Author Archives: allan
Author Archives: allan
Dr. Stephanie Gray is the author of Your Longevity Blueprint. On this episode, we talk about nutritional supplementation, hormones optimization, and how to find a doctor to help you stay healthy.
Allan (1:06): Dr. Gray, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Gray (1:10): I’m excited to be here. Thank you for having me.
Allan (1:12): Your book is Your Longevity Blueprint, and I really enjoyed the read. A lot of great information and put in a way that I think is very understandable for quite a few people. But the book in my opinion is not actually about so much longevity as, how do we maximize our health and wellness so that we actually enjoy living longer?
Dr. Gray (1:37): Well said. Yeah, I would agree. I was really trying to create some nine actionable steps for readers to optimize their health, because unfortunately many individuals don’t even know functional medicine exists. They don’t know that testing options exist to help them optimize their nutritional status or help them detoxify their body or increase their hormone levels. So I was hoping this book would really introduce the audience to functional medicine.
Allan (2:03): Yes. And I think most of us go to a doctor when we’re sick, we’re not feeling well, and the doctor asks what are you symptoms and you tell them fatigue, brain fog, several other things that are kind of going on in your life, not sleeping well, maybe some migraines. And the doctor says, “Well, here’s some Prozac”, or whatever. It’s a symptom-diagnosis. It’s like there’s a chart in the back of their office, or maybe they’ve memorized it. If they’re thinking you have this – this is how you fix it, with some form of medicine. But the reality is, medicine isn’t really designed to fix us. It’s designed to fix a symptom.
Dr. Gray (2:50): I totally agree. We need conventional medicine, especially unfortunately if you get in an accident. We have great emergency care here in the United States. In my book I reference Dr. Patrick Flynn’s analogy that conventional medicine is more of the fire department approach. So if you have a fire, conventional medicine can help you put out that fire, but really only using two tools – drugs and surgery. Unfortunately, when you have a symptom like fatigue that isn’t really an emergency, conventional medicine doesn’t necessarily help you get to the root cause of the problem. Like you mentioned, a lot of times they’ll just recommend taking an antidepressant or a stimulant medication, when that’s really not getting to the root cause. It’s not really explaining the “Why” to the fatigue. That’s what makes functional medicine different – we do explore the “Why”. We try to explore if the patient has low thyroid or low sex hormone status or maybe their nutrition is terrible, but we want to get to the root cause of the problem and not just give the patient that Band-aid approach to their health care.
Allan (3:50): It’s very interesting to me. Hippocrates said it a long, long time ago – “Let food be thy medicine.” And now it’s changing. It feels like it’s changing – more and more understanding that the food which we put in our mouths in volumes can do a lot more for our health than the one little pill or 12 little pills that we’re taking over the course of a day. I think a lot of that is because when we’re fueling our body and we’re building our body with better stuff, we end up being better. But a lot of folks don’t actually recognize that they have nutritional deficiencies. A lot of my clients will come to me and say, “Allan, should I be supplementing with something? Should I be taking an iron supplement, or should I be taking vitamin B or C?”, or whatever the cool thing is today. And my short answer is, “I have no clue, because I don’t have your blood test to see if there are any deficiencies. I don’t really know the quality of your food to know if you’re getting most of the vitamins you need. I don’t know if you’re getting outside to get enough sun exposure to have the vitamin D that you need.” Can you talk a bit about the nutritional deficiencies and some of the symptoms we might be seeing some of the things we can do, what to look for with supplements? Because you said it in a book, one a day actually isn’t one a day. You would need to take four of them just to get what your basic bodily needs are. But even then I’m not sure we actually get all of that from that one a day, just based on total quality and everything else. I know that’s a lot to throw out there, but could you tell us a bit about nutritional deficiencies and how we can recognize them and what we can do?
Dr. Gray (5:35): Sure. If you don’t mind, I might go off on a little tangent here. I think first we should clarify why we are so nutritionally deficient, because a lot of my patients say, “Why did my grandma never have to supplement, but I do?” Sadly, our world has really changed. The nutritional value that used to be in an apple grown in your grandma’s backyard unfortunately was better, much higher in nutritional content as compared to an apple today. Our apples might be three times the size, but they’re not packing that nutritional punch that apples used to. Unfortunately, our food sources are just not as nutritionally dense. We have very deficient soil, and even the USDA agriculture figures will show the decline in over 40 crops that they’ve been tracking for years. We know that the food that’s growing in this deficient soil is now deficient. Soil should be rich in antioxidants and vitamins and minerals, producing in foods the same, and that’s unfortunately not always the case. I even have patients who are growing their own food in their backyard and it’s organic, and the foods still, again, don’t pack that nutritional punch. That’s not our fault, but unfortunately that’s working against us.
The processing of foods also depletes nutrients. Half the time the food we’re eating has been harvested or picked days, weeks, even months before we’re eating it. And so, as you can imagine over time the nutrient content in those foods is declining. And then sometimes we even cook with really high heat, high temperature, and that’s blasting our foods, destroying some of the nutritional value. So, we’re unfortunately set up to be nutritionally deficient. And then when we add things like some lifestyle choices – if we choose to consume alcohol or caffeine, or smoke – those are all going to use up or deplete our body of nutrients. And if we take medications, many of my patients are shocked to know that the medications they’re taking are depleting them of nutrients. Many individuals are aware that drugs like statin medications for cholesterol can deplete CoQ10. And CoQ10 is a very important antioxidant in the body. It can help us with energy, and many patients who are taking a statin medication end up with myalgias or muscle pains, because their body has been robbed of that CoQ10. And that’s just one example. All sort of medications, even things like birth control, one patient might feel is just a basic medication, actually does deplete B vitamins and even magnesium.
So, very quickly, I just wanted to go over some of the reasons why we unfortunately are so low on nutrients. Then you add maybe exercise, or if you have a very stressful life, and again, what’s happening – your body is using up those nutrients. So, unfortunately we now, in our world today, need to supplement more than ever before, more than our grandma decades ago. That’s part of why we need the nutrients. But in my book, Your Longevity Blueprint, I try to describe nutrients as working in our body like putting a key in a keyhole. The nutrients are going to unlock certain processes in the body. I tell patients to think of nutrients as what you need, literally, to produce energy in that Krebs cycle, if you remember that from high school science class. You need nutrients to make hormones, hormones that make you feel good. So you just don’t want to be set up to be nutritionally deficient. The list of symptoms, I could go on and on, but fatigue is obviously one symptom. We could go nutrient by nutrient and discuss the symptoms that can exist.
Allan (9:25): For the core ones – vitamin D, C, B, the core ones. Maybe some of the minerals. I think this would be quite valuable, because I do believe that people will know if they don’t have enough iron, they may feel a little anemic and their energy will be low. Sometimes the doctor will pick that up in a blood test and say you’re low in your iron. That’s a fairly common test that a standard doctor would do, but it’s not often that a doctor will do a full blood panel to look at how deficient you might be in these various vitamins. So I think us having some basic recognition of when we might be deficient in a vitamin, so we know we at least need to start doing the diagnostic work.
Dr. Gray (10:03): Sure. So, B vitamin deficiencies are very common. B vitamins are what help our adrenals, they help us adapt to stress, they help us produce energy. One of the first supplements I’ll have a patient, especially an athlete start if they’re really tired is just a B Complex to see if that’s helping. Some patients can even have symptoms in the nervous system, so if they’re getting tingling, burning symptoms, whatnot, a lot of times they will need the B vitamins as well.
Vitamin D deficiency can also lead to fatigue. Actually I live in Iowa, so many of my patients are very low in vitamin D, just because we don’t have the sun year round. Patients who are low in vitamin D are going to be more likely to get sick, get the flu through that flu season, so that’s one of the first nutrients we try to optimize in our patients come fall time, so they can get their level high to protect them through the winter. I’ve had even patients young, in their 20s and 30s have fractures, and it’s not normal to have fractures when you’re young. One of the first things we’re then looking at in those patients if they end up with osteopenia or osteoporosis, is their vitamin D status. Sometimes, shockingly, even young patients are very low in vitamin D. Vitamin D helps greatly with bone density, so not just in the young populations, but also in the older populations we want to make sure we’re increasing vitamin D. Vitamin D greatly helps with mood, so if we think of seasonal affective disorder through the winter, that makes sense. Patients get more depressed when there’s no sunlight, they’re not getting their vitamin D through the winter. Those are some of the symptoms of low vitamin D.
And then you mentioned vitamin C. Vitamin C is great for immune support also, so that’s typically also a nutrient that I’m going to recommend through the winter, just to help support the patient for not getting sick. Many patients will bruise very easily, so one of the first nutrients we’ll recommend for them is also vitamin C. Vitamin C helps strengthen the capillaries so that they don’t bruise as easily. And then, do you want me to keep going?
Allan (12:08): A couple of the minerals I think would be valuable too, because there are some of them that are quite important and if we’re not monitoring those, there’s going to be some risk there.
Dr. Gray (12:19): So magnesium is probably the most important mineral in my opinion. It’s important for I think, over 300 different enzymatic pathways in the body. I recently wrote a blog on magnesium and all the different types, picking the best type of magnesium and whatnot. But I use magnesium in my patients because it’s a very calming, relaxing hormone. So if they’re having any symptoms of overstimulation, meaning anxiety, if they can’t sleep, if their legs feel kind of creepy crawly, if they’re having restless leg symptoms or cramping in the legs, we’ll give them magnesium to calm down the cramps or calm down the mind or calm down the heart. So magnesium can be extremely beneficial, even to calm the gut. If patients have constipation, magnesium can help relax the bowels to facilitate daily bowel movements in the morning. Magnesium also helps produce your hormones. So you don’t want to be low in magnesium if you have low hormones, which we all do. Hormones decline as we age, so supplementing with magnesium can help prevent some of that loss.
Allan (13:4): I was really happy in the book that when you got into the discussion of hormones, you didn’t go just one way or the other. I’ve seen so many books where they say, “Let’s focus on the sex hormones because that’s what people care about.” And then other people say, “I’m dealing with people that have thyroid issues, so they’re looking for a book on thyroid issues.” It’s not very common that someone will say, “Let’s just look at this whole thing together.” To me, they’re the one to punch vitality and feeling and being the best you you can be. If your sex hormones are not optimized, you don’t feel as good as you could, and obviously if you don’t have the thyroid hormones working, you’re not going to have the energy level that you need to have to do the things you want to do. So, to me they’re both just as important. I understand when someone has an issue on one side or the other, they’re going to be more focused on that, but if we’re coming at this looking at it from a “How to stay as healthy as we can” versus “How do I cure illness”, I want to look at both. And I’m glad that you did. Could you take a little bit of time to talk about hormones? How do we actually go about optimizing our hormones so that we can be the best we can be?
