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The Healing Powers of Burgers and Fried Chicken

The Healing Powers of Burgers and Fried Chicken

Can burgers and fried chicken really be good for you? Yes. But not the Five Guys killer burger—not that kind. It’s burgers and chicken you cook yourself. And why do you need to cook them yourself? Here’s why.

Eating out can kill you, especially if you eat fast food or the addictive processed sugar and fats typically packed into almost every food that is made in a factory. The average American eats 29 pounds of French fries, 23 pounds of pizza, 24 pounds of ice cream and consumes 53 gallons of soda, 24 pounds of artificial sweeteners, 2,736 grams of salt, and 90,700 milligrams of caffeine per year. Do we really think we can create health in that toxic food environment?

A young New Zealand woman with eight children recently died after consuming 2.2 gallons of Coke per day, which, by the way, contains two pounds of sugar and 900 milligrams of caffeine (enough to give an elephant palpitations).

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a study that showed life expectancy declining among women in America, especially in the South (the area with the highest rates of obesity and diabetes in the country). The authors of the study were quoted as being surprised by this data. One Harvard researcher said that trying to figure out why “is the hot topic right now, trying to understand what’s going on.”

Really? Life expectancy drops as obesity, diabetes, and the consumption of junk food, fast food, and sugar soars, and researchers fail to see the connection? It’s not rocket science. And yet, Harvard scientists are perplexed, and the National Institutes of Health spend $800 million each year studying the cause of obesity.

The cause of obesity is complex, to be sure—increased stress, environmental toxins, our sedentary lifestyle, and our sleeplessness as a nation all play a role. But the elephant in the room here is our toxic industrial food supply, specifically sugar. To paraphrase President Clinton, “It’s the food, stupid.”

I just returned from China where they are experiencing the same chronic diseases and obesity we find in the West, because, on every corner, at every turn, our industrial food culture has permeated their world—KFC, McDonald’s, Subway, Coke, Pepsi are everywhere. Today, China has the most type 2 diabetics in the world. Yes, they have more people, but their diabetes rate is about the same as that of the United States: about 10 percent. Thirty years ago, I traveled to China and saw only one overweight woman, and she was riding a bicycle. In 30 years, the rate of diabetes there has gone from one in 150 to one in 10, and now, one in five people above the age of 60 in China are diabetic—and 60 percent are not even diagnosed. Obesity and diabetes are rampant there, increasing at a far faster rate than in the United States, and this shift can be tied directly to how fully they have embraced our processed, industrial, high-sugar diet.

I am the chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine, and we were asked by the Chinese to come and teach their physicians how to deal with lifestyle-related chronic disease. A group of us went to show them how to return to their traditional ways of using food as medicine.

It’s sad that a country in which food has long been considered medicine—with specific care taken to include special foods with healing properties at every meal—would need to relearn this knowledge. In fact, the word for “take your medicine” in Chinese is “chi yao,” which means, “eat your medicine.” We went to a special restaurant where everything on the menu was chosen for its medicinal properties, including all sorts of exotic fungus and plants and animals like sea cucumbers.

But we don’t need to eat funny-looking plants and animals with weird textures and tastes to eat our medicine. In fact, we can start with burgers and fried chicken.

I recently did a segment on The Dr. Oz Show during which I demonstrated how to use food as medicine, cooking recipes from my new cookbook, The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook. I carefully selected healing, medicinal, blood sugar-balancing ingredients, disguising them as our favorite foods.

It might surprise you that burgers and fried chicken can be healthy, but keep in mind, my versions of those foods have stealth healing properties. All the recipes in my cookbook contain medicinal foods. They are medicine, but they don’t taste like medicine, because at the end of the day, if they did, no one would eat them. But they are made from real, whole, fresh food cooked from scratch, and they taste amazing. To help you truly understand how food is medicine (not just like medicine but actually real medicine), I have analyzed two recipes from my cookbook that we demonstrated on The Dr. Oz Show.

Sweet Potato Burgers (on page 114 of the cookbook)

Here are the ingredients, along with information on how each affects your health and your biology:

  • Sweet potatoes contain carotenoids, which is reflected in their orange color. Their phytonutrient properties help with weight loss by increasing adiponectin, a fat-reducing, insulin-balancing, anti-diabetes hormone made by your fat cells.
  • EVOO, also known as extra virgin olive oil, is a phytonutrient superfood. It contains oleic acid and dozens of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory polyphenol compounds that lower blood pressure and promote health. They also contain good monounsaturated fats.
  • White beans contain good plant proteins, fiber, and magnesium. The fiber helps lower your blood sugar.
  • Curry contains turmeric and other anti-inflammatory spices. Obesity and diabetes are inflammatory conditions. Turmeric is nature’s ibuprofen. It also prevents cancer and dementia (both related to diabesity).
  • Almond flour contains protein, fiber, magnesium, and healthy monounsaturated fats. It helps lower LDL, or bad cholesterol, prevents diabetes, and promotes weight loss. People who ate more almonds have been shown to reduce their risk of diabetes significantly.
  • Avocado contains phytosterols, which are fats that lower cholesterol. They also contain omega-3 fats (ALA), as well as carotenoids, selenium, and zinc. Avocado has eight grams of fiber in one cup and is very low in carbs. The fats in an avocado help you absorb all fat-soluble antioxidants, just like the carotenoids in the sweet potato do. Avocado also contains these special seven-carbon carbohydrates that help to lower blood sugar.
  • Tahini is made from sesame seeds, which contain a special fiber called lignan (seamolin and sesamin) that lowers blood pressure and cholesterol. It is very high in magnesium and calcium, containing over 30 percent of your daily needs in just one quarter of a cup. It is the best source of dietary calcium (far better than milk).
  • Lemon zest contains limonene, which boosts liver detoxification, and the lemon juice contains anti-cancer bioflavonoids.
  • Garlic contains 1,2-DT (1,2-vinyldithiin), which is an anti-inflammatory sulfur compound that can inhibit the number of fats cells that form in our body. And it can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol and is a natural antibiotic.

Not bad for a burger!

The next recipe is fried chicken. I call it “unfried” chicken.

Almond Flax Crusted Chicken (on page 225 of the cookbook)

Here are the ingredients found in this recipe, along with information on their beneficial effects:

  • Chicken breasts are a great source of protein and are rich in niacin, B6, and tryptophan, which increases serotonin, cutting your food and sugar cravings.
  • Flaxseeds are a superfood that contains lignans, unique fiber-related polyphenols that provide us with antioxidant benefits and fiber-like benefits. They also act as phytoestrogens to balance hormones and prevent cancer. Among all commonly eaten foods, researchers now rank flaxseeds as the number one source of lignans in the human diet. Flaxseeds contain about seven times as many lignans as the closest runner-up food (sesame seeds).  Flaxseeds are also high in polyphenols that lower cholesterol. The lignans balance female hormones and even help fix insulin resistance and diabesity. One recent study showed a 20 percent decrease in diabesity after 12 weeks on a diet plan that included 30 grams (one ounce) of ground flaxseed per day. The flaxseeds lowered blood pressure and blood sugar and decreased belly fat—amazing for a food that is 70 percent fat in terms of total calories and contains about 10 times as many calories per cup as blueberries. It’s all about the information in the food.
  • Onions are rich in sulfur, which helps with liver detoxification. And they contain quercetin, a powerful anti-inflammatory.
  • Cayenne, the spicy hot pepper, is a powerful aid to weight loss. It contains capsaicin, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Also, the hot spice literally heats up your metabolism, increasing thermogenesis (or calorie-burning) for up to 20 minutes after a meal. It also lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes by reducing insulin levels. Insulin is the fat-storage hormone. The amount of insulin you need after a meal decreases by about 25 percent if the meal contains chili pepper. The less insulin, the less belly fat and diabesity—a winning combination.
  • Parsley contains two types of unusual components that provide unique health benefits. The first type is volatile oil components, including myristicinlimoneneeugenol, and alpha-thujene. The second type is flavonoids, including apiin, apigeninchrysoeriol, and luteolin. Parsley’s volatile oils—particularly myristicin—have been shown to inhibit tumor formation in animal studies. Myristicin has also been shown to activate the enzyme glutathione S-transferase, boosting the most powerful detoxifier and antioxidant in the body, glutathione.

