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Genius Foods for Health & Wellness with Max Lugavere | Ep. 417

Metabolic Hacks to Get Smarter, Leaner, + Stronger

Did you know that 60% of the calories we consume come from packaged, processed foods that provide no satiety effect?

As a result, we overeat those foods – and the repercussions are grim. Research shows that 1 in 2 adults by the year 2030 could be overweight or obese. And almost 9 in 10 adults have at least some degree of metabolic syndrome.

In this conversation with Max Lugavere, you’ll learn why the solution lies at the end of our forks. Max – a health and science journalist, New York Times bestselling author, and host of the podcast The Genius Life – talks about how we ended up here… and how to get ourselves out of this metabolic mess.

Max shares with JJ the shocking diagnosis that pushed him to dive deep for health and wellness solutions. Along the way, he learned the connection between blood sugar and dementia, why brain health doesn’t get the recognition it deserves (and the disastrous consequences), what makes us overeat sugary, processed foods (it’s not a lack of willpower!), and why the calories-in-calories-out model has been a dismal failure.

Whether you want to lose weight, support brain health, or look and feel your best (or all of the above!), you won’t want to miss this information-packed episode. Tune in and take notes. You’ll quickly see why JJ calls this one of her top 10 interviews.

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ATHE_Transcript_Ep 417_Max Lugavere
JJ Virgin: [00:00:00] Hey, you are in for the biggest treat ever. I think this is possibly one of my it's in the top 10, if not. My favorite all time podcast interview. So this is not Max Lugavere's first time on the show. I think it's his third time on the show. We've got them on this time. Cause he's got a book coming out, his genius kitchen book, which you're going to want to pick up right away, by the way, at JJvirgin.com/geniuskitchen.
He has a special, Cool e-book he's giving you when you grab the book. So go there to get all of the details. Let me tell you a little bit about max and then all I can tell you is Fasten your seatbelts. There's so much great information in here about how to heal your metabolism, which foods you want to make sure you eat, which foods you got to run away from some special hacks around coffee.
Like I was furiously taking. All during this interview. So max, if you don't know who he is, he's a [00:01:00] health and science journalist and author of the New York times. Best seller genius foods become smarter, happier, and more productive while protecting your brain for life. He's the host of number one, iTunes health and wellness podcast, the Genius Life and he appears regularly on.
Rachel Ray and the doctors, he has spoken all over the place, including south by Southwest and New York academy of sciences, the biohacker summit in Sweden. And of course, here on ask the health expert. We'll be right back with this delicious interview. Stay with me.
So Max
JJ Virgin: Lugavere.. Great to have you back on the show.
Max Lugavere: How are you? I'm good. It's been some time. I know
JJ Virgin: well it takes you writing a new book to come back on the show. We got to do it more often because you know who needs to wait for a book, right? Although [00:02:00] I'm very excited that you have a new book coming out.
This is your third book, right? It's my
Max Lugavere: third book. Yes.
JJ Virgin: First two books. What
Max Lugavere: were they? So the first book was called genius foods. And then I put out my up book to that genius life in March of 2020, which is the worst time was the worst time ever to put out a book. This is the, this is actually the official cookbook slash kitchen and wellness guide to genius foods.
My first book. So I'm super excited. It was a long time in the making and food is really where the rubber meets the road with regards to…no kidding,
JJ Virgin: you know, the easy, like if you really look at how you change your health. And we were talking offline that if you want to. Lose weight. If you want to have great energy, if you want to de-age then you need to get healthy to do that.
Everyone thinks you lose weight to get healthy and it's actually you get healthy, heal your metabolism to do that. And the first way to do it is to change what's at the end of your fork. So that's what we'll dig into. But before we do for those who haven't listened to your other [00:03:00] podcasts with me, which we will make sure we put into the notes what got you into all of this?
Max Lugavere: Yeah, it's a great, great place to start. I was a generalist journalist for many years after graduating from college, I had the privilege of being on a TV channel in the United States called current TV, where I got to talk about really heady high-level topics to an audience of about a hundred million people.
But then about six, seven years into that, into that position. I left the job. And I started spending more time in New York city, which is where I'm from with my mother. Who's the most important person in my life. And naturally, of course, and at the age of 58, she started to show the earliest symptoms of what would ultimately be diagnosed as a rare form of dementia called Lewy body dementia, which is akin to having both Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease at the same time.
And I was. Shaken to my core when we got that diagnosis. And when we were at the Cleveland clinic in Ohio and she was prescribed [00:04:00] drugs for both of those conditions. And to me, I was really taken aback by the way, Western medicine really handles these kinds of complex progressive. Degenerative conditions.
