30 Ways to Prevent Modern Disease | Chris Kresser

How to Save Your Family’s Life: 30 Ways to Prevent Modern Disease

by Chris Kresser

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I just came across a website called Modern Paleo, put together by Diana Hsieh. It has a section called “modern paleo principles” with a list of 30 nutritional and lifestyle recommendations for staying healthy and avoiding disease.

If you’re looking for a good “blueprint” for health to follow, this is it. It’s one of the bests lists of this kind that I’ve seen. I agree with Diana on every point, with the exception of #30 (which is more about politics than nutrition). I also have some minor quibbles on #2/#6 (I think grains and legumes are okay in moderation when properly prepared/soaked, and I definitely think refined grains are worse than whole grains), #15 (although some nuts are high in omega-6, they are nutrient-dense whole foods with antioxidants to minimize oxidative damage), and #19 (I don’t recommend most commercial fish and cod liver oils, which are rancid, contain synthetic nutrients, or are not high enough in DHA/EPA to have a therapeutic effect).

I’m re-posting the first ten principles here with Diana’s permission. Visit this page on the Modern Paleo website to read the remaining 20 principles. Even better, Diana has included links to additional information for each principle that you can access by clicking on the “+/-” sign.

One last thing. As the saying goes, “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Embrace the 80/20 rule with these principles. If you follow them 80% of the time, you’ll be on the fast track to vibrant health. An occasional ice cream or piece of bread isn’t going to kill you or reverse the positive effects of this approach. (Of course this isn’t true for those with true intolerances to dairy and gluten. In that case, 100% avoidance is the rule.)

Modern Paleo Principles: A Work-In-Progress

These principles are in a rough order of importance. If you’re overwhelmed by them, try working your way down the list slowly.

  1. Eat real foods, prepared well. Prepare your own food as much as you can. Beware the junk ubiquitous in convenience and restaurant foods.
  2. Don’t eat wheat, corn, rice, or other grains. If you choose to eat some grains, eat them sparingly and prepare them to minimize toxins, such as by sprouting and soaking. Wheat seems to be the worst of all the grains, while rice seems to be the most benign. Whole grains are not better than refined grains.
  3. Don’t eat sweets: avoid sugar, corn syrup, agave nectar, honey, maple syrup, and artificial sweeteners. If you must have some sweetener for a dish, you might try a bit of stevia. With time, your tastes will adjust: ordinary sweets will taste cloying, but formerly bland vegetables will seem delightfully sweet.
  4. Don’t eat modern oils derived from grains and seeds — such as canola oil, corn oil, or soy oil. Make your own mayonnaise and salad dressing. Don’t eat fried foods in restaurants: rancid vegetable oils are standard for frying. Avoid all hydrogenated fats; they contain damaging artificial transfats. Instead, use liberal amounts of animal fats — like butter, ghee, lard, and tallow — as well as unrefined coconut oil and olive oil. (Reserve your bacon grease: it’s delicious rendered lard!) Do not fear saturated fat: it’s healthy, including for your heart.
  5. Don’t eat soy. Some fermented soy might be okay, if tolerated. However, all soy is goitrogenic and contains estrogen-mimicking hormones.
  6. Don’t eat beans and other legumes. If you choose to eat some legumes, eat them sparingly and prepare them to minimize toxins, such as by soaking them.
  7. Watch your ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 polyunsaturated fats, as well as your total omega-6 intake. Most people eat far too much omega-6, both absolutely and relatively. Today, the average ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in Western diets is 17:1, but the ideal ratio looks to be between 2:1 and 1:4. To achieve that you’ll need to limit omega-6 intake by eliminating modern vegetable oils and eating high-omega-6 nuts sparingly. You’ll likely need to supplement with high omega-3 fish oil too.
  8. Eat plenty of high-quality meat, preferably from pastured animals. Grass-fed meats have a better ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 polyunsaturated fats than grain-fed meats. Avoid meats treated with antibiotics and hormones, if feasible: the animals are likely treated better, and they taste better. Enjoy plenty of red meat. Try uncured bacon and other breakfast meats. They might not be any healthier, but they taste so much better!
  9. Eat eggs, preferably from pastured chickens. Eggs enriched with omega-3s are a good option too. Prefer nutrient-dense egg yolks to nutrient-poor egg whites.
  10. Eat fish and shellfish periodically, preferably caught wild rather than farm-raised.

Don’t forget to click here to read the remaining 20 principles!

