Cupcakes are exactly what they sound like: cup-sized cakes. Since cake isn’t Paleo, we can’t include cupcakes on the Paleo menu.
Cupcakes are generally made from a base of wheat flour, sugar, butter, eggs, and some type of flavoring (chocolate and vanilla are the most common). There’s nothing wrong with butter or eggs, but we have a big problem with wheat and sugar, especially when used together.
Paleo and Carbohydrates
In addition to the gluten issue, wheat is extremely high in carbohydrates. It causes a massive spike in blood sugar that leads to a crash and an energy slump. The rise in blood sugar leads to a corresponding rise in insulin to deal with all that sugar. A steady diet of carbs and sugar leads to chronically high insulin levels, and over time, the cells become desensitized to insulin and don’t react to it. The pancreas has to respond by producing more insulin, which results in insulin resistance.
That’s just the effect of wheat. Sugar also creates a huge spike in blood sugar, so when you combine wheat and sugar, you get a serious sugar high and all the insulin that goes along with it.
The 80/20 Rule
Cupcakes are just an occasional thing though, right? And they’re small, so what’s the harm in indulging every now and then? Depending on your tolerance for gluten and how active you are, maybe not much. Mark Sisson has a great breakdown of what happens to your body after just one cheat.