Speaker 1 (00:00:00):
Welcome to the Dr. Gundry Podcast, the weekly podcast where Dr. G gives you the tools you need to boost your health and live your healthiest life.
Dr. Gundry (00:00:13):
Welcome to the Dr. Gundry Podcast. Did you know that every 67 seconds someone in America good develops Alzheimer’s. But imagine if there is a way to beat the statistics, while reducing the risk of other major health ailments. Well, my guest today says there is a solution and it’s sitting right in your fridge. New York Times bestselling author, Max Lugavere, says there’s a link between the food you consume and your brain health. Today, Max will be sharing revelations from his latest, really cool book, Genius Kitchen, where you can find the secret to stocking your fridge to boost brain health. So stay tuned, Max and I will dive right into how you can achieve peak mental performance by eating like a genius. We’ll be right back.
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Max, welcome to the Dr. Gundry Podcast. Great to see you again, my friend.
Max Lugavere (00:05:07):
Great to see you. This is becoming a regular occurrence. I’m very, very excited about it.
Dr. Gundry (00:05:11):
So speaking of a regular occurrence, this is your third book, and tell us how to eat like a genius. What the heck are genius foods?
Max Lugavere (00:05:28):
That’s a great starting point. So genius foods are foods that are going to give your brain the biggest, the most bang for the buck in terms of shielding it against cognitive decline, helping it work better in the here and now, with regard to your executive function, with regard to your brain’s processing speed, and also with regard to your mental health, which is a function of good brain health. And I got into this when a couple of years ago, my mother showed initial signs of what would ultimately be diagnosed as a rare form of dementia, called Lewy body dementia, which is akin to having both Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease at the same time. I didn’t have a medical background, but I was a journalist, and at that point I became solely focused on investigating why this would’ve happened to a woman at the age it did. My mom was 58, she was very young when she first started to show these symptoms.
And what I’ve learned is that dementia, often like many chronic noncommunicable conditions, begins decades before the presentation of said symptoms. By the time you show up to your neurologist, for example, with Parkinson’s disease, which is a very common movement disorder, half of the neurons in the substantia nigra, the dopamine producing neurons involved in movement in the region of the brain affected by Parkinson’s disease, have already perished. Alzheimer’s disease is another example, research shows that by the third decade of life, people who are genetically at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, already have begun to show signs in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. So for me, I became very passionate about the notion of prevention, dementia prevention, and I just went down the rabbit hole to learn everything that I possibly could about the condition.
And the more I would read, certain foods started to stand out to me, foods that are, for example, staples in the Mediterranean dietary pattern, like extra virgin olive oil, like dark leafy greens, like grass fed beef, like wild, fatty fish. And I started to see that people who eat these foods more regularly on a consistent basis, whether or not you have a genetic predisposition to developing Alzheimer’s disease, you can actually protect yourself by eating these foods on a regular basis. I was also really inspired when writing Genius Foods, which was my first book, by a study from Tufts University that found that people who adhere to the advice that you often hear echoed by the nutritional orthodoxy, to just eat all things in moderation, that people who do that actually tend to have worse diets and poor health outcomes. They tend to drink more sugar sweetened beverages, they tend to eat more confectionary products, more candies, and things like that. The healthiest people buy a narrower range of more healthful foods, they just buy those foods on loop.
So with Genius Foods, I tried to come up with the ultimate brain health shopping list, if you will. And in my new book, Genius Kitchen, the new book is really where the rubber meets the road. It’s taking those foods and it’s turning them into delicious dishes that are easy to prepare, using ingredients that are easy to find, low cost. And eating these kinds of foods, these dishes on a regular basis, according to the best available evidence, really are poised to give your brain the best shot, the best possible shot with regard to your diet, in terms of helping minimize your risk for cognitive decline, dementia and other age related neurologic conditions.
Dr. Gundry (00:09:12):
Yeah, you make several really good points. I was lecturing at Harvard Medical School a few years ago, when The Plant Paradox came out, and it was to a bunch of neurologists, and I made my pitch that there are certain foods that we should be eating and certain foods we shouldn’t be eating. And one guy stood up and he says, “Well don’t you think that the advice to eat in moderation is the best advice?” And I said, “Yeah, that’s great advice if you want moderate dementia and moderate heart disease and moderate arthritis.” And I think you’re echoing the same thing, this idea that eating in moderation is somehow an escape clause to eat junk every now and then, is just not true.
