There are about 113 million bits of dietary and food advice on the internet. Or more.
And about 98% of all that advice is crap.
So last year, inspired by A. J. Jacob’s book, Drop Dead Healthy, I went on a scavenger hunt for real, honest-to-goodness live-healthy/eat-healthy tips. I read fitness magazines; major medical journals and research studies; the writings and blatherings of fitness gurus and personal coaches; the tangents of the wounded, broken, and fanatical eaters of every stripe…
— and what follows is the short form of all that research, minus the craziness, the limiting decisions and crippling beliefs, and the footnotes. There are a few of these tid-bits in dispute — but not many. I have culled out all the really questionable stuff I could identify — and most all of the really outrageously over-the-top claims. However — there are a few real surprises and “GEMS” in the mix — things almost nobody has heard of yet that will really roll your socks down. If you want to find any of the research that backs this stuff up — it’s right under your nose — and at your fingertips via google, your local medical library, and on your local newstand.
Some of these ideas are as old as the hills — and others are based on research so new it squeaks. But be aware that these tips are concerned with health — not with dropping weight. If you eat this way — you probably will lose a little fat/flab — but not fast — and these tips are meant to be permanent hints — not fly-by-night quackery or quick fixes.
The bottom line is, there really are some good pieces of advice out there as long as you can take time to do the reading, and practice not falling for bullshit and crank fads and insanity. And as I am still reading, listening, and keeping my ear to the ground on this topic — like everyone else — I will continue to add-to and update this page on a regular basis….
- red wine — no more than 3 oz on any given day, but at least a couple of times a week. It has anti-aging benefits, anti-inflamitory effects, and helps fight and/or prevent many cancers. The key word to read up on here is: polyphenols.
- potatoes — Not fried. Not creamed. Not drowning in cheese or bacon fat — but if you bake them, boil them, steam them, mash them or include them in casseroles with smart recipes that include the skins — they can help control appetite, blood sugar, and blood pressure. The key word to read up on here is potassium. (and fiber)
- raspberries, blueberries, acai berries, purple grapes, plums/prunes, blackberries, marionberries — basically any purple or dark red fruit or veg — fresh or frozen, raw, cooked or turned into juice or low-sugar jam, these fruits stabilize blood sugar via their fiber and Vitamins A and C; plus they are good for your heart, and your immune system because of their high anti-oxident components. The key word to research here is anthocyanins.
- shrimp — besides being a source of lean, high protein — the combination of B12 and Vitamin D in shrimp offers unique protection for bones.
- coffee — not decaf — and fresh is better than instant or canned/bottled. 4 cups a day — before 2:30 pm if possible. It increases basic metabolism, increases mental clarity, decreases appetite, and fights depression. Coffee contains significant anti-oxidents — and — if you drink it iced with low-fat milk, it is a calcium delivery system that burns extra calories as your body provides heat to warm it to body temp! [none of this is worth it, however; if you have been instructed by a physician to avoid caffeine.]
- 30-35g fiber/day — really. distributed throughout the day. It not only keeps your system running clean, a consistent flow of fiber (all kinds, from a variety of sources) helps maintain level hydration, prevent bloating and indigestion — and all the health benefits associated with those advantages.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil — helps to reduce serum cholesterol.
- white or green tea — 1 cup per day helps the body defend against colon cancer. The key word to research here is catechins.
- iron — helps stimulate hair and nail growth, and contributes to sound sleep. Find it in spinach, all meats/seafood, but more in red meat, enriched flour and cereals, and brown rice.
- Omega-3 fatty acids — where to begin? Helps stabilize metabolism of carbohydrates; helps defend against cancer; — it’s a long long long list. Look it up.
- carrots — fat soluble carotenoids help protect skin from harmful sun damage and skin cancer.
- spinach, and its cousin, purslane — Omega-3s (see #10); folate for circulation and heart health; lutein for eyes, iron — see #9.
- yogurt (real, live yogurt — not that plastic, gelatin-based fake stuff) 4-6 oz per day. Sweeten it with anthracyanine-rich berries (see #3) — it provides healthy digestive organisms (see probiotics) and boosts the immune system, plus provides essential calcium.
- tomatoes — 8 cherry tomatoes, or an 11.5oz serving of V-8 a day provides 20-25mg of lycopene. Rich in anti-oxidents. Helps protects skin from sun damage. Possibly prevents macular degeneration, and male fertility!
- dark red or black beans — (red beans, kidney beans, pintos, black beans, scarlet runner beans, persian limas…) They have the kick-ass combination of metabolism-leveling fiber, carbs, and sugar, plus they have been shown to increase brain function. 1/2 c per day is sufficient to provide all the benefits —
- walnuts (black or English) — Polyphenols again. High in omega-3s plus anti-inflamitory properties; boosts heart health. Eat 7 whole (14 halves) after working out to help build muscle tissue.
