Food & Nutrition Resources

Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 13

Our brains love processed foods, but our bodies do not. These addictive and irresistible junk foods are not very nutritious. They contain far more calories than we need, and they do not contain the essential nutrients and fiber that keep us healthy. When we eat them, we do not feel full or satisfied. Instead, we often feel tired, bloated, have esophageal reflux, and feel achy after we eat them. Sometimes our skin itches, or we feel like we have brain fog.

However, after a while, our brain forgets about its natural stop signals in favor of getting more of that perceived pleasure from foods that impact our reward system. Our hedonic pleasure system starts taking over our normal homeostatic energy balancing system. Over time, if we eat a lot of these foods consistently, we will actually create inflammation and injury to the parts of our brain that help us regulate food intake and energy.

This can become permanent.

Now, it’s not just that our normal hormonal regulators are being disrupted. They’re literally being destroyed. As of right now, we don’t know exactly why this happens, or how it happens, but we know that it does happen. We’re observing it in the health of our industrialized nations. Taking in too much energy from foods seems to create damage to our brains – specifically our neurons or brain cells.

Over time, if we eat a lot of these foods consistently, we will actually create inflammation and injury to the parts of our brain that help us regulate food intake and energy.

This seems to be increased in the hypothalamus, the area that regulates your eating behaviors. Our body has a normal response to injury; it’s called inflammation. It helps us recover. However, chronic inflammation can make us sick. In fact, chronic inflammation is the source of many chronic diseases. These foods directly create inflammation, but worse, chronic brain inflammation can increase your risk of dementia and many other neurodegenerative conditions. Also, chronic inflammation of the hypothalamus can actually destroy the normal regulation of your body weight.

In addition, these foods affect the gut bacteria that are your friends. They allow the ones that create disease to grow and threaten the ones that help you digest foods and be healthy. There’s substantial evidence that suggests your gut microbiome impacts your weight, mood, and health. These processed foods are a wrecking ball to your gut microbiome.

Sad woman lunch processed food

Eventually, your brain becomes resistant to the leptin signals, just like your cells can become resistant to insulin, and then you can become obese and diabetic. It’s a bad situation, and one we should all want to avoid. I’m going to describe this in a little more detail in the next post.

The Doctor’s Conclusion

Again, I want to emphasize that we’re teaching you the truth so that you can be free. We’re not just teaching you what has happened, or what could happen. We’re teaching you about all the great possibilities that await you if you just make a few simple changes in your eating behavior.

These foods directly create inflammation, but worse, chronic brain inflammation can increase your risk of dementia and many other neurodegenerative conditions.

Ultimately, this is meant to be good news, even if some of these posts sound discouraging. Please don’t take them that way. I want you to know the truth so you can begin to choose your healthiest self.

Your body is amazing. It has so much resilience. When you begin to move in the direction of health, it will reward you. It’s amazing what can happen when you just take the smallest step forward. Our teaching is all about baby steps, one small step at a time. But you have to know the truth about what these foods are doing to you, so you can really choose according to your highest desire: to be healthy and to feel good.


Interested in learning more about eating behaviors and the brain? Get the latest in the series by liking us on Facebook and following us on Instagram!

Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 12

So we’ve discussed the reward system, and it’s important to understand that, along with palatability or really good taste, some foods and substances will just give us a bit of a rush. We’ll go out of our way to get those foods.

What’s interesting is many foods and substances that can give us that rush don’t taste good the first time we encounter them. Here’s a couple of examples: black coffee and beer. Most people do not like those the first time they try them. Most people don’t like their first inhale of a cigarette. But coffee has caffeine. Beer has alcohol. Cigarettes have nicotine.

Our brains like caffeine, and alcohol, and nicotine. So even though we didn’t like them when we first tasted them, we learned quickly that they’re “good” things, and we learned to tolerate their taste so we could have more of them. We actually override our aversion to the taste and the experience because we want more of the substance they contain.

What’s interesting is many foods and substances that can give us that rush don’t taste good the first time we encounter them.

Over time, we even believe we cannot live without them. We will go through extensive efforts to get them. We’ll wait in lines, spend our hard earned money, and expose ourselves to unhealthy environments just to get more of them. We’ll even consume more of them than we possibly thought we could even when we’ve had enough. That’s true for drinking, tobacco, and for food.

