Q: You claim your recipes are nut free, but many contain almonds and cashews (and a few contain peanuts). What Gives?
Nuts are technically a hard-shelled dry fruit with one seed (or sometimes two). Pecans, sweet chestnuts, beechnuts, acorns, and hazelnuts/filberts are nuts. Almonds, pistachios, cashews, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, coconuts, walnuts, and pine nuts are not.
Peanuts also aren’t nuts, but in fact a type of pea. People with a mild to severe peanut allergy are often not allergic to nuts.
*I am allergic to true nuts (hazelnuts and pecans) but also walnuts (not a nut). Therefore, my recipes are also walnut-free.
Q: Some of your recipes include beans and/or corn. Beans and corn aren’t paleo.
The primary reason given for avoidance of beans (legumes) on the paleo diet is the phytic acid they contain. This is contradictory because nuts, seeds, and cacao beans (foods considered to be “Paleo-approved”) contain equal or higher phytic acid levels (when compared with legumes). Sprouting legumes will significantly lower the phytic acid content, and: legumes consumed by early humans were more than likely sprouted.
Here’s an interesting fact: According to Amanda Henry, a paleobiologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and leader of the Research Group on Plant Foods in Hominin Dietary Ecology in Leipzig, “There’s been a consistent story about hunting defining us and that meat made us human. Frankly, I think that misses half of the story. They wanted meat, sure. But what they actually lived on is plant foods.” During an investigation of fossil teeth and stone tools, Henry found starch granules from plants—which suggests humans have eaten variety of food plants, such as corn, sweet potato, and beans, for at least 100,000 years.
Q: OK, but isn’t corn a grain?
Corn is technically a fruit that becomes a grain when dried, i.e. popcorn or cornmeal. Raw and grilled corn, or corn on the cob (which I occasionally include in recipes, albeit rarely) would be considered fruit. The exception to this would be cooked corn (on the cob or off) that is prepared from dried corn—which I’ve mostly observed this in Guatemala, Peru, and Ecuador. I personally don’t cook with dried corn.
Q: I see that a few of your recipes include tofu. Isn’t soy always avoided on the paleo diet?
It’s important to differentiate between tofu and other soy products. Packaged soy “meats” have been processed and denatured—isolating different parts of the soy bean i.e. soy protein isolate (textured vegetable protein or TVP, the main ingredient in soy “meat”). As stated by nutritionist Dr. Johnny Bowden, this makes it not suitable under the Paleo plan. On the other hand, tofu in its purer form is a more natural food and may be appropriate (The 50 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Fair Winds Press, 2007).
*On paleoveganista.com I have mostly “phased out” the use of tofu in my recipes.
Q: What do you have against eating fish?
I primarily do not eat fish because I am vegan. If not for that I would be wary of mercury, which is known to cause problems in the nervous systems of infants and small children. It can also cause fetal brain damage, so I would definitely avoid it while pregnant (The New England Journal of Medicine, 2003). Mercury risk increases according to body fat; in other words, the leaner you are the higher the risk. A plant-based paleo diet is conducive to a low body fat percentage, thus a higher risk for the adverse affects that mercury consumption can cause.
*The EPA’s methylmercury guideline is a recommended limit on mercury consumption based on body weight, also known as a “reference dose” (NOW Science and Health, PBS 2005).
Q: Vegetarians say that they “don’t eat anything that has a face”…so what about clams and oysters, scallops, mussels, etc.? These don’t have faces, and also contain lower levels of mercury.
I don’t really subscribe to the “don’t eat anything that has a face” rule. If it’s an animal (or contains animal byproducts) I won’t eat it. While this does still remain a matter of scientific debate, studies show that shellfish—including those without faces—do feel pain. Trying to understand whether or not a shellfish (or any fish) feels pain is like asking if they can experience pleasure. It’s difficult to understand the way a clam would experience life, considering the evolutionary distance between us and them.
As for mercury, it’s not actually relevant to me (since I don’t eat any species of fish for ethical reasons, regardless of mercury risk or lack thereof).
Q: What makes you think that a plant-based paleo diet can have the same benefits as the standard Paleo plan?
First of all, I don’t think that a plant-based paleo diet is “as good as” the Paleo plan or other modern “paleo” diets. To the contrary, I argue that these diets do not make sense for modern-day humans. Moreover, the anthropological record suggests that the first humans ate meat much less frequently than a person would on a modern “paleo diet”. Our human ancestors were adapted to plant-based diets—and lived nomadic lifestyles which turned their bodies into calorie-burning machines. Occasional consumption meat replenished the severe calorie deficits that would result from long periods of food scarcity. Considering that modern day human are far more sedentary in comparison, it makes the most sense to avoid meat entirely.