Ask multiple nutrition experts about a ‘best diet’ and you’ll get different recommendations, all claiming to be the most effective, along with compelling reasons and maybe some evidence supporting their position. Paleo, ketogenic, no fat, high fat, low carb, blood type, high protein, Atkins, the Zone, South Beach, etc. The list goes on.
It’s common knowledge that we are what we eat. If current health conditions and disease are a measure of our dietary effect, we’re failing miserably. Heart disease is still the number one killer, closely followed by cancer (1 in 2 men, and 1 in 3 women now get it). Diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and obesity are all epidemics. Properly prescribed drugs are now the #4 killer in the U.S. That’s right.Properly prescribed. You might say drugs don’t have anything to do with foods and nutrition. But consider this: if we are healthy and vital due to a truly health-promoting, disease-reducing diet, drug prescriptions are reduced.
Studies confirm our population doesn’t consume a truly health-promoting diet, in spite of what most think as ‘balanced’. It’s not that we don’t have the information. There’s no shortage of scientific studies and data on nutrition and health. Insulin resistance, trans fats, acrylamide, cellular inflammation, high cortisol, membrane integrity, brain and nerve regeneration, mitochondrial biogenesis (cell energy and ATP production), thermogenics (fat-burning), and genetics are just some areas advancing the diet and nutrition landscape. So although there’s an avalanche of newly discovered information that has contributed to our understanding of health, fundamental questions remain for the average person: what should I eat, and what’s an ideal diet?
To answer this, let’s define the qualities and effects of a health-promoting diet, or what I call Food for a Healthy Life. It should be high in naturally-occurring vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, flavonoids, fiber, enzymes, and structured/hydrating water. It should have a favorable healthy fat profile, be easily digested, minimally processed (if anyl), have a limited adverse effect on the planet ecosystem, and be sustainable for future generations. It should naturally detoxify our cells of waste and environmental toxins, reduce inflammation, support cell energy production, support endocrine balance, and be alkaline in nature. In short, it should reduce the risk of all chronic diseases and extend our longevity. Is there a diet that checks all these boxes? Yes. It’s simpler than you might think, andit’s not some trendy diet fad that will be soon forgotten. The best news is it’s backed by decades of solid scientific evidence.
*This information has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. If you have questions, concerns, or a medical condition, see your physician.
Diets that DON'T Promote a Heathy Life
To better appreciate a health-promoting diet and the associated life-giving foods, it’s important to know that certain diets and foods can wreck your health and keep you sick. Most diets have serious flaws. These include diets with excessive protein and/or fats such as the modern day paleo, low carb, and ketogenic diets. First let me say these diets can have short-term benefits, such as in epileptic seizures, temporary weight management, blood pressure, sugar imbalances, and more. However, history shows these diets were not meant to be consumed indefinitely, and long-term effects have not been studied. In fact, recent scientific analysis of primitive skeletons reveal we were primarily plant eaters, not meat-eaters as various books and ‘authorities’ believe.
Paleo, various low carb, and ketogenic diets diets are currently the trend. These diets are correct in emphasizing removal of high-glycemic foods such as all refined flour products, sodas, and sweets. These promote insulin resistance, sugar imbalance, cell inflammation, hormone imbalances, immune compromise, and depletion of nutrients. However, their high protein and/or fat content is not suitable for long-term health. Here’s why.
High protein intake creates cellular acidity, a serious contributor to modern-day health problems. It also has a congesting effect on the kidneys (ask anyone with kidney disease), liver, and reduces lymphatic drainage. If you have any concern about cancer, know that high protein intake, especially animal sources, stimulates IGF-1, as well as the mTOR pathway, which signals cancer to grow faster.
High fat intake, even from healthy fats, can slow liver detoxification and cleansing ability, can be difficult to digest, and is challenging on the gallbladder and pancreas.
Low carb diets are a problem. They’re often too high in protein and/or fats, and eliminate the healthiest foods on the planet: abundant fresh fruits (more on this later), beans, and starchy vegetables.