I’ll tell you, I like caffeine. I enjoy it, but I limit my portions, and I don’t always have it. Caffeine can be healthy for many people, but it does trigger the reward system. Coffees and teas have polyphenols, which are really good nutrients. Again, everything in moderation. But you have to pay attention to the reward system.

Fatty french fries and coffee and meaty sandwich

Know What You’re Up Against

The goal is to feel good and be healthy, not to be controlled by a substance. So essentially, when you combine something that tastes really good and creates high reward value, you’re not going to be able to control yourself. That’s what we’re dealing with when it comes to the foods we eat. They’ve been engineered to taste really good and trigger your reward system. And they contain minimal fiber, meaning you can eat a lot of them before you ever know how much you’ve eaten.

I’m going to list one more time the types of foods that are causing this problem, so you can make sure you keep this in your mind. Be wary of foods:

  • High in calories
  • Loaded with fat, sugar, and salt
  • Containing high levels of glutamate or “meaty” flavors (hence bacon being in everything)
  • Made of refined starches that break into sugars very quickly
  • Consisting of a pleasing and specific texture, such as creamy or crunchy
  • Containing drugs, such as caffeine, alcohol, or theobromine, which is found in chocolate
  • Packed with flavor enhancers, or additives, to improve the feel of these foods in your mouth

You do not find this magical mix in nature. It is found in highly processed foods like:

  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Pastries
  • Pies
  • Pizza
  • Chicken fingers
  • Ice cream
  • Fried foods
  • Fast foods

And so on.

The goal is to feel good and be healthy, not to be controlled by a substance. So essentially, when you combine something that tastes really good and creates high reward value, you’re not going to be able to control yourself.

The more of those elements we encounter, the more we cannot control our eating behavior, and the more our body will change its internal regulation and allow us to become overweight and obese and sick. We will spend our money and our time finding these things, and consume them to our own detriment as well as our children’s detriment.

Healthy salad with mixed vegetables

The Doctor’s Conclusion

It’s important to understand that we’re all dealing with this problem now. If you love these foods and feel like you cannot stop eating them, you’re not alone. You’re not bad or weird. You’re just like all of us. All that’s happening is your brain is doing what it was adapted to do. Ultimately, it thinks it’s keeping you alive.

But now, the system has gone awry and it’s time for your higher mind to kick in. It’s time for the real you to step in and take control of the situation. It’s time for you to make the decisions consistent with the life you want to have. You can do that. Today, you can start by eliminating just one of these foods, and replacing it with a real fresh, whole, natural food.

It will work. You will feel better. You will get control of the situation.


For more information about Eating Behaviors and the Brain, read the entire series! Please keep up with us on Facebook and Instagram.

Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 6

Chew on this: Once you’re eating, what helps you know when it’s time to stop? How does your body know when you’ve consumed sufficient energy and nutrients?

Satiation and Satiety Signaling

There’s a concept called satiation, which is the feeling of fullness you get during a meal that tells you it’s time to stop eating. It’s the feeling that you’ve had enough. There’s also the concept of satiety which describes the process of maintaining a sense of satisfaction, or fullness, between meals. When you have normal satiety, you have a reduced interest in food until you truly become hungry again. Satiety allows you to enter into all of your productive activities without being distracted by food. Good satiety promotes health and gives you freedom from unhealthy eating behaviors. Many factors promote normal satiety.

High fiber, nutrient-dense foods that are lower in overall calories create more volume-signaling, allowing you to be naturally satisfied.

Satiation is mediated by two primary factors: volume and nutrients. Your stomach is actually small, but it can stretch to a very large size. As your stomach stretches, your body detects this and sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to stop eating. This signal travels the vagus nerve that communicates to your brain stem, which is where your satiation center exists. This area of the brain functions in a non-conscious manner.

Avocado toast on whole wheat bread and soft boiled egg

That’s why we emphasize fiber and nutrient dense foods as part of your eating routine. High fiber, nutrient-dense foods that are lower in overall calories create more volume-signaling, allowing you to be naturally satisfied. In fact, many studies on obesity have demonstrated that when individuals only have the option to eat high-fiber, nutrient-dense, low-calorie, moderate-palatability foods, they’ll naturally control their appetite. I’m talking about people who have chronic binge eating issues suddenly having no issue with their normal satiation function.

Hormonal Signaling

However, volume is not the only signal that regulates when to stop eating. There’s also hormonal satiation. While you’re eating, your gastrointestinal tract, and other related organs like the pancreas, send signals to the brain that nutrients and energy are incoming. There are many different hormones involved in this signaling. I will not go into the details of them all here.

