Is It Primal?

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I love doing these “Is It Primal?” posts. For one, the supply of topics is virtually limitless, because you guys are constantly sending in new foods and products for me to research. Two, I’m learning a ton of new stuff. And it’s not just specific foods I’m learning about; it’s also forcing me to think about health and what Primal actually means in new ways. There are plenty of times where I approach a particular entry with the assumption that it’s definitely going to be Primal, or definitely not going to be Primal, only to be surprised by what a little more research shows. It can be disconcerting to have your beliefs challenged or even scrambled, but so be it. That’s a small price to pay, right?

Let’s get to the foods. We’re doing five today – Paleo Bread, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, psyllium fiber, expeller pressed refined coconut oil, and unflavored gelatin.

Paleo Bread

Paleo Bread is actually a specific product. Now, I haven’t tried it myself, and while I’m generally against using paleo or Primal approximations of neolithic foods as staples, Paleo Bread looks like an extremely solid, ideal choice. Here’s why:

  • Choice of either coconut or almond meal-based bread. Coconut is the Primal darling, but not everyone likes or is compatible with it. Same goes for almonds. Giving folks a choice means pretty much everyone can find something they enjoy and tolerate.
  • The almonds used are blanched, with the skins removed. Since one of the major problems with eating a lot of nuts (like in breads made from them) is the mineral-binding phytate content, and phytate lies in the skin of the almonds, Paleo Bread should be safe on that front.
  • It’s made from actual food, with a short list. Almond/coconut flour, egg whites, psyllium (more on that below), apple cider vinegar, baking soda, and water are the ingredients. There’s nothing particularly offensive or hard-to-pronounce (which isn’t definitive, but a rather useful guideline for a food’s healthfulness) there.

If you have a hankering for bread, I’d say go for it. Just don’t make it a daily thing.

Verdict: Primal.

Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

A “soy sauce alternative,” Bragg’s Liquid Aminos still contains soy as the primary ingredient. What sets it apart, though, is the production process, the lack of wheat, and the lack of added salt. So it’s a sauce made from soy, but it’s not a soy sauce.

Bragg’s isn’t fermented, unlike most soy sauces. Instead of fermentation, the folks at Bragg’s apply hydrochloric acid (the same stuff found in your stomach) to soybeans, “predigesting” them and releasing free amino acids (like glutamate). To counter the acidity, they add sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), which combines with the “chloric” part of hydrochloric acid to make the salty taste. I’m actually a tentative fan of fermented soy as a condiment (miso, natto, that sort of thing), because it seems to have different effects on humans than processed or unfermented soy. I outlined some of the apparent benefits in this older post, if you’re interested.

I’ve heard of MSG-sensitive and soy-sensitive people having issues with the free glutamate in Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. I’m not convinced that naturally-occurring free glutamate is a problem, but I can’t argue with people who report sensitivities.

That there’s no wheat is a good thing, but you can get wheat-free tamari sauces that taste great. Heck, even regular soy sauce (which has wheat) might be “free of wheat allergens,” owing to the fermentation. Personally, I don’t like the taste of Bragg’s. Not sure how to describe it, really.

Verdict: Not Primal (unfermented soy), but it doesn’t appear very threatening.

Psyllium Fiber

Psyllium fiber comes two different ways, with each having a different effect on your bowels and their movements. Psyllium husk, which is the popular type of pysllium fiber found in most supplements, comes from the exterior of the psyllium seed and is almost entirely insoluble fiber. It bulks up your poop and can help move things along, but it’s pretty much an inert polysaccharide. Your gut bacteria can’t do much with it, let alone your “own” digestive system. If you need to fill a toilet bowl, psyllium husk will do it.

Psyllium seed powder, however, is mostly soluble fiber. That means it’s a prebiotic, fermentable fiber that can feed and support your gut flora and spur the creation of beneficial short chain fatty acids like butyrate. In fact, psyllium seed has been shown to increase butyrate production by 42%, an effect that lasted for two months after treatment.

I’m not a fan of pounding out massive dump after massive dump just because you can. I mean, sure, you don’t want to be stopped up and unable to go when you want to, but there’s nothing inherently good or beneficial about padding your bowel stats and rending your bowel walls with insoluble fiber. Soluble, prebiotic fiber? Via the production of short chain fatty acids, that stuff can actually help reduce colonic inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, protect against obesity, serve as an energy source for the colon, and possibly even protect against colon cancer. Thus, a case for psyllium seed fiber supplementation can certainly be made.

Verdict: Cautiously Primal, so long as you’re using the seed powder. But I’d rather you get your fermentable fiber in whole food form. Psyllium husk? Not Primal.

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