It can be overwhelming to read through all of the nutritional (mis)information that’s available today. You can feel lost and not really sure what to eat. So I’m going to give you a step-by-step guide to changing from a Standard American Diet to an optimal diet for brain health (based on my research and experience). These recommended diet steps are much different than the Standard American Diet. A healthy diet must be. Follow these steps in order, and don’t get down on yourself if you can’t do them all at once.
These steps are cumulative. So the farther you go, the healthier and stronger you’ll become mentally. Start wherever you are and move forward. Take as many steps as you can. Doing any of them is better than nothing, and the first three steps in particular should dramatically improve your mental health and cognitive function.
1. Eliminate sugar, including fruit juice and sport drinks containing high-fructose corn syrup.
2. Replace sugar calories with healthy fats, including organic butter (or ghee if you're sensitive to dairy), coconut oil, MCT oil, egg yolks, animal fats, dark chocolate, olive oil, avocados, raw nuts, etc.
3. Eliminate flour and gluten grains, including bread, cereal and pasta. Cut them out completely for 30 days and see how you feel. Don’t eat gluten-free junk food instead, as they are full of sugar and just as bad for your mental health.
4. Remove all processed, homogenized, and pasteurized dairy. That means pretty much all dairy found in the typical grocery store. Cut it out for 30 days and see how you feel.
A lot of people who suffer from brain and mental health problems are allergic or sensitive to lactose or milk protein (casein), which causes inflammation in the body and brain. Full-fat, raw, whole dairy from grass-fed cows is healthy and most people can tolerate it. But it can be hard to find.
Overall, you're better off avoiding all milk, cheese and yogurt, especially if you're trying to overcome chronic mental illness. I'll write more about dairy and its impact on brain health in the future.
5. Eliminate vegetable oils, including corn, soybean, and canola oil. These polyunsaturated oils are industrially-processed and highly unstable, contributing to brain and body inflammation.
6. Remove all other grains other than wheat. Try going 30 full days without any grain, then try introducing them one at a time. Organic corn, rice and quinoa can be tolerated by most people, but you should still limit them since they aren't optimal for brain health. I'll explain more in future articles.
7. Eat pastured, grass-fed meat (from big ruminant animals such as beef, lamb and bison), wild caught fish and pastured eggs.
8. Limit omega-6 fats, and increase omega-3 fats. Grass-fed and pastured meats have more vitamins, less omega-6 fats and more omega-3 fats. But if you can’t access or afford pastured products, eat more wild caught salmon or supplement with krill oil.
9. Remove legumes, such as peanuts, beans and lentils. If you love beans and want to include them in your diet, soak and sprout them, and then cook them. Doing so makes them more easily digestible. The health of your digestive system is linked to the health of your brain.
10. Enjoy your food. Even if they’re healthy, they should still taste good. Especially if you add healthy fats and sea salt to them.