Nutrition

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

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

Spotlight on an Awesome Paleo Food:  Brussels Sprouts

“A fruit is a vegetable with looks and money. Plus, if you let fruit rot, it turns into wine, something Brussels sprouts never do.” ~ J. O’Rourke (1947 – )

Brussels Sprouts generally drive folks into one of two camps–they love them or detest them.  First grown in Italy during the Roman Empire, the sprouts we’re most familiar with may have been cultivated en masse in Belgium (hence the origin of “Brussels”) around 1587. They were then introduced to the U.S. in the 1800s.  Today’s varieties are less bitter than their ancient cousins and make a quick and easy side dish. They also offer some really valuable health benefits . Here are some great reasons to give these mini cabbages a try:

  1. Brussels Sprouts are members of the cruciferae (or mustard) family and are closely related to broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.  Components in crucifers have been proven in lab studies to stop the growth of cancer cells in tumors of the breast, uterus, cervix, lung, colon and liver.
  2. Brussels Sprouts contain glucosinolates, compounds that may also prevent the development of cancer.
  3. Brussels Sprouts contain a decent amount of fiber and are low in calories.   With just 25 calories and almost 3 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup cooked, they’ll fill you up and suppress the urge to overeat.
  4. Brussels Sprouts may also guard against cardiovascular disease. One study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, followed more than 100,000 men and women for up to 14 years and found that eating 1/2 cup or more of cruciferous vegetables each day reduced the risk of ischemic stroke by 32 percent.
  5. Brussels Sprouts pack a hearty dose of Vitamin C, which protects the immune system, fights cardiovascular disease and cancer, and promotes eye health.    In fact, sprouts contain nearly fifty percent more Vitamin C than an orange, per serving.
  6. Brussels Sprouts are a good source of several key vitamins and nutrients, including Vitamins A and K, manganese, potassium, calcium and folic acid.
  7. Unlike many vegetables, Brussels Sprouts contain modest amounts of protein, with 2 grams of protein in a half cup of cooked sprouts.

Issue No. 13

Spotlight on Awesome Paleo Food: Bone Broth

Bone Broth photo
Photo by simpleprovisions

Ah, magic Paleo elixir, liquid gold, whatever you call it, bone broth is one of the most celebrated Paleo bowl-filling foods. And with good reason, as it provides a steamy-great mix of healthful benefits for the body, delivered with savory, hit-the-spot flavor. Quite simply, it’s broth made from the bones of beef or bison, poultry, fish or lamb, then embellished with veggies and spices.

In earlier days, bone broth was a regular part of our diet, often used as a base for sauces and soups. However, with the gradual disappearance of local butchers and the increase in processed, store-bought “broth-like” bouillons and soups, the making of bone broth — and enjoying it – went by the wayside. With the growth of the Paleo movement, however, bone broth has re-emerged as a nutrient-packed food, worthy of brewing up and sitting down to. Here are some excellent reasons why this broth is so magical for our health:

  1. Bone broth packs mega-amounts of minerals. The rich mineral content helps replace the deficiencies that our general diets often lack.
  2. Bone broth helps the gut heal. There’s a fair amount of gelatin in the broth, which works like a hole-filler for the unwanted openings in an unhealthy gut—brought on by factors like faulty diet, stress and medications. This boost to intestinal health helps improve absorption of minerals and guards against autoimmune issues and inflammatory reactions.
  3. It makes for happy joints. Bone broth is full of substances called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs)—the glucosamine they contain is just one of the popular joint lubricating compounds being sold by the boatload in supplement form. In addition, the GAGs provided in a cup of bone broth deliver other key compounds for joint health and connective tissue, including chondroitin and hyaluronic acid. GAGs stimulate cells that produce collagen for the joints, tendons, ligaments and arteries as well.
  4. Bone broth also helps support oral health. The ability of GAGs to restore connective tissue helps improve gum tissue that has been damaged and weakened by bacteria that cause gum disease, which can lead to loose teeth or tooth loss.
  5. Bone broth provides adrenal support. Chinese medicine traditionally holds that the adrenals are part of the kidney system, and from that medicinal perspective, bone tissue relates to the kidneys. Subscribing to the theory of like supports like, the consumption of bone tissue can support the kidneys (and adrenals).  Additionally, adrenal fatigue—the result of our poor diets, lifestyle stressors and inadequate rest destroying the adrenal glands’ ability to function optimally—is being increasingly recognized. Some ancestral nutrition experts suggest that bone broth may actually help repair openings in damaged kidney tissue that cause the kidneys to function in this sub-par state.
  6. Your skin, hair and nails look better with bone broth. The collagen produced from the GAGs in the broth is the main substance found in our skin, hair and nails that keeps them strong and healthy.
  7. It’s very high in proline and glycine—two amino acids that are also vital for healthy connective tissues. Among the roles, proline has also been shown to reverse atherosclerotic deposits and can help the body break down proteins for use in making new muscle cells. Glycine has been shown to aid digestion, help regulate blood sugar levels and enhance muscle repair, among other benefits.
  8. It’s easy to brew up a homemade batch and give your body all that bone broth has to offer. There are a number of recipes out there, but start with some good bones from an animal raised as healthily as possible, some veggies, a little apple cider vinegar, herbs and spices and some water and you’re set.

