The paleo diet has been gathering momentum in recent years due to its extensive list of touted health benefits. From improved sleep and balanced hormones to preventing diabetes and cutting your risk of cancer, it is no surprise that people are turning to paleo to vastly improve their health and quality of life. By incorporating the concepts of an ancestral diet as well as some weight-bearing exercise and good-quality sleep, paleo is much more a way of life than just an eating plan.
The core principals which make up the dietary aspects of paleo are to avoid all refined sugars and starchy carbohydrates and eliminate all gluten, grains and processed foods. The emphasis, however, is on consuming large quantities of vegetables, smaller portions of fruit, high-quality lean protein and moderate amounts of healthy fats. As with all diets, there are some gray areas like dairy, rice and legumes being called in to question.
When considering the merits of any new diet it is, of course, sensible to weigh up the pros and cons to find out if the diet is appropriate for you. As each of us is unique, no particular diet offers a one size fits all approach, but paleo offers a great starting point for many people. Some of the most reported benefits to consider are:
- Weight loss
- Hormonal balance
- Reduced cravings
- Improved sleep
- Increased energy
- Improved digestion
- Reduced inflammation
- Reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers
- Ability to be modified to reduce and eliminate symptoms of autoimmune disease
There are a few considerations to make however to ensure you are making the most of the paleo lifestyle. Although the paleo diet has been portrayed very much as a meat-eaters diet, the key as always is the balance. Ensuring your plate is 70 percent full of nonstarchy vegetables is key to meeting dietary needs.
Paleo can also become slightly restrictive for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet. That’s not to say that it is not achievable, however, with grains and legumes off the menu, it is crucial that you able to meet your daily protein needs from other plant-based sources.
Typically, paleo can also be a relatively low-carb diet. This is also something to be aware of should your individual needs require a slightly heavier carb diet, such as for certain hormonal conditions and athletes. Again, this is completely achievable yet something to be mindful of when embarking on a paleo lifestyle.
With so many phenomenal health benefits, it is easy to see why a paleo lifestyle may well be worth considering. A great way to ensure you’re meeting your own individual health and dietary needs and not feeling restricted by a diet is to utilize the paleo lifestyle as a template. A good approach may be to start with the 80/20 rule, whereby you maintain the lifestyle 80 percent of the time, allowing for 20 percent of your dietary intake to be “off plan” for gray-area foods like some legumes and rice-dependent on your own individual needs.
This paleo-friendly take on a classic dinnertime favorite — the beef burger — is a great introductory recipe if you are looking to transition to a paleo lifestyle.
As a fully paleo-compliant recipe, this burger is naturally free from gluten, grains and refined sugars and contains no dairy.
The protein source in this recipe is lean grass-fed beef. A rich source of zinc and iron, grass-fed beef is a great source of healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids. This is particularly important for those avoiding fish and seafood.
A popular source of healthy fats in a paleo diet, guacamole replaces highly processed burger sauce in this recipe. Loaded with vitamins and minerals, avocados are packed with heart-healthy fats as well as being great for your hair and skin.
Bell peppers are utilized in the recipe to replace a store-bought relish — often loaded with refined sugar. These naturally sweet vegetables are antioxidant-rich and excellent for supporting eye health.
Portobello mushrooms make the perfect grain-free burger bun. Not only are they a great paleo bread replacement in this recipe, but they are loaded with cancer-fighting properties and anti-inflammatory qualities.
Perfect for a Friday night or weekend treat, these paleo beef burgers can be enjoyed by the whole family.
Paleo Beef Burger with Mushroom Bun
For the Patty
- 1 pound of grass-fed lean ground beef
- 1 shallot
- 1 large clove of garlic
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- A generous pinch of sea salt
- A generous crack of black pepper
For the Caramelized Onion and Peppers
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 small red onion
- 1/2 small yellow bell pepper
- 1/2 small red bell pepper
For the Bun
- 4 large Portobello mushroom caps
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
For the Guacamole
- 1 large ripe avocado
- The juice of half a lime
- 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
- A pinch of sea salt
- A pinch of ground black pepper
- 1 large tomato
- 1/2 cup baby spinach leaves
- Mince the shallot and garlic. Add to a large mixing bowl with the ground beef and season generously. Reserve to one side while you prepare the bell peppers and onion.
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Slice the peppers and onion into thin strips. Add to the pan along with the balsamic vinegar.
- Fry over medium heat for a minute or two until the vegetables start to soften slightly, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes, stirring often. The peppers and onions should be soft and caramelized.
- While the vegetables cook, use your hands to combine the beef mixture, breaking down the meat and evenly distributing the shallot and garlic.
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Divide the beef mixture into two portions and form into patties with your hands. Add to the hot pan and fry for 15 to 18 minutes, turning often, until browned all over and cooked completely through.
- While the patties are cooking, peel and pit the avocado and add the flesh to a mixing bowl. Add the lime juice and chopped cilantro and season to taste. Mix together well to combine and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Just before the burgers are ready, brush the mushroom caps all over with olive oil and heat a grill to high.
- Arrange the mushroom caps top side up across a grill tray and cook for 5 to 6 minutes until soft and tender.
- To assemble the burgers, arrange two mushroom caps to form the base of the burgers. Top each with half of the baby spinach leaves.
- Slice the tomato, adding two slices per burger on top of the spinach.
- Add the burger patties on top of the tomatoes and slather with a generous helping of guacamole.
- Divide the caramelized vegetables between the two burgers and top with another mushroom cap to serve.
Total time: 30 minutes Prep time: 5 minutes Cook time: 25 minutes
NUTRITION INFORMATION: Calories: 636 Fat: 48g Carbs: 11g Protein: 53g