Wellness

Lifestyle Diets Defined: Clean, Paleo, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Primal and Mediterranean

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In the trendy world of diets, buzzwords like “clean,” “paleo” and “primal” are aplenty. But what do they mean? We dove in to explore the differences in these diets to provide an explanation about these eating lifestyles.

Clean

A common thread among diets is the idea of eating “clean.” The basis of this theory is avoiding eating processed foods where unhealthy ingredients are often snuck into recipes. This diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein such as meats and nuts, and dairy products. The key is to ensure these items are free of preservatives and chemicals. By eating five or six small meals a day, it is easier to control the ingredients and portions that go into each meal.

Bottom Line: Avoid foods containing ingredients that are difficult to pronounce.

Guidelines:

  • Stay away from processed or refined foods
  • Steer clear of refined sugar, such as artificial sweeteners like NutraSweet, Equal or Splenda
  • Avoid high fructose corn syrup
  • Nix soda

Benefits:

  • Eating several small meals a day revs up the metabolism, making “calorie counting” unnecessary. Being full from these meals wards off hunger that may lead to snacking on junk foods.
  • Sticking to healthy, natural foods can balance energy levels, regulate hormonal function throughout the day (leading to a better night’s sleep), promote cell growth and help the body absorb nutrients more efficiently.

Paleo

A diet based on food groups of pre-agricultural, hunter-gatherer lifestyles, the Paleo diet includes grass-produced meats, fish and seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, nuts and seeds and healthy oils, such as olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado or coconut.

Bottom Line:  If it comes pre-cooked, pre-packaged or in bulk, don’t eat it.

Guidelines:

  • Increase protein intake
  • Eat fewer carbs to lower the glycemic index
  • Eat more fiber
  • Cut trans fat and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats and increase omega-3 fats
  • Eat more potassium and less sodium
  • Avoid excessive amounts of foods with dietary acid
  • Eat more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and plant phytochemicals
  • Avoid cereal grains, legumes (including peanuts), dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, processed foods, salt or refined vegetable oils.

Benefits:

  • The unlimited number of fruits and vegetables in the diet have a low-glycemic index, which regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, helping to prevent Metabolic Syndrome.
  • Because of the fruits and vegetables intake, the body will become slightly alkaline, improving acid/base imbalance diseases, such as osteoporosis, kidney stones, hypertension, stroke, asthma, insomnia, motion sickness, inner ear ringing or exercise-induced asthma.
  • The high-soluble fiber content of the Paleo diet will improve most diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, and high omega-3 fat content can improve inflammatory diseases.

Vegan

Following a vegan diet means excluding meat, fish and poultry and animal byproducts such as eggs, dairy and honey. This is one of the more strict diets to follow since animal byproducts are in so many inconspicuous ingredients, like food dye.

Bottom Line: Don’t eat anything that comes from an animal.

Guidelines:

  • Include fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, whole grain products, nuts, seeds and legumes.
  • Consume high-fat foods sparingly
  • It is recommended to spend at least 10 to 15 minutes in the sun two-to-three times per week, as Vitamin D is not included in vegan diets.

Benefits:

  • Vegan diets are free of cholesterol and are generally low in saturated fat, reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer and other chronic diseases
  • Better control and prevention of diabetes
  • Healthier body mass index
  • Lower blood pressure 

Gluten-Free

Eating gluten-free is primarily for individuals with a gluten sensitivity or intolerance, known as Celiac disease. Eliminating gluten from the diet works as a form of treatment by excluding the protein gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale, a cross between wheat and rye. There are no proven health benefits to a gluten-free diet for those without a gluten sensitivity. Nonetheless, this has been a popular diet for those looking to lose weight or boost their energy.

Bottom Line: Stay away from wheat-based products or any food containing gluten.

Guidelines:

Always avoid Wheat, Barley, Rye, Triticale

Avoid beer, bread, cake, pie, candy, cereal, cookies, crackers, pasta, pizza and sauces unless labeled “Gluten-Free”

Allowed:

  • Beans, seeds, nuts in their natural, unprocessed form
  • Fresh eggs
  • Fresh meats, fish and poultry (not breaded, batter-coated or marinated)
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Cider is naturally gluten free
  • Most dairy products

Benefits:

  • Individuals suffering from Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity who follow a gluten-free diet experience fewer symptoms and complications from the disease and experience increased energy levels.

Primal

This diet references evolutionary biology to determine what should be eaten today. Similar to the Paleo diet, this theory states that since these foods existed when humans evolved, they provide balanced nutrition. More modern foods, such as vegetable oils, grains and dairy promote fat storage and are not part of this diet.

Bottom Line: Eat as the cavemen did.

Guidelines:

  • Completely eliminate processed foods in favor of foods humans have been eating since the beginning of time.

Benefits:

  • By eliminating processed foods and increasing omega-3 fats, high-glycemic index carbohydrates are reduced, which can help improve weight loss
  • Reduces risk of chronic diseases related to insulin resistance
  • Improves body function on the cellular level

Mediterranean

The Mediterranean Sea and its surrounding coasts provide a wealth of nutrients.  The style of cooking adopted by countries such as Greece and Italy has been known to help reduce the risk of heart disease while providing a well balance diet.

Bottom Line: Focus on healthy, non-processed foods.

Guidelines:

  • Primarily eat plant-based foods
  • Replace butter with healthy fats (like olive oil or grape seed oil)
  • Instead of salt, use herbs and spices to flavor foods
  • Cut back on red meat
  • Eat fish and poultry
  • Drink red wine in moderation (optional)
  • Choose low-fat dairy

Benefits:

  • Reduced risk of heart disease
  • Reduced incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases
  • Reduced blood pressure levels

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