Max Lugavere (00:10:05):
All things in moderation. I even think that … I mean, we can look at something like red wine, which is consistently associated with better health, like moderate drinking is associated with better health. But you can’t really drive around the fact that ethanol, which is the component of alcohol that gives you the buzz, is a neurotoxin. It’s a neurotoxin, it’s carcinogenic. So I think that the reason why moderate drinkers typically have better health is not necessarily because of the alcohol, it’s in spite of the alcohol, but what it does show is that people who are able to drink moderately are able to be moderate. And that’s something that I think is probably a good quality, it’s somebody who’s a moderate person who’s not perhaps a big risk taker, and so that’s why it’s called the healthy user bias.
But with regard to brain health and food, 90% of what we know about Alzheimer’s disease, which is just the most common form of dementia, but it’s not the only form of dementia, has been discovered in the past 15 years alone. So this is a rapidly evolving field of science. And the brain, for a long time, was thought to sit in isolation from the rest of the body. And medical doctors, Dr. Gundry, as you know, are not trained when it comes to nutrition in general. So you take a neurologist who focuses on the brain, and it wasn’t until very recently that we could even have a conversation about brain health and diet, and now we can, which is so amazing. And I think what’s so important about it is that it gives us agency for this category of conditions, for which there really are no meaningful treatments.
I mean, I saw this firsthand with my mom, the drugs that are typically prescribed to treat conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lewy body dementia, they’re biochemical bandaids, they’re minimally effective at best, particularly with regard to the rare forms of dementias. And it’s why there’s this cold joke that I discovered is circulated amongst neurology residents in med school, that neurologists don’t treat disease, they admire it. And that, to me, as the son of somebody who had dementia for many years and really suffered with it, that just wasn’t good enough. And so I’ve dedicated my life, at this point, to trying to understand everything there is to know about diet, lifestyle, how it relates to brain health and to spread that message to people of all ages.
Dr. Gundry (00:12:45):
So as you know, I’m very interested in the APOE4 mutations, sometimes called the Alzheimer’s gene. And 30% of people actually carry either one or two mutations, luckily, most people carry one of the mutations. But a lot of people go, “Well, number one, I don’t want to know if I carry that mutation because there’s nothing I can do about it. And number two, well, now that I know I have that mutation, there’s nothing I can do about it.” So what say you?
Max Lugavere (00:13:23):
Yeah. That’s a great question. So the APOE4 allele, as you mentioned, very common, increases one’s risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease anywhere between two and 14 fold, but it’s not a determinant gene, it’s a risk gene. So whether or not somebody develops Alzheimer’s disease, is ultimately determined by their environment, the dance that their environment plays with that genetic risk factor. You can look to other parts of the world where the APOE4 allele is just as prevalent and the APOE4 carrying population has little to no risk of developing dementia there. What that suggests is you might be genetically at risk for Alzheimer’s disease in the United States, and then move to a less industrialized part of the world, like Ibadan, Nigeria, for example, and see that risk completely abolished. So again, it’s not a determinant gene, a very small percentage of patients with Alzheimer’s disease carry one type of a determinant gene called, early onset familial Alzheimer’s disease.
But that’s very rare, that makes up two to 3% of Alzheimer’s cases. The vast majority will develop late onset sporadic Alzheimer’s disease, and for that condition, yes, we absolutely do have a say. And also it’s worth mentioning that there are genes that people have that have yet to be discovered that might cancel out the impact of the APOE4 allele, this is called polygenic risk. So you have a smorgasbord of genes baked into every cell in your body, and yes, the APOE4 allele exists, it’s the most well defined Alzheimer’s risk gene, but it’s not the only Alzheimer’s risk gene, and there are genes that substantially modulate the impact that the APOE4 allele has on your health. With regard to the APOE4 allele, I think that one of the major issues that it seems to cause is that it puts us at risk for vascular dysfunction. And one of the purported mechanisms by which it increases our risk, is by putting carriers at risk for hyperlipidemia, so like hypercholesterolemia, for example.
I actually think that this is a great insight if it holds true, because we have ways of ensuring that people that carry this gene, their bodies are better able to manage lipids, dietary fiber, for example, helps to improve the liver’s ability to recycle LDL cholesterol. We were talking, Dr. Gundry, when you were on my podcast recently, about how they found that coffee has an ingredient in it, has a compound in it called caffeine, which actually acts like a natural PCSK9 inhibitor. PCSK9 inhibitors, there’s a new class of cholesterol lowering drug on the market called PCSK9 inhibitors, that basically the way in which they reduce cholesterol in the blood, is not by stopping your liver’s synthesis of cholesterol, which actually, we need cholesterol, cholesterol is a vital life giving nutrient, found in every cell membrane. And that’s the way that statins work, statins block the liver, stop the liver from producing cholesterol.
But this new class of drugs, I think actually can be quite helpful in the sense that they improve the efficiency and the efficacy of your liver at plucking up these remnant LDL particles from your blood. And how amazing is it that coffee, that green tea, that dark chocolate all have this natural compound in it called caffeine, which acts like a natural PCSK9 inhibitor.