Dr. Gray (14:38): Sure. I think the first step is to really know your body and know, “What symptoms am I experiencing? Have I had hair loss? Have I had brain fog? Am I more cold? Have I had weight gain or more fatigue?” Those are all low thyroid symptoms. If you’re thinking you may have some low hormone symptoms, find a provider who can help you order a comprehensive hormone panel to get your levels checked to see where you’re at. And I would love it if my patients would have had levels checked in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, so we could track subtle changes, any subtle decline that’s happening each decade or half decade, whatnot. Sometimes patients’ levels are really low end, and I don’t know if that’s their baseline, I don’t know if that’s where they’ve been for years, or if their levels are barely in the reference range, is this a dramatic decline? Years ago, were they very high end of normal and now they’re low end of normal? So, it’d be really nice to be able to track those levels over the years so patients could detect if their levels are declining.
But having comprehensive thyroid hormone levels done is extremely important. I describe this in Chapter 6 of my book. TSH is thyroid-stimulating hormone, which should be checked. But I said my book it stands for “too slow to help”, because by the time TSH is high, many times T4 and T3 are very low. So you only have T3 receptors in your body. T4’s whole role in life is to convert to T3, and many doctors never check T3. They only check T4, and if T4 looks good they assume the patient’s good to go. And that’s not the case. So, a big take home is to make sure you have a free T3 checked – that’s the gas pedal on your metabolism and your energy. You want your gas on hard. You don’t want your reverse T3, which is the brake pedal on hard. You want those flipped. It’s also important to have the reverse T3 checked, and then thyroid antibodies. If thyroid antibodies are high, that indicates your body could be attacking itself. Those are some autoimmune markers. The more that your body attacks the thyroid, the more thyroid function is going to decline. Even if your thyroid function is holding steady but your antibody levels are high, that’s great information to have to know, “I need to stay ahead of this to prevent my thyroid hormone levels from further declining.” I can speak to sex hormones as well, but just from a thyroid standpoint, those are great tests to have your provider run, to give you a gauge on where you’re sitting today, to know if low thyroid is a problem for you currently.
Allan (17:18): Okay. And then on the sex hormones, how would we go about optimizing those?
Dr. Gray (17:25): Again, the first step is to get your levels tested. I think a lot of women think they don’t need testosterone, but actually they do. I have women very young who already have zero testosterone due to big stressors in their life or whatnot. Sometimes it’s difficult to maybe admit that we lose hormones as we age, but men aged 30 to 70 are going to lose 1% to 5% of their testosterone every year, and women aged 20 to 40 lose 50% of their total testosterone production. So it’s important to have testosterone levels checked in both men and women, and also estrogen levels checked in both men and women. A lot of guys think they don’t have estrogen, but many men convert their testosterone over to estrogen, and that’s what men don’t want. We need to have lower estrogen, higher testosterone in men. So, checking those hormones is important. And then in women also checking progesterone. Progesterone’s the most soothing, calming hormone, great for sleep. Many women in their 30s and 40s get put on antidepressants or anxiety medications, and really the root cause of the problem was low progesterone, but no one ever assessed it. So, asking your provider to check estrogen, progesterone, testosterone is a great start.
Allan (18:40): Cool. And then from there you can decide how you want to address some deficiencies or some low numbers through the help of your healthcare provider.
Dr. Gray (18:51): Yes. And there are natural ways to boost hormones. We could talk about optimizing, again, nutritional status. Also, many times herbs can be very effective for patients who haven’t had hysterectomies, who still have all their organs. Using herbs can help to produce hormones. But in my clinic we do specialize in natural hormone replacement therapy for both men and women, and there are lots of options for those patients.
Allan (19:16): One of the things I really do want to recap here is that your standard doctor, bless their heart – they are going to go in and try to take care of you when you go and say you’re not feeling well. You may go in for regular checkups, so they’ll do the normal stuff, but the normal blood panel is going to be looking at your cholesterol and maybe they’re looking at some organ function, particularly if they know there’s some lifestyle things going on. They may check some bits and pieces of the data that you might want to have. But when you’re really looking at this, I think it’s worth at least once a year, maybe once every two years, if you need to push it off, is to go out get a full-on panel. What are my potential nutritional deficiencies, what are my potential hormone issues?
And I say this even if you don’t feel like you have symptoms, because one of the funny things is, you might think you’re normal – you might think, “This is my normal day. I wake up, I have trouble sleeping, I feel a little groggy in the morning. I do my coffee and I’m good to go for the day, as long as I drink coffee until 3:00 in the afternoon.” And that’s the normal day. And you say that’s normal, but you get yourself tested and you realize that your testosterone is a little low, perhaps your vitamin D is a little low, and your vitamin B, particularly B12 is low. If we actually supplement for these things, now you start to realize what actual normal should feel like, because you get back up to stability and you get up to where you’re now optimized.
Sorry to interject there, but I think so many people just go in and say, “Well, my doctor…” And the generation before us I think was so much more, “My doctor said it so it’s the absolute truth.” I think we have to be engaged as a part of our health care. The normal doctor isn’t necessarily inclined to want to go that route initially because he has seven minutes with you. He has to figure out what’s wrong with you, he has to prescribe medication, and then he has to move on to the next patient. But a holistic functional doctor is really going to have more opportunity and a more holistic view of health. I need to go find that person because my current doctor in my own town might not be that person. How do I find a contractor? In your book you say “contractor”, like doing the house stuff, but how do I find the right person to treat me for optimal health?
Dr. Gray (21:54): Good question. That’s the topic of the last chapter in my book. My book is about building a healthier body using functional medicine. So just to clarify to the audience here, I’m comparing how we maintain our home – we’re mowing the lawn, we keep hair out of the drain, we make sure we’re changing our furnace filters. We do all these things for maintenance for our home, but yet we don’t always do, or we don’t always know even what maintenance is available for our body. So, the last chapter of the book I discuss finding a contractor, who I describe as being a functional medicine provider, to help them rebuild and repair their body. We need conventional docs. If you have strep throat, if you have an emergency, we need them to be available, but unfortunately they don’t have a lot of training in nutrition. So again, they may tell you all your labs are normal – your blood count, your kidney, liver function, your cholesterol, as you were referring to, but they have never looked really deep. They haven’t really explored what a functional medicine provider could explore.
In your area usually, hopefully, you could find either an anti-aging, a regenerative or a functional medicine provider. You can search by your zip code on either the A4M, which is the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine’s website, or the IFM – Institute for Functional Medicine website, and hopefully find someone. Even if they’re not real local, a lot of these providers will see patients virtually, over the phone, or you can make a day trip to go see one. In a lot of the larger states, functional medicine is growing very rapidly. So, Florida, California, Texas, are states that are going to be easier to find providers than in the Midwest, where I’m from. There are probably only five or six in my state. But they are available; you just have to be able to find them. And they have the training. I have masters in Metabolic and Nutritional Medicine. Many of my colleagues have this training where they’re more understanding, they interpret the labs differently, and they have access to functional medicine labs. My primary care provider unfortunately can’t order a nutritional analysis; it’s just not available through our local hospital systems. But I have a contract with the functional medicine lab so I can run a fancy nutritional analysis on my patients. It’s 20 pages of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants. We can literally test glutathione levels, which is amazing, and even looking at their omega-3 fatty acid levels in the blood. So, the unique thing about these functional medicine providers is that they do have some specialized testing that can really optimize your health. You just have to find the provider to work with.
Allan (24:33): Yes. I think that’s so critical because we can’t depend on the current medical system to make us well. If we’re injured, if we’re sick – yes, they’ve been doing that, they know how to do that. But if you really want to optimize health, you really want to feel well all the time and you really want to have longevity, like you say in Your Longevity Blueprint – but the reality is if you want to have a wonderful life and really enjoy it – these are some valuable tests for you to check out. Even if you’re not really having major symptoms – I do want to stress – get out there every once in a while and find out what your numbers are. I’m not going to advertise any of them here, but you can go look online. There are some sites that you can actually do full panels yourself. You just go to a local lab and they’ll draw. So a local phlebotomist will draw it and they’ll send it off to these labs, and they’ll do a full workup for you and send it to you. And it’s written in plain English to help you interpret what you see. At that point you can either have a conversation with your primary physician, or you can seek out a professional that’s going to understand what you’re going through and what you want to try to accomplish. Dr. Gray, thank you so much for being a part of the 40+ Fitness podcast. If someone wanted to reach out and get to know more about you, where would you like for me to send them?
Dr. Gray (25:55): They can check out YourLongevityBlueprint.com/40. That is a link to a page on my website where we’re offering a 10% off storewide purchases code. The code is thanks40. You can certainly check me out there. I do have a free PDF to download on three top tips to boost your hormones naturally. I talk about reducing stress, reducing your toxin exposure and fixing nutritional deficiencies. And you can certainly see my book in our book trailer video right on that website – YourLongevityBlueprint.com/40.
Allan (26:31): And as you said, there’s a lot more in the book than we could ever, ever hope to cover in a podcast. So, do check out the book. There’s a lot of valuable information in there for you to kind of understand what’s going on in your body, and some great actionable items for you to use in building your health and fitness. As I said before, Dr. Gray, thank you for being on the podcast.
Dr. Gray (26:52): Thank you. And to all the listeners – know there’s hope. If you don’t feel right, there’s an answer. Find a provider who can help you get those answers.
Allan (27:05): I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Dr. Gray. I certainly did. Really, a lot of good information there. The book is well worth the purchase, so I would encourage you to go out and get Your Longevity Blueprint. It’s a really, really good book. It’ll teach you a lot about yourself and help you be a big partner and big lead – the driver in your wellness journey.
So the last week I went to Panama – actually, it was an island set called Bocas del Toro. Spend some time with my wife, just kind of unwind, enjoy ourselves, learn a little bit about the place and the culture. It really does interest me, and maybe might end up being a place that we spend a lot more time than we had originally thought. We’re looking into that; more on that later.
I wanted to also let you know before we go that this is going to be the last week that I’m going to leave open the waiting list for The Wellness GPS. If you want to be a part of the launch team, the team that goes through and does their Wellness GPSs with me walking you through step by step, you need to go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/GPS. If you’re not on that list, you’re probably not going to hear about this because the list is filling up and there’s almost enough people on there now that it will fill the 20 slots. I can only work with 20 people because this is hands-on. I’m working with you daily for the seven-day challenge as we go about putting together our Wellness GPS. If you’re interested, you need to go there today and sign up – 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/GPS. I’ll announce it there when I open it, it’s going to be open until the 20 slots are filled, so it’s probably just going to be people that are on this waiting list that are going to get the opportunity to be a part of this challenge. It’s not an open challenge. It’s going to be open only to the individuals that are on this list until I fill the 20 slots, and then we’re done. So again, 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/GPS.
