I have been going through Food and Western Disease: Health From an Evolutionary Perspective by Staffan Lindeberg lately. Staffan Lindeberg’s book is thought by many to represent the very apex of scientific Paleo: it’s a recent, comprehensive assessment of the current scientific evidence in favor of the Paleo diet. (Lindeberg was known earlier for his work on the Kitavans, which had a big influence on Robb Wolf, as many of you undoubtedly already know.)
Anyhow, the reason I have been reading his book is that I want to challenge my own pro-grain beliefs. Virtually all of my nutrition friends don’t much care for grains. What am I getting wrong about grains? And legumes? Apart from grains and legumes, I consider myself Paleoish, but what in the world does that mean? I do have a lot of respect for an evolutionary paradigm–any nutritional system worth its salt must be consistent with what we understand about evolution. But Paleo with grains and legumes is not really Paleo. #identitycrisis
But we shall have to discuss all this some other time. I have something that I think is a bit more interesting to discuss. I am posting this because I found the following interesting passage in Lindeberg’s book:
>>> Another objection, and a highly relevant one, relates to sustainability. If the majority of humans on this planet shall avoid grains and increase their meat intake, then we clearly have a problem (although cutting dairy products is helpful). With or without such dietary changes, we will have to eat more locally produced foods, more starchy root vegetables and less ruminant meat, and we need to travel less. In our clinical experience, an ancestral-like dietary model does not require a higher meat intake than the present average (100 and 130 g/day for Swedish men and women, respectively). >>>
Does this mean that Paleo, if it wants to change the world, also has to think about food systems? That it has to think politically?
Think of it this way: let’s assume that we want to promote a diet much like the Paleo diet for the population as a whole. We do this because we want to promote the public health. But if such a diet is unsustainable, then we promote the public health today at the expense of future generations. If, therefore, “Paleo For The People” is a goal, we must also try to advocate for political positions and changes that will make such a widespread dietary system sustainable.
And if this is so, then it seems to me that the Paleo movement needs to become broader in its aims and goals: not just the promotion of real food, but the promotion of the sorts of farm policies and food systems that will help make real food a possibility for everyone, as well as for future generations. Should Paleo become a broader political movement–not limited to nutrition but with interests also in agriculture, regulating Big Food, etc.?
It does seem to me that Paleo, as its very central paradigm, rejects agriculture as a whole. But can Paleo principles be pragmatic–and be synthesized and impactful on the modern food system, without completely rejecting it and insisting on a strict return to the Paleolithic? In other words, is a “Paleo politics” possible? Or is it a contradiction in the very terms?
I dare say, if “Paleo politics” is insisted upon as a contradiction in its very terms, and if the Paleo diet must always be something individual (eaten only one person at a time), and not political (for which we advocate and insist on policy changes collectively), then it follows that, without the necessary changes to our food system, “individual Paleo” is not sustainable and therefore, in the long term, not possible. Is it therefore, if Lindeberg is correct in his assessment, not the case that individual Paleo necessarily entails political Paleo? And that despite the apparent contradictions, if a Paleo For The People is to be a reality, the Paleo movement must turn explicitly and avowedly political?
These are some of the thoughts I have. If this hasn’t run on too long, I would like to hear yours.