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Are Quinoa, Dairy, Chocolate, Sweeteners, or Maple Syrup Paleo? A Quick Guide to Those Questionable Foods.

We Love Paleo

We had a great time watching We Love Paleo Saturday. I hosted a group screening and had a few people from all walks of life from skeptic to interested to experienced groker. The documentary really holds something for everyone, even for me watching it the second time around. My first run, I had been pulled into the people’s stories, watching the personal development unfold. This time I listened more to how they presented information on the principals behind ancestral health and how the conversation flowed even as it moved between the many different speakers. Overall everyone enjoyed the afternoon and went away with something to think about.


Afterwards, one of group who had been interested but hadn’t tried paleo before caught me for a few questions. They were some of the main things I get asked about paleo so I wanted to share them with anyone either considering the diet or getting started.

Why do you cut out grains?
Gluten gets a lot of bad press these days, and rightly deserved. It directly and indirectly creates inflammation, leaky gut, and autoimmune responses. But what isn’t as well publicized is that all grains, to varying degrees, create the same issues. They all break down into proteins that pass through the gut wall and set off autoimmune responses.
As a bonus, all grains break down into sugars. The conventional wisdom about simple and complex carbohydrates is essentially meaningless. Both break down into sugar and both have an impact on your blood sugar which, in turn, elevates insulin. Chronically elevated insulin, which you get on the standard american diet results in insulin resistance and fat accumulation either beneath the skin or viscerally.

What about quinoa?
Quinoa is a grain. It is lower in carbohydrates than other grains but that’s really like saying a sperm whale is smaller than a blue whale. Technically yes, but it wouldn’t matter if one feel on you which it was.
Quinoa also contains saponins which can break down the intestinal lining causing leaky gut, an effect similar to the compounds in wheat.
Yes, same for corn, buckwheat, sorghum, oats, and all the other gluten-free grains.

Can I eat dairy?
This was definitely the most confusing point in the video. Half the people didn’t eat dairy and half of them subtly touted butter. So which is it? This one is up to you. I suggest elimination and re-introduction. Try cutting it out and the see how you feel when adding it back in. Watch for weight gain, acne, GI discomfort. I’ve found that people do best with aged cheese and high-fat dairy like butter, ghee, or heavy cream. Myself, I eat aged cheese, butter, and cream from pastured rained cows and have the occasional dollop of milk in my once- or twice-weekly coffee.

What about maple syrup?
Other than it being a sugar, there’s nothing inherently harmful about maple syrup. If you choose to indulge, I recommend getting raw maple syrup if possible. Same goes for honey.

So I can have sugar?
The more sugar you consume, the more insulin surges you’ll experience. This can lead to resistance, weight gain, inflammation, and a host of other unpleasant effects. Add a bit of sugar to your coffee? Probably fine as long as you aren’t drinking it all day long. You’ll be hard pressed to find someone who considered added sugar part of a healthy diet, paleo or not.

Ok then, what sweeteners can I use?
A lot of artificial sweeteners are inflammatory or worse so I suggest avoiding them. Stevia and erythritol seem to be benign. Stevia can taste bitter and cu through the flavor of whatever it is used in while erythritol can have a menthol-like cooling effect. A blend I like, Natural Mate combines the two in a way that gets the best of both worlds but it’s super sweet so if you want to experiment with it, cut the amount of sweetener/sugar you’d normally use in half. If you buy another brand of erythritol check that it is fruit-derived not corn-derived. For stevia, I use stevia extract as some of the powders can have grain-based filler. There’s also an excellent (but expensive!) brand of chocolate and chocolate chips that uses stevia, Lily’s (which also happens to be my dog’s name). I buy a bunch whenever it goes on sale at Whole Foods.

You can eat vegetables but not vegetable oils?
You got it. First let me ask you, have you ever squeezed a corncob hard enough to get oil out of it? How do they even make corn oil? Whatever way, the main issue is in how they process it to keep it shelf stable and liquid at room temperature. Vegetable oils (including peanut oil) are all polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) which, due to the multiple carbons that are not bonded to hydrogen (unsaturated), are more prone to oxidation inside and outside the body. Oxidation creates compounds that are harmful to our bodies as well as causing processes to go awry inside our bodies such as when cholesterol oxidizes and becomes lodged in our arteries prompting an immune response and inflammation of the arterial walls.

So what do I eat?
Meat, vegetables, healthy fats like coconut oil, and nuts. Now that I’ve struck so many thing off your list, let’s put something back on! Saturated fat. Recently the villain of badly done studies and smear campaigns, saturated fat is actually a necessary element of our diet. It provides the structure to our cell walls, our body’s preferred energy, and even the brain’s signal messengers. Plus your brain is mainly fat and cholesterol, talk about an important nutrient. The studies often splashed across the news about meat and fat causing cancer/weight gain/the latest health concern are based on a belief founded in poor scientific practices. For a full look into this fascinating history, check out Nina Teicholz’s book The Big Fat Surprise.
If you’re still with me, check out my more detailed post on “So What Do I Eat?” complete with a Paleo for Beginners infograph cheat sheet.

Source: Rx Primal Blog

Becky Davis

Becky Davis

Hello, I’m Becky! I’m here to help you make the Paleo diet an easy part of your daily life. With my quick recipes, tips, and strategies readers and clients add healthy practices and stick with them! To hear a little more about my background, check out the “About Me” section or find me on social media.

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