We often get asked if couscous is paleo? Before we can answer that question we need to discuss what couscous is and how it is made.
So what is couscous?
There are two main types of couscous – Moroccan and Israeli. The Moroccan type comes from Northern Africa and is very small granules of semolina and have a similarity to quinoa and a density closer to rice. The Israeli type are closer in size to whole peppercorns. So couscous is made from semolina flour and is basically several little pellets of flour.
Couscous is made from the granules of durum wheat and is cooked by steaming. Semolina is sprinkled with water and rolled with the hands to form small pellets then sprinkled with dry flour to keep them separate. Pellets that are too small fall through the sieve and are again rolled and sprinkled with dry semolina and rolled into pellets. This traditional method continues until all the semolina has been formed into tiny granules of couscous. In most circumstances couscous has been bought from supermarkets pre-steamed and dried and is very easy to prepare from home.
Is Couscous Paleo?
No! Couscous is a grain so should be avoided on the paleo diet. Like all grains, couscous is very high in carbohydrates and lacks nutrients. It is low in fat although the low fat aspect of couscous may appeal to many conventional diets. Grains are simple carbohydrates so break down sugar very quickly. In turn, sugar levels rise so too insulin levels. This prevents you body from burning fat because they cause your body to concentrate on converting the excess glucose in your bloodstream into energy and storing the rest as fat.
Grains contains 3 anti-nutrients: Lectins, Phytates and Gluten. Grains are full of lectins. They can lead to intestinal damage, intestinal bacteria and leptin resistance. Phytates bind to minerals such as magnesium, calcium, zinc and iron. By doing this, phytates make those minerals unavailable and takes them out of the body. Gluten can cause allergic reactions in some people. Gluten can cause vomiting, bloating, stomach pain and diarrhea. Very severe versions of this cause Celiac Disease.
What to eat Instead?
When going paleo, it can be difficult to transition to grain free meals particularly when couscous, pasta and rice made up a large proportion of your diet. Some delicious alternatives include Zucchini Noodles, Spaghetti Squash, Cauliflower Rice and Kelp or Mountain Yam Noodles. Courgette noodles are mild in flavour but really easy to cook. Spaghetti squash has a great noodle texture and is very commonly used for paleo cooking. Cauliflower rice tastes like cauliflower and the texture is very similar to rice. Once your taste buds adjust you may find yourself never wanting to eat couscous again!