There’s nothing like the holiday food frenzy to make you really think about what you’re eating… And it can be hard to resist temptations like the cheese dip at your neighbor’s party, that rum-spiked eggnog, or your aunt’s famous candied yams.
It’s hard enough to know what to put on your plate year-round (not just during holiday festivities), considering how many headlines scream every week that a particular food or nutrient is now “good” or “bad.”
But those headlines are simply distractions or distortions (more or less written around faulty studies), that take the focus away from the big picture of diet, nutrition, and good health.
A balanced, healthy diet is diversified. And study after study—including a new one I’ll share with you a little later—shows that the better path to achieving this diversity is to think less about individual foods being “good” or “bad”… and instead, concentrate on the quality of your diet as a whole.
And if you want to prevent chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and dementia, don’t just think about what you should CUT from your diet. Instead, focus on what you should ADD to your meals to make them more nutritious.
Today, I’m going to share six simple ways you can do that. But first, let’s take a look at why mainstream medicine thinks my commonsense, science-backed advice is so radical.
A history of bad diet advice
The sad fact is that modern medicine is still waiting for a general theory on human diet and nutrition. Despite the advances in nutritional science, the mainstream is still following the tired, old thinking I witnessed in the mid-1980s, when I was part of the founding group of scientists in the new diet and cancer research program at the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
The NCI bureaucrats could only think about testing isolated, synthetic nutrients like beta-carotene for their anti-cancer activity, as if those nutrients were drugs. Meanwhile, I conducted research showing there was actually no good evidence that beta-carotene could lower cancer risk. I later received the Young Investigator Award from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for that research.
You would hope a finding like that would encourage the NCI to stop looking at isolated nutrients and focus more on diet and nutrition as an entity—and its ability to treat and cure disease. But NCI researchers fumbled on, eventually finding that synthetic beta-carotene on its own not only failed to prevent cancer, it actually raised the risk!
The NCI science bureaucrats even wanted to test a tiny beta-carotene pill they thought could cure all our woes when it came to the unhealthy, overly-processed late 20th century diet. Just like with drugs, the academic-government-industrial “medical swamp” projected they could keep making money by selling these nutritious, magic bullet “food” pills.
Talk about missing the “big picture!” What the mainstream should really be doing is encouraging people to actually eat more of the nutrient-rich foods they’re lacking—rather than cutting out entire categories of foods and restricting their diets (or worse, trying to get these nutrients from a single pill).
As I mentioned earlier, for many decades, studies of human populations around the world have consistently found that greater dietary diversity is the key to good health. In fact, restricted diets that lack diversity are more likely to turn up nutritional deficiencies—which modern science shows are associated with every single chronic disease today.
The link between nutritional quality and cancer
I was reminded of this concept recently, when I read a new study that looked at how diet quality affects cancer risk.1
Researchers analyzed the food intake of nearly 472,000 European adults for an average of 15 years. During that time, there were approximately 49,800 new cancer cases.
Each participant’s diet was assigned a nutritional score according to a food standards index and computed risks. The researchers found that participants with a diet score reflecting poor nutritional quality had a higher risk of cancer—specifically colon, esophageal, stomach, throat, and lung cancer for men, and breast and liver cancer for women.
There were certainly no surprises in what the researchers identified as risky foods with low nutritional value. These included:
• Canned soft drinks with high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners
• Non-organic and GM-foods grown (and often harvested) with toxic, cancer-causing pesticides
• Packaged and processed foods with added artificial ingredients, fat, or sweeteners
You already know to avoid these foods. But what this study made me consider are all of the foods you should eat when it comes to preventing cancer and other diseases.
Easy ways to balance your diet and improve your health
Today I’d like to share with you what you should add to your diet. After all, the key to maintaining lifelong healthy dietary habits is all about feeling satiated after you eat—not deprived.
And of course, I’m sure some misguided mainstream doctors may disagree with this advice because it includes foods that have mistakenly been deemed “bad” for your health. But those doctors must not keep up on the science…
Here’s what decades of research shows you really need to know when it comes to a balanced, healthy diet:
1) Don’t be afraid of nutrient-dense dairy, meat, and seafood.
Dairy, meat, and seafood are packed with healthy fats and essential fatty acids; vitamins A, B, D, and E; and a variety of minerals (including calcium, which you should always get from food instead of supplements).
They’re also loaded with protein, which can help you maintain a healthy weight without following restrictive fad diets that don’t work anyway (at least, not for the long term).
Quick weight loss from these drastic, unhealthy diets just leads to rapid weight regain and the dreaded “yo-yo dieting,” which wreaks havoc on your body.
But high-protein, low-carb, balanced eating plans (not diets) featuring meat, dairy, and seafood help you sensibly achieve a healthy weight, while also maintaining muscle mass and improving your heart and metabolic health.
Just make sure to choose grass-fed meat, full-fat dairy, and wild-caught seafood for the highest levels of nutrients. I recommend two 5-ounce servings of fish per week along with 6 ounces of protein per day, and 2 to 3 daily servings of full-fat dairy.
