The Ultimate Paleo Guide To Agave

Feel free to disagree with me here, but it seems that every year another sweetener hits the shelves and is promoted as a healthy alternative to sugar.

Over the past few years, one of the “natural” sweetener darlings promoted by many (including Dr. Oz) has been agave. It is said that the Aztecs used agave nectar with salt to heal wounds, so it is often referred to as some kind of health food.

In my coaching practice, I’m often asked about alternatives to sugar for baking and for sweetening up coffee, tea, and other beverages. Some people want to know about the sugar substitutes available to those with blood sugar regulation issues.

Agave is a sweetener that often comes up in these discussions. I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at this sweetener to see just how healthy it really is.

So, sit back and grab your favorite paleo beverage because this guide to agave is going to be SWEET!

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The Use Of Sweeteners

Today, sweeteners make up 20% of the calories we consume. If you look at the nutrition labels of most food products, you’ll notice that some type of sugar or sweetener has been added, whether you’re buying Lucky Charms or tomato sauce. Even bacon sometimes contains added sugar.

Sweeteners are usually used to enhance the taste of foods and beverages. They are also used to extend the shelf lives of some foods.


Agave nectar comes from the agave plant. The leaves are cut off the plant to expose its core. It is from the core that the agave sap is extracted, filtered, and heated at low temperatures.

Agave nectar is composed of natural sugar – fructose and glucose. Fructose and glucose are found in most sweeteners and generally in anything that is sweet. Agave nectar tastes similar to honey. 

  • Honey: 50% glucose / 50% fructose (9g of fructose per tablespoon)
  • Table sugar: 50% glucose / 50% fructose (6g of fructose per tablespoon)
  • Agave: 27% glucose / 73% fructose (12g of fructose per tablespoon)

Agave nectar can be either light or amber in color. The lighter nectars have undergone less filtration than the darker ones. 

Most store-bought agave is used as a sweetener for coffee, tea, and other beverages, as well as for baking. Because agave is sweeter than sugar, recipes are altered when sugar is replaced with agave.

  • 1c of honey = 1c of agave
  • 1c of maple = 1c of agave
  • 1c of brown rice sugar = 1/2 to 1/3c of agave
  • 1c of white/brown sugar = 2/3c of agave

The “Natural” Sweetener?

Not all the buzzwords you hear thrown around in the food industry are all they’re cracked up to be.

When it comes to sweeteners and sugar, you often hear the word “natural” being used. However, sugars are technically already natural because they come from a plant or an animal (lactose sugar is dairy). There’s no need to announce that they’re natural.

  • Agave plant
  • Maple trees
  • Sugar cane
  • Coconut palm
  • Sugar beets
  • Corn

What makes sugars unnatural is the refining process that many of them go through before they’re put on supermarket shelves. Raw honey (in small amounts) is a my favorite sweetener because the only processing it goes through it done by bees.

One of the primary reasons, if not the only reason, that agave has been pushed as one of the best alternatives to traditional table sugar, is that it has low glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) scores.

These indexes are used to tell us how quickly a food is broken down into glucose in the body. Foods with lower scores take longer to break down than foods with higher scores. Foods with lower scores therefore have less of an impact on blood sugar levels than foods with higher scores. Foods with low GI and GL scores are typically recommended for those with blood sugar regulation issues, diabetes, and borderline diabetes.

Scores of fifty-five and lower are generally considered low GI foods, while foods with a score of fifty-five or over are considered high GI foods.

Agave comes in with a GI of thirteen and a GL of two, making it a low GI and GL food. This is why it’s often recommended as an alternative to other sweeteners for those looking to reduce body fat, regulate blood sugar issues, and manage diabetes.

Agave has such a low GI because of its high fructose content. Fructose, which is found in honey, vine fruits, berries, high-fructose corn syrup, and even flowers, has such a low GI because nearly all of it is absorbed by the liver before insulin secretion can occur.

For more information about the glycemic index, read Glycemic Index. For a list of foods and their GI scores, view the Glycemic Index Food List

Agave And Fructose

A lot of research has been carried out in the past few years into fructose consumption and health concerns.

Fructose itself is processed a little differently in the body than other sugars. Once it enters the system, it restores liver glycogen but the liver can only store so much. Excess fructose is stored as fat.

