Is Almond Flour Bad for You?

Low Carb Comfort Food CookbookI got a question passed through from our customer service gathering point the other day from a reader, who had run across a post on the Empowered Sustenance blog by Lauren Geertsen called 5 Reasons to Avoid Almond Flour and had some concerns. Our reader wrote:

Just bought your book “The Low Carb Comfort Food Cookbook” Shared it with my friend and she made some of the magic rolls first and they were very tasty. Just love bread. Was wandering around on the internet and ran across this article. Love almonds. Is this article for real? Don’t need to sabotage my diet if it is. I can use coconut flour – love coconut too. Please let me know and thank you for your help.

So let’s take a look and see.  Is almond flour bad for you?

Ms. Geertsen’s blog post made 5 basic points:

  1. Almond flour skews perception about quantity.  [I agree.]
  2. Almond flour is very high in inflammatory PUFAS. [I completely agree and it’s important to consider and the main reason not to overindulge.]
  3. The fats in almond flour aren’t heat stable. [ I disagree, as applies to almond flour versus almond oil, at least at the internal temperature reached during baking. And Ms. Geertsen has actually amended this one based on a scientific rebuttal.  Good on her!]
  4. Almond flour is high in enzyme inhibitors. [Agree, but as Ms. Geertsen goes on to say after the main 5, the primary source of phytic acid–the enzyme inhibitor in question–in almonds is in the brown coat, the bran or hull, so ‘blanched almond flour’ would be lower in enzyme inhibitors, if this is a main concern.  The plant world is full of anti-nutrients, however, so unless you plan to only eat meat (and there’s nothing wrong with that) you’re going to get some.]
  5. Coconut flour is healthier [sic] than almond flour.  [Agree that its fat is primarily saturated, which is absolutely a more healthful, better choice than the PUFA found in almonds and their meal/flour.]

I  hadn’t previously seen Ms. Geertsen’s post, but it’s a good one that makes some valid points about the overuse of almond flour (or for that matter any nut flour, including coconut) as a substitute for wheat flour.  I completely agree with the basic premise of moderation.  You can’t simply shift from a diet heavily reliant on things made of wheat and other grains only to consume heady amounts of the same stuff made with nut flours and not have it create some problems.

Moderation in all things hasn’t become a cliche of 2000+ years duration for no good reason.

So how does this all square with the information in our Low Carb Comfort Food Cookbook that the reader wrote to us about? While many of the recipes are still good solid ones, there are definitely some that I would now eliminate or in which I’d tweak the ingredients.

(A little timeline context: the Low Carb Comfort Food Cookbook, which we co-authored with Ursula Solom, was published by John Wiley and Sons in 2003. It’s now over a decade old. It was followed in 2005 by a book by just Mike and me, called The Low Carb CookwoRx Cookbook, based on recipes from our PBS television series of the same name, also almost a decade old. I would make changes to both, were I to write them now.)

At the time we wrote them, our main concern in both books was lowering carbs.  We were trying to find tasty and more healthful ways to sharply reduce the sugar and starch content in a variety of comfort foods, with an eye toward giving folks who missed them a reasonable substitute to enjoy occasionally. We made the point in the books (and on the show) that while these foods were definitely lower in carb, they weren’t, in most cases, low in calories.  Quite the opposite. And we cautioned readers not to view the low-carbness of the recipes as a license to eat all they wanted of them any time they wanted to.  Overindulgence, however, is somewhat limited by satiety; these foods are calorie dense and filling.

For the most part, in the collaborative first book, the non-baking recipes were ours and all the baking recipes were Ms. Solom’s. She had worked for years to develop recipes for breads, crackers, and desserts that were lower in carbs, so that she could continue to enjoy these types of foods herself, after she had adopted (and benefitted from) a low carb diet.

Coconut flour wasn’t much in vogue nor as readily available when we wrote the book as it the case now, so Ursula relied on almond flour and other nut flours as substitutes for wheat flour (or to at least reduce the amount of wheat flour, which she still used to a degree) in her recipes.(And, for the record, I would still take almond flour over wheat flour from a health standpoint, PUFAs notwithstanding!)