They is, it's essentially diagnose and adios. I feel like I've almost coined the term at this point. And it was really a line in the sand for me personally, where after that point, I was unable to focus on anything but understanding why my mother would have developed this condition. If there was anything out there from the standpoint of disease modification, with regard to diet and lifestyle that could help her.
And in tandem with that, what could be done to prevent this from ever happening to myself. To me, because I now, for the first time realized that I had a risk factor, right. A family history of dementia. And so I became obsessed and I put on my investigator hat and I dove into the medical literature. And I, I had media credentials.
I was a quasi public figure at that point, which I exploited, ultimately leaving no stone unturned to Get almost a PhD in nutrition, which I I've, you know, learned everything for [00:05:00] myself, but I've had the privilege of being able to collaborate with scientists and doctors all around the world at this point.
I've become a regular core expert on the Dr. Oz show. I've been enlisted by the Rachel Ray show to go on and talk about the latest research with regard to nutrition. I've been able to coauthor a chapter in a professional textbook for clinicians on how to. Practice dementia prevention, which is this burgeoning clinical practice which.
Few neurologists know about, but but, but is something that we can now talk about with regard to the brain and of course my books, genius foods and the genius life, both of which are bestsellers. So I've been able to help people on a really wide scale. But to me, it really, it comes back to my why, the fact that my mom's life was incredibly tragic.
And I just want to do my part to help others avert the kind of tragedy that, that she. But that my family experienced.
JJ Virgin: Yeah. And there is so much that we can do with food. I remember when I was writing sugar impact diet, I was looking at the statistics and it was, if [00:06:00] your blood sugar was tended to be 90 or higher, you would have five X increase in dementia.
Max Lugavere: Yeah, blood sugar damages, the brain, it damages every organ in the body, but your brain is fed blood and nutrients and oxygen and antioxidants by a network of micro vessels that if you were to take out of your head and stack end to end these little tiny blood vessels, they would stretch 400 miles long.
And what sugar does. Is when your blood sugar is chronically elevated, is it damages those blood vessels? This is one of the reasons why type two diabetes increases your risk for developing Alzheimer's disease anywhere between two and four fold. So you want to run in the opposite direction of that.
You want to gain metabolic health. And what I think is really interesting is that if you seek health aesthetics follow, right, because most people don't care about brain health. It's this, this amorphous abstract concept, you know, often at the end of life, we have all these misconceptions about it. That it'll happen when I'm already, too, when I'm already at a point of being old, it's not an [00:07:00] old person's condition.
But thankfully by improving our metabolic health, by getting our blood sugar in a more manageable place by improving our blood pressure, not only do we protect our brains, but we can enhance many aspects of our physiology, not least of which, however, our skin health.
JJ Virgin: I know it. So that is the key thing.
When you get healthy and heal your metabolism, the aesthetics, like you'll, you'll look better besides the feel better, but the thing that I've just been reading, and if you look at the study and since you're such a researcher, I know, you know, this one is the research from the end Hain study that they went and reported on.
I think in 2017 saying that only 12% of the population was metabolically. Yeah. And that was 2017 based on that research from 2009 to 2016. So where are we now with this? Could you first talk about what does it mean to be. Metabolically [00:08:00] healthy. And then we can unpack, like, what are the, some of the things that you can do with food to get yourself there?
Max Lugavere: Yeah, it's an interesting question. So metabolism is basically how your body creates energy and metabolic syndrome is what we discuss, what we use to describe a constellation of symptoms that we see. When your metabolism is being roadblocked right. Or bottlenecking in some capacity. It's I think it's interesting for our listeners to note the difference between a syndrome and a disease, a syndrome describes a constellation of symptoms.
Right. But it tells you nothing about the underlying disease. So metabolic syndrome typically. With an oversized waistline low HDL, high LDL, high triglycerides, high blood sugar, high blood pressure. These are all the symptoms that we associate with a metabolism that has become for whatever reason, defunct and.
We know that there are a few probable causes for this, especially today. The standard American diet is highly obesogenic. It's poisonous to our metabolisms. And this includes [00:09:00] well, there are many aspects to the standard American diet that have become problematic and, and ultimately toxic. But we can talk about the fact that it's just packed with refined.
Refined grain products refined grain and seed oils. We can talk about the fact that ultra processed foods are engineered to be not satiating in the least and yet highly palatable. So they're hyper palatable. They're not satiating. They drive their own over consumption. And, and by and large, this is, this is the cause this is, this is the cause for the widespread.
Rates of obesity that we're now seeing, which is a true global pandemic. One in two adults by the year 2030 are going to be not just overweight but obese. We see the statistics that you referenced that nine in 10 adults have at least some component of the metabolic syndrome, right? So it's, it's very widespread and it, there are it's multi-factorial so, I mean, we can look to aspects of our lifestyles that have, have gone awry.
