Tag Archives: Paleo Diet

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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Cave condiments


Paleo dieting can be dreary if you don’t take care to season your food with some extra flavour. Hunter-gatherers don’t, or so I gather, but they don’t grow up with Heinz the way we did.

So while I’m sticking pretty closely to the Stone Age in my eating habits this month, I couldn’t resist Kozlik’s horseradish for this bison steak and an eensy smear of Jamie Oliver’s Walnut and Red Pepper Pesto for my tuna and avocado salad. After all, I’m a big lover of toppings and sauces; someone once called my fridge “the condiment castle.” Old habits, et cetera.

The problem: Ordinary, store-bought condiments are typically laden with paleo no-nos: dairy, added sugar and salt, unpronounceable ingredients. I knew this when I gave myself permission to eat an occasional glob of condiments to make paleo food more interesting.

However, there are options and resources out there for paleo types who want even their fixings to fit the program.

• Nell “Paleoista” Stephenson offers some simple, commonsense workarounds to jazz up one’s meals without breaking the law of the cave-land (some I’ve also done, like substituting citrus juice for vinegar)

• Paleo Diet Lifestyle has links to several recipes, including paleo versions of ketchup, relish and horseradish

• And for inspiration, check out this Pinterest board festooned with fixings of the primal persuasion. It all looks pretty tasty.

That settles it. I’m going to make some paleo condiments for myself. Stone Age sriracha, here I come.

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When can a caveman have a drink?


At the beginning of January, my marginally successful first month of primal living, I weighed 190 lbs. on the gym scale. By the end it showed 187. I was not pleased with the results.

Last time I did the paleo thing for a month, I dropped 11 pounds. So what gives? The difference this time was that I allowed myself to drink booze on many occasions this time around. As a guy who writes about drinks for a living, the biggest challenge of the first month of cavemanning was trying not to drink. And failing, several times.

There were other slip-ups, to be certain: I went to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico for a week — which should be a post unto itself — and fell off the wagon and ate a couple of hamburgers. I munched on things that included processed ingredients. I didn’t exercise as much as I should have.

In the end, however, I’m convinced my first month of paleo living was a disappointment primarily because alcohol is so woven into my professional and social life, and it trails all its many calories behind it. I go to tastings of new products, hang out in bars, visit people’s houses; there’s always booze. In my own house, there are hundreds of bottles — my roommate gleefully bounced around the place taking photos of the glorious hoard to post on Facebook when we moved in last fall. When people come over, it seems stingy not to dip into the stash. I even have free booze couriered to me at least once a week, thanks to my job.

I don’t have a drinking problem in terms of addiction, but I typically drink more than is healthy due to all of the above — perhaps 15-20 drinks a week? — and it has left me with a beer belly. Call me vain, but sunbathing in Mexico made me yearn to look better in a bathing suit.

So for the month of February, I’ve stepped up the caveman challenge, by harshening the rules thusly:

No booze, unless absolutely necessary in order to do my job

• Strict adherence to my own caveman rules with no exceptions. (Well, OK, I will have an occasional dollop of a condiment to make it all more palatable; you can’t deny a guy his horseradish)

• Physical activity at least once every other day

Will I start drinking again in March? Probably, but I’ll have to concoct some sort of permanent rule to keep the volume down. In the meantime, I’m actually looking forward to experiencing only my second (virtually) alcohol-free month since around the age of 16.

On the fitness side, my plan for this month was to enrol in a CrossFit intro program but I’ve totally bailed due to cost. (Next month, I guess? Why are CrossFit gyms so expensive?) Meanwhile I signed up at a local, ordinary gym and have been going rock climbing with friends and I suppose I ought to start running, since I stupidly agreed to do an 8K run in April.

I’ll let you know how it all goes.

Guh. And my cave-challenges will only get harder from here.

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Friends: Helpful for that extra push off the cliff


During this first month of cavemanning, I imagined myself dividing much of my spare time between the regular gym and the CrossFit gym, hardening my slovenly jelly-flesh into something more respectably hunter-gatherer-like.

For various reasons, this hasn’t happened. Most importantly, I jammed my right big toe in a random stair-climbing pratfall, which gave me, as always, an excuse to avoid my least-favourite place: the stupid gym. Continue reading

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The 10 Paleo foods I rely on most

cave meal_SM

Korean pork belly and roasted pike, kimchi, and a daikon, carrot and cilantro salad with dressing of coconut oil, lime juice and honey

When I first tried the paleo diet for a month in 2010, I soon found that I became dependent on certain go-to foods — things I would eat over and over again, for the most part because they were foods that conformed to the diet, were tasty enough to feel like a treat, and (perhaps most important for a busy caveman) were simple to prepare.

A week after resolving to eat paleo this time around, I’m back to gorging on the old favourites. I’m curious what other paleo and primal folks would put in the same category.

Here are my Top 10 go-to paleo foods, in no particular order:


Smoked, baked or barbecued. Wild Pacific salmon, ideally from Alaska, for sustainability reasons Continue reading

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More about this pesky meat business

So wait — are we supposed to eat piles of meat or not?

That’s the question I’m asking myself four weeks into eating a modified version of the paleo diet. Because here we’ve been reading for years that the diet-heart hypothesis was essentially bullshit (take this 2007 article from Men’s Health, for example). Many a paleo eating journey was launched (or at least partially pushed aloft) by that line of research.

Meats ahoy! Right everybody?

But then, well … shit. Along came a recent study by researchers at the Harvard Medical School has been getting a lot of attention for stating that: “a higher intake of red meat was associated with a significantly elevated risk of total, cardiovascular disease, and cancer mortality.” Continue reading

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Modern foods the experts won’t touch

LINK: 7 Foods Even Food Safety Experts Won’t Eat.

Now here’s some “I told you so” fodder, paleo pals.

All seven foods sound scary enough. But I have some caveats: Each food is blackballed on what appears to be the advice of a single expert. Some of them appear to have an occupational interest in sticking up for organic and natural foods. And I’m generally wary of faddish food hysteria.

But still, it’s worth a read and some consideration. This article got me eating organic apples, for one thing.

Some of these foods are all off-limits to me while on the paleo kick anyway. And concerning the corn-fed beef, well, I’m still eating supermarket beef for reasons of cost and convenience. It would be nice to be able to switch entirely to grass-fed, and soon.

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The real caveman diet: What did people eat in prehistoric times? – Slate Magazine

Slate (my favourite online magazine — and what a nice, caveman-friendly name) has a piece that partially answers a question I get asked all the time: Does the Paleo Diet really reflect the paleo diet? Are Paleo Dieters eating what cave people ate?

Specifically, this post deals with the ancient nature of many of the fruits we eat, and the not-so-ancient nature of the vegetables. Interesting …

LINK: The real caveman diet: What did people eat in prehistoric times? -Slate Magazine.

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