As he debuts his groundbreaking new book, Young Forever: The Secrets to Living Your Longest, Healthiest Life, Dr. Mark Hyman shares a sneak peek with an excerpt and a few of his longevity hacks.
As a physician practicing nutritional and functional medicine for 30 years on real patients, using food as medicine, I am humbled by the diversity of human biology and the need to personalize nutritional recommendations. However, a few universal principles exist that can guide the right diet for you.
1.Focus on quality.
2.Make food as medicine the guiding principle for everything you eat.
3.Personalize your diet to fit your metabolism, genetics and preferences.
I have jokingly called the diet I recommend the Pegan Diet, poking fun at the diet wars after being on a panel at a conference with a paleo doctor and a vegan cardiologist who were fighting. I said, “If you are vegan and you are paleo, then I must be Pegan.”
Upon reflection, I realized that paleo and vegan diets are identical except for where to get protein (animals or grains and beans). The Pegan Diet is an inclusive, flexible frame that is built on the principles of quality, food is medicine, and personalization. It is designed to be low glycemic (low in starch and sugar), rich in good fats, anti-inflammatory, detoxifying, hormone balancing, energy boosting and gut healing.
It is nutrient-dense and rich in longevity phytochemicals, polyphenols, antioxidants and microbiome-healing fibers. It is designed to regenerate both human and planetary health, which are inseparable.
WHAT TO EAT
Eat lots of plants. About three-quarters of your plate should be covered with veggies. Aim for deep colors. Stick with mostly nonstarchy veggies. Winter squashes and sweet potatoes are fine in moderation. Choose organic and regenerative when possible. Use the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen guides by the Environmental Working Group to choose the least contaminated fruits and vegetables and save money.
Lighten up on fruits. Low-glycemic fruits are best, so stick with berries, kiwis and watermelon. Enjoy sweeter fruits only occasionally, such as grapes, melons and higher-glycemic-index fruits. Always eat the whole fruit and avoid fruit juices. Think of dried fruit as candy and keep it to a minimum. When in doubt, get a continuous glucose monitor to track your body’s response to different fruits.
Load up on foods with healthy fats. Whole foods such as nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocados, pasture-raised eggs and small wild fatty fish such as sardines, mackerel, herring, anchovies and wild salmon contain good fats. For oils, use extra-virgin olive oil (at low or no heat), avocado oil (for higher-heat cooking) and organic virgin coconut oil.
Add nuts and seeds. They help with weight loss, diabetes and heart disease and provide minerals, protein, good fats, fiber and more. Almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts and pumpkin, hemp, chia and sesame seeds are all great.
Think of meat and animal products as condiments or, as I like to call them, “condi-meats”— not as a main course (which should be colorful vegetables). Servings should be palm-sized. Plant-based meals are fine as long as the protein comes from whole foods, not processed powders, bars or fake meat. However, to get adequate protein for muscle synthesis as you age, you will need to supplement with animal protein and/or amino acid supplements or vegan protein powders with added amino acids.
Buy animal products that have been regeneratively raised, grass-fed or organic when possible. They are nutritionally better for you and they are better for the planet. They are also rich in phytonutrients from all the wild and diverse plants the animals consume.
Choose pasture-raised eggs. They are an affordable source of protein and vitamins—including B12, which you can’t get from a vegan diet—minerals, antioxidants and more.
Eat fish that is low in mercury and toxins, high in good fats, and wild-caught or sustainably raised. Sardines, herring, anchovies, mackerel and salmon all have high omega-3 and low mercury levels. Check out Seatopia or the Environmental Working Group’s Consumer Guide to Seafood for those that are sustainably harvested/raised and low in toxins.
Eat only whole grains (not whole-grain flours) and avoid gluten, especially from American dwarf wheat. Since all grains boost blood sugar, only eat ½ cup to 1 cup per day, and choose low-glycemic, gluten-free grains like black rice, quinoa, teff, buckwheat or amaranth. Try heirloom grains like Himalayan Tartary buckwheat or ancient forms of wheat like einkorn, emmer or farro.
Eat beans. Lentils are best. Stay away from big starchy beans as staples. Beans contain fiber, protein and minerals, but some people don’t digest them well, and the lectins and phytates in beans can inhibit mineral and protein absorption. If you digest beans without a problem, then up to 1 cup a day is OK.
Avoid sugar and other foods that spike blood sugar and insulin, such as flour, refined starches and carbohydrates. Treat sugar in any form as an occasional treat. Your body can’t tell the difference between a bagel and a bowl of sugar once it gets below your neck. Liquid sugar calories (from soda, energy drinks, sweetened teas, even fruit juice, etc.) cause increased hunger, obesity and death. Stay away.