And then finally, I know I’ve been talking about it for the past few weeks, but we’re working on getting the final bit of manuscript together for The Wellness Roadmap book that I’ve been working on. And I’ve also put out a base site for the book. You can go to WellnessRoadmapBook.com to learn more about the topic matter of the book, learn a little bit about me. I am setting up a mailing list that’s going to be specific for the book. You won’t be getting other mailings from me; this is going to be my launch team. When you write a book, it’s really not an individual thing. Yes, I do spend a lot of time alone, writing and editing and typing and redlining. I’m not the most efficient writer out there, so it does take me a little while. So there’s a lot of alone time – don’t get me wrong – but launching a book is really a team sport, and I need you on my team. I need you to help me make this book a success, and the way we do that is we coordinate our work, we coordinate what we do. And the best way for me to do that with you would be through this mailing list. I will only mail you on that mailing list information about the book, the progress on the book, things like that. But I won’t be mailing you other stuff. So this is a very private, single-source, single-use email list. If you want to be a part of the launch team, please go sign up today. You can go to WellnessRoadmapBook.com, and at the bottom of that page you’ll see where you can give me your name and email and I can make you a part of the launch team. A launch like this can be a lot of fun, working together, getting things done. You’ll get some special discounts on the book, you might get some additional freebies and bonuses that I can throw in there. I’ll be looking at what I can do and what I can’t do, but this is the group that’s going to help me launch the book and make it a success, and I want to do as much for you as I possibly can. So go to WellnessRoadmapBook.com and go ahead and join the launch team today. Thank you.
The science behind food is both confusing because much of it is financed by the companies with the most to gain by the outcomes. Dr David Friedman helps us understand how to get to the real answer in his book Food Sanity.
Allan (1:28):Dr. Friedman, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Friedman (1:31): Great to be here.
Allan (1:32): Your book, Food Sanity, is probably one of the most researched books I've ever seen. I've been doing this for a while. I've interviewed over 175 authors, all of which have their own ways of looking at things. You did some deep, deep digging, and I'm using that as a pun, but we'll get into that. Now, you had a reason to want to do this because you were seeing all these different guests come on your show, like I do. And many of them were saying, “You should eat like this”, and others were saying, “No, you should eat like that.” On the surface they're very different, almost contradictory in many aspects. And then you were like, “I've got this really, really smart cardiologist telling me I need to stop eating meat, and then I have this other very smart cardiologist telling me it's fine to eat meat.” So you get confused, and it is very easy to get confused in all this. But you've put together a very good model and you've gone through a lot of this yourself. So do you mind sharing a little bit of your story?
Dr. Friedman (2:36): Yeah. Basically I wrote Food Sanity after the 18 years of frustration that I went through as a syndicated TV and radio health expert. And like you, I've interviewed hundreds of scientists, doctors, bestselling authors, hoping to share information that would help my audience reach their optimal health. Unfortunately, that's not what happened. Instead, every guest would contradict the previous expert, leaving everybody, including me, more confused. You've got the proponents of the vegan, the Paleo, Mediterranean, the gluten-free and low carb diet. And let's face it, the opinions are as different as night and day. I remember oatmeal used to help balance blood sugar and research proved it. Now we’re told to avoid grains, because they spike our blood sugar. Coffee used to be considered unhealthy. Today we're told it helps prevent disease. Actually three weeks ago it caused cancer and they just announced a new study, about I think a week ago, that's saying it actually prolongs our life, that it’s good for you now. Eggs used to cause high cholesterol; now research shows eggs contain lecithin, which helps lower cholesterol. So I was very frustrated with all the conflicting opinions. I wrote Food Sanity; it really breaks through all the facts, fads and fiction, and finally answers the big question: What are we supposed to eat?
Allan (3:49): Part of your approach, which I really appreciate, because quite frankly it's common sense – is the DIG model. Can you go through that DIG model because I really think this is probably the best tool overall I've ever seen for a way to think about food and food choices?
Dr. Friedman (4:09): Yeah, and not just that. A lot of people are calling it the “lie detector test” to pass the DIG method to find out if it's true or false, even beyond food. I've been getting a lot of emails saying that works in other areas as well. It’s really neat that you can kind of dive in and, as we say, dig in. Basically in Food Sanity I used the “common science meets common sense” approach for figuring out the culinary conundrum. Unfortunately, we can't solely rely on the scientific studies, because as we just talked about, that changes sometimes weekly, like the coffee – that changed in a week. Plus many of them are biased, meaning studies are bought and paid for. So I show the reader how to avoid these paid for unreliable scientific studies, tap into their instincts and trust their gut instead of relying on what they hear in the media. Then we explore the biology of the body and if we’re designed to eat it. When you combine these three things, these are the DIG. D is “discovery” – that’s the science. I is “instinct”. And G is “God”. That's not necessarily biblical, but how our Creator created our body – our biology, our teeth, our enzymes. If you combine the science, instinct and biology, you have a foolproof blueprint that shows you what you should and shouldn't eat. It's kind of like a tricycle – without three wheels it can’t function. And my three little processes are really what other diet books are missing. In Food Sanity I don't use this “my way or the highway” approach. Instead I help the reader make up their own mind on the best way to eat and lose weight and prevent disease.
Allan (5:41): I was reading one study, and I think it was a Harvard scientist. He basically said that they were testing cholesterol numbers against mortality rate, and they basically weren't finding that when they lowered cholesterol with the statin that it was really giving them the results they wanted. So his complete conclusion was, we need to give them more statins. I can't wrap my mind around what this guy is saying. It's like we gave them statins and it didn't stop the heart attacks in the way that we intended. So therefore we think we just need to give them more statins. I had to question the guy’s motives or where he was coming from. It really just confused me. So I've made a practice now – if I’m going to rely on a study, I have to actually go read the study, because the headlines are going to skew it one way. The study may have been skewed one way in the way it was set up, or just the way they frame their conclusion is completely unsupported by the way they did the study in the first place. So the science is really where I get stuck the most, because you're right, there are people who are bought. So basically Monsanto pays for someone to do a study on Monsanto, and lo and behold, it's awesome. You should eat this for breakfast. And many of us do. But then there are those ones where I think while they might not have a complete buy-in, they have a paradigm that swings them to set the study up or run it a certain way. So that throws me off sometimes, but you don't necessarily know that unless you actually get in and see how they set up the study, which is a shame.
Dr. Friedman (7:31): So true. The saying is, “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” So if your boss is paying you millions of dollars to find a specific finding of a study, you're not going to let your boss down, you don't want to lose that money. So the American Dairy Association funds a study and let's say they pay a big organization, Johns Hopkins, and say, “We want you to show that milk builds strong bones. Here’s $40 million.” If that study comes back where it doesn't show that it builds strong bones, they're not going to publish it. It behooves everybody to keep the boss happy, and that's what I’ve noticed. But if you find a study that’s not paid for by somebody that has vested interest, then you can dig a little bit deeper and say, “This is a sound study. Now let's research and see the findings.” If it's biased, I don't even look at it. It’s not fair.
Allan (8:18): And I think the same thing sometimes of animal studies as well. I don't necessarily place a whole lot of credence on them. There are data points, but maybe not as reliable as we'd want to think. You even said in the book, cats are carnivorous, and we don't necessarily have to be. Or rabbits are vegan, and we don't necessarily have to be. So a study they did on cats or rabbits or mice isn't necessarily going to give us the best information. What I'm getting at is, a lot of the experts that get really passionate about one side of this or the other without having the objectivity, I think they find the study that fits their cognitive bias and they run with that. The expert finds these sets of studies and says, “I have 12,000 studies and you have 12,000 studies.” And they write their books, and there you go.
Dr. Friedman (9:10): That’s why you have to jump into your instincts, and also the biology. So you're right, we can’t really rely on science, and a lot of these authors just spit out the science. And you can battle science against science all day long. I’ve interviewed the plant-based and they’ve great science. I’ve interviewed the Paleo and they’ve got great science. But it’s not all about science. You've got to really go in and do the full DIG.
Allan (9:31): That's why I like your model so well. It puts a little bit of common sense behind the way we approach these things. You do a little bit of digging into the science, you learn more about it, and then you can just apply your model from what makes sense and what your biology is all about. Then the other side of it, I've always found is after you start eating a certain way. You saw this with meat – once you stopped eating red meat, your health improved dramatically.
Dr. Friedman (9:59): Correct, yeah. And that’s really what made the foundation of, “Let me explore what foods are good for me, what are bad for me.” The first one that was my own self-study is, “I feel better when I get off red meat. Why is that?” Then I researched, are there other foods that maybe I shouldn't be eating? And that's what led into Food Sanity, where I explore every single food group, if we’re supposed to eat it, what the science shows, does that make sense? And is our biology set up for us to eat it?
Allan (10:27): As we start having this conversation about biology, invariably the conversation comes up to, what did our ancestors eat? And then that takes us over to the Paleo movement and the people with the big flags with the bacon on it saying, “This is what we ate. This is what we ate.” And you've done a little bit of digging into the Paleo Diet, which I thought was fascinating. So I'm going to let you tell us a little bit about your thoughts on what our ancestors actually ate. Like I said, I did a little bit of a dig myself, and we can kind of have a compare and contrast there.
Dr. Friedman (11:04): There are few subjects out there that raise more controversy and heated opinions than food and politics. And when you look at plant-based versus Paleo Diet, it’s kind of like Republicans versus Democrats. Hopefully when they’re done with Food Sanity, they find we can all eat and dine together, because I’m getting some praise from the Paleo and also from the vegan, even though I’m from neither one of those. I’m kind of a mix between. But really, vegans and vegetarians believe a diet void of meat is the secret to optimal health and longevity. And of course proponents of the Paleo Diet say we need to eat meat like our caveman ancestors did. In Food Sanity I show how this belief is based on a serious distortion of human history. Caveman are portrayed as these big, strong, savage hunters, able to stab and kill mammoth-sized animals, carry their dead carcass over their shoulders. That may be how the cartoons and the movies portray them, but it's far from the truth. Cavemen were actually short and fat people. In fact, they were not much taller than 5 feet, they weighed 171 pounds, the size of their body was an evolutionary adaptation for cold weather, since that extra fat consolidated heat. According to the National Institute of Health, this is considered clinically obese. A short obese man certainly could not have the speed or the endurance that it would take to run fast enough to hunt and kill a mammoth, lion, tiger, bear. Cavemen were not the predator hunters that we've been led to believe they are. In my book I actually show how they were the hunted, not the hunters. They carried weapons for defense.
Using forensic analysis scientists showed our cavemen ancestors ate primarily plant-based diet, but forget the science, forget the forensics. Let’s get to talking about instincts. What do our instincts show us? If they were able to catch a lion, tiger and bear, which I show in the book is very difficult… It’s difficult now, if I gave you a sword and I told you to go out and catch one – it's not easy. But if they did, that meat was good for about five hours before it would rot and make them sick. So it was good for one meal. So, are they going to spend all day hunting the one meal, or since they had hands, which are designed for picking, wouldn't it be logical, common sense instincts to say they probably picked fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains, because that would last longer than five hours? And if that ran out, there's nothing left but meat, would they eat meat? Absolutely. They weren't vegetarians, but if you really want to talk about our ancestors and we should be eating like a caveman like we're told, but in fact there's only a 1.6% difference in another ancestor, the chimpanzee. So there is a 1.6% difference between a chimpanzee’s DNA and ours. We both have fingers, thumbs, fingernails, similar reproductive system, gestation is nine months, 32 teeth. We're the only species able to use tools. Chimpanzees’ diet is 90% to 95% plant-based, with the remaining percentage being insects, eggs and baby animals. They will eat meat, but only if they’re left with no other choice. Having said that, why aren’t there diet books out there telling us we should eat like a chimp instead of a caveman?
