Musings

Why Paleo?

Whenever I get excited about Whisk Me Away, which is kind of all the time, my mom is always the first one to hear about it. In fact, it’s a lot of her amazing recipes that I continue to find healthy alternatives for.

Now my mom is all for eating healthy, but when I was pitching all these great new recipes to her she had one fairly big question: why paleo?

Well, that’s an excellent question. And if my mom, a lifelong Montana native, is going to give up her potatoes she’s going to need a pretty darn good answer. So, here’s my best shot mom!

Why Paleo?

When I began brainstorming for Whisk Me Away I knew two things: I wanted to offer delicious and healthy substitutions for my favorite meals, and I wanted a sustainable lifestyle that is good for the body and the mind, without leaving the tummy rumbling in desperation.

The Paleolithic Diet, commonly referred to as the Caveman Diet (or Cavewoman!), allows you to eat until you are full and satisfied, while helping you feel great in so many aspects of life. And when I say great, I mean GREAT. Higher energy levels, sharp mind, clearer skin, less susceptibility to cold and disease, lower blood pressure, and of course the ability to reach your body’s optimal weight in an efficient time span.

Sounds too good to be true, but once you understand the background of this lifestyle, it should hopefully make a lot more sense.

What Is Paleo? – The History

Long ago, about 60 million years before the invention of Lunchables and Lucky Charms, the earliest primates roamed the land, getting energy from all the various food throughout the wilderness. About 2.6 million years ago, humans started utilizing tools and moved into what is now commonly referred to as the hunter and gatherer diet.

So for over two million years, this is how the earliest humans functioned – what you hunt and collect is what you eat. Over those millions of years, the human body and our metabolism adapted to those foods that were available to our ancestors.

Cut to 10,000 years ago and some goober realized that when you put one of those little seeds in the ground some magical food will pop back out. BOOM – welcome to the Agricultural Revolution. Now humans are growing grains and rice, settling on farms, cooking corn and potatoes, etc etc. But the funny thing about the human anatomy is that the changes that happen over millions of years cannot be replicated in just 10,000. So while we all love these exciting new culinary advances (bread! Sushi! Loaded mashed potatoes!), our bodies simply have not adapted to properly process these foods.

The result? Disease, obesity, and countless other health issues throughout our society. Hunter-gatherers, and numerous other non-industrial populations throughout the world, have unusually low cancer rates, better eyesight, low blood pressure, the list goes on and on. Of course there’s always numerous factors that affect our health, but the food we put into our bodies plays such a huge role in everything in our lives from sleep to sickness and everything in between.

The Perks

Alright, so you get the gist of Paleo, but is it worth the fuss or is it just another California trend you’ll overhear surrounded by the words “crossfit” and “burning man”? Well, here’s some of the lovely benefits:

  • Weight Loss: According to a recently published study that followed subjects in a low-fat diet vs a Paleo Diet, those eating low-fat lost 9.7 pounds. In that same time span, those eating Paleo lost 19 pounds. The best part is that researchers were actually trying to keep the Paleo subjects’ bodyweight stable with extra food and snacks, but to no avail. For a more personal example, my boyfriend’s first 6 months on Paleo saw him go from 220 pounds to 178 while seemingly never stopping eating.
  • Health: Another study found that a Paleo Diet was significantly more successful than a whole grain diet for improving cholesterol levels in both men and women. Despite no limitations on caloric intake, the Paleo subjects lost considerably more weight, saw their LDL cholesterol drop, cut triglycerides by half, and raised HDL cholesterol (a good thing!). Another study showed that Paleolithic dieting improved markers for Type 2 diabetes. These are just a couple examples that go along with the countless reports of Paleo dieters benefiting in everything from clearing up eczema to becoming more resistant to the common cold. It’s pretty incredible how much of our society’s everyday issues stem from the food that we eat.
  • No More Calorie Counting: This is the best part of all – calories and fat are no longer your enemies! In fact, fat is actually your friend, because when you do Paleo that healthy fat becomes your fuel. This happens because your body will enter the metabolic process known as ketosis. Basically, when your body runs out of carbs, it naturally turns to your fat for energy. Currently, your body is defaulting to burning off carbs and sugar first – meaning it usually never even gets to those fat reserves. In other words, when you go on a run, to the gym or even just walking around your house – instead of burning carbs your body will simply start shedding fat, which in a nutshell is what makes Paleo such an efficient weight loss method.

