Primal/Paleo Diet as a Platform for Modern Nutrition

If you like our blog, please send it to your friends and sign up for new posts!Part #1 –   Meat is Murder?  or

My first comment will lose the idealistic zealots of the vegetarian/vegan crowd I’m sure – so here goes:

We evolved eating meat. Some intelligent doctors and researchers think we evolved because we ate meat. More research shows that hunter-gatherers ate meat in exclusion to any other food as long as meat was available (and ate plants to survive when it was not). All life on this planet thrives on the death of other life – plant or animal – who are we to deny the value of ANY life over another? (or, “that salad is screaming all the way down to your stomach”... I was so impressed at 15 when I read the now-classic  “The Secret Life of Plants” – still worth the read).

Good – that’s said and all the crowd is gone that wants to dance around compensating for their nutritional deficiencies, lose their teeth because their bodies are searching for minerals not available to them without the consuming of animal fats or are just plain too immature to recognize the undeniable truth that, in this plane of existence, something must die for others to live. I am interested in speaking to those who are willing to contribute to the probability that we are evolved omnivores – and what does that mean in terms of  modern nutrition? (get “The Vegetarian Myth”  here, a well-thought-through deconstruction of vegetarianism)

Lots going on in the blog-sphere as well as in substantive nutritional research regarding this diet concept. Called by the hardcore traditional people “another fad”, the paleolithic diet has the expected entourage of detractors from the established conventional wisdom crowd (hereafter referred to as CW). But the idea is becoming increasingly hard to dismiss. Just check out this link and the scientific research being done:

Recent Paleo Related Diet Scientific Research

The Paleo diet in a nutshell is eating a diet that, to the best of our ability to determine, was eaten for the longest period of time where we evolved into our current human form. Most agree that includes meat, nuts, berries, wild fruit in season, some tubers/roots and rhizomes and yes – insects and bugs. There are several emerging “authorities” on the paleo-style diet – we’ve read/reviewed a number of these and each has its good points (in our humble opinion). We suggest you grab one or more and read up to get your own ideas/variations brewing:

Robb Wolfs Paleo Solution

Loren Cordain’s Paleo Diet
Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint
NeanderThin CaveMan Diet
… and don’t miss this very excellent related book by Gary Taubes:
Good Calories Bad Calories
and also excellent (aimed more at weight loss), Dr. Michael Eades book:
Protein Power (also a good primer on paleo eating)

Personally, I’ve never had serious weight issues, and after having all my 9 huge dental amalgam (MERCURY!) fillings removed after an emergency appendectomy at the age of 48 (???!), I’ve had pretty much good health. I ate what I learned to eat with my family – a post-WWII “balanced” diet of vegetables, bread, meat, fruit and, well, lots of cookies. As I got more “in touch” with my inner workings – spirit and body – I intuitively felt something still out of balance. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I had become, in the last decade, very conscious about our food – good balance of meats, veggies – organic and naturally raised, but I still had not the feeling of total well-being.

Then a year+ ago, when at 1.5 years of age, my daughter Lola started to get tooth decay on her 2 front baby teeth. Sunna and I were shocked (to say the least).  She was still breast feeding and starting to eat – good organic veg, fruit, whole grains and meat. WHAT could be wrong?

The internet scouring began – and soon we found Paleo theory and practice, and most amazing –  Dr. Weston Prices’ nutritional masterpiece “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration“.

If you do ONE thing for yourself in this new year – get “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” and read it!

It is not a wonderfully readable book – (Weston Price was an innovative practicing doctor and researcher, not a novelist …)  but one after another story and revelation will keep you going and literally pound home the realization that our Standard American Diet, “SAD”, and the western industrialized nations diet in general, is a disaster for the general health of the population. On top of that, the “before western diet” and “after western diet” pictures of native peoples teeth and health will blow you away.

The Price-Pottenger Foundation for the preservation of Dr. Price’s lifework is an excellent resource, and this page an excellent summary of Dr. Prices study observations/conclusions.

So Why do we repeatedly hear (in the mainstream) that Vegetarians seem to be Healthier?

