20 Simple, Evidence-Based Nutrition Tips for 2017

I have beef with January. Not the month per se, but the “New Year, New Me” bullshit that gets thrown around, the boosted gym memberships, the failed intentions  – and the nutrition advice that falls around with it.

No, you do not need to “detoxify”. Nor do you need to “cleanse”. You are not addicted to sugar. You do not need a massive overhaul.

What you need, particularly if you fall into the 90% of people who will just go back to exactly the way they were in November, and stay like that for another year, is to finally develop some long-term sustainable health habits.

So, here is a list of nutrition and health tips for you to finally get your ducks in a row with diet.

1: Eat Your Damn Vegetables

Specifically cruciferous veg: broccoli, kale, collards, cauliflower. We’ve known since 1978 that not eating cruciferous veg is a greater risk for cancer than eating red meat. Still hasn’t clicked. Go figure.

The more the better: >5 servings a week decreases risk of  all-cause mortality, heart disease, stroke, cancer. A serving is 1/2 cup. Eat them. No, really. Stop thinking of them as just a vegetable. Inside those vegetables, there are glucosinolates, and an enzyme called myrosinase. Together with the help of your chopping knife or masticating mouth, they convert into potent phytochemicals with intriguing and complex names like indole-3-carbinol, 3,3′-Diindolylmethane and sulforaphane.

And they do awesome things for you. Eat them.

2: Yes, You Can Eat Red Meat

Refer to the above regarding vegetables. You don’t have to be vegetarian to eat them liberally.

Red meat isn’t likely to give you cancer. A poor lifestyle, replete with being completely sedentary, smoking, eating no fibre, eating no vegetables, and an excess alcohol intake, is more predictive.

Where did red meat get caught in all that hoopla? In between two buns, served by Ronald. That’s where.

3: Eat The Rainbow

That rainbow is pigment in plants. If cruciferous veg hold a special place in disease prevention, then you’d be remiss not to round out intake with reds, orange/yellows, purples, and whites, which respectively contain more phytochemicals with intriguing and complex names like flavonoids, carotenoids, and stilbenes.

They do more awesome things for you, like improve your brain function, your vision, and your cardiovascular health.

Make it practical – pick one colour a week from a food colour-group. One of each, daily. Box it off.

4: North of 42°N? Take some Vit D

D3 to be precise. And ideally only between October to March, where north of this latitude (which is, for example, Madrid) there isn’t enough UVB strength to biosynthesise our own hormone (yep, Vit D is a hormone). The RDA was set as a minimum threshold to avoid rickets or osteomalacia. Not ideal for health. Consensus is you can safely use 2000-5000IU per day during this period to keep your levels adequate.

Outside of those months, do everything you can to maximise your exposure to sunlight for 30mins every day.

5: Learn to Cook

Obesity is a socio-economic phenomenon. Two-income households, both parents working, and….no one can cook anymore. Forget gender politics, this isn’t about that. Anyone can cook. The problem is that no one can. If you want to improve your diet, learn to cook. What are those bullshit complaints you hear about “healthy” food? Boring…bland…monotonous?

Not. If. You. Can. Cook.

In my opinion there is only one resource for this, and you’ll never regret it: Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Chef. Get it, and follow the first month. You’ll be hooked.

6: Eat Oily Fish

2-3 times per week. Salmon, mackerel, sardines, herrings, anchovies. Around 120g. You’ll average out at 1g per day of EPA & DHA. And you’ll fight off dementia or Alzheimer’s. Your brain will function well into the latter years.

7: Eat Berries

125g (a store bought punnet) every day. If its memory your after, make them blueberries. Blackberries will do. Strawberries seem to pack a punch too. An average of 100g or 1/2 cup per day and you need not fear cognitive decline.

8: Eat/Drink Fermented Foods

Probiotics are all the rage in the supplement industry these days. In the last year, a number of high profile publications have focused on the centrality of gut health for health and its role in disease, and this is not some hippy bullshit: a range of fermented foods and beverages can reduce inflammation, improve digestive system health, improve mood and alleviate depression.

Supplements? Max 14 strains of bacteria. Fermented foods and drinks? 30 and over. Double. Why does this matter? Because microbial diversity is the key to gut health. Get some kimchi or sauerkraut. Try some kefir. Eat yogurt. The future is fermented.

9: Mind Your Mitochondria

Mit0-what? The energy factory of your body. The furnace. It burns, you run. It malfunctions, you don’t, and mitochondrial dysfunction is a hallmark of diseases from neurodegenerative disease to cancer.

