01:12 – Dr Rupy’s career background, his interests and why he started The Doctor’s Kitchen
05:08 – Becoming more pragmatic about what we consume
09:15 – Eat to Beat Illness and the concept of food as medicine
12:57 – The impact of poor diet choices is not always immediate
16:24 – Recognising and addressing some of the issues relating to modern lifestyles
21:44 – Eating patterns are often influenced by emotions and habits
25:18 – Understanding the role of sleep and meal timing
27:33 – Changing just one thing
33:29 – About diets and dieting
39:17 – Five key actions for healthy eating
Welcome to the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast, where you can learn how to improve your diet, lose fat, and get fitter in a sustainable and fun way without spending hours in the gym. Here is your host, Darren Kirby.
Darren: This is season one, episode seven of the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast. Today’s guest is Dr Rupy who is the founder of Doctors Kitchen, which is a project to inspire patients about the beauty of food and the medicinal effects of eating well. Hi, Dr Rupy, how are you?
Dr Rupy Aujla: Hi Darren. How’s the going? Yeah, good.
Darren: Excellent. Thanks for coming onto the show today and taking time out of your busy schedule. I know, as we’ve just been discussing, you’re an extremely busy guy and I don’t know how you fit it all in. Massive hats off to you. But before we kind of kick off the show today, for people that maybe haven’t heard about you before or come across you, it’d be good if you could give us a brief introduction to yourself, The Doctors Kitchen and your overall career, and what you’re trying to achieve.
Dr Rupy: Sure. Thank you so much, first of all. It’s a pleasure to chat to you and your audience as well. It’s exactly the sort of clientele I’m looking to try and influence as well. Sort of like the men as well as females who traditionally have a bit more of an interest in this subject, naturally. My background is I’m a fully qualified general practitioner, works in the NHS. I work in emergency medicine as well. I started The Doctors Kitchen about four years ago now. I started a non-profit called Culinary Medicine, which is basically to try and teach doctors how to cook as well as the foundations of clinical nutrition. I’m currently doing my masters in Nutritional Medicine at the University of Surrey.
The way I started my own personal health journey, it mirrors quite a few other people in this sort of space. It’s through personal experience of ill health and really being forced to take a step back and reassess a lifestyle of which diet is a very important part, and making positive changes that in my case led to a remission of quite a serious and unusual condition for a young person. Atrial fibrillation: it’s something I talk about in the first book. It’s where your heart beats irregularly and in my case, very fast. I was actually working as a junior doctor at the time and it was a bit of a shock. I went through a year of investigations and having a whole bunch of different opinions from cardiologists and physicians.
It wasn’t until my mom who’s not a medic and not trained in medicine, actually told me, “You need to look at your lifestyle.” At the time, I was working as a junior doctor doing night shifts, eating poorly, lots of stress, not really focusing on working out or self-care. Through really systematically giving attention to all those different elements of lifestyle, my condition miraculously went away. That is not to say diet lifestyle is a panacea for everything, but it’s certainly the starting point, it should be the starting point for a lot of the things that we see as general practitioners at the NHS.
Darren: It’s very interesting, isn’t it? I found this, again, through my own kind of personal experience. That is, with doctors working as hard as they do, nurses working in the NHS trying to fix everybody, the angle that’s taken is generally around–I don’t want to say firefighting–but it’s more like fixing once it’s broken instead of approaching it from the angle of, “Okay, I feel okay, but what can I do to improve?”
Starting with food. When I talk about it and perhaps when you talk about it, to me now sounds very simple and very logical, but it’s amazing how people still don’t understand that. As consumers, we are marketed to and we go into the supermarket and we assume that sometimes because it says it’d be good for you or it’s low fat, okay, that must be good. We’ll just stick it in the trolley and we’ll eat that. Very rarely do people take the time to really understand what food is all about. Like you said, it’s kind of the building blocks, the cornerstone to everything we do. Our health and wellness and mindset. It’s just a real important thing that not many people understand.
Dr Rupy: Yeah, I think you’ve picked up on something that’s pretty poignant there, which is, we tend to be passive consumers of health information rather than being sort of our own advocates. If I have an aspiration, it’s to try and convince people that they can be experts of their own health; that they can take control using the principles of healthy eating and lifestyle that I talk about quite openly, and the evidence that underpins that. But really being a lot more intuitive about what it means to lead a healthy lifestyle and what that means to that individual as well. Because there’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” approach. A lot of the things do overlap.
