Below is my summary of my years of readings and research. I feel it takes the best components from a very wide variety of “diets” and is reasonable enough to follow most of the time. It’s a moving spectrum that can and should be individualized. Ideally REAL FOOD eating will help one maintain a healthy weight, increase longevity and improve vitality all while preventing or treating metabolic disease.
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this. This is a nutrient dense REAL FOOD plan. There is unlimited variety and countless ways to combine the foods, herbs, and spices on this page. No two meals need to be the same. Focus on double servings of vegetables and quality protein at EACH meal and always include a quality FAT source. FAT is necessary for fuel and to absorb the nutrients from the vegetables. This is NOT a low-fat diet.
Don’t go hungry. Eat REAL FOOD when you are hungry. Do NOT starve yourself or worry about counting calories!
Every food you could ever choose to eat falls into one of these categories: Good for you, bad for you, or less bad for you. I believe the first three main categories below fall in the good for you category. You don’t have to be perfect, but try to always make the optimum choice and acknowledge when you’re not.
I encourage you not to just stop at this page but to continue to study the science on the Home page and the rest of this website.
FIBER — NON-STARCHY VEGETABLES: (6-9 cups per day)
Target all five vegetable categories each day on your way to 6 – 9 servings. A serving is about one cup. Three servings would cover a dinner plate. Go for local, organic and fresh when possible. Fresh frozen is ok. Rotate your veggies.
Leafy Greens: Bib Lettuce, Beet Greens, Butter Lettuce, Dandelion, Endive, Green Leaf Lettuce, Radicchio, Red Leaf Lettuce, Romaine Lettuce, Spinach(D), Swiss Chard.
Cruciferous (broccoli family): Arugula, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Broccolini, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage(C), Cauliflower, Collard Greens(D), Kale(D), Kohlrabi, Mache, Mustard Greens, Radish, Rapini, Red Cabbage, Rutabaga, Sauerkraut/Kimchi, Turnips, Turnip Greens, Watercress.
Alliums (onion family): Garlic, Leeks, Onions(C), Scallions, Shallots, Chives, +Asparagus(C).
Mushrooms(C): “Asian” (Shiitake, Enokii, Maitake, Shimeji, Hiratake/Oyster/Straw), “White” (Button, Champigon, Crimini, Portabella, Chanterelle).
Colors: Bell Peppers(D), Hot Peppers, Artichoke, Eggplant(C), Okra, Tomatoes(D), Carrots, Celery(D), Cucumber(D), Green Beans, Pickles, Sea Vegetables, Snap Peas, Pea Pods, Yellow Squash(D), Zucchini(D).
Potatoes, Corn, Iceberg Lettuce.
FIBER — WHOLE FRUIT: (1-2 per day, up to 3 if not overweight or prediabetic)
Rotate your choices from the first three categories. Berries have the lowest sugar and highest fiber. A serving is generally the size of your fist. Organic, local, and in season are best. Fresh frozen is ok.
Berries: Blackberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Strawberries(D).
Citrus: Clementines, Grapefruit(C), Lemons, Limes, Oranges, Tangelo, Tangerines, +Kiwi(C).
Stonefruits: Apricots, Nectarines(D), Peaches(D), Plums, Cherries?
Others, Higher In Sugar (minimize or avoid):
Tree/Vine Other: Green Apples(D), Pears, Red Grapes(D)
Melon: Cantaloupe(C), Watermelon.
Tropical: Bananas, Mango(C), Papaya(C), Pineapple(C),
Avoid: Canned Fruit, Dried Fruit, Trail Mix.
+Asparagus is not technically in the allium family and Kiwi are not technically citrus, but their respective nutrition profiles are similar enough to be included.
(D) Dirty, buy local organic whenever possible. (C) Clean, no need to buy organic. Source: Dirty Dozen 2015
CLEAN, QUALITY PROTEIN:
Chose wild caught seafood, organic pastured poultry, and grass-fed meat whenever possible.
Choose leaner cuts if buying grain fed (conventional) meats.
