Is it Paleo?

Are Carrots Paleo?

Carrots photoFor many, it’s hard to resist the sweet, crisp crunch of a delicious orange carrot. From carrot sticks to delectable carrot cake, we’ve managed to find quite a few spots to stuff this bright veggie into our lives. Because it’s a vegetable, we can expect it to be a great addition to the Paleo diet—right? But what about its sweet, sugary nature? Maybe we’d be better off ditching carrots after all.

There are two main reasons that carrots play such a central role in the vegetable section of our foods—first, they’ve been cultivated over hundreds of years to encourage that sweet, robust orange root that we enjoy. Originally, they were bred for their leaves and seeds (did you know carrots are related to herbs like cumin?). Second, carrots have been a big part of the cuisine of many cultures of thousands of years. They originated in the area once known as Persia (now the countries around Afghanistan), and careful cultivation and trade has spread them across the globe.

Many people cite carrots’ impressive vitamin A content as a huge reason to include them in your diet. Researchers have confirmed that the beta-carotene in carrots is a major contributor to vitamin A consumption (the oranger the carrot, the better!), and vitamin A is known to reduce damaging oxidation and improve eye health. However, carrots are also sweet, and while delicious, this sugar could pose a problem for insulin regulation. In addition, some forms of carrots (particularly baby carrots) have been washed in a chlorine solution that infuses a small amount of chlorine into the plant. That’s certainly a toxin no one wants to have floating around in their bloodstream!

With both pros and cons to carrot consumption, it can be tough to tell whether they should be a bigger part of the Paleo diet.

What do the Paleo gurus say?

Alison Ver Halen says: “What gives carrots their characteristic orange color is B-carotene, which our bodies convert into vitamin A. Carrots also contain significant amounts of vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and potassium, so just because these roots come with a little sugar, is no reason to exclude them from your diet.”

PaleoGrubs says: “Carrots are a nice food to keep around because they come in many forms, and are easy to take with you while on the go. Drop a bag of baby carrots into your cart on your next shopping run and you’ll see that they make a cool crisp snack you can enjoy anywhere and they won’t weigh you down.”

So are carrots Paleo?

Yes!

Carrots are a great source of many vitamins and minerals, and they’re easy to store and use anywhere you go. To avoid the chlorine problem, opt for organic carrots—especially whole ones and not pre-packaged baby carrots, which undergo the bulk of the rinsing. Don’t forget you can also eat the carrot tops!

Issue No. 54

Is Grapefruit Paleo?

Grapefruit photoFor many years, grapefruit has been a staple for people looking to lose weight—it’s satisfying, low in calories, and full of nutrients like vitamins. Known to be extremely acidic, however, grapefruits contain furanocoumarins that actually keep your stomach from performing some of its regular functions. That doesn’t sound like a good thing! So is this sour fruit a good thing to keep on your countertop, or should you ditch the grapefruits for other options in the Paleo lifestyle?

An originally sub-tropical fruit, grapefruits are the product of a unique process called natural hybridization—when two species of plants get crossed and create a new sub-species. In this case, the grapefruit’s parents were from Asia: the pomelo and the sweet orange. The new species took up residence in Barbados and the surrounding area, branching into the multiple varieties we know today (Ruby Red, Star Ruby, etc).

Grapefruits have been shown to reduce arterial stiffness, improve blood pressure, and add a healthy dose of vitamins (A, C) and other nutrients that are difficult to get in sufficient quantities (like biotin). However, as mentioned previously, the chemicals in grapefruit inhibit stomach acid from doing its job. Does that mean that grapefruits are really great or not so much? It can be hard to tell.

What do the Paleo gurus say?

Alison Ver Halen says: “You can…obtain benefits from eating grapefruit. It is low in sugar and high in anti-oxidants, both of which are beneficial. Just don’t go eating piles of them on a daily basis, and always go for the whole fruit instead of the juice whenever possible. The fruit has beneficial fiber to lower blood sugar and feed your gut bacteria, whereas store-bought juice is likely to have added sugar.”

