WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT
THE BEVERAGES & FOODS BELOW?
The foods and beverages below tend to be...
1) LESS ALLERGENIC & INFLAMMATORY
Items like wheat, soy, peanuts, certain nightshade veggies, pork, shellfish, most cow’s milk products, cane sugar, refined sweeteners (like corn syrup), artificial sweeteners and industrial trans fats (ex. margarine) are not included below, as allergic reaction or an inflammatory response is more common when these item are consumed.
2) MORE EASILY DIGESTIBLE
Items like peanuts, tree nuts, seeds, dried fruit, dried meats (ex. jerky) and certain hard cheeses are either not included below or are cautioned, due to their low water content (which makes them more difficult to digest for many people, especially when consumed in larger amounts).
3) MORE NUTRIENT DENSE
The foods and beverages below are relatively high in various essential micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Any micronutrient that the item is particularly high in is listed in parentheses to the right of the item. For example: Broccoli (B9, C, K1, chromium).
Note that this resource does not presume to be a comprehensive list of all healthy beverages and foods available, but merely a selection of some of the healthiest foods commonly available to those living in the United States. [1-5]
BE FOOD AWARE! ALSO, ORGANIC = HEALTHIER
Consider developing a habit of reading ingredient and nutritional labels- what you don’t know CAN hurt you. And choose certified organic items if possible. Certified organic items are grown without the use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms), synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Numerous studies have shown that organic items are generally more nutrient dense and better for the environment (and humans) than their conventional counterparts. [6-10]
CREATING A HEALTHY MEAL OR SNACK?
IT’S ABOUT BALANCE
Water, fiber, proteins, fats and carbs (which includes both simple and complex carbs) are, for practical purposes, all needed in proper amounts in order to promote optimal health. Therefore, in order to create a healthy meal or snack, I'll sometimes encourage my clients to use the following “formula” as a rough guide…
ESSENTIAL: Unrefined salt
ESSENTIAL: 1 or more high fiber foods
BONUS: 1 or more low calorie/non starchy veggies
ESSENTIAL: 1 or more high protein foods
ESSENTIAL: 1 or more high fat foods
OPTIONAL: 1 or more high simple carb foods
OPTIONAL: 1 or more high complex carb foods
GETTING THE MOST OUT OF THIS RESOURCE
GROCERY SHOPPING LIST: Below is a downloadable pdf version of this resource that can be used as a grocery shopping list, to help remind you to purchase some of the healthiest beverages and foods available!
IN THE KITCHEN: This resource can also be used in the kitchen as a checklist of sorts, to make sure you’re preparing some of the most nutritious, balanced meals and snacks possible.
FOR PREPARED MEAL SERVICES: And this resource can be used if you’re ordering from a prepared meal delivery service (ex. Hello Fresh, Freshly, etc.), to ensure you’re ordering anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense, nutritionally-balanced meals!
NO & LOW CALORIE ITEMS
Water (fluoride free)
Green teas (especially matcha)
Certain veggie juices (ex. celery juice)
SALTS, SPICES, HERBS, CONDIMENTS, BROTH, ZERO CALORIE SWEETENERS, ETC.
Unrefined salt (contrary to popular belief, UNDER-consumption of salt is much more common than OVER-consumption; large studies have shown that the daily intake that elicits the LOWEST mortality risk is 12-20g of salt a day- equivalent to 5-8g of sodium/day [see image below])
Natural baking soda
Spices (dried) such as black pepper, cayenne, garlic, turmeric, cinnamon, etc.
Herbs (raw/fresh) such as garlic, basil, cilantro, oregano, etc.
Raw apple cider vinegar
Mustard, hot sauce
Soup broth (no/low calorie)
Natural zero calorie sweeteners such as stevia, monk fruit and erythritol
Spinach (B9, E, K1, magnesium, potassium, non-heme iron, nitrates)
Bitter greens: chicory, arugula, endive, etc.
