Podcast: Paleo Diet Recipes: True Paleo or Not? | The Paleo Diet®
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Podcast: Paleo Diet Recipes: True Paleo or Not?

By The Paleo Diet Team
February 27, 2014
Jukka Aalho/ Unsplach.com
Jukka Aalho/ Unsplach.com

Dr. Loren Cordain: I'm Loren Cordain, founder of the Paleo Movement.

Shelley Schlender: And I'm Shelley Schlender. This is the Paleo Diet Podcast for March 2015. Loren Cordain, here are some absolutely gorgeous recipes.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Yes.

Shelley Schlender: In a magazine that has to do with Paleo eating and a lot of these I think are testaments to how delicious Paleo food can be and I think that you would say that they look very Paleo to you. Would you say these ingredients are good?

Dr. Loren Cordain: Yeah, let me just take a quick look here. You're right, it's just phenomenal how Paleo has gone from a little closet operation to mainstream. Shelley, you've been fortunate to have been in the middle of this from the get-go because you were interviewing me before anyone knew about Paleo. I thought that was pretty cool. Yeah, let's take a look here. Well, I see a couple ingredients here that I wouldn't necessarily agree with.

Shelley Schlender: Okay, let's start with the ingredients that you do agree with on this recipe.

Dr. Loren Cordain:
Well, I think I don't know, there's like three, six, twelve, it's probably easier to say there's probably twelve or thirteen ingredients here.

Shelley Schlender: First of all, it's a skirt steak recipe. You actually think skirt steak and meats are a good food for Paleo eating. One thing that occurs to me is that they don't have antinutrients in them ...

Dr. Loren Cordain: Yeah.

Shelley Schlender: ... like seeds and greens do. Now, how come meat doesn't have antinutrients in it?

Dr. Loren Cordain: Well, because the evolutionary strategy that meats took, animals for the most part, was to run away from the predator or to fight the predator rather than to poison the predator. Animals had really no evolution through natural selection really didn't do that. There's a couple of examples, like marine animals and animals that can't move, there's a few. Some of those have antinutrients, but for the most part, animals can move away from predators.


Shelley Schlender: Okay. The flesh, meat and the fat in an animal doesn't have the kind of antinutrients that a grain or a bean has because animals, their resources moved with them and that was their protection or they could fight. Is that one reason why Paleo dies, when they have meat, meat tends to be fairly safe for people to eat.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Indeed it does. There's one huge exception to that rule and can you think of that Shelley? What animal product do we eat on a regular basis that can't move?

Shelley Schlender: I am stumped.

Dr. Loren Cordain: How about an egg, a bird egg? Once a bird lays an egg in a nest, it really doesn't move and it can't escape predators can it?

Shelley Schlender: Does an egg have antinutrients in it?

Dr. Loren Cordain: Indeed.

Shelley Schlender: Interesting, because there's a lot of allergies to eggs.

Dr. Loren Cordain:

Shelley Schlender: We'll get to that one but this is an example of a food that people can eat in terms of skirt steak and it has olive oil I think ...

Dr. Loren Cordain: Yeah, it's got skirt steak and then the next ingredient I don't agree with. The next one is probably okay, it's called freshly ground black pepper.

Shelley Schlender: You're not so keen about sea salt unless it's a little sprinkle because there are concerns you have about too much salt.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Yeah, once again, it's a concentration gradient driven phenomena.

Shelley Schlender: You would modify this recipe yourself and maybe just use a very light touch of salt and let your taste buds get used to having less salt?

Dr. Loren Cordain: I think that many people are addicted to salt and one of the factors that became apparent to me when I first started doing Paleo 20 years ago or so was that when you stop eating processed foods of any kind, your salt intake basically goes down to nothing because that's virtually where all your salt comes from. To add salt back into fresh, living wonderful food like this, there's no necessity and really what it is, kind of stringing on with the addiction that you've had beforehand because it's impossible to get this kind of concentration of salts in these real foods.


