Dr. Gundry (00:00):
Hey everybody. It’s Dr. Gundry here and I’ve got some very exciting news. Right now, you can sign up for Dr. Gundry’s newsletter. As a subscriber, you’ll get updates about new episodes of The Dr. Gundry Podcast where we talk about all things health. Trust me, you won’t want to miss out. I’ll also keep you in the loop of all the things I’m up to from news to events to special appearances. Visit www.drgundry.com to sign up.
Speaker 2 (00:33):
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 (00:48):
Welcome to The Dr. Gundry Podcast. Well, by now, you’ve heard me talk a lot about superfoods, nutrient dense foods packed with healthy polyphenols and antioxidants, but it’s also a term that gets thrown at a lot of foods these days. On today’s episode, I’m going to help you separate the real superfoods from the phonies because lately, I’ve been seeing all kinds of misinformation out there, misinformation that could be keeping you from truly feeling your healthiest. Today, I’m going to share the biggest superfood myth, the one super oil… Actually, I’m going to tell you about two super oils that you’ve probably never heard of… and why some lectin-free foods may still be on the no-no list. You’re not going to want to miss a second of this one.
Let’s start with an important question. What the heck is a superfood? Well, it’s almost superfood is in the eye of the beholder, and I think we really have to be cautious with the term superfood at all. In general, superfoods should be nutrient dense and calorie sparse. In other words, you pack a lot of great stuff into not a lot of caloric weight. For instance, the more polyphenols that something has, I consider the better the superfood it is. But, there are some polyphenols in foods that have a lot of calories. For instance, extra dark chocolate has a ton of polyphenols, and cacao in and of itself has got some pretty great qualities as a superfood. But when you start adding sugar to that to make chocolate that you’re probably going to eat, it may have an original ingredient of superfood, but it no longer qualifies as a superfood.
Same way with coffee. There are so many great studies that the polyphenols in black coffee really qualifies a coffee bean and coffee drink… Black is one of the great superfoods that you can have, but if you then put several teaspoons of sugar and lots of junk and make a frappuccino out of it and ice it, it’s now a 500 calorie sugar bomb that has nothing to do with the original ingredient. Plus, believe it or not, coffee bean is the bean of a berry and coffee fruit, the powder that we throw away for the most part, actually probably has far more polyphenols that are great for you than the coffee bean you’re getting.
In general, nutrient dense, calorie poor is really one of the best ways to define a superfood. Now that you know what a superfood, is in my opinion, let’s talk about some superfoods that you should probably never eat. One of my favorites is goji berries. Any of you how have listened to me in the past know that one of the most momentous moments in my young career as a nutritionist was touting goji berries because they’ve got so many cool polyphenols. I was actually on the phone with Loren Cordain, the Colorado State professor who truly is the father of the paleo diet, and I was telling him on how great goji berries were and he said, “What? Don’t you read the literature?” I said, “Well, you know I do. Of course I do.” He said, “No, I’m going to send you two papers that’ll show you what the ding dong was wrong with goji berries.”
These papers and humans actually showed that people consuming goji berries actually had more inflammation. Why? Well, it turns out that goji berries are from the United States. They are from North America. They were called the wolfberry and they are a nightshade, in the same family as tomatoes and eggplants and peppers. I got news for you. You don’t peel the skin off a goji berry, now do you? That’s why goji berries are unfortunately not the superfood they’re cracked up to be.
Now, there are some similar fruits that do qualify as a superfood. Right now in most parts of North America, mulberries are coming into season. Mulberries have some of the coolest polyphenols that you can possibly imagine. I’d prefer to use mulberry powder, but this is the time to eat mulberries. Soon, in the fall, pomegranates will be available and no, please don’t drink pomegranate juice. It’s pure sugar, but pomegranate and the oil in the seed has some of the greatest compounds that you will ever encounter. Much better choices.
