Coming up on this episode of the Doctor’s Farmacy.
Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s important to get quality in protein as you age because you lose muscle. So it’s really critical that you don’t have a deficit of protein as you get older because one of the keys to longevity is keeping muscle, and the only way to build muscle is with other protein.
Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Doctor’s Farmacy. I’m Dr. Mark Hyman. That’s pharmacy with an F a place for conversations that matter. And if you’ve ever wondered how to eat for longevity, then you better listen up because I’m going to tell you about what I learned as I researched my new book called Young Forever out February, 2023. I’ll encourage you to go pre-order it right now, YoungForeverbook.com. There’s all kinds of bonuses and free things you get with it. And this week on our special Health Bite episode of the Doctor’s Farmacy, we’re going to talk about eating for longevity. My favorite topic is food, as you know. I like to eat it. I love to talk about it. So what do we need to eat to live a long, healthy life?
Now, nutrition is a very controversial subject. There’s more opinions about it than pretty much anything else. I think between religion, politics, and nutrition, you’ve got the most controversial areas in life. And the truth is we know a lot, that it doesn’t have to be so controversial. And there may be disagreements around the edges of nutrition science, but for the most part, it’s a pretty well-established field where most people really agree and people bring up controversy in order to actually sell stuff. But I think we need to understand that there are certain principles that are universal.
And I found what those are, particularly in my travels around the Blue Zones, which are the areas in the world where people live the longest. What I discovered about nutrition, there was fascinating. And also what I discovered about the science of how to eat, of when to eat and what to eat in order to live a long, healthy life. So the question is what should I eat and what should I avoid?
I’ve written lots of books about this from Food, What the Heck Should I Eat? To Eat Fat Get Thin to the Blood Sugar Solution, to the Pegan Diet, to the Ultra Simple Diet to the 10-Day Detox Diet. I mean, you’re probably sick of me right now, but I think I’ve distilled all of it in this book Young Forever. Which is really important, which is answering the question, what should I eat for longevity? Now, I’ve been studying this for decades and actually, I think I first came across the whole idea of nutrition and disease when I was in college. I read a book called Nutrition Against Disease over 40 years ago. That’s a long time ago. And it highly influenced my thinking and I’ve been on this path ever since. And the truth is that there are really important principles that we can agree on that are foundational.
We need to personalize nutrition. It’s not that one size fits everybody, but there are few universal principles. First is one area you’re eating focus on quality. The highest quality food is going to create the highest quality input to your biology. If you’re running, for example, your car on dirty fuel, it’s not going to run well. If you run on premium gas, it’s going to run better. So what is a premium gas for our bodies? It’s high quality food, which is defined in my view as the nutrient density of the food. So that’s phytochemical richness, the fiber, the vitamins and minerals, the quality of the fats, the quality of the protein, the quality of the carbohydrates, the quality of all the things that our food really matter. And that’s because food is information and it’s literally sending instructions with every bite to regulate every function of your body, including the biological process of aging.
The second thing is when you eat, think about your food as medicine, not just calories. Think of it as actually medicine that’s going to heal or harm you. And it can be good medicine or bad medicine. So make sure you’re thinking about your food as medicine and we’ll talk about what that means and also personalize your approach because we’re all different. We’re all different genetically, metabolically, we’re different in terms of our preferences, our culture, what we like, what we don’t like. It’s important to personalize your approach to diet. There’s no one size fits all. And also by the way, your needs for change over time. Your CH needs changes you age. So it’s important to make sure you focus on what works. Now I’ve jokingly called my approach to eating the Pegan Diet, which was basically a joke because there were so many diet wars.
And I was on a panel with a cardiologist who was a vegan, another doctor was a paleo doc, and they were fighting. I’m like, “Wow, if you’re vegan and you’re paleo, I must be pegan.” Everybody laughed, thought it was a good joke. But then I realized it has some staying power because they’re really the same in terms of their principles except for where you get protein. Eat quality, lots of fruits and vegetables, lots of nuts and seeds, good quality fats, no processed food. Sugar and starch are not so great for you. Really simple principles that we can all agree on. And the whole idea is that inclusable, flexible framework that’s built on quality principles is based on food is medicine, and based on personalization. And it’s designed to be low glycemic, low in starch and sugar because those drive aging as we talked about in the last podcast, On Young Forever.
