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Unlocking the Benefits of Food Cycling: Why Diversifying Your Diet Is Key to Better Health

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As the saying goes, you are what you eat. It’s a well-known fact that maintaining a healthy diet is essential to overall health and well-being. But did you know that simply eating a variety of foods and switching up those foods regularly can also play a critical role in supporting your body’s functions? This is where food cycling comes in – a simple yet effective way to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs to function at its best.

I know I know…we are currently living in an annoying, confusing, fad-diet era full of keyboard experts who will tell you humans were designed to eat only vegetables, meat, or fruit. I’ve experimented through the years with my fair share of the mono and minimalist diet approaches in my health journey, so I’m definitely not here to attempt to be the moral compass of all that is good and bad in the nutritional space. Before jumping into food cycling, I’d like to briefly touch on the opposite of that which is mono dieting.

What Is A Mono Diet?

A mono diet is a type of diet where you only consume one type of food or one food group for a certain period of time. This means that you limit yourself to a single type of fruit, vegetable, or other food for all of your meals and snacks throughout the day. The idea behind a mono diet is that by simplifying your diet and only consuming one type of food, you give your digestive system a break and allow it to function more efficiently. However, it’s important to note that following a mono diet can be risky and potentially unhealthy if not done under the guidance of a holistic health practitioner.

A few years ago I tried a couple of nutritional experiments where I lived off of grapes only for weeks at a time. The last time I did it was for a month. I was also a vegan (primarily, but I also ate sushi sometimes so I called myself a “seagan”) for one year. I spent a couple of months only eating fruit as I dove into the fruitarian approach. There is actually a good amount of evidence to support this method in the short term for all of the detoxifying effects that certain fruits and vegetables have on the body. In the opposite way, a carnivore diet has proven to be great for people with auto-immune issues or some types of deficiencies, since meat (especially steak and organ meats) are so jam-packed with essential vitamins and minerals.

My current stance on these approaches is that they should be done with caution and for a short-term period only. I know I’ve called out and likely irritated several groups by now, but I am coming from a place of experience and authority over my own body. Everyone’s body reacts differently to various foods, and there is no blueprint diet for every single human. All of our ancestors ate differently and we must too. I will end this sidetracked tangent with a reminder from my buddy Troy Casey’s book Ripped At 50 – Just Eat Real Food (J.E.R.F.).

What is Food Cycling?

Food cycling is an approach to nutrition that involves rotating the types of food you consume regularly. This dietary practice offers numerous benefits, including better nutrient absorption, improved gut health, the elimination of inflammatory or allergic foods, reduced risk of nutrient deficiencies, and increased variety and enjoyment. When you eat a range of foods, you are more likely to absorb nutrients effectively, avoid food sensitivities or intolerances, and improve the diversity and function of the gut microbiome.

Incorporating a variety of foods into your diet can also ensure that you are getting all the nutrients, fibers, and prebiotics necessary for good gut health. Additionally, regularly changing your diet can help prevent boredom and reduce the temptation to overindulge in the same types of foods. Let’s explore the benefits of food cycling in more detail and provide tips on how to incorporate this approach into your daily routine.

Benefits of Food Cycling

Better Nutrient Absorption

When you eat a variety of foods, your body can absorb nutrients more efficiently. This is because different foods contain different types of nutrients, and some nutrients require other nutrients to be present in order to be properly absorbed. For example, Vitamin D needs calcium to be properly absorbed, and iron needs Vitamin C. By eating a variety of foods, you can ensure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs to function at its best.

In a study exploring the relationship between food diversity and dietary quality, researchers analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of French adults. The study found that higher food diversity was associated with better dietary quality, including increased intake of nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Participants who consumed a greater variety of foods had a lower risk of nutritional deficiencies. The study suggests that promoting food diversity may be an effective strategy for improving dietary quality and overall health. Additionally, the authors highlight the importance of incorporating a variety of foods into your diet to ensure that you are getting a range of essential nutrients

Improved Gut Health

By rotating different types of foods in your diet, you expose your gut to a range of nutrients, fibers, and prebiotics, which can improve your gut microbiome diversity and function.

Studies have shown that a diverse gut microbiome is associated with improved digestive function, enhanced immune system, and reduced risk of various diseases. For example, a study whose aim was to explore the link between dietary diversity and the gut environment was able to identify a number of features in the gut environment that are linked to dietary diversity, such as the “microbial structure (β diversity), 68 microbial genera, 18 microbial species, 8 functional pathways, and 13 fecal metabolites”. This is all responsible for our immune and metabolic responses, as well as much more important bodily functions.

