This, That or The Other

Variety is the spice of life, they say. Or is it?

I just finished reading an article about the Caveman (Paleo) and the Mediterranean Diets. This, apparently, has become the new celebrity smack-down in the culinary world.  Carbs are so 12 seconds ago, as are Atkins and a bevy of other eating “lifestyles”. Bacon has risen again! As has quinoa (although not in the Paleo world) and Chia seeds. Honestly…where did these Chia seeds come from?  Twenty years ago we were shmearing them all over terracotta planters to make sprout-afros and now they are the dietary salvation of us all. This kind of thing just cracks me up. Had we known it then, we could have been snacking on that ChiaPet on the windowsill and feeling good about it. I kid you not, the day that I was in Whole Foods and saw the packs of Chia (minus the Pet) and put it together that it was the same Chia seeds, I’m sure you could have seen my mouth actually drop open. What comes around goes around and seemingly, I have now become old enough to witness one of those “revolutions”. Oy.

But back to the Paleo and Mediterranean smack-down. Here I was thinking that the Mediterranean diet was the big man on campus and in saunters the Paleo (Caveman), strutting it’s stuff and making meat a good thing (cue caveman grunts). Who knew? We could also bring into the ring philosophies by the great Michael Pollan, the recent Forks Over Knives film (plant-based over meat…hence the forks and knives. Clever, eh?) and even the new study by the Harvard School of Public Health that is saying there is a correlation between the consumption of red meat (particularly processed meats) and the increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. Oh my. Lots to process, lots to consider. There’s always something new rising to the surface, isn’t there? But for the moment, let’s just concentrate on the Cavemen and the Mediterraneans. There’s plenty of blog posts to consider all the others. For those of you not familiar…here are some of the diet’s highpoints (not “diet” like you are eating a blade of grass and fearing bathing suit season, but diet as in “eating lifestyle”…what is healthiest and most nourishing for your body):

Mediterranean Diet:
-inspired by the traditional dietary patterns of southern Italy, Crete and much of Greece
-lots of olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits, vegetables and moderate consumption of dairy (mostly cheese and yogurt. Uh, hello booming market of Greek Yogurt.  Five years ago no one knew you existed)
-moderate to high consumption of fish
-low consumption of meat and meat products
-moderate wine consumption
-reduced risk of overall and cardiovascular mortality
-reduced incidence of cancer and cancer mortality
-reduced incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s

Paleo Diet :
-based on the ancient diet of wild plants and animals that our ancestors consumed over 10,000 years ago
-mainly consists of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, veggies, fruits, roots, spices and nuts
-no restriction of calories and foods can be cooked
excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, high glycemic foods and processed oils.
-superb for weight loss, insulin problems, lowering blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure and lower body mass index.

Both of these dietary lifestyles have interesting points to them and it certainly seems that they both have merits. Risk of diseases is reduced, blood sugars are more under control, lower cholesterol, lowered death rates. Can’t say any of that is a negative by-product. And it makes sense, too…this is all “basic” food, whether we are talking the Mediterranean or the Paleo. The one thing that does not show up on either of these lists is Junk. With a capital J. Between these two diets, you are essentially eating everything EXCEPT…hold on…are you ready for this? Junk. No high fructose corn syrups, no chemicals, no preservatives. None of it. I mean, c’mon, did you ever see a cave-painting of an obese caveman? No. Granted, they were also running for their lives from woolly mammoths and getting more exercise than we probably do in a year, but that’s a whole other facet of their healthy bodies. I once read that if you couldn’t pronounce an ingredient OR if your grandmother had never heard of it (xantham what? red # what? partially hydrogenated who?) then you should stay away from it. Run the other way. And think about it…what did our grandparents eat? “Real” food. Meats and potatoes. Sides of vegetables. No hormones or preservatives. Homemade this and homemade that. They didn’t pull it out of a box or get it from a place where they drove by a window. They didn’t even have the cars to do that! Basics. Let’s go back to basics. This is the kind of food we need to reacquaint ourselves with. And that’s my thing, too. I’ll have the piece of cake. But make it real cake with real butter and real sugar. And keep it in moderation, too. Have you ever noticed when you look at your grandma’s china that the dinner plates are actually smaller than they are now? No big-gulps for them. No frosting out of a can that has an ingredients list a mile long, half of which you can’t pronounce and have never heard of. If those things were listed on menus, would you order them? You don’t want MSG in the Chinese food, but all the other funky ingredients and preservatives found in other foods are ok? Uh, no. Blech, I say. Blech. So, it seems today that whether you are a caveman, a Greek God or pretending to be your own grandparents, you are what you eat…so make sure it’s good, real food.

*Coming tomorrow: Some good, real Asian recipes-yum!*

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