- Your grandma had the right idea when it came to food. Organic, local, grass-fed, wild-caught, pastured, pesticide-free, nutrient-dense — Grandma did it all before it was trendy, and you could learn a thing or two from her.
- Grandma focused on eating small amounts of the highest-quality food possible, because food was expensive. She also ate only a couple times a day, because she didn’t have access to convenience food.
- Grandma said to never leave the table without finishing your vegetables. It’s good advice — vegetables, herbs, and spices are packed with polyphenols, compounds that help your cells run at full power.
- Grandma always took her cod liver oil. That’s because she didn’t have modern omega-3 supplements. Even so, she knew that omega-3s were important for being strong, and she made sure she got them every morning.
Your grandma ate like a badass.
That’s not something you hear every day, but it’s true. Grandma grew up eating all organic food. Her meat was grass-fed. Her fish was wild-caught. Her pastured eggs had deep orange yolks, and she probably knew the farmers who grew her pesticide-free produce. I bet she ate plenty of organ meats, too.
Grandma knew how to eat based on hundreds of years of accumulated knowledge. All that wisdom started to fade away after World War II, when agriculture became a massive industry in the United States. The “direct from the source,” small batch days of buying from your local grocer or farmer disappeared. Instead, food companies focused on making foods as cheap and tasty as possible, and people began changing their diets without considering the possible downsides.
Today, those downsides are clear: widespread obesity, disease, and even fundamental changes in our genetic structure; it turns out the food you eat impacts your kids, and even their kids, at a genetic level.
The good news is that people are shifting back toward eating like Grandma did. In his recent Bulletproof Radio podcast episode [iTunes], ButcherBox founder Michael Salguero talks about the movement back to quality food from small farmers:
“People are looking for humanely-raised, antibiotic and hormone free, pasture-raised meat,” Salguero says. “And there are lots of small farmers that need a lot of help…[We want to] get the farmer enough money that they can make a living, and also treat the animal well and the environment well.”
Companies like ButcherBox are bringing quality food back to the mainstream (by the way, ButcherBox delivers top-notch grass-fed meat to your door every month, and I’ve partnered with them so you can get a discount on grass-fed meat and (some) free bacon). These companies are having trouble keeping up with demand, because more and more people are starting to see that modern diets don’t work. You’re better off eating like your grandma. Here’s how to do it.
1. Eat small amounts of good food
Grandma ate small and infrequent meals of very high-quality food, because food was expensive and she was busy working, without access to modern convenience snacks.
Dr. Barry Sears is one of the leading experts on how nutrition affects your hormones and genetics. He says that the best way to test whether your diet is working for you is to pay attention to how soon you get hungry after a meal.
If you feel satisfied for five hours after a meal, it means your metabolism is running well, and you’re eating the right things for your hormones and genetics. Leaving lots of time between meals also gives your body the opportunity to dip into your fat stores for energy, which helps you stay lean. The key is to eat wholesome, nutrient-dense food.
You may have heard about Chinese Food Syndrome, the phenomenon where you eat takeout and you’re hungry an hour later. That’s the opposite of what grandma would do; you overload on refined carbs, cheap ingredients, preservatives, and low-quality, oxidized oils, and you end up with energy swings and cravings, even if you eat a lot.
Pass on the refined junk and opt for a small amount of high-quality food, eaten a couple times a day. You’ll know you’re on the right track when your sensation of hunger starts shifting to “I could eat,” instead of “I need to eat right now or I’ll pass out.”
2. Don’t leave the table until you’ve finished your vegetables
Grandma always ate her veggies, and she probably lectured you about doing the same. She knew what she was talking about. Vegetables, herbs, and spices are packed with polyphenols, powerful compounds that help your cells run at full power.
Right now, as you breathe, you’re flooding your body with oxygen, which your mitochondria (the power plants of your cells) latch onto and use to make energy. Your mitochondria leave behind free radicals, the part of the oxygen that they can’t use.
You want some free radicals, but too many of them will cause inflammation and slow your energy production to a halt. That’s where vegetables can help: the polyphenols in veggies bind to free radicals and deactivate them before they can sabotage your mitochondria.
The Bulletproof Diet Roadmap has a list of the best vegetables to eat. As a rule of thumb, the more vibrant a vegetable’s color, the more polyphenols it contains. Dark greens, deep reds and purples, bright yellows — these are all signs of high polyphenol content. Coffee, tea, dark chocolate, and fresh herbs and spices are all exceptional polyphenol sources as well.
3. Take your teaspoon of cod liver oil
Grandma said you don’t leave the house until you take your cod liver oil. Of course, Grandma said that because she didn’t have purified fish oil, or it’s more potent cousin, krill oil.
Even so, Grandma had the right idea. Fish oil is rich in omega-3s, one of two types of unsaturated fats that your body needs and can’t produce. The other one is omega-6 fatty acids, which you find in nuts, seeds, meat, and vegetables. Omega-6s are the building blocks of inflammatory hormones, while omega-3s are the building blocks of anti-inflammatory hormones. Both are necessary for your body to run properly; the key is getting them in the right ratio.
Ideally, your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio should be between 1:1 and 3:1. That is, for every 3 grams of widely available omega-6 you eat, you want 1-2 grams of hard-to-get omegas. This ratio will control inflammation and help your cells run at full power.
The average American has an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio that’s closer to 15:1, which is way too high. There are two ways to find balance:
- Get lots of omega-3s. Grandma used cod liver oil. You can use krill oil or fish oil, or you can eat lots of fatty, wild-caught fish. Make sure the fish is low-mercury. Salmon, anchovies, and sardines are all good options.
- Avoid omega-6s. Vegetable and seed oils are by far the most common source of omega-6s. It’s also relatively new, because it requires refining machinery and industrial presses to separate out inedible compounds from the oil. Grandma didn’t have vegetable oil. She cooked with butter or lard, both of which are saturated fats. Saturated fats are better for cooking anyway, because they’re heat-stable and won’t break down into advanced-glycation end products, inflammatory and carcinogenic compounds that form when you cook with vegetable oil over high heat.
Grandma was smarter than we gave her credit for. Take a page or two out of her book; you’ll be amazed by how much better you look and feel.
And speaking of books, my advice to eat like Grandma comes straight out of my new book, Game Changers. In it, I share the tools and wisdom that world-class thought leaders, innovators, and mavericks use to kick more ass at life. Pick up a copy of Game Changers here.