Are Legumes Paleo?

The Quick Answer

No, legumes are not paleo.

Why Are Legumes Not Paleo?

A lot of people are aware that bread and other refined carbs are hazardous for the body due to the high content of simple carbs and poor nutritional value they provide, so they don’t struggle to see the logic behind giving them up.

However, things get harder when it comes to eliminating legumes.

What Are Legumes?

Peanuts, lentils, beans, and peas are all legumes. Some commonly known legumes are soybeans, split peas, small white beans, red beans, pinto beans, field peas, chickpeas, cashews, Boston beans, black beans, Mexican black and red beans, lima beans, mung beans, and frijole negros.


Legumes aren’t entirely bad (especially if you’re comparing them to donuts, milkshakes and pizza. Yet there are plenty of reasons as to why the excessive intake of legumes should be discouraged. Here are ten reasons as to why legumes are not paleo.

1. Low nutritional value

Those in favor of legumes stress their high nutritional value, though legumes are only high in nutritional value when they’re raw. Once cooked, legumes lose most of their nutritional worth.

They are thought to be a good protein source but, while that is true, the quantity and quality of protein provided is still nowhere near as good as that provided by some animal sources.

Legumes do contain moderate quantities of nutrients like calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium but, unfortunately, when you consume legumes, most of these nutrients aren’t unabsorbed due to the elevated levels of phytate the legumes cause.

2. Presence of phytates

Phytates are an essential component of most legumes and grains. They prevent the optimal absorption of minerals from your diet. Phytates aren’t usually a big deal but if a significant portion of your calories come from legumes, your absorption of nutrients may be affected.

Phytates can also inhibit some enzymes that are important for digestion, like amylase and pepsin.

3. Presence of lectins in legumes

Plants produce lectins to protect themselves from predators. Clinical studies indicate that chronic exposure to lectins can result in gut inflammation and leaky gut. Gut inflammatory conditions can be invisible in the early stages, but may lead to complications in advanced cases, for example the inability to absorb minerals and vitamins, food allergies, and extra-intestinal manifestations of inflammation such as arthritis (2).

Heat deactivates lectins, so, once cooked, the lectins are not a huge issue. Nevertheless if you suffer from IBS or another autoimmune condition, you might want to avoid the legumes altogether (3).

4. Rich in protease inhibitors

Protease is an enzyme secreted by the human gut. It is responsible for breaking down proteins. The presence of a protease inhibitor can inhibit the normal functioning of protease. This can lead to the overproduction of certain enzymes, causing allergic reactions, chronic inflammation, and leaky gut.

5. Presence of carbs

Carbs aren’t exactly bad. However when it comes to individuals who have chronic diabetes, obesity, and other metabolic disorders, a high carbohydrate intake can be a concern.

Legumes supply moderate amounts of carbohydrates. You should certainly consider avoiding legumes if you want to lose weight or maintain your blood sugar levels.

6. Presence of phytoestrogen

Phytoestrogen mimics estrogen once it is inside your biological tissues by activating the estrogen receptors. However the signals it generates are rather weak and may lead to the overproduction of estrogen, disrupting the hormonal homeostatic environment completely.

Common side effects of long-term exposure to phytoestrogens are infertility, asthma, bladder cancer, disrupted reproduction, and a high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (5).

7. BPA in legume cans

BPA (also referred to as bisphenol A) is present in the lining of cans. It can contribute to abnormal development in children, and erectile dysfunction, miscarriage, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and heart diseases in adults.

8. Presence of protein and fiber

Legumes contain more fiber and protein than other plants. The fiber present in beans is usually soluble and so promotes a healthy gut. This is good for vegetarians but for everyone else, the argument that legumes are loaded with protein is pointless. Animal products tend to provide protein that’s just as good in terms of both quality and quantity.

9. Presence of saponins

Legumes are rich in saponins. Saponins have tendency to bind to the surface of the intestinal cells and enter the bloodstream along with bacteria and other hazardous irritants and chemicals. Saponins can lead to the destruction of red blood cell membranes.

10. Presence of FODMAPs

FODMAPs are carbohydrates that may be problematic for some people. Nearly all legumes possess galectin, a type of FODMAP.

Legumes Are Not Paleo

Legumes are not paleo, though they are better than grains and serve as a pretty good source of protein for vegetarians.

However they aren’t great. With better protein sources available, why eat legumes? What would you rather aim for: non-specific nutritional benefits or an increase in your risk of developing serious digestive problems?

If you really want to eat legumes, eat them the traditional way, i.e. by sprouting and soaking them. Fermenting, sprouting, and soaking help to eliminate (or at least reduce the amount of) lectins and phytates. Fermentation also enables bacterial growth, which is good for the gut.

How To Know What Is And Isn’t Paleo

Check out is, the mobile app that answers the question, “is __ paleo?”. comes with the most comprehensive paleo diet food list out there, so no matter which food you’re confused about, you’ll always be able to find out whether or not it’s paleo.  


  • Graham, P. H., & Vance, C. P. (2003). Legumes: importance and constraints to greater use. Plant physiology, 131(3), 872-877.
  • Luo, Y., & Xie, W. (2013). Relative contribution of phytates, fibers and tannins to low iron< IT> in vitro</IT> solubility in faba bean (< IT> Vicia faba</IT> L.) flour and legume fractions. British Food Journal, 115(7), 975-986.
  • Luo, Y. W., Xie, W. H., Jin, X. X., Wang, Q., & He, Y. J. (2014). Effects of germination on iron, zinc, calcium, manganese, and copper availability from cereals and legumes. CyTA-Journal of Food, 12(1), 22-26.
  • Qayyum, M. M. N., Butt, M. S., Anjum, F. M., & Nawaz, H. (2012). Composition analysis of some selected legumes for protein isolates recovery. The Journal of Animal and Plant Sciences, 22, 1156-1162.
  • Konar, N. (2013). Non-isoflavone phytoestrogenic compound contents of various legumes. European Food Research and Technology, 236(3), 523-530.

