Functional medicine doctor and wellness advocate, Dr. Mark Hyman, discusses the theories and science behind his new book, Eat Fat, Get Thin.
For instance, Dr. Hyman says that fat in your diet doesn’t necessarily translate to fat on your body... find out why.
Sharecare is the leading online health and wellness engagement platform providing millions of consumers with a personal, results oriented experience by connecting them to the most qualified health resources and programs they need to improve their health. It’s time now for Sharecare Radio on RadioMD.com. Here’s your host, Dr. Darria.
DR. DARRIA: Hi and welcome back to Sharecare Radio. This is Dr. Darria and I want to know: are you always hungry? It’s common for many of us, especially anyone on a diet. I recently talked about the importance of healthy fats to keep that feeling at bay. My next expert has a lot more to say on that topic and what you can do. He’s a nine time, number one New York Times best-selling author. He’s director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine and founder of the UltraWellness Center. You’ve also probably seen him on the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The View, The Dr. Oz Show and he’s also medical editor of The Huffington Post. He’s Dr. Mark Hyman and he’s here to explain the principles behind the brand new book out this month, Eat Fat, Get Thin. Mark, thank you so much for joining us.
DR. HYMAN: Thanks for having me.
DR. DARRIA: I want to just dive in. In the 90’s, we had this low-fat, no fat diet craze. How do you think that contributed to our obesity epidemic because it didn’t get any better with that craze either?
DR. HYMAN: No. This was actually in the 70’s that Congress was concerned that America was getting sicker and more heart disease and we needed to do something about it. So, they put together a dietary assessment panel, the McGovern Panel and the committee, and they came up with this report that made recommendations to America. In fact, it was based on really shaky kind of evidence but they felt that they had to act because America was getting fatter and sicker. What they did was actually accelerate the whole problem because they came up with this concept that fat was bad and we should be eating low-fat and we should be eating more carbohydrates and it got turned, ultimately, into the 1992 food pyramid which said to eat 6-11 servings of bread, rice, cereal and pasta a day and eat fats and oils only sparingly at the tippy, tippy top of the pyramid.
DR. DARRIA: I remember that.
DR. HYMAN: That is exactly upside down from what we should be doing.
DR. DARRIA: Okay.
DR. HYMAN: When that happened in 1980 with that first set of guidelines, you look at it as hockey stick. We’ve seen a seven-fold increase in diabetes. We’ve seen dramatic increases in weight gain. I remember in 1980, I went to medical school in the early 80’s, there was not a single state in the United States that had an obesity rate over 20%. Today there’s not a single state with an obesity rate under 20% and there’s many with 30 and 35%. In fact, most of the country, now, is getting to that danger zone.
DR. DARRIA: Both you and I see it as physicians. It’s such a growing problem. I see it in the ER all the time, too.
DR. HYMAN: It’s true. Everything that we are seeing is really a consequence of this extremely high carbohydrate, low-fat diet and that’s what’s driven so much this problem. Fat is, actually, despite what we think, not something that makes us fat. Even though the word is the same, the fat that you eat, the fat on your body--it looks the same.
DR. DARRIA: It’s not the enemy?
DR. HYMAN: It’s not the enemy and we had this whole theory that it’s all about energy balance. Right? Eat less, exercise more, calories in, calories out--it’s all about the calories. So, fat has 9 calories per gram and carbs and protein have 4, then if you eat less fat, then you’re going to cut out more calories and you lose weight. That’s the opposite of what happens because the body is not this closed system and it’s not all about energy. It’s about information.
DR. DARRIA: Okay.
DR. HYMAN: This is a big discovery in the last 20 or 30 years--that food is not just calories. It’s actually instructions, information that literally every bite tells your body what to do: to gain or lose weight; to turn on or off different hormones, like insulin which can make huge differences in the way it affects your neurotransmitters, your brain chemistry, your genes, even. Even your gut flora are all affected by what you eat.
DR. DARRIA: So, we are sending our body messages, literally, with what we’re eating. It’s sending our body a message.
DR. HYMAN: Exactly. It’s like instructions.
DR. DARRIA: How do we give our bodies the good instructions, then?
