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Come out of your cave: Discover the Paleo diet

Patricia Conte has a background in marketing communications and works as an independent writer. In 2010, she was given the opportunity to combine her love of writing and food when she started as a contributing writer for the Food channel...

Eat like your ancestors!

If you haven't heard about the Paleo — or Caveman — diet, it's possible you’ve been living under a rock (or in a cave)! Learn the basics of eating the Paleo way.

 Come out of your cave: discover the Paleo diet

Rediscover the past

What is the Paleo diet? It's a diet that's based (for the most part) on eating foods our caveman ancestors would have eaten thousands of years ago. Don't let the unrefined reputation of the caveman put you off. There are many great Paleo recipes to knock your socks off (including the one below for caveman chili).

Make cod with fresh and dried fennel >>

The idea behind the diet is that our bodies are genetically programmed to eat like our ancestors did, prior to the agricultural revolution. In other words, eat what you could hunt, fish and gather and eliminate processed foods.

Loren Cordain, Ph.D., is the founder of the Paleo movement. Research conducted by Cordain and his colleagues revealed that Paleo people were generally free of chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and others.

Try roasted chicken thighs with lemon, fennel and oregano >>

What's on the menu

You might not think the Paleo diet is robust, but it is. You can enjoy meats (go for lean meats and stay away from processed meats); seafood; vegetables and fruits; nuts, seeds and berries; healthy oils like coconut oil, avocado oil and olive oil; and eggs. When you're selecting your food, try to stick to grass-fed, free-range meats, wild fish and fresh fruits and veggies, particularly organic, if possible.

Enjoy a simple kiwi fruit salad >> 

"86" it

You wouldn't have seen people in the Paleolithic era lunching and munching on fast food and prepackaged cookies, and that means those types of foods are not included in the Paleo diet. Nor are grains, dairy, legumes (including peanuts), potatoes and refined sugar.

But keep in mind that there are many interpretations of the Paleo diet, and people make exceptions here and there. For example, some versions of the diet exclude tomatoes and eggplant, while others don't. Also, salt isn't standard on Cordain's plan, but you might use sea salt, sparingly. While sugar is not included in the diet, raw honey is.

Dig into oven-roasted, curried cauliflower >>

You don't have to go all-out to enjoy the flavors and benefits of the Paleo diet. Some health experts say that eating a Paleo diet even 80 percent of the time can provide health benefits. Whether you follow Cordain's version of the Paleo diet or another that might be more middle-of-the-road, consider talking with your healthcare provider first.

Try this recipe for Caveman Chili

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1/4 cup diced white onion
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:

  1. Add the ground beef to a large nonstick saute pan over medium-high heat. Cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until browned. Drain any excess oil.
  2. Place a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef, carrot, celery, onion, zucchini, garlic, tomatoes and tomato sauce, and cayenne, sea salt, cumin and dried thyme.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat. Stir in the olive oil, cover and cook for about 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Serve in individual bowls garnished with diced onions.

More healthy recipes

Tofu and black bean breakfast burritos
What is clean eating and recipes to try
Gluten-free peanut butter pudding

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