2

votes

Are tea, coffee, herbs and spices really paleo?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created July 31, 2012 at 9:46 AM

It seems likely that paleo man/woman would have ingested non-nutrient plants for medicine. Possibly for even "fun" during the plentiful times. But generally the idea of regular non-caloric, non-nutrient "foods", high in phytochemicals seems vaguely unpaleo, unless they served some vital phsyiological purpose.

When you look even at ancient cultures use of things like stimulants, they are largely used for endurance for walking long distances (but also religion/spirituality, and sometimes as "mood enhancement")

Be aware, I am talking cooking herbs and spices here too, herbal teas, green and black tea, coffee etc...all things that many people eat or consume daily - not just herbal medicines and plant drugs...

My thought is that alot of these substances are chemically complex, with unknown impact on health.

The body is probably more evolved to deal with small amounts of refined sucrose, than regular hits of hundreds of different relatively novel phytochemicals, especially outside of the context of calories or nutrients.

Are herbs, spices, teas etc really paleo outside of a healing or functional context (ie every day)?

Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f

(8014)

on August 17, 2012
at 04:17 PM

+1 for your 2nd paragraph. (The first one's damn good too, but the 2nd one is the money shot.)

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on August 17, 2012
at 01:39 PM

I just looked up basil and oregano. Neither seems particularly nutrient dense. What herbs and spices have lots of nutrients?

Bf57bcbdc19d4f1728599053acd020ab

(5043)

on July 31, 2012
at 04:09 PM

Oh I think you're right, we lost a lot of wisdom with our transition to big pharma and medical school. Wisdom that these substances are powerful and should be consumed, if at all, sparingly.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on July 31, 2012
at 03:27 PM

He has some stuff on his website, for example: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/cumin/#axzz22DLeW5Ir

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on July 31, 2012
at 12:36 PM

^ Good answer. And, yes in the case of "novel foods" I suppose your right. But then they also offer nutrients and benefits (and so can herbs in certain circumstances). IDK if liver fits in that catergory tho...but true. Unless your anscestors survival depended on a certain food tolerance, its hard to say even with many plant foods if the phytochemicals are handled correctly by the body. Thats not to say they arent, but its a factor worth considering IMO, especially for staple foods, or large quantities. Do you mean sissons book BTW, or is there a link?

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on July 31, 2012
at 12:30 PM

If by "really paleo", you mean consumed in the paleolithic, probably not coffee, probably certain herbs/spices, but we don't know absolutely for sure either way. In the context of Paleo 2.0/Primal/PHD/Whole 30 or whatever, these things have positives and negatives that should be looked at carefully. Especially on an individual basis. Mark Sisson goes into some detail on a lot of this stuff, but we won't know everything for quite a while (if ever). And the same argument could be made for many foods: spinach/tomato/liver/dairy/beans/nuts/etc.

61844af1187e745e09bb394cbd28cf23

(11058)

on July 31, 2012
at 11:48 AM

Cactus paddles are food, good food, as are prickly pears.

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on July 31, 2012
at 10:43 AM

- Be aware I am not saying that the odd bit of herbs is bad for you, but I think we generally underestimate their chemical effects on the body, even in everyday cooking herbs and spices.

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on July 31, 2012
at 10:33 AM

- And whether our bodies are actually capable of properly handling them (which my personal example, suggests it is not)

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on July 31, 2012
at 10:27 AM

A simple personal example, one that inspired the question - I got a hypoglycemic reaction from seemingly from too many polyphenols after exercise (one green tea, a bunch of cinnomon, and tumeric - my theory about the polyphenols but they do all lower blood sugar). It seems to me that these substances have insulin promoting effects because high polyphenols are usually encountered with quick calories - ie in fruit. That made me start to speculate about the effect of large quantities of non-food phytochemicals..

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on July 31, 2012
at 10:22 AM

Sure, as I said,there is definately evidence of ancient herbal medicine. But I cant see paleo man sprinkling chilli or basil on his food everyday, or drinking a cup of coffee every morning, despite non-caloric, non-nutrient plants potential use for endurance, or medicine/whatever, that suggests that the body is not really evolved to deal with these substances like it is with foods..I see no evolutionary pressure that would imply that we are evolved for it.

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on July 31, 2012
at 10:21 AM

Sure, as I sad, they would have been used for functional purposes, like endurance, spirituality or what have you. I am very familiar with shamanism, and herbalism. There is definately evidence of herbal medicine. But I cant see paleo man sprinkling chilli or basil on his food everyday, or drinking a cup of coffee every morning, despite non-caloric, non-nutrient plants potential use for endurance, or medicine/whatever, that suggests that the body is not really evolved to deal with these substances like it is with foods..I see no evolutionary pressure that would imply that we are evolved for it.

  • Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

    asked by

    (5381)
  • Views
    6.7K
  • Last Activity
    1426D AGO
Frontpage book

Get FREE instant access to our Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!

9 Answers

6
32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on July 31, 2012
at 12:16 PM

The idea that plant compounds are complex and have unknown health consequences. I agree completely with this statement, but your follow-up statement that we are ill-evolved/adapted to consuming these phytochemicals is not necessarily true. Humans are plant-eating animals, we've evolved eating a good deal of plants and we're not so defenseless against the the green leafies that grow in the ground. Dietary reductionism has identified dozens of compounds that are necessary for human growth and survival and have coined them nutrients. But what of the millions of other phytochemicals? Who's to say that there are not tens of thousands of them are beneficial in some way, some benefit that has yet to be identified via nutritional reductionism? What of synergistic effects of phytochemicals with each other and other essential nutrients? Certainly there are some detrimental phytochemicals out there, and plenty of compounds that are likely neutral in activity. But over millions of years of evolution, humans have adapted to a plant-based diet, I think it's short-sighted to toss out non-nutritive plants because their benefit has not yet been established.

Paleo has done itself a disservice by demonizing a handful of plant compounds: gluten, phytates, oxalates, lectins... it implants the idea in some folks' head that plants are to be scrutinized first, and consumed later.

Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f

(8014)

on August 17, 2012
at 04:17 PM

+1 for your 2nd paragraph. (The first one's damn good too, but the 2nd one is the money shot.)

6
Bf57bcbdc19d4f1728599053acd020ab

(5043)

on July 31, 2012
at 10:11 AM

Does the word "shaman" ring a bell? People have absolutely been using the healing/hallucinogenic properties of plants and herbs for a very, very long time. There's a reason these people were held in such high esteem and their knowledge carefully passed down from generation to generation. Before big pharma and medical school, we had medicine men and herbal healers.

In addition, I personally subscribe to the "non-reenactment" version of paleo. Often, evolution is a good thing. I like to think we evolved these oversized brains for a reason. On the other hand, those same brains have also led us SADly astray, with the over-engineering of our food supply...

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on July 31, 2012
at 10:27 AM

A simple personal example, one that inspired the question - I got a hypoglycemic reaction from seemingly from too many polyphenols after exercise (one green tea, a bunch of cinnomon, and tumeric - my theory about the polyphenols but they do all lower blood sugar). It seems to me that these substances have insulin promoting effects because high polyphenols are usually encountered with quick calories - ie in fruit. That made me start to speculate about the effect of large quantities of non-food phytochemicals..

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on July 31, 2012
at 10:43 AM

- Be aware I am not saying that the odd bit of herbs is bad for you, but I think we generally underestimate their chemical effects on the body, even in everyday cooking herbs and spices.

Bf57bcbdc19d4f1728599053acd020ab

(5043)

on July 31, 2012
at 04:09 PM

Oh I think you're right, we lost a lot of wisdom with our transition to big pharma and medical school. Wisdom that these substances are powerful and should be consumed, if at all, sparingly.

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on July 31, 2012
at 10:21 AM

Sure, as I sad, they would have been used for functional purposes, like endurance, spirituality or what have you. I am very familiar with shamanism, and herbalism. There is definately evidence of herbal medicine. But I cant see paleo man sprinkling chilli or basil on his food everyday, or drinking a cup of coffee every morning, despite non-caloric, non-nutrient plants potential use for endurance, or medicine/whatever, that suggests that the body is not really evolved to deal with these substances like it is with foods..I see no evolutionary pressure that would imply that we are evolved for it.

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on July 31, 2012
at 10:22 AM

Sure, as I said,there is definately evidence of ancient herbal medicine. But I cant see paleo man sprinkling chilli or basil on his food everyday, or drinking a cup of coffee every morning, despite non-caloric, non-nutrient plants potential use for endurance, or medicine/whatever, that suggests that the body is not really evolved to deal with these substances like it is with foods..I see no evolutionary pressure that would imply that we are evolved for it.

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on July 31, 2012
at 10:33 AM

- And whether our bodies are actually capable of properly handling them (which my personal example, suggests it is not)

5
3ab5e1b9eba22a071f653330b7fc9579

on July 31, 2012
at 11:40 AM

What it really boils down to is making your food taste great. If you can make the food taste incredible and interesting you are more likely to stick with it. If I had to eat a plain piece of meat and veggies every night I would give up pretty quickly. Just because you cannot find evidence of them eating certain herbs and spices we use now doesnt mean you should avoid them. You can if you choose, but if something makes it easy to stick to a healthy lifestyle, then I applud it. That glass of iced green tea isn't a diet coke, and that tumeric and cinnamon on your chicken is not breading and trans fats, yet it is (almost) equally exciting to our palates. Perhaps I am just weak because I need interesting food.