Diets that contain over 50g of fructose per day have been linked to high blood triglycerides, insulin resistance, type II diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

In a study conducted in 2009, it was shown that when a person switches 25% of the calories they consume from glucose to fructose, there’s a fourfold increase in abdominal fat (1). Abdominal fat is a great predictor of elevated cholesterol, insulin sensitivity, and high triglycerides.

Excess fructose consumption has also been shown to cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is linked to diabetes and obesity. Dr Robert Lustic describes fructose as poisonous to the liver, pointing to its relationship with diabetes, obesity, and kidney disease.

Diets that provide less than 50g of fructose per day don’t seem to cause health concerns.

Fructose is typically associated with fruit but I don’t want all this talk to steer you away from eating some of nature’s finest candies. The amount of fructose found in most fruits is minimal at best.

  • 32 ounce soda: 50g of fructose
  • Ten apples: 50g of fructose (yeah, you read that right but stick to one or two apples and you’ll be ok)
  • Banana: 7g of fructose 
  • Raspberries: 3g of fructose per serving
  • Mango: 27g of fructose per serving

If you are mostly consuming paleo fruits (especially berries) and staying away from tropical fruits that are much higher in sugar, you should be pretty good to go on fructose consumption.

If fat loss and general health are your goals, stick with one to two fist-sized servings of low sugar fruit like berries a day. Remember to assess and not guess, so that you’re able to discover what is working for you and what is not.

Summing It Up

Most agave found on store shelves has been heated up and altered using GMO enzymes. It generally contains concentrated fructose and does not contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, or pectin, all of which you would get from eating real food, like paleo-friendly fruits.

In my opinion, sticking with black coffee, unsweetened tea, and water flavored with lemon, lime, and cucumber is the way to care for your body. I’d recommend avoiding adding any sweetener to your drinks, whether it’s a “natural” one or not.

Some will say that everything is OK in moderation, even sugar and sweeteners. That may be true but, in my experience, moderation is something that humans are terrible at.

If you do need something a little sweet, raw honey, coconut sugar, and white stevia will be your best options, though I still wouldn’t consume them regularly. If you have a craving for something sweet, low sugar berries are your best bet. Try some in a bowl with coconut milk and you will not be disappointed, I promise you.

Do you use sweeteners? Which ones and why?


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Are Almonds Paleo?

The Quick Answer

Yes. Almonds are paleo.

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Why Are Almonds Paleo?

Almonds are high in vital minerals and vitamins like riboflavin, magnesium, copper, vitamin E and manganese. They’re also one of the few foods that are alkaline. Alkaline foods are important because hyperacidicity can increase your risk of immune dysfunction, insulin imbalance, biochemical abnormalities, and osteoporosis. Most biological processes and dietary choices promote acidity, so almonds can play an important role by keeping your pH levels neutral.

Research suggests that almonds improve memory function and delay the onset of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other degenerative disorders. This is because of the high concentration of antioxidants contained in almonds. 

There is also evidence to suggest that eating almonds may reduce your risk of developing cancer. Paul Davis conducted a study in which he gave rats almonds as well as cancer-causing chemicals. He concluded that “almond consumption may reduce colon cancer risk and does so via at least one almond lipid-associated component.” (2)


Store almonds in an airtight container, ideally in a fridge, because polyunsaturated fatty acids are vulnerable to change when exposed to air and light. Oxidized polyunsaturated fatty acids can react in our bodies and cause chronic health issues. 

Raw almonds are a much better choice than nut butters and almond flour. This is mainly because the ideal recommended dose of almonds is one ounce per day or one handful of almonds. However, one cup of almond flour is equivalent to over ninety almonds. You can also use almond oil to get all the health benefits of almonds without exposing yourself to anti-nutrients.

Why Is There Confusion?

Like all other nuts and legumes, almonds contain high quantities of phytic acid – an anti-nutrient that impairs the absorption of minerals like zinc, calcium, and iron. Almonds are also rich in polyunsaturated fat, especially omega-6

However, you can get rid of phytic acid by soaking almonds in salt water overnight. Make sure to remove the skin before you consume them, since most of the phytate in nuts is concentrated in the skin and the outer layer. You can also reduce the anti-nutrient content using dehydration, by exposing the nuts to bright sunlight for a few hours or by using a microwave or dehydrator.

