Is it Paleo?

Are Eggs Paleo?

Eggs photo
Photo by Jorge_Brasil

Strangely enough, I grew up in a farming community without eating eggs very much. They were always around, but I saw them as a “grown-up food.” My dad would make beautiful-looking over-medium eggs, and I’d think wow, I can’t wait to graduate to the one, the only—eggs with an unbroken yolk. Eggs have been a hugely important part of the human diet for thousands and thousands of years; we don’t have the luxury of snatching up dinosaur eggs any more, so we’re left to chow down on other popular options—quail eggs in Asia, ostrich eggs in Africa, and chicken eggs in lots of places around the world. If they’re such a popular option, there must be some nutrients in there worth having, right? Can we fit these into a healthy Paleo diet?

Are Eggs Healthy?

It does seem that nutrients are something that eggs have in spades—the yellow color of the yolk comes from beta-carotene. This nutrient is an antioxidant that helps you maintain a healthy weight, and it also helps to prevent cancer (especially skin cancer). Omega-3 fatty acids, another great nutrient in eggs, help your body to deal with inflammation; this means you’re less likely to have allergies, and your risk for heart disease goes down. Some studies also indicate that you can reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s by ensuring that you have enough omega-3s. And we can’t forget the vitamin E in eggs! Vitamin E keeps your cell membranes healthy, and since your whole body is made up of cells, that’s kind of a big deal.

Of course, there’s always the negative side of the coin too. We’ve probably all heard someone’s mom shout, “Don’t eat that raw cookie dough!” Why? Because eggs carry the risk of salmonella. And you may also have heard that the cholesterol and choline naturally occurring in eggs aren’t the best for your arteries. These studies are still being hotly debated, so for now, let’s check and see how eggs fit in according to the experts.

What Do Other Paleo Experts Say?

Mark Sisson says: “In recent years, eggs have come under considerable fire for their high cholesterol content, with many suggesting that they could increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, a…study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association determined no such link and even went as far to say that regular egg consumption may actually prevent blood clots, stroke and heart attack. So, there you have it. Eggs really are egg-ceptional. Some might even consider them egg-cellent and still others would even go as far to call them eggs-quisite (ok, we promise we’ll stop now!).”

Chris Kresser says: “There’s absolutely no reason to limit your consumption of eggs to three to four per week, as recommended by ‘heart-healthy’ nutritional guidelines. In fact, consuming two to three eggs per day would provide a better boost to your health and protection against disease than a multivitamin supplement. Eggs truly are one of nature’s superfoods. It’s important, however, to make sure that you buy organic, pasture-raised eggs. Studies show that commercially-raised eggs are up to 19 times higher in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.”

So Are Eggs Paleo?

Yes!

Eggs are a great way to get many of the nutrients you need every day. Be careful when buying eggs, though, because whatever antibiotics or toxins the bird has received will pass through the egg to you. Check out your product and make sure you’re aiming for pasture-raised.

Issue No. 42

Is Olive Oil Paleo?

Olive Oil photo

If you’ve been keeping an eye on food trends over the last few years, you may have noticed that the world of oils has been going through quite the roller coaster in the press. We’ve seen the rise of canola oil as “the world’s healthiest oil,” followed by an outpouring (no pun intended) of studies demolishing canola’s fame by illuminating all of its fake, toxic compounds. Soy oil, safflower and sunflower oils, and peanut oil have seen a similar downfall. But one oil you never hear too much about one way or the other is olive oil. This sneaky little bottle seems to get shoved to the side in the health food debate, but with options for a good Paleo drizzle fading fast, might olive oil be our answer? Or should we be pushing olive oil away with canola and safflower in one great big no-thank-you?

Is Olive Oil Healthy?

The concern around olive oil is related to its potential for oxidation – i.e., the oil’s structure begins to deteriorate, especially when exposed to high heat, left in bright light, or kept warm for long periods of time. Oxidation is a process that leads to the production of toxins within the oil, and if we’re eating that oil, we’re ingesting the toxins.

That doesn’t sound too great!

On the other hand, olive oil is full of beneficial nutrients and is one of the best sources of antioxidants you can find. Some of these antioxidants, like oleocanthal, have been shown to act like nature’s own ibuprofen in reducing inflammation, while some other compounds in olive oil help our bodies to combat disease. This is mostly true of real, extra-virgin olive oil, as other types of olive oil (lite or refined, for example) are often mixed with canola or other oils that reduce these benefits and add toxins to the mix. If you’ve been able to snag a real bottle of extra virgin, you can also expect a good dose of vitamins E and K – you’ll get about 75% of your daily value of each in a single serving. Olive oil definitely sounds like it has some benefits too, so how can we decide whether these benefits outweigh the dangers of oxidation?

