Health Hack #8 - THE TIE THAT BINDS ALL MODERN DIETS
Prevailing Diets of Our Modern Era
Unless you’re living under a rock, you’re bound to have come across terms like Paleo, Vegan, and Keto. You’re likely to know someone who adheres to one of these diets, and maybe you’ve dabbled yourselves or are currently a member of one of these tribes. There are plenty of others as well - Carnivore, Whole 30, straight Vegetarian - but the three named above are seemingly more ubiquitous than others on grocery store shelves and fast casual restaurant menus these days.
Let us first break down the individual components of each of the three primary modern diets, primarily for the uninitiated.
Many associate Paleo as being a Caveman diet. It’s grown a bit of an unfair reputation as such, given the logic and science that first propelled it into common parlance more than a decade ago. The idea is fairly straightforward. Human evolution is a painfully slow process. When new foods are introduced to the body, it can take eons before our bodies grow to accept the foods and utilize them to their fullest potential. With the advent of agriculture at large, roughly 10,000 years ago our species became introduced to a horde of new crops: namely grains and legumes. Additionally, we learned to yield dairy products from animals that hitherto were meant only for consumption within their particular species. The Paleo movement views many of these foods as being gut irritants and as nutritionally inferior to the plant and animal products that have been consumed by our ancestors for many tens of thousands of years. And embedded in the notion of Paleo is the idea that the brains of our ancestors grew once animal foods became an integral part of our diet (namely organ meats, which have lost favor to muscle meats in our modern era), ultimately playing a pivotal role in giving rise to our current species: homo sapiens.
Much older than the Paleo Diet movement as we know it, Veganism excludes all animal derived foods. Whereas Vegetarianism excludes animal meats, Veganism goes further to also include the avoidance of all foods derived from animals, such as dairy (milk, cheese, etc.) and eggs. Netflix has certainly abetted in the Vegan movement of late, with documentaries such as Cowspiracy, What the Health?, and more lately Game Changers, going viral while seeking to espouse its virtues on both a nutritional and ethical front. Unlike Paleo, grains and legumes are often key components of a Vegan diet. What began primarily as an ethics-based practice, over the last decade Veganism has become lauded by many as a more sustainable approach to our environmental concerns as a planet. As probably implied given the stark dichotomy, there is plenty of hot debate between the Paleo and Vegan movements that doesn’t appear to be dissipating anytime soon.
The Ketogenic Diet is definitely the newest of the crop, as far as name recognition is concerned. However, it’s been around for some time, and was referenced repeatedly in books published by Dr. Atkins back in the nineties when the Atkins Diet reigned supreme. The Keto diet focuses largely on macronutrients, favoring intake of predominantly dietary fats, while drastically limiting intake of protein and especially carbohydrates. The idea hinges on the adaptability of our metabolic framework. While limiting protein to roughly 15-30% of calories and limiting carbohydrates to 5-10% of calories, our bodies are deprived of their usual stream of glucose and are forced to find other means of fuel. They then go through a metabolic shift after roughly 1.5-3.0 weeks on a strict Keto diet where the liver begins generating ketone bodies for fuel. It is often said that you enter into a “fat burning” state. It should be noted that Keto is more often used as a dietary hack, aimed to lose weight; whereas Paleo and Veganism tend more towards lifestyle diets, where adherents comply with the diet for prolonged periods of time, in many cases permanently.
Dogmatism Reigns Supreme...But Why?
It’s interesting to note that many of these dietary camps are defended with anger and vigor. We all have a tendency to cling fervently to our stated tribes, but it’s still a bit head-scratching as to why diets are held at such tense odds as political rivals, with so many members of each team purporting to be experts. After all, don’t we have science to rely on to solve these debates for us?
Yes and no. Food science especially is ever-changing. In last week’s article we briefly touched on the myth that fat is bad for you despite governmental food agencies suggesting otherwise for many years. Who knows what new revelations may be around the next corner.
The Tie That Binds
While these camps remain at odds, there is actually a tie that binds most (if not all) health-focused food movements together. That is, if your plate is filled with mostly plants, then you’re probably in a good place. If you put the most ardent Vegan in a room with a Paleo disciple and relied on the most tried and true scientific data, there would be no dissent from either party over this statement. The same can be said of keto. While uninformed keto dieters salivate at the notion of eating bacon and cheese all day long, experts would suggest an array of low-carb leafy greens, avocados, and plant-derived oils to accompany the fatty steak. Again, there is no debate here. It’s time for us all to begin getting along and singing kumbaya over a spread of vegetables!
“Eat Food, not too much, mostly plants." - Michael Pollen
Now for the shameless plug. There is good reason why our meals at RFE are arranged as they are. Beyond your base - which is comprised of either greens, grains, or a combination of the two - a standard meal is comprised of 75% plants and 25% protein, based on volume. This was engineered with intent, aimed at providing a nutritionally superior experience to all of our customers, both Vegans and Paleos alike!