Thank you for continuing to post your comments and questions. Here's today's edition of Paleo Diet Q & A.
Q: Dear Dr. Cordain,
I am a PhD student, and I am starting to study how our instinct should lead us to enjoy the foods best suited for us, as it seems it does for any known animal.
Some of the first things I have found are your works. The point I am trying to get at is that we should have in us this instinct. So just one question. Do you know about, or have you read works of any authors that have made research on this point?
Best regards and many thanks.
A: Hi Alfis,
Off the top of my head, I can't remember any specific papers on the topic. However, there are thousands of papers on taste & humans have a proclivity towards sweet, salty and fatty. Under stone age conditions in which these tastes were associated with foods that limited and difficult to procure these tastes led us to foods that conferred survival value. In the modern world in which we have completely dissociated energy expenditure from energy intake we can eat anything that our taste guides us to in virtually unlimited quantity. Hence our hard wired tastes which once conferred survival value in a Stone Age environment now represent a liability in our western world of food abundance.
Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor
Q: I understand the Paleo Diet to be primarily a removal from the diet of all grains, dairy products, and man-processed sugars. But what about potatoes, corn, and legumes (all of which cannot be digested raw and are high in starch), and natural sugars like maple syrup and honey? Do they fit into the Paleo Diet?
I bought and read the book years ago, but cannot remember the exact teachings on these particular foods, and cannot find clear teachings about them on the website. Perhaps I am looking in the wrong place?
A: Potatoes are not part of The Paleo Diet because they contain some harmful substances, namely saponins (solanine and chaconine) which can't be degraded by digestion or cooking. They can contribute to an increase in intestinal permeability which is associated to many chronic diseases.
Regarding legumes, they are also sources of saponins as well as lectins. Lectins are also toxic substances for the intestinal barrier, and they can adversely stimulate the immune system.
Corn is a cereal grain which is also a source of lectins (see Dr. Cordain paper entitled "Cereal grains: Humanity's double edged sword" in our published research section).
Sugars were part of our Hunter-gatherers ancestors' diet but not year round. So, use them in moderation.