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Are Legumes “Paleo”? And Does It Really Matter?


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why are legumes not paleo, are legumes bad for you
There are benefits to consuming legumes, especially when prepared correctly. olgakr/istock/thinkstock

I went on the Dr. Oz show in 2014 to discuss my book, Your Personal Paleo Code (published in paperback as The Paleo Cure in December 2014). (If you missed it, you can watch the clips here.)

Dr. Oz did a segment on Paleo in 2013 with Nell Stephenson and Dr. Loren Cordain, and it got great ratings. However, the feedback the show received from their viewers was that “The Paleo Diet” as presented by Nell and Dr. Cordain was too restrictive. The producers invited me on because I consider Paleo to be more of a template than a rigid prescription, and my approach doesn’t prohibit foods that aren’t typically considered to be “Paleo”—such as full-fat dairy, white potatoes, dark chocolate, and legumes.

Some people—particularly those not previously familiar with my work—were surprised to hear me tell Dr. Oz that I think eating a few servings of legumes a week is fine as long you tolerate them well. This directly contradicts Paleo dogma on legumes, which holds that we should strictly avoid them because:

  1. They aren’t part of our ancestral diet, and
  2. They contain toxic anti-nutrients like lectin and phytic acid.

But are these arguments supported by the evidence? Let’s find out.

Legumes: More #Paleo than you might think!

Are Legumes Paleo?

Back in November of 2013, Dr. Stephan Guyenet posted an article outlining the evolutionary history of legume consumption. He demonstrates that, contrary to popular belief, legumes were part of our ancestral diet.

Recent analysis of Neanderthal tooth plaque revealed that they consumed wild varieties of peas and fava beans. (1) Since early humans are thought to have eaten a more diverse diet than Neanderthals, it is safe to assume that our human ancestors also ate legumes.

Dr. Guyenet also points to several contemporary hunter-gatherer groups that consumed significant amounts of legumes, including the !Kung San of the Kalahari desert (who relied heavily on a legume called the tsin bean) and the Australian Aborigines (who extensively harvested the seeds and gum of Acacia trees, another legume).

This research suggests that legumes are, in fact, “Paleo.” But even if Paleolithic people didn’t eat legumes, is that reason enough to avoid them? If it is, then shouldn’t we also strictly avoid dark chocolate, coffee, green tea, and alcohol? What about the glut of breads, muffins, packaged snacks, desserts, and even candy (no, I’m not kidding) claiming to be “Paleo” that have recently become so popular? It should be obvious that our ancestors were not baking with nut flour, chowing down on truffles or drinking “Paleo” cocktails. Yet even the most die-hard, self-identified Paleo purists typically consume at least some of these foods and beverages, and don’t seem to see a contradiction in that. Why should legumes be any different?

As I’ve argued before, Paleo is best viewed as a template or a starting place,—not an inflexible, unchanging system based on (sometimes mistaken) beliefs about what our ancestors ate. Mark Sisson said something very similar in a blog post:

The anthropological record is a framework for further examination of nutritional science; it does not prescribe a diet.

A more important question to ask than whether a food is “Paleo” is how it impacts human health. Fortunately, in the case of legumes, we have a lot of modern research that can help us to answer that question.

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Should We Avoid Legumes Because of the Anti-Nutrients They Contain?

Paleo dogma on legumes holds that we should avoid them because they contain toxic anti-nutrients called lectins and phytic acid (aka phytate). Let’s take a look at each of these compounds in legumes and see if this argument holds up.


Lectins are a type of protein that can bind to cell membranes. Studies have shown that lectins can impair growth, damage the lining of the small intestine, destroy skeletal muscle, and interfere with the function of the pancreas. Sounds serious, right?

Not so fast. There are several reasons that these results cannot be extrapolated to humans. First, the animals consumed very large amounts of lectins—much larger than a human would get from a varied diet which includes legumes. Second, the lectins were from raw legumes. Why is this significant? Because humans eat primarily cooked legumes, and cooking neutralizes the lectins found in most legumes.

