Growing numbers of Asheville residents are going caveman. Proponents say the paleo diet (mostly meat and veggies plus a moderate amount of fruit and nuts) greatly improves their overall health. And for those living with health challenges, healing through diet can provide a welcome sense of control and empowerment.
Paleo, though, is not to be taken lightly: It’s a very restrictive regime, and it might not be right for people happy with their current health and energy levels. But for those with chronic fatigue or who otherwise feel they’re struggling with less-than-stellar health, a paleo diet might be something to try. Reported benefits include weight loss, increased energy, improved gut health, resistence to autoimmune disease, enhanced mental clarity and reduced risk of degenerative disease.
Massage therapist Mo Goldstein, who founded the Paleo Asheville Facebook page, says he first heard about the diet from a client. “I get exposed to a lot of ideas that way, and usually, if somebody is passionate about something, I look into it,” he explains. “Quite often, the more I look into it, the more quirky and ridiculous it seems, but in this case the more I looked into it, the more it made sense.”
So Goldstein decided to give it a try “for a month, just to see what would happen, and in my own case it was amazing. I had been running for a year and half and hadn’t lost a single pound, and within one month of eating paleo, I had lost 15 without trying. My chronic congestion that I’d had for 20 years went away. My minor digestive issues went away within a week,” he reports, adding, “Every person I know who’s done this has had these remarkable transformations.”
Inspired, Goldstein launched the Paleo Asheville page, so those embarking on a similar journey could learn from and support one another. The page has over 400 “likes,” and members meet monthly at Synchronicity Wellness to enjoy a potluck chock-full of homemade paleo dishes.
These gatherings, according to Synchronicity Wellness owner Mickra Hamilton, offer a valuable opportunity for paleo cooks to add to their creative arsenals (participants bring recipes along with each dish) and socialize with others following the same lifestyle path. The potlucks, which Hamilton says draw 25-45 people each month, are also a great place for the paleo-curious to check out what the diet has to offer. “We talk a lot about eating strategies and the different variations of the diet,” says Hamilton, adding that those who have been eating paleo for a while find their systems become sensitive to nonpaleo foods, so “it’s a safe place [for them] to eat. It’s been really beautiful.”
Hamilton also brings in a different health expert for each potluck to discuss topics related to the diet, including recent presentations on acupuncture and immune support.
If you aren’t up for cooking at home, and it’s not a potluck night, where is someone on a paleo diet to eat? Is it possible to find paleo-friendly fare at local restaurants? “It’s not that hard, depending on how sensitive you are to gluten or contaminants in your food,” says Goldstein. “I usually ask if they have a gluten-free menu, and if they don’t, then I just wing it.” He recommends bread-free options, such as a lettuce wrap. Farm Burger, Seven Sows, Chestnut and the Farm to Fender food truck, says Goldstein, are particularly ready and willing to accommodate a paleo diet.
Shanna Duvall, co-owner of CrossFit Asheville, conferred with some of the coaches at her facility, and to Goldstein’s list they add King Daddy’s Chicken and Waffles, Early Girl Eatery, The Barleycorn, Sunny Point Café, Posana Café and Standard Pizza to the list, along with Doc Chey’s Noodle House, whose managers Duvall says have consulted with her on ways to make their menu more paleo-friendly.
Duvall also offers a few tips. “You can make a lot of simple changes,” she says. “Anywhere that serves burgers or sandwiches, you can just eat the burger without the bun: They’ll put it on a bed of leaves. People are very willing to work with you; I think it’s a matter of the consumer not being hesitant to ask the waiter what is and isn’t in the dish.”
For details on upcoming potlucks at Synchronicity Wellness, visit Facebook.com/SynchWellness or Facebook.com/PaleoAsheville.