When I was younger, I made a decision about my diet that forever changed my life: I will value the impact that food has on my body above the taste. At first, nothing changed overnight, but that decision gradually became my guiding principle so much so that I rarely put anything in my body that doesn’t add value to my health and energy.
When it comes to our health, and building our immunity to avoid viruses, disease, and illness, what we eat is arguably the single most important decision we can make. This year has made it more obvious than ever that the United States is the sickest nation in human history, and many people are being drastically affected by preventable illnesses.
However, with all this instability comes an incredible opportunity to change. Researcher and bestselling author, Shawn Stevenson—who joined me on the podcast previously to talk about his book Sleep Smarter—has just released his new book, Eat Smarter: Use the Power of Food to Reboot Your Metabolism, Upgrade Your Brain, and Transform Your Life.
Today, Shawn joins me to talk about the astounding problems with our healthcare system, the importance of diet and exercise in illness prevention, and the major cultural changes that need to happen to help us become a healthier society.
- The major underlying issues affecting the health of so many people right now that aren’t being discussed – and what we can do about it.
- How the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the effects of years of ignoring chronic illness.
- How stress and uncertainty make us physically sicker by suppressing immune function.
- How to improve and optimize your gut bacteria and the other microorganisms that inhabit your body.
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Hal Elrod: All right, Shawn. We’re doing it, man. It’s good to see you again.
Shawn Stevenson: It’s good to see you.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. The last time you were on the show, I looked it up, Episode 71. And we’re at like 351, I think, so almost 300 episodes again, man.
Shawn Stevenson: So, this is back in the 80s.
Hal Elrod: Back before podcasts even existed. It was before the internet.
Shawn Stevenson: Before the internet, oh, what a sweet, sweet time.
Hal Elrod: Oh, man. Yeah. If only we could go back. Maybe we will. We’re talking about that. Maybe we will.
Shawn Stevenson: Yeah.
Hal Elrod: Little bit of sticks and stones, hunting and gathering I think might be in our future, man.
Shawn Stevenson: I would not bet against it at this point.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. But I embrace it, man. To me, the whole idea of minimalism and getting back to our roots and getting back to nature. Man, I think that too much technology, too much of a good thing, right?
Shawn Stevenson: Yeah. You know, this is the thing. Life will always find a way and life will always kind of dictate where we go. We’ve really detached ourselves from, I mean, I’d say a lot that makes us human if I really put it bluntly, but the beautiful part is we still have that thread within us. Our genes are still expecting certain things. Like I said, life is going to guide us back in alignment with those things whether we want it to or not but I’m so grateful for this year because it’s brought so much to the surface and now we can really tune in on some of our issues. And when things are unstable, they’re much easier to change. So, that’s why I’m excited about it.
Hal Elrod: So, there’s so much I want to talk about with you today and one of them, which I was just about to share with you and then I’m like, “Hey, let’s hit record. Let’s share this on the podcast,” but your first book, Sleep Smarter, which I emailed you or not emailed you, had you on the podcast years ago, the new book is Eat Smarter, which I actually got in the mail the other day. I started reading it this morning. I love it. I’m hooked, man. You’re a researcher and I’ve been watching you on social media and how you’ve been researching since this pandemic hit six months ago or so. And a lot of what you share are the underlying issues that are not being addressed. I saw you on Aubrey’s podcasts, Aubrey Marcus, he talked about PTSD and the amount of people potentially millions and millions of people including children that will have long-term, possibly lifelong trauma in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder, the underlying issues of loneliness and depression and the suicide rates.
But the biggest thing that from reading your book and following your work is your emphasis has long been on how can you take care of yourself? How can you optimize your sleep? How can you optimize your diet? How can you optimize your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual capacities so that you can thrive in all areas of life? And really where it touched me is I was diagnosed with cancer about three-and-a-half years ago and as I sat there across the oncologist, I said, “Hey, doc,” I don’t think I called him doc but I said, “Sir, no disrespect, but I don’t want to poison my body with chemotherapy.” That’s the way that I view it. I said I would love to address this holistically and strengthen the body. And he came back and I didn’t know this oncologist. I met him that day and he said, “Hal, I appreciate that you want to cure this holistically but you don’t have that kind of cancer. You don’t have a slow-growing tumor that you can play with and see what works. You have acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It’s got a 20% to 30% survival rate. You have about a week to live if you don’t start chemo tomorrow.” And I took that as kind of a threat.
