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The ButterQueen Effect



The world is flat and the sun revolves around the Earth. Paula Deen has type 2 diabetes caused by her beloved fatty food. Anything else is simply heresy.

And yet, here we are…bombarded with media scrutiny at Paula Deen’s expense to make a good headline…under assumptions that are as unfounded as the other two examples were at one time.

You see…it’s the misinformed, guided-by-conventional-wisdom (aka federal policies funded by agribusiness – just a theory) information we’re being fed that’s making us sick…not Paula Deen’s food.

I’m not going to touch on the ethics of endorsing a diabetes medication here…it’s not up to me to decide how she sleeps at night and what threadcount an endorsement of Victoza buys you. Besides, for these journalists to find irony in the situation they have to make 2 bold assumptions.

1. People like Paula and establishments like McDonald’s force people to stuff food down their pie holes. (Apt nickname for mouth in this context.)

And that simply is not the case. In America today…anyone with access to the internet can educate themselves on diet in many ways. You can learn about conventional wisdom approaches…and if you look really hard you can even get beyond that into other ideas about “diabesity” (diabetes and obesity). You can learn about what type 2 diabetes is. You can discover that it has to do with how your body reacts to the insulin your pancreas secretes to lower blood sugar (glucose)…that your cells become “resistant” to the signal insulin is trying to give it or stops producing enough insulin – both leaving you with toxic high blood sugar. And while it’s complicated…and could possibly have something to do with fat intake (as the articles about Deen would lead you to believe is definitive), you might start to reconsider lumping ALL fats into one lot as culprits…and/or looking away from them as a cause of this in the first place…you might start looking at sugars and carbohydrates.

You say – “some don’t have access to the internet”. Nice try, there’s this thing called the library too…and besides…if they’re not on the web…they’re probably not following Paula Deen’s show and “tweets” anyway.

2. What they “think” causes T2 diabetes actually does.

Most of the articles you come across are going to blame fat mostly. The reasoning is that being overweight causes T2 diabetes and fat intake causes you to be fat…therefore, fat intake causes T2 diabetes. Nevermind how illogical it is to immediately assume that lowering fat intake would be the first way to non-medically control your blood SUGAR (as Deen’s sons are out doing with their new low fat show)…what if fat isn’t the main cause in the first place (if at all)? What if being overweight is simply another SYMPTOM that exists in tandem with the conditions leading to T2 diabetes. Could something else be to blame? And are we being hurt worse by the naive implications these editorials sell us?

I believe we are.

As for Bourdain…it’s really the pot calling the kettle black here but he’s famous for being a jerk and getting big reactions…so there’s really no surprise there. He has every right to say whatever he wants and dammit…it is entertaining. But my point is this…the joke’s on him if he thinks pointing a finger at Paula Deen under the presumptions he makes doesn’t do more harm to Americans than Paula Deen ever has. He and all the other journalists writing pieces to demonize Paula Deen are setting a hypocritical trap for Americans to continue to fall into if they (the journalists) are in fact incorrect about what it is she does that is said to be “unhealthy”.

Sure, it’s on the individual to not fall prey to this nonsense as discussed before…but who’s going to hold these supposedly righteous reporters accountable for their part?

Nobody, unless we question the very premise they found their criticisms on. I realize I raised many questions here that I did not answer…and that was my intent. I’d like to use this media instance to reach those who might be nodding their heads in agreement as they read the conventional take on Paula Deen’s plight. If you’re not on board with me…or if you are but know someone who isn’t…let’s see if we can get them thinking about this critically…and use this to at least explore other theories. What could it hurt to expand your horizons? After all, we’re here in America only because we didn’t fall right off the edge of the world on the way over.

Things to ponder:

What is type 2 diabetes? What does insulin do?

How does the body store excess carbohydrates from starches and sugars, and what role does insulin play?

Could carbohydrates and sugar play an even more immediate role in the accumulation of body fat than dietary fat?

Does being overweight CAUSE anything or does it exist in tandem with other symptoms?

What, then, could cause our cells to stop responding to or stop production of insulin?

What is inflammation and what foods are inflammatory?

Should grains, sugars, and industrial oils (omega 6 polyunsaturated fats) be scrutinized before saturated fats?

What were the rates of diabetes in the early 1900s and what was the typical daily fare?

What are the rates of diabetes today and what is the typical daily fare?

Has saturated fat intake increased or decreased in the last century…and what have the rates of diabetes done in the same amount of time?

I apologize for “leading the witness” here but I won’t tell you what to conclude, at least – for fear that I’m no better than those I’m in discord with now.  Objection – overruled. Clearly though, I’ve made my camp on one side and it’s a risk I’ll just have to take. It’s possible that the prevailing theories are true…but what if they’re not? What if the paradigm they’re promoting is the real poison we’re being fed?

And, lastly, I want to introduce you to some of the “Aristotle’s” if the cause. Heretics you might learn from if you are so inclined.

Tom Naughton.  Fat Head movie – for free. “You’ve been fed a load of bologna.”

Chris Kresser. A full series on “diabesity”.

Mark Sisson. Millions of followers per month. Educating themselves and living healthy, lean, productive lives. On diabetes 1 and 2.

Gary Taubes. His website, NY Times articles 1 and 2, and books.

Should be a good start. Maybe Paula Deen will in effect…save your life. Pass it on.


2011 Holiday Gift Guide (And Giveaway)

All gifts are under fifty dollars.


