’s about what you keep (or absorb). Acidic milk products leach calcium from your bones, teeth, tissues etc. It shouldn’t come as a shock that the countries with the highest rate of hip fracture and osteoporosis also consume the most dairy.
What is your opinion of a Paleo diet? What do you see as the potential pros and cons?
In general, I’m not in favor of the meat-heavy, fermented food-free, bean-free, and grain-free Paleo diet. However, the resurge of this diet has some pros and cons. It discourages the consumption of dairy, sugar, and alcohol, all of which cause excess inflammation in the body which is likely to blame for a whole host of chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Even the avoidance of wheat may not be a bad idea as it also causes inflammation and often digestive, skin, and other intolerance issues.
But, avoiding power-packed grains like quinoa, and protein-, antioxidant-, and fiber-rich beans and lentils and instead choosing meats and fish (void of fiber, antioxidants, and powerful phytochemicals) means you’re ingesting more saturated fat and cholesterol, growth hormones, pesticides, heavy metals, too many omega-6 fatty acids, antibiotics, and thousands of modern manmade chemicals now found in our environment (as compared to 10,000 years ago).
In addition, fermented foods such as tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, and natto–which are not allowed on a Paleo diet offer incredible natural probiotics and help the blood to be more alkaline which is an important part of proper immune function and disease prevention.
Did you ever consider or experiment with Paleo eating? If so, how and why?
What was your experience with it? No. I made the choice not to follow the paleo diet based on the fact that I am a cancer patient, with an already compromised immune system. People with chronic disease, should avoid animal products or consume them in moderation at best – even the organic variety. These products create inflammation in the body and are highly acidic. Your body is a delicate eco-system. Like most environments, pH balance is a crucial component to health. The acid alkaline balance affects everything from ocean life, to soil, blood, even cancer cells. Our bodies will do anything to remain in an alkaline state. Too many acid substances (meat, dairy, sugar, processed foods, coffee, soda, drugs, chemicals) rob our bodies of minerals, strain our kidneys, create congestion, inflammation, constipation, and stress our immunity. An alkalizing plant-based diet is the safest most effective choice. Not just for patients but also for anyone interested in prevention.
Now, I know not everyone wants to go vegan. But if you choose to include animal flesh and fluids in your diet, do your homework. Know where your food comes from. Be brave enough to see how it got to your plate, because how it got there can affect your health. In addition, I would recommend reducing your consumption to no more than 2-3 times per week and choosing from the certified humane seal of approval. Not only because the animals are treated better, though they still get slaughtered. But because the humane seal guarantees that no chemicals, drugs or hormones have been used. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t significant amounts of hormones naturally present in the animal’s body.
How do you respond to Paleo critics who say that many vegan diets, absent all animal products, are inherently unhealthy and simply not the way people were meant to eat, evolutionarily speaking?
Time and again, research points to a plant-heavy diet for weight control, diabetes prevention and reversal, heart disease prevention and reversal, and even cancer prevention and survival. This diet is so full of life-giving nutrients, fiber, antioxidants, and low in modern toxins and chemicals that it is clearly the healthiest way to go. A study that just came out yesterday showed that African American vegetarians had a 53% lower risk of diabetes and vegans had a 70% lower risk compared to meat-eaters: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/237103.php.
What would you say to critics who say that vegan diets are too reliant on meat/dairy/egg substitutes ‹ many of which are highly processed ‹ and therefore not very healthy?
Oh, I totally agree that processed foods are unhealthy. No matter where they come from. But processed foods are totally unnecessary. People often use them when transitioning because they are afraid to give up the idea and texture of chicken, beef etc. But real food is the only food that will truly serve us. We don’t need meat or a meat-like substance at the center of our plate. Plants contain all nutritional value we need.
And, what would you say to critics who say that vegan diets are too grain-based and therefore do not lead to optimal health?
Whole grains (rather than refined and processed grains) offer disease-fighting protection that is still not completely understood. Harvard’s Nurses Health Study which evaluated the diets of over 75,000 women showed a drastic reduction in coronary heart disease among women who had the highest intake of whole grains: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10479204.
Refined grains act like sugar in the body and are not recommended. However, along with legumes, nuts, seeds, a wealth of vegetables and fruits, whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, kamut, amaranth, and others are filling, offer quick energy, are simple for our bodies to digest, and are a key component to a healthy diet.
