Month: November 2016

Do Sardines Have Health Benefits?

One question some people have asked is if sardines have health benefits, especiallyy linked towards the paleo diet.

One of my most vivid memories of elementary school is of sitting in one of our incredibly cramped, 20-person classrooms and eating lunch with friends. They’d be munching on zebra cakes and I would, with an excited smile, pop the lid off my little bin of sardines.

Apparently the smell of fish was less favorable to the 8-year-olds than the sweet aroma of those zebra cakes, because more often than not, I’d look up from my sardines to find myself sitting all alone.

What are Sardines?

I think part of the problem was that no one really knew what a sardine was—a small, whole fish also known as a pilchard. Belonging to the herring family, sardines are rather tiny, oily fish that you can buy fresh or in a can.

Because people tend not to eat whole animals anymore, the sardines were probably a bit off-putting to my classmates. Yet how I loved them so!

Are Sardines Healthy?

The truth of the matter is that sardines are a very resilient fish, and their size is a big factor in whether or not they are toxic.

Sardines are quite small, which means that they tend not to absorb the same amount of toxins as larger fish. In fact, the Environmental Defense Fund lists sardines as some of the least-toxic fish you can eat.

Their mercury content is low, and these little fish are packed with not only a huge helping of omega-3s but also more than 100% of your daily recommended serving of vitamin B12! Vitamin B12 is responsible for keeping nerves and blood cells healthy, and it’s also extremely important for making DNA, so getting a whole bunch of it certainly isn’t a bad thing!

In addition, sardines are packed with vitamin D, which is one of the easiest nutrients to become deficient in nowadays—with people spending so much time inside, getting this vital nutrient from the sun is becoming harder and harder. Thankfully, sardines are one of the best foods for boosting your vitamin D.

Because sardines are low in toxicity and mercury, packed with nutrients, and cheap to boot, it seems like they may be a good addition to a Paleo lifestyle.

What do other Paleo gurus say?

Mark Sisson says: “As for those species that offer both high omega-3s and low toxin risk, here are some budget-friendly samplings: light tuna, anchovies, sardines, Atlantic herring, and Atlantic mackerel. These species are generally wild caught. Because they’re tiny and low on the food chain, tiny fish [like sardines] will be largely free of the heavy metals other, larger fish tend to accumulate.”

Sébastien Noël says: “The next time you’re passing through the canned fish aisle, look a shelf above the cans of salmon, and consider the sardines as well. They’re convenient as a quick snack to throw into your purse or car, and…they provide a lot [of] nutrition.”

Are Sardines Paleo?

Definitely!

Sardines are a great source of many vitamins and minerals with very little toxicity. They’re small and cheap, and while you can eat them out of a can, be sure to choose wholesome varieties—sardines in water or olive oil are better than sardines in, say, mustard or soybean oil. Be sure to check ingredient labels, and enjoy your little fish! It’s okay, you can eat the bones too.

Issue No. 38

Is Beer Paleo?

Almost anywhere you go in the world, one thing you’re likely to be able to find is beer, but is beer paleo?

In fact, that’s one of the beer’s largest draws—it can be fun to try to sample as many exotic varieties and microbrews as you can find.

What Is Beer, Anyway?

Beer is one of the oldest drinks in human history, dating back more than 7,000 years to ale, its most ancient form. In fact, some historians credit the making of beer as humanity’s first step toward technological advancement, since water wasn’t always safe to drink.

For the most part, beer is made from fermented barley. And unlike a drink like whiskey, beer isn’t distilled, so it still contains many of the proteins and other components of the food that is fermented.
Increasingly, there are beers made from other fermented foods, but still, the great majority is made from barley.

Is Beer Healthy?

Believe it or not, there are possible health benefits to beer.

Beer has a big tendency to bring people together in fun social settings, and there is little doubt that hanging out with friends, relaxing, and laughing are all extremely healthy activities. And there is also no arguing with the overwhelming evidence that beer is chock full of B vitamins, particularly B3, B6, and B9, because of the yeast content.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that barley—which constitutes most beers—brings the same damage to our guts as we could expect from other gluten-containing grains like wheat. That means inflammation, disruption of gut flora, and all those nasties that arise from the gluten content of beer.

In addition, hops (a standard beer ingredient) is a huge source of phytoestrogens—the same toxin that makes eating soy not such a great idea because of the way the chemical reacts with our estrogen receptors.
Most importantly, however, we can’t forget about the alcohol. Alcohol is, plain and simple, a toxin, and the effect of alcohol on the brain is irrefutable.

So we’ve got some nice B vitamins in beer, but we’ve also got some toxins to worry about; where does that leave us?
Well, as far as researchers have learned, the evidence tends in one direction. Studies show that beer can do some strange things in our bodies, like making us more prone to passive overeating (when we eat way too much because it’s just there) and disrupting our natural sleep cycles. Beer has also been shown to increase the chances of developing multiple types of cancer, too. And it’s fairly well known that alcohol can have a negative impact on the liver.

It seems, then, that beer isn’t such a friendly drink after all, and Paleo experts tend to agree.

What do other Paleo gurus say?

Mark Sisson says: “Overall, beers are pretty unPrimal. But if you can drink them without ill effect, I don’t think the occasional glass or bottle will do you much harm. Celiacs and gluten-sensitive should definitely steer clear, or opt for wine, cider, or other choices.”

The Paleo Mom says: “[If you’re working on autoimmune issues] make sure to stay away from any grain-based alcohols though, especially beer and ale which contain gluten. Alcohol is not good for anyone dealing with leaky gut issues. However, an occasional drink…is probably okay. Cooking with alcohol is also probably okay for most people, even if you don’t tolerate an actual drink. But once again, I do urge caution as you experiment to find where your individual line is.”

Is Beer Paleo?

No.

Beer is not Paleo, but remember that quantity and quality are also key here. Non-alcoholic gluten-free beers (they do exist, though they’re rare) are fine, and an occasional sip here and there isn’t going to decimate your body. However, one of the dangers of beer is that it is addictive—more so than marijuana, studies say. So because the negatives outweigh the positives by a longshot, why not just avoid beer and go for a nice, relaxing cup of your favorite Paleo drink?

Issue No. 38

Photo by Miss Dilettante

Is Tuna Paleo?

 

Until 2013 (when salmon surged ahead), tuna was the second-most popular seafood consumed in the U.S. and it’s not only in the U.S. that tuna is a favorite, so what’s the deal is tuna paleo or not?

If you’ve ever been to a sushi restaurant, you’ve likely noticed that some of the most common cuts of sashimi are maguro and toro—in other words, types of tuna.

Fish is regularly touted as a very nutritious food, but it’s also common to hear warnings about certain seafood, including tuna.

So should you regularly consume tuna?

Is Tuna Healthy?

The main concern I hear about tuna is its mercury content.

Mercury poisoning is a scary thought, and we’ve all heard about the dangers of playing with old thermometers. Studies have shown that in rats and other animals, a diet excessively high in mercury can lead to stunted growth, deformed limbs, and mental disease.

However, the mercury concern in tuna (and in fish in general) is very much overstated, except in certain circumstances.

I won’t go into a great deal of detail in this article, but the short version is this: No good studies have ever shown any problem with eating seafood “high” in mercury other than a few species of shark and whale, or fish from polluted areas. The reason that these certain cases exist is that mercury’s harmful effects occur when it is in excess of selenium. And for almost all seafood (including tuna), selenium is higher than mercury.

If you want to read more on this issue, check out Chris Kresser’s great article.

On the other hand, tuna has many nutritious qualities that make consumption a great idea. It tends to be high in omega-3s, which are great anti-inflammatories that have shown tendencies to reduce heart disease and high blood pressure, in addition to calming down allergies and asthma.

Even better, tuna is rich in selenium, a nutrient that helps to normalize our bodies—it regulates our thyroid and hormones, assists with DNA synthesis, and protects our bodies from oxidative damage and infection.

And just generally, tuna is very dense in vitamins and minerals, something that we should frankly care a lot more about in our foods.

What Do Other Paleo Experts Say?

Robb Wolf says: “Maintaining adequate levels of selenium can protect us from mercury toxicity by binding to mercury as well as protecting us from oxidative damage. On top of that, the fish consumed by humans (except for the Mako shark and possibly some species of whales) contain more selenium than mercury. This makes it safe to get all the positive health aspects associated with eating fish 1-2 times per week.”

Mark Sisson says: “Tuna is tasty, especially the steaks, and it’s a decent source of omega-3s, but the mercury content can’t be ignored. Avoid if you are pregnant, nursing, or a small child, and don’t make tuna of any kind a daily staple. Look for troll and pole-caught tuna over longline-caught tuna, as the former tend to run smaller and accumulate fewer contaminants than the latter.”

Is Tuna Paleo?

Yes!

Issue No. 39

Photo by nedrichards

Is Coconut Milk Paleo?

Coconut milk photo
Photo by simpleprovisions

Is Coconut Milk Paleo?

Coconut milk has a few misconceptions swirling around the evolutionary foodie-verse about it— both about what it actually is and is coconut milk Paleo friendly. Many think that coconut milk is the liquid inside a fresh coconut (that’s actually coconut water), but the milk is actually a prepared beverage. Made by mixing shredded coconut and water, the mixture is simmered, strained and squeezed to create the rich, creamy drink we call coconut milk.

