“Moderation in all things” may be good dietary advice, but can you make videos, books, and classes based on that advice? Probably. But would they be best sellers like the Atkins diet, or proclaiming (insert food name here) as the new “superfood? How about identifying foods high in (insert gluten, carbohydrates or gluten) to avoid in favor of foods high in protein?
Matt Fitzgerald’s book Diet Cults examines the fads, the proclaiming of certain ingredients as bette noir and the identifying of certain foods to be latest manna from heaven.
Fitzgerald, though not a certified Dietician, is a certified Sports Nutritionist. He has studied and written about nutrition, mostly as it relates to running. His previous books includes The Endurance Diet: Discover the 5 Core Habits of the World’s Greatest Athletes to Look, Feel, and Perform Better, and Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance (The Racing Weight Series. His book on including more long runs in your running workout, 80/20 Running is worth reading. I’m sure that as a runner he’s probably seen a lot of interesting signs during his races. No doubt he’s probably seen the one that says “Rule 1: Poop First. Rule 2 Run”. This would be hard to observe if Fitzgerald was a proponent of the Paleo diet. He isn’t. Diet Cults examines Paleo.
Paleo diet creator Loren Cordain had no formal training as an evolutionary biologist or a paleo biologist. Yet she prescribed a diet wherein fifty percent of the intake would be meat, to not eat grains and no legumes such as peanuts. Why? Because, as she claimed, our paleolithic ancestors ate like that. Wrong.
Fitzgerald points out that there was no way to determine a set amount of meat consumption during the Paleolithic era. It varied from place to place. Also, there was evidence that Neanderthals and Paleolithic people made tools to grind grains, and that there was forensic dental evidence that people ate barley and grains. But did they eat lettuce? No. Wild lettuce was bitter and full of latex, which made it undigestible. No salads for the Neanderthals. Successive cross-breading and domestication removed the latex. Would that make lettuce the new “superfood”? Compared to kale? Nah.
Fitzgerald notes that people have been using the term “superfood” for a long time – even before the days when people started going gaga over kale. A 1949 article about a muffin in the Lethbridge Herald, a Canadian newspaper trumpeted the nutritional values of a certain type of muffin which supposedly contained all the known – and unknown! – vitamins in the world. More recently Goji berries and Aloe Vera have been labeled superfood. Now Aloe Vera may be good to spread on your skin if you get sunburned, but eating it is not advised. It has latex, which is carcinogenic. But what the heck IS a superfood? Has any organization, such as the FDA, formulated criteria for classifying certain foods as “superfoods”? Not that I know of. “Superfoods”, has an Alice-In-Wonderland quality to it. It means whatever the speaker wants it to mean.
All right, you wonder, if Fitzgerald has poked holes in the Paleo diet, the Atkins diet, the Raw Food eaters, and the gluten avoiders, what should you eat. In the appendixes, Fitzgerald gives suggestions, not prescriptions. His “Agnostic Eating” tables do give priority to fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and certain oils. However, there is no finger-wagging if you consume some sweets, some alcohol, or some fried foods. They’re a low priority but go ahead. Remember….wait for it…moderation in all things.