A reader email this morning with an important question I ought to address here.
Let me preface this by saying I'm just starting out on my Paleo/Primal journey. I am also terrible at wading my way through scientific studies, and have the kind of luck where I think I've got something covered, and then some other group of studies pops up and I'm on my ass again. In short: as a layman I tend to steer clear of grand scientific statements, like "fat is good/bad" for fear of sounding like an ass. [...]
However, I come across things like this. [A discussion on Mark Sisson's forum as to whether too much fat can be bad. -Ed]
And I'm more than a little lost. This guy seems to have a rather solid case that one group, who I thought were a prime example of what a good diet could be like, actually have serious health problems. Things like this always leave me worrying that I don't have my ass covered on the data here and, well, I just worry that I might have made a mistake and end up paying for it 20-30 years down the line. [...]
I am serious about committing myself to a diet, even it means a major overhaul, but only if it's right. I just think it's obvious, given what we know about diabetes as well as what man's body is designed to handle, that anything which is basically sugar must be avoided, so it didn't take much to convince me to give these up... but going the other way, determining what I ought to eat has been a lot harder to figure out. [...]
Do you recommend any method for really going about learning to integrate all this data about and learning what is right? I fear that, because I only come across scientific articles from what you and people like Mark recommend, that I'm getting a biased perspective, and not getting a really good, overall view of the data.
Have you read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Taubes? In that book and others (like The Great Cholesterol Con by Colpo) much in the way of studies that supposedly support the "lipid hypothesis" are cited. It should not be difficult to find studies that support conventional wisdom. Just look at the news outlets regularly.
Well I read that whole thread and was quickly reminded why I don't generally partake in such discussions any longer. Yep, I think both the Kitavan diet of 70% natural carbs and the Inuit diet of 80% natural fats are extremes on both ends of the spectrum, are likely both healthful, but, as extremes, are probably not optimal.
I think a person does well to just eat real food better than 90% of the time and don't worry and obsess about it. And, I think that what one likes to eat is something that changes -- ebbs & flows -- over time. Initially, I was big on lots of protein (big steaks). However, since getting better and better at the tasty, fatty sauces I make, I'm eating less protein and I feel fine. Sometimes I like veggies, and then I'll go periods where by the time my fat & meat are eaten (often I end up leaving food) I have no appetite for veggies -- and besides, I often skip the veggies altogether in preference for a couple of enormous teaspoons of full fate Fage yogurt with a few berries, cherries and/or nuts.
I have absolutely no idea -- I have never had an idea -- what my macronutrient ratios are beyond knowing my carbs are relatively low, my fat relatively high, and I'm getting enough protein. I have no interest in knowing specifics beyond that. The more variety and randomness in my diet, the better. I never count anything, never measure anything, and I never will. I tried FitDay for about 2-3 days once and promptly concluded that it was an enormous waste of time, and boring to boot.
Seriously, it absolutely drives me nuts, sometimes, the BLATANT OBSESSION going on out there, and it's certainly not helpful for you and other newbies to the paleo / primal / evfit scene.
For a great book on diet that I'm currently reading, check out Nora Gedgaudas' Primal Body Primal Mind. While Mark's Primal Blueprint is indeed excellent and everyone should read it, it's more of a total lifestyle work, whereas the former is a body and mind integration focused on nutrient intake.
I hope that helps. Don't let people freak you out. This all makes sense and it would be extremely odd if it didn't (make sure to read Part II of my Saturated Fat series that should go up later today or tomorrow). Eat Real Food -- as much or as little as you desire, when you desire, and sometimes eat nothing and sometimes pig out, even on natural carbs.