First and foremost – we are biologically diverse. The “perfect” diet does not exist in the sense that each of us as individuals express our genetics and metabolisms in different ways. My belief is that the perfect diet is the diet that fits you and your body’s metabolism. My preference is to espouse some general dietary principles and tailor the specifics to each individual.
With that being said, here are some of the general principals I believe in:
As Sean Croxton (formerly of Underground Wellness) says – “Just Eat Real Food”. I believe in food with a minimum number of ingredients (preferably one), minimally processed, organically grown or raised when possible. The list of processed foods in my pantry is remarkably short. I read a saying somewhere which expresses it well – if my great-grandparents did not eat it, I probably should not either.
Nutritionally balanced – I believe adequate sources of protein, natural fats, and low-glycemic carbohydrates concentrating on vegetables and potentially some fruit at every meal is the key to tuning your metabolism to the efficiency it was destined to have. You may consider up to 25 per cent of your daily calories from non-grain starches, such as rice, potatoes and sweet potatoes, although starch inclusion is going to be very much an individual decision (more below) as there is a wide variance among people’s ability to metabolize it well.
Natural fats are good, artificial processed fats are bad. Natural fats, including saturated fats, have gotten a bum rap from the mainstream health community due to flawed research with an agenda many decades ago. Many hunter-gatherer societies in the third world live wonderfully healthy lives on high natural fat diets. On the other hand artificial processed fats are extremely inflammatory to your system and need to be eliminated if possible from consumption.
Sugar is to be avoided as much as possible – The seminal video “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” by Dr. Robert Lustig (linked below) explains the science why this is so and I highly recommend watching it. My family jokes about my standard saying when offered a sugary dessert – “you know that is poison, right?” Unfortunately, it is more true than not!
Starches need to be controlled (or eliminated). The simple starches (which includes some of the root vegetables such as potatoes as well as rice and many grains) metabolize very quickly to sugar, and tend to have the same metabolic effect if overdone. Many of these, particularly grains, have anti-nutrients and harmful proteins such as gluten which also make them not an ideal food. I do not necessarily recommend elimination (although I personally eat no gluten-containing grains and sometimes eat 600 daily calories of simple starches post morning work-out and at my mid-day meal) but I do think it makes sense to eat these starches in moderation and also in combination with other foods to control the blood sugar spike. If you do need to eat grains, I recommend only whole sprouted grains if possible, as the whole grain retains some of the nutrition and the sprouting lessens the anti-nutrient effect.
I do not believe in meticulously counting calories. I do believe in setting a general range of calories to target daily based upon age, gender, exercise and lifestyle, understanding portion sizes and food groups which approximate that range daily, and getting on with your life. Measuring food and using calorie counters is not necessary and no way to live a life – check out Jonathon Bailor to understand my thinking on this.
I do not believe in rigid eating plans. I personally practice a modified intermittent fasting regime in which I eat a high protein and fat post-workout recovery breakfast around 8 am and then eat three balanced small meals between 2 pm and 8 pm. However, as stated before, everyone is different and the best eating schedule for you is just that, the one which works for you. It makes sense to me for people to try several to see what makes them feel the best and what best fits their individual lives before deciding.
I believe in drinking pure water, coffee or tea. Other drinks have varying amounts of downside, with soda pop, sports drinks and energy drinks being something to strongly consider eliminating when possible. Fruit juices, while considered to be healthy by the mainstream, are really nothing more than highly processed fruit sugar bombs and should be avoided or consumed in very small quantities – far better to juice or make a smoothie with fresh fruit and keep the fiber content with it.
I do believe in consumption of animal protein, naturally pastured and raised without chemicals or GMO feed. I understand the moral choice some make to be vegetarian/vegan and I am okay with that – however they also need to understand that making that decision comes with a nutrient deficiency potential which needs to be compensated for. Specifically, vitamin B12 food sources are hard to find and there are not as many complete protein sources in the plant kingdom, so plant proteins need to be combined among sources to maintain amino acid balance. See the post on Do vegetarians actually age faster for more on the special challenges of exclusively plant-based eating.
I believe in minimal cooking methods to preserve food nutrients as much as possible. I typically bake at 325 degrees or less, eat a fair amount of food raw, and tend to steam or skillet cook at low heat as much as possible. I personally do not fry anything. Crockpots are a great food preparation tool, especially for busy folks who want to come home late and have dinner ready to go, leaving enough leftovers for the next day’s lunch ready to re-heat as well. Grilling requires caution if possible to mitigate the high heat negative effects.
However, at the end of the day eating is a very personal thing, and if you absolutely cannot live without something you should not try to force yourself to. The above guidelines will give you the best results I believe, but you can still live a healthy life without following them in lockstep. I do believe that the closer you can get to living in harmony with these guidelines, the more likely it will be for you to live a longer, healthier life.