Food & Nutrition Resources

Check out parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the “What Is The Best Diet For Me?” blog series. Check back regularly for new installments, and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter!


There is no one diet that fits all.

Any book or nutritional program that claims otherwise is not being honest with you.

Because of a multitude of factors—genetics, individual gut microbiomes, allergies, and personal preferences—everyone is different in terms of what we should be eating for our most optimal health. Deciding which diet, or combination of diets, is right for you is something only you can decide. Let’s take a look at a few.

healthy diets

Plant-based wholefood diet

A plant-based diet does not mean strictly vegetarian. Some plant-based diets actually include fish and lean meats, depending on the diet’s specifics. The premise is the majority of the diet derives from foods grown in the ground:

  • Legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds

Extra fiber and potassium help stave off heart diseases, and because the diet is naturally low carbohydrate, it improves one’s chances of developing Type 2 Diabetes. Plant based foods are also packed with phytonutrients, useful in lowering the risk of certain cancers. Micronutrients in colorful fruits and veggies lower blood pressure, which helps reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

There are risk factors to note. Plant-based wholefood diets are naturally low in protein, which forces the body to use valuable stores in the muscles. Muscle loss comes with a host of issues of strength and mobility, which are particularly detrimental to the elderly. There’s also a lower intake of vitamin B12. This vitamin is only available in animal foods, such as meat, dairy, and eggs. If your plant-based diet doesn’t include lean meats or fish, a B12 supplement is necessary to prevent anemia, fatigue, numbness in the extremities, balance problems, and poor memory. An iron supplement may also be necessary.

healthy diets

Paleo diet

This diet has become all the rage in recent years, focusing on how our ancestors ate by consisting of plant-based foods and oils, and lean meats. The major difference between this and the plant-based wholefood diet is the paleo diet cuts out grains—oats, wheat, barley, and rice—starchy vegetables, legumes or beans, dairy products, and high-fat meats like salami or rib meat.

A paleo diet naturally cuts out many of the chemicals and processed foods in a typical Western diet just by the nature of what is on the menu. The addition of red meat to this diet also means fewer concerns about low iron levels. A paleo diet also has anti-inflammatory effects, improving your overall feeling of energy. Protein is easier to come by on this diet, which leads to a full feeling between meals, because the body processes protein slower, so you feel satiated longer.

The downsides are that eating the paleo way can become expensive, where things like grains and beans can provide some bulk to meals but are excluded in paleo meals. It’s a very low carbohydrate diet, when the only carbs allowed are from fruits and vegetables. Getting the recommended amount of carbs a day can become a challenge. It’s also a strict diet, which means for the long term, it might not be as sustainable as some other diets.

Low carb, high fat diet

A low carb, high fat diet does not necessarily mean a ketogenic diet, but a ketogenic diet can be considered low carb, high fat. In fact, it can be considered a medical therapy to treat things like irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, or fatty liver disease and more. Beyond those issues, it can boost energy, and even prevent some diseases. Higher consumption of healthy fats reduces inflammation while simultaneously decreasing consumption of inflammation-inducing foods like processed carbs and sugars. Higher amounts of protein, once again, keep us feeling full longer, decreasing our overall appetite and penchant for overeating. With increased dietary fiber and reduced carbs, we also reduce digestive stress.

healthy diets

There are some drawbacks. The first 7-10 days of a reduction in carbs can lead to significant drops in energy as your body adjusts to finding other fuel sources—such as fat and amino acids. While this metabolic flexibility is beneficial in the long run, it can have a rocky beginning. Your body needs time to produce enzymes and other chemicals required to switch to fat as your primary fuel source. This can be headed off with a slower immersion into low carb, high fat eating, but if you’re jumping all in, be aware of possible headaches, fatigue, sleeping issues, brain fog, and even bad breath. Carbs also contain water, so reducing them can lead to intense thirst or dehydration while you balance out.

Ketogenic diet

As we said, ketogenic diets are low carb diets, but not all low carb diets are ketogenic. The purpose of a ketogenic diet is to put you in a state of ketosis—where your body burns ketones rather than glucose for energy. This is a function of metabolic flexibility, or your body using different fuels rather than being fixated on glucose, the fuel of carbs and sugars. Ketosis teaches your body to burn fat stores—where the ketones come from—and better regulates blood sugar. Among the benefits of ketogenic diets are weight loss, better mental focus, reduced appetite, increased energy, higher HDL cholesterol—the good cholesterol—lower blood pressure, and fighting type 2 diabetes.

Ketosis, like the others, isn’t without its risks. Like the paleo diet, it can be difficult to stick to. There’s also something called “keto-flu,” which are symptoms such as fatigue, headache, and dehydration, much like the low carb, high fat diet. This comes from dropping water weight quickly and losing the water in carbs. It can be mitigated by keeping hydrated and taking electrolyte tablets. Ketogenic dieters should also be aware that high fat doesn’t mean high unhealthy fats.

healthy diets

The diet for you

If any of these approaches to eating sound like a good fit for you, don’t be afraid to try them. Keep in mind, however, some diets you like might not like you. Someone who finds a plant-based wholefood diet appealing could learn they’re sensitive to plant lectins, which can actually make them feel sick and negatively impact their health. It’s not that the foods are unhealthy. It’s that the foods aren’t compatible with that person’s genetics or gut microbiome.

You have to pay attention to how these diets impact your energy, overall feeling, and your body weight. It can quickly become clear which foods you tolerate well, and which you do not. By being mindful—and keeping a food journal helps with this—you can determine the best diet for you as one of the above mentioned, or even a hybrid approach. In the end, you should strive for the broadest diet you can eat, which can lead you to the healthiest possible you.


