The Healing Powers of Burgers and Fried Chicken
Can burgers and fried chicken really be good for you? Yes. But not the Five Guys killer burger—not that kind. It’s burgers and chicken you cook yourself. And why do you need to cook them yourself? Here’s why.
Eating out can kill you, especially if you eat fast food or the addictive processed sugar and fats typically packed into almost every food that is made in a factory. The average American eats 29 pounds of French fries, 23 pounds of pizza, 24 pounds of ice cream and consumes 53 gallons of soda, 24 pounds of artificial sweeteners, 2,736 grams of salt, and 90,700 milligrams of caffeine per year. Do we really think we can create health in that toxic food environment?
A young New Zealand woman with eight children recently died after consuming 2.2 gallons of Coke per day, which, by the way, contains two pounds of sugar and 900 milligrams of caffeine (enough to give an elephant palpitations).
The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a study that showed life expectancy declining among women in America, especially in the South (the area with the highest rates of obesity and diabetes in the country). The authors of the study were quoted as being surprised by this data. One Harvard researcher said that trying to figure out why “is the hot topic right now, trying to understand what’s going on.”
Really? Life expectancy drops as obesity, diabetes, and the consumption of junk food, fast food, and sugar soars, and researchers fail to see the connection? It’s not rocket science. And yet, Harvard scientists are perplexed, and the National Institutes of Health spend $800 million each year studying the cause of obesity.
The cause of obesity is complex, to be sure—increased stress, environmental toxins, our sedentary lifestyle, and our sleeplessness as a nation all play a role. But the elephant in the room here is our toxic industrial food supply, specifically sugar. To paraphrase President Clinton, “It’s the food, stupid.”
I just returned from China where they are experiencing the same chronic diseases and obesity we find in the West, because, on every corner, at every turn, our industrial food culture has permeated their world—KFC, McDonald’s, Subway, Coke, Pepsi are everywhere. Today, China has the most type 2 diabetics in the world. Yes, they have more people, but their diabetes rate is about the same as that of the United States: about 10 percent. Thirty years ago, I traveled to China and saw only one overweight woman, and she was riding a bicycle. In 30 years, the rate of diabetes there has gone from one in 150 to one in 10, and now, one in five people above the age of 60 in China are diabetic—and 60 percent are not even diagnosed. Obesity and diabetes are rampant there, increasing at a far faster rate than in the United States, and this shift can be tied directly to how fully they have embraced our processed, industrial, high-sugar diet.
I am the chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine, and we were asked by the Chinese to come and teach their physicians how to deal with lifestyle-related chronic disease. A group of us went to show them how to return to their traditional ways of using food as medicine.
It’s sad that a country in which food has long been considered medicine—with specific care taken to include special foods with healing properties at every meal—would need to relearn this knowledge. In fact, the word for “take your medicine” in Chinese is “chi yao,” which means, “eat your medicine.” We went to a special restaurant where everything on the menu was chosen for its medicinal properties, including all sorts of exotic fungus and plants and animals like sea cucumbers.
But we don’t need to eat funny-looking plants and animals with weird textures and tastes to eat our medicine. In fact, we can start with burgers and fried chicken.
I recently did a segment on The Dr. Oz Show during which I demonstrated how to use food as medicine, cooking recipes from my new cookbook, The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook. I carefully selected healing, medicinal, blood sugar-balancing ingredients, disguising them as our favorite foods.
It might surprise you that burgers and fried chicken can be healthy, but keep in mind, my versions of those foods have stealth healing properties. All the recipes in my cookbook contain medicinal foods. They are medicine, but they don’t taste like medicine, because at the end of the day, if they did, no one would eat them. But they are made from real, whole, fresh food cooked from scratch, and they taste amazing.
To help you truly understand how food is medicine (not just like medicine but actually real medicine), I have analyzed two recipes from my cookbook that we demonstrated on The Dr. Oz Show.
Sweet Potato Burgers (on page 114 of the cookbook)
Here are the ingredients, along with information on how each affects your health and your biology:
- -Sweet potatoes contain carotenoids, which is reflected in their orange color. Their phytonutrient properties help with weight loss by increasing adiponectin, a fat-reducing, insulin-balancing, anti-diabetes hormone made by your fat cells.
- -EVOO, also known as extra virgin olive oil, is a phytonutrient superfood. It contains oleic acid and dozens of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory polyphenol compounds that lower blood pressure and promote health. They also contain good monounsaturated fats.
- -White beans contain good plant proteins, fiber, and magnesium. The fiber helps lower your blood sugar.
- -Curry contains turmeric and other anti-inflammatory spices. Obesity and diabetes are inflammatory conditions. Turmeric is nature’s ibuprofen. It also prevents cancer and dementia (both related to diabesity).
- -Almond flour contains protein, fiber, magnesium, and healthy monounsaturated fats. It helps lower LDL, or bad cholesterol, prevents diabetes, and promotes weight loss. People who ate more almonds have been shown to reduce their risk of diabetes significantly.
- -Avocado contains phytosterols, which are fats that lower cholesterol. They also contain omega-3 fats (ALA), as well as carotenoids, selenium, and zinc. Avocado has eight grams of fiber in one cup and is very low in carbs. The fats in an avocado help you absorb all fat-soluble antioxidants, just like the carotenoids in the sweet potato do. Avocado also contains these special seven-carbon carbohydrates that help to lower blood sugar.
- -Tahini is made from sesame seeds, which contain a special fiber called lignan (seamolin and sesamin) that lowers blood pressure and cholesterol. It is very high in magnesium and calcium, containing over 30 percent of your daily needs in just one quarter of a cup. It is the best source of dietary calcium (far better than milk).
- -Lemon zest contains limonene, which boosts liver detoxification, and the lemon juice contains anti-cancer bioflavonoids.
- -Garlic contains 1,2-DT (1,2-vinyldithiin), which is an anti-inflammatory sulfur compound that can inhibit the number of fats cells that form in our body. And it can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol and is a natural antibiotic.
Not bad for a burger!
The next recipe is fried chicken. I call it “unfried” chicken.
Almond Flax Crusted Chicken (on page 225 of the cookbook)
Here are the ingredients found in this recipe, along with information on their beneficial effects:
- -Chicken breasts are a great source of protein and are rich in niacin, B6, and tryptophan, which increases serotonin, cutting your food and sugar cravings.
- -Flaxseeds are a superfood that contains lignans, unique fiber-related polyphenols that provide us with antioxidant benefits and fiber-like benefits. They also act as phytoestrogens to balance hormones and prevent cancer. Among all commonly eaten foods, researchers now rank flaxseeds as the number one source of lignans in the human diet. Flaxseeds contain about seven times as many lignans as the closest runner-up food (sesame seeds). Flaxseeds are also high in polyphenols that lower cholesterol. The lignans balance female hormones and even help fix insulin resistance and diabesity. One recent study showed a 20 percent decrease in diabesity after 12 weeks on a diet plan that included 30 grams (one ounce) of ground flaxseed per day. The flaxseeds lowered blood pressure and blood sugar and decreased belly fat—amazing for a food that is 70 percent fat in terms of total calories and contains about 10 times as many calories per cup as blueberries. It’s all about the information in the food.
- -Onions are rich in sulfur, which helps with liver detoxification. And they contain quercetin, a powerful anti-inflammatory.
- -Cayenne, the spicy hot pepper, is a powerful aid to weight loss. It contains capsaicin, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Also, the hot spice literally heats up your metabolism, increasing thermogenesis (or calorie-burning) for up to 20 minutes after a meal. It also lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes by reducing insulin levels. Insulin is the fat-storage hormone. The amount of insulin you need after a meal decreases by about 25 percent if the meal contains chili pepper. The less insulin, the less belly fat and diabesity—a winning combination.
- -Parsley contains two types of unusual components that provide unique health benefits. The first type is volatile oil components, including myristicin, limonene, eugenol, and alpha-thujene. The second type is flavonoids, including apiin, apigenin, chrysoeriol, and luteolin. Parsley’s volatile oils—particularly myristicin—have been shown to inhibit tumor formation in animal studies. Myristicin has also been shown to activate the enzyme glutathione S-transferase, boosting the most powerful detoxifier and antioxidant in the body, glutathione.
Now, of course, when you make and eat these burgers and fried chicken, you are not thinking about all of this. But when you learn that food is medicine, your trips to the grocery store become better than trips to the pharmacy. Think of your grocery store as your FARMacy. When I shop, I am always looking for healing ingredients, because I know what’s in the food. You may not. So, I can make it simple.
Just eat real, whole, fresh food that you cook yourself. Pick a rainbow of colors of fruits and vegetables, and eat a lot of them. Enjoy nuts; seeds; a variety of spices; good-quality protein; and high-fiber, unrefined, unprocessed carbohydrates. Eat good fats from fish, avocados, flax, olive oil, and coconut butter. That’s it. You just stocked up on the most powerful drugs on the planet.
I wrote The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook to make it easy. In every recipe, I included healing ingredients—stealth medicine—designed to create health automatically.
Pepsi divides foods into two categories: fun for you and good for you. Their fun-for-you foods include Doritos and Mountain Dew. In other words, fun for you equals bad for you. But you can have it both ways—fun for you and good for you—by eating the meals I show you how to make in my cookbook or any real, whole food.
We have to stand up to the food industry that is feeding us poison instead of real, healing foods. The most important and the most powerful tool you can use to change your health and the world is your fork.
Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below—but remember, we can’t offer personal medical advice online, so be sure to limit your comments to those about taking back our health!
To your good health,
Mark Hyman, MD