I think also, as humans, and I don’t know what the evolutionary drive is, but we’re drawn to these quick fixes. If something says “healthy,” okay, fine. We’re just banging that in the shopping trolley and we’ll do that, or if the latest diet, whether it be keto, whether it would be celery juice, and certain people have found amazing benefits, I’m just going to go straight for that one, rather than getting the foundations in place as the starting point. So yeah, I think, totally, you’re right about that. We need to encourage people to be a lot more pragmatic.
Darren: Definitely. And I think it’s awareness, isn’t it? It’s consciousness. We all lead busy lives, have busy family, busy careers, we’re focused on our careers as obviously, you are. We’re focused on our families. And food is just there, isn’t it? It’s just in the background. Like you’ve said, we want stuff quickly. We’ll go online, we’ll fill our shopping trolley up, it gets delivered to the house or you quickly run around the supermarket and put stuff in the trolley. It’s just kind of stopping, reflecting, and being aware of actually… Just asking basic question, isn’t it, really? Is that what I’m putting in my body or what I’m cooking, is that right for me?
Often, like you said, it’s not until you have a health scare or you have an illness or maybe a family member has an illness, you actually then stop and reflect. Whereas if we approached it from a different aspect and made it part of our daily lives, then maybe the results would be different and I think on a bigger scale perhaps the medical service would have less pressure.
Dr Rupy: That pretty much sums up exactly why I wrote the second book, Eat to Beat Illness. Because rather than people thinking, Oh, once I have something wrong with me like imbalanced cholesterol ratios or obesity or a heart scare, then I need to react to that. Eat to Beat Illness is simple changes to our diet and lifestyle that can amplify our defences of ever getting a condition or ill health in the first place. That is the lens at which we should be looking at health care rather than reacting to it like we do in the emergency department, like I do a lot of the time in general practice, because of the sheer patient footfall that we have coming through the door. We need to think laterally and look through with the perspective of preventative medicine.
Darren: Yeah, absolutely. Obviously, you touched on it there. Your new book is around using food maybe as medicine or to feel better. Your kind of philosophy on food as medicine, is that a philosophy you follow- food as medicine? Or is it just in general about being more conscious, more aware, and using food that meets your individual needs or body requirements, or is it food as medicine?
Dr Rupy: That’s a really good point. Medicine, if we use the technical definition of it, is any substance or intervention that can prevent or treat ill health. If we use that definition, what we choose to put on our plates, our general diet and how we live our lives, massively correlates with that. That’s why I think to get the importance of dietary changes into the consciousness of the general public, using a statement like “food and medicine,” or “food as medicine and food and medicine,” is very important, actually. Because it makes people recognize just how powerful these sorts of interventions can be for our health at preventing and protecting us.
In the small instances and a few instances, we see–and I touched about this in the book–how we can use food in a treatment context, in a therapeutic way, whether it be a particular type of diet for type 2 diabetes and improving glycaemic control, or whether it be a higher fat diet for certain types of epilepsy or chronic pain or migraines. In a majority of instances, we’re looking at food as something that has incredible ability to protect us against ever getting ill. That’s why food as medicine, for me, is not something to be trendy, it’s not something that’s unscientific. In fact, it’s just fact.
Me as an NHS doctor talking about this back in 2015, I was quite fearful of a backlash against me because it doesn’t seem like something that a conventionally trained doctor should be talking about. But I think from a common-sense point of view, it just makes a lot of sense. And it’s something that we’ve known for millennia, as well, if we look at ancient medicine. We’ve obviously evolved much beyond what we previously thought in terms of the rigour of our science now but certainly the principles of like how to look after our incredible machines–our bodies and our minds–has always been there. We really need to take a pinch of sort of teachings from all manner of different disciplines of which intuitive medicine or alternative medicine or complementary medicine–call it whatever you want–it does hold true in that. That’s why I’m a massive advocate for it.