It’s rich in good fats, which we need for our health. It’s detoxifying. It balances your hormones. It’s boosts your metabolic health and energy. It heals your gut and microbiome. These are things we know how to do with food. We know what foods are detoxifying, which foods are anti-inflammatory, which foods help your microbiome, which foods balance your hormones. It’s not that hard. We have the science of this. So you want a nutrient dense diet that’s rich in a whole host of phytochemicals that we now know are critical in activating some of these longevity switches and pathways in the body. Things like polyphenols and antioxidants, and also things that help our microbiome, which is really important. So we can eat foods that regenerate human health and also planetary health, which are really not separable. I mean, we really have to understand our bodies are part of the earth. We are the earth, the earth is us.
And if we’re growing food, that’s destroying the planet, that food’s also destroying us. Think of all the cornfields and the processed soy and the immense amounts of ultra processed food that comes from wheat, corn, and soy that are killing us, but also harming the planet by our industrial agriculture. So all these are principles are really important in terms of what we should be eating. So let’s talk about what we should eat from the plant world. Well, pretty much everything. I mean, most of our diet should be plants, lots and lots of plant foods with lots of colors, lots of variety and lots of diversity and even wild foods. So most of your plates should be veggies, 70, 80% and lots of colors. Non-starchy veggies are the best. But sometimes winter squash, sweet potatoes are fine in moderation, if you’re not diabetic. Lots of colors, green, blues, purples, yellows, oranges, all that stuff.
Try organic when you can. Regenerative when possible, which is being more available. Eat wild foods when you can, which are way higher in phytochemicals. Use the dirty dozen and clean 15 lists from the environmental working group ewg.org so you can learn which foods you can consume that aren’t all contaminated with pesticides. And some foods like bananas or avocados, doesn’t matter so much because you can peel them. But things like strawberries are terrible if you eat them that are not organic. Really important. So we can really upgrade our diet by focusing on a nutrient dense, colorful diet full of plants. And I mean, if you can grow your own, great. If you go to farmer’s market, great. If you can get them from a community that supports agriculture system, that’s great. But the closer they are to their original heirloom forms, the closer they are to being grown in a way that is actually regenerative and organic, much, much better for you.
What about fruit? Fruit is great. Fruit isn’t bad. It’s what you eat that’s got fructose in it that’s not fruit like high fructose corn syrup, that’s bad. So for some of us who are diabetic or very overweight, you got to be careful or more careful with things like for example, bananas or pineapples or grapes, which are super sugary. You stick with more berries and kiwis, watermelon, those tend to be lower glycemic. But make sure if you’re going to eat fruit, you eat the whole fruit, you don’t eat obviously on an empty stomach or fruit juice, which is terrible because that actually can absorb sugar more. Dried fruit, not a good thing. For most people, think of it as candy, it’s okay a little bit, but not too much. If you’re not sure about how food’s affecting you, you can use a continuous glucose monitor. And they’re going to become more and more available.
There’s a company called Levels, that I’m an advisor for and basically wear this patch on your arm and it can measure your blood sugar continuously. And you’ll be surprised and go, “God, I don’t know if I eat plums, my blood sugar goes off the chart, but if I eat a strawberry, I’m fine.” So I think we can learn a lot about how our individual bodies respond to different things by using these continuous glucose monitors. Next up is fat. What should we eat in terms of fat? Well, I’ve written a book about this, Eat Fat Get Thin, but basically you want fat from whole foods. Nuts, seeds, avocados, pasture rich eggs, small fatty fish like, sardines, mackerel, herring, anchovies. Certain processed foods are fine. The olive oils, a processed food, extra virgin olive oil made in a special way that doesn’t degrade the oil important. Make sure you don’t leave it out in the light.
Avocado oil can be used for higher heat cooking. I mean, I think coconut oil can be fine, organic extra virgin, but for example, I’m what I call a lean mass hyper responder. Where I’m very lean, but my body doesn’t like as much saturated fat. So if I eat too much saturated fat, I spike my cholesterol. And many people, I’ve had people drop their cholesterol a hundred points eating a diet of coconut oil and butter. It really depends on your own biology. So it’s important to check that. Lots of nuts and seeds. They’re great for weight loss, diabetes, heart disease, dementia. They’re full of minerals, they’ve got protein, they’ve got good fats, lots of fiber. What could you eat? Almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, macadamia, pumpkin seeds, chia, hemp, sesame seeds, all great. Include those in your diet. I had a salad the other day. I put avocados, I put olive oil, I put pumpkin seeds in it.
