Recommendations

The most common request we get is to have a single place with the most basic recommendations all rolled up together.  So, here it is.  The explanations of why, additional context, and other information will all be posted as we have time to write things up, and linked from here.  If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask, or if there’s a recommendation we haven’t written a post about yet—and you’d like us to write up a post on that sooner than later—just let us know and we’ll get right on it.

The second most common request we get is to have a single place with all of our recommendations all rolled up together.  For that, see the full recommendations page.  Right now it’s empty, but as this page is completed we’ll be splitting things out to put just the one-page basics here and the full and complete version over there.

This is also a great time to remind everyone of our Disclaimer.  We do the best job we can, and believe transparency, honesty, and the sharing of information is in the best interest of all.  However, we’re not licensed professionals and cannot be held responsible for the consequences of anyone doing anything we suggest on this site.  Think for yourself, make up your own mind… as in the end you are the one person most responsible for your own health.

Basic Premise:

  • The human diet has changed dramatically as a result of agriculture and industrial processing, and as a result of a number of missteps in public policy and research in the last 50 years.
  • Most modern thinking about what a traditional/paleolithic/healthy diet consists of is based on outdated or faulty information.
  • Weight gain is the result of a fatty acid metabolic disorder, an endocrine system imbalance, resulting from changes to the human diet to which we’ve never before been exposed and have never been evolutionarily selected for.
  • Principle amongst those changes is the huge increase in industrial food products– which has resulted in major increases in carbohydrate consumption, particularly of refined carbohydrates, and of industrial oils and fats.
  • Treating weight gain can be accomplished only by resolving the underlying metabolic disorder, not by trying to force the solution via caloric restriction (either via cutting calories or exercising).
  • Health and wellness is best accomplished by returning to any more traditional human diet (this doesn’t mean living like a cave man… just making sure that from a nutritional standpoint your food fits traditional criteria), and avoiding those things that alter our food in ways our bodies are ill-equipped to handle.

Now, on to the basic recommendations.  In general, I recommend following a real-food based more “primal” diet, avoiding industrial oils and refined or industrial carbohydrate products, and sticking to foods that would have been available at least 50-100 years ago, the older the better.  Meat, cheese, non-starchy vegetables (heirloom starchy veggies are okay in moderation, but most modern starchy vegetables only barely resemble the ones that would have been available for most of human history).  Saturated fat is your friend, carbohydrates need to be greatly reduced from the modern high-carb diet, and industrial oils (most plant oils, except for coconut, palm, or olive, fall into this category) should be avoided.

For those who want a more quantifiable assessment, here you go:

Macronutrients:

  • Carbohydrates: no more than 10g in a sitting and no more than 50-60g per day, 30g per day if you’re trying to lose weight.  Refined carbs of any kind should be avoided more than others, and simple starches as well (like potatoes).  The ratio is perhaps even more important—no more than 10% of calories in any interval (single sitting, day, etc).
  • Fat: should be your primary source of calories.  50% or more per sitting and per day, definitely no less.  Saturated fats are actually best, with short and medium chain fatty acids being extra good (butter, cream, coconut and palm oils).  Monounsaturated are reasonable.  Polyunsaturated should be kept to no more than a small amount, certainly  not more than 20% of overall fat, likely much lower.  And trans fats are right out.  The ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids should be 1:4 or better, 1:2 or 1:1 is best if possible.
  • Protein: good stuff as well—but shouldn’t be consumed for energy.  It’s there to provide your body with building materials.  If you’re getting your fat from good sources (meat, dairy, eggs) then you’ll get enough protein without thinking about it.  Getting the right balance of amino acids is important, but if you’re eating those good sources of fat mentioned in the previous sentence, then you’re already getting the right ratio.  Not surprisingly, animal products tend to have the right amino acid ratio for other animals.

I’ll note that I no longer count anything.  I eat when I’m hungry, and stop when I’m happy and full.  I minimize non-“real” foods, and follow my cravings.  By eating foods that the human body evolved with, I’m allowing my body to self-regulate and manage itself.  Most human body systems are self-regulating and self-supporting, and don’t require conscious control and management.  This includes adipose fat tissue.  Humans didn’t evolve with some kind of “greedy” gene, they evolved to maintain a healthy fat level– not too low, not too high. Only when presented with non-evolutionary conditions will the control mechanisms (the endocrine system, primarily) get screwed up and the body’s balance will be disturbed… resulting in obesity, diabetes, or other issues.

Food Preparation and Selection:

The extremely short version: you want food that is produced and prepared in the most traditional or ancestral ways possible.  50 years?  Reasonable.  100 years?  Better.  10,000 years?  Awesome. That isn’t as restrictive or hard as it sounds.  It just means avoiding most industry-produced or packaged foods.  Grass-fed meats, eggs, dairy products (raw if possible, i.e. unpasteurized), vegetables (try and avoid highly modified modern variants, like corn and potatoes), fruits (when in season, and only in moderation).   The books “Nourishing Traditions” or even “Real Food” are good sources here, though NT includes many recipes for more recent higher carb foods I’d recommend against.

Exercise:

There are four basic categories of exercise, 3 of which are evolutionarily healthy, and one which is not.  This is being found to be the case in studies of inflammation, immune response, and long-term health effects of different types of exercise.

Good:

  • Low and slow: walking, hiking… consistent exertion at a level you can keep up all day.
  • Fast and short: sprinting, jumping, climbing a tree… extremely high exertion for short bursts.  Running interval sprints falls into this category.  Baseball, interestingly enough, is a combination of this and the first.
  • Lifting heavy things.  Not only is this a very common and healthy human activity, but more and more studies have found that resistance training is the healthiest form of exercise.

Bad:

  • Modern cardio: medium to medium-high exertion at a relatively consistent level for extended periods of time.  I’m as surprised as anyone, but long term “chronic cardio” has been found to be pro-inflammatory and to eventually reduce immune function and increase risk of injury.  This is consistent with the finding that it’s actually very historically uncommon.  People did lots of the 3 other types of activity, but only in the last 40 years have people participated in the type of modern exercise we do today.

[work in progress, recommendations being added as time permits]

In the meantime, check out some blog posts on the topic:

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