Now, of course, when you make and eat these burgers and fried chicken, you are not thinking about all of this. But when you learn that food is medicine, your trips to the grocery store become better than trips to the pharmacy. Think of your grocery store as your FARMacy. When I shop, I am always looking for healing ingredients, because I know what’s in the food. You may not. So, I can make it simple.

Just eat real, whole, fresh food that you cook yourself. Pick a rainbow of colors of fruits and vegetables, and eat a lot of them. Enjoy nuts; seeds; a variety of spices; good-quality protein; and high-fiber, unrefined, unprocessed carbohydrates. Eat good fats from fish, avocados, flax, olive oil, and coconut butter. That’s it. You just stocked up on the most powerful drugs on the planet.

I wrote The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook to make it easy. In every recipe, I included healing ingredients—stealth medicine—designed to create health automatically.

Pepsi divides foods into two categories: fun for you and good for you. Their fun-for-you foods include Doritos and Mountain Dew. In other words, fun for you equals bad for you. But you can have it both ways—fun for you and good for you—by eating the meals I show you how to make in my cookbook or any real, whole food.

We have to stand up to the food industry that is feeding us poison instead of real, healing foods. The most important and the most powerful tool you can use to change your health and the world is your fork. Imagine an experiment—let’s call it a celebration—a global Eat-InJoin the first global Eat-In on April 7, 2013.

We call upon the people of the world to join together and celebrate food for one day. For one day, we will all eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at home with our family members or friends. For one day, we will all eat only real, whole, fresh food. And if you don’t know what to make, don’t worry! When you join the global Eat-In, I will provide you with a complete toolkit for the day. Or you can choose from more than 175 recipes in The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook. Imagine for a moment the power of the fork to change the world.

Make the commitment and join the Eat-In. When you do, you will get the complete Eat-In toolkit, which includes:

  • Access to a live video feed of my own Eat-In at 7:00 p.m. (EST)
  • Joining my twitter chat at 4:00 p.m. (EST)
  • A meal plan and shopping guide—your complete meal plan for the day, including two options for both The Blood Sugar Solution basic and advanced plans
  • A Guide to Mindful Eating
  • Prizes throughout the day–signed copies of The Blood Sugar Solution and The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook

Click here to learn more.

Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below—but remember, we can’t offer personal medical advice online, so be sure to limit your comments to those about taking back our health!

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman MD is the Medical Director at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, the Founder of The UltraWellness Center, and a ten-time #1 New York Times Bestselling author.

Comments (39)

  • I have health problems like cardiomyopathy, hypothyroid, migranes, and premyasthma , I just watch some of your videos and I got really intrested bcuz I been in so many diets that until now. Don’t see results so i m gona buy your 2 books the cook book and the thyroidism book see if it helps me a little at list my thyroid problem its really bad and almost nothing helps hope I could get some advice soon from u I need help thank you…(.

    • It seems that a comma was substituted for a decimal point. 2.736 pounds seems more reasonable. Still scary though.

  • I (finally!) made your ultra-shake for breakfast yesterday, and it tasted great! Gave me lots of energy for everything I needed to do during the day, and I look forward to trying more recipes for the eat-in.

  • Thankyou so very much Dr. Hyman for all of your crusading endeavors to help us all create better health through diet and lifestyle

    • Hi Magpie,
      Best to grind whole flax seeds in small batches to enjoy their fresh, healthy oils. Store in the refrigerator and grind more as necessary!

      For more personalized nutrition advice, Dr Hyman’s nutrition coaching team would be happy to work with you on an individual level to help you reach your goals. To work with the nutrition coaching team please go to: OR call (800) 892-1443 to get started.

  • The recipes are great, love the shakes.
    I only wish I had more time to cook, I cook and freeze a lot, because I work long hours. That is one of the reasons Americans are so overweight, lack of exercise and too much fast foods, the wrong kind of fast foods, because if they chose a salad and water instead of a burger, with fries and soda we will not be talking about this right?

