Dr Mark Hyman has been ahead on the curve of a very powerful conversation around fat. He’s been a strong voice in Functional Medicine and has written several best selling books. He is famous for his crusade against sugar- highlighting the addictive qualities of it and how sugar actually gets stored as fat.
In his new book, Eat Fat, Get Thin, Dr Hyman dives into how the fat we eat and the fat we store are not the same thing. This misnomer has led to lots of confusion and a terrible “fat free” diet craze that’s totally backfired on us. In fact, eating healthy fats helps us burn fat better. It helps power the brain, synthesize hormones, not be hungry all day, and simply feel better. After you enjoy this interview, I highly recommend you read his book cover to cover and get on this diet. It is life-changing and millions of people around the planet are benefiting from it. Yes- you can eat more quality fats and lose weight. That’s a great deal.
Hey, welcome back to “The Health Bridge.” I am here with my good friend, Dr. Mark Hyman. He is no stranger to this show. He’s been around the block and he has done wonderful things for the profession. Today, we’re here to talk about fat. Just to get into it a little bit, we have had a real rough go in medicine with diabetes, heart disease, obesity and all these things that you keep hearing about.
Then, in 2014, all of a sudden, some things changed. Some studies came out showing that fat really isn’t the culprit. At first, it was just like, “Okay, here’s another bit of headlines coming out, another spin from the tabloids.” No, this is real science and it’s just getting more and more substantiated. The smoking gun was pointing towards sugar, sweeteners, refined carbs and all this kind of stuff that you’ve been hearing about a lot.
At the head of the spear of this has been Dr. Mark Hyman, whose new book, which is amazing, I highly encourage reading it, is “Eat Fat, Get Thin.” Great title, by the way. He is the author of many books, 10 New York Times Bestsellers, 12 books in total. He’s the Chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine, which is where all the good doctors I know go to train and he is also at the Cleveland Clinic running the show for Functional Medicine and is really moving and shaking in this space and is now standing up for fat. Dr. Hyman, welcome.
Thanks for having me.
Yeah, great to have you back on the show, always great to see your face. This is going to be very fun for me, because this isn’t some sort of click-baity, headliney kind of topic that’s going to go away. The science is here to stay and we now know things about fat that have really changed the perspective on what we have been told for, what, maybe the past 50 years?
Yeah, since very early late 50’s, early 60’s.
That’s a long time.
Pretty stunning, pretty crazy.
There was a couple notable cases of how this became it and there were some very slim science that had a couple people say, “Oh, it’s the fat.” It’s the fat that we eat, it’s the fat that stays on our hips and our bellies and all that. There’s different kinds of fat, right?
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Yeah, let me get into it, because it’s such a complicated topic. I wrote this book, Eat Fat, Get Thin, because I realized that even though I’ve been doing this for decades, studying nutrition, looking at this issue, I really didn’t actually have that deep of an understanding of fat. I had a good understanding and enough and I’ve written about it, but I was like, “Wait a minute, I don’t think I’ve read all of the research on saturated fat. I have not read all the research on meat. I have not read everything about omega-6 fats. I need to dig into it.”
I read over 1,000 papers and I’m still digesting and reading them. They’re coming out every week. I was shocked to find that the thing that we’re being told is the opposite of what we should be doing. We’re being told to eat less fat to lose weight, because the fat that you eat ends up as fat on your body and it’s got more calories and carbs and protein and that the fat that you eat ends up as fatty streaks in your arteries, particularly saturated fat, so you want to cut the saturated fat, you want to cut total fat.
The shift has been away from focusing on total fat. There’s just so much data now that total fat is not connected, but saturated fat is still the boogeyman and people are still saying the omega-6 fats are good. When you actually look at the research, it’s just stunning what’s been happening.
In fact, last week, there was a study that came out that was looking at 3,000-plus people over 15 years. It wasn’t one of those dietary recall studies where you’re like, “What did you eat last week? Do you remember?” I don’t remember what I had for lunch last Thursday. These dietary recall studies are the best we have in nutrition. This was actually a better study. They actually looked at the blood levels of fats and they were able to detect that those who had the highest level of butter in their blood, dairy fat, had a 40 to 50 percent lower risk of having diabetes.
It wasn’t just a random study where they made associations. It was actually measuring the level of butter in the blood. I was like, “Wow, this is amazing.” This is on other studies that also show the same thing. A big review of all the research on strokes recently showed that higher saturated fat intakes actually reduce the risks of strokes. We’re learning now that it isn’t the boogeyman we thought. We thought, “Oh, it’s so bad because it raises cholesterol.” It does raise cholesterol, but it actually creates a better kind of cholesterol, which is these large, light, fluffy particles which are not dangerous and it raises the good cholesterol, which is HDL.