Wheat grass. I see this all the time. Now, just remember that wheat grass, the idea that we should actually be consuming wheat grass, got its start at the Hippocrates Institute in Florida. I have several patients who were former staff members there. The idea originally was, in people with cancer who were coming there, one of the ideas was to try and make cancer patients throw up. The founder noticed that when dogs want to vomit, they eat a lot of grass and sure enough, as anyone knows, it will make a dog vomit very effectively. They got the idea that grass makes people vomit. In fact, wheat grass is a very powerful source of gluten and gluten-like proteins, as is barley grass, as is rye grass.
Please read the labels of your green drinks or your superfood drinks. If you see the word wheat grass or barley grass or rye grass, please run the other way. I have so many patients on a gluten free diet who do not know that there is gluten-like materials in wheat grass. They have celiac disease and when we take their green drinks away from them with wheat grass, that was the thing that flipped the switch and made them no longer celiac.
Want a better option? Moringa. Moringa is often called a superfood for very good reasons because moringa is edible, it has a high amount of protein in the leaves and moringa is your new wheat grass. Moringa is readily available. Look for it wherever you can find it.
One of my favorite, chia seeds. Chia seeds have lectins. I’m sorry, folks. Chia seeds are from South America and Central America and they do contain a lectin. Now the great news is there is something a whole lot better that works even better than chia seeds and that is basil seeds, sweet basil seeds. They actually plump up faster, they don’t have a lectin and they have some fantastic health-promoting compounds in them, polyphenols that chia seeds do not contain. If you’re looking for the chia experience, please get yourself basil seeds. They’re really cheap and you can get them on Amazon. I shouldn’t tell you that because now I probably won’t be able to get any, but they are just fantastic for every place you would consider using chia seeds.
How about quinoa? Now, quinoa also is a South American pseudograin. Yes, the Incas used quinoa. They used it as a major grains fuel source, but the Incas did not just throw quinoa into a bucket of water and boil it. They soaked quinoa first then they allowed it to rot. They fermented it. If you listen to me enough, fermentation is a very effective way of diminishing the lectin content of any food. Bacteria like to enjoy eating certain lectins and so bacterial fermentation of quinoa made it, then, much less harmful to them. You don’t see the idea of fermentation on the package directions.
Now, there’s a much better alternative to quinoa and that’s millet or sorghum. Neither of these have a hull, they don’t have a lectin and you can use them really interchangeably any place you’d use quinoa. So please, stay away from those ancient superfoods.
And while I’m on it, ancient grains. I see this all the time: “This is made of ancient grains.” Well number one, grains aren’t very ancient in the human diet. We’ve only been eating grains for about 10,000 years. Rice has only been around for 8,000 years. If you think that ancient grains are any more healthful, let me remind you that the Iceman, the frozen man found in the Northern Italian Alps who is about 5,000 years old who was riddled with arthritis and apparently a fairly young man, he had ancient grains in his pocket of his [inaudible 00:11:38]. I got news for you. That’s where he got his arthritis. There’s nothing ancient about grains that make them any more healthy. They are not. When you see that buzz word “made from ancient grains,” they’re going to make you ancient sooner than you would want.
Here’s another myth I want to address. This keeps coming up, particularly in my patient population. Some people think that if a starchy food doesn’t have lectins and it appears on the yes list, then it’s okay for them to eat and to eat in abandon. Let me explain why that’s not true. Remember that a resistant starch, or a starch, is eventually going to turn into sugar. How fast that starch becomes sugar is predicated, really, on how fast that you actually digest those starches, those long sugar molecules, apart.
It’s one thing to, let’s say, take a taro root, cassava, and cook a cassava and eat it whole. It’s quite another thing to grind that cassava into a fine flour and then use it as a flour. What you’ve done in the process of mechanically breaking those starches down is you’ve broken those starches into finer and finer and finer molecules so that you’re able to digest those starches quickly as if they were sugar.
Food companies have known this for a very long time. We didn’t know they were doing it. For instance, you can take whole grain wheat or whole grain oats and pulverize it with a Swiss roller mill and make it into ultra fine starches… After all, wheat’s mostly starch… and you will absorb that faster than if you actually ate straight sugar. It will go into your bloodstream as glucose faster than if you ate straight sugar.
