The United States is one of the wealthiest and most industrialized countries in the world today, yet it is one of the poorest in terms of people’s health. Chronic illnesses that were once rare, like cancer and diabetes, are now reaching epidemic proportions. Obesity and obesity-related diseases are also becoming widespread, with two-thirds of Americans, including children, now overweight or obese.
These alarming statistics can be blamed on one main culprit: the nutritionally-deficient and highly-processed modern American diet.
The Modern American Diet Puts People’s Health in Jeopardy
Americans are regularly exposed to junk foods and processed foods that are cheap, “convenient,” and rather addicting. These are filled with high-fructose corn syrup, monosodium glutamate (MSG), genetically engineered (GE) ingredients and other synthetic additives that add to your body’s toxic burden, paving the way for chronic diseases to develop.
It may seem difficult or even impossible to consume a healthy and nutritious diet, but that is not true. All you need is a little motivation and a reliable, easy-to-follow nutrition plan.
Many leading dietary experts today recommend one type of diet for all people, believing that this will help them reach or maintain optimal health. But this “one-size-fits-all” dietary approach is not advisable, because everyone has a unique biochemistry and genetics. Each person processes food and utilizes nutrients differently. Therefore, you need to adopt a diet that suits your specific nutritional requirements.
Regain Your Health with Our Healthy Nutrition Plan
This healthy nutrition plan is a specialized diet program that provides the basic tenets of healthy eating. This program comes from 30 years of extensive research and experience, and helps you address your health problems at the foundational level.
You do not need to worry about being hungry when following this eating program. In fact, it will help relieve your hunger pains by addressing and balancing your specific nutritional needs. It will also help banish your food cravings and give you more energy.
Getting Started: 4 Factors to Determine Your Level of Health
It is advisable to gauge your level of health before embarking on Dr. Mercola’s Nutrition Plan. Take note of these four factors:
- Insulin levels – Any meal or snack high in grain and sugar carbohydrates typically generates a rapid rise in blood glucose. To compensate for this, your pancreas secretes insulin into your bloodstream, which lowers your blood sugar to keep you from dying. But if you consume a diet consistently high in sugar and grains, your body becomes “sensitized” to insulin, leading to insulin and leptin resistance, two factors that can result in obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes. To find out your insulin and leptin levels, you must take a fasting blood insulin and leptin test.
- Weight – Measuring your waist circumference is a good way to determine if you have a weight problem. Abdominal fat is also an important risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Here’s a general guide to help you determine if you have a healthy waist size – you can also check out our ideal weight calculator:
- Blood pressure – The ideal blood pressure for people who are not on medication should be about 120/80. If you are on medication, this nutrition plan may also effectively normalize elevated blood pressure levels.
- Cholesterol levels – Your body needs cholesterol, which helps in the production of hormones, cell membranes, vitamin D, and bile acids that help you to digest fat. Cholesterol is also vital to your neurological function. If you want to learn your risk for heart disease from your cholesterol levels, these two percentages are far more potent indicators than your overall total cholesterol level:
- HDL/Total Cholesterol Ratio – Should ideally be above 24 or 30. It rarely gets above 50, but the higher the number, the better. Having levels below 10 percent are very dangerous and may be a sign of a cardiovascular problem.
- Triglyceride/HDL Ratio – Should be below 2. The higher this number, the worse your insulin control may be.
You can use these health indicators to monitor your success on this nutrition plan. Once you see that these indicators are in their optimal ranges, you can confidently move on to the next level.
Principles of this Nutrition Plan
Adopt a No-Grain Diet
Conventional health experts often tell people that grains and whole grains are crucial to a balanced diet, as they provide healthy nutrients and fiber. However, humans are NOT designed to eat grains, and doing so may actually have dire effects on your gut and overall health.