Broccoli (B9, C, K1, chromium), Brussels sprouts (C, K1), asparagus (B9, K1)
Celery (nitrates), cucumbers
High sulfur veggies: garlic, onion, cauliflower, cabbage, radishes
Lacto-fermented veggies: raw sauerkraut, raw kimchi, raw pickles
High functional fiber foods from this category includes broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
For black tea and coffee, I generally recommend no more than 2-3 cups a day (or 200-400mg caffeine a day), and no caffeine after around 2pm (to promote healthy sleep and reduce the risk of over taxing the adrenals).
HIGH PROTEIN ITEMS
Protein powders: grass-fed whey protein, collagen protein (types 1 & 3), vegan/plant protein (pea, rice, hemp, etc.)
Whole eggs (cholesterol, natural sat fat, B7/biotin, choline, K2, sulfur)
Wild-caught fish: king or sockeye salmon (natural sat fat, omega 3s [EPA, DHA], B12, D, potassium), whitefish like cod/haddock/pollock (iodine)
Poultry: chicken (B3), turkey (B3); dark meat (K2, natural sat fat) or light meat are both recommended
Red meat: beef (heme iron, zinc), lamb, bison; preferably trimmed, lean and tenderized cuts
There are no significant sources of functional fiber from foods in this category.
I generally recommend limiting consumption of dried meats (ex. beef jerky), as the low water content can make these items more difficult to digest.
Free form amino acids supplements like glutamine, glycine, BCAAs, citrulline and tyrosine can all contribute significant amounts of protein-building amino acids when taken at therapeutic dosages.
Grass fed beef liver is THE top food source for the following 10 essential vitamins & minerals: B2, B5, B7, B12, choline, A/retinol, K2, phosphorous, copper & iron. It is also high in natural cholesterol. It is also disgusting to eat (haha... in my opinion).
HIGH FAT ITEMS
Omega 3 EFA oils: high EPA and/or DHA fish oil, virgin cod liver oil (vitamin A/retinol, D)
Omega 6 EFA oils: evening primrose oil (GLA)
Avocado (vitamin E, potassium, boron; includes guacamole)
Extra virgin olive oil
Virgin coconut oil, MCT oil, canned coconut milk (all 3 high in natural sat fat as well as the natural anti-fungals caprylic, capric and lauric acid)
Grass fed butter, ghee, heavy cream (all 3 high in natural sat fat)
Mayos or dressings made from avocado oil (high in vitamin E)
“Clean” unsweetened almond milks (ex. New Barn, Elmhurst, Simple Almond brands)
High functional fiber foods from this category includes almonds.
While nuts and seeds are predominately fat and could be placed in this section, I normally recommend limiting consumption of nuts and seeds (which includes most protein bars) due to low water content (making them more difficult to digest). If I were to recommend nuts or seeds, I'd likely start with roasted and salted almonds (in my experience and according to some research, peanuts, pine nuts, cashews and pistachios tend to be more problematic).
HIGH SIMPLE CARB ITEMS
Simple carb veggies: carrots (vitamin A/beta carotene, nitrates), parsnips, beets (nitrates)
Natural sweeteners: honey, maple syrup
High enzyme fruits: pineapple, papaya
High vitamin C fruits: grapefruit, orange, strawberry, kiwi
High polyphenol fruits: most berries, cherries, dark grapes, plums
Most other fruits (however, limiting banana intake is often suggested)
Lower glycemic load juices: coconut water (potassium), carrot juice (vitamin A, nitrates), beet juice (nitrates), unsweetened cranberry juice
Higher glycemic load juices: orange juice (vitamin C), apple juice (malic acid), pineapple juice, Tart Montmorency cherry juice concentrate (melatonin)
Alcohol: organic spirits (ex. tequila/mezcal, gin, etc.), organic or biodynamic red wine (preferably with no added sulfites), certain gluten free and/or non-wheat beers
High functional fiber foods from the simple carb category include raspberries, blackberries, pears and apples.
I normally suggest limiting consumption of dried fruits (ex. raisins, prunes, dates, dried figs, etc.) due to low water content and/or higher risk of fungus.