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Is Sugar Paleo?

The Quick Answer

No. Regular white cane sugar and its derivatives are not paleo, however, certain other forms of sugar (those that are found in nature) generally are considered to be paleo.


Why Aren’t/Are Different Types of Sugar Paleo?

White cane sugar is not paleo for the following reasons:

  • It has an extremely high score on the glycemic index and wreaks havoc on your blood sugar levels, which can lead to insulin resistance and other conditions.
  • It doesn’t contain any nutrients at all and is associated with serious diseases, including diabetes, autoimmune diseases, heart disease, and obesity.
  • Although the cane plant that is used to make sugar is found in nature, it undergoes a lot of processing before it becomes the edible crystals that we are accustomed to eating. Therefore white cane sugar could not have been eaten in when cavemen were around, since the necessary technology did not exist.

What About Other Sweeteners?

What about other sweeteners like beet sugar, high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, and barley malt? They’re not paleo for exactly the same reasons. They’re highly processed and high on the glycemic index.

On the other hand, some natural forms of sugar are considered to be paleo: raw honey, good quality maple syrup, organic Stevia, molassess, and a few lesser known natural sweeteners like chicory root and inulin fiber.

These sweeteners are considered paleo (at least by some) because they occur in nature, don’t require any filtration or processing, and do offer some trace amounts of minerals.

Of course sugar found naturally in fruit (fructose) is also considered paleo, since fruit is paleo. Fruit is paleo because it is natural, needs no processing, and contains important and beneficial nutrients including fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. So even though fruit does contain a relatively high amount of sugar, the benefits they provide outweigh the bad.

Why Is There Confusion?

There is no disagreement when it comes to white cane sugar, as everyone (even people who are far from paleo followers) accepts that this is a harmful food, devoid of any nutrients.

The debate arises when we consider how natural sweeteners should be classified. On the one hand, some people feel that any sugar or sweetener (other than that found in fruit) should be considered non-paleo because of its negative impact on blood sugar levels, energy, and cravings, and because sweeteners can lead to disease when eaten in large enough quantities, just like regular sugar can. This side feels that sugar in any form is still sugar. 

However others feel that as long as people watch their portion sizes and eat only natural sweeteners, other forms of sugar can be incorporated into a healthy diet without any problem. They point out that people living in Paleolithic times likely did eat some raw honey and other sweeteners. That said, the kinds and amounts they ate were probably very different to the forms and quantities we eat them in today. High quality, raw, natural forms of sugar are thought to be traditional, healing foods that contain antimicrobial/antibiotic/anti-inflammatory properties and also traces of some important minerals and vitamins.

Sugar Is Not Paleo

To sum up, sugar is not paleo because it wreaks havoc with your blood sugar levels, undergoes a lot of processing, and doesn’t have much to offer your body in terms of nutrition. Some people do eat sweeteners on paleo. Whether or not you do is up to you. If you would like to reduce your sugar intake, we recommend The 21-Day Sugar Detox. You can read our review of it here.

How To Know What Is And Isn’t Paleo

Check out is, the mobile app that answers the question, “is __ paleo?”. comes with the most comprehensive paleo diet food list out there, so no matter which food you’re confused about, you’ll always be able to find out whether or not it’s paleo.  

Further Resources And Reading

If you want to learn more about why white sugar isn’t paleo but some other forms of natural sugars are, check out these resources:

  • This post gives a great overview of which sweeteners are and aren’t normally thought to be paleo.
  • This post deals with the controversy surrounding natural sweeteners.
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Is Yogurt Paleo?

The Short Answer

No. Generally speaking, yogurt is not considered paleo.


Why Is Yogurt Not Paleo?

The main reason that yogurt is not paleo is that it is a form of dairy. Almost all dairy is off limits for the following reasons:

  • It is not natural for humans to be consuming dairy, which comes from cows, sheep, and goats. Humans are only supposed to consume milk from other humans (their mothers) when they are infants and are being nursed.
  • Dairy consumption has been linked to the development of many diseases in humans, including some very serious and chronic such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
  • It’s believed that the majority of people (somewhere around 65% and 70%) are somewhat allergic to dairy products (mainly from cows) due to not being able to digest the type of sugar present in milk (lactose) properly.
  • Dairy has to undergo a lot of processing in order to be edible. Therefore it’s not something that could have been produced and consumed during caveman times. Animas, including cows, were also not domesticated, so it would have been impossible to milk them.
  • The quality of dairy that is widely available today is usually very poor. It is filled with added sugar and comes from sick cows that have been mistreated and given hormones and antibiotics.
  • All nutrients available in yogurt and dairy foods can be obtained from other foods. For example, calcium is available in certain vegetables and protein can be obtained from meat, eggs, and seafood.

Why There Is Confusion

Some people think yogurt is paleo. There are basically two camps of paleo followers when it comes to yogurt.

One camp agrees with the points just covered, while the other group feels that very good quality dairy (raw, free from processing, unpasteurized, full-fat, close to nature, and unsweetened) is OK and even beneficial for humans.

This camp therefore believes that yogurt can be good for you because it contains a good amount of nutrients like protein, probiotics, and calcium. They say studies have shown that yogurt has not been shown to be harmful to populations that have eaten it for a long time (for example, certain populations in India and Africa).

They also point out that many people have less of an allergic reaction to goat and sheep’s milk, so these types of yogurt could potentially solve the allergy issue.

It’s important to state that these benefits are only thought to apply when the diary in question comes from cows, sheep, and goats that have been grass-fed and pastured.

Yogurt Is Not Paleo

Overall, yogurt is not paleo for the same reasons that other forms of dairy are not paleo but it is up to you whether or not you consume it.