Dr. Gundry (00:17:13):
Yeah. And as you and I know, there are multiple studies looking at the benefits of drinking up to five cups of coffee a day in brain health and protecting your brain.
Max Lugavere (00:17:31):
Yeah, it’s so true. I mean, coffee is a great source of, and it’s the primary source, unfortunately, for most Americans of polyphenols, which you talk about all the time. We know that polyphenols support gut health, we know that they act as a prebiotic source for the colonic microbiota to ferment and churn out postbiotics, which can be very helpful from the standpoint of modulating inflammation in the body. And yes, observationally, we see that people who drink more coffee have a degree of protection against Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and also cardiovascular disease. So this new study gives us a potential mechanism, which I think is so powerful.
Dr. Gundry (00:18:18):
Yeah. The exciting thing, particularly about the microbiome, is that really every day we find a reason why genius foods are having a genius effect, and a lot of it is modulated by the microbiome. And you spend a lot of time in the book talking about how important these genius foods are for our gut bacteria to actually benefit directly and make all these other products that are really going to manifest in better brain health and in better mood, better mental health. And I applaud you for pointing out in the book that this isn’t just about your thinking process and how your brain processes information, it’s about literally how your brain emotional processes work. You want to spend a little time talking about that? Was that a surprise to you? I know you can came at this to prevent brain decline, but go ahead.
Max Lugavere (00:19:37):
Yeah, no, that’s a great question. Actually, yeah, it was a surprise and it was a major motivating factor to write my books, because I started out really passionate about dementia prevention, and I realized that dementia begins in the brain often decades before the first symptom. So this was a topic that I felt people of all ages needed to be thinking about their brain health, and the choices that they make day to day and how those choices can inform the way that their brains work. But there was a point at which I felt I had reached a conundrum, because I knew, being a younger person, that young people didn’t care about dementia. So I knew that if I wrote the dementia prevention book, that I wasn’t actually going to move the needle on this condition, that I wasn’t actually going to further my goal of actually helping people prevent their own dementia, because younger people weren’t going to buy it if I wrote the dementia prevention book.
So I kept researching, I kept researching and I stayed open-minded, and I stumbled upon this burgeoning field of psychiatry, being called nutritional psychiatry. And nutritional psychiatry, we’re just really at the tip of the iceberg, but we are seeing now, thanks to a slew of randomized control trials that have come out, the kinds of trials required to prove cause and effect, that have used food as an intervention with major mood disorders. I mean, imagine that. For decades, you’d go to your psychiatrist and you’d present with a dower mood and they’d write a prescription for a pharmaceutical monotherapy, a drug that you would take that would attempt to modulate levels of a certain neurotransmitter in your brain.
But now thanks to places like Deakin University, the food and mood center there led by Felice Jacka, who’s a wonderful PhD who’s spearheading a lot of this work, we see that a dietary pattern akin to the kind of diet that I describe in Genius Foods and in Genius Kitchen, can actually significantly reduce symptoms of depression, even in people with major depression, to the point remission. Whereas, the control group that received standard of care, didn’t have such success. So when I stumbled upon that kind of work, I was like, “Okay, this is my Trojan horse. This is something that everybody wants. Everybody wants a better performing brain, everybody wants a brain that works as well as it ought to, not merely as well as we’ve come to accept, but a brain that really lives up to our birthright.”
And so I started to go down that rabbit hole, and I realized that the same compounds that are present in these foods that support optimal brain health, also support good mental health, whether it’s zinc, vitamin B 12, preformed omega3 fatty acids, creatine, which is a [inaudible 00:22:35] nutrient found naturally in fish and beef, supports brain energy metabolism. So for people who feel like they don’t have enough energy throughout the day, it could be due to the fact that they’re just not getting enough of this nutrient in their food, a wonderful source of dietary protein. Our brain thrives when our body moves. And protein is, I know you talk a lot about protein in the context of longevity, but from the standpoint of mobility, of muscle health, having high quality protein in your diet is really quite important. And also in light of all of the research showing just how important exercise is from the standpoint of mental health, exercise is now medicine for the brain.
We can say that with certainty with regard to our mental health, we can say that with certainty with regard to our predisposition to cognitive decline, exercise can now significantly help prevent a condition called mild cognitive impairment, which is pre dementia. It also is as effective as drugs at reducing blood pressure. One of the pivotal studies in the field of dementia prevention, a seminal study that was published recently, was called the sprint mind trial, that found that for people that were at risk for developing mild cognitive impairment and who had hypertension, when pharmacologically treated for their hypertension, they saw a significant risk reduction for the development of mild cognitive impairment, which again, is pre dementia. So people who had high blood pressure, we know that high blood pressure is a risk factor for dementia. When treated with a pharmaceutical agent, they slash their risk for developing cognitive impairment. We now know that exercise is just as effective at reducing high blood pressure, and without any negative side effects.
