The Truth About Legumes

Cavemen didn’t eat beans. Right?

If you are familiar with the “Paleo Diet,” you are aware that legumes are certainly not on the menu. The reason for the exclusion of legumes is the simple fact that legumes contain phytic acid (which blocks the absorption of some minerals) and lectins (which damage the small intestine). Seems legit, right?

Well, what if I were to tell you that there are several foods that are embraced by the Paleo community that contain far more levels of one or both of these “harmful substances” than do legumes?

One perfect example is nuts. Many nuts contain greater levels of phytic acid than legumes, yet paleo followers gladly pop handfuls of almonds into their mouths without thinking twice. Why is this acceptable while enjoying a small serving of pinto beans in my burrito bowl is frowned upon?

One thing that is becoming increasingly obvious to me about the paleo diet is that the “spokes people” of the lifestyle (Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf, etc.) as well as many other followers will do whatever they can do back up the “story” of the paleo diet (not trying to point fingers! These people are wonderful and offer some great info, too!). You know, the whole “only eat what was available to our ancient ancestors before agriculture” story. This sounds great at first, but can be extremely harmful when science and current research that contradicts the diet is ignored, simply because it doesn’t follow the storyline.

A great article about legumes by Chris Kresser goes into more detail about whether or not legume consumption is beneficial or harmful. Here are a few key points I’ve chosen to highlight for you, just in case you don’t want to read the entire article:

To my knowledge there’s only one study demonstrating humans being harmed by consuming legumes. This is the study often used by Paleo advocates to “prove” that legumes are dangerous. However, what is often neglected is that this study described a case of food poisoning that occurred in hospital patients who ate legumes that hadn’t been cooked properly. Suggesting that we shouldn’t eat cooked legumes because raw legumes cause disease is like saying that we shouldn’t eat cooked chicken because we can get Salmonella from eating raw chicken…

In fact, cooking legumes for as little as 15 minutes or pressure-cooking them for 7.5 minutes almost completely inactivates the lectins they contain, leaving no residual lectin activity in properly cooked legumes.

The problem with telling people to avoid legumes because they contain phytic acid is that many other foods in the diet—including “Paleo-friendly” foods—contain substantially higher amounts of phytic acid than legumes. For example, a serving of trail mix, that beloved Paleo favorite, is likely to be much higher in phytic acid than a serving of lentils. Cacao beans (chocolate) have about the same amount of phytic acid as most beans. And spinach and swiss chard are higher in phytic acid than almost any legume, nut or seed!

-Chris Kresser

 

Kresser also mentions a few foods that are totally 100% “paleo” that contain higher levels of phytic acid than legumes: sesame seeds, Swiss chard, and spinach. Take what you want from the article, but I have decided that I will allow small amounts of legumes into my diet. The benefits of eating a small amount of legumes seem to outweigh any drawbacks for me personally, but you can take this information or leave it. I think that the phytic acid and lectin arguments are moot at this point.

I recently watched an interview with Abel James from The Fat Burning Man and Dr. Fuhrman who is a physician and proper nutrition advocate. The two discussed the dangers of following any specific diet and touched upon legumes, grains, and other dogmas of the paleo diet. It’s a great interview, and I suggest you watch it if you are at all interested in the subject! Here’s a link to the video.

What are your thoughts on legumes and the restrictions of the paleo diet? I’d love to hear your opinions 🙂

 

But Where Do You Get Your CALCIUM??

“So you don’t eat dairy? But where do you get your calcium??”

This is one of the most common questions I’m asked about my diet. No, I don’t consume any dairy products. And no, I’m not at all worried about getting enough calcium. Why? Let me explain.

It is a complete fallacy that milk and other dairy products are the best and/or only source of calcium. The U.S, along with multiple other developed countries, have been brainwashed into believing that if you want strong bones, you must drink milk. According to the new American food pyramid for 2014, you should consume 3 cups of dairy per day. HA! (About 75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant…so why is dairy so high on the food pyramid? Doesn’t make sense.)

There are many whole-food sources of calcium that most people are unaware of, kale being the best example. Just 1/2 cup of kale has 205mg of calcium, compared to only 150mg in 1/2 cup of milk. For a comparison of other food choices and their calcium levels, see the chart below.

 

Source: Sarah Ballantyne, Ph.D. - thepaleomom.com

Source: Sarah Ballantyne, Ph.D. – thepaleomom.com

 

Clearly, many vegetables and leafy greens are great sources of calcium. Almonds and salmon are good choices as well, and they also contain healthy fats and other great nutrients. To strengthen my argument, let’s take a look at absorbability, shall we?

In this study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, they compared the absorbability of calcium in kale and in milk. The results showed that the calcium in kale was more easily absorbed and had better bioavailability than the calcium in milk (by about 10%). So when you eat kale, you are not only ingesting more calcium, but you are also absorbing a higher percentage of it as well.

The bottom line: if you’re looking to increase your calcium consumption, eat more kale! For an easy snack, try out my recipe for Crunchy Kale Chips. They are tasty and great for you!

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 5.31.00 PM

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

http://www.thepaleomom.com/2013/09/why-dont-i-need-to-worry-about-calcium-2.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/daily/graphics/diet_042005.html

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2013/04/03/over-75-of-earths-population-is-lactose-intolerant-for-a-reason-dairy-is-harmful/

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/51/4/656.full.pdf+html

Price check, please!

Today, I felt a strong urge to delve into some research on nutrient density and the omega 6:omega 3 ratio ideal. So, with my morning cup of coffee in hand, I went straight to Google to answer my questions. I wound up on Chris Kresser’s website (of course) and began reading about omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, how to balance them, and the best food sources to reach the optimal balance (to read the complete article, click here).

The basic conclusion I reached from reading the article (and a few other related articles on his site), is that I need to up my salmon intake. At a recent Costco visit, my boyfriend and I bought a ton of tilapia, believing this would be a good source of omega 3 EPA and DHA. My research this morning showed that tilapia actually has higher amounts of Omega 6 than Omega 3, virtually making this effort to up Omega 3s in our diet pointless. So, I decided the best way to reach a balance in our diets between these fatty acid chains is to up our salmon intake.

It’s no secret that salmon can get pricey, even when buying in bulk. Through a bit of research, I’ve determined that for us, the health benefits of eating wild Alaskan canned salmon is much better than not having salmon in our diets at all. So, I began calling grocery stores for price checks on canned salmon to determine the best place to buy it.

By far, the cheapest place I found to purchase canned salmon is at Trader Joe’s (the price they gave me is $3.79 for 14.7oz can). This is compared to the horrendous price at Whole Foods of $6.99 for 6oz. No thanks!

Next, I began calling grocery stores about organ meat. I’ve heard a lot of great things about organ meat (especially liver) from a variety of sources, including The Paleo View podcast and Chris Kresser’s website once again. Organ meats are some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, and it is highly encouraged that everyone consume them at least a few times per week. I would have them ground and mix it in with other ground meat to make burgers or pasta sauce, so neither my boyfriend nor I would even notice they were there.

The best prices I found for organ meats are as follows:

The Nugget Market (a local grocery store): $1.59/lb Beef Heart

Whole Foods: Pasture raised beef liver- $4.99/lb ; free range chicken liver- $3.69/lb.

I’m going to do a bit of pre-grocery shop planning this week to figure out the best menu plan and grocery list for us. I plan on doing some research on the most nutrient dense produce and their peak seasons, as well as scour the local ads for sales on meat and seafood. Salmon will definitely be on the shopping list!

Organ Meat