How To Know What Is And Isn’t Paleo

Check out is, the mobile app that answers the question, “is __ paleo?”. comes with the most comprehensive paleo diet food list out there, so no matter which food you’re confused about, you’ll always be able to find out whether or not it’s paleo.  

Further Resources And Reading

If you want to learn more about why yogurt and almost all dairy is not generally considered to be paleo, check out these additional resources.

  • This post really sums up the argument for not consuming any dairy.
  • This post explains why dairy is harmful.
  • This post discusses some of the controversy surrounding the categorization of dairy.

 Photo credit: Randal Whitmore

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Are Potatoes Paleo?

The Quick Answer

Potatoes are not paleo but sweet potatoes are.

Why Potatoes Are Not Paleo

There is a lot of confusion in the paleo world as to why there is not one overarching rule when it comes to starchy vegetable tubers.

Tubers are a family of vegetables that grow under the ground. Some well known tubers are potatoes, carrots, radishes, and beets.

Some of these vegetables are considered paleo, while others are not. Most followers of the paleo diet stick to the rule that sweet potatoes are paleo but that white potatoes are not. Many do also eat other starchy tubers. So, what’s wrong with the white potato?

Let’s start from the top.


What Makes A Food Paleo Rather Than Non-Paleo

In a nutshell, paleo is all about eating only those foods that people living the pre-agricultural age could have eaten. Paleo-approved foods are therefore not processed, or packaged, and some are not even cooked.

Paleo-approved foods tends to have the following characteristics in common:

  • High in protein
  • Low in carbohydrates
  • Low score on the glycemic index
  • High in fiber
  • Moderate to high in fat intake (mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats)
  • High in potassium and low in sodium
  • Net dietary alkaline load that balances dietary acid
  • High in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and plant phytochemicals

Why Do Potatoes Not Pass The Paleo Test?

You may have read through that list and thought, “Hmm, I’m not sure potatoes are considered low-carb. I don’t think they’re very low on the glycemic index.”

Well, you would be correct!

While the white potato is a natural food that could have existed when cavemen were alive, its nutritional offering isn’t all that great. Essentially, it provides lots of starchy carbs and not much protein, fiber, healthy fats, or other vitamins and minerals.

The best fruits and vegetables to eat are the non-starchy ones. These should make up the bulk of your carbohydrate intake and 35-45% of your daily calorie intake.

Almost all paleo vegetables are low on the glycemic index, which means that the sugar they contain is absorbed into your blood stream more slowly than the sugar in other vegetables. This means you won’t have a sudden surge in your blood sugar levels.

Essentially, white potatoes aren’t paleo because they’re starchy vegetables and have a high glycemic index.

On top of that, most potatoes are consumed in highly processed forms (think French fries, chips, and mashed potato). They also contain a natural toxin called saponin. Researchers haven’t studied saponin all that much, but it is thought that is causes digestion issues such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea for some people.

Why There’s Confusion

Many paleo followers can be found munching on sweet potatoes, which raises the question, “are sweet potatoes better for your health than white potatoes?”

To sum up the difference between the two varieties, sweet potatoes contain more vitamin A than white potatoes but, otherwise, the two types provide similar quantity of calories, fat, carbs, and other vitamins and minerals.

Potatoes are a good source of complex carbohydrates (which provide the body with energy), fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and magnesium. There is also some evidence that white potatoes contain compounds called phytochemicals, which are thought to be helpful in preventing blood pressure problems and heart disease. Some people do therefore eat potatoes on the paleo diet.

Potatoes Are Not Paleo

To sum up, potatoes are not paleo. However, there is some debate about how strictly this rule should be followed.

So, if you go against the paleo grain here and there and are okay with eating starchy vegetables, potatoes may work for you. But if you’re one to stick to the rules, make sure you avoid white potatoes!

How To Know What Is And Isn’t Paleo

Check out is, the mobile app that answers the question, “is __ paleo?”. comes with the most comprehensive paleo diet food list out there, so no matter which food you’re confused about, you’ll always be able to find out whether or not it’s paleo. 

Photo credit: United Soybean Board

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Are Peanuts Paleo?

The Quick Answer

No, peanuts are not paleo.

Most people consider peanuts safe to eat and even a lot of paleo eaters consume peanuts as a healthy, low–calorie snack. But the truth is that peanuts (and other legumes) simply are not paleo.

Many people are allergic to peanuts, though having a peanut allergy doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have anaphylactic shocks. Some people develop only mild symptoms such as a rashes, indigestion, diarrhoea, acidity, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).


Why Are Peanuts Not Paleo?


Beans and legumes such as peanuts, black beans, and lentils aren’t as bad as grains (which are loaded with gluten and other hazardous substances that must be avoided at all costs). But, to reduce their toxicity, most legumes need to be cooked for a long period of time.

Legumes are an average source of protein but a massive source of carbohydrates (that are not actually required and which may elicit a huge glycemic response). Legumes are also a source of gas and bloating for many people.

If you must eat legumes, eat them the traditional way by sprouting and fermenting them in order to get rid of majority of the hazardous phytic acid and lectins that they contain.


Peanuts are an alarming member of the legume family. Since the last decade, the number of people with a peanut allergy has doubled, suggesting that there’s something fishy about peanuts.

Many hypothesis and theories have been put forward but the actual reason behind this allergic response to peanuts remains unknown. One theory involves aflatoxin, which is contained in peanuts and certain crops like rice and wheat.

Aflatoxin is basically a toxin that is produced by the mould that appears when certain crops such as peanuts are stored in bulk. Aflatoxin is a well-known carcinogenic agent and has been associated with malignant lesions. Apart from causing cancer, it can also cause an immune system response (an allergy), when consumed in great quantities.

However there’s no solid proof to support this theory. Nevertheless just knowing that something this toxic is present inside the peanuts you eat should put an end to your peanut cravings.

Roasted Peanuts

When peanuts are being roasted, some of the phytic acid they contain is reduced. However the roasting also modifies the protein structure. This may make the peanuts more allergenic.

