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

Is It Primal? – Ezekiel Bread, V8, Edamame, and Other Foods Scrutinized

ezekielbreadIn this “Is It Primal?” series of posts I’ve already scrutinized sprouts, cashews, sunflower butter, chocolate milk and a couple dozen other foods for their suitability in a healthy human diet. Today, I’m covering Ezekiel bread, the sprouted grain amalgamation favored by conventional health nuts; V8, the tomato juice with a little vegetable juice mixed in; edamame, the little kid of the soybean family; mezcal, tequila’s mysterious older brother; and tigernuts, which aren’t what you probably think they are.

Ready to go? Let’s do it:

Ezekiel Bread

Ezekiel bread is the stuff that you’d be forced to eat peanut butter and jelly on whenever you went over to your friend-with-the-hippie-parents’ house. The bread would be made from sprouted grains, the peanut butter would be sprouted, and even the strawberry seeds in the strawberry jam would be sprouted. Back then, you just wanted some Wonderbread and Jiffy, but now? Now that you’re health conscious, grain wary, and can rattle off a laundry list of anti-nutrients at a moment’s notice, you see that telltale orange package in the bread section of the Whole Foods and wonder if maybe it’s a decent choice for those times you want to splurge with some buttered bread. So, is it?

Kinda. One study found that eating sprouted grain breads (not Ezekiel, but similar to it) reduced the blood sugar response and increases the glucagon response when compared to eating unsprouted breads, 11-grain, 12-grain, white, or sourdough. That’s pretty good… for a bread. But it’s still bread. I’d like to see it matched up against a lack of bread.

Plus, sprouting might take care of some or most of the phytic acid, but it doesn’t break down the gluten. And with the first ingredient being whole wheat, and other major ingredients including barley and spelt, there’s going to be a significant amount of gluten remaining in the finished product. Some might be degraded, but not all of it. I’d suspect that gluten sensitive people will react “better” to Ezekiel bread, not “well.” Not enough to justify eating it, in my opinion. Celiacs, of course, should avoid it altogether.

Verdict: Not Primal, but possibly better than white bread (and whole grain bread, for that matter).

V8

All your vegetable needs in a can – what’s not to love?

First, the imbalanced sodium/potassium ratio. I have nothing against salt, but it’s fairly well-accepted that an imbalance between sodium and potassium intake is one of the factors involved in developing hypertension. Since one of the best reasons to eat vegetables is to get enough potassium to balance out the sodium you get elsewhere, drinking V8 for the potassium is kinda like eating salmon cooked in soybean oil for the omega-3s. Sure, you’ll technically get some DHA and EPA, but you’ll also get an equal amount of linoleic acid.

Second, seeing as how V8 100% vegetable juice is actually 87% tomato juice (from concentrate), it’s more accurate to say V8 provides all your tomato juice needs in a can. Which is totally fine, but it’s not an effective replacement for your celery, spinach, beet, carrot, lettuce, parsley, or watercress needs. I’m actually a fan of tomato juice, even the pasteurized, reconstituted type. Rather than render it nutritionally void, pasteurization actually increases the lycopene – a potent antioxidant that can help prevent sunburns, among other qualities – content of tomato products (including juice). V8 is great for tomato juice, not “vegetables.”

Third, V8 appears to contain traces of BPA, perhaps because the cans are lined with it (though a type of baby formula had more).

Verdict: Primal – it doesn’t contain added sugar or weird ingredients – but it doesn’t replace actual vegetables.

Edamame

Edamame have several strikes agianst it, right off the bat. It’s soy, which contains potent phytoestrogens, isoflavones that interact with estrogen receptors in the body. It’s a legume. It’s unfermented, unsprouted, and unsoaked. If it’s being served in the United States, it’s likely genetically modified. So, shall I strike it off the list and move on to the next one? No, of course not. That’s not what we do here.

There are actually some “better” things about edamame when you compare them to other forms of unfermented soy:

Edamame are young soy beans, still in the pods. They are not eaten raw, but they don’t require a lot of cooking. A light steam (or run through the microwave, as sushi restaurants do) will sufficiently tenderize the little beans. These aren’t hardy, difficult-to-digest dried beans. They’re more like green peas or green beans, which I previously gave the stamp of approval.

The fatty acids in edamame are mostly monounsaturated (which we like), whereas soybean oil is mostly polyunsaturated linoleic acid (which we usually want to reduce).

Edamame actually have drastically lower levels of phytoestrogens than mature soybeans. One study found that the phytoestrogen content of edamame samples ranged from 0.02% to 0.12%, while mature soybean samples ranged from 0.16% to 0.25%. The gulf widens when you consider that edamame are a snack, eaten sparingly, while mature soybeans are usually converted into tofu, soymilk, and other products that people consume in large amounts.

