Expat Magazine

The Paleo Diet: Is Vegetarianism Meal Planning Everything It’s Cracked Up to Be?

By Expatdoctormom1 @ExpatDoctorMom

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Maintaining an environmentally friendly diet has become readily accessible through growing amounts of farmers’ markets and organic grocers. Now, health-nuts and foodies alike are going green in their meal planning. This eco-friendly diet includes the minimization of meat-intake because, of course, meats have significantly larger carbon footprints than grains, veggies, nuts, and beans. For the past decade, our society seemed to be turning away from the once meaty-culture to a vegan and vegetarian peoples. So why, then, has pork demand reached a national record high? Bacon and pulled pork sandwiches have become a staple of high-end restaurants — doubtlessly repulsing the environmentally-conscious eater.

One major reason for our newly revived love affair with meat is the popularization of the “Paleo Diet.” So, what is the Paleo Diet? And why has it seen so much success? Read on to find out.

The Paleo Diet in a (Macadamia) Nutshell

The Paleo Diet, also called the “Caveman Diet” is one that emphasize protein and minimizes carbohydrates, modeling itself after the diet of the Paleolithic Era. Some guidelines of the Paleo diet:

-  Oils are restricted to those from fruits or tree nuts

-  Salt should be limited

-  Meat, chicken, fish, nuts (except peanuts and cashews), and eggs provide protein

-  One cannot eat grains, sugar, dairy products, or potatoes

-  Berry and vegetable intake should be increased

Why People are Eating like Cavemen

- The Paleo diet minimizes highly processed food, like foods with added sugar and salt

-  According to the New England Journal of Medicine, “low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets [are] more effective in promoting weight loss than time-honored, low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets advocated by the American Heart Association”

-  This diet advocates high amounts of natural fiber, which reduces chance of constipation, lowers cholesterol, and lower risk of coronary heart disease and diabetes

Is Meat Really So Bad For the Environment?

So the Paleo Diet may have you wondering, “Should I be eating more meat?” In spite of claims that meat is horrible for the environment, some studies have shown otherwise. Some claim:

-  Grass-fed livestock is an essential part of the sustainable agriculture, “Manure revitalizes soil (in lieu of chemical fertilizers or chipped-in compost), and grazing encourages plant growth.”

-  The growing popularity of soy, a staple of vegetarian diets, is responsible for intense deforestation in Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay and is often heavily processed.

-  Cheese is worse for the environment than many meats, including pork and chicken.

-   According to Christopher Weber and H. Scott Matthews’ study, fruits, vegetables, and cereals produce more greenhouse gas emissions from transport than those from red meat, chicken, or fish.

While the Paleo Diet does not market itself as an environmentally friendly diet, it is in many ways encouraging sustainability by emphasizing the importance of fresh foods (no processed, frozen, or prepackaged foods), nuts (aside from peanuts), seeds, and other low environmental-impact foods while encouraging a push away from high-fat and environmentally detrimental beef. Even if you don’t see the Paleo diet as “eco-friendly,” this new lifstyle choice is urging us to think critically about our food and question our nutritional intake. And there’s nothing wrong with that, right?

Sean K is a guest blog content writer on the subjects of health and lifestyle.  This is an informative piece that he wrote on the Paleo Diet.


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