Nutrition

Health Benefits and Uses of Turkey

It’s Turkey time again—time when you sit down with family, watch a football game if you’re so inclined, and pass the food with all the fixings. Front and center in the biggest food celebration of the year is turkey, the nearly ubiquitous Thanksgiving meat. Around 7 billion pounds of turkey (that’s 10 Empire State Buildings!) are produced yearly in the US, so if you’re a fan of the bird, you’re in luck. You can thank Sarah Josepha Hale, writer of the nursery rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb, for convincing Abraham Lincoln that America should have an official turkey day.

Contrary to popular belief, though, it’s not the tryptophan in turkey that makes you sleepy. This is a widely believed myth. In reality, you get sleepy after a Thanksgiving meal because you simply ate too much. The overindulgence in carbs and sometimes alcohol contribute to blood sugar spikes that tire your body out. But that doesn’t mean that a big serving of turkey is bad for you! In fact, turkey (in moderate portions, of course) is a great source of many nutrients.

Why is Turkey Good for You?

  1. Vitamins. Turkey contains lots of vitamin B6, which improves immune function and supplements the body’s key systems. Vitamin B6 deficiency is relatively common.
  2. Selenium. The selenium found in turkey carries a whole host of health benefits—too many to discuss—but among them are noted improvements in Alzheimer’s patients, better management of diabetes, and less incidence of benign tumors. Many people are deficient in selenium, and if fish (another great source) is not one of your favorite foods, turkey is a great alternative.
  3. Tryptophan. This chemical isn’t responsible for making you sleepy—in fact, it helps to balance blood sugar (which is the actual source of the sleepiness problem; you just don’t get enough turkey compared to everything else you eat on Thanksgiving). Tryptophan is an amino acid that produces serotonin, a mood stabilizer. It improves mental health and immune function.

Those are just a few of the great things about turkey. But before you go out and buy packages and packages of turkey meat to snack on every day, there are a few things you should know. Buying packing turkey deli meat isn’t a good choice—it’s often loaded with sodium and is extremely processed, so there are many things besides actual turkey meat hiding in there. Slow-cooking or baking a fresh turkey is the way to go. But how do you know that your turkey is fresh?

How Do You Choose Good Turkeys?

  1. Don’t believe your grocery store’s “fresh” label without asking the butcher when the turkey was actually prepared. Many stores label their turkeys as “fresh” even though they were packaged 9 months or more ago!
  2. Turkeys that are raised and then sold the same day or the day after they are harvested have a more intense flavor and better texture than frozen turkeys, so if you have a local butcher or meat shop, that will likely be your best bet. Local turkeys are also much less likely to have been given antibiotics and a grain-based diet.
  3. Choose turkey meat that is supple. Grainy or excessively firm meat should be avoided.

Turkeys are a great, nutritious meal anytime, but they really shine during the fall season. Remember that on average, you can plan for about a pound of turkey per person. This season, make sure turkey is on the menu and share it around!

Article by: Carrie Ott

Photo by Mike_fleming

Are Sardines Paleo?

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.

In fact, that’s one of 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 whisky, 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-sensitives 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.

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 like shark and whale, or fish from polluted areas. The reason that these certain cases exist is because 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 from 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

Why Alcohol Is Paleo 

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

Socialization

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

Choosing the most “Paleo” Alcohol

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

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

Is Alcohol Really Paleo Friendly?

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

Foods High in Omega-3 

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

  • Flax Seeds and Flax Seed Oil 

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

  • Salmon 

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

  • Walnuts 

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

  • Chia Seeds 

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

  • Leafy Greens 

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

Is Oatmeal Paleo? 

Oatmeal photo

Don’t take away all of my breakfast foods!

Most of us have sampled some sort of oatmeal creation in our lifetime, whether it’s cookies, oatmeal in the morning, or a family recipe for baked oatmeal squares.

In fact, many people tout oatmeal as one of the best breakfast foods for you. Should we follow along and grab a bowl of oats every day, or should we be a bit more cautious about adding oatmeal to our daily Paleo lifestyle?

What Is Oatmeal?

