Eating Paleo: What, Why, & Two Tasty Recipes
From Whole 30 to Keto to Paleo, these latest trends have filled our January Instagram feed with tons of intriguing recipes and hashtags. This content has also sparked a lot of questions. How do you make an informed decision about which one to pursue (if any)?
We turned to holistic health practitioner and founder of Supernatural, Rachelle Robinett, to give us the breakdown on a few of these trends and share a few delicious recipes. First up: Paleo.
The Paleo diet - sometimes known as the caveman diet - is based on the idea that we’re best suited (or “genetically designed”) to eat the foods that earlier humans supposedly survived on. That is, during the Paleolithic era, before the development of agriculture that eventually led to diets based largely on grains.
On a paleo plan, one eats primarily lean meat (including fish), fruit, vegetables, and high-quality fats. Not allowed are sugar, processed food (though for purists, this raises a question about oils), dairy, and the biggie: grains or legumes. For any of you also avoiding salt, feel free to omit from the recipes below. I rarely meet paleo folk who are sugar and/or salt-free, though that is typically part of the approach. For most, the definition of the paleo diet is its being grain-free.
In my personal experience and practice with clients, greatly reducing or entirely eliminating grains and legumes – even if just for a period of time – yields awesome results. Nearly always, without that category of food (and definitely without processed foods), people see great improvements in digestion, energy, mental clarity, and body composition.
I do caution clients that nuts and seeds fall into the same category as grains and legumes, so are best to avoid or limit too – again, even if just for a period of time to experience life without them. It’s also really worth avoiding large quantities of nut flours which are common in paleo recipes and arguably a very “unnatural” way to consume what amounts to large quantities of nuts. If all of this sounds restrictive, consider replacing rather than simply removing. And when it comes to replacing grains, my far-and-away favorite foods are sweet potatoes, yams, squashes, and naturally-sweet root vegetables, nom.
Overall, eating paleo can be an excellent way of life! Delicious, sustainable, and beneficial in a bunch of ways:
Eliminating processed foods is major: The bulk of the standard American diet consists of processed grains, which are essentially sugar, and can cause a whole host of health upsets. Consuming carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables is an excellent improvement. They’re higher fiber, more nutrient dense, and slower to digest which can create stable, lasting energy. And, many contain the prebiotic starches our gut bacteria need to survive and thrive.
Fiber deep-cleans our insides: The extra fiber from plant-based foods helps keep digestion moving, which can also help keep our energy consistent, gut-health happy, toxins on the out, and hunger at bay. (Remember to drink water!)
Healthy fat for the win: Paleo plans aren’t shy of healthy fat, which is great since we need the stuff for our brain, skin, energy levels, and even ability to burn fat. The right quantity and balance of both saturated and unsaturated fats can support healthy sleep, cognitive function, weight loss, glowing skin, and more.
Paleo can also be plant-based: Depending on the quantity of meat one eats on the paleo plan, it can (and arguably should) be a largely plant-based diet. Plants are where much of the magic of food-medicine happens; we need the most of them! Some folks go overboard on the animal products when eating paleo and this can undo all of its goodness, so remember to push plants. P.S. If you find yourself eating paleo and vegetarian or vegan and want a name for your diet, check out the up-and-coming term “pegan.” ;)