Renegade Health Radio: The Top Health Hacks—Habits with the Most Leverage

Tuesday May 27 | BY |
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The Top Health Hacks—Habits with the Most Leverage


  • The top health hacks…our list of health habits that will give you the most benefits for the least effort.
  • The number-one eating habit that can save you from most degenerative diseases. 
  • Kevin’s trick for making sure the diet you’re eating is working for you.
  • The food item most people should remove almost permanently from their diet.
  • The best carbohydrate you can eat for your blood sugar (and why Fred eats this every day).
  • Kevin’s single best trick to avoid late-night snacking that he recommended to most of his clients. 
  • Why water fasting is the best therapy we recommend.


    Click the play button to start the call:


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    Kevin: Renegade Health Radio. This is Kevin Gianni with Frederic Patenaude. We have a great podcast for you today, right, Fred?

    Fredric: Oh, yeah, we do. I think it’s going to be one of our best ones I think in terms of content.

    Kevin: Oh, boy. Did we just set ourselves up?

    Fredric: Well, we had a podcast awhile back that was very popular and was about the stuff that people do—health habits that are kind of a time waster in my opinion. And we disagreed on some of the ones. And people joined in the discussion and shared their health habits they think are not worth it. So today we’re going to do the opposite. We’re going to do the health habits that have the highest leverage that can give you the best results. If you’re only going to do a few things, what should you spend your time on?

    Kevin: Yes. This is like that 80-20 rule. I’m sure you guys have heard about it where 80 percent of things you do will give you 20 percent of the results. And there’s that 20 percent of the things you do that will give you the 80 percent of results. So these are the hacks. These are the 20 percent of the things that we feel will give you that extra added 80 percent benefit, which is not even extra added. It’s like all the benefit, right? It’s almost all of it.

    Fredric: I think so. I mean, because people…like we talked about before, people spend a lot of time and energy trying to improve their health. And you can get lost in that world trying to think about every single niche theory. And it’s not just your time, it’s your attention. It’s your focus. You’re losing your focus if you’re trying to do too many things.

    Kevin: Yeah, I mean like if you’re concerned about whether or not spinach or romaine lettuce is a better green, I mean, that’s like real small change compared to some of the things we’re going to talk about today. And if you don’t have these things in your wheelhouse right now, then I would consider thinking about some of the things that you do believe about health. Those little tiny things like, I don’t know, “Should I eat carbohydrates and protein after exercising?” And all these little tiny minutia kind of things. If you’re not doing these things we’re going to mention today, then I would really focus on those and erase a lot of that little stuff, the petty stuff from your head, and get the real results.

    Fredric: Sounds good. So who’s going to start, Kevin?

    Kevin: Why don’t you start, Fred?

    Fredric: All right. I will start with a very basic one. And it’s eat a plant-based diet. So plant-based means plant-based. So it means your food is essentially vegetarian, vegan. But whole foods. I’m talking about whole foods, not refined soy foods and any other stuff that the vegans might eat. Just fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, anything in that category, kind of, is whole plant foods. So I think all the research is kind of going in that direction, that plant foods are the foods that protect you from disease. And also they’re very low on the food chain. So when you consume a plant-based diet, you’re consuming foods low on the food chain, so low in environmental contaminants. Even if they’re not organic, it’s not like an animal accumulating pesticide in their tissues and other contaminants. And you don’t have to worry about the level of contaminants in the ocean and how the fish are getting it if…I’m not saying everybody needs to be a vegan. That’s not what I’m saying, but that essentially your diet should, on a day-by-day basis, meal-by-meal basis, should be a plant-based diet. And then whatever you throw in on top of that is kind of your decision.

    Kevin: Yeah, I’m going to jump in and say primarily plant-based, because for me, over the diet experience that I’ve had, it really seems that I function well on a lower carbohydrate plant… primarily plant-based diet with some lean meats as fish or chicken or foul kind of foods. And so, steak seems to be something that I eat every once in a while, but it still seems to be…it doesn’t really function…doesn’t really work that well with me. So primarily plant-based I think is really the way to go.