A few recipes to try:

http://wellnessmama.com/5888/how-to-make-bone-broth-tutorial/ http://nourishedkitchen.com/perpetual-soup-the-easiest-bone-broth-youll-make/

Issue No. 17

Spotlight on Awesome Paleo Food: Oysters

Oysters photoOysters bring the taste of the sea and a chewy texture to craving palates (if you don’t let ‘em slip down the gullet unchewed, as some like to do). They’re simultaneously delicious, nutritious and expensive. They’re that healthy indulgence that many mollusk lovers would say is well-worth their jacked-up price. Although our ancestors didn’t have to buy them, they were likely on the Paleo menu because they were easy to find and consume. Whether you enjoysplurging on them or not, oysters spout a host of beneficial nutrients and can be a tasty addition to any meal. Here are some facts about this salty bivalve and why it’s a Paleo all-star:
  1. They’re versatile. They can be served raw (usually sitting “on the half shell”, one of its two shells), smoked, baked or as the main ingredient in oyster stew.
  2. Oysters are a sustainable seafood. Farmed oysters account for 95% of the world’s total oyster consumption, but unlike farmed fish, they get what they need from their source of sea water and don’t require feed sources like soy or fishmeal. They minimally impact their environment, and many farms are well-managed and sustainably operated. Always select fresh oysters that have been harvested under safety guidelines (look for a tag on the container or sack).
  3. They’ve been helping folks get their sexy on through the ages. These legendary aphrodisiacs are rich sources of zinc, a key mineral for male sexual health, testosterone levels and sperm production. Zinc is also vital for other aspects of our health, playing an important role in our senses of taste and smell and enriching our hair, skin and nails.
  4. Because oyster populations exist naturally around the world (except for polar regions), it’s easy to harvest native species in any location. This helps lower the risk of non-native species contaminating the waters in geographic areas worldwide.
  5. They contain decent amounts of vitamin B-12, iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium in each serving (about six medium raw oysters or 3 ounces of canned).
  6. Oysters are naturally low in calories, containing between 43 and 58 calories per serving.
  7. Fresh oysters should be refrigerated at 40 degrees (F) or lower until they’re served or added to a recipe. When cooked, the shells should open up. Throw out any that remain closed because they’ve been dead too long.
  8. When you shuck (open) them, try to keep the juice, also called the liquor. This tasty liquid gives oysters a good deal of their yummy flavor and should be clear, not cloudy and shouldn’t smell sour.
  9. Usually, raw oysters are safe to eat. However just as with eating any type of raw fish or seafood, the possibility of food-borne illness exists. Make sure you know where your oysters are coming from and how they were harvested. If you’ve been told to stay away from the raw ones, take the advice. The only way to kill the bacteria that can be harmful for some is through cooking.
  10. Dousing raw oysters in hot sauce or drinking alcohol while eating them will NOT kill the bacteria that can be extremely dangerous to vulnerable individuals. Be safe and eat them cooked if you are immunocompromised.

Issue No. 19

Spotlight on Awesome Paleo Food: Salmon

Salmon photo

Salmon is a true nutritional catch from the animal kingdom, bringing to us the gift of superior health benefits (along with great taste) when it lands on our plates. Here are some great reasons why this fish packs such a healthy wallop of Paleo goodness.

