Tag Archives: paleo

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Have you seen it yet?

If you have, and you’re thinking you’ve got to ‘go vegan’ as the main takeaway, it’s worth considering whether all the information presented should be taken at face value, or if, just perhaps, some of it may have been taken just a tad out of context.

The latest in a series of documentaries, many of which contain scientific backing and sound research, Game Changers, is “a revolutionary new film about meat, protein and strength”, and “tells the story of James Wilks, elite Special Forces trainer and The Ultimate Fighter winner, as he travels the world on a quest to uncover the optimal diet for human performance. Showcasing elite athletes, special ops soldiers, visionary scientists, cultural icons, and everyday heroes, what James discovers permanently changes his understanding of food and his definition of true strength.” (1)

The film and the website, both extremely well produced and presented, give a host of reasons why ‘eating meat is bad’ including the old go-to that ‘meat causes cancer’, that animal products create inflammation in humans, and that livestock require excessive land because animals are actually just the “middlemen,” consuming on average six times more protein than they even produce.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Now all those things are relatively true… if we’re talking about beef sourced from inhumane stock yards, chicken from deplorable battery-cage production facilities stacked as high as the ceiling who never see the light of day, and pigs stuffed into pens so small they cannot turn around.

None of these practices are acceptable and as a starting point, should never be supported in any manner.

Add to that, the way in which our common foods are packaged and processed, then served to us in giant portions on a platter; or a to-go bags from many of the nearly quarter of a million fast food eateries that existed as of 2018. (2)

Preservatives are added to allow a longer shelf life. Sugars are also added to cater to the cloyingly sweet palate so many Americans have unknowingly created for themselves after a lifetime of including the white powder as part of their ‘everything in moderation’ directive. Finally, there’s the FDA approved colors and stabilizers. What ends up in our greasy burger, wrapped in paper, is certainly far from anything that should be a part of what any of us eat regularly, if ever.

But what about properly sourced animal-based products, eaten in the proper quantities (as in small to moderate), balanced with a plethora of local, in season veggies, fruits and ample natural fats?

That’s a horse of a different color.

Below are ten reasons why ‘going vegan’ after watching this film—or for any other reason, for that matter—isn’t necessarily the best course of action.

 

1. Proper Sourcing of Animal Products Benefits the Environment

When properly managed, raising animals on pasture instead of factory farms is a net benefit to the environment. To begin with, a diet of grazed grass requires much less fossil fuel than a feedlot diet of dried corn and soy. On pasture, grazing animals do their own fertilizing and harvesting. The ground is covered with greens all year round, so it does an excellent job of harvesting solar energy and holding on to top-soil and moisture. As you will read in the bulletins below, grazed pasture removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere more effectively than any land use, including forestland and un-grazed prairie, helping to slow global warming. (3)

2. Portions

Meat, eggs, and dairy products from pastured animals are ideal for your health. Compared with commercial products, they offer you more “good” fats, and fewer “bad” fats. They are richer in antioxidants including vitamins E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. Furthermore, they do not contain traces of added hormones, antibiotics or other drugs. At one point in Game Changers a group of three pro ball players were interviewed; two of whom regularly ate excessive portions of steak or fried chicken as part of their pre-game meal. The third was vegetarian, and often ate a bean and cheese burrito.  Not only was the sourcing of the proteins sub-par for the first two, at-best, the sheer size of the steak was enough to feed four athletes.   For comparison, a pre-game meal for a large man, consisting of 4-6 ounces of grass fed and finished rib eye,  paired with a large arugula, avocado and olive oil salad, a large portion of steamed broccoli with fresh lime, and six ounces of baked yam would provide ample carbohydrate, fat and protein, a high level of nutrient density, fiber and a net alkaline load on the body. This meal would set the athlete up for proper digestion and assimilation; just what is needed to perform at a high level, not solely in sport but also in daily life.

3. Plant Based Needn’t Mean Vegan

Whoever decided that a plant-based diet and moderate portions of mindfully sourced proteins cannot be one and the same?  I consider the way I eat and the way I feed my family, including our 7-month old son, to be plant based.   If over 80% of what we are eating is local, in season, organic veggies and a little bit of fruit, how could it be classified as anything else?   When we portion our meat properly, and not in the greedy manner we’ve grown accustomed to, we are, in fact, plant-based and treating our body and our planet respectfully.

4. Vegan-Labeled Food Isn’t Necessarily Healthy

Any diet that one may choose to follow can be taken out of context, even if it is based on sound principles.  We saw it with gluten-free, then Paleo and now keto.    An authentic Paleo Diet, which mimics the foods our ancestors ate using readily available foods we can source in our modern day society from our farmer’s markets and our own backyards, is a far cry from a grocery cart full of Paleo-labeled pancakes, breads, cookies, and pasta.    If what one gleans from this film—or other documentaries like it including What the Health or Forks over Knives—is just to nix any animal products, then all they are doing is taking a lateral step in terms of the net inflammation in the body.   If it’s in a package, it’s quite likely to be highly processed and low or completely lacking in nutrient density.

5. Vegan Food Production Can Also Be Toxic to Our Planet

Soy crops rob the soil of nutrients without giving back. They’re one of the most pesticide laden crops and they are now almost all genetically modified. The major part of it goes to feed livestock, who get sick eating it. Some factory produced cuts of meat are now injected with extra soy. This is yet another reason to stay clear of factory-farmed animals: save yourself and the environment from soy.

Monsanto, the largest soy producer now sues every farmer who gets their soy cross-pollinated by Monsanto’s patented GMO crops. Cross-pollination used to be the way plants reproduced, now it’s illegal! It should actually be the opposite, where the farmers sue Monsanto for infecting their crops, but of course Monsanto is now too big to be vulnerable. They have very strong political power because of the lobbying they do. (4)

And that’s just the part we ingest. It is also packaged in plastic waste which is collected for recycling and shipped to Indonesia. There, some is burned as fuel by tofu makers, producing deadly chemicals and contaminating food. (5)

6. Vegan Diets Can Also Create Inflammation

It’s not only poorly sourced meat, dairy and poultry that can create inflammation in the body; grains, beans, vegetable oils, and some nuts and seeds, can also do an excellent job. Naturally occurring substances known as anti-nutrients, including saponins, lectins or phytates, found in plant-derived foods, interfere with absorption and/or the proper functioning of nutrients in the body.

Anti-nutrients are compounds that are produced by plants as part of their defense mechanism. They are very resistant to digestion and consequently, stay intact in our gut and, in turn, can have a damaging effect. Not only do they bind to nutrients in our healthy food options, decreasing the nutrient value of those foods, they can increase gut permeability as well as bind receptors in the gut. Both mechanisms allow these antinutrients to cross the gut barrier and get systemic access, something that should not happen. This then leads to a multitude of symptoms that can manifest throughout the body, ranging from headaches, mental fogginess, joint pain, and the onset or exacerbation of autoimmune conditions…just to list a handful of the maladies that can ensue. (6)

7. Small Amounts of Mindfully Sourced, Natural Proteins Are an Essential Component of a Healthy Human Diet 

Studies show that the modern human brain consumes 20 percent of the body’s energy at rest; twice that of other primates. Historically, meat and cooked foods were needed to provide the necessary calorie boost to feed a growing brain. Meat must have been an integral, and not sporadic, element of the pre-human diet more than one-million years ago. (7)

8. Properly Sourced Animal Foods Play A Crucial Role in A Baby’s First Foods 

Animal-sourced zinc stimulates healthier bones and low zinc stunts growth.  Vegan children, especially boys, tend to be shorter because getting enough zinc from birth through age five can metabolically program your child’s height.  In addition, higher zinc levels lead to improved cognitive development.  In one study, researchers compared adding meat or iron fortified cereal to exclusively breast-fed infants and found that the meat-fed infants had substantially higher rate of brain growth and demonstrated trends towards other advanced developmental advantages. (8)

9. Performance on the Field / Performance in Life Also Depends on Our Genetics, and It’s Not One Size Fits All

We’re all individuals.   The idea that all humans should eat exactly the same way makes about as much sense as the idea that every woman across the world should have a menstrual cycle that lasts exactly 28 days all the time.   If we begin by taking a look-back to a few generations earlier, we can see what our own genetics would likely predispose us to.  And while certain populations certainly tend to have a more meat-based diet and others a more plant-based diet, if we go back a hundred years or so, you can rest assured that most people were not going out of their way to avoid any and all meat and animal products as a means to prevent heart disease or keep their blood sugar from climbing up even further to the pre-diabetic range.  They ate locally, seasonally and fresh.   They ate food.   It was only in the past 75 years or so that food began to become an industry; a hugely profitable giant.    If we do nothing else, just by taking a moment to see what our own families ate, we can see how that compares to what we’re eating now and make small changes to mimic what they did.

