Hey everyone! Today, we’re going to switch gears a little bit and talk about one of the latest and trendiest diets in the health and food world. Although I’m always a little cautious about new diets and their long term sustainability, the Paleo diet is one of the few that’s pretty sensible. It doesn’t advocate for crazy lemon water and cayenne pepper fasts, it doesn’t tell you that meat is the enemy, and it doesn’t include processed or packaged food!
Laura and I met (well, technically we haven’t met) via Instagram. I was really inspired by her story of using food and diet to control her IBD symptoms since I suffer from Crohn’s and Celiac. We got to talking and in exchange for one of my recipes I’ve also posted one of hers! Check out Mangia Paleo for more clean paleo recipes!
What is Paleo?
The Paleo Diet, also known as the caveman diet, has been booming with popularity this past year. The diet includes meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, berries, nuts, and seeds. It excludes all gluten, grains, dairy, sugar, legumes, and processed foods. Cavemen were hunter/gatherers not farmers. So meats and vegetables are a big part of this diet while wheat and grains, like rice, are a no-no. Paleo emphasizes the foods our bodies were meant to absorb before the agricultural revolution. Personally, my story proves that paleo allows for better consumption of vitamins and nutrients and can help aid digestive disorders.
Since paleo only includes foods that our bodies can recognize, our digestive tract thanks us. The cleaner you eat the better your digestion will be. Don’t forget, over 70% of our immune system lies in our digestive tract. Let’s take care of it, shall we?
Before I began the paleo diet I was eating the standard American diet. I ate out at restaurant chains, cooked pasta almost nightly, and often had a few beers with friends. I never battled health or weight issues. In fact, I thought I was pretty healthy until 2013 when I was suddenly diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (UC). UC is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) affecting the colon by causing inflammation, ulcers, and bleeding. Many, if not all, doctors tell their patients that there is no scientific proof that diet causes or benefits IBDs.
Now I’m no doctor but that is wrong. I feel better following paleo now than I did before I had an autoimmune disease. Paleo has helped many people with digestive autoimmune diseases as well as irritable bowels. The purpose of my blog has been to continue to raise awareness for those with IBDs.
Paleo and Ethnic Cuisines
I grew up in an Italian-American household. We ate cheese, pasta, and bread at almost every meal. As proud as I am of my heritage, none of this is paleo. Because of my culture’s cuisine it was a bit more difficult for me to shift my diet. I felt like I was abandoning my culture’s food.
However, authentic cultural paleo dishes do exist. They just require some modifications. Most likely you have a few paleo family recipes that you don’t even know about. Middle Eastern food is one example of a culture’s cusine that is very easily translated to the paleo diet. The use of meats and vegetables is prevalent in a Perisian fare so those recipes can be converted to the paleo diet effortlessly. They are also known to amp up each dish with nutrient-packed herbs and spices.
Flavor, Spices, Herbs
Following a paleo lifestyle is all about nutrients and health benefits. After all, these cavemen used food to fuel their bodies. Using herbs and spices is a great way to enhance flavor to a dish while packing in hidden nutrients and minerals. Herbs and spices are all paleo! This is how you make any dish delicious, right? Luckily, Persian food does this best. Fresh herbs and spices are a staple in Persian dishes. Mint, rose petals, cardamom, coriander, turmeric, nutmeg, saffron, and cumin are a few popular spices that make a dish identifiably Persian. These paleo flavors are not only tasty but beneficial to your overall health.
Each spice has its own benefit and most actually benefit digestion. Some medicinal characteristics are as follows:
- Coriander is an antioxidant and also aids in the production of enzymes which help you digest. It may also help with gas.
- Mint can calm inflammation, especially in the digestive lining.
- Turmeric is also a queen to anti-inflammatory herbs.
- Cardamom is similar to ginger in that it helps calm upset stomach. Its diuretic nature also helps detoxify the urinary tract helping rid your body of waste.
- Roses, one of the first flowers to be distilled for its topical health properties, are popular for its calming effects. It can boost your immune system which is important for those with an autoimmune disease.
What about rice?
No, rice is not allowed on the paleo diet. The evolution of our digestive system has not caught up to digest this cultivated grain. Because it is a staple in most Persian dishes I understand how foregoing the rice is a huge sacrifice. After all, I gave up pasta and cheese!
One alternative to grain rice is cauliflower rice. Simply shave a head of cauliflower or finely chop the florets. Add to a greased skillet and toss with fresh herbs and spices. Consider some of the ones listed above for additional health benefits.
Tips and Tricks
- Remove all non-paleo food items from your home to resist temptation.
- When grocery shopping, have a plan of items you need to buy or a recipe in mind.
- Meal prep. Plan ahead for future meals as not to get too hungry and slip off the diet.
- Create a food journal. Some foods may make you feel better than others. Log which ones these are.
- Read labels on any packaged product.
- Research. Eating paleo isn’t only about what you can and can’t eat. It is also about balance and overall health. Invest in some paleo lifestyle and nutrition reads.
- Share your story. If you notice a positive difference in your health spread the word!