I am surprised at the fascination that Americans have with food and the number of my friends and acquaintances who avidly watch cooking shows. Food is one of the great pleasures in life and I like it as much as the next person but watching it get made carries with it as much interest as watching a carpenter make a cabinet. Once you have admired the skill of the expert, interest wanes, at least for me. I would never have guessed that one day there would be entire TV channels devoted to just food.
This absorption with food also extends to the many specialized diets that keep getting invented for health and weight reasons. A colleague of mine (along with her family) has adopted what is a new one to me that is known as the paleolithic diet. Like the Atkins diet, this one is supposedly based on evolutionary ideas. In this case, the argument goes that our modern diet consists mostly of cultivated food that arose after the widespread adoption of agriculture about 10,000 years ago, whereas for most of human evolutionary history, humans were hunter-gatherers and existed on a pre-agricultural diet. The advocates of the paleo diet argue that our bodies are better adapted to that earlier diet and seek to reproduce that pre-agricultural menu of foods.
Here is one proponent’s guide to what you should and should not eat on this diet.
Eat unlimited amounts of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats (preferably grass produced), fish, seafood, nuts and certain healthful oils. Dont worry about portions, let your appetite be your guide. Severely reduce or eliminate all cereal grains, dairy, legumes and processed foods. If it contains salt or comes in a package, can or box avoid it. Potatoes and corn are not part of contemporary Paleo diets as well.
But does the paleo diet as practiced now really correspond to what humans ate more than 10,000 years ago? After all, many of the fruits and vegetables we now eat have been carefully bred to be tasty and edible and did not exist in their present form in those days. And more importantly, is the paleo diet good for you? This article takes a skeptical look at the claims made by advocates of the paleo diet.
I myself do not follow any particular diet, except what might be called ‘the lazy person’s diet’ which does not require much thought or effort. My practice is to eat balanced, home-cooked meals in reasonable portions and avoid as much as possible highly processed foods.