Thankfully, olive oil has also been a hot topic among Paleo experts, so they’ve looked deep into the subject to find an answer.

What Do Other Paleo Experts Say?

Kelsey Marksteiner says: “Extra-virgin olive oil is perfectly safe to cook with. It’s a great oil to eat both in taste and health and shouldn’t be avoided. However, it’s not the only healthy fat out there! You should always consume a variety of healthy foods, fats included.”

Mark Sisson says: “Let’s put it to rest – olive oil, especially good quality virgin olive oil with all the phenolics intact, is decently resistant to heat-incurred oxidative damage and a great addition to your diet.”

Is Olive Oil Paleo?

Yes!

While olive oil is Paleo and does stand up fairly well to heat, it is still best and most nutritious when cooked at low to medium temperatures, or when not cooked at all. So grab that bottle of goodness and drizzle some on your next salad – it’ll do your body good.

Issue No. 45

Is Wine Paleo?

Wine photoYou can drink all the wine that you want…

But if you’re going to drink wine (and I occasionally do), then let’s at least be clear about why we’re doing it.

This is a drink about which there has been a lot of debate in the health world. But I think much of that debate stems from the fact that wine and alcohol are such a big part of our social lives, even many “health experts” don’t want to risk angering people.

For better or worse, I don’t have that qualm…

What is Wine?

You probably already know what wine is.

Wine is a drink that’s made by squeezing the juice from grapes and then fermenting that juice. The process is actually slightly more complicated than that, but in general, it’s grape juice where the sugar has been changed to alcohol.

For the purposes of this article, I won’t differentiate between red wine, white wine, sparkling wine, port, or any other type of wine. They all differ a lot in terms of taste, but the health differences are really quite small in general.

Is Wine Healthy?

Countless “Health Experts” claim that a glass or two of red wine every day is great for your health. And there are lots of studies they point to in order to make this point.

However, not one of those claims is supported at all. Moderate wine consumption is sometimes correlated with decreased heart disease, but there’s no proof of causation, and the more likely explanation is that heart disease is decreased by a more active social life and other factors.

In addition, wine is still an alcohol. It still leads to bad decision-making, it increases the likelihood of leaky gut, it increases inflammation, it disrupts sleep, and it inhibits the growth and re-growth of brain cells.

In other words, wine, like any alcohol, is quite toxic for your body in very small doses. So a glass of wine certainly won’t kill you, but it’s definitely making you at least fractionally less healthy.

If you want a refresher, be sure to check out this article for seven huge reasons alcohol is bad for you.

The point is, wine is not good for your body (particularly your gut and your brain). It’s fun, tastes great, and leads to a lot of awesome social experiences, but those are separate considerations.

What Do Other Paleo Experts Say?

Melissa and Dallas Hartwig: “It’s difficult for us to make a case that any alcohol – even red wine, gluten-free beer, or 100% agave tequila – makes you more healthy. But while we exclude alcohol in all forms for your Whole30 program, we aren’t saying you should never have a drink ever again. All we are saying is that if you do choose to drink, don’t try to justify it with ‘heart health’ or ‘gluten-free.’ (The fact that it’s just plain delicious and you really enjoy it is reason enough!) Just understand that the less you drink, and the less often you choose to imbibe, the healthier you’ll be.”

Mark Sisson: “I’d never recommend that people take up drinking or continue drinking, but I also don’t see it as a great evil in and of itself. The dose and frequency make the poison; it’s just that depending on a number of factors, the dose that makes alcohol a poison might be lower or higher for you than for me. If your sleep is affected or you are the least bit ‘off’ the next day, you probably surpassed your ability to effectively process it and you should factor that in to your choice and approach to drinking again.”

Is Wine Paleo?

No.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can never drink wine. Obviously, that’s a choice for you to make. For instance, I sometimes eat corn, processed sugar, and vegetable oils when I’m eating out. I make case-by-case decisions and decide that although they’re not healthy for me, it’s alright to do sometimes.

You can make the same choice with wine. But please don’t fall for believing that it’s a healthy thing to do. Acknowledge that wine is delicious and fun, and enjoy it even more for those reasons.