Ursula also made pretty liberal use of vital wheat gluten to give elasticity to dough for pizzas and pasta, which choice, in light of today’s knowledge (science does march on),we wouldn’t have included at all.  However, there really isn’t a way to achieve an elastic dough (for a real pizza crust, for instance) without something to give it stretch, which is part of what the gluten does for wheat flour.  If you know of another (healthful) way, please do share!

For my part, I’m good just eating the toppings of pizza and using squash or (now) shiritaki noodles for pasta occasionally.

Protein Power coverThe dangers of overconsumption of PUFA or the specter of anti-nutrients weren’t really brought up in the books at the time, because these were really just cookbooks, not diet books; more ‘how to’ not ‘why’.  The intention was for these foods to be occasional treats, not staples in the diet.  And besides, we had already written pretty extensively in both Protein Power in 1996 and The Protein Power LifePlan in 2000 about the dangers of overloading on PUFAs to the detriment of sat fat and omega 3 intake and in the LifePlan  about the potential problems of lectins and other inflammatory anti-nutrients.

So, if we were to write these cookbooks today, what would we change?

I would likely make more use of coconut flour as an alternative to almond flour, primarily for the better fatty acid profile it provides.  But more than stressing about too much PUFA in the almond flour, it is the gluten that I would now remove (avoid) in light of what we’ve learned in the passage of a over a decade. At the time, what we knew about gluten was that is was just a ‘wheat protein’ and though we knew that some people really had to avoid WGA (wheat gluten antigen) and others could benefit from avoiding it, the science now suggests that it’s not just celiac and MS patients who may benefit.  Most anybody with metabolic syndrome probably benefits from avoiding it.

Personally, I have completely avoided gluten from all sources (wheat and other grains) for over 2 years now and intend to continue to do so always, for my health and wellbeing.

Swerve Sweetener

I would also completely replace the aspartame used in recipes in Protein Power with something that wasn’t an excitotoxin and in all the books I would make use of other sweet substitutes besides sucralose, such as xylitol, which has some real health benefit, and stevia.  They don’t always substitute one to one in the recipes as written, so a little jiggering around and guesswork will have to come into play to make some of them work. Likewise with the new Swerve sweetener, which is erythritol and oligosaccharides; it’s pretty easy to use as it measures spoon for spoon like sugar. I’d add these alternatives with an eye not necessarily to completely avoid using sucralose (thought I recognize there are those who would argue for that) but to limit using any one of them to excess.

A little of this; a little of that. Not a lot of any of them.

The better choice all the way around for health is to eat plenty of good quality fat, meat, fish, poultry, game, eggs, and fresh greens and green vegetables and low-sugar fruits as the mainstay of your daily diet.  And treat all sweetened things–even faux ones–as occasional treats, not every day staples.  Then no matter what you sweeten (or bake) with, you won’t get too much of it.

Low Carb Mint Julep for Kentucky Derby

Derby Day Mint Julep photo 2014Just watched the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby, in California, sadly, and not at Churchill Downs. But I had my low carb mint julep–in a perfectly sweating silver julep cup–in hand.  With a garden exploding in fresh mint (and, appropriately, red roses) it was hard to quit with just one… so we had another!

Congratulations to California Chrome and the DAP winners!  It was a thrill to watch from wire to wire.

Low Carb Mint Julep
Serves 4


  • 4 ounces (120 ml) sugar free simple syrup (Torani, Davinci or other)
  • 40 fresh mint leaves (plus 4 nice mint ‘tops’ for garnishing)
  • 8 ounces (240 ml) quality bourbon
  • 4 cups (.9 liters) cracked ice


  1. In a pan on the stove, bring about 12 of the mint leaves and the simple syrup to a boil and turn off the heat. Let the mint infuse into the syrup for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain and cool.
  2. In each of 4 rocks glasses (or better silver julep cups) make the cocktails as follows:
    1. Put 7 mint leaves (a lucky number!)
    2. Add 1 ounce (30 ml) of the mint-infused sugar free simple syrup and 2 ounces (60 ml) of the bourbon and muddle well.
    3. Fill the glass with cracked ice and slowly stir to bring the sweet bourbon up to the top and let the ice begin to melt.
    4. Garnish with a mint ‘top’ and serve immediately.


