Nutrition and herbal approaches to healing have existed for thousands of years. But many people within conventional medicine regard such approaches as not nearly as scientific as the pharmaceutical-focused conventional medical paradigm. They assume that if such things actually had scientific evidence to support their effectiveness, they would have been incorporated into conventional medicine long ago. So, if natural plant medicine has been used for years, why is it not a standard practice in modern-day conventional medicine? Is it all pseudoscience or is it actually effective to use food for healing your body?
What if you could quantify the effectiveness of eating a particular food to a pharmaceutical drug intervention (e.g. apples vs. statins, or saffron vs. Alzheimer’s drugs, or turmeric vs. painkillers)? And what if there are even examples where simple food interventions can actually perform BETTER than drugs (with positive side effects instead of negative ones)?
I’ll let you in on a little secret that many conventional doctors aren’t aware of, and many pharmaceutical companies don’t want you to know: There are indeed dozens of examples where even very simple, non-comprehensive diet and lifestyle changes dramatically outperform drug interventions. (And it’s certainly very likely that in many cases, if research were done comparing drug interventions to comprehensive nutrition and lifestyle changes, the drugs would be badly embarrassed in terms of effectiveness.)
In this podcast, I am speaking with Dr. Michael Murray, who is the author of The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (and 29 other books) and one of the world’s leading authorities on natural medicine and the science of how to use nutrition to heal your body. I was very impressed with Dr. Michael Murray (as you’ll hear in the podcast) — he’s extremely knowledgeable and committed to truth rather than going along with health fads (like far too many health “gurus” out there.) He’s one of the top trusted sources of health information, in my opinion, and I strongly encourage you to follow his work.
Listen in to this podcast as Dr. Michael Murray reveals his top recommendations for how to use food for healing your body, and The Healing Power Of Food Summit.
Also Make Sure to Sign Up For Dr. Murray’s Healing Power of Food Summit – Free access for just the next few days in October (Sign Up HERE): Before we get into the podcast, I also strongly recommend signing up for Dr. Murray’s Healing Power of Food Summit. You can get FREE access to Dr. Murray’s Food Summit for just the next few days (and then you have to pay for access.) It’s packed with great content. Here are a few speakers that are must-watches, in my opinion: David Katz, MD, Dr. David Friedman, Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Dr. Ben Lynch, Dr. Joe Pizzorno, Jackie Bowen, Razi Berry, Jade Buetler and Ocean Robbins. Get access to the whole summit for FREE right here. (Note: I believe it’s shutting down in just a couple days, but there will be an encore next weekend where you will be able to get free access to everything for a couple of days.)
In this podcast, Dr. Murray will cover:
- How to use food for healing your body
- The rare, but powerful studies (that will blow your mind) that compare the healing efficacy of nutrition/lifestyle interventions vs. drugs
- The best oils for health
- How much fat should you actually be eating (hint: not necessarily a low fat diet, but probably a lot less than is currently trendy)
- Why a meat-centric diet can be bad for your health
- How your microbiome affect your health (and is there a unique best diet for every individual?)
- The truth about grains and gluten (there are some twists to the story!)
- Are legumes good or bad for you?
- Why phytochemicals are essential for health and disease prevention
- The best diet for health and longevity (hint: the answer will surprise you)
- Michael Murray’s best foods for healing and health (his top superfoods and superherbs)
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How To Use Food For Healing Your Body With Dr. Michael Murray (The Healing Power Of Food Summit) – Transcript
Ari Whitten: Hey everyone, welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m your host, Ari Whitten, and today, I have with me a very special guest Dr. Michael Murray. Dr. Murray is one of the world’s leading authorities on natural medicine. He’s published over 30 books, 30 books. I’ll repeat that. That’s a lot of books featuring natural approaches to health. He’s a graduate, former faculty member, and serves on the board of regions of Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington and he’s the chief science officer of Enzymedica. He’s also the author of the Magic of Food and the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. So with that said, welcome to the show Dr Murray. Such a pleasure to have you.
Dr. Michael Murray: Likewise. It’s great to be here with you.
Why natural medicines are considered alternative
Ari Whitten: Yeah. So, I want to, I was kinda debating before we started this, about how I wanted to start this podcast. There’s a couple good, great stuff that, a couple of great things that I wanted to get into here. I’ll start with one quote that I really liked that’s on your website and it says one of the great myths about natural medicines is that they are not scientific. The fact of the matter is that for most common illnesses there is greater support in the medical literature for a natural approach than there is for drugs or surgery. So that, that in itself is a really bold statement that…
Dr. Michael Murray: It is.
Ari Whitten: … would probably get you branded by a, you know, a lot of people in conventional medicine as, as you know, ”Whoa, that’s, this guy’s crazy!” And yet, I would love for you to kind of explain what this is all about and maybe some instances where this is actually true because a lot of people in conventional medicine just say, hey, if that stuff worked, then it wouldn’t be sort of alternative It would be integrated into conventional medicine. It, you know, what, what we call anything that has science to support it is just medicine instead of alternative medicine or her, you know, if it’s not integrated in the conventional, allopathic paradigm than it must be nonsense sort of thing. Can you kind of elaborate on what that quote is all about and give maybe a few examples where that’s the case.
Dr. Michael Murray: Thank you. I appreciate that. It’s a great way to start this off. Yeah, there is a wealth of information in the scientific literature would support the use of natural approaches, diet, lifestyle, modification, attitude adjustments, deep breathing, other natural therapies, acupuncture, etc. And it is a myth that there’s a little scientific support for these approaches. Over the last 40 years. I personally gathered over 70,000 scientific articles which support the use of these approaches in the treatment of a disease and in the maintenance of health. And it just takes some common sense. I mean, you don’t get a headache because you’re deficient in aspirin and you don’t get depressed because you need vitamin Prozac.
You don’t have digestive issues because you need to take Nexium or Prilosec.
There are underlying core factors, root causes of these situations and others. And the way we should be dealing with those underlying causes is not through suppressing symptoms, but actually promoting the body’s ability to nourish and heal itself.
And that’s the fundamental approach that I take and I think it’s just common sense and it is supported in the medical literature for a lot of health conditions. Take a look at something like diabetes or high blood pressure. Those conditions really respond very well to diet, lifestyle and a proper nutritional supplementation. Variety of different herbal approaches.
