Get Restorative Rest
Finish eating 3 hours before going to bed for a solid night of sleep.
Digestion is an intensive physical activity for our bodies, which work hard to restore
the homeostasis of our fasted state. Late evening meals and snacks can interrupt the
restorative sleep processes essential to maintain good health.
Keep your cognitive ability and immune system in peak condition by having your last
meal a few hours before going to bed.
#2. Get Enough Sleep
Getting ample ZZZZ’s boost overall health and prevents overeating.
Without enough sleep, we’re prone to seek more calories than our bodies need the following
day. Sleep deprivation skews our metabolism, reduces strength and stamina, and debilitates
Sleep as long as your body wants to. And make sure to wake up at the end of a sleep
cycle to feel fully rejuvenated.
Pro tip: reverse your alarm. Set an alarm to go to bed at the same time every night. Then wake up naturally in
the morning, without an alarm. You’ll not only feel more refreshed and awake, but
make better food choices throughout the day.
#3. Avoid sugar
Skip the sweets to reduce chronic disease and promote vitality.
A sweet tooth is an evolutionary adaptation: our ancient ancestors were reliant upon
sugar-rich fruits for energy and fat storage, giving us a habitual hankering for sweetness.
We modern humans, however, tend to consume much more sugar than is needed for survival.
Excess sugar wreaks havoc on the body, causing inflammation that can lead to impaired
blood flow, damage to the kidney’s filtration system, increased risk of heart attack,
and even chronic depression. Inflammation of the joints often leads to aches and pains
associated with early-onset arthritis.
When attempting to reduce sugar intake, nutritionists recommend weaning yourself off
slowly. Former “sugar addicts” report that after reducing the amount of sugar in their
coffee by just a teaspoon each day, they soon no longer desired the sweet taste. Remember
that starches like chips, white bread, and pasta are converted into simple sugars
by the body, thus have the same effect as eating a candy bar.
While not necessary in the diet, a bit of sugar makes life all the more enjoyable!
When searching for sweetness, opt for naturally occurring sugars as opposed to refined
sugar alcohols. On the next grocery store trip, seek out coconut sugar, honey (local,
of course!), or date paste instead of a box of white sugar.
#4. Eat natural foods
Create meals with whole ingredients that occur in nature.
From our earliest emergence as a species, we have used technology to navigate our
acquisition and assimilation of food. From stones to access bone marrow, spears and
projectiles to gain first access to organ meats, and fire and fermentation to cook,
detoxify, and preserve plants — our ancestors thrived for hundreds of thousands of years through the simple processing of raw ingredients, procured locally and seasonally.
We can continue to support human health with modern technology by prioritizing whole,
natural foods, and processing them in our home kitchens. Shop around the perimeter
of the grocery store for perishable foods — capable of perishing because their nutrition
is drawn from recent life.
Visit a farmers’ market and source natural food directly from producers. A small
backyard plot can be used to grow food, whether a vegetable garden or a small flock
of chickens for eggs. Follow the seasons and learn to forage for wild foods. The closer
we get to food in its freshest, natural form, the more it will nourish our bodies
and promote vibrant health.
Enjoy something fermented
Nourish your gut with foods like sauerkraut, kefir, and yogurt.
We have more nonhuman than human cells in our bodies. Most of these bacteria reside
in our digestive tract. We can bolster our immune system and boost natural “feel-good”
serotonin levels by eating live fermented foods, which support balanced populations of beneficial microbes.
By eating fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and kimchi, or lacto-fermented fruits and roots like pickles and carrots, we enjoy increased bioavailability of their nutrients, especially B vitamins important
for cellular metabolism. Fermentation of plants can also help to detoxify their natural
defense compounds, like phytic acid and oxalates.
Kefir and yogurt are easy dairy ferments to make at home, restoring beneficial microbes to pasteurized
milk and reducing lactose that many people have difficulty digesting. If purchasing
kefir or yogurt from a store, make sure the products contain live cultures.
Kombucha, a fermented tea, brings healthy diversity to the microbiome as well. Drink in moderation
due to its sugar content.
Pro tip: preserve your teeth! The lactic acid created by Lactobacillus bacteria in fermentation can create an acidic environment on your teeth, making enamel
soft and prone to injury. Keep your enamel strong by drinking plenty of water to restore
a neutral pH in your mouth, especially before eating something crunchy or brushing
#6. Use traditional fats
Increase nutrient absorption with fruit oils and animal fats.
Humans evolved to use energy from fats. Traditional fats include lard, tallow, suet,
schmaltz, and are found in red meat, dairy, and seafood. The oils from coconut, olive,
and avocado fruits have also been used to promote human health.
To get the most value from eating healthy fats and oils, choose them as a preferential
energy source instead of carbohydrates, which convert to sugar in our bodies. Traditional
fats not only supply us with a clean source of energy, but make it possible for us
to absorb fat-soluble vitamins from food.
Ancestral wisdom: As energy sources, fats and carbs are seldom combined in nature. When eaten together,
our bodies store the excess energy in our fat cells. This might have been a useful
evolutionary adaptation when late summer fruits helped our ancestors have the energy
reserves to get through winter.
#7. Avoid industrial fats
Prevent inflammation by skipping processed seed and vegetable oils.
Oils from nuts and seeds are promoted as a substitute for traditional fats. Easy to
mass produce, they are used in food-like products and to keep costs low at restaurants.
Their molecular structure makes them prone to form free radicals in our bodies, which
damage our cells. They accelerate aging and are linked with cardiovascular and inflammatory
disease, cataracts, and cancer.
Avoid canola oil, corn oil, flaxseed oil, margarine, safflower oil, soybean oil, sunflower
oil, rice bran oil, and vegetable oil and shortening. Beware of hydrogenated or partially
hydrogenated fats, which are modifications of these dangerous oils.