Shelley Schlender: One advantage of working from a recipe and cooking from scratch is you can change the recipe. For you, you would keep the skirt steak in here, you would not use the salt, you'd have some black pepper freshly ground.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Yes.

Shelley Schlender: How about the baby arugula that's in this recipe to make the sauce?

Dr. Loren Cordain: That's fine. There's very few plant or animal foods that you should avoid in Paleo.

Shelley Schlender: Meaning that if it's a leafy green vegetable, it's pretty darn safe to be eating it. It's a wonderful food.

Dr. Loren Cordain: That's right. There's a couple of exceptions here and one would be alfalfa sprouts, I would stay as far away from those as I possibly could.

Shelley Schlender: What's wrong with alfalfa sprouts? They're awfully crispy.

Dr. Loren Cordain: They're awfully crispy and awfully green aren't they? But alfalfa sprouts are actually legumes. They contain an amino acid that has been shown in the past 35 years to cause Lupus-like symptoms in primates and in rats and even in humans. They're actually incredibly concentrated sources of saponins. Alfalfa sprouts we think about as green, leafy vegetables but really they're legumes. They high sources of saponins and they're high sources of a specific weirdo amino acid that seems to promote Lupus-like symptoms in all experimental animals and in humans.

Shelley Schlender: You'd be better off maybe with broccoli sprouts or sunflower sprouts?

Dr. Loren Cordain: I don't know, broccoli is, even though you're right, it may be in the strictest sense a sprout, we think about it as a vegetable only. Broccoli is related to cabbage and so broccoli didn't exist 300 years ago, it's something that breeders have produced in the last 200 or 300 years and broccoli is just fine because it's similar to cabbage and basically all cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables generally are not a problem.


Shelley Schlender: That's good to know. This recipe doesn't really have sprouts but it has mint in it, this recipe, and that's another leafy green.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Yep.

Shelley Schlender: How about yellow onion?

Dr. Loren Cordain: Perfect, good.

Shelley Schlender: Good. So far, so good. How about pumpkin seeds to make it be more of a pesto?

Dr. Loren Cordain: No problem.

Shelley Schlender: Okay. Then how about olive oil?

Dr. Loren Cordain: Hey, that's one of the best oils you can consume.

Shelley Schlender: Hey look what's up next, here's some cider vinegar.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Yeah, I don't really have a whole lot of problem with vinegar. In the body, vinegar is treated as an acid and one of the problems with the western diet is it tends to produce a net metabolic acidosis. Vinegar is acetic acid, but the way it's treated in the body in vivo particularly, we don't drink a quart of vinegar, we sprinkle it on, use it moderately. In a salad like this, it has absolutely no adverse health effects.

Shelley Schlender: This recipe has two tablespoons of honey.

Dr. Loren Cordain: I think that's not a good idea to get into. Again, as you mentioned with small amounts of sea salt, tiny little sprinkling probably not a problem but the problem is that I think it kind of engenders the notion that sea salt is basically okay, you can use it as much as you want so get your salt shaker on your table and salt everything down as much as you want. No, that's not the case. A little bit probably won't hurt you. Same thing is true with honey. Little bit of honey in a recipe where it is minor and it's served with meat and food and what have you probably isn't going to be a problem. But the notion that honey is okay as a sweetener is absolutely wrong, it's ill founded. Honey is a mixture of glucose and fructose. The mixture is about the same as what we find in high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup is about 45% fructose, 55% glucose depending on the cultivar, where the honey comes from is about what we get in honey.


Shelley Schlender: In other words, whether you see it's honey or some wonderful new agave sugar or something else like that, if it's sugar, it's sugar?