The fact that we're chronically stressed, the fact that we're [00:10:00] chronically under slept. The fact that we're for the most part, a sedentary species at this point, but by and large, if you look at our diets, our diets have mutated and become. Disharmonious with the needs of the human body. We are eating ultra processed foods.
60% of the calories. Now come from shelf stable, packaged, processed foods that provide no satiety effect. So we overeat them. Here's one. Reason why the advice to just eat less and move more is so challenging for people and often doesn't work. Right. Makes me crazy.
JJ Virgin: Crazy on that one. I want to hear it.
Max Lugavere: Well it's because you take people who are already consuming an obesogenic diet, right? The ultra processed foods, the refined grain and seed oils, the the added sugar, the added. We take somebody who's already consuming that kind of diet, which by the time you've consumed those types of foods to satiety, you've already over consumed them.
And then you say, okay, just eat less. And if you can't eat less, [00:11:00] then it's your fault, it's your problem. Right? So you take, you take people who are already eating this obesogenic diet. You tell them to eat less. Maybe they're able to do it for a day, two days, three days a week, a month, but ultimately. There willpower's fighting against them because willpower is a finite resource.
And this is what happened with the biggest loser challenge a couple of years ago, where they took people, they put them on these low calorie diets, right. They didn't do anything to modulate the food quality. So they just, they focused on the eat less move more part. And what they saw was that yeah, they lost weight temporarily, but then they gained that weight
all right. Back. It was not a sustainable diet. Right? Yeah. You
JJ Virgin: know, it's when I was doing that on Dr. Phil, I said, I want to follow the people after they're like, Nope. You know, and I still remember I met one of the doctors I actually interviewed, I was supposed to do the teen version of the biggest. And, but I only want to do it if I could do it my way.
Right. I was like, I'm not touching this. I remember I went and [00:12:00] talked to one of the doctors on the show. He said, these people are just not moving enough. They need to exercise two hours or more a day. They need to eat less. And then I remember seeing Jillian Michaels, yelling at someone on the show saying it's calories in calories out.
And I thought, my gosh, 30 years ago when I was, you know, starting out with. I realized then that it wasn't calorie. Like, and, and now it's even worse. And we're still propagating this myth that is damaging so many people, this calories in calories out thing where we don't take into account the type of calories matter, like, which is so clear.
It's it's, why you know, it's again, why it's what to eat when to eat and why it's not just the calories. I had one doctor early on. Tell one of my overweight clients, that it didn't matter what she ate. It, it was all about the calories. She could eat pie for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as long as she was counting the calories of it.
And [00:13:00] I'm like, oh my gosh, you've got to be kidding me. Yeah.
Max Lugavere: The problem with that, the problem with that is that calories matter. But that it, that as, as a piece of advice, That's it's terrible advice. It's the worst advice. Because again, when you, when you're trying to, when all you try to do is modulate, and again, you're on this obesogenic diet, the amount of food that you're eating, you're, you're putting the cart before the horse.
So calories of course matter, but the advice to just count your calories, it's calories in calories out without some context, without some greater education on how food affects behavior, you're setting up your patient. You're a student or whatever it is for, for failure.
JJ Virgin: Exactly. So how, not just how they affect behavior, but how they affect hormones.
And I think you've said something that it needs to be like on your Instagram every week as a quote card. And it is that when you're eating these highly processed foods and I'd love you to talk a little bit about seed oils. Cause I feel like [00:14:00] they don't get hit enough, but when you're eating these foods, they've been engineered.
So that they, they make you more hungry, not less hungry. You're not eating them and feeling full. It's not like when you sit down and ate, you know, some wild salmon and some, some sweet potatoes and broccoli and some ghee and you'll feel full when you eat these things. You're getting a highly processed, big sugar hit with damaged fat to increase inflammation, and it's making you want more of it crave more, and you're still.
So it's a very different impact. So you mentioned that a couple of times I was like, that is such an important thing for people to get. The other important thing is, you know, I feel like we, we don't address, like, you know, we've talked a lot about gluten and sugar, but I feel like seed oils, people don't really understand.
The detrimental impact of seed oils. Can you discuss that a bit?
Max Lugavere: Yeah, absolutely. So see, I, I think that the, the reason [00:15:00] why seed oils still continue to be. First of all, there are very high margin product. So there's lots and lots of money that go into these seed oils. Right? Our consumption of soybean oil alone, which is one of these industrialized industrially processed grain and seed oils has increased about a 2000 fold over the past hundred years alone.
And in fact, our adipose tissue concentration. Linoleic acid, which is the type of fatty acid found predominantly in soybean oil has increased over two fold in the past 50 years alone, but the medical and nutritional orthodoxy can't see beyond the fact that these seed oils do lower LDL cholesterol, and by comparison to saturated.