So, Are Almonds Paleo?

Yes, almonds are paleo. They contain vitamins and minerals that your body needs and they may even help to prevent illnesses such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. That said, you should consume them in moderation and soak them overnight to get rid of the phytic acid they contain.

How To Know What Is And Isn’t Paleo

Check out, 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.  


  • Barbro, N., Brittmarie, S., & ÅKE, C. (1985). Reduction of the phytate content of bran by leavening in bread and its effect on zinc absorption in man. British Journal of Nutrition, 53(01), 47-53.
  • Davis, P. A., & Iwahashi, C. K. (2001). Whole almonds and almond fractions reduce aberrant crypt foci in a rat model of colon carcinogenesis. Cancer letters, 165(1), 27-33.

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The Ultimate Paleo Guide To Kombucha

One of my favorite beverages right now is kombucha. However, at over three bucks a bottle, it’s also putting me in the poor house.

I first started drinking kombucha a few years ago because I was looking for ways to improve my gut health after taking a trip around the world that left me with a jacked up digestive system, some rashes, and other autoimmune-related issues.

I knew I needed more probiotics, fish oil, grass-fed proteins, and fermented foods in my diet but that I needed to avoid grains, legumes, dairy, and stress. After consulting the wise and all-knowing Google, I came across kombucha.

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Reported Health Benefits Of Drinking Kombucha

What stood out to me most about kombucha were the amazing health benefits it was said to have:

  • Detoxification (for a healthy liver)
  • Reduction of pancreatic load (leading to better digestion and a reduction in gas and bloating)
  • Increase in glutaric acid (according to studies, this helps to prevent cancer)
  • Cartilage preservation and improved joint health (due to presence of glucosamines, which increase synovial hyaluronic acid product)
  • Improved digestion and gut health (due to presence of probiotics)
  • Reduction in symptoms of fibromyalgia, depression, and anxiety
  • Increased energy levels and immune function
  • Reduction in cholesterol
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduction in symptoms of gout and arthritis
  • Improved hair, skin, and nail health

The list goes on and on. Unfortunately most of these benefits are not backed by any research and are instead based on claims and testimonials from daily consumers of the drink.

This is most likely due to the fact that the drug industry could not profit from promoting a beverage that costs $3 but that can be made at home for as little as fifty cents a jar. The majority of the research carried out has been done overseas, mostly in Germany and Russia (probably because of Josef Stalin’s obsession with finding a way to avoid cancer). 

What Is Kombucha Like?

Despite the lack of research supporting the drink, I coughed up a few bucks and bought a few bottles because I liked the idea of adding healthy bacteria into my system.

Well, it turns out that the drink is darn near delicious. In its traditional form it tastes a bit like apple cider with a little bit of a vinegary taste, but you can also buy it in tons of different flavors now.

It only took me a few bottles to become a tad addicted to the stuff. After a few more purchases, I realized I was spending quite a bit of my income on it, which meant I had to do a little more research to find out what kombucha actually is.

What Is Kombucha?

Traditionally, kombucha is made from Camellia sinesis or “tea plant.” Various teas (black, green, white, and oolong) are harvested from this plant. The plant originated in parts of Asia but can now be found in various tropical climates. Kombucha tea was developed throughout Asia and Europe around 220 BC. It was known as an elixir of life and immortality.

Kombucha is produced through the fermentation of sugar, healthy bacteria, yeast, and (black) tea. You may have heard that kombucha mushrooms are used in the process but these mushrooms are not actually mushrooms. Instead, they are healthy cultures of yeast and bacteria enclosed in a cellulose case called a SCOBY.

The Preparation Of Kombucha

This is how kombucha is made:

  • Tea is steeped.
  • Sugar is added to the hot tea and the tea is cooled.
  • Vinegar or existing kombucha is added.
  • Tea fungus is added to the tea.
  • This tea mix is placed in a glass jar and covered.
  • It is stored at room temperature for seven to ten days (or for even longer if you want less sugar in the kombucha).
  • If it is stored for more than ten days, the acidity levels need to be checked to ensure that the kombucha does not become toxic.
  • The tea is run through a cheese cloth and collected.

