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BBP's Healthy Eating Philosophy

This post is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Read full disclaimer.


It can be maddening to figure out what it means to “eat healthy” and many people disagree. To keep things simple, the BeBurnoutProof framework focuses on the following:

  1. Eat More Plants
  2. Minimize Consumption of Highly Processed Foods
  3. Avoid Artificial Sweeteners and Limit Added Sugars

These recommendations have broad consensus in the nutrition-knowledgeable healthcare community.


Eat More Plants

There is a mound of evidence for the benefits of eating vegetables, fruits, greens, whole grains, and legumes. Recommendations for exactly how many servings vary, but most people could benefit from eating more.

Maybe you aren’t convinced of the link between consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs and adverse health issues. Personally, I’m convinced but you do you. Regardless of what else you eat, it is health-promoting to eat more plants.

Maybe you are convinced and do want to transition away from animal proteins but find that it is hard to do. Start by eating more plants, regardless of what else you eat.

My favorite app for tracking plant intake is Daily Dozen, and it’s FREE!


Minimize Consumption of Highly Processed Foods

Highly processed foods contain added sweeteners, excess sodium, and a variety of additives. The more processed something is, the fewer phytonutrients and grams of fiber it contains. One of the issues with highly processed carbs (e.g., white bread, junk food) is that they are broken down quickly in the digestion process, resulting in blood sugar spikes. The main issue with highly processed meats is their classification as a known carcinogen for humans.

But in the hectic pace of modern life, it would be hard to avoid consuming any processed foods. A wise strategy is to be increasingly judicious in the processed foods that you choose, and to reduce the amount over time.

Choosing processed foods with whole grains can help avoid the blood sugar spike. A rule of thumb is to divide the grams of carbs by the grams of fiber, and look for a ratio of 5 or less.

For example:

  • the whole wheat bread I buy has 20 grams of carbs in a serving and 6 grams of fiber: 20/6 = 3.3 so it passes the test.
  • the tortillas I buy have 22 grams of carbs and 5 grams of fiber: 22/5 = 4.4 so it passes the test.
  • the potato chips I buy have 16 grams of carbs and 1 gram of fiber: 16/1 = 16 which fails the test. TBH, I’m not going to never eat potato chips, I’ve just got my eyes wide open to the fact that they are junk.

Suppose you like to eat crackers and can’t find any that meet the rule of 5. If one kind gets a ratio of 7 while another gets a ratio of 19, then choose the ones whose ratio is the lowest.


Avoid Artificial Sweeteners and Limit Added Sugars

Why avoid artificial sweeteners?

There is a decently large and growing body of research linking insulin resistance, obesity, heart disease, stroke, type-II diabetes, and neurobehavioral issues to the consumption of various artificial sweeteners. Additionally, they mess with our neurobiology (e.g., the way our appetite mechanism works) and have impacts on the gut microbiome.

What is added sugar?

It typically refers to any caloric sweetener that can stand alone and be added to other things, like refined sugar (e.g., cane, beet, coconut, etc.), syrup (e.g., corn, maple, agave, etc.), or honey.

Why limit added sugar?

Beyond having no nutritive value (i.e., “empty calories”), when we consume too much added sugar, it results in repeatedly elevated blood sugar. Over time, this can damage blood vessels, stress kidneys, and damage nerves. And for people who consume lots of saturated fat in addition to the excess added sugar, type-II diabetes is a risk. Higher levels of added sugar intake are associated with higher markers of inflammation which can cause tissue damage and proliferation of cancers. It’s associated with risk for increased blood pressure, fatty liver disease, and cardiovascular disease (i.e., heart attack and stroke).

So how much added sugar is okay?

Aim for no more than 25 grams per day. It will probably take you a while to get there, depending on how much processed food and sweets you eat or drink right now.

What about the sugar that occurs in fruit?

Fructose is a sugar that is found in fruit. When we consume fresh or minimally processed fruit (e.g., canned, frozen), the fructose comes bundled with fiber and phytonutrients. That bundling means the digestion process doesn’t result in a blood sugar spike, as would be the case if we consumed plain fructose. And with the bundling, the calories aren’t empty.


Resources

If you are interested in knowing about the evidence-based research that underpins these recommendations, check out NutritionFacts.org. It is a nonprofit organization that publishes videos and a blog breaking down the latest nutrition research papers.

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