Issue No. 43

Is Honey Paleo?

 

Most of us probably grew up with at least some exposure to honey—maybe you watched a certain bear in a red shirt take a scoop out of his “hunny pot,” or perhaps parents and grandparents gave you a spoonful of the liquid gold when you were sick and your throat hurt. Ooey-gooey honey has become a widespread symbol of the pure deliciousness of nature, but with something so delectably sweet, we might want to slow down and learn a little more. Can something so sugary really be part of a Paleo diet?

Is Honey Healthy?

If you’ve been tracking honey in the news over the last few years, you’ll have noticed a big controversy bubbling over about the pollen content of most honey we buy. It turns out that a large portion of honey available to us has had the pollen removed; without pollen, the source of the honey is untraceable. That’s not good news, because some parts of the world (China being just one example) often produce honey that is laced with antibiotics, heavy metals, and other toxins. That’s definitely not a good thing!And on top of that, in order to get that pollen out and make their honey clearer, manufacturers will heat and press it, neutralizing and removing the trace vitamins and minerals that it started out with. Sounds like you might as well be eating table sugar!

But what about honey that does still have the pollen? Well, it will be darker in color, for one thing. For another, because it still has the pollen, it hasn’t had all of its trace nutrients removed either. Some of the vitamins and minerals you can find in this kind of honey, which is often called “raw honey,” are all of the B vitamins (that’s right, all of them!), vitamin K, phosphorus, and manganese, to name just a few. Honey has been shown to reduce inflammation, and it improves healthy cholesterol ratios as compared to other types of sugars. Interestingly, it’s also been shown that putting honey on meat that you cook reduces the oxidative toxins that come from the fat of the meat. Who knew?

So it looks like we’ve got some conflicting data—honey can be both good and bad! Honey has nice nutrients, but what about the chance of taking in some toxins with it? Paleo experts agree that honey can be a little tricky, but they tend to come to the same conclusion.

What Do Other Paleo Experts Say?

Chris Kresser says: “Raw honey may have some therapeutic properties for digestion despite having a high fructose content, and it’s definitely the most Paleo sweetener out there, so it’s a good option if you tolerate it well.”

Mark Sisson says: “Darker honeys are typically higher in bioactive compounds and show greater antioxidant activity. They also taste better, if you ask me. When in doubt, choose the darker honey.It’s clearly superior to refined sugar, and the extent of the damage we normally see from sugar intake doesn’t seem to occur with honey.”

Is Honey Paleo?

Yes! If it’s raw honey, preferably local to the region that you reside in.

Also, use a sweetener for the little “sweeter” dishes in the Paleo diet. In other words, use sparingly, since honey still has a high sugar content. If you need a sweet fix, raw honey maybe the way to go!

Remember that what you’re buying is raw, untreated honey. That means that most brands you find in stores are out. Be careful of honey that comes from China and Egypt; consider brands like Really Raw Honey or Stakich. As always, though, going down to your local farmer’s market is your best bet!

A note, as well—honey might be a great source of lots of trace minerals, but avoid giving it to your youngsters. Because we want the kind that’s got pollen in it, honey may cause an allergic reaction in children young enough to have an immature immune system. In addition, honey contains some bacteria spores that can germinate in the digestive system of a young child, causing botulism, a potentially fatal illness. You should definitely wait until your child is more than a year old, but some other sources recommend waiting until three years old, just to be safe.

Issue No. 44

Is Salt Paleo? 

There are very few foods that have been as demonized as salt has been over the past 40 years.

It’s claimed that salt increases blood pressure, raises your risk of heart disease, and makes a stroke more likely. And those claims are made by the U.S. Center for Disease Control.

I’ll talk about these claims below, but with as much as has been said about salt, it’s no wonder that we’re generally scared of eating too much of it.

What is Salt?

The vast majority of salt that Americans eat is in processed food, since salt is one of three components (along with fat and sugar) that make a food hyper-palatable. The amount of salt that we add to our food – either while cooking or while eating – is very small by comparison.

And for much of human history, salt was one of the most prized and expensive spices. It was even included in many religious ceremonies over the past 10,000 years.

Salt is, of course, a fairly simple compound composed of sodium and chloride. It can be found in seawater or in salt mines, where it’s often mixed with other trace elements.

Is Salt Healthy?