The tea itself is a living and growing organism, so it’s very sensitive to energy. Storing it away from the sun and in very clean glass containers is very important.

Kombucha Composition

Kombucha is composed of a variety of substances, vitamins, minerals, and other things.

  • Ethanol/alcohol (very minimal alcohol, which many distributers remove)
  • Carbon dioxide (this creates the fizz when you open a bottle)
  • Sugar
  • B vitamins
  • Smaller amounts of other vitamins and minerals
  • Various acids (amino, lactic, usnic (good for kidneys), gluconic (good for the liver), and glucuronic (good for overall detoxification) 
  • Small amounts of caffeine
  • Cellulose (you may see this floating around in your container)
  • Yeast
  • Bacteria

Beneficial Bacteria

The yeast and bacteria found in kombucha are very good for our bodies. For some reason, when most people hear the words “yeast” and “bacteria”, they automatically think the thing that contains them is bad for them. However, healthy bacteria are also found wine, tempeh, grass-fed dairy, kefir, and yogurt.

Yeast is found in most carbohydrates. It helps you digest the sugars in the carbs. Once it has helped to digest the sugars, yeast leaves behind B vitamins, ethanol, acid, and CO2. These substances help to feed living organisms and the healthy bacteria found in kombucha tea.

Kombucha tea also contains vitamins, minerals, and sterols, which occur naturally in many plants, animals, fungi, and proteins. The healthy bacteria and probiotics found in kombucha tea are important for a healthy digestive system.

This healthy bacteria helps to:

  • Protect the intestinal lining
  • Prevent candida overgrowth
  • Get rid of excess cholesterol by breaking down bile
  • Produce enzymes to help break down food
  • Absorb vitamins and minerals
  • Manufacture B vitamins and essential fatty acids

The more I study health and nutrition, the more I’m learning that taking care of your gut to heal yourself from the inside out is the best way to improve your overall health. And although the health benefits of kombucha have yet to be studied in the USA, some of the properties found in the tea are known to greatly assist in the development of better health and wellness. Drinking kombucha therefore seems to be a great way to heal your body from the inside. 

The Risks

There are some risks associated with drinking too much kombucha. In most instances, harmful side effects are the result of increasing kombucha consumption from 4oz to 14oz. Furthermore, almost all incidents have come from drinking home-brewed kombucha rather than shop-bought kombucha.


Fermented Foods And Other Ways To Get Healthy Bacteria 

Drinking kombucha tea isn’t the only way to promote intestinal health. There are plenty of other fermented and super foods that can improve your gut health:

  • Fermented, grass-fed diary
  • Sauerkraut
  • Grass-fed whole yogurt and kefir
  • Kimchi
  • Bone broth 
  • Liver from grass-fed animals
  • Grass-fed butter
  • Fermentable fibers like sweet potato and yucca
  • Cod liver oil
  • Natto (fermented soy bean)
  • Supplements like probiotics

Fermentation helps to reduce the amounts of lecitins, gluten, and phytates found in grains. It even breaks down the lactose in dairy. When cacao beans are fermented to make dark chocolate, the fermentation process destroy some tannins, which are what give the chocolate that extremely bitter taste.

How Much Kombucha Should You Drink And When?

To cut a long story short, if you like the taste of kombucha and can afford it, go ahead and drink it from time to time or even make some up yourself. Just be careful because kombucha that’s prepared incorrectly can become toxic.

Most kombucha advocates recommend keeping your consumption of the tea at or below four to eight ounces per day.

I like to drink a little kombucha after my workouts because of the sugars it contains. However, if you’re worried about the sugar and carbohydrate content of kombucha, try an alternative probiotic drink like Kevita.

Personally, I drank kombucha every day for a month and noticed an increase in my energy levels, improved digestion, and better gut health. However, as stated before, for most people, drinking kombucha isn’t very cost-effective. It’s up to you whether you add kombucha to your diet or try an alternative approach to work on your gut health

Are you a kombucha fan? Have you had positive or negative experiences with the stuff? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


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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, but 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 elevated levels of phytates (see point number two).

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

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 a 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.

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, 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?

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.  

Is Yogurt 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.

Photo credit: Market Manager and julie

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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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