We can make noticeable improvements in those conditions. In the case of type two diabetes, we can completely reverse it if we can help people improve the action of insulin throughout their body. And that can be done quite effectively in most cases. It’s just that people don’t know it. They’ve been told by their doctor, ” you’ve got a type two diabetes, you’re gonna have to take this drug for the rest of your life. And there’s no way around it”. Well, that’s not true.
How an apple a day may keep the doctor away
Ari Whitten: Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. I’m reminded as we’re talking about this, of this, this kind of fascinating and also hilarious study. I’m trying to find it. I think it was published in the British Journal of Medicine, that basically tried to quantify the effectiveness of statin drugs in reducing the incidence of cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Michael Murray: Right.
Ari Whitten: And you’re laughing make, which makes me think that, you know, which study I’m referring to already. But they quantified it and try to compare it to the traditional sort of common sense advice of eating an apple a day, you know, sort of an apple a day keeps the doctor away and they actually ended up quantifying this in a way were they concluded. And this was actually a real piece of research. They concluded that the effectiveness of the statin drug and reducing cardiovascular disease or atherosclerosis was on par with the advice to eat an apple a day.
Dr. Michael Murray: Yeah. Actually the apple a day is a little bit better if you look at the data is really not supportive the use of these statin drugs in most cases. I think they do have their use of someone who’s had a heart attack, has a clear clinical evidence of heart disease.
Yeah, there might be some benefit that the research does support improved life expectancy. But statins have not been shown to be helpful in other cases, there’s not a study that shows that it actually increases life expectancy in women. There’s no, no valid studies showing any real influence on reducing mortality by taking a statin women.
And as I mentioned for men, it’s just restricted to those very limited cases of either a prior heart attack or severe cardiovascular disease.
If we look at the overall benefit of taking a stat and from the best studies it shows a reduction in cardiovascular death by about 28 percent. If we look at a study, the studies with apples, they showed that eating one apple three times a week reduced the risk of having a heart attack or stroke by 37 percent.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, wow.
Dr. Michael Murray: And then… one of the studies that really amazed me. I was looking through a medical journalist… this was years ago. There was a study where there was an ad for metformin and it says, you know, basically to doctors ”Get your prediabetic patients on this drug glucofage because it reduces their risk of developing type two diabetes.” And I looked at the reference, I was familiar with the diabetes prevention study and what the study showed is a divided people into three groups.
One group, was a control group. The other group, took the metformin. And the third group, they instituted a diet and lifestyle changes. The only thing that the people really change as that they were walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week. So just a little bit of exercise. Okay. Then they found that compared to the control group, the people that took a statin did reduce their risk of developing type two diabetes by 38 percent.
But in the people that walked 30 minutes a day for five days a week, they reduced their risk of having type two diabetes by 58 percent. So it was nearly twice as effective and then I looked at that data and they had information in there that looked at the effects of the drug by age group 30 to 40, 40 to 50, 50 plus.
And what they found was, is that the drug had very little effect on people over the age of 50 and that’s when most people are getting placed on these drugs. and so what they found in those patients is the drug was not effective at all that reducing the risk of developing type two diabetes.
But again, the fact of walking persistent.
So yeah. So it’s just, there’s so much a simple things we can apply in our lives that can make a huge difference in where we are.
Ari Whitten: Yeah…
Dr. Michael Murray: but what we don’t know is what happens when you’ve combined everything,
Ari Whitten: right? Yeah, absolutely. And well, you know, there’s unfortunately studies in both of those, these types of things that we’re talking about. So on the one hand, studies that let’s say compare a drug intervention to a simple singular lifestyle and mentioned like going for a few walks a day or a few 10 minutes walks a day or 1 30 minute walk or something like that, or you know, taking a spirulina supplement as opposed to take, you know, taking statin drugs. Like unfortunately those studies are extraordinarily rare almost to the point of nonexistence. In a lot of cases.
I really wish there was a lot more of that kind of study. But then as, as you’re pointing out also, there are very few studies on comprehensive lifestyle and nutrition interventions where you just overhaul a person’s diet and lifestyle. You know, if you consider what we mentioned before about, you know, for example, the diabetes drug versus a walk or the, an apple a day versus statins. If you consider some of those, how you know, the effectiveness of a simple nutrition or lifestyle intervention, it only makes sense to imagine that a comprehensive nutrition and lifestyle intervention would just vastly outperform drug interventions almost every time.
Dr. Michael Murray: Absolutely. And we see, we see evidence of that for sure, but there’s always exceptions and so people will say, yeah, well, I know, I remember so and so. He did everything wrong. He ate everything he wanted and smoked cigarettes and drank and he lived till he was a hundred. And I know joe blow and he did everything right. He died having a heart attack, running, running a mile or whatever. So there are always exceptions, but when you look at a large group of people, we see really good trends and it’s, it’s amazing.
And we just have to incorporate as many of the good things in our lives that was, that we possibly can. And a good to stay away from those things that aren’t so good. You know, our talk reminded me of another study that I thought was really interesting. The EPIC study was a European study looking at cardiovascular disease and overall health and provided a lot of really interesting studies when they, they looked at, this is a study when they looked at, in the Greek population, people that are eating a traditional Mediterranean diet.
They found that which all always reduces the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, but they found that when people took a siesta that it reduced their risk of having a heart attack or stroke by 67 percent.
Ari Whitten: Oh wow. I haven’t seen that.
Dr. Michael Murray: Oh yeah. I’ll send you that study because I was glad to see that because I’ve had the luxury of spending a lot my working days working at home and being able to take a 15-minute meditation or maybe a little power nap is part of my lifestyle. And I like seeing that. I got to believe I’m doing good things for myself.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. Well I’m with you. I also work from home and you know, especially as we get into more of the fall and winter months, one of the things that I do is in the middle of my day, I always keep that part of my day free. I never book appointments there. And the reason is I take my dog to the beach. I live walking distance to the beach here and I will take my dog to the beach here in San Diego. And spend probably an hour, hour and a half. I’m walking her and just sitting with her on the beach and often getting a little meditation in as well, or little yoga or something like that. So that’s kind of my, my midday siesta to two, but now I have even more reason to continue doing that based on the research you just said.