It’s important to know that insulin is one of these hormones. I teach about insulin extensively, and I like to remind people that insulin is an important hormone, and it’s not our enemy. It’s just that too much insulin all the time can lead to issues such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and chronic obesity. Insulin is actually a signal to tell you to stop eating, so high insulin doesn’t cause hunger.

In fact, many studies on obesity have demonstrated that when individuals only have the option to eat high-fiber, nutrient-dense, low-calorie, moderate-palatability foods, they’ll naturally control their appetite.

Insulin is an anabolic hormone and is necessary to move nutrients into the cells that require them. But again, insulin was supposed to be released, and then clear the scene. You have a small amount of insulin all the time. But generally speaking, your insulin should only spike 2-3 times a day, when you eat, and should otherwise be at a relatively low level. Part of the problem with our modern eating paradigm is that we keep insulin at high levels all the time. Our body doesn’t like to receive a constant message from just one hormonal signaler. This leads to imbalances, and then the body has to make adjustments to compensate.

Shifting Perspective

Some of the hormones that are released in response to nutrients stick around for a while. They actually help us eat less at future meals if we had plenty of nutrient intake at an earlier meal. This is why you need to think about food from a perspective of a full day, or even a week, as opposed to just one meal. If you understand the principles of eating that naturally control appetite and give you good energy, you plan your meals in such a way that you have control over them.

Insoluble fiber oatmeal with honey and pears.

An example of this would be, for someone who struggles with satiation, eating more protein and fiber earlier in the day, so they’ll naturally create a stronger satiety signal for a longer period of time.

So we’ve discussed that you have initiators of eating behavior, which we don’t fully understand, and that you also have terminators of eating behavior, which we understand a little better, but the picture’s not yet complete. We still haven’t got into the most powerful determinant of eating behaviors, which is your brain. We’ll discuss that in the next post.


Are you searching for a more integrated approach to healthcare? That’s what Health Shepherds delivers. If you have questions about a more personalized path to your wellbeing, contact us. You also can like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram.

Transforming Your Habits to Transform Your Health Part 17

Almost everyone has some self-control. It’s just a matter of where they’ve applied it. When the brain’s reward system is strongly activated, we lose self-control. That system is designed to override your self-control and keep you engaging in behaviors that enhance your chance of survival. Unfortunately, eating sugary cereals while watching television does not enhance your survival. It’s working against it.

We live in a time where most of the things triggering your reward system are actually harmful to you and lessen your lifespan and your health rather than improve it. We have to get this balance back by focusing on well-being. When you have well-being, willpower naturally comes more easily. So we’re going to focus on the activities that enhance focus and improve awareness and higher brain function, such as:

Willpower happens when you’re fully aware. Willpower happens when you’re able to make choices consistent with your highest desire. I want you to revisit the whole concept of desire and what you really want for yourself.

We live in a time where most of the things triggering your reward system are actually harmful to you and lessen your lifespan and your health rather than improve it.

Generally speaking, you’re choosing according to your desires. If your area of struggle involves food, then think about what’s happening when you experience the craving for food. Just pay attention to the feelings and observe them, and then begin to think about what you really want for yourself. You have to be aware in the moment to even make choices. Otherwise, it’s just too challenging.woman sitting writing in journal with awareness

So this week, we’re focusing on our awareness. We’re focusing on the experience of craving, the areas where we seem to lack willpower. But we’re also focusing on the areas where we do have willpower, the parts of our life where we’re always able to take care of things in a way that serves our best interests or the interests of our family.

Next week in the series we’ll dive even deeper into willpower, bringing you more insight into how you can apply it to your daily life.


Health Shepherds is on a mission to deliver personalized and compassionate healthcare. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Want to ask us a question? We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to contact us.

Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 4

The bottom line is you eat what your brain tells you to eat. This means not what you, the deeper and greater you, actually wants for yourself. That you doesn’t decide what you eat. Your conditioned non-conscious brain tells you what to eat.

If you really wake up the deeper you and get serious about what you want, you can begin to change this. But for now, you’re eating as your non-conscious brain has trained you to eat. This started when you were an embryo and is based on genetics, hormones, and neurotransmitters that have developed as you matured.

Remember this: It’s not you, it’s your brain.

