We all know that there are millions of diets out there. Paleo. Atkins. Macrobiotic. Whatever Tom Brady is eating. And we also all know that diets don’t work.
We need to shift the weight loss conversation from one about diet, diet plans and celebrity-endorsed fads to one about eating for wellness and using whole foods to support optimal health. After all, you can’t lose weight to get healthy. You have to get healthy to lose weight.
Food nourishes us. It’s the most powerful drug on the planet. It can work for us providing optimal health and vitality, or against us, creating disease.
While we all have varying needs of proteins to fats to carbohydrates at each meal, most of us share a few major things in common when it comes to food.
- Eating anti-inflammatory foods leads to weight loss, increased mental acuity and an overall reduced risk of disease
- We ALL get more insulin resistant as we age and therefore LESS ABLE to process carbohydrates, leading to increased weight gain and, according to recent studies, even certain neurodegenerative diseases
- Healthy fats, once thought to give us heart disease and an ever-expanding waistline, are actually highly protective for brain health and immunity, and support the function of every cell in our bodies
- Health starts in the gut
Have you heard that last point before? Health starts in the gut. Perhaps more than anything else, a healthy microbiome (essentially your body’s community of microorganisms) dictates your overall health – everything from your mood to how much inflammation is in your body. Recent studies prove that the microbiome is so important for your overall health, in fact, that it’s now being referred to as “a newly recognized organ” and “the other human genome”. As neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter says, “What a humbling notion it is to consider the fact that 99% of the DNA contained within the human body is actually DNA that is associated with the bacteria that live within us. When we consider how the human genome has been so aggressively studied as representing the “holy grail” in terms of its role in determining our health destiny, to get our arms around the notion that in fact almost all of the DNA in the human body is actually bacterial certainly changes our perception of who we are and what we are. And even more compelling is new research that indicates that even that 1% of the DNA in our bodies that we consider our own is itself actually and powerfully influenced by the gut bacteria, our microbiome.”
I can hear you now -- Hello? I thought this blog was about how to get rid of my gut?!
Stay with me.
The foods you crave (and how much) are determined by your microbiome.
- While we once thought it was ideal to be germ-free, we now know that good bacteria can help us avoid overeating and can even help curb some of our food cravings. Scientists in recent studies have found that germ-free mice developed more receptors for sweet flavors in their intestines and preferred to drink sweeter drinks than their normal mice counterparts. In addition to craving more sweets, these germ-free mice also demonstrated a dramatic increase in appetite.
Your ability to lose weight is determined by your microbiome.
- Researchers are now able to identify patterns in the types of bacteria in the gut. Some bacteria correlates with obesity and metabolic syndrome while other bacteria may relate to superior health.
- A study in Science found that differences in the microbiome might even explain seemingly unusual instances wherein one twin is obese and struggles to lose weight while the other is lean.
In addition to taking a high-quality probiotic supplement, if you really want to nurture your microbiome and support all of its functions, start to incorporate these foods into your diet today:
Prebiotics: (these foods help nourish the existing healthy gut bacteria)
2. Raw Asparagus
3. Raw Dandelion Greens
4. Raw or Cooked Onion
5. Raw Garlic
Probiotics: (these foods help introduce new healthy gut bacteria)
6. Kefir (coconut variety is best)
7. Pickled Vegetables : Kimchi, Sauerkraut, etc.
8. Kombucha (look for low-sugar flavors like ginger)
And finally, some superfoods:
9. Turmeric: an anti-inflammatory powerhouse that’s highly preventative for Alzheimer’s and certain types of cancer. Turmeric is also directly linked to decreased levels of insulin resistance and leptin resistance (again, increases in insulin resistance and leptin resistance lead to weight gain).
And last but not least:
10. Mushrooms! I’m sure many of you have read in Goop and Time about the guys responsible for modernizing these superfoods with their mushroom coffee and mushroom hot chocolate. My friend Tero Isokauppila, founder of Four Sigmatic, suggests these two mushrooms in particular for cultivating a healthy microbiome:
- Reishi Mushroom: Proven to alter gut bacteria, which can reverse symptoms of weight gain and insulin resistance.
- Chaga Mushroom: Renowned for its high antioxidant count and superior ability to neutralize free radicals, chaga is also highly protective for the gut, helping to calm the inflammation associated with Chron’s disease, leaky gut syndrome and IBS.
Excited to learn more? Watch this interview with Dr. David Perlmutter and Dr. Frank Lipman on how to avoid feeling old and getting fat! Hint: it's all about food.