Review: The Paleo Manifesto

Recently, I was perusing the shelves in my local library, and I happened upon The Paleo Manifesto by John Durant. As a dietitian hopeful, I know I need to keep up to date on new nutrition trends. Obviously, I am a bit behind, since Pinterest has already got a special search function for Paleo recipes. I thought, What the heck, and checked it out.

In general, the book is very interesting and well-researched (though I disagree on the part about grains as of yet). There are so many interesting studies I need to look into–from fasting’s anti-cancer benefits, to opiates in wheat, to sun-exposure preventing cancer, there are tons of things I can’t wait to dig into. The book begins by explaining ailments that animals experience when in captivity and goes on to explain an interesting take on Moses as the first microbiologist. Durant’s arguments are very thought-provoking from both an evolutionary and nutritional point of view.

Most importantly, Durant explained the Paleo lifestyle simply. He recommends traditional fats (hello, pork belly, a.k.a. unprocessed bacon); eating properly raised meat, eggs, seafood, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and tubers; eating “nose to tail” when you do eat animals (i.e, don’t forget the organ meats!); following ancient culinary practices (they’ve lasted this long for a reason); and cutting out the processed stuff. He describes Paleo as a lifestyle, and recommends exercise (especially Crossfit), taking advantage of fluctuating temperatures (from Polar Bear swims to saunas), and getting lots of sunlight.

There are inconsistencies, though. For instance, Durant recommends eating nuts (though, not in large quantities), but they have a ton of phytic acid, one of the reasons Durant emphatically recommends avoiding grains, seeds, and legumes. Like I said, I don’t think I agree with the Paleo stance on grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. I feel like this part of the book could have at least offered some counterarguments and dispelled them rather than never addressing the opposition.

Durant draws interesting lines between Paleolithic, Agricultural, Industrial, and Digital ages, identifying important changes to the food system and human lifestyles in each age. While both Paleolithic and Agricultural Ages have their benefits, the Industrial Age is painted as a pretty dismal change in our food system. He appears optimistic about the Digital Age, though, and offers ideas about improving our food systems’ sustainability. For instance, eating invasive species, doing our best to eat locally, and getting involved in where our food comes from (by growing it, hunting it, and cooking it ourselves to the best of our abilities).

Overall, I liked The Paleo Manifesto–it was interesting, it gave me lots of things to think about, and it answered my general questions about the Paleo lifestyle. I would recommend this book for people interested in the science behind our traditional life and for most of the food and lifestyle recommendations. Ultimately, living the Paleo lifestyle is not a bad choice in most regards (and you could do much worse, as many Americans on the industrial Western Diet do).

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