When you think of oats, you probably don’t think of true oats. You likely envision something called “rolled oats,” which are the most common variety.

In their original form, the cereal grain oat is called a groat, and you’re most likely to find it in horse feed (though sometimes people still eat it for breakfast). It’s still got the bran—that husk part of the plant—and it’s largely untouched between harvest and consumption.

Rolled oats, on the other hand, are groats that have been steamed and rolled out, with the bran removed.
This is the kind you’d eat in oatmeal; they look like little ovals with a straight line down the middle.

Is Oatmeal Healthy?

Oatmeal definitely has some desirable qualities. Rolled oats are high in manganese, which helps the blood to clot and regulates metabolism, and you can also find a good helping of phosphorus, which plays a part in keeping our bones strong and healthy.

Because of the fiber levels, many folks also encourage consumption of oatmeal because they say it reduces serum cholesterol levels.

However, in the end, oatmeal still isn’t very nutritious in the grand scheme. When compared to most classes of Paleo foods (seafood, meats, veggies, nuts, etc.), grains fare very poorly, just like all other grains. That’s not a reason never to eat a food, but it’s a good reason not to make it a staple of the diet that you eat every day.

In addition, like most other grains, if you have any sort of gut issues (leaky gut, dysbiosis of microorganisms, IBS, bloating, etc.), then oats tend to exacerbate those problems and prevent full healing. There are a variety of possible reasons for this. Among other things, oatmeal is also being studied as a dietary contributor to inflammation.

In addition, the phytates contained in oats partially inhibit the absorption of minerals through the intestinal tract. What that means for you is that your body can’t absorb many of the nutrients in oats because they’re bound to phytic acid.

In the end, oats are not the worst thing you can eat by any means, and if you’re quite healthy, then you may tolerate oatmeal perfectly well. But it’s not an ideal food.

What Do Other Paleo Experts Say?

Amy Kubal says: “If you are asking [if a food is Paleo] because the food is something that you ‘want’ someone to tell you is okay to have even when in your mind you know it’s not paleo – don’t ask. This often applies to…oatmeal.”

Mark Sisson says: “Oatmeal is a perfect example of the essentially tasteless, but oddly comforting food that’s difficult to give up (judging from all the emails I get). It’s tough to explain, because it’s not like oatmeal is particularly delicious. It’s bland, unless you really dress it up. Better than wheat, worse (and more work to improve) than rice. There are numerous other food options that are superior to oats.”

Is Oatmeal Paleo?

No.

However, oats are not as bad as wheat, and eating them every once in a while isn’t going to cause much harm for most people.

But why bother? There are a lot of other, better options you could be eating instead of oatmeal (try sweet potatoes if you want starch!).

Issue No. 40

Is Ghee Paleo?

More specifically, why ghee is amazing.

I didn’t grow up exposed to a lot of foods that you might consider to be traditionally non-American. (Whatever that means, but you get the idea.)

Ghee is certainly such a food.

In fact, when I first read about it, I didn’t even know how to pronounce it. Gee? Jee?

I had no idea, except the vague understanding that people seem to spread it on things.

What Is Ghee?

Turns out that ghee is, in some sense, butter. But it’s not butter in the way most Americans are used to it.

Ghee is a type of clarified butter. That means that ghee is what you get when you take butter, evaporate the water out of it, and then filter (or “clarify”) it to remove the milk solids. (For ghee—as opposed to other clarified butter—the milk solids are also simmered with the fat to create a caramel and nutty flavor.)

The result is a nuttier, clearer-looking version of butter that is very stable at room temperature. Ghee has been around for a long time—in India, it’s commonly used for cooking and also medicinally, and it has been used for thousands of years.

Is Ghee Healthy?

Recent studies into ghee are still few in number, but they’re growing by the day. What scientists have discovered so far is that ghee does decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease; antioxidants present in the ghee are a big part of this healing effect, as they help protect the body against oxidative stresses. In fact, scientists are beginning to discover an inverse correlation between this type of butter and heart disease—those who eat more ghee tend to be less likely to suffer from coronary heart disease. On top of that, consumption of ghee does not alter your body’s serum levels. Because of this, researchers have claimed that ghee is a beneficial addition to the diet.

However, many people are worried about the saturated fat content present in ghee, and they say it should only be consumed in moderation because it does not contain many of the nutrients present in actual butter. Paleo experts can sometimes be torn on whether or not to use ghee, but there does seem to be an overall consensus.

What Do Other Paleo Experts Say?

The Whole9 Team says: “The only way we can recommend eating butter is if it comes from a humanely raised, grass-fed, organic source, and you take the time to clarify it. There are no major down sides to butter produced in such a manner, and we can happily recommend you use your clarified butter or ghee as one of your (varied) added fat sources. (Just so you know, ghee and clarified butter are similar but not identical; ghee is heated longer, until the milk solids brown. That imparts a richer, smokier flavor into the butterfat.)”

Mark Sisson says: “Animal fat has been unjustly demonized and there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Make sure the ghee you buy comes from pure butter, and butter alone; some brands combine vegetable oil with butter to make their ghee.”

So Is Ghee Paleo?

Yes!

Ghee is a great thing to add to a Paleo lifestyle. Try tossing your veggies in it! As Paleo experts have warned, though, be careful to get your ghee from a reputable source to ensure that it isn’t mixed with vegetable oil. You want nothing but pure butter in there! Making ghee at home is a great way to save some money, too.

Issue No. 40

Is Corn Paleo? 

Corn photo

If there’s one near-irresistible temptation when watching a movie, it’s to go and grab some popcorn. In the warm months of summer, who can resist the call of corn on the cob at the barbecue? Or perhaps your Thanksgiving meal just can’t go on without a big scoop of creamed corn. Regardless of how it’s eaten, there’s no doubt that corn is a big part of the standard American diet. If there’s so many different ways that people eat corn, there’s got to be some sort of health benefit in the little yellow kernels, right? Or should we be trying to push corn off the Paleo plate?

I remember that when I was growing up, my life was dictated by corn. In fact, our household timeline revolved around corn, because I was raised in a largely Amish community. Early in the year, “Is the corn planted?” and later, “How’s the corn going?” That was our timeline in that tiny town. Biking down the street took me past acres and acres of cornfields, and this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise—corn has been a staple in American society since the colonial days.

Is Corn Healthy?

Some of the most well known health benefits of corn include its fiber and its levels of phosphorus and vitamin B3, which assists in the DNA repair process. As a water-soluble vitamin, B3 (also called niacin) is a valuable ingredient for our bodies, and we use it to convert food into energy. That’s important, right?

But on the other hand, corn’s also sporting some not-so-good features. Many people don’t realize it, but corn is NOT a veggie! Somewhere along the line it started being called such, but we need to acknowledge it for what it is—a grain. Paleo has had a history of rejecting grain-based food, and corn has many of the same toxic properties that prompted this reaction from the Paleo standpoint. A single ear of corn could have upwards of 15 grams of sugar, and corn contains a storage of phytates worth noting.

Phytates are toxins that affect how bioavailable nutrients are after you eat them. In other words, when you eat, you’ve got lots of nutrients hanging around in your intestines waiting to get absorbed so they can do their awesome things. But if you consume phytates like those present in corn, the phytates will bind to those nutrients, keeping them from being absorbed. That’s no fun for anybody.

Are the health benefits of corn enough to outweigh the grain-based toxins?

What Do Other Paleo Experts Say?

Mark Sisson says: “We’ve told you countless times but we’ll tell you again. CORN IS NOT A VEGETABLE IT’S A GRAIN!! Our advice? Treat this GRAIN like any other GRAIN in your diet and bump it to the bottom of your shopping list!”

The Whole9 Team says: “Based on the science as we understand it today, and our vast clinical experience with the tens of thousands of people who have completed our Whole30 program, we make some general recommendations as to which food groups may make you less healthy—including grains….Don’t include grains of any kind. This includes…corn.”

So IS Corn Paleo?

No!

There are no health benefits in corn great enough to exceed the damage to your body by consuming this grain, and any nutrients remaining are in danger of binding to the phytates, preventing them from being absorbed. There are lots of great places to get nutrients in the Paleo lifestyle, so choose something else and leave no space on your plate for corn!