What are the challenges of subscribing to a vegan diet in today’s world?
There are several. We’re busy people and plant-based meals can take more time to prepare. But we’re worth the investment; trust me. It’s also harder to find options when dining out or traveling. However, once you know how and what to order it becomes quite simple. Another problem can be cost. Meat is subsidized, broccoli isn’t – and that’s a big problem that has major ramifications. Subsidies create 99-cent hamburger. High fructose corn syrup rules while obesity epidemics, diabetes, and cancer flourish. If we’re going to halt or reverse the rising threat of chronic disease we need to change that. We need to vote with our forks rather than digging our graves with them.
If a conventional eater was to łean vegan, or begin embracing a more moderate version of the vegan diet what would that look like?
As I mentioned earlier, choose the humane seal and reduce your consumption to 2-3 times per week. Get creative and curious and buy some cookbooks. A plant-based diet has come along way from the hemp-a-fied 70’s. This isn’t your hippie mom’s granola. You’ll find amazing culinary geniuses pioneering cutting edge (and mouth watering) cuisine.
What are the typical mistakes conventional eaters make as they begin experimenting with a vegan approach to eating?
You hit the nail on the head with the processed foods question. Fake stuff is still fake. Eat real food. Eat plants. The core of the words “vegan” or “vegetarian” is vegetables! You gotta eat them to benefit from them.
And, last question: Any great resources (books, films, websites, etc.) on vegan diets that you’d like to share with us?
Must see movies: Forks over Knives, and Food Inc. Must read books: Becoming Vegan, The China Study, anything written by Neal Barnard MD, oh and Crazy Sexy Diet! Must read blogs: The Bitchin’ Dietician, Crazy Sexy Life.
Nora Gedgaudas – Paleo Perspective
Nora Gedgaudas is a certified nutritional therapist and neurofeedback specialist in private practice in Portland, Ore. She’s the author of Primal Body, Primal Mind: Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and a Longer Life (Healing Arts Press, 2011).
What is a Paleo diet and how does it differ from a mainstream conventional diet?
This is a good question, as it can be many things. I think the best overall definition of a Paleo diet is that it is a way of eating that is based on the types of foods that would have been available to humans for the vast majority of our evolutionary history. The reasoning recognizes that the selective pressures and foods that would have been available during this time (99.99% of human evolutionary history) would have had a profound influence upon our physiological makeup and the vast majority of our nutritional requirements now. The bottom line is that we ALL evolved as (and are genetically nearly 100% identical to) hunter-gatherers, regardless of our ethnicity and regardless of our ideologies. This means a decided emphasis on animal based foods, naturally occurring fat and some fibrous plant based foods (together with some small amount of fruit) as climatically and seasonally available. Many primitive peoples cultured and fermented certain foods and these have their healthful place on the “Paleo menu”, as well. I believe these principles and dietary inclusions must be a starting place for anyone seeking to optimize their health. From this starting place other science-derived principles may be applied to better refine the dietary approach and optimize outcomes (as explored in my book, Primal Body, Primal Mind), but “Paleo” is really undeniably foundational for us all.
What is a typical Paleo breakfast, lunch and dinner for you?
Breakfast for me might consists of a duck egg cooked in tallow or ghee or a small dish of homemade coconut yogurt. Lunch might consist of a vegetable salad with a small amount of sliced meat or fish, plus maybe some avocado and enough olive oil in the dressing to provide satiation. Dinner might be some modest portion of meat or fish with lots of steamed veggies covered in ghee and garlic and maybe a few extra greens on the side. I often also include a spoonful or two of cultured vegetables for their nutritionally excellent enzymatic and probiotic value. Snacks might typically include nuts or a spoonful of nut butter, raw veggies, seaweed snacks, a green drink or a nibble of grass-fed homemade jerky. Percentage-wise I personally derive easily 70% + of my caloric intake from a wide variety of natural fats. The rest mostly comes from protein, though for me it is only a moderate amount–maybe only 6 or 7 ounces in a day. I eat a large amount and variety of fibrous vegetables and greens–mostly for their phytonutrient and antioxidant value, but these are typically quite comparatively low in caloric value. I eat almost no sugar or starch at all, save a few wild blueberries and other berries from time to time for their unique anthocyanin and flavonoid content. Most other fruit is only a very occasional thing for me.
