Everyone knows the healthiest diet to keep you free from heart disease and type-2 diabetes is to eat lots of whole grains, some fruits and vegetables, meat and dairy sparingly, and stay away from fat and sugar. Except, like many widespread beliefs that a majority of people uncritically adopt from other people (everyone believes it, so therefore it must be true), this is actually false. Certainly, some people can eat such a diet and live long and be healthy. But for others, this diet will actually cause health problems, including heart disease and type-2 diabetes—exactly the problems it is supposed to prevent. For such people, a diet based on animal fat and vegetables—nearly the complete opposite of the mainstream diet—is necessary to prevent disease. After learning about nutrition, I have started eating such a diet. I call it the “Cyclic Ketogenic Paleo+Dairy Diet with Intermittent Fasting,” and what it means is that I eat a diet based on meat and vegetables plus moderate dairy (in particular, yogurt, kefir, butter and cream), with occasional periods of high-carb eating to refuel muscle glycogen and raise leptin, and frequent periods of fasting to promote autophagy, raise growth hormone, and maintain insulin sensitivity (amongst other health benefits). The diet includes various kinds of animal products including organ meats (especially liver, nature's multivitamin) and green leafy vegetables which contain healthy macro- and micronutrients, fermented foods which contain healthy probiotics, and raw foods which contain healthy enzymes. This diet seems to be appropriate for me, but although I believe it must also be healthy for all humans, I don’t encourage anyone to eat a diet they haven’t thoroughly researched, so rather than encourage anyone to eat this diet, I encourage people to research nutrition and decide for themselves what to eat. Here’s the story of the research I did that ended in this diet.
I used to occasionally buy a box of Oreos and eat the entire box in one day and eat nothing else that day. I knew this was quite unhealthy and I was probably shortening my life, but I didn’t know what foods would constitute a healthy diet. Around the time I was pondering this question, I discovered weight lifting, and learned that in order to get strong, I ought to be eating lots of protein. This initiated my years-long adventure in nutrition education. After eating as much food as possible, including lots of protein to fuel my weight lifting, and gaining lots of unwanted fat, and therefore realizing there was more I needed to know about nutrition, I discovered the paleo diet, which is the diet consisting of the sorts of foods humans ate for most of human history (basically, meat and vegetables), when humans were healthy and before they got short, fat, diseased and acquired bad teeth when they invented agriculture. The paleo diet has a logical appeal that no other diet has. It must be healthy, because it is the diet that humans evolved into existence eating. Humans are tuned to survive on it. There might be healthy foods that aren’t paleo, but it’s basically impossible that paleo foods are unhealthy. And so I began eating paleo. Except, I was never quite convinced there was anything unhealthy about dairy products (which aren’t technically paleo), and instead was convinced they are great sources of nutrition (if you can handle the lactose), and so I kept consuming dairy. Unfortunately, after I started the paleo+dairy diet, I did not lose any fat, and was still nowhere near my ideal body type. I didn’t have any detectable health problems (fortunately), but it was clear I needed to learn more about nutrition to improve my body composition. So I read.
Anyone who investigates nutrition today will eventually be lead to the book “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes. At this point, of all the books on nutrition I’ve read (I’ve read 13), this book has been the most life-changing. Taubes thoroughly debunks the mainstream diet, which although it has the image of scientific credibility, is actually a pseudo-scientific scam. Anyone who reads Taubes should be infuriated with government agencies (the Department of Agriculture, for instance), non-profits (the American Heart Association, in particular), university labs (the unscientific ones), and food corporations (like, say, Nabisco) for encouraging everyone to eat a diet that will likely damage the health of a significant number of people, and has actually caused the obesity epidemic and all the other diseases of civilization including heart disease and type-2 diabetes. Although there was some scant evidence at one time that eating saturated fat and cholesterol caused health problems, the evidence was never very significant or convincing, and modern evidence completely refutes this hypothesis. There is nothing unhealthy about saturated fat or cholesterol. Read that again. There is nothing unhealthy about saturated fat or cholesterol. The people who say there is have not actually read the literature or are lying. The mainstream diet is wrong. It is the excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates, including sugar but also including (advocated in huge quantities by the mainstream diet) grains, which cause the diseases of civilization.
