While at the same alternative grocery in Williston that I found the dairy products/yogurts that I talked about in last week's post, I also saw a "Paleo" section. Which piqued my interest. I'd heard about the Paleolithic Diet in general, but I'd never seen Paleo items on sale at a store. Needless to say, I bought up a nice sampling.
The Paleo Diet is a fairly recent one. It appears to have mostly been inspired by gastroenterologist Walter Voegtlin in the 1970's. Most credit Stanley Boyd Eaton and Melvin Konner (along with Konner's wife Margorie Shostak) with developing the Diet. Then Loren Cordain's 2002 book "The Paleo Diet" popularized the Diet to the general public. Since then, like many diets, its received a boost from some celebrities' adoption of it, such as singer Miley Cyrus and actor Matthew McConaughey.
In essence, the Paleo Diet contends that many of humanity's current health problems, like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, can be traced to the modern diet. Proponents think this conditions are caused by (or at least made worse by) the foods humans started eating about 10,000 years ago, with the advent of modern agriculture. They argue that human physiology and metabolism havn't changed much in those 10,000 years, so we should eat the foods that humans evolved to eat over millions of years. Therefore, we should go back to what these Paleolithic people ate--mostly meat, nuts, fruit, and non-starchy vegetables. Taboo foods include dairy, grains (wheat, barley, rye, etc.) legumes (beans and peanuts), coffee, alcohol, processed oils, salt, and refined sugar. In addition to archaeological evidence of diet, Cordain and others studied six modern groups which are largely hunter/gatherers (as our Paleolithic ancestors were), such as the Eskimos (Aleuts) in the Arctic, and the !Kung San of Africa.
Well, like any diet, there are dissenting views. Many of them. The British Dietetic Association included the Paleo Diet on its list of the Five Worst Celebrity-Endorsed Diets of 2015, calling it, "unbalanced, time consuming, and socially isolating." Evolutionary biologist Marlene Zuk of the University of Minnesota said Paleo Dieters could miss out on vital nutrients that could lead to long term health problems later in life, like young women risking higher incidents of osteoporosis due to a lack of calcium. The University of Zurich's Christina Warinner is a particularly rabid critic of the Diet.
To sum up the counter argument, these proponents claim that first off, we don't know exactly what our Paleo ancestors actually ate and didn't eat. Also, that there is some good evidence that Paleo humans processed flour over 30,000 years ago, and did eat some legumes. Going on, the anti-Paleo side points out that human physiology has changed in the past 10,000 years--the ability of many groups of people in the world to digest lactose past infancy being one example. And that the plants themselves have changed in the past 10,000 years--often due to human interaction, such as causing the ancestor of the corn plant to grow incredibly larger, with correspondingly huge kernels. Furthermore, to say that there was one Paleo Diet is problematic, as people in different environments naturally exploited different animals and plants. Humans are nutritionally flexible, they say. And finally, Paleo people may have had less incidents of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease because with their average life spans being shorter, they may have died before they could develop them. Although, it should be said that the anti-Paleo Diet side agrees with the Paleo Dieters that people should cut back on the sugar, fried foods, and "junk food" in general, and replace these with more fruits and vegetables. They just don't think these products in moderation are necessarily catastrophic.
Anyway, with this brief summary aside, let's move to what I got. I purchased three protein bars from the Jorge Cruise line, in conjunction with the Julian Bakery and Paleo, Inc. (According to the wrappers, Mr. Cruise is a celebrity fitness trainer, a #1 NY Times bestselling author, and host of a show that boasts an audience of 12 million people.) I also got a box of Caveman Cookies, from the Caveman Bakery, out of NY. Once again, I'll use the U.S. grading system of "A" for excellent, "B" for good, "C" for average, "D" for unsatisfactory but barely passing, and "F" for failing, with pluses and minuses as needed.
1) Paleo protein bar, Jorge Cruise/Julian Bakery/Paleo, Inc., Chocolate Mint flavor: C-. Wet and greasy brown bar with white chunks/globs sticking to it. Hard, firm texture. Presumably dark chocolate since milk not on ingredient list. Not very good. Not terrible, but disappointing.
2) Paleo protein bar, same companies as above, Glazed Donut flavor: B. Waxy in texture and appearance, like a Power Bar. Honey colored. Did have a donut-like taste. Good.
3) Paleo protein bar, same companies as above, Cinnamon Roll flavor: B. Also waxy, light brown in color, and shiny. Cinnamon-y, definitely. Similar to the Donut kind in quality--pretty good.
4) Caveman Cookies, Pumpkin/Maple/Cranberry flavor: A. Really tasty cookie. Soft texture. Odd, uneven appearance. Enjoyed these quite a bit--sweet and chewy.
So, all in all, I liked these Paleo products. Even the worst one (the chocolate mint bar) wasn't horrendous or anything. But, I should point out that these were extremely expensive. Each individual 2 to 2.3 ounce bar was over $4! The Cookies were over $3 for a box of eight moderately sized cookies. I was further amused by the concept of pre-packaged Paleo items. It seems against the whole macho, back-to-nature, hunter/gatherer caveman theme, to pick up wrapped food items in a suburban store, that were accumulated and prepared by others. Readers can probably guess from this post's tone and content which side of the Paleo Diet I stand on (more to the anti side, clearly). But Paleo Dieters, like all other dieters, or "regular" eaters, should be aware of potential health risks and concerns with it. But, as always, when it comes to what people want to eat, to each their own. Unless you're a cannibal (folks reduced to cannibalism of already dead companions in starvation situations, a la the Uruguayan rugby team in the Andes in the 1970's excluded). That I can't support!