Why did you choose to eat this way? Can you touch on what you see as the key benefits (nutritional, ethical, aesthetic, etc.) of Paleo eating?
Getting here has been a real process through trial and error, uncovering new clinical information, including longevity research advances and modifying that for my own unique health needs and the needs of my clients. Initially I chose this way of eating because it appealed to me in a very foundational sort of way and resonated with my own sense of what is most natural and supportive of optimal health. I think the adventure of it as well as the common sense inherent in this way of eating also appealed to me. I stuck with it because it truly enhanced the quality of my health and well being in a fully sustainable manner. I’ve never looked back. The impact I have seen of this way of eating on my own clients has been consistently and dramatically transformative.
The way I see it few of us have any room for error in this world anymore. We are all simply too challenged by a compromised environment, stress, water and food supply (not to mention economic conditions) to risk our health through empty indulgences or wishful thinking. Also, the fact is that I truly love eating the way I do–functioning as a conscious part of the cycle of life, in integrity with my highest values and the manner in which my body was fully designed to eat.
What appeals to you most about this way of eating?
It is physiologically sustainable (in other words, it optimally supports all aspects of my physiological functioning). It is also quite energizing in an additionally sustainable way, utterly delicious and satisfying. Using natural dietary fat as a dominant percentage of my caloric intake also frees me from a constant preoccupation with where my next meal is coming from and liberates me from the considerable limits of blood sugar dependent issues. It is very freeing on many levels…and it is also very economical. I have also never felt better in all of my life. It almost feels a though I am aging in reverse.
What do you think is generally misunderstood about the Paleo approach to eating?
That it is all about mindlessly gorging endlessly on meat with little or no vegetables (I actually eat more vegetables than most vegetarians), with no regard to the welfare of animals or the planet.
The idea of meat eating being necessarily destructive to the environment is absurd (unless we’re talking about feedlot farming, which I would never advocate). The planet is filled with plentiful non-agricultural grassland that can be used for sustainably raising livestock. In fact, Alan Savory of the Savory Institute (www.savoryinstitute.com) is advancing something called “Holistic Management” where grass-feeding of animals is being effectively applied to dramatically transforming the environment. The Institute’s own web site mission states: “The Institute’s Consulting and Training activities are turning deserts into thriving grasslands, restoring biodiversity, bringing streams, rivers and water sources back to life, combating poverty and hunger, and increasing sustainable food production, all while putting an end to global climate change.”
I personally have worked on behalf of animals for a good part of my life, am deeply passionate about suffering and am very much an environmental advocate. I see nothing in any part of the way I eat that is incompatible with any of it. There is a cycle of life (and death) of which we all are a part and my way of eating honors that as it is fully natural. Our modern way of life has disconnected us from this awareness and leads some to cast moral judgment on fulfilling our natural role in this way. There is a deeply spiritual foundation in this way of life for me. That said, I think it is imperative that we all (Paleo, Vegetarian and Vegan advocates alike) work together toward the common ground we all aspire to–in which we are much more alike than unalike: the desire for a clean environment where nourishing food may be sustainably and ethically grown and raised without contaminants, pesticides/herbicides, genetic modification, cruelty, or damage to the environment. Imagine what could be accomplished if we put our differences aside and combined our passions toward these goals! We would literally transform the world.
What is your opinion of a vegan diet? What do you see as the potential pros and cons?
The potential pros, at least where raw food veganism is concerned is the effect of a very cleansing diet–Wonderful for “detoxing” in the short term, lowering insulin and mTOR levels (as I outline in my book) and giving the body a rest from excess digestive burden. That said, we lack the four stomachs, rumen and/or bacterially based digestive process of an herbivore to derive full or sufficient nutritional and caloric benefit from solely plant-based foods long term. It is a path toward diminishing health returns.