Eliminate most grain, bean and seed oils. That includes canola, sunflower, grapeseed, and especially corn and soybean oil.
Small amounts of expeller or cold-pressed nut and seed oils like sesame, macadamia and walnut oils are fine to use as condiments or for flavoring. Avocado oil is great for higher-temperature cooking.
Avoid or limit dairy. Conventional dairy is bad for the environment and most people don’t digest it well. Dairy has been linked to inflammation, cancer, osteoporosis, autoimmune conditions, allergic disorders, digestive problems and more. I recommend avoiding it, except for the occasional grass-fed dairy from yogurt, kefir, grass-fed butter, ghee and even cheese if it doesn’t cause problems for you. Try goat or sheep products instead because they are raised on grass and their milk contains A2 casein, which is less likely to cause inflammation and digestive problems. And always go organic, grass-fed, and ideally regenerative. Some companies now produce regeneratively raised A2 cows’ milk, which may be better tolerated. Some nut milks are fine, but watch for added sugar, gut-damaging thickeners and higher-glycemic oat milks (which also contain gluten). Make your own from nuts soaked in water.
Reduce foods that have been contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics and hormones, and ideally avoid GMO foods. Look for foods raised or grown in regenerative ways (good for the Earth and for humans), if possible. Check labels for chemicals, additives, preservatives, dyes, artificial sweeteners or other nonfood ingredients. If you wouldn’t find it in your kitchen for cooking, you shouldn’t eat it.
The foundation of health and longevity is diet. You can exercise and meditate and sleep and take all the supplements in the world, but unless you focus on high-quality, nutrient-dense, whole foods personalized to your own needs and preferences, you will not achieve health or longevity. Focus on food as medicine. Upgrade your diet and biological software with each bite. Your fork is the most powerful tool you have to change your health and your life. Use it wisely.
DR. HYMAN’S HEALTHY AGING SHAKE
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Serves: 1 to 2
This shake is great for breakfast after a 12‑ to 16‑hour fast, or drink it within an hour of exercise, especially strength training. It provides support for muscle synthesis, mitochondrial health and repair, microbiome support, detoxification support, and hormone and adrenal support, and it includes compounds that support healthy aging. It keeps me balanced and energetic. The key is to get the right amount and quality of protein after your workout (usually 30 grams of animal protein or vegan proteins supplemented with branched-chain amino acids needed for muscle synthesis). I use regeneratively raised goat whey because it is cleanest and easiest to use. The rest of the ingredients are optional, but include as many as you can.
• 30 grams (2 scoops) goat whey from organic or regeneratively raised goats (Mt. Capra and Naked Goat are good brands); or, if vegan, 42 grams (2 scoops) Garden of Life Sport Organic Plant-Based Protein (with added branched-chain amino acids for protein synthesis)
• 1 packet Mitopure (from pomegranate) for mitophagy and muscle building from Timeline Nutrition
• 5 grams (1 scoop) creatine by Thorne for muscle synthesis
• 9 grams (1 scoop) Gut Food by Farmacy for gut healing and support; Gut Food contains extensively researched probiotics, prebiotics and polyphenols, like a multivitamin for the gut. You can find it at gutfood.com.
• 1 Tbsp. MCT oil or Brain Octane oil (for energy, brain function)
• 1 tsp. Stamets 7 Mushroom Powder (for energy, immunity and stress resilience; 7 Mushroom Powder is an adaptogenic mushroom powder that includes reishi, chaga, lion’s mane, cordyceps and more.)
• 8 to 12 oz. unsweetened macadamia milk or other nut or seed milk without emulsifiers or sweeteners (I recommend Elmhurst)
• 1 handful frozen berries
• 1 scoop or packet Athletic Greens (greens powder with vitamins and minerals)
• 1 Tbsp. each Organic Pomegranate and Cranberry Concentrate by Lakewood (polyphenols for healthy microbiome support)
• 1 tsp. matcha powder by Navitas (green tea with epigallocatechin gallate [EGCG], which supports the growth of a healthy microbiome)
In a blender, combine all the ingredients. Blend until smooth; drink, and enjoy feeling more youthful.
Photography by: PORTRAIT BY MASHA MALTSAVA; EXCERPTED FROM YOUNG FOREVER BY MARK HYMAN, MD. COPYRIGHT © 2023 BY MARK HYMAN, MD. USED WITH PERMISSION OF LITTLE, BROWN SPARK, AN IMPRINT OF LITTLE, BROWN AND COMPANY. NEW YORK, NY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED; COVER PHOTO COURTESY OF SUBJECT; SMOOTHIE PHOTO BY YALI MENASHE/COURTESY OF DR. MARK HYMAN