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Blueberries for Muscle Recovery

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

blueberry_ketchupYou’ve just finished a hard workout and probably know you have an hour or so to grab some protein to make sure you start rebuilding muscle to reap the benefits of exertion. What you may not know is that blueberries have been shown to improve recovery as well.

A recent New Zealand study looked at the effect of blueberry consumption on exercise-induced muscle damage and found that blueberries, in addition to antioxidant support, also speed muscle recovery after strenuous exercise (see abstract).

So this week I have a recipe for blueberry ketchup to share. Generously slathered over a nice grilled grass-fed burger between two butter lettuce “buns” not only gets you a quick delicious healthy meal but also guarantees some serious muscle repair.


  • 2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh minced ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup apple cider or red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Place everything in a pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes; stir occasionally.

Let cool and purée if desired with immersion blender or leave “chunky” as is my preference.

Transfer to a jar or other container with tight-fitting lid, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Great on burgers, salmon, fried eggs, over steamed veggies or just as a chutney-on-the-side to liven up any meal.

Eat at Home

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

salmon_kebabsMy grandparents always shared cooking with their kids, grandkids, and anyone in the neighborhood who ran into the kitchen and wanted to help stir. It’s been that way for millennia. We’ve co-evolved with whole, real, hearth-cooked foods filling the home.

But a dramatic shift has occurred since our grandparents’ day when nearly all meals were prepared and eaten at home. Today, home cooking accounts for only half the meals consumed in the US, and 67% of those are eaten in front of a television.

One of the best things you can do for your health and your family’s health is simply to sit down to a home cooked dinner. Research tells us that preparing one’s own food reduces calories, saturated fat, and sodium while increasing fiber and micronutrients. Research also shows that kids who have regular meals at home are more likely to have better grades, healthier relationships, 42% less likely to drink, 50% less likely to smoke, and 66% less likely to smoke pot.

Thanks to the example my grandparents set, I can cook. But they also made furniture and could saddle a horse which I cannot. As the convenience of department stores and the inevitability of cars precluded them from passing these skills on to me, I hope that the food industry hasn’t made prepared food so convenient to my generation that it will leave my grandchildren scratching their heads and wondering how I ever boiled water.

This week’s recipe:
Faster-than-you-can-say-takeout Grilled Salmon Kebabs
(serves 4)

  • metal or bamboo skewers
  • 1 1/2 lbs salmon fillets with skin removed
  • 3 or 4 pineapple spears
  • olive oil
  • about 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • salt to taste

Clean and oil grill (salmon mercilessly sticks to any grill debris) and set heat to medium-high.

Dice fillets into roughly 1 inch cubes, and slice pineapple spears into half inch thick slices.

Toss salmon cubes in a bowl with enough olive oil to coat.

Thread skewers starting and ending with salmon and alternating with slices of fruit.

Test grill by holding your hand about 4” from grill and start counting. If you make it to 4 to 5 seconds before having to pull your hand away, it’s ready. Longer than that, not hot enough. Shorter means too hot.

When ready, place kebabs on grill and let cook for 4 to 5 minutes on one side, then turn 180° for another 4 minutes.

Sprinkle with cilantro and salt.

Serve with a simple streamed veggie like kale or broccoli and do a hi-5 selfie for cooking at home!

Gelato. And it’s Paleo!

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

banana_gelatoI feel like I’ve been nagging you guys about sugar, so this week rather than badger and berate, I’ve decided to sweeten the deal with a really fun dessert recipe to put some healthy no-sugar-added sweetness into your sugar reduction process (which I hope is going well!). All it takes is a couple frozen bananas, a little unsweetened cocoa, nut butter and voilà: a natural treat that, no kidding, rivals the richest, creamiest gelato imaginable with no added sugar!

2 perfect-ripe (not over, not under) bananas

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons nut butter

dash vanilla extract

pinch of salt

Peel the bananas and slice into 1 inch or so sections. Freeze overnight.

In food processor, place frozen bananas and rest of ingredients.

Blend a good 2 to 3 minutes until mixture has the consistency of a smooth, creamy gelato.

Serve immediately; must be eaten cold. And trust me, it will be awesome!

