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To find out more about the newly released Blood Sugar Solution CookbookFoundHealth conducted an exclusive interview with Dr. Mark Hyman. This is Part 2 –  click here is you’d like to read Part 1 first! 

1. Trying to assess whether a packaged food/ingredient is okay can be tough, and they can’t always be avoided altogether. Are there any quick tips on how to assess quality in 20 seconds or less?

The real answer is avoid eating packaged foods and stick with the fresh stuff.  However, some great foods come in packages (canned fish, hummus, and even dark chocolate).

Because ingredients are listed by weight on labels, look to make sure the first ingredient is a substantial whole food and not something like sugar.  Next, there should only be a few ingredients and they should all be recognizable.

Keep an eye out for certain toxic ingredients which serve no purpose in a healthy diet  such as anything with partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and mysterious “flavors”. Be on the lookout for harmful preservatives like sulfates, nitrates, and food dyes.

2. You recommend grass-fed meat. Does it really make that much difference? Especially considering the cost premium?

Animal protein is a key component in maintaining balanced blood sugars; however, it is a food which should be consumed responsibly.  We truly are what we eat so it is important to learn what an animal was fed because that is exactly what we will be putting into our bodies.

For example, a cow fed its natural diet (mostly grass) will have a higher omega-3 fatty acid profile and higher CLA’s (conjugated linoleic acid) which are both necessary for proper metabolic function and disease prevention.  Also, hormones and antibiotics are routinely injected into conventionally raised cattle not fed their natural diet which makes them sick!

It makes you wonder why we put sick food into our bodies, hoping it will make us healthy.

The quality of meat (and all animal products) is very important to the success of anyone seriously committing to upgrading their health.  Poor quality fats and harmful medications not meant for our systems will eventually create a toxic load too burdensome for our bodies to handle.

We need mostly plant-based foods to thrive and wild fish, meat, eggs, and poultry in smaller amounts.

At the end of the day, the dose makes the poison.  Do the best you can to choose the highest quality meat most of the time and don’t worry about the occasional exceptions.

3. How about organic versus non-organic fruits and vegetables? Why does it matter?

For the same reason we want to be selective in the types of meat we eat, we also want to choose the highest quality fruits and vegetables.  If we want to live well and feel our best, we need to optimize our nutrition by ensuring the food we eat is as vital and unadulterated as possible.  All the chemicals loaded in conventional produce can clog up the lines of communication via our hormones, neurotransmitters and DNA.

Food talks to our genes – the right food sends signals that create health while junk foods signal disease formation.

Hormones, pesticides, fertilizers, and other harmful inputs used in modern agriculture literally create stress in the body because our genetic blueprint did not evolve with them.  That stress is the trigger for the inflammatory process which is at the root of all modern day chronic disease processes!

The thing to note about organic versus conventional produce is the difference in nutrient potency – specifically, antioxidants.  Studies have continually shown that certain fruits and vegetables tested for nutrition status show higher levels of disease-fighting vitamins and minerals when grown under sustainable conditions, devoid of chemical inputs.

For example, wild organic blueberries have a higher ORAC value (a measure of antioxidant levels in plants) than conventional, cultivated berries.  The idea is that blueberries, left to nature’s normal growing conditions, have to be on high alert to properly defend themselves.

Conventional blueberries can slack off and be a little lazy because they are protected by chemicals.  Why this is important to us as consumers of these foods is because those natural protectors that help increase the plant’s survival are the very same antioxidants which increase our survival as well!

It is no coincidence that what makes us healthy also makes plants and animals healthy.  Whenever you get stuck, look to nature to guide you.

Guide to the Cleanest & Dirtiest Produce

4. In the book you discuss PI (phytonutrient index). Can you explain more about what that is, and why it’s important?

What you put on your fork is the most powerful medicine you have to correct the underlying causes of chronic disease.  And it just so happens that the only steadfast agreement among health professionals is that fruits and vegetables should be on EVERYONE’S forks!

These plants are chock full of phytonutrients -   medicinal chemicals in foods which cool inflammation, promote detoxification, boost our immunity and keep us healthy.  The PI is a great tool that points out which foods contain the highest levels of these medicinal chemicals.

Ideally we want to have a variety of phytonutrients in our food.  You can get anthocyanidins in berries to keep your brain sharp, balance your hormones with isoflavones in edamame, and lower your cholesterol with garlic.  And yes – a little 70% cacao counts too!

5. If you had to choose 5 spices to season all your meals with, what would they be?

This is a hard question for someone like me who loves to eat!  My top five spices would be turmeric (a powerful anti-inflammatory), cayenne (it improves circulation and boosts metabolism), ginger (aids digestion), parsley and cilantro (okay, I know I snuck two in there, but they are both incredible for detoxification!), and cinnamon (lowers blood sugar). 

Turmeric, Cinnamon, and Ginger - 3 of Dr. Hyman's favorite spices!


Want to hear more from Dr. Mark Hyman? Check out the Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook


6 Responses to Learning How to Shop for Healthy Food – 5 Questions with Dr. Hyman

  1. Alan Kenney says:

    I like Dr. Hyman alot. However, as muchg as he is tuned in about healthy foods, he sure is connected to meat consumption. while meat consumption, especially organic meats, is not necessarily bad, it should be stated that the most minimum amount of meat is to be eaten. Still, in this excessive consumption society, I think most people will take meat consumption to excess. Therefore, it should be taught to be avoided. It’s too bad Hyman includes meat…it shows he’s heavily stuck in the allopathic world. It would be better to follow Drs. Ornish, McDougall and Esselstyn.

  2. Mark says:

    Why is agave nectar on the list of the “10 worst food ingredients?”

    • TB says:

      The worse kind of natural sweetener for the human body is fructose. High fructose corn syrup, for example, is 55% fructose, which makes it worse than regular sugar’s 50%. Agave syrup is 90% fructose. Doctors seemed to think it was a good product for a while, but that is no longer true.

  3. Zander says:

    Meat is not bad if it is grass fed and organic. Our biological evolution has developed from meat consumption and many people need it to maintain a healthy body and mind. I agree that it should be eaten in moderation but it is not all bad. If the meat is grown properly it even helps the environment and gives nutrients to our stripped soil. Whether it’s meat or veggies, the real problem is Big Food with conventional farming and CAFO’s.

  4. Dr. Steve says:

    I don’t think everyone should eat meat, but if you are going to compete in any type of strength competition you need larger amounts of protein not available in substantial quantity in nuts and beans. And if one can eat organic grass fed beef/chicken and wild fish then meat is not bad for you at all.

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