Allan (14:17): I agree with you there, but one of the thoughts that hit me as I was going through this section and thinking about this was, it’s pretty obvious that we’re food opportunists. If there's a drive through available, we're going to drive through it. If we leave bad food in our pantry, we're going to eat it. Some of the advice is, avoid the drive throughs, don't have bad food in your pantry because then you're more inclined to eat it. So I see humans as very opportunistic eaters, particularly when food was not necessarily always abundant. My ancestors would have been in Northeastern Europe, so there were winters and times of pretty bad famine where there wasn't much food around at all. So I do agree, they would be digging up roots and they would be doing other things. That said, they were very smart. They had tools and they were able to move and do things. They didn't want to get hurt any more than the others. If all these leafy greens and root vegetables were there, and everything they needed from a vegetable perspective – that vegetable is not going to strike back. I might get a thorn when I'm picking a berry, but that's going to be the worst of it.
But then the other side of it is when we start talking about – and we’ll get into this in a bit – fish and poultry, at least birds. They're not very dangerous to hunt, unless it's a piranha or a barracuda or something like that. But for the most part, fishing and killing birds is not a dangerous pastime, and not a bad thing. It's more difficult than picking off of a bush, but like I said, it's there. So I do believe that they probably would go out and do some hunting for small game. If they find a nest with eggs – they’re opportunistic, they would do that. They’d kill the bird, then they've got the bird. They’d go fishing if they have an opportunity to do that, if they're in an area where water is abundant and there's some fish. So, I think they're going to be opportunistic. Now, if a mammoth or some other bear or something is in the area, I do agree that they might pack-animal hunt that bear, if they felt like they could get it without hurting themselves and they felt like it would provide them with a really good meal and everybody would eat off of it. And then you're right, the rest of it would probably get wasted.
Dr. Friedman (16:40): But that bear probably was a lot quicker than the cavemen, so if you wanted to outrun them and eat them, you’d go a lot quicker, or they’re going to be gone.
Allan (16:49): But I think we would go as pack animals. I think we would surround them, we would use our intellect and we would have methodologies. I don't know if it's true, but there was a story of how Indians would effectively try to herd a buffalo off of a cliff, as a way of killing it, so that they didn't have to get hurt. Or when they had access to guns, one of the ways that they would want to hunt a buffalo would be to surround the buffalo and get it moving away from them. And if it didn't take care of itself, it's going to fall off the cliff, and then they've got what they were after. So I just see us as opportunistic eaters. If it's there, we're going to eat it and we're going to eat, I would say, the easiest sum game of effort versus benefit.
Dr. Friedman (17:35): The pathway of least resistance.
Allan (17:37): Yes, exactly. So I would see us like that, which would tell me when meat is there and it's easy to get, we'll get it. I don't know about you, but I do enjoy fish, I do enjoy chicken.
Dr. Friedman (17:51): So you and me eat the real cavemen diet, because that’s it.
Allan (17:56): And occasionally if our tribe had an opportunity to kill an animal that was going to provide red meat, like a bear or whatnot, I think we might rally the forces and say, “Hey, that last bear we ate tasted pretty good. Why don't we go get another one?” If it's opportunistic. I think that's really where this all comes about is, it's really difficult to say they would have only eaten vegetables, because they had to eat something else. When the vegetables were gone, what did my ancestors eat? Did they just go five, six months without eating at all, waiting for the vegetables to come back?
Dr. Friedman (18:33): The Paleo advocates and their philosophy is they tend to go against the grain, pun intended. And advocates of their diet tell us to eat a lot of red meat and stay clear of grains and legumes, which cavemen supposedly didn’t eat because of their lack of agricultural techniques. But using advancements in modern technology, fossilized remnants of beans and barley have been discovered between the teeth of cavemen. In fact, the University of Utah says 40% of the cavemen’s diet, we’re talking 3.5 million years ago, was our gluten, grains containing gluten. So that whole thing that 10,000 years ago is when we started eating grains, has been debunked. That’s another thing when we look at our ancestors. It really raises the question, what did we eat and do we really care? And my point is this: I don't care what the caveman ate. I just had this find out, because everyone's always saying to eat like a caveman. I care what our great grandparents ate, because that’s our direct line. If you look at our great grandparents, they were thinner, they were healthier, they didn’t have the cancer, they didn’t have the diseases we do. And I challenge people that are overweight and blame their genes; I say you can’t blame your genes on why you can’t fit into your jeans. Because in the early 1900s, 3% to 5% were overweight; today it’s 70%. But if you can show me a picture of your great grandma or grandfather and they were overweight, then go ahead and blame your DNA. So I tend to say, let’s eat like our great grandparents did. They didn't eat the hormones, the chemicals, the coloring, they didn’t eat the processed food. That's more my view, rather than Neanderthals, who didn't have stores back then. We do. Let’s eat like our grandparents did.
Allan (20:14): When I walk into a grocery store, I just cringe. I look at millions and millions of empty calories sitting on the shelves. About three quarters of my cart ends up being vegetables, and then I'm walking around the outside of the store getting the rest of my foods. You also went in and did the DIG method for the vegan diet as well. Can you spend a little bit of time on that?
Dr. Friedman (20:41): Yeah. It’s interesting, how we talked before about the one thing that people agree on is fruits, vegetables and plant-based have benefits. Not everybody agrees that the beef and the red meat does. So if you look at studies out there, the fruits, vegetables and grains… And we can talk about the gluten – that’s an interesting topic. Basically there’s still good and bad, because it is processed, you still have to deal with pesticides, you still have to deal with the soil. There are certain goods and bads with all food, including fruits and vegetables. So in the book I kind of show the good, the bad and the ugly of everything. But when you look at nature, when you look at natural-derived that’s not processed, that's not touched by Monsanto – fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains are great for us. There's no if, ands or buts. But man has kind of tainted a lot of that, and that's why you really have to start looking for organic, non-GMO.
One quick little tip to know if it’s organic – if you see the fruit, the vegetable, and you're not sure, look at the PLU code – it’s the Price Lookup Code. If you see a 9, it’s organic. If you see it starting with an 8, it's GMO. The saying I use is, “Nine is fine, eight isn’t great.” So if you see a 9 in front of it, it’s organic. That’s a little quick tip. And you want to go organic as much as you can. Some people ask if they should do everything organic. No. Here's the quick little rule of thumb, rather than memorizing the Dirty Dozen that people talk about by EWG, I say if you can get your fingernail and you can puncture the skin, probably you're going to get pesticides in there just as easy as you puncture the skin. So if it's easy to puncture, get organic. If it's not, don't worry about it. Avocados – don't worry about it. Bananas, pineapple, kiwi – not so much, because you can’t penetrate that. So that's just an easy little Friedman way of knowing, take the nails test. Don’t do it though in the store, you’re going to get in trouble. Just know if you've got grapes, you can puncture it – that's organic. Apple, puncture – that’s organic. Pear, easy to puncture – organic. Strawberries, that’s super easy to puncture – organic. Just a little easy way to know what fruits and vegetables you should and shouldn't have that are organic.
Allan (23:01): I like how you said it in the book as well. And my mantra is to buy local. You’ve got farmers that are growing seasonal vegetables right there in soil, and you can actually ask them, “How do you grow this? Do you use any pesticides? Do you use any fertilizers?” And talk to them about it. Find that farmer at the farmer's market or the co-op that's doing the things the way you want them done. It’s being transported less, which means it's going to retain more of its nutrition. In many cases when I’m talking to them, they picked the tomatoes they're selling me that day, that morning, right before they came. They got up at 6:00 in the morning to make the 8:00 farmer's market. They picked all those tomatoes themselves that morning. So I know that's going to be an awesome tomato, and it's organic, as it should be. It's going to give me much more nutrition than if I stopped at the local grocery store and picked one up there. Even if that one said “organic”, it's been transported for a lot longer distance and isn't quite as good for me.
Dr. Friedman (24:11): A lot longer, sometimes thousands of miles. There is no such thing as fresh food in Atlanta if you're buying it from California. It’s not fresh. It shipped all the way from there. When we talk about fruit, it's amazing what a bad rap it’s getting. I talk to all these experts that are saying to get off of all fruit because it contains sugar known as fructose. There's so many health advocates that recommend totally eliminating it, and what they believe is that fruit creates a sugar overload that can lead to obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes. In my opinion that’s taking things way too far. Fruit is an important part of the diet. It does have sugar, but so do vegetables. One cup of sweet potatoes contain 6 grams of sugar. It is the perfect food for diabetics. One stock of broccoli contains 2.6 grams of sugar. The reason eating sweet potatoes and broccoli won’t spike your blood sugar is because they contain a lot of fiber, which buffers out the sugar content. So when deciding which fruit to eat, it's important to look at the glycemic index. This measures how the fruit you eat will affect your blood sugar levels, and the best way to keep your blood sugar in balance is to eat fruits that have higher fiber and contain low GI. So instead of reaching for grapes and banana, opt for fruits high in fiber that have a low GI, like apples and blueberries. Even though these fruits are high in sugar – blueberries have a whopping 15 grams of sugar per cup – because of the fiber content, the natural fruit sugar is released slowly into the body, won't cause an unhealthy sugar spike. In spite of the high sugar, blueberries can actually reduce the risk of diabetes by 23%. Another option is an apple that’s full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals. It contains lots of fibers and it buffers out the fructose, keeping you from having an insulin spike. But don't peel the apple because that defeats the whole purpose. There's so much research out there showing that people who eat five or more apples per day are least likely to develop diabetes, and same with blueberries, which are loaded with sugar. So the whole concept, “Stay away from all fruits” is just ludicrous to me.
Allan (26:16): I have to admit, I’m a little bit more on the other side, and the reason is this. Like I said, I think people are opportunists when they eat and I think that we have a major sugar addiction problem in our country. And I think that when you start trying to get people off of sugar, one bit of advice that’s fairly common is to get off all of sugar for just a short amount of time. And then you can add the berries back in, you can add fruits like apples and pears and things like that in. And then to a lesser extent, some of those tropical plants, which have a higher glycemic index. I would typically say what I would do is just not eat fruit for a short period of time, till I got my sugar under control. And then they say, “What about the artificial sweeteners?” I say drop that too, because that's still teaching your body to want the sweetness from the foods. And if you get your palate set back down a little bit by not having the sweetness from the artificial sweetener and to some extent from the fruit, you get to a point where the fruit tastes better when you come back to it.
