Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Paleo Perspective: Putting it all Together

I know this is a lot to take in, trust me.  I want to make one final clarification however.  It is an all too often made mistake when wading through the waters of dietary dogma to get caught up in some notion of "right" and "wrong"; some sort of moral evaluation about the foods we choose to eat.  I am not trying to say "grains are EVIL!"  Grains are grains, they're just doing their thing.  The focus shouldn't be "you shouldn't eat that, because it's BAD!"  I try to approach this more from a scientific, objective viewpoint- would this food really have been available to me had it not been for some industrial manufacturing process?  Do I really think the biology/physiology of my body has the capacity to process something that until 10,000, 100, or even 30 years ago would have been virtually impossible to do so? And is the short term satisfaction from eating that food worth the potential consequences on my health and wellbeing?

I also want to emphasize the degree to which the Paleo Diet allows for customization to meet our unique, individual needs- and we are definitely all different to some degree.  I urge you to experiment; maybe you feel better with a slightly higher carb intake, or perhaps you do better on a little less protein and don't need to eat meat with every meal.  And if you are healthy and free of disease, by all means, indulge in non-paleo foods if you must, from time to time.  Mark Sisson of Mark's Daily Apple provides arguably the best strategy with his 80/20 principle. His entire site is an excellent resource.

Why I Prefer "Paleo Lifestyle" to "Paleo Diet"
This is not a temporary quick-fix, crash and burn type diet where you bounce back and forth and whip yourself every time you fall off the wagon, and it is NOT a life of asceticism!  This is a completely new outlook on life and adaptation of a new mentality; this is acknowledging the foods and daily habits that contribute to optimal health and wellbeing.  Paleo eating is your "rock" if you will, your sanctuary, your ultimate fall-back to health and happiness!

Rejoice in the foods that nourish the body and contribute to your optimal health and quality of life! There is certainly nothing nutritive in grains, legumes and dairy products that cannot be attained from meat, seafood, veggies, fruits, nuts, and the occasional starchy root or tuber. (I can't emphasize enough the importance of source and quality of said foods however!!) Furthermore, the Paleo Diet List offers a food list overflowing with culinary possibility that will pique the interest of anyone with a love for food, cooking and gastronomy! So I invite you to join me, the Paleo Epicurean, in a lifetime of delicious, mouth-watering, eye-popping foods, on which we will thrive and be nourished to the core!

If you'd like to learn a bit more about me, click here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Paleo Diet Food List

The Paleo Diet is predicated on the fact that humans evolved for millions of years consuming only that which be could hunted, foraged and gathered; meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, tree nuts, vegetables, roots, fruit, berries, and mushrooms. Ideally, all foods we consume should be as close to their forms found in nature as possible (though much of our food doesn't actually exist in nature...). The less processing, manipulating and general handling that occurs between coming off the farm, the forest, and/or out of the ground and finally reaching your mouth, the better.

*Preferably (ideally) grass-fed or natural-feed (i.e. what animal would consume in nature; this means grass for ruminants such as cows, bison, lamb, goats, meat scraps for pigs/hogs, and insects, seeds etc for poultry) free-grazing, pasture-raised, free of hormones, antibiotics, no additives/chemicals/genetically-modified or pesticide-contaminated feed, humane treatment from beginning to ...end.
  • Beef and Veal - Any and all cuts of beef; flank, shortribs, tenderloin, chuck, sirloin, round, brisket, shank, ribeyes, oxtails, ground beef etc
  • Pork - (Natural feed) Any and all cuts of pork; shoulder, leg, hocks, ribs, loin, chops, bacon, ground pork etc
  • Lamb - Any and all cuts of lamb; leg, loin, shoulder, chops, mince, chump, tenderloin, shank, neck, ribs, ground lamb etc
  • Goat - Any and all cuts of goat
  • Bison - Any and all cuts of buffalo/bison
  • Chickens - Breasts, thighs, legs/drumsticks, wings, etc (chicken skin is good for you)
  • Turkey - Breasts, thighs, legs etc etc etc
  • Eggs – Organic, free-range, pastured chicken, goose, turkey, quail, duck eggs (and you better not be ordering no egg white omelets!!)


