Paleo Weight Loss & Fitness with my Top 10 Performance Foods
You cleared out your cupboards. You stocked your kitchen with healthy Paleo foods. Now its time to go Paleo-plus, as in stocking up on primal super foods that will undoubtedly help you get you from where you are now to where you want to be.
Primal super foods work overtime in the multitasking department — they heal the gut, decrease inflammation and flood your cells with nutrients that are more often needed over any others. In fact, super foods help you heal at the deepest of possible levels, from the inside out. This helps to boost your immunity and your energy levels. As well, super foods help you perform at your very best.
Push away that toaster, rice maker and deep fryer and get ready for some good old-fashioned super foods that will move your performance needle far.
1. Unrefined coconut oil
Unrefined coconut oil is a favorite oil with which to cook. It can be used for high-heat cooking (and the oil won’t get rancid, which is often a big problem with other oils). Even if you start out cooking with healthy oil (such as olive or macadamia oils), the high heat can oxidize the oil (which means the oil becomes damaged or rancid) and you end up with unhealthy oil. When you use unhealthy oils, you create inflammation in the body, which is the backstory behind many modern-day diseases, including heart disease.
Coconut oil also is a good replacement for butter, because it’s solid at room temperature, and provides a creamy, delicious taste. With its anti-bacterial, anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties, it’s a sure bet you’ll boost your immunity for better performance using coconut oil.
2. Sweet potatoes
I would wager just about all of my “chips,” if betting on sweet potatoes as the food that leads in athlete recovery. These great vegetables give your body the energy you need to refuel and recover. They’re superior to white potatoes because they contain more beta-carotene (that's why they have that beautiful orange glow) and contain no anti-nutrients, unlike white-potato skin. Anti-nutrients, incidentally, can cause gut disturbances and nutrient-depletion … who wants that? Dice them, sauté them or mash them with a little cinnamon and nutmeg, and you’re all set!
3. Grass-fed meats
It’s critical for the success of a Paleo athlete to get the right nutrients in his or her body for a beneficial workout, and to re-fuel well for recovery. This is where grass-fed meats really pay off, as they are more nutritious then conventionally raised meats. Grass-fed beef, bison, lamb and goats have less total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and calories than most other meats. Grass-fed beef also has more vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and a number of health-promoting fats, including omega-3 fatty acids and “conjugated linoleic acid” or CLA. CLA may be one of our most potent defenses against cancer. In fact, in a Finnish study, women who had the highest levels of CLA in their diet had a 60 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those with the lowest levels. Switching from grain-fed to grass-fed meat products places women in this lowest risk category. Researcher Tilak Dhiman from Utah State University estimates that you may be able to lower your risk of cancer simply by eating one serving of grass-fed meat each day. You would have to eat five times that amount of grain-fed to get the same level of protection.
Tasty Tip: The fat in grass-fed beef is so healthy that you can actually eat it — no need to trim the excess fat!
Protein plays a big part in the Paleo athlete’s life. Whether you need to pre-fuel with protein and fat, or you need to recover with protein and dense carbohydrates, eggs are your go-to source. They’re a quick protein source that you can have at the ready whenever you need them.
Eggs are filled with vitamins and minerals, including choline and biotin. These two minerals are pretty important because the biotin turns what you eat into energy, while choline moves cholesterol through your bloodstream.
Tasty Tip: Don't put the brakes on eating eggs because you fear their cholesterol. Almost everyone produces less cholesterol in their bodies based on how much they consume in food. Studies show that dietary cholesterol doesn't have much affect on blood cholesterol.
5. Homemade bone broths
Bone broths provide ridiculously awesome deep healing. These broths are flavorful liquids made from boiling animal bones for an extended period of time, often with vegetables or herbs, and then straining out the solids. The resulting broth is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids, which make you perform at your best. Bone broth is a powerful healer that reduces inflammation, heals infection, boosts immunity, stimulates bone health, heals the gut and even has a calming effect. For a great bone broth recipe, check out Chapter 18 in the Paleo Cookbook for Dummies.
Tasty Tip: Bone broths heal the digestive system, which helps your immune system strengthen and enhances hair, skin and nail health. In addition, joint pain disappears and your body naturally de-toxes. You can even give some of this liquid gold to your pets — they’ll grow the healthiest coat you can imagine.
6. Organ meats
You may be asking why anyone would want to chow down on organ meats. But because these meats are so nutritional, it’s totally worth becoming familiar with them. Athletes are always looking for the best sources of protein, and organ meat is definitely one of them. Kidney, liver and heart all have a high concentration of fat-soluble vitamins, and they’re one of the best sources of Vitamin D. That Vitamin D boost should be a huge motivator, since many people have severe Vitamin D depletion. Organ meats also have essential fatty acids, which are great for the brain and that membrane that lines your cell walls. The most important thing to know about shopping for organ meats? Quality matters. It’s essential you get the finest quality available because not only is deep nutrition found in organs, toxins are stored here as well. To avoid this, purchase organic, free range which will have considerably lower levels of toxins.
Tasty Tip: For more information on healthy organ meats, go to www.grasslandbeef.com/storefront.bok.
7. Fermented foods
Since the gut has a lot to do with overall health and performance, fermented vegetables (or perhaps dairy, if tolerated) can be a great part of your food choices. Fermentation uses beneficial bacteria that are great for gut health. Try kimchi or sauerkraut, or ferment some beets or carrots for fermented vegetable choices.
If you are one of the few that can tolerate dairy, then fermented dairy is an option as well. Just be sure and choose raw, fermented, full-fat dairy such as cultured butter, yogurt, kefir, and cheese — you’re getting a healthy fat, a fermented food, and conjugated linoleic acid, which possesses tremendous healing effects.
8. Full-fat coconut milk
Paleo athletes love full-fat coconut milk. It’s high in saturated fatty acids and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which are both easily burned as fuel by the body.
Coconut milk also is a wonderful substitute for heavy cream or yogurt. Buying full-fat is important because the lighter versions are simply the full-fat version, watered down.
Tasty Tip: Always check the labels. Avoid brands with sulfites or added sugar.
There’s no arguing … berries taste great and are perfect for adding to a post-workout meal. Low in fructose (you definitely want to keep fructose on the low side to avoid blood-sugar spikes), berries rank high in antioxidants and nutrition. If you can’t get them fresh, frozen berries are a great substitute. In fact, one should always have a spare bag of frozen, unsweetened berries in the freezer.
Tasty Tip: For a super luscious way to eat berries, drizzle full-fat coconut milk over them. You’ll feel like your indulging in a sweet. The good news: Berries aren’t overkill, so they don’t create sugar cravings.
10. Meat jerky
Athletes often want to refuel with a snack immediately following their work-outs. Paleo snacking is different than the boxed and packaged snacks of modern day. With a little imagination and willingness to try new things, you will find great post work-out options, such as meat jerky. The trick is to find a healthy source that doesn't include added sugars or processed ingredients. Making your own jerky is a good idea if you want to avoid lots of added salt or processing — there are many recipes online.
Besides being tasty, jerky is convenient, high in protein and easy to take just about anywhere.
Tasty Tip: When purchasing jerky, read labels carefully. Avoid nitrates, MSG, soy, gluten or added sugar. Jerky should be free-range with no antibiotics or added hormones. One of our favorite brands is Steve’s Paleo Goods.