Since most vegetarian diets claim (and many show initially) improvement – let’s first look at why and what should NOT be in our food chain. Going vegetarian or vegan has long-since reached cult status. Along with the decision to drop meat, studies are showing clearly that vegetarians are as a whole much more health conscious than the general omnivore population and along with dropping meat, they drop sugar, some of the worse oils, fast food poison, exercise more, and generally care for their bodies better. All the improvements, however, get credited to the comfy ideology of dropping meat and stopping to contribute to the “suffering” of the animals (no mercy for the arugula though …).

Stay on a strict vegetarian – or worse, a vegan diet (or the very worst, a vegan raw diet) for any length of time and mother nature starts to comment. B12 deficiencies are frequent and have to be supplemented, teeth suddenly and often dramatically decay more – the enamel seemingly being eaten away (it is – your body is grabbing for minerals for your more-important skeletal system), energy problems, raw foodies have to graze constantly to get enough calories and on and on and on.

Evolution did NOT produce Human Vegetarians

Did we really survive and evolve spending our time focused on such arcane details? It seems much more logical that we evolved trying to survive and ate whatever didn’t kill us when we could get our hands on it – from non-poisonous plants to saber tooth tigers. This would include anything and everything we could kill, pick, dig up or fish out of our environment. Recent dated archeological findings have not only determined that human and human ancestor teeth marks are on bones of freshly killed animals (and not just scavenged ones) but also a more grizzly finding that human teeth marks are all over other human bone remains.  We ate meat folks, and sometimes that meat was our neighbor Bob …  These findings go back not just ten’s of thousands of years but hundreds of thousands.

And so, what’s this Wheat is Murder thing?

Back to Lola and her baby tooth decay – well, it seems that as “good” as we though we were feeding her and ourselves, we learned that, first off, grains of all kinds are seriously problematic for our consumption as we eat them in the modern form. Humans have not had grains of any substantial amount in their diet until roughly 10,000 years ago – many populations have had access to them for even less time. This is, evolutionarily speaking, simply not enough time for us to evolve to digest these seeds that contain all kinds of built-in defenses specifically AGAINST being digested.

Grains are packed with phytates, for example, these are called “anti-nutrients” and bind up different minerals during digestion making them unavailable for your body to absorb. And to eat not-perfectly-fresh processed grains (wheat, barley, rye etc.) at every meal will then bind up those nutrients at every meal. See the picture? Eat wheat regularly and it will actually deprive your body of essential nutrients and minerals over time. You better be eating some pretty compensating amounts of what the wheat is taking away to stay healthy.

Sunna was feeding Lola lots of grain cereal breakfasts – whole and organic  – but none the less packed with anti-nutrients that were depriving her little young body of the minerals necessary for her development and her body was doing its level best to find them – and so took them from her teeth leaving the enamel weak and vulnerable to the acid-y fruit we were feeding her. We also (as Sunna is European) indulged in plenty of organic breads further compounding the problem (Lola too loves bread …).

Weston Price had it right – tooth decay is about nutrition – NOT about how often you brush! It is so counter to our “modern” 20th century conditioning from childhood that you must read and reread to really get it. Both bread and brushing our teeth are so deeply ingrained (no pun intended) that we find it hard to get past the notion that one is actually NOT good for you and the other is not necessary if you are eating correctly.

The native populations Weston Price studied – eating lots of animal meats, fish and seafood and organ meat especially – had virtually NO tooth decay – and they did not have the habit of brushing their teeth. If they did have grains in their diet (added in the last few thousands of years) – they were treated very differently before consumption – soaking, fermenting or sprouting. Also, any native diet that did have grains (treated) also had compensatory animal products in their diet – butter, cream, meat, organ meat, bone broth, gelatin, fish and seafood, etc. The fact was that of all the many native populations he studied and visited all over the world who touted almost perfect teeth and excellent vigor and health – not one was vegetarian – ALL used animal products.

Now back to the Grains.

Grains are seeds. Seeds are the future of the plant. The plant cannot move to avoid predators. Plants that survived evolution had to have defenses against predators.What they developed was defense mechanisms against being digested after the inevitable probability of being consumed. Even birds who have evolved to eat and benefit specifically from seeds – still poop out undigested seeds regularly. Why? Because the seed has numerous chemical and enzymes specifically against being digested by animals!

