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Do you want to live to be 100 years old? Or even 120?
Most people, says Dr. Mark Hyman, probably wouldn’t want to, for multiple reasons. The biggest, he says, is because their health might deteriorate and their quality of life might not be what it is now—but what if we could change that?
If you’ve been a Food Tanker for a while, you probably recognize Dr. Hyman’s name. As a physician and the founder of The UltraWellness Center, he’s one of the leading educators and advocates of Food is Medicine and functional medicine.
His latest book—Young Forever: The Secrets to Living Your Longest, Healthiest Life—just came out this week, and Food Tank members joined an exclusive members-only conversation with Dr. Hyman recently.
Food has a lot of power to help you thrive and live more healthfully at any age, Dr. Hyman says. Plants, nuts, seeds, and beans are all worth seeking out. Sugar, starches, dairy, and other foods contaminated with pesticides, antibiotics and hormones should be limited or avoided. He calls meat and animal products “condi-meats” to remind us that they don’t always need to be the center of our plates—something chefs like Dan Barber and others have been practicing in their restaurants for a long time.
And it’s important to remember the joy of food. We can celebrate the foods that truly act as medicine to our bodies, and celebrate our bodies’ innate knowledge to keep us healthy.
“We need to think about the root causes of why we get sick; we need to think about the underlying mechanisms,” he told our members. “And that’s what the science of longevity teaches us. We have to reframe our whole health care system from one focused on disease to one focused on creating health. Rather than just treating symptoms and diseases, we need to understand how to activate our body’s own innate healing system.”
I spend a lot of time thinking about my own and my family’s health as we all age. We’re all getting chronologically older, Dr. Hyman says, but that doesn’t always correlate with our biological age. Sometimes, we face health challenges at a younger age than we’d expect based on the number of years we’ve been alive. It can go the other way, too: Dr. Hyman, who’s 63, said his biological age is 43.
My feelings about this book are complex, I’ll admit. There’s so much emotion and social interconnectedness in the foods we eat and how healthy we are—and so many moral judgments, too. Even Dr. Hyman recognizes that there’s no silver-bullet foods. There is no single ingredient—just as there’s no single technology or diet plan or policy—that will address all problems.
And not everyone has equitable access to these kinds of foods, either, which we have to recognize and reckon with. Much of our diets depend on the foods we can afford and access, and food insecurity, hunger, poverty, and trauma translate directly to lower health outcomes, too. Individual actions are extraordinarily powerful, and at the same time, we know we can’t ‘personal responsibility’ our way out of a broken food system. We have to go deeper.
I appreciate that Dr. Hyman is also thinking about this with the Food Fix Campaign, which he helped launch to engage policymakers and government leaders to help transform the food system from a health-forward and planet-forward perspective. And like many of us, he believes the 2023 Farm Bill provides a huge opportunity to actually focus on good food policy.
This week’s members-exclusive conversation with Dr. Mark Hyman is just the latest in an ongoing series, where we’ve been able to have intimate conversations with journalist Chloe Sorvino, chef Alice Waters, and, soon, with farmer and food heroine Leah Penniman.
These are free for Food Tank members, and it’s been wonderful to see you all. If you’re not yet a Food Tank member, now’s absolutely the time to join HERE!
Tell me your thoughts on Dr. Hyman’s book and food as medicine by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org—I look forward to hearing from you.
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Photo courtesy of Travis Yewell, Unsplash