But guess what? You actually get to take charge of your brain. You can take over your brain and direct your thoughts, feelings, and emotions to be consistent with what you really want for yourself. We also emphasize this in our series on desire, willpower, and mindset. It’s very important that you have the right mindset and the right desire and that you’re very intentional about this.

Now more than ever, you must apply intentionality.

Intentionality and Eating

You or someone you know opens a bag of potato chips or cookies. Perhaps the chips are labeled something like “buffalo ranch maple bacon-flavored.” You think, “Disgusting. Who would ever want to eat something like that?” Then you taste one because your friend says, “You’ve just got to try this!”

And the next thing you know, the bag is empty. You ate the entire bag. You’re sitting there wondering, “How did I just do that? Why couldn’t I stop eating?”

Our rational, conscious brain thinks it’s in charge of our eating behavior, that we eat what we want and when we want, and that we can stop eating whenever we choose to. But we have so much less control than that.

This is true for so many different foods. I think everyone can relate to this example. I sure can. You need to understand that the non-conscious aspects of your brain took over.

Our rational, conscious brain thinks it’s in charge of our eating behavior, that we eat what we want and when we want, and that we can stop eating whenever we choose to. But we have so much less control than that.

Behind the decision-making processes of eating behavior are physiological forces in our brain and body that we’ve never even been aware of. Brain physiology involves hormones, neurotransmitters, and electricity. Your eating behavior is based on many different pathways in your brain that established when you were just developing. Your preferences were formed based on reward stimulation before you were at an age of choice.

Friends deciding what to eat.

If you choose to choose according to your desires, then you’re going to have to pay close attention to this blog series. The great news is, you will be able to choose to choose. You can get mastery over this. Leave behind all of the anxiety, shame, guilt, and powerlessness you have felt. You will be able to take charge.

Be patient with yourself and go one step at a time. Deepen your understanding. Practice visualizing your desires for your best health, and what that looks like. Experience this. I promise it’ll pay you back.  

Visit us at Health Shepherds, review our resources, and read our book Authentic Health. We look forward to you joining us on your journey to better living and authentic health.

Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 3

I want to reiterate one more time our three fundamental eating behaviors that apply to all nutritional approaches. These three pillars are necessary for any eating paradigm. If you violate these pillars, you ultimately will find that you have very little control over eating behavior and often struggle with your weight or chronic diseases.

I also want to remind you that not everyone who is overweight is unhealthy. Many people who have a heavier body-mass are applying the proper fundamental habits of health in their life. They feel good, and their health metrics look good. These individuals are not unhealthy. This is not about weight. This is about health. Good health supports a healthy weight for you. This is an individual issue based on genetics and long-term hormonal changes based on long-term environmental exposures.

In addition, I want to remind you that many people who aren’t classified as overweight are metabolically sick. They’re eating the foods that make us all sick. They may even be overeating them. However, the way their body regulates their weight via genetics and hormones keeps them at a leaner weight. But their biometrics tell the truth: they have insulin resistance, fatty livers, elevated blood pressures, and chronic inflammation. They don’t feel good. They also need to apply these three pillars.

Three Pillars:

1. Eliminate Nutritional Stressors

Throughout this series, you’ll learn why fast foods, junk foods, processed foods, foods that have been super concentrated in sugar, fat, salt, and other flavors are all causing us health issues. These foods directly trigger inflammation and disease in your body. This has been well established.

These foods only provide high levels of calories but contain minimal nutrients. These foods lack fiber and trigger your reward system in such a powerful way that you cannot stop eating them. You have no willpower when you consume these foods. These foods are the food equivalent of cigarettes. There’s no case to be made that they should be part of our diet.

Man at table eating eggs

When we eat them, we become addicted to them, and we become sick. They make us feel bad. The pleasure we feel from them is false. We have to reject them the same way a smoker has to quit smoking if they want to become well.

You have to engage your higher mind and activate the one part of your brain that gives you some control over eating behavior. Your desire for energy and health has to be greater than the food preferences that you never chose.

I know some think I’m dogmatic about it, but it’s just the truth. If you want to be healthy, these foods have no place in your diet.

But I also want to emphasize you can take your time getting there. Change is hard, and it takes time. Change happens according to strong desire. Just know that I’m not judging you or anyone else. This is a challenging problem and we have to be aware of what these foods are doing to us.

2. Balance Feeding and Fasting

We have many posts that explain what I mean by balancing feeding and fasting, so I’ll not go into it right now. Our bodies are designed to enter the fed state, but they are also designed to spend time in fasting states. This is a very important principle.