1. Lettered Wine Carafe, $48 2. ‘Just Give Me All the Bacon and Eggs You Have’ Print (Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation), $16 3. Zippy Coasters, $20 for a set of four 4. Tea and Crumpets Apron, adult $32 and Matching Child’s Apron, $24 5. Sunshine Tea Towel, $9 6. Wallpaper Butter Dish, $24 7. Butcher Diagram (Buy 3, get 1 free), $8.50/each


1. Beaker Glass Pitcher, $5 2. Pre-seasoned Cast Iron Combo Cooker, $35 3. Magic Twisty Whisk, $8 4. OCD Cutting Board, $25 5. Salt Pig, $28 6. Triple Spout Measuring Cup, $7.50 7. Weber Portable Charcoal Grill, $32 8. KitchenAid Immersion Blender, $42, Chopper attachment, $29


1. Salt Taster, $14 2McClure’s Spicy Bloody Mary Mix, $12 3. Foie Gras French Kisses, $10 4. Wild Sage Honey, $38 5. Gluten-Free, Exotic Mix-n-Match Chocolates, $37.50 for six 6. Steve’s Original Sampler Kit, $33


1. Doodles at Breakfast, $9 2. Salmon Cuff Links, $22 3. Jaws of Cooking Oven Mitt, $18 4. Chill Pill Silicone Ice Tray, $9 5. Ah Choo Pepper Mill, $22 6. Oliver Biscotti Appetizer Plate, $3/each 7. Ice Speed Chess Set, $13

Essential to Life

1 & 2. Health-Bent t-shirt, $20


Want a Health-Bent shirt? We’re giving away two. Leave us a comment telling us why you need one. We’ll choose 2 based on: 1.) the funniest and 2.) picked at random, on Monday, November 28 at 12 p.m. EST. You can only comment once. We’ll contact the winner via email. You’ll have 24 hours to respond with your shipping address, which color you’d like and your size, or we’ll be moving on to the next person.


How You See It

The very same day we posted Scarlet Letter last week…a reproval of treats was posted elsewhere. It was presented in an analogy that goes like this (my interpretation).

“Paleo” treat : the “real” thing


having sex with your pants on : having sex with your pants off

I actually agree with this statement…but for none of the reasons its original authors intended.

When taken out of context it probably makes some really healthy people question themselves (unhealthily)…but even in the context of it only being a temporary challenge I think it still promotes ambiguous shame. This was the kind of prescription I was afraid of when writing that post.

I’ll add that they say they are not promoting that we become nutritional members of “the cloth” forever…as they write this in the context of a 30 day challenge. And while in that sense I see where it could have potential, I see its shortcomings as well.

I’m going to post a few thoughts on the subject just to illustrate that there are usually two sides to every story. Many things like this are personal…what works for one may not work for another. So let me be clear – if a strict abstinence period works for you, that’s fine…I know there are those who would respond best to it. However, if it doesn’t…let me show you how this exact same analogy can promote an entirely different method. As with anything…all we can do is determine which one we want to buy.

1. Not the best I’ve ever had?

On the surface this argument seems reasonable. Their first point is that the stand-in treat won’t be good enough to curb your “desires”. I guess it’s true in most cases removing wheat and high amounts of sugar won’t yield you the exact same eater experience. But first off…is it safe to imply that it won’t be really good (good enough to satisfy you)? I don’t think it is…I know many first hand who do enjoy likenesses to SAD treat’s who no longer have any desire for the much-worse-for-you version.

ThePaleo pizza example is used…even if it isn’t as good as a brick fired pie in Naples…couldn’t it still be a hell of a lot better than a lot of other boring and uninspired meals?  Is variety no longer the spice of life? Even if it’s not “as good” as the original why shouldn’t the ingredients you do want to eat be made as great as possible? Even if they resemble a delicious innovation that just happened to have been made with ingredients we no longer wish to eat.

Sometimes not having sex is the wise and prudent choice (that part was left out of the original argument)…but why would having sex with your pants on (so to speak) really be harmful? Sure it isn’t the same…but the danger according to the other post is that this will make you want “real sex” more.

I’m having a difficult time seeing how zero sex and “interaction” for an extended period of time would make you want sex less than having some form of safe interaction over that same period of time.

2. Crack-head?

The last point brings up the question…is everything we do and enjoy an addiction? Can an abstinence period make us no longer want the thing in question? With some things (like sex)…it’s hard to think that a normal “need” is something that could or should be cured. It’s even harder to believe that 30 days (or even years – think: POWs) would take away our desire for some things that are innately human (sex/ tasty food). It could probably lessen them or change the way we perceive them but I can’t see how they would go away entirely.

Somewhere the line has to be drawn…we can’t think of everything in life as an addiction similar to crack. Am I a workout-head, a reading-head, DIY-at-the-house-head, a sugar-head? These are all things I enjoy and/or do frequently. I’m not that happy when I don’t do them but is it really the same? And in the case of sugar…you have to eat…even if you lived entirely off the land you would likely eat some form of sugar (seasonally)…I realize that it has an effect on your brain (wouldn’t all food) but is it really the same dependence as someone on powerful psychoactive drugs? Again, I just think we have to draw the line somewhere or we could compare everything that brings us joy to the type of habits that we would kill or steal for.

I don’t feel that our need for exciting food is something that could or should be cured either…simply managed.

3. Quarterback sneak.

I know that folks like to set a goal and go after it. That’s why I see some value in 30 day challenges. But in other ways I believe they can be detrimental. That if you’re living the challenge in a different way than your comfortable/mindful/compromising daily life would be after said challenge…how are you learning/creating the lifestyle that’s going to work for you along the way? Isn’t it possible that instead you learn that restriction is no fun and you just go back to the way you were before? Isn’t it valid to think that if you we’re feeling it out for that month and finding a way to make it all work for you the individual that might lead to a more smooth transition into a different lifestyle?

Why would you practice in a way that’s different than you intend to play (to insert another analogy)?  It’s football season so go with this…would you run plays all week that you don’t intend to use this weekend at the game? Shouldn’t you be developing and practicing the plays you’re going to use to go for long term success?

And to use the sex analogy again…does having no sex or sex-like-activities teach you how to have safe sex later on?

4. Let’s talk about sex.

Seriously…what it is FUNDAMENTALLY. A way to procreate. Something that serves only one true purpose that we exploit for enjoyment.

To use the analogy that is acknowledging the idea that sex is more than this…that it’s fun…flies directly in the face of any point you would then try to make to say that we shouldn’t treat food the same way (albeit responsibly).

Food has only one real purpose, to fuel our bodies…and we as humans go beyond that to make it enjoyable on other levels.