What about meat? Well, that’s really controversial. I could do literally a three-hour podcast just on meat. I’m not going to, don’t worry. At least not right now. But meat is not bad. If you’re eating industrial meat, that’s bad. If you’re eating factory farm meat, that’s bad. If you’re eating meat or dairy from animals that have been raised in ways that are destroying the environment and the climate, that’s bad. But if you’re eating meat, that’s regenerative or you’re eating wild animals, for example, you’re a hunter, deer or elk, if you’re eating animals that eat more of a natural diet of grass and a wide variety of plants.
They actually can be rich in phytochemicals. They can be antiinflammatory, they can be very important. And it’s important to get quality protein as you age because you lose muscle. So it’s a really critical that you don’t have a deficit of protein as you get older, because one of the keys to longevity is keeping muscle, and the only way to build muscle is with other protein or other muscle.
Muscle is the best way. Muscle eating muscle, which is essentially meat. So I think it’s important. You can actually supplement with plant protein. Plant proteins can work. For example, In Costa Rica now, one of the Blue Zones and I couldn’t find the goat whey protein I like, but they had this plant protein. But it was sort of jacked up. It actually was jacked up with extra amino acids and extra leucine. So it had 30 grams of protein, but it had two and a half grams of leucine, which is important for building muscle. So you can hack plant proteins, but it’s much harder to use those for building muscle. If you’re going to eat meat, make sure it’s regenerative, grass fed organic, when possible. Better for you, better for the planet, more humane. And you can get these now. There’s a lot of places, Force of Nature, Wild Pastures, North Star Bison.
I mean you can get a lot of these incredible online services that will ship to you directly and aren’t really that expensive. So really important. What about eggs are okay? Don’t be afraid of eggs. Even though they have cholesterol, that’s been debunked, even the dietary guidelines have gotten rid of that recommendation. They’re a great source of protein, vitamins, B12, lots of choline, which is great for your brain and liver. Obviously by pasture-raised eggs when possible, really important. Not pasteurized, but pasture-raised. What about fish? Fish is great, unfortunately we polluted the oceans. Most fish is full of micro plastics and mercury. There was a company that I recently found out about called Seatopia.fish Go on Seatopia.fish when they’ve sourced agriculture that’s regenerative, it’s clean fish that’s tested for heavy metal that’s super low. So I think it’s important. There’s also small fish you can eat like anchovies, mackerel, herring, and sardines, which people don’t like, but I love them.
What about grains and beans? Grains and beans are okay, but it depends on your biology. If you are diabetic, if you’re massively overweight, if you have trouble with belly fat, you might want to go for a short time without them because they can actually trigger insulin spike. You have to be careful and you can wear a continuous glucose monitor, see what happens. “Oh, I have a cup of rice, what happens?” Or “I have pasta. What happens?” You can see what happens as you eat these foods instead of just guessing. And rather than be connected to some ideology, look at your own biology and find out what’s really going on inside of you. So if you’re going to eat grains, eat whole grains, not whole grain flowers, you can eat black rice, quinoa, teff, buckwheat, Himalayan tartary buckwheat is amazing. You can actually get these ancient forms of wheat like Einkorn wheat, Emmer wheat. If you’re not gluten sensitive.
So lots of these are fine. Be sure not to overdose on them because even a lot of grains can be trouble. If unless you’re just exercising like crazy, then you can tolerate more carbohydrate. Same thing with beans. Beans are great. Make sure you cook them right. You need to pressure cook them, soak them. You can cook them with kombu, which is a seaweed that prevents some of the gassy stuff that can go on. They have lectins, they have phytates, which can be modified by how you cook them. But I think most of the time it’s okay to eat beans as part of your diet and a lot of longevity. Blue Zones eat a lot of beans and they’re fine like tn minestrone soup, which they eat in Sardinia. What about sugar? Well, sugar’s pretty much the devil, if you want to live a long time. Not to say, do I never eat sugar? No, I eat sugar, I promise you, but I make sure I exercise plenty.
