When it comes to eating paleo, there are those who are convinced they cannot veer off the path and those who are a little more relaxed. I fall into the more relaxed category because it works for my life and because I feel good eating this way. At the end of the day, I would think those two things should play a key role in making a lifestyle change.
One of the great paleo debates has been whether or not to eat legumes and grains. I personally feel better when I don’t have them on a regular basis but I don’t think they should be completely ruled out of the diet.
Chris Kresser’s most recent podcast goes into some detail as to why eating legumes and grains is not going to be detrimental to the paleo template. As long as they’re not consumed on a regular basis and as long as they don’t replace other nutrient dense foods. I mean you can eat a strict paleo template and eat 1/4 bag of paleo approved chocolate chips. Not that I do that…
Here’s the deal with legumes and grains. They contain lectins. These are proteins, which in high amounts can have some negative impacts on the body. However, what’s important to consider is that the studies highlighting these findings have been performed on animals. Humans would have to consume a significant amount of lectins in order to feel a negative side effect.
Also, during the cooking process of grains and legumes, most lectins are destroyed after 15 minutes of cooking. And lastly, after cooking, carbohydrates present in these foods will bind to any remaining lectins, which diminish their toxic effect.
The other issue to consider with grains and legumes is phytic acid. Phytic acid inhibits the absorption of certain minerals contained within the food you’re consuming. So if you’re eating a grain that’s rich in magnesium, phytic acid will likely block the absorption of that nutrient. One can argue that our love affair with grains may in part be responsible for the magnesium deficiency we suffer as a population. But, something to consider is this: phytic acid is found in plenty of paleo foods, such as cacao beans, swiss chard and spinach.
Additionally, properly soaking nuts, grains and seeds and/or roasting them, will break down some of the phytic acid. If we look back on how our grandparents and great-grandparents ate grains and legumes, we probably recall a lot of soaking and proper preparation. And they did not have the internet at their disposal to justify the reasons for doing so. They just intuitively knew.
So with that said, I’m not proposing that everyone start gorging on legumes and grains but I do propose some flexibility. I’m less concerned about a certain template or diet, but rather listening to what our body needs. Paleo happens to fit well with what I need. I function well on meat, seafood, lots of vegetables, fruit and fermented foods and wine of course! But for the occasional time that I will have legumes, I like to make it special.
This is one of my favorite chili’s. It’s simple to make (as are most of my recipes) and oh so comforting for a chilly fall night.
sweet potato chili
prep time: 5-10 minutes
cook time: 35 minutes
1 tbsp avocado or olive oil
1 onion chopped
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1″ pieces
3 cloves garlic finely minced
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
3-4 cups broth of your choice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 25 oz can black beans
1 tbsp fresh cilantro chopped + 1 extra tsp for garnish
avocado and any other toppings of your choice
optional: 1 cup cooked quinoa
large dutchoven or large pan
Preheat pan on medium. Add avocado oil and onion and sauté for 8 minutes until translucent. Add sweet potatoes, garlic and spices and cook for 2 minutes.
Add broth and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes until sweet potatoes are soft.
Mash most of them with the potato masher, add 1 tbsp chopped cilantro and beans to heat through – about 5 minutes.
Serve with additional cilantro, avocado and optional over quinoa.