paleo

Is Coconut Milk Paleo?

Coconut milk photo
Photo by simpleprovisions

Is Coconut Milk Paleo?

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

Found in both cans and cartons, not all coconut milks are created equally. While a can of pure coconut milk sporting an ingredient list of coconut and water is pretty clear on where it falls on the Paleo spectrum, there are other health factors to consider. If it’s in 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.

So, is it Paleo?

If you make your own from just coconut meat and water, then the answer is a resounding yes. Things get murky, however, when choosing store-bought brands. Depending on ingredients and personal preference in avoiding BPA’s, it can be a bit of a judgment call on what type of coconut milk is acceptable on a Paleo regimen.

What do the Paleo gurus 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. ”

Conclusion?

Yes, coconut milk is Paleo-acceptable. But watch where it comes from and 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. 23

Why Alcohol Is Paleo?

Why is alcohol 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 lot 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 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?

Is Chicken Paleo?

Chicken meal photo

Ah, those chicken wings—as a staple of the American diet, you can find them nearly everywhere: from restaurants to family get-togethers to big-game Sundays, but is chicken paleo? Health-conscious people are eager to tout the goodness of chicken as an alternative to red meat and as a delicious source of protein. But is chicken really all that nutritious, or does it have toxins that should make Paleo dieters wary?

Chickens are raised in a variety of ways throughout the country, with the most common suppliers of chicken growing grain-fed farmed birds in large quantities. These chickens are raised quickly on a predetermined diet and health plan that includes medications and little exercise. Other sources of chicken give the bird free range and allow them to scavenge, feeding themselves on bugs and whatever else they can find. These birds are markedly different from the chickens produced by large companies, and all of this difference can make it difficult to decide if chicken really should be a Paleo choice.

So, is it Paleo?

Chicken meat varies greatly in its nutritional profile depending on what sort of chicken you’re eating. Toxins abound in non-pastured chicken meat; these chickens were raised on a diet of grain and were given antibiotics to keep them healthy because of the insufficiency of their diets. Needless to say, eating an antibiotic-laced chicken will have some negative consequences for you, too. In fact, this study explores how arsenic is used to help chickens to grow quickly. Arsenic is that mineral used to make glass and wood preservatives. And if the chickens are getting arsenic, you probably are too.

On the other hand, chickens raised in pastured farms are rich in vitamin E and folic acid, which helps to prevent anemia and increases the gut’s ability to absorb nutrients. Chickens that are not on a grain-based diet also have a much healthier omega-3/omega-6 ratio, which enables our bodies to process these fatty acids much more efficiently—the way nature intended. Many pastured chickens are antibiotic-free and will be labeled as such.

Because chicken seems to be a nutritious option if it’s bought from the right source, Paleo experts agree that chicken is a great part of a Paleo diet. Despite its nutrition benefits and versatile uses in all sorts of recipes, experts do caution that chicken is only a great option if it is not grain-fed and if it is antibiotic-free. Go with pastured or organic if possible, and if not, at least aim for meat with as little fat as possible.

What do the Paleo gurus say?

Mark Sisson says: “Breeding, feeding and other poultry farming standards result in animals that scarcely resemble each other, let alone taste the same. [Pastured] is the label I suggest looking for, but don’t be surprised if the search presents a challenge. If conventional is all you can afford or have access to it’s better than no meat at all. Just eat the leaner cuts, since toxins concentrate in fat.”

Sarah Ballantyne says: “[If you have to buy conventional instead of organic or pastured], limit consumption of chicken and other poultry, which probably has the highest omega-6 fatty acid content of any of the conventionally produced meat and poultry.”

So Is Chicken Paleo?

Yes!

Because of its great nutritional value and very few toxins, Paleo experts agree that chicken is a great addition to the Paleo plate. Be cautious, however, of what sort of chicken you buy; if you cannot afford or find pastured or organic chicken, choose the meat with the least amount of fat and limit your intake, as conventional chicken does come from birds that have been medicated.

Issue No. 29

Foods High in Omega-3 

Foods high in 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. Below is a list of foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids:

  • 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 omega-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 of 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 lot 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 supplements.

  • 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, sometimes 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 of chia seeds, you should check out my previous post on their benefits! Chia seeds are an up and coming superfood 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 an 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!

Noticing that all of these foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids allows us to consider just what we are putting in our bodies and the benefits to reap from them.

