Tag Archives: Dr. Loren Cordain

FlourOne of the many exciting things about living a Paleo lifestyle is getting creative when it comes to recipes. Finding alternative ingredients to make familiar dishes can be quite the challenge. As you can see below, one of our readers reached out to us and inquired about several alternatives to flour.

Since it’s a common question we had our very own Dr. Cordain, founder of The Paleo Diet, respond to the question and we’ve decided to publish it to the site. Enjoy!


Reader Question

Dear Dr. Cordain,

Since you’re the only source that I trust for uncommon questions about what’s allowed in a truly Paleo Diet, I’d be grateful if you could tell me if:

• arrowroot flour

• organic tapioca flour

• and soluble tapioca fiber

are compatible with the Paleo Diet, especially gut-wise and antinutrient-wise.
Thanks so much, your support is appreciated.



Dr. Cordains’ Response

Dear Nicola,
Many thanks for your good questions. Let me first address the question of arrowroot flour.


Arrowroot flour

The scientific name for arrowroot is Maranta arundinacea. It is a perennial plant native to the Amazon rainforest and grows to a height of between 1 to 5 ft. Its main edible component is its starchy rhizome (underground stem). It was domesticated about 7,000 years ago in South and Central America (1), and today it is used worldwide as a thickener in many foods such as puddings, sauces and baked goods (2).

From a nutritional perspective, arrowroot represents a recent addition to the human diet, but so do hundreds of other western hemisphere plant species, as humans migrated from the old world to North and South America about 13,000 to 15,000 years ago. Arrowroot starch maintains a favorable nutrient cross section which is consistent with the plant foods that shaped the human genome throughout our species’ evolution.

Its caloric density is low (65.0 kcal/100 g) and like other plant foods which shaped the human genome, arrowroot starch maintains a low protein (4.24 g/100 g) content, a moderate carbohydrate (13.39 g/100 g) content and a low fat (0.20 g/100 g) content (3). Additionally, its glycemic index (14.0) is low (4.) Further, arrowroot’s nutritional characteristics are consistent with the old-world plant species that were central in early hominid diets. It maintains a high folate (338 ug/100 g) content, low sodium (26.0 mg/100 g) content and a healthful potassium (K+) to sodium (Na+) ratio of 17.5 (3). Further, arrowroot (per calories) is a good source of iron (2.22 mg/100 g) and magnesium (25.0 mg/100 g) (3).


Arrowroot flour is a source of prebiotic fiber that may have a positive effect upon the immune system (2). Hence, the nutritional evidence for arrowroot flour indicates that it is a healthful “Paleo” food.


Organic Tapioca Flour

Tapioca flour is a starch made from the roots of the cassava plant (Manihot esculenta) which is indigenous to the west central region of Brazil and eastern Peru (5). Like arrowroot, the domestication of the cassava plant, a major staple food in the developing world (6), occurred less than 10,000 years ago and represents a recent dietary addition for humans (5). Unlike arrowroot, raw cassava starch contains antinutritional factors (cyanogenic glucosides [linamarin and lotaustralin]) which are potentially toxic to humans in high concentrations. Boiling, soaking, fermentation, drying and processing of cassava roots reduces its cyanide concentrations, but does not completely eliminate this compound (6,7). Cyanide intoxication may promote goiters, has been linked to ataxia (a neurological disorder, also known as konzo) and pancreatitis (7, 8).


Starch from cassava (tapioca) roots can be replaced by starch from other less toxic plant sources without the risks to health that residual cyanogenic glucosides in cassava roots may promote.



1. Piperno DR. The origins of plant cultivation and domestication in the New World tropics: patterns, process, and new developments. Current Anthropology. 2011 Aug 4;52(S4): S453-70.

2. Kumalasari ID, Harmayani E, Lestari LA, Raharjo S, Asmara W, Nishi K, Sugahara T. Evaluation of immunostimulatory effect of the arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea. L) in vitro and in vivo. Cytotechnology. 2012 Mar 1;64(2):131-7.

3. Nutritionist Pro Software. https://www.nutritionistpro.com/

4. Marsono Y. Glycemic index of selected Indonesian starchy foods. Indonesian Food and Nutrition Progress. 2001; 8:15-20.

5. Olsen KM, Schaal BA. Evidence on the origin of cassava: phylogeography of Manihot esculenta. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 1999 May 11;96(10):5586-91.

6. Chavarriaga-Aguirre P, Brand A, Medina A, Prías M, Escobar R, Martinez J, Díaz P, López C, Roca WM, Tohme J. The potential of using biotechnology to improve cassava: a review. In Vitro Cell Dev Biol Plant. 2016;52(5):461-478

7. Adamolekun B. Neurological disorders associated with cassava diet: a review of putative etiological mechanisms. Metabolic Brain Disease. March 2011, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 79–85

8. Bhatia E, Choudhuri G, Sikora SS, Landt O, Kage A, Becker M, Witt H. Tropical calcific pancreatitis: strong association with SPINK1 trypsin inhibitor mutations. Gastroenterology. 2002 Oct;123(4):1020-5.

Dr. Cordain Discusses The Paleo Diet with Native Society

These days, the Paleo diet seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue. It was my absolute pleasure to join theNativeSociety.com for both an intelligent and heartfelt interview and contribute to their mission to inspire and aspire individuals worldwide.

Originally published on theNativeSociety.com, April 15, 2015.

Q: How did you get into the health industry?

A: I am primarily an educator, researcher and writer.  I am a Professor Emeritus at Colorado State University where I have taught, mentored students and carried out research for 32 years.

Q: Tell us about The Paleo Diet. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company and future books?