Dr. Gundry (00:24:29):
Okay. So we know all this, but you make a really good point in Genius Kitchen, that food companies, number one, know this as well, but they don’t want you to know this. So what’s in it for them, why are we so tempted by all these wonderful foods that are killing us?
Max Lugavere (00:25:00):
Oh man. Well, it’s about the bottom line. Food companies love having repeat customers, and they know that one of the best ways to earn the loyalty of a consumer, is to blow their minds with hyper palatable, ultra processed foods. That’s literally what ultra processed foods, typically found within the aisles of most major modern supermarkets do, they push your brain to a literal bliss point beyond which self-control becomes futile, because these foods light up reward centers in our brain that really make it difficult, if not impossible, to stop eating once you’ve dug into the pin of ice cream, or you’ve had maybe a handful of those tortilla chips. We tend to think of it as a moral failure when we’re unable to moderate our consumption of these foods, but the reality is that these foods are very hard to moderate. And that’s because willpower is a finite resource and these foods hijack any semblance of willpower that we may have.
There was a study that was published in 2018, funded by the National Institutes of Health, that found that when people eat these kinds of ultra processed foods, so packaged shelf stable foods, frozen dinners, fried foods, commercial bread products, that when eating too satiety in the scientific literature, the term is ad libitum feeding, people end up eating a calorie surplus of about 500 calories. If you’re in a calorie surplus and you eat 500 more calories than your body burns every day for a week, that’s a pound of fat gain, that’s a pound of fat stored every single week. That adds up to a spare tire really quickly. Conversely, what searchers in this study found was that when they gave the same subjects access to minimally processed foods, the type of dishes that you would cook for yourself, for example, they came in at an effortless calorie deficit.
When eating to the same degree of satiety, they were just as full, they were just as satisfy by their food, but they ended up at a calorie deficit of about 300 calories. So right there, that’s an 800 calorie swing, 800 calories, that’s a lot of calories. That’s an 800 calorie swing determined purely by the quality of the food that you’re eating. Many people who are overweight, who struggle their weight, who feel that sense of moral failure over and over again because they can’t stick to whatever diet it is that they’re on, and they get told by their doctors, by their nutritionists, just eat less, move more, over and over and over again. That sense of failure, that deficit of willpower, that’s because they’re putting the cart before the horse, they’re trying to moderate how much they are consuming of the foods that they were eating that got them into that overweight state in the first place.
But the real insight from this study is the quality of the food that you’re eating dictates the quantity of the food that you’re going to eat. And so that’s something that food manufacturers don’t want you to know, because the perspective of a food manufacturer is all foods fit. It’s not our problem that you’re overweight, you just ate too much of what it is that we’re putting out, of what we’re manufacturing. You just ate too much, it’s your fault, it’s your lack of willpower. All you got to do is eat less, and all of your problems will be solved. But their foods are not designed to be moderated, they’re designed to create repeat customers, they’re designed so that you eat more of them.
And so that’s why I think those are the first foods that people ought to cut out, especially when on a weight loss journey, but also for good health. We know that the consumption of ultra processed foods, in fact, every 10% increase in ultra processed food consumption is associated with a 14% increased risk of early mortality. So these foods are literally killing us. And the dose makes the poison, to some degree, obviously, which that study has shown, but the best you can do at minimizing your consumption of those foods, the better off you’ll be. And again, the healthiest people buy a narrow range of good for you foods, and they buy those foods on loop.
Dr. Gundry (00:29:36):
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So I think most people maybe by now are figuring out that a lot of these things are not good for us, and yet the addictive quality of these foods makes it really hard to give it up or wean yourself off of it. And you spend a great deal of time in the book giving us hacks of, okay, instead of a highly processed grain product for munching on, take us through a few steps to wean ourselves off of this stuff we love. You bring up macaroni and cheese for instance, the ultimate comfort food. And you’ve got a great recipe for macaroni and cheese that uses carrot noodles, in the new book. So yeah, help us out here because you and I are obviously on the same page here.
Max Lugavere (00:35:39):
Yeah. That’s actually one of my favorite recipes, it’s funny that you brought it up. It’s a vegan, so my cookbook is not a vegan cookbook, but this dish is a vegan, so it’s a dairy free mac and cheese using carrot noodles. So it’s gluten free, dairy free, it is so indulgent and tasty. And I think that’s one of the great things about knowing how to cook, about culinary literacy, and unfortunately culinary literacy has been outsourced. We’ve outsourced so many aspects of what it means to be a self-sufficient human these days, because we live in the era of specialization. We outsource our health literacy, we outsource financial literacy and culinary literacy, we outsource too, when we go to restaurants and when we order up food on our food apps. It’s become so easy to order a meal comprised of comfort food and have it show up on our doorsteps moments later.
