In order to take advantage of the popular Paleo diet, you don't have wear animal-skin loincloths or let your hair grow wild. But you do need to rethink your eating habits-because this "pre-agricultural" nutritional plan emphasizes what our Paleolithic hunter-gatherer forbears were likely to consume, and eliminates most foodstuffs that were introduced through agriculture and animal husbandry practices.
The regimen isn't as difficult as it might sound. The diet emphasizes natural, unprocessed foods with optimal nutrition. Variety is important as well-seasonal bounty and climate fluctuations would have dictated the menu for those long-ago folks. With that in mind, you can get with the program by following a few simple guidelines.
We're talking animals for protein-meat, fowl, and fish, with the idea being to choose options that are as natural as possible:
- Meat should be organic, pastured, and grass-fed; bison is an excellent lean choice.
- Fowl should be organic and pastured, and local if at all possible. The same goes for eggs.
- Fish should be wild-caught and varied, and as fresh as possible.
Vegetables, tubers, fruits, and nuts should all be on your radar. Unless you're blessed with a market garden in your backyard, you'll be foraging at your local farmers' market or health food store-and everything should be organic, of course!
- Greens in as many forms as possible, and the darker the better.
- Vegetables of every sort, eaten both cooked and raw.
- Fruits in moderation, as modern fruits are higher in sugar than their forebears.
- Roots, including carrots, radishes, and sweet potatoes. These are great sources of carbohydrates and fiber.
- Nuts, such as walnuts and almonds, are a rich source of omega-3s.
- Fats other than animal fats should be unprocessed, such as coconut, olive, and avocado.
Foods to Avoid
Stay away from grains, legumes, dairy, sugar, corn syrup, vegetable oils, processed foods, and artificial anything.
That said, the Paleo diet is more a general guide than it is a strict set of rules. After all, even followed less than rigorously, a diet high in protein and fresh vegetables with minimal processed ingredients is bound to do a body good.
Paleo Origins and Evolution
Interested in learning more about the Paleo diet and lifestyle? Pick up a copy of The Paleo Manifesto by John Durant. Part history book, part nutrition guide, Durant's well-researched book is a fascinating read that explores health secrets of our ancient ancestors, among many other things.
Neil Zevnik is a private chef in Los Angeles who is devoted to the idea that "healthy" doesn't have to mean "ho-hum." Visit him online at neilzevnik.com to learn more.
photos (this page and next): Pornchai mittongtare; prop Styling: robin turk; food Styling: LIESL MAGGIORE