3. Mindfulness of Eating

You have to engage your higher mind and activate the one part of your brain that gives you some control over eating behavior. Your desire for energy and health has to be greater than the food preferences that you never chose.

This is a very important piece of the puzzle because once you’re exposed to the foods that trigger your reward system, you will not be able to control your behavior. That’s true for everyone, including me.

Broccollini and cheese and lemon

So you have to apply a mindful approach to nutrition. That means understanding what food is for you, being mindful about the sourcing, taking your time to eat, chewing your food thoroughly—preferably 25 times if possible—and enjoying what food is supposed to do for you.

In conclusion, eliminate nutritional stressors, balance feeding and fasting, and be mindful about eating. It really is that simple.

There is an uncomplicated and understandable truth about eating and health. We want to make it easy for you. Join us at Health Shepherds.

Eating Behaviors and the Brain: Part 2

Obesity rates have been rising in our country, and other industrialized nations, for the past several decades. It’s no secret that we eat more than we used to. In spite of reduced-fat foods, fad diets, and exercise crazes, we’ve increased our daily calorie intake by more than 400 calories per day since the 1980s. But why if we have all this knowledge of our overeating tendencies and the damage it does to our health, do we continue to succumb to this behavior?

The Problem

The standard approach to this problem is to suggest it’s primarily an issue of overeating and not enough exercising. As you know from our teachings on how our body weight is managed, there are more influences on our weight than these two variables.

If it were an issue of eating too much and not being physically active, the problem could be blamed on those who’d been gaining the weight.

It could be suggested that they just lack willpower and that they need to push away from the table.

Large English breakfast with eggs, sausage, baked beans, and potatoes

 

For decades, people have been confounded by this issue, and it’s caused many to feel bad about themselves. The confusion has resulted in the same solutions: reduced calorie diets and increased physical activity.

We’ve also offered all kinds of fad interventions, such as picking one particular food group as the primary cause of our issue. It was because we ate too much fat, and now it’s because we eat too much sugar. Some would have you believe it’s because we don’t eat enough whole grains, or whatever other macronutrient has become the sensation of the year.

But why if we have all this knowledge of our overeating tendencies and the damage it does to our health, do we continue to succumb to this behavior?

Pointing fingers at the people who struggle with this problem doesn’t help.

The Inquiry

These are the questions we should be asking:

  • Why do I eat so much food?
  • When certain foods make me sick, why do I still eat them?
  • Once I start eating, why can’t I stop?

The answer to these questions actually lies in how your central nervous system regulates eating behavior. It does it primarily through non-conscious mechanisms. You’ve always had far less control over your eating behavior than you thought.

The Solution

The good news is, once you know the truth, there’s a path out of this. There is a way of eating that restores normal appetite control, healthy weight, and health. I’m going to teach you the solution in this blog series. This is a fundamental, time-tested truth. It applies to all paradigms of eating. I’m not going to teach you that you have to eliminate one primary food group from your diet or suggest you go on a significant calorie-restricted diet on a consistent basis.

Light lunch with seared salmon and lime

I’m going to teach you that centering your diet around a particular category of foods will provide you with energy and health, begin to reverse many diseases, and naturally control your eating behaviors in a satisfying manner. You will no longer have to fight with yourself over food choices. These foods give you back control of your eating behavior.

I’m not going to teach you that you have to eliminate one primary food group from your diet or suggest you go on a significant calorie-restricted diet on a consistent basis.

The challenge will be accepting that these foods are the ones that you have to eat…

More on that next in our next post.

Are you interested in learning more about healthy eating? Read our Precision Nutrition documents and follow along on this important and informative blog series!

I had a patient come in who is fairly healthy, but trying to lose weight and feel better. She has a few conditions that will improve with lifestyle modifications. In an effort to make positive changes, she recently attended a local structured dietary course that’s been funded partly by grant money. I’m a fan of this program and I consider it valuable to our community. It’s getting individuals involved in the conversation about chronic diseases and lifestyle. However, this individual is now struggling with the idea that a plant-based whole food diet is the best possible diet, and she feels guilty if she does not strictly follow this approach.

Now I know that those who are teaching the course understand that not everyone is able to completely adopt this diet. However, because of the way it is taught, the participants often believe that this is the best possible diet and that straying from it is a step backward in their nutritional approach. They are not really provided with all of the potential benefits that an omnivorous diet may provide. The omnivorous diet I am describing would definitely have a strong foundation of plant-based foods. But it would also include pasture-raised poultry, grass-fed beef, and especially foods such as pasture-raised eggs and wild-caught fish that are rich in essential amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids and good sources of protein.

