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  • Cooking?


    So I've been reading a lot about the paleo diet, and Mark's primal blueprint. Being very athletic, I've always relied on carbs to keep me going, but have always had weight fluctuations and energy dips/spikes. I've always been slender, so I don't worry so much about the weight--although when I'm usually a 2, it's annoying when clothes don't fit and I have to bump up to a 4. or even a 6 sometimes! (around that time of month--you ladies know what I'm talking about...)

    So mostly it's the variance in my energy level that I detest. Plus, diabetes and alcoholism run in my family, making me think we have difficulty processing sugar/carbs. Finally, I hate having to eat all dang day, which it seems I do when I eat mostly carbs.

    I've followed eating plans similar to the paleo before and was never successful. I think this is because I wasn't getting enough calories, likely because I was still moderating my fat intake...but I'm not sure.

    Mark's plan seems great so far, having only tried it for a couple of days. I recently injured myself (I'm a hardcore runner, pilates enthusiast, gym rat, tennis player, water skier, and salsa dancer, go figure I would finally hurt myself!--my advice is, don't combine them all in a weekend, lol!) So while I'm resting up from this tendonitis I developed, I was thinking now would be a great time to try the primal blueprint.

    Most of what I've read makes sense. However, there is one thing that gives me pause....

    It seems to me, Mark stipulates that humans evolved on this practically-carb-free paleo diet, only introducing grains/tubers/legumes with the advent of agriculture. The agricultural revolution having occurred around 12,000 years ago--after our evolution was basically complete--he says we don't have the genetics to process the stuff.

    Okay, but...

    What about cooking? Cooking was introduced waaaay earlier than agriculture, right? From what I've read, scientists haven't pinpointed the exact date of the introduction of cooking, but some think it happened shortly after we discovered how to manipulate fire. So is it wrong to assume, that we began consuming these grains when we first started cooking, and not with the agricultural revolution, as Mark asserts?

    If this is so, if we actually began eating these grains when fire became available to cook them, couldn't that have occurred before we were fully evolved, at least for some groups of people? In which case, wouldn't it make sense that paleo people actually do thrive off at least a moderately higher amount of carbs, grains, etc, than Mark would say? Of course I realize our modern day diets is waay to laden in simple carbs and sugars, but can't a case be made that we do indeed have the genetics to digest cooked whole grains, in small amounts, and with other macrobiotics (fat, protein) included to buffer the glycemic response?

    Anyways, I welcome all input on this and I'd be happy to be wrong. As I said before, I seem to do well on the primal eating style. But maybe my rational, industrial brain is trying to stave off the idea of never eating a bagel again.

    I just would like to clear this up. Thanks everyone!

  • #2

    Also, does going paleo mean I can't drink vodka?


    Seems pertinent with the 4th coming up...


    • #3

      can't answer your cooking questions, but...

      vodka has no carbs and will be fine. Not a good idea to drink alcohol in general if you're trying to lose fat, but now and then is fine.

      But I will note that the 2 times I've had alcoholic drinks since going primal, I had a very hard time falling asleep and felt very warm all night.

      Eating lots but still hungry? Eat more fat. Mid-day sluggishness? Eat more fat. Feeling depressed or irritable? Eat more fat. People think you've developed an eating disorder? Eat more fat... in front of them.


      • #4

        Obviously it wasn't entirely carb free (depending on latitude and the season), given honey, fruits, etc. I'm sure wild tubers were on the menu when they were found (you can just throw a wild yam in the fire for a few minutes, voila), but they wouldn't have really been obvious or concentrated in a way that they'd make a significant contribution to calories.

        Grains, on the other hand, require significant investment, non-nomadic lifestyle, and division of labor in order to even harvest, so the cooking is kind of a moot point.

        Also I like to think that hunter gatherers, being used to a diet of meat, fat, marrow, and organs, would readily recognize how grains make you feel like crap in a way that we, having been raised on raisin bran and corn flakes, normally do not.


        • #5

          Oh, here's a good article from Dr. Eades:

          It's a study of native americans in the same region, one population from 5000 years ago, and one from 1500 AD. Both undoubtedly had fire and access to the same plants, but it doesn't seem like the older group decided to partake.


          • #6

            Oh, also...Vodka on the 4th?

            You know, in the late 1700s, George Washington owned the country's largest whiskey distillery.


            • #7


              Good Info! No worries, I don't plan on doing any sleeping on the 4th!

              I can't drink whiskey, it makes my clothes fall off.