DR. HYMAN: The bad instructions are actually driven by our processed food, high sugar, refined carb diet. We eat about 152 pounds of sugar and 146 pounds of flour, which actually is worse than sugar in your body. It actually has a higher glycemic index, meaning it raises your blood sugar more. So, the key here is to cut out all those refined sugars and carbs, like bread, pasta, rice, cereal. Cereal is not a health food. It’s just not. Despite what all the propaganda is on front of the cereal boxes saying it’s whole grain, healthy and American Heart Association endorsed, it’s actually the worst thing you can have for breakfast. So, we need to, then, eat more good quality foods which are nutrient dense, like lots of plant foods but you also need a lot of fat. Sort of surprisingly.
DR. DARRIA: I want to take a moment on that and talk about the different kinds of fat. Tell all of our listeners because there’s good fat and there’s bad fat.
DR. HYMAN: That’s right.
DR. DARRIA: So, tell them the good fat that you want them to be eating.
DR. HYMAN: Before I jump into that, I just want to make this clear about what fat does. When you eat sugar or carbs, it actually turns on your fat storage system. It makes you store fat in your belly. It makes you hungry and it makes you slow your metabolism and prevent the fat from being burned or liberated from the fat cells. When you eat fat, the opposite happens because you don’t simulate insulin, which is the fat storage hormone that gets triggered by sugar and carbs. When you eat fat without the carbs--the fat with carbs is what I call “sweet fat”. That’s not good. If you eat fat without all the refined sugars and carbs, it actually makes you less hungry, speeds up your metabolism and triggers fat being burned more so you liberate more fat and lose weight without being hungry, feeling good eating delicious foods that are creamy, luscious and savory as opposed to starving with low-fat, cardboard. That’s the big difference.
DR. DARRIA: That isn’t very satisfactory anyway. You don’t feel any better after you eat all those low-fat cookies.
DR. HYMAN: No. The key insight here is that it’s not about how much you eat, because you can’t control that. It’s impossible because it’s like saying, “I only want you to breathe ever six minutes”. You just can’t. Your brain is wired to consume food when you trigger certain hormones that are very hard to control with willpower. So, if you actually focus on what you eat, you don’t have to worry about what you eat because your body will naturally reset that. If you do that, you have to eat the right fats. Like you said, “What are the right fats?” Well, most of us are eating bad fats. Most of American calories from fat come from refined vegetable oils, like soy bean oil which is about oil and that’s produced in huge quantities. It’s in everything. It’s often turned into trans fats, although less so now but it’s still in foods like salad dressings and any kind of baked and prepared foods. It’s in everything. It’s very inflammatory when you eat in those quantities. Second is trans fat, which are also known as shortening or hydrogenated fats. Again, they were in everything and now the FDA ruled them as not safe to eat or a non-grass substance. So, no longer are they going to be in foods but it’s going to take a while for them to get phased out.
DR. DARRIA: Yes.
DR. HYMAN: So, those are not great. Then, the good ones are easy and there are the questionable ones. So, the bad ones, clearly, are the refined oils and the trans fats.
DR. DARRIA: Yes. So, what are the good fats that we should be having?
DR. HYMAN: The good fats are things most of us really would like: extra virgin olive oil, which has been shown to reduce heart attacks, reduce diabetes, help with weight loss; and then, there are other good fats like mono unsaturated fats that comes from avocados; also nuts and seeds, like almonds, walnuts, pecans--not peanuts--macadamia nuts and many seeds – pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, hemp seed. These are all full of great fats that should be a regular part of your diet. In fact, you should probably have five or six servings of these good fats every day. There are other fats that are also possibly good fats, which there’s a lot of controversy about but I believe are, actually, a great part of a healthy diet. Those are saturated fats and they sound kind of crazy because that’s what we’ve been taught is bad.
DR. DARRIA: Right.
DR. HYMAN: Right?
DR. DARRIA: Exactly.
DR. HYMAN: It’s what the American Heart Association and, even our government, tells us this is bad. It often takes 20 years for the research to become policy or the research to become practice. Now, the dietary guidelines, for the first time, eliminated any restriction of dietary fat after 35 years and they’ve eliminated any restriction on cholesterol because they said, “Oh, we said cholesterol was the enemy and we should all be suffering through egg white omelets but now everybody is saying, ‘No. No. That was wrong. We got it wrong.’” Well, the same thing, I think, is going to be shown for saturated fat because the research is showing us over and over again that in the absence of refined carbs, in the absence of sugar and processed food and in the presence of Omega-3 fats, saturated fats are either neutral or beneficial. Things like coconut oil.
DR. DARRIA: Really?
DR. HYMAN: Yes. Even animal fat.
