Here’s what I avoid eating: 1) refined sugar, 2) grains, and 3) vegetable oils. Along with the “big 3” listed above, I eat very little dairy, legumes, or nuts.
The above mentioned foods are toxic to some degree for most people. Although these foods typically do not cause “acute” symptoms, you are more likely to develop “chronic” symptoms if you eat them for long enough. I call these diseases of civilization, because they rarely existed before the modern diet or among present-day indigenous cultures that eat natural foods. These problems include diabetes, auto-immune diseases, heart disease, some cancers, degenerative neurologic diseases, and many others.
If you avoid “the big 3” mentioned above, you are unlikely to be obese or get diabetes, and you’ll also cut your risk of cancer, auto-immune disease, and heart disease. Here’s a short explanation why I don’t eat these foods.
• Sugar causes insulin spikes. Insulin is a hormone that keeps your blood sugar from going too high after you eat. Insulin spikes are bad because they trigger excessive appetite and eventually, obesity. Insulin spikes also burn out the pancreas, which leads to Type 2 diabetes. Sugar in the diet also causes “glycation”, an oxidative process that damages tissues, especially arteries, thus increasing the risk of heart attacks. Sugar makes you fat, especially around the waist. The bigger your belly, the more likely you are to have a heart attack or a stroke.
• Grains trigger a hyperactive immune response in many people and damage the protective lining of the gut. This makes the gut “leaky” which allows all sorts of bad things to enter the circulation that shouldn’t. This causes a normal well-tuned immune system to go a bit haywire, inappropriately attacking “innocent bystanders” like thyroid tissue, brain tissue, lung tissue, etc. This haphazard stimulation of the immune system can exacerbate thyroid problems, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, eczema and many others. Another problem with grains, it that they spike insulin levels just as much as pure sugar does. So with grains, you give yourself a double whammy: hyperactive insulin and a hyperactive immune system.
• Along with refined sugars and grains, vegetable oils are also too “new” from an evolutionary standpoint to be part of a proper diet. Just like grains, vegetable oils have chemical structures that fire up the immune system in an indiscriminate fashion. Vegetable oils contain an excessive amount of omega-6 fatty acids relative to omega-3 fatty acids. If you eat too much omega-6, your body over-produces inflammatory proteins and makes too many oxidized “free radicals” that damage your body.
So, what’s good to eat?
• Grass-fed or “free-range” meats: beef, lamb, pork, turkey, chicken, etc. Wild game like elk, venison, or bison is great, too.
• Fish, including the skin if you like it.
• Shell-fish if you’re not allergic.
• Eggs, especially from “free-range” chickens that can eat insects, worms, and grass.
• Organ meats like liver and heart.
• Pretty much all veggies and fruits. Get all the colors: green, yellow, red, purple, orange, and white. You can’t over-eat vegetables. One or two pieces of fruit a day is good.
• Butter from pasture-fed cows.
• Small amounts of nuts.
• Dairy fats are okay.
• Dark chocolate.
Beans and other legumes are okay when sprouted or cooked for a long-time, but these foods have proteins that can damage the gut lining in some people, so I can’t give them a total green light. They might be okay in small amounts.
What do I eat? My staples are grass-fed beef, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey, salmon, pastured eggs, butter, cream, yams, beets, carrots, squash, parsnips, potatoes, greens, kale, spinach, cabbage, lettuce, berries, oranges, bananas, apples, pears, peaches, and small swallows of unsweetened grape juice. A chunk of dark chocolate is a great treat.
If eating this way sounds too complicated, you can get start on the way to better nutrition by simply cutting down on sugar, grains, and vegetables oils, and eat “everything else.”
Eating this way will raise HDL, lower triglycerides, and increase the size of lipoproteins to healthful levels. It will also keep insulin, body inflammation, and autoimmune responses down. It will also decrease abdominal fat. These parameters are more important that total cholesterol or LDL. Terry Wahls MD Cured her MS with a PaleoDiet. Who knows what you might cure?