The Eat Right Chef’s Top 10 Food Principles
In the age of the Internet and smartphones (I know, I dated myself when I said that, but I bet you would use a phrase like that too), you can find all sorts of information on food and healthy living. But the abundance of information doesn’t make it easier for us to live a healthier lifestyle. On the contrary, the information out there can be conflicting and confusing, causing much frustration and overwhelm. And then there is such a thing as “hacks”: food hacks, kitchen hacks, etc.
When it comes to health, I don’t do hacks. I don’t believe in shortcuts. Anything worth pursuing and anything that brings long-lasting rewards requires time, energy, and effort.
Having said that, because I have done a lot of hard work over the years, I have distilled my nutritional knowledge, my grocery shopping experience and food preparation techniques. I’m happy to share some of them with you.
One common thread that connects all the different dishes I prepare is their anti-inflammatory properties.
Systemic inflammation is a major contributor to chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, allergies and auto-immune diseases. When you choose to eat only food that is beneficial and don’t cause inflammation in your body, you will stand a much greater chance of preventing lifestyle-based chronic diseases.
But not all food that are considered “superfood” or “good for you” are actually anti-inflammatory for your unique body. That’s where the Blood Type Diet comes in.
2. Eat Organic & Local
Purchase your food from organic sources and local farmers and butchers as much as possible. Organic food is free from harmful chemicals such as pesticide and herbicides. Many of the chemicals used in vegetables, grains and meat are hormone disruptors and some are carcinogenic.
The best vegetables are grown locally in farms that practice regenerative agriculture, because it is a sustainable way of farming and the healthy soil contributes to the densest nutrients in the produce. Of course, the best way is to grow your own vegetables organically. Not only are they healthy but guaranteed fresh and super tasty! When it comes to meat, choose grass-fed, grass-finished. For poultry and eggs, pastured is the best choice. For fish and seafood, go for wild-caught.
The ideal scenario is to purchase food directly from farmers and butchers you know. Absent that, try Community Supported Agricture (CSA) subscriptions, urban farms or local food co-ops.
3. Don’t Skim on Food
Allocate a good portion of your monthly budget on food. Don’t be stingy. Think of your spendings on food as a monthly premium on your health (both present and, on your longevity, and your quality and enjoyment of life.
We are trained by the insurance industry to relegate our healthcare to a gigantic “sickcare” system. We pay a premium that either never gets its worth or if it does, that goes into repairing the body when the reparation itself is an uphill battle.
While having health insurance can be life-saving and bank-saving, investing in preventative medicine gives a much better return-on-investment.
“Prevention is much better than cure.” The right food is the best prevention there is. Every dollar spent on beneficial food will go into nourishing and repairing your body. It will also prevent the development of serious chronic illnesses.
4. Spend Time with Food
I am a believer of the Slow Food Movement. The fast food culture and processed food industry are hugely responsible for getting us where we are today in terms of diet- and lifestyle-related chronic illnesses, such as obesity and diabetes.
Such a culture promises to free us up for higher productivity and more leisure time. But what is the price of all this time saved from cooking our own meals? Enormous! Yes, you may have diverted that extra hour a day that would otherwise been spent on preparing food, to doing some more work or watching one more episode of your favorite TV show. But eating frozen dinner, processed junk food or unhealthy takeout or restaurant food may mess up your health in big ways. I don’t need to lecture you on this.
How do you make the leap from knowing these unpleasant facts to eating healthy dishes day in and day out? There is no shortcut. The game changer is learning how to cook from scratch and how to cook “right” for your specific body type.
5. Think Outside the Box
- Stop counting calories. The concept of “calories in/calories out” doesn’t work, because different body types metabolize foods differently. What makes one person burn fat may make another gain weight. If you treat all foods with the same energy unit (calorie), you are missing out on the nuance of what controls weight gain/loss.
- Don’t stop eating fat because you want to lose fat. Not all fat is bad, and having the right kind of fat in your diet is crucial.
- Don’t starve yourself if you want to lose weight. When the body senses imminent starvation, it works extra hard to hold on to and produce what gives it energy to survive (fat and stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisone). Your weight loss goal will backfire.
- Don’t put more energy into working out than eating right. The reverse will get your farther.
6. Use All Six Tastes
Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, Pungent. These are the commonly known tastes we experience when eating. Did you know that each taste serves a different function and contributes to certain aspects of our health? For example, bitterness serves the function of detoxification whereas pungency stimulates digestion and metabolism. Besides these tastes, there is a lesser known taste called umami. Food like aged cheese, meat, seafood, and seaweed all give us a wonderful umami. Umami signals the presence of protein and stimulates salivation and helps digestion. Food rich in umami is also more filling so it helps with curbing appetite and aids weight loss. So try to incorporate all six tastes in your diet!
7. Eye Appeal
While taste is the paramount experience when we eat, sight also plays a significant role in whetting our appetite. Be creative when cooking. Design your dish to include all colors of the rainbow (or as many as possible).
As each color in food represents different phytonutrients, the more colors we include on the plate, the more nutrient-dense our diet becomes. Using the eye appeal to cook is the most intuitive way of ensuring a healthy diet!
8. Right Proportions
People of different blood types feel best with different proportions of protein, fat and carbohydrates. So it’s pretty senseless to follow one standard “food pyramid.” Such a pyramid, or even the upgraded “My Plate,” assumes that everyone has the same nutritional needs. Not true.
For example, Type A individuals thrive by eating a mostly plant-based diet, including vegetables, fruits, grains and nuts, whereas Type O individuals thrive by eating a lot more animal protein than other blood types. For them, grains should be near the tip of the pyramid, not bottom.
Type B individuals’ nutritional needs are somewhat similar to Type Os in terms of protein needs, but the specifics are different. Type ABs are similar to Type A in that they need to eat more vegetables than meat, but their need for fish and certain animal protein is higher.
9. Be Organized
Handle your diet with an organized and structured approach. Stock your kitchen with your “beneficials.” Yes, it may be more appealing to eat whatever strikes your fancy or buy processed or fast food. But in the long run, you’ll pay the price. It always takes more time and effort to reverse damages to your health than to prevent them. If you are not used to planning your meals, it’s time you get into the habit.
Organization starts with your grocery list. Most people plan meals by listing the dishes they wish to make, then write their grocery list. But my approach is reversed. I list all the groceries that are beneficial for my blood type, and decide on the amount I need for the week. Once I’ve gotten all the “right” foods, meal planning is easy. I follow the right proportion for each food group to plan out each meal. The process is the same every day, so I just duplicate it for 7 days.
10. Less Is More
One of the main reasons behind today’s chronic health epidemic is the overabundance of food, particularly of processed food and food laden with chemicals.
My food principle is “less is more.” Eat what you need, and what are beneficial, and forget about what would act like “poison” in your body. In Chapter 3, I will explain in more detail what “deleting the avoid foods” means in practice. But let me just say, that avoiding certain foods is as important as eating healthy foods. Add “beneficials,” subtract “avoids” = balance.
I occasionally do “cheat” by eating “avoid” foods, but those instances are rare. Because my taste buds rejoice when I eat what’s beneficial for my body, there is minimal cravings for junk. As a result, I am able to achieve “zero food waste.” I respect farmers and workers who bring food to our tables, and wasting food is a sin that I hate to commit. “Less is more” upholds sustainability.