So if the underlying premise that makes the analogy work is that humans make enjoyment from things that are otherwise strictly utilitarian…it’s flawed to then argue that we should try to reduce food to fuel only for any period of time. Because we’ve already admitted that they are much more than that.

Sex : procreation :: food : fuel
Sex: enjoyment :: food : enjoyment

Sex: responsibility :: food : responsibility

There are 2 sides to every story. It’s all in how you see it.


Scarlet Letter


We hear this a good bit in reference to diet. “I was doing well but I’ve been cheating a lot lately.” I get it…we all feel a twinge of remorse when we make a choice that we know isn’t the greatest…it’s only human. I have a feeling a lot of those reading this are “A type” personalities who have taken their health into their own hands and challenged conventional wisdom in pursuit of optimum nutrition…you are even more prone to feeling like you’ve let yourself down. I just feel that this notion of “cheating” really puts the wrong connotation on what we’re doing when it comes to diet/nutrition. After all, this isn’t meant to be a fad diet…you know that. Going off of your plan for a 1 week juice fast (help!!!) would seem like more of a failure than eating something less-than-optimal in a LIFE LONG commitment you have made to eating well. Saying that not eating perfectly is “cheating” is setting yourself up for certain failure if you think of it this way. You have what’s called “a life”…it’s a life that does not exist inside a bubble. Where everyone does not know about the paleo diet. Hell, it’s a world full of tasty innovations and special occasions…and everyone KNOWS it is not realistic (and probably not necessary) to abstain 100% from these situations (read: it is next to IMPOSSIBLE).

Cheating as we say it implies an unforgivable sin. Are we really comparing eating an (insert your favorite “non-paleo” food here) to adultery? Should we be emblazoned with a scarlet letter for doing such? Come on…we all know that it’s not that serious.

In a way I feel that the guilt is brought on by those in positions of influence…the bloggers and writers and media authorities that put on airs about their compliance to their method. You know the holier-than-though attitude I am talking about. They would lead you to believe that they are always perfect and if they do show a sliver of being mortal…they will chide themselves and make atonement to show that they are really “above” that. (I hope we are not so guilty of this here, though we don’t go out of our way to show you pictures similar to those below.) They have something to gain from this pretense and it may be a lack of security as well, but I think it’s adding to the paranoia. And I would guarantee that behind closed doors they are living at least a slightly different life than they present. Let me be clear…I don’t mean everyone, there are those that seem very transparent in a good way.

I can illustrate this with the thought of politicians and other celebrities that show a storybook life until the headline breaks. And even more easily with a comparison to another type of relationship, a marriage (or committed pair).

So many married couples present a perfect relationship on the surface. It might leave you wondering how everyone else’s marriage seems problem free when you have disagreements with your spouse. Well, guess what…they do have disagreements and they just don’t want you to know about it. It probably stems from pride and lack of security…sound familiar? Saying that a marriage is a failure because you have an argument is like saying you “cheated” on your diet because you did not eat perfectly.

So can I propose that eating imperfectly now be called “having a disagreement” with your diet? I know it’s more of a mouthful but bear with me. Your marriage or committed relationship is very much like your commitment to your nutrition ideals.

1. It changes and evolves
2. When you are committed, a disagreement is tiny bump in the road not a burning of the bridge
3. It does not adversely affect the outcome

At Health-Bent…we feel like we need to relax a bit about not eating perfectly all the time. I’ve written some about the 80/20 rule in the past. Of course, if you use this to justify eating poorly all the time then it’s counterintuitive. What I’m saying is that if you are committed to your relationship with food, you wouldn’t let it be anything more than a relative rarity.

I am not perfect. I eat bullcrap sometimes and can be mean to my wife on occasion. But I am committed to a great relationship with my wife and with food. I know that the amount of time not making both happy better be slim. I recognize that having self diagnosed imperfections doesn’t make me the only one. Everyone does. And as such…it’s just part of the norm…it doesn’t mean anything is wrong. It also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to be the best you can. Just don’t beat yourself up over it so much. It’s just my opinion but I think that is the healthiest way to be. If you’re shooting for perfection you’ll land at excellence…so don’t cry over spilt coconut milk.

I wouldn’t know what a perfect marriage or a perfect diet would look like anyway. In my next post I plan to write about how “cheating” would be hard to define even if we were calling it that because every single thing you eat falls within a scale of values you have set (based on what you can know so far). Since we are learning more and more every day those values change some and any food choice is not a full on perfect or not perfect choice…almost all fall somewhere in between. (another reason you can’t really say conclusively what food would be a deal breaker or a “cheat”) I’ll introduce a way we subconsciously evaluate our food choices as “good”, “better”, “best” using our umbrella parameters.

I hope this helps. If you feel like you’re eating very well the majority of the time…you should be proud of it and own it. That’s all I feel anyone can do…no matter what they’ll have you believe. At the end of the day, Megan and I fundamentally believe that —

Real and lasting, positive change does not come from 100% compliance; it comes from knowing the difference.


Light A Fire – HB 3.0

photo credit:

This is Health-Bent 3.0.

We have finally gotten settled into our new home and are ready to get back to business. Meg has been hard at work creating this design and we’re very excited about it. There are probably still some kinks to work out but all in all – things should be working. Check out our new visual “Recipe” menu in the navigation bar.

With this new design we are going to bring back the t-shirts and we have other aspirations we hope will materialize in the near future.

We want to thank everyone that supports and follows us. We don’t know exactly where we are headed but we do know that we are going to continue to provide recipes that we love (for free) in hopes that you’ll love them too.

We won’t just post any marginal recipe…only the home runs…as subjective as that may be. We want you to be able to trust that if you see a recipe here  it means Meg and I fought over the leftovers (if there were any).

We know that this lifestyle of eating fresh and healthy (and grain free) can really be a pain in the a$$ sometimes.

The new theme is all about the dedication and fortitude it takes to not settle for less.

Stay Health-Bent.  Light A Fire.