Found in both cans and cartons, not all coconut milks are created equally. While a can of pure coconut milk sporting an ingredient list of coconut and water is pretty clear on where it falls on the Paleo spectrum, there are other health factors to consider. If it’s in a can, BPA (Bisphenol-A), a component of the can’s metal lining, can potentially leach into the milk. BPA has been found to have estrogenic activity and has been linked to a role in a host of diseases, from diabetes to cancer. Look for brands that are BPA-free.

Additionally, many companies turn out milk with not-so-nice additives and ingredients. Some add in thickeners, gums or carrageenan, which can cause digestive problems, especially for those with compromised gastrointestinal systems.

Coconut milk in cartons can fall even farther away from a clean ingredient list, prompting it to be called a “coconut beverage. ” Many companies turning out coconut milk in cartons sweeten it, flavor it and add thickeners — not the real deal when it comes to coconut milk.

To avoid any additives or ingredients that might cause issues, many Paleo advocates recommend making your own. Try using shredded dried coconut and mix it with water to create your own coconut milk.

So, is it Paleo?

If you make your own from just coconut meat and water, then the answer is a resounding yes. Things get murky, however, when choosing store-bought brands. Depending on ingredients and personal preference in avoiding BPA’s, it can be a bit of a judgment call on what type of coconut milk is acceptable on a Paleo regimen.

What do the Paleo gurus say?

Chris Kresser says: “Coconut milk is often a staple fat source for those following a Paleo diet. From a nutritional perspective, it’s an excellent choice.” However, he cautions that “Women who are trying to get pregnant, are pregnant or breastfeeding, children and other vulnerable populations (chronically ill) should avoid canned coconut milk products except for those that are BPA-free. Healthy people may be fine with canned coconut milk, provided they don’t react to the guar gum and provided they’re willing to take the side of industry scientists that claim BPA doesn’t cause harm in humans.”

Stephanie Greunke, RD (and member of Robb Wolf’s RD consulting team) says: “I’ve read countless recipes that list coconut milk as an ingredient and want to make sure that people realize coconut milk means just that – coconut milk in the can, prepared from a whole coconut, or shredded coconut mixed and prepared with water. While a multitude of companies is coming out with their own version of coconut milk by the quart and half a gallon, these new innovations are truly coconut beverages, not milk. In short, do not use the coconut milk beverages in your recipes.”

Mark Sisson says: “If you find yourself holed up in a dingy Albuquerque motel room littered with empty tetra-paks of Aroy-D, you’ve got a problem. Other than that, as long as you’re not gaining unwanted body fat, or drinking so much that it displaces other, more nutrient-dense foods in your diet, you’re probably fine. ”

Conclusion?

Yes, coconut milk is Paleo-acceptable. But watch where it comes from and what’s in it, what it’s called and how often you drink it to ensure that it’s a healthy addition to your diet.

Issue No. 23

Why Alcohol Is Paleo?

Why is alcohol Paleo? The basic premise of leading a Paleo lifestyle is to remove all processed foods and eliminate toxins from your body. This being said, alcohol is technically not paleo; it is both heavily processed and a toxin. A lot of people who have made the switch to a paleo lifestyle, do so more in a new aged way. The first thing that they alter the original paleo diet is the allowance of alcohol consumption. But under what premise do they convince themselves that alcohol should be considered Paleo or at least a part of their paleo lifestyle despite the toxins in it?

Socialization

Typically speaking, the hardest part of eliminating alcohol from your life completely, is your social life. Going out to have a drink with friends or having a bottle of wine when you are gathering with family for the holidays, is about so much more than consuming alcohol. It has become a part of our natural bonding process. Many people find that when they switch to a paleo lifestyle, it can have an adverse effect on their social life. Going out to eat or to dinners with friends becomes a challenge. Choosing to leave the alcohol in their diet gives them their means of socialization and relaxation with the ones they cherish most.

Choosing the most “Paleo” Alcohol

While choosing to continue to consume alcohol, even after making the switch to a paleo lifestyle, may seem like you are throwing caution to the wind and ignoring the toxins going into your body; people still tend to search for the lesser of the evils.  Beer is easily at the very bottom of the list of items that could ever be considered paleo. It is made from barley, hops, and wheat; a big paleo don’t.  While wine makes a more compelling argument for its paleo qualities. After all, it is made from fruit. Wine is considered to be the closest thing to paleo alcohol but similar to beer, it is fermented with sugar and starch, typically found in fruits. Spirits like vodka and whiskey, are also put through a fermentation process involving grains and are then distilled. The biggest issue with spirits is the amount of gluten found in them. While the distilling process removes a great deal of the gluten, this would still be a major issue for someone who switched to a paleo lifestyle for the purpose of being gluten-free.

