Eating right impacts both your physical and your mental health.
It’s a critical aspect of being “Dialed In.” And yet, so many people get it wrong.
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What makes them qualified to write this book?
Well, have a look for yourself. They’re both in their 40’s—an age where the vast majority of Americans are overweight.
This post will outline my favorite takeaways from their book, which will help you get lean, reverse aging and prevent disease. As often as possible, I’ve tried to link to original studies and sources that support the author’s claims.
The Diet of Your Ancestors
Our modern concept of aging is a slow decline into senility and frailty accompanied by an increasing number of pills; whereas, advanced age for hunter gatherers was vigorous and active.
Type 2 diabetes was so uncommon in ancient populations that it is hard to find any reports it existed.
For hunter-gatherers, a “balanced” diet occurs over the course of weeks or months, not within a single meal.
The frequent switching of primary food sources throughout the year will cultivate diversity in gut-bacteria (the microbiome). Research is increasingly showing the crucial role our microbiome plays in our overall health.
Foods eaten in the wild are far different from the engineered and highly processed foods of the Western diet. They have a lower glycemic load, contain substantial fiber, and are far more nutrient dense. What’s more, the forager diet tends to be more base-yielding, in contrast to the highly acidic Western diets, (Lugavere, Max. Genius Foods. Harper Wave, 2018).
90% of the consumed calories in the world are from a few plants domesticated between 9500 and 3500 BC: wheat, rice, corn/maize, potatoes, millet, and barley.
As agriculture took hold over time, our deep-rooted connection with nature was severed. With this shift in perspective, the source and the quality of food became far less important to us than its pervasive availability.
When it comes to profit margins, you can’t do much better than convincing the majority of the population to eat a cheap grass seed as a dietary staple.
The food industry grosses $1 trillion per year of which $450 billion is gross profit. The health care costs in the United States total $2.7 trillion per year, 75% of which is chronic metabolic diseases, 75% of which are preventable, (source.)
Salt isn’t inherently problematic until it gets disguised as sodium and hidden in processed foods. A whopping 75% of sodium intake comes from processed foods versus only 6% from table salt.
A Look Under the Hood – How Food Affects Your Body
Metabolic syndrome is a condition that results primarily from our near-constant consumption of low-quality food—especially the processed, sugary carbohydrates and pseudo-foods that make up the majority of our diet. [Editor’s note: Only 12 percent of American adults are metabolically healthy, study finds.]
Case in point, it’s hard to distinguish Beyond Meat and/or Impossible Burgers from dog food.
1/n A quick tweetstorm about why I think Beyond Meat ($BYND) and Impossible Foods are the trans fat purveyors of our generation.
— Justin Mares (@jwmares) May 28, 2019
9 Tenets of Eating for Optimal Health
Chris and Cynthia probably aren’t crazy about me sharing the below, but you’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re not following these tenets.
You’ll have to grab their book to get the in-depth explanation for each of the tenets and learn how you can put them into practice.
- Earn your food: Always tie eating to movement.
- You’re not a cow; don’t graze like one.
- Eat one or two meals a day.
- Make food difficult again. Minimize what you microwave and eat out of a box.
- Feast or famine. In other words, fast more often.
- Mix it up. Eat for variety.
- To everything, there is a season. So, eat that way.
- Consume some foods raw.
- Eat “balanced” over days, not on a single plate.
- Eat “full package” foods. To be clear, stop turning everything into a smoothie.
- Avoid highly engineered Franken-foods
Become a Knowledgeable Hunter and Gatherer
Our bodies and our metabolism are best adapted for irregularity.
- Our bodies also use our fasted state opportunistically to clear out damaged molecules and cells.
- [P.D. Mangan and Forever Alpha are 2 great resources to learn more about fasting.]
On weight loss:
- Choose high-quality proteins, you’ll feel up faster and be less likely to overeat.
On a metabolic reset:
- Fasting is a good way to reboot your body on the rare occasions you binge.
Primal Perspectives on Food
The most important sources of fat were saturated fats from meat, organ, organ meats, bone, marrow, fish, nuts, insects, and larvae.
The vilification of saturated fats, the over-consumption and use of processed seed oils in the food industry, and over-reliance on subsidized foods like corn and soy have exacerbated inflammatory health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, and vascular disease.
Sugar, not saturated fats, is a primary contributor of inflammation and increases the likelihood of developing obesity, diabetes, and vascular disease.
Studies demonstrate that saturated fats play an important role in longevity. They are integral in reducing inflammation and increasing nutrient density and availability in foods.
Polyunsaturated fats (PFUAs):
- Animals that are raised on grain-based feeds have higher omega-6 ratios, which are not optimal for supporting our health.
- Our goals should be to consume as much omega-3 rich foods as possible and limit our omega-6 rich foods to ensure that inflammation levels are low.