Darren: Yeah, I fully agree. Once you start to delve deeper into different food types, what they’re made up of and where they can impact various different areas of the body, it then becomes… I don’t want to say simple because that kind of makes it sound very basic, but it becomes a lot easier to make good food choices. Then once you start to understand it, that, in some ways becomes unconscious, because once you’ve learned about it, you’ve understood it, when you are going to be a consumer of food, whether that’s in a restaurant, whether that’s in a supermarket, at home, it’s very easy to make those choices. “My body reacts better to this or maybe I’ve got a particular condition where if I eat this it makes me feel terrible, if I eat this, it makes me feel better.” It’s just that understanding and that knowledge that you can then… It doesn’t then have to be this big kind of deal if you like, around your food choices.
Dr Rupy: The other thing, just to add on that before I forget. Sometimes we can eat food for years and years and years before it has a demonstrable impact on our health. Not to point the blame solely at diet in my case, but certainly it was a contributing factor. For a lot of people, whether it be their first heart attack, whether it be their mental health, food doesn’t really feature on the horizon. It’s really about teaching the general public and just all of us, including ourselves–doctors as patients–to appreciate the magnitude of the effects of food. Because a lot of the times, we can eat a diet of refined carbohydrates, we can have a diet of energy drinks, we can have a lifestyle that is not conducive to wellbeing and purely out of the resilience of our incredible human bodies, we will deal with those insults for years and years and years before it will succumb to ill health.
I always like to use the analogy of smoking in the clinic. You can take a known carcinogen, one of the most terrible carcinogens we know we have in the public domain, and you can ingest it 10 to 20 times every single day for years before you succumb to something like emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or lung cancer, obviously. That is just testament to how incredible our bodies are, but we do need to look after it and we start with our plates.
Darren: Yeah, and I think that’s a very interesting point around the fact that how resilient our bodies are and how much punishment it can withstand before it says, “Now is enough. Now it’s malfunctioned or developed a really serious chronic illness.” At that point, in some cases it’s too late. You can’t reverse it at that point. You’ve given it all the pummelling and damage that it can possibly take and it’s not reversible.
I think the other thing as well: I’ve recently had a gut health test and there are some flags that came up in there that were relatively serious. But the interesting thing for me is, I now know about that and I can adapt my diet to do something about it, to bring them down lower. What could maybe have developed into a serious illness, because I’m now aware of it, I can make changes to my daily diet, and it doesn’t have to get to the point where I maybe need to go and see a doctor or I need to go into some serious medication or the rest of it. So yeah, I think that’s really important.
In terms of the biggest issue that you see today with food in our society, whether that would be processed, whether that would be eating for convenience, do you see a common theme as a population that we’ve moved across to that we perhaps shouldn’t, it’s not good for our bodies, that quite easily we could change? Is it convenience, is it processed foods that we demand as consumers? What kind of thing do you see as an issue?
Dr Rupy: Yeah, I think there’s a couple of things. I think the first thing is that from a young age, at least nowadays, anyway, we’re not really taught to appreciate the medicinal effects of eating well and looking after our health in general. We’ve lost that connection with our food, where it comes from, where it’s grown. Sitting around a family table, the dynamic of a family eating together, the dynamic of being taught how to cook from a young age by your parents or your extended family members. That one thing I think has been lost.
At the same time, on the other side of the spectrum, we are being sold products that feed into our Palaeolithic minds, where we are sort of sugar hungry and we respond to that and we also demand convenience. We want all those things jumbled up with taste and the availability of food and unfortunately, because we are designed in such a way to always seek food and we have it at every opportunity now–it’s 24/7– we will naturally indulge in that. This is why, post-war, we can see the consumption of products that are high in salt, high in sugar, high in refined carbohydrates, etc. They have all gone up because the availability has gone up. We now recognize it, but traditionally we haven’t recognized the ill impact of that.
I think that’s sort of like the issues very simplified. There’s a whole bunch of other things. The environment, how we have products advertised to us in the name of profits, and how we eat on a 24-hour cycle, loads of different things. But I think that’s probably the main crux of it. I think once we start to understand what our biological mechanisms are, why we respond so positively to high salt and high sugar items, then we can start to make some informed choices. Like, for example, a simple one that I talk about in the book and I’ve talked about previously in podcasts and stuff, is just eating in a general 10 to 12-hour window.
We are not designed as human beings to eat 24 hours around the day. We have our cells that operate all on a rough 24-hour cycle or circadian rhythm, their response to a whole bunch of different stimuli, one of them being light. Different cells in our body, namely our liver, which is probably the most important in this discussion when it comes to timing of food, are not meant to be subject to the influx of energy from food at extended periods throughout the day.