Primal Cravings

Among the many paleo cookbooks that have come out lately–and there have been dozens with the rise of interest in eating in sync with our ancient genome–one that I really like is Primal Cravings: Your Favorite Foods Made Paleo by Megan McCullough Keatley and Brandon Keatley.

Primal Cravings book cover recipes are good, solid nutritional takes on such beloved comfort foods as chicken noodle soup (made with zucchini noodles) and BLT’s made with a beautiful lattice of bacon in place of the bread. And on the subject of one of my favorite foods, there’s Bacon Ten Ways. (Ten!) With sections on meats and mains, sides and salads, snacks, sweets, and even breakfast options, it will be a worthy addition to the paleo or carb conscious reader’s cookbook shelf.

There are 125 recipes that are grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-optional, nutrient-dense to choose from along with cooking tips, shopping tips, and a short treatise on the paleo/primal philosophy that will be most helpful for newbies considering this lifestyle choice.

Some of the recipes (mostly the baked goods) do rely for decent mouth feel and sweetness on tapioca flour, maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar, concentrated apple juice and other fairly carby–albeit gluten free and technically paleo–foods that for someone who really needs to follow a low-carb path to correct significant metabolic disruption might be too much.  The caveat, then, is that if you fall into that category, just put your common sense hat on and eschew those offerings until you get into better metabolic control. Those few aside, the lion’s share, far and away the majority of the recipes are perfectly suitable for the paleo practitioner and low-carb devotee alike. On my bookshelf, it’s a winner!

Shirataki Pasta: Low carbs and Great Taste

I am ever on the look out for ways to enjoy the things I love in a lower carb way without giving up on flavor or feel. Thus, my delight when Mike’s sister introduced me to shirataki pasta.Shiritaki_pasta borders

I honestly love pasta, although I have long eschewed it except for rare indulgences, because of the carb content. Nowadays, I don’t eat even small bits of it, having completely divorced myself from wheat, gluten, corn and any significant amount of most all grains about 2 years ago. But when I look back at it, what I realized is that I really loved pasta as a vehicle for sauce more than for the noodles themselves. And this wheat-free, gluten-free, practically-zero-usable-carb (and low calorie) substitute is ideally suited to be that vehicle!

Made from the tuber-like root of the Amorphophallus konjac plant, this pasta stand-in contains mainly fiber (about 40% glucomannan) and almost no usable starch.

Per our friends at Wikipedia:

The food made from the root of this plant is widely known in English by its Japanese name, konnyaku (yam cake), being cooked and consumed primarily in Japan. The two basic types of cake are white and black. Pushing the cake through a grid of sharp blades at the end of a wooden box gives noodles, called shirataki, which are also sold in white and black colors.

In a 2/3 cup serving there is only 1 gram of actual usable carb, so I figure, why not blow it out and have a double serving? From a carb standpoint, no reason, but because the fiber content is so high, it would be wise to take it slow and easy from a gastrointestinal standpoint. Suddenly downing a significant load of soluble fiber, if you aren’t used to it, can overwhelm GI tolerance and lead to bloating and gas.

That aside, the ‘miracle’ pasta (as one maker calls it) is also widely touted for many purported healthful benefits, some of which could indeed operate through reasonable and known mechanisms, contributed chiefly by the glucommanan. These include:

  • lowering blood sugar, by slowing absorption of dietary glucose, as most fibers do
  • lowering cholesterol, again, by slowing down absorption and reabsorption from the gut in a manner akin to Questran and other soluble fibers
  • helping to relieve constipation by holding water in the contents of the gut, similar to such products as psyllium

Glucomannan has also been reputed to assist in weight loss, through, from what I’ve been able to suss out, decreasing appetite by creating a sense of fullness and by supplanting the volume of other caloric foods. That mechanism isn’t as clear to me as a secret for long-term weight loss, though I guess there could be some benefit if you were to eat a lot of it. I’d just be careful about eating too much too fast! Caveat comedentis!

Pasta_Carbonara with borderWanting to give it a cautious try, I picked up a pouch of shirataki spaghetti at our local grocery store (in the bags of pre-washed salad section) and a few nights ago, I threw together some marinara, bacon, onion, garlic, and a couple of diced up hunks of left-over ribeye and made a Pasta Carbonara to put over them.

