Welcome to the Beginner Nutrition Plan
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Dr. Mercola's Nutrition Plan
I feel it's best for most people to start at the beginner level of this nutrition program. However, if you're already healthy and have already incorporated the principles outlined in the beginner’s section, you can go straight to the intermediate or advanced section.
I do advise reading through each level though as recommendations mentioned in each plan are not repeated in the next level. There are two reasons why I recommend most people start at the basic level:
- There are several basic requirements in this beginning plan that will take time and patience to integrate into your daily life, and these requirements are essential to move on to my intermediate and advanced nutrition plans.
- You need to allow your body to adjust to lowered insulin/leptin levels.
Listen to your body!
There is, however, a general principle that is useful for everyone, no matter what level you choose: As I mentioned in the introduction, this is one of the most important principles in this series of recommendations. If any food or supplement makes you sick in any way, stop it immediately!
Step 1: Eliminate all wheat, gluten, and highly allergenic foods from your diet.
Gluten is the primary protein found in wheat. In my experience, there is an epidemic of hidden intolerance to wheat products. There are frequently no obvious symptoms. Rice, corn, buckwheat and millet have glutens, but the glutens in these foods do not contain the gliadin molecule that can provoke the inflammatory reaction. Therefore, they are usually safe. Other safe grains include quinoa and amaranth.
Gliadins are molecules that frequently cause toxic reactions that trigger your immune response. When gliadin in gluten becomes water soluble, it is free to bind to cells in your body.
If you are sensitive, your body will make antibodies to gliadin and attack the cells gliadin has attached itself to, treating those cells as an infection. This immune response damages surrounding tissue and has the potential to set off, or exacerbate, MANY other health problems throughout your body, which is why gluten can have such a devastating effect on your overall health.
In some cases people are allergic to rice, corn, buckwheat or millet, independent of the reaction to gluten/gliadin.
Reading labels can be very misleading; don't trust them. Some companies list their products as gluten free, without understanding the scientific basis of the problem with gliadin. For clarity of communication, sub-clinical gluten intolerance will be used to refer to this sensitivity to gliadin in the rest of this discussion.
Unfortunately, most people don't feel better immediately after eliminating gluten from their diets as it may take 30 to 60 days for the inflammation to subside, and up to 9 to 12 months for the lining of your small intestine to heal.
On rare occasions an individual may experience significant improvement within weeks of eliminating gluten from their diet. But in other cases people may feel considerably worse upon initially starting a gluten free diet. This is usually due to other unidentified food allergies and food sensitivities -- a problem that plagues about 75 percent of the population. In fact, food cravings can often serve as a gauge of food sensitivity. Craving dairy products or breads, for example, can be an indication that you are sensitive to that food, especially if you crave it but then feel worse after eating it.
For most people with gluten intolerance, by around 6 to 9 months of being gluten free, noticeable physical and mental/emotional changes will have taken place.
When you eat a food that you're sensitive to, it causes a series of negative biochemical reactions in your body, especially in your digestive tract and immune system. However, it also decreases your serotonin levels, which can have a marked negative impact on your mood, and can cause you to turn to simple sugars and carbohydrates for relief.
Usually, when you remove allergenic foods (such as gluten) from your diet, your cravings for sweets will diminish, your mood will improve, your weight will drop, and your overall health will soar. Therefore, your first step is to avoid the following foods. They are all highly allergenic and will frequently keep your immune system in overdrive by continually triggering the inflammatory response:
|White flour products (baked goods, cookies, pastries)
||Pasteurized cow’s milk products
Step 2: At least one-third of your food should be uncooked.
Valuable and sensitive micronutrients are damaged when you heat foods. Cooking and processing food can destroy these micronutrients by altering their shape and chemical composition. In fact, malnutrition -- nutrient deficiencies -- from consuming a highly processed diet is one reason why many people cannot lose weight, because it leads to overeating. If you're consistently feeling hungry, you're likely not getting sufficient amounts of the nutrients your body needs to thrive.
Cooking foods at high heat will also produce unhealthy byproducts, such as acrylamide, and thermolyzed casein.
On a more holistic note, you also need the live "sun energy" available only in raw, uncooked foods for optimal health. One of our ultimate biological nutrients is in fact sunlight, which you can absorb not only through your skin, but also through your food, where it is stored in the form of 'biophotons.'
Biophotons contain important bio-information, which controls complex vital processes in your body. The biophotons have the power to order and regulate, and, in doing so, to elevate your physical body to a higher oscillation, or order.
This is manifested as a feeling of vibrant vitality and well-being.
Every living organism emits biophotons, and it is thought that the higher the level of light energy a cell emits, the greater its vitality and the potential for the transfer of that energy to the individual who consumes it. The more light a food is able to store, such as organically-grown fresh vegetables, the more nutritious it is.
Regular vegetable juicing will easily help you reach this goal of 1/3 raw food in your diet.
Step 3: Eat more vegetables.
