Nutrition

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 a 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 a 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

Grass Fed Butter Vs. Ghee 

Butter photoBoth grass fed butter and ghee have been the highlight of many paleo controversies. There have been so many questions revolving around the two; which one is better, which one is healthier, or even, which one is more paleo? I may not have the answers to all of the questions, but I do have the facts on grass-fed butter vs. ghee. This topic can easily become a bit confusing considering they are both technically dairy and very much not on the list of paleo recommended foods.

What is Ghee?

You may have heard ghee called by many different names, such as clarified butter. Though many people believe that they are the exact thing, that only holds a slight bit of truth. Clarified butter is more of a stage in the processes of making ghee. Ghee, however, has to be cooked past the point of clarification. This not only helps it reach the point of becoming ghee, it also imparts a nutty flavor, similar to that of browned butter. Ghee is made by heating butter at a low temperature until all of the water cooks off and all of the proteins coagulate at the bottom of the pan. The ghee is then poured off and strained; once it has cooled it will begin to solidify.

While ghee can be a slight bit time consuming to make; but if you aren’t up for the task, you can easily purchase it in most any grocery store. However, if you do decide to make it on your own, be sure to use butter from grass-fed cows.

What is Grass Fed Butter?

Grass-fed butter is much simpler than ghee; the title pretty much says it all. Grass-fed butter is made from dairy from, you guessed it, grass-fed cows. That being said, butter from grass-fed cows is a huge source of heart-healthy nutrients. Butter is made up of approximately 400 different fatty acids and soluble vitamins. Of the hundreds of different fatty acids found in butter, many of them have potent biological activity. Grass-fed butter contains five times more conjugated linoleic acid than butter that is made from grain fed cows. Overall, Grass-fed butter is believed to be much healthier; which is why many people on the paleo lifestyle choose it as their fat of choice.

Which one is better?

While there really is no clear winner, it really comes down to a matter of personal choice. As with everything, there are pros and cons to both choices. Ghee, too many people, is the more paleo options because the dairy and fat protein has been removed. On the other hand, grass-fed butter has been shown to have many health benefits. If you choose to keep butter in your Paleo diet, both of these options are at the top of the list of recommended choices and are both packed with health benefits and flavor.

Is Olive Oil Paleo?

Olive Oil photo

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

Is Olive Oil Healthy?

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

That doesn’t sound too great!

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

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

What Do Other Paleo Experts Say?

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

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

Is Olive Oil Paleo?

Yes!

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

Issue No. 45

Is Honey Paleo?

 

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

Is Honey Healthy?

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

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

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

What Do Other Paleo Experts Say?

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

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

Is Honey Paleo?

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

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

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

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

Issue No. 44

Is Salt Paleo? 

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

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

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

What is Salt?

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

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

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

Is Salt Healthy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Do Other Paleo Experts Say?

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

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

Is Salt Paleo?

Yes.

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

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

Issue No. 43

Are Mushrooms Paleo?

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

Are mushrooms healthy?

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

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

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

What do other Paleo experts say?

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

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

Are mushrooms Paleo?

Yes!

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

Issue No. 46

Is Dairy Paleo? 

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

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

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

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

What Do Other Paleo Experts Say?

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

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

Is Dairy Paleo?

Strict Paleo: No!

Not-so-strict Paleo: Probably.

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

Issue No. 49

Is Soy Milk Paleo? 

Soy Milk photo
Photo by Veganbaking.net

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

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

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

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

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

Here are 4 reasons to avoid soy milk:

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

Is Soy Milk Paleo?

No.

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

Issue No. 49

Is Coconut Milk Paleo? 

Coconut Milk photo
Photo by Veganbaking.net

Coconut milk has a few misconceptions swirling around the evolutionary foodie-verse about it – both about what it actually is and about where it’s Paleo-friendly. Many think that coconut milk is the liquid in a fresh coconut (that’s actually coconut water), but the milk is a prepared beverage. Made by mixing shredded coconut and water, the mixture is simmered, strained, and squeezed to create the rich, creamy drink we call coconut milk.

Found in both cans and cartons, not all coconut milk is created equal. While a can of pure coconut milk sporting an ingredient list of coconut and water is pretty clean on where it falls on the Paleo spectrum, there are other health factors to consider. If it’s a can, BPA (Bisphenol-A), a component of the can’s metal lining, can potentially leach into the milk. BPA has been found to have estrogenic activity and has been linked to a role in a host of diseases, from diabetes to cancer. Look for brands that are BPA-free.

Additionally, many companies turn out milk with not-so-nice additives and ingredients. Some add in thickeners, gums, or carrageenan, which can cause digestive problems, especially for those with compromised gastrointestinal systems.

Coconut milk in cartons can fall even farther away from a clean ingredient list, prompting it to be called a “coconut beverage.” Many companies turning out coconut milk in cartons sweeten it, flavor it, and add thickeners – not the real deal when it comes to coconut milk.

To avoid any additives or ingredients that might cause issues, many Paleo advocates recommend making your own. Try using shredded dried coconut and mix it with water to create your own coconut milk.

What Do Other Paleo Experts Say?

Chris Kresser says: “Coconut milk is often a staple fat source for those following a Paleo diet. From a nutritional perspective, it’s an excellent choice.” However, he cautions that “women who are trying to get pregnant, are pregnant or breastfeeding, children and other vulnerable populations (chronically ill) should avoid canned coconut milk products except for those that are BPA-free.

Healthy people may be fine with canned coconut milk, provided they don’t react to the guar gum and provided they’re willing to take the side of industry scientists that claim BPA doesn’t cause harm in humans.”

Stephanie Greunke, RD (and member of Robb Wolf’s RD consulting team) says: “I’ve read countless recipes that list coconut milk as an ingredient and want to make sure that people realize coconut milk means just that – coconut milk in the can, prepared from a whole coconut, or shredded coconut mixed and prepared with water. While a multitude of companies is coming out with their own version of coconut milk by the quart and half a gallon, these new innovations are truly coconut beverages, not milk. In short, do not use the coconut milk beverages in your recipes.”

Mark Sisson says: “If you find yourself holed up in a dingy Albuquerque motel room littered with empty tetra-paks of Aroy-D, you’ve got a problem. Other than that, as long as you’re not gaining unwanted body fat, or drinking so much that it displaces other, more nutrient-dense foods in your diet, you’re probably fine.

Is Coconut Milk Paleo?

Yes, coconut milk is Paleo-acceptable.

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

Things get murky, however, when choosing more store-bought brands. Depending on ingredients and personal preference in avoiding BPA, it can be a bit of a judgment call on what type of coconut milk is acceptable on a Paleo regimen. So watch where it comes from, what’s in it, what it’s called, and how often you drink it to ensure that it’s a healthy addition to your diet.

Issue No. 49

Is Almond Milk Paleo? 

Almond Milk photo
Photo by AmazingAlmonds

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

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

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

What Do Other Paleo Experts Say?

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

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

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

Is Almond Milk Paleo?

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

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

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

Issue No. 49

Is Sweet Potato Flour Paleo?

Sweet Potato Flour photo
Photo by Green Smoothies Rock!

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

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

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

What Do Other Paleo Experts Say?

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

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

Is Sweet Potato Flour Paleo?

Yes!

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

Issue No. 50

1 2 3 4