I eat it in a way that minimizes any spike in blood sugar by eating it with food that’s got fat and protein and fiber. But be careful if you are insulin resistant at all. If your insulin level’s over five and you can check that with your doctor, you’re going to function health.com. That’s a company I co-founded to look at lab testing. You can actually measure your insulin level, but if it’s over five, I’d be very careful with eating too much starch and sugar in your diet. I mean below the neck, your body can’t tell the difference between a bowl of cereal, of Corn Flakes and a bowl of sugar. So think of pretty much anything that turns the sugar in the same way. Be careful of liquid sugar calories.
They’re everywhere, whether there’s sodas or caffeinated teas. Teas that are sweet teas. Coffee with all kinds of junk in it. I mean there it’s everywhere. Fruit juice is terrible. Don’t drink fruit juice. What about oils? Well, I would encourage people to eliminate most processed oils. I think there’s some controversy about this, but if you want to use little sesame oil or macadamia, walnut oils are fine. Avocado oil is great for cooking, but stay away from canola, safflower, sunflower, grape seed, corn oil, soybean oil. We have not eaten these for most of our evolutionary history, and we should be eating more of our traditional fats, particularly whole food fats, which we talked about. What about dairy? Well, I would say most conventional dairy, we should not be eating goat and sheep tend to be better. There’s A2 casing, which is a different form of casing in the sheep and goat that doesn’t cause much inflammation or issues.
So want to, if you’re going to do that, most people tolerate that better. Like goat yogurt, sheep yogurt, goat cheese, sheep cheese. If you want to eat dairy, a lot of people don’t do well on dairy. I encourage you people often to do elimination to see how they feel. But it can cause congest, congestion, sinus issues, asthma, digestive issues, acne, I mean a lot of stuff. So make sure you’re aware of what you’re doing. And also all the nut milks and all that stuff, be careful cause those can have a lot of sugar in them. So lastly, let’s talk about what we should not eat. We shouldn’t eat stuff that’s not food, right? Packaged food, processed food, all these color sized shapes of chemically extruded, colorful food-like substances just don’t eat them. Whether it’s Twizzlers or Oreo cookies, they don’t grow on trees.
Basic rule is if God didn’t make it, don’t eat it. If man made it, probably not a good idea to eat it. So I talked about this a lot, but get away from foods with pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, hormones, processed ingredients, chemicals, additives, dyes, artificial sweeteners. They’re just not good for us and there’s no reason to eat them. And that’s really the basic foundational principles of nutrition. I encourage you to read my book, the Pegan Diet for More. The Young Forever Book is really where I go into how these things affect longevity, particularly what phytochemicals and we talk about a lot of them like phycetin in strawberries or epigallocatechins in green tea, or [inaudible 00:17:44] in turmeric or [inaudible 00:17:46] comes from pomegranate or various things like luteolin, and quercetin that come from Himalayan tartary buckwheat. There’s all sorts of science about how these phytochemicals interact with our longevity pathways.
And I include all that in my book Young Forever. So I hope you can get a copy. Go to YoungForeverbook.com. There’s all sorts of bonuses you learn about it. There’s lots more you need to do that I have in the book, whether it’s exercise, sleep, stress reduction. But make sure you understand that food is medicine is the biggest driver. And we didn’t even talk about timing of eating, we didn’t talk about a lot of things, protein as much as I want to, but it’s all in the book. Check it out. Your fork is the most powerful tool you have to change your health and your life.
Go to YoungForeverbook.com, order a copy now. Tell all your friends about it. Actually, I think most important book I’ve ever written, and I hope you enjoy it too. That’s it for today’s Health Bite, and I hope you like this episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy. Be sure to share it with your friends and family on social media. Leave a comment, how have you used food to upgrade your health in reverse biological aging. And please subscribe wherever your podcast. And we’ll see you next week on The Doctor’s Farmacy.
Hi everyone. I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualified medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you’re looking for help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner. If you’re looking for a functional medicine practitioner, you can visit ifm.org and search their Find a Practitioner database. It’s important that you have someone in your corner who’s trained, who’s a licensed healthcare practitioner and can help you make changes, especially when it comes to your health.