    Fredric: I think…what I personally do, and maybe I’ve never shared it with people, is I tend to eat vegan at home. That’s kind of my thing. I don’t buy meat, except I might buy some organic chicken if I have people coming over and they’re not vegetarian. So I might make that. But I don’t buy animal products usually unless it’s somebody coming over and sharing a meal with me. But what I make for myself is essentially low-fat, plant-based. That’s kind of what I eat.

    But then with that kind of philosophy, I’m kind of a flexitarian now, that I see it more for social reasons. Whatever…I don’t think that for my body type eating animal products is giving me health benefits, at least from my own person experiments with it. But it’s giving me social benefits. So that may be similar to your approach or maybe not similar at all. But in the ultimate outcome, maybe we end up eating a similar amount of animal products, I’m not sure. But for me, it’s really I see it as stuff that I eat maybe sometimes outside the house, or probably on a weekly basis, but not on a daily basis.

    Kevin: I’d say we’d probably eat a little bit more animal protein than that. But it definitely is a focus for me because if I eat…if I eat a lot of carbohydrates, even if it’s rice or potatoes or even squash and things like that, I do eat that. I want to be very clear about that. I do eat those things. I’m not into this paleo, full on paleo thing. If I eat a lot of carbohydrate, I do tend to hold weight. So for me, that’s something that it’s nice to do. Eat a lot of greens, a lot of fibers, vegetables, a lot of…not really a lot of fruit, but I do eat a decent amount of fruit, particularly in the morning, and then have some sort of lean protein. Not every evening, but pretty much half-and-half during the week, which is pretty much kind of what…if you look at the blue zones, I mean, they had meat maybe two…have meat, two times a week, three times a week.

    Fredric: Yeah. Yeah, something like that. Yeah.

    Kevin: All right. So let’s jump into number two. And this is one of my favorite ones. And you guys know this if you’ve been listening to me for a while. So it’s assess, and what that means is get your blood tested. And get it tested in a functional medicine way so you can determine if the things that you’re doing are actually working. And so if you get your blood tested and you find out that your vitamin D is perfect, and you get your blood tested again your vitamin D is still perfect and you never supplemented, well then that means you don’t need to spend any money on Vitamin D supplements.

    So that in terms of the monetary side, that’s going to give your pocketbook or your wallet a big break. And that’s going to give you a benefit on that side. And on the health side, you actually know if the things that you’re doing and the diet that you’re actually eating is actually working. Because if the diet’s not working…I just, we sat down with a friend of mine and looked at his blood test. I’m not a doctor. But I do know and I can point him in certain directions. But I looked at his blood test. I said, “Well, what’s happening right now is that the diet that you’re eating is causing you a little bit of inflammation. And there are some things down the road that will happen if you continue to have this type of diet. And so here are just some small dietary recommendations that I suggest.”

    And so using the blood test and getting the right test, you can actually determine if what you’re doing is working. And that’s a huge win, because that’ll give you a much better focus than kind of running around, I don’t like to use the chicken-with-the-head-cut-off kind of terminology, but running around kind of not really knowing what’s going on with your own bio individuality.

    Fredric: Well I think, Kevin, it’s kind of standard advice to go to a doctor once a year, right? So I mean, most people would agree with that. At some point as you get, maybe in your 30s, mid 30s, early 40’, going to a doctor once a year. But what you’re saying here is doing a little bit more than this and checking it also, not just looking at your health in general, but looking at specific markers like you’ve talked about before, and then assessing that against maybe the diet or the fitness program or changes that you’ve made, because people like us tend to make more of those changes. You eat a diet. You eat a different diet. So you get to see what effects it has on your body. Someone eating the same diet over and over will essentially…they just want to know what’s up with their health. But we want to know if what changes we’ve made, what effects they’re having.

    Kevin: And do it in a preventative way. So like with my friend, he’s really very…he’s very low risk for a lot of these things right now because he’s young. He’s in his 40s. But once he gets into his 50s and 60s, if he continues to do what he does, those numbers get worse. And then the risk really becomes dire, almost, in this case, because inflammation and heart disease…that’s where he would be headed if he doesn’t make dietary changes. So it’s a very proactive way to look, kind of look into the future. I mean it’s kind of crystal ball-ish to kind of look into the future. If you’re starting to see some of these numbers get out of whack, and then to be proactive on changing them.