A: In 1987 I read a scientific paper, “Paleolithic Nutrition,” published in the New England Journal of Medicine by S. Boyd Eaton that has influenced my life and career ever since.

I believe that Darwin’s concept of evolution through natural selection will eventually become a universally accepted organizational template for optimal human nutrition.

As randomized controlled trials of the therapeutic effects of contemporary Paleo diets progressively accumulate, I believe that scientists will increasingly publish their findings in scholarly articles and books.

Q: What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to your success?

A: I was lucky enough to be involved in the evolutionary approach to optimal contemporary human nutrition early on, and as such networked with many like minded anthropologists, nutritionists, physicians, scientists and lay people from around the world, just as the internet began to be widely used in the mid 1990s.  The ability to correspond instantaneously with worldwide colleagues allowed some of my ideas to rapidly come to fruition.

Q: What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?

A: I am not so much involved in the industry per se, but rather in translating nutritional evolutionary concepts and data into therapeutic dietary strategies to promote health and reduce the risk for chronic disease.  Paleo diets may hold promise for certain autoimmune disease (multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease) patients.  As such dietary strategies may eventually complement pharmaceutical interventions in these conditions.

Q: What is your Life Motto?

A: Approach life with generous amounts of optimism, hard work, and faith in humanity.

Q: What is Paleo’s Motto?

A: I can’t speak for all of the Paleo community, but here is a notion that may resonate:  Always let the data speak for itself.

Q: What is your greatest success as Founder of The Paleo Movement?

A: Although I may have coined the term “Paleo Diet” with my first book The Paleo Diet in 2002, I certainly was not solely responsible for the concept, as many thousands of dedicated scientists worldwide have been involved in uncovering this very good ideas for all of humanity, including my mentor, Dr. S. Boyd Eaton.

My greatest successes come from hearing about people all over the planet who have improved their health and well being by adopting this life long way of eating.

Q: What is the most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?

A: Understanding certain human behavioral frailties and how these shortcomings can sidetrack positive characteristics (trust, honesty, kindness, humility, hope and optimism) that we all maintain as we work collectively for a better future.

To overcome, one must recognize the constructive ramifications of these positive universal human traits and focus upon them for the benefit and survival of our children and our species.

Q: Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?

A: Read as much as you can about your topic, but more importantly read widely across disciplines outside of your area of expertise.

Q: Describe the ideal experience using The Paleo Diet.

A: Feeling “good” goes a long way in improving mental health and vice versa.

Q: How do you motivate your employees?

A: My primary occupation is as a University Professor, teacher, graduate student mentor and writer.  To motivate my students, I have always tried to treat them as I myself would like to be treated – ergo with trust, honesty, kindness, humility, hope and optimism.  Similarly, when I write in the popular literature I try to treat my readers with respect and egality.

Q: One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?

A: From an evolutionary perspective, humans like all other mammals generally only drink water or obtain water from the foods they consume.  Humans are omnivores and consequently cannot eat a single food to maintain life.

So, let me humor this question – 1) Steamed Alaskan King Crab, and 2) if not water, then a good glass of white wine from anywhere in the world.

Q: What literature is on your bed stand?

A: It varies widely: day to day, week to week and year to year depending upon whatever topic in our universe catches my eye.  I read widely in the natural sciences literature, particularly from scientific journals, but also from non-fiction books, biographies, music, archaeology, cosmology, geology, automobiles, 60’s rock and roll, politics, computers and technology, medicine, evolution, aerospace, history and on ad infinitum.

On yesterday’s nightstand are scientific papers about the famous Manis archaeological site analyzing a hunted pre-Clovis mastodon (dating to 13,800 years ago) in the state of Washington, a recent AJCN paper on folic acid metabolism. Neil Young’s Special Deluxe: A Memoir of Life and Cars, and a scientific paper on the Ziegler Reservoir fossil site in Snowmass Village, Colorado in which an incredible plethora of ice age fossils were recently discovered.

Q: Role model – business and personal?

A: I’m not really a business man, so I can’t specifically speak to the topic except to say that humanistic entrepreneurs who eventually put their profits back into people, education, social and economic programs, health care, food, housing and the environment help us collectively as a species.

My personal heroes and heroines are too numerous to fully document.  They include everybody (athletes, scientists, nutritionists, anthropologists, archaeologists, writers, politicians, actors and actresses, rock stars, musicians, clothing designers, women’s rights activists, singers, inventors, businessmen and women, adventurers, discoverers, sailors, physicists, teachers, professors, bus-drivers, nurses, mothers, film producers, architects, engineers, cooks, editors, computer geeks, chefs, laborers, waitresses, student activists, inventors, cowboys, Indians, truck drivers, carpenters, secretaries, queens, kings, farmers, hunter gatherers – everybody!) All are human and all have flaws.  Let’s admire the best of their qualities (also ours) and try to incorporate these positive traits into our lives.

Q: Current passion?

A: Folic acid metabolism and health; diet and autoimmunity; causes of the Younger Dryas geologic era in North America and Europe starting about 12,800 years ago; Springtime in Colorado and North America.

Q: Favorite travel destination?

A: Home.

Q: What’s next for The Paleo Diet and Yourself?

A: Paleo Diet has become an amazing profusion of thoughts and ideas since its popular emergence (1985) in the recent scientific literature – also with my first book The Paleo Diet in 2002 and with its viral surfacing on the internet in about 2009.  I hope that for future generations, “The data will always speak for itself” and that we (as a species) will not be overly influenced by any single charismatic individual, but rather move forward logically, scientifically and collectively as we fully appreciate this most powerful organizational and conceptual template.

For me, the greatest reward in my personal life has always been and always will be children and family.


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

Affiliates and Credentials