In fact, cooking legumes for as little as 15 minutes or pressure-cooking them for 7.5 minutes almost completely inactivates the lectins they contain, leaving no residual lectin activity in properly cooked legumes. (2)

What’s more, other components in food (e.g. simple sugars) can bind to lectins and diminish their toxic effect. So even if there is a small amount of lectin left after cooking, it’s unlikely that it will have a detrimental effect given the presence of simple carbohydrates in legumes that can bind to the proteins. (3)

Finally, if lectins really are a problem then we’ll have to cut out a lot more than legumes from our diet in order to avoid them. It turns out that lectins are present in at least 53 fruits, vegetables, spices and other commonly eaten plants, including carrots, zucchini, melon, grapes, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, garlic and mushrooms—to name a few. (4)

This is not an invitation to stop eating these foods! It’s simply a reminder that almost every plant we eat contains small amounts of toxins, since this is how plants defend themselves. In the majority of cases these low levels of toxins don’t harm us, and in fact, they may even provide health benefits. For example, many of the compounds we call “antioxidants”—like polyphenols found in blueberries, dark chocolate, etc.—are actually “pro-oxidants” that cause mild oxidative stress and thus upregulate our body’s natural defense systems. (5)

To my knowledge there’s only one study demonstrating humans being harmed by consuming legumes. This is the study often used by Paleo advocates to “prove” that legumes are dangerous. However, what is often neglected is that this study described a case of food poisoning that occurred in hospital patients who ate legumes that hadn’t been cooked properly. (6) Suggesting that we shouldn’t eat cooked legumes because raw legumes cause disease is like saying that we shouldn’t eat cooked chicken because we can get Salmonella from eating raw chicken.

The one lectin we may want to exercise caution with is peanut lectin, since both raw peanuts and peanut oil have relatively high lectin content. Some data in animals suggest that peanut lectin may contribute to atherosclerosis by stimulating the growth of smooth muscle and pulmonary arterial cells. (7) However, other research (including clinical trials) in both animals and humans have found that peanuts and even peanut oil reduce cardiovascular risk factors and thus may protect against heart disease. (8, 9) In light of this conflicting data, and because of other risks associated with peanut consumption such as exposure to aflatoxin, I recommend either minimizing your intake of peanuts or avoiding them entirely.

Phytic Acid (aka Phytate)

Phytic acid is the storage form of phosphorus found in many plants, especially in the bran or hull of grains and in nuts and seeds. Although herbivores like cows and sheep can digest phytic acid, humans can’t. This is bad news because phytic acid binds to minerals (especially iron and zinc) in food and prevents us from absorbing them. (It’s important to note that phytic acid does not leach minerals that are already stored in the body; it only inhibits the absorption of minerals from food in which phytic acid is present.)

Phytic acid interferes with enzymes we need to digest our food, including pepsin, which is needed for the breakdown of proteins in the stomach, and amylase, which is required for the breakdown of starch. Phytic acid also inhibits the enzyme trypsin, which is needed for protein digestion in the small intestine.

Sounds pretty bad, right? While it is true that diets high in phytic acid contribute to mineral deficiencies, it’s also true that humans can tolerate moderate amounts of it without harm (perhaps because our gut bacteria produce enzymes that break down phytate and extract the nutrients the body needs). In fact, there’s even evidence that phytic acid may have some beneficial effects. It prevents the formation of free radicals (making it an antioxidant), prevents the accumulation of heavy metals in the body, and plays a role in cellular communication.

The problem with telling people to avoid legumes because they contain phytic acid is that many other foods in the diet—including “Paleo-friendly” foods—contain substantially higher amounts of phytic acid than legumes. For example, a serving of trail mix, that beloved Paleo favorite, is likely to be much higher in phytic acid than a serving of lentils. Cacao beans (chocolate) have about the same amount of phytic acid as most beans. And spinach and swiss chard are higher in phytic acid than almost any legume, nut or seed!

Phytic acid in common foods (10, 11, 12)

Food                              Phytic acid (mg/100 grams)·
Legumes (average)500–2,900
Sesame seeds140–5,360
Dark chocolate1,680–1,790
Swiss chard3,530

I know some of you will be tempted to stop eating spinach and Swiss chard after seeing this chart. That’s not the point! Remember, the dose makes the poison. High levels of phytic acid are harmful, but moderate amounts within the context of a diet that is nutrient-dense overall are not. Moreover, phytic acid only binds to certain minerals and prevents their absorption. There are many other nutrients in spinach, Swiss chard, and all other foods containing phytic acid that will still be absorbed when you eat them.