10. Here’s an Idea: What if We Nixed All the Labeling and Just Ate Food?

I always find it interesting to learn all the new ways we choose to label the way in which we eat.   Pesco-vegetarian. Pegan. Part-time vegan.   Weekend Paleo.   What if we just dialed it way back to tuning into what food really is: food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for an organism. Food is usually of plant or animal origin, and contains essential nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. The substance is ingested by an organism and assimilated by the organism’s cells to provide energy, maintain life, or stimulate growth. (9)  Confused and overwhelmed about how to decipher confusing labels?   Choose things that do not come in a package with a label.   There’s no doubting what’s in a bunch of kale or an avocado!

 

Summing It up…

Undoubtedly, documentaries of this nature do a great job at raising awareness and granted, if someone following the Standard American Diet makes positive shifts as a result, that’s fantastic.

But to eschew all animal products regardless of where they’re sourced,  how much we eat, and in what manner they’re prepared isn’t the straightforward answer one might think if they walk away from the film without mulling over some of the points shared above.

 

References

  1. https://gamechangersmovie.com
  2. https://www.statista.com/statistics/196619/total-number-of-fast-food-restaurants-in-the-us-since-2002/
  3. http://www.eatwild.com/environment.html
  4. https://paleoleap.com/dangers-soy/
  5. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/14/world/asia/indonesia-tofu-dioxin-plastic.html
  6. https://thepaleodiet.com/antinutrients-the-antithesis-of-true-paleo/
  7. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/sorry-vegans-eating-meat-and-cooking-food-is-how-humans-got-their-big-brains/2012/11/26/3d4d36de-326d-11e2-bb9b-288a310849ee_story.html
  8. “Super Nutrition for Babies: the Right Way to Feed Your Baby for Optimal Health.” Super Nutrition for Babies: the Right Way to Feed Your Baby for Optimal Health, by Kelly Genzlinger et al., Fair Winds Press, 2012, p. 41.
  9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food

 

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Do you look forward to Daylight Savings Time (DST) in the spring as much as I do? I love having that extra hour in the evening to go for a bike ride or just enjoy the daylight.

On the flip side, though, “springing ahead” means we lose an extra hour of sleep in order to gain those nice sunny evening hours.

It might not seem like much, but that hour of lost sleep can really mess with your circadian rhythm. Sometimes it takes people several days to adjust, and with good reason: There’s less light in the morning, making it harder to get up; and that extra sunlight at night, no matter how glorious it is, can prevent us from winding down.

Here’s how to get your body to adjust to DST quickly this year, so you can really enjoy that sunlight tradeoff.

 

How Our Paleo Ancestors Slept

You probably assumed that before there was Netflix and social media feeds keeping us up late at night, our hunter-gatherer Paleo ancestors did a better job of racking up the needed hours of sleep per night.

Interestingly, this might not actually be the case (though of course, they still slept a lot better than we do today). Since we can’t go back in time to see for ourselves, researchers studied the sleep habits of present-day hunter-gatherer societies in Africa and South America to get an idea as to how our Paleo ancestors might have slept. [1]

The study found that many of these tribes only sleep an hour or two more than the average American. However, they get up consistently with the rising sun—something many of us struggle to do naturally. Plus, they clock in an extra hour of sleep in the wintertime, possibly suggesting that we’re hard-wired to turn in early during those darker months.

 

How Modern Americans Sleep

Even though our Paleo ancestors might not have gotten as much shut-eye as we’d hoped, their sleep habits are still a lot healthier than ours.

Our busy lifestyle and constant online connection can be disruptive. Our internal calendar is less driven by the sun, and dictated instead by our need to stay up late to finish work, or to binge-watch our favorite show. Then we close the blinds tightly and sleep as late as we can on weekends.

That schedule may help with productivity (or, let’s be honest, our desire for entertainment) past sunset, but a highly variable sleep schedule can hurt us in the long run.

Add to that the bi-annual time change we have to wrestle with, and our sleep schedule is bound to lead us down a path of poor health.

In fact, one recent study [2] published in Scientific Reports found that irregular sleep can lead to both physical and mental health problems down the road, like cardiovascular disease and depression.

 

How Nutrition Affects Sleep

Believe it or not, the foods you eat can either prime your brain and body for sleep—or deprive you of it.

A recent study [3] on diet and sleep found that eating a diet low in fiber and high in saturated fat and sugar lead to lighter, less restorative sleep.

Our Paleo ancestors ate a much more nutrient-dense diet than humans do today. They gathered fresh, in-season foods that were filled with the fiber, vitamins, and healthy fats needed to support a healthy circadian rhythm.

In other words, those boxes of cereal and other grains, processed foods, and sugar most Americans eat on a daily basis might not support that deep, restful sleep we all crave—not to mention overall health.

 

Five Tricks to Sleep Better After “Springing Ahead”

In addition to cleaning up your diet and maintaining as close to a Paleo Diet as possible (we recommend a very doable 85-percent Paleo lifestyle), here are a few tips and tricks to help you get the most from those extra hours of daylight and enjoy as much restful sleep as you need.

  1. Get outside first thing in the morning. It’s well established that light has a big impact on the brain. Use it to your advantage and get outside first thing in the morning to reset your circadian rhythm.
  2. Limit that coffee. Caffeine can stay in your bloodstream for up to six hours. That’s why it’s important to avoid it in the afternoon. If you really need your morning cup of Joe to get you going, we won’t deny you that.
  3. Turn off electronics early. Ever notice that when you go camping (or even stay somewhere with no television), you get tired a lot sooner? Blue light disrupts melatonin production, keeping you awake longer than your body wants to be. Turn it off early.
  4. Engage in calming activities instead. So, what to do with your dark, pre-bed hours? Instead of watching TV or playing with your phone, try calming activities like journaling, meditating, a hot bath, reading a good novel, or listening to music—anything that will help you wind down, instead of keeping your brain activated.
  5. Prep your bedroom. You want your bedroom to be a calming place in which you look forward to resting your head at night. Ideally, your bedroom should be cool, dark, and not too quiet—consider using fans, dark curtains, or noise machines to achieve maximum sleep quality.

Yes, your modern lifestyle often can feel like an impediment to good sleep, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes just shifting your habits a bit can make a big difference in your sleep quality.

Rest easy.

 

References

  1. Ellen R. Stothard, Andrew W. McHill, Christopher M. Depner, Monique K. LeBourgeois, John Axelsson, Kenneth P. Wright, Jr. Circadian Entrainment to the Natural Light-Dark Cycle across Seasons and the Weekend. Current Biology 27, 508–513 (2017).
  2. Lunsford-Avery, J.R., Engelhard, M.M., Navar, A.M. et al. Validation of the Sleep Regularity Index in Older Adults and Associations with Cardiometabolic Risk. Sci Rep 8, 14158 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-32402-5
  3. St-Onge, M. P., Roberts, A., Shechter, A., & Choudhury, A. R. (2016). Fiber and Saturated Fat Are Associated with Sleep Arousals and Slow Wave Sleep. Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 12(1), 19–24. https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.5384

 

Preparing a special Paleo Diet® meal doesn’t mean you have to spend hours in the kitchen following complicated recipes and hoping it all turns out well. This fast and easy meal will impress your guests and won’t wear you out before everyone arrives. The greens with cherries are a unique combination that pair perfectly to compliment the flavors in the pork. Even better is the easy clean up afterwards, leaving you plenty of energy to spend time together.

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Recipe: Seared Pork Chops with Sweetheart Spinach

Preparing a special Paleo Diet® meal doesn’t mean you have to spend hours in the kitchen following complicated recipes and hoping it all turns out well. This fast and easy meal will impress your guests and won’t wear you out before everyone arrives. The greens with cherries are a unique combination that pair perfectly to compliment the flavors in the pork. Even better is the easy clean up afterwards, leaving you plenty of energy to spend time together.

 

 

  • Author: Lorrie Cordain
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 4 People 1x
  • Category: Pork
  • Cuisine: American
Scale

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless pork chops, about 6 ounces each
  • 2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 cup cherries, pitted and halved
  • 1/4 cup no-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 bunches fresh spinach, tough stems trimmed

Instructions

  1. Rinse pork chops under cold water and pat dry with a paper towel.
  2. Lightly season each chop with black pepper.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet on medium heat.
  4. Place pork chops in pan and cook until golden brown and just cooked through. 8 to 10 minutes per side.
  5. Transfer to plates.
  6. Add cherries to skillet and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cherries begin to soften.
  7. Add stock and cook about 2 minutes longer, until liquid is reduced to about 1 tablespoon.
  8. Stir in mustard and water.
  9. Add spinach and continue cooking an additional 1-2 minutes.
  10. Place along side pork chops and serve.

Notes

For hundreds of pure Paleo recipes be sure to check out The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook and The Real Paleo Diet Fast and Easy.

Keywords: paleo, pork chops, spinach, seared

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The subject of human evolution is both fascinating and complex. Human beings evolved from fairly primitive creatures to the most advanced species on the planet. How and why did this happen? It’s a question that scientists have pondered for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. In the exploration of this subject, many researchers have focused on the study of the human diet—that is particularly true at The Paleo Diet. Now, many mainstream outlets have started to ask the question: Did humans evolve to eat lower carbohydrate diets, and do those diets provide us with a better chance of survival and health?