The best predictor of your heart disease risk is not your LDL cholesterol, which by the way goes down when you have a low fat diet. What happens is it goes down, but it gets to be small, dense particles, which are dangerous. When you eat saturated fat and fat, it actually raises these good types of LDL. It lowers the triglycerides, raises the HDL and good cholesterol, so the overall profile is much better.
I wrote an article recently called, “Fat: What I Got Right and What I Got Wrong,” because I wrote some statistics down that were wrong in the book. It was an explanation of how I did that, but the actual story is right. The story of how we got this wrong and what we need to be doing is really changing pretty dramatically.
There’s been our food pyramid, there’s been all sorts of advice we’ve been getting from the top down. In 2015, there are some new US dietary guidelines. Are these on the money or are they heading in the right direction? Where are we at with that?
Heading in the right direction. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee said that reducing total fat and replacing total fat with carbohydrates doesn’t lower heart disease risk and dietary advice should put the emphasis on optimizing dietary fat and not reducing total fat and that “cholesterol,” quote/unquote, is no longer a nutrient concern.
We’re told to eat egg white omelettes forever and now we realize that was all nonsense, that we actually can eat whole eggs. They’re not harmful. They don’t really have an impact on heart disease or even adversely affect your cholesterol. We got that really wrong. This was a huge 180 degree turn for the US Government, which told us to eat 6 to 11 servings of bread, rice, cereal and pasta and eat fats and oils only sparingly just a couple of decades ago. This is a big 180.
What they did say, which was good also, to reduce sugar in our diet. They said to reduce added sugars to less than 10 percent of our calories, which is an improvement, because they never came out and said that before. They didn’t really say what the Government Advisory Committee suggested they say, which is get rid of sugar-sweetened beverages. No soda.
They didn’t want to say that, because the food companies are hugely influential lobbyists in the government. They said “Reduce added sugar,” but it’s confusing for people, because they don’t know what it is. If they look at a label, it doesn’t say, “added sugar.” It doesn’t say, “Oh, your Coke has 40 grams of added sugar. It’s 10 teaspoons of sugar and it’s 500 times your daily allowance.” If that was on the label, people might put it back. It’s confusing. If it says, “39 grams of sugar,” most people have no idea what that is.
I think it’s really a corrupt system, but the guidelines were an improvement. They still need to move forward. They still say to reduce saturated fat. They still say to increase omega-6 fats. I think we’re going to learn that that’s actually not what we should be doing.
Yeah, so they’re heading in the right direction, but at the same time, it’s really complicated. We could get into this, but there’s so much money in politics. There’s so much money in lobbying. The challenges we’re facing is the healthcare crisis is getting way worse, so they’re having to say stuff and step into this.
The doctors on the forefront have been talking this stuff for a while. You’ve been on this for some time. Now, it’s starting to finally trend and get popular and they’re catching up. What about the American Heart Association? Are they trailing behind? Are they ahead?
No, they’re doing better, but not that much. They have been one of the huge proponents of the low fat diet and on their guidelines they still recommend low fat dairy and low fat this. They’re not consistent in the recommendations. They come up and said, “No, we shouldn’t be worried about cholesterol anymore from a dietary point of view. Dietary cholesterol’s fine.” They still say to reduce saturated fat. They still say to increase polyunsaturated fats.
When you look at the data, it’s fascinating. I went back and looked at the US Department of Agriculture records and guess what? Our intake of saturated fat, eggs and meat and butter and lard and tallow have all gone down over the last 100 years, but our intake of sugar, vegetable oils and chicken have all gone up. Chicken, by the way, is a lot of omega-6 fats.
When you look at the trends that are associated with this, you see a dramatic increase in obesity, in diabetes, even heart disease. Even though less people are dying of heart disease, more people are getting it. Per capita, we’re having more people with heart disease. They’re doing better because we have better treatments like angioplasty, surgery, stents and drugs that help. The fact is that we’re not winning the war on heart disease, we’re just getting better at treating it, which is more and more expensive. It’s all driven by our diet. I think we have to rethink our whole approach.
There’s a couple things in here. One, is it’s amazing that the MASH unit is filling up. You have less fatalities, but a lot more work and a lot more drug sales, too. That’s not great for humanity.
Yeah, and more procedures, more revenue. It’s just a whole corrupt system.
That’s really the elephant in the room, is we’re in a profit-based system and there’s a lot of money to be made off of disease and illness, which is a big challenge, where there’s good doctors saying this is what we got to do and a lot of doctors that are just living in that system. It’s changing, it’s a slow-turning wheel.
I want to unpack a little bit of this. You mentioned the can of Coke with 40 grams of sugar. Can you help our viewers and listeners understand what those 40 grams of sugar are doing and where they’re going and how that’s turning into a bad problem? I don’t think people understand this part of it.
That’s what’s fascinating. When you look at the data on this whole problem, it’s actually the sugar and the starch that’s driving obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and dementia. It’s not the fat. That’s a big shock for people, because the whole narrative was hijacked by the low fat crew. The guys who are talking about sugar being the issue, like Dr. Yudkin, which I talk about in the book, who was from England, he died in disgrace, but he studied this back in the 60’s and the 70’s. He wrote a book called, “Pure, White and Deadly,” about the dangers of sugar, about all the research he’d done and all the work he’d done to show that this was a much bigger factor.
