What should you eat to be extraordinarily healthy? Many people will tell you: “Everybody’s different. You need to find out what works for you.” Well, yes, that’s kind of true, but it’s not very helpful, is it?
When I am asked this question, I immediately mention 2 things.
1) What is your genetic background? Human beings have evolved to adapt to different areas of the world, and a Mediterranean person will probably not thrive on the same diet as a Masai. We can get used to many different diets, but this does not mean we’ll feel like superheros on them — and I’m not interested in feeling less than fantastic.
2) Some foods may work for some and not for others, but there are foods that do not work for anyone. For example, intensely refined carbohydrates (donuts, drinks filled with white sugar, etc.), trans-fatty acids (margarine, cottonseed oil shortening, etc), food colorings, high fructose corn syrup, etc. are unhealthy, pure and simple. Just don’t eat them.
So, what are you supposed to eat? Unless I am working closely with you, I can’t tell you what you need to eat on a daily basis to be healthy, but I can give you lots of pointers and inspiration. Here is what I personally thrive on.
The diet I am following was designed after Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint, Donna Gates’ Body Ecology Diet, and Brendan Brazier’s Thrive, and it’s an attempt at replicating what our ancestors ate along with modern findings. The reasoning behind it is that it is the diet we are meant to eat, and the reason why early humans died young was not their diet but their lack of ability to prevent accidents and heal them. If you twisted your ankle in paleolithic times, you were toast. Still, they lived to be around 40, which is pretty awesome given there were no doctors, hospitals, medications etc. Until they died, they were believed to be strong, fit, agile and healthy. Disease did not kill them, predators and accidents did (health started to deteriorate with the advent of agriculture, an important topic if there ever was one and I will blog about it soon). I do not eat red meat or any meat besides fish for personal reasons, but this does not meant it will not work for you.
1. Leafy greens and vegetable
Greens are powerhouses of minerals and amino acids, and I don’t know of a diet that eschews them. Eat your greens! I juice greens in the morning, make smoothies with leafy greens in them, eat kale chips, have salads with my meals or steamed greens, the list goes on. Vegetables are also at the base of my pyramid. I can’t go one day without veggies.
Staples: Kale, parsley, chard, spinach, baby greens. Broccoli, onions, garlic, carrots, cauliflower, red/yellow/orange peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, fennel, mushrooms, olives, and more.
2. Low glycemic fruits and some high glycemic fruits in smaller quantities
I use berries in nearly all of my smoothies, along with greens (usually spinach or Swiss chard). I also use bananas, which are higher on the glycemic scale but packed with nutrients. Besides, I do better with more carbs in the morning when my metabolism is faster, and I gradually eat less carbs as the day progresses.
Staples: Blueberries, strawberries, bananas. In smaller quantities, pineapple, mango, peaches, and other seasonal fruits such as apples, pears, persimmons, etc.
I like to follow the seasons. I don’t eat peaches during the year, except around August when they are plentiful in Oregon. During this time of abundance, I eat them every day, several times a day. I make exceptions for strawberries and blueberries. I freeze several pounds of them in the Spring and Summer, and eat them year round.
3. Fermented foods
Fermented foods are wonderful for digestion, and enhance nutrient absorption. I eat them every single day, even for breakfast.
Staples: Raw Kimchi, Raw, cultured garlic flowers from Vital Choice. Goldmine’s garlic sauerkraut. I also make my own sauerkraut, otherwise I’d have to have a separate budget just for that! I also make my own kefir and coconut kefir whenever I can, using Body Ecology Kefir Starter.
4. Sea vegetables
I don’t eat as many as I should, but I try. The truth is that I lost the habit of adding them to everything and anything since Franklin was born (kids really throw you out of balance!). Sea vegetables are rich in minerals and are healing to our thyroid glands.
Staples: Dulse (add to salads, quick and easy!), kelp granules (add to guacamole), raw nori (use instead of bread for sandwiches, munch on a sheet plain as a snack – Frankie and I love to do this!). I also make salads with hijiki and wakame.
5. Nuts and seeds:
Some may think that nuts and seeds are the devil, with their high fat content and the fact they can go rancid fast. I personally love them because their fat is “good fat,” including omega 3 fatty acids in a few, and they’re high in minerals and protein. Without hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds, good luck getting enough zinc and iron! And yes, they don’t stay fresh very long at room temperature, but paleolithic dwellers would eat them on the spot so it was not an issue — since I live in modern times, I store all nuts and seeds in the freezer and take out small quantities to keep in the fridge in glass Mason jars.
6. Animal products:
I know, this is controversial, and hate them or love them, labels often stick to us and become who we are. This makes it even harder for people to change the way they eat, even if it means they’ll become easier. Why do I eat animal products? Because by eating them, I need to supplement less. I don’t need to supplement with as much vitamin D, vitamin K2, choline, zinc, etc.
Staples: High omega 3/high vitamin D fish (wild, Alaskan salmon and portugese sardines and mackerel in organic olive oil), DHA eggs (we have backyard hens!), and butter (grass fed, either Kerrygold or Organic Valley).
I only buy my fish online from Vital Choice, because they truly care about sustainability. To me, it’s not expensive because cheaper fish at the store is rarely sustainable, and is much, much less nutritious. You get what you pay for in this case.
7. Fats and oils:
What can I say, I love fats. Some say we are designed to eat sweet, high carbohydrate foods because it’s what we crave, but I may be an oddity – I don’t crave sweet, high carb foods. Actually, I don’t crave much, which makes me think my diet ispretty great. Fats are important to help metabolize a huge amount of vitamins and minerals. And, they make my skin nice and supple, which is always nice!
Staples: olive oil, coconut oil/butter, butter (grass fed).
Superfoods add extra nutrition and fun to my diet. I love my superfoods!
Staples: blue green algae (such as E3Live), bee pollen, green powders, chocolate, and various powders when they catch my eye (usually HealthForce products).
Paleolithic dwellers did not supplement, but they also lived outdoors, got sunshine, ate everything organic, local, grown in mineral rich soils, had natural sources of stress rather than unnatural ones, etc. Since my life is far from being like that, I supplement.
10. Non Primal foods:
No diet is one size fits all. There are some foods I add because they are either convenient and not too harmful, or I believe they are beneficial to my health.
Quinoa (a complete protein, and grain-like ancient seed), and beans (in very small quantities, about twice a week).