High carb intake is a problem when it’s from the wrong type of carbohydrates. This includes refined simple carbs in pasta, bagels, muffins, croissants, cookies, cake, jam, jelly (including ‘fruit juice’ sweetened), and most crackers. Even if they are ‘whole grain’, flour products are considered processed and are not part of an unrefined, whole foods diet. For more information on this, read my book, Supercharge Your Cell Vitality, a free download on my website. Exceptions include flour products made from beans, legumes, or nuts. These have a lower glycemic and insulin index, and are typically less refined than grain-based flours. Examples of this include almond flour, coconut flour, lentil flour, arrow root flour, and others.
This is a big subject, so let’s simplify it. Rather than analyzing diets and explaining inherent weaknesses, this section will focus on the best foods to eat and the reasons why. I’ll finish with meal & menu suggestions to get you started on a healthy path. It comes down to some very basic concepts that you need to know. Concepts you’ll want to embrace as part of your way of eating if you truly want to maximize your health and vitality for the rest of your life.
NOTE: Not all foods are suited for everyone. Food allergies or intolerance, digestibility, cost, availability, preparation time, and taste are all considerations. If there are concerns, see a licensed health care professional trained in nutrition. However, the following foods can, as the old saying goes, ‘add years to your life and life to your years’.
Fruit is Mother Nature’s best healing and cleansing food, and is healthy any time of year, even if it’s not seasonal. Beneficial properties of fresh fruit include a high concentration of electrolytes, antioxidants, vitamins, fiber, live enzymes, structured (easily absorbed) water, flavonoids and polyphenols. They’re also among the most easily digested foods.
Remember this: physics tells us our bodies are primarily energetic and electrical in nature, and fruits are by far the most ‘electric’ of all foods.
Whatever you’ve heard about fruit being bad due to the sugar, ignore it. The naturally-occurring fructose is bound with other essential, life-giving ingredients, and creates very little impact on blood sugar and insulin. In fact, many advanced anti-cancer and diabetic food programs include a large amount of daily fresh fruit. Nobody ever got sick, developed disease, or died early because they ate too much fresh fruit!
Certain fruits are best suited to help reduce and heal chronic cellular acidity, kidney congestion and lymphatic compromise. These are considered by many authorities to be root causes of disease. Ideal fruits for this include the astringent varieties such as red or purple grapes (with or without seeds), melons of all types, berries of all types (especially WILD blueberries – usually frozen), lemons, limes, and tangerines.
The fact is nearly everyone benefits with more fresh fruit in the diet. Options include:
Fresh fruit is nature’s healthiest food. Period. Aim for a minimum of 5 servings a day or more (one serving = approximate size of your fist). Got digestion problems? Try eating fruit alone (especially melons), or between meals at least 30 minutes before or 2 hours after meals. You might try bananas, papayas, and pineapples which all aid digestion. Additionally, fruit and protein at the same meal aren’t ideal as they can ferment, creating gas and bloating.
Along with fresh fruits, fresh veggies are among the top foods for health, healing, and longevity. Although not as ‘electrical’ in nature as fruits, veggies remain a top choice for cleansing, and a healthy body. Vegetables have a good amount of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, minerals, mineral salt complexes, as well as amino acids (protein building blocks) – thus are well suited for building and repair. If you are serious about your health, make fresh fresh veggies (and fruits) the BIGGEST PART of your diet for the rest of your life. I can't say it any simpler. As these have a lower caloric density than fats and many proteins, you'll need to eat more.
Surveys show our consumption of vegetables is inadequate. The typical response of ‘I eat lots of salads’, or ‘I have a vegetable with dinner every night’ is not sufficient. According to the National Academy of Sciences, a much higher intake is required for optimal health. Evidence shows our ancestral way of eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet provides the blueprints! In fact, when it comes to fruits and veggies, a minimum of 9 servings a day (combined total) were found to reduce or eliminate the risks of all chronic degenerative disease. Think about that one for a minute.
The Most Important Information for Vegetables
1) Buy fresh, organic, local, and seasonal whenever possible
2) Eat them either raw or lightly steamed (the two best methods), lightly sautéed, or lightly stir-fried. If stir-frying, use a liquid base of water or broth, then add a little oil at the end if desired. Whichever method, don’t overcook! See my book Supercharge Your Cell Vitality for more information.