When it comes to the science, a specific gene, AMY1, appears to have played an important role in our development and diet over the years. [1] The gene’s function in starch digestion begins in the mouth; [2] your saliva contains an enzyme encoded by AMY1, and it starts breaking down starch when you chew your food. [3] There is genetic variability, with regard to the quantity of copies of this specific gene, in humans. Interestingly, those with more copies break down starch faster. [4]

However, other primates do not possess that same genetic variability. [5] (Any scientist reading this article should be intrigued by that sentence.) That fact suggests the genetic variability seen in humans may have been an adaptation that helped the species rise to the top. In other words, our evolution may have been aided by our consumption of starchy foods. Furthermore, we may have developed more copies of this gene because it provided an evolutionary advantage.

However, there’s a scientifically surprising fact about the gene variation: Those with different levels of the gene all have different microbiomes. [6] Some research has even shown that weight gain is associated with variations in the gene, another scientifically intriguing suggestion. [7]

Other research has shown that people with fewer copies of AMY1 are almost 10 times more likely to gain weight, when compared to those with more copies of the gene. [8] This is a staggering fact, and one that may not only hold the key to understanding our evolution, but also potentially understanding obesity.

Other studies have shown that boys with lower numbers of the AMY1 gene are associated with having a higher body mass index (BMI). [9] In essence, the fewer numbers of the gene you possess, the more likely you are to be overweight. This research suggests that people can react differently to a particular type of food, and even to the same amount of that food. While one person may gain weight, another may not.

Which begs the question: For those people with fewer copies of the AMY1 gene, what foods should they limit to avoid gaining weight? In short, starchy foods. [10] A low-carb diet is a favorable choice.

 

Evolutionary Advantage?

Did consuming starch provide us with an evolutionary advantage? Not necessarily. Since the Paleolithic era lasted over 2 million years—far longer than the relatively short period of time that we’ve had to adapt to starchier diets (around 10,000 years)—it is much more likely that evolution may have occurred in response to non-starchy foods. [11] However, the question is still up for debate.

What does this mean from a more practical level? What foods are better to consume? Quite simply: tread carefully with the starches, including foods like potatoes, peas, corn, rice, grains, beans, and pasta. If you’re following a Paleo Diet, you are avoiding these foods already. It would be interesting to see if there is a connection between the level of success one sees on a Paleo Diet—which almost completely omits these foods—and the number of AMY1 gene copies a person carries.

What about those people with more copies of the AMY1 gene? They could, hypothetically, consume starchier foods and keep weight low. However, as the science of The Paleo Diet makes clear, these foods do not provide good nutrition and have a vast array of downsides. So, we recommend refraining from them regardless of your genetic makeup.

Is there, then, an evolutionary advantage to having fewer AMY1 genes? The research suggests those with fewer copies of the AMY1 gene can consume a low-starch diet based around our Paleolithic ancestors and see very favorable results. This scientific evidence supports the notion that eating foods low in starch may have actually driven human evolution. If, by extension, consuming a low-starch diet caused problems in any element of the population, then this would not have been an advantageous development. However, that is not the case.

Since starchy foods have very little nutritional content, very few upsides, and are now associated with increased obesity in a large percentage of the population who have fewer copies of the AMY1 gene, the question becomes: Why would humans continue to eat starchy foods? Economics are clearly one factor. Starchy foods are inexpensive. That’s part of why, for the first time in history, those in lower income brackets have higher rates of obesity. Unfortunately, while many people would love to eat healthier, they simply can’t afford to do so.

However, even if your budget is very tight, there are still small changes that can be made which will go a long way towards supporting your health. Reducing starchy foods—regardless of how many AMY1 genes you have—is a good start.

If you enjoyed this article, check out Casey’s new cookbook!

 

References

  1. Perry GH, Dominy NJ, Claw KG, et al. Diet and the evolution of human amylase gene copy number variation. Nat Genet. 2007;39(10):1256-60.
  2. Fernández CI, Wiley AS. Rethinking the starch digestion hypothesis for AMY1 copy number variation in humans. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2017;163(4):645-657.
  3. Carpenter D, Dhar S, Mitchell LM, et al. Obesity, starch digestion and amylase: association between copy number variants at human salivary (AMY1) and pancreatic (AMY2) amylase genes. Hum Mol Genet. 2015;24(12):3472-80.
  4. Mandel AL, Peyrot des gachons C, Plank KL, Alarcon S, Breslin PA. Individual differences in AMY1 gene copy number, salivary α-amylase levels, and the perception of oral starch. PLoS ONE. 2010;5(10):e13352.
  5. O’bleness M, Searles VB, Varki A, Gagneux P, Sikela JM. Evolution of genetic and genomic features unique to the human lineage. Nat Rev Genet. 2012;13(12):853-66.
  6. Parks BW, Nam E, Org E, et al. Genetic control of obesity and gut microbiota composition in response to high-fat, high-sucrose diet in mice. Cell Metab. 2013;17(1):141-52.
  7. Mejía-benítez MA, Bonnefond A, Yengo L, et al. Beneficial effect of a high number of copies of salivary amylase AMY1 gene on obesity risk in Mexican children. Diabetologia. 2015;58(2):290-4.
  8. Falchi M, El-sayed moustafa JS, Takousis P, et al. Low copy number of the salivary amylase gene predisposes to obesity. Nat Genet. 2014;46(5):492-7.
  9. Marcovecchio ML, Florio R, Verginelli F, et al. Low AMY1 Gene Copy Number Is Associated with Increased Body Mass Index in Prepubertal Boys. PLoS ONE. 2016;11(5):e0154961.
  10. Rukh G, Ericson U, Andersson-assarsson J, Orho-melander M, Sonestedt E. Dietary starch intake modifies the relation between copy number variation in the salivary amylase gene and BMI. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017;106(1):256-262.
  11. Luca F, Perry GH, Di rienzo A. Evolutionary adaptations to dietary changes. Annu Rev Nutr. 2010;30:291-314.

When we think Mexican cooking, visions of not-so-Paleo foods and drink pop into our minds. Don’t despair, this taco soup is the perfect answer to your spicy cravings, allowing you to happily stay true to your healthy Paleo lifestyle. Preparation is fast and easy and will fill your kitchen with its south of the border aromas. Paired with a side of tropical fruit, makes for a meal that will surely become one of your favorites.

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Recipe: Slow Cooker Paleo Taco Soup

When we think of Mexican cuisine, visions of not-so-Paleo foods and drinks likely enter our minds. Don’t despair—this taco soup is the perfect answer to your spicy cravings, allowing you to happily stay true to your healthy Paleo lifestyle. Preparation is fast and easy and will fill your kitchen with its south-of-the-border aromas. Paired with a side of tropical fruit, this soup makes for a meal that will surely become one of your favorites.

  • Author: Lorrie Cordain
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 hours
  • Total Time: 8 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 people 1x
  • Category: Soup
  • Cuisine: Mexican
Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound beef or chicken, ground
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced zucchini
  • 1 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons minced canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (optional)
  • 1 4.5-ounce can green chiles
  • 1 teaspoon ground chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 5 cups no sodium broth (beef or chicken)
  • 2 fresh limes cut into wedges for each serving

Optional additions just before serving: jalapeño slices, cilantro, and avocado

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium flame.
  2. Add onion and garlic and sauté for about 2 minutes.
  3. Break up the ground meat, place in the pan, and continue cooking until thoroughly browned.
  4. Transfer meat mixture to slow cooker.
  5. Add bell peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, chipotle peppers, green chilies, spices and pepper to the pot.
  6. Pour in broth and cover. Cook on low heat for 8 hours.
  7. To serve: Ladle hot soup into bowls and squeeze lime juice into each.
  8. Add optional ingredients if desired.

Notes

For hundreds of pure Paleo recipes be sure to check out The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook and The Real Paleo Diet Fast and Easy.

Keywords: paleo, slow cooker, taco, soup

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You may already know quite a bit about The Paleo Diet®—how it encourages us to eat in a way similar to how our non-industrialized ancestors, relying on healthy meats, fish, and eggs; fruits and veggies; nuts and seeds; herbs and spices; and healthy fats and oils. The diet also advocates that you avoid, as much as possible, refined sugars and artificial sweeteners; processed foods; grains and legumes; dairy products; and trans-fats such as vegetable oil, margarine, and shortening.

You may also know about the emphasis on exercise, to keep the body fit and strong. But a Paleo lifestyle includes more than just diet and exercise. It also includes Paleo principles such as getting outside to enjoy and be nourished by the natural world; protecting ourselves from man-made EMFs; unplugging periodically from our Wi-Fi devices; and cultivating healthy human relationships.

To that end, meditation can also be a valuable component of a balanced and healthy Paleo lifestyle.

The Physical, Mental, and Emotional Benefits Of Meditation

Perhaps you have already experienced the beneficial effects of meditation. It’s reassuring to know that Western science has verified the benefits of regular meditation practice. A sampling of the proven benefits of daily practice include:

  • stress relief
  • relaxation
  • enhanced vitality
  • deeper and more nourishing sleep
  • increased mental clarity
  • improved focus and concentration
  • enhanced creativity
  • expanded insight
  • equanimity and compassion

It is quite an impressive list. Another potential benefit of meditation—one that tends to be of special interest to Paleo enthusiasts—is improvements to the digestive system.

The practice of meditation can, in fact, improve digestive efficiency in several ways. First, it can help direct physical effects by helping to resolve digestive problems such as cramps, bloating, and gas.

Second, by clarifying your mind and dissolving mental-emotional tensions, meditation can also help you make better choices in relation to what you eat and when. So, if digestion problems are linked to poor food choices, overeating, or undereating, then meditation can help.

Finally, the most general way that meditation supports our digestive system is via the melting away of anxiety and stress. While all the body’s systems respond negatively to anxiety and tension, the digestive system is particularly sensitive in this regard. Most of us have had the experience of an emotional upset ruining our appetite or giving us a stomachache.

Why does this happen? When your “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system is activated, the “rest and digest” parasympathetic functions are depressed. When your body is preparing to fight or flee, the resources necessary for proper digestion are diverted.

Over time, this can cause all kinds of digestive problems such as acid reflux, ulcers, and inflammation. By calming the mind and body through meditation, unnecessary tensions are replaced by deep relaxation, which tends to improve the functioning of the body’s organ systems, including the capacity to digest our food better.

How to Start Practicing Meditation

There are many kinds of meditation. What they have in common is their experiential nature. This means is that in order to fully understand what meditation is, you need to practice it.

Eventually, partaking in meditation will begin to feel more like simply “being.” Instead of doing meditation, you will realize that meditation is who you are.

To start, adopting a particular technique is useful. One excellent option—and a great place to start for beginners—is to devote 10 or 15 minutes to following your breath: consciously observing the cycles of inhalation and exhalation.

To help you stay on track, you can count the breaths, from one to 10, with each exhalation. Notice your inhalation, then as you exhale, say (out loud or silently to yourself) the word “one.” Then again notice the inhalation, and then as you exhale say the word “two.” Continue like this until you’ve reached “10”—and if you get distracted, begin again at “one.”

Sitting with the spine upright is one excellent posture for meditation practice. However, you can meditate with the body in almost any position. Sometimes, a simple yoga pose is a wonderful opportunity for meditation.

The yoga pose Viparita Karani (legs-up-wall pose), for instance, has deeply therapeutic effects, one of which is to calm the nervous system and help you to sleep better. Five or 10 minutes is all it takes—right before going to bed—to harmonize your body and mind in a way that helps you to fall easily into a deep and nourishing sleep.

 

Are you looking for that perfect Paleo Diet® dinner to impress your special guest? Search no more! You’ve just discovered a perfect pairing of beef tenderloin with this colorful salad combination. Like most Paleo recipes, this beef dish takes little time to prepare, is packed with high quality proteins, and has incredibly complimentary flavors when paired with the fresh ingredient salad. Guaranteed to leave a positive impression!

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Recipe: Beef Tenderloin with Roasted Cauliflower-Pomegranate Salad

Are you looking for that perfect Paleo Diet® dinner to impress your special guest? Search no more! You’ve just discovered a perfect pairing of beef tenderloin with this colorful salad combination. Like most Paleo recipes, this beef dish takes little time to prepare, is packed with high quality proteins, and has incredibly complimentary flavors when paired with the fresh ingredient salad. Guaranteed to leave a positive impression!

  • Author: Lorrie Cordain
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 people 1x
  • Category: Beef & Salad
  • Cuisine: American
Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 beef tenderloin fillets, roughly 10 oz. each
  • 5 tbsp. coconut oil, divided
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 head cauliflower, core removed and cut into bite sized pieces
  • 5 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. whole-grain Dijon mustard
  • 1 package stems removed, baby kale
  • 1/2 c. pomegranate seeds

Instructions

For Beef:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Heat cast iron skillet, or other oven safe skillet, on high heat with 1 tablespoon coconut oil.
  3. Sprinkle fillets on both sides with black pepper. Sear for 2 minutes on each side until a light crust forms.
  4. Transfer skillet to oven and continue cooking for 5-6 minutes.
  5. Remove pan from oven. Place fillets on separate plate to rest.

 

For Salad:

  1. Meanwhile, toss 2 tablespoons of oil with cauliflower and shallots; season with additional pepper if desired.
  2. Scatter vegetables in beef pan, return to oven, and continue to bake, stirring vegetables once, approx 15 – 18 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven.
  4. Whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, lemon juice, and mustard.
  5. Stir kale into hot pan containing vegetables.
  6. Drizzle with coconut oil mixture and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.
  7. Slice beef and serve with cauliflower pomegranate salad.

Notes

For hundreds of pure Paleo recipes be sure to check out The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook and The Real Paleo Diet Fast and Easy.

Keywords: paleo, beef tenderloin, cauliflower, pomegranate, salad

Dr. London hunting with the Kawymeno

They eat over 70 varieties of fruit, but they generally avoid vegetables. They do nothing to treat open wounds, yet they never get infected. The foods they eat are available all year round, but they’ll only eat each item at certain times of the year when they “smell” right. They can sense phytochemicals in their foods and have over 30 words to describe the various “tastes” of these biologically active compounds. Their guts aren’t riddled with tapeworms, they don’t suffer from myopia, and they are unfamiliar with most of the diseases of Western civilization.

These were just a few of the surprising things that Dr. Douglas London, an Assistant Professor of Medical Anthropology and former Global Health Director, discovered when,  from 2009 to 2011, he braved the Ecuadorian jungle to seek out the Kawymeno—one of the few remaining hunter-gatherer societies still living in their natural environment.

There’s a reason this indigenous group is mostly untouched by modern civilization. They use poisoned darts, they have a war-like demeanor, and they don’t like visitors.

During London’s first encounter, he was only able to get permission to spend one night with the Kawymeno before being sent away in the morning—thankfully still in one piece. However, with dogged determination and a great deal of negotiation, he eventually convinced the Kawymeno to let him and his research assistant, Juan Carlos, spend a year living with them.

Dr. London has published several studies[1, 2] about his experience, and is planning to spend 2020 living with and researching the Kawymeno further.

What he is learning about their diet, lifestyle, and health will revolutionize The Paleo Diet. Part of what he has discovered is an important coevolution between hunter-gatherers and plants that is critical to health. We’re excited to see what new insights his future research brings. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy our interview with Dr London.

Editor’s Note: Dr. London will return to Ecuador in 2020 to live with the Kawymeno and conduct further research on their diet and health. This type of research needs funding. If you are interested in connecting with Dr. London to contribute to his research, please contact us at expert@thepaleodiet.com.

 

Spending a year with the Kawymeno

The Paleo Diet: Thank you for sending your research, Dr. London. Typically, when I read research, if I need to quickly get the gist of a study, it takes me about 30 minutes. If I really want to absorb it, it takes me about an hour. I spent two and a half hours on just the one study you sent last night. It was absolutely fascinating.

Douglas London: Thank you very much for saying that.

The Paleo Diet: I can tell you’re very passionate about this subject, and I’m glad that there are people like you who continue to do this research; the opportunities to do research like this are declining rapidly.

Douglas London: Unfortunately, the amount of hunter-gatherer societies that are still hunting and gathering is pretty small, and the ones that are, they’re not in contact. A lot of times when you get into first contact, it’s not that easy to work with them. So, I was privileged to really be able to spend time with this group. I call them Kawymeno. They’re also a subgroup of the Waorani, and they’re in Amazonian Ecuador.

The Paleo Diet: You spent a year with them. Could you tell us a little bit about how you were able to make contact, how you were able to get them to accept you, and what it was like living with them?

Douglas London: Well, it took a number of trips the first time. I just heard that they existed when I was in the city, in Quito. And, so, I took an airplane and then a canoe to an outpost town. And then I hunted around for somebody willing to take me out. There was nobody because they’ve had a lot of conflict, not just now, but over the past century. There’s been spearing rates and that sort of thing, and no one really wanted to take me, except for this one fellow called Chase who volunteered to take me out. And, so, we set off in a canoe—it took us about a day and a bit to get down there. It was just getting dark and suddenly we came over the riverbank and there was a bunch of people without clothes on waving spears at me. I thought, “Oh my god, maybe I’ve pushed things a little too far.”

So, a conversation ensued. A couple of the young people do speak Spanish and I speak Spanish, a little bit. They were not happy I was there. But in the end, they allowed us to stay one night, and then they wanted us gone the next morning. So that was kind of an inauspicious start. But I did ask them if I was able to come back and get a chance to talk to them again.

And then it was an interesting night. We counted some bananas for the morning, and bats ate them. There’s just a lot of animals that they keep as pets. They have tapirs, they have baby jaguars, monkeys—all kinds of things in their house. It looks like something out of an “Indiana Jones” movie.

