A customer recently asked for my recommendation on a 3,500-5,000 calorie diet. Since I personally don’t count calories, I replied with a not-so-quick email outlining the general guidelines I have found to work best for me throughout the years. This incorporates basically everything I have learned about nutrition and herbs, how our ancestors ate, and random stuff from what many would consider completely opposite types of diets. Its a pretty decent line up so I figured I should share it with all of you. Hopefully, you will be able to take away something from it. So here we go.
I don’t use calories anymore; this is because calories are not a very good indicator of how nutritious a meal is. The concept of ‘calories in and calories out’ just doesn’t incorporate the real value of what you eat, nor the demands that training puts on the body.
Believe me, I understand the point of calories but for myself, listening to my gut (sometimes literally) to determine how much to eat and when is the natural way we evolved. It helps you to be more connected with your body, something I feel lots of people don’t necessarily experience these days. This also helps you to know when not to eat anymore. I know some of you will disagree with this but if there is still food on your plate, you don’t HAVE to finish it! Learn to cook less if it keeps happening (please tell me you cook!?).
If I work out more I get hungry more so I eat more. Pretty simple concept people seem to have forgotten because of the invention of the clock. Also, listening to my body helps me not get ridiculously fat when my workouts fall off for a while (everyone knows a ripped high school athlete who afterward ballooned in size because they continued to eat like they did when they were training daily).
I am not trying to get big or anything, I realize that slow growth of lean muscle over years is far superior and durable then the short term growth of muscle by let’s say a body builder. Peter Ragnar, who consumes a one hundred percent raw food diet is a true model of this. I therefore just have general guidelines I follow for my diet that I have amassed over the years.
So here are MY guidelines for optimum health. This doesn’t mean yours will or should be the same; however, given that I have spent a bit of time on this list, you might as well read it. Okay, here we go (this is in no particular order):
1. Eat as much raw food as possible (nuts, seeds, greens, fruits, sushi, etc.).
Reason: Raw food has enzymes our bodies can use to break down foods. The reasoning goes the more enzymes you get in this way the less you have to use of your body’s internally produced enzymes to break down food and the more they can be used instead to repair itself. Heat breaks these naturally-occurring enzymes down. However, cooking food is important because in many foods it unlocks more of the nutrients inside it as with animal meats and/or neutralizes certain minor poisons like oxalic acid found in many veggies.
Reason: Fermentation is the oldest way of preserving food for long periods of time. Besides that, it allows us to consume many beneficial bacteria that helps our gut and through that, the rest of the body. It also partly digests our food for us, again freeing up our internal enzymes for basic maintenance and repair. The acids fermentation produces are highly beneficial and taste amazing.
3. Eat shrooms 3-4 times a week at minimum. Only organic unless they are wild. Always cooked for the most part for best utilization. (Note: if wild foraging mushrooms, you better know your shit or better yet have an experienced expert identify your mushrooms.)
Reason: Fungi are very important immune boosters. Your body loves this stuff like no other. It is important to note we all have fungi within our body that live symbolically with us, just as we have lots of parasites and bacteria that live symbolically with us. Mushrooms have many other benefits depending on the species. A lot of them have a decent amount of complete protein.
The reason we want organic mushrooms all the time is because fungi are sponges and hyper-accumulate minerals and heavy metals. Consuming conventional mushrooms is very much like consuming small doses of poison.
We want to cook them most of the time because cooking breaks down the chitin cell walls (which are indigestible) to allow our digestion of the potent nutrients inside them. Consuming raw significantly reduces anything we get from mushrooms, but I wouldn’t ever say not to consume raw mushrooms.
4. Most of the diet (give or take approx. 70%) should be veggies of as many different sorts as possible. I would say at least with every meal and then some.
Reason: Enzymes! Also, note that this is what works best for me. Others will differ. And this will probably vary over one’s lifetime too.
5. Eat at the minimum ‘organic’ for everything to limit chemical exposure.
Reason: Pesticides, fungicides, insecticides, GMO’s that make the plant produce natural insecticides are dumb. Eat them if you want your body to spend a lot of its time trying to detox you of them and possibly leading to a crisis state, aka cancer, at an earlier age then the air and water pollution would normally take to get there. I say minimum because this is the easiest first step for people moving away from conventionally produced foods. It is not the destination though. This is just a waypoint to real long-lasting health, and a good line to not recross over once you have moved past it.
6. Buy as local as possible. If it’s a veggie or fruit from out of country I do not buy. I also only really buy fruits and veggies that are at most harvested two states away if known (they don’t always label where they are from, e.g. Grown in the USA). Buying directly from farmers, going to farmers markets or joining a CSA is best. Better yet, grow your own. Can’t get more local then that!
Reason: Local means less time out of the soil and spent oxidizing. This is hugely important if you are trying to make your food count for something in today’s world. One study I read found that once you pick an orange the vitamin C content can drop by fifty-percent within one day. This is on top of nutritionally depleted soils. Nutritional oxidation means more money and more chew time to get the same quantity of stuff to your cells.