Eggs and toast and salad omnivore diet

Diet, Conflict, and What to Eat

My patient was conflicted because she was having trouble adopting this diet for several reasons. One was the time it took to shop and prepare foods which is a skill she has not acquired yet. Two, she was not used to the textures and flavors associated with her new diet. Three, it wasn’t doing a good job of controlling her appetite at the time.

I believe that plant-based whole food diets when properly designed, help control appetite because of the fiber and nutrients contained in these foods. So I like plant-based whole food diets. They are a great option for many people. I have adjusted my own diet in that direction. However, based on my genetic profile and gut microbiome analysis, I don’t tolerate grains or legumes very well. I wish I did. I wish I could enjoy all the health benefits of properly prepared beans, but it’s just not a food that fits with my ancestry and genetic blueprint. So I have to focus my plant-based whole food diet on cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, mushrooms, tubers, and other varieties of vegetables.

She was very conflicted because she felt like this was the diet she needed to follow, but she was really having trouble, and it was affecting her overall feeling of wellbeing every day. It was causing her to excessively ruminate about eating. So we stopped and we looked at her specific issues and how we could help her succeed.

The Diet + Health Connection

She does not have, at this point, any evidence of diabetes or insulin resistance, so I don’t think that carbohydrate tolerance is an issue for her. My patient does need to lose a little weight and is at risk of metabolic syndrome in the future, but does not have it at this time. She would like to feel better and lose some weight, but we have time to help her adjust to an individualized approach to eating that will support her goals for her health.

Her past preferences were traditionally a meat and potato diet. She has historically eaten a lot of processed starches and prefers these foods. We examined food textures and flavors, and a way of incorporating more plant-based whole foods into her diet based on her specific tolerances, and her ability to prepare those foods in a way that is nutritious for her. We discussed the role that processed foods play in weight gain and chronic diseases. The importance of consuming nutrients for her to feel good and emphasis on the sources of her foods over the specific macronutrients, or whether the foods were plant or animal-based, was discussed.

Hand reaching for yellow and red peppers

Obstacles, Challenges, and Solutions

Now, one of her challenges is that she has difficulty chewing. She has issues with her jaw and teeth, and the increased need for chewing associated with her new diet was uncomfortable for her. I suggested continuing to increase her plant-based whole food consumption, but also adding a food based supplement to provide nutrients while reducing the volume of food she needs to eat. I like Dr. Cowan’s Garden Products. His team grows their own vegetables in nutrient-rich soil free of any additives or chemicals, properly cooks the ones that need to be cooked, and then reduces them to powders that retain the nutrients and some of the fiber from the original plants. There’s a whole variety of various plant-based powders, that when added to other foods, will give you the nutrient density of those plant-based foods, and a little bit of the fiber.

We were able to reduce her intake of kale by having her braise it and take kale powder. This eliminated her need to chew it. We were able to find similar solutions for other types of produce – it just required some creativity to find solutions. This was a relief to her, and she’s now a fan of these types of products.

Grilled salmon on top of fresh salad

Next, we examined her desire to eat animal-based foods. We discussed continuing to include these foods but focusing on reducing the portions she consumed, and perhaps, not having animal protein at every meal. We slowly tilted her diet towards wild-caught fish and pasture-raised eggs, and then showed her some ways of putting this together with plant-based whole foods plus some of Dr. Cowan’s powders. This set her up to prepare really delicious meals that would satisfy her, and also give her the nutrients she needs.

Open to Change

She became excited about this approach and felt it was something she could do in a sustainable manner. We had to help her get past some incorrect beliefs about food, such as eggs containing too much cholesterol. When I explained to her the nutrient density of the egg white and yolk, she was able to add eggs back to her diet and feel good about it.

We’re going to follow up and discuss her success and the next steps she should take to evolve her diet. She may end up on a plant-based whole food diet. It could be the best diet for her, and it could be something she could follow. But she didn’t need to get there right away. We just needed to get more plant-based whole foods into her diet for the nutrient value, and then find ways to source the other foods that are satisfying to her.

Ultimately, the first step this patient needed to take was to become mindful of eating and intentional about the sources of her food. Those are 2 of the 3 pillars of healthy eating we emphasize in our resources that apply to any healthy eating paradigm.