So, it took me to the next year before I came down again. And this time I was able to stay. I’d been talking back and forth with people that they communicate with on the outside. There’s really only one person. We signed kind of an agreement, or made kind of an agreement—they don’t read obviously—that I could come and stay. There was a perfect timing because they really needed somebody from the outside to try to understand some of the things that were going on. So, they said okay.

It was a couple year process to be able to get permission to go out there, and I was really the first outsider that they ever allowed to stay. So, it’s a privilege.

The Paleo Diet: You wrote a few times in your study about the oil companies coming up the river on which they live. So, I guess they were realizing that they had no choice but to have some contact with the outside world?

Douglas London: Yeah, they knew things were going to be going on. S,ome of the big reserves of oil in the Yasuni National Forest are not very far from them and the oil company was definitely interested. So, they were a little confused, and they didn’t really have anyone as an intermediary or someone that just talked about what was going on.

That was one of the reasons [they let me stay], but I also talked about how I believe when I’m doing research—I always believe in giving back to the community. I don’t just give them a paper. When I’m doing research, I actually try to help them. So, one of the things I talked about was training some of their young people in Western health.

One of the things they’re particularly interested in was antivenom, because the Waorani have the world’s highest death from poisonous snake bite. I think at one time it was six percent of the population. And I think 90 percent of the population has been bitten by a poisonous snake. So that was one of the things that we were really interested in.

And, I ran a clinic before I became an academic. So, I’m also a RN. I had a fair amount of experience and something to share with them.

In turn, I got to learn a little bit about their health and their nutrition in general when I was there. So, it was kind of an exchange. I tried to make them feel good about what they do, what they ate, the way they took care of their health, and that sort of thing. That started off pretty well.

The Paleo Diet: What was your first experience like living with them?

Dr. London with two spears

Douglas London: One of the first things they did was invite me to hunt with them with spears. So, I got my own spear and we went out into the rain forest. We were looking for peccary. They came around the back of the peccary and we were in front of the peccary. The wild pigs running towards us—I think they call it the white-collar peccary—are known for boring and that sort of thing. So, they’re coming towards us. They threw their spears. I threw my spear, and it kind of bounced off. Then I jumped in a tree. But their spears went right through them, and they downed the peccary.

What’s amazing about it is these people, when they were first contacted, they were pre-Stone Age. In other words, they had not even invented stone tools. They had nothing. But they were able to get those spears into the peccary and, interestingly enough, it wasn’t the men that killed the peccary. It was the women. The women came afterwards with knives and they killed the peccary. It’s a very egalitarian society. For instance, a woman can have two husbands, or a man can have two wives. And they usually go hunting in a family group.

So that was my experience.

The Paleo Diet: When you were living there, I’m assuming you ate the way they did? You were trying to live their lifestyle?

Douglas London: I really had no choice because a lot of times, with the rain, the river could go up and down 10 feet in a matter of hours and you can get trapped there for two or three weeks with no way out. There’s no way to bring supplies in because the Waorani are not really open to somebody else coming and bringing supplies. I kind of had to eat their way. So yeah, we ate with the Waorani. We cooked with them. We went hunting, we went fishing. We just lived their daily life every day.

And yes, we thought it was important for me to go through a year, because part of my research is about trying to understand the seasonal changes in the diet.

The Paleo Diet: Did you notice any sort of impact on your health and your fitness? Was it easy to eat their diet, or was that a struggle for you?

Douglas London: Well, it is very isolating to be there and it’s very hard to be out of contact with “civilization” for such a long period of time. I know that a lot of people can go kind of crazy because there was no one to really talk to. That was very difficult for me, and of course you’re with a group that is not like a regular indigenous group. I’ve worked with indigenous groups for about 15 years which kind of prepared me for this. But even so, it was a whole different thing actually being with them 24-7. So, I would say it was very hard.

And the diet… they poison the fish with this deadly poison and then we ate it. The poison kills people, but when you eat the fish, it doesn’t. So that was a little intimidating. Same with the monkeys, birds, and that sort of thing. They use a type of curare poison, which is a very interesting poison that hasn’t been studied at all. I’m doing a little work on that now. But they even made me try a little raw curare from the vine. Maybe I was crazy. I’ve been out there too long, but it just numbs the tongue a little bit. It didn’t do anything. I think it has to go into your bloodstream. So yeah, it was very interesting.

 

What is it that’s so unique about the Kawymeno?

Wao hunter in a tree

The Paleo Diet: Reading your hypotheses and some of your key discoveries from the time you spent with the Kawymeno was one of the more fascinating things I’ve read in a while. Thinking about our readers, what would be the most salient things you’d want them to know or to learn from your experience?

Douglas London: Well first, there’s really almost nobody that studies hunter-gatherers who are in their natural environment and that may have been there for millennia. The Kawymeno haven’t been disturbed; they haven’t been pushed out of their environment. So, this is a whole new thing that you don’t really see in the literature. I was not just dealing with the hunter-gatherers; it was also the ecosystem they were involved in. It was also the plants that they ate.

They didn’t think of themselves as a superior being. They thought of themselves as just another creature in the rain forest. All the plants have spiritual names. And I began to understand the way plants communicate.

One of the really interesting things is the Kawymeno actually have the ability to smell the phytochemical content of the plant. So, they can actually tell, to some extent, what is in the plant and then they make a choice whether to eat it or not.

The Paleo Diet: You were saying they have 35 different words to describe the smells and tastes of phytochemicals.

Douglas London: Yeah, at least. So, that was one of the things that we might not pick up with another study. They had in their language an understanding of what the flavor… I can give them a fruit and they are able to describe it using these words.

They actively choose, regardless of availability, to eat based on phytochemical content. For instance, peccary are around all year, but they won’t eat them all year. They will eat them when they have a certain phytochemical flavor. So, the diet with peccary is seasonal, and the flavor comes from the phytochemicals of the plants they eat.

Another important thing is they get spear wounds. Unfortunately, there’s still spearing going on which is one of the things that’s difficult living out there. So, I’ve seen spear wounds. I’ve seen third-degree burns. I’ve seen all kinds of things like a child walking through the rain forest and getting a [thorn] going right through their foot. And women will go into the rain forests and cut their placenta with a rusty machete.

And what’s very interesting is they do not get infections. It defies the germ theory. They don’t get swelling, they don’t get redness, they don’t get anything. And it heals up. For instance, the spear wounds: The spear head will eventually fall out and it will heal up. This is like medically impossible right? However, the National Institute of Health, when they had an expedition down here quite a while ago, they noted some of the same things, but they thought it was because they hadn’t come into contact with staph infections. But, the Waorani Kawymeno definitely have been in contact, because some of them have been to clinics and so on.

The Paleo Diet: That’s absolutely fascinating. You also published studies showing that this belief that we co-evolved with helminth populations, tapeworms for example, isn’t true with them—that they have almost no infection.

Douglas London: Right. Again, there’s something called the hygiene hypothesis, which everyone kind of accepts in the medical field: you get exposed to germs and you develop a resistance. And backing that is the helminth hypothesis. The idea is that something called IgE [immunoglobulin E], which is an antibody, exists because hunter-gatherers had helminths throughout their existence. That’s why we have this IgE in our bodies. The Waorani, the Kawymeno, do not have any helminths. We talked about this in our paper—that probably hunter-gatherers did not have that type of helminth that causes stimulation of IgE. That’s controversial.

It’s more likely the case that they eat a lot of really toxic plants. And we know that these toxic plants stimulate IgE. For them to be able to absorb all these toxins, poisons, and phytochemicals, and to survive, they need their systems to do that. And we definitely know that IgE works like that. For instance, when you get poison ivy it swells up; that’s an IgE reaction.

The Paleo Diet: So even though this helminth theory isn’t playing out, you said in the study that they had one of the highest recorded levels of IgE in their blood of any population in the world?

Douglas London: Yeah, they have the world’s highest recorded levels of IgE, yet they have no helminths. So that is one reason to think that, perhaps, the theory might not be panning out. It might not be absolutely correct. That’s one of the reasons I was interested in investigating.

The Paleo Diet: You did say that this population is almost devoid of what we tend to call the diseases of modern civilization: cancers, heart disease, autoimmune illness. You didn’t address this in the materials you sent me, but there’s a theory that hunter-gatherer societies didn’t really have these diseases because they simply didn’t live long enough to contract them. So, what did you see with this population in terms of longevity?

Douglas London: Even going back to the early contact with the Waorani, there was a study done going back five generations, and the causes of disease were accidents and homicide. By the way, 50 percent of the Waorani died because of homicide. That’s why they’re still out there because people didn’t want to come out and visit them. Otherwise they wouldn’t be out there. But, the point being that almost no one died from any kind of chronic or infectious disease that was native to the area.

