Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
17 Jul

Is It Primal? – Paleo Bread, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, Psyllium Fiber, and Other Foods Scrutinized

I love doing these “Is It Primal?” posts. For one, the supply of topics is virtually limitless, because you guys are constantly sending in new foods and products for me to research. Two, I’m learning a ton of new stuff. And it’s not just specific foods I’m learning about; it’s also forcing me to think about health and what Primal actually means in new ways. There are plenty of times where I approach a particular entry with the assumption that it’s definitely going to be Primal, or definitely not going to be Primal, only to be surprised by what a little more research shows. It can be disconcerting to have your beliefs challenged or even scrambled, but so be it. That’s a small price to pay, right?

Let’s get to the foods. We’re doing five today – Paleo Bread, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, psyllium fiber, expeller pressed refined coconut oil, and unflavored gelatin.

Paleo Bread

Paleo Bread is actually a specific product. Now, I haven’t tried it myself, and while I’m generally against using paleo or Primal approximations of neolithic foods as staples, Paleo Bread looks like an extremely solid, ideal choice. Here’s why:

  • Choice of either coconut or almond meal-based bread. Coconut is the Primal darling, but not everyone likes or is compatible with it. Same goes for almonds. Giving folks a choice means pretty much everyone can find something they enjoy and tolerate.
  • The almonds used are blanched, with the skins removed. Since one of the major problems with eating a lot of nuts (like in breads made from them) is the mineral-binding phytate content, and phytate lies in the skin of the almonds, Paleo Bread should be safe on that front.
  • It’s made from actual food, with a short list. Almond/coconut flour, egg whites, psyllium (more on that below), apple cider vinegar, baking soda, and water are the ingredients. There’s nothing particularly offensive or hard-to-pronounce (which isn’t definitive, but a rather useful guideline for a food’s healthfulness) there.

If you have a hankering for bread, I’d say go for it. Just don’t make it a daily thing.

UPDATE: It’s recently come to my attention that there’s some contention over whether the nutritional claims of Julian Bakery, the folks behind Paleo Bread, can be trusted. A recent post from Jimmy Moore, in which one of Jimmy’s readers reports excessively elevated blood sugar from eating a few slices, suggests that the “net carb” claims for their Smart Carb bread were misleading (or downright incorrect). Later on in the post, independent lab testing (ordered by the reader) shows nutritional data that contradicts the data on the label. Whether Julian Bakery’s Paleo Bread has the the same issues remains to be seen, but I’d caution any potential buyers to run their own tests.

UPDATE 2: This is a an email from a representative of Paleo Bread:


I wanted to contact you to set the record straight about Paleo Bread as we pride ourselves on nutritional accuracy and test all our bread. Also the blog post Jimmy Moore referenced is complete slander as that women (sic) did NOT test for Inulin in our bread so her test is not accurate. We proudly test all of our breads with Medallion Labs.

Test for Paleo Almond:
Test for Paleo Coconut:

Please let me know if you have any questions and we would appreciate you fixing your most recent post about our Paleo Bread.

Thank You,

Heath Squier
Julian Bakery, Inc.

Verdict: Primal. Undecided.

Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

A “soy sauce alternative,” Bragg’s Liquid Aminos still contains soy as the primary ingredient. What sets it apart, though, is the production process, the lack of wheat, and the lack of added salt. So it’s a sauce made from soy, but it’s not a soy sauce.

Bragg’s isn’t fermented, unlike most soy sauces. Instead of fermentation, the folks at Bragg’s apply hydrochloric acid (the same stuff found in your stomach) to soybeans, “predigesting” them and releasing free amino acids (like glutamate). To counter the acidity, they add sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), which combines with the “chloric” part of hydrochloric acid to make the salty taste. I’m actually a tentative fan of fermented soy as a condiment (miso, natto, that sort of thing), because it seems to have different effects on humans than processed or unfermented soy. I outlined some of the apparent benefits in this older post, if you’re interested.

I’ve heard of MSG-sensitive and soy-sensitive people having issues with the free glutamate in Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. I’m not convinced that naturally-occurring free glutamate is a problem, but I can’t argue with people who report sensitivities.

That there’s no wheat is a good thing, but you can get wheat-free tamari sauces that taste great. Heck, even regular soy sauce (which has wheat) might be “free of wheat allergens,” owing to the fermentation. Personally, I don’t like the taste of Bragg’s. Not sure how to describe it, really.

Verdict: Not Primal (unfermented soy), but it doesn’t appear very threatening.

