From the low carb diet we’ve had the Paleo diet, and the revisited Atkins diet.
But I have to say straightaway, I agree with getting rid of refined carbs, but replacing them with meat and eggs instead? Not such a good idea!
The meat, eggs, cheese and yogurt lovers are saying “This is great, this is actually good for us and is not doing our health any damage.” That may have a lot of new scientific backing, but it’s also not doing their body any damage because it’s not sugar and junk food. The thing I have a problem with is the sheer quantity of eggs and meat low-carb lovers tend to eat. It’s extreme! When I see conventional meat and eggs, I just think of the poor animals that have lived a life of hell, ending in one agonizingly torturous way. To eat this way is just not on. I think a lot of men will like this butch caveman like diet. But the thing is, we can’t just look at what people eat around the world, because every country eats a different traditional diet that varies from season to season, just as our ancestors’ diet would have. So to say, our ancestors would have eaten a lot of meat, does not mean that it’s a) true or b) we should do the same. We are living in a different time.
I truly believe that we are adapted to eat a lot of different foods which change through the seasons.
I do agree with people like Gary Taubes who says that our high carbohydrate diet is extremely damaging, and makes us fat. But I don’t agree with him and others when they take out the carbs and put in meat instead. A lot of the low-carbers out there, are advocating healthy fat, and not necessarily meat which I can get on board with. Good fat can often come from plant-foods, like olives and avocadoes and coconuts, not just marbled meat.
When you demonize all carbohydrates, you fill that space with foods like meat and eggs which are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, which end up damaging our gut flora.
What we have to do is rejiggle our mindsets to think, not low carb, but smart carbs.
Vegetables are where we get our antioxidants from, our phytonutrients and bioflavonoids plus much more, including amino acids which build protein. Protein IS important, and we should eat it too. But not to such extreme levels as to what some people suggest. I think if you eat meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner then that is as bad as eating wheat or refined cereals for each meal too. There needs to be rotation and variety.
The Blue Zones study looks at the areas in the world with the oldest living people, and most of their diets are heavily plant based, but also in a more organic harmony with life around them. I think this is the key to most small traditional populations. They have found a communion with nature. They aren’t ripping it to shreds, as it gives vital sustenance back to them. I think that’s the wise way to eat.
Rearing animals intensively is absolutely destroying our ecosystems and the balance of the climate. We have rainforests being cut to grow fodder for cattle. We have rivers of crap flowing into our waterways. We have chicken diseases and pig flu’s and illnesses borne out of these poor sick animals, living in hell holes all around the world. To eat a diet based on this sickness just angers me. This is not health, this is not balance.
I agree that it’s a sad state of affairs when choosing to look after our health hurts something else. Fruit flown in from around the world polluting our air, a rare crop like quinoa or a popular crop like cocoa taking the livelihoods and natural foods away from the people who live in those regions, or fish leading to overfishing and killing other marine life. This is our modern world. And I’m not saying that meat or animal foods has to be excluded from a healthy diet, it’s just in a modern world where we can’t live in balance, we have to really consciously and with effort, to make the choice to aim for equilibrium for our health, and for that of all the species that share this world with us.
Which is why I am strongly advocating that a good, healthy diet starts from your home-base.
A garden. The number 1 tool for health! It’s local, no air miles, no indigenous people’s getting their land ripped from underneath them to grow soya. A garden can make a huge difference to your health and wellbeing, as well as keeping an amazingly vital biodiversity and balance for nature all around you. You don’t contribute to poor farming practices, and instead you grow crops that nourish your local wildlife. We can’t make really good choices for ourselves and for the world when we are completely disconnected from nature. If you were to see animals being slaughtered, and even worse – the conditions they were reared in, then you would make a change in what you eat. This is the natural way of life, we should see what we consume!
If you can’t grow your own garden (time or space are usually massive factors) then get the next best thing. Allotments, gardenshares, local organic box schemes, local growers, local markets. Think outside the battery hen box.
People can absolutely thrive on plant based foods, and the protein that can be added should come from a variety of sources! When I think of generations of my family, and the lifestyles they and their communities lived in, I know that they did indeed eat meat. But they ate animals from nose to tail and made use of every last piece of that animal. This is a balance. Slices of meat, not slabs were eaten. They could not eat animals every day, because they would not have had the land and resources to do that. Their rearing of their own animals led them to sustainable practices, which also positively affected their health.
This balance is the same with the carnivores we find in nature, from big cats to lizards – they are specialized to eat a specific food group – other animals. But one kill will feed many an animal, and often they don’t eat again for a while after their initial kill, not only because the protein literally does satiate their hunger, as it does with us, but because hunting is difficult, it uses a lot of energy, and they aren’t often successful. This is a natural balance. It gives time for the animals they feed on to grow, and so to eventually breed again. Which is the same as nomadic tribes or indigenous settlers around the world. This is a commonality. We, however, are specialized to eat many different foods, so let’s take advantage of that.
With wheat, or with meat – just because we’ve captured these foods does not mean that we then need to eat them till our guts burst.
Nature can’t abide a monoculture. Everything is interconnected. A bat can’t live without a moth who can’t live without a flower who can’t live without a bee who can’t live without a human who happened to plant some wildflowers. Just like one act can make a huge difference to wildlife (a bird box, or wildflower patch) one difference (growing some veggies) can make us more vital. Our human bodies, which are nature based organisms, can’t abide a mono-diet. Meat and bread and a soggy limp lettuce is like rainforest destruction inside us, but that’s what many of us eat day in, day out. Grow and eat colours and textures that change with the seasons, butternut squash in the winter (or any other of the hundreds of delicious squash varieties) to spinach and rocket and pak choi mid summer. Put eggs, and meat, and fish in there too if you want to, but just like you wouldn’t eat ice-cream all the year around, then don’t eat the same meat all day long, all 12 months.
I completely agree with what Gary Taubes and the other low-carbers out there say. Take away refined foods; bread and pasta and pop and sugary shit. Eat whole. Eat natural.
But I would add; please, don’t eat a pig a day. It is not going to do your health any favours, and animals don’t deserve to be killed just for us to fill a gap left by not eating toast.
A final quote, which comes from Gary Taubes himself, from reddit a couple of years ago:
One argument I’ve been making over and over again is that this isn’t about getting everyone to eat meat. We know that there are populations that eat carb-rich diets and don’t eat a lot of animal products. This is about getting people to understand that refined grains and sugars are the causes of the chronic diseases that are so common in western societies (assuming, again, that this is correct) and that any diet can be healthier if refined grains and sugars are minimized. If that message gets across — that it’s the carbohydrate content of the diet we should worry about, not the fat — we might get back to the place where our children or grandchildren can all eat mostly plants, as Michael Pollan would say, and be perfectly healthy.
A great 18-min video on sugar, carbs, and fructose and its effects on the body here.