“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” — Hippocrates
I went to the organic juice store to get my usual, and the owner was there.
He’s full of wisdom from his mentor and he has an amazing set of stories of people he’s helped get their health back.
Anyway, since I hadn’t seen him in a while I asked him if he had learned anything new about health.
The 7 Keys to Super Health
He took a deep breath. He paused, as he got ready to fire away his latest insights.
He said there is nothing new with health — it’s always the same. He then rattled off 7 things:
- Low fat
- Low sugar
- Low protein
- Low gluten
- Think better
He said it always comes down to that.
He said people over complicate it, or try to find new solutions, but he said that time is our best teacher, and those are the keys to health, longevity, and vitality that have proven themselves over time.
Why Low Fat?
This struck me as a generalization, that in general, is wrong.
Long ago there was a general recommendation t eat a high carb, low fat diet.
One way to look at that recommendation is that it was a myth created by clever marketing.
But another way to look at it, is it lacks precision.
What types of carbohydrates to eat more of?
What types of at to eat less of?
It’s general advice, but the idea is to eat more fibrous carbohydrates (think greens, especially cruciferous vegetables), and eat less starchy carbohydrates (think pastas, white bread, etc.)
In general, the recommendation for fats goes like this:
- Trans fats bad for you
- Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats good for you
- Saturated fats somewhere in-between
Here is a great HBR article on the rationale behind which types of fats are good and which are bad:
Types of Fat
When it comes to fat, I find it’s crucial to break fat down into the actual types.
This is a process of making distinctions so you can be more specific, and making distinction is how you think better and get smarter.
Here are fat types at a glance:
- Saturated Fat (short-chain, medium-chain, and long-chain)
- Monounsaturated Fat
- Polyunsaturated Fat
The beauty is by knowing the different types of fats, you can research deeper and learn more.
Omega-6 and Omega-3 Fats
While all this information about fats is good to know, what is a simple, actionable recommendation?
A general recommendation might look something like this:
Eat more Omega-3 rich foods, and less Omega-6 rich foods.
But that’s based on the assumption of a generalization where a Western diet is typically high in Omega-6 and low in Omega-3.
A high intake of Omega-6 compared to a low intake of Omega-3 is associated with diseases such as asthma, cancer, coronary heart disease, and neurogenerative diseases.
But both Omega-6 and Omega-3 have important health benefits, so that does not mean to cut out Omega-6.
It means simply adjust your balance to include more Omega-3 and less Omega-6, if your diet is high in Omega-6 and low in Omega-3.
The most important Omega-3s for your health are EPA and DHA. You find them in cold water fish, like cod, salmon and sardines.
And if you don’t like fish, then you a good option would be to supplement with a high quality fish oil.
Why Low Protein?
I asked him why he said low protein, and he said because protein can tax our liver and kidneys, and it produces uric acid.
I challenged myself if I knew what “low” ,means to him. I also reminded myself that it’s all relative and what ultimate matter is how my body responds.
I also compared what he said to what I had learned about protein recommendations:
- There is a generalized gender recommendation of 56 grams/day for me, 46 gra,ms/day for women.
- There is a weight-based recommendation. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 0.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight (you can convert from pounds to kilogram,s by dividing by 2.2).
- There is caloric-based recommendation based on percent of calories. For an active adult, the recommendation is 10% of calories should come from protein.
I also remembered that types of protein matter and not all protein is created equal.
Thinking back to the simplest, best advice I remembered was from Dr. Furhman, who focuses on nutritional density.
He put it very simply one time when he made the following recommendation:
Eat two large salads a day and think of meat as your decoration.
Why Low Gluten?
When when the wise healer told me this, I wondered if he meant that gluten in general is bad for everybody, even if they are not gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive.
While I didn’t ask him that, I later found some research by the miltary that determined that gluten affects everybody over time.
Just not the same way.
And not to the same extreme.
But the main idea is that it creates little tiny tears in the gut and that causes problems for you gut health over time seems to be the main conclusion.
If you want to research this idea more and exactly how gluten affects you, even if you don’t “appear” to be gluten sensitive right now, then check out this book:
Strong Medicine: How to Conquer Chronic Disease and Achieve Your Full Genetic Potential, by Dr. Chris Hardy and Marty Gallagher,
Why Think Better?
Stress is a silent killer for a reason.
If you learn how to think better, you can handle stress better which will help you live a longer, healthier, happier life.
How you view stress matters a lot. How you view the situation you are in changes how you respond.
For example, your stress from swimming away from a shark is not the same as your stress of swimming for the gold.
But here is the good news.
Thoughts create feelings. Feelings create thoughts.
Feelings are biochemistry.
So you can change your biochemistry cocktail by changing your thoughts or changing your feelings.
Remember that motion creates emotion.
If you want to feel differently, move differently.
How To Handle Stress Better
One simple, but powerful idea to handle stress better is this:
Slow your heart rate down
You can practice slowing your heart rate down in stressful scenarios by learning how to practice breathing techniques.
Here are a few more articles to help you really get a handle on stress:
How To Stress-Proof Your Life
Stress Makes You Stronger
How To Use Stress to Be Your Best
How To Handle Stress with Skill
How the Yerkes-Dodson Curve Helps You Balance Stress and Peak Performance
How To Melt Away Stress with the Relaxation Process
Knowing What to Do and Doing What You Know
As I left, I thought to myself, that sometimes knowing is the hard part.
But other times, it’s the doing.
And sometimes the hardest part is just getting started.
Experiment and Measure Your Results
The real challenge is to know whether you are on track and trending in the right direction.
At the end of the day, nobody can learn for you how your body will respond.
It’s incredibly difficult to generalize advice simply because of the factors that affect you.
So it’s good to figure out what those factors are.
Some factors include types of fats, types of carbs, types of protein, how active you are, how much your body needs, how much is too much, etc.
Change Your Body, Change Your Results
The big thing to keep in mind is that when you change your body, your body changes how it responds to different foods.
So what might have been true earlier in your journey, may completely change at another point in your journey.
Keep this in mind so you can learn and adapt to new information and signals from your body.