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12 Evidence-Based Steps to Healthy Eating

October 9, 2015

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1. Decrease or eliminate your consumption of doughnuts, pizza, chips, and other highly processed foods
 
2. Decrease or eliminate your consumption of cereal grains, processed fatty meats, milk, added salt, refined sugar, and refined vegetable oils
 
3. Eat moderate amounts of high-quality protein at every meal
 
4. Eat plenty of fiber-rich vegetables
 

12 Evidence-Based Steps to Healthy Eating

October 9, 2015 by Eirik Leave a Comment

Your health and body composition are largely determined by what you eat. Not only that, but your diet also has a profound impact on your mood, brain function, energy levels, and mental health. While a refined Western-style diet will make you sick and metabolically deranged, a nutrient-dense and balanced whole foods diet on the other hand will help optimize gene expression, cool down inflammation, and provide you with robust health.

If you’ve been following the research on Paleolithic diets, evolutionary health promotion, and nutrition in general, you know that you shouldn’t place your bet on official dietary guidelines if your goal is to achieve optimal health. Current dietary guidelines in the U.S. and most other industrialized nations have some flaws, and contrary to what some people believe, the recommendation to eat a grain-based, high-carbohydrate diet is not based on the best possible evidence.

I’ve written hundreds of articles about diet and health on this website, as well as for other blogs and magazines, and I’ve repeatedly discussed what science and evolution can tell us about how to eat for optimal health. However, as I realise that a lot of people aren’t interested in reading long and comprehensive articles about saturated fats, optimal carbohydrate intake, and micronutrient deficiencies, but rather just want a simple list of what they should eat, I thought it was time to put up a simple step-by-step guide to designing a healthy diet.

To keep this article from getting excessively long, I don’t go into the smaller details or discuss the scientific evidence on each and every point. This is something I’ve done repeatedly in the past, so if you’re interested in learning more about one or more of the things I mention in this article, just use the search function on the site. You can also drop by a comment in the comment section below the article if you want me to provide more information or additional sources for some of the claims made in this article.

Without further ado, let’s get to the 12 steps…

1. Decrease or eliminate your consumption of doughnuts, pizza, chips, and other highly processed foods
  • These foods have an abnormal nutrient composition, low satiety index score, poor micronutrient profile, and very high energy density.
  • These foods negatively impact gene expression, promote chronic low-grade inflammation, and perturb the gut microbiota (1, 2, 3, 4).
2. Decrease or eliminate your consumption of cereal grains, processed fatty meats, milk, added salt, refined sugar, and refined vegetable oils
  • These foods are evolutionarily novel additions to the human diet and have several characteristics that make them inferior to the types of foods our preagricultural ancestors consumed. E.g., Cereal grains contain several problematic antinutrients, are very high in starch, have a poor micronutrient profile when compared to fruits and vegetables, contain opioid peptides that bind to opioid receptors in the brain (especially wheat), and can contribute to the manifestation of chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases by increasing intestinal permeability and initiating a pro-inflammatory immune response (especially wheat) (5, 6, 7, 8, 9).
3. Eat moderate amounts of high-quality protein at every meal
  • A protein intake of about 18-28% (of total daily calories) is a good fit for most people (10, 11).
  • Choose grass-fed and/or organically produced animal foods when possible.
  • Protein increases satiety and thermogenesis to a greater extent than carbohydrate and fat (10, 11, 12).
  • “High-protein diets” (>20% of daily total calories from protein) may improve leptin sensitivity in the central nervous system and have been shown to produce increased fat loss when compared to diets lower in protein (10, 11, 12, 13).
4. Eat plenty of fiber-rich vegetables
  • Vegetables are a great source of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and simple and complex carbohydrates.
  • The fiber found in fruits and vegetables increases satiety, promotes good gastrointestinal health, and has anti-inflammatory activities (14, 15, 16).
  • If you can, eat some fresh, raw, and minimally washed vegetables from a trusted source (e.g., farmers market, backyard garden). The bacteria that cling to these foods may help you develop a more diverse and resilient gut microbiota.
5. Consume fatty fish and organ meats on a regular basis
 
6. Choose real food over supplements
 
7. Include healthy fats in your diet
 
8. Consider adding fermented foods to your diet
 
9. Consider including smaller amounts of fruits, berries, nuts, and/or seeds in your diet
 
10. Aim for a carbohydrate intake of about 20-40% of total daily calories
 
11. Consider skipping breakfast
 
12. Make smaller tweaks to your diet so it better fits your situation, lifestyle, etc.
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