It’s also important to note that phytic acid can often be at least partly broken down by certain food processing methods, such as soaking and roasting. I wrote an article a while back called “Another Reason Not To Go Nuts on Nuts” suggesting that you soak and then dehydrate or roast nuts before eating them for exactly this reason. In the case of legumes, studies have shown that soaking at room temperature for 18 hours or at 140 F for 3 hours eliminates between 30–70 percent of phytic acid—depending on the legume. (13)

The takeaway is this: phytic acid in legumes is not a cause for concern as long as you’re eating them in moderation and they aren’t displacing more nutrient-dense foods from your diet. This is especially true if you are soaking legumes prior to consuming them.

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Are There Any Reasons We Might Want to Limit Legumes in Our Diet?

If you’ve read this far, you might think I’m a big advocate of legumes. That’s not the case. While they do contain beneficial nutrients and fiber (which feeds the gut flora), they are not as nutrient-dense as other Paleo foods—like organ meats, meats, fish, shellfish, eggs and vegetables—and, as I mentioned above, some of the nutrients they contain are not bioavailable due to phytic acid. (14) Because maximizing nutrient-density is one of the most important things we can do to improve our health, I think it makes sense to limit consumption of legumes to a few times a week, and to prepare them properly (i.e. soak for 18 hours and cook thoroughly) when you do eat them.

Another reason some people may need to avoid legumes is that they contain FODMAPs, which are carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed by some people and can cause gas, bloating, and other digestive symptoms.

You probably remember this song from when you were a kid:

Beans, beans, the magical fruit, the more you eat, the more you toot …

FODMAPs are probably the main reason beans have this effect on some people. But not everyone is sensitive to FODMAPs, so this isn’t a reason to avoid legumes across the board. That’s like saying that everyone should avoid shellfish because some people are allergic to them.

Final Thoughts and a Caution about Paleo Dogma

Legumes are not necessary for human health. They contain no nutrients that we can’t get from other foods—often with less trouble (i.e. no need to go through extensive preparation methods to make the nutrients more bioavailable).

That said, if you enjoy them, tolerate them well, and are willing to prepare them properly, there is no credible evidence showing that they will harm you when eaten in moderation in the context of a nutrient-dense diet—regardless of whether they are “Paleo”. The same can be said for many other “grey area” foods that are popular in the Paleo community, such as dark chocolate, alcohol, nut flour, and full-fat dairy (like butter and ghee).

I’ve been criticized on social media by some defenders of “The Paleo Diet” for my comments about legumes on the Dr. Oz segment. They insist that legumes are “not Paleo” and that they cause harm. When I ask them for proof of these claims, they almost exclusively point to Dr. Loren Cordain’s work. Dr. Cordain wrote the first mass market book on Paleo nutrition and has published many scientific papers on the subject, most of which I have read. I have great respect for his contribution.

But the idea that a single authority is uniquely capable of interpreting the research on a topic as diverse as Paleolithic nutrition, and that their opinion is infallible and unassailable, is dogma—not science. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines dogma as “a belief or set of beliefs that is accepted by the members of a group without being questioned or doubted.” Google dictionary defines it as “a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.”

I feel strongly that we need to guard against this, both for our own benefit and if we want Paleo to be taken seriously in the scientific community and mainstream medical establishment. We should always be ready to question even our most cherished beliefs, and prepared to change our minds in the face of new evidence. And it’s imperative that we apply the same standards of critical thinking to Paleo arguments that we do to conventional arguments.

I’m by no means perfect in this regard. I’ve had blinders on in the past about certain issues (my stance on fructose and naturally occurring omega-6 fats in foods like avocados come to mind), I’m sure I have blind spots now, and I won’t be immune to them in the future. Unfortunately, the tendency to succumb to groupthink seems to be a hardwired part of human nature. As clinicians, researchers, and scientists, all we can do is strive to be more rigorous and consistent in our thinking, and support each other in that process.

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Join the conversation

  1. Great Post! I love how you point out how people get paleo-anal about beans, yet still eat chocolate, etc. Now I won’t feel so guilty eating them, as I LOVE them.

  2. We cut out all legumes when we first started eating this way. But despite fish oil, plenty of coconut oil, good hydration, oily nuts, etc my friend got a little winter eczema inside her elbows and behind her knees. I remember that when I was a kid my mom was mystified by mine, which was about the only thing her cod liver oil treatment wouldn’t cure.

    Then one day Mom decided we should be eating natural peanut butter–the kind with all the oil on top. Cured the eczema almost overnight. I tried it for my friend and had the same result. If she eats a tablespoon or so of it every other day, no eczema or rashes.

