Tag: is it primal?
I’ve long espoused a fairly low-carb lifestyle for optimal health, but “low-carb” means different things to different people.
For some, it means eating the fewest carbs possible, as in a strict carnivore diet or something more like carniflex, a meat-centric approach that strategically includes some plants.
For others, it means a keto or Atkins-style diet that restricts carb intake.
Some people don’t count carbs at all but still consider themselves “low-carb” because they eat mostly meat, eggs, and vegetables, and they limit things like grains, fruit, legumes, and added sugars. Sound familiar? That’s the classic Primal or paleo approach.
What all these low-carb folks have in common is that they need to decide what to eat day in and day out. Thinking about food all the time can become tedious, especially when you’re trying out a new way of eating and don’t know what’s “allowed.” It’s tempting to sort foods into discrete categories based on macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein) and quality (“good” versus “bad” foods) to reduce decision fatigue.
I pride myself on making the Primal Blueprint an easy-to-follow lifestyle. If you were just starting out, I could give you a one-page handout with the 10 Primal Blueprint Laws, the PB Food Pyramid, and the PB Fitness Pyramid, and it would be pretty easy for you to get the gist of everything we’re trying to do here.
That said, once you get past the basics, sometimes things get a little murky. Like with honey.
See, as a general rule, I am against the consumption of refined sugars, especially sucrose and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Check out my definitive post on the subject to understand why. But what about the preeminent unrefined natural sweetener, the rich amber nectar that’s been available to humans from the very start (albeit protected by barbed, flying suicide stingers)?
If you’ve spent any amount of time here on Mark’s Daily Apple, you know we love our vegetables. Plant foods are powerhouses of nutrients and antioxidant action. They’re the backbone of a solid Primal diet, and the main event in my signature Big Ass Salad. But the issue of nightshades has come up quite a bit over the years. Nightshade vegetables, which are vegetables that belong to the Solanaceae family of plants, include a long list of veggies and spices: eggplant, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, pimentos, paprika, cayenne pepper, hot sauce, etc. (Black pepper isn’t a part of this list.)
I do eat a lot of these foods, but they’re not for everyone. In this article, we’ll dig into why some people simply can’t eat them, and how to tell whether you should eat them or not.
Yerba mate (YERB-ah mah-TAY). Ever heard of it? It is an herb with a storied history as an alternative to traditional teas for the inhabitants of its native South America. I’ve received numerous emails recently asking about its properties and its role in the Primal Blueprint eating plan. Let’s dive straight in.
What is Yerba Mate?
Yerba mate tea is prepared by steeping the dried leaves and twigs of the mate plant in hot water (not boiling water, which can make the tea bitter). It has an herbal, almost grassy, taste, with some varieties somewhat reminiscent of certain types of green tea. Traditionally, yerba mate is drunk communally from a hollow gourd with a metal straw, but a coffee mug works just as well (you know, for when your gourd is in the dishwasher).
Like many teas and coffees, yerba mate is imbued with an impressive amount of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins and vitamin C. Minerals include manganese, potassium, and zinc, and the antioxidants include quercetin, theobromine, and theophylline, which all have notable health benefits.
The pantry can be a place for quality foods – canned wild-caught salmon, almond flour noodles, quality cooking oils and all of your favorite sauces and condiments made without sugar. The pantry can also house the usual carb suspects – chips, cookies, crackers, pasta, cereal and bread. If you’re not careful, this cool and dark space could derail your best efforts to eat foods that make you feel your best.
Follow these 8 easy steps and you’ll be well on your way to having a pantry that feeds your body in the way that your genes expect you to be fed.
For years, the ancestral health community has shunned the humble peanut. I did so myself in fact. Why can’t I have peanuts? you may ask. Because they’re legumes, would be the standard answer. And that was that. The status of legumes was decided in the Primal and paleo world. Too many antinutrients, case closed.
In recent years, however, my stance on legumes has softened.
The lectins and phytic acid we worry about, it turns out, are mostly deactivated by heat and proper preparation. A bit of phytic acid can even be a good thing, provided you have the gut bacteria necessary to convert it into beneficial micronutrients. All in all, legumes turn out to be a relatively nutrient-dense source of resistant starch and other prebiotic fibers. If you can swing the carbs and you feel fine eating them, legumes are on the table.