B-vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, carnitine, magnesium. That’s what you need. Dark green leafy vegetables, egg yolks, fish, and red meat. That’s what you need to eat.

Try this smoothie from mitochondrial health expert and micronutrient researcher Dr Rhonda Patrick, PhD.

And eat some meat.

10: Man and/or Women Up and Eat Organ Meats

Don’t diss your heritage, your genome is walking on the planet because of heart. And liver, and kidneys. Organ meats are the most nutrient-dense food source available to us. Nutrients you associate with particular foods – like fruits and vit C and greens and folate (B9)….well, liver contains higher levels of these nutrients than their better known vegetable counterparts.

Lambs liver is the best start point, its more palatable than beef. If it really is too much for you, precious snowflake, then at least supplement with some cod liver oil.

11: Be Liberal With Herbs and Spices

Second only to the aforementioned organ meats in nutrient density. You would need a lot, though. So use liberally, and often.

12: MIND-ful Eating

Eat for your brain. In particular for healthy cognitive ageing, vitamin E, B-vitamins, EPA & DHA, and flavonoids.

Daily: dark green leafy veg, 1oz almonds, 1 tablespoon EVOO, 125g berries. Weekly: aforementioned oily fish. Sun exposure where possible.

13: Drinks, with Benefits

Green tea and coffee. Dose-response to both. 3-5 cups green tea, 2-3 cups coffee. Make it a 3:1 green tea to coffee daily ratio. Your brain will thank you.

14: Eat Fibre

The missing link. Reduce blood cholesterol levels, protect against colon cancer, reduce blood sugar response to meals, feed beneficial bacteria in the gut. Fibre is badass.

Eat 0.5-1 cup beans/legumes daily. Oats are awesome too. Raspberries pack a punch – 7g per 100g fruit, and you still get berry phtyochemical benefits.

15: Eat Eggs

Stop, don’t say it: Cholesterol in the diet is not a reflection of your blood cholesterol levels. Dietary cholesterol has minimal impact on blood cholesterol levels. The assumption that it did implied that foods without cholesterol don’t have an impact on blood cholesterol levels, yet your Cheerios and Tropicana breakfast will do more to screw up your blood cholesterol levels than a few eggs.

Believe it or not, 3 whole eggs per day improved cholesterol profiles in type-2 diabetics following a controlled carbohydrate diet; another study found 2 whole eggs per day for 12-weeks did not have any negative effects on cholesterol profiles in subjects eating high monounsaturated (i.e. olive oil) and polyunsaturated (i.e. fish) fats.

Eggs are the richest dietary source of choline, which we need for optimal brain functioning for learning and memory. They are about as perfect a food as you can get with their nutritional profile. Eat them.

16: Eat Dark Chocolate

Min.85%. Packed full of the same family of compounds, albeit different versions, as blueberries and all that other good dark purple stuff. Will reduce your blood pressure, and improve your cognitive function. ‘Nuff said.

17: Don’t Eat

At all. Intermittently. Frequently or less frequently, you decide. Just hold off. Your body does some cool stuff – like clear out dead and damaged cells, reboot the immune system, stimulate the growth of new brain cells – but it only does this cool stuff when your belly isn’t full.

When you’re fasted.

We live in the Western world, so food isn’t going anywhere. So eat, then don’t eat. And make the “not eating” part a bit longer than the eating part.

18: Don’t Buy Into the BS

Detoxes. Clean Eating. Deliciously Ella. The Happy Pear. Gwyneth Paltrow.

What they are selling is BS. Don’t eat it.

19: Be Less Rigid

Your January plans are going to fail. Your good intentions will fade. You’ll crack 10-days in and eat something you didn’t plan to.

The second you create a dichotomy with your food, you have failed. Call it what you like…”good” or “bad” food, “clean” or dirty”, it doesn’t matter. You’ve created a giant big red button that says “Don’t Press!”, and like the good highly evolved chimp that you are, you will press it.

The more flexible you are, the more you likely it is you will be successful in losing weight, because you’re focusing on the only thing that matters: energy intake.

Ask the guy who ate Twinkies for 12-weeks to lose weight. Please don’t do that, but do take the point.

20: Sleep More

Think this isn’t related to how and why you eat? Think again. Sacrifice your sleep quality and you end up hungrier, snack more, have the blood glucose regulation of a pre-diabetic, and gain weight.

If you’re looking for a low-hanging fruit to pick to improve your diet – and health – then get your sleep hygiene in check.