This of course means growing your own food is best! Consuming food right after picking is the ideal our bodies’ desire. After all, we evolved to consume stuff we harvested ourselves from the wild. Gathering your own food, what a concept!
Reason: We live in a time when winter never comes to the supermarket. I believe this is very confusing to our cells. By consuming fruits from some summerland far away we are feeding information into our body that it’s not winter when all our senses are stating otherwise.
Our ancestors didn’t get a chance to eat fruit all year, they only had a month or two of whatever fruits they could find. Of course this depends on the latitude you live at. Learning about each fruit and vegetable you can begin to see when it is ideally consumed. We evolved to eat certain foods at certain times in the year. We evolved to fit our environment perfectly, like a well-tailored suit.
For example, berries sprout in the spring and summer time (and fall depending on species and where you are) and are high in antioxidants to help our bodies deal with the increased solar radiation we are encountering. Many roots are consumed in the winter because they are a storehouse of starchy carbs to help ignite and keep going our internal fires because of the colder weather.
While I am a champion of promoting variety in eating, this is one limiting rule I don’t break often.
8. Eat as many wild foraged foods (greens, shoots, mushrooms, meat, seafood, etc.) as possible. If most of my diet can come from this then that is THE ideal.
Reason: This one takes a lot of work in our society. You must learn what you can safely forage and consume and have to go out there and experience it. But this work can be really fun, interesting, and gives you the confidence to thrive in something like…the possible catabolic collapse of western civilization.
Eating wild foods is the healthiest thing you can do for yourself. When Hippocrates stated, “Let medicine be thy food and food be thy medicine,” he was talking about how medicine was contained in food. Our medicine has been bred out of our food so it is more palatable to our sweet tooth culture. Bitter is not necessarily indicative of poisons but of substances our body can use to keep itself healthy in a constantly changing environment. Getting these unique substances back into the body is not something to overlook.
Another side to this is that a lot of our food has been winnowed down to such a monotony of species that it’s a wonder we have not had a large pandemic come through since the 1918 Spanish Flu. Native peoples ate hundreds of different species from every kingdom, yet we limit ourselves to a few select species from a couple kingdoms (plants and animal) for the most part. Basically we are monocropping ourselves into deficiencies and is one reason infertile rates are increasing. By consuming wild foraged foods we open the floodgates on species diversity and diversity always equals healthier systems, whether ecological or human.
9. Consume herbs daily to increase intelligence, memory, optimize digestion, grow more lean muscle, have more energy, lower levels of cortisol, higher free levels of testosterone and basically kick ass more than without the herbs.
Reason: One reason was just mentioned. Consuming herbs helps me regularly get more diversity from multiple different kingdoms in an easy and effective manner. I regularly consume herbs that come from the plant, animal, arthropod, and fungi kingdoms. I regularly consume herbs that are raw too.
All the other reasons can be found at lostempireherbs.com, in scientific studies, across the internet and in books or within thousands-year-old medicinal systems like Traditional Chinese Medicine or the Ayurvedic Medicine system.
10. Eat only pastured raised beef, pork, chickens, ducks, etc. and as MANY wild animals as you can get a hold of. Consume all the parts of animals, especially the nutrient-dense organs. Sticking with muscles only is frowned upon. I don’t hunt yet myself but am in the works to start bow-hunting and trapping by the end of the year.
Reason: Consumption of animal carcasses was integral to the evolution of our human family’s brain. Without this consumption we would not be here in this form or probably able to reason the way we do. Our minds and bodies run best off the fats found in meats and seafood. Again, we want diversity like our native ancestors, who would consume basically every creature that walked, flew or swim that they could get their hands on. This was always done with a sense of graciousness and recognition that they themselves would be in turned consumed by the web of life in some way eventually and would feed those they once killed to live.
This is why personally it follows that I learn to hunt and trap my own food and be a part of this cycle once again, move away from the unfeeling slaughter called the conventional meat industry. Pastured animals are a step in that direction and at least live healthy farm animal lives before they are killed (depends on the farm of course). Note: Free-range in reference to chickens and cows does not always actually mean much, always aim for pastured. Getting to know the rancher or farmer who tends your food is always a good idea in the long run.
This will also get you the best fats around. More on that later.
11. Eat eggs from pastured chickens and duck eggs (usually pastured) as much as possible.
Reason: When chickens or any bird consumes their normal diet, more nutrients make it to the egg. Chicken yolks should be an orange-to-dark orange color, not yellow. This color comes from the nutrients they receive from eating insects, something they are better able to do when pastured. Eggs are superstars of nutrition: complete protein and lots of saturated fats!
I haven’t started eating songbird eggs but back in the good ol’ days, you would eat any eggs you could find because you didn’t have chickens to lay eggs for you. So…we will see what the future holds for this one.