              • #8

                There's a fair amount of anthropological data on what ancient humans primarily ate, mostly because there are a lot of ways to get it. If you'll plug a few key words into the search function at John Hawks's site, you'll get a lot of interesting stuff. (Not that I'm a worshipper for Hawks, it's just that working anthropologists who blog aren't common and he makes for a really useful ready online reference that way.) Including, yes, evidence of processing of starchy tubers as early as the Middle Stone Age- that'd be 300,000 years ago. There's a difference, however, between "all starches", and "grains"- farmed grains are VERY derived species and bear little resemblance to their wild ancestors, which would have barely been worth bothering with as a food source. Most of the difference is in having a lot more starches and sugars than the wild type- "wild corn"- teosinte- for example, looks more like a particularly scrawny wheat than what we're familiar with.

                I'm not one of those who believe that human evolution halted sometime in the late Paleolithic, and I do think there are obvious population differences in how well our systems are set up to take advantage of- and mitigate- certain features of the agricultural revolution. A lot of sugar and starch might not be good for me, but for the Pima Indian population a state across the way it's a much bigger disaster- that population has a rate of type II diabetes of a staggering 50% on a Western diet. Why? Much harder to grow grain crops in the middle of the Sonoran desert, so those things are much, much newer to that gene pool. It's also important to bear in mind that "adapted" rarely ever means "perfectly adapted", especially when the time period involved is relatively short in evolutionary terms.

                Bottom line of "eat what makes you feel good" is an easy guideline to follow; I *could* say I don't avoid dairy because almost all of my ancestry is in northern European areas that adopted dairying early and lactase persistence is well-fixed in that population, but the real reason is I feel fine and do well on it. Likewise I seriously doubt I will never eat bread again- being an opportunistic omnivore type that doesn't crumble with something a little novel- it just will never be the base of my diet again.


                • #9

                  Yeah, of course there's a big difference between guaranteed diabetes and fully adapted. If we were fully adapted to each a bunch of grass and grains, we'd have multiple stomachs, a much longer gut, and we'd get meaningful calories from fiber.


                  • #10

                    Okay. Hhmm.

                    I've been mulling this over for a few days. And I thought, using the evidence of ONE study of ONE society isn't the best science, right? Because I thought that most of us could agree, that even different hunter-gathering groups in different areas of the world have been found to thrive on differing diets, diets that vary wildly in macronutrient content.

                    So one society thrived better on one diet or the other--hardly conclusive evidence for the whole of humanity, right? And in perusing the internet, I seem to recall one article asserting that even in warm areas where fruit/vegetables are theoretically easy to find, a current hunter-gatherer tribe has been found to eat a diet composed of up to 50% tubers.

                    And regarding grains, I thought they were relatively easy to come across back in the day? Thats the reasoning that Ben Balzar, the featured scientist of, uses in explaining why they are toxic to humans and other creatures when raw:

                    "Consider our friend, the apple. When an animal eats an apple, it profits by getting a meal. It swallows the seeds and then deposits them in a pile of dung. With some luck a new apple tree might grow, and so the apple tree has also profited from the arrangement. In nature as in finance, it is good business when both parties make profit happily. Consider what would happen if the animal were greedy and decided to eat the few extra calories contained within the apple seeds- then there would be no new apple tree to continue on the good work. So, to stop this from happening, the apple seeds contain toxins that have multiple effects:

                    * firstly, they taste bad- discouraging the animal from chewing them

                    * secondly some toxins are enzyme blockers that bind up predators digestive enzymes- these also act as "preservatives" freezing the apple seed enzymes until sprouting- Upon sprouting of the seed, many of these enzyme blockers disappear.

                    * thirdly, they contain lectins- these are toxic proteins which have numerous effects. They act as natural pesticides and are also toxic to a range of other species including bacteria, insects, worms, rodents and other predators including humans .

                    Of course, the apple has other defenses- to start with it is high above the ground well out of reach of casual predators, and it also has the skin and flesh of the apple to be penetrated first. Above all though is the need to stop the seed from being eaten, so that new apple trees may grow.

                    Now, please consider the humble grain. Once again as a seed its duty is mission critical- it must perpetuate the life cycle of the plant. It is however much closer to the ground, on the tip of a grass stalk. It is within easy reach of any predator strolling by. It contains a good source of energy, like a booster rocket for the new plant as it grows. The grain is full of energy and in a vulnerable position. It was "expensive" for the plant to produce. It is an attractive meal. Its shell offers little protection. Therefore, it has been loaded with toxic proteins to discourage predators- grains are full of enzyme blockers and lectins.

                    Beans too are full of enzyme blockers and lectins. Potatoes contain enzyme blockers, lectins and another family of toxins called glycoalkaloids."