Dr. Loren Cordain: I don't completely agree with that. Fructose tends to be metabolized differently than glucose and fructose seems to be a fairly nasty substance when we get it in excessive quantities. Glucose our body seems to be able to handle much better. Glucose is the universal sugar that we have in our own blood stream and it's how we regular carbohydrate throughout our bodies. The metabolic effects of glucose in the liver are much different than fructose. Fructose bypasses a step called phosphofructokinase step. Phosphofructokinase is a regulator glycolysis in liver and so basically, what it does is it allows for unlimited production of triglyceride in liver and also unlimited production of triglyceride, meaning fat, throughout your body. Fructose is a component of almost all processed foods and we really need to stay away from it.
Except in fruits where the naturally occurring fructose in fruits tends to be mixed with glucose and some other sugars and a lot of fiber and a lot of citric acid and vitamins and minerals and other compounds that are healthy.

Shelley Schlender: In other words, with that recipe that's called a Paleo recipe, you would make some minor modifications but you'd eat that?

Dr. Loren Cordain: I would and as I mentioned, a tiny amount of salt or a tiny amount of sugar probably isn't going to matter but the notion that sea salt and honey are part of contemporary Paleo diets and you can eat them in as much unlimited quantity, that's the point we need to get across.

Shelley Schlender: These look delicious don't they?


Dr. Loren Cordain: They do. They absolutely look delicious and I think that that's one of the misconceptions with Paleo is that you're going to eat a big slab of red meat and that's what you'll do. No, Paleo's all about salads and veggies and fruits and different combinations of all of these and not only do they just look tasty is that the presentations are wonderful on these and the photographs and it's just amazing. Anybody thinks this is a monotonous or boring diet, chard and spinach salad with roasted beets, wow, how healthy is that. This is really the emphasis here and we need for people to think that this isn't just about eating meat and bacon, it's about eating fresh fruits and vegetables and putting them together. These are incredible artists and chefs and food people that think these things up. When you first knew me in my wildest dreams, never did I think we would see hundreds, thousands of books doing this and kind of following the example. They all tend to use a little bit of sea salt and honey which I think we just need to let people know that you need to be very careful with that.

Shelley Schlender: Loren Cordain, what is this part of the Paleo movement called primal and what do you think of the primal Paleo movement?

Dr. Loren Cordain: My friend Mark Sissan, who kind of came after me, he's a great guy, I like him a lot. He's a world class triathlete, he participated in the Iron Man and very well known worldwide when he was in his prime. Mark's a great guy, he's very bright but he certainly is not a scientist and he's not a academic, but he's a very bright guy. After I wrote Paleo, The Paleo Diet came out in 2002, I think Mark's book came out, I don't know, maybe mid 2000s, 2006 or 2007 or somewhere around there. At the time, Paleo was virtually unknown except to a very small group of people. I think Mark's idea was to distinguish himself from Paleo and to give it another name.


I think Mark is credited with the word primal through his books and he's kept that trademark.

Shelley Schlender: In some of the recipe books, primal is used to talk about a receipt hats mostly Paleo, but it might have some ingredients that would not have been available to a Paleo person such as in this pumpkin cake recipe. It has lots of pumpkin, it has coconut flour, it also has some butter.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Yeah, strictly speaking, butter clearly couldn't have been a Paleo ingredient, but there's lots of ingredients that are not Paleo. What we've tried to do, I've tried to do with this concept is I never did say that this is a hunter gatherer diet. This is by no means anything even close to what real hunter gatherers would have been eating. This is taking modern foods and mimicking the food groups that the hunter gatherers ate. By following those ideas fairly closely, you produce a much more nutrient dense and healthy diet. I think that what Mark has done with his primal concept is some people can tolerate dairy better than others, but of all the dairy foods that I think you can eat, I would stay away from the dairy proteins and stick more to the diary fats. I think butter's much healthier than margarine, it can be used in cooking.

Shelley Schlender: You think butter's healthier than skim milk?

Dr. Loren Cordain: Oh yeah.

