The benefits of clean eating are numerous and extend beyond wanting to lose weight.
Following a Paleo diet is actually a lifestyle change, not a trend to follow for a short period of time. The Paleo diet is based on the idea that humans should eat as our long-ago ancestors did. Basically, this means forgoing processed foods in favor of vegetables, fruits, eggs, nuts and meats. If you’re considering taking the Paleo plunge, read more to find out the basics of the lifestyle and find out if it’s right for you.
How Paleo and Clean Eating Works
The Paleo diet works by eliminating excess carbohydrates from your diet to force your body to burn the fat in your body instead of relying on the carbs you eat. Our bodies are made to burn fat, but when carbohydrates are introduced, the body chooses to burn off the carbs first because it’s easier to burn. Then, any leftover carbs are stored as fat, just in case, it’s needed later. Since we live in a world where we don’t need to personally hunt or gather our food, there is no danger of going days without it, which ultimately leads to excess fat in the body.
By eliminating the majority of carbohydrates you feed your body, the body will resort to its intended purpose of burning off fat.
What to Eat on a Paleo Diet
Don’t be alarmed. There are plenty of Paleo-compliant foods out there. Yes, it will be a struggle to adjust as your body tells you to eat cookies or pasta, but once you get through the initial “detox” stage, you will feel so much better as your body begins efficiently burning fat and clearing the fog from your brain. Here’s a basic list of foods that are approved for the Paleo lifestyle:
- Saturated fat. Go for coconut oil, clarified butter, olive or avocado oil to boost the fat content of your meals.
- Animal protein. Beef, chicken, pork, eggs, fish and shellfish should be consumed in moderation and balanced with vegetables and fruits. Broth made from the bones of animals fed an organic diet is another great source of protein. Be sure the animals are grass-fed or pasture-raised to ensure the meat you’re ingesting is as pure as possible.
- Vegetables. Pile veggies on your plate! Whether fresh or frozen, vegetables are an essential part of the Paleo diet. They provide complex carbohydrates and tons of valuable minerals and nutrients to keep the body going all day. Choose organic vegetables as often as you can.
- Fruits. Fruit is important, but don’t go crazy due to the sugar content in many fruits. Berries are a great choice due to the high antioxidants found in them. Again, be sure to choose organic berries to avoid pesticides.
- Nuts. Get a daily dose of omega-3 from nuts. Macadamia nuts are particularly perfect for the Paleo diet due to being high in omega-3, low in omega-6, and low in polyunsaturated fat.
What Not to Eat on a Paleo Diet
The list of what not to eat is longer than the approved list, but it’s clear that these foods are not doing your body any favors.
- Grains. Put down any products containing wheat, rye, or barley. Also avoid oats, corn, and brown rice. Grains contain empty carbohydrates that will clog up your system and will not allow your body to appropriately burn fat.
- Legumes. Any type of bean is also off limits. They are very difficult for the human body to digest, leading to bloating.
- Peanuts. This is the only type of nut that is not recommended to eat on a Paleo diet. Like legumes, peanuts can cause digestive issues.
- Vegetable, hydrogenated and partly-hydrogenated oil.
- Sugar. Soda, candy, donuts, cookies and more are obviously not a part of any clean eating plan.
- Dairy. The human body is not able to properly digest dairy products. If calcium is a concern, consider eating vegetables that are high in calcium to ensure a daily dose.
This may seem like a daunting task, but your body will thank you for fueling it with healthy, nutritious, clean food. If it comes in a package or a box, it’s likely not Paleo compatible. When shopping or eating out, stick to fresh produce, lean meats, and seafood to ensure a lifestyle that will allow you to be active and healthy for years to come.