- oats — rolled, cracked, steel-cut, Irish, quick-cooking, whole…. just not sugar-coated breakfast cereal. 4-6oz of cooked oats, 3 times a week. Again, it’s the combination of fiber, carbs, and protein that is the winner. It regulates metabolism, and provides a big hit of protein all at the same time.
- ice water — burns more calories than room temp water because your body has to heat it up. It has also been shown to increase stamina and endurance. All the water you drink should be cold or iced.
- pineapple and papaya — the words to research here are bromelain and papain. They are digestive enzymes — with some really profound effects on your digestive system as a whole. Plus, both these fruits provide anti-inflamitory effects.
- chocolate milk — specifically, Organic Valley 1% milkfat chocolate milk. Better than any other chocolate milk on the market, Organic Valley’s 1% has the lowest fat, lowest sugar, and highest cocoa content. — Plus that hit of calcium, potassium, carbs and protein that milk provides. Research has named it the best after-workout rehydration/electrolyte-replenishing/protein drink on the market. It is the “ideal after-workout sports drink.”
- chili peppers — all types, but the hotter the better. The word here is capsaicins. Capsaicins lift metabolism and cause natural endorphins to be released; and acts as a natural pain killer that’s also good for the respiratory system and circulation.
- Brussels Sprouts and Kale — and all other cruciferous vegetables. They boost the immune system, protect new brain cell growth, and provide a big hit of antioxidents. You should be eating 3-5 oz of at least one of these every other 3-5 days. Cruciferous vegetables include not only sprouts and kale, but also all varieties of broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbages.
- pumpkin seeds — they contain tryptophan. –> which causes the body to produce serotonin which stabilizes mood; plus iron and magnesium to stabilize blood pressure. Additionally, recent research has shown pumpkin seeds to be beneficial in reducing enlarged prostate in men.
- organic apples — only organic, and only with the peel. Eating one small apple 15 minutes before every meal has been shown to reduce average calorie intake by 180+ calories per meal. (not an insignificant reduction!) Catechins help protect the body from the harmful effects of pollution — plus offers the added benefits of the natural fiber in apples.
- dark chocolate — the word to research here is flav0nols. Provides increased circulation and the highest concentration of antioxidants in any food. A natural mood elevator. The chemical composition of cocoa is so complex that research is only beginning to uncover all the properties. 4g of 72% (or higher)-cocoa dark chocolate per day is enough to gain all the benefits known so far.
- barley — with the hull in tact (not pearled); whole or rolled. Extremely high concentrations of all B vitamins, plus potassium and high fiber content. Helps regulate blood pressure, mood, and provides sustained energy for up to 6 hours after eating. 2 oz of dried barley is a full serving — best if eaten at least once every 5-7 days.
- grapefruit — the word to research here is naringin. While the mechanism is still unclear to researchers, eating 1/2 a small grapefruit three times a day appears to reduce the risk of lung cancer by such a significant amount that everyone doing the initial research added grapefruit to their diet before the research was even concluded. There is a list of drugs which interact with grapefruit available on several internet sites — and so persons taking any of those drugs should consult their doctor before adding grapefruit to their diet.
- whole eggs — 1 egg per day, specifically at breakfast, reduces the calories eaten during the say by a significant amount. The mechanism is so far unclear.
- vinegar — apple cider or other fruit vinegar. 2T eaten with high-carb meals yields 23% lower blood sugar than without the vinegar; plus subjects report feeling “fuller” when vinegar is consumed with a meal. This is one of those strange, not fully understood effects which continues to be accurately reported. And so — worth doing, even if researchers don’t know why it works yet.
- cinnamon — 1/2 – 1 t per day. Reduces blood sugar by 18-29% Reduces total cholesterol by 12-28%. Reduces triglycerides by 23-39%. Plus, it is a natural anti-bacterial / anti-fungal. Should be fresh, ground, stored cool and dry. see penzeys.com for large quantities of very fresh spices. *See hot chai recipe, and chai-spice recipe at the bottom of this page.
- nutmeg — ground fresh, 1/8-1/4 t per day with a meal. Anti-bacterial. Aids digestion. Mood elevator. Natural sedative. *See hot chai recipe, and chai-spice recipe at the bottom of this page.
- whole cloves — chew 1 each day after last meal. Natural antiseptic and anesthetic helps protect gums from gum disease; helps with toothaches; aids in the regulation of blood sugar levels; recent research suggests it may also protect lungs against lung cancer, and may contribute to healthy bones and joints. Key word here is eugenol. *See hot chai recipe, and chai-spice recipe at the bottom of this page.