Is Coffee Paleo?

coffee photo

For many people, the morning isn’t fueled by the excitement of a great day—it’s fueled by coffee, so a question lingers is coffee Paleo?

And when the 3 p.m. blues comes around, guess who’s up for coffee round 2 (or round 5 or 6)? With coffee houses popping up everywhere and coffee pots just getting easier (and cheaper) to use, it’s no wonder that this energizing drink has quickly risen to claim a spot as one of the most-consumed beverages in the world. However, while sticking to a Paleo diet, is coffee Paleo? Or at least fall into some sort of category that would see more benefits than the opposite?

But should you run off and pour yourself another mug, or is it time to shut the kitchen coffeemaker down for good?

Is Coffee Healthy?

It’s not surprising that a good bit of research has been done into how coffee affects the human body.

We know that it can definitely give us a jolt (that’s the caffeine), but does it do anything else for us? As it turns out, there’s more to coffee than meets the eye (or, I suppose, the taste buds). Studies show that drinking coffee reduces the risk of cancer, especially in the colon and prostate. It can also reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes, and another study showed that there is an inverse relationship between the amount of coffee you drink and how likely you are to die from general and specific causes.

(To be completely frank, coffee isn’t a miracle food. Despite some claims to the contrary, the potential benefits of coffee are relatively small.)
In addition, there are a few things to watch out for with coffee.

In particular, watch what you put in your coffee. The studies above show the benefits of coffee—not mochas, lattes with flavored syrup, or coffee with ice cream and sprinkles. From processed sugar to dairy, it’s the add-ins that cause the greatest issues.

Finally, if you have or think you might have adrenal fatigue, then it’s probably a good idea to cut the coffee (and all caffeine) out of your diet since it will only stress your adrenals more, which will slow your recovery.

What do the Paleo gurus say?

What makes coffee Paleo?

Mark Sisson says: “The overwhelming majority of the observational literature finds that coffee is linked to lower body weight and protection from type 2 diabetes. [To get the most out of your coffee,] get up and move around a bit when you drink. Since that coffee has just liberated a bunch of fatty acids from your adipose tissue, use them! If you don’t, the bulk of those fatty acids will simply be recycled back into your body fat. Remember that coffee isn’t just caffeine. It is a whole plant food/drink with hundreds of bioactive compounds beyond just caffeine….The taste and health effects of coffee thusly depend on dozens of factors, and that’s why coffee has different effects on different people as reflected across dozens of studies.”

Robb Wolf says: “If you have to ask, ‘If I can’t have sugar, coffee mate, cream, etc. in my morning cup, what can I do to make it taste good?’, then you really need to question the reasons behind your habit. Is it replacing sleep, masking a sugar or cream fix, or do you just REALLY like that Starbucks cup? If you truly ENJOY coffee for all of its warm, black deliciousness and you don’t have any compelling health or lifestyle reasons to avoid it, then I am not going to steal your ‘morning thunder.’ Keep on keeping on (with an occasional detox to clean things out). But, if on the other hand, your coffee needs a mate(s), or you’re using it as a means to function in the AM; take the time to conduct a CSI (Coffee Scene Investigation).”

So is coffee Paleo?

Yes.

However, with great deliciousness comes great responsibility. Avoid allowing coffee to become a crutch for poor sleep or stress management patterns, and be aware that the health effects of coffee don’t count for much when you drown it in sugar or processed cream.

For maximum health benefits, take your coffee black or with coconut oil and ghee.

Issue No. 34

Is Edamame Paleo?

Edamame photo
Photo by Magic Robot

Is Edamame Paleo? More importantly, like many people, you hear the word edamame and ask, “Eda-what?”

Edamame, which is the Japanese word for “twig bean” (eda=twig, mame=bean), is—you guessed it—a kind of bean. Basically, you can think of edamame as boiled green soybeans, and their healthful benefits have been touted far and wide ever since Faith Hill started snacking on them backstage during concerts. But is edamame really a healthful Paleo option?

Edamame are the babies of the soy family—young, and still in the pods—but that doesn’t make them any less of a soy product. So for those following the Paleo lifestyle, where soy and its toxins are well-known and completely unwelcome, edamame is already down by a few points. Soy contains powerful toxins, especially phytoestrogens (note the term “estrogen” in that word). These toxins interact with estrogen receptors in the body, which can throw off hormones and lead to a whole host of unwanted side effects; one study discovered a possible link between phytoestrogens and irregularities in the prostate, including cancer.

