One of the hardest parts of following the Paleo diet, for people who are used to eating a traditional Western diet, is finding condiments that fit with your new eating plan. The Paleo diet is a fairly strict and demanding diet, and it can be hard to remember what you should and should not be eating. If you want to follow a truly strict Paleo philosophy, then you will need to read the ingredients of the food that you buy, and keep track of where your food comes from too. That’s a lot to remember.
Mustard is a popular condiment, and it is available in many forms, from commercial preparations such as those offered by Heinz to higher-end freshly prepared mustards from smaller vendors. It should come as no surprise that the answer to the question of whether mustard is Paleo is that it depends.
The Variations of Mustard
There are many different kinds of mustards. They are all made from the seeds of the mustard plant, which is a plant that belongs to the same family as wasabi and the spicy horseradish. Depending on the way that the seeds are processed, you can end up with a sauce that is mildly tangy or one that is much spicier.
Big brands, such as French’s, Heinz and Grey Poupon, make their basic yellow version of this condiment using seeds as well as turmeric, water and vinegar. However, if you read the label of the jar, you will also see references to “spice” and even “natural flavours” on the listings for French’s ingredients. Other brands such as Grey Poupon do not make it clear whether there are GMOs in their ingredient list, and there are some that add corn-based vinegar to their condiments too. Whether you view vinegar as being Paleo-friendly is a personal choice. Some people feel that anything that is made from corn is forbidden, while others feel that since the grains cannot survive the fermentation process it is perfectly acceptable to consume vinegar even as part of a Paleo lifestyle.
When it comes to brown mustards, the situation is slightly different. Brown and whole grain mustards are usually much more natural. There are some exceptions — for example, the popular Trader Joe’s brand contains white wine and citric acid — but most other brands are far simpler and contain only whole, natural ingredients. The same can be said for Dijon varieties. If you want to make sure that you are eating foods that are as close to nature as possible, then they are the varieties that are your safest choices.
Making Your Own Mustards
If you cannot source a good commercial whole grain version of this popular condiment from a local store, why not try making your own? It is a fairly easy process that does not require a lot of unusual or expensive ingredients. You can simply mix up a cup of seeds along with half a cup of vinegar, half a cup of water, a dash of lemon juice and some sea salt and pepper. Be sure to use sea salt, and not table salt, if you are following a strict Paleo diet.
Now that you know that you can enjoy this tasty condiment as part of the Paleo diet, you are probably wondering whether there are any nutritional benefits to it. The good news is that the seeds have strong anti-inflammatory properties, and they can be very good for you.
There is evidence to suggest that it can help with the symptoms of asthma, as well as clearing congestion from colds and flu. In addition, it can help to stave off the effects of aging thanks to the carotenes, zeaxanthins, lutein and vitamins. These powerful antioxidants can help to boost your immune system and keep you looking young too. The immune-system-boosting effects of antioxidants are one of the reasons why people spend so much money on “superfoods” such as asparagus and acaii, but antioxidants are actually abundant in a lot of other more mundane foods too.
The niacin and vitamin B3 in the condiment can help to lower your cholesterol levels and prevent atherosclerosis. This means that it helps to protect against cardiovascular disease and also reduces your risk of developing hypertension. It can reduce your risk of strokes and heart attacks.
If applied directly to the skin, instead of taken orally, it can help to stimulate hair growth. The beta carotene and vitamin A in the oil helps to stimulate the hair follicles and the fatty acids and iron help with follicular health as well. There is also some evidence to suggest that the sulphur in the oil helps to prevent skin infections because it has both anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.
What about Other Condiments?
The biggest challenge for Paleo followers is avoiding artificial colours and flavourings as well as processed foods, sugars and grains. Many commercial condiments are coloured to make them look more appealing in the bottle, and have sugar added to make them more palatable. There are some people who follow the 80 per cent rule — living 80 per cent Paleo, 100 per cent of the time. This is a good way to ease in to the Paleo lifestyle and does allow you to eat Paleo meals but not have to worry about the details of what is in your condiments. However, if you want to embrace a full Paleo lifestyle, you will not be able to do this.
Some good Paleo-friendly, gluten-free condiments include organic ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and tamari. These condiments can all be used to add a little extra flavour to your meals without you having to worry about consuming any artificial colours, flavourings or preservatives. If you cannot find these condiments, you can make your own sauces and chutneys by blending tomatoes, seeds, peppers and other fresh ingredients and adding a little spice to them. It may take a while to find the perfect recipe, but once you do find something that you like the taste of, you will never want to go back to commercial mixes again.