In the United States, peanuts are mostly consumed in the roasted form, whereas in China and some other countries, peanuts are usually consumed once they’ve been boiled or fried.

According to study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (1), peanut allergies are less prevalent in China than in the United States, mainly because of this difference in the cooking. Roasting peanuts may increase your risk of developing food allergies and gut inflammation (2).

Presence Of Atherogenic Oil

Peanut oil contains a moderate amount of monounsaturated fat (46.8% of the total amount of fatty acids present in the peanut oil are monounsaturated fats).

However the oil also contains fairly high levels of PUFAs (about 33% omega-6 linoleic acid).

Healthy fats supplied by peanuts support cardiac function and minimize the risk of cardiovascular ailments. But, at the same time, the high concentration of atherogenic fats may also increase the risk of atherosclerosis and may lead to ischemic heart disease and stroke.

By washing and cooking peanuts properly, you can reduce the lectin content in peanuts, as well as their atherogenic effect, although this can’t be eliminated entirely.

Peanuts Are Not Paleo

Peanuts are legumes and are therefore not paleo.

Each tablespoon of peanut butter is made up of nine to twelve peanuts, so the next time you have some, just think of how many peanuts you’re eating. If living without a peanut butter would be the hardest thing for you to do, try almond butter. Instead of snacking on bags of peanuts, look for healthier alternatives like sunflower seeds.

How To Know What Is And Isn’t Paleo

Check out is, the mobile app that answers the question, “is __ paleo?”. comes with the most comprehensive paleo diet food list out there, so no matter which food you’re confused about, you’ll always be able to find out whether or not it’s paleo.


  1. Beyer, K., Morrowa, E., Li, X. M., Bardina, L., Bannon, G. A., Burks, A., & Sampson, H. A. (2001). Effects of cooking methods on peanut allergenicity. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 107(6), 1077-1081.
  2. Mondoulet, L., Paty, E., Drumare, M. F., Ah-Leung, S., Scheinmann, P., Willemot, R. M., … & Bernard, H. (2005). Influence of thermal processing on the allergenicity of peanut proteins. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 53(11), 4547-4553.
  3. Stephens, A. M., Dean, L. L., Davis, J. P., Osborne, J. A., & Sanders, T. H. (2010). Peanuts, peanut oil, and fat free peanut flour reduced cardiovascular disease risk factors and the development of atherosclerosis in Syrian golden hamsters. Journal of food science, 75(4), H116-H122.

 Photo credit: Martin L 

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The Beginner’s Guide to Nightshades

The paleo community is talking more and more about nightshades but the truth is that a large majority of individuals do not know enough about nightshades.

Typically, the term “nightshade,” is associated with extremely poisonous and some exceptionally lethal plants. However, there are literally hundreds of plants that fall into the nightshade category, not all of which are potentially dangerous. Some nightshades are even used on a daily basis by millions around the world.

What Are Nightshades?


Nightshades, also known by their technical name Solanceae, are plants which share a number of characteristics, including a particular flower shape and way that the seed is contained within that flower. Of course, because there are over two thousand different species of nightshades, there is a wide range of differences between the individual plants which this term designates. A large majority of nightshades are poisonous and should not be eaten under any circumstance.

Some of the most well-known nightshades are the more poisonous species, including Jimsonweed. Even tobacco is classified as a nightshade and, while it is not as overtly poisonous as some of the other species, it has certainly been shown to cause a wide range of issues including heart, lung, and circulatory problems, although the extent to which these smoking-induced issues may be attributed to other toxins is not clear.

Many nightshades can and often are eaten on a daily basis, for example tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, paprika, and eggplants. Other nightshades are commonly seen in supplements, for example goji berries and gooseberries. There are dozens and sometimes even hundreds of varieties of each of these foods.

Some of the common edible nightshades include:

  • Bell peppers
  • Hot peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Wonderberries
  • Eggplant
  • Huckleberries
  • Goji berries
  • Kutjera
  • Naranjillas
  • Paprika
  • Pepinos
  • Pimentos
  • Morelle de Balbis
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatillos
  • Gooseberries

Nightshades are also contained in thousands of products sold in grocery stores. Some common spiced blends such as steak rub and curry can contain several different types of nightshade. Hot sauces typically contain at least one nightshade.

Because some cultures have held a negative view of nightshades because of their poisonous qualities, many edible nightshades were foregone during crop season. Of course, today there is no evidence that the edible nightshades produce any negative long-term effects. However, there is some evidence that nightshades may be detrimental to those with autoimmune issues.

Nightshade Sensitivity

Nightshade sensitivity is quite common, particularly among individuals who are sensitive to other types of food.

If you do not experience any sensitivity or any other problems, there is absolutely no reason to cut nightshades out of your diet. There is actually evidence that many of the chemical compounds known to cause problems for individuals with nightshade sensitivity may actually help to improve digestive systems and digestion as a whole. Capsaicin, a compound contained in many types of peppers, is an anti-inflammatory. In fact, this compound is an often-cited reason for eating hot peppers.

Although there has been some worry that the alkaloids found in nightshades causesome of the symptoms felt by those with nightshade sensitivity, the evidence for this seems to be circumstantial at best. Several studies have shown that alkaloids are anti-inflammatory and provide a number of benefits. Even the deadly and poisonous nightshades are today used in small doses for certain medicines including but not limited to the antispasmodic drug Atropoline.

To put it bluntly, the only people who need to worry about nightshades are those who already have issues with their stomachs, intestinal tracks, or digestive tracks. Some individuals with autoimmune diseases should also avoid ingesting the edible nightshades but, for the vast majority of people, nightshades should cause no problems.

Those who have nightshade sensitivity have a few options. Our advice is as follows. To start, cut out nightshades for a month and keep note of how your body reacts to the change. Do you notice intestinal problems dissipating? Do you have more energy? A small break from ingesting nightshades should give you a good idea of whether or not you have been experiencing the symptoms of nightshade sensitivity and should help you to determine whether or not you should cut them out of your diet.

