These very good questions came in a recent email from a Paleo Plan reader. Here are her initial comments and her questions follow with my answers below them in italics.
Thank you for helping those of us who have questions on allowed Paleo foods. I read thru the list of Q&A’s and didn’t find my specific questions addressed. I started eating healthier today after reading The Paleo Answer this weekend. I finally understand the science behind not eating beans and grains.
1) Is Canola oil allowed?
Canola oil’s fatty acid composition is high in omega 3′s & 6′s, and low in saturated fat. To be precise, it’s 7% saturated, 63% monounsaturated, 19% omega 6 and 9% omega 3. For comparison, coconut oil is 92% saturated, 6% monounsaturated, and 2% omega 6. On the other end of that comparison is corn oil, which is 13% saturated, 28% monounsaturated, 54% omega 6 and 1% omega 3.
That means that, first of all, canola isn’t the most stable oil to be processing with heat and then cooking with. All those omegas are susceptible to rancidity from heat, while the saturated fats, and somewhat the monounsaturated fats, are much more stable for cooking. The oils and fats higher in saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids like coconut oil, lard, tallow, and even olive oil, can “take the heat” and not become rancid as quickly as oils like canola, corn, etc.
There are other problems with canola, though: it’s often highly processed, and it contains erucic acid, which has been found to have an allergenic effect on people.
Having said that, I eat canola oil in the form of mayo on occasion and sometimes in Whole Foods’ pre-made foods (like once every three weeks). I think there are definitely worse things you could eat than canola oil every now and then :)
2) Condiments such as dill pickles and mustard?
Dill pickles and mustard are fine. Just make sure you get the pickles with no weird preservatives in them. Manufacturers are sneaky about that. Almost all mustard is just mustard seed, vinegar, and spices, and those are all fine on Paleo.
Ketchup is another story, though, as well as mayo. Ketchup, unless it’s of the organic type, is always made with high fructose corn syrup. If it’s organic it’s made with sugar. I don’t have a problem with occasional sugar in my diet, and I don’t think anyone should be so afraid of it that they won’t have a little organic ketchup sometimes. No reason to be militant about Paleo (unless of course you’re diabetic and ketchup legitimately spikes your blood sugar).
Conventional mayo is always made with soy, corn, and other seed oils, so stay away from that. You can buy olive oil mayo instead. The “light” mayos always contain corn starch, so be careful of that.
3) Goat cheese
Goat cheese is dairy – anything that comes from an animal’s teat is dairy. My suggestion is always to stay away from dairy for the first month that you’re Paleo/Primal. Then if you feel like it, add some back in and see how you do with it. If you have any symptoms at all – itchy skin, rash, digestive problems, acne, fatigue, headache, you name it – consider that it was from the dairy and try it again at a different time just to make sure. Or if you’re absolutely sure it was from the dairy, consider removing it from your diet altogether.
4) Pita bread (I eat half of a piece cause I love it and it has a lot of fiber)
Broccoli and raspberries also have a lot of fiber in them :) You don’t need to get your fiber from bread anymore – you can get all you need and more from regular consumption of fruits and vegetables. I know you love it, but if you have half a piece of it every day, you’ll never know if grains are affecting you. I suggest giving it up for the first month, along with all other grains. Then try it again after that first month and see how you feel. Some people really don’t have issues with a little bit of grains here and there, and you might be one of them. Your diet will be a constant, evolving learning process from here on out.
5) Non-fat plain yogurt (my flora does better with natural probiotics that are in yogurt).
Again, yogurt is dairy, so I suggest you remove it for the first month. Sometimes dairy in itself affects your gut flora and your natural bowel movements, causing constipation and/or diarrhea (ironic, huh?). If you need probiotics, get Inner Eco from Whole Foods or another health food store in your area. It’s a natural, fermented drink made from young coconut water, and one tablespoon of it FAR exceeds the amount of probiotics you’ll find in a yogurt. And it tastes good, too.
If you do end up eating yogurt in the future, eat the full fat kind. No reason to skimp on the fat, as it’s full of good nutrients, especially if it comes from grass-fed cows or other animals. It’s also more satiating so you won’t be hungry 30 minutes after you eat that yogurt.
6) Green beans?
While green beans are legumes, they’re not the old, dried out legumes like pinto beans, black beans, and lentils that we’re trying to avoid on Paleo. Those older beans and seeds have more anti-nutrients in them, so go ahead and eat your young, green, green beans, snap peas, etc. I had some today in my soup for lunch.
7) Air popped popcorn
Popcorn is made from corn, so it’s not technically on the diet. However, we’re trying to stay away from corn and other grains as daily staples in our diets, while we’re ok with eating seeds and nuts in moderation (like almonds and sunflower seeds, etc.) on Paleo. So because popcorn is made of the seeds of the corn plant and you won’t be eating them as an everyday bulk item (or will you?), I’d say go ahead and eat it sometimes.
Having said that, I would take it out of your diet for the first month, as so many people are sensitive to corn and don’t even know it. See how you feel after that first month and then figure out if you want to start adding things like popcorn and dairy back in on occasion. Another thing, make sure your popcorn is organic; otherwise, you’ll almost definitely be eating genetically modified corn.
8) It’s ok to grill foods medium rare on a BBQ, right?
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