Fighting Sugar in a Theater Near You

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

This past weekend I went to see Fed Up, the Katie Couric movie that sheds mainstream light on what we Paleo folks have known for some time, which is that the amounts of sugar in the average American diet are killing us sweetly with a siren’s song.


In 1822, the average American ate about the equivalent amount of sugar found in a single can of soda (10 tsp/40g) every 5 days. Given a combination of food industry consumer marketing and intense political lobbying, Americans now consume that much in 7 hours!

An extremely addictive substance (gauged to be 8x as addictive as cocaine), sugar is being fed to us in tobacco company style. It is estimated that one in three Americans will be diabetic by 2050. That’s well over 100 million, which is a lot of people, which means big business. And if big business gets attached to all these sick consumers it will surely take a grassroots effort to save our lives and our children’s lives.

Is there an acceptable amount of added sugar?

The World Health Organization recommends reducing added sugar intake ‘to below 5% of total energy intake per day, or less than 6 teaspoons (24g). But given sugar’s highly addictive nature, a better strategy may be to eliminate it – with the exception of whole food sugar such as fruit – completely. Having done so, I can promise that before long you wake up from the flavor coma sugar keeps you under, and food starts to taste amazingly vibrant and alive and you will never want to go back!

So what do we do?

If your child or a dear loved one were addicted to a dangerous substance, you’d probably do anything you could. Start a conversation with children, family, friends.

Read labels and don’t buy drinks or products with added sugar.

Don’t be afraid to go through your pantry and refrigerator and throw Oreos out or drain the Dr. Pepper.

Take your health seriously. Cut back or try the Fed Up sugar challenge. Set an example to those around you, and enlist the support of anyone open to the idea of reducing sugar. And if they’re not, take them to see Fed Up!

Fats Make Food More Nutritious

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

basil_smoothieIf you’re not consuming fats with your fruits and vegetables, you are wasting your time eating them at all. Since many vitamins and nutrients are fat-soluble, eating veggies in combination with healthy fats increases absorption of these substantially.

A significant study looking at the effect of adding dietary lipids in the form of avocado or avocado oil to carotenoid-rich foods dramatically increased nutrient absorption: up to 7 times for lutein and 18 times for beta carotene. That’s big. And the absence of co-consumed lipids apparently was a shock, too, as study co-author Steven Clinton noted, “The fact that so little was absorbed when no fat was there was just amazing to me.”

How much fat you need to get your fruits and veggies working for you has has yet to be specifically determined1, but definitely don’t shy away from drizzling olive oil on that salad, sautéing those veggies in a healthy scoop of coconut oil, or pouring some rich creamy coconut milk over your strawberries. Avoid trans fats, stick with the healthy ones (great pdf chart here from Diane Sanfilippo) and you can’t go wrong. No go eat your veggies!

Recipe: A Green Smoothie You Can Absorb
(adapted from Drink Your Greens, NYTimes; makes enough for 2
  • a handful of ice cubes
  • 1 cup coconut milk (full-fat = 40g, light=12, carton=4.5)
  • 1/2 cup fresh pineapple
  • 1/2 packed cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons pistachio nuts (7g fat)
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds (3g fat)
  • optional: 5-6 drops stevia or honey to taste (but I recommend going without sweetener)
Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Enjoy by itself or have it with a salad or plate of raw veggies for a super-nutrient hit.

1From Carotenoid Absorption Study: A minimum intake of 5 g lipids/d was suggested for sufficient absorption of β-carotene, whereas other studies recommended the presence of 3–5 g fat/meal for significant β-carotene absorption in adults. In our study, the low dose avocado (containing 12 g fat) was nearly as effective as the high dose (24 g fat) in increasing carotenoid absorption, indicating a nonlinear relation between the amount of lipid ingested and absorption of carotenoids, at least with a moderate fat intake. It remains to be elucidated, however, whether there is a minimum amount of lipid required for optimal carotenoid absorption that can be applied to various food sources.

If You Choose to Fly, Fly Paleo

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

plane_food1As I type this, I’m flying at 35,000 feet sipping complimentary Southwest airline decaf and enjoying a Paleo feast of steamed kale, lemon chicken, nut bread, and chocolate brownies.

