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Eat like a caveman: Diet avoids processed foods

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The menu sounded more like an upscale restaurant than the typical meal for a caveman.

Pan-seared pork chops glazed in maple-bacon jam were served with broccoli slaw and apple compote.

Wild-caught mahi mahi paired well with rainbow chard, sweet potato hash and bell pepper coulis. Dessert featured almond-meal dark chocolate chip cookies.

But each dish Artie Stevens created fit into the same category — all recipes strictly followed the Paleolithic diet.

A growing contingent of dieters are attempting to harness their inner caveman and cavewoman when it comes to eating. The “Paleo diet” urges people to consume only what would have been available to mankind 10,000 years ago.

Gone are processed foods, sugar, salt, dairy and grains. Adherents stick with grass-fed meat, fruits, vegetables, fish and roots.

“You detox the body,” he said. “The way you feel energy in your workouts, and the overall way you feel during the day is worth it.”

The Paleo diet was made famous by Dr. Loren Cordain, whose book “The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat” became a bestseller in 2010.


  • What is Paleo?: A lifestyle and diet mimicking how humans ate more than 10,000 years ago, before the rise of agriculture
  • Popularity: According to Google, “Paleo diet” was the most searched diet topic of 2013.

Foods you can eat:

lean meat, such as chicken, turkey, beef, pork, lamb, venison and other game meats, fish crustaceans such as shrimp, lobster and crab, mollusks such as oysters and muscles, fruit, vegetables, eggs, nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, pecans and pine nuts, seeds such as chia, flax, pumpkin and sunflower seeds,  olive and coconut oil, nut flour

Foods to avoid:

grains such as barley, bran, corn, oats, rice and wheat, legumes such as alfalfa, beans, peas, lentils, peanuts and soybeans, water chestnuts, milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, salt, all processed food with salt, such as bacon, hot dogs, pickles and salted nuts, all foods made with sugar, honey, vinegar, alcohol, vegetable oils

Central to Cordain’s point was that many of the top killers in modern society — heart disease, cancer, type-2 diabetes — result from the rise of agriculture and our bodies inability to handle processed foods.

Those maladies can be avoided by eating like early humans did.

“We eat too much processed food, and far too little food rich in micronutrients and fiber,” said Karen Scrougham, outpatient dietician for Community Hospital South. “This gets you to eat more fruits and vegetables, rather than eating some kind of processed food.”

In her position at Community Hospital South’s bariatric center, Scrougham has seen an uptick in the number of people asking about the Paleo diet. She advises them that aspects of it, such as avoiding processed food, are beneficial.

Research has shown that eating large amounts of fresh fruits, vegetables, healthy fish and nuts can greatly reduce the risks of heart disease and cancer.

But other aspects of the diet can be problematic, Scrougham said.

Cutting out grains and legumes such as beans, soybeans and lentils deprives the body of essential nutrients, she said. Whole grains can prevent cardiovascular disease.

Legumes are important sources of protein, and low-fat dairy products have been shown to help ward off everything from strokes to diabetes to colorectal cancer, Scrougham said.

The lack of vitamin D and calcium from dairy products can lead to bone problems, she said.

“People have to remember that food is dynamic,” Scrougham said. “If you cut out one nutrient from your diet, like carbs, the other areas have to increase or you have to make that up.”

Adherents of the Paleo diet have found that it is best suited to their lives.

A trained chef, Stevens started following to the Paleolithic diet as a way to simplify the types of food he put in his body.

One of the drawbacks of the Paleo diet is the time it takes to prepare a diet on only fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and nuts. He started a business, Artie’s Paleo on the Go, to counterbalance that inconvenience.

“Why do we pull through the drive-through windows of countless fast food places day after day? Because it’s fast and easy,” he said. “We want to make the food fun. People don’t want chicken and broccoli all week long. They’re stuck with one or two things to eat.”