Many minerals in the human diet require ionization in the gut via hydrochloric acid in order to be properly absorbed and deficiencies in a vegan diet are inevitable (just because a certain mineral might be in a plant doesn’t mean you can necessarily absorb it–particularly of it is bound by cellulose, phytates or oxalates). And even if one can “combine” different plant foods in a way every meal as to create a complete protein source, “complete” in no way implies protein sufficiency. Higher density vegan protein sources such as soy come with a wealth of risks and negative health effects too numerous to list here and soy foods tend to be highly processed, hormonally disruptive, mineral depleting, protease inhibiting and are overwhelmingly very genetically modified. Elongated EFA sources (EPA/DHA) and other healthy natural fats essential to stable neurological function are dangerously lacking in such a diet (and flax oil is NOT the same thing, nor does it convert to anywhere near enough of the same thing). Vegan diets also lack many other critical nutrients essential to the functioning of the body and especially brain (not the least of which include usable forms of B12 and certain animal source fat-soluble nutrients) and nutrient deficiencies and their effects are ultimately inevitable…some of which may even be irreversible. Furthermore, a post-agriculturally based diet is inevitably quite antigenic (gluten, lectins and other more common sources of food sensitivities). I have noticed an increased prevalence of autoimmune issues with vegetarian and vegan individuals. Interestingly, many autoimmune sufferers have found substantial relief from chronic inflammatory symptoms and flare-ups with a very clean-source (i.e., organic, grass-fed) “Paleo” approach to eating which makes perfect sense from many perspectives…not the least of which is minimizing a potentially antigenic load. Far and away the most damaged and intractable brains and nervous systems I have ever worked with have–to the letter–all been long time vegans and many vegetarians. In the end for many, veganism (other than raw, strictly vegetable based diets) is often a starch-based, highly processed and highly antigenic (i.e., immune dysregulating/food sensitivity provoking) diet, resulting in elevated insulin levels, inflammatory issues, anxiety and other brain related disorders, rampant nutrient deficiencies, biliary problems and malabsorption issues. In the short term one might temporarily feel better (particularly if coming off of the “standard American diet”), but the long term outcome tends to be a disaster. Cleansing is simply not the same as rebuilding.
Did you ever consider or experiment with vegan or vegetarian eating? If so, how and why? What was your experience with it?
I did give both vegetarianism and veganism a good go once upon a time. It initially appealed to my sense of what I believed must be healthy (given certain stereotypical mainstream ideas and myths about nutrition). It also appealed to my love of animals. It was most definitely not a good fit in the end and left me with a more or less constant (unhealthy) preoccupation with food, cravings and severe mood-related issues. I eventually developed an eating disorder which for me ultimately resolved with my return to animal source foods. It was an important learning experience.
How would you respond to vegan critics who say that Paleo diets rely on meat and other animal products and are therefore unhealthy or unethical?
See my previous answer to another question where I covered this.
I will also add that the health of any meat is directly related to the health of the animal that meat came from. Any meat from an animal fed foods unnatural to it (i.e., grains and other odd substances commonly used as filler), shot full of hormones and antibiotics and forced into crowded, cruel and stressful conditions is NOT healthy food. This is a point upon which most paleo followers and vegans/vegetarians can commonly agree. The alternative to this is not of necessity vegetarianism or veganism. There are a growing number of principled and passionate farmers working very, very hard to do the right and ethical thing and give their animals humane treatment, fresh air, sunshine and plenty of natural, fresh green grass to eat. In the end, all things wind up as food for something else and all living beings in this world must kill in order to eat–even a vegetarian. Its all about the consciousness and attitude you bring to it. Death is a part of life. And life is not a ladder or chain…Life is a Circle of which we are all a part. It’s trying to live outside that Circle or our place in it that gets us into trouble…whether we are merely indifferent or antagonistic to it’s principles or whether we somehow feel we exist above it.
What would you say to critics who believe that the prohibition of grains is extreme, unnecessary and perhaps not suited to all individuals?
I would say they did not have a grasp of the dizzying ocean of literature in the field of immunology, gastroenterology, neurology or metabolic science pouring out right now and underscoring the adverse impacts of grains in all these areas of health. I would also say there is a lack of grasp of the depth and breadth of gluten’s devastating influence over more disease processes than I have room to list here. The undeniable connection between grains and every manner of immunological/inflammatory, neurological and physiological disease process is literally overwhelming and deeply, deeply troubling. The incidence of full blown celiac disease (really only the tip of the gluten sensitivity iceberg) has risen literally 400% in the last 50 years, according to an article in the journal Gastroenterology (which I cite in my book–together with innumerable other peer-reviewed sources). Autoimmune disease, right behind cancer and heart disease–both also potentially adversely influenced by grain consumption– is now collectively the #3 cause of mortality in the industrialized world…and is overwhelmingly under diagnosed. Gluten is either known to be potentially causative or commonly exacerbating of all three.