We’ve adapted to have periods of fasting and eating and unfortunately, that’s been disrupted by the sheer availability of food all over. This concept of never being hungry as well. I appreciate this doesn’t apply to everyone because some people have unhealthy relationships with food and they could never really take this advice. But the concept of being hungry has sort of been lost in modern society. It’s no longer acceptable to be hungry, given the availability of food. I think with all these sorts of things combined, it’s no wonder that we’re looking at a more unhealthy population. It’s not to say that we can’t reverse the issues that we’re seeing and prevent the epidemic of lifestyle related disease with greater understanding.
Darren: It’s interesting. I can’t remember what episode of your podcast I was listening to but you had a lady on there who had been working out in, I think it was Switzerland. I think she was a doctor or maybe a medical researcher.
Dr Rupy: Yeah, Jenna Macciochi.
Darren: That’s it, yeah. She was talking about how they eat and how they eat within that window, and they eat the three meals a day, and they don’t start grazing and their convenience of food is not there. The shops are not open all the time so the food’s not constantly available. But when they do eat, they sit down and have a proper big meal and then they’re only eating those three times a day. They don’t eat in between. They might have a few drinks. But I think there is a lot to be said for that, isn’t there? Particularly around your gut health and things like that, giving your body a rest from constantly processing that food that you’re giving it.
The other thing as well is I think a lot of the kind of salts and sugars is because it’s making people–for that short period of time–making them feel good. I don’t know if it’s like a dopamine release or something like that. Some of it comes down to the emotional side of eating; you eat that because it makes you feel good or maybe you’re bored. I think the other thing could be right back from childhood, I believe, as well. You eat certain foods when you’re adults because of the relationship you had maybe with food when you were a child. Maybe you were restricted for certain types of food, so when you’re an adult, you then start to eat that food, whether it’s good, bad, or whatever. I think there’s a big emotional side to it as well.
Dr Rupy: Huge, yeah. I think certainly emotional eating is definitely part of the issue. It’s funny you picked up on the stuff with regards to childhood and your memories and stuff. Whilst I would never want to restrict anyone from indulging in something that brings about nostalgia because food isn’t purely about fuel. The emotional connection is how we celebrate our different cultures and there’s so much complexity around the enjoyment of food. But you’re right: once we have autonomy over when and how much we eat, if we don’t have the simple understanding of the importance of when you eat and what you eat, then we can go into overdrive, essentially. That’s why I think a lot of people have issues with just eating late into the night. If they don’t recognize it, that’s going to have a problem.
That’s why the whole concept of simple changes, simple awareness of what things do to your body, and when you should be indulging versus indulging all the time. And people won’t realize that they indulge all the time; it’s critical, I think. The majority of patients that I would see, and I come and ask about what their perception of their diet is like, most people think it’s normal. That’s because we have been taught that cereal in the morning, sandwiches at lunch and a pasta dinner at night is a normal diet. Whereas I would argue actually, yes, those things can make you micronutrient replete, i.e., the recommended daily allowances for your magnesium, your vitamin E and C might be met by those. But on the grander scheme of things, it’s way too high in refined carbohydrates. It’s going to have a detrimental impact on certain populations, particularly those from Afro-Caribbean origins and Indian origins because of our propensity to type 2 diabetes. Unless we rebalance and rethink the way we see food, we’re going to see that over and over again.
Darren: Yeah. I think that’s really important. I think the other thing as well is I feel that it’s food and drink. For example, around always eating, always feeling like you’re hungry and things like that, and I do it with my kids. Nine times out of 10, when you ask, they say they’re hungry and they say, Can I have a snack? If they’re kids, the natural kind of reaction is, Well, they’re young, they’re kids, they’re growing. But if you get them and say, When was the last time you had something to drink? Well, I haven’t had anything to drink for the last three hours. Have some water and then tell me if you’re hungry. Nine times out of 10, they’re not. My point is that we feel hungry and hydration, I think, is one of the biggest overlooked things or mis-overlooked things that we don’t think about. That is, if you feel tired, if you lose concentration, all of those things are down to hydration in some cases. I think that’s the other side to it. It’s not necessarily about food, it’s also about the other elements: hydration, and fluids and drinking and things like that.
