Spoiler Alert: The Paleo Diet comes in as Numero Uno.
If you aren’t familiar with Google Zeitgeist, it is a statistics report done by Google based on millions of searches of a given period of time. The following is a list of the Top 10 Diet Trends of 2013 according to Google Zeitgeist:
1. Paleo Diet: Using the Paleolithic Period as a template for which to draw our dietary choices from, Paleo Diet adherents consume Meat, Seafood, Nuts, Fruits, and Berries (Human food in the Paleolithic) while eschewing grains and pseudograins, legumes, and dairy (Human food in the Neolithic). Though the AHA swears we are all going to die from heart disease and the Academy of Dietetics suggests that excluding whole grains, legumes, and dairy is going to make us all calcium and Vitamin D deficient— we aren’t dropping dead like flies. Nope! However, The Paleo Diet trend continues to grow exponentially.
2. Juice Cleanse Diet: This is a diet that requires a person to consume only fruit and vegetable juices to obtain nutrition, abstaining from solid food. Juice cleanse diets are designed to span from a few days to several weeks. Juice Cleanse Diets can instigate autophagy, and may explain the purported psychological boosts that some experience. The same could be experienced from eating the whole fruit or vegetable itself, but then there’d be no free fruit and vegetable pulp for me to tell chicken farmers to pick up from Raw Vegan Juice Bars.
3. Mediterranean Diet: Long known for it’s health benefits, the Mediterranean Diet differs from region to region, but the principal aspects include high consumption of olive oil, lard, meats, seafood, vegetables, fermented dairy products like yogurt and cheese, legumes and cereals. It is often suggested that the Mediterranean diet is similar to a vegetarian diet. In my experience, this is remarkably false reporting. My stint in Mediterranean countries involved inordinate amounts of meat and seafood. Inordinate.
4. Master Cleanse Diet: Similar to the Juice Cleanse Diet, the Master Cleanse is a short-term juice fast that doesn’t permit food and involves consuming tea or lemonade mixed with maple syrup and cayenne pepper. The Master Cleanse is often used by some for it’s purported “detoxification” properties, so the Master Cleanse is a dietary equivalent of going to confession and purifying your body of past “sins”.
5. Ketogenic Diet: A nutritional therapy that is used primarily to treat conditions such as Schizophrenia, Epilepsy, and Cancer by consuming a high-fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrate diet. In the 1960s, Nobel Laureate and biochemist Otto Warburg theorized that cancer was a metabolic disease that could be treated just as effectively with a ketogenic diet as mainstream (and now antiquated) cancer treatments. Perhaps the internet-educated are now rediscovering his previously squandered metabolic theories of cancer— a stark contrast to the prevailing somatic mutation theory dogma in cancer research today. Thanks Google!
6. Okinawa Diet: Japanese people are more likely to become centenarians than anyone else in the world, and much of this life-prolonging success is attributed their diets. A typical Okinawan diet consists of sweet potatoes, rice, vegetables, fermented soy products, seaweed, and an average of of three servings of fish a week, along with squid, and octopus. The anti-inflammatory Tumeric and Jasmine tea are also consumed often in this region, but according to Dr. Oz, the Okinawans (and other centenarians) have a low-meat or vegan diet to thank for their famed longevity.
7. Omnivore Diet: An omnivore is an animal that eats food of both plant and animal origin. To be honest, I am quite surprised that this has shown up on Google’s Zeitgeist list. The only hope I’d have for humanity is that there was some 8th grade project that required every English-speaking 13 year old to Google that. Or perhaps, Paleo people Googled it to post to their walls in an act of defiance against vegan adversaries? I’m grasping at straws here, folks. But there you have it, the Omnivore Diet.
8. Fruitarian Diet: A dietary regimen that is almost exactly what it sounds like, the vast majority of the diet comes from fruit, but also includes vegetables, nuts, and seeds, legumes and grains. There are several varieties of the diet, one ethical approach to the diet includes only eating foods that can be harvested without killing or harming a plant. Those that follow this ideological approach to diet eschew grains and legumes. Steve Jobs was perhaps the most famous fruitarian of all, who ultimately met his demise from fructose-mediated, pancreatic cancer. God Rest His Soul (of course I type this on my Macbook).
9. Pescetarian Diet: The dietary regimen that includes vegetables, fruit, nuts, grains, beans, eggs, and fish… but “not the flesh of other animals.” Many adherents turn to a pescetarian diet to avoid ethical issues of animal cruelty and avoid red meat. If executed properly, there can be several health benefits to a pescetarian diet, ranging from improved intake of Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin D, Vitamin K2, and iodine.
10. Flexitarian Diet: Flexitarian is a marriage of the words flexible and vegetarian. The idea behind the flexitarian diet is to be a vegetarian most of the time, but eat a burger or a steak when “the urge hits” so that you can still reap the health benefits of being a vegetarian. So if you’re Paleo and Flexible you’re plexible. Or Flaleo. “I had an urge to eat an entire pie by myself, I am being plexible” certainly sounds better than “I cheated.” Personally, I think being “plexible” helps keep people sane and I like the Flexitarian Diet approach… probably because it involves eating steak.
As exciting (and perhaps promising) as this may be, we still have quite a few barricades to mainstream acceptance.
For instance, a panel of health experts at U.S. News evaluated and ranked 29 diets based on their easiness to follow, health benefits, and effectiveness at protecting against diabetes and heart disease. Of course, the government endorsed DASH (Dietary Approaches to stop Hypertension) Diet ranked highest on their list. In fact, the Paleo Diet only beat out the Dukan Diet in their ranking system, meaning that Weight Watchers, Atkins, SlimFast, and even the Flexitarian Diet got better scores when assessed by the health panel.
The main complaints by the health experts at U.S. News include cutting out entire food groups, breadless sandwiches, and having your milk and cookies without milk or cookies. No, I did not make bit of comedic gold up. Also, the panel at U.S. News declared that Paleo is dangerously low-carb because our total carbohydrate intake is far below the government’s recommendations of 45 to 65% and stands at only 23%. Well, a few sweet potatoes should fix that, right? Right.
And this isn’t just U.S. News that considers our pre-agricultural diet to be dangerous.
There are several other barriers to mainstream entry, like the federal food guidelines, social norms, and the fact that some Neolithic foods are simply woven into the fabric of our traditions and cultures. And lest I forget, the hyper-palatability of some of these foods. It is quite possible that we may never gain mainstream acceptance, but that isn’t necessarily the goal for most of us.
Most of us simply want to look better naked, become better athletes, and escape the food and sick-care systems which we fell through the cracks of. This may not be what motivates the rest of the world to jump on board, but as obesity skyrockets and that biological predisposition to procreate (here’s where that desire to look good naked comes in handy) kicks in, those Before and After Paleo pictures are sure to lure in the unsuspecting SAD eater.
And don’t forget, as the healthy distrust of medical practitioners’ advice grows, and the bureaucrat-concocted food guidelines raise more eyebrows… more people will search for more information about the Paleo Diet. We may have a fighting chance.
Especially in the age of information Google.
Karen Pendergrass is an ENTP who is an enthusiast in a myriad of areas including Agricultural Sustainability, Food Politics, Applications of Bacteriotherapy, Autoimmunity, Color Theory, Hard Determinism, Social Technologies, and Social Engineering. She is the Founder of the Paleo Foundation, the International Paleo Movement Group (IPMG), author of the not-yet-published Sustainability Diet, and Founder of DinnerCrasher.com.