Mike–not actually a big pasta fan–loved it and so did I. It has a ‘bite’ reminiscent of really good pasta, firm on the teeth, yet tender, and holds up well to tossing with a hearty sauce like the one I made. It comes in spaghetti, flat ‘fettuccini’ noodles, and angel hair pasta noodles and even as ‘rice’. Whatever shape, I can guarantee we’ll be enjoying more of it in 2014. I’m thinking Seafood Alfredo, Linguini con Vongole, Spaghetti Putanesca. Oh, the list could go on!

Food for Humans: Nom Nom Paleo

Readers of this blog will know that I love cookbooks and that my overflowing collection of them has long hence exceeded the linear feet of shelves I have in my kitchen, which, while not inconsiderable, were finite. No matter — there’s always floor space! And thus, this Christmas brought a new one that I already absolutely love! Nom Nom Paleo Food for Humans, its on time arrival delayed by the winter storms, appeared instead as a Boxing Day/Feast of Stephen gift.

Nom_Nom_Paleo with borderWhen it arrived, I spent most of the evening sitting by the fire, thumbing through it, reading the delightful narratives of the sort that have made Michelle Tam’s Nom Nom Paleo blog such a hit and perusing the collection of mouthwatering paleo recipes inside. With clear and concise instructions and gorgeous food porn shots, it makes you hungry just reading. The book is an enjoyable and approachable primer that proves it’s possible for a mom (and/or dad) to cook healthful, whole food paleo meals the whole family (even the pickiest kids) will love, while juggling the responsibilities of a full time professional career, writing a blog, and raising a family. Having met Michelle at the first Ancestral Health Symposium, I can attest that she is a ball of happy energy and that comes through loud and clear in this book.

Although a seemingly endless array of paleo cookbooks have come out in the last year–and many are quite good–this one is a real standout IMHO, because of its ‘real-world-ness’. Every funny anecdote screams: OK, this is a real mom cooking for a real family and she absolutely loves doing it! Best of all, you can see yourself doing it, and I think that was Michelle’s main goal; make cooking and eating real food a pleasure for the family. And, foodie that she is, her recipes are stand outs, too. Although it’s sometimes a mistake to conflate paleo or gluten free with low carb, these philosophies have much in common and I was very happy to see that but for a very few, none of the recipes in Food for Humans would cause metabolic havoc to any but the most seriously carb sensitive.

Among my favorites in this book are those using eggs. There’s a great one for a simple Salade Lyonnaise and this one, very reminiscent of a way my late sister did eggs for brunch, combining three of my favorite foods–eggs, mushrooms, and sausage–that I’ll share to give you an idea of the tasty offerings.
Uova_in_Purgatorio Nom Nom Paleo borderUova in Purgatorio
From Nom Nom Paleo Food for Humans (Tam+Fong/Andrews McMeel, 2013)
Serves 4

1 tablespoon ghee (or fat of choice)
1/2 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/4 pound Cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound loose Italian pork sausage
2 cups marinara sauce
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 large eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 400F, with the rack in the upper middle position.
2. Melt the fat in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Toss in the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes or until moisture released by the mushrooms evaporates.
3. Add the sausage to the pan, breaking it up with a spatula. Cook until it’s no longer pink. Pour the sauce onto the meat and add the red pepper flakes. Stir to combine the ingredients and cook until the sauce simmers.
4. Divide the saucy mixture into four 8-ounce ovenproof ramekins or mini cocottes. Make a small well in the center of each and crack an egg in it. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the eggs. Place the ramekins on a tray in the oven and bake until the eggs are done to your desired consistency, about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Whether it’s making Paleo Mayo, your own Sriracha, a big batch of Zoodles (zucchini noodles) or some of the most interesting deviled eggs I’ve ever seen, it’s all simple, fresh, flavorful food and definitely fit for humans, young or old.

Gluten-free, Somewhat Lower Carb Mincemeat Pie

One of Mike’s very favorite Christmas treats is a mincemeat pie. I like them, too, but having completely given up gluten, wheat, and most other grains about 18 months ago, I figured it was a holiday pleasure I would no longer get to enjoy. Not only from just the gluten avoidance standpoint, but the stone ton of sugary carbs in traditional mincemeat pie.


