Food is not just calories. Scientific research continually demonstrates that our body’s ability to function is significantly affected by what we eat. Optimal nutrition has the ability to modulate underlying inflammatory processes, feed healthy strains of bacteria in your gut microbiome, support your mitochondrial function, reverse disease, lessen anxiety, improve brain function, decrease joint pain, boost athletic performance and enhance recovery.

I started changing the way I eat about a decade ago but what really got me serious about my nutrition was a blood test result in 2014. Despite me eating what I thought was a healthy diet, the test showed that my LDL cholesterol was extremely high. My doctor suggested that I should cut down on eating unhealthy fats before he prescribed any statins. The information that he skipped out on telling me was that I should also be eating lots of healthy fats…something I discovered by carrying out my own research. This accelerated my quest towards really cleaning up my diet. I strongly believe that health happens outside of the doctor’s office. Health starts within you. Taking charge of your own health means being willing to make changes that can optimise your physiology and the most powerful tool you have to change your health is what you eat.

From all my reading, the practices that I see in longevity hotspots (the so called Blue Zones) have taught me that no matter which diet you follow, for optimal nutrition one should:

  • Incorporate some level of time restricted feeding
  • Eat a very wide variety of colourful plants, herbs and spices
  • Be aware of inflammatory foods and glycemic variability
  • Choose wholefoods over packaged and processed foods
  • Whenever possible, choose clean, organic, wild, non-GMO foods and ingredients

Today my ‘eat to prevent and beat disease’ nutritional framework, includes the strategies above and is based around three parameters: 1) time restricted feeding, 2) a low carb, adequate protein, high fat diet and 3) crowding out packaged and processed foods with nutrient dense foods. This way of eating leaves me full of energy all day and I no longer suffer from brain fog, an achy body, digestive issues and inflammation.

Time Restricted Feeding (TRF)

I began experimenting with TRF in earnest about three years ago and now at the low end, I fast for between 14–16 hours each day, and at the high end, I fast for between 20–22 or 24 hours. Most days I eat two nutrient dense meals — essentially meaning I fast for most of the day and eat all my calories in a tight window starting with a meal just before midday and ending with a meal early-evening. Some days I will be eating one (big) meal per day (often referred to by the acronym OMAD) and I also do one 24 hour fast per week. I typically break my fast with a protein shake and a tea (either turmeric, schisandra berries tea or green tea). I then have a massive, colourful breakfast of veggies, protein and berries.

Research by Satchin PandaValter Longo and others show that consuming all calories within a consistent 8–12 hours can sustain daily circadian rhythms, decrease visceral fat (the “bad” fat located around the organs, as opposed to subcutaneous fat, that’s visible under the skin), increase cellular cleanup (autophagy), lower IGF-1 hormone levels, reduce inflammation, increase cognitive function and decrease the risk of metabolic dysfunction.

DOI: — This illustration shows the benefits to pre-diabetic patients who adopted a smaller eating window. With blood markers trending in a desirable direction. Notably, I adopt a late eating window, rather than the early one discussed in this paper.

Low Carb, Adequate Protein, High Fat Diet

My diet can loosely be described as a nutritarian diet = a ketogenic version of the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich Mediterranean diet — full of polyphenol-rich plants, clean protein, good quality fats including omega-3 fatty acids, berries, nuts, seeds and low-glycemic carbohydrates.

I add plants to every meal. As an example, the first meal of my day includes vegetables (such as peppers, radishes, tomatoes, onions), fruits (such as olives, berries, apples) and nuts, seeds and spices (such as Brazil nuts, walnuts, cumin and cinnamon). And my second meal, later in the day, typically also includes a whole lot of vegetables (leafy greens, mushrooms, chickpeas, peas and more). I eat fats with pretty much every meal too and my favourite sources are: MCT oil, extra virgin olive oil, ghee, avocado, fatty fish and a variety of nuts and seeds. The right fats can improve your mood, skin, hair, and nails, while protecting you against diabetes, dementia, cancer, and much more.

The Mediterranean diet, prevalent in many longevity hotspots and Blue Zones, full of whole foods rich in antioxidants and fibre as well as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, is tailor-made to fight inflammation. The ketogenic diet, prevalent in many hunter-gatherer and healthy ancestral populations, keeps insulin levels low (a key regulator of blood sugar in the body) — also lowering inflammation. While inflammation is a natural part of everyday life — it’s what protects against foreign invaders and helps us heal from damage — when inflammation goes into overdrive and turns into chronic inflammation, that’s where the trouble starts. Some diseases associated with chronic inflammation include cancer, heart disease, arthritis and diabetes, as well as neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Crowding Out Processed Foods

Be they mass produced bread, cakes, cookies, soda, sweets, sauces and dressings — they are usually just empty calories, full of sugar and industrially modified vegetable oils, meaning we are getting next to no nutritional value by eating them. Since I have overhauled my diet, I have crowded out processed foods, desserts and refined sugar — replacing them with healthy fats, protein, carbs, herbs, spices and adaptogens — containing bioactive compounds that support metabolic flexibility.

Today’s grocery store aisles are overflowing with ‘healthy,’ ‘whole grain’ and ‘all natural’ treats and snacks. But when you take a closer look at the nutrition facts and ingredients, most of these foods are actually packed with sugar, fat, salt or artificial flavors and preservatives — misleading those that actually do want to improve their nutrition. I eat mostly fresh, home cooked meals and avoid buying packaged foods. Simple switches I have made recently include baking my own low carb bread (with ingredients such as coconut flour and chia, hemp and flax seeds) and wizzing up almond or coconut milk in a high speed blender.

These food labels for multigrain bread (L) and almond milk (R) show that food manufacturers add inflammatory compounds such as carrageenan, high fructose corn syrup and vegetable oil to products which are perceived to be healthy.

Given that the modern world places many obstacles in between us and the path to health, supporting the body nutritionally is all the more pertinent. Biochemical individuality means that your body has its own complex blueprint, making your nutrient needs different from somebody else, even within the same family. One of the greatest investments that you can make is to take the time to learn how your body works and identify your unique nutrition and health needs.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *