“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. – Michael Pollan
Nutrition is the biggest pillar of our health. It moves the needle the most towards our goals no matter how many of the other pillars you have created habits around. Because of this, I will cover nutrition first.
When it comes to nutrition, it can be as simple or complex as we want to make it. We can count our macros (protein, carbs and fats), set up our plates, use our hands, eat to our hearts content, follow a specific dietary preference etc. Looking at nutrition simply, it really boils down to two things: quantity and quality. Quantity is “how much” we eat. Quality is comprised of “what” we eat. What does this mean? “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” –Michael Pollan And no, that does NOT mean I’m saying go vegetarian…
I am going to start this by saying that I do not care which dietary preference you hold, nor does it matter. All of the topics I will cover are the same per your preference you choose to associate with (or none at all!). Therefore, if you consider yourself Paleo, Vegetarian, Carnivore, Keto, Mediterranean, Low Carb, High Carb, #800gramChallenge or just a whole food eater etc. (It truly does not matter!). Breaking them all down to the basics, they ALL promote whole, minimally processed foods, good sleep, exercise etc. If you do want to choose one, chose one that YOU can stick to. Do not chose one just because it is working for someone else, if it is too much of a change from what you are already eating, it may be too hard to stick to. (It may work better for someone else also because our genetics affect how we absorb and use nutrients, therefore, it may take some trial and error to see what works best for you!) Is one dietary preference better than another? In my opinion, no. Is there a best one out there for you? Yes, the one YOU can stick to!
Still want to pick a preference, but don’t know which? Maybe think of this one…the ancestral approach. What did our ancestors eat, but not only that, from where? There are tribes that still live mainly off of whale and seal blubber, and eat minimal plants. There are also tribes that eat mainly tubers and roots from the ground and minimal fats. Both eat meats here and there when they able, and some of their foods are seasonal. They are out hunting and gathering (exercising) for their food daily and have a natural circadian rhythm (sleeping pattern) determined by the sun and the moon. What else do they have in common, extremely low rates of the top diseases we die from each year. The reason? Their genetics have adapted to allow their bodies to live and thrive off of what they have in their environment (our bodies are crazy amazing!). They are also eating whole, minimally processed foods! Bring it in to more industrialized countries and we have every type of fruit, vegetable, nut, seed, lean meat and healthy fat at our disposal all year round, yet we are dying from diseases that can be prevented with proper nutrition and lifestyle habits. So, lets live and eat more like our ancestors!
There are athletes that compete at professional/elite levels. Many of them subscribe to one of the dietary preferences listed above and they are thriving. That’s great! They are tracking their intake to the nth degree and eating the most extreme clean version of that during their sporting season. Then there are people who subscribe to one of the dietary preferences and eat the “lazy” versions of that. Example, they say they are on the Ketogenic diet. Instead of eating whole, minimally processed foods, they eat keto bars, keto cookies and keto powdered drinks. Sure, they may or may not be losing weight, but they are not getting the intended health benefits of a diet comprised of whole, minimally processed foods. In either situation, they are not eating in a sustainable manner. Elite athletes do not eat that way in the off season or in retirement, and the “lazy” route will eventually not reap anymore benefits. Therefore, because there is an “extreme” and “lazy” side to each dietary preference, I’d rather promote the perfect balance of those that leads to sustainable habits, in whichever preference you chose (or none), with benefits for years to come! That being said, again, no matter your dietary preference, the only two things that REALLY matter are both quantity and quality.
Quality. What should we eat? The majority of food you consume should be minimally processed and plant based with as much variety as possible. (Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean meats, fish, eggs, minimally processed dairy and grains- depending on your preference) The more processed food becomes, the more original nutrients were taken out and additives are added back in (this does not mean the additives are healthy, i.e. sugar, vegetable oils etc.), or there may be no real food substance at all (have you seen the ingredients of a Twinkie?). Processed food increases inflammation in our body’s causing a myriad of issues. Variety of whole, unprocessed foods in our diet provides us with a mix of essential micronutrients (vitamins and minerals – EAT THE RAINBOW!), macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat) and fiber (bulking, filling and microbiome (the billions of bugs that live in your intestinal tract that LARGELY impacst your health- what we eat, feeds them, or fights them)) that our body needs to function properly, letting us feel our best.
Today I am leaving you with just what to eat. Throughout the week, I will continue to share with you how much to eat, when to eat, why to eat this way, and how nutrition is connected with the rest of the Pillars of Health. Beginning to change your nutritional habits can be daunting at first, and it certainly does not help if you’re the only one out of your friends or family who are looking to make some serious changes. Consider enlisting someone to go on this journey with you or hire a Health Coach who can help to personalize your nutritional needs to your life. So, what can you do to start today, right now? Start small! Try adding a fruit or veggie to one meal each week. Feeling ambitious, try adding a fruit AND/or veggie to each meal!
Stay tuned for more nutrition information headed your way throughout the week!
Here’s to getting Healthy on Purpose!
(If you need individual dietary recommendations for a health condition, please connect with a healthcare practitioner to determine your specific needs.)