    Doesn’t mean there aren’t problems with peanut butter. Just my experience.

  3. Hi Chris,
    I enjoy all your articles and thank you for evaluating facts in an un-biased way. A couple of comments:
    1) There doesn’t seem to be any difference now between what was originally described as the Paleo diet and the Weston Price/ancestral diet (maybe gluten in sourdough bread is the only difference?). This is not a bad thing, but is kind of what Weston Pricers have been saying for a while. It is an individual based ancestral diet
    2) I haven’t read the evidence but it seems to me that Paleo man didn’t have the methods or materials to ferment foods. This must be a fairly recent practice. Yet Paleo advocates fermented foods (as they should) just like Weston Pricers.
    3) I’m quite familiar with the Blood type diet and Dr D’Adamo’s work. Based on the lectin discussion above, his work actually makes a lot of sense – some blood types can tolerate some lectins and some can’t. That’s what he’s been saying all along…

    • 1) From the beginning I’ve advocated an approach similar to WAPf; however, I do think most people benefit from doing a 30-day Reset (Step 1 in my book) without any grains, legumes or dairy to see if they feel better without them.

      2) Fermentation of food is a very old practice. It would have been one of the few ways of preserving foods.

      3) Blood type has nothing to do with someone can tolerate lectins or not. My point was that most lectins are destroyed by heat (cooking) or neutralized by simple sugars.

      • Chris, not sure if you’ve expressed your thoughts on this in the book or elsewhere, but do you think it’s possible that the 30-day reset could negatively impact the composition of gut flora in a way that actually leads to problems upon reintroduction of grains, dairy or legumes?

        • really interesting question… I do hope that Chris will comment further.

          my guess is that the avoidance advice is to escape all possible inflammatory agents but thereafter slow re-introduction might possibly allow the flora to adjust and to increase gut flora diversity to accommodate re-introductions

          • I don’t see how a nutrient dense, fiber rich and toxin free diet may negatively impact the microbiota.
            So far evidence strongly suggests all the other way around and demonstrated that the mentioned food are mostly those to blame for the gut disruption.

    • Paleo man quite likely did eat fermented foods. Even wild animals will eat fermented berries that occur naturally. It would have been easy for people to duplicate this process — no special tools or equipment are needed. A few years ago, National Geographic Magazine had an article about a baby mammoth that had been exposed by thawing ice. They discussed evidence that early man preserved and fermented meat by submerging parts of a kill in the lakes in the area, where lactic acid formation and fermentation on the outer surface would keep the meat from decay. Regarding the blood type diet — D’Adamo is off-base in his theory of how blood types evolved, and food sensitivities don’t appear to be related to blood type. I am O- (btw, a relatively recently evolved type) and I thrive on dairy. I have relatives and friends who are O- who bloat and sicken on it. I think there are more factors involved in food sensitivity than we presently understand. It appears they can be acquired as well as possibly inherited, and that they can change over time.

  4. Great article!

    You know, I always think, if a Paleolithic person was walking along and came across some green string beans or snow peas on a bush, would he/she eat it? Yes, of course they would have, they’re delicious! But, they grow seasonally and they are eating a varied diet. No dramas here, I say, unless as someone pointed out earlier, if you’re gut is already compromised by a dodgy diet, then you may be prone to have an unpleasant reaction to bean consumption.


  5. Chris, thanks very much for this ‘beginning’! There re mains a pile of information that still needs correction re. a healthy LIFESTYLE (diet strategies are an important, but minor component). Here’s one simple illustration: most plants pack nutrients for the next generation of plants in their seeds. T his process is like the breast milk of newborn mammals. Unlike mammals, plant enemies are not those-that-eat-them, but cold from winter.
    It stores these nutrients in compartments that have ‘walls’ of phytates/phylates/oxalates/etc. All these ‘walls’ are destroyed in the spring with water. [All oils that are ‘pressed’ come from non-germinated/soaked seeds.] All the nutrients mix and the seed germinates. We humans duplicate this process by soaking seeds (lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, grains) then sprouting them.

    We CAN alter this process by ‘magnetizing’ the water – by placing the sprout-water in a blender and spinning the water between the ‘N’ pole and ‘S’-pole of fixed magnets [or let the soaking bowl rest on the N-pole of a fixed magnet] …. the water can be upgraded with a few-drops of H2O2/milk/@1/4 tsp of sprouted-died-barley].