Even in the original data on Ancel Keys, which was the 7 countries study, where he found there was a correlation with fat and heart disease, when you looked at the data retrospectively and analyzed it again and you looked at the sugar correlation, it was far higher than the fat.
When you eat sugar, what happens is that it increases a hormone called “insulin.” Insulin, in excess, is a very dangerous hormone. It’s a fertilizer for your fat cells. It increases fat storage in your fat cells. It decreases your metabolism. It increases your hunger. It makes you tired. It does everything that you don’t want it to do, plus it drives this type of fat called “VAT” or “visceral adipose tissue,” otherwise known as “organ fat” or “belly fat.” This is not normal fat. This is fat that is very metabolically active that leads to insulin resistance and diabetes and that is the biggest driver of heart disease.
When you eat sugar, it raises not only the insulin, but you see high triglycerides, you lower the good cholesterol or HDL. You get a fatty liver. You get inflammation. If you’re a man, your testosterone goes down. You get low sex drive and function. If you’re a woman, you get abnormal hormones that lead to facial hair and loss of hair on your head. It leads to depression. It’s one of the biggest causes of infertility.
It’s a huge driver of problems that we are just beginning to understand. The data is very clear that if you really wanted to look at the whole aging process, sugar is the biggest driver of aging. I remember being at a conference on longevity with the Dalai Lama and all of the MIT Nobel Prize winning scientists on aging and the guy who discovered sirtuins, which are these genes that regulate insulin resistance in the mitochondria. When you turn on these genes, you live forever, basically. I said, “What screws up these genes?” He goes, “Sugar.” I’m like, “Really? That’s the cause of aging, is sugar?” He’s like, “Yeah.”
I remember talking to one of the preventive cardiologists of Harvard, one of the leading researchers over there, Dr. Jorge Plutzky. He’s like, “Mark, when you look at 100-year-old people and you look at their arteries, they’re healthy 100-year-old people, they have 1 thing in common, they’re insulin sensitive,” meaning their bodies are not having huge amounts of insulin. They’re not insulin resistant. They’re able to handle their blood sugar.
Historically, when you think about it, people are like, “We shouldn’t be eating meat,” I remember being in Africa and I was in a safari. There was this lion one day that was super skinny and the next day he was huge. He had this huge belly, like he probably binged on an antelope. When we were hunting and gathering, if you were a Plains Indian, you would hunt a buffalo, you would eat a bunch of buffalo. You could gorge on meat. Nobody gorged on sugar or starch because it wasn’t available. We had barely 20 teaspoons of sugar prehistorically a year from maybe some berries or from honey that we would get, but it was really rare.
Our bodies just didn’t know what to do with that. When we have the pharmacologic doses of sugar, which is about 152 pounds per person every year, 146 pounds of flour per year, that’s about a pound a day of flour and sugar. Flour is worse than sugar in your body. Even though I’m just having bread, that’s fine, it’s actually worse than table sugar, in terms of how it affects your blood sugar.
This is a part that I hear a lot of, is people say, “I don’t add sugar. I don’t eat sugar.” They think of just the white stuff. Flour, when you’re talking about looking at ingredients of things, what do you look for to identify where sugar’s hiding?
Anything that’s made from flour, even gluten-free. Gluten-free? That’s terrible. An avocado is gluten-free, but if it’s a gluten-free cookie, it’s going to be worse for you than a regular gluten cookie, because it’s got a higher glycemic index because of the types of flours and starches they use. It may have gluten in it, which affects you in different ways.
Then, the whole issue of starch, even if it’s from potatoes or rice or all those grains that we’re eating, if they’re whole grains they’re less problematic, but they can still be problematic. I have diabetics and they have these continuous blood sugar monitors, which you can just see a little device attached to your shoulder or your stomach and it records on your iPhone your blood sugar 100 percent of the time. When they eat rice, even brown rice, you can see their sugar spike, as opposed to when they eat chicken or meat or fat.
Fat doesn’t raise insulin. When you eat fat, you actually really even out the insulin level, which is the secret to, 1, being healthy, happy, thin, fit, preventing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia and everything else that’s wrong with our society. It’s a very powerful strategy. Fat is the thing that actually will stimulate metabolism, will cut your hunger, will increase fat burning. That’s all the things you want it to do.
It’s totally the opposite of what we were all trained to do, because we all thought, “Oh, it’s just an energy balance issue. If you eat less and exercise more, you’ll lose weight.” Metabolism is not a math problem, it’s a hormonal problem. Coke and everybody else and the government pushes this concept it’s energy balance. It’s all about energy balance, just eat less, exercise more and that’s it. Then, in fact, when you look at the science, when you eat fat, it doesn’t increase insulin, so you actually burn more calories. You don’t store them.
