While the Paleo diet is a good foundation upon which to base your diet, variations in the diet must be made to accommodate the problems in our food supply and toxic modern world. Many foods that were once healthy in Paleo times are healthy no more. This is an important aspect of The Modern Paleo Diet.
Our diet must consider and account for changes in our environment due to contamination from industrial manufacturing, genetically modified foods, parasites, hybridization (breeding practices) of foods and many other issues. These problems did not exist during caveman times, but must be accounted for today.
Sadly, many healthy foods that nourished our ancestors are no longer healthy today. Fruit is bred to have too much sugar. Pork is full of parasites. Shellfish and most fish are so contaminated with heavy metals. Let’s explore which foods should be avoided or enjoyed in moderation due to modern problems in our food supply.
Food safety in our modern food supply is a big concern. Cavemen were not eating genetically modified (GMO) food. They ate organic even though they didn’t know it. This means they ate food without genetic modification, pesticides, irradiation (microwaving), chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, or hormones. If you want to be healthy, you’d be wise to follow in the caveman’s footsteps.
Animals fed GMO’s have nutrient deficiencies, lowered immunity, lowered infertility or complete infertility in themselves or their offspring and have damaged organs, while many simply die. Your fate is not much different when you ingest GMO’s. Perhaps GMO’s have something to do with the fact that almost fifty percent of US citizens get cancer, allergy rates have skyrocketed since the 90’s and a vast majority have a chronic health problems by the time they’re sixty. We don’t know since the FDA allowed big biotechs to begin selling them to you in the late 1990’s with no safety testing. You’ve only been eating them for 30 years. No big deal, right? Don’t let big business do an experiment on you at their profit. Read labels and get informed.
Eat Organic. Organic food standards do not allow genetic modification, synthetic chemicals, pesticides, irradiation, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics or hormones in organic foods. Eating organic will guarantee you’re not eating GMO’s. Learn more about GMO’s and their harmful health effects in the movie GeneticRouletteMovie.com.
I’ll give you a couple strategies to avoid GMO’s. First, stop mindlessly buying products you’ve been eating for years. Question everything you put in your mouth. You will be surprised how pervasive GMO’s are in our food supply. Here is a comprehensive list of GMO foods you find at all grocery stores. It’s pretty much everything in the store. This means you cannot shop at Ralph’s, Vons, Albertson’s, or any other chain of typical grocery store because almost every product contains GMO’s. The only exception is Whole Foods, but even this store still has many products made with GMO’s because the same manufacturers that produce the foods in regular grocery stores make the products for Whole Foods — they just have different labels and packing to market to more health conscious consumers. Whole Foods has committed to removing all GMO foods from their shelves by 2018, but until then you have to fend for yourself and buy organic. This is the only guarantee you have to avoid GMO’s.
There are many GMO foods in the pipeline awaiting approval by the FDA to further destroy our food supply. Here is a list of GMO foods currently on the market that you should only eat organically.
- Alfalfa (Fed to nonorganic cows)
- Canola (90% GMO)
- Corn (88% GMO)
- Papaya (All Hawaiian are GMO)
- Soy (94% GMO)
- Sugar Beets (95% GMO)
- Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash
Another other option is to buy products with the non-GMO Project seal of approval. You can feel comfortable buying foods that are not organic if they host this label on the package. However, you still have all the other problems with nonorganic foods like pesticides, etc. You can just rest assured you’re not eating GMO’s. This group has a great phone app to check if your favorite foods are on the approved list — or not.
Eat organic grass fed meats. Conventional, factory-farmed meats contain hormones, antibiotics, GMO (genetically modified) corn and soy feed, disease, and are treated shockingly inhumanely. Meat must be organic, preferably grass-fed, aka range-fed, grass finished, or pastured. Note the difference between organic, grass-fed, and organic plus grass-fed. Grass-fed is not necessarily organic and vice versa.
