By Dr. Mercola
How do you optimize your health? Diet, sure, and I've covered that in my newly updated Nutrition Plan. But how do you make sure you're actually meeting your nutritional requirements and maintaining the ideal nutrient ratios?
The fact is, most people have no idea which nutrients are in any given food, let alone how much. There's an answer to this dilemma, and that is to use a nutrient tracker. Basically, the Nutritional Plan is what you follow; the nutrient tracker is how you follow the plan.
While there are many nutrient trackers on the market, I believe Cronometer.com is the most accurate nutrient tracker available. It's also completely free.
Introducing Cronometer, the Most Accurate Nutrient Tracker on the Market
If you're trying to determine the nutritional composition of your diet, accuracy is everything. The drawback with most all nutrient trackers is that they rely on users to input new food data that is not validated and then shared with everyone. Errors easily and frequently slip in this way.
Cronometer does not do this. It uses only data from the most reliable sources, such as the national nutrient database from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Nutrition Coordinating Center's (NCC) Food and Nutrient Database.
These are two of the most accurate databases available and they're both heavily relied on by the scientific community, as the data has been professionally analyzed and validated.
Cronometer is a really powerful tool that eliminates the guesswork, allowing you to get a truly accurate and detailed analysis of what you're eating. I worked with the developer for months to modify and optimize the program for nutritional ketosis.
Why Track Your Foods?
If you're even half as passionate about mitochondrial metabolic therapy as I am, then you know how important it is to eat a diet that supports your mitochondrial health and functioning.
Research strongly suggests mitochondrial dysfunction is at the root of virtually all disease, making it a prime target if you're seeking to address a health problem or just want to be as healthy as possible.
I've been so impressed with this tool; I ended up partnering with the leaders of this company, creating a Mercola version of Cronometer that focuses specifically on mitochondrial metabolic therapy using nutrition.
The premise of this therapy is that you need certain amounts and ratios of nutrients in order to achieve nutritional ketosis, which helps optimize your mitochondrial health. Nutritional ketosis involves eating a diet that is high in healthy fats, moderate in protein and low in net carbs (total carbs minus fiber).
Aside from being free to use, by entering your personal health data and biomarkers, such as your glucose or ketone readings for example, you will also participate in a really important research project that will analyze the data to assess the impact and effectiveness of this dietary intervention.
This is the kind of research that really needs to be done in order to have the "ammunition" to validate the effectiveness of this intervention and turn our current disease epidemics around. All of your information is anonymous, of course, and you're under no obligation to enter any specific information.
What Makes Cronometer Such a Powerful Health Tool?
The Cronometer's colorful and easy-to-understand graphical interface allows you to get a quick overview of your diet over the last week (or weeks), such as your daily calorie intake and macronutrient ratios, for example, as well as your weight and other statistics.
But Cronometer is far more than your typical calorie-counting diet app. It specializes in tracking over 40 micronutrients, with a focus on nutrition analysis. No one else maintains such a detailed nutrition database as they do, or the tools to analyze your data in detail.
The daily food log interface is also really fast and easy, which is another important component since you need to track everything you eat for a period of time. This program really shines when it comes to tracking your macro- and micronutrients.
Information You Can Actually Use
Not only will it tell you how much fat, protein and carbohydrates you've eaten on any given day — both in total grams and percentages of your total calories — it will also show you your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, zinc-to-copper ratio, potassium-to-sodium ratio and your calcium-to-magnesium ratio. All of these are important to maintain a balance of your total nutritional intake.
It also gives you your nutrient targets and the percentage achieved based on the foods you've eaten. This will help you assess how well you are meeting your nutritional requirements, and whether you might need a dietary supplement.
Other powerful information includes how much fiber you're getting from your diet and your total net carbs, which is a key piece of information when you're following this diet.
If you're striving for nutritional ketosis, you need to be somewhere between 40 and 50 grams of net carbs a day, so this can help you determine if your diet will allow you to enter nutritional ketosis or not. Adding details on your exercise will also allow you to get information about your basal metabolic rate.