Let’s put it this way. According to the Institute of Medicine, if you don’t sweat at all, the average adult would still need to consume about 180 mg of salt per day to avoid dying. The more realistic recommendation is that adults consume about 3.8 grams of salt per day.

Without salt, the human body can’t maintain fluids like blood properly, and things like energy and nutrients then don’t flow in and out of cells properly. Also, the human brain functions partially through use of sodium.

So it’s clear that we need salt and sodium. But you’re likely wondering still if getting too much is a problem.

In general, the kidneys are excellent at removing excess sodium from the body, which prevents things like high blood pressure as a result of too much sodium.

And recent studies show that blood pressure is not correlated with salt intake, and that the lowest risk of heart disease tends to be with people eating between 4-6 grams of salt per day.

Now…none of those studies imply that eating 15 grams of salt per day is ideal. It’s not, and like anything you put in your body, there is certainly a toxic point (an amount that will cause your body harm). But these studies do point to the fact that restricting salt over the long term is also a problem.

In general, if you’re eating a Paleo diet or a diet composed primarily of whole foods, then there’s very little reason to limit salt intake, because none of the foods you’ll be eating will contain very much salt.

So is salt healthy? Yes, and in amounts that you’re unlikely to surpass if you’re not eating processed foods. If you’re still eating a lot of processed foods, however, then there is a chance that you’ll get a bit too much.

What Do Other Paleo Experts Say?

Melissa and Dallas Hartwig: “First, salt makes your food delicious. Second, when you cut out processed and packaged foods, you remove the vast majority of sodium from your diet. Adding salt to your Whole30 plate won’t push you over reasonable sodium limits, and if you avoid salt altogether, you run the risk of an electrolyte imbalance (not to mention serious food boredom). We encourage a mix of iodized table salt and sea salt.”

Mark Sisson: “You could drop your salt intake to half a teaspoon and get a three or four point drop in your blood pressure. Of course, you might not enjoy your food anymore, your performance in the gym or on the trail would likely suffer, your stress hormones might be elevated, you might start feeling overtrained without doing any actual training, you could become insulin resistant, and you may have trouble clearing (the elevated) cortisol from your blood. But, hey: your blood pressure readings will likely improve by a few points! Or, you could keep your salt intake up around two teaspoons, give or take, simply by salting your food to taste, and avoid all that other stuff.”

Is Salt Paleo?

Yes.

Humans crave salt for a good reason. It’s possible to get enough salt from meats and seafood without adding salt to any foods, but that’s likely not an ideal amount of salt.

If you’re avoiding all processed foods, it’s incredibly hard to get too much salt, which is why I personally add a LOT of salt to almost everything I eat.

Issue No. 43

Are Mushrooms Paleo?

Did you know that mushrooms aren’t plants? In fact, mushrooms and humans are kind of related—we belong to the same genetic kingdom, albeit distantly. I’ve always wondered why people were so eager to eat mushrooms, since undoubtedly quite a number of people met their ends after sampling a dangerous variety of mushrooms. Thankfully, they’ve done the hard work for us, and now we’ve got a checklist of shrooms that regularly appear on the dinner menu. But if these fungi have such a history of being dangerous, should we really be including them in the Paleo lifestyle?

Are mushrooms healthy?

Well, it turns out we don’t really have anything bad to say about mushrooms! They’re not the greatest source of many of your typical vitamins and minerals, but they do include some of the rarer nutrients that can be difficult to work into your diet, like selenium and copper.

Mushrooms have been linked with a reduction in mood disorders, especially depression and anxiety, because they promote healthy nerve function and encourage active brain processing. They’re also associated with nutrient intake, because mushrooms seem to help us absorb the nutrients in the foods we eat. Their chemical compounds help to make the vitamins and minerals in our food more bioavailable so that our body can use them.

Truth be told, it doesn’t really seem like there’s too much wrong with mushrooms, right? Well, we’ve got just a little bad news. While mushrooms seem to be a great food, it’s important to know that they lose many of their antioxidants just days after being picked. That means that the natural sugars have been destroyed by ripening, and we lose a lot of the health benefits of mushrooms.
However, the Paleo experts still agree that mushrooms are a great choice for your diet.

What do other Paleo experts say?

Mark Sisson says: “Humans have probably always eaten mushrooms, since mushrooms grow wild everywhere….they’re good sources of relatively rare nutrients like selenium, copper, and pantothenic acid.”