    Fredric: Sounds good. Next one is one of mine. Maybe you’ll agree or not, Kevin. But it’s sort of about…and similar to the plant-based diet, but it’s about not eating cheese and dairy in general. Or just kind of…I’m not saying being a vegan or avoiding cheese and so on all the time. But I’m saying as a general rule, most people tend to do a lot better, especially by avoiding cheese and dairy in general. Myself, I really, I don’t buy those products. I might have a little once in a while. Occasionally, I’ll have like a chai latte or, like I said, I’m flexible when I go to other people’s houses.

    But in general, I eat more ethnic food when I go out. So it’s not heavy in dairy, except for Indian food. And I stay clear of that, and I feel so much better. And I mean, I think most people who start on this diet tend to give up dairy at some point. It’s sort of a common ground around the different health philosophies. And I do think it makes a lot of sense considering that it’s quite a concentrated product. It’s meant to grow a baby, a calf to a full cow. So it’s quite intense. And people eat way too much of it, especially in the USA.

    Kevin: Yeah, it has a lot of fat. And I think that that…and again, we’re not looking at it, we’re not like a low-fat…well I mean, Fred, you probably disagree with me, but I mean, I don’t really look at like low-fat, high-carb that sort of thing. But it is a concentrated food. There is a lot of fat. And you can…the thing about cheese is that it’s so good you can eat so much of it. And you kind of lose track about how much you’re actually eating.

    And a good lesson that I do if we do buy cheese, and if we have a little cocktail party at our house or something like that, people hanging out, we’ll buy some cheese. And I’ve made it a point to always look at the number of calories per serving. And it just blows me away sometimes. I’m just like, “Wow. I really should only have one or two pieces and then move off.” And if you are going to eat cheese, goat’s dairy is actually going to be better. It’s not going to be as inflammatory. Sheep’s dairy are actually going to be better.

    Fredric: Sounds good. Do you want to go for the next one?

    Kevin: Yeah, let’s do this. I think cutting out sugar is a really big one. And I mean sneaky sugars, like sugars that you’re just like, “Oh, I love my chocolate,” but you don’t realize how many calories are actually in that chocolate bar. And I don’t mean fruit sugars, either. I don’t know anyone—maybe Fred, you do—but I don’t know anyone who’s gotten fat off of eating fruit. It’s just not, it’s not something that is kind of a realistic thing, and I think people are pointing the finger a little bit too strong at fructose as a sugar in fruit, because I think that we’re kind of good. I think that we can eat plenty of fruit and still be really healthy. But looking for all those extra hidden sugars I think will be a really big benefit to you and your health journey.

    Fredric: Great. The next one is one of mine. Maybe, Kevin, you disagree a little bit on that, but it’s about avoiding oil in general. But I think most people, especially with the popularity of olive oil, tend to eat way too much oil in general. And that’s the reason why restaurant food is very unhealthy. Usually, it’s because it contains so much oil. Things are fried. The chef will add additional oil before serving. It’s just everything is bathing in oil. And the problem with oil is that it’s very concentrated in calories, and you don’t need all of that fat all at once. You need it in whole foods.

    And they’ve done a lot of studies, and they’ve always found that fat is the thing that we don’t notice in food that’s adding calories. When people eat a meal that’s very sugary, yes, it’s not healthy, but you can taste the sugar. It kind of gets disgusting after a while. But fat is just…the body doesn’t register the calories in fat because we’re actually genetically programmed to eat more fat, because it’s a concentrated source of calories.

    So oil is just so concentrated and it’s just…it’s not healthy in general. The way it’s been presented to us, olive oil is not better for your health than…well it is better for your health than let’s say butter fat, but it’s not good in itself for your heart. It’s…all the studies done on olive oil have just been totally misinterpreted. So I’m not saying never eat any fat or never consume a little bit of oil, but in general, people tend to eat way too much of that stuff.

