A friend of mine recently brought up Mark Sisson’s Grok figure (here). Grok is, essentially, the embodiment of a Paleolithic lifestyle. Grok is an easy example and answer to the question, “What would an ancient hunter-gatherer do in this situation?”
But there’s one fatal flaw to this line of thinking. Because we are Grok.
Grok absolutely would eat the bag of Doritos. He would be so stoked that we’ve somehow figured out how to keep food from spoiling, make it portable, and make it addictively tasty. If given the option of a convenience store versus a persistence hunt, Grok would choose the convenience store. I think this sad fact gets glossed over in all the romanticism of how wonderful hunter-gatherers had it. Never mind the bot flies that laid larvae under their skin or the trauma they suffered from falling out of a 30-foot-tall tree or being hunted by a panther…I could go on. Grok’s example works if we keep him in his Paleolithic context, but we’re modern humans in a modern, convenience-food-soaked world with tempting sugar at every turn. And just because something is modern doesn’t make it unfit for consumption. For example, if you get a locally-made sausage (i.e. NOT a Slim Jim), it is essentially ground up meat with spices. It may officially be “processed” and outside of Grok’s access, but that doesn’t make it off-limits for us. Thank goodness!
Of course it’s useful to have something simple to refer to in times of doubt. But if you’re asking for dietary guidance, here’s an easy answer: Go For The Nutrients.
This will inevitably steer you away from grains and will help you win any argument with a grain-pusher. We’re not missing out on anything that promotes health by leaving out grains. In fact, we’re making room for more nutrient-dense foods by not eating them.
I’ve used this example before, but it bears repeating. Let’s start with some eggs in the morning, as many of us do. Fry them up in some coconut oil or butter, add some spinach and red pepper (maybe some raw goat cheese if you’re doing dairy), and serve it up with a side of strawberries. How does that measure up to a bowl of oatmeal? There’s no comparison, even if there’s almonds and raisins on it.
This is why vegetarians and vegans can have a hard time getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals. We evolved eating animals that are capable of converting things inedible to us, like grass, into edible forms, like tasty meat. Those animals we eat are doing us huge favors and it’s nearly impossible to supplement for their absence properly. While I respect vegetarianism and veganism for ethical purposes, I will go on the record as saying that I don’t think we completely understand how all this stuff works in our bodies, and to voluntarily go against millions of years of evolution is playing Russian Roulette with your health. There is compelling evidence for animal food sources related to mental and emotional well-being in particular (see here for Emily Deans M.D.’s great site).
One rule of Conventional Wisdom that still applies is filling your plate with color. This helps make sure you’re getting a variety of nutrients. Especially in dishes with lots of mixed veggies like stir-fries or stews, a rainbow of colors is not only visually appealing, but it helps cover your bases nutritionally too. This rule will be even more true if you’re choosing what’s seasonally available. The closer the food is to its original nature, the better. So while a locally-made sausage is just fine, we should make sure we’re getting plenty of steak, chops, and fresh fish as possible. Olives are also fine, but we shouldn’t neglect vegetables that can be eaten as is.
So challenge yourself. When you’re making your BAS for the day, load it up. It’s easy to get green, so get some yellow, orange, and red in there. Add meat, nuts, seeds, fruit. I live in Hippieville, OR, and lemme tell you, there are some gorgeous salads at every potluck I go to: beets, broccoli, sprouts, pumpkin seeds, raisins, kale, sesame seeds, what-have-you. Not necessarily all together in one salad, but it wouldn’t surprise me. If you’re making a curry, think about adding cauliflower or zucchini or carrot. Just keep going! You’ll also empty your fridge and waste less food overall.
It must be said. If you’re going for nutrients, you might want to start incorporating offal into your life (see here for my take on that). Free the Animal is a big fan of liver, see here for his comparison to fruit. Here‘s another good run-down of liver in case you have any doubt that it deserves to be on your plate. Now if I could just practice what I preach…I’m working on it!
What tricks do you rely on to keep you on track? How do you make sure you’re getting all your vitamins and minerals?