And it’s the same when I went out there and I did studies and I did medical exams and I did surveys and I took tests and I worked with the local hospital. They didn’t have any of these diseases. They don’t have any cancer, they don’t have any heart disease, they don’t have any of these diseases of civilization. What they do get is outside infections like tuberculosis, hepatitis, that sort of thing. They don’t have much resistance.

Our bodies have millions of microbes in them. This microbiome is almost like an extra organ that helps us run. [Despite exposure to staph and streptococcus bacteria,] the Kawymeno did not have any rheumatic heart disease or any streptococcus. The population surrounding the Kawymeno have these diseases, and a lot of these people have them in a considerable amount. They have diabetes; they have all these things. They have epilepsy. And the Waorani, the Kawymeno, basically have zero.

 

Our co-evolution with bacteria and plants, and the role of phytochemicals

Dr. London sitting with the Kawymeno

The Paleo Diet: You’re talking about the microbiome, so I want to throw another question at you. It seems like the Kawymeno’s relationship with all these bacteria is much more symbiotic. So, in you and I we get a wound, we get infected, and we get inflamed. We have issues in our gut with constant inflammation and bacteria getting into our system, and we’re constantly trying to fight this rise of the gram-negative bacteria marked by lipopolysaccharides (LPS). It doesn’t seem like this is the Kawymeno’s experience. It seems like they have a very symbiotic relationship with the bacteria in their system. True?

Douglas London: Yeah, I think we have something called co-evolution, and it’s more than just the bacteria. It has to do with the plants as well. You could call it tri-evolution maybe. But, I think the bacteria can contribute to chronic disease as well.

And the Kawymeno seem to have control over their microbiome. One of the reasons I think that they do is because of the phytochemicals in the plants that they eat. And they have a very wide variety of plants that have a whole bunch of different phytochemicals in them. And they have known properties, such as antibiotic properties.

I believe that there was kind of an intimate relationship going which is why my study is a little unique. I was still within the environment, as well as in the ecosystem, as well as dealing with hunter-gatherers. I think there was an intimate link between the plant phytochemicals that controlled the microbiome of hunter-gatherers. By the way, phytochemicals can come through animals as well. Animals also provide phytochemicals.

So, just like you mentioned about side effects, plants produce a lot of phytochemicals—10 percent of the dry weight of a lot of plants is phytochemicals. We often just think of the nutrients; we don’t really understand or think about the phytochemical content. Plants “think” of humans as kind of a side effect of their survival. So, they produce fruit with medicinal types of properties.

The Paleo Diet: When I was reading your research, it sounded as if, essentially, many medications that we’ve created are just a pill equivalent to what we used to get naturally through diet—that we’re almost reinventing what we had naturally in our ancient history.

Douglas London: The reason the synthetic medications work is because they fit into receptors that were originally designed for plant phytochemicals. So, the medications that cure us or prevent disease, their receptors were meant for plants, for phytochemicals to do that kind of thing.

The difference is that diet was perhaps more preventative because there was such a wide variety of, for instance, antibiotics, that you’re unlikely to become resistant to them. They changed all the time. They changed seasonally when the diets changed. I think of the 70 plus fruits that they eat; we have, what, maybe a dozen fruits or even less that we eat? [The Kawymeno fruits constantly change] and they’re packed with phytochemicals. Whereas our medications are powerful and wipe things out. We know that they harm the microbiome. But maybe the [hunter-gatherer] diet had a lot of preventative things like antibiotics in it, so they never get to the disease state.

The Paleo Diet: Going back to what you were saying about diet, we’re constantly talking in the nutrition world about carbohydrates versus fats versus proteins. Here at The Paleo Diet, we prefer to talk about categories of foods such as fruits, vegetables, and meats. But, it almost sounds like there’s another way to view diet. Their whole diet seems to be based on phytochemicals. As you said in your research, they had no staple food and they really picked and chose what they ate based on the phytochemicals that they could sense. Was the phytochemical content really driving what they ate?

Douglas London: It was driving it, but their diet was meat, in terms of weight. In terms of variety, you could say meat and fruit. In terms of deciding what meat and fruit to eat, it was a lot of times the phytochemicals in it. Like I said with a peccary, they would tell me outright that it has this taste of this phytochemical. Some of them could taste it, and that’s why they’d eat it. In another season, [the food] doesn’t have a certain phytochemical, so they don’t eat it. It’s not as if it’s subtle; that they don’t know. They actually know about this.

And we lose that, as soon as we mix two foods together. It’s not even putting spices or salt and stuff in it. As soon as you mix two foods together, and they’re no longer whole foods, then the phytochemical taste is mixed up and confusing because they interact with each other.

What’s interesting about the Waorani, their poisons are one ingredient, for instance. Most poisons are multiple ingredients in Amazonian cultures. Their food, they eat basically one food at one time, and they eat not just the meat, they eat the entire animal. For instance, the peccary, they eat everything pretty much except for the colon and hooves.

The Paleo Diet: We like to spice our foods. Is it possible that the spices are just tapping into the remnants of our ability to sense phytochemicals?

Douglas London: Yeah, and again this is my personal feeling about this. But yes, I think that we’ve lost the ability to sense our diet. So yeah, the spices and that sort of thing may tap into it somewhat. That’s certainly a reasonable hypothesis.

But I think that we’ve lost the ability to sense our diet, and that may be what causes people to overeat because satiation is associated with phytochemicals. And if you have too much of one phytochemical, it’s toxic and we lose the ability to sense the phytochemicals. So, we may not be aware of the toxins in our food.

The Paleo Diet: What you’re saying taps into a theory I’ve actually had for a while and wrote about on our website. In Western civilization, we think that hunger is just an on/off signal. I don’t think that’s the case. I think when we are hungry, we are hungry for something in particular such as a micronutrient or phytochemical. But, when we’ve lost the ability to sense what we are hungry for, the immediate reaction is to go out and eat something very low-nutrient density and very high calorie because it tastes good. The problem is that we put down 1,000 calories and then say, “But I’m still hungry.” That’s because the body’s saying, “That’s great. I’ll store all that. But you didn’t give me what I needed. So, I’m not turning off the hunger signals.” It sounds like this is part of what you’re saying. I was thinking of it in terms of the micronutrients, but you’re saying that hunter-gatherer societies have this remarkable sense for what is in the foods and can really pick and choose?

Douglas London: Yeah, I think if they didn’t have satiation in terms of the phytochemical content, they’d be dead because these things are very powerful. So, definitely satiation with hunter-gathers occurs through phytochemical content and they sense it. That’s an evolutionary thing. And again, like I said, a lot of studies on hunter-gatherers don’t pick up on that because the hunter-gatherers don’t live in the same environment that they used to live in. Also, with a rain forest, it’s more obvious.

 

Comparing the health of the Kawymeno to agrarian societies and to western standards

Wao boy with monkey

The Paleo Diet: You have compared the hunter-gatherer Kawymeno to an agrarian society, the Kichwa, who lived close by. Their environment was much the same. They also had similar activity levels. So the primary difference was that one was still a forager society while the other was an agrarian society. You saw quite dramatic differences in their health.

Douglas London: As an anthropologist, the ideal study is comparative. I wanted to compare a hunter-gathering wildlife style, regardless of whether they were an image of our prehistoric ancestors. They were eating a wild diet, and I wanted to compare it with a group that was farming but not eating modern foods. The Kichwa were not eating processed food. They were not eating adulterated food. They were just eating what we call organic food.

And I also had another group that I work with, which is the Waorani, that eat a kind of modern diet. Genetically, they’re the same, but they don’t live off the rain forest anymore. And again, both of these groups’ health was dramatically different from the Kawymeno. The Kawymeno are a group of Waorani that have chosen to live separately. Diet-wise, they have cut themselves off in the sense that they eat a wild diet.

So, it’s interesting. When we did the [vision] study, the Kichwa had amazingly healthy eyes starting off in life and so did the Kawymeno. The difference happened when they started to get chronic diseases when they got a little older. With age, the Kichwa went downhill with their eyesight while the Kawymeno did not develop myopia. They had no myopia, or shortsightedness.

The Paleo Diet: We should point out here that by most standards, the Kichwa were eating an extraordinarily healthy diet, certainly by Western standards.

Douglas London: Exactly. If you’re eating what nutritionists basically say we should eat and the Waorani… no nutritionist would suggest we eat a diet like that. The Waorani diet is super high in meat, they have no vegetables, or almost none, and they’re super high in fruit. And then they don’t have any grains, don’t have any dairy, and don’t have all that kind of stuff. So, it’s just basically a lot of meat and fruit. And again, a nutritionist would tell you definitely don’t eat that.

The Paleo Diet: Right. They will tell you that a diet like that has serious nutritional deficiencies and leads to illness. But that’s not what you’re seeing.

Douglas London: No, we’re not. So, dietary recommendations don’t match with what we call The Paleo Diet. Even a lot of people that have a popular Paleo diet idea; they’re not really emulating, perhaps, what hunter-gatherers actually ate.