[David Littlewood 00:17:03] is a colleague of mine from Harvard. He did a study where he gave 2 groups of people, they were actually the same people on different times, it was a better study, it’s called a “crossover trial,” you feed the same group one diet and you wait and you feed them another diet and you follow them and you see what happens. You’re actually testing them on themselves.
The group that when they ate the high fat diets, 60 percent fat, 20 percent carbs versus 10 percent fat and 60 percent carbs, the higher fat group burned 300 calories more a day. That’s like running an hour without exercising. They were eating exactly the same calories. The food was all provided, it was a very well done study. It was like, “Whoa, you can actually increase your metabolism by 300 calories a day by eating fat.” It’s not about the calories. It’s about what the calories do to your metabolism and your hormones.
There’s also another benefit to that, because if you’re eating that amount of fat, you have satiety. You’re not hungry all the time, which is a hell of a bonus.
That’s right. Listen, how much fat can you eat? Nobody binges on 12 avocados, but they’ll have 12 cookies, right?
Easy, right? Or more. You can eat a pint of ice cream, but you’re not going to eat a pound of bacon. You just can’t eat that much, right?
Right, here’s the question, though, is people hear this and then it’s like, “Okay, great. Tonight, we’re going to go out for some ribs,” coated in sugar and all that. Let’s talk about how not all fats are created equal and what a good fat is. This is where a lot of people lose the script. They say, “Dr. Hyman said I could eat whatever I want.” That’s not actually the case.
There’s a really important take-home and this is probably the most important thing you will listen to in this entire podcast, which is that you have to stay away from sweet fat. Sweet or carbs and starch combined with fat, deadly combination. Think of a doughnut, french fries, ice cream, bread and butter, bad idea. Why? When you eat the starch, it raises insulin and then the fuel’s running around in your blood. You’ll be eating fat, it’s there in your blood, it’s going to get stored.
If you eat fat in the context of a very low starch and sugar diet, not a low carbohydrate, really, because guess what? Broccoli is a carbohydrate. If you want to have 21 cups of broccoli, go ahead. Good luck, it’s like 35 grams of fiber, but you can eat as much as you want. I fill my entire plate up with crunchy green vegetables. I have asparagus, I have broccolini, I have broccoli, cauliflower. I can eat a whole head of cauliflower myself. There’s no problem with that. That’s carbohydrate. You’re not going to overdo it, because it’s a very low glycemic carbohydrate.
If you eat it with starch and sugar, then it turns bad in your body and it’s very dangerous. Also, if you don’t eat fat with omega-3 fats, if you don’t have enough omega-3 fats, the omega-6s are harmful and the saturated fats may not be as good for you. Enough omega-3 fats, so 3 cans of sardines a week or take omega-3 fish pills, something, herring, mackerel, wild salmon, all that stuff is great.
If you do that, then you’re fine, but you can’t just eat all that fat in the context of a high starch sugar diet. That’s major take-home and then there’s other factors. There’s good and bad and ugly. The good fats, everybody agrees on, omega-3 fats. Most people agree that olive oil is great.
There was a big study of 7,000 people, which is a randomized trial, they’re hard to do with nutrition, they found that there was a 30 percent reduction in heart disease risk, greater than even statins, on people who had the extra liter of olive oil a week. They actually had stopped the study, because it was unethical to continue because the people who didn’t get the olive oil were dying, so they had to give them olive oil. It’s amazing. Olive oil, nuts and seeds also, that was also part of the study, same results. Nuts and seeds, very powerful, and avocados. Those are all the good ones that no one has any arguing about or question.
The ones that are really bad are the trans fats. Those are things that are still in our food supply, they’re hidden. You have to look at the ingredient list, not the nutrition facts label. It should say no word that says “hydrogenated.” Hydrogenated fat, hydrogenated soybean oil, partially hydrogenated, that’s just deadly. That’s a trans fat. It’s been actually ruled as “not safe to eat” by the government now. The FDA has said, “This is a non GRAS,” or “safe to eat substance.” It’s going to take years, though, to get it out of the food supply. It’s still there.
That’s the evil ones. Then, there’s the ones that are in the middle. The saturated fats, we talked a lot about that, and then there’s the omega-6 fats. Saturated fat, I’m going to park that, because we had a good discussion about that. I’m writing a blog called, “Is Butter Really Bad?” where I document all the research, dispelling this myth that these saturated fats aren’t the evil that we thought. I don’t think they’re health food, but I don’t think they’re bad in the context of a more healthy diet.
Then, omega-6 fats are the other fats. These are things like soybean oil. Soybean oil, we’ve increased our consumption a thousand fold since 1900. We eat 18 billion pounds of soybean oil a year, 10 percent of our calories is soybean oil. Besides the glyphosate which is in there, which is concerning, besides the hexane, which they use to extract it, which is a factor that causes leaky gut and autoimmune disease and inflammation, the oil itself in that amount, we’ve never consumed before. We’ve increased our intake in refined vegetable oils from 9.8 to 35.2 pounds per person. We also increased our chicken by 50 percent, which is actually full of omega-6 fats.
