One of the first things that you might notice at Performance360 is our nutrition board, and it’s one of the things we are most proud and happy to provide our members. In one of the sections, we have a food guide that has three sections: green light, yellow light and red light and foods that correspond with each.
I’m going to profile all of them over a series of entries to give you the reasoning and the science behind why we either promote consumption (green), careful treading (yellow) or complete abstinence (red). Today we’re covering the foods that we want you to feel free to eat whenever you want.
Lean Meats – This is numero uno on the list of things that you should be consuming. Do not, under any circumstance, listen to a vegan as advice for healthy nutrition. Without meat and animal fat in your diet you are robbing your body of precious protein, b vitamins and fuel for your brain, muscles and organs. Without meat in your diet you run the risk of having your muscle deteriorate over time. If this happens, your metabolism will slow and you’ll ultimately run the risk of that dreaded look…
Try and keep the cuts of mean as lean as possible and ALWAYS buy grass-fed.
Spinach, Kale & Other Greans – For one, they are very good source of non-grain based fiber that aids in digestion. They also have cancer fighting flavonoids, as well as antioxidants vitamin C, E. beta-carotene, zinc and selenium for immune function. They provide a lot of nutrients at little effect on your caloric intake.
Eggs – This is one thing that separates me from true Paleo as I believe eggs to be a great food and eaten without any hesitancy. Further, as America becomes less stupid in our nutrition, more and more studies have come out to completely eradicate our fear of egg yolks. Yolks contain all of the helpful nutrients and WILL NOT increase your cholesterol.
Futher, the protein in egg whites is the most bioavailable protein in nature, meaning our bodies use up just about every single gram efficiently. They are filling, easy to prepare and can be cooked in a variety of ways. They rule.
(By the way, the knock on eggs from those members in other communities is that they are high in omega-6 fatty acids, as are chickens. Omega-6s promote inflammation, which is not good. It is is true eggs tend to run high in them since chickens are fed grains for the most part. So long as you are eating a healthy, well-rounded diet then the dose of omega-6 will be kept in check. If you are going to go easy on eggs, make this the reason and not the saturated fat content.)
Unsalted Mixed Nuts – Almonds are the leader of the pack here, and rightly so, but don’t feel like you can’t eat more than just almond nuts. Macadamia nuts, although expensive are jam packed with healthy fats and the flavor variety of mixed nuts will go a long way in keeping your taste buds friendly.
Almonds, cashews and macadamia nuts all have relatively low omega-6 counts and are very complete nutritional sources, offering a healthy dose of great-for-us monounsaturated fats, protein and carbohydrates. They are also high in the antioxidant vitamin E, as well as copper and potassium.
Further, they also have been shown to protect cardiovascular health.
Make sure they’re raw and unsalted.
Wild Salmon (and other seafood) – One of the highest natural sources of Omega-3 fatty acids nature has to offer. Omega-3s, as I will explain on the chalkboard next week, are incredible for us for a variety of reasons. Additionally, salmon contains the healthy fats that aid in our body’s natural ability to burn fat and are an incredible source of protein.
One caveat here; make absolutely certain that the salmon is wild as farmed salmon is no good. Farmed salmon do not feed on algae, which is where wild salmon develop their healthy Omega-3 profile. You know what they feed on? F’ing CORN. You know what corn is high in? Yep, Omega-6s; as well as fat content for animals (the reason cows are force fed corn is because it fattens them up faster). So do yourself a favor and opt for wild salmon.
All Vegetables – There are far too many healthy vegetables to list here, so just try and eat as many possible in any form possible. Fresh vegetables are always better than frozen, as they are higher in nutrient content. Organic vegetables tend to have higher vitamin contents than non-organic, so if you can splurge the extra buck or so then go for it. Vegetables help keep our body in an alkaline state. Many foods we eat on a daily basis are acidic and vegetables will balance that out nicely.
Hot Sauce, Salsa & Mustard – simple, these are low-to-zero sugar condiments that are versatile, diverse in flavor and tasty.