I would point to works like Deep Nutrition by Catherine Shanahan M.D. and the works from organizations like the Weston-Price Foundation to better understand ancestral diets and the roles animal products can play in human health.

Fresh chicken fajitas

Doctor’s Summary

I’m a big believer that the best diet for you is a diet that is sustainable, pleasurable, and honors your ancestry and your genetics.

All diets that support good health have common elements and they’re well explained in my book, Authentic Health. They eliminate fake foods, processed foods, and added sugars. These diets restore a high-value relationship to food as a source of nutrients and life for you. They eliminate nutrient deficiencies, control hunger, and catalyze physical activity. These diets all balance feeding and fasting. They have the same principles.

Don’t get attached to one philosophy. Please see our Precision Nutrition document file, where there are ample documents with plenty of evidence-based studies that demonstrate these principles are effective and sustainable. Don’t let anybody convince you that you have to follow one specific diet.

Please visit us at Health Shepherds, review our resources, and let them sink into your mind and find the strategy that works for you. If you need more help with this, contact our office and schedule an appointment, or again, read the book, Authentic Health, or look at some of our additional materials.

Nutritional agnosticism is the philosophy that different people have different nutritional needs. Not only that, but that specific nutritional needs change from season to season and year to year. This makes sense when you consider the span of human ancestry and the development of our minds and bodies.

We should listen to our internal wisdom and let our bodies dictate the nourishment and diet we deliver it.

There is no one best diet for everybody all of the time. There are a few basic principles that undergird all healthy nutritional approaches, but otherwise, there are many different approaches that provide the health we are seeking. Everyone has innumerable variables that influence the best diet for them at any given time. However, despite the many variables, the process of identifying your best diet is not that hard. Your body will teach you if you are able to interpret the signals it provides you. We should listen to our internal wisdom and let our bodies dictate the nourishment and diet we deliver it.

Bowl of rice and Asian vegetables.

Precision Nutrition

You’ll notice if you review our nutritional resources on the Health Shepherds website, that we have a lot of documents produced by a company called Precision Nutrition. There’s a reason why we have so many of their resources. As a student of theirs, I have participated in their nutritional coaching classes, used their textbook, and employed their research.

I believe they are one of the most evidence-based nutritional institutes in existence today. Precision Nutrition considers the evidence without pre-existing biases. Their whole focus is on what approaches to nutrition help people become their healthiest selves.

They study concepts such as ketogenic diets, fasting approaches, portion control, genetics, gut microbiome, and energy balance. Precision Nutrition presents their data in an agnostic manner.

Their overall approach to reshaping individual nutrition habits for the purposes of maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most logical and well-articulated approaches. It’s very consistent with the core components of my specific teaching in which we look at the role of nutrition in the following ways:

  • Provides us with energy
  • Is comprehensive and eliminates nutritional deficiencies
  • Catalyzes physical activity
  • Supports healthy weight and healthy energy balance
  • Promotes stewardship of the planet, animals, and one another

Various types of healthy toasts with hummus cucumber avocado radishes

Individual Approach to Eating

I am a nutritional agnostic. I do not have an emotional attachment to any one method of eating. I’m only attached to what works best for each individual. I frequently stress that your approach must be individualized. It must take into account the individual variables that impact you—genetics, gut microbiome, personal finances, and access to resources. Your social environment and cultural and spiritual beliefs also must be taken into account.

All of these things impact your best nutritional approach, but your best nutritional approach will provide adequate nutrients and energy, support healthy weight, support overall health, and hopefully involve consideration of the environment, animals, and of your fellow human beings.

I stress certain aspects of nutrition, such as balancing feeding and fasting because I have witnessed how effective this is. But I can use whatever approach works, whether that’s a gradual reshaping of overall nutritional approach or a complete overhaul of someone’s dietary habits.

Healthy breakfast with orange juice and fruit

When you’re looking for evidence, studies, and analytical approaches to big topics, I recommend the Precision Nutrition documents. I believe that their research and conclusions are solid, and I agree with the vast majority of their teaching. When I am working with a client, I may have some occasional nuanced differences from the basic Precision Nutrition approach, but that primarily involves smaller details based on specific goals for that individual. Precision Nutrition focuses on effective population-based approaches and their approach is excellent. When it comes to individuals, we still have to customize their diet to their situation and goals.