  1. She wasn’t aware, back in 2010, of the need of Resistant Starches, inulin, pectin, etc. for the gut bacteria.

  2. Wow.
    It’s so easy for people to talk condescendingly when they are behind the safety and anonymity of a monitor.
    I challenge all of you here, including the real live human calling himself “philosopher dog”, to put your real name down, and bring up your questions honestly and politely, just as if Chris Kresser was speaking at a conference giving you a chance to ask your question. Would you be so rude? Or perhaps could you come to the mic saying, Hi, my name is Joe Smith, and I have read a lot of compelling articles that are contrary to what you’re telling me and I need more evidence, can you show me more?
    We have forgotten our manners entirely. I doubt that philosopher dog would speak to his in laws this way, or his neighbour, or someone in the grocery store.
    I actually worry about people like this – you don’t have to be so highly stressed. We can have a productive discussion that is going somewhere, that is headed towards truth without paying for it with our stress levels.
    Chris Kresser has himself stated over and over that he is willing to let his opinions grow and breathe and develop into something different, if it means getting closer to the truth, which is all he cares about. And he has in fact relaxed and changed on certain positions, I have heard it myself on his podcasts. But if you challenge him with things he has already investigated and found to be false or problematic, then yes he will show you what evidence he has to the contrary that reflects the truth the most. Someone who walks away from a useless back and forth that isn’t going anywhere is making the right choice in my opinion and I would do the same thing.
    I hope we can come to this website to have a dialectic to achieve truth not to fight our position to the death. It’s a great noble commitment to fight for what you feel is right but let’s commit to get to the truth, not to being stubborn and afraid of being wrong.

    Chris Kresser is not afraid of being wrong.

    Wishing everyone good health, whatever it is that works for you individually.

  3. I’m new to your blog and am a little confused by the pyramid graphic you used to illustrate this article. It indicates that one should eat berries more sparingly than other fruit. I’ve always read that berries are the preferred fruit of the paleo community.

  4. Hi Chris

    I am new in comment but I have read your blog for last 3-4months cause I want to get pregnant and want to have healthy baby. I am former vegan, but I have lost my period when I was vegan so after 9 months without period I incorporate animals products back( I was vegan 1,5 years) . I have 3 years old girl but we want second baby so I really would like to eat healthy. I still drink green juice in the morning but than have raw homemade kefir from sheep milk( I have read that it is even nutritious than goat one and we have good sources both of them) than I have meat organic or organic salmon with big salad and dinner mainly 3-4 eggs steamed veggies with lots of raw butter and raw goat or sheep cheese. I do eat FCLO buuter oil daily.I do not eat grains legumes. With fruits some berries wild or from our garden not from store, and sometimes sweet potato. What I would like to ask is your opinion on hemp and hemp protein powder. I used to eat lots of hemp and hemp protein powders when I was vegan, but I have read that plants proteins are toxic in very little amount. Please can you answer me to clarify it. Many thanks Sorry about my english I am from Vienna Austria

    • I hope you had your baby by now, and were able to find the Weston Price Foundation material, as it will get you pregnant but they advice not getting pregnant right away until you bring up your Vitamin A and D stores. By the time you find out you’re pregnant, the heart has formed, and the heart needs a lot of Vitamin A to form properly, as well as other organs. So happy to read that your story. I used to be a vegetarian and a vegan as well, and doing it the “right way” tried different times, researched everything and was committed, and was not healthy, I suffered a lot and developed many health problems. I’m healing to prepare my body for pregnancy next year.

  5. Hi Chris-
    What’s wrong with non-stick pans? How to make an omelet? Any brand names for cookware you’d recommend?
    Thanks,
    Vivian

  6. Oh, and “philosopherdog,” if you’re so inclined, go by Robb Wolf’s site and read his stuff. He’s absolutely unafraid to address the issues you’ve brought up and he’ll do so unflinchingly. His site address is his name jammed together plus a dot com.

  7. Holy crap, “philosopherdog” totally destroyed the site owner. I hate seeing stuff like this, like with Colin Campbell got taken apart. The site owner just basically went into the fetal position when challenged and “philosopherdog” showed a full willingness to stay around and discuss the issues.

    All I know is that I’ve lived as a vegan and I’ve lived on a “paleo” diet, and I feel much, much better when I’m eating in accordance with the “paleo” diet.

    • I doubt Chris has curled up into a fetal position in retraction to some troll’s comments on his blog. It’s more likely that he chose to avoid the stress of an argument with someone who doesn’t fully understand the subject matter and is opting to spend more time healing patients and enjoying life in general. Just a guess…

      • “some troll”. You are too kind. I am not some troll. I offered arguments throughout this thread that still stand unchallenged by the blog’s author and by anyone else who has replied, you included. Did you even read the whole thread? I doubt it. Let’s hear your reply to the arguments and never mind the name calling and the insults because that doesn’t have anything to do with the truth.