And so for them with this LDL centric view of what causes heart, heart disease seed oils are perfectly a great food product to integrate, right? Because they reduce, they reduce LDL cholesterol. But the problem is that these seed oils are so highly refined and processed. They are damaged by the time we, by the time we buy them, certainly.
And, and after [00:16:00] cooking with them, they become even, even damaged to an even further degree. So one step that all green and seed oils industrially refined, grain and seed oils undergo is called deodorization. This is because these seed oils are highly bitter and caustic and they have, I mean, just imagine trying to extract oil from corn or soybeans, corn, an ear of corn, isn't a fatty food, right?
Nor is edamame, for anyone who's had edamame in a Japanese restaurant. So they have to go through all of these processing steps to extract this. Genetic modification, not least of which. And then by the time they extract the oil, it's, it's flavored like the food that it comes from, right? Like you can't get around the fact that these oils take on this, this flavor profile, but the food industry.
Once these oils to be versatile. It's why you can use soybean oil to roast nuts in. You can use it to saute food in. You could use it in commercial salad, dressings in spreads, right? So it's the food industry's equivalent of the witness protection program, where they take a criminal [00:17:00] and they put it through all these steps to basically ring out any identity, any flavor.
And that step is called deodorization. And what that step does is it creates a small but significant amount of transfats. We know that there is no safe level of man-made trans fat consumption it's for that reason that partially hydrogenated oils were banned by the FDA about 10 years ago at this point, but partially hydrogenated oils.
I E man-made trans trans fats are still in the food supply in the form of these industrial industrially refined grain and seed oils. And we know that trans fat consumption is correlated to worst memory function, even among the young and healthy it's correlated to increased risk for Alzheimer's disease.
It's correlated to increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Now a little bit here and there. The dose makes the poison in so many cases, right? A little bit here. Would be fine, but the problem is the standard American diet is now saturated. And these oils is drenched in them. No pun intended, as I mentioned.
JJ Virgin: List out The oils, you mentioned [00:18:00] soybean oil list out all the different
Max Lugavere: types. Yes. So, and I, I talk about very clearly the science underpinning this and, and, and I have a list for all the different oils, as well as the oils to to look for, to use in In your kitchen in my book, genius kitchen, but essentially it's the soybean oil.
It's the grape seed oil. It's the corn oil. It's the canola oil canola oil is slightly better than soybean oil, but they're all variants of the same breed of oil, sunflower oil. You want to avoid, although there is a newer variant of sunflower oil on the market. It's called high oleic sunflower oil.
This is slightly, this is I would say significantly better a better option. So you'll now see that in foods in, in, in myriad packaged processed foods, but primarily the oils that that you want to look out for. Soybean oil, corn oil canola oil. And again, the dose makes the poison, right?
You're not, I don't like to fearmonger you're eating out in a restaurant. You're going to be exposed to these oils and it's okay if that's, if that's like a once in [00:19:00] a while occasion. Right. So my, I implore people listening to this to just make sure that in their kitchens in their homes that they get rid of these oils and they integrate healthier oils instead.
JJ Virgin: Okay. So what should they be
Max Lugavere: doing? Yeah. So I'm a, I'm a huge proponent of extra-virgin olive oil. We've seen. Numerous studies at this point, there's so much evidence on the health benefit of extra-virgin olive oil. It's the staple oil in the Mediterranean dietary pattern. You know, it's weird. We have this in the, in the medical literature, we have this mangled view of what the Mediterranean.
Is right there. It's described sometimes as a low fat diet, a grain based diet. We, on the one hand it's sort of been there. Yeah. They might, they probably have
JJ Virgin: that. Certainly wasn't there when I was there.
Max Lugavere: Yeah. I mean, it's the Mediterranean diet is the darling of the nutritional Orthodox. And yet they also love to tout the benefit, the so-called benefits of canola oil, but in the Mediterranean diet, you don't see canola oil.
And when you actually go to the Mediterranean region of the world, It's [00:20:00] all extra-virgin olive oil, extra Virgin olive oil has a very cardiovascular friendly fat profile. It's predominantly heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, which is the safest oil to consume liberally. It's great for your,
it's great for your lipids.
It does reduce LDL on par with polyunsaturated fats. When compared to saturated fat. So it's great for your cardiovascular cardiovascular system. It's chemically stable. You can cook with it. It's a myth that you can't cook with extra Virgin olive oil and extra Virgin olive oil also has this additional superpower in that it contains phytochemicals like oleocanthal, which have been shown to be as anti-inflammatory as low dose ibuprofen, ibuprofen.
Everybody listening to this likely has ibuprofen in their medicine cabinet. It's a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, but you can't chronically use ibuprofen because that comes with risk to your cardiovascular system. On the other hand, chronically using extra Virgin olive oil, you get many of the anti-inflammatory benefits, but none of the risks.
