And we are back with another ingredient that might be a bit unfamiliar to you if you are a Paleo beginner. It is coconut aminos. Say what? Pronounced “ah-mee-nose”, this brown liquid is used as a replacement for soy sauce.
What is It?
Coconut aminos is a sauce made from coconut tree sap. It's blended with salt and then aged. It has up to 14 times the amount of amino acids (building blocks of our muscle tissue and immune system helper) than soy, is very low glycemic, and full of Vitamin C and B. It also, as it advertises on the bottle, has 65% less sodium than soy sauce. So not only is it soy- and gluten-free, but it has a number of really good nutritional benefits.
Why use it?
What's wrong with soy sauce? Well, first of all, most soy sauce has gluten in it, and for someone like me who is Celiac (gluten-allergic), we need to avoid gluten at all costs. There are gluten-free soy sauces out there, but they still contain soy (well, duh!). But without trying to get all sciency and technical, here are the reasons I try to avoid soy in general:
- It hangs on to minerals you need like a magnet. Soy has phytates – these bind to minerals like iron, magnesium, and calcium and zinc. Not only do they make these minerals unavailable to you, but they have the ability to remove minerals from your body. Not good.
- It can contribute to overeating. Soy has lectins – these proteins mess with your hunger hormones and make you think you are still hungry when you are not. Eventually this can lead to metabolic issues like insulin resistance.
- It contains estrogen – Soy contains a plant estrogen called isoflavones which can raise your own estrogen levels. In addition to this possibly causing one to have a higher chance of getting breast cancer, it can cause your monthly cycles to become irregular and possibly affect your ability to conceive. Children aren't meant to get extra hormones either, and there have even been studies that suggest babies fed soy formula are given the equivalent of 5 birth control pills a day.
- It can lead to thyroid problems – This is probably the biggest reason I avoid it, since I have Hashimoto's Thyroiditis autoimmune disease (where my body attacks my thyroid tissue). Soy has a high level of goitrogens, which makes it hard for your thyroid to effectively use iodine. Without the right amount of iodine your metabolism slows down, leading to weight gain, feeling cold all the time, your hair falling out, and many other super fun problems.
How do you use it?
When used in cooking, coconut aminos are pretty similar in taste to soy sauce. It has that salty, umami taste that soy sauce does so it's awesome in Asian-inspired dishes. When used alone it doesn't exactly taste the same, so I usually recommend it be used more for adding to sauces and dishes. But it definitely can be used alone if you really need it. Or if you've been off soy sauce for a long time you might not even notice any difference.
As you can see in this gif it's similar in the look and liquid-texture of soy sauce as well:
To use coconut aminos you just use them 1:1 for soy sauce in any recipe.
Where do you find it?
I typically buy my coconut aminos in bulk (128 oz) from Amazon because I have found the price to do it that way to be most cost effective. If you are new to these though, a gigantic jug isn't probably for you and instead you can find them at places like Whole Foods and Natural Grocers. Online, Thrive Market seems to have the best price for the 8 oz bottles ($4.45), which are the typical size you'd need (you do need a membership from Thrive though, which is like an online Costco for natural foods).