  8. This is very similar to The Maker’s Diet, which my husband and I have followed and can say from personal experience, it works. What I mean by that is, our blood results improved in nearly every category (LDL lipids, CRP, homocystine, glucose, etc.) and we shed excess weight – 22lbs for him/13lbs for me – now 6’/160 and 5’6″/135 respectively.

    Of course, each individual must test and prove what works best for them. Unfortunately, that takes considerable focus and effort due to the abundance of information one must wade through.

    I believe the greatest obstacle to nutritional health is convenience. Modern men and women don’t know how to cook, which is not the same thing as following a recipe, relying on pre-packed, processed foods. We live in an instant society with little resolve for sacrifice–there’s the mentality of “I want it now, without any inconvenience.”

  9. I’m finding this discussion very interesting. I’m not sold either way, for or against whole grains. I’ve read some of the research and there is much disagreement between people interpreting research results. It would seem we can have healthy diets either way, if well balanced. I can see that refined grains products eaten in excess can cause health problems. I personally prefer to avoid them totally.

    There are so many things to be considered besides nutrition when it comes to good health. Yes, good nutrition is primary, but when I see the research, the tests given, I can’t help but wonder what other factors were involved. The small number of people used in tests, or the short time the tests are necessarily used, or all the other unknown factors in people’s lives and diets, may make the research useful, but don’t prove anything. Studies done on diets of groups of people, over time, seem more useful. Much is said about how healthy the Meditteranian diet is, and then I wonder how much variation there may be that. Surely not all people involved eat exactly the same thing, the same way.

    I think each person has to decide for him/herself which diet suits them best. Read the advice, filter through it as best you can, take seriously some of better researched recommendations, and realize diet isn’t the only factor involved in good health.

  10. Philosopherdog,

    Have you read the 1938 book ‘The Wheel of Health’, about the Hunza? Their diet was high in whole, unfermented wheat and other whole grains, and in (sprouted) legumes. To my mind their extraordinary health, as documented in the 1920s by McCarrison, proves beyond any doubt that unfermented whole wheat is a good food for humans.

    The antinutrients shouldn’t be a problem, because whole grains contain enough vitamins and minerals to activate the enzymes that break them down. Whole grains might not cause coeliac disease, for instance, because the proteases and peptidases that break down gluten may require metal cofactors. Look up ‘The activation of intestinal peptidases by manganese’. When wheat is refined, nearly all the manganese is removed.

    The same thing applies to lectins. As for phytate, it’s something that people eating a lot of meat should be careful to include in their diet, because it has the potential to correct the mineral imbalances meat can cause. Here is a paper showing that beef has enormous quantities of iron and zinc (and this is highly-available iron and zinc), and hardly any manganese or copper.

    ‘Selenium, copper, zinc, iron and manganese content of seven meat cuts from Hereford and Braford steers fed pasture in Uruguay’, Cabrera et al 2010, Meat Science 84:518

    Phytate binds zinc better than copper, and according to Leslie Klevay can prevent copper deficiency, which his work has implicated as a major cause of heart disease. He has found that saturated fat does not cause heart disease in rats if they are given extra copper.

    Phytate has also been shown to prevent colon cancer, by binding iron, and to be beneficial in diabetes, which in rats can be caused by manganese deficiency. Iron overload is implicated in several other important diseases, including Alzheimer’s, and it causes the oxidative stress many people think is caused by copper or manganese, which in fact protect against oxidative stress. In Alzheimer’s, the iron overload has recently been found to be caused by excess zinc.

    http://www.alzforum.org/new/detail.asp?id=2562

    Iron is very difficult to excrete, which is why meat-eaters should be careful to avoid absorbing too much. At the very least, they should eat a lot of high-manganese foods, which include whole grains and legumes.

  11. Margot, could you be more specific please? Which diet are you referring to? And what about it is shocking?

  12. Wow, the diet recommended here is shockingly BAD. The only ones that horrify me more than the person who write this is the people who believe it. Scary!

  13. Rather I should have said that the author of this blog is fond of drawing sweeping conclusions from anomalous and suspect studies. Since we’re talking about people’s health, and the consequences for the planet this is no trivial matter.

  14. Dana,
    Your reasoning like the reasoning on this blog has a bit to be desired. You’ve got a bit of a false cause argument and a hasty generalization going there. Don’t feel bad the author of this blog is fond of false extrapolations from cherry picked studies.

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