If you do have nightshade sensitivity but still wish to eat nightshades, peel potatoes before eating them, as most of the alkaloids are contained in the skin and avoid eating recently grown tomatoes and green tomatoes, as these tend to have higher concentrations of alkaloids than other tomatoes.


Are Nightshades Paleo?

The answer is yes (but be careful).

Nightshades do not grow in many areas of the world. In fact, nightshades did not grow in any of the regions where man first lived, which means that they were almost certainly not part of the human diet during the Paleolithic era. Of course, nightshades later went on to become a large part of the diet of large swatches of the population, they are one of a number of borderline-paleo foods that some paleos choose to incorporate or leave out of their diet.

The biggest issue is that some people have the sensitivities mentioned above. The best way to find out what works best for you is to eliminate nightshades from you diet and then reintroduce them slowly and see how your body reacts and how you feel and then do whatever makes you feel best.

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Ultimate Paleo Guide to Alcohol

It’s Friday night, and it’s been a long workday. You’re looking to get home as quickly as possible to meet up with some friends, and relax a little. Everybody’s looking forward to grabbing a drink … or two.

What do you do?

You’ve just started this paleo thing, and are going pretty strong, seeing great results, and feeling great. But you also feel like you’ve been a bit of a hermit, avoiding restaurants and nights out with your pals.

You’re feeling as if you need to take it easy, head out and have a good time, and enjoy the company of some good friends and a few drinks, but you don’t want to ruin the new paleo version of yourself. You have some questions:

• What are the best paleo choices for alcohol?
• How can you minimize the toxic affects of alcohol?
• What is the best way to keep the fat off while enjoying a couple drinks?
• Is alcohol even paleo?

Those cave people must have got down somehow, right? They must have let their hair down every once in a while, right?

Is It Paleo?

Having a few drinks here and there has become much more of a social experience and the chance to bond with friends and family members than just an excuse to down a few, and walk around crooked for a few hours.

It’s become a way for us to relax, catch up on personal relationships, and enjoy the company of others. I for one enjoy a drink with my buddies every now and again, and have often wondered how this fits into my paleo lifestyle.

Is alcohol paleo?

Long story short? Not really.

One of the main tenets of the paleo diet is removing processed foods and toxins from your diet. Alcohol happens to be both a processed food and a toxin.

Now, when I say ‘alcohol’, I am talking about the three main types of alcohol: beer, wine, and spirits.

Beer: Beer is mostly made from wheat, barley, and hops. That’s a  dead give away that this type of alcohol probably isn’t paleo-friendly.

Wine: Wine is often considered to be the closet thing we’ve got to paleo-friendly alcohol. There are various organic options – red wine in particular. Because of antioxidants such as resveratrol, which can help prevent damage to blood vessels, lower “bad” cholesterol, and prevent blood clots, when consumed in moderation, red wine is often considered to be a healthy alcoholic option in the paleo community.

On the other hand, white wine removes the skin from grapes and tannins, which gives it its lighter color but which also removes the resveratrol.

Both beer and wine go through the process of fermenting sugar and starches most often found in fruits, various plants, coconuts, sometimes rice, and, in the case of beer, wheat and barley.

Spirits: Spirits also go through the process of the fermentation of grains, but they also undergo a second process known as distillation. The gluten found in alcohol beverages is a major concern for those that follow the paleo diet, but distillation removes most of this gluten. That said, it doesn’t remove all of this gluten, as shown by the study below.

The process of distillation is also responsible for the higher alcohol content of spirits. As we all know, alcohol unleashes a psychological response in our bodies which lowers our inhibitions. Having lowered inhibitions makes it much easier for us to make poor food choices. So, although you might be able to justify what you’re drinking as paleo-friendly, those tortilla chips and salsa? Not so much.

Hard Cider: Hard cider is a fermented (awesome!) alcoholic beverage typically made from apples or pears. Has been increasing in popularity over the last few years due to increased awareness of the problems gluten can cause. As the promotion of gluten-free products and the popularity of the Paleo Diet grows cider as become a popular alternative to beers.

Most ciders on the market are naturally gluten free but you’ll want to double-check the label. Also look for preservatives like potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate, both of which have been shown negatively effect immunity. These will easy to see because unlike beer Cider is governed by the FDA which requires it to list ingredients

So is cider Paleo? Yup, just be on the lookout for added sugars. When choosing a hard cider look for dry cider as these usually have lower sugar counts. Also remember that it might be Paleo but it still contains calories, so if fat loss is a goal keep it to a drink, ok? If you want to keep an eye on the sugars, check out these great options below:

Low Sugar Ciders:

  • Crispin Cider
  • Strongbow
  • ACE Cider
  • Colorado Cider

Higher Sugar Ciders:

  • Angry Orchards
  • Wyders
  • Woodchuck

Cider is a great paleo-friendly alcohol option (just watch the sugar). You can see our full post dedicated to paleo cider here.

To drink or not to drink? That is the question.

Studies have demonstrated the health benefits of red wine when it is consumed in moderation. Aside from that, and the positive social interactions that can come with having a drink (although you could just have water instead), it’s pretty tough for me to justify how consuming any alcoholic drink can be good for anyone.

• Alcohol is toxic to the liver.
• It’s an addictive drug.
• Too much alcohol in your system makes detoxification a high priority. This causes your liver to prioritize detoxification over the uptake of nutrients.
• It is hard to burn fat while detoxifying from alcohol consumption.
• The liver cannot metabolize alcohol into sugar, which can cause a dip in blood sugar and a rise in blood fats.
• As some toxins are not processed, they are stored as fat.
• Alcohol is dehydrating, which means that it can affect electrolyte balance.

The truth is that the decision to have a drink or not is entirely up to you. But, before deciding whether or not to have one, think about why you are having one.