*Obtained from wild animals in their natural habitats, consuming their natural diets, free of above mentioned contaminants implied; more and more of these animals seem to becoming available from farms...
  • Venison
  • Elk
  • Wild Bison
  • Caribou
  • Kangaroo
  • Reindeer
  • Wild boar
  • Wild turkey
  • Goose
  • Pheasant
  • Duck
  • Quail
  • Emu
  • Ostrich
  • Squab
  • Snake
  • Alligator
  • Bear (yes... bear)


* Of ALL above mentioned animals. For Indigenous societies, these are generally the most prized parts of the animal; staples of classic French, Italian etc gastronomy, yet largely ignored (detested even) in the American Diet. Organ meats and marrow are EXCELLENT sources of so so many good things for the human body, and calorie-for-calorie and gram-for-gram they're some of the most nutrient dense foods you can eat.
  • Liver – Unmatched source of pre-formed Vitamin A, packed with all the B vitamins including ridiculous amounts of B-12, as well as iron and other minerals.
  • Heart – Lot's of B vitamins, minerals, and a great source of CoQ10 (who knew- eating heart is good for your heart!) collagen and elastin for that healthy glow!
  • Kidney – Excellent protein source, lot's of B vitamins including Riboflavin and B-12, TONS of selenium as well as other minerals.
  • Brain – Amazing source of high quality Omega-3's, plenty of B-12 and lot's of minerals
  • Sweetbreads – The thymus gland generally of beef, lamb and pork
  • Tongue
  • Tripe
  • Bones/Bone Marrow, Turkey&Chicken Feet – Used to make delicious and nutritious stocks, broths, soups etc, or roasted and spooned right out of bone; Slow-simmered bone broths are packed with minerals like calcium, magnesium, trace minerals; also gelatin- great for digestive tract, skin, amazing source of Glucosamine (eating bones = good for your bones... are you seeing a pattern here?).

*Preferably wild-caught, not farm-raised, obtained from sources that ensure sustainable-catch, NOT damaging marine ecosystems (see Seafood Watch). As fresh as possible; if canned, choose either spring water or olive oil packed with no salt added- NOT canned in soy or any other questionable oil. BPA-free can preferred. Canned salmon, sardines, mackerel with bones and skin still intact are great sources of calcium and other vitamins & minerals. Be aware of potential for mercury and/or other heavy metal contamination.
  • Anchovies
  • Bass
  • Bluefish
  • Catfish
  • Caviar
  • Cod
  • Eel
  • Grouper
  • Haddock
  • Halibut
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Mahi Mahi
  • Monkfish
  • Mullet
  • Northern pike
  • Opah
  • Orange roughy
  • Perch
  • Red snapper
  • Rockfish
  • Salmon – Coho, Keta, King, Sockeye etc
  • Sardines
  • Scrod
  • Snapper
  • Shark
  • Striped bass
  • Sunfish
  • Tilapia
  • Trout
  • Tuna
  • Turbot
  • Wahoo
  • Walleye

* Issues related to some of these creatures- “bottom feeders” or “filter feeders”- possible high-amount of accumulated toxins in some shellfish, both due to chemical and heavy-metal pollution in oceans, coastal areas/inlets etc, but also accumulated toxins produced by microscopic algae can cause poisoning[*] Allergies to some of these foods can be rather severe (Allergies vs. poisoning...?)
  • Abalone
  • Clams
  • Crab
  • Crayfish
  • Lobster
  • Mussels
  • Octopus
  • Oysters
  • Prawns
  • Scallops
  • Shrimp
  • Snails
  • Squid/Calamari

...just kidding... Although, if you were feeling particularly adventurous, you could explore quite a vast array of nutritious and maybe even delicious avenues here...


