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Kimchi: Is it paleo?


I wish every day could be Kimchi Festival  …

Stinky fermented vegetables? Yum yum gimme some. Kimchi is a divisive food. Not only is it a cornerstone of Korean cuisine (and inescapable in Korean food), it’s dearly beloved by many — including me — who would have a tough time explaining what they find so appealing about pickled and fermented cabbage.

But it’s just so great.

However, before we eat it, let’s ask: Is kimchi paleo?

My concern isn’t about the nutritional profile of the finished product. I don’t obsess about gut flora or antinutrients or any of that stuff that so bothers a lot of paleo types. I just want to eat foods that we consumed before the invention of agriculture because I reckon it’s a good bet we’re well-adapted to them. When I decide whether I can eat something, what I want to know is whether it’s made from foods that are part of the pre-agricultural human diet.

On the con side of the argument, kimchi is typically made with vinegar and salt as ingredients, neither of which do I consider caveman cuisine.

However, most paleo peeps seem OK with kimchi. Primal guru Mark Sisson is clearly on Team Kimchi, offering this recipe, which includes a great deal of salt — and optional fermented shrimp (mmm?).

The fact that kimchi is fermented is a non issue, according to Jennifer Higgins of Paleo Food List. She argues (without sources, but sensibly) that:

Eating scavenged food including fallen fruits, nuts, and carcasses absolutely guarantees a steady supply of fermented foods covered in wild yeasts.”

Another way of looking at her reasoning is that a hunter-gatherer would have a tough time not eating fermented food. Good point.

Also counting in kimchi’s favour: We know for a fact that hunter-gatherers eat fermented meat and fish — the Inuit being particularly fond.

Meanwhile, Higgins gives us food for thought on the salt issue has as well. She points out that salt can be good, solid hunter-gatherer fare. To wit (and please forgive the long quote):

Other “Paleo experts” are certain that salt should be excluded on a Paleo diet.  However, they forget that if Paleo Person was near the sea they engaged in practises like cooking in sea water and eating sea weed, thus providing concentrated sources of salty minerals.  If Paleo Person was not a coastal dweller they most certainly drank the blood of the animals that they killed, another concentrated source of salty minerals.  Eating bones and sprinkling salt-rich clay minerals are other hunter-gatherer practises that address a physiologic need for salt.  Wild foraged greens are a vastly more concentrated sources of salty minerals than supermarket lettuce. 

And notwithstanding all that, I should note that many of the kimchi brands available to me in Toronto are actually quite reasonable vis à vis sodium content.

 In the end, my verdict is that kimchi is a suitable food for occasional paleo consumption. I don’t know that the added salt and the forward planning required represent true hunter-gatherer eating practices, but I also very much doubt that a little kimchi here or there will throw one off the paleo path.

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New cave mission: Dark after dusk


I haven’t been as active on this blog lately, but rest assured I have been cavemanning. And I feel great for it.

Well, I haven’t felt equally great at all times. I had a spot of difficulty earlier when I was sick with something that seemed likely to be the nasty norovirus that has hit Canada and the U.K. this winter. You do not want me to describe it. How does a caveman cope with illness? With plenty of juice, plus plenty of the only soup I could find without weird ingredients and a ton of added salt. I forget the brand name but I’ll post it later. It was the tomato and leek.


Oh, and lots of tea and television.

Which brings me to the reason for this post: To announce my mission for March. All this month, I’ll be dimming the artificial light as of dusk. Continue reading

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Fat caveman


Thinking back on my year, I painted this on the inside of my cave.

At the conclusion of 2012, I found myself somewhere we’ve all been at one time or another: one of life’s dead ends, where the only chance of safe escape is to turn around and head in the opposite direction.

To shorten a long story, the year had been one of transition after a separation and career shift in 2011; my reaction to unsettling upheaval was to cocoon, slowly fattening myself in a one-bedroom uptown apartment on a diet of booze, man-sized sandwiches and premium cable TV. There was also some smoking and beef jerky. Continue reading

Red meat bad?


According to the BBC:

A diet high in red meat can shorten life expectancy, according to researchers at Harvard Medical School. The study of more than 120,000 people suggested red meat increased the risk of death from cancer and heart problems. …The British Heart Foundation said red meat could still be eaten as part of a balanced diet. The researchers analysed data from 37,698 men between 1986 and 2008 and 83,644 women between 1980 and 2008.

Surely bad news for cave-folk, if the research holds up under scrutiny.

Photo: Oven cooked pork side ribs with a dry rub, with side of sauteed yu choi.