For instance, hunter-gatherers, the ones we work with, they ate no vegetables. And I mean in the sense that they didn’t eat non-fruiting plants. A tomato is actually a fruiting plant. They ate no stems; they ate no leaves. In terms of roots, they do eat a tuber, cassava, but there’s a lot of evidence that that was recently introduced to them. For instance, all other plants have spiritual names except the cassava, which has no spiritual name.

It makes sense because the plants are trying to protect themselves, and plants get no benefit from having their stems, leaves, and roots destroyed. It kills them. But on the other hand, the fruit… it’s good because it spreads their seeds. And so, they create a fruit specifically to be eaten by animals. And there’s no reason if they create a fruit to be healthy nutritionally that they can’t also make it healthy medicinally.

The Paleo Diet: To take a quick step back for our readers, it’s ideal for a plant if an animal eats the fruit. That’s because when a human or animal consumes the seed, which it can’t digest, they then travel somewhere further away from the parent plant and essentially plant the seeds for them.

Douglas London: Yeah, and plants do a lot more than that. They create an atmosphere. If the plants weren’t there, we wouldn’t be able to breathe very easily. I mean, they do a lot of things, but yes, the plants need animals to be able to reproduce.

 

Are there ways we can mimic their health benefits?

The Paleo Diet: The question I have to ask you—the depressing question—is this: You really focused on this idea of the Kawymeno’s co-evolution with the plants in their native environment and what led to this extraordinary health that you see in them. In Western civilization, we’re a long ways from that; our opportunity to live in the environment in which we originally evolved is well behind us. So, should we say, “Oh, well, we can never be that healthy anymore,” or is there anything that we can learn from this?

Douglas London: Part of the problem with a lot of The Paleo Diet idea is that it doesn’t really match the hunter-gatherer diet in terms of what I understand with the Waorani. So, yes, we’re far away in terms of “you can’t go back to hunter-gathering,” but there’s some interesting things you can do.

Take honey for instance. The bees go to the plants and they get a whole bunch of different phytochemicals from the plant, and so the honeycomb is an image, to some extent, of a lot of the phytochemicals in the area. So, if you breed bees in a wild environment, let’s say in the rain forest, you might be able to get some type of phytochemical similarity to a wild diet, as an example. And again, as far as I know, people don’t do that. They don’t do that because phytochemicals are not considered valuable.

There’s a lot of other things you can do as well. One thing is to get a lot more variety of foods. You could use biotechnology. Biotechnology, assistive technology can be used for bad, but it can also be used for good. But, the more variety of plants and fruits we have in our diet, the more diversified phytochemicals we’re going to get. So, if we can make some of the wild fruits and plants edible, increasing their variety, then we’d also have a larger variety of phytochemicals in the diet.

I think a lot of the ways that we can start to move closer to a hunter-gatherer diet are not as individuals, but in terms of changing our agricultural system—looking for innovative ways to make our agricultural system more similar to the wild.

And again, phytochemicals are stimulated from the environment. If you plant a bunch of the same plants together, the plants will have the same defense mechanisms and the same phytochemicals as each other and they won’t produce antibiotics. Because they’re coddled, essentially. So, if you put plants in a more natural environment and you put other plants next to them that are different, you can stimulate phytochemical growth. Plants are like factories and their energy conserves them. If they don’t need a phytochemical, they shut it off, just like a faucet. They’ll shut it off, and they won’t use it and they’ll only turn on what’s needed. That’s how they survive. Plants may well be around after humans are not. Humans are, and other animals are, a convenience for them to help them survive.

So, we need to start paying attention if we want to emulate the hunter-gatherer diet. We have to think about not what we should eat, but how we can work with the plants. Again, stop thinking about humans and start thinking co-evolutionarily. That way, we can start moving towards a wild diet.

So, I would say, yes, there are things to do and people are simply not doing them. No, we can’t imitate a wild diet, but we can certainly make an agricultural diet and diversify the phytochemicals in it.

Where do we go from here?

Dr. London standing in front of an amazon tree

The Paleo Diet: I hope you can promote that message, because that’s something not a lot of people are even aware of, or talking about, or thinking about. And you’ll have to forgive me—while you were describing all of that, I was picturing these lazy, out of shape plants being coddled. Basically, we need to get our agriculture into shape. Which brings me to my final question: What is the next step to get that information out there, and what is the next step in your research?

Douglas London: Well, certainly Dr. Cordain is a trailblazer in terms of getting people aware of The Paleo Diet. And unfortunately, it’s gone commercial and people are perhaps more interested in making money than trying to understand the Paleo Diet. Our understanding of the Paleo Diet has come a long way, but we still have a long way to go; to really, truly understand it. And so, I hope that people will not just assume that the research has ended; that there’s nothing more to learn. There’s a lot more to learn. And it has a lot to do with coevolution. And thinking about things from the point of view of our food; our plants and animals.

So, hopefully we can get the message out there. Again, some of the things I say, other scientists might not agree with. But I would answer them by saying there’s not been very many studies that take into account, and have been able to work with, hunter-gatherers that are in their natural environment. Most hunter-gatherers, or a lot of them, has been displaced. Further, a lot of people have not studied the phytochemicals and not studied the environment. They just focused on how much meat they eat, and that kind of thing.

So, this is kind of new research, and it’s really important to do before the hunter-gatherers are gone. So, one of the things we can do is try to find this research before the hunter-gatherers are gone along with our opportunity to learn. We need to act right now and try to assure that some funding goes towards it.

There’s no reason why we can’t try to preserve the hunter-gatherers. Unfortunately, as I teach in my class, right now in Brazil, for instance, they’re killing off the hunter-gatherers in a lot of ways by killing off their culture, and also literally killing them. Where I worked in the Waorani area, there were at one time maybe 20,000 members of a different group that got completely wiped out. They’re all gone. And that has a lot to do with people coming in and trying to get chewing gum and things like that. So, it’s in our interest to start preserving it.

The Paleo Diet: Being a scientist, I love it when we get good criticism of The Paleo Diet because that’s the nature of any theory, of the scientific method. You create a theory and then you challenge it. My biggest disappointment has always been that most of the arguments we get against us are more just misunderstanding then good scientific debate. But I would say the biggest criticism I’ve heard that I feel is valid is that we don’t actually truly know what our Paleolithic ancestors ate or how they lived. What’s exciting is that you are right now actually doing the research that’s helping us answer that question.

Douglas London: Yeah, we don’t know. And every different hunter-gatherer group has their own culture and has lived differently. They weren’t all the same, but all of them ate a wild diet. Maybe sometimes they went back and started doing agriculture. The advantage of agriculture is that they get a better nutritional intake. But the disadvantage is that they get a worse phytochemical intake.

One thing I’ll add is that I think the problem we, as scientists, have is that we get our theories, we get our paradigms, and when somebody suggests something new, we’re reluctant to give it credence. People might say, “You’re making phytochemicals seem like this ghost that harbors over a lot of different diseases.” And I would say, “We think of nutrition as being a ghost that harbors over a lot of different diseases; that nutrition plays a role in everything.” Phytochemicals are part of nutrition and suggesting that they play a role in a lot of different diseases actually makes a lot of sense. But people might not see it like that. I hope people will keep an open mind to what I’m suggesting and investigate, rather than think, “Oh no, we’ve figured it out.”

The Paleo Diet: It’s always critical to keep an open mind, and it’s always a struggle to believe something for a long time and difficult to challenge your cognitions, but you must do that. That’s how we will evolve our science. And I think you are right at the forefront of some of the most important research that needs to be done in terms of our diet and our health.

Douglas London: Thank you very much. I appreciate that. I’m open to talking and having a dialogue with all kinds of people about this and appreciate your taking the time and your interest to interview me. And I look forward to collaborating a little more. Again, I’m a big fan of Dr. Cordain. He’s done wonderful things. And I hope that I can do my little bit to shed some knowledge.

Editor’s Note: Dr. London will return to Ecuador in 2020 to live with the Kawymeno and conduct further research on their diet and health. This type of research needs funding. If you are interested in connecting with Dr. London to contribute to his research, please contact us at expert@thepaleodiet.com.

 

References

1. London, D.S. and B. Beezhold, A phytochemical-rich diet may explain the absence of age-related decline in visual acuity of Amazonian hunter-gatherers in Ecuador. Nutr Res, 2015. 35(2): p. 107-17.

2. London, D. and D. Hruschka, Helminths and human ancestral immune ecology: What is the evidence for high helminth loads among foragers? Am J Hum Biol, 2014. 26(2): p. 124-9.

 

You don’t need a leprechaun to bring you good health, when this delicious dish makes an appearance at your dinner table. No need for starchy potatoes in this nutrient packed beef stew. The fresh veggies, herbs and spices are cooked right into the meat and bring out a hearty flavour that continues to deliver until the last bite. Serve it up with a fresh green salad and a side of fruit for the perfect St. Paddy’s day meal!

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Recipe: Paleo Irish Stew

You don’t need a leprechaun to bring you good health, when this delicious dish makes an appearance at your dinner table. No need for starchy potatoes in this nutrient packed beef stew. The fresh veggies, herbs and spices are cooked right into the meat and bring out a hearty flavour that continues to deliver until the last bite. Serve it up with a fresh green salad and a side of fruit for the perfect St. Paddy’s day meal!

