If I asked you what a "natural diet" is, what would you say?
Maybe you heard about the "caveman diet," in which people think that it's most natural to eat according to human behavior based on what humans could hunt and gather. Or maybe you think that eating natural means eating a vegan, plant-based diet because you think that "natural" means anything that comes from the earth.
Food energetics is a theory of nutrition you might not have heard of, but I'm going to use it to clear up some misconceptions you might have about healthy eating.
Here are important factors people overlook when trying to eat a natural, whole food–based diet:
1. Prioritizing nutritional content over food origin
Have you ever gone to a trendy health food spot and ordered a meal with a bajillion superfoods? Acai bowls with chia seeds, green juices made with 10-plus ingredients, and raw sweets come to mind.
The biggest misconception about nutrition from a food energetics perspective is that people prioritize nutritional content over food origin. For example, a health-conscious gal might buy imported acai from the tropics because it has a high nutritional content (and is called a "superfood") despite the fact that she lives in a climate where it's snowing outside.
If a food doesn't grow in the environment where you dwell, the food energetics take is that it's not going to give you the right kind of energy that you need, regardless of the nutrient density.
Foods that grow in warm climates are designed by nature to keep your body hydrated and cool whereas foods that grow in cold climates, like root vegetables, will warm the body.
So regardless of the nutritional content of the food, your priority should be to eat local foods that will help you adjust best to your climate. When you eat out-of-season foods, you're technically putting stress on your body (by cooling it off in a cold environment or by heating it up in a hot environment).
Simply eating local foods that help you acclimate and take stress off your body can help with weight regulation.
2. Everything has a time and a place for optimal health.
Different foods and preparations give you different kinds of energy. For example, having an apple can make you feel fresh and uplifted whereas having a warm, hearty soup can make you feel relaxed and calm.
In food energetics, you can optimize your health by timing the foods that you eat to be in alignment with the cycle of the day. In other words, you want to have foods that uplift you in the morning as the sun goes up and foods that calm you in the evening as the sun goes down.
It's not uncommon for people to eat any nutritionally dense foods at any time of the day in an effort to be healthy or to lose weight. For example, let's say a woman who is trying to lose weight has a big, raw salad for dinner—her reasoning being that it's low in calories and that raw foods hold the most nutrition.
From a food energetics perspective, raw foods are cooling and uplifting, which means she's not going to sleep as well as she could if she had something warm and cooked for dinner. And by making this simple change that will optimize her sleep, she's going to feel much more well-rested and energetic the following day.
So if you've been wondering what a "natural" diet is, the answer is really about eating foods that grow in your environment and selecting foods to eat that match the energy you want to have in alignment with the natural cycle of the day.