Organic grass fed meat will have less inflammatory omega-6’s and more anti-inflammatory omega-3’s, while GMO grain fed beef is just the opposite — they cause inflammation because they contain more omega-6 fats and fewer omega-3’s. Conventional meats are, in fact, chemically different from organic grass fed meats.
Organic is definitely better than GMO grain fed meat, so stick with organic if you can’t afford grass fed. Keep in mind that grass fed meat can be cheaper than conventional meat!! Get creative. If you order a whole or half cow, for instance, and go in with a few other families it can be as cheap as $3.50 a pound. That’s $3.50 a pound for ribs or filet mignon. Split it up and have a tribal feast.
One of the best online resources for locating healthy, naturally produced, grass-fed meats near you is www.EatWild.com. It is the most comprehensive source for grass-fed meat in the US and Canada. US Wellness Meats is fantastic. Give wild meats a try, like buffalo, elk, sage hen, ostrich, or antelope. I love ostrich. Tastes like chicken!
A huge problem with our food supply is the industrial contamination of the air, food, and water with heavy metals and industrial chemicals. This makes a lot of foods that were healthy in Paleo times not so healthy today. These include shellfish, and most fish except for small fish like salmon and sardines. We have to do a cost-benefit analysis of foods based upon their nutritional value and pollution contamination.
Even though fish are quite contaminated, they get a bad rap. Fish consumption only accounts for 9 percent of our dietary intake of these pollutants — the smallest portion of our dietary PCB’s and dioxins. This graph shows you each food based upon its dietary contribution as a percentage of our dietary intake of cancer-causing PCB’s and dioxins:
Fish is so good for you — supplying high protein, low total fat, while high in omega 3. However, fish is very contaminated due to our environment. Fish and seafood, especially shellfish, are contaminated with heavy metals, particularly mercury and cadmium. No matter how pristine a fish’s environment, industrial waste spews into clouds, which take it to the most remote corners of the earth. Heavy metals and fat-soluble pesticides become concentrated in older fish, large, predatory fish, and in fatty species of fish. There is some evidence that selenium can mitigate and detox the mercury in fish. But I tend to think that healthy people enjoy this advantage and relatively ill people who have difficulty detoxing may suffer from ingesting too much mercury in fish. Learn more in my Seafood Survival Guide.
Fish are very healthy to eat. Many think that the benefits of eating fish far outweigh any health risks of contamination. However, you would be smart to avoid certain types of fish that are known to contain high levels of heavy metals. For more info see my Seafood Survival Guide.
Here are a few ways you can minimize your risk of eating contaminated fish:
- Primarily eat smaller, nonpredatory species such as sardines, anchovies, flounder, herring, mackerel, sole, and pollock.
- Choose fish that come from cleaner, remote bodies of water, such as the Pacific Ocean and Alaska.
- Eat wild fish. Farmed fish are typically raised in festering pools and routinely fed antibiotics, unnatural grain diets containing GMO’s, growth hormones, and dyes (to make them look healthy) — just like factory-farmed meats. These fish will not have the omega-3 content of wild caught fish. Fish frequently farmed are salmon, trout, catfish, tilapia, eels, shrimp, and crayfish. There are sustainably raised farmed fish that are a better choice. The difference between regular farmed fish and sustainably raised farmed fish is like comparing conventional foods to organic foods. It’s one step up. Check out these guides for how to choose sustainably raised farmed fish.
- Avoid freshwater fish from lakes and rivers, particularly the Great Lakes and other polluted, industrialized areas.
- Avoid big fish like swordfish, shark, and tuna. These long-lived predatory fish accumulate more mercury and other toxins.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program maintains up-to-date, color-coded charts and handy Pocket Guides and phone apps listing seafood recommendations based on species population, fishing/farming practices, health concerns, and more. However, don’t get a false sense of security with eating all the species of fish listed as safe to eat in this pocket guide. This site has a ton of valuable information I wanted to share with you, however, it’s missing one key issue.