Shelley Schlender: You think that skim chocolate milk, which is still served in schools, is healthy to get your calcium, get it out of there.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Yeah, I think chocolate milk, by the time you get to be my age, you know everybody practically either in exercise physiology, nutrition, evolutionary medicine, anthropology, I know many, many people throughout the world. When I was a young man, one of the scientists that I worked with at Colorado State University was a fellow by the name of Joel Stager. Joel Stager was a physiologist working in the physiology department over there, he was a post-document. He ended up going out to Indiana University and he made quite a career for himself and that study that looked at chocolate milk and athletic performance, he designed that. Needless to say, we don't see eye to eye on that ...


Shelley Schlender: He was the scientist who said chocolate milk is good for athletes?

Dr. Loren Cordain: What he was saying was that if you drink it in the post-exercise performance, it tends to improve performance later on because it tended to maximize muscle glycogen. One think Joel diet realize and I actually was out there this fall and I lectured at Indiana University, so he's a good friend, but scientists don't always agree on everything. What I told him, I said that yeah, drinking milk, particularly chocolate milk which contains high fructose corn syrup, gives you a hell of a glycemic blast and if you're an active athlete then it's going to maximize muscle glycogen, which may be a good thing, but what I also told him and he wasn't aware of, I said it also increases IGF 1. I said yes, that tends to be anabolic, meaning that it helps to promote muscle growth, but it also tends to promote cancer.

Shelley Schlender: Insulin growth factor 1.

Dr. Loren Cordain:
Insulin-like growth factor 1.

Shelley Schlender: Insulin-like growth factor 1, there's a lot of it in milk.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Well, there is IGF 1 in milk but what we do know is that people that drink milk, their own blood concentrations of IGF 1 increases. That doesn't mean that the IGF 1 in milk from the cow itself gets into our bodies. What it means, there's one of two things or three things. One, it could be the IGF 1 in milk actually bypasses the gut barrier, which is unlikely because it's a large protein. Except for one amino acid, it's identical to IGF 1 so it probably wouldn't be picked up by the immune system. But what I believe is that when you drink milk, it sets off a hormonal cascade that increases IGF 1 in our own plasma and it does it through insulin. Insulin kicks off this hormonal cascade that ultimately elevates IGF 1. We know that pretty securely so I think that milk-drinking in adults, even though it may be anabolic for young college students or teenagers or even young children ...


Shelley Schlender: Meaning it helps build muscles faster.

Dr. Loren Cordain: It helps to promote muscle, yes, because IGF 1 is an incredibly anabolic hormone.

Shelley Schlender: But then steroids help build muscle too.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Body builders inject themselves with IGF 1 and it tends to increase muscle mass but studies show that those guys that did that for 10 or 15 years in their body building career have a much greater increase for prostate and colon cancer. The downside of drinking chocolate milk is that it's a very bad habit to get into for adults. It's like a body builder, it's a risk. You take, yeah, maybe athletic performance is important, but is it important when you're 45 or 50 or 60?

Shelley Schlender:
Wow. Let's get back to looking at one more Paleo recipe here. How about this, some short ribs. What do you think about the recipe here for short ribs? It has short ribs, granulated garlic, some granulated onion, little bit of sea salt, freshly ground pepper, some coconut oil, carrots, celery stalks, onions, beef or chicken broth and rosemary.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Yum, yum. Everything looks great here. People need to get away from their salt addiction.

Shelley Schlender: That's the one thing that you would just take it out and if somebody wants salt, sprinkle a little bit on at the end because that's when you'll taste it the most but don't add it into food to just be there hidden in food.


Dr. Loren Cordain: Right. A tiny, little bit built into a recipe like this, if you keep it at that is okay. But the notion is that sea salt is good for us is absolutely incorrect. Salt, it's like, you know, Shelley, we ran experiments years ago kind of putting people on Paleo type diets and one of the items that we kept in mind was urinary sodium. Every 24 hours they had to pee into a bucket. We measured urinary sodium. If somebody goes off of Paleo diet, guess what? Urinary sodium goes up because anytime you eat processed foods, salt is in everything. If you eat processed foods, we know you're not Paleo.

