Carbs are one of the most difficult macronutrients to understand on the Paleo Diet. This article is designed to help you learn which are OK, and which should be avoided if you are following this diet.
What is a Carbohydrate?
Carbohydrates are simply sugar molecules that are broken down by the body in the form of glucose, or energy. They can come from vegetables, fruits, or grains.
There are two main buckets of carbs, and all carbohydrate foods fall within these categories: complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates.
- Simple carbohydrates are basically a simple version of a sugar molecule, with only one or two parts. Table sugar is an example.
- Complex carbohydrates have a structure of three or more parts, and take more energy and time to be broken down into glucose.
What is a Paleo Carb?
Simply put, Paleo carbs are simply carbohydrates that are not processed, and do not contain gluten. This means that you’ll want to stay away from most grains, especially cereal grains, because they are heavily processed and often contain gluten.
Another way to look at this is to focus on what you should eat instead. From a Paleolithic perspective, that means honing in on carbs which come from fruits or vegetables.
Vegetables come in two main types: non-starchy vegetables, and starchy vegetables. When I think of starchy vegetables, things like squashes and yams immediately come to mind. Non-starchy vegetables include everything else (things like dark leafy greens).
In the below list, you’ll notice that a few of the items are fruit related. Many fruits contain carbohydrates and also contains fructose, which may cause digestion issues for some people.
If you are following a strict paleo diet but are struggling to lose that last bit of weight, consider reducing your intake of these high carb/high fructose fruits. Others my contend that sugar (fructose) is toxic. See this New York Times article or this recent 60 minutes segment with Dr. Sanjay Gupta. This Harvard article regarding fructose may also shed some light on the discussion: Is fructose bad for you? (For a great list of high fructose foods, visit nutritionaldata.self.com).There are still some FANTASTIC benefits to consuming fruits daily (think antioxidants and vitamins)… so I’m not saying fruit is bad for you. In fact, just don’t let it reduce your required high intake of quality meats and vegetables and you can (and should) eat as much as you want. Only be careful if you have a problem with fructose or you are currently having issues losing weight.
Not everyone can tolerate white potatoes, and few cannot tolerate white rice. If you have trouble tolerating either (you will need to experiment with this), please remove them from this list and try for an alternative.
The 10 Highest Paleo Sources of Carbs
- White potatoes
- Sweet potatoes
- Acorn squash
Highest Paleo Sources of Carbs (that are also Low in Fructose)
- Taro root
- White potato
- Sweet potato
- Lotus root
- Acorn squash
- Butternut squash
- Spaghetti squash
- White rice
There you have it. For all of you Paleo Dieters, make it rain with the carbs above. Take some parsnips or sweet potato and make some fries – or bring a bag of carrots to work. Whatever you do, stick to this list and make sure to mix it up by trying something new every once in a while!
Have fun and as always, let me know your thoughts!
Many of the foods listed above were found thanks to balancedbites.com