Dr. Michael Murray: Yeah. In it makes a lot of sense if you know nutrition and physiology, you understand the importance of putting yourself in that parasympathetic state, relaxation state and taking that time like you’re doing when a great prescription for health through giving yourself.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. And I combined it with sun exposure to a, which is why that, that midday portion is kind of critical, especially during the winter months because that’s the only time you can really get it.
Dr. Michael Murray: Yeah.
The best diet for health
Ari Whitten: So one other aspect, and this is an area that I, you know, as we were talking about before we started recording that I’m really a fan of yours and I want to dig into this a bit with you. You are someone that is communicating what the evidence actually says. You’re someone that is committed to looking at the evidence and then you’re trying to communicate to the public the truth about what the evidence says.
As I said to you before, I oftentimes, unfortunately this is a case. I oftentimes feel like I’m surrounded by health gurus who are either not scientifically literate or who are just intentionally, deliberately cherry-picking the evidence, a selectively exciting the studies that support their, their preconceived notions and their dogmas, or the particular sort of diet book that they’re trying to sell and make money from a while selectively ignoring all the evidence that conflicts and contradicts with their views.
And there’s just way too much of that sort of nonsense going on where people are putting their dollars before truth. And I really appreciate about your work that you do not do that, that you, that you put truth and evidence before dollars. With that in mind, I’d love to dig into some specific aspects of nutrition here. And let’s start with a very direct, blunt question that I know that there’s no easy answer to, but based on looking at the evidence, can we say that there is one best diet for health? What is your take on that?
Dr. Michael Murray: No. We are individuals and one man’s poison, maybe another man’s food. You know, we’re learning more and more what those differentiating factors are related to maybe our genetics, our genomics, and our microbiome.
So we’re getting closer and closer to really understanding what is the best diet for a particular person. So in the meantime, all we can really do is go buy some general principles. And there are certain principles I think are irrefutable. A diet that is too high in refined carbohydrate, A diet that is too high in the wrong types of fat and not supplying the right type of fat and all the other nutrients that we need is not a healthy diet and that’s the diet that most people are, are following.
So when they change to a healthier diet, whether it’s a vegan or paleo or keto, they generally get better but you know, we have to look at what’s best for the long run. And there are ways that we can look at that, looking into the scientific literature, we can look at population-based studies where we can look and see what people were eating or are eating in an area that’s associated with health and long life. We can also look at system prospective studies and there are some intervention studies with diet and we can gain a lot of great information from that evidence. And so that’s kind of what I base my diet on and, and I think you do as well.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. So what as far as the evidence, what does the evidence say about, I guess the first layer of this is the principles of, of what good nutrition for health looks like.
Sort of regardless of let’s say the specific food choices or the macronutrient ratios of the diet, what are the principles of nutrition that we know are good for human health and longevity? And I’ll let me phrase this differently because another way of asking this in the context of what you just said, that we’re all unique individuals. Is there any indication based on any evidence that eating a diet of donuts, french fries, piZzA and ice cream, is the ideal bio individualized diet for anyone?
Dr. Michael Murray: No, for sure. Yeah. The basic principles are to stay away from, from those sorts of foods and to eat a diet that’s going to support blood sugar control. I think that’s for most people, that’s really what they should be thinking about is… They should choose foods that are going to support their, their blood sugar levels. We need to eat. You make food choices that are low on the glycemic index and have meals that are low on the glycemic load, so that means staying away from foods that quickly raise your, your blood sugar. The more processed food is generally the higher glycemic index and glycemic load. We need to eat a variety of fresh and cooked vegetables each day, five servings of vegetables two servings as a fruit. Those numbers aren’t just picked out of the air. Those numbers are based upon what we see in these population-based studies.
If you look at the incidents of all these chronic degenerative diseases, not just cancer and diabetes and heart disease and strokes, but macular degeneration, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, we see that if people are able to hit that milestone, that that’s where you really start seeing the preventive effects.
So that’s something that we should be trying to achieve each and every day. I mentioned eating the good fats and staying away from the bad fats. I think the good fats are the ones that we get from nuts and seeds from good oils like olive oil. And I like avocado oil now. I think that’s, that’s a great one. I like a macadamia nut oil and the coconut oils find them. We need those cold water fish or fish oil supplements. We need to stay away from those omega six fatty acids to get too much of those in our diet.
So safflower, corn, soy, you need to stay away from those, and damaged fats like trans fatty acids and you know, some of these other manmade fats, we need to stay away from those Frankenstein fats. And I think if people do that, they’re going to get the right types of fat in their diet. Many people need to reduce their intake of meat and dairy to achieve that goal as well.
So then we have to eat a high fiber diet. To me that, that doesn’t mean more muffins and whole grains. I think getting those from vegetables and legumes are, or the way to go. We’ve got to get enough water each day. I think that’s something that a lot of people don’t think of as nutrition, but water is, is, I mean, we can go a while without food, but we can only go a few days without water. So it’s really critical that we get good clean water. So those are some of my basic principles.
Why you should get rid of certain types of omega 6
Ari Whitten: Great. So there’s, there are even a few things there that I want to dig into that are, have become a maybe on perhaps unfortunately have become controversial. So you mentioned, for example, going with deeper into the concept of fats. One of the things you write in your book is get rid of omega six sources, like the ones you mentioned more and you’re not talking about nuts and seeds necessarily. You’re talking about more safflower, sunflower oil, soy oil, corn oil, a lot of these sorts of cooking oils that have worked their way into the process foods and restaurants and things like that. and sometimes people’s home cooking. And you talk about emphasizing olive oil, monounsaturated fat, avocados, coconut oil. Actually, there’s one more layer to this in your book you write, I’m curious if you still are on board with this, but you said total daily fat intake shouldn’t be more than 30 percent of calories and that’s, that’s something he wrote in the, in the magic of diet.
Is that something you’ve changed your stance on it all because, obviously the, the latest trends, there’s a lot of people out there who are promoting keto diets and saying that the best diet is one that 60 percent or even 80 percent fat and kind of crazy high-fat numbers like that.