#8. Make your own bread
Get more nutrition from long-fermented sourdough bread.
We can make bread as safe and nourishing as possible by drawing upon the wisdom of
Homemade sourdough contains three ingredients: flour, water, and salt. It enjoys a slow fermentation
in which lactic-acid bacteria help to reduce some of the harmful compounds present
in most grain-based foods. The acid-producing bacteria give sourdough its rich, tangy
Sourdough baking can yield a variety of spinoff creations. Try sourdough pancakes,
pizza dough, croutons, and breadcrumbs. The bread made in your kitchen will use hyperlocal
yeasts that give it a flavor that literally tastes like home, and it will be much
more nourishing than supermarket loaves.
Save energy by baking at least two loaves at once. Store bread in an airtight container
in the freezer for ongoing use. Bread converts to sugar in the body and is best enjoyed
#9. Follow the seasons
Maximize nourishment from fresh, locally harvested foods.
Even in the midst of uncertainty, the advent of spring will breathe new life into
the natural world. A change in season catalyzes the blooming of new plants, and is
the perfect time to diversify your diet with some seasonal produce.
Seasonal food is that which is consumed shortly after farmers have harvested it. It
is a great luxury to be able to buy plump tomatoes and bright berries any time of
year at the supermarket; however, these products usually travel thousands of miles
to arrive on our shelves, or come from factory farms where artificial ripening agents
are used to defy the restrictions of the local growing season.
The best way to incorporate seasonal foods into your grocery haul is to shop locally
for produce. Opting for local produce ensures you’re getting fresh food: reducing
the time between harvest and consumption reduces loss of nutrients, meaning you’ll
get the most nutrition out of your fruits and veggies.
Buying local produce benefits the environment, too. Eliminating reliance on commercial
agriculture operations and the carbon-consumptive transportation methods they require
reduces your overall carbon footprint.
And, finally, shopping local builds community relationships! Money spent locally remains
in the local economy, and any profit you can bring to your friendly neighborhood farmer
will directly support their family and their business. What’s more, you have the privilege
of meeting the people behind the produce, creating a sense of community.
To find out what’s growing this season near you, check out seasonalfoodguide.org, or pop over to your local farmers’ market!
#10. Go wild
Learn to identify safe foods in the living landscape.
Whether the view from your window is a concrete jungle or acres of forest, your local
landscape has much to offer. Opting for wild foods allows you to familiarize yourself
with your natural surroundings while incorporating new, nutritious foods into your
Wild plants are rich in seasonally-appropriate vitamins, and consumption soon after
harvest minimizes the loss of nutrients. When eating wild, you can also be certain
your food is free from pesticides or growth hormones.
Foraging for edible plants is an easy way to begin the transition to a wild diet. Dandelion and chickweed can
be found in almost any setting across North America, from sprawling meadows to crowded
neighborhoods. These greens have a mild flavor and make an exciting addition to a
More gutsy gastronomes may attempt to harvest wild mushrooms such as hen-of-the-woods,
a savory fungus known to be high in B vitamins.
When searching for wild edibles, be sure to avoid areas treated with pesticides and
consult a field guide to be sure your finds are safe to consume!
#11. Keep on moving
Regulate appetite and metabolism with physical activity.
Exercise isn’t just good for your heart! Studies have shown aerobic exercise can help
speed up a sluggish metabolism.
Muscle cells require more energy than fat cells. Regularly working your muscles allows
you to burn more calories. Even after a workout, muscle cells will consume calories
from the food you eat at a higher rate than fat cells, providing you with more sustained
Production of ghrelin, the hormone responsible for feelings of hunger, decreases following
exercise; while levels of peptide YY, the neurochemical that makes us feel satiated,
increases for several hours after exercise.
Our ancestors needed to walk to find food, to run from threats, and push, pull, and
lift ourselves to safety. Working muscles to failure in movements that require intense
concentration — resistance training of any kind — improves cognitive function, strengthens
bones, and enhances cellular metabolism.
So, next time you’re feeling snacky, perhaps take a walk, do a challenging set of
pushups, or try some yoga before reaching into the cupboard.
#12. Honor animal life
Follow a nose-to-tail approach to eating.
Behind every neatly packaged grocery store steak is an entire cow, most parts of which
go unconsumed. To honor the lives of the animals we raise for consumption, consider
adopting nose-to-tail dietary practices.
“Nose to tail” is an approach to carnivory that minimizes waste and maximizes output
from each animal. Practiced for reasons ranging from spirituality to sustainability,
eating everything from the nose to the tail ensures the resources put towards rearing
each animal — and the life of the animal itself — were not expended in vain.
There is also a health benefit to consuming the less-common meat products. Organ meats
and bone marrow are high in B vitamins and iron, while skin and cartilage are a rich
source of collagen and minerals.
Try liver pâté and bone broth as simple dishes to incorporate more unconventional meat products into your diet!
#13. Add salt
Support health and enhance flavor with this essential nutrient.
Salt is the only rock that humans need to eat. Our taste for it comes from an evolutionary
All life evolved from a saline ocean. The blood that courses through our veins takes
its cue from those ancient conditions. Salt helps to regulate fluid levels in the
body and supports the healthy functioning of organs and muscles.
While salt enhances flavor, our bodies also find salt unappetizing when we’ve consumed
too much. Because processed food manufacturers combine sodium with sugar to make hyperpalatable
products, it has been blamed for modern diseases caused by the sweet stuff.
Beneficial ways to consume salt include in fermented foods, sourdough bread, preparing natural foods, and in drawing out the rich flavors of bone broth.
Salt is so vital to human health that it is the first ingredient we acquired at the Eastern Shore Food Lab.