I see so many of my patients say, “Oh, look. Cassava chips. Those are fine,” or “Plantains. They’re fine,” and then they rush out and they buy cassava chips or plantain chips and they’re eating them by the bagful. When they come in, number one, they’ve gained weight. Number two, their triglycerides are up… Remember, we convert these things first into triglyceride… and their insulin levels are up and their hemoglobin A1cs are up. They’re shocked because they’re eating safe foods. Well, they’re not safe if you adulterate into something that they originally weren’t.
Buyer beware. You’re getting that plantain chip to dip it into guacamole as a way of getting guacamole into your mouth. You’re getting that taro root chip not to eat a bag of taro chips. You’re getting it to get guacamole into your mouth, not to eat these things. I just see it all the time. I see people go on millet crazes and their triglycerides go up. Their insulin goes up. So beware. Just because it’s lectin-free doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat in abundance.
Now, there are some foods that really can be good for you if you eat them the right way. First, let’s talk about legumes or legumes. These are the bean family. As most of you know, I have nothing against beans as long as they are prepared correctly, and that is traditional cultures always soak their beans for at least a day. They change the water every four to six hours and pour out that water because soaking does reduce the lectin content. And then they tended to cook these beans a long time. There was always a pot of beans on the stove. Prolonged cooking also decreases the lectin content. But, the best way is to soak your beans and then pressure cook them. That’s the quick and easy way to delectinize beans.
Why are they a superfood? Well, it turns out that beans and lentils actually have what are called polyamines which, as I showed in The Longevity Paradox, really actually prolongs lifespan in all cultures and all studies. Also, you’re going to learn in The Energy Paradox that there are some very interesting phospholipids in beans that may be of real importance to you and your mitochondria. Now, there are plenty of other ways to get phospholipids in your diet… And stay tuned. We’re going to do a deep dive into phospholipids… but there are interesting phospholipids in beans that are worth your attention.
Additionally, beans are loaded with prebiotics, prebiotic fiber. Remember, prebiotics are the sugar molecules that you and I can’t digest but our gut buddies think is the best thing that ever happened to them. That’s why that famous song that you all learned as a kid actually has some meaning. You’re actually going to learn more about that in The Energy Paradox. Beans, beans, that wonderful fruit. The more you eat, the more you toot. That’s gas. The more you toot, the better you feel so let’s have beans with every meal. Pressure cook them, but don’t have them with every meal because you don’t need that much gas.
Hey podcast listeners. Dr. Gundry here and I need your help. I’m always trying to improve this podcast so I can bring the most valuable and insightful information to you, the listeners. In the show notes for each episode of this podcast, you’ll find a link to a survey. Please just take a few minutes to fill it out so I can learn more about you and what you would most like to hear us discuss on the show. Your opinion really matters so thank you.
Next, let’s talk about the elephant in the room, and you know what I’m talking about, fruit. Those of you who remember my first book Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution, one of the mnemonics was give fruit the boot. What’s so bad about fruit? Isn’t it nature’s candy? Well, in fact, it is nature’s candy, but nature’s candy has been bred to make it even more candy. Blueberries now are the size of grapes and you can eat them by the handful because they are so sweet. They are loaded with sugar.
As you’re going to learn in The Energy Paradox, the main sugar in fruit is fructose. Aptly named. Fructose is so poisonous, that your body has a complete system that takes fructose and doesn’t let much of it into your bloodstream as opposed to glucose which goes directly into your bloodstream. The most of fructose goes to your liver. Your liver, remember, is where things get detoxified. It goes to your liver because it’s a toxin and it’s turned into two primary substances. One is triglycerides, which you have measured on your cholesterol test every time you have that measured, and uric acid. Uric acid is what causes gout, which causes kidney stones and which raises blood pressure.
As you’re going to see in The Energy Paradox, the triglycerides that fructose are made into are a fat called palmitate or palmitic acid. Spoiler alert, the more palmitate running around in you, the less energy you’re going to have. If you’re looking for energy, fruit is probably the worst choice for getting more energy.