3) If you live in a hot climate, consider a higher % of raw veggies. If you live in a cold climate, try a bit more lightly cooked.
4) Poor digestion? Consider juicing or steaming veggies. Spice it up! Add fennel, coriander, cardamom, ginger, or cumin. Introduce raw foods later on once tolerated.
5) Eat a variety of colors for a wide spectrum of beneficial nutrients and flavonoids.
6) Aim for a minimum of 5 servings a day. Start with less if needed, build up later.
7) Crazy healthy veggies include: artichokes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, carrot, cauliflower, celery, cilantro, cucumber, any leafy green (especially arugula, kale, and spinach), mushrooms (especially shitake and maitake), purple potato, sweet potato, seaweeds, sprouts (especially broccoli), squash, and yams. The list is more extensive, but these are some top choices.
8) Celery juice is the most effective vegetable for cleansing and overall healing. Originally discovered through Anthony William, the best-selling author of Medical Medium, I have seen it create major beneficial changes in hundreds of people, when done correctly, over time. The process is quite simple: Simply juice 16 oz. of fresh celery juice first thing in the am, at least 20 minutes before any food or liquid for maximum benefit. It must be consumed right away, and not saved or used later. One large head usually makes around 16 oz., but celery bunch sizes can vary. Must be done alone, without diluting or anything added to it for best results. If you don't have a juicer, use a Vitamix or NutriBullet high-speed blender. Chop celery into 1-2" chunks, then put in Vitamix (may need to use plunger). Don't add water! When done, simply squeeze it through cheesecloth or a nut milk bag.
NOTE: Due to the cleansing action, if you get loose stools after drinking, just reduce dose in half, then slowly work your way up to 16 oz if you're able over time. If you have a chronic health problem and want to give this a try, I suggest giving it at least 3 months before expecting anything dramatic. That said, I've seen many patients experience wonderful and positive results after only 3-4 weeks.
In 1991, the NIH and NCI launched the ‘5 a Day for Better Health’, a nationwide nutrition and education campaign, fully aware of the data that nine daily servings of fruits and veggies was ideal. It’s believed nine was just too difficult for the average person accustomed to convenience and processed foods. Fast-forward to today, and here are the results: more than 80% of all Americans fail to eat the minimal five servings a day. Here’s the kicker: surveys show French fries and potato chips count. Quite a dramatic departure from our ancient way of eating, when unprocessed plants comprised the majority of the diet. Convenience food in boxes, cans, and packages now displace fresh produce. And we’ve reaped the results: chronic disease in the U.S. is exploding, in spite of spending more on healthcare than every industrialized country. In fact, USA Today reported on an international survey of adults age 65 or older in eleven industrialized countries, and found the U.S. the sickest, with 87% having a chronic medical condition, and 53% taking four or more prescription medicines! According to the esteemed authors of the landmark books The China Study, and Whole, the remedy for the situation is on our forks. Eat more plants. Eat less animal protein and fat. It’s that simple. In addition to the beneficial properties I’ve listed earlier, fresh fruits and veggies are the cleanest burning fuel for the body, leaving the least amount of metabolic waste and toxins.
