I would have always considered myself healthy. My weight never went above the recommended weight requirements for my height, I ran almost every day, I was usually really active and ate pretty well… I had realized in the years prior that eating highly processed carbs was not the right answer for my body (or really anyone’s body), and I had teetered between a raw Vegan diet heavy with greens and fruit to more of a low-carb lifestyle. I know there are some Paleo people out there that will write about how bad the raw Vegan diet is… and conversely, I have read some scorching articles from Vegans about Paleo and barbaric “meat-eaters”. When really the truth of the matter, should focus on the quality, type of food, and moderation of any “diet”… I put “diet” in quotations for a specific reason that I will get to later.
Lesson #1 & #2: How to Make Smoothies AND the Importance of “Greens” in a diet
I learned some good “diet” tools of the trade being a raw, Vegan. I traded my mom’s necklace that she brought me in for my first high-speed blender – a Vitamix (after breaking my cheap one — actually it turned on a few hours after the motor cooled down, but it did smell in the kitchen for a while). The smoothie I wanted to blend consisted solely of greens and included: parsley, celery, cucumber, carrots, dandelion greens, a smidgen of spinach, sea salt and lime. When I finally did blend that green smoothie, it tasted delicious – only because I had used to eating more and more greens every day. This obsession with greens and green smoothies helped me lose weight, got rid of that pesky psoriasis I had after my first child, more energy and made me smell like “lettuce” – not sure if that’s a good or bad trait.
After a while, I settled into my favorite daily smoothie of blueberries, spinach or romaine lettuce, banana made with homemade almond milk. (Smoothie Tip: bananas cover the taste of spinach tremendously). Not only did being a raw, vegan teach me to make smoothies at the drop of the dime or combine previously inedible greens into new dishes in new and interesting ways, but it’s an essential part of being Paleo as well.
Lesson #3: Eat Weeds
One ingredient you may have noticed with smoothies was dandelion greens… guess where I got em? At the store? Nope. I picked them out of my yard. In fact, I can tell you some things about picking dandelions. First, the older the dandelion, the more bitter it will taste. That 5-foot dandelion that you have been meaning to take down – you should just put it in your compost.
However, the little ones that have just begun to flower – those are WAY less bitter. The great thing about dandelion is that the whole thing is edible – the flower, stem, leaves and even root (makes a great healing tea for just about everything). I prefer the thinnest dandelion leaves that I can find and the flowers.. they are actually pretty good. Going back to the point – is weeds. This is something that you almost never read about Paleo, but our ancestors ate weeds – and a lot of them (well when the weather was nice). In fact, the edible weeds are surprisingly super-nutritious, even more so than some “super” foods.
Lesson # 4: Digestion AND Herbs as Medicine
One name that you never hear in Paleo is Ann Wigmore. She was actually one of the founding “members” (since it’s not really a club, but member sounded really good right there) of a raw, vegan “diet”. Ann Wigmore stated that …. sprouts and the nutritional benefits.
Lesson #6: Using Real Food to Make Dessert
One thing that is strikingly similar to Paleo and raw Vegan “diets’ is dessert. Maybe I only picked the healthier dessert of both lifestyles; however, both utilize honey and maple syrup as the main sweeteners. Dates are used more in Vegan dishes, than Paleo due to the high sugar content. Honestly, I rarely ate dates on the Raw Vegan diet, they did not make me feel good (probably because of the sugar). But right away I noticed in Paleo… desserts made with macadamia nut crusts, puddings made with honey or maple syrup, pies or cakes made with almond meal or almond flour. Really – it didn’t seem that different. In fact being a raw Vegan is even more difficult to create these dishes due to the restrictions on food. And when you make that dessert exactly right, it’s difficult to stay away.
Lesson #7: Simplicity
Which brings me to my next lesson – simplicity. One day, many years ago, I sat in a similar chair that you are sitting in right now. Where I was scouring the web for more raw, Vegan recipes. It seems like every week, the recipes became more complicated, more complex. Suddenly, there were raw, vegan recipes for everything that you would usually eat as processed carbs.
Lesson #8: Do What Works for You
This is an optional choice for obvious reasons. Some individuals will have to rework their entire way of eating to find which foods work for their body.