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What to Eat - Principles of Healthy Eating

What you eat isn't the only determinant of your overall health status. There are plenty of other facets of your life that play major roles in determining how functional and energetic you are.

Here's how I think about the role that diet plays in contributing to health and disease:

If you're consistently eating foods that nourish your cells and don't create cellular injury or inflammation, your diet can take a back seat to other high priority items, like getting enough rest, being physically active, being in a healthy environment, and spending time with people and projects that leave you feeling fulfilled.

If you're not eating the right foods for your health - foods that are injuring your cells and creating inflammation in your body with or without your awareness - then your diet deserves the bulk of your attention and resources, as taking care of other areas of your life while continuously crippling your body with your food choices is a recipe for chronic disease.

Figuring out what to eat to support your best health is a project that you best take on yourself, as no one else can observe all of the ways in which your body responds to the foods and beverages that you consume.

Put another way, it's virtually impossible for one specific dietary program to best support everyone because we're all unique in countless ways and we're always changing.

What is possible and effective for many is to follow a few specific principles that govern healthy eating, to continuously be mindful of how you're feeling, and to make modifications whenever necessary.

Sometimes, modifications may be called for immediately, as in the case of discovering a food allergy. At other times, you may find that changing life circumstances - like aging or even changing of seasons - require alterations to your diet to keep you feeling strong and healthy.

What follows are general principles of healthy eating that I personally strive to follow and that I recommend to my clients.

1. Eat Nutrient-Rich Foods.

Nutrient-rich foods are naturally abundant in one or more of the following health-promoting nutrients:

  • Healthy protein
  • Healthy fat (including cholesterol)
  • Healthy carbohydrates (including fiber)
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Enzymes
  • Water
  • Phytonutrients (health-promoting nutrients found in plant foods)

Dark or brightly colored vegetables, fruits, and legumes are generally considered to be nature's most nutrient-rich plant foods that are typically well tolerated by the masses.

From the animal kingdom, eggs from healthfully raised birds and cold-water fish are good nutrient-rich food choices for many people.

Broths made from vegetables and/or bones from cold water fish or healthfully raised chickens are also deeply nourishing choices.

2. Minimize Or Avoid Consumption of Highly Processed Foods.

Foods that are predominantly made of sugar, flour, and highly processed grains (found in many commercially prepared cereals) are generally low in nutrient value. Ditto for the vast majority of deep-fried foods like donuts and potato chips.

You may be able to indulge in highly processed foods without experiencing significant consequences to your health in the short term if your health is relatively good, but the more you stay away from this group of foods, the healthier you will be and feel in the short and long term.

3. Minimize or Avoid Consumption of Foods that Cause Cellular Injury or Inflammation.

Based on everything that I know about human health and nutrition, the worst offenders are:

  • Pasteurized and homogenized dairy products.
  • Foods that contain shortening or partially hydrogenated oils.
  • Most varieties of highly processed luncheon meats, hot dogs, bacon, and sausages.
  • Factory-farmed flesh meats that have been cooked to a crisp.

4. Chew Your Foods Well.

Chewing your foods until liquid takes burden off your digestive organs, and allows your body to maximally extract and absorb nutrients in the foods that you eat.

You aren't what you eat; you're what you fully digest, and thoroughly chewing your foods is an essential requirement for optimal digestion and health.

***

In sharing the principles noted above with clients, I'm often asked to provide examples of what I eat on a day-to-day basis.

Here's a look at what I typically eat during colder months:

Breakfast:

  • Some type of fruit - usually pomegranates, apples, or clementines
  • Lightly scrambled organic eggs - scrambled in coconut or extra-virgin olive oil
  • Drink made by blending almond milk, frozen banana slices, and an organic whole food multi powder.

Lunch:

Dinner:

  • Soup
  • Pinto beans or chickpeas (usually in the form of hummus)
  • Rice with a number of vegetable side dishes, similar to bi bim bap, a Korean dish of rice and vegetables.

The foods listed above are typical fare for our family of four, though my wife and two sons tend to have more animal protein than I do; they all do well eating small amounts of free-range chicken and turkey, and occasionally even beef, but any animal protein that they eat is accompanied by generous portions of vegetables and mineral-rich soup, as well as some rice.

As a family, we also enjoy the recipes that I publish in our healthy recipes archive. For example, we'll occasionally treat ourselves to some pancakes along with fresh fruit for breakfast. Sometimes, we'll have vegetarian chili for dinner. We're big on avocados and guacamole all the time.

Given that our family is pretty active, we tend to eat healthy snacks at least once a day. These snacks include smoothies and various vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

We almost always have a big bin of baby organic greens in our refrigerator - we add handfuls to most of our soups. I also like to munch on a bowl of raw greens while I work, as I find that this helps keep my teeth strong.

After playing tennis or doing any other type of exercise, I typically make another drink for myself with a variety of superfood powders - the same kind that I have in the morning.

We regularly make our own vegetable or chicken broth to have on hand for the soups we make.

I do a lot more juicing in the summers than in the winters. But even during colder months, I like to juice up a couple of heads of romaine lettuce once in a while and drink the whole batch within a few hours. Like munching on raw baby greens, drinking freshly pressed lettuce juice makes my teeth feel strong, and I also find that this practice makes it possible to participate in strenuous activities for hours at a time without feeling muscle fatigue or cramping.

In the summer, we eat many of the same foods mentioned above, but we tend to eat mostly raw foods, especially during the hottest months. From about June to September, the four of us go through at least one whole watermelon a day - I'm talking about 15-pound melons.