I don't normally recommend significant consumption of high carbohydrate juices (especially high glycemic load juices). If using these I suggest diluting if possible.
In many ways alcohol acts as a simple carbohydrate in the body. I generally recommend no more than 1-2 drinks a day, max. Organic or biodynamic red wine is my most recommended alcoholic beverage.
HIGH COMPLEX CARB ITEMS
Winter squashes: pumpkin (vitamin A/beta carotene), butternut squash (A/beta carotene), acorn squash (potassium)
Potatoes: sweet potato (vitamin A/beta carotene, potassium), other potatoes (potassium, silica)
Beans & lentils (B9, magnesium, non-heme iron, molybdenum; includes items like bean pasta and hummus)
Gluten-free whole grains: quinoa (magnesium), brown rice (manganese), gluten-free oats (silica); also includes whole grain flours, breads, pastas, cereals and other items made from these grains
High functional fiber foods from this category includes many winter squashes, green peas, beans, lentils and oats.
I normally recommend eliminating consumption of gluten-containing grains. This includes wheat but also spelt, rye & barley, including flours, pastas, cereals, breads & other items made from these grains.
I also commonly recommend limiting consumption of gluten-free grains to 1 small-moderate serving a day, max.
For many of my clients (especially those battling obesity, type 2 diabetes and certain gut infections), I will often suggest a keto, "quasi keto" or carb cycling diet, at least until we make significant progress against their condition. For keto and quasi keto approaches, our plan often looks like this:
liberal consumption of non starchy veggies
moderate to high consumption of high protein items
moderate consumption of high fat items
and a much more restricted consumption of high carb items (keto may be 25-75g net carbs/day while quasi keto may be 75-125g net carbs/day).
HIGH COMBO ITEMS
The items in this category have a more even mix of proteins, fats and/or carbs. Some macronutrent info (fiber, proteins, fats, carbs) is listed in the square brackets below.
No lactose, no A1 beta casein protein cheeses like certain sheep or goat's milk cheeses [mostly protein & fat] (~600mg calcium per 3-4oz)
HIGHER FAT COMBO ITEMS
Cacao powder or dark chocolate [70-90% cacao] [high fat with some carbs & protein] (magnesium, copper, non-heme iron)
Ground flaxseed, chia seeds [high fat with some protein; 95% carbs from fiber]
Blanched almond flour/meal [high fat with some protein; 75% carbs from fiber]
High functional fiber foods from this category includes flaxseeds, chia seeds and blanched almond flour/meal.
I normally recommend limiting sheep or goat's milk cheese intake to 3-4oz a day, max. Those highly sensitive to dairy may wish to avoid completely.
WHERE DOES FIBER FIT IN ALL OF THIS?
When I talk about functional macronutrients, I often talk about these 5- water, fiber, proteins, fats and carbohydrates (which includes simple and complex carbs). But when I organize foods according to dominant macronutrient, I generally use the 6 category system I used above (low calorie, high protein, high fat, high simple carb, high complex carb and combo items). So where does fiber fit in with the latter system? Each of these 6 categories (with the exception of high protein) contains some high fiber choices. And while I've listed some of these above, I thought an image might help clarify which healthy foods are good sources of fiber...
These are also dozens of fiber supplements available. Some of my favorites include psyllium fiber (my favorite functional fiber) and prebiotic fibers like XOS and Benefiber (a gluten-free wheat dextrin).
A QUICK NOTE ON DAIRY PRODUCTS
When it comes to health, dairy products can be especially tricky to navigate. While certain dairy products can provide some particularly beneficial nutrients (ex. bioavailable calcium, vitamin K2, protein, probiotics from cultured/fermented dairy), dairy can also contain compounds that cause or contribute to excess inflammation and other adverse physical effects (ex. the milk sugar lactose, A1 beta casein protein, etc.).
COW'S MILK CHEESES
While most cow's milk cheeses contain little to no lactose and are high in calcium, a subset of these cheeses also contain notable amounts of heart-healthy vitamin K2 (