Because of the high contamination rates of almost all animal proteins, I have to recommend people wisely choose a lifelong detoxification program to rid the body of heavy metals and chemicals. One has to do this whether they are a vegetarian or Paleo, as vegetarians accumulate toxins and heavy metals faster because the liver needs sulphur-containing amino acids (only found in animal protein) to detox the body of these toxins. And even if you don’t eat meat, you’re still getting toxins through the air and water and vegetables, but you can’t detox them as well. You really can’t win either way. Of course, I recommend a Myers Detox Protocol which accomplishes the task of detoxification excellently.
A lesser-known issue with our food supply is the breeding of plants and animals to elicit more convenient characteristics. Hybrids are vegetables cross-bred to maximize desired traits, like durability, yield, size, and taste. And remember that many, if not most, fruits and vegetables we eat today are modern creations — the familiar yellow banana, grapefruit, meyer lemon, and many apples. We’ve been cross-pollinating plants for centuries.
Mark Sisson explains the hybridization of plants plainly:
In case you didn’t know, hybrid fruits and vegetables are created by cross-pollinating two closely related species of the same genus or two cultivars or varieties within the same species. Though we’re talking about the artificial, man-enabled variety in today’s question, this phenomenon happens quite frequently in nature. Random hybridization is essentially how new species of plants arise — stretched out over time. Artificial hybridization operates on the same principle as natural hybridization, only with authorial intent.
Tomatoes are bred to not bruise so they travel well. Broccolini is a cross between broccoli and chinese kale. Most fruit have been bred to contain more sugar. Cows have been bred down to not be so aggressive (this began thousands of years ago), grow faster or produce more milk. Due to these practices the nutrient levels in our foods have diminished as well as the nutrient levels in our bodies, contributing to disease.
Take a look around when you go to your average grocery store and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. You see that same banana, the same broccoli, the same lettuce. There’s no variety. They’re all hybrids that travel well and don’t spoil for a long time. The picture is the same at Whole Foods. You see the same sweet potato, the same onions. These are all hybrids and they’re not as healthful as their heirloom counterparts. Most heirloom (old, unaltered) veggies and fruits are at best a few hundred years old. They are not bred down for certain characteristics convenient to the growers and sellers like many of the veggies available in grocery stores that are sold because they travel well and last a long time on the shelf. Heirloom varieties are healthier because they have a higher nutrient content. They taste better, too.
Milk is not as healthful today because of the hybridization of cows. Due to special breeding, most cows today produce far more milk than cows did only a few years ago. These cows, forced into speedier milk production, are not hormonally balanced, and the result is a much less healthful milk. Whenever you’re artificially increasing milk production, you’re going to reduce the nutrition of the milk. The nutrient density and quality of milk is determined by the health of the cow and food that it ate. If a cow is fed synthetic hormones (rGBH, aka cow crack), is forced to be pregnant as often as possible, is milked nonstop and only fed grains, the nutrition quality of the milk is guaranteed to suffer. To counter this trend, a few dairies are bringing back what are called heirloom or older breeds of cows and of course allowing them to live a normal cow’s life — not stuck in a pen constantly hooked up to milking machines.
Hybrid plants and meat are hard to avoid. I cannot suggest that all hybrid plants are undesirable and should be avoided because that’s all that is available in most grocery stores! Same problem with the meat. We have to eat something. It is simply worth noting that many fruits and veggies are not as healthy as they were in caveman times. You typically have to forage for your food online and off the beaten path.
Conventionally raised and even organic beef (grain fed) cannot be considered a healthy food. I recommend eating organic grass fed beef, lamb or bison to meet your red meat needs. Lamb and bison, pasture-raised animals that are less hybridized, are better choices for your red meat nutritional needs. For most people, I would recommend eating 1-3 servings a week of red meat.
As far as dairy is concerned, I recommend buying raw organic grass fed milk. Even if a cow is hybridized, this milk will be the most nutritious. More on raw milk below. Next best is organic milk, but even organic milk is usually massed produced on dairy farms with 20,000 cows and hardly fits the bill of super nutritious dairy.