Loren Cordain says: “Given…the possibility of increased sugar in juices, my suggestion instead would be to eat grapefruit whole instead, as we recommend with other fruit and vegetables when following a Paleo diet. Moreover, careful chewing has been shown to stimulate the release of 2 intestinal peptides which decrease appetite and food intake. This indicates more benefits for you to actually eat a grapefruit, instead of drinking the juice.”

So is grapefruit Paleo?

Yes, but be cautious.

Grapefruits themselves are a great source of nutrients, and they can be tasty and a convenient snack. However, the reason that grapefruits are sometimes considered “dangerous” is because of the furanocoumarins mentioned earlier that inhibit gut function. This doesn’t affect your day-to-day stomach health; the only time this will really be important is if you are taking medications. Grapefruit is known to interact with a large number of medications, so always check to be sure that you can consume grapefruit if you are taking any medicines, either prescribed, over-the-counter, or herbal. You can find a rather extensive list of medicines that interact with grapefruit here. Do some research and ask your doctor before adding grapefruit to your diet; otherwise, you may be neutralizing your medicine as you take it.

Article by: Carrie Ott

Issue No. 55

Is V8 Paleo?

V8 Vegetable Juice has been a persistent presence on grocery store shelves since 1948. Regarded by some as a convenient way to “drink your vegetables” when you’re on the go, it’s sometimes questioned as Paleo-friendly due to its nutrient makeup, packaging, and the fact that it is a processed food. Let’s start by deconstructing a can of V8.

What Is V8 Vegetable Juice?

V8’s original version is comprised of mostly water and tomato concentrate, along with a reconstituted vegetable juice blend that includes the concentrate of eight vegetables: beets, celery, carrots, lettuce, parsley, watercress, spinach, and tomato. However, the (not so) raw truth is that tomato juice comprises around 87% of the total drink, making it less of a “vegetable juice” and more of a tomato juice (from concentrate). It also contains a fair amount of sodium, with 650 mg of it in an 8 oz. serving, for the original version. Its manufacturer, Campbell’s, has also produced several renditions of the drink that include Spicy Hot, Lemon, Picante, Roasted Chicken, Low-Sodium, and Organic versions.

The juice has also undergone pasteurization, which can help increase the lycopene content of the tomato juice. Lycopene, which is naturally found in tomatoes (and their products), has some health benefits, including lowering the risk for cancer.

Unfortunately, most of the V8 available is packaged in cans lined with BPA (short for bisphenol A), a commonly used chemical in food packaging that some studies have linked to health problems. While Campbell’s has announced a move to phase out BPA in its can linings, it has not announced a timeline for when the changes will take place. V8 cans are not yet sporting labels indicating the BPA is gone.

Is V8 Healthy?

V8 is a vegetable, but mostly tomato-based, processed juice. Paleo dietary advice leans away from processed foods. Unless made from fresh (hopefully organic) produce, most juices in their store-bought, packaged versions would seem to register as a Paleo fail. That, coupled with the fact that BPA-lined cans are still the delivery method of choice for the manufacturer, the odds seem stacked against it being a suitable Paleo food.

However, on the other hand, some Paleo/Primal experts give V8 the green light as acceptable. They advocate that because it’s relatively low in sugar, short on offending ingredients and relatively lower in carbs than fruit juice, it’s fine – but that fresh veggies always trump the can.

What Do Other Paleo Gurus Say?

Neely Quinn says: “You don’t often find vegetable juice in stores (besides V8, but that doesn’t really count because it’s pasteurized, not organic, and full of iodized salt). But you can sure juice your own vegetables at home. Veggies are way lower in sugar than fruits, and chock full of nutrients.”

Mark Sisson says: “(It’s) Primal – it doesn’t contain added sugar or weird ingredients – but it doesn’t replace actual vegetables.

First, (there’s) the imbalanced sodium/potassium ratio. I have nothing against salt, but it’s fairly well accepted that an imbalance between sodium and potassium intake is one of the factors involved in developing hypertension.