  • Author: Lorrie Cordain
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 4 hours
  • Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 people 1x
  • Category: Beef Stew
  • Cuisine: Irish
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 pounds grass-fed beef-stew meat
  • 1 celeriac, peeled and diced
  • 3 turnips, peeled and diced
  • 3 med carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 4 cups no sodium beef stock
  • 1 Tablespoon arrowroot
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh parsley leaves, chopped

Instructions

  1. Heat large skillet over medium high heat.
  2. Rinse beef under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
  3. Cut beef into large pieces measuring about 2 in. by 2 in.
  4. In a heavy skillet, brown the outside of 1/3 of the beef, taking care not to cook all the way through the meat.
  5. Remove from pan and repeat browning until all meat is browned.
  6. Place browned stew meat and all other ingredients, except the arrowroot starch, in a 6-quart slow cooker. Stir to combine.
  7. Cover slow cooker and turn to high. Cook stew for four hours.
  8. Add arrowroot starch and cook for an additional hour. Meat should be very tender when finished.
  9. Garnish with parsley leaves just before serving.

*Recipe can be prepared in a dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot by simmering on low for same amount of time, checking every hour and gently stirring ingredients.

Notes

For hundreds of pure Paleo recipes be sure to check out The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook and The Real Paleo Diet Fast and Easy.

Keywords: paleo, irish, stew, beef, recipe

I am plant-based; I’ve always been that way. And I also eat meat—in small portions, and only from trusted sources that are 100-percent organic, grass-fed and finished.

Who ever said plant-based must mean vegan?

Just two weeks after The New York Times published an article relaying the message that new research “can’t prove red meat is truly bad for you” [1], a new group of companies began making meatless meat anyway. These are the same food conglomerates and meat producers that companies including Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods originally set out to disrupt [2].

Scientists and consumers alike need more than a single study to overhaul the current thinking about meat. Yet there is a growing dogma around meat, and it includes such directives as eating red meat no more than X times per month, or that a family history of high cholesterol means one should eat meat less frequently.

The general misconception that meat is bad for the planet, unhealthy for humans to consume, and that the vegan label automatically makes the item inside the package a superior choice is what is screaming to be addressed.

Let’s set the record straight.

Below are a series of factors you should consider when deciding between an Impossible Burger or Beyond Meat (plant-based “ground beef”) vegan, no soy, no gluten burger and a 100-percent organic, grass-fed and finished burger.

The reality is that virtually all the meat, eggs, and dairy products that we find in the supermarket come from animals raised in confinement in large facilities called CAFOs or “Confined Animal Feeding Operations.” These highly mechanized operations provide a year-round supply of food at a reasonable price. Although the food is cheap and convenient, there is growing recognition that factory farming creates a host of problems, including:

  • animal stress and abuse
  • air, land, and water pollution
  • the unnecessary use of hormones, antibiotics, and other drugs
  • low-paid, stressful farm work
  • the loss of small family farms
  • food with less nutritional value [3]

Accordingly, if we compare a burger made from this type of meat, it’s understandable to deduce that a vegan substitute might make sense.

But that fact alone isn’t reason enough to shift to a vegan version of a plant-based diet.

First and foremost, we raise that simple question again: Who said that plant-based must be vegan? I consider myself plant-based even though I do eat small portions of wild fish, grass-fed and finished beef, game meat and pasture-raised pork.

If upwards of 80-percent of one’s diet is made of organic, in-season, locally sourced plants—mostly vegetables, a small amount of fruit, and over half the fat sources I rely upon for my daily fats (olive oil, avocado, and coconut oil)—isn’t that percentage enough for a “base” of plants?

Next, let’s talk about portions.

If we extrapolate from the example diet above, and assume that a small percentage of calories comes from meat that is properly sourced from local animals, and consumed in small, human-sized portions, we dramatically reduce the amount of cattle needed to feed red meat to any given local community.

Unfortunately, we have a portion-control issue in the U.S.; not only regarding what we’re eating, but what we’re served.

Consider the fact that approximately 85 percent of the food that isn’t used or eaten in a typical American restaurant is thrown out [4]. Not only are we presented with serving sizes reflective of an “eyes being bigger than our stomachs” mentality—does any human really need a 16-ounce rib eye?—we’re not actively considering what happens to that food we never finish.

But is the answer to completely eschew meat?

I don’t believe so.

While the two start-ups, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, are non-GMO and organic, there are many other brands that may promote the fact that they don’t contain animal products and, without directly stating as much, present themselves as a healthy choice.

We cannot allow ourselves to be persuaded by food labels that have more to do with marketing than health; one might even argue that if a food is in a package with a label, you can question its nutrient density.

This isn’t specific to the vegan label; we’ve seen it before, for years, with things like the gluten-free label, then the “Paleo” label, and now with the keto label.

You could fill your entire cart at Whole Foods with the above items and still walk home with no actual food—nothing fresh or with any nutrient density.

Which brings us to some big questions: How can you measure the environmental impact of a package of tofu in a plastic container made of GMO soybeans grown in the Amazon where a rainforest used to exist [5]?

And what’s the inflammatory impact on someone who eats tofu because his doctor advised him to cut out red meat when his total cholesterol numbers were unfavorable?

As a recovered vegan, someone who adamantly avoided all animal products for a solid two years, I can say that my approach was ill informed.

I was not differentiating between meats from local and factory sources. In retrospect I now understand that my actions did nothing to help support animal welfare.

Without realizing it, I was not only boycotting the Monsantos, I was boycotting the local, human, ethically minded farmers who were trying to do things the right way to support animal welfare—the very reason I was vegan in the first place.

So, let’s take a careful look at the benefits of choosing to eat small portions of meat from grass-fed animals [6]:

  • These meats have two to four times more omega-3 fatty acids than meat from grain-fed animals
  • Ruminants raised on fresh pastures render products that contain from three to five times more CLA (cis-9 trans-11) than products from animals fed conventional diets. CLA is a potential cancer fighter.
  • Lower in total fat
  • Higher in beta-carotene
  • Higher in vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)
  • Higher in the B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin
  • Higher in calcium, magnesium, and potassium
  • Higher in total omega-3s
  • Have a healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (1.65 vs 4.84)
  • Higher in vaccenic acid (which can be transformed into CLA)
  • Lower in the saturated fats linked with heart disease

And how about Mother Earth? Raising animals on pasture instead of factory farms is a net benefit to the environment.

  • A diet of grazed grass requires much less fossil fuel than a feedlot diet of dried corn and soy.
  • On pasture, grazing animals do their own fertilizing and harvesting. The ground is covered with greens all year round, so it does an excellent job of harvesting solar energy and holding on to topsoil and moisture.
  • Grazed pasture removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere more effectively than any land use, including forestland and un-grazed prairie, helping to slow global warming.

When we choose to eat meat and eggs from animals raised on pastures, we are improving the welfare of the animals, helping to put an end to environmental degradation, helping small-scale ranchers and farmers make a living from the land, helping to sustain rural communities, and giving your family the healthiest possible food. It’s a win-win-win-win situation.

When we eat local meats in small portions and obtain the bulk of our calories from produce vendors at our local farmer’s markets or CSA (or grocers, if we are committed to reading the fine print in terms of where that lettuce grew and how long ago it was harvested), we are best able to support the health of our planet and the health of our bodies simultaneously.

So where does that leave the meatless burgers?

For me, it leaves them on the shelves.

For others, it may be a balance of doing your own due diligence to see if these types of products can play a role in your overall nutrition regime.

How are you doing in terms of inflammation? If you live in the U.S., you’re 80 percent or more likely to have some degree of inflammation or gut dysfunction.

You can start with a self-test by cleaning up your diet, removing the potentially inflammatory foods for a period of time, and then properly testing suspected (and possibly surprising) culprits. Then you can see how your body reacts to: Soy Protein Concentrate, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Potato Protein, Methylcellulose, Yeast Extract, Cultured Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, Soy Leghemoglobin, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Zinc Gluconate, Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12. In other words, the ingredients of an Impossible Burger.

Compare that to a real, whole, unadulterated meal made of actual food that you can identify—food that doesn’t have an ingredient label in the first place.

For me, there’s just no replacing a raw kale salad with tons of olive oil, avocado, lemon, and a piece of a nice, juicy grass-fed and finished rib eye (half for now and the rest for tomorrow.)

Net alkaline, nutrient dense, and nourishing. That is food.

References

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/30/health/red-meat-heart-cancer.html
  2. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/14/business/the-new-makers-of-plant-based-meat-big-meat-companies.html
  3. http://www.eatwild.com/basics.html
  4. https://www.moveforhunger.org/startling-reality-food-waste-restaurants/
  5. https://kids.mongabay.com/elementary/soy.html
  6. http://www.journalofanimalscience.org/content/87/9/2961.long

 

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