We invite you to explore our website, get involved, and become part of the solution!
It is estimated that over 80% of most chronic diseases can be prevented by a healthy lifestyle. Proper nutrition, or the intake part of the energy equation, is far and away the most important key to health and weight management – sadly, it is also the hardest part. The prime directive of Project Simplify Health is to make it easier.
Our first initiative is to help people know the true health content of what they are eating. Smoke and mirrors abound in the consumer advertising world, and we hope to clear the smoke and defog the mirrors. In order to do so, however, we must clarify the definition of “healthy.”
A good place to start is the government guidelines. Despite much controversy, criticism, and concern about possible influence by special interests and industry, they are arguably developed, after much deliberation, by some of the brightest minds in the world. As such, we encourage you not to dismiss them as quickly as some do. Stricter diets may be more effective, but it is important to note that they must balance their recommendations with livability. Another major goal of Project Simplify Health is to provide you with nutrition guidelines that are not only easier to understand and follow, but also more effective than the government guidelines. To explain, let’s start with…
A brief summary of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020
This represents a 70% plant-based diet, because the protein section is divided into animal-based and plant-based sources (such as legumes and nuts/seeds). However, since the guidelines recommend that half our grains be whole, and that an option for the fruit group is 100% juice (not healthy), it’s really only about a 50% healthily-prepared plant-based diet.
The question is, “Is this enough to accomplish our goals?” Almost everyone agrees that eating more plants would improve our health – after all, they have the greatest nutrient density. Plus, the generally low-caloric density allows one to eat more food – as long as it is prepared (as should be our goal with all food) in a healthy fashion, i.e., without processing the healthy stuff out, frying, or adding oil, sugar, or butter.
We at Project Simplify Health also recommend a 70% plant-based diet, but our guidelines are a little different, summarized by our Nutrition Star:
We also have five categories. Two are the same (fruits and vegetables), two are similar (grains and protein), and the last is different. A few qualifiers:
First, it does not matter what kind of plant you eat within each of the plant categories – as long you use the whole plant and it is prepared healthily. In other words, potatoes are just fine, as long as they are not deep-fried, which is how 50% of all potatoes are consumed in America. And, why not make all your grains whole? The protein section is also divided into plant and animal sources, but we specify that the animal protein have good fats, i.e., fatty seafood. Other animal proteins only have bad fats.
All other foods fall into the “whatever” section – not meaning that there is no nutritional value in them – just that they are lower in nutrient density, more addicting, and/or the potential harms outweigh the potential benefits. Nonetheless, we encourage you to try to prepare those foods as healthily as possible, too.
What this turns out to be is an 80% healthily-prepared plant- and fatty seafood-based diet. It’s something we call The 4:1 Rule. It is our healthy eating strategy, and we believe it provides the magical intersection between what’s both effective and livable. Since the Nutrition Star is essentially made up of five diamonds, we call the four healthy diamonds “4-Diamond foods.” And to help you make healthier eating choices, we are creating a database of foods that lists their “4-Diamond Percentage Score,” or “4◊Score” for short.
We invite everyone to slowly work towards following The 4:1 Rule in their personal lives (e.g., start with 1:1 and build up from there). To break addictions, however, you may wish to work from the other direction (but please consult with your doctor before doing so!): Start by cutting out all the “whatever” foods for 2-3 weeks (about the amount of time it takes to develop new habits). We call this the “Con-Tradiction Diet” – the purpose is to counter traditions (or habits) and addictions. After those 2-3 weeks are over, you may slowly add some “whatever” foods as necessary to make it more livable long-term (read the handout for more information).
If going without “Whatever” for 2-3 weeks sounds impossible or too painful, try the Four-Day, Four-Diamond (“4D4D”) Challenge (see www.4D4D.org). Either option has the potential for launching you quickly down the road to an amazing level of health – but be very careful if you are on medicines for diabetes or high blood pressure, as your levels (and weight) can fall significantly as you flood your body with health-giving, and eliminate health-robbing, foods. Imagine what would happen if there were more 4:1 choices in restaurants and grocery stores!
When experts and others understand the definition and power of The 4:1 Rule, we are hoping that all will support our efforts. Some feel that even The 4:1 Rule is not enough, and recommend avoiding certain plants (we respectfully disagree – as long as it is a healthily-prepared whole plant, then you may eat it to your health!), avoiding animal products altogether (i.e., going vegan), or avoiding both animal products and processed foods (i.e., going “whole” – or following a whole plant-based diet). That is each person’s prerogative, and the good news is that The 4:1 Rule has great flexibility and can accommodate each of those options.
Indeed, we invite individuals and industry alike to unite behind a single banner – Project Simplify Health.