  1. It’s an omega-3 superstar. Salmon has an unusually high omega-3 fatty acid content and it’s one of the food’s biggest health benefits. A 4-ounce piece, whether baked or broiled, probably contains at least 2 grams of disease-preventing omega-3 fats. This is more omega-3 intake than the average U.S. adult consumes from all food over several days’ time.
  2. All those omega-3s help your heart in several different ways. Intake is associated with decreased risk of heart attack, stroke, heart arrhythmia, high blood pressure and high triglycerides in the blood. Eating omega-3-dense fish is also connected with improved metabolic markers for cardiovascular disease. These benefits start with even one omega-3 fish meal weekly. More of the benefits, however, kick in with eating these meals 2-3 times per week.
  3. It’s good for eye health too. Eating fish rich in omega-3 fats has been associated with decreased risk of two eye-related problems: macular degeneration and chronic dry eye.
  4. Salmon also supplies the best forms of omega-3s. Approximately half of the fatty acids in salmon are comprised of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and slightly less are in the form of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)—which are also unusually high amounts of these types of fatty acids found in common foods. These are the forms of omega-3s that have been shown to provide the most health benefits.
  5. It has a stellar ratio of omega-3 to omega-6. An average serving usually will contain a very low amount of omega-6—less than a half a gram, which is a ratio of 5.5 to 1 for omega-3s to omega-6s. In the standard American diet, there’s the continual problem of the omega-3/omega-6 ratio being lopsided in the opposite direction, containing at least 4-5 times as much omega-6 fat as omega-3 fat. This is counter-productive for our health, as studies have shown that these two types of fatty acids compete for the same conversion enzymes. This means that the higher the omega-6s that are in the diet, the more directly they’ll affect the conversion of omega-3s found in plant foods, to the EPA and DHA form of omega-3s, which protect us from disease.
  6. Salmon gives you beneficial proteins and amino acids. It features short protein particles known as peptides, which are proven to be bioactive and may also act as anti-inflammatory agents. It has also been shown to supply important amounts of taurine, an antioxidant amino acid.
  7. (Alaskan) salmon is sustainable. Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California, just declared Alaskan salmon as a “best choice” in salmon selection because it is the only low-risk salmon to meet four sustainability criteria: the level of population vulnerability, the effects of fishing on the habitat, the state of wild stocks, and the by-catch (the other types of fish that are caught unintentionally during salmon fishing).
  8. Salmon is a great source of selenium. A 4-oz. serving contains over 61% of the recommended daily value of this immune-boosting mineral. An adequate supply of selenium in the diet has been linked to decreased risk of joint inflammation and prevention of specific cancers, including colorectal. Selenium has also been shown to play an important role in cardiovascular protection.
  9. The DHA salmon provides is considered by many researchers to be the most important fat in the human brain. High salmon intake is associated with decreased risk of certain brain-related problems like depression, decreased risk of hostility in teenagers and decreased risk of cognitive decline in seniors. Some studies show a correlation between higher IQ and omega-3 intake and omega-3 fish.
  10. Other types of wild-caught salmon are still relatively low in contaminants (remember to buy wild-caught only). While contaminants like mercury, pesticides and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) continue to be a problem in salmon habitats and with the fish itself, other wild-caught varieties like Southeast Alaskan chum, sockeye, coho, pink and Chinook, as well as Kodiak coho, pink and chum still pose a low risk of contaminants.

The many ways that salmon nourishes us makes it a perfect addition to a Paleo table if it’s not on yours already. Try eating salmon 2-3 times a week as a delicious and healthy way to fortify and protect your body and mind.

Issue No. 23

Spotlight on Awesome Paleo Food: Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut photo
Photo by manray3

Gobbled fridgeside straight from the jar, or as a tasty topping for pork, sauerkraut is delicious but also beloved as a wonder food by Paleo followers everywhere.