In order for us to consume and derive any net benefit from grains – those defense mechanisms must be de-activated by soaking out the anti-nutrient phytic acid, sprouting the seeds which naturally changes the chemical makeup of the seed or by fermenting the phytates and gluten, changing them into either something not harmful or even beneficial. Oh yes – one last healthy way is to use the grain picked from the field, dried, ground to flour and baked into bread is to bake it immediately after fresh grinding. There are naturally occurring enzymes called phytase that counteract phytates if the grain is fresh enough. Unfortunately, beneficial phytase breaks down over time (like months/years in a grain silo storage) or by processing high heat before consuming. And high heat is exactly what grain is exposed in industrial/commercial grinders. This is why stone ground is preferred – it does not produce the high heat that commercial grinders do thus preserving many more enzymes and nutrients. Some cultures were even known to barely cook/bake their grain breads at all – just enough to be palatable and theoretically leaving the phytase available and active.  After all that work it should also be noted that, relative to animal sources, grains are pretty poor nutritionally and perhaps – as we have concluded- not worth the efforts.

I know – it sounds like so much and so many considerations – but this is our modern food world now. The need for competitive prices and high corporate industrial food producer profits has put an end to the slower, costlier processes that are absolutely necessary to make grains healthy and beneficial. As they are produced now – they are actually detrimental to your health! If you eat modern grains and bread daily – then daily you body is trying to compensate for the literal “wack job” (and wack job #2 here)  that the grains anti-nutrients and gluten are attacking it with.

And to make matters worse (yes – sorry) there is still, in grains, the issues of WGA (wheat germ agglutinin), gluten itself, glycemic index/potential insulin and diabetes problems (the GI is high for grain flours), and celiac disease – a gluten-allergy that some think is actually suffered in varying degrees by everyone (see The Dark Side Of Wheat here). Each of these subjects is more than deserving of their own post – but we decided last year to simply remove grains from our diets until we could add them back with the confidence that they are of a net benefit. Sunna will be blogging soon on our new adventures into making traditionally soured dough rye bread – coming soon! [UPDATE JAN 9, 2010: After months of oft-intense discussions – we have decided that the jury is still so “out” on the gluten thing, we just don’t want to go there – so after some sourdough experiments, we’ve dropped all gluten grains completely, and all other grains but buckwheat and rice – and not to seem obsessed on the idea of bread – we’re perhaps going to try some gluten free sourdough recipies that we’ve run across – more on that later. -Ravi]

If you do choose to avoid grains, we suggest some experimenting with coconut flour, almond flour and blends (and here too) that make some very palatable baked goods. Do be aware that they will be *different* in texture and consistency than the grain-flour products you are used to – but they are none-the-less delicious in their own right – have fun with it knowing that you have stopped messin’ with your gut (and lots more) by not eating modern processed grains.

I hope I have triggered your curiosity about investigating grains enough to do some more research yourself and consider some serious changes to your daily diet. Part 2 of my Primal/Paleo Diet blog will shed more bright light on the dark side of wheat as well as focus on other “common” foods that should be dumped from one’s diet.

Oh yea – Lola’s teeth? Well, we dropped ALL grains, limited the nuts (lots of phytic acid in them too), started making soups with bone broth base, and daily feed her Weston Prices strongest recommendation – quality cod liver oil mixed with good quality pasture butter – he found there was a very strong synergistic effect between what he called vitamin K in the butter and the vitamins D and A in the cod liver oil.  We also sweeten things only with xylitol – technically not a sugar and known by research to discourage staph. mutens – the bacteria that causes tooth decay. Xylitol also has a very low glycemic index of 7 (as compared to common sugar at 100) so it causes almost no insulin response (and over time, no insulin resistance) relative to conventional sweeteners.

And feeding cod liver oil to a 3 year old? She actually expects and asks for her “lemon treat” every single night after her dinner!! We concocted a warmed butter/lemon/xylitol mix to which quality orange cod liver oil is added. It actually tastes quite yummy!