12. Consume as much good fat as possible. I am lactose-intolerant so I drink raw goat milk and eat goat and sheep cheeses. I also still eat butter though ideally I would make ghee with it (super simple). Coconut oil is not necessary but since global trade makes it possible, a pretty good fat that can be obtained for the brain.
Reason: As stated earlier, your brain runs best off sources of good fats. It will run on any old oxidized, rancid fat you give it but is evolved (optimized) to run best on saturated fats and omega fats in the right ratios. Pasture-raised beef actually has a higher omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. Thus, you can get omega-3s from land animals, just not factory farmed animals. This will most probably be proven true of wild animals such as venison, elk and buffalo in the future.
Note: Avocados were one of three staple foods eaten by Mesoamerican cultures. This means you can never eat enough avocados!
13. A big one with the fats is marine life so eating as much marine life as possible is ideal. Do not eat farmed fish. Seaweeds should be consumed regularly.
Reason: Our society is Omega-6 dominate. This comes from eating conventionally raised meats. Even farmed fish lose much of their omega-3s and for this reason alone should be avoided. High consumption of seafood sources has been cited as a possible reason for intelligence and reasoning in mammalian predators such as whales, dolphins, seals, and humans.
Another good thing to do is eat shellfish as much as possible. Super high levels of Zinc and they even contain good doses of omega-3s. Really easy to start harvesting if you have a fishing license and a good way to consume some raw foods.
Seaweeds are one of the healthiest foods known to man. The naturally occurring source of iodine found in all seaweeds is vital for proper thyroid and cellular functioning. It also prevents the absorption into the cells of certain radioactive isotopes because the iodine is connected to the receptor sites preventing things like Cesium-137. A good and super tasty way to get more seaweed in the diet is fermented miso soups.
Note: Many people have a problem eating wild fish especially from the Pacific because of the ongoing Fukushima Incident. I personally believe the benefits outweigh the risk. I also believe that ecosystems are far more adaptable then we give them credit for. For instance, there are black molds growing on the cement walls of Chernobyl that live off of the radiation there and are effectively pulling it out of the environment. Also, I consume shilajit and eat as much seaweed as I can to detox heavy metals and prevent the harmful effects of possible radiation contamination from taking place within my body. Seaweed is probably the most powerful detoxifier in any event involving radiation and what I will be eating daily if a nuke is ever dropped nearby.
If you have a problem with eating seafood from the Pacific then don’t eat it. Gives the fisheries a better chance to come back anyways.
14. I drink alcohol just not that often. I try to stay away from beers for the most part because of the testosterone lowering effect of estrogen in hops but I am rather partial to craft beer so I am not always successful. Reward yourself.
Reason: Almost all beers contain hops thanks to the Reinheitsgebot or German Beer Purity Law of 1516. Hops is one of the highest estrogen containing plants on the planet. This is the real reason beer bellies (a secondary feminine characteristic) and moobs (man boobs) take place, not the calories in beer.
Alcohol has been found to be really good for you in moderation. My problem is my definition of moderation is quite different than those that do the studies. Dark beers have been found to have many health boosting qualities akin to wine. So if you still have to consume beer (like myself), darker is better for you in the long run.
15. Don’t stress if you eat junk food once in a while. Rewarding yourself for your discipline by succumbing to a desire will help you keep those disciplines longer in the end. The stress of desire is often worse for us then the food itself would be for our health. So go ahead, eat a cookie. Enjoy life.
Reason: They say stress kills. That’s because it can. A battle with willpower can leave you drained and chronic stress is just painful. So in the interests of health, don’t be so hard on yourself. No one is perfect. I fully understand the desire to reach a state of diet perfection but we must realize that a lot of what happens in the world happens organically over time and is not some clear cut jump from one extreme to another. Save yourself the agony. Instead use these almost certain step backs to your advantage. Reward your good behaviors. Not every time but once in the while when a sharp craving hits, if you have been doing everything you think you need to and could say that you are proud of yourself, why the heck not give yourself a break? This will reinforce those good behaviors and in the long run bring you that much closer to truly achieving that perfect diet you desire.
Note: Rewarding yourself every day does not promote good behavior. Be careful you don’t step over into using this as an excuse for engorging your bad habits. Everything in moderation, right?
This is what my guidelines are. I will not make any claims to being able to follow them to the tee all the time. I can state that when I do, I feel a wholeness that I never feel otherwise. I am however, constantly changing and with my upcoming adventures into the state of native food gathering practices, my body will once again have to adapt to new dietary challenges it has never before encountered. Pan-fried crickets on my salad? Oh, dear gods, yes please.
Of course, you could dive much deeper into each subject mentioned, entire books have been written. But reading only gets you so far and figuring out what works best for you is the order of the day. No one should tell people that they should eat any one way because there is too much variety in life and human nature to allow for that. You are your own best advisor for this stuff, don’t let any ‘expert’ tell you otherwise.