And then there’s one more layer to this, which is the coconut oil aspect. That too has become controversial, right? There are some people saying, hey, especially in kind of vegan circles, a lot of vegan diet gurus are saying, hey, coconut oil is a saturated fat. That’s also bad for us. we need to avoid it. The American heart association came out recently and said, coconut oil is something to be wary of. So what’s, what’s your take on this whole mess of fats? And how popular and kind of trending high fat intake diets have become.
Dr. Michael Murray: Yeah, I’m okay with it to a degree, but I had a really good discussion with an expert like yourself recently. It was nice because we had a nice exchange and he was someone who I respected as well because he too has looked at the literature and him too kind of follows a, a diet very similar to me. again, the key thing is to eat, to control blood sugar levels. And the ketogenic diet is becoming quite popular as a, as a tool to achieve that goal. I think if it has good therapeutic benefit usually as a short-term intervention, but I don’t think it’s really the ideal diet longterm. And I think that for a lot of reasons, one I still think that a ratio that I have in the book, third, no more than 30 percent.
I think that’s a good general guideline. but as we said earlier, even people are different. I like to have a little bit of a dashboard for my nutritional of life. I use a body fat scale that measures my body weight, my body fat, my muscle content, my visceral fat, and my water content. I can see what effect different ratios have and what effect intermittent fasting has or what time of meals and lots of different things. I can see what the impact is on my body fat percentage. That’s what I’m most concerned about because I think that there’s a, you know, we, we think about body weight, but it’s really not body weight, it’s the percentage of body fat that I think we want to keep under control. As we age, we lose muscle, we gain fat. I think there’s a relationship to accelerating the aging process and you know, putting more fat on and losing more muscle.
So at age 60 have very motivated to maintain muscle mass and keep my body fat percentage at or hopefully a slightly trending downward to what it is right now. So I find that for me that ratio still works. Now, I also think it’s important to get the calories were, I think the diet should primarily consist of and that is the vegetables and the vegetables are or attend to be very low in fat. And so we then those should be the primary components of our diet along with, you know, the good oils and high-quality protein. We need those vegetables because they provide all these different health-promoting phytochemicals, plant-based chemicals that act as antioxidants or enhance our detoxification mechanisms and feed our microbiome. Fats are important in feeding our microbiome, but what we’re learning is that it’s not just the prebiotic fibers that are in the vegetables and fruit and legumes that are so helpful, but they also contain these phytochemicals that are critical to the health of the microbiome.
There’s a big focus in research right now. It’s fun, isn’t it? To see what they’re discovering about how food and diet impacts this microbiome and there certain things that we’re learning in. One of the things that we’re learning is that what’s important is to have a microbiome that has great diversity. What determines our diversity in our microbiome is the diversity in our diet. Most Americans eat the same foods over and over and over again. And that’s what happened. That’s another thing that happens on a ketogenic diet. People start eating the same foods over and over again, and a lot of times they start eating too much animal fats in a week, you can get a lot of fat from avocados and nuts and seeds and whatnot. But, I think people end up moving over and getting a lot of fat from animal foods.
The link between microbiome and health
Ari Whitten: I don’t think you. Do you mind if I interrupt you on one point related to the microbiome and diversity? there’s one aspect of this as sort of the concept of the microbiome is becoming better known and the role and health are becoming better known. And we have these companies like ubiome and some that are sort of microbiome testing companies that are emerging.
There’s one really big misconception that I feel a lot of people have right now as this is happening, which is a lot of people are now thinking in the mindset that, oh, I need to get my microbiome tested and find out my unique microbiome and then I need to be prescribed a specific diet that is the right diet that I need to eat for the rest of my life based on my unique bio-individual, a bio-individual, sort of my unique microbiome. And I just want to point out that that sort of thinking is actually reversed from the thinking that you’re talking about, which is the diversity in the diet, determines how healthy and how diverse your microbiome, which in turn influences how healthy you are so that people just kind of have this thought process reverse. Like I need to find out my microbiome and then eat a very specific diet that facilitates my microbiome. Right?
Dr. Michael Murray: Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know, Ubiome and what their dietary recommendations are. I’m familiar with viome and they’ve discovered a lot of interesting things and I think the goal with, with their recommendations is to move people into a healthier microbiome. But we’re just scratching the surface on our knowledge, but there are some, some things that we do know and diversity and richness is very, very important in the way that we support that is to have a diet that is diverse and rich in these phytochemicals.
So that’s why I haven’t really changed much in my composition of the diet in terms of the calorie allocation. because you, if you load up on, on fats, it’s gonna reduce into via a true ketogenic diet. Your intake of fat has to be about 80 percent of your calories. You can’t really have much protein and you can’t really have much a much carbohydrate even if it’s good carbohydrate. Again, I think that there are applications of that therapeutic diet for sure. No question about it. To be helpful as a kickstart for someone for a weight loss program or to help them get control of their blood sugar. But I think long-term we can achieve that same benefit by eating a low glycemic load diet.
How oil, meat, and legumes affect health
Ari Whitten: So there are a few other points of contention here. Coconut oil is one. Even meat is now one. I mean there’s, there’s just a wide variety of perspectives on, on meet with a lot of people saying, you know, me to sort of unequivocally linked to disease and lowered mortality and then we have, you know, a lot of people kind of pointing to evidence that omnivory inclusion of meat can lead to just as good of outcomes, and dairy, and legumes even now you’re here hitting over within the anti lectin stuff. Dr. Gundry’s stuff. Demonizing lectins, legumes are obviously a big part of your dietary recommendations and there’s a huge body of evidence linking them to improve health outcomes. And yet, we have some people swearing that legumes are driving disease.
So I’ll let you kind of address which specific points there that, that you think are the most relevant or worthy of addressing.
Dr. Michael Murray: If we look at population-based studies and we look at areas like Blue Zones where people live a longer healthier life, we see the legumes are a common component of most of these Blue Zone areas, so I’m not sure why people are saying to stay away from them.
And then the whole idea of the lectin issue, lectins are these plant proteins that are destroyed by cooking. Nobody’s eating raw kidney beans. So I don’t understand why there’s a big concern about, about lectins and there’s no data that shows that these lectins are absorbed into our body and produce any harm at all. So I think it’s a bit flimsy the recommendation to stay away from what I consider a health building food.
