Vegan, Paleo, Gluten-free: What Do They Really Mean?

Sandy Getzky, is the executive coordinating editor at The Global Nail Fungus Organization, a group committed to helping the 100+ million people suffering from finger and toenail fungus and is also a registered Herbalist and member of the American Herbalist’s Guild.  She was very gracious and wrote the following article especially for the Healthy Lombard blog:

Not all diets can get you the results that you need. Many fad diets that can be quickly completed only offer short-term results because you go back to eating normally after the diet period. If you’re aiming for a long-term solution, consider diets that offer permanent changes to your eating habits.

Vegan, Paleo, and Gluten-free, for example, are all diets that can change your lifestyle, even more so, if you follow them religiously. Many people adapt these lifestyles because of the nutritional benefits, such as getting more antioxidants and vitamins, that can boost your immune system. These can help reduce the risk of health complications such as diabetes, fungal infection, and arthritis.

Just like any major change in your life, proper planning and accurate information can help you reach your goal more efficiently. Consulting an expert is always a great first step – especially if you already have allergies or dietary restrictions. If you want to try a diet that entails a big lifestyle change, then read on to find out exactly what you may be getting into.

Veganism, A Way Of life

A Vegan diet means that all animal-derived ingredients are excluded from your meals. Yes, this includes meat, egg, and dairy products. Instead, a normal vegan diet usually includes dishes that have grains, beans, legumes, vegetables, and fruits. Popular food, such as ice cream, cheese, and hot dogs, have their own vegan versions that usually involve the use of soy milk and tofu.

In a vegan diet, you need to correctly plan out all of your meals otherwise you might be missing key nutrients such as protein, omega-3, calcium, and vitamin B12. More often than not, people who rush going through a vegan diet replace animal products with junk food, such as white bread and pasta, that have little nutritional value. Also, carefully read the labels of soy-based products to ensure that they are not laden with sodium and preservatives. Some complications arising from a poorly executed vegan diet include skin disease, tooth cavity, anxiety, and exhaustion.

While it is possible to get all the nutrients you need from a vegan diet, it is difficult to put into practice – often requiring lots of knowledge and discipline. If you are planning to start this diet, it is best to do it slowly while consulting a professional.

Eat Only Real Food by Going Paleo

The Paleo diet is named as such because the foods recommended are supposedly the only ones available to humans in the Paleolithic era. You can enjoy most fresh fruit, vegetable, nut, and lean meat dishes – all ingredients that can be hunted and foraged by people in that era.

It involves avoiding most modern processed food and agricultural products. These include grain, coffee, alcohol, salt, sugar, and dairy products. Following the Paleo diet of a balanced mix of lean meat and leafy vegetables can help you feel satiated quickly so you do not eat as much. However, an unbalanced diet can also lead to vitamin D and calcium deficiencies. An example of a bad Paleo diet is switching from cheese and rice to large amounts of fruit and potatoes. It won’t be a healthy substitution.

Like most diets, Paleo is all about making conscious decisions about your food choices. This means choosing to eat real food and minimizing salt and sugar consumption. There isn’t just one way to do a Paleo diet properly so it might be difficult for a beginner to have a concrete plan immediately. Start by checking out recipes for healthy and delicious Paleo versions of dishes that you already enjoy.

Avoiding Gluten

If you are excluding grains, such as barley, wheat, and rye, from your diet, then you’re going through a Gluten-Free diet. This diet is normally prescribed for people who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Gluten is a protein that has low nutritional value and is not required in the human diet. Not all grains have gluten, so a gluten-free diet does not necessarily mean that you are not consuming any kind of grain product. It also doesn’t mean that you are eating mainly foods with low carbohydrates. Similar to the other diets, a lack of prudence can lead to nutritional deficiency.

A lot of delicious and healthy food are naturally gluten-free. These include fresh meat and fish, fruits, vegetables, rice, nuts, and eggs. What’s important in this diet is to properly read product labels to make sure that they are not mixed or processed with additives and preservatives that contain gluten. Watch out for terms like malt extract, spelt, and graham flour. You might be surprised by products, such as soy sauce, beer, and candy, that contain gluten. Be careful of products labelled wheat-free as this is not the same as gluten-free. This can be a bit confusing for a beginner so it is safest to consume only products that are labelled gluten-free.

What Diet Should You Do?

Switching to a diet isn’t automatically healthy. Nor does it inevitably lead to weight loss. All three of these diets need proper preparation in order to lead to a healthier lifestyle. The point is that you don’t switch your favorite unhealthy food to diet-specific substitutes. French fries is French fries regardless if it is Paleo or Gluten-free. Whatever diet you follow, the goal is to change your relationship with food. And, even if you go off-track, you just continue where you left off all over again.

Consider slowly transitioning into the diet that you want to try. Replace one type of food with a better option each time. Try replacing soda with water. The change you are looking for may not be as pronounced, but if it is healthy and permanent, then all the better.

Results always vary from person to person, so your basis for a successful diet should be all about you. Are you sleeping and feeling better? Do you find that you have the energy to do all of your tasks?

If halfway through the lifestyle change you find that it is working for you – meaning you are happy and energetic and your doctor approves of it – without doing it fully, then you might have found the perfect balance of food that is just right for you.

Finally, you might have noticed that all three diets advocate including more fruit and vegetables into your regular meals. Paleo advocates the consumption of lean meat and fish. Eat real food, stay away from processed products. I’m repeating myself here to stress this point – junk food is junk food regardless if they are paleo, vegan, or gluten-free.

These are all good advice that you’ve probably heard before from your doctor. Even if you do not follow any of the diets here, consider adapting these principles into your lifestyle.

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