Here are some basic principles we think are important. The first step is knowing what is good for you. The next is being mindful about what you eat, and making the healthy decision. That’s being a Warrior!
Recommendations for all Warriors:
- Sugar causes damage. Eat as little as possible.
- Eat real foods; limit processed foods especially refined carbohydrates.
- Limit food intake to not eat excess.
- A calorie is not a calorie. What that calorie is made of matters.
- Eat healthy fats.
There are lots of choices when it comes to what type of “diet” you should follow. The truth is that many of them are effective. The common components of all successful programs are the elimination of sugar and refined carbohydrates along with calorie restriction. This means paying attention to how much and what you eat.
Contrary to popular belief, the consumption of sugar, not fat, is what leads to the development of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. While most of us grew up thinking that “low-fat” was healthy, this was incorrect, and has led to the current epidemic of obesity and chronic disease. There are many studies which support this. National recommendations are now limiting the amount of added sugars in the diet.
Packaged foods with a nutritional label and a long shelf life are processed and are not good for you. Real foods are the way to go! Our ancestors from different places around the world had varied diets without suffering from diabetes, obesity and heart disease. The common theme for all healthy eating patterns is real food that has not been processed. It is the consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates that leads to a cycle of hunger and overeating. Learning to eat real foods and keeping portions appropriate are essential to developing a healthy eating lifestyle.
Butter, olive oil and coconut oil are healthy. Vegetable oils are not. Vegetable oils are very unstable when heated and create a lot of free radicals. Vegetable oils are also very high in omega 6 fatty acids and these lead to inflammation of the vascular wall. While vegetable oils have been shown to lower cholesterol, studies show they actually increase the incidence of cardiac deaths. It is best to use grass fed butter or coconut oil for cooking and olive oil as a topping.
Individuals that have diabetes or prediabetes already have a significant degree of insulin resistance. The most effective way to reverse this rapidly is to follow a low carbohydrate high fat diet (LCHF) and use intermittent fasting.
Chronically elevated insulin levels (hyperinsulinemia) is the root cause of inflammation leading to chronic diseases. To allow insulin levels to drop between meals and while you sleep, it is best to eat 3 meals a day in a 12 hour window and not snack in between meals. If your biomarkers do not improve next steps would include, looking for hidden sources of sugars in your diet, especially in processed foods, sauces, and any time you eat outside the home. If this is not enough then adopting a low carbohydrate diet and intermittent fasting will improve your health and biomarkers.
The following are descriptions of some common diets. “Diet” refers to nutritional programs. These are lifestyles, not weight loss programs. While we cannot recommend the right one for you, we want you to know what some different programs are about.
Low Carb Healthy Fat
Low carb healthy fat is a diet that involves eating whole foods in a ratio of 70% fat, 20% protein, and 10% carbohydrates. This means eating lots of vegetables, cook using grass fed butter or coconut oil, eat grass fed meats and use olive oil on foods. There are lots of great cookbooks available.
The Diabetes Code by Jason Fung MD is an excellent resource for more information about correcting insulin resistance and getting off all diabetes medication quickly through proper nutrition.
The New Atkins for a New You: The Ultimate Diet for Shedding Weight and Feeling Great by Eric Westman MD, Steve Phinney MD PhD, and Jeff Volek PhD is another great resource which explains in detail how adopt a LCHF lifestyle.
Intermittent fasting is a hot topic right now and there are a lot of different variations. The easiest way to start is to limit the number of hours each day that you eat. One option is to limit when you eat to a 6 hour window (ex 12pm- 6pm). If this is not leading to an improvement in your biomarkers you could try extending the fast to 24 or 36 hours. For more prolonged fasting periods it is important to be under the care of a physician as there are risks both during the fast and when you begin eating again. If you are on medication for blood pressure control or diabetes, it is important to make you physician aware of the changes you are making to avoid problems related to hypoglycemia or hypotension.
The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting by Jason Fung MD is a great resource for fasting strategies. While it may sound scary until you have tried fasting, it was a normal part of our ancestors existence and our bodies are designed for it.
The Paleo Diet
The Paleo Diet involves only eating foods that were available to our ancestors a long time ago. This means no processed food, grains, or sugar. Most people also stay away from dairy. You can eat as much as you want, but in general people eat fewer calories just by avoiding the above food.
The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet by Robb Wolf is a great resource for further info on the paleo diet.
Paleo With A Purpose by Josh Bunch is another great resource about the paleo diet.
The Zone Diet
The Zone Diet involves eating 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fat for every meal. The total amount of food per meal is determined by your lean body mass. Normally 3 meals and 2 snacks a day are eaten. Due to the fairly even distribution of macronutrients, this diet is well tolerated.
The Zone Diet by Barry Sears PhD explains the zone diet in detail. There are also a number of other books written by Barry Sears including The Mediterranean Zone.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet involves eating fruit, vegetables, fish, olive oil and other monounsaturated fats, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and a little red wine. Foods to avoid include sugar and processed foods. The mediterranean diet is well tolerated due to the variety of foods one can eat.
A Plant-Based Vegetarian Diet
A plant-based vegetarian diet is another option that has health benefits. The word vegetarian has come to mean so many things to different people. It is possible to eat a very unhealthy diet involving lots of processed foods that is technically vegetarian. To be healthy this diet needs to involve eating plant based whole foods and avoiding processed food and sugar.
The above list is just small sample of available eating philosophies. The bottom line is that if you avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates there are many different dietary choices that can be part of a healthy lifestyle. Eating real foods and proper portion sizes is the key.