Second, seeing as how V8 100% vegetable juice is actually 87% tomato juice (from concentrate), it’s more accurate to say V8 provides all your tomato juice needs in a can. Which is totally fine, but it’s not an effective replacement for your celery, spinach, beet, carrot, lettuce, parsley, or watercress needs. I’m actually a fan of tomato juice, even the pasteurized, reconstituted type. Rather than render it nutritionally void, pasteurization actually increases the lycopene content of tomato products (including juice). V8 is great for tomato juice, not ‘vegetables.’

Third, V8 appears to contain traces of BPA, perhaps because the cans are lined with it (though a type of baby formula had more).”

Melissa Hartwig says: “(Both Clausen pickles) and V8 are fine. Those additives aren’t encouraged, of course, but they’re not one of the three (MSG, carrageenan, and sulfites) specifically prohibited on the Whole30.”

Is V8 Paleo?

Yes – with a caveat.

V8 can be called “Paleo-in-a-pinch.” Dubbed as acceptable by several Paleo/Primal voices, it’ll do when fresh, whole veggies aren’t available. Yes, it’s Paleo. However, it shouldn’t be made a staple source of vegetables or nutrients for anyone trying to adhere to a Paleo regimen. With suspect packaging methods (for now), processed origins, and the fact that it’s fairly high in sodium, make V8 an occasional veggie-based drink to use when you’re short on time and looking to occasionally change-up your beverage choices.

Issue No. 37

Photo by PRMF

Is Diet Soda Paleo?

soda photo
Photo by GoodNCrazy

Want to cut back on calories?

Drink a diet soda.

Want to get away from sugar?

Drink a diet soda.

People have been debating over the health effects of the artificial sweeteners in diet sodas—sucralose, stevia, and aspartame—for quite a while now.

So should you use diet soda as a way to curb not-so-wholesome sugar cravings, or should you avoid diet soda forever?

What is Diet Soda?

Supposedly, the first diet soda was a no-sugar ginger ale called No-Cal, created in 1952. It was intended for diabetics, not for people on a “diet,” and it didn’t sell all too well because of that.

But from that moment on, the idea was in the market and other large companies jumped on the bandwagon. Royal Crown Cola created Diet Rite, which is still popular today, and Coca Cola created Tab, which was later replaced with Diet Coke to help customers associate the drink with the Coke brand name.

From 2000 and after, companies really diversified their diet products, and it all led to the dozens of diet sodas we see on our shelves today.

Is Diet Soda Healthy?

The main concern about diet beverages is in their artificial sweetener content.

Aspartame has come under fire recently because of its phenylalanine content—scientists have proven that some people’s bodies cannot process this component of aspartame. This may occur with people who have phenylketonuria, a genetic disorder, as well as pregnant women who naturally have higher blood levels of phenylalanine.

In addition, other researchers warn that aspartame, along with many other artificial sweeteners, are “excitotoxins”—that is, compounds that overstimulate the brain.

In addition, consumption of diet soda is known to disrupt your body’s natural ability to regulate potassium levels, and diet colas have been associated with the risk of low bone density, especially in women. This means that bones are more fragile and prone to osteoporosis.

There are a lot of studies showing that folks who drink diet soda are the most likely to gain and retain fat over time. However, these studies aren’t able to point to any specific causal mechanism, since they’re all observational studies.

In the end, the long-term consequences of drinking diet soda aren’t fully known. It may turn out that diet sodas have relatively little downside, but most of the current evidence points toward some problems.

For most folks, I find that drinking diet sodas tends to lead to sugar cravings and bad decision making. Once someone is able to give up these drinks, they usually start eating better overall and craving less sugar. And that’s a huge upside.

What Do Other Paleo Experts Say?

Chris Kresser says: “Cutting out these beverages [sodas] should be the first step…and can also help with shedding excess weight and reducing high blood sugar – both issues that further contribute to hypertension. And don’t think switching to Diet will help either, since artificially-sweetened beverages also contribute to hypertension.”

Mark Sisson says: “If you’re a dedicated diet soda addict, maybe experiment with slowly eliminating it from your diet. Drink a bit less than usual and see how you feel. Try to save your 80/20 allowance for something a bit more fun, like maybe a high quality full-fat ice cream or a hunk of super dark chocolate (which actually has some nutritional merit, like good dairy fat). I’m gonna say that ideally you ditch them altogether, mostly because they seem to reinforce bad habits in most people and because the long term effects aren’t fully known.”

Is Diet Soda Paleo?

No!

The negative effects (actual and potential) of diet soda on the body far outweigh any possible health benefits (if any).
If you’ve been using diet soda as a way to satisfy your sugar cravings, try weaning yourself off the beverage by replacing it with other sweet options like fruit (or go cold turkey if you can).

Issue No. 39

Photo by m01229

Is Kefir Paleo?

As recently as three years ago, I had zero idea what kefir was.
You may or may not be in the same boat, but I couldn’t even pronounce the word. (If you’re wondering, it’s pronounced kuh-FEER.)

What is Kefir?

Kefir is a type of carbonated dairy product that has been around for a very long time. Evidence shows that people have been fermenting drinks for thousands of years (around 5000 BC for the Babylonians), and kefir is one such drink.

Heralded around Europe and Asia for its healing properties in centuries past, kefir can be made from the milk of any ruminant (any animal that does not completely chew the vegetation that it eats, including goats, cows, sheep, and other milk-producing animals).

Because kefir is fermented milk, it is slightly sour tasting; the carbonation comes from the special blend of bacteria that is put into the milk to culture it.

Is Kefir Healthy?

The bacteria in kefir form special colonies, and as a result, kefir is one of the most powerful probiotics in the world.
And by now, you’re probably aware that the health of our gut bacteria is critical to our overall health—from helping us sleep better to aiding in weight loss, healing the gut, and preventing allergies.

On top of its impressive probiotic properties, kefir also has a good amount of vitamin K2, one of the vitamins most often missing in the American diet. Among other health benefits, vitamin K2 aids the processing of calcium and helps ensure that it ends up strengthening bones rather than getting deposited where it doesn’t belong (like the arteries).

Other studies have shown that kefir helps to calm an overactive immune system. Kefir lactobacilli, a rod-shaped bacteria in kefir, helps to tell your immune system to “stand down” against things that aren’t really threats (like pet dander and dust) that cause the stuffy nose and watery eyes we get with allergies.

But Isn’t Kefir a Form of Dairy?

As you probably know, many people argue that a Paleo diet should exclude all dairy. From my perspective, this doesn’t make sense, as I’ve pointed out before. Dairy is super-nutritious, has helped sustain many very healthy civilizations, and is particularly healthy when raw or fermented.

However, even though I support the consumption of raw and fermented dairy, I still advise everyone to remove dairy completely from their diets for at least 60 days before re-introducing raw and fermented dairy (like Kefir). If you don’t perform this sort of elimination, then it’s likely that you’ll never really know how your body reacts to dairy, and many people don’t react well to any dairy.

If, after such an elimination, you find that fermented dairy like kefir doesn’t cause you any gastro-intestinal discomfort or any signs of inflammation (stiffness, arthritis, acne, etc.), then you probably want to consider some of the powerful benefits that kefir can add to your diet.

What do other Paleo gurus say?

Mark Sisson says: “People have been eating fermented foods for thousands of years willingly, and even longer accidentally. The evidence shows there’s definitely something to it, and I think it can be a vital part of a healthy Primal Blueprint diet. If you can tolerate dairy, go for full-fat Greek style yogurt…[and] kefir is another possibility.”

Chris Kresser says: “Kefir is a great source of vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and a variety of other unique compounds that can greatly contribute to your overall health and wellbeing. I highly recommend including this nutritious superfood in your diet.”

Is Kefir Paleo?

Yes.

Personally, I can’t stand kefir. I just hate the taste.

But if you like it and can tolerate it, then kefir is a great addition to your diet. But do pay attention to whether or not you are dairy-intolerant. If you cannot consume dairy, the health benefits of kefir no longer outweigh the inflammation you’ll cause by adding it to your diet.

Issue No. 36

Photo by HealthHomeHappy.com

Are Whole Grains Paleo?

If there’s one characteristic that most modern diets share, it’s the push for whole grains.

Major organizations like the Mayo Clinic and the American Diabetes Association insist that opting for whole grains is a more nutritious, heart-healthy option for managing weight and insulin resistance.

However, we know that most diets have gotten a few things wrong…

What is a Whole Grain?

When a cereal grain (wheat, corn, barley, rye, etc.) is growing in the field, it already counts as a “whole grain”—that is, it has all of its parts intact. The parts of a grain—the bran (skin), germ (seed embryo), and endosperm (the germ’s food source)—are all kept together when they are harvested and turned into food.

This is different from refined grains, where only the endosperm remains. If you think about refined grains, then, you’ll notice that we’re not eating the actual grain (the germ) at all!

Are Whole Grains Healthy?

Many whole-grain proponents claim that whole grains are healthy. They believe that these foods are full of nutrients and fiber and should be the bulk of our food.

They often point out that when we eat refined grains, we’re missing out on some of the nutrients that were stored in the germ and bran—both of which are removed in the processing of grains. The Whole Grains Council provides a chart showing the nutrients lost when whole grains are refined.

However, there are a few things that these proponents are not talking about:

  1. Whole Grains are Still Low in Nutrients. I’ve written about grains extensively before, so I won’t go into too much detail. However, grains are relatively low in vitamins and minerals when compared to almost every other food group: vegetables, meats, seafood, nuts, and even fruits. You can find people who disagree, but this is a factual matter. If you go to the USDA database and start plotting the amount of nutrients in grains against most other foods, grains come out way behind. This is probably the worst thing about grains. Since they typically comprise the majority of foods that modern humans eat, that means they’re crowding out a lot of more nutrient-dense foods.
  2. Grains Contain Phytates. Phytates are little binding molecules that occur naturally in many plants. They’re not particularly bad for humans, but what they do is they prevent our intestines from absorbing various minerals that are contained in grains. So even the nutrients that are in grains aren’t really absorbed very well.
  3. Grains Also Contain Lectins. I’ve also written previously about lectins. At their worst, lectins like to bind to the intestinal lining, making it tough for our intestines to do their jobs of absorbing what should go in and passing on what should be kept out. Some lectins are worse than others. Wheat Germ Agglutinin (WGA) is a lectin in wheat, and it’s one of the worst. WGA can trigger and exacerbate leaky gut, lead to insulin resistance, and contribute to a lot of other inflammation-related issues.
  4. Prolamins are the Worst. Apart from WGA, lectins aren’t terrible if you don’t already have leaky gut, and phytates are bad, but only with respect to preventing absorption. On the other hand, prolamins (another type of protein in grains) tend to cause the most problems. The most famous prolamin is gluten. Even though around 1% of the population completely cannot tolerate gluten, sources show that a more significant number—around 30%—are sensitive to gluten even if lab tests show a negative celiac diagnosis. We know this because we can find anti-gliadin IgA in their stool. That’s an antibody that only enters the intestines to protect (yes, protect) you from threats that it senses. In addition, all humans produce zonulin in response to eating gluten, and zonulin leads directly to leaky gut by regulating the opening and closing of the tight junctions between your epithelial (intestinal) cells.

Any organization promoting whole grains really isn’t looking at the whole picture – often by choice.

What do other Paleo gurus say?

Mark Sisson says: “Is there a good reason for anyone (with access to meat, fruit, and vegetables, that is) to rely on cereal grains for a significant portion of their caloric intake? The answer is unequivocally, undeniably no. We do not need grains to survive, let alone thrive. In fact, they are naturally selected to ward off pests, whether they be insects or hominids. I suggest we take the hint and stop eating them.”

Robb Wolf says: “[Scientists say that] by shunning dairy and grains, you’re at risk of missing out on a lot of nutrients. Once again, this statement shows the writer’s ignorance and blatant disregard for the facts. Because contemporary ancestral diets exclude processed foods, dairy and grains, they are actually more nutrient (vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals) dense than government recommended diets such as the food pyramid.”

So are whole grains Paleo?

A Big No.

Whole grains contain some of the most damaging anti-nutrients we can consume, and most people consume them multiple times every day.

Some Paleo experts even go so far as to say that if there was just one food recommendation they could get everyone to follow, it would be to remove these grains from their diet entirely.

So, when it comes to whole grains, make sure to fill up your plate with something else and just say no.

Issue No. 35

Is Chicken Paleo?

chicken wings photoAh, 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. 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

Photo by wattpublishing

Is Canola Oil Paleo?

If food were a game of hide and seek, canola oil would be just about the worst player ever.

Canola oil is absolutely everywhere you look. From mayonnaise to nuts to cooked vegetables—canola oil is in just about every food you can imagine.

Canola oil is a bit of a unique substance. We know that sunflower oil comes from sunflower seeds and olive oil from olives, so naturally, canola oil comes from canola seeds, right? As it turns out, there is no such thing as a canola seed. Canola oil is made from rapeseed (a very bright, yellow flower), and its name comes from a hybrid of the phrase “Canada oil.” It used to be called LEAR (Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed).

Is Canola Oil Healthy

Many mainstream scientists tout the benefits of canola oil for lowering the risk for heart disease. They often point to its 2:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, which is a fairly good ratio.

However, that’s a bit misleading. First of all, the omega-3 fats in canola oil aren’t the kind that our bodies use very well (remember, we need mostly the DHA and EPA forms of omega-3 fats, neither of which are contained in canola oil).

In addition, canola oil is highly processed, since it’s pretty much impossible to press any oil out of a rapeseed. During processing, the seeds are heated and crushed before being bleached and deodorized.

Despite heavy genetic engineering (which may already make you leery), rapeseed is one of the most heavily pesticide-treated crops. In addition, the process of creating canola oil includes hydrogenation—the force required to create trans fats. These fats are not found in nature, and the body does not know how to process them. As a result, studies show that they throw our cholesterol off balance, pose risks to our cardiovascular health, contribute to insulin resistance, and cause an increase in all-cause mortality. In a nutshell, these studies are saying that if you consume trans fats like those found in hydrogenated canola oil, you’re more likely to die of, well, anything.

Why? Because the heavily modified molecules in canola oil inhibit the body’s natural ability to heal and take care of itself. It may also be worth bearing in mind that, in addition to food, canola oil is also often used in industrial lubricants, candles, and newspaper ink.

It seems like this hybrid oil is something Paleo followers should avoid, and Paleo experts agree.

What do other Paleo Experts say?

Mark Sisson says: “My thinking is this: why bother with something so processed and unhealthy when there are umpteen other, better options out there? Olive oil, coconut, palm oil, lard and ghee are suitable for most cooking applications. And for salads and other “no heat” dishes, you have dozens of tasty (non-deodorized) choices, including avocado and nut oils. As for canola, who needs it?”

Chris Kresser says: “Industrial seed oils…have not been a part of the human diet up until relatively recently, when misguided groups like the AHA and the ADA started promoting them as ‘heart-healthy’ alternatives to saturated fat. [They are] unnatural and unfit for human consumption.”

So is canola oil Paleo?

No.

While some Paleo experts say that you shouldn’t be completely doom-and-gloom if you eat a teaspoon of canola oil, who actually eats just a teaspoon?

There’s so much canola oil in so many foods that avoiding it altogether is by far the best option. Because it increases the mortality rate from all diseases and contributes to inflammation and illness, make sure to leave this one out next time you have a snack.

oil photo

Issue No. 34

Are Beans Paleo?

beans photo
Photo by WhyKenFotos

Pinto, lima, garbanzo, pea, kidney, lentil…no doubt you recognize at least some of these popular names for people’s favorite legumes.

But exactly what is it about beans that manages to capture everyone’s attention? Many tout the protein and fiber content of legumes as a major benefit, not to mention the variety of tastes and options that beans provide. Since they’re so popular, should those following a Paleo lifestyle hop on the bean bandwagon?