*Preferably organic, as local as possible, in-season, picked at optimal ripeness, prepared with care and precision. Eat a diverse array across a rainbow-spectrum for maximal variety of phytochemicals and antioxidants. Eat raw, steamed, baked, grilled, roasted, pickled/preserved (by you), sauteed, stir-fried, sun-dried etc. Some veggies contain compounds which are slightly toxic, but still beneficial; rotation of different veggies ideal, i.e. don't eat spinach or broccoli every day for a month... eating seasonally helps address this. Some veggies shouldn't be eaten raw. Whenever introducing new foods monitor how you feel and/or any physical symptoms; some handle different veggies better or worse than others.
* = Paleo status debated
  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Beets and beet greens
  • Beets
  • Bell peppers*
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery & celery root
  • Collards
  • Cucumber
  • Dandelion
  • Eggplant*
  • Endive
  • Green onions
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms – Button, shitake, portabella, crimini, truffles, morels, oyster, chanterelles, cloudear etc
  • Mustard greens
  • Onions
  • Parsley
  • Parsnip
  • Peppers*
  • Pumpkin
  • Purslane
  • Radish
  • Rutabaga
  • Seaweed
  • Spinach
  • Squash*- acorn, spaghetti, butternut, kabocha, etc
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomatillos
  • Tomato*
  • Turnip greens
  • Turnips
  • Watercress
  • Yams & sweet potatoes*

*Preferably organic, as local as possible, in-season, picked at optimal ripeness, prepared with care and precision. Eat a diverse array across a rainbow-spectrum for maximal variety of phytochemicals and antioxidants. Eat raw, steamed, baked, grilled, roasted, pickled/preserved (by you), sauteed, stir-fried, sun-dried etc. Acknowledge that certain fruits are bred for high-sugar contents; don't overconsume. Optimal fruits include berries, kiwi, smaller amounts of mango, pineapple and papaya. Also important to consider bio-evolutionary disconnect of consumption of certain fruits; wild varieties of fruits (and vegetables) often vary considerably from their cultivated counterparts in numerous ways.
  • Apple
  • Apricot
  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Boysenberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carambola
  • Cassava melon
  • Cherimoya
  • Cherries
  • Clementines
  • Coconut
  • Cranberries
  • Dragonfruit
  • Durian
  • Figs
  • Grapefruit
  • Grapes
  • Guava
  • Honeydew melon
  • Kiwi
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Longan
  • Lychee
  • Mango
  • Minneolas
  • Nectarine
  • Orange
  • Papaya
  • Passion fruit
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Persimmon
  • Pineapple
  • Plantain
  • Plums
  • Pomegranate
  • Rambutan
  • Raspberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Star fruit
  • Strawberries
  • Tangerine
  • Watermelon

* Preferably raw (if you want roasted nuts, do it yourself), unsalted, unseasoned. Important to be aware of Omega-3 and Omega-6 intake ratio which should ideally be as close to 1:1 as possible; nuts very high in Omega-6, so don't overconsume. Nuts may also be high in phytates and/or anti-nutrients that bind with minerals and leech them out of your body; Consider soaking and/or sprouting. High unsaturated fat content, so very prone to oxidation/rancidity; ideally they should be refrigerated if removed from shell. (Nuts purchased from groceries in colorfully marketed packaging probably not ideal). Potential semantics debate as to what qualifies as "true nuts". Also consider the effort needed to de-shell nuts, vs. eating them already de-shelled; and subsequent speed/quantity in which you could eat them w/o processing.
  • Almonds (my personal favorite)
  • Brazil nuts
  • Cashews
  • Chestnuts
  • Hazelnuts/filberts
  • Hempseeds
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Pecans
  • Pine nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Walnuts

