Paleo. We seem to hear the word more every day. Paleo diet. Paleo lifestyle. Paleo chocolate chip banana bacon muffins. There is so much information out there regarding this increasingly popular lifestyle, it can get pretty confusing. I was confronted with the daunting task of learning all about the Paleo diet when my functional medicine doctor recommended I begin following it as a treatment for my autoimmune condition. In a nutshell, the Paleo diet is about eating like our prehistoric ancestors, cutting out all grains and refined sugar, and eating lots of quality proteins, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables. It’s the caveman life, y’all.
So who exactly was this “caveman”? Webster’s dictionary defines him as “a prehistoric man who lived in caves.” Gee, thanks, Webster. That really clears it up. Now, I don’t know if I believe in cavemen
or not. Around the time I hear the words “Paleolithic Era,” my mind starts traveling to a beach somewhere. Debate amongst yourselves. Whatever
the basis for the name of this diet, the science behind it and the stories of dramatic life transformation are getting harder to ignore. For many
people, the Paleo diet appears to have a profoundly positive impact on autoimmunity, chronic pain, diabetes, neurologic conditions, obesity, and many others. For more information on the science behind Paleo and how
to integrate it into your own life, I highly recommend “The Paleo Solution” by Rob Wolf and “The Paleo Approach” by Dr. Sarah Ballentine. If you
have medical concerns, be sure to also discuss potential diet changes with
a knowledgeable professional.
In the end, Paleo is about choosing foods that brings the body into a state where it can heal and regulate in an optimal manner. But you don’t have
to ascribe completely to the caveman lifestyle to reap some of the benefits. Here are five of my favorite Paleo-inspired food fixes that anyone can incorporate into a healthier diet:
- Cauliflower “rice” (replacing white rice): I love to cook Asian and Latin-inspired meals, so I was so excited to find this super easy nutrient-packed alternative to rice. Simply throw some chunks of cauliflower in a food processor or blender and gently pulse until small grains of “rice” form. Roast in the oven or sauté with some garlic and spices until tender and enjoy!
- Spaghetti squash “spaghetti” (replacing regular spaghetti noodles): I am generally not a lover of squash, but spaghetti squash has a very mild flavor and has to be one of the most amazing vegetables on the planet. Simply cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, sprinkle with a little healthy oil, salt, and pepper, and roast in a 400-degree oven for about 40 minutes. Take a fork to the roasted squash and watch it magically turn into spaghetti!
- Coconut oil (replacing vegetable and canola oil): Coconut oil is one of the healthiest and most versatile oils. It’s packed with healthy fats and is great for cooking and baking. Use coconut oil instead of lotion on dry winter skin. Swish a tablespoon of coconut oil daily instead of mouthwash and impress your dentist with a super healthy smile. Coconut oil has a myriad of uses. Look it up!
- Unique flours (replacing white flour): I LOVE to bake. So much. It’s my thing. But the last time my big flour canister was finally empty, I washed it, texted my mom and sister (who mourned with me), and put it way in the back of a basement closet where it cannot tempt me to buy white flour to fill it. Saying hello to Paleo does not mean saying goodbye to all flour, however. Coconut and almond flours are popular choices for Paleo baking. Insect flours are also gaining popularity. That’s right. I said insect. Do you think Caveman turned up his nose at a grasshopper? I don’t think so. Flours made of crickets, locusts, and earthworms are all easily obtainable online. If you’re a friend of mine, you might wonder if I’m going to subject you to eating ground-up bug brownies at some point. Well, my dears, I’ll never tell.
- Protein, protein, protein (replacing all that SUGAR!): Studies have shown time and again the powerful chemical reaction that occurs in the brain when we eat sugar. It’s the same chemical reaction caused by cocaine and other highly addictive drugs. And when you try to kick the sugar habit, you believe those claims. I never thought I would be able to overcome my sugar addiction, but what really made the difference for me was turning myself into a full-blown carnivore. High-quality protein can be a huge help in kicking all those refined sugars to the curb.
If Cavewoman never tried to kill Caveman with her club, we might just have Paleo to thank. I know when I put the effort into eating right, I have a clearer head, more energy, and am a much kinder person for my family to be around. Incorporating these new food habits into my family’s diet has been challenging but definitely worth it.
So, who’s ready to build a fire and roast some grasshoppers?