Are you having a drink or two because you had a rough day at the office, your relationship just ended, you’re pissed at a buddy, your kids are giving you a headache, or because everyone else is drinking?

These reasons, to me, are just not good enough to justify having an adult beverage.

But, if it’s a special anniversary, or you’re celebrating your daughter’s graduation from college, your best friend’s birthday, or some other very special event, that drink might be more justified.

However, at the end of the day, you’re a grown up, and the choice is yours.

What if you know you’re having a drink?

If you plan on heading out, and grabbing a drink, there are a few things you can do to help reduce the chances of a hangover, to inhibit body fat accumulation, and to keep your blood sugar stable.

Keep blood sugar stable by using more paleo-friendly spirits like tequila with soda water, ice, and lemon or lime. Avoid high sugar juices, tonic waters, and mixers.

Try this UPG NorCal Margarita recipe.

To minimize your chances of developing a hangover, use less toxic alcohols like vodka (made from potato), gin, and tequila, while avoiding beer, wine, and colored spirits like rum.

Take 500 mg of vitamin C and 600 mg of Nac-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) to help lower liver aldehyde, a toxin that your liver creates from alcohol.

Use vitamin B1 or alpha lipoic acid before each drink, and add 4 capsules of activated charcoal after you drink, because these will bind with the byproducts of the alcohol, reducing their effects on your body.

Thanks to Dave Asprey for these tips.

To minimize any chances of extra fat accumulation, spend the day eating only lean proteins and veggies. As mentioned earlier, your body will be spending an awful lot of time trying to detoxify and metabolize the alcohol in your system, and may not have the time or the energy to process the calories from fats and carbohydrates. Those carbs and fats that are not metabolized get stored in the form of fat. Protein is safe to eat in this case because, for the most part, your body does not store it in the same way.

To sum up

The decision as to whether or not to have an alcoholic drink is entirely up to you. But really ask yourself what the reasons behind that drink are.

If you’re going to drink, stick with 100% agave tequila, 100% organic red and white wine from local sources, and Ciroc vodka, which is made from grapes and not grains.

Avoid colored spirits as they usually contain caramel coloring and fermented grains.

Steer clear of beers – even the gluten-free sorghum versions. Instead, opt for ciders like Angry Orchards.

Health and wellness shouldn’t take over your life; they should compliment it. If having a drink here and there is something you find beneficial,  that’s your call. But if you are going to have a drink, try to stick to more paleo-friendly options, and, of course, stay safe.

UPG alcohol infographic


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How to Make Paleo Mustard and Ketchup

Summertime is coming to an end, so now’s the time to sneak in one last BBQ before it gets too cold. And no backyard BBQ is complete without a burger. How are you suppose to eat your paleo-friendly bunless burgers if you don’t have some condiments to go with them? Here are some simple paleo-friendly mustard and ketchup recipes.

Paleo mustard

Paleo Mustard
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  1. 1/2 cup mustard powder
  2. 1/2 cup water
  3. Sea or Himalayan salt to taste (add slowly)
  1. Combine the mustard powder and water in a bowl and mix well (a little bit of lemon or lime zest goes a long way with this as well).
  2. Let the mustard settle for about 15-20 minutes.
  3. Add your mustard to your burger, or store it in an old mustard or glass container that can be tightly sealed.
Ultimate Paleo Guide

Paleo Ketchup

Paleo Ketchup
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  1. 2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste
  2. 1 cup of vegetable broth
  3. ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  4. 1 tablespoon of onion powder
  5. 1 tablespoon of garlic powder (I like a little bit more)
  6. ¼ teaspoon allspice or combine cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
  7. Sea or Himalayan salt to taste (add slowly)
  1. Grab a saucepan, and place it over medium heat.
  2. Add tomato paste, vegetable broth, and apple cider vinegar (acv). Mix until blended well.
  3. Add spices and salt slowly.
  4. Let the mixture simmer on a low heat for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Allow the sauce to cool completely.
  6. Serve or place the mixture into an old ketchup container or glass that can be tightly sealed.
Ultimate Paleo Guide
Photo credit: Valters Krontal

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Paleo and Fiber

A few questions that come up frequently when someone is looking to transition to a paleo lifestyle are related to fiber:

  • How will I get enough fiber if there are no grains allowed?
  • Don’t “whole grains” and fiber help fight cholesterol?
  • Don’t I need a certain amount of fiber in order to stay regular?
  • What are the best sources of fiber if I’m going paleo?
  • Fiber helps keep me full and is good for weight loss, right?

A lot of the information you’ll read about fiber is not far off base – fiber does help with satiety, constipation, and regular bowl movements, cholesterol, and a whole host of other ailments. In this article, we’ll answer some of the questions above.

What is fiber?

You can break fiber down into three main sources: soluble, insoluble, and resistant starches. No single source is better than any other, and all are valuable in their own way when it comes to having a well-rounded nutrition plan. Most food that contains fiber contains both soluble and insoluble fiber.

Fiber is an indigestible type of carbohydrate often found in the cell walls of plants, making it readily available in many fruits and vegetables. You’ve probably read or been influenced by many “health expertswill know that the benefits of fiber rich whole grains do not outweigh the damage and disruption they can do to the lining of your gut. Below you’ll find some recommendations as to how you can get your fiber in, protect your gut, and still stay paleo.

Soluble fiber: This dissolves easily in fluids, is known to lower “bad” cholesterol (LDL), and helps to regulate blood sugar. Soluble fiber also slows down stomach emptying, which can help to keep you feeling full longer. This type of fiber may also help your body to absorb certain vitamins and minerals. That said, it can also keep other important vitamins and minerals from being absorbed (more on this later).