Chris Kresser says: “The [foods] that are most highly recommended for health…are asparagus and broccoli and kale and spinach, mushrooms, arugula, lettuce, [but]they respire so rapidly that within two or three days of harvest they might have half or even less of the antioxidants.”

Are mushrooms Paleo?

Yes!

Mushrooms are a great addition to a Paleo diet, but do your best to eat them when fresh in order to get the most out of them. Try checking out local mushroom hunting groups or mycological societies to learn how to mushroom hunt for yourself and find the mushrooms you can eat (and the mushrooms you definitely can’t).

Issue No. 46

Is Dairy Paleo? 

For thousands of years, humans have been collecting milk. Maybe because we knew that drinking our mother’s milk was such a great idea, we figured we’d start gathering it from animals, too. Then we turn it into cheese and butter and we’ve got a whole array of dairy goodies! Regardless of how our milk fixation began, we can’t deny that it’s a big part of many people’s daily diet nowadays. But as Paleo adherents, should we be cutting out the milk or adding more?

One thing is for sure—milk consumption is a hot topic in the Paleo community, and many people have different opinions. Some believe that milk is inflammatory and even causes cancer (this has been examined in a number of studies, which do seem to indicate a possible correlation). Others claim that milk is a great addition to the diet because of all its nutrients. These advocates cite studies that found links between milk and reduced vascular disease (hardening of the arteries), lower triglycerides, and more blood sugar control.

One of the major reasons that some people advise against dairy consumption is because of casein and lactose, two major chemical elements of these products. Casein, a protein found in cow’s milk, sticks around in cheese and many other dairy products, so even if lactose isn’t your problem, many people have an issue with casein. In fact, some studies suggest that casein may behave in much the same way as gluten, and if you’re sensitive to that, your body will react to dairy in the same way. Naturally, this starts an inflammatory cascade that might be the cause for you to ditch the milk-based products altogether.

On the other hand, we’ve all been told that milk is great for us. What’s the deal? Let’s take a look at what some leading Paleo experts think about dairy as a regular part of the diet.

What Do Other Paleo Experts Say?

The Paleo Mom says: “So, what do I recommend? Caution. I believe that dairy is probably okay for many healthy adults, especially full-fat, grass-fed dairy. In fact, for healthy individuals, the benefits likely outweigh the risks. However, for those battling autoimmune disease or other conditions where a leaky gut is a potential contributing factor, it makes the most sense to omit dairy from your diet for now. As is my standard recommendation for all of the gray-area foods, I suggest leaving it out of your diet for at least 1 month, then try reintroducing it and see if you notice any obvious symptoms (this is the best way to determine if you are allergic or sensitive).”

Mark Sisson says: “Bottom line: don’t consume non-organic dairy if you can help it. Avoid homogenized milk if you can, and try not to purchase pasteurized milk (organic or not) on a regular basis. If you’re out getting coffee or something, the regular half and half or heavy cream are fine, and Kerrygold makes a great pastured, pasteurized butter that’s available nationwide.”

Is Dairy Paleo?

Strict Paleo: No!

Not-so-strict Paleo: Probably.

This one doesn’t have a straight answer. If you find yourself sensitive to dairy products, then they’re not the right choice for you, even though they might be completely fine with someone else. Remember that a large part of the problem with dairy—the bit about how it causes cancer and other diseases—comes from studies (like the one earlier in this very article) that were conducted on “standard” milk. You know, skim, homogenized, pasteurized milk. So in that sense, the Paleo mindset holds just as true now as ever—get it the way you find it in nature. Don’t mess with it and it’ll be better for you. If we keep that in mind, we can make a decision about dairy based on our circumstances and what our bodies are telling us.

Issue No. 49

Is Soy Milk Paleo? 

Soy Milk photo
Photo by Veganbaking.net

Maybe this is a silly question, but really – why wouldn’t soy (and, by extension, soy milk) be Paleo?

It’s not hard to imagine that soybeans would have been eaten a million years ago, and it’s not that much of a stretch to think about somehow mixing soybeans with a bit of water and making a milk-like substance.

it’s also an important question because dairy is a big problem for many folks.

Unfortunately, soy milk is decidedly non-Paleo (and not healthy).

Legumes are not the worst things you can eat, but some are worse than others. Soy, in some ways, is the worst of the legumes, and soy milk – along with tofu – are the worst forms of soy.