Dos and Don’ts

Now that you’re probably sold on the concept (unless I totally botched this pitch…), you’re probably wondering “well what’s the catch – what can I eat?” We will be following up with a more detailed breakdown, but here’s the basics to get you started:

Do:

  • Meat: Grass-fed preferred (more on that in an upcoming post), and try to avoid fattier meats.
  • Fowl: Basically anything with wings, even the ones who haven’t quite figured out how to use them yet.
  • Fish: Wild fish always better than farm fish to avoid additional mercury and toxins.
  • Eggs: It’s about time to start paying up for the cage-free omega-3 club!
  • Fruits: Your best source of natural carbs and sugar, but limit if your main goal is weight loss.
  • Vegetables: Soooo many vegetables, with a couple small exceptions.
  • Oils: Olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, pumpkin seed oil, etc.
  • Nuts: A great snack, but definitely one for moderation. And unfortunately, peanuts are not a nut!
  • Red Wine: Because what’s life without wine?

Don’t:

  • Grains/Gluten: Don’t worry, you can do it!
  • Dairy: This is often the hardest for people, but if you’re going to cheat at all a low carb option like cheese on occasion certainly isn’t the worst.
  • Legumes: Beans, chickpeas, peanuts, etc.
  • Refined Sugar: Once you cut this out, you’ll be amazed at how much better natural foods start tasting
  • Starchy Vegetables: Corn and potatoes don’t make the cut.
  • Processed Foods: Leave out the deli meat, but Whisk Me Away is a bacon friendly zone.
  • Vegetable Oils: No more canola!

Basically, if you can eat it raw, you can eat it on Paleo. A great tip for your grocery shopping is to simply shop on the outside portion of the store, as that’s where all the good stuff is hiding. Be sure to check out my upcoming Tips and Tricks post for more friendly advic e.

Paleo Your Way

Ok, I know, the “don’t” list can be a little terrifying, and it’s hard to imagine living your life without some of those items. But that’s what this blog is all about – finding the substitutions for your favorite foods and recreating them in a healthy way. Miss pasta? Spaghetti squash to the rescue. Love your sandwiches? Wait until you try these Paleo wraps we’re going to suggest. Need your crunchy sensation? We’ve got chips that will knock your socks off!

But still, everyone has their deal-breakers. So here’s my advice: do Paleo for two weeks as a strict diet. At that point, your body will be fully in ketosis and you’ll already be feeling how amazing your body and mind are in this lifestyle. At that point, try incorporating that one special item into your diet. It’s important to remember that while the philosophy of Paleo applies to all of us, our bodies are all unique. So you might find that working in that item doesn’t throw off your ketosis and Paleo benefits, or you might find that it does. My boyfriend for instance discovered that hummus, despite being made from a legume, didn’t cause any issues, but dairy threw everything out of whack.

More importantly, we also believe in moderation for a sustainable lifestyle. It’s better to live 90% Paleo in order to make it work than to wave the white flag and jump off the wagon. As I mentioned above, bacon is a big one for me. Technically it has a higher salt intake than would be normally acceptable on Paleo, but I use that as an occasional indulgence and look to make up for it in other areas.

The point is, you don’t want to be looking at this like a diet you can’t break, because that is not sustainable living. Treat Paleo like a lifestyle that you adhere to as best as possible at any given time. No one is going to think of less of you if you dive into the mozzarella sticks at a Sunday morning football game, but I will say that once you start on Paleo, you’ll be amazed at how little you crave those processed foods.

Wrap It Up!

Alright, so you know the benefits, the rules, the philosophy, etc. So what’s next?

Well, next is having fun with Paleo. Looking good and feeling great shouldn’t make you miserable. And that’s what Whisk Me Away is all about. So come along for the ride as we dive into all your favorite recipes with a Paleo twist. Join us for our monthly challenges, send in your own suggestions and requests, and have a blast re-creating these delicious meals in a way that is going to make you feel amazing. Get ready to be whisked away as we change the game on healthy eating.

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