Possibly the most popular alcohol option for paleo lifestyle is hard cider. It is fermented and typically made from pears and apples; it is also available gluten-free. Hard cider is the one alcohol that is considered to be paleo, though some hard ciders are not. You should always read the label and check for added sugar of the brand on hard cider before purchasing it. Hard cider is also available in organic options and sugar-free option. While hard cider is made from paleo-friendly ingredients, it is still a toxin. Alcohol is not only bad for your liver, it is addictive, can cause your body to prioritize detoxification over nutrients, can affect your blood sugar, and it is dehydrating.

Is Alcohol Really Paleo Friendly?

The bottom line is that; alcohol is not paleo in any form. Though some forms are far better for you than others, it is still toxic to your body. Choosing to consume alcohol even though it doesn’t meet paleo guidelines is completely a personal choice. But if you are focused on healing your body from the inside out and only putting what’s good for you into it, it’s a toxin and toxic for your body and health just like processed snack foods that you have probably been dreaming about for some time. The question is, Is it worth it to you for the sake of socialization?

Is Chicken Paleo?

Chicken meal photo

Ah, those chicken wings—as a staple of the American diet, you can find them nearly everywhere: from restaurants to family get-togethers to big-game Sundays, but is chicken paleo? Health-conscious people are eager to tout the goodness of chicken as an alternative to red meat and as a delicious source of protein. But is chicken really all that nutritious, or does it have toxins that should make Paleo dieters wary?

Chickens are raised in a variety of ways throughout the country, with the most common suppliers of chicken growing grain-fed farmed birds in large quantities. These chickens are raised quickly on a predetermined diet and health plan that includes medications and little exercise. Other sources of chicken give the bird free range and allow them to scavenge, feeding themselves on bugs and whatever else they can find. These birds are markedly different from the chickens produced by large companies, and all of this difference can make it difficult to decide if chicken really should be a Paleo choice.

So, is it Paleo?

Chicken meat varies greatly in its nutritional profile depending on what sort of chicken you’re eating. Toxins abound in non-pastured chicken meat; these chickens were raised on a diet of grain and were given antibiotics to keep them healthy because of the insufficiency of their diets. Needless to say, eating an antibiotic-laced chicken will have some negative consequences for you, too. In fact, this study explores how arsenic is used to help chickens to grow quickly. Arsenic is that mineral used to make glass and wood preservatives. And if the chickens are getting arsenic, you probably are too.

On the other hand, chickens raised in pastured farms are rich in vitamin E and folic acid, which helps to prevent anemia and increases the gut’s ability to absorb nutrients. Chickens that are not on a grain-based diet also have a much healthier omega-3/omega-6 ratio, which enables our bodies to process these fatty acids much more efficiently—the way nature intended. Many pastured chickens are antibiotic-free and will be labeled as such.

Because chicken seems to be a nutritious option if it’s bought from the right source, Paleo experts agree that chicken is a great part of a Paleo diet. Despite its nutrition benefits and versatile uses in all sorts of recipes, experts do caution that chicken is only a great option if it is not grain-fed and if it is antibiotic-free. Go with pastured or organic if possible, and if not, at least aim for meat with as little fat as possible.

What do the Paleo gurus say?

Mark Sisson says: “Breeding, feeding and other poultry farming standards result in animals that scarcely resemble each other, let alone taste the same. [Pastured] is the label I suggest looking for, but don’t be surprised if the search presents a challenge. If conventional is all you can afford or have access to it’s better than no meat at all. Just eat the leaner cuts, since toxins concentrate in fat.”

Sarah Ballantyne says: “[If you have to buy conventional instead of organic or pastured], limit consumption of chicken and other poultry, which probably has the highest omega-6 fatty acid content of any of the conventionally produced meat and poultry.”

So Is Chicken Paleo?

Yes!

Because of its great nutritional value and very few toxins, Paleo experts agree that chicken is a great addition to the Paleo plate. Be cautious, however, of what sort of chicken you buy; if you cannot afford or find pastured or organic chicken, choose the meat with the least amount of fat and limit your intake, as conventional chicken does come from birds that have been medicated.

Issue No. 29

Foods High in Omega-3 

Foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids have long been discovered to be an essential part of our diets. Omega-3 fatty acids are believed to have a role in fighting off many illnesses and diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer’s, inflammation, developmental disabilities, and atopic diseases. Omega-3 fatty acids are most commonly known for being found in fish and fish oil supplements but are also present in many other natural food sources. Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential part of your daily diet that the human body does not produce on its own. Below is a list of foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Flax Seeds and Flax Seed Oil 

Flax seeds contain 7483mg of omega-3 fatty acid per tablespoon. Though flax seeds are higher in omega-3 fatty acids than other foods, the omega-3 fatty acids in flax seeds are not as easily converted by the human body. While flax seeds are still a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, your body will not absorb the full 7483 mg of omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Salmon 

Fish is, overall, the best source of omega-3 fatty acids. Some fish, such as salmon, contain higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids than others. Salmon is also an easily accessible fish that can be cooked with ease. Many other types of fish also contain a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, such as mackerel, sardines, white fish, anchovies, and herring. Fish remains the most popular source of omega-3 fatty acids, both when consumed from fish or fish oil supplements.