Nearly everyone would benefit from eating as many vegetables as possible within the allowances of their nutritional type design limits, or their unique biochemical individuality. Please remember that you are unique; your body knows best, and will tell you what is an optimal type and amount for you.
For example, an Eskimo simply can't eat as many vegetables as a Peruvian Indian can. Not only would they feel poorly, but they'd likely develop a ravenous appetite matched only by their sweet cravings, as well as who-knows-what degenerative process and emotional imbalances.
So, while we all need vegetables to stay healthy, the type and amount should be determined by your nutritional type, which is based on your individual biochemistry.
For example, carbohydrate types need far more vegetables in their diet than protein types. One of the easiest ways to fulfill your vegetable intake is through regularly consuming fresh vegetable juice.
There is a basic test you can take to find out your nutritional type, which is detailed in my book, Take Control of Your Health. Alternatively, you can take the free online Nutritional Typing test
Remember to let your body report back to you how accurate your appetite/taste buds are at gauging what is right for you. Once you're eating the right types and amounts of vegetables (and other foods), your body and mind will respond favorably, and many common health issues will begin to resolve.
Step 4: Keep your vegetables fresh.
If you are unable to obtain organic vegetables, you can rinse non-organic vegetables in a sink full of water with 4-8 ounces of distilled vinegar for 30 minutes, or use the solution described at the end of this article.
When storing fresh produce, be sure and squeeze as much air as you can out of the bag that holds the vegetables and then seal it. The bag should look like it is vacuum-packed.
Fruits and vegetables release ethylene gas while ripening after harvesting or picking. This ethylene gas accelerates ripening, aging and rotting. Removing as much air as possible out of the bag can help decelerate this process. I do this by holding the bag against my chest and running my arm over the bottom of the bag to the top, which bleeds the air out of the bag.
This will double or triple the normal storage life of your vegetables.
Step 5: Limiting sugar and fructose is crucial.
Evidence is mounting that excessive amounts of sugar—all forms of sugar, but fructose in particular—is the primary factor causing not just obesity, but also many if not most chronic and lethal diseases. As a standard recommendation, I strongly advise keeping your TOTAL fructose consumption below 25 grams per day. 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" sources of fructose if you drink beverages other than water and eat processed food.
At the heart of it all is the fact that excessive sugar consumption leads to insulin and leptin resistance, which appears to be the root of many if not most chronic disease. Insulin resistance has even been found to be an underlying factor of cancer. Here's an excellent illustration showing how carbohydrates and sugars affect your health.
Source: Nutrients. 2011 March; 3(3): 341–369.
Fructose also raises your uric acid levels—it typically generates uric acid within minutes of ingestion, which in turn can wreak havoc on your blood pressure, insulin production, and kidney function. The link between fructose and uric acid is so strong that you can actually use your uric acid levels as a marker for fructose toxicity. According to the latest research in this area, the safest range of uric acid appears to be between 3 and 5.5 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl), and there appears to be a steady relationship between uric acid levels and blood pressure and cardiovascular risk, even down to the range of 3 to 4 mg/dl.
According to Dr. Richard Johnson, whose research has helped shed valuable light on the links between fructose and uric acid, suggests that the ideal uric acid level is probably around 4 mg/dl for men and 3.5 mg/dl for women.
I would strongly encourage you to get your uric acid level checked to find out how sensitive you are to fructose. If you feel you are healthy and do not have signs of insulin resistance, and would like to consume more fruit then it is possible to have your doctor check your uric acid levels. This is a more powerful risk factor for heart disease than total cholesterol. If your level is over 5 then more than likely you would benefit from lowering your fructose intake as fructose tends to increase uric acid levels.
This is a Flash-based video and may not be viewable on mobile devices.
Glucose is the form of energy you were designed to run on. Every cell in your body, every bacterium -- and in fact, every living thing on the Earth -- uses glucose for energy. But fructose is not the same molecule. Glucose is a 6-member ring, but fructose is a 5-member ring. (Sucrose, regular table sugar is 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose, and HFCS is 42-55 percent fructose.) Your body metabolizes fructose differently compared to glucose, converting the majority of it directly into fat. To learn more about the metabolic consequences of consuming too much fructose, refer to the following lecture given by Dr. Robert Lustig.
Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, explores the damage caused by sugary foods. He argues that excessive amounts of fructose appear to be a cornerstone of the obesity epidemic through its effect on insulin. (UCSF Mini Medical School for the Public, 2009)
If you received your fructose only from vegetables and fruits (where it originates) as most people did a century ago, you'd consume about 15 grams per day. Today the average is 73 grams per day which is nearly 500 percent higher a dose and our bodies simply can't tolerate that type of biochemical abuse. For example, all non-diet soda has 8 teaspoons in each can. Most packaged cereals have sugar as their major ingredient. When in doubt about the sugar content of a food, look at the list of ingredients and see how many grams of carbohydrates are listed. Unless the carbohydrates are from above ground vegetables you should be concerned that they represent sugars that could alter your insulin levels.
