Dr. Mark Hyman, health adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton, thinks we never should have told people to stop eating fat.
In his book, “Eat Fat: Get Thin,” Hyman recommends incorporating high-fat foods like salmon and olive oil into a diet focused around vegetables.
The author and doctor led former president Bill Clinton away from strict veganism more than a decade ago by encouraging him to sprinkle the occasional serving of fish and lean meat into his diet, according to the New York Times.
Hyman tells the Times his plan is further informed by his own struggles with weight – after failing to trim down on several types of popular low-fat, carb-heavy diets of the 1990s, he was encouraged to find a better solution. Here’s a look at what Hyman eats today.
Keep as your cornerstone: Veggies, veggies, and more veggies
- Flickr/Sonny Abesamis
Hyman describes his current diet as “a cross between paleo and vegan diets.” He doesn’t eat much meat or dairy and he avoids foods that are high in sugar or refined carbs.
“About 70 to 80% of your diet should be plant foods,” like vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fruits, he tells the Times.
In its most report on the best eating plans, US News and World Report described plant-based diets as “good for the environment, your heart, your weight, and your overall health.” If you’re curious, there are several different types of plant-based diets to choose from, like the Mediterranean diet and the Flexitarian diet.
Add to your bag: Nuts and seeds
When he’s traveling, Hyman says he carries packets of high-fat, protein-rich nuts to snack on, which he says help him avoid making “bad choices” thanks to a last-minute craving.
“I basically have fat and protein as my snacks, and I have enough food in my bag to last an entire day,” he said.
Since they’re high in protein, nuts can help stabilize blood-sugar levels. Low blood sugar can make healthy people feel hangry (hungry plus angry) and is especially dangerous for people with diabetes.
Nuts are also a good source of fiber, a key nutrient that helps aid digestion and keeps us feeling full.
Swap for margarine: Olive oil
Most of the fat in olive oil comes from a special type of “healthy” or monounsaturated fat. Along with another form of unsaturated fat, polyunsaturated, this type of fat has been linked with several health benefits, from helping to reduce the risk of heart disease to keeping blood-sugar levels steady. Several studies have also found that fats like the type found in olive oil may actually help lower total cholesterol levels.
Still, like any oil, olive oil is rich in calories, so researchers suggest using it in place of other fats, like butter and margarine, rather than simply adding it to your daily diet.
Instead of red meat: Oily fish
Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and trout is rich in a group of fats called omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are known as “essential” fats because the body can’t make them on its own and they play a key role in keeping our cells running smoothly. These fats help maintain our cell membranes – the structures protecting its inner components – and they’re also necessary building blocks of the hormones that regulate blood clotting and inflammation. Studies suggest that regular consumption of omega-3s may help prevent heart disease and stroke.
Add to your diet: Avocados
Besides being delicious in guacamole and sushi, creamy avocados are rich in nutrients like potassium (a mineral that helps circulate nutrients and waste in and out of cells), folate (a key nutrient especially important to women who are or are hoping to get pregnant), fiber, and vitamins B, C, and E.
Still, like many of the other foods Hyman recommends, avocados are high in fat and calories – so it’s best to swap them out for other foods you might normally eat rather than simply adding them to your daily regimen.
Cut back on: Refined carbs, like white bread or white rice
- Unsplash / Asnim Asnim
The reason Hyman likely advocates against eating too much white rice or bread is because these products have had their whole-grain husks or grains removed – a process called refining that cuts out most of the fiber and B vitamins in these products.
Studies suggest that diets high in refined carbs and low in whole grains are linked with health problems ranging from heart disease to stroke, while the same research found that diets high in whole grains and low in refined carbs tended to be linked with lower incidents of both of these issues.
Avoid or skip: Sweet fats, like full-fat fruit-flavored yogurt
“The real danger is sweet fat,” says Hyman. “If you eat fat with sweets – so sugar and fat, or refined carbohydrates and fat – then insulin will rise and it’ll make you fat.”
This isn’t always true – an occasional rise in blood-sugar levels doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly gain 10 or 20 pounds.
Still, Hyman highlights a point that’s been echoed by several nutritionists and public-health experts: Sugar, when combined with fat or carbohydrates and eaten consistently in high amounts, has been linked with weight gain. Several studies of low-fat diets that are still high in carbs and sugar have also shown that they are no better than high-fat diets for weight loss.