Fatty Fish: Salmon (Alaskan, Coho), Sardines (Pacific), Anchovies, Sablefish/Black Cod, Tuna, Rainbow Trout, Black/Striped Bass, Herring, Mackerel (Atlantic)…
Lean Fish: Tilapia, Mahi-Mahi, Cod, Pollock, Flounder, Halibut, Sole, Walleye, Whitefish…
Crustaceans: Crab, Lobster, Prawn, Shrimp…
Mollusks: Clams, Mussels, Oysters, Scallops, Squid…
Eggs (free range or omega-3 enriched)
Poultry: Chicken, Turkey, Duck, Ostrich…
Ruminants: Beef, Bison, Lamb, Veal, Venison…
Non-Ruminants: Pork, Boar, Rabbit, Wild Game…
Organ Meats (liver, etc…), Bone Broth
Fermented Soy: Miso, Tempeh, Nattö
Protein Powder (egg white, pea, hemp, brown rice, casein(slow), whey(fast))
High Protein Dairy: (avoid if sensitive to dairy)
Plain Greek Yogurt
NATURAL, HEALTHY “SMART” FATS:
Includes: Egg Yolks, Dark Meat, & Fatty Fish
Olive Oil (extra virgin, organic, cold pressed)
Nuts & Seeds (raw): Almonds, Walnuts, Pecans, Hazelnuts, Pistachios,
Pine Nuts, Brazil Nuts. Cashews-(higher in cabs)
Natural Nut Butters?
Sunflower Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Sesame Seeds.
Flax Seeds, Chia Seeds, Hemp Seeds.
Almond Milk (unsweetened)
Coconut, Coconut Oil, Coconut Milk (unsweetened)
Dark Chocolate (>70%, sugar free)
Full Fat Dairy: (avoid if sensitive)
Butter — Grassfed/Organic e.g. Kerrygold or Organic Valley.
Cheese (prefer: high quality white, aged, raw, block)
Organic Whole Cream
DRINK: water, home brewed green tea (bags), matcha tea, coffee (limit)
HERBS & SPICES: Basil, Cinnamon, Ginger, Garlic, Mint, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Thyme, Turmeric, Pepper….others. Also: Vinegar, Salsa, Mustard.
“SUPER FOODS”: Fermented foods, Homemade Broths and Soups, Homemade Dressings, Organ Meats, Bone Broth, Seaweed, Green Tea, Herbs & Spices, Clean Water.
The ABOVE items should be the vast majority of your foods. Here are the optional categories:
Other Meats (Processed Meats):
Eat sparingly. Choose high quality, organic, whole cut, preservative free, with few ingredients. Make sure no sugar or HFCS is added. Avoid eating with sugary foods.
Deli Meats, Salami, Pepperoni, Ham, Bacon, Sausage, Jerky…
The categories in this section are in order of preference. These ALL will increase your insulin and potentially your blood sugar. You might add foods here if you are highly active, athletic or need more carbs in your plan. BUT if you are overweight, prediabetic, or limiting carbs these should be avoided or kept to a minimum (1/2 cup). Avoid if you have poorly controlled diabetes. Check your blood sugar one-hour after eating.
Aside from the vegetables below, these foods would not have been eaten regularly in Paleo times. The legumes and grains all potentially contain allergenic/immunogenic components and antinutrients.
Starchy Vegetables: Sweet Potatoes(C), Yams, Beets, Winter Squash (Acorn, Butternut, Spaghetti, Pumpkin), Plantains, Yuca, Taro, Potatoes?
Legumes: Beans, Lentils, Soy, Peas, Hummus, Peanuts?
Whole Grains – Gluten Free: Quinoa, Buckwheat, Wild Rice, Brown Rice, Millet, Amaranth, Sorghum, Teff, Corn?
Whole Grains – May Contain Gluten: Whole Oats, Steel Cut Oats, Oatmeal, Oat Bran
Whole Grains – with Gluten: Wheat, Wheat Berries, Bulgur, Rye, Barley, Farro, Kamut, Spelt, Triticale.
Others Gluten Grains(??): 100% Whole Grain Bread, Sprouted Grain Bread, Ezekiel Bread, Low-Carb Crackers, Low Carb Tortillas, High Fiber Cereal, Whole Wheat Pasta, White Rice(Gluten-Free).
AVOID: Flour, sugars, processed food, junk food, baked goods, breaded foods, deep fried foods, all drinks with calories, trans fats, margarine, industrial vegetable oils (canola, corn, cottonseed, peanut, safflower, soybean, sunflower), hydrogenated oils.
Avoid or minimize artificial sweeteners.
LIFESTYLE: Cook for yourself, avoid toxic things (cigarettes, drugs, excessive alcohol), avoid dangerous situations, get at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep, take care of your teeth, take your medications properly (if indicated and prescribed), manage stress (yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, therapy), exercise your body (walk, dance, play), and exercise your brain (learn, read, interact).
