The majority of Americans are confused about how to eat, said Mark Hyman, MD, at the 2018 Integrative Healthcare Symposium annual conference in New York City.
"Oatmeal is a healthy breakfast".
"Butter is good for you".
"Cholesterol in egg yolks is bad for you".
"Meat is causing heart disease and cancer".
"Three glasses of milk is needed for strong bones".
With numerous contradictory claims, and more coming out every day, it's easy to see why we're confused, said Hyman.
What's driving our confusion is money, Hyman said, and in particular money from the food industry. Food injustice affects everything that matters in the world, from chronic disease, skyrocketing healthcare costs, poverty, violence, education, national security, and the environment. Processed foods, that are cheap to produce and readily available, make big money for the companies that create them, but are detrimental to the physical, mental, and emotional health of those who consume them.
Even government agencies, like the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, are influenced by finances. And, of course, big brands pay for the marketing and the research studies to produce results in favor of them and their products.
Historically, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who partnered to create the now retired food pyramid, suggested six to 11 servings of grains, cereal, rice, and pasta per day, which Hyman says is much too high. "Dietary guidelines are supposed to be independent," he said," but they're not."
The cost of food is also influencing the health of our nation. As the price of products like soda and fast food goes down, the cost of fruits and vegetables is increasing—a typical fast food burger, large fries, and a large soda costs, on average, $6.20, while a healthy salad alone costs an average of $9.95, Hyman said.
Health claims on food labels add another layer to the confusion, said Hyman, who says if a food has a health claim on its packaging, don't eat it. Other countries have already imposed taxes on soda, eliminated cartoon characters from packaging, put warning labels on cigarettes, and eliminated advertising altogether for certain products. However, money is at the heart of this system in the U.S., a system in which big food companies have become the 21st century pedophiles, said Hyman.
"We are in desperate need of a food revolution," said Hyman. "We need to create the change."
The bottom line is the system is confusing. And it's made even more challenging when the experts can't seem to agree on which "diet" is the best for humans. However, there are a few basic principles that we can all agree on, and it starts with eating real food, Hyman said. They are:
- Avoid processed foods, refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, and refined oils
- Avoid factory farmed animals
- Avoid food that contributes to climate change and environmental degradation
- Avoid foods that affect kids ability to learn, threatens national security or promotes violence and poverty
- Avoid additives, artificial ingredients, hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
To achieve this, Hyman recommends a few easy-to-follow steps:
- Eat whole real foods, mostly plants
- Follow a low glycemic load diet
- Consume healthy fats (extra virgin olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, fish, etc.)
- Stick with sustainably and humanly raised or harvested animal foods (fish, poultry, meat, etc.)
- Support regenerative agriculture, soil health, and water resources
- Supports farm worker’s rights
"Ask yourself, did man make this or did God make this?" said Hyman, referring back to a presentation he gave at a local church group. "Leave the food that man made, and eat the food that God made."