I decided to surprise him with a gluten-free, somewhat lower carb version of which we could both enjoy a sliver. Take careful note of the lower carb moniker. Granted this recipe is lower in carb than the traditional, but it is definitely NOT LOW carb pie. What with all the hazmat reconstruction going on at Casa Eades, I didn’t have the time to make a homemade gluten free, low carb crust. The crust of this pie was a commercially-prepared, refrigerated, pre-formed, gluten free–but not low carb–product and there are about 24 grams in just the crust of one slice! Consequently, I wound up tasting the filling and not eating the crust. First, here’s is the recipe as pictured. And after, I’ll riff a bit about how it could become lower!

Gluten Free, Somewhat Lower Carb Mincemeat Pie
Serves 8

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and quartered
8 ounces raisins
4 ounced dried figs, coarsely chopped
2 ounces dried cranberries, sugar-free
2 ounces beef suet, coarsely chopped
2 inches fresh ginger, grated
1/3 cup Swerve granular
1/3 cup xylitol
2 tablespoons Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
½ cup brandy
1 orange, for juice and zest
1 lemon, for juice and zest
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground clove
2 gluten-free pie crusts (store-bought or homemade)

1. Put all ingredients (except the crust) into the work bowl of a food processor and pulse about 10 to 12 times to chop coarsely (or more if you’d like less chunky.)
2. Put the mixture into an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 2 days before using. (There isn’t much sugar in this one to preserve it like there is in traditional mincemeat filling.)
3. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400F
4. If using store-bought crust:
a. slightly warm one crust to make it malleable enough to roll out
b. line the pie pan with the other crust
c. fill with the prepared mincemeat mixture
d. top with the second rolled-out crust, flute edges, trim and use trimmings to make holiday holly decoration
5. If making your own crust, you might consider my Simple Nut Crust or take a look here at a great recipe on a very helpful website called All Day I Dream About Food that if you don’t know about already, I think you’ll find a great resource for recipes both low carb and gluten free. It’s filled with yumminess!

So How Much Lower Is This Pie?
The carb content, even in this somewhat reduced version, is a splurge of mammoth proportions for a person truly cutting carbs. Each slice (8 slices of a 9 inch pie) tips the carb scale slightly north of 50 grams. And that’s far far too much for someone who is struggling at keeping control of blood sugar (diabetics and pre-diabetics) and will absolutely cause a metabolic stir in anyone with Syndrome X. Why, you can almost feel the insulin output, the fluid retention, the fuzzy thinking, the heart racing, the whoosh of calories flying into fat cells under insulin’s influence!

Not for me, thanks! So portion control is the still name of the game for this lower carb pie; even a sliver (about 1/3 of a slice) has 17 grams as prepared here. But at least they are 17 grams free of wheat flour and gluten. And refined sugars — this recipe eliminates the slug of sugar (about 100 more effective carb grams) found in the 6 ounces of dark brown sugar in the traditional recipe, which works out to a savings of about 12 grams per slice.

So it is decidedly NOT low carb.

How could you make it lower in carb and still seem like a mincemeat pie?

You could by flip the quantities of sugar-free cranberries and raisins — using 8 ounces of cranberries and only 2 ounces of raisins. The latter being the major remaining budget breaker, after eliminating the sugar, in this version — contributing 171 grams of effective carb to the total all by their lonesome. Recognize that this will no doubt make it a somewhat tarter pie and you may want to oonch up to amount of xylitol or Swerve you use to your own preference. The bottom line, though, is if you were to swap the proportions of the raisins and cranberries, you could save another 96 grams in the total pie, which would be another 12 g saved per slice. And with a low carb crust, such as the Simple Nut Crust or the almond flour pastry one on All Day I Dream About Food, you could save at least another 18 to 20. That would turn it into just 18 or 20 grams per slice, not over 50. Still a splurge, but a more manageable one for most folks.

However you low carb you wish to make it, here’s hoping you enjoy this (and all) holiday treats…as the beer commercials say…responsibly! And have a very happy and healthy New Year!