I couldn’t find solid data on phytic acid levels in edamame, but that could be an indication of researchers’ utter lack of concern for the levels of phytic acid in edamame. I’d imagine that the phytic acid situation is much like the phytic acid situation in other young legumes like green peas and green beans: not very dire.

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.

Verdict: Not Primal, but don’t stress over a couple handfuls at a sushi restaurant.

Mezcal

To my knowledge, there have been no double-blind, placebo-controlled, peer-reviewed clinical trials comparing the health effects of roasted agave liquor, or mezcal, and steamed agave liquor, also known as tequila. Not every dietary item comes with a litany of Pubmed references, unfortunately. Anecdotes, oftentimes powerful ones, are available – especially when it comes to liquor. I have one about mezcal, believe it or not.

I like my wine, but I usually stop after a glass or two or three. I’ve never been a “liquor guy,” though. Scotch, bourbon, rum, vodka? While I can vaguely distinguish between the good stuff and the bad stuff, I’m not a connoisseur. For tequila, though, I make an exception. I love good tequila (and to a lesser extent, good rum). I don’t drink it much, but I really enjoy it when I do. So when I was in Puerto Vallarta some years ago and got to talking to a crusty old ex-pat in a restaurant near the beach, and he mentioned “illegal mezcal,” I was intrigued. According to the ex-pat (and confirmed via Wiki), true mezcal must come from certain states, like Durango, Oaxaca, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosi, and a few others, while any mezcal produced in unsanctioned areas is illegal. Most bootleg mezcal is dreadful, but the mezcal my new companion could get, he assured me, was “real quality, small-batch stuff.”

So we went. It was unlabeled, pulled straight from the oak barrel where it had been aging for almost four years, and dark as amber. Smoky, fruity, and smoother than any tequila I’d ever had, this mezcal was incredible. I wish I could have taken some home.

Is it Primal? I don’t know I have a definite answer, but if you ever get the chance to try an aged mezcal like I did, don’t even consider passing it up. But yes, for my money, apart from mead it is as Primal as liquor can get. It comes from a cactus, rather than a grain. It’s fermented. If you get mezcal anejo (aged), it will have likely picked up some antioxidant activity from the oak barrels, like whiskeys and other oak-aged spirits do. The roasting process might give it a few more advanced glycation end products (AGES), but it’s not like you’re drinking mezcal on a regular basis (right?). And roasting certain foods, like coffee, actually increases antioxidants, so it might be a wash. Skip the clear stuff designed to get you drunk and fast, and go for the dark stuff that’s had care put into it.

Verdict: Primal.

Tigernuts

A single touch of the spacebar makes all the difference in the world, doesn’t it? Imagine if I were to investigate the Primality of tiger nuts. I mean, there are valid arguments on both sides. We eat beef, goat, and lamb testicles on a regular basis (what, you mean I’m the only one?), so why not tiger testes? On the other hand, tigers are carnivores, and we generally don’t eat mammalian carnivores. They’re also endangered, which isn’t a commentary on the health of eating a tiger’s nuts, but still – can’t you find something else to eat? Sheesh.

But this is about tigernuts, not tiger nuts. Tigernuts are a kind of tuber found in a species of sedge native to warm temperate and subtropical regions of the Northern hemisphere. In ancient Egypt, they were pounded and formed into cakes. Today, they’re eaten raw, soaked in water to remove bitter tannins and phytonutrients, dried in the sun to turn into flour, or roasted. Tigernut tubers are fairly high in fat, with most of it being monounsaturated, specifically oleic acid. They contain ample levels of soluble fiber, which can be helpful for feeding gut flora.

Although one study found that tigernuts contain a decent amount of antinutrient factors (some oxalates, saponins, and a tiny amount of phytate), those were mostly mitigated by the roasting process, and a group of lab animals who ate a raw tigernut-rich diet thrived (PDF).

Verdict: Primal.

That’s it for today, folks. As always, keep sending in questionable foods, either through the contact form or in the comment section of this post. 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. Mark, your thinking is so close to mine. I really LOVE a fine brand of tequila, not much at one sitting, maybe 3 oz., but a great brand is hard to beat. That’s it for alcohol for me but I do love it on occasion, about every other week.

    Also, the sprouted bread is near and dear to my heart about every other week also. I find I need it to make sense of things. I fix my DH probably 10 sandwiches a week, he loves the john durst potato bread (!!!!) but they’re beautiful sandwiches and I just need something every now and then to satisfy that desire. I keep the sprouted bread in the freezer, double bagged, and it lasts a very long time but has a purpose in my life these days.

    Judybird wrote on June 29th, 2012
  2. This is a very helpful series of posts. I’m actually not familiar with any of the foodstuffs covered but it’s good to know nonetheless.

