Welcome to another edition of our Mailbag posts! This series focuses on questions that are frequently asked by the UPG community. Have a lingering question? Ask it here and we might feature you in future posts!
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“I think it’s expensive to eat healthy. Do you have any tips?”
This is one of the most common complaints we hear. And, honestly, I would say it’s a bit of a misconception. Yes, buying meat, nuts, vegetables, and fruit is definitely cheaper than buying a box of Twinkies and frozen dinners…in the short run. But, if those things are what make up your diet for years, chances are you’ll end up spending much more in healthcare costs down the road.
The first suggestion I would give is to begin prioritizing your health. A lot of people I know (myself included at one point in my life) spend money on much more expensive, and unnecessary, things daily. Realizing that the food you put in your body has a direct correlation to your health is the first step in this transition.
If the expense of the Paleo diet is your biggest concern, take a look at what you’re spending in other areas of your life. Is there something unnecessary that you find yourself spending money on that you could cut out and put towards your grocery budget? Maybe it means not buying that Starbucks drink every morning (make your own – it will be so much better!) or getting rid of cable and using Netflix instead.
Learn to shop seasonally. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are usually relatively inexpensive because they are the most abundant at that point in the year. If you’re lucky enough to have access to farmer’s markets, shop at them as often as possible. Not only will you find the freshest, most seasonal produce at reasonable prices, but your purchases will also support local farmers.=
When shopping at the grocery store, buying frozen produce is oftentimes much cheaper. In most cases, the fruit or vegetables are fresher than the other produce you find on the shelves because it was frozen shortly after picking.
Also, know which fruits and vegetables are best bought organic and which ones you are safest buying conventionally-grown. Your best reference for this will the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen. Each year, the Environmental Working Group releases a list of the 12 fruits and vegetables that are most contaminated by pesticides and the 15 that are the least. Organic avocados are incredibly expensive to buy, but according to EWG they are the least contaminated by pesticides. Save your money and buy conventional avocados. Spend the money you save on organic apples and berries – fruits that are usually most contaminated.
Buying in bulk, especially meat, can be a really helpful way to cut costs as well. Buy directly from your local butcher if possible. Organ meats are also cheaper to buy than other meats and are insanely nutritious.
“I love dark chocolate. Can I eat that on a Paleo diet?”
I will go ahead and openly admit that I LOVE dark chocolate. So, this answer may be a bit biased…but I am a full believer that dark chocolate can play a role in a Paleo lifestyle. If you’re sticking to a strict Paleo diet, you may not want to include dark chocolate due to the added sweeteners and emulsifiers. But, in my opinion, a small amount of dark chocolate every now and then is a great dessert option.
Dark chocolate is chocolate without the milk solids. You’ve probably noticed that dark chocolate bars have a percentage on it. That number represents the cacao solids in the chocolate…so a 70% chocolate is made up of 70% cacao solids. Most dark chocolate bars contain cacao solids, sugar, and an emulsifier. The higher the percentage, the more cacao solids the chocolate contains (which also means less sugar and emulsifiers as well). The more cacao you can get, and the less of the other stuff, the better.
As far as sweet treats go, dark chocolate (remember – the higher the percentage the better) is an excellent one. Dark chocolate is made from the cacao bean, and cacao has extremely potent antioxidant potential. This means that it helps our body combat free radicals which cause damage to our tissues and DNA.
As the cacao bean is processed, some of that antioxidant potential is lost. So, once again, try to get as close to 100% as you can.
Cacao also boasts an impressive array of vitamins and minerals. These include magnesium, B vitamins, calcium, and potassium just to name a few. It also contains polyphenols which are linked to being anti-inflammatory.
When buying dark chocolate, always try to aim for bars that have less than 10 grams of sugar. Although more expensive, choosing organic and fair-traded chocolate is something I always make an effort to do. Also, incorporating raw cacao powder and cacao nibs (into smoothies, chia pudding, etc.) are other ways to get that delicious chocolate flavor without the additives you find in dark chocolate bars.
Eating a square or two of dark chocolate when you’re craving a treat is a great way to help curb your sweet tooth. Just be sure to read your labels to check the sugar content and aim for high percentages!
“What kind of foods should I eat for fiber since I can’t eat grains?”
Fiber is incredibly important for overall health. A quick fiber refresher in case you need it…fiber is basically a carbohydrate that your body cannot digest. There are two types – soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is beneficial for your gut microbiome by essentially feeding your gut bacteria. It also slows down stomach emptying, so it keeps you feeling fuller for longer. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stool; it helps keep you regular and avoid constipation.
Conventional diet advice likes to tell us that whole grains are the best source of fiber in our diet. And while whole grains do contain fiber, they can also have harmful effects on the body, which is why they are eliminated on a Paleo diet.
Ensuring that you consume both soluble and insoluble fiber is essential. Luckily, vegetables and fruit are loaded with this important nutrient!
Paleo-friendly sources of soluble fiber include: strawberries, nuts, seeds, cucumbers, celery, carrots, blueberries, apples with the skin on, sweet potatoes, yams, and other root vegetables.
Paleo-friendly sources of insoluble fiber include: cabbage, beets, carrots, and brussel sprouts.
It is recommended to get 40 grams of fiber/day for men and 25 grams/day for women. Eating a diet composed of a variety of fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens, low sugar berries, and root veggies, that should get you to the recommended daily intake of fiber.
Be sure to check out our other mailbag questions here.
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