  • Traditional sources of soluble fiber: Oatmeal, lentils, psyillium, beans, and oat bran
  • Paleo friendly sources of soluble fiber: Strawberries, nuts, seeds, cucumbers, celery, carrots, blueberries, apples with the skin on, sweet potatoes, yams, and other root vegetables

Insoluble fiber: This does not dissolve easily in liquids, and has a laxative-like effect because it adds bulk to stool.

  • Traditional sources of insoluble fiber: Wheat and wheat based products, legumes, corn bran, and veggies like green beans
  • Paleo friendly sources of insoluble fiber: Cabbage, beets, carrots, and Brussels sprouts

Resistant starches: These starches are not digested in the small intestine, and are found in potatoes, pasta, unripe bananas, and various legumes like navy beans. They can also come in the form of non-digestible carbohydrate sources typically extracted from plants or animals, and then manufactured: psyillium husks, fructooligosaccharides, and polydextrose for example.

Fiber, your gut, and digestion issues

Fiber plays a very important role in proper digestion. It can help to feed the healthy bacteria that your gut needs in order to run optimally. Because over 70% of the body’s immune system is found in your gut, proper care is needed in order to become or remain a healthy individual.

If you’re suffering from any of the following:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Headaches
  • Burping
  • Reflux
  • Fatigue after eating
  • Constant hunger
  • Irregular bowel movements
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Neck, or upper or lower back pain

The Standard American Diet, which is high in industrial seed oils like corn, cottonseed, and safflower, Omega-6 fatty acids, and inflammatory foods like wheat products containing gluten, coupled with modern medicines and antibiotics, has nearly destroyed our guts. Add on stress, hormonal imbalances, pregnancy, and thyroid complications due to the modern lifestyle, and you have yourself a recipe for poor gut flora and broken digestive systems.

One way you can begin to fix your gut health and digestive system is by eliminating toxic foods:

  • Cereal grains (especially refined flour)
  • Omega-6 industrial seed oils (corn, cottonseed, safflower, soybean, etc.)
  • Sugar (especially high-fructose corn syrup)
  • Processed soy (soy milk, soy protein, soy flour, etc.)

Many of us have various food sensitivities, with some of the more common culprits being dairy and gluten. Removing some of these items, and including fermentable foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir might just do the trick in restoring some healthy gut bacteria.

You can also help to improve your health by including the right kinds and amounts of fiber.  The Institute of Medicine recommends around 38 grams of fiber for men, and 25 grams for women on average per day. Although it is not entirely necessary to hit these numbers, a paleo approach to eating will get you pretty darn close if it doesn’t exceed them.

A 1,000 calorie serving of fruits and vegetables will provide you with roughly two to seven times the amount of fiber than whole grains would. Plus, most of this fiber is from soluble sources which are more beneficial in that they feed the healthy bacteria in your gut. Soluble fiber ferments in the gut, and turns into short chain fatty acids that, in turn, help to grow, and feed healthy bacteria.

By including more green leafy veggies, root vegetables, and tubers like sweet potato and carrots, as well as low sugar fruits like berries, you can not only add more fiber to your diet, and improve gut health, but improve vitamin and mineral uptake and absorption. Because of phytates and gluten found in foods like beans and various wheat-based products, many vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, and zinc can go unabsorbed.

The vegetables and occasional fruits on a paleo diet supply more than enough fiber to your body. Actually, ¾ cups of cooked broccoli would supply you with seven grams of fiber and only 30 calories, while it would take two slices of “whole grain” that equal 120 calories to supply the same amount of fiber.

Constipation and regular elimination
If staying regular with your bowels is a major concern, I suggest first taking a look at your water consumption. Dehydration or a lack of water is usually to blame for a poor digestive system. It is also very possible that the grains, dairy, and legumes you were used to eating caused leaky gut. The best way to combat this is by removing the foods most harmful to the digestive tract like industrial seed oils, grains, dairy, and legumes, and by allowing the good bacteria and intestinal flora to reset themselves, and repair the gut lining.

75% of stool is dry weight or dead bacteria, which means that fiber is not needed for bulk and elimination. It can definitely assist, but is not a requirement.  As long as your body maintains healthy gut flora, and you stay away from food that body does not tolerate well, and high fructose foods like soda, honey, agave, breakfast cereals and bars, and processed snacks, you should be able to avoid constipation, gas, and bloating.

Fiber supplementation
Many so-called health experts recommend taking supplementary fiber products to assist with weight loss, the lowering of cholesterol, and constipation. The problem with this is that your body, or, more specifically, your colon, can become addicted to these products, and require more and more of them.

If you are following a lower carbohydrate diet, and are struggling with the regularity of your bowel movements and cholesterol, first try slowly increasing your water intake by about eight ounces per day. Then think about adding in more starchy and fermentable foods like sweet potatoes and carrots. Finally, if those things do not help, or if you have blood sugar issues, and can not include starchy carbohydrates, think about adding in a soluble fiber supplement like Organic Acacia Fiber, or a prebiotic like Klaire Labs Biotagen. In both cases, begin supplementation with a very low dose, and gradually increase weekly or bi-weekly.

Fiber and cholesterol
This might be the one thing that frustrates me more than anything else in the world of nutrition. I would like to kick the people who started this rumor in their junk. I just want to touch on a couple things here.

  • Cholesterol is not bad. Your body actual needs it in order to operate efficiently. Cholesterol is used to make cell membranes, which are used to help every single cell in your body move, and interact with the other cells.
  • The cholesterol you eat has almost nothing to do with the cholesterol in your blood. You ingest cholesterol, and create your own cholesterol every day. Roughly 25% of your daily cholesterol is from the food that you eat, and the other 75% is actually made by your body. Most of the cholesterol you eat and produce every day resides in your cell membranes. It is actually serving a purpose.
  • Cholesterol in your blood doesn’t mean cholesterol in your arteries. When you get your cholesterol checked, what is measured is the amount of cholesterol in the blood. The truth is that there is no way of knowing if that cholesterol is going to end up in your arteries or not.
  • Most of the cholesterol you eat is pooped out. There is no other way to put it really. Most cholesterol you eat is not absorbed – it leaves the body in your stool.

