A Foundational Overview of Diet and Supplementation
Updated: Sep 20, 2018
This article is going to be my attempt at showing everyone what it really means to eat healthy and to understand the foundations of nutrition. I’m not here to sell any one diet, but instead to guide you through the likely pitfalls you come across by living in 21st century. I am going to educate you on what your body needs, what it was made to do, what it was not made to do, and what you might need to do to get a little bit extra. The categories here are 1. foods to always avoid 2. foods you should avoid most of the time and why, and 3. how you should supplement to make sure you are getting everything you need.
You see, what to eat is actually a pretty complex issue these days. I wish I could say otherwise, but it’s difficult to just eat and be fine. There are so many factors involved in our food these days, and a little scientific know-how is necessary to do it right.
Avoid processed foods. Endeavor to eat foods in as natural a state as they can possibly be. Avoid anything that comes in a box, like frozen meals, or mass produced in a factory like cereal, etc. The more processing that goes into a food, the worse it usually is for our bodies. Twinkies are pretty terrible for us. Have you ever seen a twinkie growing on a tree? Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a protein bar growing on a tree either.
I’m pointing out protein bars here specifically because they are a notorious perpetrator of being marketed as healthy despite having junk ingrediants. Protein bars, with little exception, are as bad or worse than candy bars, they just say “meal replacement” and have some added whey powders. There are some reputable brands out there, but for the most part, their products won’t be found on the shelves at your local gas station or vitamin shop. Again, most foods that come pre-packaged are highly processed and probably bad for you.
Do your research and don’t be flippant. Even with green juice powders, which are for the most part very healthy, look into the specific brand you are buying and research the ingredients. For example, there is an algae called Chlorella which is revered for it’s health benefits. However, the process of harvesting chlorella can introduce toxins depending on the standards a facility has for its water tanks and whether they process the chlorella with bead blasting or sound waves. If they use the glass beads method, it creates the heavy metal: lead, and lead is neurotoxic. Pro tip, if a company is truly using proper methods to make its foods, it will say so on the box. Doing things right is usually not the cheapest route, and they will want you to know so they don’t waste their money or effort.
If you know something is supposed to be made a certain way but it doesn’t say anywhere on the box, don’t bet your money on them doing things right.
Eat mainly whole foods. Whole foods are foods that you could harvest or hunt. They could easily be imagined growing on trees, or roaming the fields. You want whole foods to make up most of your diet.
When it comes to whole foods, always buy organic. Organic doesn’t necessarily mean pesticide-free but we’re doing the best we can. Consumption of pesticides through non-organic foods is very hazardous to your health, and you never know what the farm is using. The worst pesticides are synthetic chemicals that have been implicated in cancer as well as severe damage to the gut microbiome.
Sure, maybe you’re getting lucky and not getting exposed to anything too terrible. Or, maybe you should just smoke a cigarette every time you eat something because it’s basically doing the same thing to your body. I know, I know, it’s a bit dramatic, but if you want to read about a scary pesticide that is sprayed on almost all non-organic crops, check out my article about glyphosate.
Eat mainly vegetables, or at least a lot of them. Vegetables are the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, and nutrient deficiencies lead to all manner of diseases. Whatever amount you currently eat of dark green, leafy vegetables, you’d benefit from doubling it, tripling it, and quadrupling it.
You really can’t get enough greens in your diet. My only caveat here is that autoimmune disease can make you sensitive to a host of vegetables for allergic reasons. Still, leafy greens are usually the safest bet, but if you suspect food sensitivities, avoid legumes, nightshade plants, FODMAP foods, and high histamine foods. I haven’t done much research on it myself, but it is believed that the anecdotal success of the carnivore diet (yep, people are doing all-meat diets) is that it removes all the potential allergens from your diet. I consider this diet to be a bit extreme, but it’s something to keep in mind depending on your issues.
Eat healthy fats. The biggest mistake in all of nutritional history was the decision to call people a food. Fats don’t make people fat, just like protein doesn’t by itself make people fit. Protein consumed without exercise will be broken down and turned into glucose, for energy. The reasons people get fat are almost endless, but it has little to do with the fat they consume or don’t consume and a lot more to do with hormones and metabolism, namely insulin sensitivity (which is damaged by sugar consumption, not fat.)
In fact, one of the most effective diets for losing weight is the ketogenic diet, where you consume 80 percent healthy, saturated fats, and 20 percent protein with very little carbs.
The reason this works is because when you consume healthy fats, your body gets better at using them for fuel, and it will start burning the fat on your body as well. Alternatively, when we live primarily off of carbohydrates, our bodies store fat instead. Why burn it when we have all this sugar? (carbs are sugar, for anyone who forgot high school science class.) I could go on all day about this subject, but the case and point is that fats play an important role in our biology as a fuel source, and without them, things go very wrong very quickly.
Be careful though, a diet high in both fats and carbs can be even worse on your body than just one or the other. As always, quality and timing matters immensely as well. I eat most of my carbs at night as a way of replenishing glycogen stores.