1
5495f20862fee8ca6a3d6cf6ece99356

(387)

on July 31, 2012
at 01:32 PM

I would argue that coffee was NOT consumed, simply because roasting the beans and grinding them with two rocks before ever getting the fire started to heat the water with more hot rocks in some bowl they would probably not want to leave behind would prove to be too much work for a transient community. Simple infusions like Yerba Mate have been consumed without as much prep for millenia I would imagine.

That said, I would assume they infused either cold or hot water with various edibles found along the way that had effects of changing the taste of plain water, or most likely to alleviate an upset stomach much like a dog eats grass, they inherently know its effective.

Spices may have been gathered and crushed, but to transport would have required sophisticated vessels that were small and lightweight, but I'm guessing they had no glass or plastic baggies. Perhaps only during large multifamily feasts with several hands helping in the meal.

IF they were sophisticated enough to carry embers from place to place and fire was not too difficult to make, perhaps they burned sage or other dried herbs to cover up bodily odor or simply because they enjoy the smell, but if I were around fire all day the addition of more smoke would probably not be something I sought.

1
Ec1dc4f8143b6bdaa0ff64fafa55d424

(246)

on July 31, 2012
at 10:54 AM

as ever, context is important; consider seasonality,local availability, and usage- food, medicine and spice/flavoring are three very different areas of application. and for what it is worth- making tea required heating the water; which cut way down on bacteria etc therein. so a hot drink in the morning would be very healthful, back in paleo times; today it is nice but not required. not specific, i know; but perhaps something to think about.

1
6fece842bd1bcf5724f458a302a2156e

on July 31, 2012
at 10:14 AM

I have never liked any of them ever even as a child so I am not very pro taking them now just for the sake of it. I even got addicted to Cacao which the Mayans use and causes a high.

Those groups of people who chew quat (including many in London these days) rot their teeth nad plenty of tribes in Papua new guinea have alcoholic stuff. Most of these things are not necessary for us and don't make us feel good and even if you think it's natural I do not think it's worth the risk.

Caffeine is very addictive.

People chewed on cactus etc to quell appetite when they did not have enough food. I am not sure we really need that kind of thing now.

61844af1187e745e09bb394cbd28cf23

(11058)

on July 31, 2012
at 11:48 AM

Cactus paddles are food, good food, as are prickly pears.

0
F3f646f45eb428ce36f33c1a9d01f6da

on August 18, 2012
at 05:30 PM

Look again, a mere 5 grams of basil adds 27% RDA of Vitamin K to a meal and 1 calorie! That's a pretty dense calorie. Chilli is particularly nutrient dense, adding a 45 gram chilli to a meal adds 100% RDA Vitamin C, ~10% RDA Vitamin A, K, B6, and plenty more nutrients at lower levels, all for 18 calories. Cumin, a tablespoon of those seeds add 20% RDA Iron and 10% RDA Manganese. Turmeric/Pepper/Mint/ all the other herbs and spices have similiar high nutrient densities.

Herbs and spices are basically free nutrients on top of whatever you were going to eat, and make your food taste much better. It may not seem like a lot of nutrients because you don't eat +100g of herbs/spices like other foods, however that misses the point. A grass fed steak gets both more nutritious and tastier when you coat it in pepper and thyme.

0
F3f646f45eb428ce36f33c1a9d01f6da

on August 17, 2012
at 01:02 PM

Herbs and spices are extremely nutritious, I can't believe no one has corrected your assumption that they are not. Go to nutritiondata.com and check for yourself. Grassfed organic beef, wild fish, etc. have excellent nutrient densitities of 45-50. Vegetables have even better scores of 70-90. Herbs and spices have scores 90+.

In 99% of natural unprocessed foods flavour = nutrition. That's the whole point of evolving a sense of taste.

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on August 17, 2012
at 01:39 PM

I just looked up basil and oregano. Neither seems particularly nutrient dense. What herbs and spices have lots of nutrients?

0
E565e11cf32b38ab1f45086c1e0205f7

(613)

on July 31, 2012
at 03:05 PM

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120718131348.htm - check out this link. Interesting article about ancient man's wisdom of plants. Doesn't specifically address the plant foods you're questioning, but does indicate that certain plant products were eaten for more than their caloric or nutrient contribution.

Answer Question


Get FREE instant access to our
Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!