Dr Rupy: Yeah, absolutely. Also, the emotions of what you’re feeling at that point. There’s this research looking at depressed individuals and how that leads to food-seeking behaviour. There’s the impact of inflammation, a poor night’s sleep and how that leads to more food seeking behaviour; there’s some elegantly controlled studies looking at if you purposely restrict people’s sleep and give them a sort of ad libitum buffet the next day, what actually happens in that sort of experimental environment. That correlates with precisely what you see on a personal level. I know if I’ve had bad sleep, the next day, I’m ravenous. I never really understood that. It wasn’t until recently that I read Professor Matthew Walker’s book that I kind of understood. I appreciate the mechanistic pathways to why that is the case.
I always like to use the perspective of evolution. Like why we adapted to do that. What is the advantage for us as a human being, as a human race? I suppose it’s to fuel us to ensure that we’re getting good sleep the following day. There are a whole bunch of different theories out there. I think once we understand our sort of makeup, we can have a better relationship with food and a better understanding of why lifestyle is so important.
Darren: Absolutely. One of the biggest things as well is around change, isn’t it? Like you said previously, we’ve perhaps been conditioned from when we were younger to have cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and then pasta for dinner. But talking about food and being more aware of it to actually make that change, to say, “I’m going to now change my diet,” I think is one of the biggest challenges for people. Because it’s not necessarily people can decide to make the change. But it’s being consistent and persistent around that change, isn’t it? Which is, I think, one of the biggest challenges that people face.
Rupy: Yeah, definitely. Something I speak to with some of my general practice colleagues quite a bit because we see an incredible number of patients every single day, upwards of 30-40 patients a day, and we’ve got to hone in on those quick wins. Me and my colleagues have talked. We teach each other–over the last couple of years–about ways in which we can instigate quick lifestyle change that motivate people. One of the most effective ones actually that I’ve used in practice to get results is not telling them to change anything and just telling them to change when they eat.
If I say to you, let’s say you had your diet before you started making the healthy lifestyle changes, before you decided to lose weight. And I said to you, “I don’t want you to change anything. I don’t care what you eat for breakfast, I don’t care what you eat for dinner. All I want you to do is just eat between 8 am, if that’s when you first eat, and I don’t want you to eat after 7 pm. That’s it. Just stick to an 11-hour window of eating, that’s all I want you to do. Just stick with that for a couple of weeks. Come and see me again and let me know how you feel.” What would probably happen is you probably won’t snack late at night, which a lot of people do unconsciously. You’re in front of the TV, you’ve just come back from work, whether you’re eating peanuts or whether you’re eating crisps, whatever. You’d probably stop that. You’re probably going to reduce your energy intake. That’s one thing.
There’s also evidence to suggest that when you’re restricting your eating window to around 11 hours, you’re changing mechanisms that reduce inflammation, you’re giving your gut–we were talking about the gut earlier–you’re giving your gut a rest. Your tight junctions that naturally open when you have the digestive process, close and you allow them to close instead of constantly giving them a barrage of things to do, so that allows it to rest. It probably impacts your sleep as well. If you’re eating up to the time when you’re just about to go to sleep, it impacts your melatonin, your sleeping hormones, it has an impact on your circadian rhythm. If you take that away, then you may be positively impacting your sleep, which might have an impact on your satiety levels the following day.
Just by that one thing that I think is quite reasonable for a lot of people without introducing the concept of fasting or restriction or energy or macro counting, anything like that. It’s probably one of the simplest things that you can do to get people’s attention and get them to stick with it as well. Then it’s just a case of changing one thing at a time, according to the patient’s need, first of all, but also their motivation, how much they think they can reasonably make. There’s sort of a motivational interviewing technique we do: rather than me going in with the same sort of tactic every single time, I’m modulating it for that person. If you’re a shift worker and you have to get out of the door by 5:00 and breakfast is the most important meal of the day, they’re going to have to wake up at 4:30 and make breakfast. That’s not going to happen. Making a sort of suggestion that’s tailored to that particular individual is going to be more important.
I think it’s just about honing on the things that people can change and making it one step at a time. Because if I was to try and get everyone to eat the way I do–breakfast, lunch, dinner, exercise in the morning, try to introduce meditation, do all the other sorts of lifestyle practices that I do–it’s just not going to happen. People are going to fall off, they’ll get demotivated, so they might not try again.