Additionally, edamame is unfermented, meaning that toxins like phytic acid and gluten have not been broken down by the fermentation process. All of these toxins contribute to general inflammation and intestinal irritation, so knowing that we can find them in edamame is yet another strike against these little beans.

However, it may be too early to throw edamame out of the race just yet. Compared to other sources of soy, edamame has a clear advantage: the fatty acids are mostly monounsaturated (which is great!) and compared to mature soybeans, edamame’s phytoestrogen levels are quite low. The beans also have a decent amount of magnesium and folate, a B-vitamin that helps our body to replicate DNA and divide cells properly. That’s pretty important!
Since edamame have both toxins and helpful nutrients, it can be difficult to know just where on the Paleo spectrum these baby beans fall.

What do the Paleo gurus say?

Mark Sisson says: “Not Primal, but don’t stress over a couple handfuls at a sushi restaurant. While I wouldn’t make it a regular part of my diet, edamame appears to be relatively benign as an occasional snack. Just don’t eat bucketfuls, don’t make it baby’s first food, and don’t get into edamame pancakes or some silliness like that.”

The team at Whole9 says: “Do not eat legumes. This also includes all forms of soy—soy sauce, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame, tamari and all the ways we sneak soy into foods (like lecithin).”

So is edamame Paleo?

No, but don’t panic if you slip up.

Because edamame has lower levels of toxins compared to other forms of soy, fitting it in as an occasional snack might be fine. It’s not really that bad, but avoiding it entirely is still the best option.

Issue No. 30

Photo by Magic Robot

Are Grits and Hominy Paleo or Are Grits Not Paleo Friendly?

Are Grits and Hominy Paleo?

Grits and hominy are the standard American diet’s favorite Southern sidekick, but are Grits not Paleo friendly or are they? They are popular ingredients in the Mexican soup posole and are enjoyed by many. But are they Paleo-friendly indulgences or not-so-Paleo?

Both hominy and grits are made from corn that has been dried and ground, with the germ and hull removed. First the corn is soaked in an alkali solution, then processed to crush and sift out the kernels. In its whole form, it can be eaten as a cereal or side as hominy. The ground version is grits.

The way the corn is processed is know as nixtamalization, which is a fancy-sounding name with old-world origins. In Mesoamerica around 1500 BC, people found that when they soaked the corn in water mixed with lime (calcium hydroxide) or ashes from burnt trees (potassium hydroxide), it became tastier and more digestible.

This process makes niacin from the corn more available to the body, increases protein content, decreases phytic acid (which binds to minerals and can lead to deficiencies) and decreases contamination from mycotoxins, contaminants that can grow on crops and damage human health.

So, is it Paleo?

The bottom line is that corn is a type of grain. Although it is gluten-free, grains are frequently labeled a no-go when defined under the most stringent Paleo standards. Corn contains zein, an irritating and inflammatory protein that can trigger food intolerances. However, more moderate interpretations of a Paleo diet may allow hominy and grits occasionally.

What do the Paleo gurus say?

Mark Sisson says: “The bad is that hominy is corn, a grain with questionable health effects. We generally avoid grains, and they are definitely not Primal. The good is that hominy is nixtamalized, which increases the protein availability, breaks down phytic acid, kills off mycotoxins, and increases the calcium content.

I often talk about foods existing on a spectrum of suitability, and corn is no different. If wheat, barley, rye, and other gluten-containing grains are at one (bad) end, and rice is at the other, nixtamalized corn lies somewhere in the middle, perhaps sharing a ride with oats. [It’s] not Primal, but is ‘less bad’ than some other grains.”

Robb Wolf says: [As an occasional post-workout recovery source of carbs] “Grits could be a good option in a pinch.”

Brandon and Meagan Keatley say: “Grits are not paleo, but groots are. Groots are our take on grits, Paleo style. It’s celery root, hence the g-roots, pureed with a little fat and some stock. Oh, how creamy, dreamy it is.”

Conclusion?

Not Paleo. Both grits and hominy are certainly not labeled “Paleo-friendly,” as those are traditionally unprocessed and bring with them significant nutritional and/or health benefits. However, according to some experts, grits and hominy are deemed “suitable” for a spectrum of Paleo transgressions. There are places to occasionally sneak them in if not following a strict Paleo regimen. Yet as grain-derived foods, others oppose them and advocate that they should not be used at all. There are easy substitutions you can make if you miss the texture and taste of grits and hominy without falling off the Paleo wagon.