I think there’s a lot of great benefits to a lagoon diet, particularly in people that have blood sugar issues, that they lower cholesterol levels as well. They’re very good for your kidneys and elimination. So there’s a lot of good reasons for including legumes in your diet on a regular basis, in my opinion. And I think the literature supports that.
Coconut oil, I think coconut oil is a good fat. I think that like a lot of our foods some things had been blown out of proportion. For example, what the research shows is that if you substitute coconut oil for butter or other saturated fat in the diet, that people actually will lose weight. Now, but that has been translated to is, oh, if you add coconut oil to your diet, you’re going to lose weight. So, you know, I remember when this first came out, I had patients, they were saying I don’t understand, I’m add adding coconut and I’m gaining weight because they’re like most Americans, they add a little bit that it’s not working, so they add a little bit more and you know, they’re adding more and more calories to their diet.
And as a result yeah, they started gaining weight. So in terms of its effects on the heart, I think there are differences between the saturated fats that we get in coconut oil, these medium chain triglycerides versus the saturated fats that we get from meat and other products, which even then we, we can, we can kind of challenge some of the concern there.
I personally haven’t eaten much a red meat and the last 40 years. That’s based on a few things for me. When I look at the meat supply in 2018 is much better than it’s probably been for many, many years. We have more a grass-fed, pasture raised animal products out there. I think that’s really important. This is a little segue, but I think you’ll find it really interesting. I think the greatest threat to human health right now is not some superbug or eating too much sugar.
I think the biggest threat is this ever-increasing load and environmental pollutants, pesticides, herbicides, flame retardants, etc.
There was a study that was done in 2006. It was based on the national nutrition survey and they actually had blood measurements of pesticides and herbicides and they found that when they divided people into exposure levels based on their blood levels of these persistent organic pollutants, that you can make a stronger case that obesity and type two diabetes had more to do with persistent organic pollutants than it did for eating too much sugar or any other dietary factor.
Okay. So what they found was, is that they divided people by exposure to pesticides and also by body weight and they found that a person that was obese, if they had high levels of these pesticides, they had a 40 times greater risk of developing type two diabetes than those that had little or none of those pesticides. And even someone who had an ideal body weight, if they were at the highest level of exposure, they were 20 times more likely to develop type two diabetes and someone who is morbidly obese.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. The numbers are amazing.
Dr. Michael Murray: It Yeah. I look at that and then I see all the comorbidities with obesity and type two diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease for example, and it really starts making a lot of sense when they looked at where these people were getting their pesticide load from.
It wasn’t from eating vegetables. What people don’t realize is that the higher you go up on the food chain, the more concentrated these contaminants become. So we’re always concerned about, you know, the dirty dozen and eating organic produce, but what is probably more important as eating clean, as clean as possible sources of meat and dairy.
So that’s been one of the reasons why I stayed away from, from those foods because you’re more likely to have a higher concentration of contaminants that our body doesn’t respond well to their hard for our body to get rid of. That’s why they’re called persistent organic pollutants.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. I’m debating whether we should stay to nutrition or go into the, into the talks and stuff right now. But, I have one more question on this. This red meat aspect of things. I don’t know if you’ve seen the latest diet trend, which is the carnivore diet.
Dr. Michael Murray: Yes. You know, I follow a guy on Instagram, but I love him and he posts great information and before and after pictures and people are leaning out, they look like they’re in great shape. And I just don’t think… I think… here’s what the literature shows with kidney stones. They found it. If someone ate a lot of meat… if they had a lot of vegetables, they didn’t get kidney stones, but if they ate a lot of meat and didn’t eat any vegetables they, they got kidney stones. So we didn’t, it wasn’t the meat intake, it was the absence of vegetables really that determined whether they would get kidney stones or not. And I think that they may be, you’re kind of ”robbing Peter to pay Paul” that the bottom line is that in the long run they may be ending up not getting something that their body needs.
Dr. Michael Murray: And I, I really believe that we need. These were, were hunter gatherers, hunters. but I do think there’s individual variation and I don’t know, I don’t think it’s solely due to blood type that I think that it is due to kind of how we’re made in some of this may do better on a higher a meat-based diet.
Just make sure it’s clean made meat. for me, I’m pretty happy with, with where I am. I get my protein, I like whey protein. I’ve looked at the different types and again, I kind of see how my body feels and how I see my retention of muscle and me do really well with, with utilizing whey protein in, in smoothies. If I have eggs, I had one organic egg and then I have a supplement it with egg whites.
If I’m making an omelet or a scramble, I think scrambles are great. I’m a big fan of really spicing up your meals, adding spices and herbs because these are concentrated sources of these valuable phytochemicals that we’ve talked a lot about in foods. These are gifts. These are ways that we can really take advantage of getting really high concentrations of really active compounds from food and so, you know, take advantage of it. It’s been great.
I love some of the changes that have happened in our food supply. it’s, it’s so much easier to eat super healthy and to make a choice. for example, we now we have a lot of fresh herbs now in the stores. Years ago we just had, you know, maybe parsley or basil if you are lucky. I’ve fallen in love with the microgreens. In San Diego, you’ve got to have those… instead of getting these lettuces and arugula and even kale and all these other green leafy vegetables with a lot of leaves and not a lot of nutrients. We can get these micro greens that taste better and I think are more nutritious. So I mean there’s, there’s just, there’s just a lot of choices and available now to choose healthier forms.
Phytochemicals – how they affect your health
Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. And this is a nice segue I want to get into, to phytochemicals with you. So one of the really interesting things, and I don’t know if you’ve delved much into the research on this subject, this is a big passion of mine. I’m fascinated with the science of phytochemicals and one of the really interesting things to me is this pervasive myth and misconception around phytochemicals that they are”antioxidants” and basically the research around them as what are called xenohormetins or xenohormetic phytochemicals, actually, they’re not actually acting as direct antioxidants in most cases. They are in many cases actually acting as pro-oxidants, which we would think intuitively is a bad thing if antioxidants are good then prooxidants bad and yet there are associated with all of these remarkable health benefits. So, is this something that, are you familiar with the research on this topic?