Check out our free 9-Week Nutrition Program based on Dr. Vickery’s book, Authentic Health.

 

Check out parts 1, 2, and 3 of the “What Is The Best Diet For Me?” blog series. Check back regularly for new installments, and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter!


In our last two posts in the Best Diet for You series, we discussed genetics and individual gut microbiomes, two things that are very much tied to our overall health. But not everyone can afford a deep dive look into their specific genetics and the state of their microbiome. Fear not. There are still things you can learn and practice which go a long way toward finding your optimal health.

Fundamentals of a healthy diet

A lot of us already know this. For years, we’ve been hearing about the detrimental effects of refined carbs, unhealthy fast foods, and high fructose corn syrup and other added sugars. But let’s consider it within our framework of food as instructions to our body for processing. We know for sure that you should eliminate:
• All fake foods
• Highly processed foods
• Processed carbohydrates
• Refined sugars
• Industrialized oils

These foods are missing essential instructions to our bodies for proper processing. Either that, or they’re bogged down with too many instructions—components our bodies simply can’t break down. Let’s take a look at two of them for some specifics.

coconut healthy diet fundamentals

An oily dilemma
Industrialized oils are in so many of our foods, we don’t notice anymore. Some say average Americans who eat what they eat without giving it too much thought get 60% of their calories from these oils and don’t even know it. These oils—vegetable, corn, safflower, canola, and soybean—are the brainchildren of food chemists and do not occur naturally in our environment. They have to be processed to be created.

To do this, legumes (not even vegetables!) are exposed to high heat and the oils are extracted with chemicals like acetone. Yes, the same solvent people use to remove nail polish. For a long time, we thought saturated fat was the enemy, and these oils are poly-unsaturated fats, so in many minds, this was a good thing. But chemically speaking, poly-unsaturated fats are unstable, and by virtue of what they are, they become heavily oxidized in the high heat and acetone exposure. They are then put in plastic bottles, where phthalates leech into them. After that, they’re exposed to more high heat, light, and different elements during transportation, and then placed on a grocery store shelf, where they deteriorate further because their sell-by date is long.

sunrise yoga healthy diet fundamentals

Then we again expose them to high heat by cooking with them, and by the time they’ve entered our bodies, they’ve become trans fats, which are no longer supposed to be in our foods. In our systems, with their incomplete and overloaded instructions to our bodies, they become mega trans-fats. They’re wrecking balls, creating inflammation, contributing to weight gain, chronic fatigue, and setting us up for future diseases.

But wait, cooking without oil? Who does that? There are some oils that, when used in moderation, do not turn into atom bombs in our systems. Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and even good, old-fashioned butter (and we do mean old-fashioned; the cows supplying the milk should be pasture-raised, or at the very least, grass-fed) are all oils our bodies handle much better.

Sugar: what a rush!

Anyone born in the 80s or before grew up with Snicker’s old slogan: Snickers Satisfies. Of course it does—its caramel, nougat, peanut, and chocolate make-up is almost pure sugar, and that satisfaction we get from eating a Snicker’s bar is a sugar rush of epic proportions. Sugar fuels brain cells, which interpret that fuel as a reward. Eating more feels good, so our brain signals us that we’re happy, sated, and ready to tackle our afternoon. This rewards the sweet craving, and thus, we begin a cycle that’s difficult to break.

healthy diet fundamentals

The science behind a sugar rush is that simple sugars and carbs are immediately turned into glucose, which our bodies burn through quickly, giving what feels like a burst of energy. Simple sugars and carbs are also found in fruits, veggies, and dairy, but they’re paired with protein and fiber, which slow down the process, tempering the “sugar rush” and thus, the rewarding feeling. This is why it’s not as much fun to snack on carrot sticks as it is to pop some Hershey’s Kisses.

To use that quick energy, your body moves the glucose out of your bloodstream and into cells with the help of insulin, a hormone regulating blood sugar levels. This transfer can happen fast, leading to what we know as a sugar crash. It can leave you feeling shaky and weak, and in need of more sugar to maintain the rush.

Think that because that bagel or bag of chips isn’t sugary, it doesn’t count? Think again. The body breaks these complex carbs into simple sugars, setting us up for the same roller coaster as a candy bar. Some of the worst offenders are of the highly refined variety, like:

  • White bread
  • Pretzels
  • Crackers
  • Pasta

Artificially sweet, good or bad?

“Well, I put Stevia in my coffee, so I’m okay.” Actually, no you’re really not. If you were to slowly cut out sugars—reduce one sweet thing you eat a week, like declining dessert, or drinking one less sugary coffee—your taste buds will adapt. Partaking in something sweet after a break from it, chances are good, it’ll be too sweet. If you’ve ever switched between full-calorie soda to a diet variety, you’ll have experienced this. Your taste buds become accustomed to what they usually taste.

healthy diet fundamentals

By partaking in artificial sweeteners, you’re still getting all the sweet with none of the brain-cell-fueling sugar. The brain is fooled, expecting the sugar and when it doesn’t happen, the craving for sweets kicks up a notch. The brain sends signals to the body. “Something’s wrong. I’m not getting the reward I expected, so I need more sweet.” And a craving too intense to ignore is born. It’s not a matter of will power. It’s a matter of body chemistry.

According to the American Heart Association, most average Americans eat 19 teaspoons of added sugar a day. Recommended amounts? 6 teaspoons (100 calories) for women, and no more than 9 (150 calories) for men. Check labels. If too much of the calories come from sugar, don’t eat what’s in the package.

healthy diet fundamentals

So what can I eat?

