It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the health or weight-loss related articles on the internet. The Web is a true black hole of information. Before you’re even done typing “healthy diet” in the google search bar, you’re faced with millions upon millions of results. Some blog author tells you to go vegan. Another says the ketogenic or Dunkan diet is the way to go. A Facebook posts claims that the gluten-free trend is a bunch of BS. Some girl on Youtube or Reddit claims the opposite…
When I first embarked on this long journey to optimal nutrition, I would spend hours losing myself in the dark corners of the World Wide Web. I wish I could have found the information I needed – all condensed on one page. Without having to cut through all the fluff and latest diet craze.
Well guess what… you’re in luck. Today I want to bring you the most comprehensive, step by step guide to creating the most nutritious, mood-boosting human diet there is. After you’ll be done reading this, I want you to have a clear picture of what you should or shouldn’t feast on.
After having experimented with various food regimens, I can confidently say that the guidelines you are about to read have produced the following benefits for me:
- smoother digestion
- better mood
- longer-lasting energy throughout the day
- sharper focus
- stronger immune system
- increased joint flexibility
- enhanced athletic performance (mostly better recovery in between workouts)
I’m about to teach you:
- which toxic foods you should remove from your diet
- which foods your daily diet should include
- which supplements to add to your regimen, to maximize results
Without further ado, lets get started on the guidelines you should follow if you seek optimal health. Most foods recommendations listed below are ranking well in the ANDI index, and would fit a Mediterranean-style diet. I stress this because the people who adhere to the mediterranean diet statistically display lower levels of depression.
1. Kick processed foods to the curb
That’s a no-brainer. Unfortunately common sense is not all that common. You and I have been brought up on Cheetos, Nutella, and Frosties… The time has come to undo the past.
Cookies, muffins, cakes, candies, pizza, ramen noodle, donuts… most things that are industrially-made or come in pre-packaged, microwaveable boxes. These products are full of preservatives, colorants, and other chemicals that interfere with your endocrine system.
Old habits die hard, but you’ll be proud of yourself each time you get rid of one unhealthy snacking habit. Plus, you’ll also save money – your wallet prefers home-cooked meals to industrial ones.
2. Replace sugar with slow-release carbs
There are three reasons why sugar needs to go.
First, sugar damages your arteries’ walls by creating lesions. Cholesterol must then be mobilized by your body to act as a band-aid on those lesions. When sugar is constantly consumed, your arteries never get a chance to heal. Consequently, cholesterol keeps building up in your arteries and can obstruct them in the long term. That’s the reason why cholesterol has long been blamed for heart-disease; when in reality it’s nothing but the body’s coping mechanism to deal with an unnaturally high sugar intake.
Second, sugar gives you a temporary energy high, followed by a drop in energy – a consequence of low blood glucose. It’s dubbed “the sugar roller-coaster” for a reason. Slow-release carbs (also referred to as low GI carbs) will lead to a more even, longer-lasting high.
Third, sugar is the reason why people are overweight. It’s so damn addictive and releases ungodly amounts of dopamine, the brain’s “pleasure neurotransmitter” involved in cigarette or cocaine addiction. I’ll easily prove it to you. When you see someone eating ice cream in front of you, don’t you feel insanely tempted to have a scoop? Me too. Do sunny-side eggs, or lettuce, or grilled mackerel produce the same effect on you? Most likely not, because they don’t contain sugar.
That being said… You shouldn’t dump your fruits in the trash just because they’re a little sugary, as some of them are nutrient-dense, and their sugar content is relatively low anyway.
Recommended staple foods:
- whole rice
- sweet potatoes
- whole pasta & bread if you’ve found out you have no negative reaction to gluten (they’re still not as nutrient-rich as potatoes, though)
3. Load up on plants
Simply said, plants are the king of food. Fruits & veggies are full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that nourish your body. Especially leafy greens and berries, as their score on the ANDI scale is notoriously high. If cooking veggies sounds like a chore, there are ways around that. I dig deeper in the topic, in this article.
Recommended staple foods:
- brussel sprouts
- bok choy
- all kinds of berries (especially blueberry)
4. Optimize fat intake and your omega 3/6 ratio
Transfats and most vegetable oils – save those containing omega 3s – should be avoided (I’m especially thinking about palm or cauliflower oil). Instead, fat from natural sources (like meat and seafood) can be consumed without moderation. I want to emphasize the importance of eating seafood: fishes and tends to be full of omega 3s, while meats contain omega 6s.
Don’t be scared of saturated fats and cholesterol. Cholesterol is the mother of all steroid hormones: pregnenolone, testosterone, progesterone, estrogen, DHEA… It does not deserve its bad rep. Besides, if your processed sugar consumption is low, and your diet is full of antioxidant-rich plants, cholesterol will never get a chance to pile up inside your blood vessels.
It is important to maintain a balance between omega 3s and 6s. Too high of an omega 6/omega 3 ratio leads to increased inflammation and a lower mood, among other things. A ratio of 1:5 to 1:1 is ideal, though hard to achieve. Another way to word it: eat about as much fish as meat, to respect that ratio.
Recommended staple foods:
- olive oil
- coconut oil/butter
- white fish
- grass-fed meat
- organic eggs
5. Aim for Organic sources
Organic plants are richer in vitamins and minerals. Especially since you can eat their nutritious skin. In addition, they are not covered in pesticides, herbicides, or artificial fertilizer. It goes without saying, these chemicals are harmful to your organs and endocrine system.
Organic meat, eggs, and dairy products contain more omega 3s than their standard counterparts.
Now, I’m aware that organic food is expensive. If your wallet cannot handle it, follow the other recommendations and do what you can. Perfection is overrated.
Gluten & dairy: are they any bad?
The short answer is: it depends on you.
I don’t consume gluten or dairy, because I’ve found they make me bloated and turn me into a farting machine… A large portion of the population happens to have a hard time digesting lactose and gluten, for lack of the right enzymes. The only way to find out if that applies to you, is to mess around with your food and observe how your body reacts. Skip eating gluten and dairy for 1-2 weeks and note any positive change. You’ll judge for yourself, if you want to add them back your diet. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my digestion had improved as a result of dumping these two food groups. My joints also feel more “oiled up” when I’m off gluten and dairy.
If you find out that these two food groups negatively affect you, don’t worry. There’s no specific nutritive value to gluten or milk, that you cannot find elsewhere. In fact, they are poor sources of minerals and vitamins.
I’ve read talks on the internet about milk and gluten causing inflammation. However, according to the pubmed database, medical trials could not establish a link between dairy and increased inflammation. Additionally, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that gluten causes no issues to non-celiac-diseased people.
Supplements: my recommendations
Supplements are the cherry on top of the cake. They’re not essential by any means, but they can compensate a diet that’s lacking in one or two areas.
Here are the ones I recommend:
- Fish oil – high in omega 3s, which boost memory, cognition, and mood.
- Magnesium – improves mood, sleep, and helps combat anxiety. If you’re the nervous/jittery kind of person, you might benefit from it. The recommended dosage is 300g/day. and bioavailable forms citrate, taurate
- Vitamin D – if you don’t live half-naked on a tropical island, you’re most likely deficient. 3000 IU/day is the standard recommended dosage. I personally take 10 000 IU/day and I’ve noticed it brightens my mood almost instantly.
- Probiotics – optimizes your gut bacteria, for maximum nutrient absorption.