    My question is to do with injera. It’s a type of flatbread that is eaten with practically every meal in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Very popular. Back home it’s made with teff. But in North America the grains tend to be mixed, e.g. barley and wheat. The difference is noticeable. People who travel back and forth notice how bloated they get when they eat injera here versus back home. The whole topic of injera is a huge obstacle for people in my community in terms of adopting primal/paleo. It’s part of the culture. And buying teff is out of the question cause it is so expensive here. What do you recommend?

    Sophia wrote on June 29th, 2012
    • I love injera, too, and your comment inspired me to look into this further. hayandforage.com has an interesting article on teff (rest of URL is: /mag/farming_teff_takes_off), with a list of seed sources at the bottom of the page. Looks like the median price is around $3.50 a pound plus shipping. I just might try growing some!

      Erok wrote on June 29th, 2012
  3. What about bread made from older strains of wheat, like emmer? it’s probably not Primal, but it’s certainly better than this new dwarf hybrid wheat crap. Isn’t is the new set of proteins from dwarf hybrid wheat causing the most problems, as Dr. Davis says?

    No it’s not primal, but it could be a viable part of 80/20.

    oxide wrote on June 29th, 2012
  4. We LOVE having egg and bacon “butties” as my British husband calls them. They’re scrambled egg and bacon sandwiches with green onions and a thin slice of cheese on Ezekiel bread with mayonnaise. Pure heaven. We have these every Saturday morning, and EZ bread is the only bread I’ve found that’s close to Primal that doesn’t fall apart.

    nbongo wrote on June 29th, 2012
  5. Coming from a tequila & mezcal aficionado, just one nitpick – technically agave is *not* a cactus, and is not even related. It is a succulent plant related to yucca.

    Can’t wait for the Tijuana Tequila Expo in October!

    Ed wrote on June 29th, 2012
  6. Dangit, just bought some Ezekiel bread a few days ago!! But thanks for the info as usual Mark, I’ll finish up this loaf and then call it quits.

    Molly wrote on June 29th, 2012
  7. How about Tiger Nuts, AKA people who just go BONKERS over TIGERS!? :D

    Cristina wrote on June 29th, 2012
  8. I laughed when I read the tigernuts heading. Got kinda confused for a second. Although I’m sure there’s plenty of protein in those things. Thanks for turning me on to the tuber though; i’ll definitely have to try those out.

    Josh Singer wrote on June 29th, 2012
  9. Fantastic. Thank you for making everything so clear, rational, and straightforward. Really helps out us layfolk just trying to do well by our bodies.

    Meredith @ DareYouTo wrote on June 29th, 2012
  10. Regarding V8, get the low sodium to avoid the salt problems, and get it in bottle to avoid the BPA problems.

    TheMovieGoer wrote on June 30th, 2012
  11. i’m glad you wrote about edamame.

    (i still like it now every now & then when i eat out.)

    regards,

    pam wrote on June 30th, 2012
  12. We live in Chihuahua, Mexico, where the traditional drink is sotol, made from a different member of the agave family than tequila. Because quality has been uneven, it has not enjoyed a high reputation. But Celso Jaques, of Janos, Chihuahua, 30 miles from where we live, has taken extraordinary care to perfect his grandfather Don Cuco’s recipe, and his mission is to introduce truly fine sotol to the world. He’s having remarkable success, having won the gold medal two years running against more than 60 tequilas and mezcals in the annual San Diego, California competition and again in Albuquerque last summer. In Albuquerque they didn’t want to accept it because sotol didn’t have a classy reputation, but the Mexican consul intervened; so they let it in to the competition. Surprise! It took the gold medal. Sotol has a unique flavor. There are some other “pretty good” brands, but the Don Cuco brand stands out alone. It’s available in regular, aged, and creme. It’s not sold everywhere yet, but we’ll surely hear more about it in the future. (Google, and see video http://doncucosotol.com/sotol/video/video.html)

    Spencer MacCallum wrote on June 30th, 2012
  13. Thanks for covering these ‘products’ Mark – not seen those names in the UK market before but it has been interesting to read of the sort of warning signs to be aware of in various marketed superfoods – I will continue to be vigilent in checking the primal credentials of such foods, especially anything with ‘bread’ in its name!

    Luke M-Davies wrote on July 1st, 2012
  14. I like Ezekiel wraps. I don’t even know what white bread tastes like like. lol. As someone who was never a big consumer of grains or cereals, I never went primal because of the carb/grain creep, but I’ve always been curious about your ‘official’ stance on sprouting grains.

    Lisa wrote on July 1st, 2012
  15. Ezekiel bread was meant to be eaten as a punishment. It was also meant to be baked over a fire of human waste. Most people seem to forget these things.