That is the question. A diet of whole foods like fresh vegetables, fruits and nuts, whole grains, protein, moderate amounts of complex carbohydrates, and healthy oils is a far better blueprint for your body’s food processors to follow. If we’re honest with ourselves, there’s a lot of variety in that list. With a little mindfulness to how these foods make you feel—and food journaling is a great way to nail that down—cutting out unhealthy foods isn’t as hard as it sounds. Once your body processes good, whole foods and you consistently feel the optimization of your overall health, the idea of eating refined and processed foods will have your taste buds saying, “No thank you.” There is honestly no junk food that tastes as good as healthy feels.


Check out our free 9-Week Nutrition Program based on Dr. Vickery’s book, Authentic Health.

 

Check out parts 1 and 2 of the “What Is The Best Diet For Me?” blog series. Check back regularly for new installments, and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter!


In keeping with the theme of our Best Diet for You series that food is a set of instructions for our bodies to properly metabolize energy sources, we’re going to take a look at the microbiome. We discussed how genetics plays a role, and how mimicking the diets of our ancestors leads to a greater wealth of energy and optimal health. But genetics are only part of the picture.

Our environment, the foods we’ve eaten all our lives, and other factors influence our optimal health, too.

This is most common in the microbiome.

best diet for me - what is a microbiome?

What is a microbiome?

A microbiome is defined as a community of microorganisms that reside in our digestive system. They are made up of millions of good bacteria, human cells, viral strains, yeasts and fungi which help our DNA express itself. This expression manifests through hereditary factors, body type, weight, predisposition to disease, and more. Normally when we think of bacteria, we immediately think sickness, infection, etc. It’s only been in recent decades that we’ve come to understand there are good bacteria in our digestive tracts, which aid in digestion and nutrient absorption, and keep the bad bacteria in check.

Your gut microbiome is shaped by your genetics, but outside exposures have influence as well. These include:

• Medicines
• Supplements
Different types of foods
• Your general environment

what are microbiomes and why are they important

What does a microbiome do?

Think of your microbiome as its own ecosystem.

There are good bacteria that prey on bad bacteria, yeasts and fungi to provide the fertile ground in which good bacteria thrive, and cells that function as transportation for nutrients, which the body absorbs and converts to energy.

The problem arises when the bad bacteria outnumber the good.

When this occurs, the health of our microbiome deteriorates. Inflammation increases, energy production begins to fluctuate, and our set weight point begins to change. In the long-term, this sets up a potential for greater discomforts, like joint pain, chronic fatigue, weight gain, and arthritis.

Prolonged imbalance of the microbiome can be detrimental to our hearts, brain, and autoimmune responses.

how to keep your microbiome healthy

Maintaining a healthy microbiome

If you look at DNA, very few genes within a human DNA strand differ from person to person. We are all, genetically speaking, very similar. The microbiome, however, is the opposite. Our gut microbiomes, bearing millions, or even trillions of microorganisms, are almost as unique as our fingerprints.

So what’s healthy for one person’s microbiota isn’t as beneficial for another’s.

This is where companies like Viome come in. They get a very accurate analysis of your gut microbiome, which can further refine how you should approach eating. You learn which foods you need to eat more of to benefit your specific ecosystem of microorganisms, and which foods you should avoid altogether.

Everyone's microbiome is different.

The health of your gut microbiome has greater impact than even your genetics.

There are some foods that should universally be avoided to prevent inflammation, which is the beginning stage of microbiome imbalance. These are:

  • Refined vegetable oils (such as corn and soybean oils, shortening, and canola)
  • Refined carbohydrates and processed grain products
  • Conventional meat, poultry, and eggs (due to feeding the animals corn and cheap ingredients which negatively impact their microbiomes)
  • Added sugars (commonly found in pre-packaged snacks, breads, condiments, cereals, etc)
  • Trans/hydrogenated fats (in packaged or processed items and often fried foods, including most fast food)

Your individual microbiome could also be impacted by pasteurized dairy products, which can be a common source of allergens.

 

Foods that help reduce inflammation are:

  • Fresh vegetables: they’re loaded with phytonutrients shown to lower cholesterol, triglycerides, and symptoms of chronic disease states. Some of the best are carrots, beets, leafy greens, onions, peas, salad greens, and squashes.
  • Whole fruits (not juice), which contain antioxidants tied to cancer prevention and brain health. Good examples are apples, berries, cherries, nectarines, oranges, pears, strawberries and more.
  • Herbs, spices, and teas: turmeric, ginger, basil, oregano, thyme, etc. Green tea and organic coffee in moderation are also good.
  • Probiotics, which contain good bacteria, like yogurt, kombucha, kefir, or cultured veggies.
  • Wild caught fish, cage free eggs, and pasture raised meats. They have higher omega-3 fatty acids, and are great sources of protein, healthy fats, and essential nutrients.
  • Healthy fats, such as grass fed butter, coconut or extra virgin olive oil, and nuts/seeds.
  • Grains and legumes, best when 100% unrefined. Good choices are black beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, lentils, buckwheat, quinoa.

Keep your gut healthy and be mindful of microbiomes

Be mindful of your microbiome

Your microbiome can impact how your body handles nutrients and stores fat, playing important roles in your overall health, even more so than your genetics. Changes in microbiota have led to significant changes in health and body weight, and it doesn’t take long to impact your overall health. Factors like poor diet, environmental toxin exposure, and stress negatively affect your microbiome, upsetting that all important balance between good and bad microorganisms.

 

We still have a lot to learn about the individual microorganisms that make up our gut microbiomes, but understanding the concept of your digestive ecosystem can help you tailor your diet specifically to your needs, and through this, you’re one step closer to reaching your most optimal health.


Check out our free 9-Week Nutrition Program based on Dr. Vickery’s book, Authentic Health.

Part 2 of our “What is the Best Diet For Me?” blog series. Check back here often so you don’t miss an installment, or subscribe to our newsletter!


In our last post, we considered food not just as a source of sustenance, but a source of information for our bodies, a blueprint for the body to know how to process what we eat. But what, how much, and how frequently we eat aren’t the only signals we need to consider for optimal health.

Our genetics play a huge part in how the body processes food.

Health is not only about our percentage of body fat. One person could be their healthiest self with very lean musculature, while the next person could be their healthiest with a percentage of subcutaneous fat. The key words are optimal health.

This is genetics as they relate to nutrition.

Think of the body like a car.

Some cars take unleaded fuel, while some take diesel fuel. They won’t run well (if at all) on the other type of fuel, so other things break down if you try to put the wrong type of gas in the tank. If your body is genetically predisposed to high cholesterol, then a plan like the ketogenic diet is not for you. That diet is low-carb, high-fat, and many of the healthier fats, like butter or coconut oil, are high in cholesterol.

Ancestry has a lot to do with your best dietary needs.

Ancestry

Our DNA is determined by our ancestry, but it is also influenced by our environmental exposures and our diet. When we eat in a manner closely related to our ancestors, we tend to experience our best health and energy. Our bodies are programmed within our very cells for those food choices to click. It’s when highly processed foods are introduced into our diets that we begin to experience a detrimental impact, be that fatigue, weight gain, or the development of chronic diseases.

what is the best diet for me based on body type?

Body Type

We’ve all heard someone in our lives refer to themselves as “big boned,” and maybe they’re speaking of the pounds they’d like to lose in a tongue-in-cheek way, but they very well could have a larger skeletal frame. Some people are destined to keep a higher percentage of body fat because it’s programmed into their genetics.

Someone else could be trying to gain weight if their body type is leaner than they’d like. It’s no different than someone genetically predisposed to being tall.

What matters is that when your body is purring along at optimal capacity—with plenty of energy, clear thoughts, and good sleep and stress reduction—you’re the healthiest you can be. Perhaps that means your outward appearance matches what society says is the ideal body image, but it might not.

That’s not to say you’re failing; it means your genetics are your own and no one else’s.

Any attempt to defy that predisposition could tilt your needle out of the optimal health range and into feeling increased fatigue, slower energy boost, and opens you up to the potential of chronic illness.

best diet for me based on genetics

The Foods That Nourish You

These days, there are labs we can turn to for a clear genetic blueprint for how we should eat. Two of these are DNAFit and Stratagene, and they can help you understand how to shape your approach to food based on your genetics. Your genes say a lot about what nutrients you need, what supplements you could benefit from, and which foods you should avoid.

Not everyone has the money for these detailed assessments, however. Don’t fret. It’s quite possible, through mindfulness of your reactions to foods, that you can determine which foods make you feel like a superhero, and which ones drag you down.

For example, if you decide to on a plant-based wholefood diet, but quickly discover it makes you feel worse, you could have a genetic sensitivity to plant lectins, and despite the diet being wholesome and nutritious, those particular nutrients are not kind to your system.

A good rule of thumb for any healthy approach to eating is to avoid fake foods, highly processed carbohydrates, and refined sugars.

But you’ll become aware rather quickly which foods improve your energy and weight, and which you do not tolerate well.

Consider journaling not only the foods you eat and their macronutrient content—carbs, proteins, and fats—but how you feel in the hours after eating. By doing so, you’ll see in black and white exactly which nutritional elements your body runs well on and which nutrients bog you down.


Check out our free 9-Week Nutrition Program based on Dr. Gus Vickery’s book, Authentic Health.

Part 1 of our “What Is The Best Diet For Me?” blog series. Be sure to check back each week for the latest installment! 


The word “diet” is frequently met with an internal wince, or perhaps a heavy sigh because we often think of diets as a means to losing weight and getting healthier, which are big challenges. Diets are hard, and they can be depressing when we have to set aside the dessert menu, when our lunch doesn’t seem as appetizing as what our coworkers are eating, or that craving has to be ignored no matter how strong it is.

Perhaps that’s where our first hurdle lies—with the way we think of diet.

What would happen instead if we considered diet as simply an approach to eating? Not good or bad, just how and what, as though our food choices are simply information our bodies interpret?

WHat is the best diet for me? An approach to diet.

Food is energy.

What we eat bears a set of instructions telling how our bodies process it: carb-loading signals for conversion to glucose for immediate usage, so athletes might benefit from a high carb breakfast before the big match or race. High protein tells our body we might be trying to build muscle, so it digests that high protein shake or meal into amino acids, which are essential for adding muscle.

When considering our food choices as data for the body to interpret, that informs us what kind of diet we should be eating to accomplish our goals.

But let’s back up a second.

It’s not as simple as knowing all the food signals and sending the right ones to your body by eating specific foods. There are a multitude of factors specific to an individual’s optimum health, and in this Best Diet for You series, we’ll take a step-by-step look at how to choose the most ideal dietary approach for you.

What is the best diet for me? Understand nutrition with Health Shepherds

What are your goals?

Without knowing your personal picture of ideal health, how can you know what food data you should send to your body? The answer is, you can’t. You have to figure out first what you need. Are you:

  • Needing to lose weight?
  • Fighting chronic diseases, such as Type 2 Diabetes?
  • Sick of being fatigued or under the weather all the time?
  • Wanting to experience more energy?
  • Desiring a more active lifestyle but aren’t in good enough shape to participate in strenuous activities?

All of these and more are valid reasons to consider a more conscious approach to your diet. Close your eyes and picture your best health. What do you see? Many of us picture ourselves more comfortable in our clothes, with more stamina to take the stairs instead of the elevator or become active in a favorite sport. Maybe it’s keeping up with your children, or fighting chronic diseases. Whatever your optimal picture of health is, we have to consider if your current dietary habits are helping or hindering that. So with that picture of the healthiest you in your mind, take a moment to ask yourself a few questions.

best diet for me - how to eat throughout the day

How do you eat every day?

  1. Are you a grazer, eating smaller meals but more snacks?
  2. Do you cycle through days where you don’t eat much, and then have a day where you can’t get enough?
  3. Maybe you’re able to stick to a fairly consistent schedule, or maybe you’re so on-the-go all the time, food is grabbed when you have a spare moment.

These things will factor into your approach to your best diet. Someone who cycles through one day where you barely eat but one meal to eating quite a bit the next day might have more luck with an intermittent fasting approach to diet than someone who needs small, frequent influxes of nutrients.

best diet for me - how often do I eat

How often do you eat every day?

Are you consistent with breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Is it easier for you to pack something quick for lunch when your day is full than it is to stop for a lunch hour, or do you skip? Do you find yourself needing snacks because your energy tanks in the afternoons and an influx of caffeine or sugar helps fight fatigue?

Perhaps there are psychological factors involved, as well.

  • Is your feeding frequency influenced by what’s happening around you?
  • Do you comfort eat?

Changing your eating patterns will be more challenging if the reason you’re snacking or overeating isn’t due to simple habit.

Best Diet For Me: How much are you eating every day?

How much do you eat every day?

A lot of information concerning which diet approach works best centers on your specific biometrics, aka your body’s current physical stats. This includes intake. Knowing how much food you consume will tell you if you’re overeating, or even undereating. If you’re not getting enough calories and you have no stored fuels to rely on because your body type is very lean, you will struggle with getting the energy you need through the day. Or maybe some eye opening truths will come to light if you realize you’re not eating super unhealthy foods, but your portions are in excess.

What is the best diet for me? It depends on your body type.

What types of foods do you eat every day?

Food is more than calories and macro-nutrients like carbs, protein, and fats. Food also has micro-nutrients, the vitamins and minerals responsible for optimal health. These are things like Vitamin C, potassium, folic acid, and more. While calories, carbs, proteins, and fats, matter, they’re not the only material nutrients in our diets. In fact, quite a lot of our modern day foods are calorie-rich but nutrient-poor. Nutrient-dense foods are a requirement for proper energy storage, good tissue building, and efficient energy burning.

Close your eyes and picture your best health. What do you see?

So you can see, some honest truths surrounding your daily dietary habits are key to determining what kind of diet from which you’d benefit most. And there are a lot of potential options for dietary approaches, such as a low-carb high-fat diet, an intermittent fasting diet, perhaps even a ketogenic diet.

It’s all about what kind of information you introduce to your body.

Once you understand the quantity, quality, and frequency of your current eating habits, you can see where changes might be required, and what those changes might entail to help you rethink your approach to food. When you do that, you’re well on your way to learning the best way to become your healthiest you.


Check out our free 9-Week Nutrition Program based on Dr. Gus Vickery’s book, Authentic Health.

Food manufacturing methods have changed drastically in the last several decades to provide us with boxed and prepackaged options in the grocery store for the sake of convenience and low cost. As a result, our diet has made a massive shift from what our bodies were designed to handle, and it’s really showing—particularly in our expanding waistlines.

We’ve all heard how bad for us highly processed foods are, but not everyone knows why such processing is harmful. So let’s break it down and examine the details.

Higher Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup

Boxed foods often contain excess sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as an additive to make up for flavor removed through the manufacturing process. These sugars boost the caloric content without adding nutrition to the food, and we’re all aware increased consumption of sugar and HFCS increases the body’s insulin resistance, which has led to increased diagnoses of Type 2 Diabetes in Americans. Sugar has so many more detrimental effects, but in essence, too much is a bad thing.

Artificial Ingredients

In order to prolong shelf-life, prepackaged processed foods contain preservatives, coloring, added textures, and flavors that are also removed in the manufacturing of the food. Chemicals in our food—some added to the actual food and some leeched in through the packaging—can be detrimental to our bodies. The phthalates found in macaroni and cheese boxes have been known to interfere with testosterone production, resulting in low sperm count, genital birth defects, infertility, and a higher rate of testicular cancer later in life in males.

Competitive Companies Engineer “Rewarding” Foods

The competition in the food industry is fierce. Between the marketing surrounding whose tastes better and whose is better for you, it’s difficult to decipher the truth. Because evolution gave us taste buds to facilitate good choices in our natural food surroundings, we gravitate toward sweet, salty, and fatty foods because they contain energy for survival. The food companies know this, and engineer their foods to be as desirable as possible. By tripping our brain’s “reward” mechanism when we consume their food, they’re bypassing our body’s natural evolutionary process and harming our metabolic flexibility—how our bodies burn energy—so we crave their product over all others.

Food Addiction

This can actually result in food addiction. Our brain releases dopamine as encouragement when we consume good tasting food on the assumption that correlates with healthy food. In some people, reaction to that dopamine infusion is as powerful as the high from drugs like cocaine. The problem is, we can’t cease eating like we can alcohol or drugs to overcome these addictions.

Refined Carbs

Refined carbs are simple carbs, perfect for food processing. They take the body very little time to break down, which results in rapid spikes in insulin and blood sugar levels. This energy burns fast, which means we crash fast, and are hungry (often for more refined carbs) much quicker than we should be. So we eat more. Lather, rinse, repeat. Overall, processed foods require less time and energy to digest, so over time, we consume more frequently, resulting in not enough time between meals to burn up what calories we’ve eaten. The leftovers get stored as fat.

Fewer Nutrients, Including Fiber

To extend shelf life, the manufacturing process strips whole foods of what makes them perishable—this means nutrients, including fiber necessary to slow down carbohydrate absorption so we feel satisfied longer with fewer calories. Not only that, synthetic vitamins and minerals are added back in to make up for this lack of nutrients, but synthetics are nowhere near as complex as those naturally found in whole foods. Science is only just beginning to grasp all the trace nutrients found in whole plant and animal foods and their benefits on the human body. Synthetic supplements are a poor substitute. Once those nutrients and fiber are processed out, there’s no getting them back.

Added Fats and Hydrogenated Oils

To reinvigorate the boxed contents into looking more food-like during cooking, food processors add in high amounts of cheap fats—oils from vegetables and seeds. Many of these oils and fats are hydrogenated, which then become trans fats and Omega-6 fatty acids, which are linked to increased risk of heart disease and inflammation in the body.

Pretty much everything about processed foods is bad. Chemicals are added both intentionally—preservatives and synthetic nutrients—and unintentionally—from plastics and inks in the packaging as well as manufacturing equipment like conveyor belts and tubing. Additives designed to addict us to the high of eating these foods are “just business” and our bodies’ natural processes are paying the price through lack of metabolic flexibility.

But the answer is as simple as the carbs in a box of mac and cheese: eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods and bypass the chemicals altogether.

Fasting is not a new concept to human biology.

Our bodies were designed to handle periods of food scarcity by using something called metabolic flexibility, which is our body’s ability to switch energy sources when one source is low. Our most immediate source of energy is the calories we consume, the fats and carbohydrates in our diet. When we burn through those, we have fat stores. Then, we have amino acids that can also be converted to glucose for energy use.

But in our modern society, most people don’t face food scarcity.

We don’t burn through all the energy available from our caloric intake, so what happens?

The calories remaining are stored as fat for later use—a use we won’t likely ever get to. This is how we gain weight. We’re not going through our energy thoroughly enough for metabolic flexibility to switch systems and deplete our fat stores.

So how do we break the storage cycle to regain our metabolic flexibility?

We fast. Studies are beginning to show that short, periodic fasting practices can reset your body to burn those fat stores and use your natural metabolic flexibility functions. In fact, the jump start to your fat burning machinery can be more significant than traditional calorie restricting nutritional approaches. Initial testing on intermittent fasting is showing a plethora of benefits:

  • Reducing blood pressure, stress levels, cholesterol, and overall disease risks such as diabetes and heart disease
  • Improved control of blood sugars, cardiovascular function, and appetite
  • Increased fat burning, metabolic rate (not immediate, but in the longer term), growth hormones, and cellular repair.

But intermittent fasting’s benefits don’t stop there. There are psychological benefits that people are surprised to learn.

  1. Hunger is not an emergency

What happens when we skip a meal? There’s a hunger pang that can trigger a panicky feeling. This is ingrained; it’s our stomach’s way of reminding us we typically eat again this many hours after our last meal. But skipping a meal doesn’t result in muscle loss, imbalance of body systems, or a true emergency. We were designed to handle hunger. It’s not catastrophic to miss a meal, and doing so can jumpstart our body’s metabolic flexibility. “Oh, my caloric energy source has dried up. There’s fat stored over here, so I’ll burn that instead.”

  1. Physical Hunger vs Psychological Hunger

We also experience physical and psychological hunger. Fasting allows us to learn the difference, what real hunger feels like. It’s not a bad idea to let that feeling percolate, recognize it for what it is, and use that knowledge to realize when you’re truly hungry or just have an urge to snack. At the end of a fasting day, you’ll know what true hunger feels like, so when psychological hunger strikes, you won’t be fooled.

  1. Not Everyone Eats Regularly

There are people in America for whom three meals a day isn’t possible. They’re not starving, but there’s not enough to go around. They may skip meals to put their children’s nutrition first, and even then, that might not be enough. With the help of food banks, charities, and government programs, they can get by, but one thing is certain: they don’t take food for granted. Knowing what real physical hunger feels like can help us appreciate those for whom intermittent fasting is not a choice.

  1. Eating is Not Just a Privilege, but a Responsibility

Knowing true hunger can help us respect the food we have access to and make it easier to prioritize nutrition over junk. Why pick the nutritiously devoid option when we have access to the healthier option?

  1. Food Advertising is Subconscious

Food marketing is everywhere, but we’re never more aware of it than when we’re fasting. This awareness shows how ubiquitous and subtle food companies are in pushing their message on us. By becoming aware of pervasive food advertising, we begin to see all the micro-manipulations food companies use, and in turn, are better able to resist.

Intermittent fasting is just that: intermittent. It has the power to show us the importance of food, and place a stark light on our nutrition mentality. Fasting for one day makes us see what real hunger is, jump starts our bodies’ biological systems, and improves our mental awareness of what food means to us and how we are conditioned by outside forces to view food. Once we get past the idea that skipping meals = bad for us, we can see that really, it’s what our bodies were designed to do.

 

It’s not just our imaginations: obesity in America is on the rise, and with it, chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome. But why are Americans gaining weight when public health experts increasingly agree we’re not consciously choosing to overeat?

Why are Americans obese and what is quietly sabotaging our success?