2) Eat the rainbow at every meal.
Here’s a practical guideline I can get behind (at least three-quarters of the way) from my old friends at the USDA. Fill half your plate with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in the colors of the rainbow—red, orange, purple, yellow, and green.
But the key is to not just do this at dinner. You should also make sure that half of your breakfast and lunch consists of fruits or vegetables as well.
For instance, you could have a veggie omelet for breakfast, or a bowl of whole-grain, steel-cut oatmeal topped with a handful of blueberries. And for lunch, enjoy a salad topped with salmon or chicken, or beef fajitas with red onions and green and yellow peppers wrapped in an organic whole-wheat or organic corn tortilla. (For more about whole grains, see page 4.)
3) Have a daily snack of nuts or seeds.
Nuts are loaded with nutrients, including healthy fats, protein, fiber, vitamins B and E, and plenty of essential minerals. And so are seeds.
While it’s true that nuts and seeds can be high in calories, you only need half a cup a day to get the health benefits. Plus, unlike sugary or processed snacks, nuts and seeds fill you up—meaning you’ll eat less overall.
4) Become friends with fats.
Fats are often demonized by the mainstream medical establishment. Of course, you want to eliminate artificial trans fats, which are now restricted by the FDA anyway. But as I’ve written before, your body needs both saturated and unsaturated fat to function.
Fats help construct every cell membrane in your body. They also insulate brain and nerve cells so they function and signal properly. And without some fat in your diet, you can’t absorb the critical fat-soluble vitamins—A, D, E, and K—from food or dietary supplements.
Plus, fats add flavor to food and provide the creamy, moist, and tender textures that help you feel full after a meal.
So don’t be afraid of fat—including butter, lard, or other so-called “bad” fats. Just eat them in moderation, like everything else. A good rule of thumb is to get roughly 10 – 20 percent of your daily calories from the saturated fats in meat and dairy.
And make sure to include unsaturated fats like nuts, seeds, seafood, olive oil, and avocados. These are all key components of the Mediterranean diet, which has been linked in studies to lower risk of dementia, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, and overall mortality.
You can also combine fats, especially when cooking. I’ve found that extra virgin olive oil and full-fat, grass-fed butter are excellent and tasty combos.
5) Don’t forget fiber.
Fiber is very complicated and often misunderstood, as I explained in the very first issue of Insiders’ Cures seven years ago (“Dietary fiber: cancer cure—or cause?”).
Despite all of the emphasis placed on it by mainstream diet “experts,” fiber isn’t the be-all, end-all of nutrition. That said, fiber, which occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, is certainly fundamental to diet and health.
Fiber’s key role is as a prebiotic—meaning it supports the probiotics, or “good” bacteria, that naturally occur in your GI microbiome. (For more about this, see page 7). It also cuts cholesterol, improves digestion, and helps your body flush out carcinogens.
But as important as these functions are, there’s no need to be hyper-focused on high-fiber foods. If you eat a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and legumes, you’ll get all the healthy fiber you need. And you’ll have the added bonus of feeling full faster, which keeps you from overeating.
6) Make your favorite restaurant “Chez Moi.”
My final recommendation has to do with where you eat the healthy foods I just mentioned.
I love to go out for dinner, but I save it for special occasions. That’s because, unlike the food I cook at home, I can’t be sure if my restaurant dinner is made from processed ingredients, white flour, sugar, or other “fake” foods.
Plus, a new study found that people who ate at restaurants, cafeterias, or fast-food places had 35 percent more phthalates in their blood the next day when compared with people who ate food made at home.2
Phthalates are chemicals that have been linked to birth defects, hormonal issues, obesity, neurological problems, cardiovascular issues, and even cancer. They’re commonly found in plastics, and researchers suspect phthalates make their way into restaurant food via ingredient packaging.
When you cook at home, you can also avoid premade sauces, mixes, and “instant” foods that contain sugar or artificial ingredients. And you can choose fresh or frozen meat, fish, and poultry instead of processed, packaged versions. Not to mention fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits, which are healthier than canned.
You can add a variety of spices (most of which function as herbal remedies with added health benefits) to your home-cooked dishes for extra flavor.
Of course, it’s difficult to prepare your own meals when traveling. One solution is to check into long-term stay locations with kitchens. Then you can prepare at least some of your own meals with food purchased from the local organic grocery store.
But whether you’re at home or on the road this holiday season, don’t be afraid of a slice of pumpkin pie or a glass of mulled wine. Just enjoy them in moderation—and make sure to enjoy plenty of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, seafood, nuts, and seeds as well.
1“Nutritional quality of food as represented by the FSAm-NPS nutrient profiling system underlying the Nutri-Score label and cancer risk in Europe: Results from the EPIC prospective cohort study.” PLoS Med. 2018 Sep 18;15(9):e1002651.
2“Dietary sources of cumulative phthalates exposure among the U.S. general population in NHANES 2005–2014.” Environ Int. 2018 Jun;115:417-429.