Eat like a caveman: Fruits and nuts good; potatoes bad.
Eat like a caveman. That’s the thrust of the trendy Paleo style of eating.
At its core, the Paleo diet is devoid of all processed foods, refined sugars and dairy. In theory, it is supposed to mirror the way Stone Age hunter-gatherers ate. The diet has been around for a while but has gained popularity over the last several years. And it doesn’t seem to be headed for extinction anytime soon.
Nate Furlong, of New Hudson, Mich., has been following a Paleo diet for three years. Furlong, 29, a clinical-exercise physiologist, discovered the Paleo way of eating while working in a cardiologist office. (He’s also a personal trainer and Paleo nutrition expert.)
“I was … helping clients with some nutrition recommendations according to normal USDA standards: low fat, kind of low protein and higher in carbohydrates,” Furlong said. “I saw them lose some weight, but not get off meds, so I started searching other options and Paleo was talked about favorably.”
The Paleo diet promotes eating lean meats and fish along with lots of fruits and nonstarchy vegetables, nuts and seeds. What’s out? Most grains and legumes.
We caught up with Furlong recently. Here’s a bit of what he had to say about eating and shopping the Paleo way:
QUESTION: What made you convert to the Paleo way of eating?
ANSWER: What struck me was that by reducing some processed food, people had better cholesterol levels — ultimately, it helped people more. I’ve seen some clients get off meds. And that’s what gave me a kick.
Q: What are the benefits of Paleo?
A: Potential weight loss and increased cognitive function … along with problem solving. There’s also increased energy level and potential rebalancing of blood cholesterol — HDLs, LDLs and triglycerides.
Q: Is it easy to follow? How do you advise people to start?
A: It usually takes people a couple of tries. You start by cutting out things like pop and things that have added sugar and cutting back on the some of the gluten, dairy until you … minimize it. At the same time, I try to get them to eat more protein with each meal.
Q: What does a Paleo diet look in pyramid form?
A: Meat is on bottom along with veggies. The next level is nonstarchy vegetables and fruits. … The next rung is seeds and nuts. But the balancer here, in regular Paleo nutrition, is that while meat is in the bottom so is unlimited nonstarchy veggies.
Q: Beef plays a huge role, as does poultry and fish. What do you recommend?
A: Really you are what you eat, and your food is what your food has been eating. For that reason, it’s important that you choose … from grass-fed and free-range sources. My personal favorite is a grass-fed porterhouse steak. With fish, it’s salmon because of the taste … and it’s really high in omega-3s.
Q: Nuts and seeds are a core Paleo concept. Which ones are best and how do they help?
A: I recommend one to two handfuls a day, rotating the variety you eat. I use PAW as the acronym … pecans, almonds and walnuts. Nuts and seeds satiate you and help when you start having a craving for something crunchy and salty.
Q: Why are beans (legumes) and grains not part of a Paleo diet?
A: Beans and legumes are a hot spot because they are considered anti-nutrients. (An anti-nutrient is a compound that interferes with the absorption of nutrients.) For example, kidney beans can cause inflammation and they are the highest in anti-nutrients.
Some people who are 100 percent Paleo would say get rid of any food that has anti-nutrients. Grains are eliminated, too, because of the amount of anti-nutrient content. But I am a fan of sprouting grains and there are sprouted breads like Ezekiel and there is Paleo bread made with coconut flour.
Q: What fruits and vegetables are recommended?
A: It depends on your overall goal. We shoot toward thin-skin fruits like berries. Most people who want to lose weight stay there. Athletes need to eat more thick-skin fruits like bananas and oranges.
Q: What’s your best Paleo-cooking kitchen tip?
A: Take your favorite recipes and find simple Paleo modifications to them. For example, use Celtic sea salt instead of table salt, almond flour instead of regular flour and sweet potatoes instead of regular.
Q: Are there any foods you miss?
A: Not really. Most of the foods that aren’t Paleo should actually just be eaten for special occasions or celebrations — and that’s when I eat mine. I love pizza, and I’ll have a few slices once every month or so. … Life is too short to say “no” to foods you love. We should just say “no” more often.