The Paleo Diet is the latest trend in healthful eating. If you haven’t heard, this is the idea of eating as our ancient, Stone Age ancestors did. That’s no processed food, fresh fruits and vegetables, sprouting grains, and animal meat. Some go farther. For those on the raw diet, they even eat everything raw. Paleos stay away from dairy, wheat products, and legumes. If we eat as the hunter-gatherers did, they reason, our systems will be healthier, digestion will be less demanding, and more nutrients and helpful enzymes will reside within the body. Michael Pollan sees it differently. The famous food writer and author of the blockbuster The Omnivore’s Dilemma and now Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, says our ancestors probably ate nothing like this. Pollan said in an Inquiring Minds podcast “I don’t think we really understand…well the proportions in the ancient diet.” He added, “Most people who tell you with great confidence that this is what our ancestors ate—I think they’re kind of blowing smoke.” You can hear the podcast here: soundcloud.com. The interview is sweeping. In it, Pollan covers how important it is we get the right microbes, think probiotics. He covers new research about intelligence in plants, and also the history and science of cooking itself. Meat for instance was not always consumed for dinner by hunter-gatherers. It was eaten more in some cultures and less in others too.
For hunter-gatherers, meat was available when they could get it. When they could, our ancestors would glut. Eating it raw is not recommended, said Pollan. In fact, he says cooking releases nutrients and makes meat easier to digest. The smell of roasted meat also gets the whole digestive system going. Another problem with the Paleo diet is “they’re assuming that the options available to our caveman ancestors are still there,” he argues. But “unless you’re willing to hunt your food, they’re not.” Modern meat from the supermarket contains hormones and antibiotics, and has been fed grain rather than grasses. So the wild game our ancestors hunted, and the livestock raised today are very different from one another. Eating more microbes is good for the system Pollan said, but is not included in the Paleo diet. Kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, and cheese—the last eaten sparingly, all have probiotics which helps with digestion, the immune system, and many other systems. Pollan debunked the raw food diet. Cooking actually makes more nutrients available, not less he argues. Eat a balanced diet. Don’t go for the fads. Go for what we know works, lots of fruits and vegetables, hopefully organic, lean meats and other proteins, and limited amounts of processed foods.