One of the reasons that beans are such a staple in many people’s diets is because they’ve been around for a long time. As some of the oldest and longest-cultivated plants, it’s no surprise to see that some cultures have incorporated beans as a fixture in their diet. Additionally, beans contain high amounts of fiber and protein; so much, in fact, that people who do not consume meat categorize beans 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, beans aren’t as packed with nutrients as one might think. These nutritional profiles are most often based on raw beans—and we all know that none of us eat plain raw beans. When beans are cooked, they lose a large portion of their previous nutritional value. That means that other sources of healthy proteins, like meat, become more favorable options.

Legumes also contain lectins, which are proteins that plants make in order to protect them against things that want to eat them. If the plants are trying to protect themselves against us, there’s got to be something that they’re doing to us to make us shy away from eating them, right? Some studies show that the lectins they produce cause leaky gut, reducing the strength of the intestinal lining and letting molecules from your stomach permeate into your bloodstream.

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

What Do Other Paleo Gurus Say?

Sarah Ballantyne says: “There are several ways in which [beans] 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 (why beans are so often recommended as a carbohydrate source for diabetics!), the irreversible increase in gut permeability is just not worth it!”

So Are Beans Paleo?

No.

While beans are not the worst thing you could possibly eat, the general consensus is that avoiding them is your best bet. Any nutrients that you can get from beans can be found in other, less toxic foods, and since Paleo is all about avoiding toxins, beans are considered a no-go. If you must eat beans, do it the way that our ancestors did—by soaking or fermenting them, since this process breaks down some of their natural toxins.

Issue No. 33

Photo by WhyKenFotos

Is Animal Skin Paleo?

cow photo

Is Animal Skin Paleo?

When we chew the fat about eating animal skin—whether it’s in the form of bacon, salmon skin or roasted chicken skin, it’s important to note what might lead many eager carnivores to shun it. Many media and health advocacy groups have demonized animal skin as something to be avoided because it contains a high amount of fat. We’re told to “remove all visible skin and fat” when preparing meats and animal-based recipes. Yet, as many Paleo devotees know, “good” fat can be a delicious and healthy addition to the diet. Salmon skin boasts a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids, while organic, free-range poultry skin has high amounts of animal fat, plus substances like collagen and gelatin, which keep our joints lubricated and strengthen our hair and nails.
Additionally, the amino acids present in animal skin provide a nice counterbalance to muscle meats—which some mistakenly go overboard on eating when embarking on a Paleo diet. Foods like muscle meats and eggs contain high levels of an amino acid known as methionine. In metabolizing this amino acid, it increases the need for another important amino acid, glycine.
Where’s glycine found most abundantly? In animal skin and bones.

So, is it Paleo?

While it might seem obvious that eating animal skin goes with the Paleo philosophy of “whole animal” (or nose-to-tail) eating to provide the right balance of nutrients, dire warnings from the mainstream media still might lead some to avoid eating it.
Yet as long as the animal it comes from was raised healthily and fed the right food, including the skin on your plate is generally touted as a good thing by many in the Paleo community.

What do the Paleo gurus say?

Chris Kresser says: “It’s easy to eat too much muscle meat when starting the Paleo diet and not enough of the other parts of the animal (like the skin or organ meats). Because organ meats, skin, and bones (in the form of bone broth) are not a common part of the Standard American Diet (SAD), we don’t think much about incorporating these foods into our diet when we first start. However, it is crucial to include these parts (along with muscle meat) in order to nourish ourselves properly…Think about it: traditional cultures value every part of the animal and use them all in some capacity. It is only very recently that we have started to pick and choose what parts of the animal we consume. Eating the whole animal ensures a balanced intake of all the amino acids, so it is wise to do just that!
Mark Sisson says: “Animal skin is fantastic. Although I wouldn’t recommend eating charred, crispy animal skin every day of the week (although braised, gently-cooked animal skin is fine all the time), animal skin in and of itself is highly nutritious. As long as the animal in question was healthy and fed a good diet, I would never shy away from a serving of animal skin.
Nell Stephenson says: “I have no qualms admitting it- one of my favorite parts of a meal featuring pan-seared or grilled or oven roasted wild salmon or black cod is the skin. So much so, that it makes me cringe when I stop by the fish monger’s counter at my local market and see all the fillets have been pre-skinned.
Far too many people are still frightened of (good) fat and certainly would never deign to actually, purposely eat the skin. But they’re missing out! Not only is the taste fantastic, it’s actually part of the whole concept of eating the whole animal.

