It’s no secret that the standard American diet (SAD) is hazardous to your health. Most of the
foods comprising the SAD foundation—like animal products (including beef, chicken, eggs, milk, cheese, fish, etc.), refined carbohydrates (bread, cereal, pasta, bagels, cookies, soda, etc.), and oils (including olive and coconut oils)—are strongly linked to obesity, heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and autoimmune illness.
Similarly, the foods correlated to a reduction in all the leading causes of death—nutrient-rich powerhouses like leafy greens, fresh fruit, and beans—are conspicuously absent from the typical American fare. In fact, at the end of the day, we Yanks end up consuming about 90% of our calories from processed and animal foods and less than 10% from whole plants. According to the preponderance of the nutrition science literature, those numbers should be completely reversed—to protect our precious health and easily maintain a slim profile, we should be eating 90% of our calories from unrefined plant foods and less than 10% from refined and animal foods.
90%? That’s a lot! If you’re not eating cereal, bread, pasta, olive oil, cheese, grilled salmon, baked chicken breast, and hamburger helper, what DO you eat?
I’m glad you asked. This is an important question for all nutritarian wanna-bes because simply deciding to eat more healthfully won’t get you far—you need to have a clear plan come mealtime.
The basics of high-nutrient eating
First the basics of a nutrient-rich diet style, then the low-down.
Fruit: 3-5 servings/day
Raw Veggies: ½-1 pound/day
Cooked low-starch veggies: ½-1 pound/day
Beans, cooked: ½-1 cup/day
Nuts/seeds: one ounce/day
Ground flax seed: one heaping tablespoon/day
B12: thou must not forgo the B12, grasshopper
Whole grains: rolled oats, steel-cut oats, brown rice, quinoa, millet, etc.
Other: tofu, tempeh, unsweetened soy/nut milks
The first seven items on the guide above form the basis of a nutrient-rich food plan—they’re
non-negotiable. They are what you eat on a high-nutrient diet. The amounts I have assigned to each food group are geared towards the average overweight American.
If you’re like me and are trim and get lots of exercise, you’ll need more calories and therefore more food. In that case, add in some starchy veggies like sweet potatoes and winter squash or some of the “optional” foods, a few more nuts/seeds, and more beans (or maybe a WellBean). Keep in mind that whole grains (like brown rice, rolled oats, or other whole cereal grains) are not as nutrient-dense as starchy root vegetables.
What’s a serving?
Another good question, Dear Reader. Since “serving size” differs from one edible plant to the next, I have elected to simplify matters by setting the serving size of any fruit or vegetable at four ounces. Whether I’m chopping apples or asparagus, kiwi or kale, I count four ounces as a serving—so by that measure, you’ll be filling your gullet with between seven and thirteen servings of fruits and veggies/day, more if you’re trim and active. In fact, once you fully embrace the nutritarian way of eating, you’ll scoff at the 5-a-dayers from your lofty new perch!
Why isn’t 5-a-day enough?
Well, if you’re only eating a little over a pound of fruits and veggies (which would be about five
servings), you won’t get enough calories unless you fill in the dearth with something else—chips and queso, anyone? Also, most of us have spent a lifetime ingurgitating low-nutrient pabulum, and our overfed, under-nourished bodies have suffered for it, so we need to eat mostly nutrient-rich food (at least 90% of calories).
Besides, eating a big pile of organic greens doesn't undo the damage wrought by the mac and cheese you had alongside it any more than jogging five miles protects you from a pack-a-day smoking habit.
Luckily, cancer and heart disease don’t cotton to fruits and veggies. Nor do run away free radical reactions and advanced glycation end products—they don’t fare well under the influence of food loaded with antioxidants and phytochemicals. Since you must have calories to continue living, you’re much better off acquiring them from low-calorie, high-nutrient cuisine.
Did you know that long-time vegans can die from heart disease? That’s right. When B12 levels drop too low, homocysteine levels rise, et voila—you find yourself in cardiac ICU with a bunch of meat eaters! Also, low B12 can cause irreversible nerve damage.
So please don’t let yourself be derailed by the paleo pettifoggers who rationalize, “You need B12. B12 only comes from animal sources. Therefore, you should eat animal products.”
I say, why take on the multitude of substantiated risks associated with animal product consumption when you can pop a tasty little 2,500 mcg sublingual once a week and be done with it?
Ground Flax Seed
As a nutrient-rich consumer, ground flax seed should be your go-to source for high-fiber, lignin-rich, mercury-poor omega 3’s. Make sure you’re eating the seed—not the oil. As with all other oils, flax oil is a high-calorie refined product with many of its beneficial compounds removed in the refinement process.
The fats in flax seed are somewhat temperamental, so either grind them daily while preparing your meal or store ground flax in an opaque, non-metal container in the fridge or freezer.
Transitioning from your current way of eating to the menu encapsulated above will help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight while maximizing your health potential—it’s a two for one deal!