I remember when I was a kid, we used to add white sugar, just pour it on strawberries. We needed to do that. We’d do that with watermelon. We’d put sugar on our watermelon. And now if I eat a strawberry, it's one of the sweetest things I can taste. If it's a good, organic, fresh strawberry, it's awesome. Same thing with watermelon. I’m down in a part of the country where they grow a lot of watermelons, so it's available during the season. It's so sweet, so delicious, but it's because I've reset my palate to just not want those sweet things. So I think sometimes taking a break from it – not permanently, but a break from it to let your palate reset – isn't necessarily a bad idea.
Dr. Friedman (28:22): Then you don’t have to add the sugar to the strawberries because they already taste sweet.
Allan (28:26): Exactly. That’s where I was going with that, was to say, if you have a sugar addiction, I think that there's an opportunity for you to consider how fruit is contributing to that in the short run. If a short hiatus from it is going to make you appreciate it that much more, I think that's not a bad idea.
Dr. Friedman (28:43): Right. But they should never go back on those artificial sweeteners, because those are lousy. What’s so funny is there's no research showing that they help you lose weight or curb your appetite. When I researched it, it’s the opposite – they make you hungry, they make you eat more. University of Texas did a study showing there's a 41% increased risk of obesity for every one diet soft drink you consume that has these artificial sweeteners. And the average person doesn't drink one; they drink five. So you can imagine. And people that drink these artificial sodas think they're losing weight. Most of them are overweight, and years and years later, how's that working for you? It didn’t help.
Allan (29:19): It didn’t. That’s the calorie model. And I think they’re sugar-addicted, and that artificial sweetener is just causing them to eat more sugar across the board.
Dr. Friedman (29:29): Exactly. It makes you crave something. You're teasing your brain. It’s like, “That’s not real. Give me more.” So it makes you crave more carbs and sweets.
Allan (29:38): The research you did for this book just blew my mind. I was looking at the citations – there were over 700 citations in this book. You could have written eight books with that many citations, but you got this down into one good, concise thing. I think your simplified DIG model is a brilliant model. It's not simple, but it's easy to think through. It's a model that I think will work for anyone. You've done that, and now obviously with everything you've done with all the interviews, going through this process, what do you eat today?
Dr. Friedman (30:13): I live by a Flexitarian Diet, which is a marriage between the word “flexible” and “vegetarian”. Basically I'm eating like our real ancestors did, dealing with more plant-based and about 20% animal. I did look at all the different animal food and there's one that you really need to stay off of, and we can talk about deep into that. There's just so much science – like you saw, I looked at both sides – and that’s the beef. One thing that’s interesting, four years ago, the National Academy of Sciences shared a major discovery. They found a unique sugar called Neu5Gc, which is found in abundance in cows, but it's not found in humans. And when we eat this sugar, this molecule, it triggers an immune response that our body attacks. This leads to chronic inflammation, which has been linked to colon cancer, and among all victims of cancer, colon cancer is the second leading cause of death. So the more red meat you eat, the more likely you are to get colon cancer. The most authoritative report on colon cancer risk today was published by the World Cancer Research Fund International. They concluded almost half of colon cancer could be prevented if people just ate less red meat. And interestingly, Neu5Gc – inflammatory sugar – is just one atom different than a molecule that lines our blood vessels called Neu5Ac. We share this molecule with chickens and fish, so eat those foods with no inflammatory reaction. When we eat red meat our immune system can't tell the difference so our body ends up attacking our own blood vessels. This explains why red meat has been shown to increase heart disease. So more and more research out there. And it's so funny that you’ve got Johns Hopkins, Mayo Clinic, Harvard all saying red meat is not good. The good I found was endorsed by the American Cattle Association. So that's the one thing I’d stay away from. I do organic chicken – I think that's great. Fish – I’d love to chat more about that. That was my favorite food, and I debunk that mercury myth by far in my book. My big “a-ha” moment was discovering that. I think that's something that's never been discovered, and I had to dig because fish is not a moneymaker. They really make that the redheaded stepchild when it comes to food.
Allan (32:23): So basically primarily plant-based, and occasionally eating pastured organic chickens, pastured organic eggs, and then fish which is wild-caught and delicious.
Dr. Friedman (32:40): Yeah.
Allan (32:48): I think you either like fish or you don't like fish, but almost in no cases do I find a lot of people where fish is a staple for them. It's an occasional treat that they'll have. I don't think enough people eat enough fish.
Dr. Friedman (33:05): And I share this in the book. It's the least advertised, it’s the least promoted, it’s the least endorsed. In fact, the FDA says to stay away from it. It causes mercury, it’s polluted waters. And every expert that I’ve heard says to cut back on fish, mercury, mercury. I love fish. And I used to preach the same thing. It’s like I’m preaching what they told me to preach. I was like, “Let me dig in. Is it true?” So I actually went in and looked at this mercury thing, and the truth is that the oceans are not the mercury-laden cesspools that we’re lead to believe. In Food Sanity I debunk this myth. There are cultures around the world that eat fish daily, sometimes three times a day, and their blood tests, Allan, show no mercury toxicity. They're the epitome of good health. And then I looked at pregnant females that are scared, that avoid certain types of fish because they supposedly contain mercury that can harm the unborn fetus. There's simply no credible resource to support this. In fact, evidence shows quite the opposite. Cultures where pregnant females eat a diet primarily of fish, mostly tuna, have healthier children with higher IQ scores than mothers avoiding fish. Mercury is a naturally occurring element found in soil, air, water and food, and we hear so much about the dangers of mercury in fish, but cattle products contain mercury, and mushrooms, and high-fructose corn syrup contains it. That's our fruit juices and cereals. Here’s why the mercury in fish is not a concern. Mercury cannot cause harm unless it occurs in extremely high enough levels to inhibit selenium-dependent enzymes, which naturally protect the cells of the brain. So in other words, if fish contains more selenium than mercury, it cancels out the mercury that is absorbed by the body. In Food Sanity I have a chart of 18 of the most commonly eaten fish. All of them, except the mako shark, have more selenium than mercury. Folks, play it safe. If you’re at a restaurant and you see mako shark on the menu, don’t order it. The other wild-caught fish are good for you. Enjoy them, you’re not going to have mercury poisoning. It’s just not a factor.
Allan (34:57): I was actually happy to hear that, because I had moved away from swordfish. I do eat some tuna, but a lot less. I’m more on the sardines. In this part of the country, in Florida, if you don't eat grouper and red snapper and cobia – shame on you, because they're delicious, and they're local. So, Dr. Friedman, thank you so much for this book. I know I say this to a lot of my guests, but you did your research, you've put together an awesome model for us to think about food. You've blended ideas of the two sides of an argument that seldom see the same as the other. And the basis is, let's eat whole foods. Let's get the nutrition our body needs by finding the most nutritious, healthy food we can find, and let's just eat that. I really think that's the core message of the book. So, thank you for sharing Food Sanity with us. If someone wanted to get in touch with you, learn more about the book, where would you like for me to send them?
Dr. Friedman (36:04): For the book they can go to FoodSanity.com. And as you see, the book was so thick. I actually had 92 pages of recipes that I couldn't include. So I actually created an e-book and that book is for free. You can download that at FoodSanity.com. It’s a nice compilation book that goes with Food Sanity. So that’s available, and you can have over 30 recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to see how easy it is to eat healthy. You don't have to compromise taste. And then to stay in touch with me and learn more, you can go to DrDavidFriedman.com, and you can see some of my blog posts, articles, and you can get all my social media contacts as well from DrDavidFriedman.com.
Allan (36:43): Cool. This is going to be episode 331, so you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/331 and I’ll be sure to have links to everything Dr. Friedman mentioned there. Again, Dr. Friedman, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Friedman (36:59): Thank you, Allan. It was a lot of fun. I appreciate it.
Allan (37:06): I do hope that you enjoyed that conversation with Dr. Friedman. His DIG method and the book are excellent, and something I think you should read, see how he's applying the DIG method to various types of foods. It really is a great conversation that he's having with you in the book to explain exactly why a food may or may not be good for you. Going through the science, going through instinct things, and then of course getting into how this really fits ourselves using this DIG method. It is really a wonderful tool and a wonderful book, so I do encourage you to go out and get that book.
It has been a really, really busy couple of weeks here, as I was working on my book, working and preparing my presentations for Ketofest. I did go to Ketofest and had a great time. Did four training classes. The classes were relatively small in size, which made it even nicer because I had a chance to really work directly with folks and help them through the exercises. I had all the way from advanced to beginner. There was something in there for everybody, and I got a lot of good feedback from that. My talk went really well. We did have some technical issues. I was the first speaker of the day, so you kind of have to expect that’s going to happen. I had to start a little bit late and the streaming didn't work and I don't think the recording worked. So, a lot of the technical stuff. But I had a great audience and I feel like I had a really good talk. And I got a lot of good feedback after the talk. It’s one of those things where I just enjoy sharing and having those opportunities to help people. And it's really nice to have that face time with them. And so I met some new people. I was able to see Richard and Carl from 2 Keto Dudes again, and some people I knew from last year. I actually even got to have dinner with a client, which was really, really cool. So, Ketofest is over.
I'm about a week out, I think, from getting my final draft to the editor. So I think the heavy lifting on my book is done and I'm kind of excited about that because I have this thing in mind called The Wellness GPS Challenge, and I'm going to launch that in a few weeks' time. Normally my challenges will have upwards of 100, 200, almost 300 people in some of them, but this one I'm going to have to limit to 20. So what I'm going to do this time that's a little different is I'm creating a waiting list, and if you're interested in joining the waiting list, you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/GPS. From there you can get on the waiting list. You'll be the first to find out about it. And if the 20 slots fill up from just me sending the email to the GPS waiting list, then I'm done. I won't announce it on a podcast, I won't announce it in the Facebook group, and I won't email anyone else. I'm only going to email this waiting list and give them some time to sign up.
This challenge is going to be a 7-day challenge to help you set your Wellness GPS, which is in my mind the single most important thing you have to do if you want to be successful in your health and fitness. A lot of people will start something and then they fizzle out, and the reason they fizzle out is because they never really set their GPS. I see people start things and hurt themselves, and the reason they hurt themselves is because they never set their Wellness GPS. The Wellness GPS is a tool I've developed to help people get a really, really good start, and each and every time they're starting to struggle in their journey, they'll always have that GPS with them to keep them on track and on their way. So it's a really cool tool. It works with my clients today, I use it, and I'm looking forward to teaching 20 new people exactly how to do the Wellness GPS. Like I said, I'm working with you hand in hand, so this is not a phone in an email kind of thing. I'm literally with you, so I can only handle 20. They come from the waiting list, so do join the waiting list by going to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/GPS. I look forward to seeing your name there and I look forward to connecting with you and getting on with this challenge. It'll start in a few weeks, but I just want to get the waiting list going, so I know who is interested and I can talk directly to you. Thank you.
