According to many New York Times best-sellers over the past few years, many of the myriad of diseases that afflict man would subside or be eliminated if we just ate like our purported paleolithic ancestors. For example, the most recent evolutionary diet book making the Times best-sellers list is "Whole30," which states it "is essentially a modified version of the paleo diet. It stands by the belief that humans haven't evolved to handle certain foods like sugars, dairy, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), peanuts, and grains." Similar books touting the popular Paleolithic, Caveman and Eat 4 Your Blood Type diets have all made the best-sellers lists in the past, all providing similarly misguided advice. The current gluten-free food fad, except for those with diagnosed celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, is also part of the origins-deception issue.
It is understandable why this type of dietary nonsense has become so popular. According to a recently published Gallup poll – May 22, 2017 – 57 percent of the U.S. population believe in some form of evolution, which illustrates the growing science illiteracy of Americans. So, why shouldn't Christians embrace these fad diets?
The obvious initial reason is quite simple. The restricted foods are all clearly allowed by Scripture and have been part of man's diet since the beginning of time. Since evolution is based upon the initial premise of abiogenesis, which is biologically impossible, the various food restrictions based upon evolutionary theory are senseless. Regardless of the obvious arguments opposing evolution and any promoted lifestyle associated with it, let's look at some specific well-established health reasons why various foods should not be excluded.
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Sugar. I will assume that the paranoia over sugar relates to table sugar and all the purported "studies" linking it to various diseases. Sugar is a 1-to-1 mixture of two smaller molecules of glucose and fructose, the same molecules found in all fruits, vegetables and grains, which are readily metabolized by the body. So, the problem should have nothing to do with the molecule itself, but the quantity of it in the diet.
As with any chemical compound, the "Principle of Toxicology – The Dose Makes the Poison," applies here, as I explain in this earlier column. It is common sense that excessive quantities of sugar, especially in inactive individuals, can result in excessive weight gain and the associated diseases that come with obesity – but don't let the molecule itself instill fear in you. By itself, it is devoid of nutrient value, but sugar can certainly be utilized as an energy source.
Ironically, many in the paleolithic-related diet fads will embrace honey, which is made up mostly of glucose and fructose, the same two molecules found in table sugar. Honey has a minor number of various vitamins, minerals, other sugars, water, as well as other elements, but they are insignificant, and the end metabolic product of most of the honey, as table sugar, is glucose. Additionally, honey contains a 1.22 ratio of fructose to glucose (fructose 35 percent to glucose 31 percent), while, similarly, high fructose corn syrup contains fructose at 55 percent to glucose at 45 – yet many in the paleo movement would demonize HFCS and embrace honey. The safety of HFCS is presented here, but the point is, whether it is table sugar, HFCS, or honey, the end product of their metabolism, as well as calories per gram, are the same.
Dairy. Genesis 18:8 illustrates the importance of dairy in our ancestral diets, especially as a major source of protein, calcium and many other nutrients. Milk has always been an important dietary commodity, especially among the poor as an inexpensive protein source. Milk is also the only animal-based food that contains significant amounts of carbohydrates, as an energy source.
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It is true that some are unable to consume milk due to lactose intolerance (which is an individual digestive problem), but this should not negate the entirety of the dairy foods. Anyone with lactose intolerance can still tolerate most cheeses and yogurt, and may tolerate lower intakes of milk as well. Many in the paleo movement will attempt to equate "milk" from various plant-derived foods, such as almond, rice, or soy, as similar to cow's milk, but the essential amino acid composition of cow's milk is superior, and almond milk is considerably lower in total protein content. Additionally, until someone can show me the anatomical udders or mammary glands on almonds, rice, or soy, plant-based "milks" are juices, not milk.
Legumes and grains. This is the most absurd of the restrictions of these fad diets. Christ picked and ate wheat in Matthew 12:1, which of course is avoided by the paleolithic as well as the gluten-free crowd. Not only do legumes and grains contain a multitude of plant chemicals, likely thousands, which play a positive role in our health, it is well-established that the byproducts of the fermented fibers in these foods, by intestinal bacteria, provide protective metabolites for the prevention of colon cancer. Additionally, the fiber in these foods plays a significant role in stool weight and transit time through the intestines and the prevention of diverticulosis. The fiber also maintain satiety longer between meals, which inhibits excessive caloric intake and the prevention of obesity.
In many cultures, beans and rice are staple foods, and the combination of the two are referred to as complementary proteins. This means that the essential amino acids that are missing in the beans are present in the grain. When you combine the two together in a meal, it is comparable to eating animal-based protein. So, in many cultures, especially among the poor, their main complete protein sources mostly come from combining two food items these misguided diets restrict.
The take-home message here is very simple. Making food choices based upon the junk-science of evolution is misguided.