The Food Pyramid is Dead

That’s right…deceased. It has died at the young age of 19 years. Cause of death…ruled: overcomplication. Seems that the problem with our governments’ dietary recommendations are that we “the people” couldn’t understand them. All along I thought the problem was that the recommendations were just wrong…turns out it’s that we are too dull to comprehend a pyramid graph with words and pictures. Now that it’s been simplified for us…I suppose we will see the end of obesity and the diseases of civilization.

You could believe this…OR…you could believe that doing the same thing (in a different graphical representation) would yield the same crappy health. Einstein defined insanity as repeating the same process and expecting different results.

If you’re reading this…chances are I know how you feel.

If you think an autopsy of the Food Pyramid’s death needs to be conducted…and that maybe it actually died of heart disease…check out the Health-Bent umbrella if you haven’t already. Pass it on.


Health-Bent Headquarters

Health-Bent Headquarters has relocated. If you’ve looked at our last few posts or followed our Facebook page at all you may already be aware. And what started as “we’ll get new appliances” turned into “let’s gut the entire kitchen and start over.” The good news is that (eventually) we’ll have a kitchen that is very much like what we’ve dreamed about for a long time. To us foodies, this is very exciting; you understand. It’s gonna be Christmas in July.

The bad news is: in order to afford this kitchen…we are doing all the work ourselves. Sure it’s kinda fun and rewarding, to a point…but it also has meant neglecting the blog and missing out on the start of bountiful seasonal produce. We also won’t have our garden this year. The transition from cooking and photographing to tiling and installing has certainly taken it’s toll on our diets. It’s hard not to use it as an excuse to just grab the fastest thing you can shove in your mouth to keep going. And as we all know, without the ability to cook it’s damn near impossible to eat the way we like to eat.

This is only temporary…but we’re definitely longing to get back in the kitchen and eat real foods. We’ve always said that the benefits of the diet isn’t necessarily in 100% compliance but in the power that comes with knowing the difference. We will return…and we should have a better space to create recipes and photograph them when it’s all said and done.

We’re grateful that the index of recipes has seemed to keep people coming to the site…and we thank the Foodee for still linking to us.

As romantic as “Paleo” is…this is 2011 and let’s be honest, I think we all have to admit that a modern kitchen is more helpful to your healthy diet than a campfire (more to add to the Paleo reenactment argument). You guys know we’ve never been after a recreation anyway…and I think most of our readers agree. After all, a kitchen is just a tool; and all tools are Paleo. :)

We are hopefully less than a month away from completion. Stay tuned and thanks again.


Pig Out

Pork belly, bacon, loins, chops, sausage, fatback, lardo, pancetta, ham and lard…oh my. I am well aware that we write an overwhelmingly disproportionate amount of recipes that involve pork. If Brandon didn’t say, “Hey, let’s eat some beef tonight.”, we’d only eat pork..and some eggs too. Along with its fat, pork tastes like no other protein out there. It is my hands. down. favorite. Obviously.

Conventional Wisdom hasn’t been kind to the poor piggy. Back in the day (like your great-grandma’s), lard was king in the kitchen. I’d like to call it the ‘better butter’. You can fry, saute, bake and even SPREAD it…like butter. The low-fat mantra that’s kept the world’s people in carb-induced commas (we like to call these people Carb Zombies), has conjured up its replacement–the ‘healthy’ trans-fat filled hydrogenated fats and everyone’s new favorite kitchen go-to fat, le vegetable oil. How oxymoronic does that sound?

Now-a-days, pigs are bred leaner and are being butchered much, much younger. Why? Because we dictate what goes on the supermarket shelves. And we’re demanding lean meats. Pork is now called ‘the other white meat’, instead of what it used to be… a beautiful, marbled, rosy pink. Grocery store pork now must be brined to give it any hint of flavor or taste.

Piggy fat is like all other animal fats: a mixture of saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. Percentages will vary by breed and diet, but pork fat is mostly monounsaturated in the form of oleic fatty acid. Pork fat’s low level of polyunsaturated fatty acids means a.) it doesn’t turn rancid as easily, (read: excellent for high heat cooking) and  b.) it should not be feared and in fact, should be preferred above almost all others.

So, on to what this whole post is about. Caw Caw Creek. Who they is? Well, they’s a pig farm. Not just any pig farm, but one located right (about) here in Columbia, South Carolina. Every recipe that we write and eat that involves pork; this is the pork we’re eating. Check out the video below, and you can check out the pork we’re eating too:

Now a days, everyone is making a big deal about where their food comes from, and rightfully so. But, if we don’t know the farmer, then what do we really know? All we have to go on is what the label says. Frankly, I don’t trust labels. I really don’t. Organic, Grass-Fed, Pastured, Cage-Free, etc. They all have their little caveats thanks to the FDA & USDA, so you NEVER really know what you’re getting, unless, like I said, you know the farmer.

Well, guess what? We know Caw Caw Creek. The triple F (father, farmer and founder), Emile DeFelice is a member at our CrossFit box. That fact right there makes him pretty solid in our book, but he also  founded the most popular and successful local farmer’s market in the area. So what’s the big deal about this guy and why should you care?  He only sells completely pasture and forest raised pigs and those pigs are only rare & heritage breeds of pork–breeds like: Spotted Poland China, old-line Duroc, and Berkshire. So you’re not only getting an actual pasture/forest/foraging raised piece of chow, but a fancy-pants, gourmet one too. Caw Caw Creek has been featured in Bon Appétite Magazine and most recently, on the Cooking Channel. They supply their pork to restaurants owned by people like…Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Frank Stitt, and Michelle Bernstein. Ever heard of them? Also, I should mention their pork is–duh, humanely raised, but also just as important, humanely ‘harvested’ too–if you know what I’m sayin’.

So, why I am telling you all this wonderful-ness when most of you don’t even live anywhere near South Carolina? Because you can order online! Woohoo to that! Bacon, Fresh Chorizo, Whole Suckling Pig, Lard, Country Prosciutto, Pig Ears (for the doggy?) and even a 50 lb smorgasbord.