Dr. Michael Murray: Yeah. Yeah. Of course.
Ari Whitten: So I would love for you to explain how that all works and, and, and kind of the mechanisms and some of the misconceptions that people have.
Dr. Michael Murray: Well, first of all, our body is incredible. And nature is incredible. in this day and age. I think we’ve all fallen in love with the technology. I mean, it’s amazing what we can do with these and what we’re doing right now of being able to talk to each other. But the greatest technology in the universe is nothing that man has created. The greatest technology in the universe is natural. And we talked about my latest book, the magic of food. I named it that because Sir. Arthur Clarke who wrote 2001 a space odyssey said any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
And I just told you that nature is the greatest technology in the universe. Well, it’s through food that we commune with nature on a daily basis. And what makes food really magical are these phytochemicals. So these compounds are really interesting and we can talk about their benefits to us as humans eating them, but they’re really designed to protect the plant or perform plant functions.
And yeah, some of them were designed so that we wouldn’t eat the plant. Some of these compounds and we have in our body and incredible protective mechanism to allow these plant compounds to be utilized in areas of need when they’re needed.
For example, everyone’s probably heard of curcumin, the yellow pigment from turmeric. All of these compounds like curcumin, and polyphenolics and phenolic compounds. When we ingest them, they get, they end up getting bound to a glucuronic acid, so they float around in our body in an inactive form.
And so you say, well, what’s, what’s a sense of that? Well these are pharmacologically active compounds. If, if we didn’t have a protective mechanism, every time we ate something, even something as simple as an apple, we’d be taking in all these drug-like compounds and it would overwhelm. Our physiology would cause chaos.
Dr. Michael Murray: So nature built in so that we would have this protective mechanism. So for example, curcumin, it’s an anti-inflammatory and an anticancer compound as multiple mechanisms of action. We know that based upon test tube studies and then we know that it has some effects in animals, and in clinical studies as well. What’s interesting is that when it’s floating around in our body, it’s floating around in this bound form and it’s not active, but it sites of inflammation or whether there’s cancer activity, then the cells secrete an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase. And this enzyme will break that bond, free up that curcumin and deliver it to the cell so it can exert its anti-cancer, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. And I just think that’s really beautiful. It just shows the harmony of nature and I know that you’re passionate about phytochemicals because it’s addictive because you start looking at it how they work and you’re like, oh my god, this is a beautiful symphony.
Yeah, you want it… and for me… It really inspires me to, to eat more of them in my diet. And that’s what I tried to get across in my book. I think, you know, my goal was if people understood the magic of what these foods do, they’re going to make healthier choices.
And so, you know, as far as the hormesis and some of the other thoughts on this and, you know, are they really pro-oxidants or antioxidants?
Some of that goes away when you start looking at how these compounds are metabolized. For example, everybody’s probably heard that you know, blueberries are a brain food. one of the interesting studies that I reviewed recently, they fed blueberries to, to adolescence, and they found that it made them happier, one serving just feeding blueberries. So these kids have made them score happier on mood indexes.
Anyone who’s ever had a teenager, this is valuable information to be happier. So how are the blueberries exerting this affects? Well, it turns out that these beneficial compounds more likely are broken down into other compounds that are then broken down by not our digestive secretions, but by the microbiome and transformed into other compounds that are able to get across the blood-brain barrier, change blood flow, and also influence neurotransmitter effects.
So just very interesting. And it’s, it’s really cool what controls our digestive functions to large extent is the vegas nerve. This is one of the largest nerves in the body. And what’s interesting about the vegas nerve is that 80 percent of the transmissions are from the gut to the brain and 20 percent are the other way around. So what is it but they theorize is happening, is that there’s this communication between the microbiome or intestinal organs and our brain. That’s where that mind, brain, and gut connection comes from. It comes, it’s a two-way connection that most of the incoming information is coming from the gut.
So when people talk about a gut feeling, that’s true. And again, that’s why you think it’s so important to take advantage of, of, of phytochemicals because I think they are the fuel of the gut-brain axis. And I, I’m sure that’s what you feel as well. Oh
Ari Whitten: yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think… there are so many thoughts running through my head of avenues we could go from here. But, you reminded me of one study on pomegranates that I saw recently where they should go that specific microbes in the intestines, actually transformed a specific compound from the pomegranates, a specific chemical phytochemical that into another compound that then enters the bloodstream and had these profound effects on mitochondria that profound benefits to mitochondria. But you know, going back to what you were talking about earlier with the microbiome, if somebody doesn’t have the proper diversity in their microbiome, they may not even have that bacteria or a significant amounts of that bacteria to transform that chemical from pomegranate into the right chemical that’s then going to benefit the mitochondria. So there’s this very unique interaction now between phytochemicals and the microbiome and the chemicals that they are produced, which then can impact the body or not, maybe depending on that person’s diversity of their microbiome.
Dr. Michael Murray: I’m going to talk a little bit about gluten really quick as it relates to the microbiome because it’s really interesting.
What we’ve learned, there’s been an explosion of information on the microbiome because there are improved analytical methods to know what’s really going on down there. And we’ve discovered that there are many important gut bacteria. One of the most important bacteria is akkermansia muciniphila. And this bacteria is given, that name was muciniphila, because it loves the use and layer and it works along with the cells that line the intestinal tract to produce that protective mucin layer. And if someone is not getting enough food for that akkermansia muciniphila and it’s gonna mean that you’re going to have a breakdown in that protective mucous.
So again, I think not getting enough vegetables and in legumes and whole grains on occasion that you’re going to have lower levels of that bacteria and eating a carnivore on the diet. I think it was going to put you at risk for, for that happening.
So with lower levels of akkermansia muciniphila? We started exposing our intestinal lining to a harsh environment and it gets damaged and we get to leaky gut and all the consequences there.
So when you’re looking at gluten sensitivity that’s an immune-mediated situation, we see that it only affects, you know, maybe five to ten percent of the population. But we see all these people saying, oh boy, I go on a gluten-free diet. I feel better now. Some of that may be placebo, but I also think a lot of that is real because it turns out that gluten is very toxic to this bacteria.