Issue No. 41

Is Dark Chocolate Paleo? 

Dark Chocolate photo

For years, people have touted the benefits of dark chocolate as a great reason to indulge one’s sweet tooth. And who doesn’t love an excuse to take a few extra squares of the sweet treat? With chocolate being such a pervasive (and delicious) part of modern society, it would be great if it was good for us too! Does dark chocolate have some worthwhile health benefits, or does it sport enough toxins to convince us to keep it out of our Paleo lifestyle?

What Is Dark Chocolate?

It’s important to make a distinction between dark chocolate and its close relative, milk chocolate. What makes dark chocolate “dark” isn’t that it’s a different color, and it’s not that it somehow has more chocolate in it. Dark chocolate is dark because it contains more cocoa solids than other chocolates and also has no added milk. Oftentimes little to no sugar is added to dark chocolate (depending on what kind you get), as compared to the large amount of sugars found in standard milk chocolate.

Is Dark Chocolate Healthy?

What does all that mean for you? Well, it means that paying attention to what’s inside the cocoa solids in dark chocolate is going to tell you a lot about whether or not this sweet is a Paleo player or a no-go. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that dark chocolate causes migraines, and scientists tend to link that to the caffeine content of the solids. However, studies looking into this have shown no correlation between dark chocolate and headaches. On top of that, cocoa content varies between pieces of chocolate, regardless of what the label says—this is a natural consequence of more natural foods.
On the other hand, dark chocolate has quite a few nutrients we should be paying attention to, like:

  • Flavanols, which have been shown in multiple studies to reduce oxidative stress caused by glucose. In other words, flavanols (and especially epicatechin, found in dark chocolate) keep your cells functioning the way they should, stopping deterioration and significantly lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Soluble fiber, or fiber that slows digestion by turning to a gel-like substance, is abundant in dark chocolate. Studies show that cocoa’s soluble fiber in particular is a powerful tool for reducing blood pressure.
  • Cocoa polyphenols, which have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, this study showed an inverse association—that is, chocolate consumption goes up, heart disease risk goes down.

It seems like dark chocolate could do a lot of great things for us, but there’s also concern regarding the reports of chocolate-induced migraines. So how do we come down on this delectable treat?

What Do Other Paleo Experts Say?

Mark Sisson says: “Dark chocolate’s great, the perfect storm of flavor, flavonoids, and fat. It tastes really good, comes loaded with polyphenols, and cocoa butter is a great source of saturated and monounsaturated fat. And the truth is that you should probably be eating dark chocolate on a semi-regular basis because the stuff is pretty dang good for you.”

Chris Kresser says: “There’s nothing wrong with dark chocolate (with greater than 75% cacao content); in fact, it’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods available.”

So Is Dark Chocolate Paleo?

Yes!

Dark chocolate is a great addition to the Paleo lifestyle, but be sure you know what you’re buying. Aim for at least 75% cacao content, but get as close to 100% as you can tolerate. You can actually get 100% cacao, which is called chocolate liquor, though it’s (obviously) not very sweet. Organic is a great way to go when considering your dark chocolate as well.

Issue No. 41

Is Juice Paleo?

Juice photo

Juice was a staple of my childhood. Now, with bills and loans and life in general, I long for the time when my toughest choice during the day was whether to take a purple juice box or an orange one. As I grew older, I switched from juice boxes to bottled juice like V-8, trying to read the labels and see if juice was a good choice for me. It can all be kind of confusing—this one says it has no added sugar! So then maybe it’s good for me, right? Should I omit juice altogether, or can I encourage everyone to incorporate it into a healthy, even Paleo, lifestyle?

The first thing to realize is that the word “juice” is a rather vague term. It can be the liquid from a squashed-up orange, or it could be a liquid in a box that we don’t really know where it came from. You’ve got grape juice in cartons, vegetable juice in bottles, and juice you can squeeze yourself at home. So already, we’re seeing lots of variety that we’ve got to take into consideration.

Is Juice Healthy?

