Tag: is it primal?
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.
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 do nightshades, and how to tell whether you should eat them or not.
When you give up sugar, that doesn’t mean you have to give up sweet treats. You can find natural ways to satisfy your sweet tooth without spiking your blood sugar, and that doesn’t mean you have to resort to dangerous artificial sweeteners. Monk fruit is a keto community favorite ingredient to sweeten recipes, but what exactly is it, and where does it come from? Is there any research behind monk fruit? And how do we compare the various formulations next to each other in the supermarket aisle? Let’s break this down. What Is Monk Fruit? We’ve covered stevia, yacon syrup, allulose, and Swerve, but what about another popular choice in the growing selection of natural sweeteners — monk fruit? Known as Luo Han Guo in its native southern China, monk fruit (Siraitia grosvenorii) first found acclaim in the records of 13th century Luo Han Buddhist monks. The monks valued the natural sweetness of the fruit and made it their mission to cultivate the vines through the centuries. Today, most monk fruit cultivation still occurs in the misty mountains of China’s Guangxi province and a few surrounding areas, where the conditions are just right to grow and harvest the small, orange-sized fruits. Monk fruit belongs to the cucurbit family alongside squash, cucumber, and watermelon. Fresh off the vine, the mini melons have a bitter outer rind encasing a sweet edible pulp and seeds. But unless you know someone who’s managed to cultivate monk fruit in their garden, you’re unlikely to eat a fresh monk fruit. The flesh degrades quickly, meaning most manufacturers dry monk fruit or process it so that it will make it to market. Most monk fruit finds its way to American shelves as a concentrated natural sweetener. As always, the nature of that sweetener can vary markedly depending on how it was processed. Instantly download your Keto Reset Diet Recipe Sampler Is Monk Fruit Keto? An average serving of pure monk fruit extract contains virtually no carbs, calories or sugars, which makes it a great choice to sweeten keto desserts and drinks. It derives almost all of its sweetness from a group of antioxidants called mogrosides, with mogroside V having a sweetness 250 times that of table sugar. To put that sweetness in perspective, most people consider just 1/64 of a teaspoon of monk fruit extract to taste as sweet as a full teaspoon of table sugar. But to get this natural “zero calorie” sweetener, much of the natural compounds in the fruit are lost. Most producers treat “pure” monk fruit sweeteners to remove off-flavors, then they dry it to remove other sulfurous volatiles. Finally, it gets homogenized and pasteurized. The resulting extract is very different from its original state, slightly undermining its purported status as a natural sweetener. Other less processed natural monk fruit sweeteners provide a more wholesome version of the original fruit, but with the arguable downside of containing a small amount of glucose and fructose. More carbs also tend to mean fewer mogrosides, and … Continue reading “What Is Monk Fruit Sweetener, and Is It Keto?”
Some people just don’t do milk.
There are many reasons why. Maybe you have a dairy intolerance. Maybe you don’t like the way cow’s milk tastes. 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 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.
As the research continues to pile up against artificial sweeteners, it’s a race to take the lion’s share of the growing alternative sweetener market. While natural sweeteners like stevia and erythritol have become more popular in recent years, it’s still a wide field. One lesser known option is yacon syrup—a natural sweetener with a low calorie count and prebiotic abilities.
Yacon syrup is derived from the large tuberous roots of Smallanthus sonchifolius, a species of daisy that is cultivated in the Andes at altitudes of between 880 and 3500 metres. According to archaeological evidence, yacon was an important cultivated crop in Andean societies even before the rise of the Incas. The roots themselves can be eaten just like any other tuber. They look something like a a sweet potato, with a taste somewhere between that of an apple, a watermelon and a pear…and with a texture likened to that of a water chestnut. But it’s when the liquid is extracted from the flesh and evaporated, similar to the process used to make maple syrup, that things start to get really interesting. It’s at this point that yacon becomes a true natural sweetener, taking on a flavor similar to that of molasses or caramel. Delicious to most, slightly off-putting to others.
A few months back, I put Swerve under the proverbial microscope. This time I’m looking at a relative newcomer in the alternative sweetener field. Allulose is quickly growing in popularity, since it’s both naturally occurring and virtually identical to table sugar in taste and texture. Then there’s the claim of sidestepping many of the ill-health effects associated with many other sweeteners.
I know many of you are with me when I bring a sizable dose of skepticism to these kinds of bold proclamations. So, I did my own research, asking whether it’s truly the full-flavor, guilt-free choice many suggest it is. And, if it is (or if it comes close), I wondered, what are its best uses in the kitchen?
Because humans were hunter-gatherers for hundreds of thousands of years, we evolved to use and favor the diverse plant and rich meat intake of our hunting and foraging history. Farming and its core crops (e.g. grains), by contrast, only came on the scene approximately 10,000 years ago and took at least 8000 of those years to spread across the world. Our evolutionary roots—and residual genetic expectations—favor the nutritional practices of our hunter-gatherer legacy. (For more on the history of the paleo diet, click here.)
The “paleo diet” today looks to the dietary model of our hunter-gatherer ancestors and translates those eating practices to the modern age for the purpose of optimum health.
The paleo diet favors nutrient-dense whole foods and eschews processed food products. Let’s look at the wide variety of flavorful (and healthy) choices within a paleo protocol as well as some basic principles for what to eat and what to avoid. For a PDF print-out of this list, click here.
While the paleo diet has grown in popularity the last several years, there’s still confusion about what paleo does and doesn’t promote. Does “being paleo” mean living as close to our hunter-gatherer forebears as possible? Is it simply casting off processed food? Or is it somewhere in between?
These are questions worth asking, as paleo holds very similar principles to the Primal Blueprint, the model for healthy living I’ve dedicated this blog to for over a decade. Today let’s explore the modern development of the paleo movement, the key principles guiding it these days, and where it’s likely to go in the future.
As we move into a new era of health awareness, there’s more variety than ever available to us. Overall, this is a very good thing—the average Primal consumer now has far greater access to a wider range of organic, free range, pastured, GMO-free, wholesome foods and products.
But this presents something of a dilemma when it comes to gray areas like sweeteners. While I don’t have much of a sweet tooth myself, I’m not a anti-sweetener purist either. While I lean toward stevia or monkfruit, I get a lot of questions about sugar alcohols, in particular a product called Swerve Sweetener, particularly from the keto crowd.
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering a bunch of questions from last week’s post about peanuts. You guys had quite the reaction to it, and today I’m digging into some of your questions and comments. Does roasting create carcinogens in the fat? Should (and can) you sprout peanuts? Are peanuts used to soak up toxins from the soil? How do I know if my peanut butter comes from Valencia peanuts?
And many more.