So if someone has a really flourishing amount of akkermansia muciniphila, in their microbiome, they can withstand gluten. But if someone has lower levels and they have a bit of gluten, then that can wipe out that beneficial bacteria and exposed to the intestinal lining, that harsh environment. So, I think that’s why we’re seeing so much of an issue with gluten. I also think that a wheat is one of the most heavily sprayed foods.
So I think some of the detrimental effects are related to glyphosate, glyphosate, these pesticides, they are antibiotics, so they are extremely destructive to the microbiome. Many drugs are extremely detrimental. So, you know, we got a, all these people that are on proton pump inhibitors, Nexium and Prilosec, for example, very destructive to the microbiome. They started eating a lot of gluten or eating gluten. they’re, they’re gonna, they, they could see the more sensitive to them, to the ill effects of gluten. So I do think that it goes beyond an immune-mediated effect and it’s probably mediated through the microbiome.
How whole grains affect health and why you should minimize whole grain consumption
Ari Whitten: I have one more follow up question to that, to play devil’s advocate a little bit, which is that, as you know, there’s also at the same time as you know, maybe these mechanisms that you’re talking about are going on. There’s also this body of evidence showing that whole grain consumption, certainly not refined grain consultant, whole grain consumption is, is pretty unequivocally linked with health benefits for a variety of different diseases as well as just sort of it’s associated with longevity in general. So how do you kind of make sense of those, those two things, kind of the mechanisms you’re talking about as well as the research?
Dr. Michael Murray: Yeah, I think there are some benefits with whole grains consumption and when I’m talking I’m, I try to envision who I’m talking to and I don’t know your audience all that well, but the general audience, we’ve got a problem with obesity and type two diabetes. So if you look at the Mediterranean diet pyramid, I just cross off bread, pasta, grains. I think those foods made a lot of sense when we really needed a lot of calories, but we only have so many calories that we can consume in a day healthfully. I kind of the way the health benefits that we get from the different foods and grains are really a great source of easily absorbed calories. Starches in general. I’d rather spend those calories are consuming those calories from richer sources.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. Yeah. I’m, I’m with you on that. I say that as someone who eats brown rice in my diet and, quinoa sometimes, and also even some sourdough bread every now and then.
So I’m not a hardcore anti-grain person, but I completely agree that they are kind of a very rich source of calories relative to not that much nutrients.
Dr. Michael Murray: I don’t know if you’re like me, but I’m very aware of the glycemic load of a meal. I think I try to, when I’m working with people with diabetes and weight loss and just general health, I try to help them have a working knowledge of what is the glycemic load.
So ideally I like to consume a glycemic load no greater than 20 for two and a half to three hour period. So with that limitation, if you have a cup of white rice, you’re wiped out. If you have a banana, you’re wiped out for three hours, no more carbohydrates, brown rice, you can have two-thirds of a cup and, some steamed vegetables, aside takes vegetables and still be still be okay.
So, you know, if you’re going to eat grains, make it, make it whole and keep the portion size a moderate.
That’s my message. I’m a that said, if I have a choice of eating some brown rice with my meal or having a piece of dark chocolate at the end of my meal, I tend to eat the dark chocolate if you ended well.
The best foods for healing and health according to Dr. Michael Murray
Ari Whitten: So I want to come back to my favorite topic, which is phytochemicals. And I want to make my final question or a couple of questions to you is on a very practical level, what are your favorite super foods and super spices?
Dr. Michael Murray: Oh, very good. Yeah. I try to eat a very high intake of flavonoids. I like phytochemicals as well. Flavonoids, I think are the most fascinating. These are the compounds that give much fruits, flowers and medicinal herbs and vegetables, their color. They’re about 8,000 flavonoids that have been identified. And what’s interesting is that our body will concentrate different flavonoids in different tissues.
And what also is interesting is that the deposition pattern often mirrors the historical use of the fruit or medicinal plants. So for example, milk thistle gets concentrated in the liver. A bilberry gets concentrated in the retina, in the veins, gingko gets concentrated in the brain and in the adrenals. So it’s really interesting.
They radio label these flavonoids that their deposition mirrors their historical use. I think that’s really interesting. How did they know? So I try to get a really good intake of Flavonoids on it on a daily basis. I mentioned dark chocolate. I generally have one ounce of dark chocolate a day. That’s, that’s a good amount. I like 80, 82, 86, 92 percent to a and I think anything lower than 82 percent you’re going to get, you’re going to get some sugar. And again, I think you develop a taste for the chocolate and like the bitterness and, and so you may need to start at 70, 75, but keep working your way up. Your, your health will be better.
Berries. I try to eat berries every day and I mix it up. I don’t eat the same berry every day. Again, you want to have diversity in your diet. So I think berry’s and flavonoid-rich foods, the green tea they are true superfoods. it doesn’t have to be something exotic to get those flavonoids. We talked about an apple. An apple a day is not a bad thing. I, I’d say three tight at three a week is a good thing because that’s where we start seeing those, those benefits.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. You mentioned another really nonexotic one is lemons, or lemon peel. You know, I have a lemon tree growing in my backyard. My yard, before I moved into this house, was totally neglected. And there’s this, this lemon tree that was out there that was kind of like a half bad, but it’s been alive for 30 years and it’s producing these huge lemons now that we water it. And if you look at the research on, just the phytochemicals and lemons and you look at things like Heseltine and roudine and d-limonene, and they’re still really amazing phytochemicals that have remarkable benefits just in a lemon.
Dr. Michael Murray: Yeah. The, the, the anticancer benefits and detoxification benefits. These volatile oils. we have to have them in our, in our diet. so you talked about, you know, kind of super herbs, we, you know, I could go into this, the standard ones, ginger and turmeric and, and you know, capsicum but I really liked the aromatic ones, the mints, basil, and oregano, rosemary, they’re fantastic. And here’s an interesting thing. There’s really interesting research coming out of the animal feed, a research because what they’re trying to do is we’re trying to get away from hormones and antibiotics and so they’re looking to nature. So they’re seeing what effects, you know, feeding these animals cinnamon has. Feeding them oregano and in time, and sage is in there. They’re seeing a, not only beneficial effects on the microbiome, but they, they, they help the animals, the digestive process, digestive enzymes, the assimilation of nutrients, so they grow healthier and if they’re healthier and they’re growing, well, they don’t have to use the antibiotics or steroids.