Now, are some fruits safer? Well, yeah. Some fruits are safer. In the berry family, which are the safest, the safest are blackberries and raspberries and mulberries and pomegranate seeds, as I mentioned before. Try to stay away from healthy apples, for instance. They, again, have been bred. Remember, honeycrisp kind of tells you what that apple is all about. There weren’t any honeycrisp apples 30 years ago.
Wild berries are available, wild blueberries are available frozen in many of your supermarkets, but the idea is not to use these things as a huge pile of a snack. You can use them as a flavoring in salads, for instance. You can put a few as we do in our blueberry pancakes made out of safe material. But you’re not supposed to eat huge amounts of these things. Cherries. A few cherries is a wonderful thing, but when I see the people going out of Costco or Trader Joe’s with gallon of cherries and I talk to my patients and I see their blood work and see their triglycerides going through the roof, and seeing their blood sugars going through the roof, I know where they’ve been and what they’re eating.
Finally, tomatoes. Remember, if something has a seed, it’s a fruit. Even an avocado is a fruit, but it’s pure fat and fiber, and good fats, to boot. Tomatoes are a nightshade. They contain lectins in the peels and seeds. So yes, you can have tomatoes if you peel and deseed them. But here’s the deal, I see so many people saying, “Well, tomatoes are so good for you because they have lycopene,” and yeah, lycopene is a wonderful substance that may protect your prostate, may be useful for other things. But, you don’t need to get lycopene just in tomatoes. My problem has been is when people, even with they deseeding and peeling them, are eating a lot of tomatoes. I start seeing that their triglycerides are going up. I see that their hemoglobin A1c is going up. I see that their fasting glucose is going up and I see that their fasting insulin is going up because these are still fruits.
Here’s a tip: get yourself a tube of tomato paste from Italy. The peels and seeds have been removed. The tomatoes have been concentrated. You can squeeze out a little tomato paste and you’ll get all the benefits of the flavor you want in tomato, the color you want in tomato with none of the down sides. That’s my tip for the day on tomatoes.
There are also some foods that are great for some people and actually harmful for others. Oxalates are getting a lot of talk. Oxalates certainly are very high in spinach. Spinach is number one for oxalates. They’re also quite present in kale and chard. Some of the cruciferous vegetables are high in oxalates. If you are sensitive to oxalates, oxalates can have an effect very similar to the effect that lectins have on people. Certain kidney stones are oxalate stones. If you’ve ever had a kidney stone, make sure you ask your doctor, “Was this a calcium oxalate stone or was this a uric acid stone?” And they’ll tell you.
If it’s a calcium oxalate, do be worried about your tolerance for oxalate. I have always felt that most people who think they’re sensitive to oxalates are actually more sensitive to lectins and when we get the major lectins out of their diet, most of my patients can tolerate the oxalate foods. But, if you’re one of them, absolutely. There’s no human need for spinach, kale and chard. There really isn’t. I happen to think they’re great for you. Do remember… I’ve talked about this before… there is a lectin in spinach that some people do react to so just beware.
Seaweed. Seaweed is everywhere. Everybody talks about how great seaweed is for you. Now, seaweed is incredibly popular in Japan. There’s some fascinating studies that show the Japanese through millennia have acquired a microbiome that can digest seaweed and actually digest it. A quick primer. All animals have no ability to digest the cell wall of a plant. The cellulose in a cell wall of a plant is indigestible by any animal. In fact, that’s why all animals have bacteria in their gut to do the digestion of plants for them. Even termites cannot digest wood. Their little microbiome in that little termite does all the work.
One of the interesting things that I subscribe to in evolutionary theory is the reason you and I have a much smaller intestine than a gorilla or chimpanzee is not because we started eating meat. It’s because we discovered fire and fire, believe it or not… Cooking breaks down the cell walls of plants. For instance, you could eat all the raw sweet potato in the world and you’re not actually going to digest much of it because it’s indigestible. But if you cook a sweet potato, you actually digest it very quickly and easily. In fact, there’s a lot of sugar in a sweet potato, as you’ll learn in The Energy Paradox.