Get adequate protein from pasture raised chickens, pasture raised eggs, and grass fed cows. There are essential vitamins in grass fed meat that do not appear in grain fed meat, not to mention that grain fed meat contains higher levels of estrogen which can destroy your hormones. Grass fed meat contains high amounts of b vitamins, good fats, and vitamin K2. Furthermore, the fatty acid profile of grain fed beef is considered not nutritionally relevant, where-as grass fed beef is considered to have good levels of healthy omega 3 fats.
On the note of vitamin K, we need both Vitamin K and Vitamin K2 in our bodies, but humans don’t create K2 very well. (This is partial evidence for our biology as omnivores. Sorry vegetarians) K2 is, however, made very well by cows and other herbivores, and our dietary intake of vitamin K2 is primarily through consuming animal protein. This is why for most people it is healthier to eat meat than not to. Again, go with grass fed over grain fed, as cows that grow up on grain feed show lower levels of K2 in their meat.
I understand that many of you choose to be vegetarians or vegans for moral reasons. With that in mind, I have a pro-tip for you guys: Natto is a form of fermented soy that contains high amounts of K2. There are no animal products involved and it contains high amounts of the vitamin.
Stop eating the two most common food sensitivities: grains and dairy.Grains are one of the newest additions to the human palate evolutionary, and we can trace health problems back to their introduction on a large scale. This is one of the driving arguments behind the success of the paleo diets. That said, wheat in particular has become a problem child. Not only are grains more damaging than other foods generally, but american wheat strains appear to have mutated to become especially troublesome. Some of this is due to direct genetic modification, and some of it is due to seed breeding, but american wheat can be linked to inflammation in most of the population.
Furthermore, our sensitivity to wheat actually helps drive our sensitivity to dairy. Gluten, the protein in wheat that causes inflammation, is extremely similar to the protein casein which is found in conventional dairy products. Add on top of this that dairy products often contain added sugars, and many people are also sensitive to lactin, and you have a perfect storm. When consuming grains, avoid wheat, or stick with ancient wheat which is a less inflammatory strain that can be ordered from Europe. You can also create some breads that do not contain gluten due to the process by which they are made. Hint hint, sourdough bread does not actually contain gluten when made properly.
Not all grains are bad. It’s just that without genetic or food allergy testing, you really don’t know which ones are bad for you. If you are going to consume grains, steamed white rice is unique in that it is basically just starch. It does not contain many nutrients, but it doesn’t have anything inflammatory either. You can also make some other grains healthy by soaking or sprouting them before consumption. Quinoa is inflammatory to most people due to a soap-like molecule it contains. Fortunately, sprouting quinoa prior to cooking seems to remove this problem.
Supplement with essential nutrients that we no longer get from our diets. There are things we need that we just can’t get, unless you live in a pristine garden by the ocean, protected from air pollution by a magical bubble. Vegetables grown in the U.S. have been shown to contain up to 40 percent less nutrients than those grown in 1950, and non-organic vegetables may contain up to 50% less than organic. Additionally, different genetic factors can result in poor absorption of certain nutrients or fats.
With all that in mind, someone who does not want to do nutrient and genetic testing but just wants to cover their bases should take these nutrients in supplement form:
Vitamin D with A and K2
Vitamin B Complex
Magnesium in the form of Citrate or an absorble form. Do your research on this one. You can read my extensive article on magnesium here. I use Natural Calm Magnesium (it’s a brand, works great.)
Omega 3 fats from Krill oil, Cod liver oil, or a very very very high quality and reputable fish oil. Most fish oil is rancid and not fit for human consumption. Be careful.
Essential Amino Acids Blend
I know, whole lot of stuff to spend a whole lot of money on right?
Not particularly. While, yes, much of this will be expensive if you get the appropriate quality and buy a bunch of individual bottles, there are reputable companies making mult-vitamins with all of this and more. My suggestion is to get a multi-vitamin from Thorne research. Thorne makes supplements that used to only be available with a doctor’s prescription, or for professional athletes. Their multi-vitamin will cover everything here except the magnesium, the Omega 3 fats, and the essential amino acids. Boom.
From there, you can also get their fish oil which has extra CoQ10, or you can go with fish oil from a brand like Living Fuel Super Essentials, and separately buy CoQ10 from Jarrow formulas. To clarify, both of these are for your heart health. CoQ10 is a coenzyme in your blood the breaks down arterial plaque and provides cellular energy. Omega 3 fats balance your cholesterol and keep you healthy, wealthy, and wise. Or at least healthy. Same thing.
Finally, get quality amino acids from a source like Thorne, or Ben Greenfield’s brand Kion. Greenfield is my go-to source for most of this information, he is a world renowned biohacker, iron man triathlete, obstacle course racer, and personal trainer. You can trust his stuff. Use amino acids either to ensure you are getting enough, or to protect your brain health before hard workouts. The advantage of amino acids is their absorbability, and when you put yourself through tough workouts, they help you rebuild mentally. Evidence is mounting that diseases like Alzheimer's are nutritionally based, and you can prevent the likelihood of these diseases by dialing in your nutrition.
I know, it seems like a lot of information, and it is, but is anything in life really as simple as just eat how you feel like it? Arm yourself with information, empower yourself to do your own research, and I promise that by making your health a priority, you will feel the benefits for a lifetime. Plus that’s what you have this blog for!
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