So I love these, these volatile herbs. Dill is another one and you know, there are different ways to utilize them. I preferred them in their fresh form and I think it just tastes more vibrant. And I mentioned scrambles. I’ll rotate a different herbs like, You know, I think a scrambled eggs and egg whites with dill on them is just really great tasting and you know, same thing with basil or oregano or rosemary or thyme, you know, so I have a little coffee grinder that I, a grind these fresh herbs and put them on. a pesto. I found this great pesto at a health food store. It doesn’t have any parmesan cheese and it has cashews in it and I tell you that is, that is healthy in a jar, you know,
Ari Whitten: Now you’re speaking my language. I actually, for whatever reason, I’ve never liked the taste of dill very much much to my wife actually finds a totally bizarre because she loves dill. but a basil. I go nuts for basil, asked her to make me like huge things of homemade basil, like huge jars of it. I just scooped so much of that stuff on my food. It’s kind of ridiculous,
Dr. Michael Murray: you know, I got to tell through a funny, a funny story here. you know, there are some people that react to cilantro in 20 percent of people that eat cilantro. They swear it tastes like stink bug. And so yeah…
Ari Whitten: I heard it. Soap, don’t, some people say like soap.
Dr. Michael Murray: Yes. A soapy taste. And I just couldn’t understand it. this was many years ago. but this woman was just saying, oh, I don’t like that has cilantro in it because she knew and she could just, she knew something, had cilantro and she described to me that this had this effect. And she said, no, some people have this, this, this is what it tastes like to some people. I didn’t believe her. Sure enough, she was absolutely right. So I, that that’s really interesting too. And the way some people metabolize asparagus, they don’t smell it in their urine. they don’t. They lack the enzyme that will break it down into the asparaginase. Todays. So anyway, that’s, I think, I think it’s interesting and again it goes back to we’re all a bit different. I don’t know why you don’t like dill.
Ari Whitten: I don’t know either. But I love pesto. I’ll tell you that.
Dr. Michael Murray: Yeah, he’s got to be a reason for it. Right. And I think, I think you got to trust it. I know we’re coming at the end of time, but I want to just interject. One of the most famous studies in nutrition is a study that was published in the Journal of American Medical Association in 2006, and they looked at, they looked at caffeine and taken the risk of having a heart attack or stroke and they broke people down into whether they were a fast metabolizer or a slow metabolizer. if someone was a fast metabolizer and they drink two to four cups of coffee a day, they would reduce their risk of having a heart attack or stroke by 47 percent. So for those people it was beneficial if someone was a slow metabolizer of caffeine and they drank two to four cups of coffee a day, they actually increase her risk of having a heart attack or stroke by 247 percent.
Ari Whitten: Wow.
Dr. Michael Murray: So what’s the difference? It’s not the food is fat. The beverage is how that person metabolizes and matched the future of nutrition and that’s why there’s no one diet fits all and we’re learning more and more what works for one person and the other. And for now people just have to kind of trust and develop a sensitivity and user their common sense and work with a professional that can help them know if they’re reading what’s right for them.
The Healing Power Of Foods Summit
Ari Whitten: Yeah. Yeah. BeaUtifully said. And on that note, I think that’s a really great segway to your summit, which is happening right now. I’m going to rush this podcast to get out this weekend and it’s the Healing Power of Food Summit. We will have a link to it on the page where we’re going to publish this podcast and we can set up. We’ll set up that page as theenergyblueprint.com/healing-foods/. So the theenergyblueprint.com/healing-foods/. And then there’s a link to sign up for your summit for free, correct?
Dr. Michael Murray: Correct. It’s free. And we have a 30 top experts talking about a wide variety of topics, different opinions. I know some summits, they bring everybody that singing the same song. I didn’t do that. I brought people that are talking about their philosophy and why they think vegan is the way to go. Next person talking at paleo and keto. And then we have pescatarians and you know, we have a variety of people talk on a number of different subjects. it was, it was truly an honor. And I appreciate your support of the summit.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, my pleasure. And you know, going back to something I said earlier, I just want to reemphasize, you know, and in a world filled with nutrition gurus who are misrepresenting and cherry picking the evidence, I really appreciate your honest, intellectually honest take on the evidence and your desire to communicate the truth. Instead of doing this sort of traditional marketing ploy of, hey, here’s my Brand new diet and here’s the new list of good foods and bad foods, and here’s how to lose 20 pounds in the next 15 days and you know, with, with my new magical diet, I really appreciate your honesty and commitment to the truth and the evidence. So a, an integrity, most of all.
So I highly recommend everybody to follow your work to sign up for your summit. I give that endorsement to very, very few people when it comes to nutrition that this is someone that I truly believe is communicating the evidence accurately. I highly recommend people to sign up for the summit. Again, you can get it at theenergyblueprint.com/healing-foods/. And thank you so much Dr. Murray, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have this conversation with you. And I, I really, truly hope that we can do this again because we didn’t even get into the toxins issue. Even within the realm of nutrition. I’m sure we could talk for 10 more hours on lots of different things. So this has been a blast. Thank you so much.
Dr. Michael Murray: It’s been great fun for me and I just will say that I really appreciate your enthusiasm and there’s, there are very deep understanding and knowledge coming through you and I applaud everyone that follows you as well.
Ari Whitten: Thank you so Much. Yeah, like, seriously, been an absolute pleasure and I really look forward to part two.
Dr. Michael Murray: Very good.
Ari Whitten: Thanks so much, Dr. Murray. Have a great day.
How To Use Food For Healing Your Body With Dr. Michael Murray (The Healing Power Of Food Summit) – Show Notes
Why natural medicines are considered alternative (1:11)
How an apple a day may keep the doctor away (4:39)
The best diet for health (13:00)
Why you should get rid of certain types of omega 6 (20:19)
The link between microbiome and health (27:12)
How oil, meat, and legumes affect health (30:13)
Phytochemicals – how they affect your health (40:38)
How whole grains affect health and why you should minimize whole grain consumption (25:08)
The best foods for healing and health according to Dr. Michael Murray (55:30)
The Healing Power Of Foods Summit (1:04:03)