There’s controversy on these foods, depending on the source. Lectins, enzyme inhibitors, and phytates are found in these foods (and others) and can impede digestion, absorption of nutrients, and create inflammation. On the surface, it seems we should stay away from them. Many people do with varying degrees of benefit. However, the secret to keeping these wonderful foods in the diet without the negative aspects is soaking! Just soak these foods overnight (at least 8 hours or more) in a large bowl of water. Use enough water to cover the food by at least 2 inches or more. A double soaking is better if you have the time, soaking for 8 or more hours, discard the water, then repeat. Never use the soaking water. Soaking breaks down the enzyme inhibitors and lectins, which are mainly found in the skins and outer coverings. Now the grains, beans, or legumes are ready to be cooked. Still skeptical? Remember this one fact: Dan Buettner and his research team (National Geographic 'Blue Zone' books) found the number ONE common food among the world's longest-lived population groups is BEANS. For the record, most of these long-lived folks don't soak either, so the point is just get them into your diet regularly any way you can. For more information on cooking methods, read my web book, Supercharge Your Cell Vitality. The best sources are heirloom and organic varieties. These include:
- Wild or black rice (a.k.a. 'Forbidden Rice')
- Rolled oats (does not require soaking, plus they get too mushy)
- Adzuki, navy, pinto, black, kidney, and garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
- Split pea (a.k.a. yellow/mung dal, is integral to kitcharee, a wonderful Indian dish)
- Black-eyed peas, green peas
- Buckwheat groats (this is gluten free)
- Cashews (don't require cooking)
These foods have more benefit when used in moderation (a few servings a week). Vegetarians or vegans may need to include more. Find out what works for you. These are best consumed in their whole form, not in a flour form. However for many people, the non-grain/non-gluten flour products work really well. These can include chickpea flour, pea flour, cassava flour, coconut flour, and various bean flours. NOTE: If you absolutely can't seem to find the time to soak these (or make it a priority), they are still OK, in spite of what various sources claim (unless the food is a known allergen).
Ideally, keep fat consumption to a maximum of 15-20% of your diet. Less is better when cleansing or on a weight releasing plan. As I list in my web book, there are a number of unhealthy as well as healthy fats. BEST FATS include:
- Raw nuts & seeds (sesame, macadamia, almond, pumpkin, sunflower, walnut, chia, and flax). The nutrition benefits are maximized when soaked too.
- Coconut oil (for cooking), extra virgin olive oil (for salads), ghee (in moderation, for cooking), and avocado oil.
- Avocado (as slices, guacamole, in smoothies for extra calories), and olives.
This is possibly the most misunderstood of all the foods. Protein is associated with health, vitality, strength, blood sugar balance, and more. How much should you eat? It depends on your metabolism and other factors. An average adult should consume around 40-80 grams a day, and a good visual is about the size of a deck of cards. We may require more during situations like pregnancy, extreme athletic activity, and severe burn or wound healing. More research is found in The China Study book. When performing a cleanse, the amount should be reduced further.
Ultimately, most of us eat far too much protein. Most chronic diseases have a strong correlation to excess protein intake, mainly from animal sources. Why animal protein? It has a higher acid ash residue, creates more metabolic waste, is higher in hormone residue (even organic) and environmental chemicals. If you eat animal protein, aim for a maximum of one serving a day. Checking your first am urine and saliva pH can give general information about body chemistry and pH (see my website article titled pH: Why You Need to Know).
Best sources of protein include:
- peas, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds, small amounts of soaked grains, small amounts of fermented organic soy (miso, tempeh, sprouted tofu)
- animal sources include small amounts of wild Alaskan salmon, Icelandic cod, sardines, anchovies, herring, rainbow trout, calamari, and organic turkey
- ‘superfoods’ are great additions to smoothies or other foods, including Hawaiian spirulina, moringa, ashwaganda, barley grass juice powder, bee pollen, and maca powder
I mentioned some issues with excess protein on page two, under ‘High Protein’ diets, and it bears repeating. Excessive protein intake (I consider 120g a day or more excessive, especially if animal-based) has a slow, chronic, insidious congesting effect on the kidneys and liver, which are absolutely critical to the health and function of our all-important LYMPHATIC SYSTEM, the great sewer system responsible for removal of cellular waste. Healthy filter organs (kidneys and liver) contribute to healthy lymphatic drainage, thus reducing disease potential. The kidneys are under appreciated in standard medicine. Standard blood kidney tests like BUN, eGFR, creatinine, protein, and liver enzymes typically won’t reveal this problem as these are acute or later-stage abnormalities. Our liver also becomes burdened by excess fat. Bottom line: don’t pig out on protein, especially animal sources, if you want to live a longer, healthier life.
Putting it All Together – A Sample Day of a Whole-Foods, Plant-Based Diet
NOTE: Got a serious health concern? NO ANIMAL PRODUCTS should be consumed. ZERO. Otherwise, for overall best health, keep animal products to a maximum of 2 servings a week, total (see above sources), but less is even better. Trying to lose weight? Lower the fat! Ideally around 10% or so of total calories. This means no animal products, and reduce any nuts, seeds, oils, avocado, olives, to a bare minimum until you reach your desired weight. Fats and oils are satiating, so if you reduce these you may get hungry. In this case, eat more fruits, veggies, and beans. Just keep the fats/oils out. It's really that simple.
Many people experience gas or bloating when transitioning to a WFPBD. This is due to a beneficial shift in diversity in the gasstrointestinal microbiome. This is often a temporary transition phase as your gut microbes change over time. One tip that helps is eat less raw and increase cooked food options. These are some of the many options for a health-promoting, disease-reducing, WFPBD. In general, focus on less animal protein, less fat, and emphasize fresh fruits, veggies, beans, legumes, and whole unprocessed grains. For more recipes and eating options, see my reference section at the end of this article.
Dietary Cleansing & Detox
Ancient civilizations used regular fasting or cleansing diets for disease management, and to maintain optimum health and vitality. Think of these as a 'rest' for the body organs and cells, and helps it clear metabolic waste, improve lymph drainage, and support 'autophagy' (destruction and clearing of unwanted, old, decaying cells). We're always exposed to toxins from the environment and from normal cell metabolism, so it makes sense to have fasting or cleansing diets a regular part of our lifestyle.
Here are various levels of deep cleansing diets for short duration orlonger term. Duration can be a single day, a weekend, a week, or longer, depending on your health goal, your state of health (longer cleanses are more challenging if poor nutrition status), or your constitutional strength. Frequency can be monthly, seasonally, or twice a year. I don’t recommend long-term diet cleanses, as they can be difficult to maintain, and most people need to start slow on less aggressive cleanses to gradually detoxify the body and minimize adverse reactions like headache, fatigue, joint pains, rashes or blood sugar imbalances. However, for those with chronic health conditions, the right cleansing diet, when used properly, and if done repeatedly over time, can yield near miraculous results.
Number one (1) is the deepest cleanse diet, number seven (7) is least. Find what works for you.
1) ProLon 5 day Fasting Mimicking Diet. Same benefits as a water fast without any of the risk. For more info on this effective, easy, research-based, 5 day system, see my website Virtual Pharmacy, and search for 'ProLon'.
2) The Master Cleanse fast (see my web article for details)
3) Water, non-caffeinated herb teas, and raw fresh fruits
4) Water, non-caffeinated herb teas, raw fresh fruits, green veggie juices
5) Water, non-caffeinated herb teas, raw fresh fruits, green veggie juices, veggies (mostly raw)
6) Water, non-caffeinated herb teas, fresh fruits, green veggie juices, veggies (cooked), raw nuts/seeds
7) Intermittent fasting. Consists of 12-20 hours of no food. Involves delaying breakfast by several hours (ex: first morning food at 11am) OR eating dinner earlier (ex: nothing after 5pm). This usually involves two meals a day and some calorie restriction, which can have an amazing effect on the body as research shows. See www.mercola.com for more information, and type in 'intermittent fasting' in the search field.
8) Fresh Celery Juice. Drink 16 oz. first thing in the am, at least 20-30 minutes before any food or beverage. Must be consumed fresh, undiluted,with nothing added. Best done for a period of months for best results.
For detailed cleanses that I have found work really well over the years, consider either
The Nine-Day Cleansing Diet or The 28-Day Healing Cleanse found in the article section of my web Learning Center. They’re easy, cheap, proven, and can be shortened if needed.
TOPICS OF INTEREST
The single best way to lose weight is combining exercise with a Whole-Food, Low Fat, Plant-Based Diet. To maximize weight loss, make most of your diet raw foods, with at least 50% of your food intake derived from fruits and veggies. Fats and oils, even the healthy ones, should be less than 15% of your total caloric intake. This typically means less than your current intake. If you're hungry, eat more fruits and veggies. In time, your gut microbiome shifts and develops a wider bacterial diversity, which pretty much helps every single physiological function, and all aspects of your metabolism. Chronic weight gain can also imply deeper issues such as cellular toxicity.
