In episode two of the Broken Brain docu-series, our experts discuss what is possibly one of the key pieces of the puzzle when treating brain disorders: the gut-brain connection. The gut is often referred to as our second brain. Why? Find out in this fascinating episode that shows us just how connected our brain is to the rest of our body.
Trust me, you don't want to miss this cutting edge episode on the second brain.
Today’s fun brain health challenge is all about the kitchen. It’s important to remember that the food industry holds your kitchen hostage. No doubt, your cupboards and pantry are filled with ultra-processed fare. Detoxifying your kitchen allows you to escape these shackles and transform your kitchen into a place of wellness. A healthy kitchen provides the foundation for a healthy gut and a healthy you.
If you make your kitchen a safe zone with only foods that nourish rather than harm, then you will automatically make the right choices. If you fill it with crap, you will eat crap, no matter how much willpower you have.
The first step is to detoxify your kitchen. Toss the junk food! If it’s not there you won’t eat it. It’s that simple. If you have to get in your car and drive five miles, you probably will skip that donut, cookie, or ice cream. You are removing ways to unconsciously sabotage yourself.
I’ve created a four-step process to effectively detoxify your kitchen and restock it with healthy foods.
Step 1: Set aside an hour to purge your kitchen.
Schedule it into your planner if you need to. This requires some detective work. Read food labels for added sugar and other junk ingredients that don’t belong in a healthy kitchen. Get a large garbage bag ready (rinse out containers and recycle if you can) to dump the junk. It might take longer depending on how much hidden junk and toxic ingredients lurk in your cupboard or fridge.
Step 2: Scrutinize labels.
Ideally, you’ll replace anything that is questionable with real fresh or whole foods without labels. A fresh avocado or kiwi doesn’t come with a nutrition facts label, a barcode, or ingredient list. If you decide to keep foods with labels, follow these rules.
Focus on the ingredient list, not the “nutrition facts” that are mostly designed and developed under huge food industry lobby efforts to confuse and confound your efforts to eat healthy.
If you don’t recognize a word, can’t pronounce it, or it is in Latin, or you don’t have it in your cupboard and wouldn’t use it in a recipe—maltodextrin, for instance—then don’t use it.
On every ingredient list, note that the most abundant component is listed first. The others follow in descending order by weight.
Be conscious of ingredients that may not be on the list. Some may be exempt from labels. Get rid of these foods.
Beware of foods with health claims on the label. These claims usually signal a marketing ploy to make you think they’re good for you when they’re really just healthy pretenders. Things like sports beverages, energy bars, and even multigrain breads (which often contain high-fructose corn syrup) fall into this category.
Step 3: Ditch These Foods
When you detoxify your body, you eliminate harmful toxins. Likewise, when you detoxify your kitchen you’ll want to get rid of any food that contains these harmful ingredients.
You probably know obvious sugar culprits, but be aware of hidden sugars that lurk in salad dressings, processed foods, drinks, and even “healthy” foods like cereals and wheat. Sugar goes by many aliases. Just as boys named Andrew often go by Andy or Drew, sugar might be called organic cane juice, honey, agave, maple syrup, cane syrup, or molasses. There are 257 names for sugar, most made from corn with names that you wouldn’t recognize—like maltodextrin—which make you fat and addicted. Look carefully at condiments like salad dressing, barbecue sauce, or ketchup, which are often traps for high-fructose corn syrup.
Bad fats. Don’t be afraid of fat. Fat doesn’t make you fat, but the wrong fats can wreak serious metabolic havoc. Toss out any highly refined cooking oils such as corn and soy, fried foods you may have stored in your freezer, and margarine or shortening. These have dangerous trans fats that create inflammation and cause heart disease. Scour labels for the words “hydrogenated fat” (another phrase for trans fat), which has finally been declared not safe for consumption by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Artificial sweeteners. Throw out food with artificial sweeteners of all kinds (aspartame, NutraSweet, Splenda, sucralose, and sugar alcohols—any word that ends with “ol,” like xylitol or sorbitol). Stevia may be better than aspartame, but only whole plant extract, not PureVia and Truvia, which are made by Pepsi and Coke and are chemical extracts of stevia. Use very sparingly. A new non-caloric sweetener that comes from monk fruit that’s rich in antioxidants can also be used in small amounts. But remember, any sweetener can make you hungry, lower your metabolism, create gas, and store belly fat. I'm not a big fan of any of them.
Anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce. If you purchase something with a nutrition label, there should be less than five ingredients on it and all things that a third grader would understand like “tomatoes, water, salt.” Focus on the ingredient list, not the “nutrition facts,” which are mostly designed and developed under huge food industry lobby efforts to confuse and confound your efforts to eat healthy.
Any potentially questionable food or ingredients. Seemingly safe foods like spices and seasonings can contain maltodextrin, autolyzed yeast extract, and even high-fructose corn syrup that have no place in a healthy kitchen.
Step 4: Stock Up on These!
Now that you’ve purged unhealthy foods, you want to replace your refrigerator, kitchen cabinets, and cupboards with fresh, healthy foods. These are the ones you’ll want to load your kitchen with:
Non-starchy veggies are freebies. Eat as many as you like! Limit fruits because they increase your insulin levels. Berries are your best bet. When possible, choose organic, seasonal, and local produce. When you can, avoid the most pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables by consulting the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list (www.ewg.org) and instead choose from the “Clean Fifteen” list featuring the least contaminated options. Just make sure you’re buying unseasoned or unsweetened varieties. Also check out your local farmer’s market or community supported agriculture (CSA). You can find the one closest to you at www.localharvest.org.
Dry foods. These staple foods usually have a longer shelf life and include raw or lightly roasted nuts and seeds, and legumes.
Herbs, spices, and seasonings. You’ll want to have a range of pantry ingredients, including seasonings and spices, on hand. Buy organic when you can. Because you only use a little of some of these, they tend to last a long time so you get a lot of value from them. Among my favorites include extra virgin olive oil, extra virgin coconut oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and seasonings and spices. Just read your labels to ensure they don’t contain hidden sugar, gluten, or other problematic additives.
Get in the habit of keeping your fridge and freezer stocked with these items. When selecting beef or meat, choose grass-fed, hormone-free, or organic, whenever possible.
Optimal protein choices include:
• Pasture raised chicken and eggs
• Grass-feed meat (beef, lamb, bison, buffalo)
• Wild or sustainably farmed, low-mercury seafood (like sardines, salmon, herring, flounder, clams, crab, oysters, perch, pollock, shrimp, sole, squid, trout, whitefish, etc.).
Be sure to avoid those fish that are high in mercury, such as tuna, swordfish, and Chilean sea bass.
With these strategies, you’re ready to begin detoxifying your kitchen. Your brain and gut will be glad you did!
Mark Hyman, MD
Wishing you health and happiness,
PS: Don't have time to watch the episodes? Click here to order the whole series and watch at your convenience!