As a Holistic Nutritionist, I believe in encouraging people to follow a balanced diet, with no ready-made meals but instead, food cooked from scratch with fresh ingredients. I use an “all the time – sometime – rarely” scale of food, as I believe no food should be forbidden.
The “all the time” foods should be making up the majority of your nutrition, whilst the “rarely” foods are just a treat, such as baked goods.
However, someone may choose or may need to eliminate a certain food group from their diet, whether for medical or ethical reasons.
One of those diets, which has been gathering momentum lately, is the Paleo Diet. Favoured by strength trainers, but also by people suffering from autoimmune deficiency diseases, what is the Paleo Diet and could it benefit you?
What is the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo Diet is a dietary lifestyle that encourages its followers to eat what our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have eaten before the advent of agriculture: wholesome, nutritious foods as close to their natural state as possible.
The arrival and development of agriculture signalled a major shift in how people fed themselves, going from meat, fruits, vegetables and nuts to a grain-based diet.
The proponents of the Paleo Diet state that our bodies have not had enough time, in evolutionary terms, to adapt to this mainly grain-based diet and that this is causing many of the nutritional problems we see in our society today such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, amongst other things.
Why is the Paleo Diet good for you?
The nutritional benefits of a Paleo diet are: higher protein and fibre intake, a complete elimination of processed and fast food as well as refined sugar, foods free from artificial additives, preservatives and chemical ingredients.
The Paleo Diet is said to reduce weight gain, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and gastro-intestinal diseases. It is also said to increase energy and lower cholesterol levels.
What can I eat and what is not allowed on the Paleo Diet?
The foundation foods of the Paleo Diet are: lean meats (from grass-fed animals), fish and seafood, fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, eggs and heart-healthy oils, such as olive oil and coconut oil.
The foods that are not allowed on the Paleo Diet are: grains of any kind (wheat, oat, rice, etc.), legumes (including peanuts), beans, dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, processed foods, refined vegetable oils, processed foods.
What do I personally think about the Paleo Diet?
About a year ago, a few friends (from a health and wellness forum I am part of) and I decided to go Paleo for a full month to see how our bodies would react to it and whether it would suit us. I have actually found the blog I typed after completing my Paleo month and here are a few of the things I had to say about living Paleo for a month:
The cons of the Paleo Diet:
– It is quite a restrictive diet: no matter which way you twist it, you lose variety by eliminating beans, grains and pulses.
– It is meat/fish heavy: despite the fact that every Paleo website will say that the emphasis should be on plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits (which I do completely agree with), vegetables will only keep you full for a short amount of time. If you want to feel satiated, and you cannot use pulses, grains and legumes, then you have to rely quite heavily on meat or fish.
– It is expensive: Paleo emphasises the use of pasture-raised meat or wild-caught fish. I applaud the theory of it: high-quality food raised and caught/slaughtered in more humane conditions. Great! But, this is not easy to find, depending on where you live. There may not be many farmers markets around. Plus, meat and especially fish (fresh fish is almost a luxury nowadays!) are very expensive, even frozen stuff. A tin of chickpeas is not so expensive.
The pros of the Paleo Diet:
– I lost weight
– I got rid of digestive issues, such as bloating and heartburn
– It did not affect my energy levels, which I thought might happen from losing grains, which are my biggest source of carbohydrates. I do a lot of heavy weight-lifting and my body seems to be very good at converting the healthy fats I eat into energy.
– I love the fact that it totally eliminates processed foods.
I am not telling you whether or not you should adopt the Paleo diet, but I believe in finding out what works best for you so I am trying to give you as much information as I can to help you make an informed decision. Personally, I do not follow the Paleo diet all the time, but I will revert to it if I feel I have overindulged a little. So if you fancy giving it a go here are a few of the meals I ate during this Paleo week.
For smoothie recipe, follow this link:
Avocados (with French dressing):
Apple and Almond Butter:
For the almond butter recipe, follow this link:
Turkey meatballs (with salad – not photographed):
For Turkey Meatballs recipe, please follow this link:
(to make this recipe Paleo friendly, replace the bread crumbs with 3tbsp ground almonds)
Thai-flavoured Salad with Tuna:
Ingredients (serves 1)
1 medium carrot, cut in thin strips
1/2 medium courgette, cut in thin strips
1 red pepper, cut in small cubes
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced finely
1/2 red chilli, minced finely
1tsp fresh ginger, grated
Juice of 1 lime
1.5tsp mirin (sweet rice wine)
1tbsp toasted sesame oil
1/2tsp fish sauce
1/4tsp black pepper
Slice the carrot, courgette, red pepper and spring onions thinly (for the carrot and courgette, you can use a mandoline) and put them in a mixing bowl.
In a separate small bowl, mix together the garlic, red chilli, ginger, lime juice, mirin, sesame oil, fish sauce and black pepper. Mix thoroughly. If you can, let the dressing rest for 5-10 minutes to let the flavours mingle.
Pour the dressing over the vegetables, mix gently and enjoy!
(I served my salad with some tuna chunks, which I topped with a little more dressing.)
Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup:
For the soup recipe, please follow this link:
Tahini-dressed Green Beans and Courgette Salad:
Fish and Chips (grilled salmon, sweet potato wedges and rocket):
For the recipe, please follow this link:
Lemon and Blueberry Squares:
Lemon and Blueberry Squares
4 medium eggs
80ml coconut milk
2tsp vanilla extract
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
45g coconut flour
40g ground almond
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
125g fresh blueberries
Preheat your oven at 170C/150C fan. Lightly grease the sides of a square tin with coconut oil and line the bottom with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: coconut flour (you may need to sift it first), the ground almond, the bicarbonate of soda, the baking powder and salt.
In a separate larger bowl, using a hand or electric whisk, whisk together the wet ingredients (eggs, coconut milk, honey, vanilla extract, lemon zest and juice), trying to incorporate as much air in as possible.
Using a spatula, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients (the mixture will look very liquid at first but coconut flour is very absorbent, so after a few seconds of mixing, the batter will thicken.)
Still using the spatula, gently fold the blueberries in the batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
Let the cake cool in its tin for 10 minutes before turning out on a cooling rack. Ensure the cake is completely cold before slicing into squares, otherwise it will crumble.
If you would like to find out more about the Paleo Diet, please leave your question in the comments or get in touch through Facebook or Twitter 🙂