We’ve really increased dramatically our intake of these vegetable oils that are omega-6 oils, far exceeding the amount of omega-3s we consume. If you’re out of balance with omega-6 and omega-3, it creates a disturbance in your body. It leads to inflammation. It’s been linked to neuropsychiatric problems, like violence and homicide and suicide, violent behavior, depression. It’s been linked to heart disease.
In the studies when they look at this, this is where I’m out of school here, professional associations, like the American Heart Association, are all telling us to eat more refined vegetable oils, like soybean oil, safflower oil, et cetera, canola oil.
They’re saying that because the studies show that people who consume more of these have lower risks of heart disease, which is true, but when you actually dig into the studies, and this is what I did, oh my God, I think I spent a whole weekend just studying omega-6 fats, reading hundreds of papers, what became clear was that when they looked at the studies where there looked at polyunsaturated fats as a category, which includes omega-6 and omega-3, yeah, there was a reduction. If you look at the studies where they just looked at omega-6 fats, there was an increase in the risk of heart attacks. This was many randomized, controlled trials.
I think there’s a big discrepancy. It was so fascinating. When I was researching this, I talked to so many experts. I did the Fat Summit, you were on that, thank you. It was amazing. We had people on that Summit who are brilliant scientists, just far more credentialed than I am, who on the one hand said, “Saturated fat’s awesome and polyunsaturated fats may not be that great,” to another group from Harvard was saying, “We should not be eating saturated fat. We should be eating omega-6 fats in abundance.”
The divergence and opinions was so broad on this. It’s hard for the average doctor or scientist or consumer to figure out what to do. That’s really why I spent so much time digging into this. I think it’s just from an evolutionary point of view. We never ate these refined oils. We had nuts and seeds, which have them. That’s okay to get them from nuts and seeds, but eat the nuts and seeds. Don’t eat the extracted oils in high concentrations.
Sure, you can cook with a little bit, but it’s 10 percent of our calories because it’s in every processed food. Really, it’s smart to use olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, avocado oil. You can use nuts and seeds. You can use grass-fed butter. Those are all the good fats you should be eating.
There’s a couple things, one is my favorite trail mix at Trader Joe’s, which I had to walk away with, was the bag that also had the cranberries in there.
Right, with the chocolate chips?
Yeah, I walked away from the chocolate chips a while ago, but then at one point I’m like, “Wait a minute, there’s a ton of sugar in this bag.” There’s sugar everywhere that we’ve got to watch out for, even in your nuts and seeds in a lot of ways. The trail mix, yeah, it’s chocolate and cranberries, that defies the point. Now, you and I got to hang out about 2 or 3 weeks ago in New York at an event we were both speaking at. You had mentioned, I’ve heard you say this before, but it’s just great, you’re a pegan, right, which is a paleo vegan?
I’d like to know, because one of the things I feel and our entire audience feels when they hear talks like this is, “What the hell can I eat?” What do you eat? How does one find happiness in food and live this lifestyle, when everything we’ve been trained to eat and look at food is now suspect? It’s such a shakeup. Psychologically, it stresses people out.
It’s true. I actually came up with this concept when I was sitting on a panel discussion with friends of mine. One was a paleo guy and one was a vegan cardiologist. They were arguing back and forth. I’m like, “I don’t know. I must be a pegan,” and I made a joke about it. Then, I was like, “Oh.” I thought about it, I wrote an article about it. I was like, “What is the basic concept here? What is the things that we actually believe and that we don’t believe? What are things that are different? What are things that are in common?”
I realized that there was a lot that was in common. Both groups say we should eat whole, fresh organic, ideally local, food. Both groups say we should eat very low glycemic food, low in sugar, flour, refined carbs. You can be a chips and soda vegan, but we should eat very high amounts of vegetables and moderate amounts of fruit, lots of colorful fruits.
We should have food that’s got no pesticides or antibiotics or hormones or GMO. We shouldn’t be eating a ton of chemicals. The average American eats 2-and-a-half pounds of chemicals a year. Antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, preservatives, dyes, MSG, artificial sweeteners, Franken-chemicals.
I’m preparing a talk for Grand Rounds at Cleveland Clinic on autoimmune disease and I was reading a paper looking at food additives and how they cause leaky gut, things like hexane that’s in the soybean oil, things like emulsifiers and gums that are in all these health foods. You have almond milk and it’s got carrageenan in it, all these things which are harmful and create leaky gut.
There’s nano particles in there. There’s actually microbial transglutaminase, which is actually a form of gluten that’s added to food that comes from microbes that makes food stick together. It’s like a glue they put in food to make it stick together. All this causes leaky gut. All that stuff’s in there. It should be good quality fats.
