While most of us think of Queer Eye when we hear of the Fab 5*, in functional medicine nutrition model this refers to a different group of fabulous:
1) Omega-3 fats
2) Fat soluble Vitamins (A,D,E,K)
3) Glutathione (a master antioxidant and major component of liver detox)
5) Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFA)
These five tend to be sorely lacking in the modern body and are best influenced by dietary intakes. Fatty cold water fish, cultured foods, loads of vegetables (esp. crucifers for glutathione) and organ meats can have you covered here, and exercise can also increase probiotic diversity, SCFA production in the gut and raise glutathione levels (who knew??)
While supplements are extremely helpful for those who are extremely depleted or chronically ill, starting with the foundation of a healthy diet and exercise is the cheapest, most impactful way to get you there. Here’s how:
A) Include organ meats 1-3 times a week; pate, heart, gizzards, mixing liver in meatballs or burgers, and drinking bone broth are great ways to do this. Organ meats are a great source of fat soluble vitamins and trace minerals. I FINALLY found a pate recipe that I really enjoy (I detest liver) after years of looking in Mickey Trescott’s Nutrient Dense Kitchen. It has been a total game changer.
B) Get a combination of high intensity, high impact movement and more relaxing, low intensity movement weekly. Walk as much as you can (our ancestors easily did 8-10 miles daily) and aim for short, high intensity intervals of 30 minutes or less 2-4 times weekly to boost glutathione levels and promote healthy gut bacterial diversity.
C) Consume cold water fish 3 times a week or supplement with omega-3 fatty acids (including a GLA to ensure appropriate balance of fatty acids when supplementing). Omega 3 fats preserve brain and heart health and keep inflammation at bay.
D) Consume cultured/fermented veggies daily from a variety of sources to easily introduce billions of probiotics into your body. Start with 1 tablespoon and work your way up to 1/2 cup depending on your needs. Kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, kim chee, and many other options are out there! These foods promote healthy gut flora and crowd out opportunistic infections. Buyer Beware — if these foods are not refrigerated, they do not contain active, live cultures. They must be refrigerated to prevent exploding jars of ferments, so if you see a shelf stable kraut know it is a dead kraut.
E) Fat soluble vitamins are prolific in your cold water fish, organ meats as well as egg yolks. Vitamin E is found in nuts, seeds, and olive oil. Vitamin K is most abundant in green vegetables, so load those plates high! Check you levels of Vitamin D in both summer and winter so you can determine appropriate supplementation, if needed. These vitamins are crucial for immune health, bone health, cancer prevention and more.
F) Focus on vegetables! Population studies indicate that the healthiest people consume more vegetables, with 10 or more servings of produce daily demonstrating the greatest benefit. Vegetable fibers directly feed gut bacteria, and they in turn produce short chain fatty acids, which serve as fuel for the cells that line the gut wall. These cells directly impact immunity, gut health and brain health, but lack of integrity in the gut is associated with disease throughout the body, from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s to heart disease and osteoporosis.
A diet rich in fermented, raw and cooked vegetables, nutrient-dense organ meats and seafood, with appropriate levels of exercise can keep you strong, energized and vibrant for all the years of your life. Increased levels of environmental and social stressors coupled with decreasing nutrient density from poor soil and increasing carbon dioxide rates have loaded extra demands upon the body, requiring even more attention to nutrient density to maintain health than was needed just 20-30 years ago.
That said, increasing demands upon our time and energy can make it even harder to accomplish this. Lack of familiarity with foods like organ meats, or poor experiences with vegetables growing up make it incredibly difficult to bring these foods back into regular fare, even when we know we should. My generation experienced a great deal of gym class trauma and soggy canned spinach that turned many of us away from the very things we needed to thrive. But now we are all adults, and it is up to each of us to overcome our history to serve our future. It took me five years to find a way to eat liver that I enjoy, so don’t give up! Where there is a will there is a way.(A special thank you to Dr. Eric Dorninger for introducing me to the power of the Fab 5!!)
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