The Right Diet for You
Core — Edition Nº33
Think of your diet as a set of pillars. Why? Because the effectiveness, longevity, and sustainability of your diet rely greatly on your goals, history, and what you can and cannot eat.
It’s the same as having an exercise plan. The ‘perfect’ schedule for you needs you to ascertain as much knowledge of who you are, what a great diet (or physique) looks like to you, and what you’re struggling with.
If you’ve spent any time on social media apps lately, you may have seen the overkill of nutrition influencers, trends, and advice that’s growing (i.e. worsening) at a freakish rate. And if you listened to every one of them, you’d probably be consuming nothing but oxygen. It’s no surprise so many of us are confused or overthinking what we eat. But the great thing about training and nutrition is the core tenets (pillars) of these fields rarely change and are fairly universal. I’ll explain — and if you adopt even one of these, I’ll consider this a job well done.
1: Eat what you’re designed to eat
Like the other pillars, this is not particularly rocket science. Are we made to consume high fructose corn syrup? Hydrogenated vegetable oils? 1,500+ calorie drinks? Do I need to answer that?
There’s enough data to say we’ve evolved to consume an incredibly wide variety of natural items (e.g. fruits, quality animal meat, mineral water, and certain herbs), so in short, avoid highly processed foods. You don’t need to border orthorexia to keep up with it, but remember that no one can be healthy eating junk food for years on end.
I recently admitted that I only buy takeaway because I’m a lazy chef — not because it tastes better. So, the more I’ve kept nutrition simple and focused on whole foods, the more satisfied I got about not spending a regrettable amount on cheaply made meals. To go with it: I feel healthier, my energy is stable, and I recover faster from training.
2: Buy as much organic food as you can afford
As my readers are from all around the world, I don’t know how much your groceries may cost. But this principle touches on a growing issue, both with animal and plant produce.
Fruit and veg are sprayed with insecticides or herbicides that can induce behavioural, motor, and neurotoxic disorders. Meanwhile, animals are routinely fed GMO diets or antibiotics. On top of that, Pollinator decline is quietly ruining our ecosystem while nitrogen fertilisers damage aquatic life.
Organic food consumption is, therefore, a holistic choice, benefiting our health and our families and supporting small-scale local farmers and economies.
3: Build a lifestyle that avoids depleting yourself of nutrients
Aside from the dangerous additives and compounds that harm us and our environment, there are many more substances to avoid.
Alcohol: highly dehydrating
Sodium fluoride: mineral depletion
Smoking: depletes vitamins C and E, B-carotene, and selenium
Stimulants: dehydrating and addictive
Antidepressants: B vitamins and more
Birth control pills: pretty much everything
You can’t always rely on symptoms — whether they are there or not — to tell you what’s happening. Most deficiencies are subtle. Additionally, our bodies usually keep a small amount of minerals and vitamins in case of an emergency. So, by the time a problem intensely presents itself (e.g. a broken bone), your deficiency is already at an extremely low point.
4: use filtered water wherever you can
I remember at university where excessive boiling of tap water created frustrating amounts of calcium carbonate (limescale). I love tap water, but since then, I’ve tried to use filtered water in most things. Despite being in the UK with clean and highly regulated tap water, it isn’t always pleasant to drink.
I recommend filtered water for obvious reasons: it’s better for the environment (it costs a lot of water alone to produce plastic water bottles), and you avoid traces of chlorine, mercury, lead, and other chemicals that may cause physical discomfort. Meanwhile, it ensures magnesium, fluoride, calcium, and zinc are retained in the body.
5: know your dietary sources
Your body needs micronutrients for various functions. These are divided into four categories: water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins, macrominerals and trace minerals.
Water-soluble vitamins: vitamin C and B vitamins. They’re not stored in your body and need to be consumed regularly. These include citrus fruits, bell peppers, berries, egg yolks, mushrooms, lean meat, grass-fed organs, and dark leafy greens.
Fat-soluble vitamins: vitamins A, D, E and K. They can be stored in your body for later. These include butter and ghee, egg yolks, sunlight, cheese, and some oily fish.
Macrominerals: Calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, fluoride and chromium. You need these in larger amounts than trace minerals. These include dairy products, coconut water, salt, bananas, green leafy vegetables, lean meat and nuts.
Trace minerals: iron, copper, manganese, iodine, selenium, fluoride and chromium. Take them in smaller amounts than macrominerals. These include oysters, spinach, seafood, eggs, organ meats, tea, cocoa, sweet potatoes and whole grains.
6: Know your calorie consumption, but don’t overdo it
Lastly, this is a relatively simple one. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes and calculate your calories by one decimal point. It’s not at all sustainable, and food quality does not come down to something as arbitrary as calories.
You just need to understand how you’re doing right now. Spend the next week noting what you’re eating and roughly how many calories are going in. Once you figure that out, add or subtract 100 or so as a starting point to help you reach your goals. Eating too much or too little may not be a problem now. But think of it like the aviation principle: heading one degree off course will look small in the beginning, but make an incredible difference over time.