Now, there are some low fat vegans, but they’re actually in the minority. Most the vegans will say, “Yeah, you should have avocados, almonds, olive oil, nuts and seeds.” Omega-3 fats, even you should have, they agree with that. You can get that from algae, if you’re a vegan. We all agree that we should have that.
We should have not so much refined vegetable oil. Everybody agrees with that. We should have good quality protein. You won’t need a ton of protein, it can be vegetable or animal protein. If you have animal protein, everybody agrees it should be humanely and sustainably raised, which has least impact on your health and the environment. Fish, the same thing, it should be sustainably harvested or organically farm-raised and it should be low in toxins.
Those are the principals that everybody agrees on. The controversial areas, dairy, both groups don’t like dairy, except there’s a whole movement for grass-fed butter and I can talk about it in the sideline. I think the issues with dairy are more the protein in dairy and the hormones in dairy, which are actually not in the fat. Then, the main issues are grains, beans and meat. That’s it. There’s only 3 areas of difference.
Grains and beans, I think are potentially harmful for people who have autoimmune disease, who have severe carbohydrate intolerance, people who are pre-diabetic or diabetic, which is by the way about 1 in 2 Americans. Then, beans, less so, but it still can be an issue. Meat, I think there’s such a controversy about meat. I cover this in detail in the book, because it’s such a confusion. What I found, the same thing with everything else, I just dug into it. I spent 4 days locked up in a hotel and I just read everything I could and then I synthesized it in the book. There’s 8,000 words on meat.
There’s really 3 issues with meat, 1, moral. If you’re a Buddhist monk, I have Buddhist monks as patients, I don’t tell them to eat meat. I teach them how to eat a healthy vegan diet. Then, environmental, and that’s real. Our factory farming is negatively impacting our environment, in terms of climate change, affecting our aquifers and water use, pesticides, runoff, fertilizers, that’s all harmful for the environment.
Then, there’s the health issues. Aside from moral and environmental, what about the health? If you could eat grass-fed meat or wild meat, is it healthy or not? I really looked at this, because I want to live to be 120. I don’t want to eat meat if it’s going to kill me. I looked at the data and there were studies that showed, these large population studies, which is mostly all we have, looking at meat and saying, “Gee, there seemed to be an increase in risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer for those who were eating the most meat.”
There were other studies that completely said the opposite. There was studies that half-a-million people that said yes and half-a-million or a million that said no. I was like, “What is the truth?” and being like, “What were the qualities of the meat eaters in the studies? What were their characteristics?” The meat eaters in the studies were not that healthy. They ate in more calories, they ate more sugar and processed food, less fruits and vegetables. They smoked more, they drank more, they exercised less, they didn’t take vitamins, of course they had more heart disease.
Whereas, when you looked at meat eaters who shopped at health food stores, they did a great study of 11,000 people, half of them, they were vegetarians, half were meat eaters, and they shopped at health food stores, they had, both of them, a reduction in death risk by half. That’s impressive. I think from a health point of view, I argue a lot of the issues in here and I discuss all the controversies, and there are a lot of them, but I go through them all.
Eggs is another thing. I think eggs are badly maligned. Let’s say, what should you actually eat? Unlimited amounts of non-starchy veggies, crunchy veggies, greens, about 50 to 75 percent of your plate, by volume. By volume, most of your diet is vegetables. Moderate amounts of nuts and seeds, almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds. Then, moderate amounts of low glycemic fruit, things like berries and apples and kiwis and watermelon. You want to stay away from tons of pineapple or tons of grapes or tons of melon. A little is fine, but if you binge on those, you can get into trouble.
Sustainably farmed or low mercury fish or wild fish, grass-fed beef, bison, lamb, organic poultry, pasture-raised or organic eggs, small quantities of gluten-free grains, like brown or black rice, small quantities of beans. There are some people who say we should be having 2 cups of grains a day. I don’t know if that’s that great for most people. Dairy, grass-fed butter’s okay. Sheep or goat cheese could be tolerated by some. I think we were talking about it before, if you go to Europe, you get these heirloom cows. They are grass-fed. There’s not these weird proteins from hybridized cows. They are less inflammatory. They’re tolerated better by people who have allergies. I think the quality matters.
When you think about what we used to eat, it was all non-homogenized, non-pasteurized, raw, organic, grass-fed dairy. That was what we used to eat. Then, plenty of good fats, avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, all that, and then occasional treats. We have sugar, maple syrup, honey. I just think people get so crazy about it and they’re like, “Can I have Stevia? Can I have aspartame? Can I have this? Can I have that? Can I have agave? What about coconut sugar?” I’m like, “Listen, sugar’s a recreational drug. Its use is fine, but realize it’s a drug.” I like tequila, but I don’t have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We have sugar for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Cereal is 75 percent sugar. It shouldn’t be called “breakfast,” it should be called “dessert.” I use sugar, but it’s like I know what I’m doing. I’m playing with fire and I’m moderate about it and I don’t go crazy. That’s okay.