- black pepper — as strong and potent as possible, fresh ground. (extra strong black peppercorns can be found at Penzey’s Spices.) Found to have trace copper; also has the biggest hit of anti-osteoporosis effects of any food available. Grind it fresh on everything, and include cracked peppercorns in your chai tea blend.
- sunflower seeds — the key word here is alpha-tocopherols. Protects from UV damage. Also, research phenylalanine. Natural anti-depressant. Boosts focus and alertness.
- cardamom — ancient remedy (that works) to relieve tummy aches, bloating, and gas when drunk in hot tea. *See hot chai recipe, and chai-spice recipe at the bottom of this page.
- asparagus — provides high hit of folate; reduces systemic reactions to stress. A natural diuretic, so reduces bloating, and has been shown to reduce the severity of hangovers when consumed with alcohol, or within 2 hours of heavy drinking.
- avocado — the words to research is glutathione, and lutein. Blocks absorption of bad fats; provides high Vitamin E and beta-carotine. Also has the highest folate of any fruit or veg.
- ginger — real ginger, and real ginger ale. Not only does it help (often an outright FIX) morning sickness, sea sickness and all forms of nausea including the sickness associated with chemotherapy — it’s also a natural anti-inflammatory, helps reduce the intensity of migraines/ headaches, and it is a blood pressure regulator. Recent research also showed it to kill cancer cells in laboratory conditions. *See hot chai recipe, and chai-spice recipe at the bottom of this page.
- cashews — eat to fight anxiety and depression. High in zinc. Eating as little as 1/2 oz helps curb cravings of all kinds.
- coriandor — helps with both anxiety and insomnia; also a natural regulator of blood sugar and cholesterol.
- chamomile tea — 1 cup before bed helps relieve stress and prevent insomnia
- garlic — the word to research is allicin. Boosts immune system. Natural anti-inflamitory. Fights heart disease, cancer, colds etc. Rich in anti-oxidents.
- Meat — if you’re a meat eater — here’s the basic rule of thumb: red meat — max at 6 oz per week; chicken/turkey — max of 8 oz per week; fish/shellfish — 6 oz per week. And no serving of any red meat should be more than 3-3 1/2 oz in a given day.
- No partially hydrogenated fats/Trans fats
- No artificial/chemical sweeteners
- Avoid artificial or added food colorings
- Avoid chemical preservatives
- Avoid flavor enhancers, MSG
- Avoid nitrates and nitrites (used in curing meats)
By my calculations, if you ate using all these suggestions — and just these suggestions — you would consume about 1600 calories per day; 30-35g fiber; 55-65g protein — and a very limited variety of foods.
This calculation includes daily consumption of :
3 apples, 3 grapefruit halves, an 11.5oz can of V-8, 3/4c yogurt, 1/2 c dark berries, 1 t olive oil, 1/2c dark beans, 1 egg, 1 clove of garlic, 2T vinegar, 8oz of chocolate milk, 4g dark chocolate, 1 c green tea, 1 c chamomile tea, 3/4 oz cheese, 1 t cinnamon, 1/4 t nutmeg, 1 whole clove, and 1 slice of double-fiber bread per day.
Plus, 4-5 oz shrimp, 2/3 c prepared oatmeal, a serving of kale or Brussels sprouts/crucerferous veg, 1/2 c red wine, 1/2 c prepared barley, each, 2-3 times a week.
In an effort to find ways to eat as many of these healthy foods as possible, here are a couple of recipes that use many of them together.
Chai Spice Recipe
Use this mix with a little sugar and salt to dust a fruit & nut mix made of almonds, walnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, dried pineapple, papaya, and blueberries.
4 parts ground Penzey’s Vietnamese Cinnamon
2 part fresh ground cloves
3 parts fresh grated ginger
3 parts sugar
1 part fresh ground nutmeg
1 part fresh ground black pepper
1 part fresh ground cardemom
1 part ground anise
1 part salt
This chai spice blend is also a great addition to fudge, dark chocolate-walnut brownies, and hot cocoa mix. Use it to spice up your granola or Irish Oatmeal — or even as a great addition to BBQ or steak sauce. Excellent in baked beans…. With the addition of cayenne pepper, it’s also very good on breakfast sausage, and when used sparingly, as a dry rub on baked or grilled chicken.
Hot Chai Blend — to make 1 8-cup pot of chai
1 rooibos tea bag
1 honeybush tea bag
3 ceylon black tea bag
1 t Vietnamese cinnamon
1 stick of Ceylon cinnamon, cracked with mortar and pestle
6 whole cloves, cracked with mortar and pestle
3 peppercorns, cracked with mortar and pestle
1 anise star, cracked with mortar and pestle
1 t grated ginger
2 cardemom pods, cracked with mortar and pestle
1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg
2 T Organic blackstrap molasses
4 c water, boiling
4 c milk, simmering — added after 10 minutes of steeping in just water