Made from cabbage and salt fermented at room temperature for about a week or two, sauerkraut literally means “sour cabbage” in German. During fermentation, lactic acid bacteria gobble up and ferment the sugars in the cabbage in an oxygen-free environment. This helps lower the pH of the cabbage (acidifying it) and that prevents the growth of unwanted bacteria. The lactic acid from the bacteria also gives it a long shelf-life and its distinctive sour taste.
Whichever way it gets to your fork, here are some great reasons to say yes to ‘kraut and enhance your health.
  1. As a fermented food, sauerkraut is loaded with helpful probiotics – “good bacteria” – that make for happy gut flora and help improve nutrient absorption.
  2. As a high-density source of probiotics, a daily dose of sauerkraut helps keep the digestive process running smoothly. It stimulates peristaltic movement of the intestines and prevents constipation, while helping to eliminate harmful parasites as well.
  3. The fermentation process enhances cabbage’s protective properties, including the production of isothiocyanates, compounds that have been shown to prevent some kinds of cancer growth.
  4. Sauerkraut also contains glucosinolates, which activate the body’s antioxidant enzymes, as well as flavonoids, which protect arterial walls from oxidative damage.
  5. Its primary ingredient, cabbage, also offers a bevy of health benefits. For starters, it’s high in vitamins A and C.
  6. Like other cruciferous vegetables, studies have shown cabbage helps protect against some types of cancer.
  7. Diets rich in crucifers like cabbage may also offer cardiovascular disease prevention.
  8. Sauerkraut can help with weight loss. Its high lactobacillus content helps keep the appetite under control by lowering blood sugar levels.
From its zippy taste to the barrel of health benefits it delivers after we eat it, ‘kraut does a body good in so many ways. While most commercially sold sauerkraut has lost much of its beneficial bacteria, a healthier option is to purchase it freshly made or give making your own a try. You can add shredded carrots, beets or mix several cabbages (including white or red) to add variety and taste. Also look at throwing in garlic, onions and apples or caraway seeds. With all it can do for our vitality and well-being, you might just add sauerkraut to your list of Paleo favorites.

Issue No. 24

Spotlight on Awesome Paleo Food: Beef Liver

Beef Liver photo
Photo by Father.Jack

Ah, grass-fed beef liver, how do members of the Paleo community love thee? Let us count the ways.

1. It’s a super source of Vitamin A—one ounce has nearly 200% of the RDA for this important vitamin. Vitamin A plays a key role in keeping the skin and eyes healthy and maintaining the health of the intestines and other membranes.

2. It’s a rich source of phosphorus, which helps build bones and teeth. It also aids cell growth, heart muscle contraction and kidney function. Plus it helps the body use vitamins, assists in the body’s conversion of food into energy and helps maintain blood pH.

3. It’s an excellent source of high-quality protein. The grass-fed variety provides a whopping 44 grams per ounce.

4. It’s also a great source of iron. You’ll get 50% of the RDA for that mineral in just an ounce of beef liver.

5. It’s the number one food source of copper. Copper is important for us in several ways, among them: helping the body use iron, reducing tissue damage caused by free radicals, maintaining bone and connective tissue health, aiding in the production of the pigment melanin, keeping the thyroid gland functioning optimally and preserving myelin—the sheath that surrounds and protects nerves.

6. It’s a stellar source of other vitamins too, like Vitamin D, Vitamin B12 (and other B-Vitamins).

7. It contains CoQ10 (Coenzyme Q10), which is important for cardiovascular function and the basic functioning of cells. Its levels are reported to decrease in the body as we age.

8. Go grass-fed (when you can) for max nutrition. The importance of trying to consume grass-fed animals whenever possible also makes this a very healthy Paleo food. Pasture-raised animal products provide much higher levels of nutrients in general than animal products that come from commercial feedlots.

9. It’s generally pretty affordable. Grass-fed organ meats beat grass-fed muscle meats price-wise most of the time.

While you might remember it none-too-fondly as a childhood food you put up with, beef liver can be a tasty, affordable and most importantly super-nutritious addition to a Paleo diet. If you haven’t added it to your table in awhile, maybe now’s the time to give it another chance—and give your body an awesome set of health benefits.

Issue No. 25

Spotlight on Awesome Paleo Food: Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes photo
Photo by Stacy Spensley

Ah, the humble sweet potato—tasty, packed with carbs and a safe way to refuel after a workout, these starchy tubers provide flavor and variety to a Paleo plate while offering nutrients and fiber to boot.  Here’s the goods on these sweet spuds and how to incorporate them as healthful additions to a Paleo lifestyle.

