There’s more to eating like a caveman than stocking your shopping cart with slabs of beef. Here are the foods Paleo experts are putting on their plates.
Grass-fed butter Yep, you read that right—butter can be good for you. “When Dr. Weston Price studied native diets in the 1930′s he found that butter was a staple in the diets of many supremely healthy people,” explains Chicago-based dietitian and author of PaleoInfused.com Kelly O’Connell Schmidt. And the differences between regular and grass-fed butter are substantial. Grass-fed butter is one of our best sources of absorbable vitamin A, contains other fat-soluble vitamins, and comes loaded with conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which helps with weight management has been linked to cancer prevention, Schmidt says. Her favorite brand is Kerrygold. PaleoInfused.com
Pastured pork “Pork products–including bacon–are popular among followers of the Paleo diet,” says Southern California-based dietitian Fransziska Spritzler. In addition to being chock-full-of protein, pork is one of the best sources of thiamin (also known as vitamin B1) out there, according to Spritzler. Plus, with pasturedpork, you don’t have to worry about hormones or antibiotics. lowcarbdietitian.com
Organic poultry Chicken, turkey, and other poultry products are a less popular meat choice among Paleo devotees because they contain more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids than other protein sources (our diet is generally very high in omega-6s and low in omega-3s, making the latter moreimportant to seek). That said, poultry still supplies essential nutrients, including magnesium, vitamin B3, and selenium, and typically costs less than beef and pork.
Wild jumbo prawns Low in calories and fat compared to other meats, prawns also offer a hefty dose of selenium, which may play a role in preventing cancer, heart disease, and cognitive decline. Plus, they’ve got vitamin D—an essential bone and muscle builder. “They are delicious when steamed and are a great source of protein,” adds Loren Cordain,Ph.D., world's leading expert and founder of the Paleolithic movement. thepaleodiet.com
Grass-fed beef and wild game beef Compared to farmed beef, wild and grass-feed cows are going to produce meat with more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, as a result of grazing on nutrient-rich grass rather than corn, according to Colin Champ, M.D., the Caveman Doctor. And because these animals roam free instead of pacing in their own feces (gross), they aren’t shot up with antibiotics like conventionally raised cattle. cavemandoctor.com
Wild salmon Once again, you’re going to want to opt for wild rather than farmed protein. “Wild salmon has a higher content of omega-3s fatty acids than farmed salmon,” Champ says. “Farmed salmon doesn’t have much omega-3s at all.”
Pastured eggs An almost perfect food, eggs contain fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, as well as calcium, iron, and B-vitamins, says Schmidt. Oh yeah, and they’re a complete protein—meaning they serve up all the amino acids your body needs to repair and build muscle. Even better, pastured eggs hit you with a bigger dose of healthy fats than eggs from conventionally raised chicken, says Spritzler.
Nuts (except for peanuts) Portable, and a great source of monounsaturated fats, protein, and several essential vitamins and minerals, nuts provide nutrition on the go. Just keep in mind that peanuts are off limits. Peanuts are not technically nuts, but legumes, which are discouraged on the Paleo diet. Legumes contain lectins, or anti-nutrients that are believed to interfere with the body’s ability to absorb certain minerals. Paleo followers also cite research indicating that peanuts might contribute to the buildup of plaque in our arteries. A better bet? Macadamia nuts. “They’re tasty, but also are the least inflammatory of all nuts with the best fatty acid ratio in comparison to other nuts,” Schmidt says.
Berries You can’t go wrong with berries, as they provide a higher fiber-to-sugar ratio than many fruits, as well as tons of inflammation-fighting antioxidants. Blackberries are Cordain’s favorite. “They are a delicious treat, chock-full-of-antioxidants, and surprisingly low in sugar,” he says.
Ripe avocados Avocados are high in health-promoting monounsaturated fats, Cordain says. Monounsaturated fats have been shown to help prevent cardiovascular disease, reduce inflammation in the body, and may actually help fight harmful belly fat.
Leafy greens There’s no shame in ordering a salad if it’s heavy on the dark green foliage. Leafy greens, like spinach, and collards, contain antioxidants that protect your body from everything from vision loss to cancer and also contain calcium and iron. “Kale is a big one,” Champ says. “It’s packed with vitamins.”
Sweet potatoes Along with their sky-high vitamin A content (beneficial for eye and skin health), sweet spuds contain blood-pressure-lowering potassium and satiating fiber. Additionally, they’re easy to digest and won’t cause inflammation, says Spritzler.
Chia seeds “Chia seeds provide protein, fat and fiber to our diet, and one of my favorite perks, is they help us detox,” says Schmidt. Chia seeds provide satiety, absorbing 12 times their weight and expand in our stomachs. Plus, they’re good for our hearts and bones. To reap the fullest benefits she suggests soaking chia seeds overnight in either water, almond milk, or coconut milk. “I often add the end product to my morning smoothie or I mix in some berries and have it for an afternoon snack,” she says.
Coconut oil Replace other oils with this Paleo staple when you cook with high heats, says Schmidt. Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), a chain of fatty acids which are metabolized differently than other fats. “They tend to be used for energy rather than stored as body fat,” Spritzler says.