I’ve come up with a new shade of Paleo- Blue Paleo! This is the safer way for people who want to get the benefits of raw Paleo without the ickiness of raw. Indeed you can even get sashimi cooked blue now- see below.
Robb Wolf’s blog post of 7 Shades of Paleo is a great list of the most common forms of Paleo diets. Of course, we all know that the ultimate for purists must be the Raw Paleo diet, though few of us would care to venture there. While we all eat fruit raw, and are comfortable eating most Paleo vegetables raw, it is a different matter when it comes to meat (using meat broadly to include meat, offal, fish, chicken etc). We like the security of cooking our meat as it zaps those little nuisances called bacteria, and perhaps we feel it is a little icky from years of social conditioning. Indeed in many countries it is essential to cook your meat and there is nothing you can do about it. Some countries even have tapeworms or pork trichinosis and it is essential not only to cook the meat but to make sure it is well done. However, many of us live in countries like Australia with strong government supervision of food safety where we can be more liberal.
Many of us have eaten raw meats such as sashimi, carpaccio, steak Tartare, oysters, clams and fish eggs. Perhaps you are eating more raw meat than you realised. The French are renowned for eating their steaks barely cooked, perhaps even quivering, but few are bold enough to venture down the hairy-chested road of full raw meat. I have toyed with the idea off and on for years. Indeed I have met some esteemed colleagues who eat raw Paleo (and who follow anapsology in France). These raw Paleo devotees rave about the health benefits and how wonderful they feel, and they look very healthy and energetic.
Scientific discussion of cooking focuses on its effects on bacteria count, digestibility etc, and doesn’t really make a great case for raw. Certainly scientists reject out of hand the notion that we need active enzymes etc in our food as they feel they are generally destroyed by our digestive processes. The most startling evidence in favour of a raw diet was Dr Francis Pottenger Jnr’s Cat experiment- he studied groups of cats fed cod liver oil, meat and milk. If either the meat or the milk were cooked, there were massive health consequences to the cats and their progeny that progressed each generation. Even plants did not grow well on their droppings!
But I keep being drawn back to the concept of raw meat, and here is why: At stages of our evolution we ate completely raw meats, followed by a period where we ate a mixture of raw and cooked meats, and eventually we ate only cooked meats (in many cultures and religions, always cooked well done). Rather than look for research to show that raw has benefits, I would like to reverse the question and ask “what are the consequences of cooking our food, particularly on our metabolism, immune system and our gut?” We don’t really know the answer to that so why not give it a try in planned and safe way.
With this in mind, I had planned to start trying some meat cooked blue- which is less cooked than rare- basically the outside is cooked (sterilised) and the inside is totally uncooked and still cool. The inside of meat should be sterile (however in some countries this cannot be guaranteed particularly for chicken), provided it is not minced or skewered (both unsuitable for blue cooking).
Cooking your meat blue:
- Kills bacteria on the outside of the meat
- Gives it the same look and colour as fully cooked meat
- Has a great mouth feel as it is very tender
- Tastes as good or better than fully cooked meat
- Will have 100% of the vitamin content without any degradation
- Will digest more slowly- both the protein and the fat, as cooking “externalises” some of the digestive process. This explains the observation that many people make that raw meat makes their appetite go away and that weight control happens automatically.
Recently I got to try a blue form of sashimi, called New Style Sashimi invented by famed chef Nobu Matsuhisa at his Nobu restaurant in Waikiki. He has a number of these restaurants and his partners include Robert de Niro. You can see how it is made here. Basically the fresh salmon sashimi (raw fish) is sliced thinly, dressed with various garnishes, and then he heats a mixture of sesame and olive oil, and spoons this over the food to cook its outside on the plate. I can tell you the taste is astonishing, as were the other dishes that my wife Sandra and I ate at Nobu!
Now that I am back in Sydney, the wonderful Nobu taste sensation has spurred me on to finally start on a Blue Paleo diet- so this week it has been all blue meat, mainly lamb, and a few vegetables and a small amount of fruit. I also went low salt for the first time (I should have done so years ago, apologies to my friend the late great Dr Trevor Beard www.saltmatters.org ). Where has my appetite gone? I’ve been mainly cooking in a fry pan, with olive oil, to ensure coating of the meat- such as diced lamb, lamb cutlets, or beef steak. Once the outside has been browned, that’s it. You can look at Google for more on blue steak.
I can only say that if you have been tempted to try raw, just go Blue!
Disclaimer: Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish, or eggs may increase your risk of food-borne illness, particularly in the elderly, in children and those with immunosuppression or chronic diseases such as gut diseases, diabetes or renal impairment. The risk may be worse in certain countries. If you are unsure, consult your doctor prior to changing your eating habits.
Interesting facts. I spent time on thinking about paleolithic diet, but I think it’s time to do a little research about it. I would never be able to eat raw meat. I always cook it as long as it doesn’t burn.
Dear Ben, I need some advice. I am a paleo eating GP registrar. I cannot bring myself to tell my patients to eat more whole grains. How do you advise your patients? I came across your blog after meeting your cousin at then AAD where I work. He is looking slim!