Butter – uh, what? Just lost you didn’t I? Well, don’t let this throw you off track. Let me try and defend butter. For starters, butter is essentially pure animal fat, and remember what we just said about animal fats? It contains very little traces of dairy proteins and is a whole-food option that we can control in our food, not to mention it tastes plain awesome when cooked with green beans.
If you are following the low-carbohydrate approach, then your body will take the fat in butter and use it as pure, unadulterated fuel for training. If you are eating a lot of carbohydrates throughout the day, then stay way from butter as you’ll then store it as fat. So long as you ‘green light’ yourself with this foods on this list then you’ll be good to go. Opt for grass-fed when you can and stay away from margarine.
Cinnamon – cinnamon and a bit of whole cream (for the same reason as butter) are now replacing skim milk and splenda in your coffee. Cinnamon is a superpower in the spice world by bringing the following benefits to the table: fights natural infection, is anti-inflammatory in nature (inflammation is going to be the poster boy for all heart disease once America smartens up), helps insulin sensitivity, manages our triglyceride levels and has even been shown to improve memory and performance.
Just don’t pound tablespoons of it as not only will it make you spew everywhere but too much can thin your blood.
All-Natural, Sugar-Free Almond Butter – I chose to include almond butter because it has a better Omega-6:Omega-3 profile and almonds are just plain WAY healthier than peanuts. It is also less allergenic and assuming that you are not sitting in front of Jersey Shore with a tub of almond butter, it is is a great protein supplement for shakes, smoothies and fruit with a nice kick of monounsaturated fats.
Coffee & Tea – While tea has historically received all of the credit for caffeinated breakfast drinks, we shouldn’t forget about coffee, either. Am I bias because sometimes I will mainline coffee straight into an IV? Yes. But, the point remains that coffee is full of antioxidants and actually has been shown to reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and Alzheimers…not bad for $3.50 and a snobby attitude per cup.
The following foods are a bit different, in that you get the green light to eat as many of them as you want so long as it is AFTER you workout. If you don’t want to read the linked recap, then I’ll give you the condensed version. Fruits and yams are high in sugar. Your body can use sugar effectively, but only after you have depleted your stored glycogen after working out. Post workout = low glycogen = you’ll use sugar for refueling rather than blood sugar spike and fat storage.
Fruit – many traditionalists might be put off by not seeing fruit in the section above, since all we have ever been told is to eat five fruits and vegetables a day. You know what else? We’ve also been told to eat 6-11 servings of bread, cereal, pasta and rice and hopefully by now you know that’s a pure load of shit.
Fruits are high in vitamins and antioxidants, that is true. They are also very high in sugar as well, and if you are striving to manage your weight then over-consumption of fruit can make things difficult.Before you freak out and call me an idiot for saying fruit is unhealthy, I want to clarify that I’m NOT saying it’s unhealthy. I’m saying it can be problematic for fat loss if that is your goal.
Consider that a serving of fruit often has 20g or more of sugary carbohydrates. If you are eating five servings a day then you’re at around 100g, the absolute high end of carb intake for losing weight.
Target one to two times per day eating fruit, mostly antioxidant rich berries, and get the rest of your vitamins and minerals from healthier, less sugary vegetables.
Sweet Potatoes – this barely made the list, along with quinoa since they are so high in carbohydrates and can have an insulin-spiking effect. Why is it here, then? Because spiking your insulin after training is not such a bad thing since your starving muscles will be delivered protein and nutrient via that high level of insulin. They are also great for restoring glycogen levels if you have really hit it hard in the gym or on the running trail. Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin C and beta-carotene, and for being high in carbs it ranks pretty well on the glycemic index.
Quinoa – this has become a popular little guy in many healthy communities of late as they are not really a grain and they have a very, very high protein content for a food in that family. Quinoa is thousands of years old and consumed by man long before the agricultural revolution that made corn and corn-like grains such a problem. It’s origin was actually to fuel Incan warriors, which is pretty bad ass, too. Quinoa is also a complete protein which means it contains all essential amino acids, and does not contains any gluten whatsoever.
There you have it. Comment away with any questions, comments or experiences you’ve had with these foods.