Also in the summer, I find that I prefer to eat less whole grains and more steamed vegetables, along with generous servings of a wide variety of raw vegetables.

Enough about what me and my family eat. If you're looking for guidance on what to eat to get and stay healthy, I encourage you to consider the four principles mentioned above, to follow your instincts in trying foods and recipes that are appealing, to observe how you feel while eating different foods, and to make modifications whenever necessary.

***

Other articles in this What to Eat series:

What to Eat - How to Get the Most Out of What You Eat

What to Eat - More on Getting the Most Out of What You Eat

 
 

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Comments

I was disappointed to see pastuerized dairy products at the top of the list. I only eat cheese and yogurt of any dairy products and try to buy my cheese made from raw milk, but can't imagine living without my yogurt (always plain, balkan). Just can't buy yogurt made from raw milk in Canada. Is our pasteurized yogurt really all that bad?

Raw vegan food is the healthiest food that a person can eat. Most "nutrient content" figures quoted for foods are a complete sham.

Almost all enzymes for instance are completely de-natured and useless when heated above 118 degrees fahrenheit, and over 95% of the B vitamins are destroyed in that way too. The list of harmful side effects of cooking food is quite mind boggling. PLEASE research this subject for yourself. Its the very best thing you will ever do for your health.

I don't have a product to promote, I just know that the effects that trying out a raw vegan lifestyle have been more dramatic and healthful than anything else that I have ever tried.

I think it's interesting that a Raw Foodist would feel it necessary to remark on this site. Having followed Dr. Kim for several years now, I know first hand that he continually promotes raw food recipes and whole food products. But he has a fine line to follow in trying to advise to many different types of people with varied food habits. While I am a raw foodist most of the time, I know my advise to people who eat cooked food has to be realistic. And simply getting someone to switch the oil that they use or to add a banana and a salad to their daily meals is a challenge. Dr. Kim handles this beautifully by respecting people while advising them and understanding the many different individuals that follow him. He has and remains to be an inspiration to me and many of my family members and friends.

Have you tried to treat an adult cat or dog with some milk or so? What do they get after drinkingt milk? Big stomach problem. The same with people. My grandma used to drink a lot of farm milk and eat healthy diary products and died from the colon cancer. A lot of mucos was found in her body. Mucos is a product of the diary product.
I'm not a vegetarian but pretty much balance my diet. So far I'm strong being in my fifties. I still can move the furniture around by myself, run up and down the stairs, walk wearing my high heels for hours without any knee or back pain.
One more thing: I don't eat sugar.

Do you know, if your grandma used pasterized and homogenized dairy products?
I don´t know what I should to believe. I have a possibility to use raw - not pasterized milk. Is it OK or not?

Thanks, Dr. Kim, for this article on what you and your family eat. It's helpful for me to see how other people do things, especially ones I think are doing things right! :)
Thanks, also for the excellent newsletter you post each week, I look forward to reading it and always learn something new or find a yummy recipe. Your compassion and kindness come through and I'm grateful to have come across your website some 8 or 9 years ago!
Blessings to you and your family,
Connie-Albany, OR

I agree wholeheartedly, and look forward to reading each issue. I just wish that I had found it sooner.

Although I much prefer my eggs sunny side down, I now have them very lightly cooked, with the yolk very warm, but still runny, so as to preserve its zeaxanthin content, which is broken down by heat.

I am informed that the vitamin A and vitamin D3 compete for absorption, so I take my vitamin D3 supplements and cod liver oil several hours apart. Cod liver oil contains much more vitamin A than vitamin D3.

I've always eaten my eggs very runny, I never knew it had health benefits!

Warmest greetings!

Dr. Kim~ I think you should specify that BROWN rice should be used in place of white rice, which has little to no nutritive value. It is very likely that by just saying "a bowl of rice" people will assume you mean white rice, and not even consider the tasty, healthy brown or even wild rice full of nutrients and fiber.

Bliss!

Actually, you should take a look at the article Dr. Kim wrote on white rice vs. brown rice - he isn't against white rice and acknowledges that while brown rice is more nutritious, white rice isn't the enemy either(:

Thank you Dr. Kim for sharing these helpful tips. I am always trying to find ways to eat healthier, and I got some great ideas for new food choices from your article, and also from your own description of how you eat.

It has been my experience that everyone's body is quite unique, and food choices that will work great for one person will not work well for another.

In the past I have gotten into "shoulds" about my diet which did not serve my health in the long term. I've found that as I have developed a relationship with my body and listened to what kinds of foods can best nourish it at any given time, that I feel better and am less stressed.

Folks with IBS have an easier time with white rice and it has water soluble properties which makes it good for us. Fiber can have the opposite effect for IBS sufferers, causing more constipation than usual.

I never really knew the bad stuff pasteurization can do. I'd better lay off the milk a bit... Do you have any suggestions for foods rich in calcium?

Thank you for your always helpful articles!

I find it interesting that wheat is not mentioned as an imflammatory product. I've read some information regarding wheat and am trying to eliminate it from my diet, even though I have no gluten allergies that I'm aware of. Refined wheat is, of course the worst, and I noticed that I experience some joint pain after eating something made from refined wheat. I never put it together until I read about its inflammatory properties. And unrefined or whole-grain products give me some intestinal discomfort. Even though it's supposed to be better for you, I've read that today's wheat, even in it's unrefined condition, is not like the wheat of centuries ago. Which is likely why people have trouble with it. Our bodies aren't meant to eat it like we know it today. Jmo...