So it's this incredible medicinal food. It's great [00:21:00] for your brain health. It's great for your waistline in terms of supporting metabolic health. So it's great. Keeping your metabolism up and running smoothly. It's good for your cardiovascular health. So many things. So that's the primary oil that I use.
And then close second. I would say avocado oil. Avocado oil is great. You don't get those additional phytochemicals and avocado oil. It's a more. Pure oil. But it's largely mono unsaturated fat. It's very stable up to, up to high heat. You can cook with it up to 500 degrees or more. And so those are the two oils that I use that I use.
Primarily I'm not a big, I use butter and ghee as an indulgence. You can use it for flavor to cook with they're predominantly saturated, so you can use them at very high heat. I'm actually not a big proponent of using those fats regularly because. They do have the potential to raise your lipids purposlesly.
And I think that for some, some populations, you, it's still a smart to be kind of cognizant of how many saturated fats, especially when, when they're coming from just like isolated, pure fats. So again, [00:22:00] for me, it's, it's, extra-virgin olive oil for the win
JJ Virgin: and you know, what's great is as you were talking about what it can do, I mean, when you're doing things that benefit your.
Or benefit your brain. It's going to benefit your waistline too. I mean, that was just one of those things you just mentioned. One we know that if you're more inflammatory, you're higher risk for her, for obesity. If you got obesity, you've got more inflammation and it just goes round and round and round.
What are some of your favorite foods to help with reducing inflamation?
Max Lugavere: Well, I think it all comes back to whole foods. A whole foods, dietary pattern is associated with lower levels of inflammation when compared to the standard American diet. So you've got to look at what the standard American diet is and get those foods and just don't do
JJ Virgin: that.
Eat the opposite,
Max Lugavere: the opposite.
JJ Virgin: So, but here's one of the things, you know, you look at where we're at now and we're going to be eating processed [00:23:00] food because the wild salmon we have on our plates processed, you know, I mean, we had to get it from, from the ocean over to us, same with the lentils or what, what else? So I've been looking at things going as this, more of what I call clean, processed or dirty.
So, you know, when you're looking at that, you're talking about whole foods, which I always kind of take as eat as close to nature as possible. What are some of the things that might be a little processed that you think that we can get away with that still fit into that whole foods piece?
Max Lugavere: Yeah. I like that question because you're right.
JJ, we do we're processing food when we cook our food. We're not, we're
JJ Virgin: not sitting out in the. It's like the jungle, just eating
Max Lugavere: bugs. So yeah, no, exactly. Well, it's in the medical literature, there's the distinction between processed foods and ultra processed foods, because it's, we have to acknowledge that when we cook food we're processing, when you cook a steak, you're processing it.
When you blend up a smoothie, you're processing it. Right. So you're absolutely right. I mean, there are some processed foods that I think are great when you, when I buy a bar of dark. That's a processed food, but we know that chocolate consumption is associated. Dark [00:24:00] chocolate consumption is associated with better memory function.
Right. We know that dark chocolate is great for our cardiovascular system. It's great for our brain health. I love a good avocado oil based Mayo. I actually have a recipe in genius kitchen for what I call the better brain bowl. And it includes a little bit of avocado, some sardines and extra Virgin olive oil.
And then I use a Chipotle mayo, like an avocado oil based Chipotle Mayo, and it's so good. 10 out of 10 dish, very nourishing to the brain and body low sugar. You can find now low sugar ketchups on the market which are great. I think. Most economical and nutrient dense foods you can eat and, and, and, and make for yourself is a grass fed burger Patty, and I love to throw a little bit of sugar-free ketchup on there.
These are all, these are all examples of processed foods, right? I'm a big fan of Greek. Heavy cream, these are all processed, right? Like the origin product is milk, right. But we use milk to Creek to get heavy cream. We use it to create yogurt. The fermentation and the processing in that case is done by [00:25:00] bacteria which ferments the, the sugars that are naturally found in dairy.
So, yeah, you're right. That processing isn't all bad. So we have to be careful not to not to miscommunicate it as such and fearmonger, but
JJ Virgin: that's what I always worry about. Honestly, like you talk about this stuff and, and just even looking at oils, it's just easier to have extra-virgin olive oil and avocado oil and not monkey with the rest and just do the best you like when you go out to dinner, get.
Olive oil and vinegar on the side. Cause you know, the dressings will have garbage oils and then that's the place that you'll get in trouble.
Max Lugavere: I mean it's low sugar. Absolutely. And it's, it's telling, I think that when you buy extra Virgin olive oil, it's, it's often most of the time sold in glass darkly covered glass.
