HEALTH: Tapping into the Power of Superfoods with Dr. La Puma
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT: Q&A WITH DR. JOHN LA PUMA, MD
By chance, I saw Dr. John La Puma on the Dr. Oz Show recently and wasted no time reaching out to the board-certified practicing internist and professionally trained chef. What he had to say appealed to my health-conscious sensibilities as an aging epicure. More important, it made good sense. Besides hosting PBS specials on nutrition and fitness, Dr. La Puma is medical director and host of Chef MD on Lifetime TV, a best-selling author and respected speaker across the U.S., specializes in weight management at Santa Barbara’s Chef Clinic and volunteers for the Food Bank of Santa Barbara. To my pleasant surprise, he took time away from his busy schedule to impart a bit of wisdom (and recipes!) in the following interview with Tania Fuentez Media.
NOTE: All photos and infographics provided by Dr. John La Puma.
TFM: Did you ever imagine being named one of America’s top physicians, a New York Times best-selling author and renowned TV personality as co-founder of Chef MD? When did you make the culinary/health connection?
Dr. La Puma: You’re very kind. I first made the culinary/health connection when I went to a Nathan Pritikin seminar while I was in college, and heard him preach the gospel of possibilities with a spartan, non culinary but strictly food-as-prescription-medicine dietary approach. And then again when I was in medical school at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston (a truly great school) during which I saw my friends eating chicken fried steaks with white gravy and slugging down soda, and thinking that they were well on their way to becoming the same patients I saw in the clinic. And then the third time, most vividly, with my own Chef Clinic group, with suburban middle-aged people who kept saying –I didn’t know healthy could taste this good! as they dropped weight, inches, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. All three times, I was impressed with the power of food choices, whether they tasted good or didn’t, to create real change in people’s lives.
TFM: How can someone really transform their life with what they eat? Apparently the adage, “you are what you eat” rings true. Is it that simple?
Dr. La Puma: How to do it: planning. To the other two questions: Yes, and yes. Most people who want to control their diabetes, or back pain or depression wish it would happen with a snap of their fingers. But food works more gently than medicine, and helps you mobilize your body’s defenses so they do the work for you. And that takes more time than a medication … and usually with fewer adverse effects than medication. What many people don’t realize is that being highly motivated to transform their lives, or restore their health isn’t essential. Or even the best route. The best route is finding the small ways to make doing the right thing super, super easy. That’s what I’m trying to do in my upcoming, new lose-the-gut program, Manly Eating (http://manlyeating.com)
So if you want to drink 3 liters of my citrus water daily, but can’t imagine doing so, then say to yourself, “I will drink two sips of citrus water with my breakfast before I eat.” That’s it. And when you do it, say “I’m awesome!” Because you are, and because once you succeed at taking two sips, it’s not so hard to take three or five or a glass or two. And before you know it, you’re up to 3 liters a day.
TFM: You invented GlutenFreeQuiz.com as a practical screening tool for celiac disease. Why is it important to properly identify the warning signs early?
Celiac disease affects 1/133 U.S. adults, and many more than that in countries even more affected: Finland, Ireland and the Western Sahara. Celiac disease is formally diagnosed by intestinal biopsy, but many people cannot afford that, and cannot persuade their physicians to check for celiac disease with a blood test. Often, physicians have been trained to recognize celiac disease in young children, but not adults.
Glutenfreequiz.com is a way to help you get tested, and to start a conversation with your doctor about your personal health and health habits. When I was going to medical school, I received just 4 hours of nutrition training, and in culinary school, I received just 2 hours. And most of it was about vitamin deficiency conditions, like scurvy. But our most common nutritional problems today are from too much food (overweight and obesity) and food allergies and insensitivities.
If identified early, people with celiac disease can effectively cure their condition with what they eat. It means learning to cook and reading labels, and looking for gluten in places you wouldn’t think to look, like toothpaste, cosmetics and soy sauce. But those people can often avoid the infertility, anemia, cancers and every day fatigue, bloating and just-not-feeling-right that is so common among those who are undiagnosed but have the disease.
TFM: What’s the biggest takeaway from “The Big Book of Culinary Medicine” and ChefMD.com?
Dr. La Puma: The little bites:
*That baking a whole wheat crust pizza at high temperature or for longer doubles the antioxidants in the crust (to prevent rusting in your arteries);
*That eating watermelon at room temperature gives you 139 percent of the lycopene (to reduce stroke and heart attack risk) as refrigerated watermelon;
*That you need to sprinkle your curry with black pepper to absorb the curcumin in the curry to reduce joint inflammation or begin to prevent Alzheimer’s;
*That full fat dressings and avocado are 4x better than low-fat or nonfat ones, if you want to absorb the lutein and beta carotene, needed to protect your eyes and skin.
My goal is to give you a food lover’s road map– to blending the art of cooking with the science of medicine to give you restaurant quality recipes, meals and drinks. They help you prevent disease and enjoy life to the fullest. My eight week plan shows you how for 40 different conditions, with 50 new recipes.
TFM: Top 5 superfoods to have in the kitchen. Any favorite recipes from the Chef Clinic you’d like to share with those trying to lose weight and feel better while doing it?
Dr. La Puma: Bites (see attached). Yes: here are two: http://www.drjohnlapuma.com/recipes/portuguese-bean-soup/ and http://www.drjohnlapuma.com/recipes/tunisian-egg-scramble-with-golden-raisins-and-paprika/
Dr. John La Puma: http://www.drjohnlapuma.com/