How to Get Started
Needless to say, to get the most out of this analytic tool you need to USE IT. Ideally, daily. To get started, create an account and log in.
You'll find helpful how-to videos demonstrating how to use Cronometer at your first log-in. All of the videos are also available for viewing at any time in the User Manual. For example, the first video will show you how to enter foods into your daily food log. It's easy as 1-2-3:
1. On the Diary page, simply click the "Add Food" button. This brings up a search page where you can find the food in question. Clicking the settings icon in the top-right corner of the page will allow you to further refine the search.
2. Once you're located your food, click on it to select, and then enter the serving size. For each food and serving size you enter, you will get an immediate overview of the nutrient ratios for that item.
3. Select "Add Serving" to log the food item. You can go back and edit your logged entries at any time.
Getting the Most Out of Cronometer
One of the main benefits of the program is that you can preplan your meals and enter the information before you actually eat. This strategy gives you the opportunity to modify your food choices for the day to optimize your target goals. Once you eat a food you simply can't uneat it. This is particularly important for protein levels, which have a tight limit that is very easy to exceed.
Remember, you can find guidance on what foods to eat in my Nutrition Plan. Part of my site is also dedicated to recipes where you can find loads of ideas and suggestions on how to prepare healthy meals. You can also use the search engine on my site to search for any health questions you may have.
Eating for Metabolic and Mitochondrial Health
As mentioned, if you sign up for the Mercola version of Cronometer, you will anonymously help to generate valuable information to validate and support the use of this kind of nutritional therapy. Your success in overcoming many different health problems will help us document what actually happens when you follow a diet high in healthy fats, moderate in high-quality protein and low in net carbs.
Virtually all disease, including obesity, is rooted in metabolic mitochondrial dysfunction, so this is the foundational aspect that must be addressed. Improving your mitochondrial function through diet involves radically reducing the net (non-fiber) carbohydrates in your diet and replacing them with high quality fats. That's really the solution.
The reason why it's so important to limit your net carbs is because high-sugar foods will cause your blood sugar to rise, and glucose is an inherently "dirty" fuel that generates large amounts of reactive oxygen species (ROS) — far more than fat does when burned.
The crux of the problem is that in order to be able to burn fat for fuel, your cells must be healthy and normal. Cancer cells, for example, do not have this type of metabolic flexibility. They primarily burn glucose anaerobically (without oxygen) to survive. This is likely a primary factor why a healthy high-fat diet appears to be such an effective cancer prevention strategy.
Ultimately, when you switch from burning glucose as your primary fuel to burning fat as your primary fuel, your cells are more effectively and efficiently nourished and supported while cancer cells are frequently starved to death. As your body becomes increasingly efficient at burning fat for fuel, oxidative damage is reduced and mitochondrial function is optimized. This is the key to good health, disease treatment and prevention and longevity.
Now, there is one caveat. If you currently burn sugar as your primary fuel, it will take some time, typically a few weeks to a few months, to make this adjustment. So go slow, and remember that one of the keys to making this metabolic switchover is to dramatically cut your sugar and net carb consumption and limit your protein to 1 gram per kilogram of lean body mass.
As long as you're feeding your body large amounts of net carbs, it will use that first. Intermittent fasting is another powerful tool that can a radically accelerate your body's transition from burning sugar to burning fat as your primary fuel.
Healthy Fat, Protein and Carb Ratios
For optimal health, you need sufficient amounts of carbohydrates, fats and protein. However, there are healthy carbs and not-so-healthy ones. Ditto for fats and protein. All of this is reviewed and detailed in my Nutrition Plan. In summary, to optimize your mitochondrial function you'll want to aim for the following nutrient ratios, and these are what Cronometer will automatically track for you when you sign up with cronometer.com/mercola.
• Healthy fats: At least 50 to 75 percent of your total calories (some may benefit from as much as 85 percent). Good sources include olives, avocados, coconut oil, MCT oil, organic pastured butter, cacao butter, raw nuts such as macadamia and pecans, seeds such as black sesame, cumin, pumpkin and hemp seeds, organic pastured eggs, grass-fed meats, lard, and tallow.
