We’ve been talking with Dr. Mark Hyman about peganism (no, not paganism) since 2018. It’s a hybrid word for paleo-vegan that began as a joke, but quickly solidified into one of the most workable food philosophies we know. He’s finally written a book on the topic and it couldn’t come at a better time.
Read Dr. Hyman’s notes below on the power of real food to heal and why it’s more important for us to abandon our processed food lifestyles for good. Grab his new book, The Pegan Diet: 21 Practical Principles for Reclaiming Your Health in a Nutritionally Confusing World this weekend — it’s already climbing the best-seller charts.
My hope is that 2020 taught us all how important our health is. Health is everything. COVID-19 taught us that those whose immune systems are both suppressed and inflamed at the same time experience worse outcomes. Those who are obese or struggling with chronic disease are more likely to struggle with the effects of this deadly virus. They are pre-inflamed, and this fire within sets the stage for disease and rapid aging. While there are other causes of inflammation—toxins, allergens, infections, and stress—food plays the greatest role for most of us.
What is the most common cause of inflammation? Poor metabolic health.
Unfortunately, only 12% of Americans are metabolically healthy, making most of us pre-inflamed. More than 1 out of 3 Americans has pre-diabetes. Many struggle with insulin resistance, all fueled by our over consumption of processed foods, mainly refined sugars and carbohydrates.
“Food got us into this mess, but the good news is that food can get us out of this mess.”
I believe that food is a source of pleasure and sustenance, a cause for gathering with family and community. It’s something associated with happy memories, childhood pleasures, smells and tastes that connect us to our past and bring joy in the moment. Yes, it is all that and so much more. Eating is the most important, connected act we perform every day—an act that connects us to nature, ecological cycles, biological functions, and, of course, to each other. We are part of a great web of nature that provides the raw materials for creating a vibrant, alive, healthy life.
We evolved in an intimate relationship to our diet. Consuming thousands of species of wild foods, both animals and plants, all interacting with our biology to regulate every function of our bodies. While food is energy or calories, science has revealed it is far more than that. Food is information. Food is medicine. Food is the most powerful regulator of the chemical signals in your body.
In fact, the most important part of food may not be calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, or minerals, but the tens of thousands of medicinal compounds embedded in plants and even animal foods that regulate, modulate, and influence nearly every single one of the 37 billion, billion chemical reactions that occur in our bodies every second.
This is extraordinary, and yet, we still aren’t talking about how to take advantage of the greatest medicine we have available.
“I’ve seen individuals get off cholesterol medication, insulin, and blood pressure medication within weeks after changing their diet.”
They didn’t do it with some fancy detox or innovative therapy. They did it with real, whole food. They took out the processed, packaged, chemical and sugar-laden foods that populate many grocery stores and focused on nutrient-dense whole foods made by nature.
Eating real foods shouldn’t be so difficult, and yet, it has become a Herculean task to defeat the endless amounts of processed crap that lines the aisles and the addictive properties of food-like substances. In an ideal world, we would all have access to an abundance of real food. Right now, we’re still far from this dream, but it’s my mission to arm everyone with the right knowledge and tools to cook in a way that serves their bodies regardless of preferences, socioeconomic status, and other factors.
I truly believe that if everyone had access and the right tools to cook and prepare healthy meals, we wouldn’t be in such a dire situation facing this pandemic of COVID-19 or the epidemic of chronic disease. The first step in making this dream a reality is to arm everyone with the information they need to take back their health.
I wrote my new book, The Pegan Diet, to serve as a guidebook for anyone who wants to understand how to use food as medicine today.
The Pegan Diet started off as a funny way to say that I don’t subscribe to labels like Paleo or vegan. Rather, I take the best of all intelligent forms of eating to create a plan that works for me; hence, The Pegan Diet (read the gist of it here).
This book is an inclusive guide that will show anyone, at any stage of their health journey, how to apply the principles of Functional Medicine to take charge of their health. I believe that we can eat to prevent disease, and in some cases, we can eat to beat disease. I believe that we would be in an entirely different situation if most of our country was metabolically healthy. So, I’m on a mission to get us there. I’d like for you to join me.