Psyllium Fiber

Psyllium fiber comes two different ways, with each having a different effect on your bowels and their movements. Psyllium husk, which is the popular type of pysllium fiber found in most supplements, comes from the exterior of the psyllium seed and is almost entirely insoluble fiber. It bulks up your poop and can help move things along, but it’s pretty much an inert polysaccharide. Your gut bacteria can’t do much with it, let alone your “own” digestive system. If you need to fill a toilet bowl, psyllium husk will do it.

Psyllium seed powder, however, is mostly soluble fiber. That means it’s a prebiotic, fermentable fiber that can feed and support your gut flora and spur the creation of beneficial short chain fatty acids like butyrate. In fact, psyllium seed has been shown to increase butyrate production by 42%, an effect that lasted for two months after treatment.

I’m not a fan of pounding out massive dump after massive dump just because you can. I mean, sure, you don’t want to be stopped up and unable to go when you want to, but there’s nothing inherently good or beneficial about padding your bowel stats and rending your bowel walls with insoluble fiber. Soluble, prebiotic fiber? Via the production of short chain fatty acids, that stuff can actually help reduce colonic inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, protect against obesity, serve as an energy source for the colon, and possibly even protect against colon cancer. Thus, a case for psyllium seed fiber supplementation can certainly be made.

Verdict: Cautiously Primal, so long as you’re using the seed powder. But I’d rather you get your fermentable fiber in whole food form. Psyllium husk? Not Primal.

Expeller Pressed Refined Coconut Oil

There’s that word: “refined.” Not so bad when you’re talking 16-year single barrel Scotch, monocles, The New Yorker, and finely oiled mustaches, but extremely suspicious when you’re talking edible fats. Most refined oils are processed using chemical solvents like hexane, some of which may show up in the finished product. Expeller pressed coconut oil, however, is physically processed. They literally press the coconut flesh to squeeze out the oil.

Refined coconut oil doesn’t taste like coconut, thanks to the deodorizing steam-treatment it receives. If you want that coconut flavor, go for virgin coconut oil. But if you’re doing a stir-fry, cooking up some eggs, maybe oven baking some sweet potato fries, and you don’t want everything to taste like Thai food, expeller-pressed coconut oil is a fantastic choice. It’s more resistant to high heat than virgin coconut oil, too, making it the go-to fat for those times you want to cook something on high.

The other benefits of coconut oil, like the medium chain triglyceride content, are not affected by the refining process. They remain intact and present.

Verdict: Primal.

Unflavored Gelatin

The protein powder-, squatz-, oatz-, and gainz-obsessed online lifting culture may frown upon gelatin as a source of protein, but it has its place in a healthy diet. Sure, gelatin, with its unanabolic amino acid profile, can’t be relied upon as a primary protein source – it’s not going to get you huge – and early attempts at protein fasts using gelatin instead of more complete proteins resulted in the most permanent weight loss method of all: death. But as an adjunct to a protein-replete diet? Gelatin is great and underappreciated.

Hard clinical evidence of its benefits are scant. Anecdotes report benefits to bone, joint, and skin health. I’ve found that a warm cup of gelatin broth just before bed gets me incredibly sleepy. Perhaps its the glycine in the gelatin, which one study found to be effective for improving sleep in humans. Another study found that dietary gelatin reduced joint pain in athletes. At any rate, it seems helpful, if not essential.

Of course, I’d rather you get your gelatin through bone broth and gelatin-rich cuts like chicken feet, oxtail, ribs, and shanks. These will offer nutrients and complete protein along with the “incomplete” gelatinous protein, and they taste incredible. But if you’re not eating those cuts, if you’re not making broth, if the only meat you eat is completely free of gristle and bone and cartilage and sinew, incorporating a little unflavored gelatin is a worthy consideration to make. Before the days of shrinkwrapped sirloins, 95% lean ground beef, and discarding over 50% of the live weight of a cow carcass as “inedible,” humans utilized the entire animal – tendons, bones, feet, hide, cartilage, head, skin, and all the rest. That’s a lot of gelatin we evolved eating, gelatin that you’re no longer eating. Think of unflavored gelatin as a replacement for that.

For optimal digestion, gelatin should be dissolved in warm water before drinking (in one study, hydrolyzed collagen, but not undissolved gelatin, improved bone health in rats). This isn’t a very interesting way to eat it, though, so you might try adding a little fruit juice or tea to the mix and refrigerating it until it gelatinizes. Then you have a fairly healthy jello.

If you’re worried about the source of the gelatin, for ethical or nutritional reasons, you can always use a grass-fed bovine gelatin, like this one.

Verdict: Primal.