  • I am re-reading the Blood Sugar Solution. The first time around your statement that children with food allergies have thicker than normal carotid arteries saved my life. That was the answer I was needing, because for being a 40 yr old health nut, after experiencing auras a carotid scan showed plaque. Obviously there is more to the story, but I am a different person after following some of your advice.
    I am no expert, but I have read many books on different types of healthy diets. You by far, have the most balanced, helpful approach. I am grateful to you for so many more reasons (Ultra Mind Solution). Thank you for not dismissing women as obsessive, anxious people. Diet is so key. I have always wished to thank you personally. I hope this message finds its way.

  • Yup. Food for medicine! It IS as simple as that. We also need to change our mindset which has been conditioned to fall for “the trap” that the food companies/FDA have laid out for decades (I call it “Duped for Decades”). Once we get on the right path going in the right direction, we will be able to see everything much clearly. And one day, you’ll look back and wonder, “How in God’s name did I ever eat that way?”—and there will be no looking back—only going forward, reversing any damage done by the decades of crap food void of real nutrition and ladden with chemicals. You will be on the path to becoming a healthier human being, living a vibrant and energetic life free of disease. How exciting is that? Spread the word everyone. And if you haven’t seen the two movies/docs Hungry for Change and Food Matters, Netflix them or order from Amazon. These will open your eyes even more to the real truth. —Live Awesome!

  • I agree with EVERYTHING you say! What you are is what you eat! Nutrition is everything! I love the saying – “You are what you eat – so DON’T be fast, cheap, easy or fake!”
    Nutrition & Exercise go hand & hand to great health! And…. money can’t buy your health.

  • Like Julie Rider, I’m also wondering about the salt statistic. 2736 pounds per year is 7.5 pounds per day. That doesn’t sound right to me. Maybe you meant ounces? 7.5 ounces would be about 15 tablespoons; nearly a cup! Even that sounds high.

    • For every “fast-food” commercial, there should be a commercial about healthy foods. How to eat healthy, and the dangers of fast foods and processed foods should be a mandatory subject taught in grade school, high school, and college. It is that important!.This nation’s health care cost (and our healthcare ins premiums) would drop like a rock and we would live decades longer without having issues with heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. It does not mean that the ave person would have to give up the junk food completely, Even if Americans could cut their junk food consumption by only half, it would dramatically benefit us personally and also as a nation.

      I would like to see Mark (or some other qualified person) appointed by the president in some capacity to lead the charge in making America n citizens more aware of how to substiture our nations unhealth eating habits with a more healthy diet. Of course the fast food (and processed foods) and medical “industry” would fight it, but it is time that Americans stand up and make this a high priority to our elected officials. Organizing such a movement would be the first step. What are your thoughts?

  • I keep finding myself being reeled in by Dr. Hyman until he starts inserting animal food into his equations and discussions. It is the animal foods that are creating the illness and death in our society. why do you think Heart attack and stroke top the list of causes of death. Dr. Hyman, you are so brilliant and have such a strong foundation to help people. Why not stay away from the animal foods? It’s weird, it’s like the allopathic medicine darlings like Dr. Oz, Hyman and some of the others just can’t step away completely from the Standard American Diet.

    • Hi Akenney,
      Thank you for your interest in Dr Hyman’s work. What we actually have found is that it is the sugar in the diet, as well as other junk which has been contributing to the prevalence of disease. While Dr Hyman encourages focusing on a plant-based diet, moderate amounts of grass fed meat, wild fish and poultry as well as other sustainably raised animal products can be part of a healthy, antiinflammatory diet. For more information we encourage you to check out Dr Hyman’s The Blood Sugar Solution. Go to

    • Organic animal products eaten in proper portion size are the very best sources of protein. One size never fits anyone…the vegan lifestyle /diet isn’t good for everyone/the vegan lifestyle/diet is the complete and total ticket for many people. Listening to our bodies is the best way to figure out what is best for each individual.

  • Way to go Mark.
    You did it again. Putting the sight on what really matters. Food as medicine and those who would like to keep us from it.
    Let’s take back our food. We’ll set a place for you at our table April 7th.
    Love ya brother!

  • I’m telling everyone I know about the Eat-In! Great idea! You are my inspiration Dr. Mark!! Thanks always!

