Sunday, May 3, 2009

What's the difference between Primal and Paleo, anyway?


Wikipedia has an excellent breakdown of what our ancestors eat, so this is a good historical guideline of what nature fed us before farming was discovered and we started causing ourselves all manner of health problems.

The Paleo Diet, by Loren Cordain, is what can be considered the modern healthy eating Bible for those of us who don't fancy continuing the self-sabotage.


Now, while one text published under the title of The Primal Diet refers to only eating raw food, the rest of us appreciate the possibilities (both flavourful and sanitary) of combining food with fire.

The father of what he calls The Primal Blueprint is Mark Sisson, and has published an excellent tome of knowledge and insight - not that I've been able to get my hands on a copy. But if the quality of his blog posts are any indication, one day it will be mandatory reading for all high school students. And I'm only being slightly hyperbolic.

The concept of 'living primally' has more of a focus on the first word there - living. While Primal folk tend to stick to the outlined 'Paleo Diet', we also look at the lifestyle of early humans and the environment within which our genetic blueprint was - arguably - perfected. To quote Mark Sisson, in a summary of the content of his book;

In Chapter One I present the “re:evolutionary” premise that our primal ancestors were bigger, stronger, healthier and possibly smarter than us! I provide a quick summary of the remarkable process of human evolution leading to the creation of the perfect human being…some 10,000 years ago. Our primal human role model from that time – the starring character of the Primal Blueprint - is nicknamed “Grok”. Since 10,000 years ago, the advent of agriculture and the inexorable technological progress of civilization have led us ever further astray from the dietary habits and active, stress-balanced lifestyles that allowed Grok to thrive and prevail under the harsh competitive circumstances of evolution. As a result, we have literally gone soft since then. Furthermore, thanks to medical intervention allowing even those with genetic flaws to reproduce, we exist today in what is arguably a state of devolution.

The ten Primal Blueprint laws allow us to overcome the negative cultural influences in the modern world and achieve robust health, peak longevity and effortless weight loss. The ten laws are: Eat Lots of Plants, Animals and Insects; Avoid Poisonous Things; Move Frequently At A Slow Pace; Lift Heavy Things; Run Really Fast Once In A While; Get Adequate Sleep; Play; Get Plenty of Sunlight; Avoid Stupid Mistakes; and Use Your Brain.

Two notable differences between the ideologies put forward Cordain and Sisson is that Cordain shuns saturated fat and restricts the intake of eggs - two choices that ignore much of the evidence uncovered by paleontologists, as well as more recent studies of cultures which exist in a way believed similar to our ancestors.

And on a baser level - give up egg omelettes and bacon fried in butter every morning? 'Sif.

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