Hello and thank you for being a part of the 40+ Fitness podcast. I’m really excited to have you here today and I’m really excited to share today’s show with you. It’s going to be a solo episode. I got a lot of great feedback from the last one, so I did promise you and I am going to continue to give you some of these solo shows. And the topic we’re talking about today called “Modes of Transportation” is really, really important. It’s something that you really need to make sure you understand before you get into your wellness journey, until you get into your path. It’s a part of what I call the “Wellness GPS”.
What I find is so many people struggle to know what to do when, where to go, how to get there, and when they run into a problem, they really don’t have the tools to break away and get through what’s going on. So they’re in a plateau, they don’t know how to get around that. They get into a roadblock or they hit a stumble or a pot hole. They don’t know how to get around that. If you’ve set your GPS right, it will help you do those things, and if you’ve set your Wellness GPS well, you’ll know how to react and do the right things for your wellness.
I want to help you do that, so to do that, I’m going to launch a challenge. It’s going to be called the Wellness GPS Challenge. This is going to be a short-term challenge – I’m thinking probably something in the realm of about seven days. We’re going to walk through each and every step of the Wellness GPS path, get you completely set up to almost guarantee success.
My clients that have used this strategy, used this approach – they get results, and I want you to get results too.
Now, because I’m going to be working directly with you, I can’t bring on a whole lot of people to do this. It’s going to be a very small group, like 20 people. I’m only going to allow 20 people in, and if you want to be a part of it, you need to be on the waiting list, because I’m going to contact the waiting list first, allow 24 hours for them to join, and then I’ll start looking to announce it on the podcast and otherwise. But the first 20 slots are going to go to people that are on the waiting list if they want it. So you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/GPS. And when you sign up on that mailing list, you’ll be getting some emails from me to let you know what the timing is and what we’re going to be doing, and then we’re going to go ahead and launch it. If I get to 20 just from this mailing list, then I’m done. So if you don’t want to miss out on this offer of being a part of the Wellness GPS challenge, I encourage you to go join that mailing list today. Again, that’s at 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/GPS.
Let’s get into our topic – modes of transportation. So I want to set the scene for you. I was probably about five years into my wellness journey, as it would be, and basically it was a yo-yo experience, to say the least. At this particular time though I was in generally good shape. I felt really good, I’d been working out, things were going pretty well, but my work schedule was just getting insane. I was traveling about 90%, and this was one of those rare weekends that I was at home and I just decided I didn’t want to do anything. I was jet lagged, I was tired, so I’m sitting on the couch just pretty much working my thumb. It’s a Sunday morning and I’m flipping between Face the Nation and various infomercials. So as I’m flipping the channels and watching stuff, all of a sudden this commercial comes on for a program called Insanity. You might’ve heard of it – it’s from the same people who did P90X and all the Beachbody people. And this was Shaun T, and this dude looked great. The folks behind him were moving, they were exercising. It all looked really good. And what was really cool about it was that they didn’t need any equipment to do the work they were doing. I was like, “Wow, I travel a lot, it’s really hard for me to find a gym at points in time with all the travel I’m doing. This might actually be the answer.” So of course I get my credit card out, I dial the 1-800 number and I order the stuff.
I come back from my next business trip, and there it is in my mailbox. I was really, really excited about it, so I just decided to rip the covers off, see what’s in it. I knew that I couldn’t carry all these DVDs with me. There were about 12 of them or so. I couldn’t carry all of them with me, so I was saying, “What do I need to do? First thing I’ll do, I’ll rip all these to my computer. I’m getting on another trip soon, and instead of having the DVDs with me, it’d be easier if it’s on my computer. I’ll be more likely to do it on the road.” So I did that first, knowing myself, knowing I needed to have it handy if I was going to use it. Then as soon as I got done with that, I put the first DVD in and it was a fitness test. So I do this fitness test and I really push myself because I want to know how well this does, so I’m going to really push myself to do this fitness test. And it was hard. Not just hard; it was really, really hard. The next day I was basically incapacitated. I felt like I’d been strapped to my bed and beat with a baseball bat. I woke up and I felt so bad, and I really didn’t want to get up. I knew I had to get ready for work and I was laying there and I finally decided, “I’m so much pain, I won’t be able to concentrate. This won’t be a good day for me.” So I called in sick. It’s kind of embarrassing now to look back at it. It’s a little funny, but at the time I was really embarrassed that I pushed myself so hard in a workout that I literally can’t go.
I only tell you that story because I think a lot of us actually approach our health and fitness thinking, “I’ve got to get this done now.” The body weight, the things that we’re trying to get rid of, the things we’re trying to do. We didn’t get into the shape we were in just a couple of weeks, in a couple of days, in a couple months. But I think a lot of us have this general mindset that we want it now. And one of the things that’s going to be a limiting factor, and I’ve talked about this a lot on the show, is just physically what we’re capable of doing. I think in a sense we all know that if we push ourselves too hard, we’re going to break.
But there’s another point to pace that I really want you to take to heart. And it’s the one that’s really the hardest for us to deal with, because we’re gung-ho and we all want to get there – and that is, what vehicle are we going to have to choose to go? The vehicle we choose is going to determine the pace with which we get there. So, in a normal example, if I wanted to drive from here in my home in Pensacola Beach to Hattiesburg, it’s about a 3-hour drive. I’ve done that drive so many times I could do it with my eyes closed. It’s a relatively straight flat road. If I got into a sports car, I could probably get there in two and a half hours easy. I’ll break a couple of speed limits here and there. I know where to not break the speed limits by now, but I’d go really quick. It’s a really easy road, I know the way. Boom, I’m there. It’s just me and the car, and I’m in Hattiesburg. So if I want to be in Hattiesburg for a football game, I’m there. No problem.
So, if you’re single, got nothing else going on in your life, no other troubles, no other problems, no other passengers or baggage – sure, hop in the sports car and get there. As much as your body will allow you to do so, that should be your pace. That can be your pace. But unfortunately many of us do have baggage and passengers. So if I wanted to go to a football game, but I also wanted to set up the tailgate for everybody – I can’t take the sports car now because I can’t carry the tent, the chairs, the grill, the food, the cooler – all the different things that I would want for the tailgate. Now I have to bring my pickup truck. The pickup truck doesn’t handle as quickly as the sports car. It can’t go quite as fast and it’s not going to get there in the same amount of time. So now with the truck, it might take me three hours to get there, which is actually substantially more than two and a half when you sit down and do the math. But because I need to carry the baggage of the stuff in my life, it’s going to take me longer. So, if I have a job that has me working 18-hour days, I won’t be able to work out as often as I may have wanted to work out. If I have some other issues going on with people that are going to want to have food and I want a social life and I want to go tailgate, then I have baggage that’s going to keep me from moving as fast as I might have moved if I didn’t have that baggage. So I have to take the pickup truck – it’s going to take me longer to get there. If I can’t do the things I need to do all the time, without regard to any other timing, any other thing, I might have some difficulty getting there as quickly. And I have to accept that. That acceptance is a very, very important thing.
Before we really get into the acceptance though, I want to talk about the final one, and that is, what if I have passengers? So what if I have six people that want to travel with me to the game? I can’t take the truck because I can’t sit six people in my truck. Now I’m going to have to buy a bus or rent a bus, and the bus is going to be a little harder for me to handle. I might not be as familiar with the transmission, I’m going to have to slow down. And then invariably one of the six or seven of us that are going might have to go to the bathroom while we’re on there. So we’re probably going to be taking a few more pitstops, particularly if those passengers happen to be your children. So, recognizing that you have people in your life that are going to slow you down, you have stuff in your life, events, work, the gym closes, all these different things that can happen that are going to potentially slow you down – you have to set your mind to understand that there is going to be a pace of movement that is going to be most appropriate for you and the lifestyle you want and need and have.
I define wellness as being the happiest, healthiest, most fit person you can be, and I put happiness in there for a reason. Not having baggage can be great, not having passengers can be great. But I’m thinking to be the happiest person you want to be, you’re going to have the baggage, you’re going to have the passengers, you’re going to have those special events. You’re going to have the people – your children, your spouse. You’re going to have those people in your life, so you have to make sure that your fitness journey, the way you set all of this up basically is strategized to deal with that. You may have passengers, or baggage, or you may have both. So you have to choose the appropriate mode of transportation which is going to then reflect into the pace with which you see movement, with which you see the journey happen. Once you satisfy yourself with understanding that that’s how all of this works, it becomes a lot easier for you to accept that you don’t have to feel the acceleration of a sports car to know that you’re moving forward, as long as you stay the path and you keep moving forward. So, getting your mindset on the front end of what is possible and how you’re going to get there, with which vehicle and what that pace is going to be like, is going to go a long way towards helping you reach your goals.
I want to close with one other thing, and I know this is going to be a really short episode. This is a really, really important topic that you need to think about and wrap your mind around, because if you really do want to meet your goals, if you have certain fitness goals that you want to meet – it’s not if you’re going to meet those goals. You must meet those goals. Your health and fitness, your wellness should be the most important thing to you right now, and if it is, then you’re going to want to pick the right vehicle, and then just understand that it’s not if, it’s when you reach certain goals. If right now I wanted to train for a 10K, I have my wife, I have a couple of trips that are coming up. I have to consider the baggage and the passengers to decide, can I do a 10K? Am I capable of doing a 10K in six weeks, or maybe I need to sign up for the next one? I still have it. It’s still there, I still set it up. It’s just a different 10K at a slightly offset time, and I’m doing that because I’m being responsible to understanding what my baggage and my passengers are. And if you’ll do that, that’s going to lend into the whole happiness thing because you’re getting what you want out of your life and you’re meeting your goals. So it’s not if, it’s when. And now you’re on the path and you know you’re going at the pace that’s appropriate for you.
Closing, I do want to leave with one other thing. There are the passengers, there is the baggage, but you are the driver on your wellness journey, period. You have to make some hard decisions, and that might mean at points in time, asking your spouse to eat a little differently or to help you deal a little differently. It might mean telling your children they really can’t have Oreos in the cupboard all the time because you’re trying to accomplish a certain thing. It might mean that you skip a time out with your friends to go do a run because your actual race is coming up really quick. Those are the tradeoffs you’re going to make, but to get the full balance of what we’re trying to get out of wellness, which is happiness, health and fitness, you’re going to have to really tie into understanding the pace that’s the most appropriate to you. That’s not just what your body is capable of doing; it’s what your life is capable of supporting.
So, take some time to think about the pace with which you should be working towards your wellness goals, and then make that your reality. Make those goals happen when they’re supposed to happen for you. You’ll be so much happier, healthier and more fit, and therefore, well.
On episode 329 of the 40+ Fitness Podcast, we meet Dr. Joel Kahn and discuss his book, The Plant-Based Solution.
Allan (0:46): Our guest today is a world leading cardiologist, a best-selling author, and a popular lecturer who inspires others to think scientifically and critically about the body's ability to heal through proper nutrition. He serves as a clinical professor of medicine at the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, and is founder of the Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity. He also opened a restaurant for healthy food called GreenSpace Cafe. With no further ado, here's Dr. Joel Kahn.