Here are 4 reasons to avoid soy milk:

  1. Highly Processed: Have you ever seen a soy-cow or a tofu-tree? Didn’t think so. Soy beans are somewhat problematic, but soy milk is so highly processed that it amplifies all the problems of soy by concentrating the worst parts of soy beans. In addition, most soy processing involves acid-washing, along with added sugar and MSG.
  2. Phytates and Lectins: Like all legumes, soy beans have phytates that prevent your body from absorbing many minerals and lectins that can cause gut irritation. But when you start to process soy beans in the manner necessary to make soy milk, it concentrates the phytates and lectins, increasing the likelihood that they’ll interfere with your gut health and nutrient absorption.
  3. Phyto-Estrogens: Occasional soy beans probably won’t cause too many problems in this regard, but soy milk is incredibly high in phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens bind to the same receptors in your body, which then thinks that it’s not producing enough estrogen, thus throwing your entire hormonal system out of balance.
  4. GMOs and Pesticides: Have any guesses as to what the most genetically modified food in the United States is? Corn is a close second, but the title goes to soy. Not just that, but soy is great at absorbing pesticides. Take all of that, process it, concentrate it into soy milk, and you have a drink that is not healthy in any regard!

Is Soy Milk Paleo?

No.

Some fermented soy products are healthy for you, but soy milk definitely is not.

Issue No. 49

Is Coconut Milk Paleo? 

Coconut Milk photo
Photo by Veganbaking.net

Coconut milk has a few misconceptions swirling around the evolutionary foodie-verse about it – both about what it actually is and about where it’s Paleo-friendly. Many think that coconut milk is the liquid inside a fresh coconut (that’s actually coconut water), but the milk is 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 equal. While a can of pure coconut milk sporting an ingredient list of coconut and water is pretty clean on where it falls on the Paleo spectrum, there are other health factors to consider. If it’s in a can, BPA (Bisphenal-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 milks 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.

What Do Other Paleo Experts 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 are coming out with their own version of coconut milk by the quart and half 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.

Is Coconut Milk Paleo?

Yes, coconut milk is Paleo-acceptable.

If you make your own from just coconut meat and water, then the answer is a resounding yes.

Things get murky, however, when whoosing more store-bought brands. Depending on ingredients and personal preference in avoiding BPAs, it can be a bit of a judgement call on what type of coconut milk is acceptable on a Paleo regimen. So watch where it comes from, 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. 49

Is Almond Milk Paleo? 

Almond Milk photo
Photo by AmazingAlmonds

Almond milk has been around since medieval times and as an alternative to cow’s milk, almond milk has been used for cooking, baking, and a straight-up drink. Unlike animal milk, this milk-like drink made from ground almonds contains no lactose or cholesterol and is helpful for those with allergies to gluten or casein.

Nutritionally, almond milk offers many of the same benefits that almonds do, including magnesium, vitamin E, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, selenium, iron, fiber, zinc, calcium, and several phytochemicals. Unsweetened versions are also low in calories, containing about 40 calories per 8-oz serving. Compared to cow’s milk, the only area that almond milk offers less nutrition is in protein, with only a gram per a serving, compared to the eight grams that cow’s milk offers.

You can make your own almond milk, which helps remove the anti-nutrients inherent in the nuts. This is the healthier and preferred alternative if you are trying to avoid the processed, chemically-laden store-brought brands. Their labels sport a host of not-so-good-for-you ingredients like preservatives, sweeteners, and carrageenan.

What Do Other Paleo Experts Say?

Diane Sunfilippo says: “Personally, I vote for homemade (almond milk) or none at all. You have NO way of knowing what ‘other natural flavors’ (on a label) means.”

Mark Sission says: “Is almond milk Primal? Sure, in theory. Grind up some almonds, mix with water, and strain them to produce a ‘milk’ uses nothing but Primal ingredients and practices. There’s nothing overtly ‘wrong’ with that. But there’s also nothing very exciting… Personally, I’d just eat the almonds.”

Loren Cordain says: “Yes, almond milk is a Paleo-friendly food. You can also use hazelnut and coconut milk.”

Is Almond Milk Paleo?

Yes, but use it in moderation and make your own when you can.

Almonds are Paleo, so it should follow that their milky output might be too. IF almonds are ground, mixed with water, and strained to produce a “milk,” it’s pretty far from an industrial-processed food so it’s allowable according to most Paleo experts.