Gluten, the primary protein found in wheat, is the main cause of celiac disease (CD). This debilitating digestive disease occurs when a person is gluten-sensitive or cannot digest gluten properly. According to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center statistics, one out of every 133 people in the US suffers from celiac disease.
Gliadins are the immunotoxic protein molecules in gluten that frequently cause toxic reactions that trigger your immune response. When it becomes water-soluble, it freely binds to cells in your body and increases the production of the intestinal protein zonulin, which in turn opens up gaps in the normally tight junctures between intestinal cells (enterocytes).
If you are gluten-sensitive, your immune system will produce antibodies to gliadin and attack the cells in your intestinal wall that gliadin has attached itself to. This immune response damages the surrounding tissues, leading to symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. It can also set off or exacerbate other health problems, such as:
|Osteoporosis or osteopenia||Tooth enamel defects||Vitamin K deficiency|
|Central and peripheral nervous system disease||Dementia, and impairments in mental functioning that could cause or aggravate autism, Asperger’s syndrome, ADD, or schizophrenia||Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) or Duhring’s disease, a skin condition that causes intense itching and blistering|
|Anemia of various types||Infertility and earlier menopause||Organ disorders|
|Weight loss or gain||Depression||Fatigue|
To prevent gluten from wreaking havoc on your health, we recommend eliminating all gluten-containing wheat products from your diet. Make sure to check food labels as well, as gluten can be hidden under different names, such as:
- Natural flavoring
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
- Texturized vegetable protein (TVP)
Many people with gluten intolerance usually experience noticeable physical, mental, and/or emotional changes after six to nine months of being gluten-free. However, don’t expect immediate effects, as it may take 30 to 60 days for the inflammation to subside, and nine to 12 months for your intestine lining to heal.
Eliminate Highly Allergenic Foods
If you feel considerably worse after starting a gluten-free diet, it may be caused by other unidentified food allergies and food sensitivities. Food cravings can be a gauge of food sensitivity. For example, craving dairy products or breads can indicate that you are sensitive to that food, especially if you feel worse after eating it.
Consuming foods that you’re sensitive to can lead to negative biochemical reactions, particularly in your digestive tract and immune system. They can keep your immune system in overdrive by continually triggering the inflammatory response and negatively impact your mood by decreasing your serotonin levels. Food cravings can also lead to binge-eating on simple sugars and carbohydrates.
Removing allergenic foods from your diet can diminish your cravings for sweets, improving your mood, helping you lose weight, and your overall health. Here are some foods to stay away from:
|White flour products (baked goods, cookies, pastries)||Spelt|
|Rye||Pasteurized cow’s milk products|
At Least One-Third of Your Food Should Be Consumed Raw
Heating and cooking foods can damage their valuable and sensitive micronutrients, altering their shape and chemical composition. This results in a highly processed diet that lack important nutrients. Cooking also encourages the formation of unhealthy byproducts, such as thermolyzed casein and acrylamide.
We’d highly recommend consuming raw foods, especially vegetables, as they contain live nutrients called biophotons. Also called “sun energy,” biophotons contain important bio-information, which controls complex vital processes in your body. They can help elevate your physical body to a higher oscillation, giving you a feeling of vibrant vitality and wellbeing.
Increase Your Intake of Fresh, Raw Vegetables
Almost every health authority recommends getting at least six to eight servings of vegetables and fruits every day, although fruits must be consumed in moderation due to their fructose content. But very few people actually achieve these amounts.
A large bulk of your carbohydrate intake should come from fresh, raw vegetables. In fact, your body prefers the carbohydrates in vegetables rather than grains, as they slow the conversion to simple sugars like glucose and decrease your insulin level. Grain carbohydrates only increase your insulin levels and interfere with your ability to burn fat.
However, remember that not all vegetables are created equal. For example, instead of iceberg lettuce, which has minimal nutritional value, choose red and green leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, and spinach, which are much more nutritious. For a guide on healthy fat burning foods you can try, check out our list of 36 foods that burn fat.
Finding organic, locally grown, and non-GMO vegetables is important. But if you can’t get organic, you can still consume non-organic vegetables, as long as you wash them thoroughly and remove peels and cores to minimize your exposure to pesticides.
The Benefits of Vegetable Juicing: A Great Way to Maximize Your Vegetables’ Nutrients
For people who find it difficult to consume large quantities of vegetables every day, juicing is a wonderful program that they can incorporate in their nutrition plan. Vegetable juicing:
- Helps “pre-digest” all the nutrients in vegetables so you can absorb them easily.
- Allows you to consume an optimal amount of vegetables in an efficient manner.
- Lets you add a wider variety of vegetables in your diet, including those that you do not normally enjoy eating whole.
You must remember that vegetable juice should not be treated as a meal replacement, as it has little protein and no fat. It’s best to consume it in addition to your regular meals or as a fat burning snack.
Fermented Vegetables: The Ultimate Superfood
Fermenting vegetables is another good way to maximize their nutritional benefits. Fermented foods are good for optimizing your gut flora because they contain high levels of probiotics. They are also potent chelators (detoxifiers) that help break down and remove heavy metals and other toxins from your body.
Nutritional consultant Caroline Barringer recommends eating one-quarter to one-half cup of fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut or kimchi, with one to three meals per day. Consuming a large portion may lead to a healing crisis – a condition that occurs when probiotics kill off toxin-releasing pathogens in your gut.
If you are new to fermented foods, introduce them slowly, beginning with as little as one teaspoon of sauerkraut with a meal. Observe your reactions and increase your dose gradually.
Limit or Eliminate Your Sugar and Fructose Consumption
Excessive consumption of sugar, especially fructose, is the leading cause of obesity and other chronic and deadly diseases. Too much sugar in your body can lead to insulin and leptin resistance, which are the root causes of most diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Fructose also elevates your uric acid levels, generating uric acid just minutes after ingestion. This wreaks havoc on your blood pressure, kidney function, and insulin production. In fact, you can use your uric acid levels to determine your fructose toxicity.
You should keep your total fructose consumption below 25 grams per day, or lower for people who are already suffering from diseases like diabetes and cancer. Your fructose from fat burning fruit should just be 15 grams or less per day, as you’re guaranteed to consume sugar from other foods and beverages. Here’s a list of common fruits that burn fat and their fructose content:
Avoid Artificial Sweeteners at All Costs
Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose have been touted as “safe and healthy” substitutes for refined sugar, and are usually advised for people who are trying to manage their weight. But studies have revealed that artificial sweeteners can actually lead to weight gain, as they can:
- Stimulate your appetite
- Increase carbohydrate cravings
- Stimulate fat storage and weight gain
What’s more, artificial sweeteners can lead to numerous side effects. Aspartame, the technical name for brand names Nutra Sweet, Equal, Spoonful, and Equal-Measure, accounts for 75 percent of adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA. Some of these reactions are very serious, such as seizures and death. Aspartame is also linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases like cancer, brain tumors, and diabetes.
Instead of aspartame and other artificial sweeteners, opt for natural sweeteners like stevia or raw organic honey. However, you still need to consume these sweeteners in moderation.
Choose High-Quality Protein Sources
Proteins are nutrients that make up the major components of your hormones and immune system. They are essential to the building, maintenance, and repair of your body tissues, internal organs, and muscles. Proteins are made up of substances called amino acids. There are 22 amino acids that are vital for your health, but your body can make only 14 of these – the other eight, called essential amino acids, must be obtained from foods.
You can get proteins from all types of food, but only several meat, eggs, cheese, and other animal food sources contain these eight essential amino acids.
Eggs are a great source of protein, but you should only consume organic eggs from free-range hens. Look for eggs with a deep, dark orange yolk – a light-colored yolk means that the chicken did not have access to its normal diet of pastured grass and insects. Avoid all omega-3 enriched eggs as well, as these come from hens that are given poor-quality sources of omega-3 fats that are already oxidized.