Darren: I think that’s the biggest issue. The point that you made there about just changing one thing. People can stick to that one thing but all too often what you see is, people have got a specific goal. Right, I’m overweight, so I want to lose weight, and all of a sudden, from one day to the next, they completely flip it on its head and start following all these diets and the rest of it. It’s just not going to work because it’s nothing to do with the diet. It’s just too much of a big change and too much for people to take in, and when the going gets tough, it’s just easy to reverse. It’s just easy to go back to how you were because that’s what you know and you don’t have to think about it.
Dr Rupy: Exactly, yeah, and unfortunately, we see a lot of yo-yo dieting because there is a promise: if you just do this, if you just made these extreme changes for a short amount of time, you’re going to get these sorts of results. Whilst that might be appropriate for certain people, I’d never want to make a generalization. Some people have some amazing successes and that’s great because that’s a motivating factor. (There are) people that would aim to get that sort of rapid weight loss or that rapid change or that very drastic difference from what their norm is and will probably fall off the wagon purely because of a whole bunch of reasons. It’s just not something that might be sustainable for that individual.
Tailoring suggestions to whatever someone’s lifestyle currently is and making it conducive to them is, I think, probably the hardest thing to do but also the best thing to do in terms of trying to make a real impact on behaviour change.
Darren: Yeah. To kind of touch on about diets. When people have specific goals–beach bodies, or they want to be a certain way–as we’ve already kind of discussed, there is no one size fits all. But why is it that you think that people gravitate towards the latest diet? I think for me at the moment, it seems to be a mix between paleo and keto; people seem to be jumping on that kind of bandwagon at the moment. What do you think it is that motivates people to run towards these latest and greatest kind of fixes which we know are not long term?
Dr Rupy: I think a research that comes out and it kind of magnifies the promise of a particular diet and makes it seem quite accessible, it’s very attractive for people. Even I’ve been tempted in the past before I actually did a deep dive into this stuff to follow a particular diet or just self-experiment and stuff. I can understand that the consumer from that point of view–particularly if you’ve tried a whole bunch of other things–that maybe this is the one or it worked for an influential person, whether it be a celebrity or whether it be a footballer or whether it be someone that inspires you in some way. You’re more likely to gravitate to it.
I can understand and I sympathize with people’s desire for a fix. That’s not to say that any of these diets are easy. A lot of them are hard, particularly ketogenic is very, very hard to keep on and try to get some good results in this; it’s quite restrictive. But at the same time, I like to try and get people to think logically about it and take a step back. This is something I talked about in my first book, where I spent a whole chapter looking at all the different diets and the pros and cons of them. When you take a step back and you look at vegan, keto, paleo, the beach body diet, there was some other one that came out of west coast America, a whole bunch of low-carb, a whole bunch of them, 80% of them focus around some core features. That is getting loads of veggies on your plate, it’s getting a variety of different foods that we know will improve your gut microbiota, probably make you go to the toilet more, and probably impact a whole bunch of other processes modulated by the microbes that live in your large intestine.
And they remove all the junk. They remove the processed meats, they remove refined carbohydrates, they remove added sugars, they remove fizzy drinks, and they remove convenience options. If you think about it from the perspective of just those factors, regardless of what you call it, and you’re moving someone from probably a highly processed diet, you’re going to get some pretty incredible results, regardless of what you call it. That’s why I can appreciate it. I’m very open minded: someone comes in or a colleague is like, “I believe in paleo diet. It’s really helped XYZ, or I’ve been doing low-carb with some of my patients.” That’s great, but I wouldn’t want people to be confused that the reason why it worked is because it was exactly according to these principles. The reason why it’s worked is probably because it correlates with 80% of the good stuff between all the diets.
Darren: Yeah. I think for me, if you really strip it back and you take it like you just said, if you take a look at all of those diets. Provided you’ve got all of your macronutrients in there, provided you’re cooking wholesome fresh food that’s not gone through a process and providing you’re watching your portion control–because that’s one of the other biggest things, isn’t it? Having a massive plate of food? Taking those three things. If you take them three things very basically, if today you’ve not got that in your diet but you implement those three things, I would argue within a short space of time, you will start to see some very significant changes. And that won’t necessarily be around the weight side of things, but it will just be how you feel in general.
