Is it Paleo?

Is It Paleo? Deli Meat

When it comes to convenience, it’s tough to beat deli meat.

Ham, turkey, salami, prosciutto, roast beef, and dozens of other options are sold in almost every grocery store, and they require no preparation whatsoever to eat.

Traditionally, lunches and sandwiches rely heavily on such cold cuts, but there are a ton of popular news articles that paint these meats as incredibly unhealthy.

Are Deli Meats Healthy?

There are many reasons bandied about as to why deli meats may be unhealthy. I’ll quickly look at them one by one:

  1. Nitrates and Nitrites. Nitrates and nitrites are often used as preservatives in deli meats. And somehow, it’s become “common knowledge” that nitrate contribute to cancer and heart disease. Luckily, that isn’t the case. Check out Chris Kresser’s article for a full explanation as to why, but the short answer is that the science just isn’t there, and most nitrates come from either vegetables or our own bodies anyway.
  2. Oxidized Fats and Heterocyclic Amines. When many foods are exposed to high temperatures, either the fats or the combination of sugars and proteins start to change and create compounds that are harmful to humans. And this is potentially the case for some processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, etc. However, most deli meats are cured rather than cooked, and those that are cooked are usually cooked at a low temperature.
  3. Low-Quality Animals. This is something that can’t be overlooked, particularly in the U.S. Most deli meat is not made from animals that were fed natural diets or taken good care of. Much of the deli meat that you can buy is of a lower quality as a result, but probably no lower than much of the raw meat you could buy at the same grocery stores.
  4. High Sodium. This is another common critique of deli meats, and it’s not completely off-base. The thing is, overall sodium intake is less important than the sodium-to-potassium ratio, but since deli meats are high in sodium and not in potassium, that’s not a good thing, health-wise.
  5. Additives. The worst part about deli meats is often not the meat itself – it’s what’s added to the meat. For instance, many deli types of meat contain things like gluten, processed sugar, artificial flavors, and other additives. Eating foods containing these ingredients may be more than a little risky.

The good news is that some deli meat comes to us free from terrible additives and possibly even from humanely-raised animals. And it’s this sort of meat (which looks more like actual meat) that Paleo experts generally agree can mean the difference between a yucky food and a great snack.

What do other Paleo gurus say?

Nell Stephenson says: “Nix those oh-so-common options that we see in any random grocery store, like good old Oscar Meyer Bologna or Buddig Chicken and investigate which if any meats are available to you that truly do fall within the parameters of Paleo. [Aim for] an ingredient panel such as ‘Ingredient: turkey.’ That’s what you’re going for, and if there’s anything else included, do your best to pass on that brand until you find another.”

Mark Sisson says: “My general recommendations are to stick to the quality stuff, with ingredients you recognize. Eat moderate amounts. Use it as a garnish, trail food, with cheese (if you do dairy), or as a topping on other dishes. Buy from trusted suppliers if it’s cured and in sausage form; if it’s straight up turkey breast or roast beef, make sure it comes from a single slab of real animal.”

So is deli meat Paleo?

Yes, but be cautious.

Make sure to look for meat that does not contain the additives mentioned above. Try not to make deli meat the center of your diet.

The best deli meat has a visible grain or streaks of real fat from the source. It’s even better if your deli meat comes straight from a single animal. If you cannot find this quality deli meat, it may be best to cook your meat at home and slice it yourself. That way, you can guarantee its ingredients.

Issue No. 35

Is It Paleo? Panko

One comment I often get from people who are just starting to clean up their diets is that they miss crunchy foods.

And it’s true.

When you cut out all chips, crackers, cookies, and other grain-driven foods, the only crunch you’re generally left with is raw veggies and some fruits.

The answer to today’s “Is It Paleo?” is going to be pretty obvious, but it’s worth talking about because it’s easy to forget just how many foods are made from processed ingredients that wreak havoc on our bodies.

What is Panko?

Panko is a Japanese breadcrumb with an unorthodox origin.

Panko (meaning “bread child”) starts out as a hunk of, well, bread. After it’s left to rise multiple times, it gets flattened with a metal weight and then electrocuted. That’s right—panko is electrified bread. Shocking (sorry – pun intended).

After it’s been zapped, it’s cut into small pieces and then passed through filters that reduce it down to the small, jagged pieces everyone knows as panko.

It sounds pretty awesome—who gets to say that they eat electrified food very often? However, there are a few things to keep in mind before we make a final decision on these Japanese breadcrumbs.

Is Panko Healthy?