*Oils get to be a little controversial; there is really no such thing as an unprocessed oil found in nature, but the right ones are not only harmless, but often quite beneficial - Cold-pressed, unrefined seed or fruit oils that is. NOT industrialized, expeller-pressed, high-heat refined vegetable oils such as corn, canola, soy, and cottonseed oils which are quite toxic and pro-inflammatory with *ridiculous* omega-6 levels, and more often than not rancid before they even reach your kitchen. Yet they are oh so cheap and rampantly pervasive everywhere in our "food" supply. Tallow, lard, schmaltz, bacon grease are also excellent food sources, and essential in paleo cooking. These foods (and they are whole foods) have been used for millennia and in traditional cooking and are both nutritious and delicious. Butter is also a great food and cooking tool if you choose to include dairy (I use some organic ghee/clarified butter in my cooking, but don't consume any other dairy) SATURATED FAT, CHOLESTEROL ARE NOT THE ENEMIES!!! ... NOT BY FAR!!!
Acceptable oils (all cold-pressed, virgin unrefined):
  • Virgin olive oil
  • Coconut oil, coconut milk
  • Red palm fruit oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Macadamia nut oil
  • Sesame seed oil
  • Walnut oil
  • Butter, Ghee/clarified butter (organic, pastured, grass-fed, raw ideal)
  • Tallow, lard, schmaltz, bacon grease

*All are pretty much fair game here... as always, organic is optimal – be sure to get non-irradiated, additive free spices and herbs; gluten contamination is very possible, especially w/ pre-mixed spice rubs curry + chili powders. Good to rotate spices in the diet, to maximize diversity and phytonutrient/antioxidant intake. Buy from trusted sources; grow your own herbs if possible. Buy whole spices/seeds and grind them yourself to reduce oxidation.
  • Allspice
  • Anise seed
  • Basil
  • Bay leave
  • Caraway seed
  • Cardamom
  • Cayenne
  • Chervil
  • Chili powder
  • Chinese 5-spice
  • Chipotle
  • Chives
  • Cilantro/coriander
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Cumin
  • Curry powder
  • Dill leaves
  • Dill seed
  • Fennel
  • Fenugreek
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Herbes de Provence
  • Horseradish
  • Mace
  • Marjoram
  • Mint
  • Mustard
  • Nutmeg
  • Oregano
  • Paprika
  • Peppercorns – black, pink, green, white
  • Poppy seed
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Rosemary
  • Saffron
  • Sage
  • Salt (unrefined sea salt, himalayan pink salt etc)
  • Sesame seed
  • Star Anise
  • Steak rubs
  • Thyme
  • Turmeric
  • Vanilla bean

*Seeing as how up til now, there has hardly been mention of a single processed food or ingredient. Stick to whole foods, avoiding gluten and grains, legumes refined vegetable oils and sugars, and eat as close to nature as possible, and you will be pretty much set. But everyone needs a little flavor-boost every now and then- additions to salad dressings, basting sauces, marinades, chutneys, aiolis, etc. Here is where you will need to get a little nit-picky. Many of these fall into a sort of paleo grey-area .First and foremost, be sure your condiments are free of artificial ingredients, preservatives, colorings, stabilizers etc; Also free of added sugar, gluten-free, soy-free, canola/soybean/corn and other vegetable oil-free, and preferably organic. General rule of thumb- the fewer ingredients the better.
  • Vinegars – balsamic, white balsamic, white wine, apple cider (unfiltered/unpasteurized)
  • Mustard – dijon, even yellow is generally good
  • Hot sauces, cholula is delicious gluten free, you can also find a lot of great artisan small-batch hot sauces
  • Gluten-free, soy-free and minimal-sugar Worcestershire sauce
  • Fish Sauce (gluten-free) - watch sodium intake
  • Gluten-free, soy-free and minimal-sugar barbeque sauces
  • Homemade mayonnaise – absolutely essential in my kitchen
  • Apple butter
  • Unpasteurized sauerkraut
  • Homemade chutneys, relishes, sauces etc
  • Big, big *IF* – gluten-free organic Tamari (fermented, traditional soy sauce)

So there you have it folks. I will likely continuously revise and update this list- it certainly became more comprehensive then I intended, but I am happy to have it all laid out. Is you brain as overflowing with culinary possibility as mine is right now? I hope that this list makes you aware of the plethora of amazing healthy and delicious foods at your fingertips, and makes you excited as ever to be Paleo!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

So, What Exactly *is* this Paleo Diet?

So what does that have to do with this notion of being "paleo"...?

