How to Eat Healthy

How to Eat Healthy

Learning Our A, B, Cs All Over Again

Most people know they should eat healthy. Whether we want to admit it or not, we feel better and have more energy when we eat healthy. Alternatively, we’ve all experienced the opposite. We’ve eaten too much on occasion—too many slices of pizza, too many chips, or too much ice cream—maybe even all in one sitting!

Eating healthy pays dividends throughout your life, reducing the risk of many chronic diseases and conditions including type 2 diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, diverticulitis, migraines, PCOS, heartburn, GERD, and more. (1)

So, what exactly is healthy eating?

First, eating healthy means meeting and exceeding your nutritional needs. Our bodies require an extraordinary combination of vitamins and minerals to perform its hundreds and thousands of functions. Most people don’t eat enough variety of real food, or worse, they fill up on empty calories.

On a standard American diet, people can be deficient in these vitamins and minerals, and likely one in particular.

Vitamin A (Retinol): Often conflated with its precursor beta-carotene, retinol is only found in animal foods like liver, eggs, quality high-fat dairy products, shrimp, salmon, sardines, tuna, and cod liver oil. Most people think of eating carrots for vitamin A (especially if you grew up watching Bugs Bunny), but that carotenoid needs to get converted to retinol, and that conversion rate can be extremely low. So, we are better off eating retinoids from good-quality, grass-fed, pasture-raised animal products. Vitamin A plays a key role in vision, reproductive health, healthy skin, immunity, strong bones and teeth, as well as helping the mucus membranes in the stomach, digestive tract, and throughout the body. Vitamin A sounds important, doesn’t it?

B Vitamins: This complex of vitamins consists of more than what is listed here. These are the ones people are most often deficient. The B vitamins help our cells perform literally thousands of chemical reactions: conversion of glucose into energy, metabolism of fats and protein, and maintenance of a healthy nervous system. Folate is a key player in many of the body’s detoxification processes.

  • B1 (Thiamine): Ham, Canadian-style bacon, pork shoulder, sunflower seeds, barley, Brazil nuts, and pistachios.
  • B2 (Riboflavin): Lamb liver, turkey liver, beef liver, chicken liver, duck, goose, quail, pheasant, red meat, almonds, hazelnuts, portabella mushroom, mackerel, salmon, and pumpkin seeds.
  • B3 (Niacin): Rabbit, venison, liver (especially lamb), raw peanuts, Canadian-style bacon, ham, red meat, fish, poultry, tuna, halibut, mackerel, salmon, brown rice, wild rice, barley, buckwheat groats, bulgur, millet, cornmeal, couscous, avocado on dark rye bread or whole wheat bread, sunflower seeds, and almonds.
  • B6 (Pyridoxine): Beef liver, red meat, avocado, banana, dried fig, prune juice, lentils, legumes, walnuts, carrot juice, leafy greens, cauliflower, celeriac, kohlrabi, leeks, onions, sauerkraut, and shiitake mushrooms.
  • B9 (Folate): Lamb liver, goose liver, turkey liver, liverwurst, legumes, lentils, raw peanuts, sunflower seed, duck liver, cornmeal degermed, beef liver, chicken liver, chicory greens, millet, asparagus, wild rice, beets, avocado, papaya, turnip greens, amaranth, cashews, oats, quinoa, boysenberries, cantaloupe, organ meats, and avocado.
  • B12 (Cobalamin): Lamb liver, turkey liver, liverwurst, beef, lamb, clams, oysters, crab, trout, and tuna.

Vitamin C: This water-soluble vitamin plays an important role in collagen production which, in turn, is key for wound healing and aging gracefully. As an antioxidant, it helps fight colds and may reduce the risk of cancer. Natural whole-food sources can be found in guava, papaya, sweet red peppers, citrus fruits, berries, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, and leafy greens.

Calcium: This mineral is well known for being important for healthy teeth and bones. However, it also is vital for a regular heartbeat, thyroid function, blood clotting, and the metabolism of vitamin D. Calcium can be found in quality grass-fed dairy, canned salmon and sardines with bones, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds.

Vitamin D: This vitamin works in conjunction with calcium and its aforementioned functions as well as with vitamin A to enhance the immune system. Vitamin D is shown to support bones, heart function, the nervous system, and normal blood clotting. Research shows vitamin D is a player in reducing the risk of some cancers. This fat-soluble vitamin can be found in fish, liver, and mushrooms. Fun Fact: cholesterol can be converted to vitamin D with sunshine.

Vitamin E: This antioxidant helps protect against free radical damage and reduces oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol particles. Find this vitamin in almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, almond oil, safflower oil, palm oil, dark rye bread, tomato paste, and tuna. (The next time I’m craving a tuna fish sandwich, I’ll be sure to put it on dark rye to boost the vitamin E!)

Choline: This vitamin is essential for a healthy metabolism, liver, kidneys, and nerves. The best sources are egg yolks, organ meat, and grass-fed dairy.

Iron: This mineral plays a critical role in transporting oxygen. No wonder people feel tired and weak if they are deficient! Good sources are liver, red meat, and dark leafy greens.

Magnesium: This essential mineral is involved with hundreds of metabolic actions for basic cellular energy and is important for the vascular system, proper function of muscles, and the absorption of other minerals. Main sources of magnesium are whole grains, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, and seafood.

Phosphorus: This mineral plays an important role in bone health and deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, stiff joints, and fatigue to name a few things. Phosphorus is essential for kidney detox, muscle contractions, and nerve signaling. It’s important in metabolizing carbohydrates and fats. Phosphorus helps make ATP, a molecule the body uses to story energy. The best sources are red meat, pork, whole grains (especially rye), dairy, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, clams, and tuna. Next time I’m craving a tuna fish sandwich, I’ll use rye bread!

Zinc: This nutrient is vital for the immune system (hello, that’s why they sell zinc cough drops) and is important for almost every cellular function. Duck and oysters are by far the best sources, but you can get moderate amounts in dark meat turkey, crab, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, dark meat chicken, pecans, and walnuts.

This food list is a far cry from fast food, the average restaurant menu, or the standard American diet.
We need to learn our A,B,Cs all over again.


Second, eating healthy is filling your plate with a variety of nutrient-dense food. Let’s break that down: Fill your plate with variety. There are more vegetables than the lettuce and tomato that comes on a burger! We’ve heard the phrase “eat the rainbow”—when we make an effort to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables of different colors, we take in more vitamins and minerals.

Fill your plate with nutrient-dense food. A cursory glance of all the food listed above will reveal a list of real, whole food, in or close to its original designed state. It doesn’t include cereal, chips, cookies, or cake.

What should our plates look like?

An example of my plate: Make 1/2 to 3/4 of your plate a mix of some starchy and mostly non-starchy vegetables. Then, have a palm-size portion of protein, a thumb-sized healthy fat like olive oil, and occasionally some fruit (fruit is good for you, but not necessarily at every meal). Fruit and starchy vegetables are like energy and need to be consumed based on our energy needs.

If this is very different than how you eat, then you may be interested in these articles:


Ballantyne Sarah, The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body. Las Vegas: Victory Belt Publishing, 2013.

Kirschmann John D. and Nutrition Search, Inc., Nutrition Almanac Sixth Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007. Print.

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