While there are many guiding principles that you can follow to promote good health, after decades in the wellness industry, I have devised four pillars that guide me in eating healthy.
Simplifying the process by sticking to these basic principles allows me to eliminate the added stress that over-analyzing food can bring. There have also been times in my life when I’ve needed to follow a stricter plan which avoided all foods that would aggravate my eczema. Through following the principles of the Glow15 plan, I’ve been able to lower my inflammation and increase my autophagy, which provides me a wider spectrum of nourishing food options without feeling like I need to eliminate the bulk of foods from my diet.
Moreover, I listen to my body. When I’m getting feedback, like puffiness under my eyes, or overwhelming fatigue from travel, I make adjustments and course correct as needed, in order to counteract any extra stress I may be experiencing.
Following these four pillars helps me stay balanced in my relationship to food and glean the most benefit from my nutritional goals. I hope sharing these pillars provides some guidance when you’re exploring a diet plan that fits your personal needs, especially when it comes to the question: “What should I eat?”
Eat Real Foods. This sounds simple, and for the most part, it is. Eating foods in their most natural state, with minimal amounts of processing, is what our bodies were traditionally designed to digest and absorb.
When I say processing I’m mainly referring to the commercial methods used to strip foods of nutrients and the chemicals added to preserve shelf-life. On the other hand, there’s a different type of food processing that happens in your own kitchen and it can actually improve the nutritive quality of food. Specific methods for cooking, soaking, juicing and fermenting can all aid the digestive process and enhance overall wellness.
One simple example of a whole, real food is eating an apple versus drinking apple juice. With a whole apple, your body gets both insoluble fiber and soluble fiber, like pectin, which is found in the peel of the fruit. Juice lacks these nutritional elements and contains only a fraction of the nutritive quality that is present in a whole apple.
Fiber ensures we have healthy, regular stools and slows down the digestion so sugar isn’t absorbed all at once. And while you’ll find polyphenols in both apple juice and a whole apple, skipping the skin will offer fewer polyphenols to counteract cellular inflammation and oxidation.
Another disadvantage to apple juice is that it has to be pasteurized in order to stay on the shelf without spoiling. This pasteurization process kills beneficial enzymes and antioxidants while reducing vitamin content. What you’re left with is a drink of mostly sugar.
If you want more nutritional bang for your buck, eat the majority of your meals from whole foods like fruits, vegetables, meats and fish, cold-pressed oils, grass-fed dairy or high-quality dairy alternatives, and raw nuts and seeds.
Choose Organic When Possible and Use Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen to Guide You. It’s important to reduce your pesticide and herbicide exposure as much as possible. Pesticides clog your detoxification pathways, increase inflammation, and hinder your autophagy. The easiest way to do this is by eating organic foods.
Another benefit of eating organic is that you’ll avoid exposure to GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) and minimize the potential risks they pose, such as immunity disruption and reproductive damage.
If you live in an area where it’s convenient for you, purchase fresh, local, and organic produce through a CSA (community supported agriculture) or similar program and local farmer’s markets, you’ll get the freshest, healthiest food available.
If grocery stores are most convenient in your area, look for organic food whenever possible. Most big superfood chains have an adequately stocked organic section. Organic food often is more expensive, but consider the health care costs you can save over time when you choose to invest in your health now.
Environmental Working Group’s Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen guides can help you steer clear of the most heavily pesticide-laden foods (like strawberries and spinach), and will put your mind at ease when it comes to discerning which foods are not as risky for pesticide consumption, such as avocado. This is good news for me since I start almost every day with avocado.
You can download their app so you have the guides available while grocery shopping or eating out. It’s most important to opt for organic meat and dairy, as pesticide residues concentrate at the top of the food chain and you don’t want to consume the added antibiotics and hormones that are routinely given to conventional livestock.
Good Fats and Fats First. If you’ve read my New York Times bestselling book, Glow15, you know that activating autophagy depends heavily on the timing of your meals and not just the kinds of foods that are being consumed in those meals.
By starting your day with good fats, you will set yourself up for a healthy metabolism that doesn’t fluctuate on the highs, lows, and crashes that are fueled by consuming carbohydrates first thing in the morning.
While it’s easier said than done, try to let go of the belief that fat is the villain and that eating it will increase body fat, clog your arteries, or raise your cholesterol. This is a dietary myth perpetuated for decades, and it’s linked to one antiquated study which has since been debunked and deemed irrelevant within the scientific community.
When you eat nutritious high-quality fats like omega-3’s found in fatty fish, polyphenol-rich plant fats from nuts, avocado, coconut oil and tea seed oil, as well as grass-fed animal fats, you’ll experience complete satiation and the autophagy-activating effects that good fats have on your body.
A diet rich in healthy fats fosters a health experience with fewer cravings, less inflammation, more stable energy and clearer thinking. A variety of high-quality fats from plant and animal sources are the best options. Avoid hydrogenated or trans fats at all costs as they will work against your autophagy.
Create a Personal Lifestyle, Not a “Diet.” When it comes to implementing a plan for health and wellness, it’s essential to follow the natural rhythms of my body, not a rigid diet that works against your metabolism and the natural autophagy process.
While it takes some commitment and determination to start something new, the evidence can be found in the positive signs and encourage feedback that your body gives you. Weight loss, clearer skin, reduction in bloating, restful sleep, and increased vitality provide a natural momentum to show you what’s working and what needs to be adjusted.
The word “diet” can conjure up ideas of deprivation, struggle, and guilt; for that reason, I encourage you to personalize the Glow15 plan and approach it as a lifestyle, not a diet.
Devise a clear plan around food, sleep, and exercise. Once the foundation is established, you’ll discover what works best for your own circadian rhythm, the days that are best for IFPC, and the foods, supplements, and nutrients that most effectively support your unique biochemistry.
I hope these four guiding principles will put your mind at ease as you determine what works best for your own individual health.