That’s it for today’s list of questionable foods. I hope I didn’t break any hearts or crush any spirits. Keep on sending more foods and I’ll try to eventually get to all of them. Thanks for reading!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I have a hard time finding Psyllium seed powder. Most of the products referred as seed powder is actually a husk powder. Any suggestions?

    pilulkin wrote on July 18th, 2012
  2. where can i find psyllium seed fiber? i checked whole foods and all they have is psyllium seed husk powder. is that the right stuff? can someone please clarify exactly what to buy?

    the devastator wrote on July 19th, 2012
    • I’d like some guidance on this, too. All the powders I’ve found in stores are psyllium husk. Online, the use for the item named psyllium seed powder says “It is the main ingredient in the commercial dietary supplements ‘Metamucil’ and ‘Citrucel.'” This implies that the powder is actually the husk, not the seed.

      jake3_14 wrote on July 22nd, 2012
    • Psyllium Husk is 70% soluble fiber and 30% insoluble fiber. This is the husk not the seed.

      John Theobald wrote on January 6th, 2014
  3. Just curious why one would want to limit their intake of paleo bread, or “not make it a daily thing”? All of the ingredients sound okay / Primal approved to me, so what gives?

    NN wrote on July 19th, 2012
  4. For those of you who think you can’t live without the new Paleo Bread from Julian Bakery, think again. The almond bread came and it is so soggy it falls apart. the coconut bread was moldy and tastes a little like styrofoam. The wait time for the bread id way too long and the mailing price is almost more than the bread. Use lettuce leaves instead. Much tastier!

    Ron McCallum wrote on July 20th, 2012
    • Agreed. It’s been a while since I’ve eaten something this nasty. Wow.

      HillyRu wrote on July 20th, 2012
  5. Just an aside (perhaps an update) The paleo bread now says “. *Nutritional Information Provided By An Independent Lab For Accuracy* “

    Georgia wrote on July 25th, 2012
  6. Isn’t gelatin, i.e., pectin, also available in many fruits, such as apple?

    Horses Douvers wrote on July 28th, 2012
    • Pectin & gelatin are so not chemically related. Pectin is a fiber, an indigestible carbohydrate.

      You may be thinking of Agar – a plant based gelatin used (among other things) in petrie dishes to grow bacteria.

      MassageTeam wrote on July 30th, 2012
  7. The reason I turned primal/paleo was owing to a spinal injury & resulting sciatica that left me totally sidelined. Unable to do routine gym stuff & eligible for a disability parking pass! I was worried about gaining weight, spiralling downward & having control over my life slip away. Fortune smiled & I learned about evolutionary nutrition.

    But gelatin! What an idea. We just made a bone broth with the mounting pile of poultry carcasses in the freezer. Rather than some fancy recycle-soup I’m just taking mugs of this bone broth medicinally until it’s gone. Something to add to the arsenal to heal my spine.

    Four months on primal, hardly a lick if exercise, female & creeping middle age & guess what? The weight is coming off (slowly) anyhow. Awesome.

    MassageTeam wrote on July 30th, 2012
  8. Aw, maaan. I have fallen in love with the Coconut Paleo Bread! I have been a little sketched out on Julian Bakery’s fairly vague ingredient labeling and their similarly vague inquiry about the quality and source of their egg whites. Plus it contains psyllium, which is also vilified in this post. Hmm, so I guess I should consider getting off my new paleo sandwich routine. Boooo.

    Alison Evans wrote on September 3rd, 2012
  9. Just got this product today. HORRIBLE texture. I’m asking for a return but i’m not holding my breath going by other comments below.

    No wonder my local Whole Foods has stopped carrying Julian Bakery.

    Naomi wrote on September 6th, 2012
    • Glad I am not the only one who was VERY disappointed with the much anticipated Julian bakery paleo bread. I found it (the coconut one) to be tasteless, damp(!) and a rather repugnant texture! The coconut one went in the bin! Still got the almond version in my freezer. Not sure if it will be any better!

      Charron wrote on September 6th, 2012
  10. I make my own ‘paleo’ bread once in a while. Initially from here: and I keep tweaking it. My last little loaf also had 2 Tablespoons whey powder (‘MyProtein’) in it.
    I found this handy when low-carbing: slice thinly, keep in freezer, use occasionally.
    Since I’ve been reading Mark’s blog I realise a little refinement is necessary. I will blanche the almonds next time (oops), and perhaps swap the flax for coconut flour.. I won’t use ‘Coconoil’ as I don’t particularly want a tuna salad and coconut sandwich! (for instance) 😮

    Johanna wrote on October 3rd, 2012
  11. Mark,

    Re: Julian Bakery-False Nutritional Labels-The FDA- Diabetes

    I am “that woman” that had three of the Julian Bakery breads tested through Exova Laboratories. If Heath Squier so “proudly tests all of his breads through Medallion Labs” then he should “proudly” display ALL his Medallion Lab results. As of today October, 19th 2012 Heath has “proudly” displayed one Julian Bakery bread product which is his ‘signature bread name’, the newly re-formulated Smart Carb#1. If you care to notice at the top of his posted lab results for the Smart Carb#2 Cinnamon Raisin it actually says Smart Carb#1. On the Julian Bakery website he does not even display lab results for either of his new Paleo breads. All it says is: “Nutritional Info Provided By An Independent Lab For Accuracy” but there is no link to view any lab results. It is my contention that the only reason he has even the one set of lab results posted is because I filed a formal complaint with the FDA. One note: Heath Squier has touted chicory root inulin for years in his advertising, u-tube videos and on his website. Questions: If chicory root inulin is such a great additive why is it not in his newly re-formulated Smart Carb#1 and Smart Carb#2 breads? Has fiber suddenly lost its appeal? With all the success Julian Bakery has had selling what are probably hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of loaves of bread throughout the United States for many years, with it’s false nutritional labels, why in the world would they completely change the recipe? I believe it to be for one reason-an impending FDA complaint. Heath is now saying forget chicory root inulin, it’s protein that people want. Really? Would any company change a (falsely advertised) wildly popular product for no reason? I doubt it.

    As for Exova not testing for inulin fiber? Get real. When any laboratory does testing it tests for all fiber. Fiber is fiber whether is it psyllium husk or chicory root. To keep it simple, for each gram of carbohydrate there is an attending gram of fiber thus one cancels the other. For some reason Heath Squier seems to think he had some corner on chicory root inulin fiber. I believe he has been trying to bamboozle the public for years with his claims of inulin fiber. Personally, I use both. I buy inulin fiber from chicory root made in Belgium through Swanson’s and I buy psyllium fiber (Metamucil 100% inulin) which is also made in Belgium, through Proctor and Gamble’s on line store.

    Julian Bakery 5621 La Jolla Blvd. La Jolla, CA 92037 has been lying on their nutritional food facts labels for years targeting diabetics and people looking to live a low-carb lifestyle. I have had three of their breads tested for carbohydrate, fiber, and protein content through Exova Laboratories. The test results showed the carbohydrate content to be 17 times greater than what was stated on the label of the Smart Carb#1 bread. All three results were not even close to what Julian Bakery has been stating for years.

    I have formally filed 2 complaints with the FDA. First complaint #127509 was filed on July 30th, 2012 and the Second Complaint #128637 was just filed on October 8th, 2012. Information on either of these actions may be obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. I have been advised that it may take several more months for anything regarding the second complaint since it has just been filed.

    As a result of my first complaint Julian Bakery has completely re-formulated their two best selling breads: Smart Carb#1 and Smart Carb#2 Cinnamon Raisin (two of the three breads tested). They have, and are continuing to sell the original Smart Carb#1 bread recipe under the label Health Express sold on the internet nationwide via the website Viva Low Carb.

    Julian Bakery has a line of 25 breads that they aggressively market and sell nationwide. I contend that most all of their nutritional labels are false but it costs nearly $700.00 per bread to be tested so for obvious reasons, I am unable to have all 25 of them tested.

    It has taken many months of discovery and now I have myriad pages of all this information, complaint letters filed with the FDA, all test results, all original ingredients and labeling from the Julian Bakery website and careful directions how to untangle this massive web of deceit.

    I know this problem (false nutritional labeling) is rampant in the low-carb and diabetic community, but Julian Bakery has literally been poisoning diabetics 1 slice of bread at a time and has been promising that “silver bullet” long enough.


    Deborah Krueger
    4110 NE 42nd Ave
    Portland, OR 97218

    Deborah Krueger wrote on October 20th, 2012
  12. I don’t mind the Paleo Bread but it is definitely something that you dont eat every day/ Rather dense, but I dig it and like the fact I can make myself a sandwich late at night when I come back from work. So aside that people not liking the texture…is it Paleo?

    Hugo Vera wrote on November 29th, 2012
  13. You can buy Collagen direct from Great Lakes Gelatin, a case of 12 1 lb bottles is $169 + $20 shipping = $15.75 a bottle. The beef kosher mixes in hot or cold, it’s mostly tasteless so I drop a big spoonfull in my morning coffee. Great for joint pain.

    Peter Gunn wrote on February 15th, 2013
  14. I wanted to try Paleo Bread but it showed up LATE and MOLDY – yuk!