10 Years ago, I wouldn’t board a plane without first buying a box of Sees to mindlessly chow while complaining I didn’t get the whole can of Coke. I’d land with legs as wobbly as if returning from the moon and feeling jet lag before even leaving the terminal. I’ve since learned, though, how to pack Paleo so rather than experiencing sugar-crash landings, I now reach my destination with a clear head and much milder jet lag.

Packing food for a flight just takes a little thought and planning. As with luggage, you want to minimize volume while maximizing utility, and for this Paleo is ideal. Here are a few ideas:

  • Steam kale and pack it in a zip lock bag
  • Microwave-steam asparagus: wash, trim and steam 3 minutes in a covered bowl (no need to add water, maybe just a sprinkle of salt)
  • Bring a mandarin orange or two for a healthy sweet
  • Egg Muffins or simply hard boiled eggs (and grab a salt packet at the airport McDonald’s you won’t be eating at)
  • Avocado (pack a plastic knife and spoon)
  • Almonds, other nuts

You’ve purchased your ticket, you’ve planned your accommodations, now with a little thought you can give your trip the healthy start it deserves!

Cool Soup!

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

avocado_soupWith spring weather turning summer-warm, it seemed like just the opportunity to share this deliciously cool, couldn’t-be-easier (or healthier) avocado soup that’s also great for anyone who is participating in the the Whole Life Challenge!

Avocado Soup Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, loosely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium, just-ripe avocados, halved and peeled
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, loosely chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne (strict Paleo use 1/4 tsp black pepper)

With heat set to medium, place oil, onions and garlic in a frying pan and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes.

Place sautéed onion and garlic in a large-capacity blender or food processor along with avocado, stock, coconut milk, cilantro, lime juice and seasonings. Blend until smooth.

Adjust seasonings and serve immediately or chilled with optional garnish of fresh diced mango and a crisp sprig of cilantro.

Spring Cleaning Challenge: Sweep Out the Sugar!

Thursday, April 10th, 2014


If you read The Cave’s blog, you probably are much healthier than the average Joe or Josephine. You also probably wouldn’t be caught in an emergency shelter drinking anything like the three beverages pictured at left, which show the frightening amount of sugar hidden in the alluring fizz or enticing hues of the average commercial thirst quencher. Most likely, if you’re reading this, you don’t touch the stuff. But, you may not be aware how much hidden sugar you are consuming each day, and if you don’t keep count, I invite you to spend the next couple of days reading labels, tallying the numbers, and taking a sweet tooth inventory.

The USDA recommends limiting refined sugar to under 40 grams (12 teaspoons) per day, per 2000 calories. See where you land. Wherever it is, if it’s above zero, try and reasonably challenge yourself to cut back wherever you can.

Here are a dozen ideas to help:

1. Set a mindful intention to reduce sugar. (If you have a birthday coming up, blow out candles and wish for less cake.)

2. Read labels. Don’t buy anything for which you could get a lower or zero sugar version.

3. Knowledge is power. Identify where processed sugar enters your diet.

4. Know yourself. When are you most likely to reach for something sugary? After dinner?  After a workout?  When you’re hungry? Late at night? And where?  At home? In the car? At the office?

5. Seek Alternatives. For times when sugar beckons irresistibly, knowing alternatives ahead of time is invaluable. Take a few minutes to make a list of substitutes. Chai or a flavorful herb tea?  Fresh fruit and/or whole nuts?  A healthy, salty snack? Or satisfying the need for a sweet experience from another sense door such as kinesthetic activity from a refreshing walk, asking a loved one for a hug, smelling something fragrant in your garden. Whatever alternatives could work for you, memorize them and make sure they are easily accessible when you need them.

6. Cut back a little at a time. Set a goal of reducing processed sugar by even just a few grams per day on a weekly basis. For example, if you average 40 grams per day, try cutting back to 35 a day for a week, then 30 the next week, etc.

7. Get inspired. Google search, “Why is processed sugar bad?”

8. Seek support. Get together with a friend or two or three and share lowering your sugar goals together. Or involve your whole family in a discussion about reducing sugar consumption.