… and the results after 12+ months?  Her dental caries were completely arrested and, as Weston Price observed in his child and adult patients, Lola’s damaged teeth actually have re-mineralized with dentin forming over the damaged areas! What did the dentist say to that? We don’t know – it was obviously not necessary to take her to see one.


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7 Responses to Primal/Paleo Diet as a Platform for Modern Nutrition

  1. Mike says:

    Ravi, great post, and congrats on figuring out why your daughters teeth were going to rack and ruin.
    First off – I’m with you on most of what you say. I started blogging after wondering if obesity was a search for nutrients – you eat till you have enough to survive, but not enough to burn fat. Wheat – and in particular white flour – would then be the number one culprit on account of the phytates, lectins and GI-tract related gluten damage. And given I lost several stone by simply cutting it out, I’ve no doubt it’s not the health food it’s made out to be.

    But I’d like to play devil’s advocate for a moment on a few of the things you’ve mentioned.
    1) Vegetarianism. How would you explain healthy tribes like the ultramarathon runners, the Tarahumara for eg? My belief is it’s perfectly possible to live a healthy vegetarian diet, but it’s a lot harder to get the nutritional balance right
    2) Weston Price. I’ve a love/hate thing going on there. I’ve *not* read the books/information you have so this is just an impression. Isn’t the foundation believers in homeopathy? I realise this makes no difference to your daughters teeth 😉 but it does make me wonder about what else they might subscribe to.
    3) Given that all vegetables, nuts, seeds, starchy tubers all contain phytic acid why the focus on wheat (I have my thoughts!).

    Keep up the good work.

    Mike

    • daiaravi says:

      Hey Mike – welcome out of the matrix:-)!

      seems like you have taken up the mantle and proven to yourself in several important personal arenas that CW (conventional wisdom…) is pretty suspect if not downright blind and stupid- I’m sure if i told my dear departed mom that i “re-mineralized” my daughters teeth without the help of a dentist, she’d depart yet again–

      In regards to your devilish advocacy, let’s see – #1 – I don’t want even try to explain what are clearly vegetarian anomalies – that is, once-isolated tribes that had to do SOMETHING to feed themselves and try to survive in their restricted environment – if resources are limited – you do your best – yes? and over generations that best will prove to be sustainable (by your tribes survival) or not and you are lost to history.

      I’d rather look at the other wide array of evidence – anthropological, physiological, biological and psychological that, in my layman’s view, all point to, at the very least, an omnivore’s evolution (if not mostly carnivore). Perhaps humans have survived well as opposed to dear departed species precisely because we were able to subsist on both animal and plant matter, eating plants when times got rough. What interests me most however, is what is closest to the ideal diet that will see me sail past deficiencies, obesity, heart disease and cancer long enough to watch my daughter grow up as I grow old (i’m 56 and she’s 3).

      as far as the Tarahumara, I have not seen any comprehensive analysis of their lifestyle, longevity, actual disease status etc etc and even if i did, it would be more of an “oh wow that’s pretty cool” moment that anything that would make me rush to subsist on corn and chia. I also eat for pleasure and diversity – something that I believe even our most ancient ancestors did.

      Let’s see #2 – with all due respect, i think it a teeny bit irregular to be talking about a love/hate with a man’s life work that you have not even read. Weston Price went on his epic discovery quest because his child died from complications of tooth decay (and he was a dentist). The man was intelligent and passionate (and probably filled with guilt as well) and – although one can always find intelligent objections after careful analysis of someones work and methods – the book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration is shocking and revelatory – if your mind is open to it. Also, i would suggest that to deride a site that is clearly bucking CW for offering a page of links to another practice bucking CW (homeopathy) is like suggesting that the amazing ballet dancer you just saw perform is somehow not worthy of admiration because he might be gay, or fundamentalist, or whatever you many not like. Apples and oranges, Mike – i don’t know of any Weston Price information that i have valued to be anything to do with homeopathy, but i would be at least open to it if it were.

      #3 – I’m willing to bet good money (if i had it! 😉 ) that wheat will prove to have a number of other nasty little secrets that will in time reveal why it seems to be head and shoulders above other grains in wreaking havoc (perhaps some synergistic negative “perfect-storm” between all the goodies being in one grain package – WGA, gluten and phytic acid). Remember also that we’re talking volume of consumption. Wheat eating cultures like our own tend to eat a whole hell of alot of it per capita – combined with other high phytate foods eaten as well and you’ve got an overload that’s hard to compensate for – thus insulin-driven obesity, mineral and nutrient deficiency and more.

      finally – i concede that there are probably people and cultural groups that, over the course of time, can and have subsisted on a veg diet. Survive and thrive are 2 different fields, however – and the exception doesn’t prove the rule – it just proves that there are exceptions.

  2. Mike says:

    Well, my devil’s advocacy is crumbling already! On 1) My take is similar – better to go with the proven, evolutionary path than invent new ones, although I accept it is possible to be vegetarian and maintain a fully healthy diet; it’s just trickier to get the nutritional balance right.
    2) ” i think it a teeny bit irregular to be talking about a love/hate with a man’s life work that you have not even read” – nicely put 😉 I knew this as I was writing it, although I was thinking more about the Weston Price Institute and their site rather than the man himself. I’d argue homeopathy and nutritional science (which WP do specialise in) are in the same field – or at least would like to be but homeopathy is consistently discredited. Case in point, I’ve read articles from biochemists on sat fat there which stack up with pubmed peer-reviewed science, but also articles about ailments containing really elementary mistakes that even me as a layman can spot. That kind of thing taints legitimate provable assertions – like your daughter’s teeth and the minerals. It also prevents a lot of people even considering what they have to say. So the love/hate thing is – love the scientifically provable ideas / hate the ones which rely on saying ‘it’s not provable but it works’.
    3) Short wheat stocks Ravi. I’m only half joking!
    Look forward to more.
    Cheers

    • daiaravi says:

      Hey Mike –
      I am not myself sooo convinced regarding homeopathy that i’m ready to argue that can’o’worms – considering that just recently a study showed that the placebo effect works even if those taking the placebo know! it kinda leaves the critical analysis of ALL methods pretty suspect. I do believe that homeopathy and acupuncture are culturally based and a constant stream of “that’s proven not to work” can impact pre-conceived notions about one’s treatment.

      Also – i want to again correct you in that neither the WAPF website or the Price-Pottenger website in any way emphasize homeopathy (seems you have a spear out for homeopathy…) and further emphasize that the mechanisms that Price was proposing are at play in nutrition are not at all “homeopathic” – they are about the literal availability of the actual nutrients and vitamins that the body needs to stay healthy from the foods it is consuming (or the non-availability because if the inferior/detrimental foods they are consuming). Nutritional theory/science and homeopathy are not (in my little brain) particularly related disciplines…

      Finally, Evolvify has already noted you should watch your [wheat] portfolio…
      http://evolvify.com/category/economics/
      😉

  3. Mike says:

    Great link to Evolvify, noted. And OK, I’ll put my spears away so long as noone mentions the h word. Deal? Deal!

  4. Neal says:

    Hi Ravi

    I am 54 years old and have two daughters 13 and 15. I came across WAPF about 3 years ago and slowly, (though my daughters might say it was sudden) moved to fats, protein and low carbs and no grains. No rice. We eat grass fed butter, bone broth, grass fed meats, our free range chicken eggs, coconut oil and low carb vegetables with lots of good seasonings, (garlic, onion, cayenne pepper, ginger, sea salt and oregano). I actually got a garbage can and removed all the breads and pastas, soy burgers and processed foods from the cupboards and freezer and threw them to their death accompanied with native american war screams, (is there such a thing?). The result? A significant improvement in all our health. Good for you and your daughter to figure it out sooner. You will be rewarded, and are being rewarded. My oldest resisted it the most and was the one needing it the most. She has been the biggest winner.
    Good job and thanks for the info.

    Neal

    • daiaravi says:

      Cool Story! we decided the bread would be OK for the chickens (along with all the other grains – soaked first for them) and our grains and bread went out with a cluck! (not quite so exhilarating as war cries, but the eggs were good…) – thanks for the story – and come back or sign up – we’re getting to be bloggin fools and we **really** work to make the posts interesting and informative (our promise: – no fluff! you can get plenty of that around the net-)
      Ravi

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