Many people naturally lose body fay and weight on a WFPBD in time. If you lose too much weight, add more bananas, steamed veggies (especially squash of all types), potatoes, yams, oatmeal, avocado, raw nuts/seeds or nut butters, and dishes like kitcharee (see various online recipes). Generally speaking, use more cooked foods, less raw. Consider nutritional smoothies or shakes with weight gain support options (see below).
Smoothies & Shakes
Here's some basics for a healthy shake. Our online pharmacies product codes are provided for convenience if using Wellevate. If using Fullscript, search by product name. All products are always 20% off!
- Glutamine powder - 3,000mg. Spares muscle wasting. Do not use if cancer.
-Organic almond, tahini, cashew butter: 1-2 Tbsp.
-Organic coconut plain yogurt: 1/2 cup
-Medium chain triglycerides (MCT oil) from coconuts. Use 1 tsp-1 Tbsp.
-Organic virgin coconut oil - 1 Tbsp.
-Avocado - 1/2 to 1 whole.
NOTE: For general health purposes, possibly the most important shake is the Detox Drink. The recipe can be found under the article section in my web Learning Center.
For more details on smoothies, read my Smoothie Recipes article in my web Learning Center.
SALT - See my free web eBook, Supercharge Your Cell Vitality, found under the Learning Center.
WATER - See my free web eBook, Supercharge Your Cell Vitality, found under the Learning Center.
GMO/GE Foods - see my free web eBook, Supercharge Your Cell Vitality, found in the Learning Center.
NOTE: Although my ebook Supercharge Your Cell Vitality has great information on numerous nutrition topics, I no longer recommend the Foundation Diet component. It's too high in both fat and protein for ideal health and longevity!
Can’t find organic produce?
Don’t eat from the Environmental Working Group ‘Dirty Dozen’ list of conventional foods. These typically have the highest residue of herbicide/pesticide/fungicide residues. Focus more on their ‘Clean 15’ list of foods, which have the least contamination. The list is published annually (www.ewg.org).
The Bottom Line
If you’ve heard about, tried, or are currently eating a certain diet, ask yourself these fundamental questions about the foods you eat:
1) Can they make me look, feel, and function better? What about 10 years from now?
2) Can they reduce my risk of most chronic diseases and an early death?
3) Have the long-term effects been proven?
4) Are they healthy for my planet?
Although further research is needed to answer these questions, you don’t have to wait. Look to the longest lived, happiest people in the world for answers. In addition to some other lifestyle factors, they all have a common dietary pattern. They mainly eat a whole-food, plant-based diet (WFPBD).
For many of us, shifting our food intake to a WFPBD can take time. We are accustomed to a certain way of eating. These patterns may be old and deep. Habitual eating, comfort foods, convenience, food addictions, boredom, food familiarity, the old pocket book, and adopting foods from our childhood are just some of the reasons why we eat what we do. However, transitioning to a WFPBD will, over time, nourish us with foods we were designed for. Be patient, and cut yourself some slack. Changing the diet for life isn’t always easy. But the payback can be better than you ever imagined.
To your vibrant health,
Greg Barsten, DC, MS, RH (AHG)
The China Study, second edition, by T. Colin Campbell, Thomas Campbell.
Whole - Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, by T. Colin Campbell.
Life-Changing Foods, and Cleanse To Heal, by Anthony William.
The Perfect Formula Diet, by Janice Stanger.
Yeung Man Cooking, by Wil Yeung.
Everyday Raw, by Matthew Kenney.
Forks Over Knives – The Plant-Based Way to Health, by Gene Stone, T. Colin Campbell.
Eat to Live - Quick & Easy Cookbook, by Joel Fuhrman, MD.
How Not To Die, by Michael Greger, MD.
Your Body in Balance: The New Science of Food, Hormones, and Health, by Neal Barnard, MD.
The How Not To Die Cookbook, by Michael Greger, MD.
Healing with Whole Foods, second edition, by Paul Pitchford.
Detox: Your Deep Tissue Cleansing & Regeneration Guide, by Dr. RobertMorse.
The Blue Zone Solution, by Dan Buettner.
The Blue Zone Kitchen, by Dan Buettner.
Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, by Caldwell Esselstyn, MD.
The Ayurvedic Cookbook, by Amadea Morningstar.
The Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org)