  • Walnuts 

Walnuts are the only nuts that are considered a significant source of omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts contain approximately 2,664 mg of omega-3 per ¼ of a cup. While walnuts may not be your favorite snack, it is important to remember how versatile of an ingredient they are. Walnuts are easy to include in your daily diet, sometimes without you really even noticing. Some great ways to sneak in this healthy little nut is by adding them to homemade granola, use them in pesto, or even ground up for a pie crust.

  • Chia Seeds 

If you haven’t heard of chia seeds, you should check out my previous post on their benefits! Chia seeds are an up and coming superfood that contain 2,457 mg of omega-3 fatty acids in one tiny tablespoon. Chia seeds also contain a great deal of protein and other essential nutrients. Chia seeds are extremely easy to fit into your daily diet; they are most commonly added to smoothies for an extra protein punch.

  • Leafy Greens 

While leafy greens don’t contain as much omega-3 as the other mentioned foods, that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth pointing out. Leafy greens such as kale, collard greens, turnip greens, spinach, watercress, Brussel sprouts, etc. are not only a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids but also an ideal source of fiber!

Noticing that all of these foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids allows us to consider just what we are putting in our bodies and the benefits to reap from them.

Is Coffee Paleo?

coffee photo

For many people, the morning isn’t fueled by the excitement of a great day—it’s fueled by coffee, so a question lingers is coffee Paleo?

And when the 3 p.m. blues comes around, guess who’s up for coffee round 2 (or round 5 or 6)? With coffee houses popping up everywhere and coffee pots just getting easier (and cheaper) to use, it’s no wonder that this energizing drink has quickly risen to claim a spot as one of the most-consumed beverages in the world. However, while sticking to a Paleo diet, is coffee Paleo? Or at least fall into some sort of category that would see more benefits than the opposite?

But should you run off and pour yourself another mug, or is it time to shut the kitchen coffeemaker down for good?

Is Coffee Healthy?

It’s not surprising that a good bit of research has been done into how coffee affects the human body.

We know that it can definitely give us a jolt (that’s the caffeine), but does it do anything else for us? As it turns out, there’s more to coffee than meets the eye (or, I suppose, the taste buds). Studies show that drinking coffee reduces the risk of cancer, especially in the colon and prostate. It can also reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes, and another study showed that there is an inverse relationship between the amount of coffee you drink and how likely you are to die from general and specific causes.

(To be completely frank, coffee isn’t a miracle food. Despite some claims to the contrary, the potential benefits of coffee are relatively small.)
In addition, there are a few things to watch out for with coffee.

In particular, watch what you put in your coffee. The studies above show the benefits of coffee—not mochas, lattes with flavored syrup, or coffee with ice cream and sprinkles. From processed sugar to dairy, it’s the add-ins that cause the greatest issues.

Finally, if you have or think you might have adrenal fatigue, then it’s probably a good idea to cut the coffee (and all caffeine) out of your diet since it will only stress your adrenals more, which will slow your recovery.

What do the Paleo gurus say?

What makes coffee Paleo?

Mark Sisson says: “The overwhelming majority of the observational literature finds that coffee is linked to lower body weight and protection from type 2 diabetes. [To get the most out of your coffee,] get up and move around a bit when you drink. Since that coffee has just liberated a bunch of fatty acids from your adipose tissue, use them! If you don’t, the bulk of those fatty acids will simply be recycled back into your body fat. Remember that coffee isn’t just caffeine. It is a whole plant food/drink with hundreds of bioactive compounds beyond just caffeine….The taste and health effects of coffee thusly depend on dozens of factors, and that’s why coffee has different effects on different people as reflected across dozens of studies.”

Robb Wolf says: “If you have to ask, ‘If I can’t have sugar, coffee mate, cream, etc. in my morning cup, what can I do to make it taste good?’, then you really need to question the reasons behind your habit. Is it replacing sleep, masking a sugar or cream fix, or do you just REALLY like that Starbucks cup? If you truly ENJOY coffee for all of its warm, black deliciousness and you don’t have any compelling health or lifestyle reasons to avoid it, then I am not going to steal your ‘morning thunder.’ Keep on keeping on (with an occasional detox to clean things out). But, if on the other hand, your coffee needs a mate(s), or you’re using it as a means to function in the AM; take the time to conduct a CSI (Coffee Scene Investigation).”

