I know that a lot of people still call this the “caveman diet,” but Paleo isn’t about slavishly and mindlessly replicating the actual diets of Paleolithic humans. Okay, a few Paleo die-hards may approach their diets this way, but that’s not the way I eat at all. In fact, there isn’t just one definitive, monolithic, one-size-fits-all “Paleo diet.” Some Paleo eaters choose to go super-low-carb, while others of us (me included!) are happy to munch on a baked potato or a bowl of white rice every now and then. There are Paleo eaters who can’t imagine life without dairy, and more orthodox folks who refuse to touch even a pat of butter with a ten-foot pole. The Paleo tent is big enough to fit a host of different approaches, but the core tenets of ancestral eating remain the same:
Fruits are not only delicious, but they’re also great for you. That said, fruits (even paleo-approved ones) contain large amounts of fructose which, while much better than HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup), is still sugar. If you’re looking to lose weight on the paleo diet, you’ll want to cut back on your fruit intake and focus more on the vegetables allowed on the paleo diet. However, feel free to have one to three servings of fruit a day. Check out this list of paleo diet fruits and see if you’re not hungry by the end! (We’ll admit, we’re partial to blackberries!)
Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham. This book argues that the ease of digestion and the added nutritional value available in cooked food was the key behind the explosion of human intelligence. (Cooking gelatinizes starch, denatures protein, and softens all foods, permitting more complete digestion and energy extraction. As a result, the food processing apparatus shrinks, freeing energy to support a larger brain.) He then suggests that cooking led to what eventually became marriage and the sexual division of labor. The two most helpful reviews at Amazon get into great detail. The reviews average to 4+ stars.
If years of unhealthy eating have wrecked your metabolism and you’re carrying around extra body fat, switching to a Paleo diet will certainly help your body composition and overall health. But the point of eating Paleo is not to shed as many pounds as possible so that you can fit into the jeans you wore in high school. This nutritional approach is about optimizing your health and wellness – not transforming you into a waiflike size zero runway model with that special heroin-chic je ne sais quoi.
TBK Fitness Program by Tamir Katz shows how to achieve fitness through a healthy, natural hunter-gatherer diet along with a comprehensive exercise program with over 60 different bodyweight exercises of varying difficulty targeting all of the muscles in the body. Also included is a detailed discussion of nutrition and the diseases of civilization based on scientific research, information on stress management and preventive medicine, recommendations on vitamin and supplement use, tips on how to make your fitness program succeed where others have failed, tips on food shopping and preparation, sample meals, and more. The Amazon reviews average to 4+ stars.
4. Raw food is for the birds (too much of it, anyway). There’s paleo, and then there’s the raw diet. Folks who eat raw tout the health benefits of the approach, saying that they’re accessing the full, complete nutrients available because they’re not heating, and thus destroying, their dinner. But that’s simply wrong. We cook to get our hands on more nutrients, not fewer. According to Wrangham, the one thing absolutely all cultures have in common is that they cook their food. He points out that women who move towards 100 percent raw diets often stop ovulating, because even if in theory they’re tossing sufficient food into the blender to fulfill their caloric needs, they simply can’t absorb enough from the uncooked food.
Trick And Treat - how 'healthy eating' is making us ill by Barry Groves. The author is one of the world's most outspoken proponents of a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. This book is an account of how and why the health-care establishment has got the concept of 'healthy eating' so wrong. Whereas Taubes work (see above) is a fairly straight forward review of the existing science, Groves expands into the politics of medical research and treatment to a much greater extent. "Trick and Treat" is divided into two parts. Part One describes the corruption in the health industry, points out the problems inherent in a high-carb, low-fat diet, and then prescribes a diet that leads to good health. The prescribed diet is high in fat - specifically animal fat, not polyunsaturated vegetable fat - and low in carbohydrates, with 60-70% of calories from fat, 15-25% of calories from protein, and a mere 10-15% of calories from carbohydrates. Part Two describes numerous diseases the author claims are the result of high carbohydrate consumption. These range from life-threatening disorders such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer to less serious problems such as acne, near-sightedness and dental problems. The Amazon reviews average to 4+ stars.
The Soft Science of Dietary Fat is a summary of an article in Science Magazine reporting that mainstream nutritional science has demonized dietary fat, yet 50 years and hundreds of millions of dollars of research have failed to prove that eating a low-fat diet will help you live longer. In fact, there are good reasons to believe high-carbohydrate diets may be even worse than high-fat diets. Here is the text from the original article by Gary Taubes.
An Interview with Ward Nicholson now has three parts on the web. Good overview of man's diet over the past 65 million years. Long but highly recommended reading. First published in Chet Day's "Health & Beyond" newsletter. Now part of a very comprehensive Beyond Vegetarianism site. Every argument that your vegetarian friends use to avoid meat for health reasons is debunked here.