Posted by: fireandstone | April 18, 2010

Carbs in the Crosshairs

The next entry in a series of blog posts you could informally refer to as “tackling the most controversial topics of the Paleo nutrition genre”, I felt like I just had to get the question of carbohydrates out of the way. I’ll deal with other controversial sub-arguments related to sourcing carbs each in their own respect some time down the road, but for now I want to focus on the big stuff.

The first point I want to make to provide some context, and a bit of a value judgment, is that too many proponents of Paleo-like diets have a funny tendency to market the thing upfront by selling you on the idea of all those wholesome fruits and vegetables you’re going to eat, but then slowly pull the carpet out from under you. First goes the fruit, then the starchy vegetables and then hey, you already made it that far so what’s the point of eating the leafy greens or the rest of the lot? Basically it’s a bate and switch operation. And who can blame them? Paleo is pretty close to carnivory as it is, so you can’t help that carnivores are going to come on board at a pretty high rate, and a public that’s well conditioned to think of fruits and vegetables as paragons of health and longevity is going to be more sweetly influenced by their emphasis.

That’s not to say that there isn’t an opposing current meeting them in the middle with a new wave of meat-and-potatoes Paleoism. Altogether it’s just a particularly advantageous angle from which we get to see with high clarity that the term “Paleo” has been stretched to its absolute limit…the very last fiber of it’s last thread is taught and on the verge of snapping. In response there’s a new and rising nomenclature developing to describe these sub-categories within the genre, which I’m not going to get into because it amounts more to parody than enlightenment. Suffice it to say that there’s a healthy tide of completely normal and expected fragment occurring in Paleo land that’s entirely the result (or fault if you prefer) of its very success. Too many people in the tribe means the tribe has to split, and that’s pretty much what you’ve got.

So yeah, about those carbs…before I draw my own particular line in the sand I want to lay out to bear my personal eating habits and general food philosophy so you can neatly file me into a pre-determined category and subsequently feel at ease. I’m a long time carnivore, a true full on keto guy. I literally eat nothing but animal flesh, organs, eggs, marrow and bone broths. I’m a little bit Neolithic on the side (shhh, don’t tell Paleo, she’s my true love) because I eat a not insignificant amount of cheese and love butter and cream, and I also indulge every so often on some avocados. I have the odd vegetable here and there, but if so it’s something energy poor and micro-nutrient rich. I don’t deny my family the comforts of the fruits and vegetables *they* desire and I’m a fairly accomplished home chef, so I’m no stranger to preparing food from many sources.

Do I eat like this because I hate carbs? Not in the least. I’ve simply found my best fit, my environmental and evolutionary niche. After years of experimenting from a starting position of classic Paleo, I’ve come to find that I perform and feel better on a carnivorous diet that’s heavy on animal fat. I may be a lipophile, but I’m not a carbophobe. So why are carbs getting such a bad rap? I really don’t know, but I’ll throw out some guesses:

  • Aversion Therapy – after a lifetime of having carbs shoved down their faces, some people feel liberated by the freedom Paleo afforded them and now just have a natural revulsion to the substance, regardless of actual health implications.
  • Science (AKA Gary Taubes) – there’s a new wave of basic research and science journalism that’s helped to fuel the entire class of low(er) carb eating programs that implicate the role of carbohydrates and a disordered insulin cycle in the prevalence of obesity and related ailments.
  • Wolf Men – alot of people out there are like me and really are just animal consumers by nature, but in a proselytic ecstasy have unwisely extrapolated their own proclivities to all of humanity in general.

Some of the most vicious e-wars I’ve witnessed in the hallowed online battlefields (otherwise known as the blog comment areas) have been related to nothing more than how many carbs a person needs to eat compared to how many carbs the opponent *wants* to eat, and seemingly invariably ends with an uneasy stalemate of defensive projection, waiting to erupt again another day in response to some other vaguely related post. My position officially is that the vitality and health that a person feels on their own eating plan is personal to them, to their genetics, to their inclinations and to their own requirements. To be an honest proponent of Paleo it’s important, for both reasonability and credibility, to embrace the full range of natural human eating patterns that fall under the moniker and to treat them as equally valid expressions of healthful eating within our species. I regard the carbophiles, the lipophiles and everyone in between with equal enthusiasm. We may be on different teams, but we’re still all playing in the same league.

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Responses

  1. Great post 🙂

    I’ve found that I’ve been progressively eating less and less veg and fruit. I love my meat eggs and occassional cheese and heavy cream mmmm… I do like vegetables though and I probably will increase my intake of them once I no longer need to be in ketosis all the time. I do love knowing that my body isn’t running on carbs for fuel though, and I find that eating mostly fat and protein makes it difficult for me to overeat at all. Is there a risk of malnutrition from not eating carbs for an extended period of time though? Or is it perfectly healthy as long as you aren’t living off bacon alone?

  2. I certainly wouldn’t eat carnivore style if I thought it was unhealthy. I’ve technically been in keto regularly for years and I’ve never felt better. You’re not in any danger of malnutrition, especially if you eat vegetables regularly. For those people that want to “go carnivore” it’s necessary to eat the full range of the animal, including random offal, bone, etc. If people don’t naturally like those parts and simply can’t bring themselves to eat them, they would be doing themselves a disservice by cutting veggies out for sure.

  3. Well I’m definitely not scared of eating the bones, although the smell of my Dad’s dinner of liver as a kid has really put me off of organ meat, but I guess I should toughen up and try it. I know my other half won’t try it though, since he won’t even touch muscle meat if it’s on the bone. Sigh.

  4. “I guess I should toughen up and try it”

    By all means try it, for the experience and to really test what kind of creature you are…but don’t force yourself to stick with it if you really don’t like it. That was sort of the point of my original post, that we’re different animals with different inclinations, and one size most definitely does not fit all. 🙂

  5. as i was reading what your diet consists of, i realized that i pretty much eat the same as you do! Plenty of red meat, occasional organ meats (eg liver, heart and tongue), egg yolks, bone marrow and broth, with occasional butter, cream and fermented milk.
    I too, started out eating plenty of vegetables because i thought they were healthy, but they never really satisfied me, and as i became convinced veggies aren’t really essential, my intake dwindled. Now the only plant foods i eat are tiny amounts of herb, onion, garlic and olive oil to flavour my meat, and ive never felt better!

    • I have some very definite ideas about the healthfulness and appropriateness of carnivory for humans which I’ll be expounding in my next blog post. I’m not a proselytizer on the matter but alot of my future nutrition advocacy is going to be relative to the carnivore pattern so I want to lay that out pretty early on. I used to force myself to eat alot of fruits and vegetables simply because it “felt” like a Paleo thing to do and fit in with most of the literature on the matter. Then I scaled back to eating alot of greens. All those things ever did was cause my digestive tract to suffer. Pure carnivory is absolutely perfect for me.

  6. Not to troll, but the original paleo diet was high in starch.

    Here’s is a rant which argues that humans are best adapted to a diet high in starch.


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