Paleo diets are a meat lover's dream, because cavemen were total carnivores, right? Color us skeptical. After all, how easy do you really think it was to hunt wild boar? There was undoubtedly a lot of foraging for foodstuffs in our ancestors' daily diets.
And as it turns out, paleo is actually an option for vegans too. Vegan expert, marathoner, Floridian, and meatless Renaissance woman Ellen Jaffe Jones schools folks on the subject in her new cookbook, Paleo Vegan. So what exactly is a paleo vegan, and what can they eat? We spoke with Jones for answers to our burning questions.
"The paleo diet is this romantic concept that we return to our Paleolithic era -- one to two million years ago up until 7,000 years ago, which was the beginning of agriculture," Jones explains.
"My concept to combine the two was to eliminate the animal protein and replace it with healthy plant-based proteins. Deleting the processed foods is something both ways of eating embrace."
She heard lots of rumblings that paleo and vegan couldn't coexist, so she decided to prove they could. Realistically, she says, our ancestors probably weren't heavy meat eaters.
"They didn't have a wild boar running through the yard three times a day, let alone the ability to catch it," Jones quips. And the women who stayed home while the men were out on hunts probably weren't able to procure much meat. "They were probably foraging around their immediate environs to be able to feed not only themselves, but children as well."
Jones' book includes a list of foods that both paleos and vegans can dig into. They include fruits, berries, spices, herbs, and all kinds of vegetables. There are, after all, hundreds of vegetable varieties.
"We encourage people to eat the colors of the rainbow. People say, 'Oh, a vegan diet is so bland and boring,' but there are hundreds of colorful vegetables in the plant kingdom. In the animal kingdom, it's brown, brown, and brown.
"Of course many of the paleo books talk about eating some grains for moderate consumption." Then add the cheat rule, which can be as much as 15 to 20 percent, she says.
"The reason these rules exist is that they understand most people can't sustain a high-protein diet over time."
Endurance athletes, for example, will probably need more carbs than a high-protein diet can provide.
When it comes to the question of "to paleo or not to paleo," Jones says, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." In other words, if you don't have issues eating grains and legumes and other healthful carbs, don't remove them from your diet. She wrote the book for those looking to try a paleo lifestyle but wondering how it's doable for vegans.
So what kinds of foods are we talking about? Think hot and cold roasted cauliflower salad, baby kale salad, Brussels sprout slaw, heirloom tomato salad with watercress, edamame relish with avocado, roasted pumpkin dip, and dozens of other options. For the recipes, Jones partnered with chef Alan Roettinger. And speaking of recipes, how do artichokes stuffed with olives sound? You can download it here.
We're betting people didn't eat nearly as well in the Paleolithic Period.
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