Issue No. 28

Photo by stu_spivack

Are Hemp Hearts Paleo?

Are Hemp Hearts Paleo?

When people hear the word “hemp,” the first thing that usually comes to mind has something to do with smoke and a strong smell, but are hemp hearts paleo friendly?

But don’t worry!

The hemp we’re talking about isn’t the marijuana plant but rather an innocent cousin of hemp and the seeds it produces—hemp hearts, or shelled hemp seeds. So are heamp hearts paleo?

What to Know About Hemp Hearts

The last few years have seen a dramatic increase in interest surrounding hemp, and alongside its medicinal uses, people have started turning to it for oil, seeds, and other products (hemp milk, anyone?). Hemp is a bit of a tricky plant to harvest, as the seeds are indeterminate—that means that when the plant processed after picking, both ripe and immature seeds can be found on the same branch. When the shells around the seeds begin to crack, the hearts are brought in and preserved. After that, the rest is history (or dinner).

The benefits of hemp hearts have been touted far and wide lately, mostly for their impressive protein content (some evaluations put the value at 33% of your daily protein needs per serving). Aside from protein, hemp hearts are also full of fiber, vitamin E complex, and polyunsaturated fatty acids (somewhere around 80%—now that’s a number worth noticing!). These fatty acids do, however, make these seeds prone to going bad quickly.

In addition, while hemp hearts do have a more favorable omega-3 to omega-6 ratio than other things, it’s still not the preferred 1:1. Because there are both good and bad qualities to hemp hearts, it’s hard to tell where they might fit on the Paleo spectrum. Generally, Paleo experts agree that this case is tougher than others: while nutrients abound (bringing with them multiple health benefits, studies show), we do need to keep some things in mind before covering every meal for the rest of the year in mounds of hemp hearts.

What do other Paleo gurus say?

Mark Sisson says: “As to whether hemp is Primal or not, I’d put it (like other seeds) in a supporting role. It’s not main Primal fare, but—when eaten in its healthiest (fresh) state—it can complement a good Primal eating plan.”

Cole Bradburn says: “There are concerns, primarily processing and rancidity, but I see no problem with unprocessed hemp seeds and cold-pressed oil. There are legitimate health benefits to its consumption, and unlike many seeds, there’s no need to soak hemp to get rid of phytic acid (win!).”

So are hemp hearts Paleo?

Basically, yes.

The nutritional benefits of hemp hearts far outweigh issues such as spoilage, but be careful to buy quality seeds and avoid processed products (but you knew that already, right?). And don’t worry—because hemp hearts aren’t the same as marijuana hemp, there are no psychoactive effects associated with consuming the seeds.

Issue No. 33

Photo by Seabamirum

Is Hummus Paleo?

Hummus photo
Photo by stu_spivack

Photo by stu_spivack

Is Hummus Paleo? Firstly what is hummus – that old party bowl standby – is a popular Middle Eastern dip made from cooked, mashed garbanzo beans, tahini (a paste made from ground sesame seeds), lemon juice, salt, and garlic.

So, is it Paleo?

Its first ingredient should be the big tip-off in whether or not hummus makes the Paleo cut. Garbanzo beans, (or chickpeas), are a legume. Often asked about if they could fit into a Paleo diet because they do contain nutrients, legumes don’t provide the same dense sources of nutrients that fruits or vegetables do. Also, they’re an incomplete protein, unlike other complete protein sources like meat, fish or poultry.

Beans and legumes can also pack quite a dose of carbohydrates which may, in themselves, wreak havoc in keeping blood sugar regulated. This might be a problem for many folks trying to knock off the pounds. Or individuals who have other types of medical or metabolic conditions.

The short-chain types of sugars garbanzo beans contain are also not completely digested. These sugars are absorbed by the intestines, functioning as a food for the bacteria living there. The bacteria ferment the sugars and create just what you don’t want—bloating and gas—along with the potential to bloom into gut dysbiosis, an inflammatory digestive condition.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, research is showing that beans and legumes contain potent anti-nutrient substances called lectins, which can contribute to inflammation in the body, suppress immunity and foster a host of digestive problems.

Ancient cultures found that when they rinsed, soaked or fermented legumes, it partially reduced some of their toxins. However, the effectiveness of this practice in reducing toxicity can vary. Although it’s often recommended today for those who still want to incorporate the food into their diet. Depending on a person’s own level of sensitivity, this method may or may not be effective for everyone.