First, it’s important to remember that, just like regular breadcrumbs, panko crumbs are made from grains.
In particular, panko is sometimes noted for its acrylamide, a compound that forms when grains are cooked at high temperatures (can you get much hotter than straight electricity?). The World Health Organization (WHO) itself released a report saying that acrylamide is a “public health risk.” Some dangers cited included degenerative nerve changes, tumors, and hormone issues. In addition, WHO labeled acrylamide as carcinogenic (cancer-causing).

It is, of course, also important to recall the more common reasons why those following the Paleo diet go grain-free.
Remember that grains generally contribute to inflammation, gut issues, and all the diseases and disorders that arise from inflammation and gut issues (like heart disease). Also, the toxins in grains (such as gluten) damage the gut lining and make it difficult for our bodies to absorb nutrients.

Not surprisingly, Paleo experts have come to a consensus rather quickly about what to do with panko.

What do other Paleo gurus say?

Kelley Herring says: “Panko is bad news when it comes to your health.”

Marla Sarris says: “Is panko Paleo? NO.”

Is Panko Paleo?

No.

All of the toxins of grains can still be found in panko.

Fortunately, there are numerous alternatives. If you’re trying to bread something in true Paleo style, try almond flour or ground pork rinds.

Issue No. 36

Is it Paleo? Flaxseed

Have you ever tried to do something that you thought would take five minutes, only to realize two hours later that it would probably take five days to do properly?

Well, let’s just say that analyzing flaxseed in detail would probably take that long, and neither you nor I would be particularly better off for it.

Are Flaxseeds Healthy?

I’m not 100% sure why this is the case, but researchers have done a lot of studies on flaxseeds, flax meal, and flax oil.

Worst of all, the results are all over the place and are generally inconclusive.

What that means is that flax probably isn’t as bad as some people think, but there are definitely reasons to not consume too much (at the least).

Oxidation

The primary concern with flax is that the fats in flaxseeds are polyunsaturated, which means that they can be oxidized quite easily and quickly, which in turn can lead to a lot of damage in your body.

Whole flaxseeds can protect themselves against oxidation. However, that means that they also protect themselves against being digested. That’s a twofold problem. First, you won’t get much benefit from eating whole flaxseeds. And second, if you have any pre-existing digestive issues, flaxseeds may aggravate the problem.

Flaxseed oil and ground flaxseeds can both be digested, but they’re very easily oxidized. And that’s a big problem.

Cancer

A couple studies, including this one, have demonstrated that increased ALA (alpha-linolenic acid, one of the primary fatty acids in flaxseed) has been shown to increase the risk of prostate cancer.

That research is a bit uncertain, but it’s there.

Lower Testosterone

If you’re wondering, this is not generally a good thing for men OR women. You want your body to regulate testosterone and estrogen on its own, not under the influence of any food that over-regulates.

However, flax seeds appear to lower testosterone.

What Do Other Paleo Gurus Say?

Mark Sisson: “If you’re a vegetarian or unable to get your hands on animal sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, a seed like flax might be a decent option, but for this grass-fed-meat-eating, fish-oil-swilling, antioxidant-rich-vegetable chomping audience, I don’t see why flax needs to be part of the dietary equation.”

Robb Wolf: “I’d never really had problem with flax seed, the usage of flaxseeds because the amount of Omega-3s that you get from that are small and if you just handle them properly (like grinding them fresh), use them immediately, don’t cook with the stuff, then you should be good to go.”

Are Flaxseeds Paleo?

Flax is not very Paleo.

Whole flaxseeds probably aren’t that bad, but they aren’t digested well in any event. Ground flax goes rancid very fast, and flax oil even faster.

Flax doesn’t have nearly as much going for it as mainstream experts believe since the omega-3s are not converted very well to active forms of omega-3.

I wouldn’t avoid a dish just because it contained flax, but I certainly don’t seek it out.

Issue No. 37

Is Coconut Aminos Paleo?

Are Coconut Aminos Paleo?

A savory, salty and a delicious flavor enhancer for a variety of dishes, coconut aminos are made from raw coconut tree sap and sea salt, then naturally aged. It’s also a fermented product. Used as a substitute for both soy sauce & tamari, as well as Worcestershire sauce, even a few dashes can deepen the flavors of many kinds of foods, from soups to egg dishes to stir-fries. The soy-free sauce also contains 17 different amino acids and is low on the glycemic index. While a relatively small amount of this sauce is used, the amino acids it contains can rebuild and repair muscle tissue, as well as enhance the immune system and increase our energy.

