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Dr. Mercola's Nutrition Plan
Dr. Mercola's Nutrition Plan
Level 1
Dr. Mercola's Nutrition Plan
Level 2

Welcome to Level 1 of My Nutrition Plan!

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Even if you feel you already eat a basically healthy diet, the majority of you will highly benefit from starting at Level 1— as there are basic requirements in this plan that may take time and patience to integrate into your daily life. You may need to adjust to them before you can move on to Level 2. You may also need some time to adjust to lowered insulin or leptin levels, especially if you are generally unhealthy, overweight, or living with a chronic disease.

If you’re already healthy and are seeking advanced strategies to improve your wellbeing, and if you’re mostly incorporating the methods in this section, then you can go to Level 2.

No matter what level you choose, one of the most important principles to remember is to listen to your body. If you suspect that any food or supplement in this plan is making you feel sick, stop it immediately!

Eliminate All Wheat, Gluten, and Highly Allergenic Foods from Your Diet

There is an epidemic of hidden intolerance to wheat products today, and the primary culprit is gluten. Found in wheat, this protein contains gliadins, which are molecules that can cause toxic reactions and trigger an unwanted immune response. Gliadin is water-soluble, causing it to bind to your cells.

If you are gluten sensitive, your body will produce antibodies that will attack the cells that gliadin has attached itself to, treating them as an infection. This response causes damage to the surrounding tissue and may exacerbate other health problems throughout your body – a key factor why gluten can have such an immensely negative effect on your overall health.

Another important reason to avoid gluten is that it stimulates opioid receptors (gluteomorphs) that will impair your immune response and make you more susceptible to autoimmune diseases and infection. Casein (milk protein) also has similar challenges as it stimulates caseomorph receptors.

Other grains such as rice, buckwheat, and millet may also contain gluten, but they do not contain gliadins that can provoke the inflammatory reaction so they are usually safe. Quinoa and amaranth are also generally safe.

Gluten intolerance may be manifested by gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea, nausea, constipation, and abdominal pain, but they may be diagnosed with non-gastrointestinal symptoms as well. Therefore, to avoid triggering gluten intolerance, it is best to completely eliminate gluten from your diet.

This can be quite tricky, especially if wheat is a staple of your diet. There are also companies that label their products “gluten-free,” yet they don’t truly understand the science behind the problem.

However, do not expect to feel completely healed immediately after eliminating gluten, as it may take 30 to 60 days for the inflammation to subside, and nine to 12 months for the lining of your small intestine to heal.

Some people may not feel any improvements even after eliminating all wheat products (even the safer ones) from their diet, and may even feel worse. This may be due to other unidentified food allergies and sensitivities – a problem that affects about 75 percent of the population.

Food sensitivities lead to decreased serotonin levels, which can negatively impact your mood and lead you to turn to simple sugars and carbohydrates for a pick-me-up. This is why when you eliminate gluten and other allergenic foods from your diet, your cravings will decrease, your weight will drop and your overall health will improve.

Highly allergenic foods you need to avoid include:

Wheat Soy
White flour products (baked goods, cookies, and pastries) Rye
Teff Pasteurized cow’s milk products
Spelt Kamut
Barley Couscous

Eat as Much High-Quality, Healthy Fat as You Want

For the last five decades, many people have turned away from healthy fats like butter, eggs, and full-fat dairy and shifted to whole grains and cereals instead. This is in response to conventional “health experts” advice to eat a high complex-carbohydrate, low saturated-fat diet.

However, many recent studies have found that replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates actually leads to detrimental cardiometabolic consequences, as well as increased risk of obesity, inflammation, heart disease, and cancer.

Overindulging in sugar and grains overwhelms your brain too, as having consistently high levels of glucose and insulin blunts its insulin signaling, which can lead to impaired thinking and memory, eventually contributing to permanent brain damage – a key factor in diseases like Alzheimer’s disease (which has even been dubbed "type 3 diabetes").

