Whoa, whoa, whoa. What's this? Could it be that the ever-popular paleo diet, which encourages us to eat like our Stone Age hunter-gatherer forebears, is not based on a solid foundation of science? Wow, that's shocking. If we can't trust Internet-touted fad diets, then just who can we trust?
But that's the takeaway from a new article in the journal Scientific American, headlined not too subtly "How to Really Eat Like a Hunter-Gatherer: Why the Paleo Diet Is Half-Baked." Turns out, eating like a hungry, parasite-infested, probably dead-before-15, pre-agricultural human may not be the walk in the park healthwise that some paleo-diet supporters suggest -- unless that park is filled with man-eating beasts, maybe, because running for your life is a great cardio workout.
Paleo diet fans argue that humans are better genetically developed to eat a diet consisting of foods available before mankind developed agriculture -- meaning basically lots of meat, nuts and veggies, but no grains ... no bread ... no pasta ... no sugar ... no wonder ancient humans died so young. They were probably bored too death, plus they never carb-loaded, which is vital for that final kick as you sprint away from a hungry lion.
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Scientific American noted that life in modern hunter-gatherer societies, which are about as pure paleo as one can get these days, is not exactly an idyll. Or, as the articles says about South America's Hiwi people:
The Hiwi are not particularly healthy. Compared to the Ache, a hunter-gatherer tribe in Paraguay, the Hiwi are shorter, thinner, more lethargic and less well nourished. Hiwi men and women of all ages constantly complain of hunger.
Oddly enough, lethargic, malnourished and hungry is pretty much how we feel after eating at a modern-day Arby's.
Some of the basic tenets of the paleo diet -- more vegetables, cut out bread and sugar -- are generally considered healthy by pretty much everyone, though as Scientific American suggests, the idea that anyone today can or should try to duplicate an actual paleo-human diet is pretty much scientifically "half baked." Eating a close approximation doesn't sound half bad though, at least judging from the menu of HG Sply Co, the paleo-focused restaurant that opened last month on Greenville Avenue. It's divided up into sections labeled "hunter" and "gatherer" and includes items such as braised lamb shank with fig mostarda and curried cauliflower. Of course, as Scientific American noted, cauliflower is a human-bred plant created much the same way we selectively bred the wolves that once chased us into loyal Fido.