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If you research the paleo diet then you might have been put off a little by the description. It does sound a little faddy, eat like a caveman. It’s not quite as basic as it sounds, you don’t have to grab a club, say ‘Ugg’ and head off to the woods, wearing nothing but a little fur to protect your dignity. The simple explanation to a Paleo diet is simply only eating foods that need no processing, or to put it in even simpler terms. Food that you can either eat raw or prepare from source using just a little water. The diet is what our ancestors, cavemen, would have eaten. Although we suspect recipes were a little more primitive back then.
So, what are the biggest no no’s on a Paleo diet? Simple. Grain. Anything made with wheat or grain is out. Before we became the overweight, unhealthy humans we are today, we were nimble, agile, muscular things. Everything changed when we discovered agriculture and we sort of developed from hunter-gatherers into farmers! Whilst our diets have changed, our genetics haven’t and although many people believe we have adapted now to a grain rich diet (bread, corn, pasta etc) there are many more who believe these foods are the reason we are struggling with health and becoming so overweight! It could also explain why there are so many allergies today. Gluten intolerance, wheat allergy, lactose intolerance. Diet is always a great place to start if you have any unexplained illnesses and you can see the affect some food has on our skin. So the thought process behind paleo diets does make sense.
Ok, what exactly is wrong with grains? Grains cause a funky response in our system. Essentially grains are pure carbohydrates, carbs are turned into glucose, which is a type of sugar in our system we use for energy and other body functions. Any glucose that isn’t used as energy is stored as fat. Not good. Grains also contain Lectins. A natural toxin developed within the grain itself to prevent it from being consumed by humans. We know?! Still, we munch it down anyway.
Dairy is also out. Whilst a caveman could milk a cow, most of our dairy is heavily processed. Although ditching the dairy may not be a horrendous choice if you are looking to lose weight.
We are trying to convince ourselves that alcohol is ok. You can make vodka from potatoes, right? Well, I am afraid not. Although we think if you really research this there must have been a caveman way of making booze. Paleo wine, coming to a supermarket near you.
So back to the basics. No sugar, unless it’s in fruit, no grains, and no processed foods. That’s it. Simple.
So what on earth can we eat then?
Dairy is out, as you can imagine but you can still make fantastic creamy chicken recipes replacing the cream with coconut milk. This also gives you a gentle sweetness and tastes amazing with basil and tomato. It is also the basis to a very good curry or Laksa.
Bye, bye pizza! Due to the base, you will have to say goodbye to pizza as you know it, however, it’s hello to pizza soup. This involves taking all those heavenly flavors of your favorite Italian hero and popping them in a pot to stew. Tomatoes, chicken, courgette, peppers all in a delicious, rich soup. You have to ditch the cheese too, sorry.
Fancy a tasty Shepherd’s pie? Go for it, but try replacing the potato with pureed cauliflower. Cauliflower can also be used to make a crispy pizza base if you really did miss it that much in the soup.
Worried about breakfast. Obviously, fruit is great or a simple poached egg on a bed of spinach. Mushrooms are also a great place to start. If you get really creative you could make your own sweet potato hash browns to add some crunch to your egg. Fish is a great source of omega 3 and brilliant for your brain. Mackerel and baked avocado go strangely well together. However, for a real ultimate breakfast treat think about granola. Ditch all the grain elements and just go with nuts, seeds, coconut flakes all drenched in manuka honey - Ok, we are twisting the rules a little bit however honey is a natural resource that can be eaten straight from the hive - wouldn’t recommend you give that a go, though - so research your honey and find something untouched by man. Expect for the going and getting it bit. Obviously. Where were we? Oh yes, cover it all in honey and bake in the oven. A crunchy, delicious and slightly sweet starter for the day.
Image by Markus Spikske
Make sure you hydrate well too. Green tea or herbal teas are a great alternative to water and would have featured in the diets of our ancestors.
If this all seems a little too much to take in do some extra research or find out from PaleoHacks how to make your favorite meals Paleo friendly.
It is important that with any huge diet change you take things slow. Paleo isn’t a crash diet for weight loss, it is a complete lifestyle change that will bring your body back to how it’s meant to be. A lean, green machine. However if you hit the coffee three times a day and have been eating a sugar-rich diet, don’t make a drastic instant change. Slowly move your diet over to gently wean yourself from all the addictive ingredients in your diet. Or you could make yourself feel quite ill. It is also worth consulting a dietician or your doctor and perhaps keep a food diary which also makes note of your overall well-being.
Paleo is definitely a great lifestyle change, even if you cheat the system a little with some must haves, such as cocoa nibs and honey. It’s a brilliant way to get your 5 a day, and more than that! Whilst cavemen didn’t have juicers, it would be acceptable to consider they may have extracting juice the long way, so make the most of modern technology to keep you excited and give you variety.