You can eat at least one dozen raw eggs per week, which you can mix in your protein smoothie or shake. They will not cause your cholesterol levels to increase. However, if you prefer your eggs cooked (poached or soft boiled are your best options), avoid eating them daily or you may develop an allergy.
Dairy is also a good protein source, but avoid all pasteurized varieties, including pasteurized cheese and yogurt. A better option would be raw milk or naturally fermented yogurt made from raw milk. However, raw milk can be difficult to obtain, as it is illegal to sell commercially in most US states. To find a raw milk source near you, check out the Campaign for Real Milk website. Raw milk cheeses are also a good choice and can be bought in some health food stores.
Healthy Fats Are Essential to Your Diet
The fats you eat can influence many important body processes, including your brain function – 60 percent of the human brain is fat. However, it is important to choose the type of fat to include in your meals. Instead of unhealthy trans fats, Dr. Mercola recommends consuming healthy saturated fats and omega-3 fats.
Saturated fats can be obtained from animal products like cheese, butter, milk, and fatty meats. Some plant-based foods like avocados, raw nuts, coconuts, and coconut oil are also wonderful sources of saturated fats. When consumed as part of your diet, these healthy fats can slow down your absorption, allowing you to go longer without feeling hungry. Saturated fats also act as carriers of fat-soluble nutrients, like vitamins A, D, E, and K. Some ideal sources of healthy saturated fats include:
|Avocados||Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk||Raw dairy|
|Coconuts and coconut oil||unheated organic nut oils||Raw nuts, such as almonds or pecans, and seeds|
|Organic pastured egg yolks||Grass fed meats|
Meanwhile, omega-3 fats are essential for repairing cell damage and offer many benefits:
- Helps fight and prevent heart disease, cancer, depression, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, diabetes, hyperactivity and many other diseases
- Increases your energy levels and boost your metabolism
- Promotes optimal brain function and improves your ability to concentrate
- Provides greater resistance to common illnesses like the flu and colds
- Helps pregnant women avoid premature births, low birth weight, and other complications
Healthy meats like grass-fed beef, bison, and venison, and free-range poultry are great sources of valuable omega-3 fats and protein. Grass-fed meats, particularly beef, also contain conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a potent nutrient linked to long-term weight management and health.
Like meats, fish also contains high quantities of protein and omega-3 fats and oils that can benefit you by reducing cholesterol.
A safe alternative would be to consume krill oil, a high-quality source of omega-3 fats DHA and EPA. Krill oil also contains almost 50 times more antioxidants than fish oil, which prevents the highly perishable omega-3 fats from oxidizing inside your body. Krill oil also contains phospholipids that increase its absorption.
Pure water should be your main beverage of choice. Water makes up over 70 percent of your body and plays a role in almost every body function. Listen to your body and let it tell you if you need to drink water.
You can also use the color of your urine to determine how much water you need to drink. Your urine must be light yellow, unless you’re taking a riboflavin supplement (vitamin B2). Dark yellow urine is a sign that you’re not drinking enough water. Use our daily water intake calculator as a guide to how much water you should drink.
Aside from water, other healthful drinks you can consume include:
- Vegetable juice
- Coconut water
- Organic green tea (preferably Matcha green tea)
Here are some considerations when consuming other beverages:
- Coffee – I have recently updated my recommendations on drinking coffee, as numerous studies have shown its health-promoting properties, such as reducing risk of diseases like Parkinson’s, dementia, and diabetes. The caffeine in coffee, when consumed in moderation, is also found to have a positive effect on your brain chemistry, as it promotes the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline, which is essential to regulating your mood and reduces your depression and suicide risk.