So is coffee Paleo?

Yes.

However, with great deliciousness comes great responsibility. Avoid allowing coffee to become a crutch for poor sleep or stress management patterns, and be aware that the health effects of coffee don’t count for much when you drown it in sugar or processed cream.

For maximum health benefits, take your coffee black or with coconut oil and ghee.

Issue No. 34

Is Edamame Paleo?

Edamame photo
Photo by Magic Robot

Is Edamame Paleo? More importantly, like many people, you hear the word edamame and ask, “Eda-what?”

Edamame, which is the Japanese word for “twig bean” (eda=twig, mame=bean), is—you guessed it—a kind of bean. Basically, you can think of edamame as boiled green soybeans, and their healthful benefits have been touted far and wide ever since Faith Hill started snacking on them backstage during concerts. But is edamame really a healthful Paleo option?

Edamame are the babies of the soy family—young, and still in the pods—but that doesn’t make them any less of a soy product. So for those following the Paleo lifestyle, where soy and its toxins are well-known and completely unwelcome, edamame is already down by a few points. Soy contains powerful toxins, especially phytoestrogens (note the term “estrogen” in that word). These toxins interact with estrogen receptors in the body, which can throw off hormones and lead to a whole host of unwanted side effects; one study discovered a possible link between phytoestrogens and irregularities in the prostate, including cancer.

Additionally, edamame is unfermented, meaning that toxins like phytic acid and gluten have not been broken down by the fermentation process. All of these toxins contribute to general inflammation and intestinal irritation, so knowing that we can find them in edamame is yet another strike against these little beans.

However, it may be too early to throw edamame out of the race just yet. Compared to other sources of soy, edamame has a clear advantage: the fatty acids are mostly monounsaturated (which is great!) and compared to mature soybeans, edamame’s phytoestrogen levels are quite low. The beans also have a decent amount of magnesium and folate, a B-vitamin that helps our body to replicate DNA and divide cells properly. That’s pretty important!
Since edamame have both toxins and helpful nutrients, it can be difficult to know just where on the Paleo spectrum these baby beans fall.

What do the Paleo gurus say?

Mark Sisson says: “Not Primal, but don’t stress over a couple handfuls at a sushi restaurant. While I wouldn’t make it a regular part of my diet, edamame appears to be relatively benign as an occasional snack. Just don’t eat bucketfuls, don’t make it baby’s first food, and don’t get into edamame pancakes or some silliness like that.”

The team at Whole9 says: “Do not eat legumes. This also includes all forms of soy—soy sauce, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame, tamari and all the ways we sneak soy into foods (like lecithin).”

So is edamame Paleo?

No, but don’t panic if you slip up.

Because edamame has lower levels of toxins compared to other forms of soy, fitting it in as an occasional snack might be fine. It’s not really that bad, but avoiding it entirely is still the best option.

Issue No. 30

Photo by Magic Robot

Are Grits and Hominy Paleo or Are Grits Not Paleo Friendly?

Are Grits and Hominy Paleo?

Grits and hominy are the standard American diet’s favorite Southern sidekick, but are Grits not Paleo friendly or are they? They are popular ingredients in the Mexican soup posole and are enjoyed by many. But are they Paleo-friendly indulgences or not-so-Paleo?

Both hominy and grits are made from corn that has been dried and ground, with the germ and hull removed. First the corn is soaked in an alkali solution, then processed to crush and sift out the kernels. In its whole form, it can be eaten as a cereal or side as hominy. The ground version is grits.

The way the corn is processed is know as nixtamalization, which is a fancy-sounding name with old-world origins. In Mesoamerica around 1500 BC, people found that when they soaked the corn in water mixed with lime (calcium hydroxide) or ashes from burnt trees (potassium hydroxide), it became tastier and more digestible.

This process makes niacin from the corn more available to the body, increases protein content, decreases phytic acid (which binds to minerals and can lead to deficiencies) and decreases contamination from mycotoxins, contaminants that can grow on crops and damage human health.

So, is it Paleo?

The bottom line is that corn is a type of grain. Although it is gluten-free, grains are frequently labeled a no-go when defined under the most stringent Paleo standards. Corn contains zein, an irritating and inflammatory protein that can trigger food intolerances. However, more moderate interpretations of a Paleo diet may allow hominy and grits occasionally.

What do the Paleo gurus say?

Mark Sisson says: “The bad is that hominy is corn, a grain with questionable health effects. We generally avoid grains, and they are definitely not Primal. The good is that hominy is nixtamalized, which increases the protein availability, breaks down phytic acid, kills off mycotoxins, and increases the calcium content.

