People always ask me if peanuts are suitable to the Paleo diet and if it is okay to consume them. Of course it is always up to the individual to try these foods and see how they feel afterwards.
The point of going Paleo is to heal your gut on the inside which translates into looking good on the outside. If you are looking for maximum results from your gluten/grain free, real food diet, peanuts should not play a starring role in your nutritional program for the following reasons:
Why Peanuts Are Not Paleo?
Lectins: are proteins found in peanuts which help protect the seed germinate. Traditional cultures took great care to eliminate anti-nutrients like lectins by soaking and sprouting them. Ancient people seemed to have understood that nuts, seeds and beans have toxins that can cause digestive problems in humans.
Phytic Acid: is a storage form of phosphorus in plants that is only digestible by ruminants like cows and sheep, because humans do not have the digestive enzyme phytase to break them down. Phytates inhibit mineral absorption creating food cravings and setting the stage for cavities and osteoporosis. Some Paleo experts believe that anemia is caused when phytic acid from legumes (like peanuts) and grains block iron from being assimilated in the gut.
New Food: The origins of peanuts come from 7,600 years ago in South America and many Paleo experts believe that our systems have not adapted to eating many of the newer agricultural plants.
Aflatoxins: are powerful molds (think LSD) that grow on peanuts while in the ground and during storage that can create carcinogens. Aflatoxin is supposed to be regulated by the government but many contaminated peanut factories have levels that are much higher than FDA standards allow.
Sugar: Most commercial peanut butters are full of sugar, often in the form of genetically modified high fructose corn syrup. Many times sugar has other names such as dextrose, corn sugar and maltodextrin. A well formulated Paleo diet excludes man made sugars.
Rancid Oils: Most commercial brands of peanut butter are full of cheap, highly processed canola and soybean oil which causes a severe inflammatory state in the body contributing to weight gain and gut problems. Peanut oil has been used to induce heart disease in laboratory animals.
Solvents: Peanut oil is expeller pressed at damaging high heats with dangerous chemical solvents such as hexane, creating a health damaging product. Another issue is that peanut oil is extracted from peanuts that are rejected for peanut butter.
Salmonella: Large scale processed food operations can create unsafe environments for food preparation. In 2009, nine people died and thousands fell ill in 46 states after eating salmonella tainted peanut butter. Later, some of the peanut factories were found to have leaking roofs, rodents infestations, and bird poop contamination. The whole point of Paleo is to get to know where your food comes from and attempting to eat mostly fresh food. If something is shelf stable for eternity it is probably not Paleo.
Liquid Food: We all love peanut butter because it is cheap and easy to eat on the go. Chewing is an integral to breaking down food and getting satiation signals from the brain. When we eat food that is nearly liquid it bypasses our natural fullness cues causing many to overeat.
Gluten: Many times peanuts and peanut butter are contaminated with gluten in factories that process multiple products such as cereal or crackers.
Arthritis: Many people report that peanuts flare aches and pains associated with autoimmune arthritis conditions. These conditions are exacerbated by hard to digest foods like peanuts adding to intestinal inflammation and leaky gut. This could be due to the toxic molds, lectins or phytates mentioned above.
Pesticides: Peanuts are heavily sprayed with pesticides in order to control pests and prevent toxic fungus from penetrating the shells. Many times peanuts are rotated with cotton crops which are sprayed with pesticides that are not approved on food. Peanuts are very allergenic and many people are most likely reacting to these powerful pesticides (and/or the molds mentioned above).
Omega-6 Fats: Most people following a SAD (standard American) diet have a very imbalanced ratio of Omega 6-Omega 3 fats which creates an inflammatory state in the body. Most people have a 20/1 balance of these fats when it is estimated that our ancestors had a 4/1 ratio of omega 6 to omega-3. When the body has way too much omega-6, autoimmune problems and heart disease are right around the corner. Peanuts are over 22% omega-6 fats compared to my favorite grass fed butter is only 3.4% omega-6 fats.
What to eat instead?
I find that my clients feel better when they choose some tasty Almond Butter (Raw) or coconut butter as a substitute. It is always best to soak and sprout seeds or eat them in moderation. This is a good post on how to soak nuts and seeds, from Mommypotamus.
I love peanut butter too but I came into Paleo to heal and find a long term solution to my health issues so I don’t include peanuts in my diet. Ask your self what is more important? Feeling and looking your best or a few spoonfuls of comforting peanut butter?
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