My wife’s next to me bawling, squeezing my hand, and like I’m thinking, “FU,” in my head going like, “Are you trying to scare me, trying to threaten me?” And I went home and I googled it and I realized, “Oh, he’s not joking.” At that time, my heart was failing, my lungs were failing, my kidneys were failing. And so, really against every fiber of my being, I started chemo the next day. And what I decided to do was I decided to do every holistic practice that I could in combination with chemo. So, anyway, the reason I say all of that, and once again, the doctors were really blown away by how quickly I healed and how well I addressed the chemo and I go, “Yes, because I’m doing all the stuff that you didn’t tell me to do.” All right, I’m detoxing my liver every day. I’m doing supplements. I’m doing coffee enemas. I’m doing ozone therapy. I’m doing acupuncture. I’m doing ozone sauna, all of these things. And so, what I love about Eat Smarter, as I’m reading this book and just about your work is you’re focusing on us taking control of ourselves not relying on the medication. Anyway, so with all of that, let’s start with the pandemic.
Let’s start with right now people are still going through it. I’ve seen announcements on the news that, “The most amount of recorded cases were yesterday and the death rate is…” I mean, you get so much information or misinformation. And so, what I want to ask you is what are the bigger underlying issues right now that simply are not being addressed and what can we do to fix them?
Shawn Stevenson: Yeah. That’s such a great setup. I want to provide a little context.
Hal Elrod: Yeah, please.
Shawn Stevenson: Because I’ve been in this field for almost 20 years. This is 19 years now. It’s kind of surreal like I just really thought about it this past year, once this stuff happened, like how long. I’ve just been so in it and so in the work. With that said, when we’re talking about being a researcher, I’ve read over 1,000 peer-reviewed journals just within the last 12 months. It’s an uncanny amount of research that the average health professional simply is not doing, partly because it’s not the folks don’t want to learn and continue to educate themselves. It’s just the nature of the system. We have a medical system that is very much just about timing and about numbers, and really about quantity over quality, unfortunately. And this in itself lies at the root of many of our issues because I think that it starts with a fundamental understanding. The reason that I’m in this space, the reason that I’ve been so successful, and the thing that I’ve continued to do is just point out the obvious that’s right there if we look at the data.
And currently, here in the United States, and this has been for the past several years, the number one cause of death here is heart disease, which is pretty well-known, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of souls are lost every year. Second is cancer, all types lumped together, and keep in mind, every one of these issues is skyrocketing. It continues to grow every year without any end in sight, even though $4 trillion is spent last year alone in our medical system. And the third leading cause of death, which a lot of folks just have no idea about is something called iatrogenesis. Iatra meaning physician and genesis meaning created. So, the third leading cause of death, unfortunately, here in the United States is due to medical error and medical intervention. And this is something we need to take a good look at because not only is our system one of the leading causes of death, taking hundreds of thousands of lives but also, it’s not addressing our biggest killers, not even putting a scratch in it.
And the question is just why? Like, let’s just take a step back and look at why, and understand, first and foremost, these are some of our best and brightest. These are amazing human beings who get into medicine to help people, for the most part, the vast majority of folks get into it, not for the money but to help people. But they find themselves, ironically, term is indoctrinated with a certain belief system about how medicine is conducted, and it’s focused. When I went to college, initially, I went premed because I thought I should be a doctor because of TV but I hated science. Ironically, I hated science. And so, my path took a shift, and then eventually my own health issues which we talked about before brought me back to this. When I went to college, we were taught pathology, we were taught disease, we were just taught about problems. We were not taught about health. We were not taught about how can we take a person and make them healthier. Really, the system is based on you’re healthy if you don’t have any diagnosed diseases and this is where the problem lies.
So, with that said, where we’re at today and we have some really incredible data and I hope at the end of this, everybody feels so much more empowered in such a confusing and uncertain time, we had some early data coming out of Italy and I had my eyes on this very early on. And I was going and reading the transcripts and listening to the lectures and interviews and talking with the different professors. And one of the great things about what I do, I have access to some of the brightest minds in the world, Nobel Prize winners, and you know what I’m saying? Just some of the smartest, brightest minds, and I can take that data, which tends to be very drawn towards scholarly writings, and make it make sense for the everyday person. But when we looked at the data coming out of Italy, we saw right off the bat on the death certificates, 88% of the folks who passed away who had coronavirus on their death certificate, 88% of them had additional causes of death or comorbidities, 88% of them. The vast majority, the top three being obesity, heart disease, and type two diabetes. And when I saw this, I was like, “Oh sh*t, we’re in trouble.”