Simple Nut Crust for Tarts and Pies

Simple Nut Crust
Serves 8 (or an 8-inch pie or cheesecake crust)

1 cup pecan pieces
1 cup walnut pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup granular Swerve or xylitol
pinch fine salt (or to taste)

1. Preheat the oven to 325F.
2. Put all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and pulse to a coarse meal.
3. Turn the mixture out into a pie pan or divide among individual tart dishes or custard cups.
4. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom and up the sides of the container to form a bottom crust
5. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes, just to set the crust.
6. Remove and cool slightly before filling.

Gathering Some Friends for the Holidays

Ok. So the holiday countdown begins tomorrow with Halloween and it won’t let up until New Year’s Day! What’s a person committed to a low carb or Paleo lifestyle to do? Safely negotiating the dangerous waters of the holiday party and feasting season can be tricky, but as we told our patients for decades, it can–and should–be done! And so, we gave them tips and tricks for handling the holidays each year, because we believed (and still do) that enjoying the conviviality and richness of the season with friends is important to the human spirit–even, and perhaps most especially, for those who have adopted a given lifestyle to control weight and the myriad health issues related to metabolic imbalance.

Gathering together to feast and celebrate is essential to emotional well-being. And now, a book, authored by the Make it Paleo team of Hayley Mason and Bill Staley offers us delicious insights into how to do it!

Gather_The Art of Paleo Entertaining #proteinpower

Gather: The Art of Paleo Entertaining (Victory Belt 2013) takes us all on a culinary romp through the seasons, with step-by-step advice on shopping, planning, and executing a fun-filled, food-filled, Paleo-friendly year of entertaining. The authors take us from a Springtime Tea Party to a summer Night in Tuscany or Tropical Getaway to the autumn with the Thanksgiving Feast and on to a Winter Holiday meal that would seamlessly slip onto anyone’s Christmas dinner table. There’s even a New Year’s Eve Cocktail Party!

The photographs are luscious, the menus interesting, and the recipes obviously tasty.

If there is one criticism that I would have about this book (and it goes for most of the flood of paleo cookbooks that have arisen with the blossoming of the paleo movement) it would be the mistaken notion that because something is ‘natural’ and was possibly present in paleo times (sometimes a stretch) it is somehow nobler. That it is less metabolically harmful to use grape juice, maple syrup, honey, molasses, and dried fruits to sweeten than equivalent amounts of cane or beet sugar or corn syrup. Or, one might even add, than artificial sweeteners. And that’s simply not the case.

Let me hasten to say that many, if not most, of the recipes in Gather are well suited for both the paleo crowd and for those following a low carb diet to address metabolic issues. I heartily recommend this lovely book, but with one crucial caveat for the metabolically dysfunctional, overweight adult with insulin resistance: please read the ingredients lists with care and be alert that all that is currently dubbed paleo isn’t necessarily low carb… and some of it isn’t even necessarily paleo.

For instance, as it is coming up soon, let’s take the Thanksgiving Feast.

The authors have presented a beautiful meal, filled with traditional foods, attractively plated and clearly scrumptious; for the young, healthy, cross fit paleo devotee, it will be fine. However, the older, less fit, less active person still trying to corral metabolic syndrome must tread with some care. For that person, eating a thin sliver (one-tenth) of pie sweetened with 100 grams of simple sugar–albeit in the form of maple syrup, molasses, and dates–may be tolerable as a 10-gram treat after a meal of roast turkey, mashed cauliflower, and green vegetables with few, if any, additional sugar/starch grams. But that’s not what comes before.

In addition to that tasty pecan pie, the Thanksgiving Feast includes: Cranberry Relish, Poached Pear Salad, Lemon Green Beans with Shallots, Apple Veal Stuffing, and, of course, Stuffed Turkey. Let’s look at how much carb is in the meal preceding that pie. Fortunately, the recipes in this particular feast are all scaled to feed 10 people, so it make the per-serving carb math easy.

Take the Poached Pear Salad. Along with fresh mixed greens and gorgonzola cheese with a simple balsamic dressing (no carb issues with any of this) it is made with spiced pecans and poached pears. The pecans, in their native state, aren’t problematic, but here, they are sweetened with 1/4 cup maple syrup (52 g) and served along with the 4 pears (72 g) that are poached in 3 cups of grape juice (of which they will surely absorb at least some portion of the 66 g of sugar contained therein). That’s at minimum 12 to 15 grams of sugar/starch in each of the 10 servings, just in the salad.