I generally recommend avoiding fruit. It’s grown for mass consumption to be larger, sweeter, less nutritious, and lower in mineral content. Fruit is far less nutritious than most people think and only serves to contribute to epidemic yeast and fungal overgrowths. However, berries have escaped hybridization and can be enjoyed in moderation. Green apples and green tipped bananas are also low in sugar.
Most fruit today is very hybridized to contain more sugar, namely fructose. Fructose, a prominent sugar in fruit, is one of the worst sugars to consume. Fructose is sent directly to the liver, where it should be converted to glucose. However, most people cannot process it very well due to toxic livers and it can instead be converted to triglycerides and other fats. Sugar in any form is not healthy, even from fruit. Most people today are in carb overload already and do not need more sugar. If you do eat fruit, it is generally recommended to reduce fructose consumption to 25 grams a day.
I recommend purchasing only heirloom varieties of plants when available. Have you ever eaten an heirloom veggie? They are soooo tasty and have much more vibrant color than a regular ol’ veggies. They’re one step above organic veggies, too. What the heck is an heirloom vegetable? Heirloom means old — not Paleo old, but a few generations or more old. Heirloom seeds are an old type of seed that have been handed down from one generation to another. They have not been altered or bred down for favored characteristics. They’re the real deal.
Eating heirloom plants can be accomplished best by growing your own vegetables. But since I’m not even doing this (though one day I will damnit!) I can’t possible expect you too either. If you’re digging in your garden every day, you are truly committed to your health and hats off to you! If these last few paragraphs have convinced you to start planning a garden, here’s a great list of good seed companies.
Short of a green thumb, find the vendors at your local farmer’s market that are growing heirloom varieties of their vegetables. I visit several around LA to buy from the amazing vendors of my choice. There are also many fanatical chefs at good restaurants that will only use heirloom vegetables in their cooking. Seek them out and eat well.
Eat hybrids or don’t, but don’t fret. Hybridization and artificially selected fruits and vegetables are as natural a progression as tool-making. It doesn’t negate or contradict nature’s processes. Man has just given veggies and fruits a little helping hand. But keep in mind that the nutrition of these hybrids may suffer. Hybridization is a tool to make life easier, food tastier, more dependable, and hardier, but convenience always has a price. Wouldn’t it be great if we had access to all the wild foods that our foraging caveman fed upon, but even if we could, there’s a good chance they’d be unpalatable or even toxic.
Pasteurization and homogenization deforms the proteins and fats in milk, making them very unhealthy, unrecognizable to the body and difficult to digest. The rationale for this process is to kill bacteria and prevent illness, but this process has its price. It destroys vitamin C, vitamin E, and other vitamins, and affects hundreds of enzymes, hormone factors, immune factors, and more.
Pasteurization may have been necessary 100 years ago in America. This process began after eight babies in New York died after drinking raw milk in the 20’s — before refrigeration. Today, however, with modern refrigeration and clean farming practices it’s not needed.
Dr. Lawrence Wilson states the reasons why raw milk is still irrationally illegal in many states:
The milk lobby vociferously defends the practice [of pasteurization]. The real reasons, I believe, are:
1. Pasteurization causes the centralized control of the milk industry. This is very hard on small dairy farmers, who are not permitted to sell their milk directly to consumers, but must cater to the centralized pasteurization facilities that can set milk prices, etc.
2. Pasteurization allows dairy farmers, particularly the large “factory farms”, to be more sloppy and to use the milk of sick, malnourished cows because the bacteria in their milk will be killed by pasteurization.
3. Most doctors, public health authorities and others in political positions of power do not understand the nutritional damage to milk thanks to pasteurization, and do not respect the right of people to have choice in their food, recognizing that there may be a greater risk of infection from the raw milk.
Homogenization is another horrible process perfectly healthy milk must undergo. Homogenization prevents the fat particles from rising and separating from the milk. Oh no. Not cream on the top! For whatever reason, consumers prefer their milk does not separate.