    Kevin: And I’ll agree with you on this. I have a friend who puts three or four, five scoops of coconut oil in his smoothie in the morning, and I’m just like, “Man, come on. What are you doing? I don’t even know how many calories this is here.” And so for me that’s…I’m just like, man. Coconut oil does have its health benefits. I think they’re a little overhyped, to be honest with you. So…and some people might argue with me on that. But I think it’s…there’s a little bit of marketing there and then there’s a little bit of truth.

    So I’m not going to say avoid oil, but I’m going to say less oil is absolutely better. So if you were to put, if you were to take a bottle of olive oil and put it onto your salad, and you’re going to go across three or four times, just go across once or twice. The oil will spread over the salad nicely without you having to add even more. And you’d be surprised at how just great it tastes regardless.

    Fredric: Yeah, I find now that oil is just not something that I actually enjoy. I enjoy maybe when it carries the flavors. But just adding oil on top of something for no reason? It doesn’t appeal to me anymore.

    Kevin: Yeah. All right, next up greens. I mean, for me, what greens mean to me is yes, salads. But my green smoothie in the morning—that is like my thing. I’m here in Boulder, Colorado right now, and I’m jonesing because we don’t have a car, and when breakfast time comes around, I haven’t been able to walk over to a place that’s close enough where we are. And so for me, I’ve been jonesing and I’ve just been having some fruit for breakfast. And we just went out today.

    But this green smoothie in the morning, this will dramatically improve your health results. Victoria Boutenko has done a study I’ve mentioned on this podcast. Again, she took about 40…before, she took about 40 people, and the only thing that they changed, she changed in their diet, was she gave them a green smoothie. Their health markers increased almost across the board for each person who stuck with it. So that green smoothie is so important in the morning, getting those greens in and not really overdoing it with bacon and sausage and even grass-fed butter and all that sort of stuff.

    Fredric: All right. The next one is, eat some beans. I’m a big fan of beans. I love beans. I really got into beans maybe a few years ago and I’ve been, I must say, I think I’ve been eating beans almost every day. Literally, I have to think of days when I don’t eat beans. So I cook beans from scratch. I eat probably between a cup and a cup and a half of beans a day. All kinds of beans, but my favorite are black beans, big giant navy lima beans, the Greek ones. Also red kidney beans. They’re all good.

    So, why beans? I mean, they’re excellent for your blood sugar. They’re full of antioxidants. They’re probably one of the better carbs you can eat. And it’s been found that all of the long-lived cultures in the world eat beans. So let’s follow their lead and eat some beans. So I think that’s one of the best things you can do for your health is just eat beans instead of other cooked starches.

    Kevin: Next up we have 20 minutes of exercise. I know Fred wants to talk about this a little bit, but for me, that…the book, The First 20 Minutes, was such a great book because it really goes into the science of just understanding how quickly that…or how much that first 20 minutes is important, and then the diminishing returns after that. Well, there’s just diminishing returns. That’s really what just happens.

    And so knowing a quick body weight routine, anywhere from four minutes to 15 to 20, that includes maybe some squats, maybe some arm pushups, something like that, maybe some, if you can do burpees or that sort of thing, just to really get your heart going, is really one of the, one of those gems of true healthy people. They have this little quick routine that they can do just about anywhere with no excuses. And that’s when you’re going to get the most results is within that sort of 20 minutes of doing that type of full body type workout.

    Fredric: Awesome. Did you do that every day, Kevin? Or…?

    Kevin: Not every day. No, no, no. I do it when, like in times like this, I’ll do a quick little run through of the workout. If I don’t go for a run today—I might go for a run today—but I’ll do something quick and just kind of buzz through five or six exercises. And it feels great. And it’s done fast. And it’s surprising. You get just about as much result even looking into the science of it as you would if you went for a 30-, 40-, 50-minute run.

    Fredric: And people often don’t exercise because they think of the time, right? I need an hour. I need half an hour. I mean, just do 20 pushups. Just do a few squats. It’s still going to be better than not doing any. And just like you mentioned, it’s…you get most results in the first 20 minutes, and after that, you get marginal results in terms of your health. You do get results in terms of improving your fitness, but in terms of increasing your life span, it’s really the first 20 minutes that matter.