Actual causes of heart disease are rooted in inflammation. This is due mostly to the overconsumption of Omega-6 fats from grains, vegetable oils, and grain-fed animals. One way you can help to combat this is by eliminating these foods from your diet, and including more healthy Omega-3 fats from wild-caught salmon, supplementing with fish oil, and eating more grass-fed beef and lamb.

Instead of counting up fiber grams, mixing up high fiber supplement shakes, taking in absurd amounts of grains or legumes, or searching for fake foods with added fiber, instead get back to eating real food. Emphasize green leafy vegetables, lower sugar fruits like berries, and fermentable starchy carbs like sweet potatoes and carrots, increase that water intake, get regular exercise, and, for Pete’s sake, get your rest, and practice proper stress-relieving techniques like meditation. Not only will that keep you regular – it’ll keep you healthy, happy, and fit as well.

Bonus: If you’re looking to get your digestive system on track, try our 7 Day Meal Plan.

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How To Make A Green Smoothie

This is a contribution from Vic Magary of  Be sure to get his Top 5 Green Smoothie Recipes by clicking here.

greensmoothie1As a paleo diet fan, you likely eat more vegetables than most people.  Broccoli and asparagus are probably in your regular meal rotation.  And the leafy greens of spinach and kale also show up on your dinner table from time to time.  But what about other leafy greens such as chard, collards, turnips, or even carrot greens?

Many of us duck away from eating a wide variety of greens for one simple reason – they taste bitter as hell.  We know they pack a serious vitamin and mineral punch, but getting past the bitter taste can be a challenge.  And that’s where the green smoothie comes to the rescue.  Not only can green smoothies make getting those greens palatable, but they can also be a source of healthy fats and even protein.  So, get ready to fire up that high-speed blender as I take you through the steps of how to make a green smoothie.

Step 1: Get Your Greens.

You can’t have a “green” smoothie without greens.  As I mentioned above, use the green smoothie as an opportunity to get some variety with your greens choices.  Here is a list of greens that you may want to try:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Chard
  • Collards
  • Rapini
  • Dandelion Greens
  • Turnip Greens
  • Mustard Greens
  • Carrot Greens
  • Arugula
  • Romaine
  • Cilantro
  • Mint
  • Parsley

The cilantro, mint, and parsley are best used as additions to the other greens such as kale, spinach, or chard.  Same thing for the arugula and romaine lettuces.  I often use a combination of at least two greens when I make a green smoothie.

Step 2: Find Your Fruit.

Fruit is the “spoonful of sugar” that helps the medicine of the greens go down.  And make no mistake, fruit is high in sugar (fructose).  And, for that reason, we want to use only enough to make the green smoothie taste good, but not too good.  When you first start drinking green smoothies, you might start out using more fruit.  But over time, you’ll want to gradually reduce the amount of fruit, and increase the amount of healthy greens.  Here are some fruits that go great in green smoothies:

  • Pineapple
  • Banana
  • Mango
  • Pomegranate
  • Kiwi
  • Apple
  • Peach
  • Orange
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Blueberry
  • Strawberry
  • Raspberry
  • Blackberry

The kind of fruit you use is limited only by your imagination.  Have fun experimenting with different fruit-and-greens combinations, but go light on the sweeter fruits such as pineapple, banana, and mango, and lean more towards grapefruit and berries.

Step 3:  Bring On The Fat.

As a paleo fan, I know you have no misguided fears about eating healthy sources of fat.  And two of the favorite fat sources go great in green smoothies:  avocado and coconut oil.

Adding half an avocado to a green smoothie will give it an awesome creamy texture.  And a tablespoon of coconut oil will add a subtle tropical flavor which is not nearly as pronounced as you might imagine when combined with the other ingredients. I’ll often include both avocado and coconut oil in my green smoothies.

Nuts can also add some healthy fat to your green smoothies.  A small handful of almonds or walnuts blends up fine as long as you keep the quantity “small”.  And if you blur the lines of paleo and consume some dairy, full fat Greek yogurt will provide a smooth texture and some healthy bacteria.

Step 4:  Protein Power.

As you can imagine, we’re not going to blend up a ribeye steak into our green smoothie.  But another protein powerhouse goes great with the green smoothie: raw eggs.  If you have concerns with eating raw eggs, simply leave them out of your smoothie.  Personally, I often drop two raw eggs into the blender with the other ingredients, and have never had any issues.

Putting it all together…

Looking for an example of a green smoothie recipe?  Check out the video below and the ingredient list that follows:


  • Large bunch of kale
  • 2 kiwis
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/2 orange
  • 2 raw eggs
  • Ice and water to blend to desired consistency

Other Green Smoothie Tips

So, now that we have the basic steps for making a green smoothie, here are a few other tips to keep in mind:

Use a high-speed professional grade blender.  Yes, they are quite pricey.  But if you are serious about green smoothies, you really only have two blender choices: Vitamix or Blentec.  You can try searching Craigslist or Ebay for a deal on a used model, but they are pretty tough to find.  Once people invest in a quality blender, they usually hang on to them.

Freeze your ingredients.  When I buy a bunch of kale or collards, I’ll wash them, and then place them in freezer bags.  Keeping the greens in the freezer helps them last longer, and gives your smoothie a nice texture.  Buying frozen fruit is another good way to make sure you always have green smoothie ingredients on hand.

Get creative!  Green smoothies provide a great opportunity to try new fruits and vegetables.  Whether it’s rainbow chard or papaya, experimenting with new ingredients keeps your green smoothies interesting.

When you’re ready to increase your leafy greens intake but don’t want to deal with the bitter taste, blend up a delicious green smoothie.  And remember to compliment those greens with a little bit of fruit, some healthy fats, and maybe even an egg or two.  Now go drink your greens!

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