"I saw few die of hunger; of eating, a hundred thousand." -Ben Franklin

Monday, February 21, 2011

This is Frustrating!

As many of us know, the philosophy behind the Paleo/Primal lifestyle is to eat the way our Paleolithic ancestors did: fruits, veggies, protein, good fats, and nuts/seeds. We should not eat processed foods, grains, dairy, legumes, starches, or tubers-- these foods are high in carbohydrates and/or are pumped with chemicals and would never have been found in an average caveman's meal plan. In the words of Michael Pollan, "Don't eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."

This eating philosophy seems like a complete no-brainer: eat real food. Yet as we all know, doctors, nutritionists, "experts," and Conventional Wisdom still insist that grains are healthy, fats and meats should be eaten in moderation (or completely cut out), and low-carb diets are going to kill us. After being a living example of why all of that is bull (and after reading the Paleo/Primal books and works by Gary Taubes and Michael Pollan for the scientific evidence), I was absolutely shocked when I came across the article "Foods Not to Ditch When You Diet" because the majority of these foods are unhealthy and/or cause weight gain.

Here are the foods mentioned in the article:
1. Bread ("contains carbohydrates, which boost brain chemicals that curb overeating")
2. Pasta ("a high fluid content keeps you satisfied longer," and it's "70% water-- and eating fluid-rich foods keeps you fuller longer")
3. Potatoes ("forms resistant starch, a fiber that burns fat")
4. Peanut butter ("rich in healthy fats that help banish belly fat")
5. Cheese ("great source of calcium, which burns calories and fat")
6. Dark chocolate ("satisfies a common craving to prevent bingeing")
7. Fruit ("soothes a sweet tooth naturally for a few calories")

BREAD, PASTA, POTATOES, PEANUT BUTTER, AND CHEESE?! Is this article serious?! None of those foods fit in the Paleo lifestyle: bread and pasta are processed and made from grains, potatoes are starchy, peanut butter is made from legumes (and usually contains a ton of added sugar), and cheese is a dairy product. While dark chocolate wasn't exactly Paleo either, there are proven health benefits associated with it (especially with higher cocoa-content percentages, and also eaten in moderation); and fruit, obviously, is real food. However, it should be noted that this article suggests melons, grapes, berries, and citrus fruits-- melons, grapes, and citrus fruits all contain quite high amounts of sugar and should be avoided for weight loss.

So let's talk about the first five categories, and why this article is ridiculous.

1. Bread.
Bread is processed. It is fake. We have a plethora of scientific proof that details why grains are unhealthy (Why Grains Are Unhealthy), and also evidence about why gluten (which is found in wheat, barley, and rye) causes many health problems (Is Gluten Making Us Fat?). Of course, there a million other reasons why it's shocking that they're advocating eating bread: the added sugar and chemicals that come with being processed, the fact that bread is high in bad carbs (known to cause weight gain), and the simple idea that cavemen didn't sit around their fires eating hoagies... or toast... or pastries... or:

2. Pasta.
This is just ludicrous. Once again: processed, high in bad carbs, added sugar, etc. etc. etc. But look! It has a high fluid-content! It must be good!....... *rolls eyes* Why not eat a piece of fruit instead? Or some vegetables? Not only are fruits and veggies real, but they also have a high fluid-content, contain an abundance of nutrients and fiber, and your way to get good carbs in your diet/lifestyle/eating plan. So why the hell eat pasta and cause yourself health problems when you can receive so many benefits from fruits and veggies? Also, to feel full, turn to protein, not processed carbs-- grab a handful of raw nuts or eat a piece of chicken instead!

3. Potatoes.
Starches are on the "Avoid!" list for many Paleo/Primal eaters, because we're told to eliminate all starch. (However, Mark Sisson discusses the "Are potatoes primal?" debate in this great post, which I really recommend reading-- quite interesting!) While our Paleolithic ancestors may have eaten them, we know that their high carb-content causes weight-gain. Based on what I've read about resistant starches, it seems that you can get these health benefits from Paleo/Primal foods like sesame seeds and flaxseeds too: fiber, satiety, and mineral absorption. The extremely high carb-content of potatoes is known to cause weight-gain (especially in people already overweight or obese), so why the heck is this article insisting that it'll help you lose weight? No! I'm currently reading Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes, and he writes, "The official US Forces' Guide warned soldiers [during WWII] that they might have 'trouble with girth control' in the Caroline Islands [northeat of New Guinea], because 'the basic food the natives eat is starchy vegetables-- breadfruit, taro, yams, sweet potatoes, and arrowroot.'" The fact that starch leads to weight gain has been known for a long time!

4. Peanut butter.
No! Besides the fact that peanuts are legumes (and are therefore on the Paleo no-no list), most of the peanut butter found in supermarkets contains added sugar or chemicals and can be quite high in carbs as well. One of my roommates keeps a jar of peanut butter (Jif, extra crunchy) in our kitchen, so I just picked it up and read the ingredients: Made from roasted peanuts and sugar. Contains 2% or less of: molasses, fully hydrogenated vegetable oils (rapeseed and soybean), mono-and diglycerides, salt. Does this really need an explanation about why it's bad for you? Added sugar will not help you lose weight! Check out this article for a more in-depth explanation on why peanut butter should be avoided: The Peanut Manifesto. As for the argument that peanut butter contains good fats, there are so many healthier ways to get monounsaturated fats into your diet. Check out Dr. Cordain's explanation on this... and while you're at it, eat an avocado. (It's also kind of funny, because right next to this article on fitbie.msn.com, there was this article, which calls peanut butter one of the "diet goofs to avoid." With all of this contradicting information, it's no wonder people don't know how to eat correctly!)

5. Cheese
The Paleo lifestyle says to avoid all dairy, but it certainly falls in a grey area because it does have some health benefits, is a good snack, and is also pretty freaking delicious. Mark Sisson (of The Primal Blueprint and Mark's Daily Apple, which I've linked to multiple times on this blog) makes some compelling arguments about whether or not cheese is healthy and, if you choose to eat it, which types are better. Because there's so much debate about whether or not cheese is healthy for you and if you should eat it to lose weight, why not get calcium elsewhere instead? Eating fruits and vegetables will give you calcium too-- after all, our Paleolithic ancestors didn't suffer from osteoporosis!

Sigh. Reading that article was just frustrating. I'm going to go finish Why We Get Fat and restore my faith in humanity (er... healthy eating).

Quote of the day:
"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness..." -Allen Ginsberg

I forgot to take a picture of my lovely skirt steak last night at 13 Restaurant in Center City, so here's today's delicious salad!


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