In vegetables and fruits, the fructose is mixed in with fiber, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and beneficial phytonutrients, all of which help moderate the negative metabolic effects.
Step 6: Avoid Artificial Sweeteners.
While all the sugars listed above are best avoided, NONE of them are as bad or toxic as artificial sweeteners. I don’t say this lightly and took two years out of my life to carefully research this topic for my bestselling book on the topic -- Sweet Deception. So if you must have soda, regular is superior to diet for all the reasons I discuss on the site and in my book.
Many people ask about Splenda, Equal or Nutrasweet (Aspartame). These artificial sweeteners need to be eliminated. There are more adverse reactions to Nutrasweet reported to the FDA than all other foods and additives combined. In certain individuals, it can have devastating consequences. You should also avoid artificial chemicals like MSG.
If you are healthy you can use a few teaspoons of succanat, or better yet, dextrose (pure glucose with no fructose) intermittently. Natural Stevia is also a safe, natural alternative. It is hundreds of times sweeter than sugar and has virtually no calories. Some don’t like its taste, but other than that it is nearly the ideal sweetener.
Step 7: Avoid hypoglycemia.
Most of us eat far too many grains and sugars, which cause us to have large amounts of insulin circulating in our blood. When you stop eating grains your body will take several days to lower your insulin levels. In the meantime, the high insulin levels will cause you to experience many symptoms such as dizziness, confusion, headaches, and generally feeling miserable.
If you eat every two hours for the first few days of your transition you will be able to avoid this temporary side effect. You will need to eat some protein, such as an egg, piece of free range pastured chicken, turkey, fish, or some organic seeds, along with a vegetable such as a piece of celery, cucumber, or red pepper. This will help to prevent hypoglycemia and stabilize your blood sugar.
Even after your system has adjusted, it is wise to eat 4-6 meals a day. Eating more frequently has been shown to normalize cholesterol levels . It will also help your adrenal glands better regulate cortisol levels. Cortisol bolsters you during more long lasting stresses, such as during a prolonged illness or when you have chronic mental or emotional stress going on in your life. If your adrenals are exhausted from a high-sugar diet, your body will be less capable of dealing with, and healing from, longer-term stresses.
Have a Plan -- If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail
Most people have great difficulty implementing these suggestions unless they sit down once a week (at a time when you are well rested, fresh and relaxed) and plan every meal for the week ahead.
If you are working, a good rule is to prepare your meals ahead of time. For example, make your lunch for the next day before you go to bed. Also determine what you will be eating for dinner before you leave the house in the morning. This will allow you to go to the store if necessary, or take the appropriate items out of the freezer. This is strongly advised. Those who don't do this will more easily slip back into their old, more comfortable, and less healthy eating habits.
Key to Success—10 Recipes
All you need to do is find at least ten recipes that you like. You may not believe this but that is all that most families use. You might have to try 10 recipes to find one that you and your family enjoy, but that's okay as it’s all part of the process. It is vitally important to have variety. Do NOT rotate between just two or three meals or you will burn out and end the program. Variety is the key.
Step 8: Learn to distinguish physical food cravings from emotional food cravings.
If you are seeking sweets or grains because of an emotional challenge, you will want to consider using the simple and effective psychological acupressure technique, EFT, to rapidly help you control your emotional food cravings. Many people don't understand that emotional well-being is essential to their physical health. In fact, in terms of dieting for weight loss, not addressing emotional issues -- whether small or serious traumas from the past -- is the primary reason that most people who lose weight often fail at keeping the weight off.
If you maintain negative thoughts and feelings about yourself while trying to take physical steps to improve your body, you will not succeed. It will be like repeatedly washing your car in an effort to keep it clean during a dust storm. Fine-tuning your brain to "positive" mode is absolutely imperative to achieve optimal physical health.
Many people shun this notion, not because it doesn't make sense, but because the medical establishment has conned them into believing that it means they'll be shelling out many thousands of dollars over the coming months or years to traditional psychological care.
Well, some of the traditional psychological approaches may sometimes work, but there is a better solution. Psychological acupressure is an inexpensive, simple and proven way to eliminate the negative emotions barring you from a full and healthy life. And the Emotional Freedom Technique -- or EFT -- is the most powerful form of this technique available.
EFT Can Help You:
- Relieve most emotional traumas
- Abolish phobias and post-traumatic stress
- Shatter food cravings that sabotage your health
- Eliminate or significantly reduce most physical pain and discomfort
If you feel that your own emotions, or your own self-image, may be your own worst enemy with this (or any) nutrition plan, I highly recommend you read my free EFT manual and consider trying EFT on your own.
A version of EFT specifically geared toward combating sugar cravings is called Turbo Tapping. For further instructions, please see the article, Turbo Tapping: How to Get Rid of Your Soda Addiction. The following video with EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman also demonstrates how to use EFT to fight food cravings of all kinds.
The following video may be helpful if you struggle with finding motivation to exercise.