But by learning how to cook and this doesn’t have to be difficult, you can make some of your favorite comfort food foods and have them actually provide an additive benefit to your health, as opposed to taking away your health. You can actually make fries super healthy, because potatoes are actually a fairly nutrient dense food, purple potatoes are a staple in Okinawa, which is one of the world’s blue zones. I know you talk about blue zones all the time. You can make fries with purple sweet potatoes and bake them and they come out delicious. You can use extra virgin olive oil, if you want to add a little bit of fat to it, really increase the indulgence factor. But my vegan carrot noodle mac and cheese is so tasty and really, I mean, that’s a recipe like many others that I include in Genius Kitchen, to show people that you can have foods that are indulgent, that taste delicious, but that aren’t going to hijack your brain’s reward centers and be so easy to over consume that you end up putting on unintentional weight as a result, that’s not what this is about.
Genius foods, genius meals, to me are foods that satiate your body in a way that processed junk just can’t. Rich in components like fiber, which we know mechanically stretches out the stomach, makes you feel really full. Protein, which is the most satiating macronutrient. Fat, which helps slow to digestion of food, so anytime you add fat to a dish, you’re slowing digestion, you’re maintaining that feeling of satiety. If you fill yourself up on low fat foods, you might feel full in the moment, but you’re going to feel really hungry pretty soon after, and that’s because low fat foods digest so rapidly. Fat slows down what’s called gastric emptying, so whenever you add fat to something, it slows down the rate of absorption and it makes you stay full longer. It’s one of the reasons why I add now heavy cream to my coffee.
I used to drink my coffee black, sometimes I still do enjoy it black, but when I add heavy cream to it on an empty stomach, it slows the infusion of caffeine, it makes me feel a lot better. It makes me feel a lot less jittery than when I just drink it black, which for many years I was doing. So knowing how food affects your hunger, your behavior, I think it’s all part of the process of learning how to better nourish and satiate your body and minimize your risk for unintentional weight gain today, but chronic disease in the future as well.
Dr. Gundry (00:39:13):
A point you mentioned early on, I want to come back to, we now know that signs of brain damage, Alzheimer’s are occurring 20, maybe 30 years before the actual outward signs appear. And I think that it’s really important for realizing, okay I’m in my 30s or I just turned 40, I don’t really have to worry about it because I don’t really care what’s going to happen when I’m retired and I can sit in my easy chair. But these are steps that every one of us, regardless of our age, needs to take. When I was a pediatric heart surgeon, I could actually see in the blood vessels of children and teenagers that I operated on, already plaques on the inside of their blood vessels, the Vietnam war, where a lot of our guys came home in body bags, these guys in late teenage years, early 20s, had plaques in their aorta, in their coronary arteries, as young people. So you’re right, it’s never too early to start making these changes.
Max Lugavere (00:40:42):
No, I mean, unfortunately we’re seeing hypertension increase in prevalence in children and adolescence. We know that hypertension damages the blood vessels that feed your brain, blood, oxygen, antioxidants, building block nutrients. Today, at least one in seven adults has a memory complaint, has some form of subjective cognitive impairment. One in six adults is on some kind of psychiatric drug, generally that number shoots up to one in four for women over the age of 40, which is heartbreaking to say the least. I mean, before my mom had a diagnosis of dementia, one of her physicians, a psychiatrist actually thought that all of her symptoms were due to depression, which is really quite sad when you think about it, the willingness to just chalk up the symptoms that we’re having to depression, especially in women. Now there are some kinds of dementia symptoms that may look like dementia when somebody is clinically depressed, it’s called a pseudo dementia.
But yeah, people are not generally happy with the way that their brains working and rates of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease are increasing. And as you mentioned, they begin in the brain far earlier than the presentation of symptoms. And this isn’t just a question of diet, it’s a question of our lifestyles, we are more sedentary than we’ve ever been before, we also live in environments that are increasingly polluted. There are a number of studies that are coming out from very polluted parts of the world, that are showing us that air pollution with in particular, fine particulate matter, PM 2.5, actually can pierce the blood brain barrier and can instigate pathology that’s really similar to Alzheimer’s disease pathology, but decades before Alzheimer’s disease would typically emerge in the brain. So there are all these different factors, but I think food is something, it’s such a potent leverage point because we all eat at least three times a day.