So if you truly want to achieve optimal health, I advise you to replace the calories you were getting from wheat and other common allergens with healthy saturated and unsaturated fats from whole food, animal, and plant sources. Learn to distinguish the healthy fats that contribute to health from those that can wreak havoc.

I cover fat in much more detail in the Fats section of this nutrition plan, but at a glance, the good sources of healthy fats include:

  • Avocado
  • Organic, grass-fed butter and ghee (ideally from an organic farmer, but Kerry Gold is the best option if purchasing from a conventional food store)
  • Coconut oil
  • Raw cacao butter
  • Pastured poultry fat
  • Pastured lard or tallow
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Organic, pastured eggs
  • Nuts, especially macadamia nuts and pecans
  • Seeds like black sesame and black cumin (about 1 to 2 tablespoons of each a day, but soaked for eight hours prior to using)
  • Olives

And the fats you want to avoid altogether, as they are high in omega-6 fats that promote inflammation, are:

  • All processed vegetable oils — particularly omega-6 oils
  • Seed oils, such as canola, sunflower, safflower, and grapeseed
  • Trans fats — which are listed as “partially hydrogenated”

It would be best to strive for at least 50 percent up to 85 percent for your overall energy intake. Once you make this shift, you will reap a number of important health benefits, including:

  • Bringing your glucose and insulin levels into healthy ranges
  • Reducing free radical damage and inflammation throughout the body, as fat is a cleaner-burning fuel than grains, starches and sugars
  • Lowering triglycerides
  • Raising HDL levels (good cholesterol)
  • Interrupting the cravings that lead to weight gain
  • Improving mental clarity

Make Sure at Least One-Third of Your Food Is Raw

When you cook or process food, the shape and chemical composition of its valuable and sensitive micronutrients can be severely altered. Heating in particular destroys and damages these nutrients. This is one reason why people who consume a highly processed food diet are prone to malnutrition or nutrient deficiencies.

Cooking food at high temperatures also produces unhealthy byproducts like acrylamide and thermolyzed casein, which are carcinogenic chemical compounds. This is the exact opposite of raw uncooked foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, which contain live “sun energy” known as biophotons.

Biophotons contain important bio-information that control complex vital processes in your body regulating them to help elevate your physical body to a higher oscillation or order. This then leads to a feeling of vibrant vitality and well-being.

Every living organism emits biophotons, and the more biophotons an organism emits, the greater its vitality and potential for transfer of energy to the person who consumes it. So this means that the more light a food can store, the more nutritious it is.

You cannot find these biophotons in highly processed foods. Plus, processed foods are loaded with unhealthy preservatives, artificial colors, and artificial flavorings. If you’re a savvy reader of food labels, you already know how ubiquitous these ingredients are.  Particularly problematic are genetically engineered (GE) ingredients, which, if you live in the U.S., you will not find labeled as such. 

So remember, always make sure that real food from wholesome sources comprises the bulk of your diet, and then seek to consume at least one-third of these real foods in a raw, or uncooked, state.  It’s important that you know how to set apart real food from those manufactured products masquerading as health foods, though, so here’s a helpful chart to help you identify real food:

Real Food

Processed Food Products

Is grown (above or below ground) in healthy, microbe-rich soils that are being regenerated by sustainable land management practices

Grown in depleted, chemical-doused soils, and/or produced or manufactured in whole or in part in a factory

Has variable quality, taste, and texture Has uniform quality, taste, and texture
Spoils quickly Can stay "fresh" for weeks, months or years
Requires preparation when cooking Quick, convenient, no-prep cooking
Is authentically flavorful and colorful Flavored and colored with chemicals
Grown without, or with minimal, agricultural chemicals Grown with chemicals
Not genetically altered Often contains genetically engineered ingredients
Contains no added growth hormones, antibiotics, or other drugs Grown with hormones, antibiotics, and/or other drugs
Does not contain artificial anything, nor chemical preservatives Contains artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, fillers, nano technology, and more
Grown with the laws of nature in mind Grown with profits and high-yield performance in mind
Grown in a sustainable way Grown in an unsustainable way, such as large mono-crop factory farms, and confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs)

I believe nearly everyone would benefit from eating as many non-starchy vegetables as possible as given each individual’s unique biochemical makeup. Raw vegetables are a top choice. Leafy green vegetables in particular are rich in valuable nutrients and minerals, such as folate and magnesium. The latter may be a lesser known nutrient for some, but it actually plays a role in keeping your metabolism running efficiently, reducing your risk of diabetes and cancer, and promoting higher bone density and better sleep.