Right? Producers have reverence for the oil. They know that it's a special product. They know that fats can go bad. Although extra-virgin olive oil is among the least likely in the supermarket to go bad. It's predominantly chemically [00:26:00] stable, monounsaturated, fat grain, and seed oil producers.
They don't care about their oil, right? They know that it's the most delicate and damaged prone of the oils because it's predominantly polyunsaturated fat, but they know it's such a cheap, garbage product. Anyway, that's why 99% of the grain of the soybean oil, the canola oil, the corn oil. You're not going to find it sold in glass.
You're not gonna find it sold in darkly covered glass. You find it's sold in
clear plastic cause that's essentially what it is. So I'm it's just really funny to me that somehow we've been, we've been led so far astray. So as to believe that these oils are actually nourishing and helpful, but at the end of the day, if there's a, if there's an ad on TV for a food product, it's probably a food product better off
JJ Virgin: Yeah.
So I think the answer really is, you know, get it as close to nature as possible minimally process. It that's going to be the most helpful. But understanding that we, like we're not living out in the middle of a farm, so, and even then, you know, you'd be processing. So what's a typical [00:27:00] day of eating look like for.
Max Lugavere: Oh, man. I love this question cause it makes it, it makes it, it really makes the recommendations practical.
JJ Virgin: So everyone wants to know it's like, they always want to know, well, what are you don't you get asked it
Max Lugavere: all the time. What do you eat? Yeah. I mean, I, half of my plate is some kind of animal protein and the other half is a plant whole plant, whether it's a salad or some kind of roasted veggie, I like to eat a salad a day, whether it's at dinner or for lunch, because research has shown us it's a, this is a rush university study that found that people who eat a large bowl of dark leafy greens every day have brains that perform up to 11 years younger.
So there's benefits of.
JJ Virgin: So how much for that study? How much was a large bowl? Was that like four cups? How
Max Lugavere: much. About half that. So it was one to two cups, which is a large bowl of…
JJ Virgin: That's not a large bowl, that's a little
Max Lugavere: house. Well, compared to how the, the quantity of dark leafy greens that most Americans are consuming, that's a lot.
Right. But for [00:28:00] somebody like us, it's not really that much. But they've shown that it's just, that's all, it takes a lot of these studies, you know, for example, mushrooms, people who consume mushrooms regularly have, have about a 30% risk reduction, older adults, 30% risk reduction for developing dementia.
But as long as you're consuming mushrooms on a weekly basis, that's really the threshold where we see this effect. It's about 30 grams of mushrooms per week. Some people don't consume mushrooms at all over the course of the month. Right? So
JJ Virgin: 30 grams of mushrooms, what would that look like in a, like,
Max Lugavere: like a, like a side dish in a restaurant on a weekly basis, the same thing with berries, we see that Berry consumption is associated with better brain.
But with a more youthful brain by about two and a half years. And it's, you know, they compare high, they can compare frequent berry consumers to berry people who consume berries infrequently. And so an infrequent very consumer is like zero to one times per month. Right. But a [00:29:00] frequent Berry consumer is one to two servings per week.
So it's really, it's not that you have to consume these. Every single day. Yeah. You just want to, as part of your weekly shopping list, have foods like that on the list, whether it's mushrooms or berries or dark chocolate or dark leafy greens. So
JJ Virgin: you mean, so you had a big salad every day, then I totally took you off track.
What else do you like? Do you get up in the morning? Do you eat breakfast? You intermittent fast.
Max Lugavere: I generally don't eat breakfast. First thing in the morning, I've been lately, I've been drinking a little bit of coffee that I use that I brew with a paper filter. If you brew coffee with a French press, you leave compounds in the coffee called , which have been shown to powerfully elevate LDL cholesterol.
I actually did an experiment on myself, JJ, where I was drinking. French press coffee every morning. And I went and I had my labs done and my LDL cholesterol was about 130 milligrams per deciliter, which I think [00:30:00] that's, those are the, I'm pretty sure those are the, the units, but it was 131, which is not a level to be alarmed at.
And all of my other markers were super great, but I didn't experiment because I know that these diterpenes in coffee. That are left in the coffee. When you don't use a paper filter, can, are one of the most powerful known agents of raising LDL cholesterol. I switched over to a paper filter, so I just bought like, And that was one change that I made.
Another change that I made, which I could talk about is I, I kind of minimize, I started using less butter and more cream which are the same base product, but butter can elevate LDL cream. Doesn't and I started eating two to three Brazil nuts every day, and I saw a 22% drop in my LDL cholesterol just from doing that alone 130, I went from 131 to a hundred.
JJ Virgin: French press coffee. Like I don't like it. I, it has to be through the paper filter, so I that's a good information. I thought it was cause I was a better taster, but
Max Lugavere: no, it's well, a lot of people like French press coffee, because it leaves those [00:31:00] precisely because it leaves those oils in the cup and it makes for a more richer taste.
Some people, some people prefer that I actually prefer the taste of French press coffee. It's great. But. It's a metal filter. It doesn't use a paper filter. It's been shown that paper, the paper filter and coffee absorbs all of these compounds, these oils, right. Which makes for a different cup, it makes for a different coffee experience.
But that those compounds that the paper filter easily extracts are, are very powerful agents of, of raising LDL cholesterol. So. Yeah. So anybody who has they go to their doctor, they see, you know, their levels are not what they, what they want them to be. I don't like I'm a big advocate of consuming animal products because I think that the benefits outweigh the risks.
They're very nutrient. You
JJ Virgin: know what? There, I support vegans and vegetarians. I always say I'm diet agnostic. However, in the wild. You couldn't have been a vegan.
Max Lugavere: Yeah, exactly. So
JJ Virgin: I always have a challenge when you have a diet that you must [00:32:00] supplement in order to survive, you
Max Lugavere: know? Yeah. Well said, well said. So I didn't want to, so, but this experiment, I didn't want to change anything about my diet.
Right. Other than I wanted to switch the coffee. So I switched, I stopped using a French press. And now I'm just using this pour over with a paper filter, butter and cream are very interesting to talk about. So I was, so this is the second change. Butter can raise your LDL levels, but cream does not it's due to some it's very, very strange, but it's thought to be due to the presence in cream of something called milk fat globule membrane, which is destroyed in the process of creating butter.
Butter is a manmade product, right? Cream is not cream is essentially just the top portion of fat that comes off of milk. But the turning process of butter. For some reason when we think it's due to this, this milk fat globule membrane affects how our bodies respond to the fat in dairy. And so I was using butter, very [00:33:00] liberally, and I basically decided to see if, what happens if I take that my butter and I consider it more of an indulgence, but I brought in heavy cream, which is the same base product, right?
It's the same base product. And so I started doing that and then I started eating two to three Brazil, nuts every day, Brazil, nuts support thyroid. We know that even mild hypothyroidism can cause your LDL to go up. So I did these three, just three simple things. I kept eating my ribeyes, I kept eating meat and I saw a, and I kept eating eggs and I saw a 22% drop in my LDL cholesterol.
JJ Virgin: I, now I, now I want to know which one probably had the biggest impact. I was also, that was one of the first things we did during the pandemic. Well, we had a, we had a whole hospital going on over at the house. Cranked everything up to make sure we were covered, but everyone in the house had two brazil nuts a day.
Part of the protocol. All right. So your coffee experiment, salads. What are some of the other key things that you [00:34:00] are eating on a regular basis?
Max Lugavere: I mean, yeah, I love, I mean, I just love, I think animal protein is very important. It's the highest quality, most digestible protein found in nature. So especially
JJ Virgin: as women age, cause I know we are going to talk about women aging and their metabolism, so we'll just do it right here.
We'll throw it in, you know, as we age and we have more difficulty assimilating our protein, we want the most bioavailable as quality protein. There is. I mean, my gosh, you're looking at something important to do as you age so that you can maintain your muscle mass and everything else. Making sure they have high quality protein.
Max Lugavere: Yeah. Your muscle keeps you. I mean, it's like muscle keeps, you, keeps you tight. It like keeps you mobile. It keeps you your metabolic
JJ Virgin: Spanx. That's what I call it. It's like everything in and get your metabolism going to so metabolic, Spanx.
Max Lugavere: Yeah, my good friend, Gabrielle Lyon. Who's a beautiful, brilliant female physician.[00:35:00]
She's amazing. She, she practices what she calls muscle centric medicine. And she talks about the fact that as you get older, you experience anabolic resistance and then it becomes even more important than you were when it was when you were maybe younger to get in this high quality protein on a regular basis.
We know that sarcopenia is a major problem, very common in the, in the Western world. We know that higher protein levels and what is currently recommended are effective at reducing risk for sarcopenia, make keeping people with high functional capacity as they age. And and so I couldn't be more pro about eating regularly, high quality animal animal protein.
JJ Virgin: Yes. And let's wrap on this cause you just mentioned it. It's funny. I just got the book. I'm a little disappointed in this book. That was about how, how to lose weight at midlife and oh gosh, what is it called? I think like the full body reset or something. Now the one thing in there that that is important that they're [00:36:00] hitting home is the importance of.
But they're low in their recommendations. It's like 0.5 0.6 grams, you know, per pound of body mass. And you know, they are mentioning that, but the rest of it is. Snacking. And I mean, all these other things, I was like, oh no
Max Lugavere: rice cakes, rice cakes, you know, like
JJ Virgin: snacking. And I'm like, oh boy, here we go. But I do think that for years, I mean, you know, I've been at this, I actually was like, I've been at this now.