    The magic is unmistakeable, to my African violet plants. Trying to find a formula that will translate to us/livestock has been elusive. Perhaps you would like to do some experimenting too?

  6. Some clarification would be helpful in resolving the apparent contradiction between your statement that humans can’t digest phytic acid and then saying “our gut bacteria produce enzymes that break down phytate and extract the nutrients the body needs.” Isn’t that a description of the digestive process itself?

  7. Chris,

    Thanks for clarifying your position on the debate about the Paleoness of legumes.

    On the question whether or not legumes are Paleo and does it matter, I would say that yes, legumes are Paleo, but only conditionally; and as to whether it matters: yes, it does matter.

    First, I think that in the end and for all practical purposes, you and Dr. Loren Cordain agree that legumes can be consumed by a Paleo dieter in moderation. I think there’s simply a lot of misunderstanding going on as well misreading one another’s positions on things concerning Paleo. On page 114 of Cordain’s The Paleo Diet, he provides a list of food groups that should be avoided, and included in this list are legumes. But at the top of the list is this quote: “Just because these foods are not part of the diet, you don’t have to banish them from your life forever. But you should try to avoid them most of the time.” His book suggests that for best results one should adhere to the diet at least 85 percent of the time by avoiding legumes, dairy, grains, and highly processed industrial foods. The diet generally consists of eating healthy meat, seafood, vegetables, fruits, and some nuts and seeds. On page 135-136 of The Paleo Diet, under the heading “Individualizing Your Diet,” Cordain’s position is close to yours. He states, “Many people don’t even know that some foods…are to blame for some of their health problems…Find out what works for you and be sensible; alter your diet so that you can live with it.” With Cordain’s “open” meals suggestions, one can have legumes, if they so desire, up to three times a week as part of one of their meals.

    As for the evolutionary perspective, legumes may have been eaten by our Paleolithic ancestors, but the link you provided as evidence is not enough to let us know how much they consumed them and how frequent. We can plausibly infer that they ate them sporadically and weren’t the staple of their diets. They regarded them only as starvation foods. Anthropologist Chris Stringer has pointed out that though meat was very important food resource for our ancestors, it was unpredictable in obtaining. Thus, usually women, “developed and shared the skills of gathering and refining plant resources as an insurance policy” (Stringer, pp. 145-146 in Lone Survivors). Even at the beginnings of agriculture, wild grains and legumes were not food unless they were processed, i.e., fermented, baked, or ground. Grain-and-legume based diet, as writer Richard Manning pointed out, requires sedentism. When did sedentism happen on a large scale and permanently? In the Neolithic era. The Neolitihic era must have been the time that humans started consuming these foods more frequently and became the staple of their diets, not the Paleolithic. Cordain et al simply argue that it’s best to avoid grains, legumes, and dairy because there was little “evolutionary experience” in consuming them as staples throughout human evolution during the Paleolithic. Can we consume them occasionally like our ancestors did? I don’t see why not. In this, I don’t many of us differ.

    Why should we avoid legumes most of the time? The two antinutrients you mentioned in your article seems to me the least of the problems with legumes. They also have saponins, polyphenols: tannins and isoflavones, protease inhibitors, raffinose oligosaccharides, cyanogenetic glycosides, and favism glycosides.They have three times less protein than animal foods, and the little protein they do have are poorly digested. They’re high in starch, contain low levels of essential amino acids, cysteine and methionine and they are a poor source of iron compared with animal foods. We’re left with only fiber. Is it worth to consume legumes for that? Sure, as you pointed out, other “Paleo” foods, like nuts, have some of those anitnutrients too. But how much in comparison? And which is more worth it to consume, nuts or legumes? Should you have them on occasion because they’re delicious in many Latin and Asian dishes? Sure! Given, as you say, they are prepared properly by soaking, fermenting, etc. before consumption. But who has time and energy for that? It’s difficult enough to cook Paleo breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily let alone soak legumes for 18 hours then find a good recipe to cook them with. Again, in the end, there’s really little fundamental disagreement on these matters among Paleo adherents, just misunderstandings.

  8. Well it’s happening all right. Been predicting for a while now that the more thoughtful Paleo “leaders” would eventually begin to bring sufficient nuance to the whole Paleo thing that it would just dissolve entirely as a construct, which is of course after all, what it has always been. In a decade or so Paleo will have found its place as a culturally specific and indeed useful critique on the prevailing “SAD” culture, much as say Macrobiotics did a generation back.