Our Food Environment

The way food is perceived and moved in America is a big part of the change in our weight. Since the 1960s, average weight in both men and women has increased. Women are, on average, 24 pounds heavier, and men are closer to 30 pounds heavier. Why? Because the most accessible, most enjoyable foods are typically the tastiest, cheapest foods served in increasingly large portions. The average fast-food sized meal is up 40% from the 1950s, according to the CDC.

Food is a source of socialization, entertainment, and comfort.

When we get together with friends, we often meet at restaurants or bars. Rewards for a job well done are often centered around food: got a raise or a promotion? We celebrate with a nice dinner. A child’s report card boasts all As? Sounds like a trip to an ice cream shop is in order.

With fast-paced careers, busy family events with our children active in sports or music lessons or other extracurricular activities, it’s sometimes easier to “just pick something up” for dinner on our way home. Two-income households are increasingly necessary, so one parent isn’t always home to have dinner on the table.

We need convenient, quick meals to keep ourselves going.

The result? In 2015, for the first time, Americans spent more money on eating out than eating at home.

Fight Obesity with Smart Food Choices

A Multitude of Factors

But it’s not just our love of convenience food that’s contributed to our expanding waistlines.

  • We drink more sugary drinks than ever before: soda, energy drinks, and fancy coffee. Empty calories with a caffeine boost changes where our energy comes from, and when that energy wanes, we grab another cup to go instead of looking for nutrient-rich foods to consume. Americans lead the world in soda consumption.
  • Advertising for unhealthy, scrumptious looking food in huge portions is the norm, so we don’t even realize we’re overeating. Supersize is the new normal.
  • Our meals are more dessert-like than ever, just like our coffee. For example, we don’t bat an eye at whip cream or chocolate covered pancakes, donuts in more varieties than some dessert menus, or cupcakes for breakfast.

Learn to tackle obesity by understanding how our food culture really works.

Supply and Demand

Healthy food costs more. The cheapest options for low-income families are often the highest calorie, processed options. Dinner in a box with processed carbs and seasoning powder to flavor the sauce costs less than $2-$3, and can satiate hunger as much as a quality grouping of protein and nutrient rich meats and vegetables for five times the price. Preservative and filler laden food abounds. Just add water!

According to the USDA, our fruits and vegetable consumption is inadequate at best. Only 10% of Americans get the recommended amounts, and for the other 90% of us, our vegetable intake is woefully simplistic. Half our veggie consumption consists of potatoes and tomatoes. There’s no variety in that.

But what if we were to start consuming the daily fruits and vegetables health officials recommend? The US would face a food shortage. There is not enough healthy food in enough variety for our country to eat quantities of fruits and vegetables as recommended by health officials.

It’s Not About Choice. It’s About Environment.

America’s not consciously overeating. We’ve been conditioned to go for the most convenient, easiest to consume food to accommodate our busy lives. We’ve learned it’s smart to get the greatest value for our dollars. This means bigger portions, cheaper options full of fillers like potatoes, sugary energy sources like soda or coffee, and of course, the All-American Value Meal in the drive thru. When our environment reinforces these behaviors, is it any wonder our stats—both on the scale and in the doctor’s office—are going up?

The excitement of the holidays means food galore, including cookies, candies, and a plethora of desserts. But these foods can do more than cause weight gain. They can weigh you down, making you lethargic and fatigued, because foods high in fat and calories require more energy to digest.

But where’s the fun in the holidays if not to eat those decadent snacks and treats? While munching on a carrot stick is good for you, it can be a lackluster substitute when your coworkers, friends, and family are all indulging in the best of the foods the holidays have to offer. You don’t have to eat ho-hum foods to maintain your energy and health. Energy boosting foods help keep you balanced but don’t have to be boring. Try these for a natural, healthy energy boost to sail through the holidays without the heaviness.

Fruits

Apples, bananas, oranges, and a host of other fruits, contains natural sugars to provide a little pick-me-up when the day drags on and you need fuel. They satisfy quite handily that craving for something sweet. So ignore that Santa-shaped cookie, and go for a few grapes instead.

Nuts

Cashews, almonds, and hazelnuts are high in magnesium, which helps convert sugar to energy with the added bonus of being high in protein to stave off hunger, and fiber to even out blood sugar levels. Walnuts contain heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Mixed nuts are considered by many to be a holiday tradition, so get cracking.

Honey

A natural sweetener, honey is not only good in tea and coffee, it’s a great sugar substitute in recipes. There’s also the benefit of honey fueling muscles during exercise, and helping muscles recover post-workout. So experiment a little, with those traditional holiday dessert recipes and adding honey to your drinks. You just might be surprised.

Mint

In your tea, in your water, in your morning yogurt, much of the flavor comes from what you smell, and peppermint—a definite holiday staple—triggers the trigeminal nerve, which stimulates the area of the brain responsible for arousal to increase alertness.

Dark chocolate

You don’t have to turn up your nose at every kind of holiday candy. Dark chocolate contains theobromine, a natural stimulant that affects the human body similar to caffeine. So maybe that peppermint bark isn’t as off the table as you thought. There’s also something happiness-inducing about the satisfying melt of chocolate on your tongue.

Water

When in doubt, hydrate. Studies show when we’re dehydrated, our bodies wind down like a dying battery, so throw a sprig of mint or slice of lemon in your water and soon, you’ll be back on track for the rest of your day.

 

You don’t have to sit by watching everyone else indulge in their favorite holiday treats while you abstain, nor do you have to pause your healthy eating habits until after the New Year. Keep homemade trail mix handy and combine some of this list into one satisfying snack, or don’t let anything muddy the taste of your favorite dark chocolate. However you do it, you won’t be the one getting sleepy in the afternoon.