Takeaway

I think it’s important that we remain agnostic about nutrition, and that we remain open and objective about what approach works best for us. So consider that as you review our materials, and as you experiment with different approaches to nutrition that allow you to enjoy eating while supporting your health and your healthiest weight.

If you’d like to know more about nutrition agnosticism, please contact us. There is a simple and understandable truth about eating and health. We want to make it easy for you. Join us at Health Shepherds.

If you follow my teaching, you know that I emphasize nutrients over calories. I want to reverse the way we think about food. Rather than focusing on primarily calories and macronutrients, I concentrate on the micronutrients and phytonutrients that allow our bodies to perform as they were designed. These nutrients help our bodies recover from the stress of living and optimize energy production. Without them, the calories do not do much for us. Because of this, today I want to cover the importance of fiber.

We do not get enough fiber in our diet. Our current minimum recommendation is woefully low because our bodies thrive when we consume a significant amount of this important nutrient.

The Bulk of the Matter

One of the most important components of food that provides innumerable benefits but often is neglected is fiber. If I have any regret from the nutritional chapter in my book, Authentic Health, it’s that I didn’t emphasize it as much as I wish I had. We do not get enough fiber in our diet. Our current minimum recommendation is woefully low because our bodies thrive when we consume a significant amount of this important nutrient.

Fiber is a very important component of our diet as it is a prebiotic, meaning it actually feeds the good bacteria in our gut. It forms bulk in our stool and improves bowel regularity and composition. It binds cholesterol in the gut and helps reduce cholesterol absorption. Fiber also contributes to satiation, the feeling of fullness when we eat, and therefore naturally controls appetite. It also slows down the absorption of sugars into our bloodstream and can help control blood sugars after a meal. It both nourishes and satisfies you.

Healthy meal full of fiber with carrots, broccoli, and noodles.

How Do I Increase My Fiber?

Fiber is found in most foods, but it’s most abundant in non-starchy vegetables and fruits. Fiber is also abundant in seeds, nuts, grains, and legumes. However, if you follow my teaching, you’ll know that I emphasize using only non-GMO properly prepared grains and legumes. While some individuals thrive on a whole food, plant-based diet rich in natural grains and legumes, others may have sensitivity to grains and legumes. The primary issue is the source and the preparation.

I recommend eating a lot of natural fiber through consumption of non-starchy vegetables, organic fruits (but watch total amount of fruit intake), and seeds and nuts. I also recommend limiting fruit, as it is higher in sugar.

Some individuals will benefit from using a daily fiber supplement. I personally use one for all of the benefits it provides me. I prefer fiber supplements that come from real food such as organic, high-quality psyllium husk, ground flaxseeds and chia seed, and other natural sources. These will usually contain insoluble fiber, prebiotics, and omega 3s that will nourish your gut and make digestive function easy for you. Once you get used to them, they easily become part of your daily routine.

Man taking fiber supplement.

There are a lot of different versions of fiber. Some will cause bloating and gas for you. In this case, you may need to switch to a different source. A lot of it has to do with the composition of your gut microbiome. But you can find the fibers that work best for you. They are the ones that aid in bowel regularity, promote satiety, and give you a sense of wellbeing.

How Much Fiber is Enough?

You need to get plenty of fiber in your diet if you want to succeed in maintaining a healthy weight. I recommend getting a minimum of 30 grams a day, but preferably 40 to 60 to optimize health. Because our distant ancestors ate a natural whole-food based diet, they likely consumed over 100 grams a day. Our modern foods have been stripped of the fiber that is so nourishing for us. The only way to get to get enough is to eat more produce and consume less processed foods.

Our modern foods have been stripped of the fiber that is so nourishing for us. The only way to get to get enough is to eat more produce and consume less processed foods.

You also want a mixture of soluble and insoluble fiber. On food labels, the amount is listed and is broken down into soluble and insoluble. So it’s easy to identify how much fiber is in a food you’re consuming. You also can find nutrition tables on multiple different apps or searching the internet. 

Insoluble fiber oatmeal with honey and pears.

My patients have consistently told me that one of the best pieces of advice they followed was to increase their fiber. They never regret honoring their body’s need for this vital nutrient.

Make sure you’re consuming enough fiber in your diet. It’s an important nutrient that maintains regularity and gives our bodies energy. If you have questions about how to eat more fiber or which fiber is best for you, contact us. Health Shepherds wants to see you on a journey to your most authentic health. A healthy diet is one of the best ways to succeed.