Many of us grew up with The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) definition of the "Basic 4" food groups, consisting of dairy, meat, grains, fruits and vegetables. However, with The Daniel Plan, we often speak in different terms and we want to guide you along with common terms and food groups we discuss throughout the plan.
The Daniel Plan gives an easy guideline to follow for any meal that we like to call The Daniel Plan Perfect Plate:
- 50% non-starchy vegetables
- 25% healthy animal or vegetable proteins
- 25% healthy starch or whole grains
- Side of low-glycemic fruit
- Drink—water or herbal teas
With that in mind, here are the basic food groups, and examples:
High quality protein at every meal is the secret to optimal health. The best sources of protein for your diet are poultry; omega 3 eggs, or free range eggs; fish; shell-fish; and small amounts of lean lamb or beef. Note: when buying meats, choose free-range, organic with no hormone or antibiotics meats. There are also vegetarian sources of protein like quinoa, beans, tofu and nuts.
Carbohydrates are not all created equally. Not by a long shot.
When most people think of "carbohydrates" they think of big fluffy loaves of white bread and pasta dinner for four. It's true, these are carbs—highly-processed, highly-refined carbohydrates, and they lead to ill health and weight gain. Simple carbohydrates such as simple sugars found in processed foods, table sugar, fructose, lactose, white potatoes, white flour, honey and fruit juice are not included in the Daniel Plan and should be avoided.
But there is another kind of carb—the good carb.
Did you know that vegetables are carbohydrates? So is fruit. Whole grains and beans are also carbs. These foods along with others like brown rice, lentils, millet, sweet potato or yam, and quinoa are known as complex carbohydrates. And each of these is a critical element in the human diet and has been for millennia.
Without carbohydrates you won't last long. Carbohydrates found in their natural form contain many essential nutrients and specialized chemicals that keep you healthy and turn up your metabolism.
On The Daniel Plan you will enjoy many healthy fats. The good fats include coconut oil, olive oil and hemp oil, avocado, chia seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, raw organic butter, ahi, and wild salmon.
Bad fats include canola oil, vegetable oil, trans-fatty acids (trans fats), and any hydrogenated oils. These fats are not in their natural form and the body cannot digest them properly, storing them as fat which is linked to heart disease and many other chronic health problems.
Here are 4 key roles healthy omega-3 fats play in your body and why they are linked to so many different chronic diseases.
- Build all cell membranes (along with a few other key fats called phospholipids – PC and PS).
- Reduce inflammation which has been linked to all chronic illnesses, weight gain, and many brain problems.
- Balance blood sugar.
- Increase the activity of a key molecule in your brain called BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor), which acts like "Miracle Gro" for your brain stimulating new cell growth and increased cell connections.
If you don't get enough of these healthy fats your body and brain breakdown from the root.
Taking steps to increasing omega-3’s in your diet can produce dramatic changes almost overnight for some. For others, increasing your intake of omega-3s and staying away from unhealthy fats will protect health for the long term.
Whichever group you fall into, getting the right fats in the right amounts is essential for long term health.
Here is a little food for thought, literally. If you want to get thinner, smarter, and happier, then reach for the spice cupboard. Using spices rather than heavy cream sauces or butter cuts calories so you can lose weight. Research shows that they can also boost your brain and your mood.
Turmeric: Found in curry, turmeric contains a chemical that has been shown to decrease the plaques in the brain thought to be responsible for Alzheimer's disease.
Saffron: In three studies, a saffron extract was found to be as effective as antidepressant medication in treating people with mild to moderate depression.
Sage: This fragrant spice has very good scientific evidence that it helps to boost memory.
Thyme: Studies show that thyme increases the amount of DHA in the brain, which protects against age-related degeneration.
Rosemary: A 2006 study reported that rosemary diminishes cognitive decline in people with dementia.
Cinnamon: One of my favorite spices, cinnamon has been shown to help attention.
Other spices that boost or protect brain power include garlic, oregano, and basil.
The best thing you can do for your health is to drink pure clean water. It should be your staple. Other drinks you can enjoy are herbal teas, green tea. Coffee should be kept to a minimum.
Foods that are high in phytonutrients are considered superfoods. These are foods that have the highest quality protein, good fats, vitamins, and minerals. Acai, avocado, beans, broccoli, quinoa, tomatoes, and berries are just a few of the many delicious superfoods that should be on your plate.
Ingredients to Avoid
- Sugars - sucrose, fructose, maltodextrin, and high fructose corn syrup. Examples include almost all processed foods and fruit juices, sodas, jams, jellies, candy and much more. Sugar should be the occasional treat.
- The bad fats – Trans fat and processed/refined vegetable oils. These fats increase your risk of bad cholesterol, heart attack, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Read the label and avoid this ingredient.
- Chemicals- Food additives can cause havoc. The most common additives to avoid are MSG, artificial sweeteners, nitrates, colors and dyes, and phosphoric acid among others.