Every week, Stevens takes orders from a menu of completely Paleo-friendly dishes. People can choose from a Mexicali burger made of ground beef and chorizo served with fried plantains, or chicken in a stone-ground mustard and honey sauce.

The dishes are prepared but frozen. Customers only need to defrost them to have their ready-to-eat Paleo meal.

“When I started, I looked some stuff up, but mostly I just made the recipes I knew and left out what wouldn’t work for Paleo,” he said.

Stevens drops off his meals at CrossFit gyms throughout the southside, including at JoCo CrossFit in Franklin and IXF Crossfit, Indy South CrossFit and CrossFit Sworn in Greenwood.

The Paleo diet has found a large number of followers in the CrossFit community. The workout’s intense exercises require large amounts of nutritious, non-processed foods.

“It makes your body feel totally different,” said Tina Spall, a trainer and owner of CrossFit Sworn. “When you put clean food in your body, you can tell a difference. Your workout is better. Your recovery is better. You just feel all around better.”

Her gym offers nutritional counseling for people who need help improving their eating habits. Spall has found that even if you’re not entirely faithful to the Paleo diet, the foundation of fruits and veggies, lean meat and healthy fats is a good place to start.

“The important thing is finding a lifestyle and eating habits that work for you, and make you feel good. If that means cutting out refined sugars, bad carbs, that’s what you have to do,” Spall said.


Cherry Berry Medley

Serves 4


½ cup Bing or Rainier cherries, pitted and chopped

½ cup blueberries

½ cup golden raspberries

½ cup blackberries

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon clove powder

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves, plus four leaves for garnish


1. Combine cherries and berries in medium bowl.

2. Add vanilla, clove, cinnamon, and chopped mint, and gently toss.

3. Chill 30 minutes.

4. Garnish with mint leaves just before serving.

— Recipe from thepaleodiet.com

Slow-Cooker Chile Verde


3 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cubed

5 seven-ounce cans green salsa

1 four-ounce can diced jalapeno peppers

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes


1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook and stir until fragrant.

2. Add the cubed pork and cook until browned on the outside. Transfer the pork, onions and garlic to a slow cooker and stir in the green salsa, jalapeno peppers and tomatoes.

3. Cover and cook on high for three hours.

Reduce the setting to low and cook for four to five more hours.

— Recipe from allrecipes.com

Paleo Breakfast Scramble


3 cage-free, non-antibiotic/hormone eggs

¼ to ½ pounds breakfast sausage, ethically-raised, preservative-free

3 bacon strips, preservative-free

½ onion, diced

½ to 1 cup fresh green chilli or salsa


1. Turn on stove top burner to medium heat.

2. Layer bacon, sausage bits, and diced onions in a small, non-stick 6-inch frying pan.

3. Stir frequently with a wood spatula for eight to 12 minutes or until cooked evenly.

4. Whisk three eggs in a small mixing bowl.

5. Pour egg mixture over bacon, sausage, and onions.

6. Stir frequently to avoid burning for two to four minutes or until eggs are set.

7. Plate egg scramble and garnish with fresh green chili or salsa

— Recipe from thepaleodiet.com

Chicken Breasts with Portobello Mushrooms


4 free range organic chicken breast fillets, rinsed thoroughly

2 cups organic, portobello mushrooms, rinsed and sliced

1 cup organic marsala wine (don’t use cooking wine as it contains added salt)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 sprigs fresh rosemary, removed from stems

1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic

Freshly cracked pepper to taste


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees

2. Place chicken breasts in baking dish and cover with mushrooms.

3. In a mixing bowl, combine wine, 3 tablespoons extra virgin oil, red wine vinegar and rosemary.

4. Saute onion and garlic with 1 tablespoon extra olive oil in shallow pan until onions are tender.

5. Spread onions and garlic over chicken and mushrooms.

6. Pour liquid mixture over chicken making sure all pieces are well coated.

7. Bake for 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked.

— Recipe from thepaleodiet.com

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