    I think the next one kind of goes in that direction. It’s also something we talked about in the last podcast, which is your non-exercise activities. So walking, just pacing around like you do Kevin madly while you’re on the phone, things like that. Just moving your body more instead of sitting. So sit less, walk more. Walk at least 10,000 steps a day. I do walk at least 12,000 steps a day. Now, it’s my goal. And I love it. I mean, walking is such a great activity because you can combine it with so many other things, like running errands or going on a nice walk. And you don’t think of it as exercise, but it is awesome for your body.

    Kevin: One thing that I like to talk about, and I used to talk about this with my personal training clients, is the late-night eating. For me, that’s something that a lot of people do and I don’t tend to do it. So for me, it’s kind of a foreign thing. But when I started talking with my clients, I was realizing that a lot of people, they’d eat and then they’d eat again. And they’d eat like popcorn late at night or they’d have chips or they’d have…they’d literally raid their cabinet.

    And late-night eating—I have a real quick and easy kind of pattern-interrupt, if you want to call it, for late-night eating. And it’s real simple. All you have to do is, the minute you get that urge to late-night eat, you go and get yourself a cup of tea. And you don’t want to have like green tea or anything like that in the evening, but get a cup of chamomile tea, peppermint tea, holy basil. These are all great teas that you can drink at night. They’ll still…peppermint depends on how you react to it, but definitely the chamomile and the holy basil will definitely chill you out, calm you down a bit. And it’ll replace the need for you to eat. And you’d be surprised at how good it works.

    Fredric: Would you think that having a small piece of fruit, like a low-sugar fruit like an apple would be okay?

    Kevin: Yeah.

    Fredric: I find that it helps if I get the munchies late at night. Not the munchies, I guess. That’s something different. Is it? Can I say that in English, Kevin? Not the, talking about drugs. Okay.

    Kevin: Yeah. You can say that in English. It’s fine. Yes. Don’t be suspicious, Fred, but you can say it.

    Fredric: All right. But I don’t smoke pot.

    Kevin: But the thing about the apple is that most people, when they’re craving, is they’re just craving something bad for you. So I wonder if the apple is actually that satisfying. The tea seems to just work no matter what. But is the apple still that satisfying? Do you eat the apple and you’re like, “Now I want some salt and peanut butter on it.”

    Fredric: Yeah, well, I find it works for me when I want to eat something and go to bed after. And yeah, just an apple and maybe a small glass of low-sugar or no-sugar almond milk or something like that.

    Kevin: Yeah, yeah. Fred is biased though. Keep in mind he used to have a newsletter called, “Eat an Apple.”

    Fredric: Yes, I love apples.

    Kevin: What do we got, two more?

    Fredric: I think so. I’ve got the one on fasting that I wanted to cover. So fasting is an incredible health discipline and a powerful thing you can do for your health in so many different ways. So you can do a long fast. You can do intermittent fasting by occasionally skipping breakfast or not eating late at night. You can do intermittent fasting by fasting one day a week. There’s something for you in fasting.

    Maybe it’s just once in your life you’re going to do a five-day fast. Or occasionally, you’re going to skip a meal. But it’s been shown repeatedly that all of these things, all of these forms of fasting, can really help you. Not everybody can do it, but most people can benefit from some form of fasting. So I encourage you to research fasting, intermittent fasting, and experiment a little bit with it, because it’s really something that I found that made a huge difference in my health.

    Kevin: And you guys know us by now. We really like water fasting. And water fasting is one of those things you don’t have…I mean, a short water fast, you do it for a day, that’s, for most people, that’s cool. If you’re diabetic, do not. But for most people doing fasting for a day, water fasting for a day is okay. You can do that on your own. But anything longer than that, a supervised water fast is advised.

    But we love water fasting. It’s a great reset button and it’s something that I do now. A day, probably every, I don’t know, every two weeks now. So yeah. So it’s really something that I think is really valuable.