- Limit polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) to less than 10 percent. At higher levels, you will increase the PUFA concentration in the inner mitochondrial membrane, which makes it far more susceptible to oxidative damage from the ROS generated there.
- Combined, your omega-6 and omega-3 fats should not exceed 10 percent and the omega 6:3 ratio should be below 2 (meaning your omega-6 should not exceed 5 percent of your total calories).
• Carbohydrates: 8 to 15 percent of your daily calories.
- Your fiber carbs should ideally be double that of your net carbs. So if your total carbs is 10 percent of your daily calories, at least half of that should be fiber. Good sources of fiber include chia seeds, berries, raw nuts, cauliflower, root vegetables such as onions and sweet potatoes, green beans, peas, psyllium seed husk, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
- The most important number to keep track of is your net carbs, which you'll want to keep as low as possible. Cronometer tracks this for you. For optimal health and disease prevention, I recommend keeping your net carbs below 40 or 50 grams (g) per day.
• Protein: 7 to 10 percent of your calories, obtained from high-quality sources such as grass-fed or pastured meats and animal products. There's an upper limit to how much protein your body can actually use, and when you eat more than your body requires for repair and growth, it simply fuels disease processes.
An ideal protein intake is likely around 0.5 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass, which for most people equates to about 40 to 60 grams per day. Cronometer will estimate your protein requirement based on the height, weight, body mass index (BMI) and/or waist measurement you enter.
Cronometer Can Significantly Improve Your Odds of Success
We're now starting to realize that mitochondrial dysfunction is at the core of virtually all diseases — especially cancer — and your lifestyle has everything to do with this situation. This is why strategies that support and optimize mitochondrial function, such as nutritional ketosis (achieved by a high-fat, low-net carb diet) is such an important part of the solution.
Getting it right can be tricky, though. Most processed foods are loaded with hidden sugars and processed fructose, and many fruits are very high in fructose as well. Milk is also high in sugars (lactose), and can drive up your net carb total. It's very easy to end up on a high-sugar diet even when you're trying to be mindful of what you're putting in your mouth.
This is why I strongly recommend using a tool like Cronometer, which can give you an accurate and detailed picture of how you're doing. Without it, you might not be as successful. Once you've logged a number of weeks' worth of foods, you'll start to get an idea of what you can safely eat and what you have to limit, but in the beginning it can be enormously helpful.
One of my brightest and most valuable employees who helps me write the newsletter actually thought she was on a high-fat, low-net carb diet and was shocked to realize her net carbs were STILL double the recommended limit, while her healthy fat was only 10 percent of the recommended amount, despite cutting out processed foods and being mindful of her selections.
It also became apparent that certain key vitamins and minerals were virtually nonexistent in her diet. These are VERY common problems, so if you're serious about your health and you want to take control of your diet, using a nutrient tracker is really the key to success.
Optimizing Mitochondrial Function Is Key for Health and Disease Prevention
A beneficial side effect of a diet high in healthy fat and low in net carbs is a drastic reduction in inflammation. And when inflammation is low, your body can heal and thrive. Low inflammation levels also slow down the aging processes. Sadly, my guess is that over 99 percent of the population is not receiving the benefits of this approach simply because they either haven't heard of it or don't understand it. I intend to change that and, with your help, I believe we can.
I believe mitochondrial optimization is a major key to tackling not only the cancer epidemic, but many other disease epidemics as well, which is why my next book will focus on this topic. Mitochondrial optimization will also be the topic of my talk at the Academy of Comprehensive Integrative Medicine's (ACIM) Conquering Cancer Conference in Orlando, Florida, September 22 through September 24.
If you're seeking to be the healthiest you can be, I strongly recommend using a nutrient tracker like cronometer.com/mercola. It has allowed me to really fine-tune my diet to optimize my metabolic function and overall health. I believe it can do the same for you. Try it, it's free, and see for yourself.