Here in the United States, we’re in trouble. And this is because, again, getting back to the underlying issue, we are the sickest nation in the world, the sickest nation really in human history. We have over 200 million people who are overweight or obese. Right now, we can’t even compute that. We can’t even understand. We have over 115 people here in the United States right now who have type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. We have about 100 million folks who are regularly sleep-deprived. Just the list just goes on and on and on looking at our problems. So, when I saw that, I’m like, “Oh, this is…” and I put some data out on this. From 99% of people, it connected but then there’s that 1% of people like, “Oh, no, you don’t understand. We got to listen to the scientists.” What do you think? I am and I started to see this schism taking place where we’re going to listen to this science, not this science. This science is okay, this science is going to get flagged or it’s going to get censored. And I’m just like, “What is going on here?” But we might circle back to that in a minute but I’m grateful for it because I could see like, okay, where’s the disconnect happening?
Hal Elrod: Well, let me ask you a question real quick, Shawn. I don’t want to cut you off but I don’t want to miss this. So, I want to argue the other point of when you say that 88% of the people that died had underlying conditions. So, I’ve heard that said, I’ve had that in a conversation with somebody and the response that I’ve gotten is, “Well, yeah, but COVID is what killed them.” Right? So, if they wouldn’t have COVID…
Shawn Stevenson: That’s exactly what I was talking about.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. So, what’s the angle or what’s the context?
Shawn Stevenson: Yeah. So, that is exactly what I was going to talk about so you’re right there with me, man. I appreciate that. Because I can see that 1%, it’s difficult to push these two things together. It’s like an either-or thing. It’s either COVID or they didn’t die from COVID and that’s not at all what I was saying. I continue to meld the data together in a way that just like everybody cohesively like 100% of folks, every physician that I know, that follows my work, everyday person, they all got it like that is adequate. So, here, I’m going to give you a great example of what it means. So, seeing that data in Italy, I’m like, “Okay. We’re in trouble here in the United States,” and just recently here, just about a month ago, the CDC published the data that I already knew was coming and they reported that 94% of the people here in the United States that died in relationship to COVID-19 had underlying preexisting chronic diseases and/or additional causes of death.
And so, what that really means is, had COVID-19 not come along, would these folks still be here? Probably. COVID is a contributing factor. Now, when we understand that 94% of them had these issues with only 6% of folks not having these underlying issues, we should automatically just be able to decipher and get that. The number and this is according to the data, the number one risk factor from dying from COVID-19 is having a preexisting chronic disease. It’s the number one risk factor. Also, based on the data that we have, what is the contributing factor behind these risk factors and can we do anything about it? So, would those folks still be alive today? Probably. If those folks didn’t have preexisting chronic diseases, would they still be alive today? Almost certainly. Because we know it’s the number one risk factor. What’s left out of the equation in the conversation is that we’ve had upwards of 30, getting close to 40 million people who have contracted a COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 infection who lived, who were okay and many of them actually have chronic diseases.
We’re not talking about those who are okay, and what is the underlying mechanism to help them to defeat this very virulent and deadly disease and it’s the human immune system. There are two faculties to it. Number one, when we came into the situation, we were told there’s not an innate immunity to it but what wasn’t talked about is that we have an innate immune system and we also have an adaptive immune system. There are so many things we can do. I mean, the number one thing that destroys our adaptive immune system is chronic diseases. There are basically implications that your immune system is failing. You know what I mean? So, I hope that that made a little bit more sense in putting it in context. It’s not that COVID-19 was not a factor. Absolutely. But the biggest factor is our susceptibility and our vulnerability to this in all manner of infectious diseases. And we have to fix this underlying problem because this is not the last time. As a matter of fact, this is a great warning for us.
And lastly, I want to show just really quick, Hal, a lot of people don’t work in this field. They don’t have a big association with death. Now, we’ve all had our faces pushed right into death, and looking at this and we think that this thing is very abnormal. Now, it’s not that abnormal if you are associated with this stuff because I was already aware that, and this is going to sound crazy, almost 700,000 people die every year from influenza. All right. Every year. Not just in one year. Every year. And nobody said anything about it. Nobody said a thing. We’ve been having vaccines for the flu for 80 years and still haven’t figured it out. And guess who dies most frequently from the flu? It’s folks with preexisting chronic diseases. And that, by the way, that 700,000, that’s just related to the respiratory effects from influenza, not counting organ failure, seizures, not counting anything else, just from the respiratory aspect. So, I want to bring our attention back to what makes us so vulnerable and what can we do to fix it.