If you live with Type 2 diabetes, you will feel better and experience a greater quality of life if you focus and spend some time on your food and nutrition plan. A little strategy, intention, and meal planning goes a long way. But where do you start?

When it comes to managing Type 2 diabetes, people don’t have the time or knowledge to put together meals that are not only nutritious and beneficial for their unique physical needs, let alone create menus that are exciting and taste good!

A formatted diet, such as Atkin’s, Mediterranean, vegan, or other diets may help save you time and brain power when it comes to shopping, preparing meals and feeding  yourself and/or your family members who have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. But with each diet, there are some considerations.

Which foods affect your blood sugar levels?

Carbohydrates in food give your body energy. You need to eat carbohydrates to maintain your energy.  However, carbohydrates, which are found in grains, bread, pasta, milk, sweets, fruit, and starchy vegetables, are broken down into glucose in the blood faster than other types of food. This will raise your blood sugar levels. Protein and fats do not directly impact blood sugar, but both should be consumed in moderate amounts.

As a person with Type 2 diabetes, your goal is to keep your glucose (blood sugar) level in your target range.  If you don’t know yet what that target range is, please consult your health care provider.

A healthy glucose-management meal plan includes:

  • Food from all the food groups
  • Daily intakes of fewer calories
  • A balanced amount of carbohydrates at each meal and snack to keep levels from spiking
  • Healthy fats such as Omega 3s

Along with healthy eating, you can help keep your blood sugar in target range by maintaining a healthy weight. Persons with type 2 diabetes are often overweight. Losing just 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) can help you manage your diabetes better. Eating healthy foods and staying active (for example, 30 to 60 minutes of walking per day) can help you meet and maintain your weight loss goal.

Each person is different, so please consult your doctor, registered dietitian, nutritional counselor or diabetes educator to create a meal plan that may be based on a popular diet but works for your specific needs.

Fill Up Your Plate The Right Way

A good way to make sure you get all the nutrients you need during meals is to use the plate method. This is a visual food guide that helps you choose the best types and right amounts of food to eat. It encourages larger portions of non-starchy vegetables (half the plate) and moderate portions of protein (one quarter of the plate) and starch (one quarter of the plate).

Variety Is The Spice of Life

Eating a wide variety of foods helps you stay healthy. Try to include foods from all the food groups at each meal.

VEGETABLES (2½ to 3 cups or 450 to 550 grams a day)

Choose fresh or frozen vegetables without added sauces, fats, or salt. Non-starchy vegetables include dark green and deep yellow vegetables, such as cucumber, spinach, broccoli, romaine lettuce, cabbage, chard, and bell peppers. Starchy vegetables include corn, green peas, lima beans, carrots, yams and taro. Note that potato should be considered a pure starch, like white bread or white rice, instead of a vegetable.

FRUITS (1½ to 2 cups or 240 to 320 grams a day)

Choose fresh, frozen, canned (without added sugar or syrup), or unsweetened dried fruits. Try apples, bananas, berries, cherries, fruit cocktail, grapes, melon, oranges, peaches, pears, papaya, pineapple, and raisins. Drink juices that are 100% fruit with no added sweeteners or syrups.

GRAINS (3 to 4 ounces or 85 to 115 grams a day)

There are 2 types of grains:

  • Whole grains are unprocessed and have the entire grain kernel. Examples are whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, whole cornmeal, amaranth, barley, brown and wild rice, buckwheat, and quinoa.
  • Refined grains have been processed (milled) to remove the bran and germ. Examples are white flour, de-germed cornmeal, white bread, and white rice.

Grains have starch, a type of carbohydrate. Carbohydrates raise your blood sugar level. For healthy eating, make sure half of the grains you eat each day are whole grains. Whole grains have lots of fiber. Fiber in the diet keeps your blood sugar level from rising too fast.

PROTEIN FOODS (5 to 6½ ounces or 140 to 184 grams a day)

Protein foods include meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans and peas, nuts, seeds, and processed soy foods. Eat fish and poultry more often. Remove the skin from chicken and turkey. Select lean cuts of beef, veal, pork, or wild game. Trim all visible fat from meat. Bake, roast, broil, grill, or boil instead of frying. When frying proteins, use healthy oils such as olive oil.

DAIRY (3 cups or 245 grams a day)

Choose low-fat dairy products. Be aware that milk, yogurt, and other dairy foods have natural sugar, even when they do not contain added sugar. Take this into account when planning meals to stay in your blood sugar target range. Some non-fat dairy products have a lot of added sugar. Be sure to read the label.

OILS/FATS (no more than 7 teaspoons or 35 milliliters a day)

Oils are not considered a food group. But they have nutrients that help your body stay healthy. Oils are different from fats in that oils remain liquid at room temperature. Fats remain solid at room temperature.

Limit your intake of fatty foods, especially those high in saturated fat, such as hamburgers, deep-fried foods, bacon, and butter.

Instead, choose foods that are high in polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats. These include fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.

Oils can raise your blood sugar, but not as fast as starch. Oils are also high in calories. Try to use no more than the recommended daily limit of 7 teaspoons (35 milliliters).

WHAT ABOUT ALCOHOL AND SWEETS?

If you choose to drink alcohol, limit the amount and have it with a meal. Check with your health care provider about how alcohol will affect your blood sugar and to determine a safe amount for you.

Sweets are high in fat and sugar. Keep portion sizes small.

Here are tips to help avoid eating too many sweets:

  • Ask for extra spoons and forks and split your dessert with others.
  • Eat sweets that are sugar-free.
  • Always ask for the smallest serving size or children’s size.