    All right then. Last one. We have sleep. Get your sleep, guys. Sleep is known to set off a whole bunch of beneficial things for your body as you’re sleeping. A lot of things are repairing and your body is resetting. And so if you don’t get sleep, well, it doesn’t happen. And your mind gets all messed up. I know that’s what hits me first. It doesn’t really have anything about my body, but my mind gets all cloudy when I don’t get enough sleep. I know that that’s a sure sign that something’s not working right.

    Fredric: And sleep, I mean, so many things can be said about sleep and how to optimize it. Maybe this is a topic I think maybe we should do a podcast on. But getting a little extra sleep definitely won’t hurt most people.

    Kevin: All right.

    Fredric: So that’s it. I think we covered it, Kevin.

    Kevin: I think we covered all of it. I’m sure there are more. Maybe if you guys have something, you can post on the blog or let us know by email. And please, please, please, please, make sure if you like this podcast, if you like us, or if you don’t like us, whatever, go ahead and post. Go onto iTunes and write a review for us. Do us a solid, and help us get this information out to more people.

    Fredric: See you next week.

    Kevin: Bye.

    Kevin Gianni

    Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

    Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


    Comments are closed for this post.

    1. Janet Crase says:

      One day is not the same as another day. Different situations develop over time and individuals vary too. But some of our needs are basic needs, great water, perfect hydration, best amino acids, better than average vegetable juices and fruits, along with probiotic foods. According to our age in life and our activity level is how we ought to eat. But if the right balances aren’t there and the right combinations then we get into trouble. One of the best hydration drinks is Sunrider International Fortune Delight, in Raspberry, Lemon, Peach, and you can spend several hours on a drive to town, after drinking a pint of it and not feel the worst for it. Their products are Certified Organic, Herbal Concentrate Whole Foods Combinations. Their phone number is: (310) 781-8096. Sunrider International, 1625 Abalone Ave., Torrance, CA 90501 USA. We are always needing variety and we try new ideal certified organic food ideas. What is your best idea of the day?

    2. Velda says:

      Ok – I rarely disagree with what you say. However, in the case of oil, I have to disagree. It has been shown that it is very important that people consume oil – and different kinds of oil. Butter, (grass-fed) is very good for you, as well as coconut oil, avacado oil, etc. Certainly not canola oil, but it has been proven that low fat diets are not healthy. You need the oil to protect your electrical process and your connective chemicals and tissues in your brain. I have never ascribed to a low fat diet, but just naturally don’t eat a lot of fat. As it turns out, I have to eat more fat in order to help get my sense of smell back. It has also been shown that consuming large amounts of coconut oil has a very dramatic positive affect on people with brain disorders such as alzheimers. Olive oil should not be used for cooking, but is good for you on salads, etc. Of course, you can over do it, but from what I have read, oil is necessary. Shawn Stevenson also recommends that people not do low-fat eating. Thank you for all that you do in the health world.

    3. Matt Jager says:

      Hi Kevin,
      Appreciate all the good information over the years! Please do let us know when the transcript is available.

      Thanks you

    4. Becky says:

      Keep the podcasts coming! I’m really starting to enjoy them (podcasts in general; I’m more of a reader). Fred and Kev, you both add well to the discussion.

    5. Connie says:

      Thanks for the Great info.
      This podcast is my favorite!!!

    6. Charlene says:

      I really enjoyed that podcast! 🙂

      I’ve always struggled with eating at night, especially if I watch a film with my kids. I just can’t keep away from the chips and popcorn.

      I ordered some Holy Basil and Muña from you the other day. They arrived yesterday. I’m going to try making some tea as you suggest :))

    7. satori says:

      I like that you guys respect each other’s diet and opinion.
      After all these years of experimenting, I decided to go back to my roots, more or less to a traditional Japanese diet. There is absolutely no oil, almost no nuts, or fruits found in traditional Japanese cooking. It’s mostly vegetables, fermented vegetables, and some brown rice or millet. Tofu’s been around for 700 years, so I’m ok eating that sometimes, but not soy milk. That stuff is only 50 years young. I don’t trust it lol.

        Comments are closed for this post.