Unfortunately, homogenization damages milk severely. Homogenization forces the milk through tiny tubes at extremely high pressure to break the fat in the milk into smaller sizes. The process can involve extreme heat, so it is akin to a second pasteurization. It causes the fat particles to be surrounded by whey and casein, which is unnatural. These tiny fat particles may be absorbed directly into the blood stream without being digested because they are so small. When food is not digested properly before absorption into the body, it can contribute to milk allergies and other health issues.
If you choose to eat dairy, eat only raw organic grass fed dairy. Raw dairy is a whole food, while pasteurized and homogenized milk must be considered what it is — a processed food. Raw yogurt, kefir, sour cream, milk, and butter are high in enzymes and vitamins destroyed by pasteurization. Raw dairy, especially raw butter, contains essential fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, many of which are destroyed during pasteurization. It is also worth noting that raw dairy is the only dietary source of vitamin K (besides goose liver), which is essential for calcium regulation and retention.
People who cannot tolerate pasteurized milk can usually tolerate raw milk. You may be surprised, like I was, to consider yourself intolerant of milk, but then eat raw, grass fed, unpasteurized, unhomogenized dairy and have no reaction to it. Most people don’t tolerate dairy because they do not have the enzyme lactase to digest lactose, the sugars in milk. Raw milk contains lactase. Nature’s wisdom has provided everything you need to digest the milk. Fermented and cultured raw dairy products like butter, sour cream, yogurt, and kefir are easiest to digest, as the lactose milk sugars have been broken down. Of course, people are intolerant of milk for different reasons, so many may still be allergic to the casein (dairy protein) be it raw and unhomogenized or no.
Salmonella, E. coli and many other bacteria have difficulty surviving in raw milk; beneficial bacteria, enzymes, and immune complexes naturally present in raw milk destroy them. If these pathogenic microbes get into pasteurized milk, however, they thrive because the enzymes and beneficial bacteria, which serve to destroy bacteria in raw milk, have been destroyed by pasteurization. If you’re still worried about bacteria in raw milk, you can kill it with a few drops of 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide.
Many have a fear of drinking raw milk. This is understandable. I was a bit freaked out when I took my first sip, but this was only out of ignorance that had been ingrained in me since I was a child. I’d only ever seen pasteurized milk and it was pasteurized to kill germs. Seemed logical enough to me and I believed whole-heartedly in the practice. I never knew how safe raw milk was much less that it existed except squeezed from a cow’s teat.
Raw milk is quite safe. Studies show that you have a 1 in 94,000 chance of becoming sickened from drinking raw milk. Though there is less of a chance of becoming sickened with pasteurized milk, there are still 1 in 880,ooo people that become ill after its consumption. That means you have a nine times greater chance of becoming sick with raw milk. However, you have a better chance of dying in a plane crash than you do of being hospitalized after consuming raw milk. I’ll take my chances. You have to make this decision for yourself based upon your risk tolerance.
As far as homogenization is concerned, do yourself a huge favor and only buy milk with the cream on top. You know it has not been homogenized. You usually only find this in milk bottled in glass bottles.
Where the heck do you find this raw milk? Sadly, raw milk is illegal in many states. If it’s not illegal it can be difficult to find. You cannot purchase raw dairy products in major stores, but you’ll find it at farmer’s markets, your local dairy farm, or small natural health food stores. I’ve heard of places you can mail order milk. Just send it in the mail! Where there is a will there’s a way. For a list of organic raw dairy farmers and vendors, see Realmilk.com, a site brought to you by the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Almost everyone has a parasite infection of some sort. Many people have Lyme spirochetes, liver flukes, trichina cysts or worms (from eating pork), h. pylori and many others. Parasites are opportunists and thrive in less healthy bodies. The less healthy you are, the more likely you are to have parasites. Great! Let’s get started explaining why.
Parasites were around during caveman times, right? Paleo man suffered parasites, too, but they were eating a Paleo diet so they were much healthier and not nearly as susceptible as we are today. They were not eating tons of sugar and grains that feed parasites and keep them thriving.