However, commercially produced forms are highly processed and can defeat the real-food, healthy intentions for Paleo-diet followers if used too frequently.

Issue No. 49

Is Sweet Potato Flour Paleo?

Sweet Potato Flour photo
Photo by Green Smoothies Rock!

Almond flour, coconut flour, sweet potato flour—in the world of Paleo, substituting for standard grain-based flour can be a real task. What do you choose? Where do you find it? And when you do find it, how do you know that you’re not just substituting one inflammatory flour for another? Some vouch for sweet potato flour as a reliable ingredient in any Paleo recipe, but should we really be tossing this into our cooking and baking?
Sweet potato flour is produced from—you guessed it—sweet potatoes. Both white and orange ones are used to create flour, which retains some sweetness even after being ground down. Regardless, sweet potato itself is generally widely accepted in the Paleo community.

In fact, sweet potatoes have been demonstrated in numerous studies to have a whole host of beneficial effects, including cancer prevention, the ability to regulate and downgrade inflammation, and (despite their sugary contents) helping to regulate insulin control. They’re a great source of potassium, and you get much more than your regular daily dose of vitamin A after eating just one medium sweet potato. All this on top of considerable helpings of vitamins C and D, riboflavin, and iron.

But that’s just sweet potatoes, right? We’re talking flour here.
Actually, it turns out that as long as you’re careful, you’ll be getting just about the same nutrients if you buy sweet potato flour as you would from eating a regular sweet potato. That being said, there’s probably cause to say we can safely use some of this grain-free powder in our Paleo cooking, right?

What Do Other Paleo Experts Say?

The Paleo Mom says: “Sweet potato powder [often called sweet potato flour] is ground dried sweet potatoes and still retains its orange color (sweet potato starch is white). This is a more interesting flour because it has some fiber and can absorb liquid so it has more ability to hold baking together. I have used it in pancakes and have played with it as a flour substitute for brownies. I’m still getting familiar with this flour, but it’s definitely a neat one to play with.”

Sebastien Noel says: “’Safe starches’…(especially sweet potatoes) and other starchy tubers are therefore a perfectly acceptable element of a healthy, evolutionarily-based diet for someone with no (or few) metabolic problems.”

Is Sweet Potato Flour Paleo?

Yes!

By and large, if you pick up a pound of sweet potato flour, you’re on track for some great, toxin-free nutrients that won’t cause your body any harm. However, do be aware of what you’re buying and, as always, check the label. It’s not unheard of for flours to contain more than just their derivative part—if your sweet potato flour actually has some regular, processed wheat-based flour in it, then it’s a no-go. In general, aim for orange-tinted flour and check to be sure that what you’re toting home is pure, 100% sweet potato.

Issue No. 50

Is Miso Paleo?

Miso photoWhen most people think of miso, they conjure an imagine of a little bowl of soup served at a Japanese restaurant. Miso soup is probably the most popular way to consume miso, but actually, miso is a paste that is widely used for a variety of dishes. Said to be a better alternative than table salt with more flavor to boot, is miso something that would feel right at home in the Paleo lifestyle? Or are its negative effects too great to outweigh any positives?

Making miso itself is quite a process—a base (usually made of soybeans, though any bean will work) is mashed and then combined with a culture called Aspergillus oryzae. This starts off a fermentation process, but what is interesting is that the Aspergillus mixture (often called “koji”) is not a yeast, despite what most people think. Bacteria encourages the beans to ferment, forming a paste that is otherwise known as miso.

This miso paste, which can be used for cooking or made into soup, is a staple in diets around the world—most notably Japan. However, followers of the Paleo diet note that legumes, and especially soy, contain lectins that interfere with blood sugar levels; in other words, they make your blood sugar harder to regulate, so your insulin has to work harder in response. This can lead to insulin sensitivity and metabolic disorder.
Similarly, soy contains phytoestrogens (note the word “estrogen” there), which are a big culprit behind hormonal imbalances. So it seems that perhaps miso, which is soy-based, is not a wise option for those following a Paleo lifestyle.

However, others argue that because soy is fermented and loses many of its toxins in the process, adding it to the diet in judicious amounts is perfectly acceptable. In fact, numerous studies have shown that the sodium in miso actually helps manage blood pressure, not make it worse. Miso actually has a protective effect against high blood pressure, it seems.

Both sides of the argument certainly have their own important talking points, so what is a confused Paleo dieter to do? Thankfully, some Paleo experts weigh in to make the decision a little easier.