- The best sources of Omega 3s are from oily, cold-water fish — like salmon, mackerel, herring, anchovies, and sardines.
Sources of Omega 6s
- Unhealthy omega-6s are found primarily in seed oils. These oils are inflammatory, processed, and exposed to high heat and hexane solvents. They promote heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disorders, and digestive disorders. Examples of these oils include canola, corn, safflower, sunflower, and soybean oils.
- 2010: A meta-analysis of observational studies on the link between dietary saturated fat and the risk of heart disease and stroke from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that there was no identified association between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular disease, (source).
- 2016: According to the head of Cardiovascular medicine at Cleveland Clinic (one of the leading cardiovascular clinics in the world), Dr. Steven Nisson, “the best available evidence does not support the wildly held belief that Americans should limit saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet, (source).
Now, let’s dive into some specific types of food:
The last vegetarian hominids inhabit distant history.
About 50% of calories consumed by our ancestors, in a natural environment, were from meat and fish.
Meat is our best source of protein.
Muscle building and maintenance require protein. As a result, loss of muscle (sarcopenia) can cause insulin resistance, higher levels of stress hormones, and lower levels of anti-aging hormones like human growth hormone and testosterone.
[Caveat: Not ALL meat is created equal.]
Purchase the best quality meat that your budget permits. Eat grass-fed, pasture-raised, and organic meat when possible.
Game meats can be beneficial as they’re lower in saturated fat and have superior omega-3 fatty acid profiles.
Fish is an extremely healthy food that should definitely be part of your diet. It is one of the best dietary sources of protein available, and it’s one of the most ideal sources of essential fatty acids, especially omega 3 fatty acids, DHA, and EPA.
Factory farmed fish, which now comprises 50% of seafood that Americans consume, should be avoided. These fish are fed corn, wheat, soy, and vegetable oils, like canola (see seed oil section below).
Try to consume high-quality carbohydrates available in nature as whole foods. These foods contain easily digestible, bioavailable nutrients that are easily metabolized. Some examples include sweet potatoes, leafy green vegetables, and cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, kale, and cabbage.
The only simple carbohydrate consumed at this time in history was honey.
Poor quality carbs include white bread and pasta.
What is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)?
HFCS is shelf-stable sugar manufactured from cornstarch. The processing of cornstarch into HFCS is multi-step and incredibly complicated. You should avoid it at all costs.
Living things don’t want to be eaten and plants are no exception.
Variety is the answer. Early man limited his exposure to toxins by continually switching up the plants he ate.
Veggies provide us with key vitamins A, B, E, K, etc., and phytonutrients.
Our bodies are extremely well our bodies adapted to digest and metabolize fruit. As a result, fruit is healthy when eaten in a healthy way.
Eat fruit seasonally.
Modern fruit’s sugar and calorie content far exceed any fruit known to early humans. [Editor’s note: Still, nobody is getting fat off eating tons of fruit.]
Eat whole fruits; avoid juicing.
Minimize high-glycemic fruits like watermelon, bananas, and pineapple.
The best options are low-glycemic berries, pears, and low-sugar variants of apples. Avocado (yes, it’s a fruit!) is another excellent choice.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors did not consume dairy products. They are a relatively novel source of food.
Dairy is difficult for (many of) us to digest and can be highly inflammatory.
There is a strong, positive correlation between cardiovascular mortality and the consumption of dairy products, (source). The relationship between cardiovascular disease and dairy consumption appears to be stronger for milk than it is for cheese.
We have to strongly recommend that you exclude dairy from your diet.
Remember, seed oils were not created until modern times.
After thousands of years of domestication, these crops now bear little to no resemblance to the grains of our ancestors.
Editor’s note: Vegetable oils, even moreso than sugar, may be the worst thing a modern person consumes. If you want to deep dive how dangerous they are for you I highly recommend reading the following:
- Vegetable Oils are Dangerous to Health
- Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food
- Why Is Vegetable Oil Bad For You? 7 Diseases Vegetable Oils Cause
A low fiber diet is detrimental to our health and has a negative net impact on the gut biome.
Our hunter-gather ancestors ate 100-150 grams of fiber each day. The typical American consumes 8-15 gm daily.
Soybeans are one of the most genetically modified organisms in our food supply.
Soy can cause low libido and energy, accumulation of abdominal fat, and male breast enlargement.
One chemical used to process soy is hexane, which is a byproduct of gasoline refinement.
Interested in learning more about the dangerous effects of soy? Countless studies shared and summarized here.
Phew. So there you go… tons of my favorite takeaways from “Primal Eating.”
As a bonus, the last chapter features a sample menu for two weeks of Primal Eating.
Lastly, if you want to deep-dive into your nutrition, and get your health “dialed in,” I encourage you to check out Chris and Cynthia’s book here.