We know you eat once a day, Dr. Gundry, but most of us eat two, three times a day and snack in between. So with every bite you take, that’s a choice that you make for your cognitive destiny, and again, it’s that leverage point. And one of the reasons why I wrote Genius Kitchen is because beyond conversations about protein, fat, fiber, one of the most powerful leverage points that a person has is just cooking at home more, learning how to cook at home more. You can make the same dish at home, that you would get out at a restaurant and it’s going to have fewer fat calories, fewer calories overall, less sodium, and also improve the dynamics of your family while you’re at it.
Cooking at home with family members, loved ones, it’s one of best ways to bolster relationships, to bond, to communicate, to express love. And these all play a role in living a genius life, in helping to kick the can down the road with regard to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Social connection plays such a huge role, and there’s no better way to show love to somebody than by cooking and sharing a meal with them.
Dr. Gundry (00:44:03):
And actually one of the unique features of the blue zones is this family food connection. And so much of the Mediterranean diet, a meal may last two hours at least, not some grab fast, let’s wolf this down and go on to the next activity. But you spend a lot of time in the book and in congratulation on how do you learn to cook, I mean, is really a lost art. I mean, where do you start? You break down the genius pantry. Come on, how do we start? Give us some some hints. I know nothing about a kitchen, that’s not true folks.
Max Lugavere (00:44:52):
Yeah, no, it’s a great question. And it can be intimidating to the uninitiated, but I think you have to draw inspiration from parts of the world, like the Mediterranean region, where they prioritize quality of ingredients over quantity of ingredients. So by stocking your kitchen with just a small handful of essentials, you can do so much. Having a good extra virgin olive oil, some really high quality salt. Now, if you’re like me, you have three different kinds of salt in your kitchen. You’ve got your fine salt, you’ve got your coarse salt, and you’ve got your flake salt. I actually recommend having all three types of salt because salt generally is very inexpensive, but it’s one of the best ways to elevate your cooking to restaurant quality. I love cooking, for example, a steak or a piece of fish, or even roast up some vegetables and finishing whatever it is that I’m making with some flake salt.
They do this in high end steak houses, it’s a very inexpensive way to really elevate the quality of your cooking and the experience of eating, with a high quality salt. Pepper, garlic powder, I mean, these are just the bare essentials and you can do so much. I mean, you can make vegetables delicious with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper. I think that one of the biggest areas where people mess up with regard to home cooking, is that they just don’t season their food well. If you ask any professional chef what home chefs do wrong, they under salt their food. Salt is crucially important, it lights up reward centers in our brain because salt, for the vast majority of our evolution, actually provided a nutrient that was very hard to come by, sodium. Sodium is actually a macro mineral, which means that for good health, you need to consume a relatively large amount of it every day.
And once you cut out the ultra processed packaged foods, the question then becomes well, where are you getting your sodium from? Because Dr. Gundry, it’s only 11% of the sodium that Americans ingest every day, that come from their own salt shakers and from the salt that they add to their own recipes. The vast majority of sodium that your average American ingests, comes from ultra processed foods, shelf stable, canned foods, fast food and restaurant food. That’s it, that’s where all of that sodium comes from. But once you cut those foods out, to feel good, you need to bring salt back to the table. I find it very ironic that most registered dieticians will say, if they, for whatever reason, are advising you to cut down on your sodium intake, they’ll say, “Stop adding salt to your food.”
When the irony is that the number one source of sodium in the American diet, it isn’t processed meat, it isn’t canned foods, it’s bread and rolls. But when was the last time you heard a registered dietician tell you to avoid bread and rolls? No, they tell you to stop salting your food, making your life miserable, the life of your kids miserable probably, if you have them, because some of the healthiest foods in the supermarket, produce, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, simply aren’t palatable without adding a little bit of salt. So knowing how to salt your food, to me, I mean, that’s the base of the culinary food pyramid, knowing how to season your food well.
Dr. Gundry (00:48:17):
Well, I’m going to keep pressing you. Where do you start? I mean, do you start cooking some eggs and working on the seasonings? You’ve got some cool egg recipes with broccoli in your book. I mean, just how do I start? I want my bowl of cereal every morning, Max, I have to have my bowl of cereal, which probably has … Folks, I did this for a patient a couple weeks ago, his bowl of Rice Chex had 14 teaspoons of sugar that was hidden on the label, and he thought he was eating a low sugar food and he was shocked. So how do we start?
