Optimal health begins with optimal nutrition. But with so many fad diets populating the modern sustenance scene, the world of wellness can be rather tricky to navigate. One doctor set his sights on mapping the most alimentary plan. His research indicates foods we’re taught are healthful may be the real root of our problems.
When he wasn’t shedding weight, despite running 30 miles a week, hitting the gym one hour a day, and eating a recommended low-fat vegetarian diet, Dr. Steven Gundry decided to take matters into his own hands. Now based in Palm Springs, the former chairman of cardiothoracic surgery at Loma Linda University Medical Center has devoted recent years to pioneering nutritional research in the field of holobiotics. This area of study centers on the holobiome, which comprises both the human body and its microbiome, or the world of microorganisms that make human beings their home. He subsequently dropped 70 pounds and has kept the weight off for 17 years. The key, he says, is holobiotic symbiosis.
There’s a lot of undetected action happening in, on, and around our bodies. Findings from the Weizmann Institute in Israel, published in 2016 in the scientific journal PLOS Biology, estimate the number of microbial cells in the human body roughly equals the number of human cells. That’s trillions of unseen microorganisms hitching a ride. They power digestion and aid the immune system, but can also impede proper cell function and generate illness. Gundry’s work suggests poor dietary choices threaten good microbes by feeding the bad ones. To our detriments, the good “bugs” will defend their home (read: our bodies) from foreign bacteria and compounds we ingest. Conversely, eating right can reverse health issues. “It’s a symbiotic relationship,” he says, and you have to take care of your “buddies.”
Gundry details his latest recommendations in his most recent book, the 2017 New York Times best-seller The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in “Healthy” Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain.
We’re overrun with conflicting reports on nutrition. How can consumers weed through misinformation?
Consumers have to first and foremost understand that published government recommendations have little to do with what people should be eating. The Department of Agriculture’s job is to sell agricultural products. That’s quite frankly at complete odds with promoting health. Dietary guidelines, the food pyramid, are what actually produce problems. When people stop eating their most beloved “healthy” foods, their diabetes goes away, their heart disease goes away, their autoimmune disease goes away.
You discovered that truth through personal experience.
I was a big guy … going, “Gee whiz, I’m doing everything right, but why is all this happening?”
Dr. Steven Gundry
I was told [my weight] was genetic because my father’s bloodwork was exactly like mine, when, in fact, it wasn’t at all. The problem was I was following “healthy” eating advice. When I stopped doing that my health turned around; [I lost] 50 pounds the first year, and then subsequently another 20 pounds.
Which foods should we be reaching for?
We should be eating foods that we’re designed to eat: leaves, shoots, flowers, fat, tubers, sweet potatoes, jicama, rutabaga, olive oil, avocados, coconut, macadamia nuts. … I have an expression that we should party like it’s 9,999 years ago, because 10,000 years ago agriculture started [and] we began eating grains and beans. They’re some of the cornerstones of ill health in humans.
Which ingredients should
Some of the most dangerous plants are some of our favorites: corn, quinoa, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers. We react negatively to these foods. We can actually see, in very high-tech bloodwork, that our immune system is activated to go on the warpath looking for things that we’re not supposed to be eating. We’re also over-proteinized in this country. We only need about 20 grams a day. That’s a small can of tuna. People go, “Wait a minute, you need protein for muscle,” and all I ever say is, “Well, you better go talk to a gorilla because a gorilla’s got more muscle than you’ll ever have, and the gorilla’s not eating burgers.”
What is the most common mistake people make
So many people, when they lose 15 to 20 pounds and things are looking great, get very discouraged. All of a sudden, weight loss slows to a snail’s pace. They just have to realize that there aren’t as many cells in them anymore eating calories. … The mistake is thinking, “This diet isn’t working anymore.” The important thing to understand during weight loss is something a nutritionist taught me a very long time ago: Every cell in your body obviously needs some degree of calories. For every pound of body weight, you need about 10 calories a day to maintain weight. Let’s take a 200-pound person. They need 2,000 calories to maintain their weight. Let’s lose some weight. Now we weigh 180 pounds. To maintain that weight, we only need 1,800 calories. That’s a protein bar. It’s a glass of wine. The more weight you lose, the fewer cells you have to burn calories, so you have to reduce your caloric intake.
Where does fitness fit in?
Everybody thinks you’ve got to exercise to lose weight. That’s actually one of the biggest myths out there. Whenever someone tells me they’re not losing weight because they’re not exercising, I bring up a hibernating bear: Bears don’t exercise for five months but they lose tremendous amounts of weight and that’s because they don’t eat. Having said that, studies of successful long-term weight loss in humans show that the people who actually keep the weight off have an exercise program. Suppose I say, “I want 300 calories.” How am I going to get it? I have to walk or run 3 miles every day to earn my 300 calories that I want to eat.
How can we maintain results?
Fad diets come and go. Every study that’s ever been done shows that people eventually stop this fad diet and then their weight not only returns, but it actually gets worse. The more we return to the way we evolved to eat, the better it is. What I try to convince people of is, there is no such thing as dieting. It’s a lifestyle.
“Well, you better go talk to a gorilla because a gorilla’s got more muscle than you’ll ever have, and the gorilla’s not eating burgers.”Dr. Steven Gundry