Meat & Potatoes: Back on the Menu
Just in case you haven’t been paying attention lately, meat and potatoes are okay to eat again.
It’s a pretty comical situation, really. Meat and potatoes used to be the basic chow of every American – at a time when Americans were the healthiest and tallest people in the world.
I was a youngster in the 70’s and 80’s, and I can remember even then how if you ate meat and potatoes you were some kind of throwback – caveman, even. People would shake their heads and tsk, tsk, tsk. Doesn’t he know that meat is full of fat and that will lead to an early grave? Even back then we were already being indoctrinated into the fat phobic culture.
We all know now how badly that worked out. People didn’t get healthier, they got sicker. The “bad fat” got replaced by low fat junk food – Snackwells and such. That was the start of the obesity epidemic.
Then Atkins burst on the scene. It’s not the meat that’s bad it’s the potatoes. Potatoes are full of carbs and that will lead to an early grave. Same story, different scapegoat.
The only problem was those pesky Kitavans – living on their tropical island and mowing down on copious
amounts of roots and tubers and doing just dandy with it. The Adkins concept was better, but still didn’t explain all the observations.
So what have we learned here? Judging a food solely by its macronutrient composition is stupid. It’s hard to believe it has taken us 50 years to figure that out. We have good fats (saturated and omega-3’s) and bad fats (omega-6’s), good carbs (starch) and bad carbs (fructose), good proteins (meat) and bad proteins (gluten). It’s the quality of the macronutrient, not it’s classification, that makes it good or bad.
So does that mean everyone should be out there chowing down on potatoes? Unfortunately, no. Not because there is anything unhealthy about potatoes, but a lot of people cannot process dense carb sources in a healthy way. It ultimately depends on your activity level and metabolic status. Basically those carbs fuel your activity level. If you’re living a desk to couch lifestyle then either up your activity level or keep the intake low. You have to earn your carbs. If you have metabolic issues (read: abdominal fat) then you need to get that sorted out first since you are not processing carbs correctly. It ends up being shuttled to the fat tissue instead of being available as energy.
But if you are a lean, hard training athlete then go ahead and eat up. In fact, you NEED to. Without sufficient dietary carbohydrates your body will start scavenging protein to convert to glucose (a catabolic process) and your aerobic capacity will suffer without sufficient glucose to burn the fat.
Does this mean that fries and a Big Mac are recommended? Nope. That’s meat and potatoes in name only. It’s a meal featuring highly processed industrial food-like items, combined with gluten and soaked in omega-6 fat, so stay far far away. We’re all about food quality here. What I’m talking about is a homemade stew with a big joint of meat with potatoes, onions, and carrots in the mix. This is easy to make and kicks ass in every way possible as far as nutrition is concerned. And it’s cheap.
Here’s the kicker. Meat and potatoes is probably the most Paleo of all meals. While the men were out hunting the women were gathering. What were they gathering? More often than not, tubers. For the most part, fruits, nuts, and seeds are targets of seasonal opportunity. Because it’s a plant’s long term storage organ, tubers are always around. They can and did form the backbone of many hunter/gatherer diets.
It was this high nutrient density diet based on meat and tubers that made humans the high energy, big-brained masters-of-our-domain that we are today. It’s our heritage and it’s time we (re)embraced it.