Are beans and legumes allowed in the Paleo diet lifestyle?
I happen to hear this question very often, and it's a very good question. Legumes form part of almost everyone's diet, and while they are nutrition deans and have a high caloric value, they are generally frowned upon in the Paleo diet. So before we get into the nitty-gritty of this topic, lets first clarify what constitutes a legume or bean:
- A legume is a fruit of any of the plants found in the Fabaceae family of plants.
- A legume is simply dried fruit of these plants.
- Used for eating and the production of oils by humans.
- Are comparatively high in protein.
- A bean is a seed of any plant found in the Fabaceae family of plants, similar to the legume.
- There are 40, 000 different bean varieties.
- Some beans need to be cooked to remove toxins.
- Are comparatively high in fiber and soluble fiber.
- Beans are relatively high in protein.
- Many beans require anti-oligosaccharide enzymes to properly be digested. Humans don't naturally possess this enzyme, and so rely on bacteria.
So there we have it, a brief difference between our two suspects in the, “What foods are allowed on the Paleo diet?” question.
Legumes and beans are largely considered to not be allowed in the Paleo diet. This is because back in the day, and I'm talking dinosaur-eating-cavemen days, our brothers and sisters probably didn't have access to legumes or beans for food. Either that, or we just hadn't an idea that they existed and so it's for that reason that we didn't evolve to eat them. A good case in point here that seems to support this notion is the fact that we don't have the necessary enzymes to properly digest some beans. While that is quite a general accusation of our meat sacks bean processing ability, it is also a very important one. Even though we evolved and spread around the world, we stopped evolving at some point on the bean processing front.
Legumes, on the other hand, are far less of a troublesome food. While they are also harvested from plants in much the same way as beans are, they are for the most part quite different. Legumes, for a start, are much easier to digest. This could be from our more fruit orientated digestive system.
While legumes are frowned upon because they are believed to be not that accessible to cavemen, they are much easier to digest because they are essentially tiny fruits. Having said that, they don't taste like fruit at all. ha-ha.
So now that you have a bit of theory under your belt, you can decide whether or not you want to incorporate beans and legumes into your diet. While they may not be perfect foods or on the Paleo diet list of approval, they are in some cases excellent calorie boosters.
I sometimes use a mixture of chakalaka/salsa with some refried beans to boost a meals calorie content. Why? Because sometimes I need more calories. Having said that though, I am generally content with a relatively low-calorie, low-carbohydrate heavily Paleo influenced eating regime.
So when would I advocate eating legumes and beans on a Paleo diet?
When you eat breakfast, and I mean about 80% of breakfasts, you don't actually get enough out of them to significantly nourish your body for the morning. Think of what you eat for breakfast on your Paleo diet, and you'll quickly see that it is probably, for the most of you, low in calories.
Why is this important?
Because most people are in a calorie overdose or a calorie deficit. This is not good unless you are trying to rapidly lose weight or rapidly gain weight. You can guess which one causes weight gain and which weight loss.
I would advise experimenting with a salsa bean mix to boost caloric density in the morning. This will pump up your energy levels for the morning.