Hal Elrod: That makes sense. So, in other words, the flu was here long before COVID was here. And what for me has always the disconnect has been, why aren’t we talking about how to put your body in a state of being healthy, right? And why are you not focusing on diet and exercise and the things that would make you immune to the flu or COVID or anything else? It’s not wear a mask and just hide in your house. Like that’s a real short-term solution to a lifelong set of problems. So, can you talk about some of the when it comes to what’s going on out there? I think that one thing people they’re looking at, like you said, there’s various data points, they’re looking at the death rate or the infection rate, but they’re not looking at the suicide rate. They’re not looking at like the fallout, the PTSD that you address. What are some of the issues that are taking place right now that aren’t really being talked about on the news?
Shawn Stevenson: I literally have the chills right now. This is hard to talk about, man. We’re losing our babies, man. These kids, they’re getting the worst of it, man. You know, the rates of child abuse have skyrocketed. Sexual abuse have skyrocketed because our schools have been – that’s their outlet, that’s their only opportunity to tell somebody. Nobody took this into consideration in those who are empowered to make the mandates that we’ve had, and you would think was something so big, we would get together and look at all sides. If we do this, what is the consequence? And not to say that what we did didn’t have value but we definitely left a lot of things out of the equation. So, I just want to start with that. But also, and these were things I’m talking to the top psychiatrists and psychologists in the country and also just doing this work at this level so long. Even Dr. Daniel Amen, I had a great conversation with him, arguably, the top psychiatrist in the world, greatest database of SPECT imaging scans actually looking at the brain because we tend to think of mental health as there’s just something wrong with you. Right? There’s a chemical imbalance.
However, approximately about 99% of the cases, there’s actually something physically going on with the brain and it’s not just there’s something wrong with you. If we can take a peek at the organ that we’re trying to treat, instead of just randomly throwing drugs at it or basing your diagnosis off of a conversation, it’s the same level of treatment as 100 years ago, and we’re supposed to be so advanced at this point. But we had this conversation and he reiterated the same thing that we both knew was coming, skyrocketing rates of suicide, homicide, as well. And a big part of this and we haven’t even seen a piece of the fallout that’s going to come, unfortunately. I feel we can do something about it and mitigate a lot of it but, man, when folks are not working, oh my god, we already know we’ve got massive data showing the increased rates of suicide and homicide, and depression and anxiety. However, what people don’t realize is that when folks aren’t working, there’s a 50% greater incidence of having a heart attack.
All manner of health issues start to go up when your life structures are uncertain. And we have hundreds of millions of people whose lifestyle and life structures are uncertain right now. It is going to be a massive, massive deal for us to try to handle and we get in this conversation. Are we trying to save the lives of a few hundred thousand, and killing millions? Not to say that this is wrong but I want us to take a step back and get out of our emotions and just look at it rationally and see what is the best plan of action because we have to do something, of course. But for me, and this is what I continue to bring things back to is that if we address the underlying root cause instead of trying to treat the symptoms, which we’ve always done, now, we’re waiting around for a vaccine to save us, and how has that worked out for the flu? It’s not going to work. It’s not going to work. It’s creating an illusion that this thing was going to go away and it’s not going to go away. Viruses mutate. Matter of fact, I shared this in many of the things I’ve posted and shared but SARS-CoV-2 has already mutated multiple times but this is the model that we exist in. And you said this earlier, Hal, when you were like, why are we not talking about getting our citizens healthier? That’s not what we do. That’s not what our…
Hal Elrod: They’ll make money that way.
Shawn Stevenson: Exactly. Our system is built on the farming of sick people. That’s just how it’s built, unfortunately, but we can change it, we can demand it. And the beautiful part that all of this is happening even though there’s so much divisiveness, the voices of reason and the science can actually emerge. And not just this person’s science or that person’s science, but the real science that takes all sides into consideration, which at the end of the day, our number one objective must be to finally, finally stop these trends of chronic diseases, of obesity, of type 2 diabetes, of heart disease, of cancer, of Alzheimer’s that have continued to skyrocket which we’ve never seen before in human history. Is it just because it just is happening? We know in our hearts what’s changed. We’ve gotten away from the things that make us human. We’ve gotten away from the things that contribute to human health.