Shelley Schlender: There's just so much salt in processed foods, that's the thing you notice the most. Well, you must use less salt in your household. Does the food still taste good?

Dr. Loren Cordain: As I mentioned, when I first started this, I remember back in the early 90s I had been really, really fanatical about Paleo and just being as 100% as I could get. Lori and went out for a fancy dinner on our anniversary to a restaurant here that served game. I ordered myself up an elk medallion and here in Colorado, we have elk and I was just so excited to get this elk medallion. When I bit into it, I hadn't been eating any added salt for probably two or three months, it taste like I was eating anchovies it was so salty. Your body adapts to it and it's absolutely too much. Some people have salt sensitivities and they become hypertensive very rapidly when they eat salt and some people don't.


The assumption has been in the cardiology community is kind of play it by ear. If you don't have hypertension, you can probably take a little bit of salt. But by the time you reach my age in your sixth decade, close to your seventh decade, I don't think that's a good idea at all because our kidneys get less able to eliminate salt and salt then tends to build up in our tissues and salt tends to promote cancers, which is not well known even by many oncologists. They associate gastrointestinal cancers, stomach cancer, esophageal cancers, those with eating a lot of salt. But what we find is that salt actually changes the way membranes work and one of the first steps when a cell becomes carcinogenic is the intercellular ionic concentration of cell changes. What happens characteristically is the intercellular concentration of sodium increases, potassium decreases.

You can actually, we have a machine here at Colorado State University where we actually can look at the whole body concentrations of potassium. I have done studies in the earlier part of my career, we've plotted whole body potassium from the time somebody's 20 until they're 70 and it takes a nose dive. I believe that part of the aging process itself has to do with this change in the sodium potassium ATPase pump and it becomes less efficient at maintaining these ionic gradients and so what happens is you get more sodium inside the cell, less potassium and the cells become tired and it tends to produce aging. This is a really bad idea is to throw sea salt into your, you know, occasionally if you want to do it fine, but this should not be an every ingredient.

Shelley Schlender: Okay, let's rewrite this recipe then because that's the great fun about recipes is in your own kitchen, you don't have to do everything in the recipe. You would go with the short ribs, the garlic, the onion, the ground pepper, the coconut oil.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Yes.

Shelley Schlender: What else here? The carrots?


Dr. Loren Cordain: Okay, large carrots, celery stalks, yellow onions, one quart beef or chicken broth. The beef or the chicken broth, you got to make sure you don't use the commercial variety because guess what it's got in it?

Shelley Schlender: I think it's called salt that you've got in it.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Yeah. So make your own. Or maybe at the health food store you can get it, but if you make your own it tastes better. One sprig fresh rosemary, perfect.

Shelley Schlender: Then eat that maybe with a big salad. You can pour on more olive oil, you can add more coconut oil, delicious.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Absolutely. You know, Lori and I, we buy our meat by the half section or whatever they call that, the quarter and the half, so we get it in bulk and we can get it at a very reasonable price and we get a lot of these short ribs because they're kind of the junk part of the carcass. We eat a lot of short ribs and the trick with short ribs is to cook them slowly so they don't get too tough.

Shelley Schlender: Then they're delicious.

Dr. Loren Cordain: They're absolutely delicious, yeah. That's all for this edition of the Paleo Diet Podcast.

Shelley Schlender: Our theme music is by Chapman Stick soloist Bob Culbertson.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Visit my website, thePaleodiet.com for past episodes and for hot links to my research studies, books, and latest writings. For questions or comments, the place to go is thePaleodiet.com.

Shelley Schlender: For the Paleo Diet Podcast, I'm Shelley Schlender.

Dr. Loren Cordain: And I'm Loren Cordain.

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