Overall, food cycling can promote good gut health by improving the diversity and function of the gut microbiome and identifying inflammatory or allergenic foods. Incorporating a variety of foods into your diet can also help ensure that you are getting all the nutrients and fibers necessary for good gut health.

For more information on gut health and its relation to our emotional and mental health, check out my blog Gut to Brain – How Your Food Controls Your Behavior.

Elimination of Inflammatory or Allergic Foods

Food cycling can be an effective strategy for eliminating inflammatory or allergic foods from your diet. By constantly varying the foods you eat, you reduce your reliance on any single food and lower the risk of developing food sensitivities or intolerances. In addition, food cycling can help you identify and eliminate potential food triggers by gradually reintroducing foods into your diet and monitoring for any adverse reactions. By eliminating inflammatory or allergic foods, you can reduce inflammation and improve your gut health, which is critical for overall health and well-being. Incorporating food cycling into your diet can help promote variety and balance, and may even help you identify specific foods that are negatively impacting your health.

One article introduces the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) Elimination Diet Toolkit, which is a comprehensive guide designed to help individuals improve their gut health by identifying and eliminating potential triggers of inflammation and digestive issues. The toolkit provides detailed instructions on how to implement an elimination diet, which involves removing common allergenic and inflammatory foods from the diet and gradually reintroducing them to identify any adverse reactions. The article also emphasizes the importance of a healthy and diverse microbiome for optimal health and highlights how an elimination diet can help restore balance to the gut microbiome.

I also highly recommend reading Paul Chek’s book How To Eat, Move, & Be Healthy for more information on the value behind an elimination dietary approach.

Reduced Risk of Nutrient Deficiencies

If you eat the same foods every day, you run the risk of developing nutrient deficiencies. For example, if you only eat meat, you may not be getting enough fiber or Vitamin C. If you only eat fruits and vegetables, you may not be getting enough protein or healthy fats. By rotating the types of foods you eat, you can reduce the risk of developing nutrient deficiencies and ensure you’re getting a balanced diet.

One study found that dietary diversity was significantly associated with nutrient adequacy for all 11 nutrients studied, meaning that children who consumed a wider variety of foods had better nutrient adequacy. The study concludes that promoting dietary diversity could be an effective strategy to improve nutrient adequacy.

Increased Variety and Enjoyment

In addition to its health benefits, food cycling can also increase your variety and enjoyment of food. By incorporating a range of different foods into your diet, you can discover new flavors, textures, and recipes, which can make mealtimes more exciting and enjoyable. Furthermore, regularly changing up your diet can help prevent boredom and reduce the temptation to overindulge in the same types of foods.

Studies have shown that incorporating a variety of foods into your diet can have a positive impact on mental health and well-being. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that consuming a variety of different fruits and vegetables was associated with greater happiness, life satisfaction, and well-being. Another study found that encouraging individuals to eat a wider variety of foods can improve their diet quality and overall health.

Overall, food cycling can be a valuable tool for increasing your variety and enjoyment of food, while also improving your health and well-being. By regularly rotating the types of foods you eat, you can discover new flavors and recipes, reduce the risk of food sensitivities, and enhance your overall quality of life.

How to Start Food Cycling

If you’re interested in food cycling, there are a few simple steps you can take to get started:

  1. Make a list of the foods you eat on a regular basis

  2. Identify any foods that you eat frequently and consider replacing them with a similar food that you don’t eat as often. For example, if you eat potatoes with your steak for dinner every night, consider replacing it with wild caught salmon and steamed carrots or bell peppers a few times a week.

  3. Experiment with new foods and recipes. Try to incorporate a variety of proteins, fruits, vegetables, and animal fats into your diet.

  4. Keep track of what you’re eating to ensure you’re getting a variety of nutrients. Consider using a food journal or a meal planning app to help you stay on track.

  5. Be patient and give yourself time to adjust to new foods and flavors. It may take some time to find new foods and recipes that you enjoy, but keep experimenting until you find what works for you.


In conclusion, food cycling is a simple yet effective way to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs to function at its best. By eating a variety of foods, you can improve nutrient absorption, support gut health, reduce the risk of nutrient deficiencies, and increase the enjoyment of your meals. So why not give food cycling a try? Your body (and your taste buds) will thank you.

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