What do you think of when you think of the Paleo diet? Fresh veggies? Affordable protein sources? Nope, it’s pretty much been distilled in our minds as the poster child for meat and almond butter. No one’s saying meat and almond butter aren’t delicious—they absolutely are. However, these foods are not an accurate representation of a healthy, affordable Paleo diet, nor a healthy, balanced diet for that matter. Additionally meat and almond production have both been blamed for contributing to climate harm, making a Paleo lifestyle seem environmentally unfriendly. But, is the Paleo diet an unhealthy, overpriced, environmentally unfriendly way of eating? It absolutely doesn’t have to be. In fact, Paleo can be a balanced, highly nutritious lifestyle for some without being overly expensive. Here are 7 of the most powerful foods in any Paleo kitchen.
Sardines. A dense source of B12 and omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, sardines are an affordable way to increase your seafood intake. Wild Planet packages sustainably harvested sardines you can toss onto your salad for a nutritious boost in flavor and protein. Seafood consumption offers a lot of health benefits, and sardines are cheaper and debatably more sustainable than many other fish.
Chia seeds. This isn’t a surprise to anyone. Chia seeds pack a lot of power in a little package. High in fiber, omega-3s and protein, a tablespoon or two is enough to keep anyone going through a long day. These are great to have on hand for homemade chia pudding for a slightly sweet treat that will nourish and energize your body.
Coconut oil. Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) are an important component of coconut oil. It doesn’t need to be broken down in order to be utilized by the body and therefore works to boost your metabolism and provide a quick burst of lasting energy. Coconut oil is a more easily digested fat that can be consumed by those who have difficulty digesting most fats and don’t have a coconut allergy. It’s excellent to add to foods like smoothies for enhanced absorption of fat-soluble nutrients. This healthy saturated fat will keep you satisfied while nourishing your body and adding a subtle sweetness to your dishes.
Cauliflower. While not the cheapest vegetable, cauliflower is nutrient dense and has 101 uses in the Paleo kitchen. It’s surprisingly high in protein (with a surprising 10 grams to half a head) and resembles rice and pizza crust in a glorious fashion. (Bonus if you get your hands on purple cauliflower, which is high in the powerful purple antioxidants known as anthocyanins.)
Tigernuts. These little tubers are actually an excellent form of resistant starch. If you haven’t heard about resistant starch, read up on it. It acts as a prebiotic, meaning it feeds the good bacteria in your gut and encourages them to propagate. Also, they’re crunchy and subtly sweet, so they make a great healthy snack when you get a hankering!
Turmeric. The king of spices, turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory agent in the body—as effective as some over-the-counter medications! Its vivid yellow color and mild flavor make it ideal to add to any dish. Add it to curries, soups, smoothies, you name it! Do not underestimate this little spice’s powerful force in your body and your kitchen.
Lightly cooked kale. Raw kale is extremely difficult to digest. According to Dave Asprey, raw kale is very high in oxalic acid, a natural toxin in plants which can accumulate in your body and cause gout and kidney stones over time. By steaming or lightly cooking kale, especially before adding it to your green smoothie, you drastically reduce the oxalic acid content while improving kale’s digestibility and unlocking key nutrients. Steam a large batch at a time and keep it in the fridge for use throughout the week.
Bison. A much leaner meat than beef, bison is more likely to be grass-fed and regulations don’t allow administration of hormones or routine antibiotics as they do in cattle. Bison, like grass-fed beef, is high in protein, iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and contains some omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also a significantly more sustainable meat than beef, since bison hasn’t yet reached the same level of commercialization as cattle. Their open grazing can help the soil absorb excess carbon out of the atmosphere—a plus for the environment. While it’s a little more expensive than ubiquitous beef cuts, it can often be a healthier option.
Paleo is what you make of it. Just because something is Paleo doesn’t mean it makes your diet balanced and healthy. A balanced way to look at the Paleo diet may be to combine it with an Ayurvedic outlook, meaning every body is different, and everyone should eat with their own individual needs in mind. The textbook Paleo diet is simply not the ideal diet for everybody—no single diet is. However, there are general principles that may be good to incorporate into your own life—such as relying less heavily on grains, consuming more healthy fats and increasing veggie consumption. If you’re interested in this personalized, holistic version of Paleo, check out the Paleovedic Diet book, which has some great insight and information that can help anyone with a Paleo-inspired diet.