Yeah, that’s the pegan diet. It’s a tough one when you are so used to eating a different way and you have to fundamentally change the way you look at food, because, “Mom ate like that and that’s how I started eating.” It’s just these longstanding behaviors and patterns that we find so hard to break, yet every day, we complain about being tired, sluggish, not feeling well and being overweight. How does one transition?
I call it “FLC Syndrome,” which is when you “feel like crap.”
Which is most of America, most of the Western world, in a lot of ways.
Yeah, it’s true. We have a quiz in the book, Eat Fat, Get Thin, it’s your “Feel Like Crap?” quiz. People fill it out. We had people do the 21-day Eat Fat, Get Thin program and there was a 68 percent reduction in all those symptoms. There’s no drug on the planet that can reduce all symptoms from all diseases by 68 percent in 21 days. It’s because food is not just calories, it’s information. It’s instructions. It changes your biology. You literally upgrade your biological software with every bite.
It’s not about weight loss, it’s about creating health. When you create health, symptoms, diseases and pounds go away as a side effect. That’s the beautiful part about this approach and that’s really why I write books, why I create these programs, because I see people in my office, I get them better. I’m like, “This is not that hard. If people just followed these instructions, they wouldn’t need to come see me. I could treat a lot more people.” I have created very step by step, goof-proof plans for people to follow and I encourage people to just do it. It’s pretty straightforward.
The thing is, people often say, “I want to make incremental changes. I can’t make any big changes. I’m just going to do one little thing.” There’s a rule in functional medicine. If you are standing on a tack, it takes a lot of aspirin to make it feel better. If you’re standing on 2 tacks, taking 1 out won’t make you 50 percent better. If you’re having soda and you’re having flour and gluten and you’re having dairy, if all 3 of those are bothering you, you just take 1 of them out, you’re not going to feel better. You got to get rid of everything and then put in all the good stuff and then you can expand after that. Then, you can see what your levels of resilience are.
The idea here is you reset your system. It’s like putting your body back to its original factory settings. Then, you get to have more freedom. I have a lot of freedom in what I do, because I’ve learned how to create what I call “metabolic resilience.” I’m very resilient. I can push the limits different times.
I went to Italy recently and I had pasta and I had stuff I never eat. I was a little sluggish and tired, but one day back home, I cleaned out and took a steam, took a run, ate a lot of green foods and didn’t eat that much and I just bounced right back. Not everybody can do that, but once you build your system up to be resilient, you learn how to play with the system and then you have freedom.
That’s funny, because that’s the death by 1,000 cuts that most of us don’t realize, is eat a little bit of gluten every day takes that away, get that loss of moral tolerance, and you put enough chinks in your armor, eventually something’s going to knock you down. You got to enjoy Italy, which is why you went to Italy, is to enjoy it, not sit around, trying to figure out, “How do you say ‘health food store’ in Italian?” You just eat, right? Mangia, mangia.
It was all real foods. It was all real, fresh, local. The wine didn’t even have a date on it. It was just the wine from that vineyard in the backyard that he probably made that year.
Great, you have 3 pillars, the nourish, you have energize and rejuvenate as part of your 21-day program. These 3 components, I want to tease out a little bit. By the way, if you’re hearing this or watching this, get the book. It’s going to change your life. Listen, Mark Hyman is very personable, easy to talk to. He brings the best science to saying, “Apply this to your lifestyle and just get it done.” I want to just tease this out quickly, nourish, energize and rejuvenate.
Nourish is what we just talked about, that’s the pegan diet. Rejuvenate is really about putting energy back in your system. Most of us don’t put inputs in. We have a lot of outputs. We’re always working and we don’t actually stop to put inputs in. I, for example this morning, went for a run, which is in the woods, with my dog, listening to great music. That was an input for me, it filled me up. I took a steam and an ice bath, because I’ve got a big week ahead of me, so I know I got to recharge to get my system going for the week. Whether it’s meditation or yoga, I did yoga yesterday, I just make sure I put inputs in to help my system reset. It’s whatever works for you.
Then, getting your body moving, it energizes. It’s also really critical. You don’t have to do crazy amounts of exercise. You can do it with things like interval training, using your own body weight for strength. You can do a lot with very little and the smarter exercise is often actually better and it helps speed your metabolism more. I think that’s what people need to focus on.
When you are eating the wrong foods, I promise you, you don’t want to exercise. When I was in Italy, my friend was like, “Let’s [inaudible 00:39:31].” I’m like, “No, I’m going to go lay in bed, because I just had a lot of wine and pasta and cheese. I’m just going to lay down and watch Netflix.” That’s what happens when you don’t do the right thing for your body. When you actually eat well, I’ve been back 3 days and I was running every day, because I felt energized and it helped me get more energized.