Dr. Kenneth Fine, a medical gastroenterologist and pioneer in the field, found through widespread testing that 1 in 3 Americans are gluten intolerant, and that 8 in 10 are genetically predisposed to some form of gluten intolerance. Recent refinement and advancement of gluten testing via Cyrex Labs and recent immunology research is revealing even greater, more disturbing numbers and implications. Gluten intolerance can present with inflammation in the joints, skin, respiratory tract and brain…almost anywhere, with devastating impact on immune, psychiatric and/or neurological function – even without any obvious gut symptoms.
This is a growing and very real public health catastrophe at a time where few can afford or find good health care (in a profit-oriented disease management paradigm). No one that lives or breathes anywhere on this planet has a “grain deficiency”…but countless millions suffer from the myriad of potentially devastating effects of grains on their health, many of whom don’t even suspect the underlying culprit. –And for a gluten intolerant individual (who may well not even realize they suffer from this) even trace exposure is enough to have substantial and reverberating impact. How much inflammation or neurodegeneration, gastrointestinal damage or auto-antibody production should we enjoy “in moderation”? What is “extreme” is not the avoidance of grains but their unprecedented (relating to the previous 2.6 million years of human history) unnatural prevalence in our modern food supply. We’ve been incorporating grains for no more than the last 0.4% of our total evolutionary history and have only ourselves modified genetically an estimated .005% from our pre-agricultural genetic makeup (Eaton SB et al. (1985) “Paleolithic nutrition: A consideration of its nature and current implications.” N Engl J Med, vol. 312, pp. 283-289). We are simply ill designed and poorly suited to consume these foods. Even supposedly non-gluten containing grains can have cross-reactivity with gluten (meaning a person’s immune system may react to other grains “as if” they are gluten-containing) and all grains have potential metabolic consequences due to their phytate, gluteomorphin, protease inhibiting and starch content, even where immunologic sensitivity may not be an issue. Studies show overwhelmingly that eating grains is a form of Russian roulette we’d all do well to avoid in today’s severely compromised and contaminated modern environment. That said, it’s everyone’s choice, depending on what it is they most prioritize. I know where my priorities are.
What are the challenges of subscribing to a Paleo diet in today’s world?
The challenge–for any of us wanting to eat well–is in locating uncompromised sources of quality and sustainably/ethically raised meat and vegetables. For those not exercising some form of beneficial (longevity-enhancing) modified caloric restriction, as I am inclined to advocate, the challenge can also be economical. Real quality food comes with a price tag which in this economy can result in a real burden, especially if you don’t know how to think about or plan things. I have recently made available some resources on my web site to help radically slash food costs for people and make this way of eating affordable for virtually everyone. Unfortunately, the widespread perception seems to be that to eat an optimally healthy diet isn’t affordable. Au contraire…This is a tragic and unnecessary myth.
If a conventional eater was to “lean Paleo” or begin embracing a more moderate version of the Paleo diet what would that look like?
The conventional eater would avoid the center isles at the grocery store where processed foods are and begin eating food (of the more “perishable variety”) that would have looked like food to one of our most primitive ancestors (i.e., meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, fibrous vegetables and greens, nuts and seeds and very little fruit). Avoiding all grains and most conventional dairy (except for maybe grass-fed butter or ghee, raw milk cheeses and lightly pasteurized heavy cream–only if well tolerated) would also be a great start. Avoid pre-packaged beverages and juices and stick to mostly water.
What are the typical mistakes conventional eaters make as they begin experimenting with a Paleo approach to eating?
Assuming that the leanest possible meat and low fat are the “healthy” way to go (thanks to mainstream health mantra mythology)…which can result in fatigue and energy compromise along with aggravated carbohydrate cravings. Over eating meat is also in my view a mistake–the reasons for which are exhaustively outlined in my book. If you’re losing the carbs then by necessity one must provide sufficient fat (and a variety of natural fats) to supply primary sources of energy, help facilitate protein digestion and to avoid a myriad of fat-soluble nutrient and mineral deficiencies. –And lots more protein is not necessarily better. Sufficient “complete” source protein is.
