I spent my weekend attending IFM’s annual meeting online. It was full of education and inspiration from leaders in functional medicine. I’d like to share some highlights of a great lecture from Dr Christopher Garnder PhD from Stanford Prevention Research Center.

Overwhelmed by food information? Many patients are overwhelmed by the abundance of conflicting information about what to eat. Should you be keto/ paleo/ or vegan/? There are good arguments for many kinds of diets. What I loved about Dr. Garnder’s presentation was that he started by laying some common ground on which we all agree.

What can we all agree on? Seen in the purple circle.

More vegetables
More whole foods: This means a food in its natural state. For example, corn is a whole food, corn oil was processed extensively to become oil, this isn’t a whole food.
Less added sugars
Less refined grains: If a grain is milled into a flour to make bread, it’s no longer a whole grain.
Less Processed foods

What to eat

What do most agree on? See the blue circle.

  • Fruit has sugar – but it also has fiber when eaten whole and phytonutrients. Unless you are an uncontrolled diabetic, some fruit is great.
  • Beans have lectins but also great fiber/ protein – if you soak your beans and pressure cook them you will remove most lectins.
  • Fish is a great source of healthy fats and protein. Here is a link to find sustainable sources of fish https://www.seafoodwatch.org/
  • Nuts are an excellent source of healthy fats.

What do many agree on? See the green circle.

  • Poultry: With the caveat that it is pasture raised and organic and not from a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) Another consideration here is the social justice issues surrounding the health and safety of people who process the chicken. A CSA may be a great way to support local farmers and avoid some of these concerns.
  • Whole Intact Grains/ Pseudograins: I think folks get really misled by food labeling here. These are things like steel cut oats/ jewel rice/ quinoa/ buckwheat groats. This is not “whole wheat” bread. Once you mill wheat into flour it isn’t an intact grain.

What’s off the list?

  • Dairy
  • Red Meat: More to come on the complexities surrounding the health/ environmental/ social concerns around consuming red meat from Dr. Hyman’s new book Food Fix.

Instead of what?

Another jewel from Dr. Gardner’s lecture addressed the very practical consideration of making food choices. If we take something out of our diets, what are we replacing it with? If you decide to stop eating eggs and start eating white flour bagels or processed quick oats with added sugar, that isn’t an improvement in your diet. If you decide to give up meat, but your vegetarian meals are based on white flour pasta, in my opinion, that isn’t a win. But if you are giving up commercially raised processed meats and making the leap to a homemade lentil burger on a bed of veggies, then I think that’s a huge improvement. So, as you consider food choices, think about not only the foods that you are eliminating, but what foods will take their place.

I really appreciated Dr. Gardner’s levelheaded approach to food as well as his emphasis on what most food experts agree on, rather than what divides us. I have spent thousands of dollars on attending meetings and improving my education. The take home point is often the same. Eat more vegetables.