Hal Elrod: So, let’s bring it down to the individual level now. So, I think we’ve talked about the macro a little bit and what’s going on. Let’s talk about the micro. Let’s talk about, okay, everybody listening to this podcast, what can we do? And the first area I’d love for you to touch on is stress because it’s just like this collective stress, right? It’s just like the whole world is stressed right now and everybody feels it. I think our kids feel it too, which is unfortunate. In our house where my wife and I are really conscious every day to try to really keep them from us projecting any stress that they’re going to then internalize. But what impact does stress have on our immune system whether it’s specific to protecting us from viruses or just stress in general? Because I think for anybody listening, what impact of stress have on our immune system? And then how can we combat that stress or how can we best set up an environment in our life, in our world? Any tips that you have to lower our stress levels?
Shawn Stevenson: Absolutely. So, we have an entire emerging field of medicine called psychoneuroimmunology and it’s looking at the direct, I’m talking direct effect that our perception and that our stress has on our immune function. Now, this is a rational question. This is a rhetorical question for everybody but do you think we’ve been more stressed or less stressed since all of this began? Just think about that. Everybody knows the answer. We are all even worse off in our health and not just from stress, but also from radical increases. And I’ve just went and looked at the numbers of processed food consumption, of inactivity, of erratic sleep patterns, everything, these all contribute to our overall stress load. When we’re not moving, that’s a stressor. When we’re not eating the right types of foods, when we’re eating processed foods, it’s contributing to stress in our bodies. When we’re not able to work, when we’re constantly just bombarded with all of these messages of death and destruction and can’t really distinguish between right and wrong and whether or not there’s any good happening in the world, all these things contribute to our overall stress load.
And so, this suppresses immune function, absolutely, and one of the things that I think is really helpful for people to know and this is one that’s published peer-reviewed, one of the most prestigious journals that I’ve been sharing is that what was targeted for SARS-CoV-2 therapies is a part of our immune system. Our immune system is very dynamic. We could spend a whole episode just talking about all the fascinating aspects of the immune system from the neutrophils and the B cells to specifically what they found is that our natural killer cells or NK cells are incredibly effective at killing SARS-CoV-2 infected cells. And this is part of the reason that children do not appear to be as affected, by far, not even close. And as of this recording, well, the last time I looked at the CDC numbers, we have tens of thousands of kids who’ve contracted SARS-CoV-2, no deaths here in the state of California but nobody knows that because it’s just like everything is so bad but the natural killer cells for children just seem to be very good at just adjusting and adapting to this virus.
And this was fast-tracked, FDA approved therapy for targeting our natural killer cells, again, through a drug but here’s the thing, in this specific peer-reviewed journal, what they found was that folks who don’t cope well with stress have a far more likelihood of suppressed function of their natural killer cells. If you can’t cope well with stress, your natural killer cell function gets suppressed so one of your major weapons against this infectious disease. And on top of that, one of the recent studies that I shared, and there’s so many, but I’ll just share one just jump into mind. But this was done at Appalachian State University and they found that simply going for a short walk, just a short walk, boosted natural killer cell blood counts and other immune parameters radically like as if you’ve got some infusion of some drug that doesn’t have side effects. But what they’ve done far less of, these are things that our bodies are designed to do, our genes expect us to do, and they give us rewards.
But when they’re putting the news broadcasts out, they’re just giving you the Holy Trinity, which is stay away from people, wear your mask, and wash your hands. Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands, but if they would do that, and then coupled it with, “Hey, make sure you get your 10 a day, get your ten minutes a walking, America, we have to take care of ourselves in our community and turn this thing around 10 a day, get your 10 minutes in,” we could have already transformed our culture. However, it’s not too late. It’s up to us. Those are just a couple of the things that influence these immune parameters. Stress is a massive suppressor, the things that our genes expect us to do through our movement practices through nutrition, sleep. Sleep deprivation is another major thing that suppresses your immune function. If we can address these things that our genes expect us to do, we can turn this around.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. For me, the highlight of my day is my 10-minute bike ride in the morning, man. Fresh air, legs pumping up the hill, like that’s one of the highlights of my day. I wanted to ask you. So, you mentioned earlier the obesity crisis, right? Over 200 million Americans, just Americans that are obese and you wrote in Eat Smarter…
Shawn Stevenson: Overweight or obese.
Hal Elrod: Overweight or obese. Got it. Thank you for clarifying. And you wrote in Eat Smarter that it’s rooted in a massive misunderstanding of what fat actually is. Can you talk about that? That was a big part like the first section of your book, it was really focusing on the science of food and fat loss. So, because that’s such a huge issue for so many people, I’d love you to touch on that.