What do the Paleo gurus say?

Is hummus paleo?

 Mark Sisson says: “ It certainly isn’t Primal…but not all hummus is created equal. If you’re going to cheat, I implore you to use the good stuff. If you’re willing to make your own hummus, soak your own garbanzos. Preserve your own lemons, etc., then hummus won’t be too bad. It’ll be free of BPA, low in phytic acid, full of healthy, Primal ingredients like olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and tahini, and it will taste pretty darn good. Extra points for fermented hummus.

Dallas and Melissa Hartwig say Hummus: No… Traditional hummus is made from garbanzo beans, which are a legume. However, there are some really yummy hummus-like dip recipes out there.

Robb Wolf says: If you peruse some of the gluten-free websites you will notice folks who are still struggling with significant GI problems despite strict adherence to a gluten-free diet. Now, these poor souls embark on a gluten-free lifestyle that includes rice flour and loads of legume products. This is not helping the insulin resistance most of these folks have AND it is exposing them to other lectins which have significant GI problems as well.

Conclusion?

The general consensus is hummus is not on the Paleo list. However, some individuals who can tolerate small amounts of legumes if well-soaked or fermented can find a place for them as a small “cheat” when the hummus is homemade. If you want to stay clean and still get your hummus on, look to alternatives to the legume, such as macadamia nuts, cauliflower or cashews.

Issue No. 16

Is Monk Fruit Paleo?

If you’re anything like most people, you’ll read the title and think, “Oh, monk fruit. That’s great! …What’s a monk fruit?”

Monk fruit has been a hot topic in the Paleo community recently, as it may have potential as a new (and possibly Paleo!) sweetener. Monk fruit, also sometimes known as Luo Han Guo, is a unique plant grown only in China. It got its name from the Buddhist Luo Han monks, who were some of the first to cultivate the fruit hundreds of years ago.

But with all of the toxic compounds and negative side effects associated with other artificial sweeteners, can monk fruit really be a part of the Paleo diet? Or is it just another Paleo no-go?

Many people who have tasted monk fruit say that it tastes like chocolate or molasses, and its flavor isn’t the only thing that has people talking. The sweetness in monk fruit comes from a type of glycoside called mogrosides, and these mogrosides are full of antioxidants that help the body function healthily. Additionally, monk fruit helps to reduce oxidative stress on the body, so your body receives the support that it needs to function at full potential.

One study on the effects of monk fruit on the body showed no toxic effects; in fact, the animal subjects were given large amounts of the Luo Han Guo sweetener (3g per kg of their body weight—on a 10lb dog, that’s 30g of sweetener!), yet they showed no ill effects and did not gain weight.
So then, what negative effects does monk fruit have? Aside from the rarity of its habitat (only in Guangxi, China), Paleo experts agree—it’s great!

What do other Paleo gurus say?

Mark Sisson says: “Legend has it that the monk fruit vine sustains its caretakers by enveloping them and transmitting pure life-force directly into their hearts. And if you have the climate to grow monk fruit, you might try setting up that whole symbiotic relationship/life force exchange thing (perfect for people who telecommute). I’d say it’s worth a shot if you’re looking for a non-caloric, natural sweetener. Verdict: Primal.”

Jane Barthelemy says: “Luo Han Guo is a 100% natural Paleo sweetener. I suggest caution in buying Luo Han Guo as it is often mixed with other ingredients such as cane sugar or dextrose (a corn sugar), [but] I believe it to be a very good concentrated sweetener.”

So is monk fruit Paleo?

Yes.

Monk fruit is a promising addition to the Paleo diet, offering sweetness and nutrition all in the same package. Be careful when buying in order to avoid monk fruit mixed with artificial sweeteners like corn.

Some Paleo experts suggest Swanson Vitamins as a good supplier of high-quality monk fruit extract, and if you want to powder it yourself, ask any Chinese medicine herbalist for Plum Flower brand Momordica fruit.

Issue No. 32

Is Popcorn Paleo?

Popcorn photoPopcorn is seen by many as a low-calorie way to curb hunger, especially when eaten plain with no salt or butter. And of course, you just can’t watch a movie without grabbing a bag of the stuff, right? However, a lot of questions have been left unanswered—like whether popcorn should be a part of your Paleo lifestyle, or whether it fits into Paleo goals at all.

