Profile photo of Mark Hyman, MD Written by

Are you confused about what to eat? Here’s why…..

Are you confused about what to eat? Here’s why…..

I have a question for you….

Are you confused about what to eat?

Let’s do a pop quiz, keep a mental note as you read this. Are these statements true or false:

  • Oatmeal is a healthy breakfast and prevents heart disease.
  • Butter causes heart disease.
  • Egg whites are healthier than whole eggs because they don’t contain cholesterol.
  • Red meat causes cancer.
  • Gluten free food is healthy.
  • Dairy is necessary for kids to grow, and to prevent broken bones as we age.
  • Vegetable oils prevent heart disease and are better for you than saturated fats.
  • Yogurt is a healthy breakfast.
  •  Zero-calorie sweeteners help you lose weight by cutting calories from your diet.

Well guess what, every single one of those statements is WRONG! But don’t feel bad. The most common question I get is “Dr. Hyman, what the heck should I eat?”

I have written a new book, Food: What the Heck Should I Eat? that will help you cut through the headlines and take you between the lines. I promise this book will fix your nutrition whiplash and provide a clear roadmap for the nutritionally confused. It is a sane, scientifically balanced answer to the question, “What the heck should I eat?”

Eating the right food is also the single biggest thing you can do to prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, dementia, autoimmune disease, allergies, digestive problems, AND it can make you feel better RIGHT NOW. It can even give you better skin, help you live longer, and have better sex!

In fact, the foods we DO eat (bad stuff) and the foods we DON’T eat (good stuff) are the reason we are one of the fattest countries in the world—with 70% of us overweight. It is why 84% of our $3.2 trillion in health care costs are spent on chronic disease that is preventable by DIET.

Okay, so if eating the right food is so important, then what the heck IS the right food? You think it would be easy to answer that question, right?

But it is not. The most common question I get from patients and just about EVERYBODY is WHAT SHOULD I EAT? Even if we want to eat right, most of us are still so confused.

So why are we all so confused?

It’s not your fault. In fact, it is by DESIGN—the food industry, our government, and the media are all sending us conflicting messages. And all the contradictory science doesn’t help either!

  • Should you be vegan and eat like a gorilla, or paleo and eat like a hunter gatherer?
  • Should you eat a low-fat diet to prevent heart disease, or a high-fat ketogenic diet?
  • Should you be gluten free?
  • Should you eat lots of grains and beans, or cut out all grains and beans and eat like a caveman?
  • Should you eat coconut oil because it is good for your brain? Or does it cause heart disease like the American Heart Association tells us?
  • Should you drink three glasses of milk a day like the government tells us to do, or should we avoid ALL dairy because it causes cancer, autoimmune disease, and actually increases your chance of fractures?

I mean, with all the conflicting advice and nutrition whiplash it’s enough to say ”The heck with it!” No wonder you are left with the feeling “I am just going to eat what I want because nobody can agree on anything.” There IS a reason we are all confused and it is NOT an accident. And, most importantly, it’s not your fault! It’s not quite a conspiracy, but close.

How the Food Industry Corrupts the Government Policies and Harms Our Health, The Planet, and Society

Here’s the bottom line. Money is corrupting science, our government’s food policies, and the media.

Where’s the money coming from?

There is a multi-trillion dollar global food industry that is growing, processing, manufacturing, marketing, and serving food like substances that are making us sick and fat. They are cheap to make and rake in big profits for ”Big Food”.

They put private profit over public good, harming us all. They privatize profits and socialize costs. We taxpayers are footing the bill for the growing of processed foods (through agricultural subsidies for the raw materials of processed food—namely wheat, corn, and soy), and for providing the poor quality processed food and soda to the poor (through our food stamps program).

Then, we also pay for the costs of obesity and chronic disease caused by that food through Medicaid and Medicare. Not to mention the costs of soil degradation, depletion of our water supplies, climate change, and the widespread damage to humans and ecosystems from pesticides.

This is because the food industry lobbyists push policies that use our tax dollars AGAINST us.  We subsidize the growing and selling of processed foods that make us sick and fat.

Then of course there’s the media, which is all about headlines and sound bites. AND they receive a big portion of their ad revenue from the food industry.

Let’s first look at the role of the food industry. This includes the seed producers, factory farmers, food growers, and the processed food and fast food industries.

These organizations spend millions of dollars each year to influence our Department of Agriculture with heavy lobbying. And there’s a huge problem with this…

Do you ever wonder who creates our dietary guidelines? It’s actually the Department of Agriculture, the same agency that is in charge of deciding which crops our tax dollars subsidize!

So, let’s get this straight—the government agency created to support our industrial agriculture system is making our dietary guidelines and food policies? Seems like a big conflict of interest.  In fact, in 2017 the National Academy of Science report found that the process for coming up with the dietary guidelines was corrupt and unduly influenced by industry while ignoring big swaths of relevant research.

This results in subsidies that support commodity crops—corn, wheat, and soy—which get turned into high-fructose corn syrup, white flour, and refined soybean oil.

So let me clarify. Even though more than half our diet comes from these three crops which are the building blocks of sugar sweetened drinks and processed foods, they are definitely NOT what we should be eating.

Yet 99% of the government’s food subsidies go to support these crops. Only 1% goes for “specialty” crops—fruits and veggies. Really, vegetables are “specialty crops”? Then why does the government tell us to eat 5-9 servings a day?