Shawn Stevenson: Absolutely. So, I’m a nutritionist. That’s how I came into this space. Sleep Smarter and that becoming this international bestseller really shifting culture, that was just out of necessity. I had no idea that that book would do what it did but I would just see this in my practice. We would get people dialed in with their nutrition, movement practices, even stress, but when they weren’t sleeping well, man, like things just wouldn’t come together. But food is my bridge. That’s what I’m obsessed with. It’s the most amazing thing because it is the most intimate thing in our experience because we’re taking something from the outside world and putting it into our bodies. And food, it becomes you. It actually becomes you.
Hal Elrod: You are what you eat, right? The old adage.
Shawn Stevenson: Man, it is deep. It is so deep. And now when we’re talking about these issues of obesity, we tend to have these very, it’s more in a vanity approach. People want to look good. So, of course, we can get that aspect. However, this war against fat really, it’s misdirected, and here’s why. When we’re talking about dealing with fat, the vast majority of people have not been given the education or opportunity to learn what are we actually trying to battle here. And why is fat so good at being fat? Because the first thing to understand is that it’s just doing what it’s designed to do and it’s amazing. Without our body fat, we literally would not be here as a species.
Hal Elrod: Sure.
Shawn Stevenson: Our body fat has become so acclimated to taking our foodstuff and to be able to store and partition to use things for our survival. The problem is, we are far, far, far away from having any instances of famine. We’re surrounded by food 24/7 in every kind of variety you can think of. Our genes are not designed for this space we live in today and our body fat is doing what it’s designed to do. So, just to give people a very quick education on body fat, first of all, there are different types of body fat and the two that a lot of people know about, they might not know the names, but first of all, we have subcutaneous body fat. So, subcutaneous is the fat that’s just kind of right under your skin. And this is what you would think about in terms of if somebody’s trying to target getting rid of fat in the back of their arms or their thighs, and their butt, subcutaneous fat. Now, subcutaneous fat, of course, it can be problematic but it’s not as problematic as visceral fat. So, visceral fat is that deep abdominal fat or it’s also known as omentum fat and this type of fat really puts a lot of pressure on your internal organs, your gastrointestinal tract, your liver, your kidneys, all of these organs, your pancreas gets stressed by carrying this omentum fat or this visceral fat.
And you could have subcutaneous fat on your belly too but the visceral fat is kind of deeper, that’s like a little bit, it’s more firm, it’s more difficult to pinch and subcutaneous fat is a type you can pinch. And so, the visceral fat is what we know by far is the most dangerous and the most related to these chronic diseases that make us susceptible to infectious diseases, so visceral fat. We also have intramuscular fat. And so, I tend to think, again, my conventional education that fat and muscle are dichotomous like they’re different. But actually, intramuscular fat uses on-site energy for your muscles to do their jobs. So, it’s really important. However, if you have too much of that, you can get these “chubby muscles” and if you want to think about what intramuscular fat looks like, think about the marbling of the steak. That’s kind of what’s happening below our skin. And so, these are all three categories of what are called White adipose tissue. And so, all of them are doing their job in what they’re designed to do, which is to store energy. Now, we also have a type of fat that burns energy and it’s become popular in the last few years in conversations but I want to make sure people know even more about it, and how we can make it work for us, and that’s what’s in Eat Smarter.
But the first one is brown fat or brown adipose tissue. This is a type of fat that burns fat. It’s really, really cool. Babies have a lot more of it. It’s kind of like an insulation against hypothermia but as we get older, we just basically have it like it’s around our collarbones, upper back, along our spine, but your brown adipose tissue, the reason that it’s brown is that it’s so dense with mitochondria. And mitochondria is another word that’s become popularized but essentially, these are the power plants of our cells. Your mitochondria, this is where the fat is actually burned is in your mitochondria and it’s so dense with it. So, what can we do to activate our brown adipose tissue and also support the production of it as well? Then finally, we have one more category of fat and it’s called beige fat. Now, this is one that a lot of people don’t know about, that I really highlight in the book. Beige fat is unique in that it has the ability to actually become white adipose tissue or become brown adipose tissue. So, it can become like it can get a tan basically and become brown adipose tissue, but it’s genetically different from brown fat. It actually has its own makeup.