DR. DARRIA: That’s really confusing to the consumers because the consumer is thinking, “Every five years what they tell me is really bad and what I should have totally changes.” How should somebody eat that so they can have saturated fat in the way that it’s healthy without combining it with the unhealthy foods? What’s an example of a meal that includes that?
DR. HYMAN: For example, you could take your vegetables and cook them in coconut oil. You could have a piece of grass-fed steak which has the saturated fat in it. Those are fine as long as you’re eating clean, healthy food. If you’re eating a lot of sugar and carbs with the fat, then it’s dangerous. So, if you’re having, for example, a donut--that’s bad because it’s sugar and fat. But, if you have just the fat without the refined carbs, it actually is really great. I, for example, like to get a tablespoon of peanut butter and I put it in my morning shake and I have what I call a “fat shake” in the morning. I have nuts and seeds. I put in almond butter, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds. I put in coconut butter. I even put in coconut milk, which is creamy and delicious and without sugar in it or processed ingredients, and I blend it all up with some berries and I have an amazing fat, protein shake with lots of anti-oxidants and fiber and minerals and it keeps me going all day long. So, I don’t have any problems.
DR. DARRIA: That sounds pretty delicious.
DR. HYMAN: It’s very good.
DR. DARRIA: Can we find that recipe? Just for our audience--can we get that recipe in the Eat Fat, Get Thin book? Or, where can we get that recipe?
DR. HYMAN: Absolutely. The Eat Fat, Get Thin book has tons of recipes and I really explain these two big myths, Darria. One, that fat makes you fat, because it doesn’t. It actually makes you thin. Two, that fat causes heart disease, even saturated fat. In fact, I met with the head of cardiology from the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Steve Mission, who just wrote an article in The Wall Street Journal really complaining about the dietary guidelines that just came out and suggesting that we’ve got the whole story wrong on fat and that even saturated fat may not be the enemy. This is from the number one heart hospital in the world. I met with him at the Cleveland Clinic because I was shocked to hear him say that because it really contradicts every bit of practice and every bit of learning that most physicians and, actually, clearly most consumers have been brainwashed to think which is fat is bad and saturated fat is worse.
DR. DARRIA: Yes. It’s so true but I think it’s important that even our listeners get the nuance. You’re not saying, like you mentioned, go out and eat all the saturated fat you want. You’re saying you can have it but in certain ways.
DR. HYMAN: Exactly. If I have to choose between the bagel and the butter, I’m always going to choose the butter. That’s 100%. I even asked that doctor, the head of Tufts College of Nutrition. He’s Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian and he’s published most of the research on fat and saturated fat. I asked him that question. I said, “If you had to choose between a bagel and butter, what would you choose?” He said, “I would choose the butter.” This is coming from one of the top leading researchers on fat and nutrition in the world. I think the concepts and the thinking is really changing. Dr. Ronald Krause is from Oakland, who is a professor out there who’s done some of the pioneering work on cholesterol. He’s done so much research showing that saturated fats are not the enemy and that we should really be worrying more about refined carbs and starches.
DR. DARRIA: So, if somebody wants to have their butter, obviously, you probably don’t want to put it on that bagel because that’s going to be a lot of refined carbs. What can you put it on?
DR. HYMAN: Put it on your vegetables. Some people are making coffee with it and it sounds crazy but you can use….
DR. DARRIA: I know! I’ve heard of that. Yes.
DR. HYMAN: Bulletproof coffee and it’s powerful. I even have a recipe for it in my book because I think people need to realize when you eat these fats, it literally turns on your metabolism. It sounds totally contradictory. People are going, “What is going on here? This is a total about-face.”
DR. DARRIA: It makes sense with what we learned with biochemistry in medical school and what turns on insulin and what suppresses insulin, which affects how you store fats and lose fats. You mentioned bulletproof coffee and you have a recipe for that. It’s so interesting. A lot of people are thinking of weight loss, but also brain performance and being at the top of our game. How does your diet affect that as well?
DR. HYMAN: Oh, my God. It is so powerful. I think that besides getting your metabolism straight, it really gets your brain straight. Most people walk around feeling sluggish, having brain fogs, trouble focusing and concentrating. When you, for example, add fats to your diet, your brain wakes up because your brain is made up of 60% fat. In fact, much of it is Omega 3 fats. When you start to increase fat, your brain loves it. In fact, it runs better, in some ways, on ketones. We know that in certain brain diseases, like epilepsy, we use 70% fat diets or ketogenic diets to help control seizures when nothing else works. We’re using it even in things like brain cancer to help the brain work better or even in Alzheimer’s. This research is going on, even with schizophrenia, to see if it can help reset the brain. It’s fascinating research.