    It’s interesting to watch you Chris morph from a man who initially built a fanbase on a diet of “straight” Paleo dogma to one who is now gradually trying to bring that very fanbase along with you as your ongoing researches are beginning to reveal to you that “Emperor Paleo” hasn’t been wearing as much as a wee loin cloth from the beginning … My next prediction: you will soon begin to move towards entirely personalised dietary recommendations as the wise ones have always done (Ayurveda, TCM etc.)

    Finally, as I’d noted on one of your things before Chris, I’m surprised you didn’t refer at all to the huge body of evidence around deliberate supplementation of IP6 a.k.a. phytic acid for successfully treating a variety of ailments for decades now, notably many forms of cancer. I highly recommend Prof. Shamsuddin’s book on IP6 to you and your readers. It runs very much counter to Paleo dogma of course but one possible if understated implication of the Prof’s 4 decades of work seeming to be (simplifying of course) that the incidence of cancer generally looks to be significantly correlated with the general under-consumption of whole grains and legumes that has characterised diets in “developed” countries in the past 50+ years

  9. Great post Chris, one of the things that occurs to me is many of the longest lived groups of people eat quantities of beans or grains. One thing they have in common is traditional preparation methods and often fremented foods i.e. tofu eaters have fremented soy or miso. The microbiome for these people will be specifically adapted to these foods. I also note that they often have a pretty basic diet not frequently and radically varing it.

  10. Hi Chris, as a nutritionist and Crossfitter I am constantly reading and researching on diet and nutrition, in particular the Paleo diet. I love reading your articles, and especially how you give a really well balanced, unbiased point of view based on multiple sources of research. I also admire how you are comfortable admitting there have been times when you have had “blinders” in in regards to certain health topics. It’s very refreshing to know that the information you are providing is for people to make up their own minds about things and that they can do that from an educated source that isn’t trying to shove an agenda or their opinion down their throats. I know as a practitioner I don’t always get it right and there have been many bandwagons I have jumped on in defence of an opinion only to discover I didn’t know the full story. The internet can be a confusing place to navigate for health information, not only for the general public but also for people like me involved in the health industry. I too think that Paleo can be a tricky path to navigate with so many versions and opinions on what is the “right” way to do it. As an advocate of whole foods and food as medicine I also agree that no one “diet” will ever suit everyone and that using Paleo as a template to design a diet that suits the individual is an insightful and important piece of advice. Thank you for providing such a great article to read and learn from. Looking forward to reading more!

  11. This is a great article. If your goal is optimal health than you will follow in the foot steps of you ancestors within general reason. If beans are your thing, then once a week won’t kill you. However, don’t make the exception the rule. I don’t buy that eating full fat dairy, bowl full of honey sweetened ice cream, a couple of dark chocolate bars, and some beans to top it off is healthy… All things in moderation can be healthy. Make the exception the rule and you will join the ranks of millions of Americans who are…. well… fat and frankly not healthy. Most people will look for any excuse they can and say “This is Paleo”. Frankly very little of it is. Paleolithic people ate diets far different from our modern Paleo diet. If your ancestors lived in the far northern hemisphere (most Americans have northern hemispheric heritage) than you ought to be eating fish and red meat most of the winter. Very very little vegetation was consumed during the winter months. In fact they were practically “Atkins” for six months out of the year. This is not really up for dispute though you can argue all you like and join the ranks of “the exception is the rule”. I myself eat very few carbs in the winter with an increase in fruit intake during the summer months. In fact berries will significantly contribute to my calories during the summer with protein and fat in the winter (North American Indian Diet). Maybe I should start a new fad!!

    • I’ll join your “fad”! 🙂

      I am a woman of Northern European background, and I don’t do well with legumes, starch of any kind (it just doesn’t resist enough) and definitely no gluten… though my only symptom was arthritis in my thumbs. No digestive issues.

      But I get along with fruit and greens, and that’s turning out to be the vegetation part of my eating these days. And good dairy… I was once misdiagnosed as lactose intolerant but I eat high fat yogurt and cheese most days so I know what it’s like to not eat it.

      Remember, just because something works for you NOW doesn’t mean it’s fine. Add some stress, health issues, or even age… and things could be different.

  12. Legumes are a great source of resistant starch – a prebiotic- necessary to feed gut flora. Also butyrate & more!

    God wouldn’t have produced such a myriad of legumes in all colours and shapes for us not to eat them.