So there you go, a farmer, that maybe you don’t know, but we do. Someone that we’re willing to stand behind and hopefully help give you peace of mind about the pork you eat, because it’s the pork we eat too.

If you can vouch for any farmer(s) in your area, and they sell their products online, please include them in the comments section! The more resources, the merrier!

We are NOT being paid or compensated in any way, shape, or pork form for writing this.


Treat Yourself Right

To Treat or not to Treat, that is the question.

It’s the new year. Here’s our perspective on how to Treat Yourself Right in 2011. Maybe cutting out any and all treats shouldn’t be a resolution? We advocate using your own brain to determine if a treat is a judicious choice for you. This post is about how we use ours.

So I’ve argued (part 1 and part 2) that making a Paleo-ified (or at least a no grain, low sugar, dairy optional) treat could have potential benefits to someone who understands their moderation and is prudent about the compromise. As with any of our food choices it becomes a hierarchy of values. We weigh reward vs. perceived risk based on what we know (believe) about metabolism and disease promoting agents as well as our conjecture of what was eaten (and avoided) by our ancestors that contributed to vitality.

This hierarchy of values comes into play every day when mindfully eating. Decisions such as the best bang for your buck (budget Paleo), how to order when eating out (how to make the best of the worst), or what to keep in mind when considering a treat that is more Paleo-friendly arise all the time. The first two could be posts in and of themselves and we may try to explore them on their own at a later date. There is no right answer as it applies to your nutritional priority…as everyone is different. We keep grain avoidance for gut health towards the top of our list. This could be displaced by anything else that you have an individual, acute reaction to. Bottom line, we’re just trying to do the best we can while constantly evaluating what’s best in the first place. This is why we feel that a list of Paleo foods that are “approved” doesn’t do much good in the long term. Not only does it lack promoting benefits of a low to moderate carb diet or make heads/ tails of quality…it doesn’t give you reasons for those choices with which to create a lifestyle. To evaluate every instance you face in life you need principles and some understanding of the effects your food is causing: good and bad. This is the idea behind our umbrella…that knowledge in these areas will give you the ability to create your hierarchy of values and then view all foods through that scope.

I think in the Paleo world “treat” most commonly refers to a likeness of a flour and sugar based dessert (cake, cookie, brownie, etc.) or even savory dish with flour base (pizza crust, bread, pasta, crust for frying, etc.).

At least these are the ones that people get upset about copying. Nobody seems to have a huge beef with lower-carb, higher-nutrient stand ins when they don’t allude to what is generally accepted as “junk food”. I’ve never seen anyone get too perturbed over cauliflower “rice”. Being a Paleo eater certainly changes what you think of as acceptable though, and in need of a tweak. Take a nice bowl of oatmeal for example…if it were something you just loved but wanted to avoid oats (grains) you could find a substitute to give you a similar texture and flavor…while everyone else (non Paleo) in the world thinks oatmeal is the most nutritious breakfast you could eat. Mmmmm low fat! On the other side of that coin, being Paleo affords us the ability to enjoy our bacon without much guilt…but I digress. So for our purposes today I’m going to address the usual grain substitutes as well as type/quantity of sugar.

The following will try to quantify our decision making cascade as it applies to treats we make. As we really do our best to avoid grains (except for occasional rice) this takes precedence for us and is why we will consider a non-grain stunt double. High sugar is a top concern for us as well and will be a large shareholder in the concept of a “better” dessert. Many folks prefer to have the “real thing” every once in a while…and they know what they’re doing, that’s a valid strategy. But for us, for the reasons I just listed, we’re more likely to enjoy a wheat free, low sugar treat in which we control all ingredients than to partake in a wheat/ sugar bomb (though it does happen). 98% of the time it’s just not worth it and we know we can make something satisfying that much better fits our criteria and not make us feel horrible. That being said, what are more specifics about these criteria? and what are other concerns we try to keep in mind?

Low/ Moderate Carb

This one is going to go first because it will overshadow all substitute ingredients as it applies to how much…how to moderate a “treat”. We generally believe in a moderate to low carbohydrate diet for letting your body regulate blood sugar properly, avoiding crashes and chronically elevated blood glucose and its subsequent issues etc. We feel that this amount of carbs is more in line with our genetic experience (hunter gatherers believed to consume around 80g carbs per day, though there are anomalies in traditional cultures). Most treats we re-invent are very high carb and the outcome is usually lower in carbs and added sugars.

All purpose wheat flour = 90-95 grams carbs per cup (3 grams fiber)
Almond flour = 20-24 grams carbs per cup (12 or so grams fiber)
Coconut flour = 60-80 grams carbs per cup (48 or so grams fiber)

We try to keep our carbs in a moderate range of 75-150 g/day…but even less could be beneficial for you depending on your goals. I like Mark Sisson’s Carb Curve for it’s simplicity. Without even getting into “net carbs”, it’s easy to see that substituting either of these flours for wheat flour will reduce your carbs substantially. This isn’t the only reason we avoid and substitute grains though. More on that next.

With the exception of non-nutritive (fake) sweeteners…most sweeteners pack about the same carbohydrate punch. Since we believe that fake sugars are worse than keeping other sugars low…we prefer to do just that. We like subtle sweetness in our treats and will get into our values about the type and quantity in a minute.


As I said above this one ranks highly on our list of things to avoid. And we prefer to avoid gluten grains entirely. Here is a quote from Robb Wolf’s book (excerpt from Tim Ferris’ blog):

You only need to be exposed to things like gluten once every ten to fifteen days to keep the gut damaged. This can bedevil people as they “cut back on gluten” but do not notice an improvement in their overall health. I’m sorry but there is not a pink “participant” ribbon given out for doing this “almost correctly.” You need to be 100 percent compliant for thirty days, then see how you do with reintroduction.