And the things that we do in our lifestyle, specifically with our nutrition, and I can just share, I’ll just share one little nugget from it. Okay. But it was Georgia State University found that beige fat has the potential to fight obesity in much the same way as brown fat, but the way that it’s done and this was highlighted in scientific reports, number one, there’s some influences with our exercise and cold therapy and things like that but another thing with our nutrition that can make our beige cells get a little bit of a tan is highlighting this study and they found that, and this is going to sound crazy, but I’m just going to throw it out there. This with the data says. Coffee could actually trigger your beige fat cells to become these fat-burning brown fat cells.
Hal Elrod: I bet that makes a lot of people happy listening to this.
Shawn Stevenson: But this comes with a caveat. You cannot share these things without caveat. We go deep in the book on these things but basically, what they found was that the research found that drinking the coffee and using thermal imaging, they can see the brown fat dominant locations on the body begin to light up indicating increased thermogenesis. Now, there’s a U-shaped curve of benefits, a little bit of coffee, like one to four cups, okay. Once we get past that, you start to get these diminishing returns and actually problems start to arise with your endocrine glands that help to regulate all your fat-burning hormones and enzymes. And so, the American way, we tend to hear stuff like some is good, more is better so we got to understand like you’re not just going to drink coffee until you get thin but also, the quality of the coffee matters immensely. You know, if you’re drinking coffee, along with some piping hot pesticides and herbicides, rodenticides, and fungicides, these are all things that are commonly used in most of the coffee folks are drinking that have endocrine-disrupting effects. That again, throughout each more, I just share this over and over again to reiterate this, that can suppress this fat burning capacity. It can suppress your metabolism and damage your metabolism in a myriad of ways.
And one of the most important things and ways that I want to talk about and share with everybody definitely before we go is how these things damage our microbiome and this is really the final frontier. We’re talking about fat metabolism. The diversity of your gut bacteria has a massive impact on whether or not your body is absorbing calories and absorbing the nutrients from your food. Your gut bacteria, your microbiome determines that first and foremost so we definitely need to talk about that a little bit.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. Well, so Eat Smarter, one of the things again, I got the book in the mail I think two days ago. I was able to crack it open this morning. I’m excited for Section 2 because it’s how food impacts your focus, your creativity, your productivity, and even your income. So, in fact, we might have to just do a full-on deep dive on the book and have you on the podcast again. But I want to ask you, for anybody listening, what’s the one or two strategies that you feel like from the book, from Eat Smarter, giveaway the top one or two strategies that folks can do right now to transform their health and see better results.
Shawn Stevenson: Perfect. Well, this actually ties right back. So, number one is to focus on improving and optimizing the health of your microbiome, your gut bacteria, your gut viruses, fungi but we have this entire cascade of microorganisms that inhabit our bodies. And so, this is it in part also what we’re dealing with here culturally right now with SARS-CoV-2 and understand that the vast majority of our immune system is actually located in our gut, about 70% of our immune system, that’s the front lines. Through evolution this just makes sense. What you put in your body can kill you or what you put in your body can give you health so that frontline of your immune system is there dictating. And so, what are some of those things? Well, I just mentioned a couple of things that could damage it which are the things that are conventionally sprayed on foods. And we have to understand that, yeah, eating “organic” isn’t just about like some fancy trendy thing. That’s what I’ve seen here since I moved like a lot of these things are trendy but people don’t really know like this actually matters, if we can create farming practices where we can avoid those things.
And I also talk about in the book, food equality, because a lot of folks simply don’t even have access to these things. They tend to be at a premium. And also, I provide what are some real-world solutions we can do to change this stuff. So, we all have access to what’s real and natural. So, part of it is removing the things that damage our microbiome. But here’s a couple of things that can help. Oh, really quick, I got to share this just so it all ties together. One of the studies that I talked about in the book was and this was published in the peer-reviewed journals, Cell, very prestigious, was that there’s a certain type of bacteria discovered in mice that actually stopped their body from absorbing as many calories. But, of course, you might be like, “Well, I’m not a mouse, Shawn.” Well, there were human studies done. This was done by the Weizmann Institute. They found that taking bacteria from the human digestive tract and right now there’s like these fecal transplants is one of the kind of hottest treatments in medicine, but taking these “fat bacteria” found in folks who are overweight and obese and transplanting them into lean mice made the mice rapidly gain weight and gain body fat. Well, it didn’t happen with healthy human test subjects. So, this has a major impact on our body’s ability to absorb, and to utilize nutrients is what’s happening in the microbiome.
