We are all living longer.
The question is: ‘How do you live well for longer?’
I am writing this blog post because I care about health and I want to help people to be in their best health.
There are so many fads, products and people trying to take advantage and make money off people’s unhappiness and lack of knowledge when it comes to health.
The odds are stacked against the individual. This makes living a healthy lifestyle challenging so I am your fairy Godmother here to simplify it.
The blog post is very long and detailed in order to be a one-stop shop for all your health needs. Therefore, I have split this blog post into the following sections:
1) Extra Virgin Olive Oil is your ally in the quest for a healthy brain.
Olive oil should be the main oil in your diet as it’s a monosaturated fat. Monosaturated fats are good for the brain because they decrease inflammation.
Max Lagavere the author of genius food states the best way to eat olive oil to drizzle it on a large salad.
Rules for cooking with olive oil:
- Only use when cooking with low heat.
- When cooking at a high heat use coconut oil. However, use coconut oil sparingly as it’s a saturated fat
- Can also substitute olive oil with avocado oil and macadamia nut oil.
2) Clarifying the Myth about Fats
When it comes to eating fat, you need to avoid eating excessive saturated fats (butter, ghee, coconut oil).
Saturated fats are best eaten in whole food as well as meals without sugar and carbohydrates that are high in fibre, omega 3 & nutrients from plant food.
AVOID trans-fats (not found in meat or milk), hydrogenated oils, processed polyunsaturated fats.
This means DITCHING the following: canola oil, corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, vegetable oil, peanut oil, rapeseed oil, grapeseed oil and rice bran oil.
These oils are often used to fry food sold in fast food places. Therefore, it would be best to eliminate these from your diet or find a way to cook your favourite fast food meals at home without using these oils.
A source of fat highly recommended is avocados. The recommended serving size is half an avocado a day.
It is important to eat a source of polyunsaturated fats and omega 3 fatty acid which are made up of Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Alpha linolenic acid (ALA).
The recommended serving is 1000mg EPA & 500mg DHA. This can be supplemented with triglycerides-based fish oil.
Also, Furan Fatty acid has been found to act as an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. Evidence for this is the paper ‘Furan fatty acids – beneficial or harmful to health’ available here. (Source: Furan fatty acids – Beneficial or harmful to health? – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016378271730053X)
Great, easy and affordable sources of Omega 3 are: anchovies, sardines and mackerel. These are especially best as they have a short lifespan so accumulate fewer toxin from the ocean.
A plant-based source of Furan fatty acids can be found in: algae, grass fed butter and fish.
A plant-based sources of omega 3 can be found in flaxseed, chia seed & walnuts.
3) Is sugar the devil?
This is nothing new, since 1927 and the work done by the biochemist Herbert Crabtee it was found that elevated glucose levels lowered mitochondrial function.
The Mitochondria is responsible for releasing energy from food and the energy released powers all the activity undertaken by the cells in the body. Therefore, lowered mitochondria spells real bad news.
At the rate of current consumption – sugar is a neurotoxin and is now part of nearly every major degenerative illness such as Alzheimer’s diseases. This is so common that within the medical profession, practitioners often refer to Alzheimer’s as the 3rd diabetes.
Sugar also causes insulin resistance which is often referred to as pre-diabetic because it means the body is no longer sensitive to the presence of the hormone insulin. This results in the pancreas producing more insulin to metabolise sugar. As your body gets resistant to the hormone, for every small quantity of sugar you consume your body produces huge amount of insulin.
To read more about the crabtree effect read the article ‘Revisiting the Crabtree/Warburg effect in a dynamic perspective: a fitness advantage against sugar-induced cell death’ available here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5969562/
Sugar might not be the devil however, the negative impact of it is apparent.
Go sugar free. A 14- day sugar fast is recommended by leading dietitians to allow the body to become insulin sensitive once more. Followed by a long-term reduction in sugar intake or better still complete avoidance.
Sugar often sneaks up on the most diligent sugar free advocate under other names: fructose, agave syrup or high fructose corn syrup.
Please see here (http://sugarscience.ucsf.edu/hidden-in-plain-sight/#.XGhzp-j7Q2w0) for a list of 61 names for sugar found in food label to help you avoid sugar.
I can hear you ask, ‘What about fruits?’
Eating sugar in whole fruit is the only exception for avoiding sugar as it comes with fibre and nutrients. But the focus should be on limiting fruit intake especially sugary fruit.
However, eating fruit should only be reintroduced after the 14 days period of eating no sugar to build insulin resistance.