A lot of foods exist on a spectrum of suitability, from “really bad” wheat to “not so terrible” rice. Well, what about the rest of them? Since I get a lot of email asking whether oats and oatmeal are good for you, I figured I would dig into that question for this post.
Though I was (and still mostly am) content to toss grains on the “do not eat” pile, I think we’re better served by more nuanced positions regarding grains. Not everyone can avoid all grains at all times, and not everyone wants to avoid all grains at all times. For those situations, it makes sense to have a game plan, a way to “rank” foods.
Today, we’ll go over the various forms of oats and oatmeal, along with any potential nutritional upsides or downsides.
Some people just don’t do cow’s milk, and reach for milk alternatives, like plant milks or non-dairy milks instead.
There are lots reasons why someone might avoid cow’s milk. Maybe you’re lactose intolerant. Maybe you don’t like the way cow’s milk tastes. Maybe you don’t like the way you feel after you’ve had dairy products. Or maybe you think cow milk is unhealthy.
I won’t contest the reasons why. That’s another topic for another post, and I’ve already covered the most common anti-dairy arguments. If you want to read about my stance on the healthfulness (or lack thereof) of dairy, read what I’ve written over the years about raw milk, cheese, yogurt, and dairy in general. If you want to learn how to identify dairy intolerance, read this.
But the fact is, lots of people either need or want a milk alternative. Water is great to drink, but it’s not the right smoothie substrate, and it can’t replace milk in recipes or coffee drinks. You need something vaguely white and thick enough to pass as milk.
Normally in a post like this, I’d cover all the different varieties and what sets each apart — their strengths and weaknesses, their nutrient profiles, their unhealthy ingredients. And I’ll certainly do that today, but first there’s good news and bad news.
You may think of protein supplements as a concern for muscle heads, but they’re for everyone – provided that you choose the right one for you. You need dietary protein for your body’s day-to-day upkeep and to age well. Up to a third of older adults don’t get enough protein for various reasons, like reduced appetite and changing tastes. There are lots of ways to get protein, and here, I’ll go through one of the most convenient and beneficial forms: whey protein.
What is Whey Protein?
Whey is a protein-packed byproduct of cheese production. It’s that pseudo-clear liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained. Cheese makers used to toss it aside as waste material, until food scientists started to understand its value.
Today, we know that whey protein isn’t just a single protein. Instead, it houses an impressive array of proteins: beta-lactoglobulin, alpha-lactalbumin, and serum albumin. These are complete proteins, comprised of the essential amino acids central to protein synthesis and increased muscular hypertrophy (muscle growth).
Our bodies can produce non-essential amino acids from lesser amino acids, but we cannot produce the essentials ourselves; we must eat quality protein sources. Whey is a naturally occurring, essential protein that satisfies the body’s protein requirements – hence its popularity.
After cutting back on sugar and carbs for a while, you understandably start to miss sweets. A common misconception is that you have to skip sweets to meet your goals, which isn’t the case at all. There are plenty of sugar alternatives that fit within the Primal and keto lifestyles, and stevia is one of them.
Stevia is widely used in the low carb community to satisfy sugar cravings or simply add a touch of sweetness to a hot beverage or dessert, but should it be? What is stevia? Is it safe? What is its effect on insulin, if any, and does it have a place in a Primal Blueprint eating strategy? Let’s investigate.
What Is Stevia?
A lot of people categorize stevia as an artificial sweetener, but it’s important to note that stevia is not an artificial sweetener at all – it’s a plant-derived natural alternative to sugar.
Stevia is an herbaceous family of plants, 240 species strong, that grows in sub-tropical and tropical America (mostly South and Central, but some North). Stevia the sweetener refers to stevia rebaudiana, the plant and its leaves, which you can grow and use as or with tea (it was traditionally paired with yerba mate in South America) or, dried and powdered, as a sugar substitute that you sprinkle on. It’s apparently quite easy to grow, according to the stevia seller who tries to get me to buy a plant or two whenever I’m at the Santa Monica farmers’ market, and the raw leaf is very sweet.