If they are coming from a vegetarian or vegan background then the biggest mistake is changing too much too soon and diving into consuming lots of meat before their body has re-adapted to the idea. Even though eating meat is what is most natural to our physiological makeup long term issues with hydrochloric acid production or biliary health due to chronic disuse can result in bigger digestive issues if this is not carefully and systematically addressed. It’s not a race. Baby steps in this instance is best. Sometimes the body needs to re-learn what it was meant to know all along.
And, last question: Any great resources (books, films, websites, etc.) on Paleo diets that you’d like to share with us?
My own web site of course, which is www.PrimalBody-PrimalMInd.com (be sure to sign up for my newsletter). One can also access countless hours of quality lectures (including one my Yours Truly) by some of the finest minds in the Ancestral Health movement at http://ancestryfoundation.org/. Beyond Veg.com is also a fairly exhaustive resource.
Denise Minger has an excellent web site: wwwrawfoodssos.com. Also, her exhaustive and objective critical analysis of the “China Study” is an academic masterpiece.
DVD-wise I’m always happy to recommend “My Big Fat Diet”, with Dr. Jay Wortman and Dr Stephen Phinney.
Mark Hyman, MD – Moderator Perspective
Mark Hyman, MD, is a family physician, the author of four New York Times bestsellers, and chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine. His latest book is The Blood Sugar Solution: The UltraHealthy Program for Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, and Feeling Great Now! (Little, Brown and Company, 2012).
What is your opinion of the whole Paleo-vegan debate?
I think fanaticism is a source of disease. If you look at the science dispassionately there is a lot of evidence for both sides, a Paleo diet and a vegan diet are not mutually exclusive.
Eating a Paleo diet does not mean eating mostly meat; it means eating a large number of plant foods, including vegetables, tubers, seeds, and nuts. The meat our ancestors ate was basically wild animals. The meat is very lean and rich in omega-3s. There is little comparison between wild game and the bulk of meat eaten today, which is beef. For instance, the effect on inflammatory markers of lean meat from game animals versus beef is completely different. The first is anti-inflammatory; the second is pro-inflammatory.
So, the ultimate question is what veggies and what meat? The argument should really be made that we are adapted to a diet high in fiber, phytonutrients, and antioxidant. Reaching an optimal diet can be achieved in several ways. People who live in India eat a diet that is 80 percent of a plant based. On the other hand, Inuits eat a diet that is 80 percent animal fat. Both are fine.
It’s time to focus on the broader discussion…people shouldn’t be eating industrialized foods—period. If you choose to eat meat, you should be wary of where it comes from, what it’s fed, how it’s raised. For the average American, animal protein is a real problem. For the country and the globe, animal feedlots are a real problem. I think that’s the bigger issue.
People have fanatical beliefs about diet, but the truth is that you can be healthy on a multitude of diets. If you look at the research, you can argue both sides, but are saying the same thing. I think we are over-arguing the issue instead of looking at our commonalities, which means that we are missing the real issue. The real issue is that we need to be off our of industrialized diet.
By Paleo diet if you mean bacon, sausage, steak and cream…that’s dangerous. I think the argument of no grains is interesting and has some merit. If you go with traditional grains, such as buckwheat, quinoa, and millet, that have been around for 10,000 years you’re better off. But gluten-containing refined grains can be problematic.
How can a Paleo diet be done well? How can it be done poorly?
If a Paleo diet is primarily meat-based, then you can’t separate it from the evidence that an animal-based diet is has major environmental consequences. As it stands, 70 percent of the world’s agricultural land is used in the production of livestock for human consumptions. What’s more is that 30 percent of the Earth’s surface is used to raise animals for human consumption. This is undoubtedly contributing to the wholesale depletion in soil minerals as well as natural aquifers. By relying on meat we are doing the world a real diservice. Downsize your meat. If we reduced our meat consumption to once or twice a week, you’ll be healthier and the planet will be healthier.
How can a vegan diet be done well? How can it be done poorly?
Coco-cola and potato chips are a vegan diet. It’s important to understand the complexity of doing that well requires a fair bit of intelligence to get a healthy amount of proteins, nuts, seeds, etc…everyone is different. I think it depends on what you’re doing…if all you’re eating is fruit and grains you’re going to get diabetes.
If everybody is fighting with each other about what kind of foods we should be eating, we are missing the bigger picture of how industrialized foods are destroying the Earth.