Reduce intake of new parasites. Reduce consumption of raw foods. Many proponents of the raw food diet are in for a nasty surprise and are merely giving themselves the gift of liver flukes (and other new BFF’s). This also means reducing sushi intake (Argh!). Raw fish usually have parasites, which means I’m chock full of them (sorry if this was TMI).
Eliminate your old friends. The goal is to make your body an unwelcome host so parasites will find a new home. Go let them pick on someone else like your dog.
Some parasites are very small, living deep in the liver or the brain; they are very difficult if not impossible to discover on tests. And forget testing for every parasite that may be eating your lunch. It’s nearly impossible. I’ve tried this. It’s very expensive to test for each and every parasite and is pointless. You then have to submit to different treatments for each and every parasite. Many doctors are clueless about treatment of most parasites because they do not have a corresponding medication to treat them. Some progressive ones treat with various herbs, but this still will not address each and every parasite that is not detected on tests. Additionally, none of the tests, in my experience, are that reliable. It is fine to do testing, but do not rely on testing alone. And even when you do treat them and get them to undetectable levels on tests, you still have not addressed the underlying cause of parasites — a nutrient deficient and toxic weak host — you.
A Myers Detox Protocol removes all parasites. Therefore, testing is not really needed, except perhaps to confirm the presence of parasites if you wish. I personally wouldn’t bother because they are present in almost everyone.
When people say they have gotten rid of their parasites, they actually mean they have reduced their numbers to where they are not bothersome and they are harder to detect with conventional testing. Only Myers Detox Protocol (formerly called Nutritional Balancing) will eventually cause the removal of all parasites. However, it takes a number of years of faithfully following a program. It does this with the supplement GB-3, infrared saunas (parasites hate extreme heat) and coffee enemas (which cleanse the liver and colon — a hotbed of parasitic activity). Of course, these strategies can be employed outside of a Myers Detox Protocol, but only the Myers Detox Protocol will nourish and strengthen your body, making your body inhospitable to these unwelcome hosts.
Don’t panic or feel bad if you’re not doing any of the things I mentioned in this article. It’s impossible to be perfect all the time, though some really annoying people manage to pull off all of the above without a hitch. My job is to merely bring awareness to things in your diet that may need attention. Now that you know how you can improve upon your diet, start to make small changes. Pick one item you learned in this article and take action. It can take years to change one’s diet by working on one problematic area at a time. But if you keep making small changes, you’ll be amazed at where you’ll be a few years from now. I don’t eat this way or incorporate these principles all the time (I have a sushi addiction), but I base my daily food choices upon these principles and continue to improve my diet and health every day.
Click here for References+
[accordion clicktoclose=true][accordion-item title=”Click here to view references”]
1. Chris Kresser Podcast. RHR: What Science Really Says About the Paleo Diet — With Mat Lalonde. June 13, 2012. http://chriskresser.com/rhr-what-science-really-says-about-the-paleo-diet-with-mat-lalonde
2. Gonzalez, Ramon. 10 Best Heirloom Seed Companies as Selected By Readers. March 13, 2012. http://www.treehugger.com/lawn-garden/10-best-seed-companies-selected-by-readers.html
3. Montereybayaquarium.org. Seafood Recommendations. http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/sfw_recommendations.aspx?c=ln
4. Sisson, Mark. Dear Mark. Are Hybrid Fruits and Vegetables Healthy? November 30, 2013. http://www.marksdailyapple.com/hybrid-fruits-vegetables/#ixzz2XGKByxbL
5. Sisson, Mark. Ancient vs. Modern Fruits and Vegetables. December, 1, 2012. http://www.marksdailyapple.com/ancient-vs-modern-fruits-and-vegetables/
6. Wilson, Lawrence, MD. Dairy. August 2012. http://www.drlwilson.com/articles/DAIRY.htm
7. Wilson, Lawrence, MD. Fruit: Its Health Benefits and Problems. February, 2013.
8. Wilson, Lawrence, MD. Parasites and How to Eliminate them Naturally. June 2013.