    I just make my own now, feel better that it is fresh out of the oven.

    Thanks for the info on Psyllium, the use of fiber in the diet isn’t just for producing bowel movements but is also beneficial in removing cholesterol from the body – a fact that I did not see in your post. n 😉

    craftychicken wrote on May 2nd, 2013
  15. Did anyone else catch the mistake? Psyllium husks are mostly SOLUBLE fiber. That’s why they gel up when they are added to water. INSOLUBLE fiber doesn’t work as a supplement to add to water because it is INSOLUBLE. Even the wikipedia page says that psyllium husks are mostly soluble fiber, the same as dietary fiber.

    Soluble fiber is a gel like mass that adds bulk to stool. Found commonly along with starch sources, potatoes, rice, carrots, zucchini, squash, etc.
    Insoluble fiber is roughage that sweeps everything up in your intestines and colon. Kale, spinach, broccolli, greens, etc.

    Theo wrote on June 29th, 2013
  16. Psyllium husk according to several nutrition sources is 2/3 soluble 1/3 insoluble fiber not all insoluble as your post indicates.

    john theobald wrote on July 25th, 2013
  17. Mark says: “Psyllium husk, which is the popular type of pysllium fiber found in most supplements, comes from the exterior of the psyllium seed and is almost entirely insoluble fiber…”

    All mentions of psyillium husk on the web indicate it is soluble fiber, not insoluble. Does anyone have a science based reference for to support Mark’s claim?

    SVen wrote on September 4th, 2013
  18. Metamucil is psyllium husk, I believe. My experience has been very favourable. I’ve had issues with both diarrhea and constipation since I had my gall bladder removed (“no side effects” said the surgeon beforehand) to the point where I’ve been afraid to leave the house, much less go camping. Pain, bloating, you name it. Metamucil makes everything nice and smooth and predictable for me, and just generally pleasant and easy. They say maybe it reduced bowel cancer, I dunno about that, I just know I like having metamucil poops. (Are you familiar with the term “zero”? Meaning almost no cleanup required) I had one the size of my leg the other day, not something I would normally strive for, but it was painless and it was a zero. Any day that starts with a zero is a good day.

    Ron wrote on September 14th, 2013
  19. I have taken about everything you can buy for losing weight. Remember…I have bought a lot of supplements and some did show some results but not like the psyllium husks. I did not buy Lady Soma for that but after about three weeks of being on the Lady Soma Fiber Cleanse….the results were amazing!!! My energy level went up the roof and after three weeks…with of course sensible meals, I have lost a total of 15 pounds.

    Suyin wrote on September 16th, 2013
  20. Where the heck can I find psyllium seed powder? Everything I’ve found so far is the husk form. And when I searched on amazon for ‘psyllium seed powder’ it came up with one result from a company called ‘Frontier’ that says it’s seed powder in the product name, but then on the package label it says it’s ‘powdered psyllium husk’. I’m not sure if that’s what I’m looking for. Is psyllium seed powder the same thing as psyllium seed husk powder? Pretty confusing….

    Paul wrote on December 7th, 2013
  21. This article is very confusing (particularly the psyllium fiber part) because I’ve done some of my own research and all of those websites say that psyllium husk is soluble fiber, whereas Mark says it is insoluble.

    So really which is it?

    Tasha wrote on February 19th, 2014
  22. Insoluble / soluble: does this post need correcting?

    Re Psyllium is available as 2 forms: 1. seed husk which is ” insoluble” fibre & 2. powdered psyllium seed which has soluble fibre.


    which contradicts the above and states that both available forms are actually husk 1. as natural 2. powdered (ground finely) . The husk swells many fold in water i.e. very soluble! It is a prebiotic.

    Julielu wrote on October 20th, 2014
  23. And here I thought I was a late arrival, consider it’s an article from 2012 (-;
    Which comes to prove that there’s still unclarity on the issue of Psyllium (other then creating “bulk”).

    I recently came across a recipe for nut bread which called for Whole Psyllium husks. So I’ve ordered some (NOW Organic). For one, it has a fine powder texture. Two, 10 grams of Psyllium include 7 grams of dietary Fiber out of which 6 grams are Soluble and 1 gram is Insoluble. Three and most importantly, is the following manufacture statement: “Organic Psyllium husks (Plantago ovata) (Seed).” that tells me that it is seed based after all; or am I misinterpreting this?

    I’ve also looked at other worthy suppliers and they all state the same.

    On a different matter: Mark, How about displaying again the list of recent backtalk, that used to appear on the right side of the screen? Thanks!

    Time Traveler wrote on October 24th, 2014

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