I have been a vegetarian for the last 6 years so it might surprise you to know that I love the principles of the paleo diet even tho it has a heavy meat component.
My diet has evolved as I have gotten older and my relationship with food is always deepening. Always influenced by emotions and by education. My journey towards some of the paleo principles has been gradual but consistant.
Over the recent years because I am vegetarian, I have relied on soy and soy derivatives as a source of protein. When my wife Anna started cutting out soy as part of her diet (she was basically doing a Whole 30 reset) she encouraged me to do the same. I researched and agreed to cut it out for awhile. There is a great article about it here: https://paleoleap.com/dangers-soy/.
I noticed I started feeling a little lighter after a couple of weeks. After this success, I started being more analytical with other things I was eating as part of my vegetarian diet. For the most part I was pretty good: I eat a lot of vegetables and fruit. But there were grains, some stuff in the freezer with potentially too long ingredient decks, and I hadn’t completely eliminated gluten. Gluten was the next major victory. It wasn’t hard. I didn’t have an intolerance but boy did that lighten me up even more.
Now I was even more embolden. Stuff in the freezer with too many ingredients bam that had to go too.
But back to gluten… so now that I had eliminated gluten what other grains were going to have to go?
No diet is perfect and I wasn’t going to follow anything by the letter of the law. Never have, never will. Makes life too boring. Besides, I love brown rice and quinoa, so I knew those where never going to entirely disappear. That being said I have been eating a lot more sweet potatoes and zucchini than brown rice and quinoa. Simple I was just going to research, do what made sense, wasn’t too difficult to apply, and let my body do the talking.
So next came my confrontation with corn. I had always considered corn to be a vegetable but a strict paleo diet is anti-corn. They argue it’s a grain, and a heavily genetically modified at that. This could be a problem seeing that I own a popcorn company.
Let’s break it down. So what is corn. Is it a vegetable or a grain?
Answering this question of whether is a little more complicated than it appears.
Whole corn, like you eat on the cob, is considered a vegetable. The corn kernel itself (where popcorn comes from) is considered a grain. To be more specific, this form of corn is a “whole” grain.
To complicate things a little more, many grains including popcorn are considered to be a fruit. This is because they come from the seed or flower part of the plant. In contrast, vegetables are from the leaves, stems, and other parts of a plant. This is why several foods people think are vegetables are actually fruits. Think tomatoes and avocados.
So, corn is actually a vegetable, a whole grain, and a fruit. But that still doesn’t clear up that is heavily genetically modified and more difficult to digest.
Here comes what many people don’t know. Popcorn is different than mainstream corn (either feed corn or sweet corn).
According to Food Chain ID, the certifier for the Non-Gmo Project Verification program: Popping corn has not been genetically modified as a crop. This same cannot be true of more conventional corn like sweet and feed corn. Sweet corn indeed may have been grown from GM seeds. Since 2011, when GM seeds were introduced on a large scale, GM sweet corn has become increasingly prevalent in the U.S.
Feed corn is a very different kind of corn. It is harvested late and only fed to animals. In states like Iowa, huge feed-corn fields roll on as far as the eye can see in many places, part of an estimated 88.9 million acres of feed corn grown overall in the U.S. There are many genetically modified varieties of feed corn.
Popcorn comes from a completely separate family of corn seed that is much smaller and as of yet and this important part: There is no genetically modified popcorn on store shelves at this time, nor is there any available for farmers to grow. So phew that is a good thing when it comes to clean snacking.
Let’s get to what you put on your popcorn like the toppings; it’s more important to know that many ingredients put on popcorn may not be healthy and genetically modified. Conventional popcorn, in particular, also runs the risk of being subject to pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and synthetic fertilizers. That’s why they think you may want to choose to pop organic popcorn.
So if popcorn is not genetically modified and it technically is a fruit that comes from a whole grain/vegetable, let’s look at it on it’s own nutritionally. Here is where popcorn shines!
Here are two articles. I found the first one I found interesting as it talks about the digestive benefits of popcorn (some of the articles claims seem like a stretch), but digestive benefits mean lower inflammation. When it comes to Paleo and Whole 3o digestion is of very large importance.
The second article below talks about antioxidants in popcorn:
“Popcorn contains more polyphenols, healthy antioxidant compounds than fruits and vegetables, according to a report presented at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Joe Vinson, PhD, a leader in analyzing the healthy components of common foods, explained that popcorn only contains about four percent water while fruits and vegetables are 90 percent water. Because of this, the polyphenols in fruits and vegetables are diluted, while those in popcorn are concentrated. This study found that popcorn contains up to 300 mg of polyphenols in a serving; sweet corn contains 114 mg; and fruits contain 160 mg.”
More from a published university study:
“Those hulls deserve more respect,” said Vinson, who is with the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. “They are nutritional gold nuggets.”
So while popcorn is not perfectly paleo, here are some reasons you shouldn’t be perfectly paleo either. Go get yourself some organic popcorn!