The Paleo Diet is predicated on the fact that humans evolved for millions of years consuming only that which be could hunted, foraged and gathered; a diverse and seasonally-changing diet of wild game, fish, shellfish, eggs, tree nuts, vegetables, roots, fruit, berries, mushrooms.  Only in the last 10,000 years or so, with the advent of agriculture and animal husbandry did we begin making grains, dairy (sort of a gray-area; a bane for some, a boon for others), legumes and other crops, and more recently, refined vegetable oils staples of our diets. These "neolithic foods" are truly incompatible with our biochemistry and may even pose a significant hindrance to our health and wellbeing, especially considering the extent to which we have refined and processed and allowed them to pervade almost every corner of our food supply. More specifically however, even in their whole forms, the gluten, lectins and anti-nutrients in these foods work antagonistically to our bodies, and can disrupt otherwise healthy function (even whole, unrefined grains may not be as healthy as you think...).

Wheat and grain products also impose other, less cryptic banes upon society. Over-consumption of wheat and starchy grain products- large quantities of refined carbohydrate (pasta, bread, etc)- combined with our sedentary lifestyles is likely the main cause of metabolic derangement, obesity and diabetes. The dramatic increase in refined sugar consumption has contributed greatly to this as well.  These are habits that would otherwise be impossible before the advent of industrial processing!  (Humans have always been able to grab a spear and kill a fatty, protein-rich animal!!) Finally, the amounts and types of fats we eat have changed dramatically as well, having wide-ranging implications on health and disease.  We are vehemently told to favor unsaturated vegetables oils over animal and other saturated fats, and we have complied.  But these oils are extremely high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, and combined with a diet lacking in omega-3's, may actually be the main culprit in heart disease.

I highly encourage you to watch this video (Thank you Pay Now, Live Later):

When viewed in this light, it becomes intuitively clear that this is the way humans are intended to live and eat. We live in an artificial food-abundant environment that allows us to instantly satisfy the slightest urges; we can eat things and eat in ways that humans have never been able to do in the entire history of our species' evolution. As you start analyzing all the discordances between modern society and humans' "natural habitat" you can see how deep this concept goes. (I mean really down to the nitty gritty).

Paleo Diet: the Basics
In short, paleo eating is:

  • Complete elimination of all processed, packaged foods, preservatives, artificial ingredients etc
  • Elimination of all refined sugar and flour
  • Minimization with aim of elimination of grains (gluten-grains especially)
  • General reduced carbohydrate consumption; carb sources in order of non-starchy vegetables, fruits, roots/tubers; sweet potatoes, yams, squash (Paleo does not have to be extreme low-carb necessarily)
  • Ample protein from high-quality animal sources
  • Increased healthy fats; fats should make up majority of calories: mostly mono-unsaturated from olive oil, avocados, animal fats and saturated fats from organic butter, milk/cream (if deciding to include dairy) coconut oil + milk. Increased consumption of saturated animal fats (Yes, that's what I said)
  • Minimizing if not eliminating vegetable oils (Soy, corn, canola, etc)
  • Getting ton's of Omega 3's, through supplementation if necessary (I eat a can of sardines almost every day)
  • Lot's of different colors of vegetables, fruits; focus on nutrient density.

For me, I get the bulk of my food volume from vegetables; salads & cooked veggies, fruits, the occasional sweet potato or squash, and the bulk of my calories from healthy fats such as coconut oil, avocados, nuts, olive oil, ghee, and grass-fed tallow. I also include ample amounts of high quality protein from grass-fed beef, bison, lamb, wild salmon, sardines & other seafood, free range chicken, organic eggs etc.

For a much more comprehensive list of how to eat and live according to the Paleo Diet/lifestyle, peruse this page by Diana Hsieh of Modern Paleo. I agree 100% with everything she outlines on that page, and I think it is the ultimate resource for both newcomers and anyone trying to deepen their knowledge of health and nutrition.

At this point, you likely either:
a) ...think I am a total nutjob.  That's ok. To each their own.  Feel free to stop by anytime though!
b) ...are totally on board with me!

One final thought: putting it all together...