So, is it Paleo?

Did our Paleolithic ancestors take the time (or have the knowledge) to make coconut aminos? Probably not. Staunch Paleo purists advocate that fermented foods are not part of the Paleo diet, and that fermentation is only datable back to the Neolithic Era. But as the two key ingredients in coconut aminos are naturally-found coconut sap and sea salt, others would argue that they beg a nod to the Paleo plate.

What do the Paleo gurus say?

Diane Sanfilippo says: “If you’re like me—sensitive to both gluten and soy—try coconut aminos. It is one of the best substitutes I have found in years and I now actually prefer the taste of it to soy sauce.”
Mark Sisson says: “…tastes somewhat like soy sauce. It’s not an exact match, but it’s not really trying to be an exact match. Coconut aminos are their own beasts, and these happen to be tasty beasts. Trace amounts of certain amino acids in a sauce that you’ll consume by the tablespoonful probably aren’t going to amount to much of anything. Consume it for the unique taste and the lack of soy and wheat.
Nell Stephenson says: No, it’s not paleo for two reasons – it’s got salt and it’s fermented. For athletes, some added salt to the diet is permissible, however, fermented items wouldn’t be. I will say, that I’d prefer to see a client use a small amount of that if they chose to do so, over even a trace of soy!

Conclusion?

Not Paleo…but a good accompaniment to foods on a Paleo diet. While they don’t fit the strict definition of Paleo because of the fermentation process they undergo, a few coconut aminos can add taste and variety to a Paleo menu without harm, say most experts.

Issue No. 20

Is coffee Paleo?

Is coffee Paleo?
For many people, the morning isn’t fueled by the excitement of a great day—it’s fueled by coffee.

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.

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?

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 Yogurt Paleo?

NeuPaddy / Pixabay

If you go to the dairy section of any grocery store, you’re likely to see rows and rows of yogurt—Greek, plain, flavored, snack-size, and more—lined up like stout little soldiers waiting to be put into someone’s cart. They come in greens, blues, reds, and more, in any flavor you can think of. But what on earth is yogurt anyway? And should we be eating more of it?

If you’re wondering how yogurt-makers get their yogurt to be, well, a lot gooier than milk, they do it through fermentation. The discovery of yogurt was likely an accident because people in Central Asia in about 6000 BC would milk their cows and then carry around the milk—all warm and fresh—in sacs made of animal stomachs. The milk would go sour, and yogurt was born! Thankfully, yogurt today doesn’t go through a few rounds of incubation in an animal stomach before making it store shelves; it probably wouldn’t be as popular.

When people talk about how great yogurt is, they most often cite the calcium content (it’s made from milk, after all) and the trendy term “probiotics.” Probiotics, in a nutshell, are the little bacteria in your intestines that help you out when you digest food and fight off the baddies. They’re shown to reduce inflammation and improve immune function, so supplementing with them is a great idea. These bacteria can be found in yogurt, so it’s a great addition to the diet, right? But many who follow a Paleo lifestyle don’t tolerate dairy. Now what?

What do the Paleo gurus say?

Nell Stephenson says: “Personally, the resulting effects of eating dairy (congestion and bloating) render it not something I want to include.   In the event that a situation arises when I feel I need to eat some probiotics, such as a few years ago after I finished a course of antibiotics for a case of swimmer’s ear, I prefer a top of the line capsule not sourced from dairy or soy.

If you are someone who makes the choice to include some dairy in the form of yogurt in your diet, at the very least, be sure to use a brand that is really just yogurt.   All too often, we see yogurts that are really nothing more than a usual concoction of low-fat or fat-free milk, gelatin, artificial sugars and flavors and no probiotics!”

Joel Runyon says: “Is yogurt Paleo? The short answer—no. Generally speaking, yogurt is not considered Paleo. The main reason that yogurt is not paleo is that it is a form of dairy. Almost all dairy is off limits for the following reasons: Dairy consumption has been linked to the development of many diseases in humans, including some very serious and chronic such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, [and] the quality of dairy that is widely available today is usually very poor. It is filled with added sugar and comes from sick cows that have been mistreated and given hormones and antibiotics.”

So is yogurt Paleo?

No.

It’s best to avoid yogurt because although it’s got some probiotics in it (sometimes…), they’re not nearly enough to justify the consumption of inflammatory dairy, especially when you risk exposing yourself to the antibiotics and other toxins in the milk the yogurt was made from.

Article by: Carrie Ott

Issue No. 57

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

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

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

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