DR. DARRIA: Wow.
DR. HYMAN: I think we are going to learn more and more about how this is all connected but fat is great for your brain.
DR. DARRIA: I imagine all those refined carbs and all don’t help our brains function either.
DR. HYMAN: No. In fact, we’re calling now Alzheimer’s “Type 3 Diabetes” because of the role of insulin and insulin resistance in sugar in aging the brain. It’s powerful when you start to use the science and apply it to your daily life. You’ll see your hunger cuts down, your brain wakes up, your metabolism kicks into gear. You have more energy, you feel better. I mean, I wrote most of my book eating tons of fat. Every morning, I’d wake up and have butter and MCT oil, which is derivative of coconut oil, and a cup of coffee and that would be it all morning and I would just crank out the book.
DR. DARRIA: You’d be wired. Okay. You led to my next question.
DR. HYMAN: You’re not actually wired. You’re not actually wired. You’re clear.
DR. DARRIA: You’re clear.
DR. HYMAN: It’s not anxious energy. It’s actually calm, clear energy because you’re brain actually runs better.
DR. DARRIA: Oh, that’s great. I love that. Who doesn’t want to be clear? So, tell us, what, on this diet, what is your daily breakfast, lunch and dinner? What are your meals looking like? What are you eating?
DR. HYMAN: Well, it’s actually pretty simple. It’s delicious and it’s not deprivation because I love to eat. I don’t want to restrict my food intake. If I focus on what to eat.
DR. DARRIA: Me, too.
DR. HYMAN: I call it the “Pegan Diet” which is kind of a joke between Paleo and Vegan but it’s mostly plants, right? So, it’s mostly plants with lots of vegetables, non-starchy veggies. Not potatoes but things like greens and asparagus, broccoli, tons of salad greens--any kind of green vegetable like brocollini, asparagus and garlic, for example, as a side dish; and lots of nuts and seeds, which are full of good fat and protein and other oils; and lots of good oils like, avocado oil, olive oil, coconut oil; and then, good clean animal food. Ideally, it’s more expensive, but I recommend eating less, like grass-fed animal food, organic, sustainably-raised because there are environmental issues as well as health issues. In fact, grass-fed beef has seven times as much Omega 3 fats as feed-lot beef, which have more Omega 6 which are inflammatory fats. You really can choose the quality of the animal food you eat. And then, lots of good quality antioxidants and berries and some fruits. It’s basically good quality protein. You can have a vegetable protein like tofu or tempeh, nuts and seeds, lots and lots of vegetables, lots of good fats and that’s what you eat. So, for breakfast I either have, for example, poached eggs with some stir fried greens with an avocado with olive oil poured on top which gives me a fat breakfast; or, I take a fat shake like I said. For lunch, I might take a bunch of greens like arugula or baby kale and I put that in a bowl. I’ll throw in pumpkin seeds for fat. I’ll throw on avocados and I’ll throw on a can of wild salmon so that I have three different kinds of fat, or four different kinds of fat. Pumpkin seeds, wild salmon with fatty Omega 3’s, olive oil and avocados, which are monounsaturated fats and it’s a great source or protein and vegetables. Dinner will be, typically, like a sweet potato--not a big one, a small one or half of one and a winter squash, plus a piece of protein. It could be a piece of fish. It could be a small grass-fed steak or lamb and then chicken and then, I would have a huge plate of vegetables. So, I would have three or four sides of vegetables.
DR. DARRIA: I love it.
DR. HYMAN: I might have a salad. I might have mushrooms. I might have eggplant. I might have stir-fried greens. I always think you should think of your animal food as a condiment. I call it “condimeat.” You know, it’s not a main dish, it’s a side dish.
DR. DARRIA: As a side dish and that way, with all the additions of these delicious kinds of fats and extra virgin olive oil, you can make really delicious vegetable sides.
DR. HYMAN: Absolutely. So, Mark, thank you so much. I appreciate your time today. All of our listeners--I think everybody is probably going to be running out and buying your book now, Eat Fat, Get Thin. Remember that. You can pre-order on Amazon or at his website DrHyman.com. Or Tweet him @markhymanmd. Remember you can always Tweet me @drdarria or all of us @sharecareinc. This is Dr. Darria. You’re listening to Sharecare Radio on Radio MD. Thanks for listening and stay well.
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