  13. Thank you for this post Chris. I find the Paleo world confusing to navigate with all the “eat this. don’t eat that. wait, never mind, eat this.” I always find your articles extremely helpful, thoroughly researched, honest, and objective. As a fellow acupuncturist, I rely on this kind of information to relay to my patients, and I really appreciate your contribution not only to our field but to the healthcare industry in general.

    I especially appreciate your brief discussion about dogma. I recently came across a commencement speech of Charlie Munger’s (Warren Buffet’s billionaire business partner) where he said something that really resonated with me. And if only the world would heed his advice…

    He said (sorry this quote is kinda long, but it’s too good not to post in it’s entirety!), “Another thing I think should be avoided is extremely intense ideology because it cabbages up one’s mind. You see it a lot with T.V. preachers (many have minds made of cabbage) but it can also happen with political ideology. When you’re young it’s easy to drift into loyalties and when you announce that you’re a loyal member and you start shouting the orthodox ideology out, what you’re doing is pounding it in, pounding it in, and you’re gradually ruining your mind. So you want to be very, very careful of this ideology. It’s a big danger.

    In my mind, I have a little example I use whenever I think about ideology. The example is these Scandinavia canoeists who succeeded in taming all the rapids of Scandinavia and they thought they would tackle the whirlpools of the Aron Rapids here in the United States.

    The death rate was 100%.

    A big whirlpool is not something you want to go into, and I think the same is true about a really deep ideology.

    I have what I call an iron prescription that helps me keep sane when I naturally drift toward preferring one ideology over another and that is: I say that I’m not entitled to have an opinion on this subject unless I can state the arguments against my position better than the people who support it. I think only when I’ve reached that state am I qualified to speak. This business of not drifting into extreme ideology is a very, very important thing in life.”

    (I got above excerpt from Tai Lopez’s website.)

    A great reminder to keep your mind flexible and open to new possibilities. Things are always shifting and changing!

    Thanks again.

  14. I like your customized approach to Paleo… it is very true that there is no “one-size-fits-all” paleo diet. I tried doing the standard low-carb paleo and ended up with adrenal fatigue as a result. Something that I am still battling. I NEED some carbs in my diet or I get sick as a result.

    The other thing I don’t like about Nell Stephenson and Dr. Loren Cordain’s approach is that they say that salt is not paleo – that may be fine if you live near the coast and are eating food grown in a salty atmosphere, but a lot of soils are sodium deficient, so food grown in them will be sodium deficient. And we need a certain amount of sodium in our diets. Even animals will seek out salt-licks (I have caught my cat and dog licking my Himalayan salt lamp several times!), and there was some research (that I don’t have to hand – but it was referenced in Richard Dawkins “Greatest Show on Earth”) that showed wild chimpanzees dipping their food in seawater… presumably to get extra salt – are they seriously trying to tell us that our paleolithic ancestors did not do the same? Seek out salt and/or seawater to season and supplement foods with not only sodium, but also all the trace elements that natural, unrefined salt contains…. In addition, I am sure there is a reason why that since prehistoric times salt has been seen as such a valuable trading commodity… I see no reason not to season food with high quality, unrefined sea salt (or pink Himalayan salt) if you are not eating a high-sodium SAD.

    For myself, I don’t do legumes/dairy/nightshades as I have a bad reaction to them (am anaphalactically allergic to casein and have a bad reaction to legumes and nightshades, and I am also non-celiac gluten intolerant). But I am not averse to a few traditionally non-paleo ingredients (I do dark chocolate for example, and have been known to use organic sugar on occasion).

  15. Kudos, Chris, for a logical, balanced post (and overall approach). If this had been the thinking from the beginning of the “Paleo” movement, it would not be getting all the undeserved criticism from diet gurus, nor would many of us have to spend endless hours convincing friends that we are not eating large slabs of raw meat and little else. More balance would have encouraged more people to be open to a lifestyle approach that could maximize their health, rather than resisting what they perceive as a “weird” fad.

  16. Chris – I really appreciate your approach of using Paleo as a template rather than a set of hard and fast rules. We all have to experiment and discover what works best for our bodies and lifestyles. While I consider myself “Paleo” — the way I do Paleo would make a lot of the Paleo police get all freaked out. I’ve relaxed on legumes and potatoes in the past year or so, and I’m fine. I don’t eat them every day (or even every week), but when I want a bowl of homemade chili with beans — I whip some up!