9. Mindset change. If you think of sugar as a reward, stop that right now!  Find replacement rewards.  Even if you swap sugar for shoe shopping you’ll live longer!

10. Experiment. Try spices as alternatives to sugar, like cardamom or cinnamon.  They have far more flavor and are great in coffee.

11. Toss it! Don’t feel guilty about throwing away what’s left of the Girl Scout cookies, or draining soda down the sink.

12. New recipes. Here’s probably the world’s easiest-to-make cookies that are moist, chewy, and completely unrefine-edly sweet:

Monkey Cookies

  • 1 yellow-about-to-turn-black medium to large plantain
  • 1 cup almond butter (make sure there’s no added sugar)
  • optional (depending on your level of sugar dependency or if making for kids): 1/4 cup raisins or currants

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a food processor or powerful blender, combine peeled plantain and almond butter. Mix until smooth and then a minute or two more until creamy.

If using raisins, fold into batter at this point.

Drop batter by rounded spoonfuls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from oven, cool, and enjoy a naturally sweet, high-protein, high-potassium dessert.  Store in fridge; will get sticky – but still delicious – after a few days.

Zaatar and Plantain Bread

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

zaatarOne of the many advantages of a caveman diet is a healthy salt to potassium ratio. For the hunter gatherer, sodium – like sugar – was scarce whereas potassium was abundant. Consequently we adapted: our need for sodium is around 200 - 500 mg/day depending on climate and roughly 5,000 mg/day for potassium. Although there hasn’t been conclusive evidence linking a high sodium diet alone to cardiovascular disease, studies compellingly show that it’s the ratio of salt to potassium that makes a difference. A modern diet averages 4:1 sodium to potassium whereas our primal ancestors could boast the exact opposite. And when a healthy balance of potassium to salt is achieved, it’s not just heart health we can enjoy but many other benefits as well including a strong defense against age-related muscle loss, stroke, and osteoporosis.

So for the recipe this week, let’s up the potassium and lower the salt with plantains and za’atar. One 8 ounce plantain has close to 900 mg potassium, and Purely Twins got me started – and I can’t stop – enjoying the easy and delicious recipe below. Za’atar is a wonderfully flavorful Mid-Eastern spice blend made with sumac (can be found at Whole Foods) which has a zesty salt-lemon flavor. Combined with thyme and sesame seeds, this very low-sodium blend is wonderful spread on chicken or fish prior to baking, eggs, veggies, or even just stealing a pinch from the jar!

Za’atar Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ground sumac

Oven dry the thyme for a few minutes in a 350° oven. Combine with rest of ingredients in a mortar and pestal, spice or coffee grinder and blend well. Store in a cool dark spot in an airtight container for 3-6 months.

Plantain Bread Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized green plantain (you can use one that’s yellow, but the recipe will turn out very sweet)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

Preheat oven to 350°. Place peeled plantain along with eggs into blender or food processor and mix until smooth. Grease a 9×12” pyrex baking dish with coconut oil and pour in mixture. Bake for about 20 minutes.

Enjoy warm sprinkled with olive oil and za’atar.


Thursday, March 20th, 2014

zucchetti1Since being confirmed gluten intolerant and consequently giving up pasta completely – even as a cheat – I just was never jazzed about the idea of vegetables subbing as spaghetti. But I recently broke down, gave in and am really glad I did! Super easy, healthy, and bowl-licking good, I find myself making this more than I ever made its grain-based namesake. Is it pasta? No. But is it good? Yes! The trick to making this is a solid julienne peeler. I’m quite happy with my Kuhn Rikon; just make sure you get one with a good grip as whether you are strict Paleo, gluten intolerant, or just want a delicious and ridiculously easy side dish in a pinch, you may find yourself making zucchetti a lot!


This is for a single serving, but scales up well

  • 1 medium zucchini, washed (no need to peel)
  • olive oil
  • salt

Julienne the zucchini, skin and all, as shown in photo above. Place in a pyrex or otherwise microwave safe bowl. No need to add anything else. Cover and cook at regular heat setting for two minutes. Test for doneness, drizzle with olive oil, dash on some salt, and enjoy plain or with any topping you might enjoy over pasta. (Told you this was easy!)