The paleo diet has lots of saturated fat and cholesterol, and no grains. Humans and human ancestors survived on this diet for millions of years. There can’t possibly be anything unhealthy about this diet, and indeed the evidence suggests it is optimally nutritious. (It is worth noting that there is no single, specific paleo diet. Different groups of hunter-gatherers had very different diets. However, they had some things in common. They all ate meat and vegetables, cooked and raw foods, fresh and fermented foods. None of them ate cereal, flour or high-fructose corn syrup.) Because of this fact, I eat paleo.
On the order of ten thousand years ago, (some) humans made two significant changes to their diets: they started consuming grains, and they started consuming dairy. Probably due to phytic acid (bad for everyone), gluten (bad for celiacs and anyone with gluten sensitivity), and high-carb content (which is bad for people with insulin resistance), grains can be handled by a significant portion of the population, but not everyone. Due to lactose content, dairy can be handled by a significant portion of the population, but not everyone. Whether you consume grains or dairy ought to be informed by whether or not you can handle these foods. If you think you can, but aren’t sure, you should try removing these foods from your diet and seeing if your health improves. A lot of people discover they are sensitive to these foods and they never go back. Personally, I have not noticed any sensitivity issues, but I’ve decided that consuming gluten is not worth the risk, while dairy is. You will have to make your own choice after surveying the risks.
There are two types of food that are unmentioned in the mainstream diet: 1) raw foods, and 2) fermented foods. Raw foods, such as raw fruits, vegetables, and meats, contain enzymes that help you digest your food. Fermented foods, such as fermented dairy (kefir, yogurt) or vegetables (sauerkraut) contain probiotics (beneficial bacteria) that take up residence in your gut and translate food that you can’t digest into food you can. Both enzymes and probiotics are valuable additions to any diet, and therefore I regularly consume raw foods and fermented foods.
In order to promote low body fat and big muscles, I eat a low-carb diet most of the time (which helps to keep insulin sensitivity high), but occasionally refuel with carbs to restore muscle glycogen (basically, the carbs in your muscles that are used for high-intensity exercise), and to increase leptin (since carbs encourage fat storage, and fat cells then release leptin) which gives a feeling of satiety which encourages your body to maintain a high metabolism.
The final component of my diet is fasting. The most important benefits of fasting for short periods of time are: 1) increase growth hormone (good for weight lifting), 2) increase insulin sensitivity (good if you are obese), 3) promote autophagy (this is when your cells recycle worn-out components and rebuild them into fresh, new components, which will likely help you live longer). Therefore I regularly fast. The easiest way to do this, in my opinion, is to fast all day long, and then eat one giant meal in the evening. This fast is long enough that it has all the benefits of fasting, but not so long that it has any negative consequences (except often a bit of hunger during the day, of course, although it is not very noticeable).
In summary, I eat a Cyclic Ketogenic Paleo+Dairy Diet with Intermittent Fasting. I eat lots of meat and vegetables, raw and cooked food, fresh and fermented foods, low-carb most of the time and high-carb some of the time, and I fast a lot. This diet promotes health (disease-free), longevity, and athleticism. After eating this diet for a month, my body composition has improved (I have lost 15 lbs of, probably, mostly fat), and my health has remained high (I have never had any symptoms of any dietary diseases and so I can’t be sure of this diet has changed anything about my health). The diet is also delicious and fun, and I have no intention of ever changing. Surely there seems to be no reason whatsoever to eat the mainstream diet. I do cheat occasionally when people offer me food.
If you are interested in learning more about nutrition, I recommend these books, which are the books that I have read in the order I have read them:
- “The Paleo Diet” by Loren Cordain
- “The Paleo Solution” by Robb Wolf
- “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes
- “The Ketogenic Diet” by Lyle McDonald
- “Eat Stop Eat” by Brad Pilon
- “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living” by Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek
- “Catching Fire” by Richard Wrangham
- “The Primal Blueprint” by Mark Sisson
- “Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox” by Kate Rheaume-Bleue
- “Primal Body, Primal Mind: Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and a Longer Life” by Nora T. Gedgaudas
- “Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food” by Catherine Shanahan
- “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon
- “Eat Stop Eat Expanded - 5th Edition” by Brad Pilon
- “The Warrior Diet” by Ori Hofmekler
And these websites: