Today I'm sharing the number one most important nutrition concept that once implemented, will help you change and improve your health and life consistently.
It truly stands the test of time.
Holistic nutrition is about nourishment on all levels, while understanding your own unique constitution and changing needs throughout life while still enjoying food as a source of great pleasure.
I learned this concept over a decade ago during my training with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in NYC, and it continues to walk side-by-side with me in managing my own health. It's also steeped into everything we do to help others here at The Whole Journey.
I hope that you can implement it as well and have your health and life improve in a most grounding, lasting way.
Bio-individuality is a fundamental concept that can help us embrace the profound beauty of a flexible, integrative approach to nutrition.
While we share many similarities, nature created each human being as their own unique microcosm. We are more remarkable for the ways we differ than for the ways we are alike.
“While watching fad diets sweep the country, from high carbohydrate diets in the 70s to low-fat diets in the 80s to high protein diets in the 21st Century, we have to recognize that no one diet works for everyone. We are way too individualistic to all eat the same food and thrive.”
Many factors shape our individuality and therefore inform us of what foods and general dietary guidelines meet and exceed our needs.
“One example is our ancestry. If our ancestors were Japanese, it's most likely we'll thrive on a Japanese diet high in fish, rice, & sea vegetables, and likely that we'll have difficulty digesting dairy.”
If our ancestors were vegetarian from India, our system would probably come wired knowing how to best process legumes, grains, and key spices that aid the digestive process. Meat as a side portion vs. the centerpiece of a meal is likely the perfect amount since our systems have been trained for hundreds, if not thousands of years, to extract more protein out of vegetarian sources.
Or perhaps your ancestors, like mine, came from Europe where eating meat was more predominant. In that case, higher amounts of excellent quality meat and raw dairy will most likely work for you, yet you might have trouble digesting grains and legumes without soaking or properly removing their phytic acid first.
There are also other factors to consider as you decide on how to adjust your diet.
Stress Level: The more stress we have, the more well-cooked, balanced meals we need with clean animal protein and complex carbohydrates like root vegetables to use as a stabilizing anchor. During times of extreme stress, a raw food and juice cleanse would further exacerbate hormonal imbalance and delay healing.
Blood Type: This can give you a clue as to how your body handles certain foods. For example, Blood Type O has shorter intestines better designed to digest meat faster – they do better with red meat. Those with Blood Type B don't process chicken well and should choose other types of protein when possible. And then Blood Type A folks extract protein much better out of vegetarian sources than the other blood types. If you want to know more about your unique blood type, watch our 5-minute Food as Medicine episode on the topic here.
Metabolic Type: Are you naturally a carb, protein, or mixed type? Carbohydrate types feel their best when eating meals based around whole, healthy carbohydrates and a smaller percentage of proteins and fats. Protein types thrive on meals that are rich in high-quality proteins and saturated fats and lower in carbohydrates. And then there are mixed types who need an assortment of foods from both the Carbohydrate Type and the Protein Type to achieve optimal health.
To determine what your type is, you'll need to know what kind of oxidizer (or calorie burner) you are – fast, slow, or balanced. Fast oxidizers are folks who tend to be slimmer and burn through their calories quickly, yet carbohydrates release too much insulin for them, causing fat storage and hormone imbalance, so they need to lean on protein and fat for sustenance, balance, and to avoid gaining too much weight.
Slow oxidizers break food down slower and can handle carbohydrates better, using them to thrive because the glucose from them is released slowly in their system, creating balanced moods and blood sugar vs. getting stored immediately as fat. They can gain weight quickly, however, so they need to train their bodies to burn fat for fuel by emphasizing vegetables and healthy fats in their diet.
Balanced oxidizers can go for a zone type diet of 30% fat, 30% complex carbohydrates, and 40% protein and usually thrive quite well.
About 70% of the population is in the mixed category, so if you hang out too long on either end of the spectrum, you could be setting yourself up for organ, gland, or weight imbalance down the road.
Once you know the answer, you can adjust your macronutrient profile accordingly and get some nice results for both your body and your brain.
Understanding the concept of bio-individuality as it relates to you will free you from the lunacy of the media saying one day that, tomatoes are good for you, and the next day – they're bad for you. One day coffee is helpful to prevent dementia, and the next, it can kill you. Meat causes cancer vs. eating high amounts of meat is the only way to weight loss.
Giving our power away to external sources and one-sided sweeping generalizations is not only crazy-making, but it diminishes our own inherent intuition as to what our unique bodies need to heal and thrive.
According to Joshua Rosenthal, the founder of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition:
“One person's food is another person's poison, and that is why fad diets do not work in the long run. They are not based on the premise that we all have different dietary needs. Sometimes it takes a million dollars in funding and years of research for scientists to prove what we already know.”
The Good News
You have 24-hour access to the best laboratory in the world for testing how food affects your body and your health – it's called your body. It's a sophisticated bio-computer that doesn't ever need you to remind it to breathe, think, pump blood, produce saliva, and a million other autonomic functions.
What it does need is for you to pay close attention to the signs and signals it sends you with each and every meal and choice that you make (including thoughts that you think) so that you can respond accordingly, building a healthy, happy, relationship with your body, giving it what it needs and wants so that it can, in turn, give you a beautiful, happy, balanced vehicle to go through life.
Please repeat this mantra three times…and keep repeating it until you believe it.
I can trust my body.
Let's look to nature and the animals for further answers on how to execute this.
An animal acts upon an instinctive process far beyond reason to bring its biochemistry back into balance. It will lick a clay pot if it needs minerals, eat grass if it's too acidic, or not eat at all if an illness is present to give its body a chance to focus on healing vs. digesting.
We have all of these instincts and more. The problem is, we also have two huge challenges that animals don't have: intellect and advertising. We are influenced in this way, and they are not.
Our ancestors knew to keep it simple, gathering local, organic foods that were in season – but we're now distracted with foods coming from all over the world no matter what season it is. We've got a rash of chemicals and GMOs in our food supply that never existed before and a very real need for convenience that truly presses us to the point of adversely affecting our health choices.
Don't lose touch with your body's natural instincts, especially as we head into the holidays – which can often mean months of overindulging for many people.
Instead use this time as a gift of uniting body, mind, and spirit to up-level your own understanding of your unique bio-individuality. Build a better relationship with yourself, and the symbiosis you will experience will be such an utterly satisfying gift.
I invite you to put on your lab coat and go explore the laboratory of your human body, “you will be surprised how responsive, sophisticated, and intelligent it is. It's a highly sensitive organism that wants to be healthy and wants to communicate with you about the food you supply it.”
If you'd like to learn more about the concept of bio-individuality, I encourage you to take a free sample class with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. You won't be disappointed.
And for those of you, like me, who ache to do this work because it's the work of your soul and your way of contributing to world peace, consider enrolling in IIN. Their program is fantastic and truly life-changing on many levels. Attending was the single best career decision I ever made. Here's a link to learn more about their program. And if you let them know The Whole Journey sent you, they will give you a very special surprise incentive to help you along your journey to helping others.
Integrative Nutrition – The Future of Nutrition by Joshua Rosenthal