4) Eliminate wheat & processed foods & food with added gluten
Recent studies have shown that wheat and processed food causes inflammation and the added gluten causes a leaky gut. A leaky gut means toxins and other nasties get absorbed into the blood stream causing the immune to react with symptoms such as bloating, fatigue, digestive issues, skin problems. In fact, research suggests it’s an underlying cause of: thyroid imbalance, mood swing, autism, fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis.
The answer is to AVOID all these processed foods that make up the modern diet. This means ditching all: bagels, biscuits, cake, cereal, milk chocolate/white chocolate, cookies, energy bars, crackers, doughnuts, muffins, pastas, pastries, pies, granola bars, pizza, pretzel, waffle, pancakes, white bread, milkshakes, frozen yogurt, ice cream, batter, gravy, jams, jellies, fries, chips, granola. (Genius Food, 2018).
I know ditching these is a challenge but the consequence of ingesting these foods are significant but if you can’t live without them then I suggest eating them as an occasional treat.
5) To Eat or Not Eat Carbs, that is the question
Cutting carbs helps to increase insulin sensitivity. Long-term this can be done effectively by reducing intake of high carb food and instead eating non- starchy vegetables such as: avocado, asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, kale, tomatoes and zucchini.
These foods should make up 50 percent of your plate.
Carbs can still be eaten but they are best eaten after a high intensity workout. After such a workout, you can eat a high carb, low fat meal such as sweet potato, white or brown rice. This is best limited to 1 to 2 times a week.
These high carb meals are best eaten with fibrous veggie which aids absorption and protect your gut. Foods with lots of fibre are: leafy green, spinach, kale, asparagus, garlic, onions, leeks & shallots, berries, jicama, kale, avocado, arugula, garlic, onion, coffee, chicory root, unripe bananas, raw nuts, fennel, okra, bell peppers, broccoli, radishes, dark chocolate & sprouts.
6) Minerals & Vitamins
It’s important to eat foods with vitamin A, E, D & K and antioxidant which are critical to overall well-being.
However, before you opt for a vitamin supplement, it is worth knowing that vitamin supplementation has been shown to block our body’s natural reaction to stimulus. It’s best to get vitamins and antioxidant from their natural food sources.
There are also less commonly known vitamins that are important to your health. These are carotenoids, potassium, nitrates, polyphenols, glutathione and creatine.
Carotenoids helps to de-activate free radicals that cause oxidation stress in the body. Carotenoids rich food are: carrots, sweet potato, rhubarb, dark leafy greens (kale & spinach). These are absorbed best with fats e.g. olive oil.
Potassium helps with fluid balance, muscle contraction, nerve damage, prevents osteoporosis and reduces blood pressure. Potassium rich foods are: avocado, banana, spinach, kale, beet greens, Swiss chard, mushroom & salmon.
Nitrates helps to improve athletic performance. Nitrate rich food are: arugula, beets, grass fed butter, leaf lettuce, spinach, beet greens, broccoli, Swiss chard.
Polyphenols such as catechins, flavanoes, flavanols, anthocyanins, resveratrol, curcumin, oleocanthal create a small amount of stress at cellular level boosting gene activity and increase production of the antioxidation glutathione to disarm free radicals.
This reduces the progression of diabetes, cancer, heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases. Polyphenol rich foods are: extra virgin olive oil, coffee, berries and onion. Not forgetting dark chocolate (preferably 85 percent) which you should eat at least once a week.
Glutathione is an antioxidant that’s great for overall health. This is found in large quantities in asparagus.
Creatine supplement is especially recommended to aid better cognitive ability and improved muscle strength. Creatine is found in red meat. However, this can be supplemented by powdered creatine mono-hydrate which can be added to meals for non-meat eater.
Probiotic is critical for gut health and reducing inflammation. In fact, new studies show that eating the right food is key to gut diversity and having good gut microbe can reduce depression and social anxiety. Fermented foods are rich in probiotic so get eating kimchi, sauerkraut and drinking kombucha.
Gut health can be improved by plant compounds quercetin (a polyphenol found in onions, capers, blueberries & tea) as well as amino acid L glutamine.
Other things you can do to improve gut health: use anti-bac sparingly, embrace nature, consume filtered water, shower less, use soap less, wash your hair less, buy organic, avoid antibiotics and get a pet (Genius Food, 2018)
Things to avoid for better gut health are: emulsifier, whole grain fibre, excessive cardio exercise, fructose, chronic stress, alcohol consumption, processed food additives and fat combined with sugar.