Conclusion?

Fear not the crispy goodness—animal skin is Paleo, if you can verify that the animal it came from was raised and fed in a healthy and sustainable way. It can be a nutritious (and tasty) addition to a Paleo regimen.

Issue No. 24

Is Wheat Germ Paleo?

Is Wheat Germ Paleo?

By its very name, wheat germ would seem to preclude a place on a Paleo plate, given its push to avoid wheat and other grains, due to their allergenic and inflammatory effects on the body. However, because wheat germ has very little gluten in it (which is one of the primary allergens in wheat) some question whether it’s possible to include it in an evolutionary diet.

Gluten is a protein chiefly confined to the endosperm of a grain, which is the tissue produced inside the seeds of most flowering plants around fertilization. The wheat “germ” is the part of the wheat grain that is primarily protein-free that eventually germinates and grows into a new plant—and also contains very little gluten. Yet gluten (or lack thereof) isn’t the whole story when it comes to deciding if wheat germ earns a Paleo pass or fail.

So, is it Paleo?

While wheat germ is very low in gluten, there are other offenders at work that can be counter-productive to our health. One of these is a little antinutrient called wheat germ agglutinin or WGA, for short, which might be as troublesome as gluten. WGA is a lectin protein that protects the wheat from insects, yeasts and other pests. And while lectins are present in many foods, some of the highest (and potentially damaging) concentrations are found in grains like wheat (and its germ).

There is evidence that, like gluten, WGA can damage the lining of the gut and lead to intestinal permeability. This in turn can prompt our immune system to respond, triggering any number of auto-immune issues.

Studies have also shown that WGA can increase glucose transport into fat and liver cells while it blocks the body’s ability to released stored fat. This is detrimental to weight loss efforts, and because more glucose is being brought to the liver, blood triglycerides can also increase (not a good thing).

Additionally, WGA has been shown to obstruct our cell’s’ receptors from absorbing the Vitamin D we all need. These studies might help explain that regardless of the amount of time we spend in the sun, the decreased receptors for vitamin D can lead to possible deficiencies of the vitamin.

What do the Paleo gurus say?

Mark Sisson says: “You certainly can (eat it), but I still wouldn’t. Wheat germ has a little something called wheat germ agglutinin, a particularly potent lectin that protects wheat from insects, yeasts and bacteria. It also tries to protect wheat from other, larger predators, like hairless bipedal agrarian apes, by attacking and perforating the intestinal lining. There’s also evidence that WGA interacts with insulin receptors in fat and liver cells, even going so far as to replicate the effects of insulin. Mimicking the effect of insulin with a foreign plant protein? Eh, I’m a little nervous about that.”

Kevin Cann (guest-blogging for Robb Wolf) says: “Understanding WGA and the other toxins found in grains and legumes is an important concept to health and weight loss. Counting calories while eating wheat products may work for some, but there are going to be quite a few people that run into failure. How can one reverse insulin resistance by eating a food that acts like insulin? Consumption of wheat can lead to Vitamin D deficiencies, which may be why we see increasing rates of disease and even osteoporosis. It damages the gut lining and increases inflammation. Inflammation can also lead to weight gain. If anything, remove wheat from the diet for 30 days and see how you feel. Eliminating all grains and legumes would be an even better step towards better health.”

Loren Cordain says: “In vitro studies show that WGA binds the nuclear pore and prevents Vitamin D from causing its normal gene transcription—not a good thing, as proper Vitamin.

Conclusion?

Based on what science has shown and what Paleo experts say, it’s a fairly obvious call when it comes to wheat germ.  We’ll stamp it clearly “Not Paleo” and take to heart that wheat germ is, like other grain products, not a wise choice for those seeking optimal health.

Issue No. 27

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