The Lemon Green Beans with Shallots are a dream come true and there is nothing a low-carb dieter would need to do but enjoy them!

In the center of the plate, this Stuffed Turkey sounds fantastic, rubbed with a compounded mixture of duck fat, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper. (Disclaimer: Damn-near anything with duck fat in it rings my chimes!) But this is a stuffed bird, and the stuffing, though grain free, is still pretty weighty in the carb department.

The Apple Veal Stuffing for the turkey is filled with mushrooms, onions, veal, spices and herbs–all good low-carb players. But then it gets some nuttiness from 6-1/2 ounces of chestnuts (52 g) and some sweetness from 3 Granny Smith apples (60 g) and 8 ounces of dried cranberries (which could be as low as 20 g for unsweetened dried cranberries, but as high as 160+ g, if sweetened somehow, which they may be). All of which means that each serving will weigh in at least with 11 grams of sugar/starch carb just from the apples and chestnuts and unsweetened cranberries, but could go as high as 22 g if the cranberries were sweetened with grape juice, which they often are commercially.

While we’re on the subject of cranberries, there is also a Cranberry Relish made with 3 pounds of fresh cranberries, which of themselves are pretty low in carb at 2 effective grams per ounce. But their natural tartness needs something to sweeten it, which in this case is Medjool dates. 3 cups of them. For a total of 300+ grams of added non-fiber carb, for another 30+g per person.

Adding it all up, over and above the small amount of carb present in the nuts, green beans, and salad greens and the garlic and onions used to flavor, the paleo Thanksgiving meal could top 75 grams of effective carb per person.

And therein lies my concern.

So, my recommendation is that this is a beautiful, well-produced, cookbook, filled with lots of good recipes. I recommend it for many of its recipes. If you are young and healthy and living a paleo lifestyle, vowing to eschew grains and high fructose corn syrup and table sugar and modern pre-packaged foods, this book makes a wonderful addition to your paleo cookbook library.

But if eating low carb is your aim, I caution you to be a careful reader of ingredients and to substitute the concentrated sugar sources with something less provocative to your insulin regulatory system.

Remember, paleo humans didn’t have grape juice. They didn’t process sugar cane into molasses. They probably didn’t tap maple trees for sap, but that is less clear. Beyond occasionally stumbling into the honey tree, where they had to fend off angry bees to claim the sweet prize and the wild berries and less-sweet fruits they might gather in the late summer and dry (without added sugar) for use through the winter, early humans had no sources of concentrated sweetness.

Perhaps a better option for us all, paleo and low carber alike, would be to take a page from their ancient book and simply sweeten less, whether that be with ‘natural’ sweeteners, such as honey, molasses, and dried fruits, or with acceptable artificial sweeteners or low-calorie-carb-free natural alternatives, such as stevia.

However you approach this holiday season, make it a healthier, happier one, filled with many Gatherings to enjoy friends, family, fun, and lots of good food!

Paleo Goes Global: Everyday Paleo Italian Cuisine

We love to eat in Italy and love the flavors from the savory Parma ham of the north to the creamy mozzarella di bufala of the south; we adore every ‘red, white, and green’ inch of it! So how excited was I to receive a review copy of Sarah Fragosa’s new entry into the ever expanding paleo cookbook fold, Italian Cuisine!
Italian Cuisine Sarah Fragoso
I know, you’re thinking Italian and Paleo?? Are you kidding? What about the pizza? It’s there on an almond and coconut flour crust. The bruscetta? Try serving it on slices of hard salami (ever so much tastier) instead of crostini! The pasta? She’s got that covered, too, with spaghetti squash replacing spaghetti, mandolined zucchini or yellow squash replacing linguini or egg noodles, cauliflower masquerading as risotto, and sticks of butternut squash or white yam for penne. Afterall, it’s all about the flavors (which are present and accounted for) and not the wheat!

While I might quibble that a metabolically deranged Syndrome X-er might not be able to tolerate a diet that included a slug of white sweet potatoes (at least not much and on a regular basis, or that 1/2 cup of honey in a recipe is not a lot different from 1/2 cup of sugar metabolically speaking, those are fine points.

It’s a great resource for the paleo or low carber who misses Italian food! And gluten-free diners will love it!