Max Lugavere (00:48:59):
How do you start? Well, I think that one useful tip is that you should taste your food as you go, provided that it’s safe to do so, but there are no points to be won for not tasting until you finish the dish. Sometimes people feel that it’s more indicative of a skilled chef to not have to taste their food, but tasting as you go is a really great way to see how textures and flavors develop over time, over the course of the cooking process. And cooking low and slow is something that is also really important, getting acquainted with lower cooking temperatures and spending more time in the cooking process. Getting rid of the cereal, for example, and bringing eggs back to the breakfast table is crucially important. Eggs, I actually have coined the term cognitive multivitamin to describe eggs, egg yolks contain literally everything that nature, a little bit of everything that nature has deemed important to grow and sustain a healthy brain.
It’s no wonder that egg yolks are rich and cholesterol because as the brain is rich in cholesterol. You don’t need to eat cholesterol to support brain health, but typically where you find dietary cholesterol, you find nutrients that are good for the brain, and the egg is the perfect illustration of that. It’s got a little bit of vitamin B12, omega3 fatty acids. And to cook a scramble well, most people, they make scrambles, admittedly people tend to make breakfast when they’re in a rush, but the best scramble is going to come when you put the heat on as low a setting as possible, and you constantly stir it low and slow. A good scramble should take 10 minutes to cook. You’re going to end up with eggs so good, I mean, you’ve never had them as good as you will, if you try cooking them low and slow, as opposed to overcooking, which most people do when they make a scramble.
The danger with overcooking eggs, it’s not just a culinary concern, you’re potentially damaging delicate fats and the cholesterol content of those eggs. You’re causing oxidation of the delicate fats and the cholesterol that egg yolks contain. For me, I love to make a scramble on very low heat, constantly stirring and doing that until just before the eggs get to a consistency that I like, because the eggs will continue to firm up after you take them off the heat. So you want to stir them until just before your desired consistency, you take it off the heat and you plate the eggs and they’ll continue to firm up, they’ll continue to cook. So that’s crucially important. The same way that you take a steak off the grill just before it gets to your desired temperature, because the core continues to heat up. So too, with eggs, you want to take them off the heat just before, and they come out delicious Dr. Gundry.
And then you finish them with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, which we know is medicine for the brain, you throw on a little bit of flake salt, maybe nutritional yeast, which is a rich source of B vitamins, a food staple that I happen to love, and you’ve got yourself a killer dish that would rival any restaurants egg dish.
Dr. Gundry (00:52:24):
I love your description of slow cooking in regards to a chicken leg. You make the point that one of the benefits of slow cooking is breaking down a basically inedible substance collagen in all these tendons in a chicken leg. And you vividly describe biting into a not well cooked chicken leg, and you go, “Oh, this doesn’t taste good.” But at the same time, if you spend some time slow cooking that chicken leg, like most traditional cultures have learned, you break down all that collagen into a succulent easily absorbable food.
Max Lugavere (00:53:20):
Oh, absolutely. I mean, this is another area where most people screw up in the kitchen. They cook these kinds of parts of the animal too fast, not allowing the collagen that they contain to break down and form gelatin, which is that super delicious butter soft component that occurs when you cook collagen low and slow. Joints like the chicken drumstick, chicken thigh have four times the collagen content of chicken breast meat, for example, white meat. And anybody who’s ever bitten, and even in restaurants, I’m shocked when I bite into a chicken leg, in a drumstick, in a restaurant and it’s undercooked, because you get all those tendons that are just gross.
I’m sorry, but if you’re not cooking a chicken leg low and slow, a chicken leg cooked low and slow, the meat is fall off the bone. There’s almost not a single component to the chicken leg that isn’t delicious when you cook it low and slow. I mean, it’s so crucially important. And I’ll add that for people that are on low income, that have tight budgets with regard to cooking, cooking your meats low and slow is a fantastic way to economize, because you can buy whole chickens, and by cooking low and slow, you turn those parts of the chicken, drumsticks, chicken thighs, what have you, into amazing foods.
And it’s also a way to economize with regard to red meat, because you can buy cheaper cuts, if you can’t afford the most pristine beef tenderloin, grass fed rib eyes, that you’d like to, well, guess what, you can buy cheaper cuts, and all you got to do is cook them low and slow, and it becomes this pull apart, fall off the bone. I mean, that’s how brisket is made, brisket, it’s typically a very tough meat, but the beauty of well cooked brisket, it’s been cooked low and slow, all the collagen melts down, it breaks apart the proteins and it becomes butter soft. I’ve got a number of recipes that actually use those cheaper cuts of meat, in my book, Genius Kitchen. It’s so important. Ribs, for example, I don’t know Dr. Gundry, where you stand on ribs, but I happen to love a good rack of organic baby back ribs, and you can make the most amazing ribs in your home, in your oven. You don’t need to go to a fancy barbecue restaurant and overpay for them, you can make them, all it takes is a little bit of time.
