Can eating like a caveman really make you healthier? Paleo diet adherents believe so. By consuming the same foods our early ancestors might have eaten, we can lose weight and reduce the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes, Loren Cordain, PhD and author of The Paleo Diet explained on his website.
Sounds great, but as with any trendy or fad diet, it can be hard to separate the hype from the reality. Now, a new study suggests going paleo might have some real health benefits. People who switched from a Western-style diet to a caveman-style diet for eight weeks experienced improved heart health and weight loss, according to researchers at the University of Houston and University of Pittsburgh.
In a statement, study author Chad Dolan, a graduate student researcher at the University of Houston’s Laboratory of Integrative Physiology, said,“This study’s findings add to the possibility that short-term dietary changes from a traditional Western pattern of eating to foods promoted in the paleo diet may improve health — or, at the very least, the diet does not have negative health implications in terms of the parameters we studied.”
The results are preliminary, noted the researchers, and they plan a larger follow-up study. But the initial findings are encouraging for people who are currently following — or considering adopting — a paleo diet, which focuses on meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, and nuts and eschews grains like wheat and rice, dairy products, refined sugars, and processed food.
If you’re interested in giving the paleo diet a try, check out these five easy paleo diet recipes for beginners.
1. Bacon and Mushroom Omelet
Omelets are easy to adapt for the paleo diet, provided you can give up cheesy fillings. We don’t think you’ll miss the cheddar in this omelet recipe from Paleo Flip, which is made with savory bacon and hearty, earthy mushrooms. Serves 2.
- 8 large eggs
- 1 bunch green onions
- 1 cup mushrooms
- 4 bacon strips
- Minced dried onion, to taste
- Celtic sea salt, to taste
- Black pepper, to taste
- Mesquite seasoning, to taste
- 1 bunch watercress
- Coconut oil
Directions: Add 2 tablespoons of coconut oil to a large skillet. Add the mushrooms and bacon and cook over medium. When bacon is crisp, remove from pan and set aside. As the bacon cooks, add some more coconut oil to a medium skillet and turn heat to low. Thoroughly beat 4 eggs with the spices.
Add the eggs to the skillet, tilting the pan so they are distributed evenly. Sprinkle on the chopped green onions.
When the eggs are nearly set, top with 2 strips of bacon, half of the mushrooms, and some watercress. Carefully fold the omelet and slide out of the pan. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Serve omelets with additional watercress.
2. Basil Avocado Chicken Salad
A busy life can get in the way of eating healthy, but simple lunch recipes, like this basil avocado chicken salad from Paleo Cupboard, can help you keep things on track. It takes just 15 minutes to prepare and makes 2 servings.
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves, stems removed
- 2 small or 1 large ripe avocado, pits and skin removed
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper, or more to taste
Directions: Add the basil, avocado, olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper to a food processor. Pulse until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary.
Place the shredded chicken in a medium bowl. Pour the avocado and basil mixture over the chicken. Toss to coat. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Serve.
3. Chicken and Mushroom Ramen Soup
Noodles are a no-go if you’re sticking to a paleo diet, but you can still enjoy a filling bowl of ramen if you make it with zucchini pasta. Just spiralize your squash to sub as noodles for soup using this recipe from Real Paleo Fast & Easy, featured on The Paleo Diet, which also features flavorful chicken thigh meat and hard-boiled eggs. Serves 4.
- 1 medium zucchini
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
- 1 teaspoon salt-free Chinese five-spice powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 8 cups unsalted chicken stock
- 1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and cut into matchstick-size pieces
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
- 5 ounces fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
- 2 hard-cooked eggs, halved lengthwise
- Sliced scallions
- Crushed red pepper (optional)
Directions: Use a spiralizer or julienne slicer to make the zucchini noodles.
Preheat the broiler and line a baking sheet with foil. Rub the chicken thighs with the Chinese five-spice powder and sprinkle with black pepper. Place the meat on the prepared baking sheet and broil for 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Let cooked chicken rest for 10 minutes, then slice and set aside.
Combine the chicken stock, ginger, and garlic in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, then add the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes, uncovered. Add the zucchini noodles and simmer for 1 minute more. Remove from heat and add the spinach, stirring until just wilted. Add the sliced chicken.
Divide the soup among four bowls. Add half of a hard-boiled egg to each bowl and sprinkle with sliced scallion and crushed red pepper. Serve.
4. Easy Salmon Patties
Salmon patties are a quick-and-easy weeknight dinner solution for paleo dieters. This version is made with canned salmon and can be paired with grilled or steamed veggies like broccoli and asparagus or served along with a salad for a complete meal. Recipe from Easy Paleo.
- 2 (6-ounce) cans of cooked salmon
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup almond flour or meal
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon mustard
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon dried dill
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper (more or less to taste)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- ¼ cup coconut oil, for frying
Directions: Add all ingredients except the coconut oil to a large bowl. Mix until fully combined. Shape salmon mixture into four patties of equal size.
Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet. Once the oil is hot, place the salmon patties in the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, until the patty is browned and crisp on one side. Flip and cook for 5 minutes more.
Remove from pan and serve with mustard or lemon wedges and your favorite sides.
5. Chocolate-Covered Strawberries with Nuts
You don’t have to skip dessert if you’re on the paleo diet. While ice cream and cheesecake might be verboten, creative cooks can still enjoy post-dinner sweets, like these strawberries that are dipped in chocolate and coated in nuts. While strict paleo dieters might avoid anything other than unsweetened chocolate, others say very dark chocolate in small amounts is a fine indulgence since it contains relatively little sugar. If you try this recipe from Paleo Leap, look for chocolate with 80% to 85% cacao content. Serves 4.
- 12 fresh strawberries, washed and gently patted dry
- 2 cups dark chocolate, broken into pieces
- 1 cup almonds or mixed nuts, minced
- Pinch of sea salt
Directions: Add about 2 inches of water to a double boiler. Turn heat to low, then melt the chocolate until smooth. Add a pinch of sea salt and stir.
Place the chopped almonds or other nuts in a small bowl. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or wax paper.
Holding the fruit by its leaves, dip a strawberry into the chocolate, letting any excess coating drip back into the bowl. Immediately roll in the chopped nuts, then transfer to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining strawberries and chocolate. Drizzle with any leftover chocolate and let sit until chocolate hardens (place the baking sheet in the fridge if you’re in a hurry).
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