Saturday, December 10, 2011

Using Evolution as a Measure of the "Healthy" Diet

The fad of diets are seemingly just that, fads. They come and they go, but for as often as we see news clips about dieting trends, the question remains: What is the best diet for us?

It's the carbs that are bad, no wait, it's the fats, the sugars? As seen in the last post about diet, the dietary science world doesn't know exactly what constitutes the best meal, and certainly there is no one-size-fits-all kind.

One diet however, known as Paleolithic, bases its eating habits around our natural human evolution.

"One should eat only whole foods, focus on evolutionarily-raised (think grass-fed beef) animal meat and fats, and stay away from foods that are relatively new to our evolutionary history, such as dairy, grains, and legumes," wrote Derek Nedveck, BS in Biochemistry, who follows a paleolithic diet.

Nedveck added that the definition of Paleo is not subscribed to just one definition, but at the core it is based around the history of what humans ate as they lived, and evolved.

The Paleolithic diet argues against the consumption of grains due to the crops limited time in our 'evolutionary diet.
Image: Golden Sun by Antonio Quesada M

This natural layout of the diet is also based on a broader, whole foods approach.

"One of the other main ways of thinking about human nutrition is “nutritionism,” which is a focus on the individual parts of foods, and how they contribute to human health. From nutritionism we get fiber, omega-3, vitamin and mineral enriched foods, with the thought being that single components of a food can be added to others to achieve the same benefit, wrote Nedveck. "Paleo on the other hand values whole foods, partly due to the fact that we don't know everything that happens when we eat a food, and how the fiber in a sweet potato is digested in the presence of all the other things that make up the sweet potato. Moral of the story, nutritionism is reductionist, and paleo is more holistic."

Determining the ideal diet is difficult. To get an appreciable scientific answer would require long-term tests with a large sample group of people. A diet can be just one factor attributing to the overall health of a person, making the health effects of foods difficult to determine.

However, as for practical advice about diets, Nedveck comments "Try it out for a week, or better yet a month, and see how you feel."

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