The Japanese acquired bacteria by eating a lot of raw fish from the fish guts that had bacteria that digested seaweed. It’s been shown that in fact, Japanese have bacteria that can digest seaweed, but it’s also been shown that unless you were born and raised in Japan, or lived there for a considerable part of your life, you don’t have bacteria that can digest the cell wall of seaweed. They’re not there for you. Sorry about that.
Here’s what you’ve been waiting for, my top five, maybe six, superfoods. I can’t tell you how much I think everybody should be eating mushroom, should be taking mushroom tonics, should be having mushroom capsules. You’ve heard me go on and on about this. Something that you’re going to learn in The Energy Paradox is one of the reasons you have to eat mushrooms that you probably didn’t know is that they contain melanin and melatonin. And no, they’re not going to put you to sleep. We’ll leave it at that.
If you’re going to eat fish, please stick to small fish like sardines, like anchovies. One of the most studied super long groups in the world, the [inaudible 00:29:53] in Italy south of Naples… I’ve had the pleasure of visiting their little city and studying them… they eat anchovies, little sardines, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They get all of their Omega-3 fats, DHA primarily and EPA, by eating sardines. Plus, fun fact, they get bioavailable calcium in those little tiny bones. Ladies, if you want to get your calcium and you want to support your brain health, have a few sardines.
As you know, in The Plant Paradox, I told you about perilla oil. Perilla oil is the most frequently used oil in Korea and parts of China. Perilla oil is a fascinating oil that has a lot of alpha-Linolenic acid, which is a short chain Omega-3 fat. It’s also a very unique source of rosmarinic acid, which really supports brain power.
We could go on and on about the benefits of perilla oil, but I’ll refer you to a study in humans which was called the Lyon Heart Diet or the Lyon Heart Diet, L-Y-O-N from lion, France, but most people pronounce it Lyon. There, that diet in humans who had a heart attack, they were put on one of two diets. One was the Mediterranean diet in which their diet was supplemented with a margarine that was made with alpha-Linolenic acid, the same fat that’s in perilla oil. The other group was given the American Heart Association low fat diet. It was a five-year study. The study was stopped after three years because the Mediterranean diet group that was supplemented with alpha-Linolenic acid margarine actually had so few subsequent heart attacks compared to the American Heart Association diet that it was unethical to continue the study.
Now, most of the people continued on that study and they found that in fact, the one difference of any blood marker between the two groups was the amount of alpha-Linolenic acid in their blood. That was the only difference in the outcomes between the two groups. That’s why I’m a fan of perilla oil.
Now, it’s hard to get so don’t rush out and try to find it. I got to great alternative for you: sesame oil, particularly regular sesame oil, not the roasted or toasted sesame oil. There’s some fascinating things you’ll learn in The Energy Paradox that sesame oil, the components of sesame oil, will actually block the effect of lipopolysaccharides, LPSs, those little pieces of (beep) that cause all the problems in you, from causing a problem. Please enjoy sesame seeds. Please enjoy sesame oil. It’s probably one of the superfoods that doesn’t get enough attention. Oh, and by the way, sesame oil does contain Omega-6 fats, linoleic acid, and those actually block some of the effects of inflammation.
Superfood next is prebiotic fiber. The more prebiotic fiber, soluble fiber I can get into your diet, the better. My favorite vegetables in this category are the chicory family. Most grocery stores will at least have radicchio, what many people call that Italian red lettuce. Looks like a dense red and white small head of cabbage. One of the best sources of inulin that you can find. All the other chicory family… Belgian endive is really available. It’s another chicory. Use that as a dipping chip for your guacamole.
Now I’m going to tell you about a nut that I’m also very fond of that doesn’t get its due and that’s pine nuts. Pine nuts come from pine cones. There was some fascinating research looking at cultures who ate squirrels that lived in pine forest. They found that people who had a diet of squirrels as part of their diet not only lived longer, but were thinner than people who didn’t eat squirrels that lived in pine forest. That prompted a great deal of research looking at what the heck was in pine nuts that might have this effect.
