A Review of Food: What the Heck Should I Cook, by Mark Hyman, MD
By Elizabeth Leppart, MS, LN
July 21, 2020
We’ve all been there. “I have no time or energy to cook,” or “I want to eat healthy, but don’t know how or what to cook.” If this sounds familiar, then you may want to keep reading. Renowned functional medicine doctor and author Dr. Mark Hyman dedicates his book Food: What the Heck Should I Cook? “for those who have never cooked, who want to cook and don’t know how, or who love to cook but want to learn how to create more delicious meals to nourish body and soul.” In other words, this book is for everybody wanting to up their healthy eating no matter their skill level.
This is more than a cookbook, because along with a plethora of delicious and beautiful recipes (see my favorites below!), you’ll get a thorough understanding of Dr. Hyman’s food philosophy; an in-depth, yet easy-to-read explanation of what to eat and why. He also provides a helpful guide to all cooking essentials, from how to stock your kitchen with quality ingredients and kitchen tools to simple cooking techniques. He ensures that “with a little bit of planning and some helpful hacks, you can make simple, nutritious meals at home that are delicious and affordable.” At Nutritional Weight & Wellness, we help clients with this every day, and this book will give you some new ideas.
After years of research and after trying many diets, Dr. Hyman has found that the best diet for health and longevity consists of lots of vegetables (enough to fill half your plate!), grass fed meat (4-6oz. per servings), wild caught fish, eggs, and quality, natural fats. Removing refined sugars and damaged oils in processed foods is critical, and he recommends avoiding gluten and diary. Let’s break this down into more detail.
- Make vegetables the star of your diet. Eat a variety of vegetables and stick with leafy greens, cucumbers, celery, peppers and other non-starchy vegetables, while limiting starchy vegetables (like potatoes, winter squash, and sweet potatoes) to half a cup. Vegetables are a great source of vitamins and fiber.
- The quality of your food counts. High quality foods mean those without pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, GMOs, additives, preservatives, dyes, artificial sweeteners, and any other chemicals. This includes fresh produce, but animal products as well. Factory farmed animals are injected with hormones and antibiotics, which stays in the meat that we consume. It’s simple; animals fed the foods they naturally would eat produce healthier meat. Aim for grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chickens and the eggs that come from them.
- Don’t be afraid of eating lots of healthy fats. Fat is essential for the health of our brains and bodies and for every cell in our bodies. It’s important to get a variety of quality, natural fats, such as butter, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, and a variety of nuts and seeds,
Besides, fats make everything taste better.
- Remove refined sugars and damaged oils, which might be the most impactful dietary change we can make. These processed foods lead to inflammation, which contributes to any number of diseases.
- Avoid gluten and dairy. Gluten has been shown to damage our gut lining, which can trigger a number of health issues. Some people find dairy products more difficult to digest because they are lactose intolerant. If you’re going to include dairy in small amounts, make sure it is a full-fat option from grass fed cows.
For those who have followed the Weight & Wellness Way, this advice may sound familiar. We share these same basic beliefs at Nutritional Weight & Wellness. We recommend real, whole foods, with the biggest emphasis on a variety of vegetables, high quality animal protein, and healthy fats, and avoiding processed food. Dr. Hyman takes those criteria and whips up some great recipes as a result. Here are some of my favorites!
- Dr Hyman’s take on the popular trend of adding healthy fat to your cup of joe is found in his Ultra-Creamy Cashew-Butter Coffee. He uses canned coconut milk (one of our favorite ingredients) and cashew butter as healthy fats to stabilize your blood sugar from the caffeine spike it would get from black coffee alone. He tops it with a pinch of antioxidant-rich raw cacao powder for a hint of chocolate flavor without the sugary syrup you would get at a coffee shop.
- The Strawberry-Vanilla Chia Pudding is an easy grab-and-go breakfast you can prepare the night before. It’s full of healthy fats like coconut milk, macadamia nuts, and chia seeds, along with collagen powder and strawberries to balance it out. Check out our almost identical recipe here!
- If you’re someone (raises hand) who gets in a rut with vegetables, then Dr. Hyman’s reminder of Tichi’s Gazpacho is a great idea! It’s fresh and full of flavor, using all seasonal summer vegetables like tomatoes, cucumber, and bell peppers blended up with some olive oil and vinegar and served chilled. Bonus if you can pick the vegetables and herbs right from your garden!
- You won’t miss the traditional hamburger buns that are made with white flour that leads to inflammation in our body with the flavor-filled Sweet Potato UnBuns. They combine grated sweet potato and zucchini with eggs as a binder, shaped into patties and baked. Make your favorite burger patty and serve it open faced with your favorite toppings.
To sum it up in the words of Dr. Hyman, “The truth is that the key to a vibrant, thriving, happy, successful life, the foundation that will help us have energy, focus, and the ability to be present in our lives, starts at the end of our fork and in our kitchens.”