1. Eat mostly plant-based whole foods (85%) and some seafood (10%) as foundational parts of your diet and save highly processed foods and animal products (desserts, cheese, your favorite “whatever”) as treats (5%).
Whole foods such as beans, nuts, seeds, grains, fruits, vegetables, herbs, tubers (for example, potatoes and yams), and fungi (mushrooms) are high in fiber, have many health benefits, and are linked to lower rates of various diseases while promoting weight loss. These foods are also rich in nutrients and vitamins; have less saturated fat and more polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats than most animal proteins; and rarely require limits on caloric intake.
Another plus is that eating mostly plants leads to diversity in your diet, which leads to diversity of your gut microbiome, which is also linked to health. It’s hard to pick three or four whole plant foods that will satiate all your needs and, unlike some strict diets, you won’t have to stick to a food. The beauty of that is that chickpeas have different fibers, micronutrients, vitamins, etc., from black beans, which are different from lentils, which are different from fava beans.
2. Minimize toxic foods like sugar and soda. Sugar increases inflammation and, research suggests, tumor growth as well. Soda, including diet soda, is linked to weight gain, diabetes, and a host of other medical problems. Make dark chocolate — at least 70% cacao — your go-to dessert. Meanwhile, maximize herbs such as dill, parsley, cilantro, tarragon, and spices like turmeric, cinnamon, saffron, and cumin. Herbs are high-octane sources of vitamins, nutrients, and anti-inflammatory substances.
3. Don’t fret about getting enough protein or any specific nutrients. On a diversified diet that combines whole foods and seafood, you will get enough protein, omega-3s, which are essential fatty acids found mainly in fish oils, and calcium from foods like seafood, legumes, seeds, nuts, and greens.
4. Look at the carb-to-fiber ratio when eating processed foods. Visible on processed food labels you can see “Total Carbs” — just divide by “Total Fiber” to get a ratio. Whole foods typically have carb-to-fiber ratios that are less than 8, and the lower the ratio the better. You can use this baseline to compare pastas, bread, bars, cereals, and chips.