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Food to Feel Good: Dr. Mark Hyman Weighs In

What the heck should I eat? What will help my immunity? What does optimal nutrition look like in the time of the Coronavirus?


“It all starts with eliminating the bad stuff and adding in the good stuff,” says Dr. Mark Hyman. A practicing physician, longtime champion of functional medicine, international expert and best-selling author, including the new Food Fix, Hyman has dedicated his life to food as medicine. In this mind, they’re one and the same.


Hyman’s philosophy is quite simple. Health requires a combined approach to nutrition and lifestyle, like eating a real, whole foods, unprocessed diet; managing stress; incorporating movement; finding calm. Right now in particular, that list also includes staying home, practicing social distancing and good hygiene.

Proper nutrition is at the heart of this, as it fortifies the body to fight, optimizes functionality, regulates systems, and renews healthy cells, he explains. Despite debate, Dr. Hyman believes experts agree on the common sense importance of real, whole, local (whenever possible), fresh, unadulterated, unprocessed food.

“Our processed, high-sugar and starch diet is really the problem, so start eating whole nutrients,” Dr. Hyman says, staying true to the core message of his functional medicine approach to Covid-19, which, like many diseases, targets those who are already metabolically unhealthy, chronically ill and nutrient deficient. Passionate about the “revolutionary act” of cooking, wellness and activism to reduce sickness and champion health, Dr. Hyman shares simple, powerful tips that serve us at all times, but especially now in the face of a pandemic.

– Prioritize nutrient-dense, whole foods for a functioning immune system. Dr. Hyman highlights a balanced diet rich in flavonoids, healthy fats, unprocessed grains, sustainably-raised proteins, and foods without pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, additives or hormones. Mushrooms, fish, citrus and homemade broths make the list, with much more in his books “Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?” and “Food: What the Heck Should I Cook?”

– Cut sugar and refined starches, which can suppress immune systems and worsen viral infections long after consumed. Dr. Hyman recommends a complete sugar and junk food detox to reset your body for continued optimal health.

– Make sure to get enough protein, as adequate intake is critical for immune function. But not all proteins are created equal. Organic, clean plant and animal proteins are Dr. Hyman’s top picks.

– Add garlic, ginger and spices with anti-viral properties like turmeric, rosemary, chili pepper and oregano to meals to support immune function, among other benefits.

– Eat multiple servings of fruits and vegetables, including leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, peppers, sweet potatoes, squashes and a full rainbow that is high in vitamins C, A and phytonutrients.

– Choose fermented foods to build immunity and a healthy microbiome, like sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kefir, tempeh, miso and others, which also keep extremely well.

– Take immune-boosting vitamins and supplements, like vitamin D (most of us do not get enough of from natural sunshine), zinc, fish oil, vitamin C, probiotics, astralagus, maitake and reishi mushroom extracts, among others, starting with a high quality, broad spectrum multivitamin.

Drink drink drink. Liquids support a functioning immune system, especially warm soups, broths, herbal, turmeric and ginger teas, and the life force that is water. Dr. Hyman advises avoiding alcohol, an immune suppressant.

Sleep seven to eight hours per night to heal and restore your body’s optimal functioning, including that of the immune system. Sleep is the focus of Dr. Hyman’s recent master class.

– Practice meditation and yoga, as well as deep breathing, hot baths or any wellness activity that allows your body to rest, relax and rid itself of stress, which heightens susceptibility to viral infections.

Exercise regularly to boost your immune system, but don’t overexert yourself, especially if feeling run down, as that only further compromises immune defenses.


Written for and originally published on Chef Tyler Florence's WolfItDown.com. Full piece here.