For me, once I started to understand nutrition and transitioned across, the kind of mental awareness and alertness that I had instead of this constant fogginess that sometimes we feel, was amazing.
Dr Rupy: I know. It’s something that I see quite a lot and I hear about quite a bit, actually. The sort of vague symptom of not feeling quite right or like a cognitive sort of slowing. Fogginess is the word that a lot of people use and there’s a lot of reasons as to why that might be. Hydration is probably one of the easiest and commonest things that I see that people just don’t drink enough, or they feel like they’re drinking enough but it’s actually in the way of diuretics like tea and coffee. Poor sleep can do that, so if your sleep is disrupted, you’re definitely going to be slower the next day. This mild sort of low-grade background inflammation termed meta-inflammation, can be perpetuated by your diet and what you choose to eat and drink throughout the day.
When you take that high sugar diet out, it’s no wonder people feel quite refreshed. And fibre as well. We know that your microbes can modulate a whole bunch of different processes that lower inflammation, improve glycaemic control, lower the lulls that you see after eating and stuff. There’s a whole bunch of reasons as to why you have this kind of soft symptom that’s unexplained by any particular test that I can do, bar maybe a high sensitivity CRP marker inflammation. But it sort of lifts when you change your lifestyle so, yeah, I can totally resonate with people saying that as a symptom.
Darren: In terms of actions that people that are listening today could make to their diets or just to their daily routine, what would you suggest would be five key actions that people could take?
Dr Rupy: From the perspective of diet on its own, without talking about lifestyle, without talking about sleep, without talking about your sense of purpose, your community or all the sort of trouble mechanisms that we have to be very appreciative of, we’re just going to hone down on diet.
I sort of summarized it into healthy eating principles that I’ve talked about on my website and talked about in my new book, Eat to Beat Illness. It’s pretty simple. It’s eat colours; that’s probably the first thing. Colours represent micronutrients, minerals, but also the phytonutrients that you find in plant foods. We’re talking about the greens, the purples, the reds, rather than saying to yourself, I’m going to eat greens because it’s got sulforaphane and then that’s going to have this anti-inflammatory potential. Really, you’re eating the whole plant which has fibre, which has a whole unique selection of phytonutrients, some of which we haven’t even studied yet and there are thousands out there.
We know when people eat more plants, they have genuinely healthy outcomes and that brings me nicely onto the second principle, which is eat mostly plants, or, like I say, plant focused. You don’t need to be 100% vegan to live a healthy lifestyle, you don’t need to be vegetarian, but the more plants you have in your plate, the better for you and a variety of that, even more so. This myth that you can’t hit 5-a-day or it’s too expensive or it’s not achievable, I don’t think that’s the case. I think with the average household, you can hit way over 5-a-day and most of the recipes that I create have got at least two or three in them, and that’s like a purpose for inclusion. Getting plant focused is super important.
Fibre cannot be understated. The amount of knowledge that we’ve had now or the amount of information we have about fibre and its impact on our health modulated through the microbiota–the population of microbes, bacteria, but also viruses and fungi that live in our large intestine–cannot be understated. If you’re eating lentils, beans, pulses, these are quality proteins that are also quality fibres. Getting that into your diet would be wonderful.
Quality fats is the fourth thing. We’ve been led to believe like low fat because it’s high calories and it’s all about energy balance. Whilst certain fats can be very calorific, and I’m talking really of the refined oils, the deep-fried foods, the chips and that kind of stuff, when you look at whole fats in the form of almonds or certain types of nuts or extra virgin olive oil, the whole form of the nut in particular, slows down the absorption of the energy from calories from the fats themselves. You’re not actually digesting as much that will be in a pack. When you look at a packet and they’ve got the red-light signals, that’s quite shocking for a lot of people and they feel they can only have three or four almonds or something. That’s a myth because it completely negates the digestive process which means that you don’t actually absorb a significant proportion of the calories, but what you’re providing your microbiota with is lots of different types of fibre and protein as well. Nuts, seeds, absolutely fantastic source of fats. Not to overindulge in them but it certainly should be part of our diet. Fats are very, very necessary.