So, two quick things to optimize the microbiome. Number one, we have to consume more prebiotics, not probiotics, prebiotics. These are the appetizers that the probiotics, the friendly flora, eat. If you come to a party and you don’t have the snacks to eat, you’re going to go somewhere else. You might go to Del Taco, Taco Bell, Chipotle, whatever your choice is.
Hal Elrod: Don’t do it. Don’t go.
Shawn Stevenson: So, you want to make sure that we’re welcoming the ratio of the flora that we really want and making it uncomfortable for the opportunistic bacteria so they’re not hanging around as much. They absolutely love sugar. Love. They love sugar. So, number one, make sure we’re consuming more prebiotics. We’ve got entire prebiotic lists, how to best utilize them, a couple of them are leeks, asparagus, onions. There’s resistant starch found in common foods like, and this is going to sound kind of crazy, but white rice. When it’s cooked and then cooled, the resistant starch content skyrockets and we get into the discussion with brown rice and white rice, how each of them has values and problems so all that’s in there. So, prebiotics is very important.
Hal Elrod: So, wait. Am I clear that we want to cool the rice before we eat it? There’s a benefit if we cool it and then eat it? Is that right?
Shawn Stevenson: That increases the ratio of resistant starch which again, these friendly floras. We’ve got firmicutes and bacteroidetes. There are so many nuances here. You got the friendly flora that help us to have optimal body weight love resistant starch. It’s going to be one of the hottest things you continue to hear about but I’m not saying to go eat rice. This is nuanced. I’m just diving these here because Hal’s like, “Shawn, that clock’s ticking,” but it’s all in Eat Smarter. So, prebiotics and probiotic foods, not just taking supplements, but probiotic foods as well.
Hal Elrod: Awesome. Shawn, again, I know we could go on and on. I know I’ve got the time limit here but, everybody listening, Shawn wrote the best-selling book, Sleep Smarter, which is four-and-a-half out of five stars on Amazon. The new book coming out right now, Eat Smarter: Use the Power of Food to Reboot Your Metabolism, Upgrade Your Brain, and Transform Your Life. And I just want to read you the three sections in the book. Section 1 is Eating for Fat Loss. Section 2 is Eating for Mental Performance, Better Relationships, and Better Sleep. And Section 3 is The Science of Meal Timing and the Eat Smarter 30-Day Program. I am totally on the same page as Shawn that you are what you eat. What you eat impacts your life arguably more than any other decision. Any other commitment that you make, the quality of the food you put in your body determines the quality of your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. And so, this is a book, again, I’m in the beginning of it but knowing Shawn and having read the Sleep Smarter and just started the book this morning, I’m high on this book. Eat Smarter, get it. You said you’re doing some bonuses? Where can people preorder the book right now?
Shawn Stevenson: Yes. And, Hal, you sent me a message this morning with a picture of the book and your compliment was it really helped to start my day on a good note. It’s a very special book. And so, yeah, right now, I hate this, man. I hate when people give all these like cookie-cutter bonuses. I actually went into the studio and put together an entire mini-course of 10 videos, highlighting 10 of the most clinically proven foods that help to support your fat loss related hormones. And so, folks get that mini-course for free right now when they preorder the book. Just go to EatSmarterBook.com and preorder the book right now and you’re going to get access to that mini-course. It’s a $100 course that we’re giving for free that won’t be available this entire time. So, definitely pop over there, get access to that. And also, this is a very special book. It’s not just a book for me. It’s really a part of a movement to help to get our communities healthier.
Hal Elrod: The world needs this right now, man, and I appreciate the work that you’re doing because people’s physical health, again, it impacts every area of their life. And so, Shawn, thank you for the work that you continue to do. And if you’re not following Shawn on social media, go to ShawnModel on Twitter, on Instagram, and I’m telling you, it’s just value after value after value every single day, man. So, thank you, and let’s do this again real soon.
Shawn Stevenson: Definitely. Appreciate you, Hal.
Hal Elrod: Appreciate you, brother. We’ll talk soon. And, goal achievers, go get the book. Go preorder. Trust me as an author, we give all these bonuses because we want to add a ton of value and give you a reason where you go. “Ah, there’s a lot of books I could buy.” Well, it’s like, hey, if you go to EatSmarterBook.com now, you’re going to get a 10-video mini-course on the 10 most important things you can do to enhance your life through eating and the book itself comes with a 30-day plan. So, EatSmarterBook.com, check it out. I’ll be reading it right alongside you. Goal achievers, I love you, I appreciate you, and I will talk to you all soon.
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