What Do Other Paleo Experts Say?

Irena of EatDrinkPaleo says: “A few soy based ingredients…pass my nutritional acceptance test. These are naturally fermented soy foods such as tempeh, natto and miso. The reason these particular soy products are not as harmful as tofu or soy milk is that they are produced through a fermentation process, which makes them more easily digestible and reduces the amount of present antinutrients such as phytates and lectins. In fact, they are rather healthy and nutritious—they are a great source of probiotics, have high levels of isoflavones (cancer preventative) and a good amount of protein (especially tempeh), minerals and vitamins (especially vitamin K in miso and B12 vitamin in tempeh).”

UltimatePaleoGuide says: “[Miso] may have a positive hormonal impact and help menopausal symptoms, the prostate, lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes. Again, these benefits are seen when soy is consumed in small quantities from unprocessed and fermented sources such as tempeh, natto, and miso. If you are consuming soy, it should be primarily from those sources mentioned above, in small quantities, and in organic and fermented form.”

Is Miso Paleo?

No!

Our Paleolithic ancestors did not engage in the process to create miso, so strictly speaking, miso is not a “Paleo food.”

However, fermented foods are actively endorsed by Paleo enthusiasts, including Paleo Living Magazine, for their extensive health benefits. Miso that comes from properly fermented soy is an acceptable addition to a Paleo diet because most of its toxins have been removed during the fermentation process. However, as with any food, try it and see how your body reacts. If you know that you do not tolerate soy well, consider opting out of miso dishes—or better yet, consider looking for miso that is not made from soybeans. Chickpeas and fava beans are known to produce equally tasty miso paste!

Issue No. 52

Are Peanuts Paleo?

Peanuts photo

Peanut butter, peanut brittle, and just regular old peanuts—these are some snack-time staples. But what exactly is the big hype about these little nuts all about? Many tout the protein and fiber content of peanuts (and legumes in general), but let’s be honest—peanuts are tasty. Since they’re so popular and seem to be a great source of a few important nutrients, should Paleo-ites be popping peanuts for a snack?

One of the reasons that no one thinks twice about munching on peanuts is probably because they’ve been around for a long time—think at least 3,500 years. It’s no surprise, then, that over the course of all that time, people eventually got the idea to try to eat them. Additionally, peanuts contain high amounts of fiber and protein; so much, in fact, that people who do not consume meat categorize peanuts in the “meat” category of their food plan.

If they’re that loaded with protein and fiber, what’s not to love? Well, as it turns out, peanuts are hiding a dark little secret. They contain lectins, which are proteins that plants make to keep things from eating them. If these lectins are a peanut’s defense mechanism against, well, us, it can’t be too great for us if we actually consume them. And it turns out that’s exactly right—some studies show that the lectins that peanuts produce contribute to leaky gut. Your intestines become inflamed and start sporting little tiny holes, where food particles can escape and enter the bloodstream. Needless to say, what’s in the stomach should stay in the stomach. And we haven’t even mentioned aflatoxins, which are a type of mold common in peanuts that may even contribute to cancer.

With some beneficial nutrients potentially outweighed by some toxins and their harmful effects, it can be difficult to see where peanuts rest on the Paleo spectrum.

What do the Paleo gurus say?

Sarah Ballantyne says: “There are several ways in which [peanuts] create holes in the gut lining. The best understood is the damage caused by lectins. While slowing down sugar transport from the gut to the bloodstream seems like a great thing on the surface…the irreversible increase in gut permeability is just not worth it!”

PaleoLeap says: “Like other legumes, peanuts are problematic because they contain lectins and phytic acid, but peanuts also bring a new guest to the party: aflatoxins. Unless you’re picking your peanuts directly from the farm, you’re probably getting some aflatoxins with them, and they’re not something you want: some research has linked long-term consumption to aflatoxins with risk for diseases like cancer and hepatitis B. Unlike many other types of lectins, peanut lectins are also very difficult to destroy by cooking.”

So are peanuts Paleo?

No.

The lectins and aflatoxins in peanuts cause significant gut damage, which contributes to inflammation (and therefore all the inflammatory diseases, like heart disease and high blood pressure, among many others). Because even normally tried-and-true methods of toxin removal like sprouting and fermenting don’t remove the lectins from peanuts, they’re not a good choice for anyone trying to follow a wholesome, toxin-free diet.

Issue No. 53

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