Popcorn comes from a specific type of maize called, wouldn’t you know it, popping corn. This corn is specifically bred to create kernels that pop, so only popping corn can make that movie theater snack everyone is so excited about. This type of corn is mainly grown in the corn belt of the United States, where most of the world gets its popcorn. Every year, Americans alone consume more than 16 billion quarts of popcorn—that is one major food craving!

So, is it Paleo?

While popcorn is plant-based, low in calories, and contains complex carbs, it’s also packing some not-so-good attributes as well, including toxins. Because Paleo is all about getting the most nutrition with the least amount of toxins, popcorn is going to have to fight hard to find a place in the Paleo diet. Popcorn is a whole grain, and we know that grains (and especially whole grains) tend to inflame the gut and cause unstable blood sugar levels. Inflammation and insulin issues are the last things we’re aiming for in a Paleo diet!

On the other hand, however, popcorn may not be as damaging as people first believed. This study tested the correlation between diverticulitis (an inflammatory intestinal disease) and consumption of popcorn and found that there seems to be no correlation between whether or not inflammation gets worse and whether or not the patient ate popcorn. And some studies (like this one) cite this snack’s polyphenol content, clocking the antioxidants in at more than what you find in fruits and vegetables. That can’t be a bad thing, right?
The thing to keep in mind is that these polyphenols are found in the popcorn’s hull—that hard part that gets stuck in your teeth. That hull is made of insoluble fiber, which means that your body can’t digest it. And if you’re not digesting that hull, are you really getting any of those good polyphenols?

Because popcorn seems to have both some good and some bad bits, there’s not really a consensus as to whether or not it should be included in a Paleo diet. Some experts in the Paleo community say that popcorn is fine only as an occasional treat, but others warn that it’s a no-go.

What do the Paleo gurus say?

Mark Sisson says: “Not Primal, but it’s not the worst cheat snack you can have. If you’re buying at a movie theater, make sure they pop it in coconut oil and add real butter (not butter-flavored soy oil). If you’re doing it at home, use a good pot with ghee or coconut oil. And stay away from microwaved popcorn at all costs.”

Diane Sanfilippo says: “Corn is a big one that people have trouble digesting, which is why I know people like to snack on popcorn, but popcorn does not digest. And if you eat anything that doesn’t fully digest, it’s not really optimal.”

So Is Popcorn Paleo?

Not really.

In general, the consensus is to avoid popcorn—it’s a no-no for Paleo eaters. If you slip up once or twice don’t panic, but popcorn’s so-so mix of health benefits and too many whole-grain toxins make it one snack food you should avoid.

Issue No. 29

Is Stevia Paleo?

Stevia photo
Photo by M. Martin Vicente

Is Stevia Paleo?

Stevia has been touted as a low-carb alternative to sugar in our foods and a “natural” way to satisfy a sweet tooth. However, questions still linger about whether it’s a Paleo-friendly food and how it might affect blood sugar- or if it should even be a part of an evolutionary diet.
One of 240 species of herbaceous plants grown in sub-tropical and tropical America, the stevia we use to sweeten comes from the stevia rebaudiana plant and its leaves.  The plant can be grown and used raw and unprocessed as a tea or with tea (also often called “green” stevia). When processed, it’s dried and powdered and looks like many of the familiar sugar substitutes on store shelves, or it’s available in a less-refined liquid extract form.
So, is it Paleo?
While stevia is plant-based, gluten free, and low on the glycemic index, in relation to other sweeteners, it’s not perfect. Some studies have shown that stevioside, the dominant glycoside in stevia, acts directly on pancreatic cells to stimulate insulin output. Since most Paleo advocates warn against unnecessary insulin spikes, it would give cause to potentially stay away from stevia.  However, the findings were not conclusive, because they were done only in a highly-controlled lab environment and did not factor in any data from animals or humans eating the stevia in a natural, organic way.

On the flip side, there’s also growing evidence that stevia is an insulin sensitizer and can assist post-meal glucose tolerance and clearance. Some studies have shown that compared to both sucrose and aspartame eaters, stevia eaters showed much lower insulin levels after meals, plus consumption of the stevia did not stimulate appetite later in the day—a sign that it supported stable blood sugar and satiety.

Other minor benefits that stevia may provide, as evidenced by several small studies, include its possible assistance in the reduction of arterial plaque and potential anti-hypertensive effects at certain doses.

