What we put into our bodies can impact our mood, our energy, and our physical health. By becoming more mindful and intentional about what we eat, when we eat, and why we eat, we can create balance and harmony both physically and emotionally.
The nutrients within our food act as information to our cells. When we give our bodies the right information, they will function at their highest level of performance—we feel more energetic, our minds are clearer, we look more vibrant—the list of benefits goes on and on.
When we eat foods with poor-quality information, for example, refined flours and sugars, or dangerous trans fats, our bodies don’t know how to utilize that data, and dysfunction is the result. Blood sugar imbalances, mood swings, weight gain, sleep disturbances, and cardiovascular disease are just some of the many side effects that can happen when our dietary choices are lacking nutrient density and when they contain harmful ingredients.
Nutrition is the final spoke of my Feel Good Wheel, the areas of health we’ll be focusing on at next weekend’s live Feel Good Summit. As most of you know, nutrition is a cornerstone of Functional Medicine. You can’t out-exercise, out-sleep, or out-meditate a bad diet. Becoming a conscious consumer about the foods you buy, along with taking an interest in preparing your own meals, are the first steps towards dialing in your nutritional status.
But what does it really mean to “eat well?” There are so many dietary approaches out there—vegan, Paleo, Mediterranean, keto—how do we choose which one to follow? That’s actually why I wrote my latest book, Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?, to help debunk the nutritional myths and calm the confusion surrounding what the ideal diet is.
My principles create what I like to call the “Pegan” diet, a middle ground between vegan and Paleo, focused on whole-foods; primarily colorful, high-fiber vegetables like kale, cauliflower, peppers, and radishes; healthy fats like extra-virgin olive oil and avocados; some low-glycemic fruits like blueberries and blackberries; free-range meats and eggs, used more like condiments than as the star of the plate; anti-inflammatory nuts and seeds, and flavorful herbs and spices.
And when it comes to what you eat, quality is way more important than quantity—all calories are NOT created equal. The sources and nutrient-density of your food play a much larger role in your health than the amount of calories a food contains.
Compare a bag of low-fat crackers to an avocado. The avocado will most certainly have more fat and calories but it’s also providing your body with real information, real nutrients like mono-unsaturated fats for heart health and vitamin K for strong bones and healthy blood cells. The crackers are made out of refined flour, sugar, and preservatives, so while you may not be consuming as many calories, your blood sugar is bouncing around, your cholesterol will increase, and your waistline will too, despite the low-fat label.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. For more about the Pegan diet and what I’ve discovered in my many years of nutritional research, check out my post Why I Am a Pegan (or Paleo-Vegan) and Why You Should Be Too! and grab my latest book, Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to nutrition is eating whole foods in their most natural form. Eat a wide variety of colors—the whole rainbow—everyday, and you can be sure you’re getting plenty of beneficial phytochemicals and antioxidants to support whole-body health.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD