When we’re talking about food, we’re talking about the healing capacity of it. What we’re really talking about is food as information. What does it mean to ingest something, to bring it into our body and the effect that it has? With every food in the market, with all these different things you can grow, how you can bring them together? So much of that can optimize our healing. That’s what food medicine is really about.
When we’re talking about detoxification, there are so many different places when we’re looking at the human body. Are we looking at our visceral organs when it’s talking about our most potent organ for detoxification, which is the liver? How do we optimize how the liver is functioning?
When we’re talking about detoxifying, we have to look at elimination. Are your bowels regular? Is your fiber intake where it’s adequate? Is it where it should be to help cleanse the body as you start getting into a process of helping bringing foods that’ll cleanse?
I always love having this conversation with my patients because so much of it is about playing with foods and incorporating foods for the first time. I start simple. If we can get foods like garlic for its anti-microbial effect, foods like turmeric, which is one of the most potent antioxidants on the planet, raw extra virgin olive oil, seeds, high-folate rich leafy greens — these are just a few examples of really potent, but also really high nutrient-density foods I try to get people to incorporate into their daily life.
As much as coffee will just help to start your day because it can be very stimulating, it can be a lot on the nervous system if we’re not used to it. If we’re dealing with thyroid conditions or other things where we don’t want stimulants, there are so many energizing foods that’ll help control blood sugar in a more natural way. Nuts are a fantastic example. High fat-soluble foods actually tend to be really great for energy because it helps a lot with satiety. Nuts really help stabilize and give you that energy that you need throughout the day, especially in the mid-afternoon.
Turmeric is just a really easy way because you don’t need very much of it. So adding that to soups and stews is a simple way to sneak it in there. Garlic is also fantastic.
What kind of oils are you using? What can we transition to that could be a little bit more heat stabilizing or a little bit more nutrient dense? If they’re using canola oil, maybe I can transition them over to coconut oil. Canola oil tends to be a little bit more processed. So it depends on who I’m talking to and what their baseline diet is.
Stay away from processed foods in general because you tend to have more refined sugars in them, and a lot of the processing in it has really high preservatives. At the end of the day, these just aren’t whole foods, and they just don’t have the nutrient density that other foods do.
This has been very controversial lately. Across the board, it’s hard to find studies that haven’t really demonstrated the benefits of a plant-based diet. When it comes to red meat consumption and animal-based protein, it’s really about the quality and the source of your proteins, especially red meat. If you’re going to eat red meat, you want to do it sparingly. I always tell my patients look at it like a dessert. Have it on a monthly basis if you’re going to have it, and you want to have high quality. Get it from the farmer’s market. Make sure it’s local. Make sure it’s grass fed. If it’s organic, you’re decreasing the hormones and the pesticides, especially when dealing with chicken. This can be a little bit harder to find because they’re so high in antibiotics and hormones.
In general, especially with arthritic diseases, the anti-inflammatory and Mediterranean diets can really help. It can help with that generalized joint pain. The anti-inflammatory diet is the most promising.
I'm a personal fan of dark chocolate. I think it’s a potent antioxidant. It’s high in flavonoids, which is fantastic. Flavonoids are just another potent anti-inflammatory. What you want to do, though, with dark chocolate is you want to make sure that it’s at least about 80 to 85 percent raw cacao.
It’s a bit overwhelming. I think that what I have found across the board is that whether it’s ketogenic, whether it’s intermittent fasting, whether or not it’s Paleo, high fat, low fat, whatever it may be, the benefits of all these diets are found in the middle. They’re found in all of the similarities between these diets, not the differences. It’s about eating whole foods. It’s about eating more vegetables than you’re used to. It’s about eating more real fruit than you did before, and it can be really difficult. I cater toward specific pathologies, talking to someone with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) or endometriosis versus someone with heart disease versus someone with diabetes.
One of the most promising dietary trends right now is looking at the use of the ketogenic diet for patients with diabetes. I look at the ketogenic diet as a reset point for my patients with diabetes. It’s not a longevity plan. It’s really about tailoring that personalized health toward patients and getting them on a plan where I can use the ketogenic diet to help reset. But then we transition to a more Paleo-based high fish consumption, anti-inflammatory, Mediterranean-based diet that’s a lot lower in grain consumption to help stabilize some of their blood sugar. And that’s just specific to diabetes.
One of the best things that you can do is to stay simple with your recipes. It’s so much better to cook something and cook it well and be proud of it and share that with your friends and share that with your family than getting overwhelmed with so many different recipes that are complicated and, truthfully, just intimidating. So keep food simple. It’s about your ingredients. It’s about whole foods. It’s not about this culinary masterpiece that you need to have. To really make it fun, cook with your friends and family. It’s about connecting with your community.
A really simple way when it comes to cooking or even grocery shopping is to purchase always on the periphery of the grocery store, where the fresh fruits and vegetables can be found. The aisles of the grocery store are where the more processed things tend to be. So stick to the periphery. That’s where your vegetables are. That’s where your fruits are. I try to have a variety of different colors, your vegetables, your leafy greens, your carrots, your bell peppers. Ask yourself, how much color is in my grocery cart? That’s a really simple way of approaching grocery shopping on a weekly basis.
Raw kale should really be eaten in moderation. It has a higher degree of oxalate content. There has been some studies that have shown a correlation between high oxalate to thyroid dysfunction. So you just really want to monitor the amount of raw kale that you’re eating.
I always say, just saute it. It doesn’t even have to be very long. It can be a couple minutes, and that way you’re deoxidizing the oxalate and you’re not getting so much of that content versus eating it raw.
I love putting microgreens on dishes because it’s such an easy way to get so much nutritional value. I love going to the farmer’s market. Our local San Diego Fit Farmer’s Market has a microgreens woman who I absolutely adore who grows so much diversity. Microgreens are just smaller versions of certain vegetables. You have arugula microgreens. You can have broccoli, sunflower seeds. You can sprinkle that on everything and anything. I will do eggs. I will do avocado toast. I will do salads. Garnish it on seafood, on chicken. You can use such variety with it, which is why I love it so much.
The benefits depend on the microgreen. Cruciferous vegetables are one example. Broccoli microgreens are really great to help stabilize excess estrogen levels. If I have women with abnormal Pap smears or hormonal dysfunction, especially abnormal Pap smears, cruciferous and the Brassica family of vegetables have been shown to help reverse some of the abnormal Paps. So I really get women on microgreens.
Absolutely. We’re living such busy lives, professional, working, and getting home and making dinner on time. But it’s really about what you’re purchasing. Our society has this preconceived idea of fast food, but it can be whatever you need it to be. It can be running into a grocery store and purchasing a ready-made salad, which is what I would do. If I’m really stuck, and I know that I’m going to get home late or my husband is on call and we’re busy, then I’ll run into the grocery store, I’ll purchase some soup. I’ll get a ready-made salad. To me, that’s fast food. And then you’re avoiding a lot of the processed drive-through meals, which are preconceived ideas of what we have in our culture of fast food that you can just avoid.
If I could teach anything to my patients, it would be to cook your meals at home. It’s really about how many of your meals in one week do you eat out, and how many of those meals do you eat in. If it’s seven meals out, how do I get you eating four meals out, and then later two, and then one. When you’re able to take control of the foods that you’re eating in your home, then you’re really getting control of what it is that you consume. And that’s empowering. That’s about finding your voice and finding your strength, and there’s nothing more healthy than that.
Watch the San Diego Health video on how food can be used as medicine.