This is case number one for us to think that gluten free/ grain free – more Paleo-ish, Paleo-ified  foodstuff (I’m using the critics terms here) could be better than the “have the real thing from time to time” plan. There’s plenty of grain bashing out there. I’ll link to a few below. You’ve probably seen many of these but they are scary nonetheless. We feel that the toxins found in grains are probably the most out-of-bounds with our genetic experience and use that as case #2 to avoid them more strenuously than other Neolithic staples (like dairy, which is new but more similar to things in the Paleo framework). To be fair…the Weston A. Price camp supports sprouted grains and the data shows that traditional people were able to consume them without the same detriment we get from un-sprouted. I still feel that they are not optimal…and who’s going to sprout their grains anyway? You can buy sprouted flour but my guess from trying sprouted bread is that it’s not going to yield you anything too delicious in the first place. We look elsewhere for a wheat flour substitute.

I’ve already mentioned almond and coconut flour in the low carb bit. Alas, MDA has already written about both of these but mostly about their benefits (almond flour, almonds, and coconut flour, coconut). But are they perfect? No.

Almond Flour/ Almond Butter

I think it’s easy to overdo nuts when going Paleo. They are one of the easiest portable foods and one you can buy and eat without having to cook. The main concerns about them are usually:

1. high in pro-inflammatory omega-6
2. contain phytic acid
3. susceptible to oxidation when cooked

Once again, MDA has addressed these as well. Try finding something he hasn’t written about. His not-so-uptight view on this mirrors how I feel so here’s the link instead of me regurgitating it. And here’s a pertinent analysis of some danger with too many nuts. This one is from the omega-6 stance. The MDA link shows omega-6 content for ¼ cup of almonds and it’s pretty reasonable on the scale. So yeah, keep that in mind as to how much of your almond flour “treat” you eat along with a decent guess of your total carbs.  Macadamias have even less omega-6 which makes me curious about “macadamia flour” but I don’t know about you, not sure I’d want to spend that kind of $. As far as the oxidation bit, Mark mentions how the whole nut (or ground) is better for this than the extracted oil. So don’t burn them and keep them to a reasonable amount, you’ll be taking in lots of antioxidants from the rest of your diet.

Phytic acid can bind to vitamins and minerals and affect their absorption. Soaking your nuts can reduce this (pause for laughter), here is a great deal of information on phytic acid. It seems like there may be a catch 22 here. That cooking the nuts can reduce their phytic acid while it may increase the oxidation of the polyunsaturates. Blanched almond flour usually has the skin removed as well which may cut down on the phytic acid. The WAPF article  mentions that they don’t intend to make you afraid of phytic acid but aware…that it’s not necessary to completely eliminate it but keep it to reasonable levels. I have not been able to locate any solid citations yet but have read several writings stating that nuts would have been a moderated but frequent component in hunter gatherer diets…presumably those same hunter gatherers who didn’t have Western Diseases or DOC (diseases of civilization).

I think that if you’re already constrained by your carbohydrate boundaries it will be difficult to go too crazy with nuts. Your vegetables and a little fruit are going to take a decent chunk out of your carb allotment so the amount left, if filled by nuts, will only provide so much omega 6 in the first place. And if you’re eating your grass fed beef and fish etc. you’re getting a nice dose of omega 3 as well. Since you’re avoiding industrial seed oils and commercial food (industrialized meats) you’ll be dodging most other omega-6. Remember, you have to get some…it is an essential fatty acid. So if a delicious almond based treat is where they come from…you could do much worse. I think another way to think about how to moderate nuts is to just think of them as a garnish or a small side and not a whole dish. So if you’re going to make a small batch of almond flour pancakes…make them as a side to a huge omelet or something of that nature.  An almond flour cookie is just a small cap to a great Paleo meal. You get what I’m saying…

There are many other sources out there…I gravitate to the MDA links for his open-minded, more laid back approach but do search further to understand the implications of these treats. Search: nuts and omega-6/polyunsaturated fats, oxidation, phytic acid.

Coconut Flour

From what I can tell coconut flour is going to be a good deal lower in polyunsaturates (omega-3 and omega-6) and phytic acid (does contain some). BUT, it’s also much lower in deliciousness in our opinion. We have a hard time making anything too tasty out of it (extremely dry) so for me it’s not even worth justifying as much. Most of the arguments from above apply as it is still a “nut” and not a fruit. We prefer to use the coconut for its oil, and I don’t plan to go into that here.


Now to the sweeteners. This is a big sticking point for Paleo framework treats…that they are a vehicle for sugar. This is of course a legitimate concern. We’ve discussed them a little from a carbohydrate standpoint already. We linked to and briefly discussed our dislike of non-nutritive (fake) sugars so for our purposes I’m going to focus in on the type and quantity concerns of natural (caloric) sweeteners. We have an article on the site already about sugar and our point of view on it, I will go a little more into our values on glucose/fructose in this post. Our last piece was a little more along the lines of “sugar is sugar”. I think that this statement works to help understand why any and all carbohydrates (starch and sugars) need to be looked at…because they will all end up as sugar by metabolism. But, to be fair…in another sense, all sugar is not created equal. For the purposes of what will be an addition to a typical treat let’s just discuss 3 sugars. Glucose, fructose, sucrose.

Glucose is commonly thought of as blood sugar and typically the first fuel for our bodies. Starch is a chain of glucose.

Fructose is usually associated with fruit and of course corn syrup, as HFCS bears the word.

Sucrose…or common table sugar is a disaccharide made up of equal parts glucose and fructose (50/50).

Now, high fructose corn syrup has gotten pretty bad press for a while now, and rightfully so…but what isn’t so forthcoming is that most commercial HFCS is 55% fructose and 45% glucose and regular old sugar is 50% and 50% like we already said. Uh oh, those commercials that said “corn sugar” was just like regular sugar were right (your body can barely tell the difference) but what they didn’t tell you was that it really means that lots of table sugar is just as bad for you.

But the question is, can we deal with some sugar? Is the danger in the excess…and what about it is dangerous? Does it really matter (or does our body know) if it’s more “Paleo” or less refined? What about fruit?