Quality is extremely important when it comes to vegetables. Make sure that you’re consuming fresh, organic, non-GMO vegetables at all times. If for some reason you cannot obtain organic vegetables, then opt for non-organic varieties, but make sure to rinse them thoroughly. Simply submerge them in a basin of water with 4 to 8 ounces of distilled vinegar for 30 minutes.

Store fresh produce properly to maintain freshness: Make sure to squeeze as much air as you can out of the bag that holds the vegetables before sealing it. This will decelerate their ripening process caused by the release of ethylene gas, which occurs after harvesting.

I do this simply by holding the bag against my chest and running my arm over the bottom of the bag to the top. This squeezes the air out of the bag, and will double or triple the normal storage life of your vegetables.

Limit Your Sugar and Fructose Intake

There is  a considerable amount of compelling evidence that excessive amounts of sugar – all forms of sugar, but fructose in particular – is the primary driver of obesity, as well as many if not most chronic and lethal diseases like diabetes.  According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 out of 3 Americans aged 20 and older has prediabetes.

For many people this is the result of a faulty diet. The conventional health paradigm defines type 2 diabetes as poorly controlled blood sugar. The truth is it is a result of dysregulated insulin and leptin signaling.

When you have type 2 diabetes, your pancreas continues to produce insulin, but your body is unable to recognize and use it properly. This advanced stage of insulin resistance is typically caused by a diet that’s high in sugar and sugar-releasing foods like grains and simple starches. Fructose is especially problematic as our bodies weren’t designed to handle more than what’s found in small amounts of fruits and berries.

So in order to avoid or reverse type 2 diabetes, as well as most other chronic diseases, I advise you to cut way back on sugar from all sources and to limit your TOTAL fructose consumption to below 25 grams per day. However, for most people, it would also be wise to limit your fructose from fruit to 15 grams or less, as you're virtually guaranteed to consume "hidden" fructose from packaged or processed foods.

I believe that by doing this, you can avoid the damaging effects that sugar can inflict on your system. Too much sugar has been found to:

  • Overload and damage your liver. The liver is the only organ that has the transporter for fructose, so over-consuming it leads to potential damage – similar to what alcohol does to your body but in this case, it’s called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
  • Tricks your body into gaining weight. Fructose fools your metabolism by turning off your body's appetite-control system, causing you to eat more. By failing to stimulate insulin, it suppresses ghrelin, or "the hunger hormone," which then fails to stimulate leptin, or "the satiety hormone."
  • Causes metabolic dysfunction. Too much sugar leads to a barrage of problems like weight gain, abdominal obesity, decreased HDL and increased LDL, elevated blood sugar, elevated triglycerides, and high blood pressure. This is known as metabolic syndrome or pre-diabetes.
  • Increased uric acid levels. High uric acid levels are a risk factor for heart and kidney disease. In fact, the correlation of fructose intake and uric acid is now so established that your uric acid levels can now be used as a marker for fructose toxicity. The only caution here is that a low carb diet may temporarily increase uric acid levels.

In addition, I advise you to avoid artificial sweeteners such as aspartame at all cost. Research shows that they can worsen insulin sensitivity to a greater degree than sugar, and may even disrupt your intestinal microflora, which raises your risk of both obesity and diabetes. Unfortunately, artificial sweeteners are added to about 6,000 different food products. This is why you must always check food labels to see if it contains artificial sweeteners.  Natural sweeteners like stevia and Luo-Han in moderation are typically fine.

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