If we actually followed that advice, there would only be enough veggies and fruits to feed 2% of the population. Seems like a lot of lip service without the policies in place to make it happen.

Now you know why it is CHEAPER to buy a fast food burger, fries, and soda than it is to buy a healthy, delicious salad. In fact, since the 1970’s the price of soda has gone down 40% while the price of veggies has gone up 40%.

56% of our calories come from these three commodity crops in the form of processed foods. And people who eat these foods are more obese and are at higher risk for heart disease and diabetes. So now you know the truth. Our government is funding our chronic disease epidemic.

And it gets much worse. Our food stamp program, which should be protecting at risk families, actually supports the sale of sugary drinks and processed food. The number one item purchased with food stamps is soda, at a cost to taxpayers of $7 billion a year (or 20 billion servings of soda per year for the poor). You can buy a 2-liter bottle of soda with food stamps, but not a rotisserie chicken.

How does that make any sense?

The government’s dietary guidelines tell us to cut sugar on one hand, but the same agency allows food stamps to be used to buy soda.

How does that many any sense?

And the crazy thing is we pay for chronic disease caused by sugar and processed foods with Medicaid and Medicare.

By 2040 100% of our federal tax revenue will be needed to pay for chronic disease caused by our policies and food system.

How does THAT make any sense?

It’s time to END government subsidies for high-fructose corn syrup, white flour, and soybean oil.

Let’s stop supporting soda and junk food companies with food stamp payments.

We have to ask ourselves what is the REAL cost of a soda or cheap processed food?

If you included the cost of industrial agriculture and factory farming’s impact on climate change and the destruction of the environment from fertilizer, pesticide and herbicide use, and the cost of chronic disease the real cost of a soda might be $50 a can.

Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, we allow unrestricted junk food marketing to kids—where they see over 6,000 ads for junk food every year on TV and thousands more on social media and from stealth marketing. Every other developed country restricts these ads. We don’t.

Do you really think it is an accident that Paula Abdul drank a big container of Coke on American Idol?

THEN we have to deal with food labels. These are super confusing and misleading. We can’t change them because of the food industry. I talked to the head of the FDA who told me that Congress threatens to cut funding for the FDA if they try to change policies like food labels. The labels should be clear. You shouldn’t need a PhD in nutrition to understand a food label. It should work like the stoplight system they have in Europe.

Green is good for you, yellow eat with caution, and red—this could kill you.

And what about all the health claims we’re seeing on labels? Health claims on labels almost always indicate that a food is bad for you and is selling you a lie. Whole Grain Cookie Crisp Cereal with 6 teaspoons of sugar. Really?

All natural. Well natural vanilla flavor is made from beaver’s anal glands. It may be natural, but is that what you really want to be eating?

And sugar free—that comes with artificial sweeteners that make you fat and diabetic.

How about fat-free salad dressing loaded with sugar? Or fat-free yogurt that has more sugar than a soda!? Or zero trans fat products like Cool Whip? The second ingredient after water is trans fats!  Its legalized lying sanctioned by the FDA.

So, is it any wonder we are confused about what we should be eating?

Sadly, the reasons we are confused don’t stop there.

How the Food Industry Corrupts Science and Public Health Organizations

The food industry funds research and corrupts scientists. If a food industry company sponsors a study, that study is 8 to 50 times more likely to show benefit for their product or ingredient.

Dairy industry studies find that milk is good for you. Studies funded by the American Beverage Association prove that soda has no link to obesity.

There is only one problem—studies from independent researchers prove that soda and sugar sweetened beverages are the number ONE cause of obesity and account for 184,000 deaths a year. The food industry (not to mention the government, our public health associations, and doctors and dietitians) claim that 1,800 calories of soda is the same as 1,800 calories of broccoli.

Really? We KNOW that all calories are NOT the same.

Even worse is how the food industry corrupts and influences public advocacy groups like the NAACP and public health organizations like the American Heart Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (which gets 40% of its funding from the food industry).

The American Beverage Association funds the NAACP, which came out against the soda tax, even though almost half of African Americans are obese and drink twice as much soda as white Americans.

On top of it all—the food industry has figured out how to hack the American mind and body, designing (on purpose) food that is highly addictive—sugary and processed foods to be exact.

Remember that ad for potato chips, “I bet you can’t eat just one”? That’s not an accident. Why is it you can binge on a bag of cookies, but no one binges on a bag of avocados?

So, if you think you are getting fair and unbiased scientific recommendations from our government or public health organizations, think again.

The good news is that the truth about nutrition, the basic guiding principles of how and what to eat to promote health, weight loss, and longevity—AND to prevent, treat and reverse most chronic disease—is pretty simple.

I have read thousands of papers on nutrition and tried and recommended various ways of eating with tens of thousands of patients over 20 years. And I’ve seen the effects of food on weight, health, diabetes, gut issues, autoimmune disease, and lots more.

In my book, Food: What the Heck Should I Eat? (out February 27, 2018) I uncover the truth about the food we actually eat—what is healthy and not in each group of foods we eat—meat, poultry and eggs, dairy, beans, grains, veggies, fruit, nuts and seeds, beverages, and more—and guide you to a science based, sensible way of eating for life that keeps you, our planet, and our society healthy. I also address the environmental and social impact of the food we eat.

If you have ever woken up wondering what the heck you should eat, this book is for you. Check out the trailer and order it at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, or get it at your local bookstore.

Wishing you health & happiness,

Mark Hyman, MD

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

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.