You should be drinking coffee in moderation, limiting your consumption to a maximum of two to three cups per day, as most studies find no added health benefits above this amount. Choose only organic, pesticide-free, whole-bean black coffee (the darker the roast, the better) without any sugar and other additives, and use non-bleached coffee filters when brewing it.If you are pregnant, DO NOT drink coffee, even if it’s organic. Caffeine can easily pass through both the blood-brain barrier and the placenta, and can be transferred through breast milk.
- Tea – Beware of poor-quality black and green teas that are naturally high in fluoride. Some tea bags are also made with synthetic polymers like nylon, thermoplastic, PVC or polypropylene, which can leach into your tea.
- Soda and processed fruit juices – These are loaded with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which can have devastating effects on your health. Avoid diet soda as well, as it contains high amounts of aspartame.
- Sports drinks, energy drinks, and flavored water like VitaminWater – Aside from fructose and other additives, they also contain huge amounts of caffeine – as much as 300 milligrams per can or bottle.
- Alcohol – Although moderate red wine consumption (one to two glasses per day) can offer health benefits, all alcoholic drinks can pose significant health and safety risks. Remember, alcohol is a neurotoxin and may poison your brain. Beer in particular should be eliminated entirely if you have high uric acid levels, as it can be a powerful uric acid trigger.
Lifestyle Factors to Complement Your Nutrition Plan
To ensure that success of your nutrition plan, you must follow some basic lifestyle changes that will help you along the path to optimal wellness:
Establish a Regular Exercise Routine
This is a critical component of good health, especially as you age. It offers numerous benefits:
- Helps you sleep better
- Helps you lose, gain, or maintain weight
- Improves your resistance to fight infections
- Lowers your risk for chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes
- Helps boost your brain function, making you smarter
It is important to find a comprehensive exercise routine that you can stick to and fit into your lifestyle. The good news is you do not need to spend long hours exercising. Research shows that high intensity interval training (HIIT) offer more benefits than conventional aerobics.
Aside from HIIT, you should incorporate other flat belly exercises in your routine, such as:
- Aerobic Exercises
- Strength Training
- Core Exercises
- Stretching, preferably active isolated stretching (AIS) by Aaron Mattes
- Foundation Training by Dr. Eric Goodman
Make sure you switch it up and avoid doing the same exercises all the time. This helps your body to get the variety of stresses it needs to continuously adapt, improve, and grow stronger.
Address Your Stress, Emotional Issues, and Food Cravings
Research reveals that about half of adults turn to food whenever they’re bored, stress, and lonely. Up to 100 percent of women and 70 percent of men experience food cravings every year.
This is why “finetuning” your brain into thinking positive is absolutely important to achieve optimal physical health. No matter how healthy your diet is, you will still not succeed if you fail to address your cravings and negative emotions.
One of the best ways to control your emotional issues, including your food cravings, is through the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). This simple psychological acupressure is an effective but inexpensive technique to eliminate your negative emotions. EFT can help you:
- Shatter food cravings that sabotage your health
- Relieve most emotional traumas
- Abolish phobias and post-traumatic stress
- Eliminate or significantly reduce most physical pain and discomfort
Get Enough High-Quality Sleep
Sleep deficit can have severe and far-reaching effects on your health. The optimal amount of sleep is between six and eight hours per night – too much or too little can be bad for you. See our article on how sleep affects weight loss.
Other Lifestyle Tips to Remember
- Limit your exposure to harmful electromagnetic fields (EMFs).
- Stop smoking and drinking alcohol.
- Minimize your intake of pharmaceutical drugs.
- Eliminate all toxic chemicals in your home, including your cleaning products, laundry soap and detergents, and personal hygiene products. Replace them with all-natural options.
Implement These Healthy Diet Changes and Watch Your Health Soar
Remember, what you eat greatly impacts your overall state of health – so make the change today. Just remember to always listen to your body, as it will give you signs if you need to change something in your nutrition plan.
If you don’t feel any improvement after implementing this nutrition plan, consult your physician or health care professional who can help finetune your individual program.