‘Caveman diet’ offers simple rule: Eat real food

portuguese soupWhen one considers what cavemen actually ate on a day to day basis, paleo eating, nicknamed the “caveman diet,” seems pretty luxurious. I eat conveniently packaged and sliced steaks of an organically raised cow. I buy kale which I can choose to eat raw or cooked, but I always discard the stems. This hardly counts as food eaten during the Paleolithic age.

Maybe Iʻve seen too many movies but those brawny, scraggly-haired men and women are always tearing into barely cooked, unspiced legs of whatever gamey animal they’ve caught with clubs. I assume they ate a fair amount of sticks, leaves, and grubs as well. It may be easy to find some faulty reasoning behind paleo, yet I experienced great health benefits on this diet.

While itʻs hard to imagine what cavemen could have eaten that was actually appetizing, traditional Polynesian diets are very close to the paleo style of eating. Luau leaf, taro, fish, coconut milk, bananas — this is paleo dieting. Hawaiian traditional eating habits are always considered very healthy. Even their carbohydrates came from vegetables and fruits.

Paleo dieting is, simply, eating proteins and plants. This is not to be confused with the South Beach or Atkins diets. While “no-carb” diets resemble paleo eating, a true paleo diet focuses on quality sources of ingredients (organic, local); avoiding dairy (except raw dairy), grains of all kinds, soy, sugar, and beans; and abstaining from chemically enhanced foods. Many people get hung up on the protein aspect, but most find they are eating many more vegetables.

Put simply, the biggest rule of the paleo diet is this: Eat real food. Buy food without ingredient lists. Prepare your dinners from scratch and season them with your own spices. Itʻs not just a diet about losing weight, itʻs a diet about better living.

I’d like to deny that I feel better when I’m eating strictly on paleo, but when I do give into some doughnuts at breakfast my body quickly reacts: I feel fatigued and I develop some monstrous cravings which end up leaving me bloated and somber for the rest of the day.

portuguese soup 2Paleo eating generally relies on these kinds of anecdotes for its popularity. Iʻve read accounts of those with fibromyalgia and other chronic diseases claiming that paleo eating helped them. This is probably why the challenge, “Try it for 30 days,” is so successful. I cannot deny the real differences in my energy levels and my own healthy pace of weight loss when I needed it. If youʻve been looking for a way to improve your eating habits, whether itʻs to lose weight, reset your bad patterns, or to battle a long-term illness, I would recommend giving paleo eating a try.

Paleo Portuguese No-bean Soup

(Makes 6-8 servings) 3 hours cooking and prep time

  • 8 Cups chicken stock (mine was homemade)

  • 2 Cups water

  • 1 lb sliced ham hock

  • 1 lb sausage, sliced 1/4” thick

  • 2 stalks celery, chopped

  • 2 medium carrots, sliced 1/4” thick

  • 1 large sweet potato, cut into 1” pieces

  • 1 large onion, diced

  • 4 leaves kale, stems removed and thin sliced

  • 7 Tbsp tomato paste

  • salt to taste

1. Bring the stock and the water to a simmer and add the ham hock. Let it cook, covered, for nearly two hours or until the ham is very tender.

2. Meanwhile, saute the sausage in a skillet and chop up the vegetables.

3. Remove the ham from the soup and shred the meat, discarding large pieces of fat and the bone (unless you like the fat. Keep it if you wish.). Return the ham to the soup and add the sausage.

4. Add the celery, carrots, and onion to the soup. Simmer for about 15 minutes longer. Add the kale and sweet potatoes to the pot. Spoon in the tomato paste. Season with salt. Stir and simmer until the flavors are rich enough to bite the back of your throat and everything is tender, about 20 minutes longer. Serve.

marikoMariko Jackson has been repeating 9th grade English for many years now, but still finds it exciting nearly every single day of the school year. When she’s not using her teacher voice, she’s mothering her two young children and enjoying every minute of Hawaii living with her husband on the North Shore. Between bouts of paleo dieting, she’s baking layered cakes out of the Momofuku Milk cookbook, and in her little spare time she works as a freelance food writer, a recipe developer, and a blogger at The Little Foodie.

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