MEAL PLAN IDEAS: 2 Week Meal Plan Example
MINDFUL EATING: Slow down and enjoy your food and think about your choices…see this link
It might not always be easy, but it is simple — EAT THIS:
Food Science Appendix by Date:
Consuming egg yolks with vegetables INCREASES nutritive value. Combining cooked eggs with vegetables increased carotenoid absorption 3-9 fold (beta-carotene, alpha-caroten, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin). Researches will further explore the effect on fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Mediterranean diet and age related cognitive decline. A diets supplemented with olive oil or nuts are associated with improved cognitive function.
Cancer chemoprevention with nuts: “It is well established that increased nut consumption is associated with a reduced risk of major chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes”
Article: Olive Oil and Salad Greens Combined Explain Diet Success: MUFA in EVOO (and presumably nuts/avocado) plus nitriles in veggies make NITRO FATTY ACIDS that lower BP by blocking the epoxide hydrolase enzyme.
Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet. (PREDIMED, NEJM). A diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events more than a low-fat diet. And lowered blood pressure.
Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean Diet. Nuts and or Olive Oil reduced major cardiovascular events with no adverse effects.
Dietary flavanoid intakes and risk of type 2 diabetes. Anthocyanin (blueberries, apples, pears) consumption associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes. No significant associations were found for total flavanoid intake (ie, flavonols, flavones, flavanones, flavan-3-ols, and anthocyanins)
Mediterranean diet effects on inflammatory biomarkers (review). A diet with olive oil and nuts showed lowered markers of inflammation whereas the low-fat diet showed increases.
Habitual intake of flavonoid subclasses and incident hypertension in adults. Anthocyanins(blueberries, strawberries) and the flavone apigenin (celery, parsley, celeriac, chamomile tea) have vasodilatory properties and may contribute to the prevention of hypertension.
Food Choices and heart disease in Swedish men, 12 year follow up. Daily fruit and vegetable intake was associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease ONLY when combined with high dairy fat consumption (e.g. butter). Choosing whole meal bread showed no association with the outcome.
Carotenoid bioavailability is higher from salads ingested with full-fat dressings. no absorption of carotenes and lycopenes was found in subjects fed greens with fat-free salad dressings but a substantially greater absorption of these carotenoids was observed when salads were consumed with full fat dressing versus reduced-fat dressing.
Food Science Appendix by Category:
2015 Consuming egg yolks with vegetables INCREASES nutritive value. Combining cooked eggs with vegetables increased carotenoid absorption 3-9 fold (beta-carotene, alpha-caroten, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin). Researches will further explore the effect on fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
2014 Article: Olive Oil and Salad Greens Combined Explain Diet Success: MUFA in EVOO (and presumably nuts/avocado) plus nitriles in veggies make NITRO FATTY ACIDS that lower BP by blocking the epoxide hydrolase enzyme.
2009 Food Choices and heart disease in Swedish men, 12 year follow up. Daily fruit and vegetable intake was associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease ONLY when combined with high dairy fat consumption (e.g. butter). Choosing whole meal bread showed no association with the outcome.
2004 Carotenoid bioavailability is higher from salads ingested with full-fat dressings. no absorption of carotenes and lycopenes was found in subjects fed greens with fat-free salad dressings but a substantially greater absorption of these cartenoids was observed when salads were consumed with full fat dressing versus reduced-fat dressing.
2015 Cancer chemoprevention with nuts: “It is well established that increased nut consumption is associated with a reduced risk of major chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes”
2013 Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean Diet. Nuts and or Olive Oil reduced major cardiovascular events with no adverse effects.
2010 Olive Oil Consumption Is Associated with Lower Likelihood of Developing Left Ventricular Systolic Dysfunction in Acute Coronary Syndrome Patients: The Hellenic Heart Failure Study. Conclusions: Exclusive, long-term olive oil consumption seems to offer significant protection against the development of LVSD in post-ACS patients.
“Whole Grains” – Friend or Foe?:
By now you’ve heard about the problems with sugars, industrial vegetable fats, processed foods, and refined grains….here’s a good video on wheat:
Hear why the modern wheat grain is nothing like it used to be and how excessive carbohydrates can increase cardiac risk. Wheat Belly book.
Pulling it all together:
Still confused? Maybe more confused?? I like this video because it ties together the simple message of eat REAL FOOD in an entertaining and informative way.