If you haven't noticed, I'm into food. I'm always trying to figure out what to eat, but honestly it can be SO HARD. One day meat is bad, the next meat is good. Same with eggs, gluten, milk, juice...the list goes on. There are lots of reasons for this, including powerful food lobbies and the difficulty of studying nutrition long-term (it's hard to control every single thing a person eats for thirty years, for example). In fact, most people don't trust any food science because it's all so confusing and contradictory!
Still, I'm always looking for answers, especially because my family has been affected by dementia and heart disease (both of which are linked to diet). I just picked up a new book written by Dr. Mark Hyman, the director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, called Food: What the Heck Should I Eat. It's billed as a roadmap for what we should actually eat and how to navigate all of the contradicting advice out there. I'm only halfway through, but I wanted to share the most surprising takeaways in part one of my book recap below. I was definitely shocked by some of this, so take it or leave it -- but don't shoot the messenger!
Meat and Fish
But what should we be eating? Per the book, the answer is:
- Grass-fed beef and lamb (conventional beef and lamb are often fed a corn-based diet, which we shouldn't necessarily be ingesting)
- Pasture-raised pork and organic or pasture-raised chicken (these can be hard to find; try to eat animals that lived as close to a natural life as possible rather than animals that were force-fed an unnatural diet to fatten them up)
- Wild caught salmon and small, toxin-free fish like sardines, anchovies, and herring (the smaller the better to avoid consuming too much mercury)
- Clams, scallops, mussels, and oysters (yay!)
- Conventionally raised beef, lamb, pork, and chicken (do your best here!)
- Deli ham and processed meats
- Any hot dogs that aren't 100% beef or pork (the fillers can get nasty, to say the least)
- Meats with nitrates, additives, and sugar (think conventional sausage, bacon, and salami)
- Big fish like shark, swordfish, Chilean sea bass, halibut, etc. The bigger the fish, the more smaller fish it's eaten, which raises mercury content.
- Most farmed fish
- Be wary of sushi! Sushi rice can spike your blood sugar, so think of it as a treat instead of a health food.
- Limit your tuna intake. If something has too much mercury for pregnant women, it's probably wise for the rest of us to avoid as well.
Dairy and Eggs
OK, so here's what we should be eating:
- Pasture-raised, organic, or omega-3 whole eggs (for the same reasons as the chicken listed above)
- Grass-fed whole milk in very small amounts -- think a splash in your coffee (but only if you aren't lactose intolerant, which a majority of the world is)
- Grass-fed, full-fat, unsweetened yogurt or kefir that contains milk, live cultures, and nothing else
- Butter or ghee (grass-fed...you're seeing a pattern here)
- Whole-milk, grass-fed cheese without additives
- Products made with goat milk (like goat cheese!)
- Eggs from conventionally raised poultry
- Packaged egg whites
- Low fat dairy! Bye bye 1% and 2% milk, low-fat and nonfat yogurt
- Yogurt that contains any fruit, sweetener, additives, etc. (unless you're counting it as dessert - some of these yogurts have as much sugar as a candy bar, or more)
- Processed cheese (sorry, Kraft)
Fruits and Veggies
Generally, you should be eating fruits and veggies, so I'm just going to list out what Dr. Hyman recommends to avoid picking when you have other options.
Try to avoid or limit intake of the below veggies:
- Iceberg lettuce (luckily, I've got very little love for iceberg lettuce, aka solid water)
- White potatoes (again -- so many other options -- fingerlings are a great sub!)
- Ketchup and tomato sauce unless it's made without added sugar (or you make it yourself -- just check out the added sugar in some of these sauces next time you're at the store and you'll see why)
- Vegetables with a high glycemic load. These are veggies that spike your blood sugar like parsnips, baked russet potatoes, sweet potatoes, and sweet corn.
- Grapes and bananas (both high in sugar)
- Dried fruits
- Limit pineapple to one cup a day
- Non-organic apples and strawberries (they have the most pesticides)
- Any and all fruit juice, especially juice that you didn't squeeze yourself