I often talk about foods existing on a spectrum of suitability, and corn is no different. If wheat, barley, rye, and other gluten-containing grains are at one (bad) end, and rice is at the other, nixtamalized corn lies somewhere in the middle, perhaps sharing a ride with oats. [It’s] not Primal, but is ‘less bad’ than some other grains.”

Robb Wolf says: [As an occasional post-workout recovery source of carbs] “Grits could be a good option in a pinch.”

Brandon and Meagan Keatley say: “Grits are not paleo, but groots are. Groots are our take on grits, Paleo style. It’s celery root, hence the g-roots, pureed with a little fat and some stock. Oh, how creamy, dreamy it is.”

Conclusion?

Not Paleo. Both grits and hominy are certainly not labeled “Paleo-friendly,” as those are traditionally unprocessed and bring with them significant nutritional and/or health benefits. However, according to some experts, grits and hominy are deemed “suitable” for a spectrum of Paleo transgressions. There are places to occasionally sneak them in if not following a strict Paleo regimen. Yet as grain-derived foods, others oppose them and advocate that they should not be used at all. There are easy substitutions you can make if you miss the texture and taste of grits and hominy without falling off the Paleo wagon.

Issue No. 28

Photo by stu_spivack

Are Hemp Hearts Paleo?

Are Hemp Hearts Paleo?

When people hear the word “hemp,” the first thing that usually comes to mind has something to do with smoke and a strong smell, but are hemp hearts paleo friendly?

But don’t worry!

The hemp we’re talking about isn’t the marijuana plant but rather an innocent cousin of hemp and the seeds it produces—hemp hearts, or shelled hemp seeds. So are heamp hearts paleo?

What to Know About Hemp Hearts

The last few years have seen a dramatic increase in interest surrounding hemp, and alongside its medicinal uses, people have started turning to it for oil, seeds, and other products (hemp milk, anyone?). Hemp is a bit of a tricky plant to harvest, as the seeds are indeterminate—that means that when the plant processed after picking, both ripe and immature seeds can be found on the same branch. When the shells around the seeds begin to crack, the hearts are brought in and preserved. After that, the rest is history (or dinner).

The benefits of hemp hearts have been touted far and wide lately, mostly for their impressive protein content (some evaluations put the value at 33% of your daily protein needs per serving). Aside from protein, hemp hearts are also full of fiber, vitamin E complex, and polyunsaturated fatty acids (somewhere around 80%—now that’s a number worth noticing!). These fatty acids do, however, make these seeds prone to going bad quickly.

In addition, while hemp hearts do have a more favorable omega-3 to omega-6 ratio than other things, it’s still not the preferred 1:1. Because there are both good and bad qualities to hemp hearts, it’s hard to tell where they might fit on the Paleo spectrum. Generally, Paleo experts agree that this case is tougher than others: while nutrients abound (bringing with them multiple health benefits, studies show), we do need to keep some things in mind before covering every meal for the rest of the year in mounds of hemp hearts.

What do other Paleo gurus say?

Mark Sisson says: “As to whether hemp is Primal or not, I’d put it (like other seeds) in a supporting role. It’s not main Primal fare, but—when eaten in its healthiest (fresh) state—it can complement a good Primal eating plan.”

Cole Bradburn says: “There are concerns, primarily processing and rancidity, but I see no problem with unprocessed hemp seeds and cold-pressed oil. There are legitimate health benefits to its consumption, and unlike many seeds, there’s no need to soak hemp to get rid of phytic acid (win!).”

So are hemp hearts Paleo?

Basically, yes.

The nutritional benefits of hemp hearts far outweigh issues such as spoilage, but be careful to buy quality seeds and avoid processed products (but you knew that already, right?). And don’t worry—because hemp hearts aren’t the same as marijuana hemp, there are no psychoactive effects associated with consuming the seeds.

Issue No. 33

Photo by Seabamirum

Is Hummus Paleo?

Hummus photo
Photo by stu_spivack

Photo by stu_spivack

Is Hummus Paleo? Firstly what is hummus – that old party bowl standby – is a popular Middle Eastern dip made from cooked, mashed garbanzo beans, tahini (a paste made from ground sesame seeds), lemon juice, salt, and garlic.

So, is it Paleo?

Its first ingredient should be the big tip-off in whether or not hummus makes the Paleo cut. Garbanzo beans, (or chickpeas), are a legume. Often asked about if they could fit into a Paleo diet because they do contain nutrients, legumes don’t provide the same dense sources of nutrients that fruits or vegetables do. Also, they’re an incomplete protein, unlike other complete protein sources like meat, fish or poultry.

Beans and legumes can also pack quite a dose of carbohydrates which may, in themselves, wreak havoc in keeping blood sugar regulated. This might be a problem for many folks trying to knock off the pounds, or who have other types of medical or metabolic conditions.

