Many Americans are embracing a more ancestral approach to eating, favoring a Paleolithic diet that is rich in fresh meats, fish, fruits and vegetables -- the way nature intended. Denver is leading the trend, making Paleo more accessible and delicious than ever before.
Say what you will about cavemen, but their lifestyle was conducive to a healthy diet. In 2013, eating habits from a million years ago are coming back in a big way.
Dr. Loren Cordain, the world's leading expert on Paleolithic diets, explains that Paleo is based upon eating wholesome, contemporary foods from the food groups our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have thrived on during the Paleolithic era.
Paleo-friendly foods include fresh meats, fish, seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds, nuts, and healthful oils such as olive or coconut. Foods that are not part of the Paleo diet include dairy products, grains, legumes, refined sugars and processed foods, all of which have been linked to a variety of degenerative diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Three Denver businesses/entrepreneurs are laying the groundwork for what is quickly becoming a Paleo food revolution.
During his third tour to Iraq in 2010 with the army, Will White, Owner and CEO of Caveman Cafeteria
, was turned on to Paleo through CrossFit, an intense strength and conditioning workout program, popular throughout the U.S. He was blown away by the results. "The biggest thing was having even energy all day, not having trouble sleeping at night or having that crash after lunch," says White.
Upon his return from Iraq, White partnered with lifelong friend and Executive Chef David Kenny, to bring gourmet Paleo food service to the health-conscious Denver market.
Caveman Cafeteria produces gourmet Paleo food made from grass-fed meats, organic vegetables, herbs and spices for a variety of catered events as well as for a food truck that White likes to call "a mobile interactive billboard."
The truck frequents the River North (RiNo) Arts District of downtown Denver on Friday and Saturday nights as well as Sunday afternoons and has many loyal followers.
Popular dishes from the hunter-gatherer menu include a grass-fed bistro steak, served with Portobello mushrooms and a house-made demi-glace, as well as deep-fried Brussels sprouts.
White recently raised $21,000 through a Kickstarter campaign for a permanent food stand on 16th Street Mall that will open for business in April 2013.
Juli Bauer, author of the cookbook "OMG That's Paleo?"PaleOMG
Blogger, author and CrossFit coach Juli Bauer has shot to international recognition with her daily blog posts at PaleOMG.com
Bauer also offers a plethora of recipes that help make Paleo more applicable to the real world. Bauer is currently followed by 58,000 people on Facebook and receives approximately 40,000 views per day on her blog.
She doesn't have any formal culinary training, in fact she jokes that her culinary background is a "love of eating." Yet her passion for food is very apparent through her website as well as her first cookbook, titled, OMG that's Paleo?
Bauer says most people who follow a Paleolithic diet don't feel deprived. A wide variety of foods are available, and whenever possible substitutions can be made to many recipes to make them Paleo-approved.
"I'll get inspiration for paleo foods like donuts, or foods that I had growing up, and I'll create those in a Paleo-friendly version," says Bauer.
Nestled away in Denver's Santa Fe Arts District, people travel from DIA on a layover just to visit the nation's only strictly Paleo coffee shop, mmm...coffee!
Owners Derek and Jami Fynboh and their daughter Ferris made the switch to Paleo and have never looked back.
According to the Gluten Free Society, 40 percent of the population reacts poorly to gluten. For Jami, who has a long family history of autoimmune disease, making the switch to a Paleolithic lifestyle was a no-brainer. "I just decided to give it a try and did the 30-day challenge, and the first day I felt like a million bucks," says Jami.
The coffee shop offers fresh baked goods that Jami makes from scratch in-house, that are completely gluten- and grain-free and naturally sweetened. She also makes fresh soups, smoothies and a variety of espresso coffees are available dairy-free. House-made soup at mmm...coffee.
"I don't think that our bodies are equipped to handle grains and soy, legumes and dairy," says Jami. "It's natural energy for what your engine needs."
The Fynbohs share the belief that anyone can benefit from the Paleo diet, and subsequently they enjoy a broad demographic of customers from a variety of dietary backgrounds.
"Even if they're not into Paleo, they will listen politely and then enjoy what they're eating," says Derek, "and that's great!"
"People are also very happy to have a place to come where they don't have to explain why they eat the way they eat, " adds Jami.