  • When I was in China a couple of years ago, I really “pigged-out” 3 times a day – and LOST weight! I was eating local farm food, mostly plants & veggies, but also lots of their noodles. I was taught to make dumplings. When I got back to the USA, I was reluctant to go eat at a Chinese restaurant because most of the dishes have a sugar-loaded sauce on them. Mostly I cook asian dishes at home, since 1992, with no salt or sugar added. Back in the 90’s, the local paper interviewed me for a story on this subject.

  • No, the salt stat is obviously not correct. True that we consume way too much sodium; however, if we were eating 7.5 pounds of salt per day, we would all be dead of salt poisoning. If it’s a decimal problem and the correct number is 2.736 pounds, that works out to 3,240 mg of sodium per day, which seems more reasonable. Maybe the good doctor can give us a correction. What’s worrying me these days is phosphate additives in food, and phosphoric acid in cola drinks. Excessive phosphorus causes osteoporosis, calcium deposits in coronary arteries, and is really hard on the kidneys as well. Personally, I’m cutting back on sodium and phosphates, which pretty much eliminates most restaurant meals, as well as processed and convenience foods. What is a busy working woman to do?

    • Again, watch Hungry for Change and Food Matters (both available via Netflix or for purchase on Amazon). These two movie/docs are very eye-opening. Trust me, it goes much more beyond a need to be concerned about the phosphoric acid in cola (which people should know by now to stay away from completely!)—the problem with the food industry/FDA goes far beyond your concern for your sodium intake. Educate yourself, starting with these two movies/docs. You won’t be sorry. It will be well worth your time and effort!

  • Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve been to your blog before but after going through a few of the articles I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m certainly delighted I came across it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back frequently!

  • I admit, this title made me curious. It’s so true, food is medicine, and if you eat junk, you will be unhealthy. I’d certainly like to find out a healthy fried chicken recipe!

  • I think your approach to nutrition is more balanced, some animal products are okay in moderation.

  • Dr. Hyman, please fast forward your reading to the Journal of Oncology Hindawi Publishing Corporation
    Journal of Oncology
    Volume 2012, Article ID 879623, 23 pages
    Review Article
    Tumor Angiogenesis as a Target for Dietary Cancer Prevention
    WilliamW. Li, VincentW. Li,Michelle Hutnik, and Albert S. Chiou
    The Angiogenesis Foundation, One Broadway, 14th Floor, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA
    Correspondence should be addressed toWilliamW. Li, [email protected]
    Received 17 June 2011; Accepted 4 July 2011
    Academic Editor: Kalpna Gupta
    Copyright ©

    Not only is there a prediction of doubling of cancer in the next 35 years, but “they” are getting ready to make drugs out of food elements.140 new drugs in the pipeline. Scroll down to their list of foods’ healing properties. As a Shaklee rep from the 70s and a long term (disenchanted) employee in Nixons war on cancer, I am waking up with thousands of others, one person at a time, to the sea-change in thinking and practice for our own health and disease. Thank you Dr. Hyman! Prevention is the cure for cancer.

  • This is America’s wake up call. Loved how you brought out the statistics using real foods and circumstances applicable to today’s active lifestyle (well, maybe it’s an inactive lifestyle that got us here). Anyway, I’ve been on my personal journey to regaining my health for the last 17 years. Through changing how I eat, using quality supplements, eliminating oxidative stress and eating out less I feel and look better today than I did 17 years ago. The body is an amazing machine when it’s properly cared for. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with all of us. I just hope more listen than don’t.

  • I think the person who had 8 kids and drank over 2 gals. of soda a day was the exception to the rule. The majorty of people consume much less than that.

  • As someone who spends a big chunk of their day reading scientific journals, and thinking about and applying the scientific method, I find this article appalling. Its filled with all of this advice that does all of this wonderful stuff for my health but has little or no evidence for said stuff. There is also no critical analysis of the evidence, which there is is basically none.

    Great Job.

    ohh and there is a great essay by Carl Sagan about seeing through scientific baloney.

  • Before reading this blog post, I used to prefer videos for such tutorials as I think that videos are much helpful, but after reading this post my views got changed. And Luckily, now I can go for Burgers and Fried Chicken.