In Genius Kitchen, I have the best rib rub, dry rib rub you’ve ever had in your life. No added sugar, no calorie dense sauce required, just use this rub, you throw them on a rack of ribs, you put them in your oven low and slow for three and a half, four, five hours. I mean, the longer, the better. And it breaks down again, the collagen, the connective tissue, and it makes the ribs fall off the bone, it’s so great. And knowing how to cook like that, it’s so empowering, and it’s such a crowd pleaser as well, because again, these are foods, with regard to one of your questions earlier, Dr. Gundry, these are foods that we typically think of as being junk foods, like going to a barbecue restaurant and indulging, but you can actually make all these same foods with just a few minor tweaks and make them actually quite healthy and just as delicious, if not more so.
Dr. Gundry (00:57:00):
Yeah, it’s interesting that traditional cultures, cultures that are doing very well from a brain health standpoint, they’ve been experts at long slow cooking for generations, because they’re poor and they have to get something out of these horrible cuts of whatever animal they’re eating, and it’s the slow cooking process that’s so important. The other thing, I’m going to have to let you go, but I think I’m going to tell you, audience, particularly ladies listening or watching, you’re obsessed with collagen, you’ve got your collagen smoothies, your collagen drinks, your collagen bars. And what you heard here is your boneless skinless chicken breast is a horrible source of collagen, compared to a thigh or a leg, four times as much, right?
Max Lugavere (00:58:02):
Four times as much.
Dr. Gundry (00:58:03):
Yeah. So get the dark meat, get rid of the white chicken breast, which really is not nature’s energy powerhouse for your brain, quite frankly. Yeah, so that’s a great take home message and thanks for sharing that.
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Heather Dubrow (00:58:45):
Hi everyone, it’s Heather Dubrow, telling you to check out Heather Dubrow’s World on PodcastOne. Every week we discuss the hippest, hottest newest trends in health, wellness, parenting, style, and so much more, including all things, Housewives and Botched. Download new episodes of Heather Dubrow’s World on Thursdays and Fridays on PodcastOne, Apple Podcast, Spotify and Amazon Music.
Dr. Gundry (00:59:13):
It’s time for our audience question. This question comes from Santiago Martinez on YouTube. Hi, Dr. Gundry. Thanks for all your amazing content. I have one question, I saw you recommended millet, but when I search on Google, millet side effects, I get plenty of results saying it contains a lot of oxalates. What do you think about oxalates? Are they bad? Why do you think lectins are much worse than oxalates? Thanks.
So oxalates are a very interesting plant defense system. Remember plants do not want to be eaten. As you know, I’ve spent much of my career warning about the effect of lectins in plant, but here’s the good news, hidden in all my books, and it gets missed, we have an amazing defense system against plant toxins, including oxalates and lectins. A thriving, diverse microbiome actually eats these things, there are gluten eating bugs, and you might be interested to know there are actually oxalate eating bacteria who thrive when you eat oxalate. The problem for most of us, particularly in the west, is that our gut microbiome has been decimated. It would be like going to the Super Bowl with your offensive front four decimated with injuries, the second stringers are out and you’re getting the water boy, and somebody from the stands to defend the quarterback against 300 pound linemen coming at them. And that’s what’s happened to us.
So what I’ve been trying to do for the last 20 plus years is to fortify the troops, to get our microbiome back to a point where we can defend against these various food products. So I have a lot of patients who think they’re very oxalate sensitive, but when we repair their gut wall, when we fortify their defense system, then oxalates fall way down on the problem child’s that they’re made out to be. This is not the plants problem, this is our defense system, and it’s just, to me, so much better to get your defenses up, to handle these things. But great question.
Now it’s time for the review of the week. This review comes from Janice Duncan on YouTube. This was all news to me, I haven’t heard, it was great information, thankfully there’s doctors as yourselves to enlighten your followers, appreciate you both.
Well, thanks very much, Janice. As you know, we try to bring you timely information, information that you can put to use. And hopefully a lot of the information is brand new to you, or maybe just you’ve wondered about this and need some questions answered. So thanks a lot, that’s why we do this.
And now I’m going to record the disclaimer. Ah, yes. This video is intended to expand your knowledge regarding cognitive health, and is not a substitute for seeking medical advice. It’s important to first communicate with your doctor regarding any of the information you wish to put into practice, especially for serious illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Okay. Let’s get started. All right. That’s all for this week, we’ll see you next week because I’m Dr. Gundry and I’m always looking out for you.
Thanks for joining me on this episode of the Dr. Gundry Podcast. Before you go, I just wanted to remind you that you can find the show on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. And if you want to watch each episode of the Dr Gundry Podcast, you could always find me on YouTube at youtube.com/gundry, because I’m Dr. Gundry, and I’m always looking out for you.