You can probably guess that heavily packaged juice, like the kind that comes in little boxes, isn’t going to be the best for us—it’s got lots of toxic ingredients, including corn syrup. But what about juices you make yourself?

Let’s take a look at an apple. We’ve got a great source of vitamin C here, and of course fiber is another good benefit. Then we’ve also got an antioxidant called quercetin, which has been shown to act as an anti-inflammatory and cancer preventing agent. These are some nice, healthy nutrients that apples can provide, so bottom’s up with the apple juice!

But hold on a second. It turns out that most of these nutrients have vanished somewhere between the apple and the juice. Why? They’re in the skin. When you juice, you’re often extracting the sugariest, least nutrient-dense part of the fruit for consumption. The fiber is gone, because you don’t have the actual fibers of fruit any more, and anything in the skin doesn’t make it into your drink. And if you’re not getting that fiber, all the sugar (fructose) from the fruit isn’t being slowed down as it goes through digestion.

Looks like you haven’t really escaped the curse of too-sugary juices after all. But still, there are all these great health benefits in these fruits! So do you drink juice to get some of the nutrients, or do you avoid juice even though it’s made from real fruit?

What Do Other Paleo Experts Say?

Chris Kresser says: “Fructose-sweetened beverages like…juice cause metabolic problems when calories are in excess, and studies have shown that people are not likely to compensate for the additional calories they get from such beverages. [However] I don’t think there’s any basis for avoiding whole fruit simply because it contains fructose.”

Mark Sisson says: “Juice is ultimately a higher sugar, lower nutrient version of its produce sources. Calorie for calorie, for example, you’ll take in more sugar drinking apple juice than you would eating the apple itself. Juice…is just not an adequate substitute for the real/whole source.”

So Is Juice Paleo?

No.

Juice may seem like a great source of nutrients, but because of the high sugar content and because many of the nutrients remain in parts of the fruit that don’t make it into juice, you’re better off just eating whatever product you were going to make juice out of. Beats cleaning the juicer anyway, right?

Issue No. 42

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

The Benefits of Hemp Protein Powder 

Hemp Protein Powder  photo
Photo by beckstei

Hemp protein powder is derived from the ground up seeds of the hemp plant. Hemp seeds contain fats and proteins that are essential to your body’s overall health and wellbeing. Hemp protein powder is meant to be used in the traditional ways of any other protein powder. Feel free to add it to your morning smoothie or shake for a healthy boost. You should always consider purchasing organic hemp protein powder to avoid any chemical additive that may have been used to extract the protein from the seeds in processing.

Due to the illegal nature of growing hemp seeds inside of the US, hemp protein powder is imported from other areas of the world, such as, Canada, china, and other countries where hemp is not considered illegal or to have negative dietary effects. While hemp protein powder does contain minimal amounts THC, it is still closely related to marijuana, which remains illegal in the majority of states.

The Benefits

Hemp protein powder is believed to be full of all the essential proteins your body needs. A one ounce serving of hemp protein powder contains a whopping 14-grams of protein. Hemp protein powder contains complete protein, full of every amino acid. Without the required amino acids your body would fail to complete necessary task, such as repairing damaged muscle tissue. The fact that hemp protein powder contains all of the essential amino acids makes it extremely popular, no other plant protein contains all amino acids.

Though hemp protein powder doesn’t contain as much protein as other available sources, such as soybeans, it is easily digested. It doesn’t contain any oligosaccharide or trypsin inhibitors, which tend to reduce the amount of protein absorbed and cause bloating. It also contains globulin edestrin, a plant protein that allows it to be better digested. Hemp protein powder is extremely versatile and can be easily accommodated into anyone’s diet without much thought. It is high in zinc, iron, copper, phosphorus, B vitamins, and magnesium; making it an extremely beneficial dietary supplement to add into your routine.

Hemp seeds are not genetically modified and are a great way to promote a healthy living environment; it requires no pesticides or herbicides to cultivate. Many feel that hemp can meet a global need for locally-grown renewable food source, that can be grown in even some of the harshest conditions. Hemp protein powder is likely to be seen rising in popularity as more and more health benefits come to light.

Photo by Brian Tomlinson

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