                    Of course, He also states that cooking basically started around the same time as the agricultural revolution... something doesn't add up. ??

                    Anyways, it still seems fallible to me to say that we only began eating grains in large amounts with the beginning of agriculture. If grains did not make up at least a more significant portion of our diet, then why would we have started planting them? Hardly makes sense: we have an abundance of yummy, delicious, food to choose to plant, and we decide to harvest....the one food that's poisonous to us? lol

                    I'm not saying lots of grains are good. I think I have a gluten intolerance, so I'm certainly trying to stay away from them. But maybe it's reading the forums that gives me pause. It seems like a lot of people here have vilified carbs the way some people used to vilify fat.....


                    • #11

                      "If we were fully adapted to each a bunch of grass and grains, we'd have multiple stomachs, a much longer gut, and we'd get meaningful calories from fiber."

                      But I thought that's what I was asking. I recognize we are not adapted to process raw grains. But did cooking arrive soon enough in our evolution to allow some peoples to adapt to eating them cooked? (and of course, this will differ according to origins I imagine)

                      "I'm sure wild tubers were on the menu when they were found (you can just throw a wild yam in the fire for a few minutes, voila), but they wouldn't have really been obvious or concentrated in a way that they'd make a significant contribution to calories."

                      Really? Why so hard to find? If we're throwing around the idea that paleo people were actually way more intelligent that our agricultural selves, is it hard to believe they would have had trouble finding a food source that required them to....dig? Come on, even the dopey animals can do that .....

                      I'm not trying to be argumentative, just looking for clarity. And a potato. mmmm, home fries......


                      • #12

                        There was undoubtedly a transitory period where the population grew, and grains were sampled and deemed tamable for growing. In fact, we can actually see this transition reflected in the fossil records:

                        Back in the 80s, a bunch of leading paleo-anthropologists got together to examine the fossil records and analyze the health of our ancestors. They were especially interested in the Paleolithic (hunter-gatherer), Mesolithic (transitory, some hunting/gathering, some early agriculture), and Neolithic (dawn of agriculture). Paleolithic fossils were the healthiest, followed by the Mesolithic, although the drop off wasn't enormous - but it was a drop off, nonetheless. When they got to the Neolithic fossils, however, the health differences were plainly evident. Bone health suffered, life span dropped, tooth decay flourished, and basically all markers of health deteriorated with the advent of agriculture/grains.

                        You gotta realize that the grain sampling/transition period, where we were outgrowing our smaller tribes, settling down, growing more territorial, and realizing we'd need a source of food that didn't require the men to leave the village helpless all day to hunt/gather, didn't span just a generation. It was thousands of years, and it was undoubtedly rife with mistakes, guesses, vomiting, and plenty of trial and error. I don't think anyone's suggesting agriculture happened overnight.

                        I think if we really were eating loads of grains for our entire history, there'd be a lot more evidence of it... and agriculture probably would have come around a lot sooner than it did. Remember, we are creatures of convenience before anything else. If grains really were a sensible, plentiful source of calories for hundreds of thousands of years, we would have figured it out.


                        • #13

                          Some people do vilify carbohydrate, but that's mostly because of its fairly universal effect on fat storage. The macronutrient itself isn't the issue; it's the overconsumption of it, along with the fact that it usually comes with mildly toxic, built in self-defense mechanisms - at least in the most common forms (grains, potatoes, legumes).


                          • #14

                            Nick25, I'm going to sound like a conspiracy theorist here, but I think that something has changed in the last 100 years that has accentuated the negative qualities of grains that have made them worse for us than they were in the ancient times.

                            Even the timing kinda make sense. In the last 100 years we have spent a lot of effort to maximize output from cereal crops. Making them more resistant to disease and drought in the process (accentuating the qualities you list above). At right along the same time we have gotten sicker and sicker. How can the genetics of cereals change so quickly you ask? Right around 1920s, farming changed forever. Hybridization became the norm and the big companies that controlled the seeds required that farmers not replant seeds from last years crop, they didn't breed true anyway so farmers didn't. But yields were high so farms went along. Quickly everyone is using the same seeds that have been engineered and the heirloom variety are gone. And all of a sudden, the animals and people are sick...... X-files stuff I know........

                            It's grandma, but you can call me sir.


                            • #15

                              Eric, one thing I have always wondered about the "we are smaller since agriculture" observation. Could it be that our bones got smaller simply because life was easier? Isn't it true that bones grow in response to physical stress? Grok had to work hard for a meal, framer grok not as much.

                              Just wondering for the sake of argument.

                              It's grandma, but you can call me sir.