    DePaw wrote on July 2nd, 2012
  16. I like to have a slice of Alvardo Street Diabetic Lifestyles Bread once a day as it is *very* low on the Glycemic Index. I love to have a slice with eggs and sausage for breakfast in the morning. From their website:

    “In their daily life, it’s very important for diabetics to know the insulin response of a food in order to predict their blood sugar response. “Diabetic Lifestyles Bread”, a 100% Sprouted Whole Grain recipe, was submitted for testing to the Glycemic Research Institute in Washington, D.C. and was clinically proven to be Low Glycemic with a Low Glycemic Load when fed to diabetics. Actual clinical results show a Glycemic Index of 5.0 on the glucose scale (0-100) and Glycemic Load of 0.9 per serving. Additionally, diabetics experienced a reduction in blood glucose by the end of the testing period!”

    Shari wrote on August 5th, 2012
    • Thats’ “Alvarado”—looked up the company’s website. This stuff is a GLUTEN NIGHTMARE—it contains wheat berries, wheat gluten, and cultured wheat (whatever THAT is) w/ some soy lethecin thrown in for good measure. Didn’t look at the nutrition information; I used to eat high-protein low-carb bread regularly and decided that I was probably allergic to wheat after a very scary choking incident while eating a sandwich made w/ said bread. I remembered that way back when my mother had mentioned that the eczema I had when I was a toddler was probably a wheat allergy, back in the 50s before modern Frankenwheat was developed.
      So, even though I am diabetic this stuff won’t help me or anybody else.

      shrimp4me wrote on October 18th, 2013
  17. V8 definitely doesn’t beat old fashion raw veggies that’s for sure but decent stuff in a pinch. Can’t say I’ve ever enjoyed the taste though personally, but I know plenty of people who do.

    Personal Trainer wrote on August 13th, 2012
  18. Tequila and Mezcal both pass the Primal test, and date back over 2000 years. Both are made in a similar fashion, and can be roasted or steamed. The main difference is that tequila is only made with Weber Blue Agave, and Mezcal is made from a variety of agave. Your best bet is to be sure your choice says 100% Agave on the label. Anything else is not primal, since up to 49% of the alcohol is from fermented cane sugar. Also, there are many documented health benefits from tequila. Gracias a Dios!
    Salud!

    Buzz wrote on September 10th, 2012
  19. I love the great information…. I just wanted to add regarding edamame…. at the end of the day, regardless of the nutrients, it’s still probably GMO… so unless the packaging states “Organic non GMO” I’m not touching it! LOL

    Cid wrote on September 17th, 2012
  20. Just shut up about all the opinions on food and let people enjoy their lives. Funny how we all began eating fresh kills, seeds, and well anything to fill the stomach and now we debate if a sesame seed is good for us. We all have 70ish years, hopefully, enjoy them, just be smart.

    Sudno wrote on September 30th, 2012
  21. Ezekiel bread when eaten in moderation 1-2 slices per day (if not a gluten intolerant person) is MUCH better for you than regular bread. If you want to debate bread or no bread, or gluten-free, I’m not arguing that point. However, for a bread given what I said above, it’s low on the glycemic index and obviously should be balanced with veggies and/or some protein.

    Your Momma wrote on February 25th, 2013
  22. Love the mezcal story. While I doubt the juice you tasted was actually Ilegal Mezcal, you should know that there is a brand by such a name. It is fantastic and they are one of the few mezcal brands that have an joven (unaged), reposado, and anejo. And you are spot on, the anejo is fantastic! Dark, smoky, vanilla, cinnamon, heat….yummy! You can find it all over NYC and on the internet if it is not in your town.

    John wrote on March 5th, 2013
  23. I find it odd that you don’t mention the sodium/potasium balance in ezekial bread. 0 Sodium and more potassium than the white bread you say it “might” be better than. It is better. Not primal. But, if you are still a person who needs bread, I think it is the best bet on the market.

    billy wrote on April 11th, 2013
  24. I ate four slices of ezekiel bread today and I feel like dying. LIke I have a metal sponge running through my intestines, what can I do? please help tomorrow is my high school graduationa dn I dont wnat to be in so much pain

    anne wrote on June 12th, 2013
  25. Ok, I have just read the comments from Mark reference Mezcal. Tequila is one of my favorite; however, what absolutely intrigued me was the abandon of Paleo “protocal” while thoroghly enjoying the use of a wonderful substance created with totally wholesome products. I loved the playfulness and the sense of humor used to remind us all that life is fun, rare opportunities rarely present themselves, so please remember that and enjoy them. I truly had a belly laugh over it and hope their are many others who enjoyed as much as me. Teqjila is not for every day but the worm is certainly a Paleo trade off.

    Sharon Weston wrote on January 18th, 2014

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