Pine nuts actually have been used and pine nut oil has been used to promote weight loss and to promote longevity. Here’s the good news: you can even get big bags of organic pine nuts at Costco. I shouldn’t have told you that, either, because now I won’t be able to get any. But this is something you should consider adding a small handful to your regimen every day. If you don’t like the taste, it’s in pesto. Believe it or not, the pesto at Costco is pretty doggone good. It may be that all those pesto eating Italians, basil and pine nuts and parmesan cheese and olive oil, pesto may be one of the greatest superfoods or combination of superfoods you should have in your diet at least on a weekly basis.
Lastly, another nut that many of you haven’t heard of but if you’ve been watching the podcast you know it, baruka nuts. A baruka nut looks and almost tastes like a beer nut, those big, brown peanuts that you sometimes associate with drinking beer in bars. These have huge amounts of polyphenols. They have the most protein of any nut. They have very beneficial fats. And if you eat and buy baruka nuts, you will actually be helping indigenous people in Brazil to actually eke out a living. If you haven’t watched the baruka nut podcast, please watch it or listen to it. It’s fascinating how these came about. I have baruka nuts every day.
That’s it, the superfood myths, what they are, what they aren’t, how to get them in your diet. I really appreciate you asking all these questions because I’m here for giving you the best answers I have. Just remember, when I learn something that surprised me that I thought I knew, you’re going to be hopefully the first to find out, besides my wife Penny.
It’s time for the audience question. Today’s question comes from E. Shapiro on the drgundry.com blog who asks, “Are squashes and pumpkin okay if number one, no seeds or skin are eaten and two, they are pressure cooked and three, they are in season and local?” This is a great question and the answer is yes and no. Yes, they’re okay if no seeds or skin are eaten, two, they’re pressure cooked and they are in season and local. But, here’s the proviso: these are fruits. Any vegetable with seeds is not a vegetable. It is a fruit. Yes, I know we call them vegetables. They’re not, just like a tomato is not a vegetable. It’s a fruit. Fruits have sugar. Fruits have fructose.
I have great number of patients who have prediabetes, who have type 2 diabetes, who are type 1 diabetics and who have elevated insulin levels, particularly the type 2s and the prediabetic, and these still act when people eat these… And they do… as if they were actually eating fruit. If you’re part of the 80% of Americans who are prediabetic or diabetic, that’s 80% of Americans with an elevated insulin level, please, please, please… There is no need for these fruits in your diet. Yeah, they may be delicious. Yeah, I like pumpkin pie as much as anybody. But these are certainly not essential for your health but more importantly, they may, under the guise of a healthy food or even a superfood, may actually be hurting your health.
I recently spoke with Dr. Dale Bredesen, my good friend who wrote The End of Alzheimer’s… And I’m going to plug his upcoming book The End of Alzheimer’s Program. He, like me, warns against these high sugar containing vegetables as really something we all want to avoid in our diet. Sorry about that, but it’s true.
Finally, it’s time for the review of the week. This week’s review of the week comes from Thomas [Nofzyger 00:40:46] on YouTube. “I’ve been involved with a study of biology and nutritional science with sports nutrition formulation, mitochondrial research, bioenergetics and individual nutritional consultation. In all that time, I have not come across anyone as impressive, research, generous, experienced and articulate as Steven Gundry. The Longevity Paradox is a gem of gems, same for The Plant Paradox. I’m about to read the former for a second time. Inside is information that ought to be memorized and further researched.” Thomas, the check is on the way. Thank you very much. That’s high praise indeed. Thanks. A lot of years of research go into this and I don’t put anything into these lightly. Thanks for recognizing the work I’m doing because I’m Dr. Gundry and I’m always looking out for you and you, Thomas.
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. If you want to watch each episode of The Dr. Gundry Podcast, you could always find me on YouTube at youtube.com/drgundry because I’m Dr. Gundry and I’m always looking out for you.