Dr. Khan, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Kahn (1:20): Good day. Wherever you're listening, whatever time of day. And thank you, I'm excited to be on this and chat about some important stuff with you.
Allan (1:29): And it is very important. There's so much information out there, that I think it's hard for people to really grasp how much diet means, and then actually get to the bottom of, what is a good eating strategy for us to be healthy, to live longer, to have energy, to do all the things we want to do in our lives? We need good nutrition to do those things. Your book The Plant-Based Solution, I think is a very good primer for someone that wants to understand the eating style of being a vegan. So I appreciate this because there was a lot of information, a lot of science in here, a lot of things that I sat back for a moment and pondered. There are not many health and fitness books that do that to me anymore, because I've read so many. But yours was one where I sat down and read it, and then I wanted to just absorb what that study was about, or absorb what you were talking about in one of your classic rants in this book. So again, I appreciate the opportunity to have this conversation with you.
Dr. Kahn (2:32): Thank you very much. I appreciate the podcast both takes time and effort, and the whole idea is to have an impact.
Allan (2:39): Yes, absolutely. I think one of the things that I found really interesting as I got into it was that folks will try an eating style, and vegan is what I would term as a more restrictive eating style than a lot of others. You had a background in having somewhat of a restrictive eating style, and then you noted in the book that when the eating style is associated with ethics, that it has a much better uptake than when we're just doing it for health reasons. I think that's a commitment thing that comes out of that, because of the emotion associated with it. But let's take a moment and get into CAFOs the and how our meat now is produced, because I think that's one of the big stepping stones for people that want to consider. Can you tell us a little bit about how our meat is produced and what's going on out there? Because we're trying to feed almost 8 billion people as we go, but we're not doing a very good job of managing our resources, are we?
Dr. Kahn (3:45): No. There is pressure to produce food for more people, and it lead 60-70 years ago to adopting some of the strategies that Henry Ford and production lines, assembly lines did in my home town of Detroit to make higher production and more efficiency. But that meant concentrating animals not free to graze and live a life of clover and grass, but putting them into buildings without sunlight, with food that was cost-effective and rapid growing, but not their natural food, nor the healthiest food. And it's led to both a nutritional disaster and an environmental disaster. And if you care at all and have been around for the last decade, you can’t help but have seen on occasion videos, that despite all these tough laws and trying to keep the public isolated from the idea that their burger or steak actually ever was connected to a living animal with feelings that probably went through absolute hell to end up on their plate – if you care at all about that, you realize this system has to change. Even the media industry and visionaries – Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines and such are talking about, this is the worst thing we could have created, and it will be different from technology.
But the pressure there is still to feed a lot of mouths, and I agree. I’ll just make one comment on your intro. A fully plant-based diet is restrictive in that at Thanksgiving and some corporate functions, there's going to be a moment that you pause, because the things on the table may not all meet your criteria. But almost every health diet out there is different than the standard American fare. And it requires some restriction, mindfulness and decision-making, until we have it that a corporate celebration, a hospital celebration, National Nurses Day actually is carrots, celery, hummus, salad and bean burgers, which is not what's happening now. It's ice cream, cakes, donuts and sugary drinks, all versions; it's not just the plant-based vegan version. I've had lunch sometimes with some of my friends that would sit on the other side of the table doing hardcore Paleo, hardcore keto diets. And they have more difficulty than I do eating in a cafeteria, eating at an office building where we lectured on a panel. So, nutritional excellence takes work and nutritional excellence is crucial. But I think sometimes it's easier just to grab an apple, a banana, an orange or some steamed broccoli than it is to try and construct the perfect alternative health movement menus of the Paleo movement, even the Mediterranean diet. Garbage food is everywhere. That's still the “go-to”, unfortunately.
Allan (6:57): I agree. I've tried various types of eating styles, and you're right – you have to be thoughtful about it, you have to be mindful about it. Probably to me that might be one of the best benefits of the vegan diet initially, is that it really gets you thinking about the food that you're putting in your body. There's a lot of science to back up the vegan diet from a health perspective, but there's actually also a lot of science out there that supports the DASH Diet, which is an Americanized version of the Mediterranean diet. You talked about the DASH diet a little bit in your book and you cited some studies where the DASH diet was actually put forward as a healthy diet. And then you said there's also a vegan version of the Mediterranean diet that they could have included in the study but didn't. Can you go a little bit into the DASH diet and why maybe having a small amount of meat and some fish is a problem?
Dr. Kahn (8:00): I think a lot of the public, if you ask them questions about what's a Mediterranean diet, would be like a Jimmy Kimmel interview on the street and you'd get all kinds of interesting responses. The Med diet might be Meditation diet or something. Trying to define what is the Mediterranean diet, even amongst health experts engenders controversy, but amongst the public, it's probably almost uninterpretable. When indeed it’s, reduce red meat, fish if you choose, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, wine and olive oil. That's the traditional Mediterranean diet. There is a cardiologist in England trying to turn the Mediterranean diet into a low-carb, high-fat version and taking away all the grains and putting in coconut oil. It's a total insanity. I only point that out because we disagree about some things.
The DASH diet stands for Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension. It's a research study that our government has done twice, paid for twice – DASH1 and DASH2. It’s a way to eat to reduce the burden of high blood pressure on the public health. In fact, high blood pressure worldwide is the single number one cause of death from its consequences – heart disease, kidney disease, strokes, blood vessel disease like aneurysms, so it's a big deal. And they did it further and they repeated it. You’re right – when the planning committee went to sit down and they positioned Dr. Frank Sacks from Harvard, it really was geared to be a vegetarian diet, and then they backed off before they launched it, saying that they don't think the acceptance amongst the public was going to take a full vegetarian diet. So they allowed it to be a version of the Mediterranean diet, I agree. It proved to be beneficial and it proved that reducing salt, adding in plants, cutting back red meat, increasing your whole grains, fruits and vegetables was beneficial and lowered blood pressure. Even though that's 10 to 15-year-old news, lately when the US news and world report rates the overall best diet for anyone in America to follow, the DASH diet is popped up as number one on the list, and that's reasonable. It's way better than what most people are eating. You can always refine it, but if we could instantly flip the switch and every work cafeteria, hospital cafeteria, vending machine all supported only the DASH diet, we'd be, from a health standpoint, way down the road towards a better place.
Allan (10:30): It's funny how much people will take something that works and there's a study saying, “This diet's great”, and then they want to spin it a little bit and add something or take something away and say, “This should be just as good.” There's no science behind coconut oil with the DASH diet, so obviously it's not the DASH diet. I understand what they're trying to do there with the big popularity of ketosis and ketogenic diet. I don't know that adapting the Mediterranean diet to that style is going to give you the same health effects that you would have had with that. And I'm guessing also with the DASH diet and him trying to make it a little bit more fatty, that we're talking about adding a little bit more olive oil than you would normally have in a DASH diet. You're not a big fan of olive oil. Could you talk a little bit about that?
Dr. Kahn (11:22): Yeah. I actually want to make sure – let me just quickly circle back. You asked about how food is produced, particularly meat. More than 95% of any meal an American is eating, whether it's a burger, a piece of pork, a piece of chicken, a piece of beef, other fowl, turkey, are not out there enjoying life like Sound of Music and Julie Andrews. They’re in contained, high-efficiency organizations called CAFOs – confined animal factory organizations. And because of the inability of these animals to have any kind of reasonable fresh air, fresh food, free existence, there are horrible abusive practices – the need for antibiotics is uniform. In fact I think it's about 85% of all antibiotics in the United States are given to animals in this setting to allow them to live long enough without mass infection, to allow the manufacturer to garner some profits from selling them to a slaughter house. Plus hormones to grow them as quick as possible, plus terrible, terrible, terrible abuse. The workers in these CAFOs suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder, and others suffering premature diseases from the occupational exposure to unbelievable dust and chemicals, as well as just the emotional stress of dealing with this situation. And then they spill all the contents into surrounding ground water. The unbelievable quantities of manure and such have to be dealt with.
So it's easy, and you hear many meat-based podcasts talking about that they’re absolutely in agreement that CAFO raised meat is the worst choice amongst any animal eater. But when you get down to the reality, if you live near whole foods and you’ve got a few extra dollars, you can buy all the grass-fed beef you want – maybe that's a better choice. But for 95% plus of Americans, eating at a work cafeteria, hospital cafeteria, vending machine or in fast food, even most restaurants – they're not getting that. They're supporting the CAFO world and they're experiencing a dirty form of food for their own health.
And then you get to olive oil, in teaching that's promoted by both the Harvard School of Public Health and a very well-known and close friend of mine, Dr. David Katz of Yale. When we talk about a single food you want to talk about, is it good, is it bad, is it healthy, but what are you using it in place of? There's clear cut data from the Harvard School of Public Health that if your “go to” is ghee, butter and lard to sauté, to cook, to spread on bread, as is a common practice – lard on bread – and you substitute, unbelievably, vegetable oils or olive oil as a slightly different vegetable oil than, let’s say, safflower oil, sunflower oil, that you will lower your risk of developing heart disease by that substitute. And in a very large study last July, it was estimated with way over 100,000 data points that if you switch to vegetable oils, and I’d put in the word “organic” right away, you can actually lower your risk of heart attacks and such by 25% plus percent. And if you substitute olive oil, it's actually not as much of an advantage, but it's still about a 10% advantage compared to lard, butter and ghee. So it's the better choice for somebody that says, “I'm putting something slimy or oily or greasy on my food.”
Then you still ask the basic question, what’s in olive oil? And it's mainly what are called monounsaturated fatty acids, which is better than the mixes on lard, butter and ghee. There still is a reasonable amount of saturated fat. It's plant-based saturated fat, but our body doesn't always discern where it's coming from; about 15%. And there's a mix of data out there. I'm a cardiologist – if you're dealing with serious heart disease, and there's millions of people out there that are, and you're wanting to use your diet to prevent serious heart disease, stop serious heart disease, or reverse serious heart disease, as has been shown to be possible by Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, approved by Medicare as an authorized treatment plan for heart patients – oil drops out of the picture. It's actually dropped out of the picture since the 1940s, when some very bright researchers identified that diets free of added fats, diets free of added oils, actually seemed to make heart patients live longer. So in my world, olive oil is not a health food for the sick heart patients that I’m seeing in my office. You're 28 years old, you're at a restaurant and you could make the choice of putting a creamy, buttery dressing on your salad or a mixture of balsamic and olive oil – for the reason I just told you…
You’ve got to be as careful with olive oil as you’ve got to be with your meat source. There's a lot of fraud and the olive oil world and you can pay extra for extra virgin olive oil at the store and not always is it extra virgin olive oil. It's more expensive, so it's a no brainer for people with no ethics to put in a cheaper version and charge more. So you want to get a good source, know where it’s coming from. Spain, Italy, Greece are some of the big countries that you might want to strive to find a better source from. So, I do not live a complete olive oil free diet. I don't have heart disease and I know that as a fact. I do the proper testing. But I keep it very, very light. Now, in my restaurants – I own three restaurants – we always have a multitude of entrees that require no oil to produce, to allow patients who are following that to have an option that's healthy and without oil. You sauté in water, you sauté in wine. It's an easy process to cook without oil.
