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 types of carbs, and all carbohydrate foods fall within these major 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?
Paleo carbs are carbohydrates that are not processed, and do not contain gluten. This means that you’ll want to stay away from simple carbohydrates. Common simple carbs include baked goods, cereal grains, and baked sweets like cookies or brownies. Simple carbohydrates contain lots of processed ingredients and sugar – which some have said to be highly toxic (see this New York Times article or this recent 60 minutes segment with Dr. Sanjay Gupta for more information).
From a Paleolithic perspective, you can find Paleo-safe carbs in fruits, and vegetables.
Paleo Vegetable Carbs
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). All vegetable sourced carbs are considered paleo, as they contain no processing and are naturally gluten-free.
Excellent Vegetable sources of Paleo-friendly carbs:
- Sweet potatoes
- Acorn squash
- Taro root
- Lotus Root
- Butternut squash
- Spaghetti squash
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.
Paleo Fruit Carbs
Fruits contain carbohydrates as well as a fruit sugar called fructose. If you are someone who has struggled with gout, it is a good idea to limit your fructose intake. Please check out this list of the fruits that are high in fructose. While there are some fantastic benefits to consuming fruits (think antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals), some might contend that it could be bad for you. To learn more, I read an excellent article over at Harvard.edu and would recommend you read it: Is fructose bad for you? In general, be careful if you have a problem with fructose or you are currently having issues losing weight.
List of Paleo Fruit Carbs:
If you are strictly following the Paleo Diet, then grains are not permitted. While some loosely-affiliated advocates are more lenient and allow gluten-free grains like rice, oats, buckwheat, and others to be eaten – the truth is: all grains are to be avoided on Paleo diet.
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