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It’s the most daunting part of beginning a nutrition and lifestyle-based approach to promoting with gut health. The American diet is especially rich in sugars, yeast-containing and promoting foods, and highly processed ingredients that lack the real nutrients our bodies need. Once you’ve ruled out all the foods that are “bad for you,” what’s left?

Quite a bit, actually. Sticking to a 55 percent proteins/45 percent complex carbohydrates ratio (vice versa if your goal is to lose weight), you have a wealth of whole healthy foods to choose from. Of course, you’ll want to avoid any of the following foods if you have tested positive for a food sensitivity or allergy.

PROTEINS—All poultry and red meats are permissible. If cooked with the fat on, trim the fat off before eating. Wild game and organic meats are best to avoid the antibiotic residues in commercial meats. Fish and seafood are great sources of anti-inflammatory and heart-healthy fatty acids. Avoid farm-raised fish which are often fed antibiotics. Eggs are also a great protein source; never eat the white without the yolk, and again purchase organic.

VEGETABLES—Reach for the salad vegetables for the lowest carbohydrate content, and the darker the better for nutritive content. Vegetables with moderate carbohydrate content include broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, eggplant, asparagus, snow peas, cabbage, brussels sprouts, scallions, leeks, onions, water chestnuts, summer squash, spaghetti squash, okra, artichoke hearts, string beans, garlic, and shallots.

Starchier vegetables are acceptable but should be limited to 1 cup, cooked, three times per week. These include parsnips, winter squash, sweet potatoes, celery roots, and artichokes. (Non-permitted starchy vegetables include white potatoes, beets, peas, carrots, corn, and tomatoes—actually a fruit.)

GRAINS—Rely on complex whole grains. Make sure the ingredient list indicates “whole” not just the marketing text on the packaging. Brown rice, barley, oats, wheat, buckwheat (kasha), spelt, soy flour, kamut, teff, milo, amaranth, corn, and quinoa are all fantastic grains. There are many types of pasta now made of these whole grains too. Puffed millet and kashi are great breakfast options in addition to hot cereals made from whole grains. Make sure any breads you purchase are labeled “yeast-free.”

LEGUMES—Lentils, kidney beans, black beans, lima beans, fava beans, black-eyed peas, navy beans, and peanuts are excellent sources of fiber, protein, and other nutrients. Limit this category to one cup, cooked, three times per week. Avoid tofu and tempeh though, due to their fermentation process.

NUTS & SEEDS—Pecans, walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, filberts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, and pistachios are high in fat, but provide good, hearthealthy oils. Fresh, unroasted varieties are best to ensure they are not contaminated with mold. Nut butters are delicious too.

FATS—Believe it or not, low-fat may not be entirely good for you. The fats consumed by a high protein Mediterraneantype diet are actually very good for the body. The saturated fat content as found in tropical oils actually holds antibacterial and antifungal properties. For cooking, macadamia nut and olive oils are incredible monounsaturated fats that should be staples in your kitchen. Polyunsaturated fats are common in processed foods (i.e., corn, safflower, soybean, cottonseed, sunflower, peanut, fish, and flaxseed oils). They’re not all bad for you, just consume in moderation. Rich in omega-6, they need to be balanced with omega-3s to avoid a pro-inflammatory response. Trans fatty acids, a result of chemical manipulation, are the ones that you want to avoid altogether; they have no nutritional value and may even be carcinogenic.

CONDIMENTS—Most pure spices that don’t contain monosodium glutamate (MSG) or other preservatives are safe. Butter/ghee is fine up to three tablespoons per day. A limited amount of mustard and mayonnaise (three tablespoons of each per day) is permissible; the vinegar amount is minimal. Lemon and lime juice are fine up to six teaspoons per day.

EXTRAS—Avocados and olives are a couple surprise snacks that provide heart-healthy oils. Diet gelatins are acceptable as well as desserts made with Stevia instead of sweeteners.

BEVERAGES—Water is always great! Sodas in general hold no nutritional value, but a very occasional diet soda is okay. In the coffee and tea category, herbal teas are best. Neither coffee nor tea are harmful, though some purist diets rule out both due to the chance of yeast-contamination in bean and leaf processing; keep it to two cups per day maximum. Alcohol is out during the Healing Phase diet, but if you’re attending a special occasion, you can get away with a vodka or scotch, as long as you ask for it straight or mixed with club soda.

Fred Pescatore, MD

Fred Pescatore, M.D., MPH, CCN, is a traditionally trained physician who practices nutritional medicine. He is the author of the New York Times best selling book, The Hamptons Diet and the number 1 best-selling children's health book, Feed Your Kids Well, amongst others. Dr. Pescatore’s other books include: Thin For Good, The Allergy and Asthma Cure, The Hamptons Diet Cookbook and Boost Your Health with Bacteria.