I think it’s generally agreed upon that stone age man would have eaten seasonal fruit and maybe honey from time to time. Now, we know that a reenactment isn’t what we are after. But at least we can again think that maybe it is within our genetic experience to deal with some sugar and still avoid many maladies.

So fruit and honey may be the most quote, unquote Paleo sugars. Let’s take a look at what’s in them. If you take a look at this chart you can get an idea of the glucose/ fructose/ sucrose content of fruit and honey. Keep in mind the sucrose will end up as equal parts glucose and fructose in your body. And while yes…sugar in fruit is bound up with fiber, will come with some bonus micronutrients/ antioxidants and may be absorbed more slowly…the sugar load will still be the same. Now if sugar intake is associated with increased disease and metabolic syndrome but glucose/ starch on it’s own has not been seen to promote disease in traditional cultures…then the finger is now pointing at fructose. Science supports this. Fructose is not metabolized in the same way as glucose. It is thought to put strain on your liver (used for metabolism of fructose) which can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (a fast growing problem in the US), glycate and be inflammatory (free radicals), interfere with leptin (cause increased hunger and confused body fat regulation), and increase trigylcerides and uric acid in your bloodstream.

Sugar and HFCS take most of the blame because they are ubiquitous now-a-days and have been exploited and constantly increased in processed foods. But fruit in large amounts (bred to be maximally sweet) and fruit juice should be scrutinized as well.

We now see some evidence that we may want to weigh our fructose consumption as one of our values. First way is to make a treat and just use a lot less sugar of any kind. It’s nice to get used to subtly sweet treats that have a flavor other than sickening sweetness. So by making it ourselves we’ve just reduced all sugars. But what about fructose on its own?

This is why we’ve adamantly defended our use of small amounts of table sugar. While fruit juice or dates are fine sweeteners in small amounts…they may actually be giving you more fructose even though they are more technically Paleo. Refer to the chart again. Best case they’d be about the same as table sugar anyway. Dates are lower in fructose per 100 g than some of these other sweeteners but I wonder if you wouldn’t have to use more to get the same amount of sweetness thus making this a wash. This is where Paleo vs. not Paleo by semantics may be a gotcha. If we can agree that “grass fed beef” is not technically Paleo because it is not a game animal and is domesticated but applies and fits the square peg in the square hole that is the “Paleo framework”…could we also use this reasoning to say that maybe table sugar with a lesser fructose content (in moderation) could resemble a lesser fructose elaborated “wild” edible fruit? And that it therefore fits the Paleo framework just the same. After all we just want to keep our fructose intake low based on the science but know that a little sugar might not be worth stomping about.

And another thing…just as we say that all calories are not created equal and that they exist in a context of the macronutrient composition and the state your body is in when you consume them (example: glucose stored as fuel after a workout but stored as fat when glycogen is already full)…there is evidence that fructose may be interpreted by our bodies differently based on the context as well. This article sheds some light on the fact that fructose may be converted to glucose in an already low carbohydrate diet (and one in which you’re not overeating…which is aided by a high fat, moderate protein diet). So, the amount of total carbohydrate and calories could set the stage for regulating blood sugar and dealing with fructose in several natural ways.

1. dietary glucose management and storage as glycogen
2. gluconeogenesis/ ketosis (liver produces glucose from dietary protein while burning stored fat)
3. if liver glycogen is not already full…fructose could be converted to glycogen
* also could be dependent on activity level
4. glucose converted to fat for storage when glycogen full
5. fructose converted to fat/ triglycerides when glycogen full

It appears that it is more likely for fructose to be converted to triglycerides than it is for glucose. However, it may be that it is when liver glycogen is already full that the conversion of fructose to dangerous fat around your organs begins.

So, how much fructose? This is a tough one of course. The Mercola article mentions 15 grams a day eaten a century ago. This is at a time when heart disease was a small fraction of what it is today…could be due to other factors as well (like no trans fats and vegetable oils) but again take it for what it’s worth. This article from MDA mentions a rainforest group that could derive as much as 42% of their caloric intake from raw, wild honey. I won’t be trying that out but it speaks to the fact that we are probably equipped to deal with some fructose and it makes you wonder how much other carbohydrate and glucose they were taking in. The Weightology article linked above mentions 60-100 grams per day…though the safe amount by the rest of his article would depend on how much other sugar and calories of protein/ fat you were eating per day…and he fails to account for this in the recommendation. That sounds high to me. I estimate our intake to be around 20-40 grams of fructose per day (1 apple could be as much as 10 grams); between vegetables, dark chocolate, small amounts of fruit and our occasional treats. This is why we like for our multiple serving desserts (4-6 servings) to usually contain around ¼ cup of sugar in total. Here’s an article from Whole Health Source that recommends an amount right around our levels at 15-40 g/day. Our last blood test done in August showed both our triglyceride levels to be below 60 mg/dL (under 150 considered normal) and uric acid levels to both be below 4.5 mg/dL (healthy is considered 3-7).

*We don’t use agave nectar because it’s a very high percentage fructose.

If you’re making the large majority of your food from whole foods, keeping carbs down, eating high fat/ moderate protein, limiting fruit, and the only added sugar you get is from these treats you’re making for yourself…and you’re not gorging on them simply because they’re Paleo…I find it hard to think that this will be way too much sugar/ fructose.

You can of course go farther with anecdotal evidence from yourself. Have your blood checked a few times…observe your body fat regulation/ hunger levels etc. and see how all these indicators respond to zero sugar and then to a small amount of sugar. We can never know for sure, you have to decide for yourself if completely abstaining from these treats will give you much more benefit than including them with moderation and understanding. I’m saying it’s definitely worth thinking about but might not be something we think we should deprive ourselves of all the time or STRESS about.


If these treats help you stay on track with the lifestyle so that it’s better as a whole…and/or having them and not worrying so much relieves some of your stress. This could be a huge benefit right there. Chris Kresser just posted this advice: “and in fact I believe (as did the ancient Chinese) that in some cases it’s better to eat the wrong food with the right attitude than the other way around.”