The short-chain types of sugars garbanzo beans contain are also not completely digested. These sugars are absorbed by the intestines, functioning as a food for the bacteria living there. The bacteria ferment the sugars and create just what you don’t want—bloating and gas—along with the potential to bloom into gut dysbiosis, an inflammatory digestive condition.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, research is showing that beans and legumes contain potent anti-nutrient substances called lectins, which can contribute to inflammation in the body, suppress immunity and foster a host of digestive problems.

Ancient cultures found that when they rinsed, soaked or fermented legumes, it partially reduced some of their toxins. However, the effectiveness of this practice in reducing toxicity can vary, although it’s often recommended today for those who still want to incorporate the food into their diet. Depending on a person’s own level of sensitivity, this method that may or may not be effective for everyone in diminishing undesirable effects.

What do the Paleo gurus say?

So is hummus paleo based?

 Mark Sisson says: “ It certainly isn’t Primal…but not all hummus is created equal. If you’re going to cheat, I implore you to use the good stuff. If you’re willing to make your own hummus, soak your own garbanzos, preserve your own lemons, etc., then hummus won’t be too bad. It’ll be free of BPA, low in phytic acid, full of healthy, Primal ingredients like olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and tahini, and it will taste pretty darn good. Extra points for fermented hummus.

Dallas and Melissa Hartwig say Hummus: No… Traditional hummus is made from garbanzo beans, which are a legume. However, there are some really yummy hummus-like dip recipes out there.

Robb Wolf says: If you peruse some of the gluten-free websites you will notice folks who are still struggling with significant GI problems despite strict adherence to a gluten-free diet. Now, these poor souls embark on a gluten-free lifestyle that includes rice flour and loads of legume products. This is not helping the insulin resistance most of these folks have AND it is exposing them to other lectins which have significant GI problems as well.

Conclusion?

The general consensus is that hummus is not included on the Paleo list. However, some individuals who can tolerate small amounts of legumes if well-soaked or fermented can find a place for them as a small “cheat” when the hummus is homemade, say some Paleo experts. If you want to stay clean and still get your hummus on, look to alternatives to the legume, such as macadamia nuts, cauliflower or cashews.

Issue No. 16

Is Monk Fruit Paleo?

If you’re anything like most people, you’ll read the title and think, “Oh, monk fruit. That’s great! …What’s a monk fruit?”

Monk fruit has been a hot topic in the Paleo community recently, as it may have potential as a new (and possibly Paleo!) sweetener. Monk fruit, also sometimes known as Luo Han Guo, is a unique plant grown only in China. It got its name from the Buddhist Luo Han monks, who were some of the first to cultivate the fruit hundreds of years ago.

But with all of the toxic compounds and negative side effects associated with other artificial sweeteners, can monk fruit really be a part of the Paleo diet? Or is it just another Paleo no-go?

Many people who have tasted monk fruit say that it tastes like chocolate or molasses, and its flavor isn’t the only thing that has people talking. The sweetness in monk fruit comes from a type of glycoside called mogrosides, and these mogrosides are full of antioxidants that help the body function healthily. Additionally, monk fruit helps to reduce oxidative stress on the body, so your body receives the support that it needs to function at full potential.

One study on the effects of monk fruit on the body showed no toxic effects; in fact, the animal subjects were given large amounts of the Luo Han Guo sweetener (3g per kg of their body weight—on a 10lb dog, that’s 30g of sweetener!), yet they showed no ill effects and did not gain weight.
So then, what negative effects does monk fruit have? Aside from the rarity of its habitat (only in Guangxi, China), Paleo experts agree—it’s great!

What do other Paleo gurus say?

Mark Sisson says: “Legend has it that the monk fruit vine sustains its caretakers by enveloping them and transmitting pure life-force directly into their hearts. And if you have the climate to grow monk fruit, you might try setting up that whole symbiotic relationship/life force exchange thing (perfect for people who telecommute). I’d say it’s worth a shot if you’re looking for a non-caloric, natural sweetener. Verdict: Primal.”

Jane Barthelemy says: “Luo Han Guo is a 100% natural Paleo sweetener. I suggest caution in buying Luo Han Guo as it is often mixed with other ingredients such as cane sugar or dextrose (a corn sugar), [but] I believe it to be a very good concentrated sweetener.”

So is monk fruit Paleo?

Yes.

Monk fruit is a promising addition to the Paleo diet, offering sweetness and nutrition all in the same package. Be careful when buying in order to avoid monk fruit mixed with artificial sweeteners like corn.

Some Paleo experts suggest Swanson Vitamins as a good supplier of high-quality monk fruit extract, and if you want to powder it yourself, ask any Chinese medicine herbalist for Plum Flower brand Momordica fruit.

Issue No. 32

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