For years I advocated a plant-based diet as the healthiest. But I could never swing it myself despite several efforts. Now that I’m studying the paleolithic diet, I feel like I’m starting over with a mountain of information to climb. I haven’t been posting much because I’m reading, reading, reading. I’m reading even more than that.
I am coming to believe that a high-carbohydrate diet is harmful over the long haul, and that a high-fruit diet is possibly the worst. I feel unqualified now to advise people on diet. It’s disconcerting to find that what I’ve believed the past five years might be way off base.
Why We Eat
We eat for energy and for the nutrients necessary to build, maintain and repair our bodies. Our bodies can store a great deal of this energy and nutrients, which is why we are able to fast so long, an adaptation necessary when food supplies are uncertain.
Prior to the agricultural revolution that occurred 10,000 years ago, our main fuel was fat and protein. Once we started growing grains, starches shared time with meat and fat as the primary fuel source. Now we are completely reliant on grains as our main fuel source. We eat them and we feed them to animals we eat. While growing grains freed us from having to follow herds for meat, the switch caused our species to start having health problems.
Study of human skeletal remains from archaeological contexts shows that the introduction of grains and other cultigens and the increase in their dietary focus resulted in a decline in health and alterations in activity and lifestyle. Although agriculture provided the economic basis for the rise of states and development of civilizations, the change in diet and acquisition of food resulted in a decline in quality of life for most human populations in the last 10,000 years. –Clark Spencer Larsen
Most populations are able to live in relative health with the help of grains as a supplemental fuel supply in addition to dairy and meat. Weston Price found many such groups of people living in good health subsisting on grains, dairy, meat and vegetables. It was only when flour, sugars and canned food entered their food supply that chronic diseases began to afflict these populations.
The current high consumption of grains (predominantly wheat and corn) following the industrial revolution–along with the rise in vegetable oils!–has led to a host of inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, arthritis, colitis, any number of “itises.” A lot of people just react badly to grains and don’t even know their health problems are caused by them. And since grains contain opiates, they are addicting, and people are not happy to give them up.
Where Do Vegans Get Their Caloric Energy?
Many sensitive people can’t bring themselves to eat slaughtered animals. Some of our greatest philosophers were vegetarians. So what do they do?
Cooked vegans switch to legume-like meat substitutes (like soy) and grains, such as pastas, whole wheat and rice.
Raw food vegans eat sprouted legumes and fats in nuts and oils.
Raw 80/10/10ers, because of their high sugar consumption, must keep fat intake low, so they consume massive amounts of fruit.
Breakfast: Smoothie made with 4 cups of freshly squeezed orange juice blended with 2 cups of mango flesh
Lunch: 7 extra-extra large bananas blended with 2 cups of frozen wild blueberries
Dinner: 5 Haitian mangoes, pause of 30 minutes, then I made two huge blended salads consisting of:
* 3 large tomatoes
* 2 mangoes
* 6 cups of spinach
* 10 stalks of celery
* juice of 1 lime squeezed on top
I had that blended salad in two sittings (two blendings). I also had about 1 third of an avocado somewhere in there. –Frederic Patenaude
Sheesh! Just thinking of all the food and sugar I ate trying to comply with the 80/10/10 diet makes me nauseous.
Most any whole foods diet in the short-term (up to five years or so) will help to rebalance the chemical/mineral/fatty acid makeup of the tissues and result in a significant decrease in toxins. So people feel much better when switching to whole foods or switching from processed foods to a vegan diet.
But over the years, malnutrition of certain key nutrients (such as B12, vitamin A and certain fatty acids) begins to take its toll in many people. Victoria Boutenko wrote a bestseller (Green for Life) based on her observation that she didn’t feel as good a few years into raw veganism as when she initially switched to raw food. Her answer was to mimic the dietary habits of chimpanzees. I guess that’s okay if you want to mimic an animal that spends all day eating, but I think humans are too smart for that. We have better things to do, which is a result of the brain we developed on a meat-based diet. Maybe some day we’ll evolve from spear-throwing hunter/gatherers to leaf-eating Vitamix users.
I recently read a blog article discussing TC Fry’s death. TC Fry was a natural hygienist responsible for promoting an all-fruit diet as the optimum diet. The article blamed his death largely on Fry departing from the diet he advocated by gorging on fatty and carbohydrate-rich foods at the end of the day. But my question is, If he was consuming the healthiest diet for humans, why was he gorging on these poor foods late at night? Probably the same reason I was. Lack of fat and energy from a plant-based diet. I would surmise his body was starving of something and gorging late at night was his only relief. But he gorged on garbage just like I did. What would have happened had we gorged on wild-caught fish or venison or pasture-raised poultry?
I think the key difference between vegan and paleo diets is that vegans must supplement with nutrients that their food is missing in its natural state (B12 is a prime example) whereas paleos supplement with nutrients that should be in the food they eat but are missing because of degradation of food quality (such as fish oils). But I’m just learning, so don’t quote me. Paleos don’t ever have to worry about getting complete proteins, but vegans must research the amino acid profiles of foods to make sure they’re getting all the ones they need. I was always short on iron.
I also find that as a paleo eater I really need only fire. Well, a pan helps too. As a raw food vegan I need a juicer, food processor, blender, maybe even a dehydrator. And they say eating plants is more natural than eating meat! But I do love how easy cleanup is when I prepare a meal from plants.
Is Fat Bad?
Within the raw vegan community you have the 80/10/10ers disparagingly calling the other raw foodists “high fat” vegans and being mad about their advice. Well, if you’re eating a lot of sugar, as fruit eaters are, then high-fat is bad. But not because fat is bad, but because it’s bad with a high-fruit diet. Just as a lot of fruit is bad on a low carb diet. But around most of the globe where humans habitate, fruit is only available seasonally, whereas meat is available most of the time. Paleos run on fat, vegans run on sugar, and SAD eaters run on both of poor quality.
Most of the wild fruits eaten by most hunter-gatherers did not provide the abundance of sugar supplied by modern hybridized fruits. Modern fruits supply large amounts of fructose, which Stanhope and Havel report can cause dyslipidemia, insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia, which perpetuate a metabolic state dependent on sugars. –Don, Primal Wisdom
Why is it humans are biologically adapted to store fat for lean times but can store only so much sugar? And too much sugar gets turned into fat. Why doesn’t fat get turned into sugar? Well, maybe because we’re supposed to be eating fat. From what I understand, if you’re on a low-carb diet and then you eat a lot of fruit (like what a hunter/gatherer would do in the fall), you’ll put on weight. And isn’t that what you want to do prior to the winter so you’ll have some energy stores to carry with you?
And what’s the effect of continually having high blood sugar and the resulting need for your pancreas to keep pumping out insulin? And of forcing your digestive apparatus to process food numerous times each day and never getting a rest?
I encourage every person who eats a vegan diet for health reasons to read Weston Price’s Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. It was a mind opener for me. And for those who are vegans for ethical reasons, think about this: Every time a field is plowed to raise plant foods, rodents and other animals are killed. An acre of grass might feed a few cows that get eaten or it might kill hundreds of rodents. Are ethics of eating determined by individual souls or bulk weight? A conundrum for sure!
I have a lot to learn. And then I’ll pass it on to you. Now I’ve got to study up on the whole saturated fat/cholesterol issue.
(These opinions are subject to change.)