Allan (17:38): Yes. Now, with any diet that is going to be restricting certain foods, limits certain foods that we're just not going to eat – there's the potential that we're not going to get all the nutrition that we need. In being mindful of, if we're going to go vegan, what are the supplements that we would need to consider because we're just not getting enough of them or any of them from our foods?
Dr. Kahn (18:06): I want to just intro this. If you construct an entirely vegan diet – a whole food, plant-based, lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds diet – the odds are your health will be enhanced. It's not a 100% guarantee, but the odds are very favorable. Let's talk about the things you're not going to need if you, early in life or anytime in life, follow the whole food, plant-based diet. Many medications, Viagra been one, diabetic medications, blood pressure medications, heart medications – it’s not 100% guarantee, but you are favoring the chance that you’re not going to need to be that. I’m almost 60 years old, I've had the pleasure of being completely plant-based for 40 years, which started as an accident, but it was a very good accident. I was 18 years old. Now I’m taking no prescription drugs and feel good every day. That's a pretty good place to be as you're approaching 60, and I wish that on everybody. A healthy plant diet is a great foundation to get to that point. But if you're going to eat nothing but plants, beans, seeds, grains and such, you want to be cognizant that B12 is in dirt, and cows graze on dirt and their meat gets enriched with B12 because they’re beasts. If we would get down and eat some dirty carrots, we wouldn't need to consider supplementing, but we do. It’s just inappropriate to be on long-term completely plant diet and not be aware that B12 can be a deficient nutrient. It's in some soy milks and hemp milks and such. But take a B12 pill three or four times a week.
Vitamin D is a challenging nutrient for everybody to get – meat eaters, fish eaters, plant eaters. There’s a lot in mushrooms. A lot of the plant milks are fortified with vitamin D as is cow milk, but Dr. Michael Greger recommends, I recommend 2,000 international units of vitamin D3 a day, maybe 250 micrograms of vitamin B12 three, four, five times a week. And finally the new one on the block is Omega-3. Fish don't make Omega-3 fatty acids like EPA, DHA. Fish eat algae, algae make it. So now there are algae-based supplements that have EPA, DHA, just enough to make sure you're getting enough to make your membranes in your brain and your other organs work optimally. Adding in one a day. There are some multivitamins out there for vegans that have all of these; makes it brainless. There's a spray out there you can take that has all these and it makes it very easy and brainless. It's a very, very small price, literally in terms of what it costs, and habit-wise to say, “I've constructed the whole food, plant-based diet that favors longevity and health. I've watched the amount of oils or limited them. I take a couple of vitamins a day.” Really in my practice of advanced cardiology in Detroit, where everybody gets nutritional testing, my meat eaters are missing as much or more than plant eaters. Be a smart plant-eater, not a sloppy one.
Allan (21:17): I think there were two really good points that you had in there. One is that we have a need for some of these. If we're eating whole foods, and I think that's one of the big things I want to put out there, they are not manufactured in a box foods. These are the whole foods. You get them in the produce section, you get them at the farmer's market, and you're starting from that base. The other side of this that I wanted to get into was that you had mentioned that you can actually get a blood test for vitamin D and vitamin B12. You can actually test for that when you get your labs done. I don't think there's anything for Omega-3 at this point.
Dr. Kahn (22:02): There is, there is. If your healthcare provider doesn't want to do it, some of the online companies like WellnessFX or LifeExtension.com – you can pay to get an Omega-3 blood level and such. So they are out there and I do them on every patient. Some of my patients are so deficient in Omega-3, and what follows that is your cholesterol goes up, inflammation goes up, sometimes blood sugar goes up. And you don't need a diabetic drug, a cholesterol drug or a blood pressure drug. You need to start eating two tablespoons a day of ground flaxseed and maybe some hemp, maybe some chia seeds, walnuts, leafy greens, and maybe taking one small capsule a day of algae Omega-3. I routinely six weeks later repeat their blood work, and the Omega-3 levels are up and all those other numbers are down. Sophisticated but really widely available nutritional analysis should be pretty darn good at this stuff.
Allan (23:04): Now, one of the important things that’s out there when people are going to try to start something is, I think, having a plan that gets us at least into it long enough. Three weeks – 21 days – is probably enough time for you to start recognizing some of the health benefits to get some of the hard parts of it out of the way. You actually have a plant-based solution – 21-day menu set in here that I think is actually quite brilliant, because there's enough variety there. We're not talking all you're going to get is celery and carrots. These are actually foods, whole food meals that you can get by with, and you actually recognize as a meal, not a salad all the time. Do you want to take a few moments to talk about your 21-day menu and the recipes?
Dr. Kahn (23:58): Sure, thank you for that. I am not a culinary trained chef. I mentioned it briefly, I do own three restaurants – two in Detroit, one in Austin, Texas, that are completely plant-based. So I'm around food people, I employ food people, I research food people, but I am in the kitchen a pretty primitive guy. I'll tinker around and make some mistakes, but I'm not making mirepoix. The 21-day program is based… First of all, many, many people say that when they feel better is when they switched from their previous diet to a plant-based diet. And after about three weeks the dairy is gone, then the processed food is gone, and the fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds have been increased. And number two, it takes about that long to acquire the taste there. Some people are just aren’t grooving on Brussels sprouts and such. You sometimes can bite into an apple and it's an explosion of flavor after a few weeks of not having had a burger, bacon, cheese fries, and eating in a healthier pattern.
So that's the three-week part and why, and more importantly the recipes are simple. Let’s get some simple breakfast with overnight oats, overnight chia pudding, easy smoothies, chickpea omelets, some stir fries for breakfast. Frankly, I didn't put it in the book – half of Europe eats salad for breakfast. When you go to the salad bar in a European hotel, just cut up some cucumbers and tomatoes and mint and cilantro, and if you're into it, some olive oil, and you'll be in a good place. And then, also simple lunches. The one that's been the biggest hit in the book is a chickpea mash. I take a tuna sandwich to work every day. What am I going to take instead of a tuna sandwich? Well, get two pieces of good whole grain bread like Killer Dave’s or Ezekiel, put a chickpea mash in the middle. You don't need to do it with mayonnaise and eggs and high fat. There are now some plant-based mayonnaises out there. Put a lot of spices. Almost all the recipes enjoy health-boosting benefits of turmeric, ginger, garlic, parsley, rosemary and such. This chickpea mash has been great. And then we just need a few staples for dinner. We need a good soup, a good chili, a good casserole. For people who are on the move, one good bean burger. So there's a variety of choices in this three-week eating plan that really will satisfy most everybody. There’s the ability to explore, people can alter the recipes a bit. Some people don't like cilantro, some people do. Some people hate mushrooms, some people like them. I think people will find it pleasing. They come right out of my kitchen. They’re not gourmet recipes out of my restaurant that might challenge people. It would be practical. And I think at the end of three weeks, maybe a few pounds less, maybe a little bit clearer skin, maybe a little better digestive track with less heartburn and easier bowel movement. These will be some of the expectations people could actually expect to see happen.
Allan (27:23): As I look at and think about all the different eating styles that are out there – and they're coming up with new ones every day, it seems like – I just want to put this out there, that vegetables have to be a core of our diet. They are going to be what's providing us with the nutrition, the fiber, all the things that are going to keep us healthy. So any move that you can make towards a more plant-based, and by that we mean whole food, plant-based diet – I believe is a helpful decision. I really appreciate the opportunity to review your book. Like I said, it had me thinking through things, at times just stopping to meditate on them. I learned a lot and I really appreciate the opportunity to have you on the podcast. If someone wanted to learn more about you, learn more about the book, where would you like for me to send them?
Dr. Kahn (28:10): Probably the central point where I live on the web is my website, DrJoelKahn.com. Lots of blogs, lots of YouTube connections, Twitter connections, Instagram connections, Facebook connections. Then the book is there, and that’s the fifth book I've written. There will be more. I enjoy the process of writing blogs and writing books. And I appreciate it too. Like you say, the worst meal with a salad is a dramatically better meal. The worst pizza piled up with arugula, green peppers, garlic and onion is a far better choice. And you can learn to say, “Actually the part here that’s really good for you is if I take the cheese off and leave the marinara and all the vegetables.” You’ll actually have an amazing platform for health. So it's a process. For most people, inch by inch it’s a cinch, yard by yard it’s hard. Not a bad place to be, but get going, start today. Eat more plants, eat less animals. Save the world by closing down these CAFOs. These are real issues right now today.
Allan (29:19): I agree. So this is episode 329. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/329 and I'll make sure to have a link to Dr. Khan's website and whatnot there. Dr. Khan, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Kahn (29:36): Thank you. And 40+ is really the time when the body starts to kick back from the habits during those first decades, and there couldn't be a better title or why a whole food, plant-based diet like the plant-based solution is a path to getting your mojo back. Maybe that'll be in my next book.
Allan (29:56): You have some very intriguing titles, I have to say that. Again, thank you, Dr. Kahn.
Dr. Kahn (30:02): Thank you, sir.
Allan (30:08): I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Dr. Khan. I think we can all agree that there is room for more plant-based foods on our plate each night and each day. Do take to heart the things you learned today and try to apply them in your life. And if you got something valuable from today's episode, I'd really appreciate if you would go to iTunes and tell me about it in a review. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Review, and that'll give you an opportunity to give us a rating. I hope you give us a 5-star, and you can give us a review. So if there's something you took special out of today's episode, I really would appreciate if you take the time to go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Review and leave that short review today. Thank you.
Also, I really want to encourage you to join our Facebook group. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Group, and that's a great place for you to generally interact with me. If you have questions, that's a really good place to be. It's a lot of likeminded people and a great opportunity for you to share your winds, ask your questions, and really have a very supportive group of people that all want the same thing that you do, and that's to be healthier and more fit while we're over 40.
And then finally, I want to apologize – I had put a link in the show a couple of weeks ago for an opportunity to have a 15-minute session with me. I inadvertently blew up on the tech. Apparently I didn't flip a certain button, and as a result people got some errors when they were trying to go through that link. And I sincerely apologize about that. It was a little technical glitch, it's my fault, so I do apologize about it. But if you go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Talk, that's actually going to take you to some spots I've put on my calendar to have a specific answer session with you. So if there are some questions you've got about health and fitness, some topics you want me to talk about on the podcast, this is the place to go. Just go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Talk. It'll allow you to book a 15-minute time with me, and then we'll go ahead and get on the phone or on Zoom and we'll have that conversation. So, go ahead and go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Talk, and we can have a conversation about the things that matter most to you.
Short of that, I do hope that you enjoyed the podcast, and I do want to see you back here next week. Next time on the 40+ Fitness podcast, we'll discuss modes of transportation. How are you going to get through your wellness journey? Until then, have a happy and healthy day.