Because the jury isn’t quite out yet on whether stevia is a big Paleo thumbs up (or down), it’s no surprise there’s still variance in how or if it should be eaten.  Some voices in the Paleo community readily accept and support stevia’s use, while others say nay depending on its form and processing. Some even say it’s not ideal and to stay away.

What do the Paleo gurus say?

Mark Sisson says“We can think about stevia as a Primal sugar alternative with some potentially therapeutic effects. Kind of like cinnamon or turmeric, we don’t consume it for the calories or as literal fuel for our bodies, but for flavor, variety, and, possibly, the health benefits. I’m a fan of the stuff and recommend it as a Primal way to satisfy a sweet tooth.

Diane Sanfilippo says“I don’t recommend any stevia that’s white—the green powder or extract here or there is probably okay.”

Dallas and Melissa Hartwig say“We don’t really say that stevia would be a good choice. We just say that it would be less bad considering it’s plant-based and available without additives or chemical processing. If you have to use one of those, we’d say something like stevia or pure organic honey or maple syrup would be a less bad option. But clearly not ideal and to break those habits and cravings and patterns, you really want to stay away from all of that stuff in our opinion.”

Conclusion?

It’s a Paleo maybe – there’s no clear definition about whether stevia is fit for the Paleo palate, but it is plant-based and certainly is a better choice than sucrose and artificial sweeteners. In general, experts say that if you’re going to use it, make it the unprocessed form (or extract) and use it in discretionary amounts when you need to sweeten a food or beverage for variety or flavor.

Issue No. 26

Are Sweet Potatoes Paleo?

Sweet Potatoes photo
Photo by Stacy Spensley

If there’s one food that can eclipse the western diet’s love of meat, it’s the love of potatoes. Whether it’s French fries, hashbrowns, or mashed potatoes, these vegetables are front and center in many a meal. However, sweet potatoes, which are only distantly related to “regular” potatoes, are markedly different from their relatives and are not as common a dish on the table. But should they be? Or should we avoid another helping of those golden sweet potato fries?

Sweet potatoes have been a staple in many diets around the world for thousands of years. Some evidence shows the oldest confirmed domestication of sweet potato species in Peru, dating back to around 8000 BC. The places in the world that produce the most sweet potatoes now are those locations where it is still a staple food, such as in Uruguay and Papua New Guinea. In America, North Carolina is the leading producer, with around 38% of all American sweet potatoes coming from farms in the state.
Sweet potatoes are most well-known for their healthy dietary fiber content and beta-carotene, which turns the potato its characteristic orange. Some studies show that beta-carotene may be useful in treating and detecting some cancers, such as female reproductive cancer, though the overall benefit in general cancer treatment has not been confirmed. But the more orange in the potato, the better it is for you.
Additionally, sweet potatoes are extremely rich in complex carbohydrates, which help the body burn fat. And baked sweet potatoes are even better, as the heating process changes the chemical structure of the potato, resulting in a 24% increase in vitamin C.
On the other hand, sweet potatoes come in many varieties, and people who make sweet potatoes a large, consistent part of their diet (read: multiple potatoes per day) may find themselves getting too many vitamins, which can cause a range of side effects, from dizziness to changes in the color of the skin. And pregnant women should be especially careful, as some studies show that too much vitamin A can be harmful to the fetus.
Packed full of vitamins and beta-carotene, sweet potatoes are certainly a healthy option. The dangers of sweet potato consumption come primarily from eating too much, as there are very few toxins present otherwise. It seems as though the benefits of sweet potatoes outweigh the potential risks, and Paleo experts agree.

What Do the Paleo Gurus Say?

Amy Kubal says: “The popularity of the sweet spud has sky-rocketed among the Paleo community. It’s commonly associated with the term ‘safe starch’ and is a powerhouse post workout meal when paired with some protein.”
Tim Huntley says: “As far as vegetables go, sweet potatoes are my favorite, and thankfully, they are extremely nutritious. In 1992, the Center for Science in the Public Interest ranked the sweet potato as the number one king of all vegetables in terms of nutritional value.”

So Are Sweet Potatoes Paleo?

Absolutely!
Sweet potatoes are a great, nutritious option for any meal or snack and a perfect option post-workout because of their complex carbs and simple starches. Don’t go crazy and eat more than three or so per day, as you may run the risk of consuming too many vitamins, but this is usually not a problem.

Issue No. 31

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