8) What to eat? – Super Foods
The field of nutritional psychiatry is a new one but there are some statistically robust studies which are drawing more than a correlation between diet quality and mental health and this is even after the studies were controlled for culture, ages etc. The paper on the link between adopting a Mediterranean diet and reduced depression can be downloaded as a PDF https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3848350/
Eating seafood more than one a week improves brain health in older people and those with Alzheimer risk gene, ApoE4. The best is wild salmon as this is low in mercury, rich in omega 3 fats & a carotenoid food.
Other seafood that work well are: shrimp, crab and lobster which are high in astaxanthin. These are best eaten broiled, pan-seared or poached. Not forgetting fatty fish such as: canned sardines, herring, mackerel and anchovies.
Eggs are great source of chloine. Chloine is part of the Vitamin B family and is key for cell integrity, liver health, heart health and cognitive function. For the same amount of chloine in one egg you would need 2 cups of broccoli & spinach. Pasture raised Eggs are best and eggs are best eaten after cooking on low heat.
Other recommended sources of protein are: free range chicken, grass fed beef, low sugar jerky, sardines.
Cruciferous vegetables such a broccoli, cabbage and kale when eaten with mustard powder boosts sulforaphane. The compound sulforaphane is an anti-cancer agent, activates detoxification pathways and increases glutathione production which has been studied as a preventative and therapeutic agent for Parkinson, Alzheimer’s, traumatic brain injury and even depression. It also reduces: cancer, autism, autoimmunity, brain inflammation, gut inflammation and obesity.
Cruciferous vegetables are also full of glycosylates which play a key role in protein structure, function and stability. The highest source of this is broccoli sprouts.
Sea vegetables such as dried nor or kelp noodles help iodine deficiency.
Eating raw Almond skin are a great prebiotic which is good for the large intestines and high in polyphenols that provide antioxidant effect. This protects synaptic remembrance from oxidation supporting neuroplasticity.
Lifestyle changes can make a huge impact on holistic health.
- Intermittent fasting:
Intermittent fasting boosts the growth hormone, gene repair, antioxidation production, improves metabolism, activates the cleaning of damaged cells, breaks down cholesterol, reduces inflammation, preserves lean mass and improves cognitive performance by increasing neuroplasticity by boosting new brain cells and preserving existing cells.
Also, by eating fewer, larger meals, the body produce less hunger hormone ghrelin & reduces the time insulin is in the blood stream.
The aim of intermittent fasting is not to starve the body but to regain the body’s balance.
During fasting, you can drink water (add 1tsp salt), black tea and coffee.
The recommended fasting regime is 14-16 hrs for female & 18 hrs for males. The most popular fasting schedule is to eat between 12-8 pm and fast at other times. This is super great as you skip breakfast where anything you eat becomes fat due to the body natural high cortisol levels on waking up.
However, if you must eat breakfast and follow a different fasting schedule. You should know that breakfast should be made up of protein and fat and no carbs. So, say bye to standard breakfast foods such as oats, cereal, bagels, pancakes and muffins.
- Ketogenic Diet:
A ketogenic diet encourages the body to revert to ketogenesis (burning fat) which has cognitive benefits. This is widely recommended for immediate fat loss.
This process can be kicked started by a daily teaspoon of coconut oil (an MCT medium chain triglyceride). However, eating this fat should only happen when sticking to an ultra-low carb diet.
For more on this, watch Netflix Documentary – Magic Pill.
Sleep deprivation affects hormones, will power, insulin resistance and increases your chance of type 2 diabetes.
It is advised for every night not sleeping enough, sleep should be caught up on the weekend with 9.7 hrs per night.
Stress is a huge part of our modern lives.
However chronic stress defined as ‘pro-longed uncomfortable experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological and behavioural changes’ by the American psychology association has a serious impact on your health.
It reduces your memory, decreases the size of the hippocampus which is the part that helps control stress.
There is a good stress though e.g. the Acute/temporary stress associated with learning a skill. This type of stress makes the brain more effective.
Avoid MSG and aspartame as they cause imbalance in neurotransmitters in the brain.
Avoid herbicides and pesticides that can disrupt neurotransmitter and increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases by going organic.
Avoid unnecessary use of broad antibiotics as its kills all good and bad bacteria affecting gut health and overall wellbeing.
Avoid unnecessary use of anticholinergic drugs found in allergy tablets (benadryl, diphenhydramine, loratadine) and motion sickness tablets (dimenhydrinate). These affect memory and learning.
Avoid soya such as tofu due to its effect of hormone disruption. These can have adverse effects such as: adverse neurological, behavioural changes, metabolism, developmental, reproductive, reduce immune system and can increase cancer risk. Try tempeh fermented tofu instead.
Avoid or reduce alcohol to 2 glasses a day for men and 1 glass a day for women. Alcohol for all its social benefit is still a neurotoxin that increases the risk of hippocampal shrinkage. There are some fantastic tips for drinking in genius food.
These are: drink on an empty stomach to process alcohol without affecting digestion, avoid beer and drinks with gluten, for every alcoholic drink, drink water with 1tsp of salt, drink red wine, dry white wine and spirits on the rock with soda water & lime as opposed to sugary mixers.
Avoid deodorant with aluminium as this is linked to dementia.
Avoid non-steroid inflammation as this is linked to increased cardiac risk. Instead try curcumin or omega 3 EPA which are great anti-inflammatories.
Avoid acid reflux tablets as this block B12 absorption increasing cognitive decline.
- Thermal Exercise:
Our increasingly temperature-controlled climates have been shown to impact health.
By introducing heat stress by sauna use, the body makes the heat shock protein which guards other protein by stopping them misfolding allowing them to be recognised by various receptors. Misfold protein are not recognised by the immune systems and can therefore evoke autoimmune disease. The use of a sauna 4-7 a week causes a 65% reduction in the likelihood of developing Alzheimer and dementia (Genius Food, 2018).
Extreme cold weather causes the body to protect against heat loss by burning brown fat. This can boost the growth hormone and improves insulin sensitivity in those with diabetes and improved insulin sensitivity allows means better brain health. Why not have a cold shower?
Knowing your life purpose increases life expectancy by 7 years. Therefore, spend some time thinking about what you see your life purpose to be and work towards this as the research show having a purpose make for better health all round.
I wrote about the benefit of exercise and being active on mental health in my blog post ‘You are not a robot -staying mentally healthy’. In fact, moderate exercise 3 days a week has been found as an equal to antidepressants (Genius Food, 2018).
Vigorous exercise has many other benefits too such as: balancing glutamate, improving neurotransmitters, boosting BDNF, increase blood flow and oxygen to brain, increasing the hippocampus volume by 2 percent which negates the 2 percent volume loss each year due to aging. Hippocampus play a vital role in stress management and executive decision making therefore, protecting this volume important.
Also, exercise reduces the impact of the ApoE4 allele gene which increases the likelihood of cognitive decline like Alzheimer’s as exercise aids the brain’s glucose metabolism reducing plaque build-up.
To maximise the benefit of exercise, a mixture of aerobic exercise (long & slow e.g. biking and hiking) and anaerobic exercise (short & intense burst e.g. running) is needed.
Aerobic activity fortifies the brain with new brain cell and anaerobic exercise keeps cells healthy and metabolically efficient as it temporarily overloads the body forcing it to adapt and be more efficient. It leads to muscle growth which burns more calories and aids weight maintenance.
It is important to manage the levels of high intensity cardio as this increases cortisol and excessive exercise such as running hard several times a week can cause chronic stress.
The paper ‘Acute and Chronic Effects of Endurance Running on Inflammatory Markers: A Systematic Review’ published in the Frontiers in Physiology states that even in trained athletics, excessive exercise causes damage in muscle, connective and bone tissue. It also results in inflammation which is the pathophysiology of several diseases.
Therefore, instead of running for an hour why not trying hiking for 2 hours which helps move lymphatic fluid and supports joint health. It is also worth trying short sprints at max effort which improve cardiorespiratory and endurance.
I personally think we should fit fitness into life e.g. walking to work, hiking and cycling on weekend.
- A great starting point is:
- Keep a food diary where you can document how food makes you feel. I started one back in 2012 and this helped me keep track of food and how it affected my body in the short and long term.
- Clear out the rubbish in your cupboard – processed food, recycled oils, sugars, dairy and even grain if that was a trigger for you
- Fill your cupboard with the necessary food to achieve these goals. If you are interested in an explicit list, I would recommend purchasing the Genius Food by Max Lugavere with Paul Grewal MD as it has a useful supermarket shopping list.
- Go sugar free for two weeks cutting carbs to 75g net carb per day.
- Reintroduce carbs in moderation
- Eat a fatty salad a day with leafy green base, extra virgin olive oil and protein.
- Commit to the lifestyle changes detailed in this blog to biohack your health.
By doing this you will experience: fat loss, more energy and stamina, minimise your risk of diabetes 2, reduce insulin resistance, reduce production of glycation end products that accelerate aging and reduce inflammation and the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
Simply Ayo, facilitating your journey to better health.