I think putting the right food in your body is really the first step. Then, you start to feel better, then you can exercise, then you start to put other inputs in. It’s really a way to help your body thrive and sustain itself for the long-term.
I love how this is a swap. A lot of people feel like, “Oh, I got to get my act together, which means I got to go to the gym now, I got to do this. I want to do yoga, so I have to buy lululemon and I got to change my identity.” It’s all this extra, “It’s so much work, I don’t even know where to start,” where what you’re talking about is, “Hey, you’re doing this thing called ‘eating’ anyways, so why don’t you just eat stuff that doesn’t poison you and then you feel like doing the rest of the stuff?” You’re not asking someone to invest time and energy they don’t have. It’s actually giving them the time and energy back to go do the other things, which brings them more to life.
We didn’t talk about it, but the book I wrote before was called, “The 10-Day Detox Diet,” which was focused on sugar and sugar addiction. This is a very real phenomenon. If you’re biologically addicted to sugar, it’s very hard to get out of that. That’s what the whole purpose of Eat Fat, Get Thin is. That’s what the whole purpose of the 10-Day Detox was, is to help people get out of that cycle.
When you are addicted to sugar and flour, you have to recognize it as an addiction. You have to recognize that these foods are highly powerful and have hijacked your brain, they’ve hijacked your behavior, they’ve hijacked your taste buds, they’ve hijacked your metabolism. Unless you are smart about it, you have to do a Navy SEAL raid on your body and rescue it. It’s like that’s what you have to do from the bodysnatchers and get your system back, so you can actually have control. When your brain and body are hijacked by the food industry, you’re pretty helpless.
Yeah, you’ve been zombified. Last question for you, I know we’re running out of time, is one of the biggest challenges I’ve heard from people is, “Okay, I get it. I’ll have some vegetables and some salmon for lunch, I get it. What the hell do I eat for breakfast?” People are so indoctrinated in this granola, cereal thing. They don’t know what to eat in the morning.
Yeah, I used to eat granola and sweetened yogurt every day for breakfast and fruit and I thought that was healthy. Cereal, I used to have Grape Nuts and ice cream for breakfast in college. What I have now, I wrote a lot of recipes in the book. There’s a lot of great recipes and suggestions on what to do and eat.
I have 2 breakfasts now. I have a shake, I call it a “fat shake.” I put in nuts and seeds. I put in coconut butter, almond butter and coconut milk and some frozen wild blueberries, because they’re lower in sugar. It’s a lot of fat, protein, fiber, very little sugar, or I’ll have eggs. I’ve have avocados, a tomato slice with olive oil on top with some nice, lightly-cooked eggs. That’s fat on fat on fat. I’ve got eggs, fat, olive oil, fat, avocados, fat. Then, that’s my breakfast.
For lunch, I’ll have a fat salad. I call it a “fat salad,” which is a lot of greens, a lot of crunchy veggies. I’ll put in olives, I’ll put in avocados, I’ll put in pumpkin seeds, I’ll put in a can of wild salmon. All those have good fats. Dinner, it’s just a ton of veggies sauteed in a little olive oil lightly with some garlic and a little piece of salmon, maybe have sweet potato. That’s basically it.
Love it. I know there’s tons of recipes in the book. It’s a great book. Where can people find it?
Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, airports, anywhere. It’s everywhere.
Yeah, it really is everywhere and it deserves to be everywhere. It’s a good book. It’s moving things forward. The title of the book is, Eat Fat, Get Thin by Dr. Mark Hyman. You could find it anywhere books are sold. We’ll put a link there, just because I know you had some recipes and some bonuses and stuff. Get your hands on this book, read this book, change your life, get more energy and just go for it. Life is waiting for you.
Then, the other thing, Pedram, is there’s a lot of research that shows when people do it together, they do way better. Community is actually part of the cure. We’ve created an online challenge, which is called the “Eat Fat, Get Thin Challenge.” It happens on a regular basis. The next one, I think, is April 27th. We actually get people to do this together. We support them, we coach them. I’m on the phone with them. It’s really a great experience, because it’s not like you’re out there doing it on your own. People just have awesome results and the stories are great. It’s just so beautiful. I encourage people, if they’re interested, to sign up for that.
Great, what’s the dot com on that?
Great. Dr. Mark Hyman, always a pleasure. I know you got a big week, so go catch your breath and rejuvenate in cryo or whatever you got to do and keep fighting the good fight for us. Thank you so much for your time.
A Cryo tank, that’s what I want to get.
Yes, that’s the next one, totally. The endless stream of good, cool toys for people who are busy. Yeah, you’ve got to rejuvenate or else you’re in trouble.
All right, man, you take care, my friend.
Yep, great to see you. Thank you. Dr. Mark Hyman, one of my favorite people on the planet. Get his book, read his book, let me know how well you feel afterwards, because I promise you, it’s going to make a big difference in your life. Dr. Pedram Shojai, I’ll see you next time on The Health Bridge.