This is an axiom that hints at how stress management can play as important a role to our health as nutrition…and that we need our mental health to contribute to our physical health. I’m not going to get too much more into stress here. There is a lot of material out there so please keep searching if this peaks your interest.

Wrap it up already

Stephan Guyenet has written a post with a quote I found profound (please go there to read the excerpt from the Genjo Koan). His basic premise was that we only understand the world through the eyes of our experience yet it is infinitely variable and thus inconceivably complex. That perspective is limited by the bounds of what we know and think we know about the natural world. When we apply our already limited understanding to another item through which our understanding is equally distorted…we are really still left guessing (educated). All of this is to say: we just don’t know for sure if avoiding a small amount of sugar or almond flour will be worth it. For that matter we can’t say that about wheat or even cigarettes. However, I feel that the probability is there to compel me to moderate these things or avoid them entirely (cigarettes). By this theory of complexity and uncertainty it’s just best to take a hard look at anything too unique or precise. But at the end of the day it ultimately falls on you, based on what you know and what you think you know…to decide what it’s all worth to you.

This was what we think we know.


One Side of De-fence or the Other

Scho Bus

We’re not the kind of people who feel that pushing our views on anyone is the right thing to do. We don’t want it done to us and therefore do our best to refrain. It’s nice to think that maybe if we offer our point of view in it might help someone else, but are fans of autonomy. We also don’t mind anyone having alternate beliefs to ours…we know there is real value in staying as open-minded as possible.

Something we do take offense to, however, is when self proclaimed pontiffs wish/wash around based on the time of day and what suits their needs (and wallets) at the time. They will admonish someone based on a certain value set today, but then change (or bend) that value set as it suits them tomorrow. This really annoys us, and maybe we harp on it too much. So be it.

This was a really long way to say…hypocrites are bothersome. You may say :

  • “Don’t let it bother you so much.”
  • “Why are you wasting your time even reading their website if you’re so secure in what you believe?”

Well, you may be partially right…I do feel a sort of competition with those that seek to discredit part of what we do…or what we believe. I feel that this is natural…and not jealousy that they are popular or something to that effect. What we want is to state our OPINION without someone else discrediting it based on their OPINION-OF-THE-DAY disguised as a FACT. If you’re going to disagree…keep it consistent. Otherwise, I reserve the right to question your validity.

Enter Whole 9 and Primal Pacs:

Primal Pacs…”the first Whole 9 approved snack pack”…”no added sugar in their ingredient list, not even in the jerky!”

But Whole 9, what about the apple juice they sweeten the cranberries with? I thought you said no added sugar but it’s hard to hear you from way up there on your horse. Did you say something about an evangelist?

Ohhhhh? You say… “We know, apple juice is technically ‘sugar’, but fruit juice is Whole30 approved, and cranberries don’t sweeten themselves.  We were more than okay with this one small concession, given the number of cranberries in each kit is small.  The bulk of the carbohydrates come from the dried mango, which has a modest sugar content with no added sweeteners.”

The almonds don’t have any carbohydrates? That’s neat…magic almonds. Do they grow a stalk up to a giant’s house? And by “modest” amount of sugar in the mango do you mean 73 grams of sugar per 100 grams compared to 97 grams/100 g in pure sugar? Maybe I’m splitting hairs.

Well, what the hell Whole 9?…still, even with your “concession” that kinda sounds like a Whole 7.66? Oh, I see you’ve been “in talks” with the company. Oh, ok now it’s ok because you are somehow making money off of this. Yes, I get it now. Thanks for explaining that to me. When you do it, it is definitely different than the other “sell outs” you just spent a few posts throwing under the bus (cough Mark Sisson cough).

revision: When you click the “posts” link above you will no longer find anything about Mark Sisson. Originally the post I referenced criticized Primal Fuel, Mark’s protein powder meal replacement. This has since been removed from the website.

I thank you for making me feel all warm and fuzzy about fruit juice since it’s quote, unquote Paleo…by your gospel. See, I used to use my brain and I thought that “sugar is sugar” and I was especially concerned about fructose. Now I see that apple juice is a better sweetener at (estimated) 70% fructose than cane sugar at 50% fructose. All we have to do is make sure we tell our body that it is “Paleo” and it will not mind all that fructose. It won’t glycate and cause inflammation or put a burden on our liver and produce uric acid and triglycerides as long as we tell it Whole 9 said it was ok. Pheww, what a load off. Makes sense for the mango as well.

I’m curious? Why didn’t you warn your readers that even a “small pac” contains 2 servings like you would have with everyone else’s product? Oh, yes, yes…I forgot, sorry…they’re paying you.

Revision: Whole 9 has stated that they were not compensated monetarily by the manufacturer. Please determine for yourself if a discount for Whole9 readers qualifies as compensation.  Forgive my speculation.

So, 28 grams of food with 5 grams of sugars? 2 servings for the “small pac”?

1 cup of slivered almonds is about 108 grams. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt on density of the whole mix and let’s say a “Pac” would be 80 grams for 1 cup. That means that I can eat a whopping 1/3 (probably less) of a cup of food and get 5 grams of sugar…mostly fructose. That should keep me full and happy for 18 seconds.

What? What’s that? Don’t blame you, you don’t make the “Pacs”…you’re just doing the best you can?

Yes I know that…I’m not against a little sugar here and there…perhaps you haven’t noticed that is part of my entire point. We eat a little dried fruit and even a little white (gasp) sugar every now and again. I’m not even saying I wouldn’t eat a snack just like that.  I just want this snack to be looked at under the same microscope and reasoning as ANY sugar would be. I just think that using information asymmetry to promote fruit juice and demonize other sugar is misleading. And I’m not against the manufacturer…aside from having a completely out of place, hokey dinosaur on their package, which is slightly patronizing to “Paleo”… they seem to live on one side of the fence…and I’m alright with that.

You see…you guys spend lots of time on both sides of the fence and that’s just not right. It’s the contradiction and self-aggrandizing that annoys me. I guess that’s just the way it will be, but while you’re crossing back and forth from one side of the fence to the other…watch out for that bus.