Eating in time. That’s the fifth thing. It’s the simplest thing we can do. Eat in a rough 10 to 12-hour window, try and keep it a few hours before bed, if you can. It’s a principle and a guide; it’s not a rule so if you’re going to have a dinner on Friday night and it’s 9 pm, enjoy it. Don’t feel like you’re restricted. You know, I can’t eat this because it doesn’t fit to the way I should be eating. Part of living, and this is why I talk about community and sense of purpose very much, is the enjoyment of living, it’s the enjoyment of food and I’d never want anyone to be so puritanical that they couldn’t enjoy that.
Those are pretty much the key actions. And I think if people were to instigate those from a nutritional perspective, we’d be looking at a much healthier population.
Darren: Definitely. I think the key things that you mentioned there particularly around the financial element… People seem to assume that to eat healthily costs you more. Actually, I found when I switched to more of a plant-based diet, my food bill went down. The other thing as well is around fats. I had a conversation with somebody this morning around fats and around eating omega three fats, which is obviously good for your brain health, and snacking on nuts and seeds. I was telling them I was having butter and they almost kind of bolted, the fact that I was having butter. “Butter is bad.” No, it’s not. It’s a myth that it’s bad. Yes, it’s bad if you eat it by the bucket but if you eat it in moderation, it’s actually very, very good.
The other thing is the time-eating. Probably at the beginning of the year, I switched to that where I would eat within an eight-hour window I use, and that works really well for me. Like you say, particularly around sleep, and this is a whole massive subject that we could talk about. Helping your sleep if you’re not eating at least three or four hours before you go to bed. I found, and this is just me, obviously, I have a much, much deeper sleep as a result. Whereas, if I’ve gone out for dinner with friends and family and I’ve had a late dinner, my sleep is not so great. It’s not bad but it’s still a little bit restless. Some great points there, Dr Rupy. I could talk about health, nutrition and sleep, and wellness and purpose and everything for a long, long time but I’m just conscious of time. Before I let you go, is there anything that I didn’t ask you, which you feel would have benefited the audience?
Dr Rupy: No. I think we covered quite a few subjects there and I think the general principles of healthy eating, if we could get more dads, more men thinking about this, it certainly will have a demonstrable impact on more than just our waistlines. It’s our propensity toward disease and I truly believe nutrition has a role in every medical specialty that we see. Which is why the book itself was centred around zooming in on different conditions and parts of the body and looking at the intersection of diet and nutrition for that. But then also zooming out in the final chapter and actually demonstrating to people- you know what, guys, it’s all the same. It’s exactly the same principles. It’s not you eat certain things for your brain or you eat certain things for your skin. No, it’s all the same. It’s putting your body in the best environment you can and it has this innate ability to look after itself because of our natural evolution. Yeah, the more people understand that concept, the easier and the better it will be.
Darren: Definitely. And I think also talking about dads and men, I think we have a responsibility, particularly those who are parents, to understand it better. Because I’ve been amazed on how my two boys have picked up on what I’m doing now and they are like little sponges. They will pick up on stuff and they will actually pick up on that and unconsciously take it away and act on it. For example, this is a bit random before we finish, I was putting some chia seeds into my breakfast the other day and I said to my son, “What are these?” He said, “They’re chia seeds, dad.” I said, “Why are they good?” He said, “It’s omega three and it’s good for your brain.” I was like, wow, where did that come from? Obviously, I’ve spoken about it at some point. I think it’s very important and I think, like I said, it’s our responsible to lead by example for the next generation.
We talked about your book. I’ve got The Doctors Kitchen book, which we talked about and I’ve got some favourite recipes in there that I use at least four or five times a week. Your new book, Eat to Beat Illness is obviously out online on Amazon, so people can grab a copy of that. How else can they connect with you?
Dr Rupy: They can contact me via Doctorskitchen.com. I try and put content out via the newsletter quite regularly, once a week now. Via social it’s doctors_kitchen on Instagram and Twitter. (@thedoctorskitchen on Facebook)
Darren: Cool. I highly recommend Instagram because you quite often do Instagram lives with what you’re cooking for that evening. I’m an avid follower of that. Thank you very much for your time today, Dr Rupy. It’s been fantastic talking to you. You’ve given us some really great insights. Thanks again for your time and I look forward to speaking to you again soon.
Dr Rupy: My pleasure, Darren. Take care.
Darren: Thanks for listening to the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please hit subscribe, and I would really appreciate it if you could leave a review on iTunes. All the things mentioned in the episode will be in the show notes and a full transcription is over at Fitterhealthierdad.com