  1. They’re the perfect post-workout snack. With just about 100 calories and 24 grams of carbohydrate, a medium sweet potato does a great job of replenishing glycogen stores after intense exercise.
  2. They deliver loads of Vitamin A—essential for vision, gene transcription, boosting immunity, and skin health. Found to pack between 100-1,600 micrograms of the vitamin in every 3.5 ounces, even this small amount of sweet potato can meet at least 35% (in many cases an even higher percentage) of all our needs for Vitamin A.
  3. Add some fat to reap the full beta-carotene (the precursor to Vitamin A) benefits from sweet potatoes. Recent studies show that adding 3-5 grams of fat for a meal can significantly boost beta-carotene intake from sweet potatoes.  Whether it’s a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil or a small pat of grass-fed butter or coconut oil, fat can enrich both taste and nutrient value.
  4. Sweet potatoes are a decent source of fiber—and that’s good for the gut.  A medium one will contain about 4 grams of fiber.
  5. They’re good for your heart. Sweet potatoes contain high levels of both B6 and potassium, and both of these nutrients are important to heart health. B6 plays a key role in breaking down homocysteine, a substance that can lead to hardening of the arteries.  Potassium is crucial for lowering blood pressure, as it helps rid the body of excess sodium and regulates fluid balance.  It also helps normalize heart rhythm and helps maintain function of the brain and nervous system.
  6. Look beyond the orange for even more nutritional bang for your buck.  Sweet potatoes can also be a brilliant purple color on the inside.  Sometimes it’s tough to tell from the outside just how purple the flesh inside will be. These purple varieties produce anthocyanin pigments—which have impressive antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Most notably, when passing through the gut, they have the ability to lower potential health risks from heavy metals and oxygen free radicals.
  7. Sweet potatoes are also rich in Vitamin C and Vitamin E, other powerful antioxidants that help fight disease and contribute to our longevity.
  8. They’re easy to make. Just cut them into ½ inch slices and steam for about 7 minutes.   It enhances their great taste and helps maximize their nutrient profile. Shake in some cinnamon or nutmeg for extra flavor. Recent studies have shown that anthocyanins are best preserved with steaming, while others comparing boiling sweet potatoes to roasting have shown better effects on blood sugar with boiling them.
Whatever variety you choose, sweet potatoes give you some great options for healthy, flavorful and “safe” sources of carbohydrate and key nutrients.  As with any dense source of carbohydrate, keep an eye on quantity as you watch your total carbohydrate intake. Many trainers and Paleo gurus recommend keeping your sweet potato enjoyment to the post-workout period only if weight loss is a goal.

Issue No. 26

Spotlight on Awesome Paleo Food: Kale

Kale photo

Gone are the days when a withered kale leaf graced a tiny corner of our dishes as a humble garnish. Today, kale is back on our plates in full force as a versatile (not to mention delicious) veggie powerhouse of nutrients and health benefits. Take a look at the many reasons why kale deserves its role as a staple on Paleo plates.

  1. Kale is a crucifer, meaning it belongs to the same vegetable family as cabbage and broccoli. Known as brassica vegetables, all contain a high concentration of sulforaphane and indole-3 –carbinol, two compounds that have been proven to contain potent anti-cancer and antimicrobial properties.
  2. It’s also high in other anti-cancer phytonutrients, including isothiocyanates, which have been shown to decrease the risk of bladder cancer and help the body detoxify.
  3. Kale also contains a flavanoid called kaempferol, a phytonutrient shown to reduce ovarian cancer risk by up to 40 percent.
  4. It’s a super source of several key vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin A. Kale contains 194% of the recommended daily allowance for this vitamin in a one-cup serving.
  5. It also provides high amounts of Vitamin K and Vitamin C for immune support, as well as Vitamin B6, which is important for fat metabolism.
  6. Kale also provides the body with a great source of calcium. Research shows that kale’s calcium is better absorbed and used by the body than calcium from dairy.
  7. You’ll also find decent amounts of other essential minerals in kale, including potassium, iron, manganese, copper, sodium and phosphorus, which helps strengthen our bones and teeth.
  8. And the list goes on, as kale also provides two helpful carotenoids—lutein and zeaxanthin. These compounds help prevent vision damage caused by UV light and can reduce future risk of developing cataracts.
  9. In addition to all the stellar nutrients it provides, kale is also low in carbohydrates and calories and high in fiber.
  10. There are several types of kale to choose from that can be prepared in many different and delicious ways, including Lacinato Kale (called dinosaur kale), which is flatter and milder tasting than curly kale, as well as red, green and purple varieties. You can chop it and use it in soups or salads, have it as a side or bake it as a chip.

For all these reasons and more, it’s no surprise that kale has become a well-respected, nutrient-dense food worthy of many a Paleo recipe. Try preparing it in different ways—you just might count this leafy treasure-trove of health as one your favorites.

Issue No. 27

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