40 years. And there's been this protein phobia forever. Like don't eat a high protein diet and all this crazy stuff. I'm really excited about it, about Gabrielle going out and like, just going exact opposite, like get the protein in. But just one, I think it'd be great just to hit that home. Cause you mentioned it a little bit.
Like as we, as we age, you've got to hit this, you've got to build muscle and you've got to get the protein. I mean, we should not have sarcopenia in [00:37:00] the. In the Western world. It's absolutely ridiculous that this should be going on. So like hit, hit it home with protein. We'll use that as our
Max Lugavere: wrap. Yeah. I mean, I think there's this, there's a lot of people that are highly vested in the notion that we have to, that that for, for some reason, low protein diets is the, is the key to longevity.
Right. And it's not, there's no evidence to say that there's zero evidence to say that it's all based on mechanistic, speculation that has not been born out has not been proven. With human studies, we know, thanks to clinical trials and even newer, higher quality observational evidence. That protein is really important.
We eat enough protein. So as not to develop protein deficiency here in the west, but that doesn't mean that the current levels are optimal. The current RDA for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of. Of bodyweight. It doesn't, it doesn't distinguish between lean mass or more fat mass. Right? But now clinical studies have shown us are showing [00:38:00] us that it's double, that that really leads to better metabolic health.
And also when you're eating more protein, you're eating less carbs and fat. When you eat more protein, you're eating less energy. Protein does not convert easily to fat. Fat is very easily stored as fat. And when we over consume carbs, carbs can easily get converted to fat, right? Protein doesn't easily convert to fat.
In fact, we get a caloric free ride of about 33% when we consume protein because of the thermic effect. So, you know, protein, we all know that carbs have four grams per four calories per gram. Protein is four calories per gram. Fat has nine calories per gram, right. But proteins. Actually, when you look from a practical standpoint, it has three calories per gram because one of those calories is burnt off just in the digestion, protein alone.
We know that it's highly satiating. It's the most satiating macronutrient. Closely by fat, which is satiating because it prolongs the satiety effect. And it supports the retention and the [00:39:00] growth of lean mass of muscle mass, which is so crucial. And we also know that high protein foods, foods that can, that are good sources of protein.
Also contain other nutrients, micronutrients that are particularly under consumed in the United States, whether we're talking about zinc, which is important for mental health and hormone production or vitamin B12, which is important for brain health and, and healthy mood. So it really is crucial that we, that we prioritize protein in our, in our food and our meals in our snacks.
You know, I, now, when I snack, I go for Greek yogurt, which is a very high protein food. And about a 80 to 90 calorie serving of Greek yogurt, you get about 18 to 19 grams. Of protein of the highest quality, highest biological value, protein that exists in nature. It's amazing. I'm a big fan of low sugar, beef, jerky eggs, things like that.
And and yeah, I don't put an upper limit on protein ingestion. I think it's it's again, it's self-limiting because it's so satiating you'll [00:40:00] get
JJ Virgin: full generally before you end up overeating. I mean, you can only eat. I know whenever we, we drive through this one place of Texas, there's like, you know, This crazy thing of, can you eat?
A hundred ounce ribeye or something like that, you know, it's like you get full before, so clearly you're not going to do it. So yeah, that's, that's the greatest thing as you've, I, I I never hear someone say, God, I really blew it last night. I binged on wild salmon and, you know, a steak it's like, it's not happening.
Max Lugavere: Yeah. And we're already, I mean, overfed, we're already over consuming energy, which is fat and carbs. Right. They're both energy substrates that the body will easily use. To fuel itself. And if there's no, no necessity for that energy in the moment it gets stored. Right? So, so fat and carbs were, were already many of us over consuming those macronutrients.
What we're under consuming is protein, which again, doesn't easily get, get stored as fat. And also protein is the key [00:41:00] nutrient that it takes to foster robustness to foster anti-fragility. And there was a really interesting study that came out just a couple months. That found that among people who are at high genetic risk for developing Alzheimer's disease and dementia that frailty was the key determining factor.
It increased one's risk by three fold, right? Once, once these genetic factors were controlled for, but everybody in the study had high genetic risk, it was frailty and protein is the most important macronutrient. For becoming anti frail for, for, for fighting off frailty. So it becomes really, I think, really important and even more important as you get older, there was another study that found that among people who are over 65 high protein consumption was associated with longevity, it was associated with reduced cancer risk.
So this, this dogma that somehow we're supposed to eat lower protein for longer, healthier life. It's it's, it's it's pseudoscience. It's not, it's not based in reality.
JJ Virgin: Awesome. This has been my favorite of all of our [00:42:00] interviews. Like in fact, it's been my favorite of almost all my podcasts. Like I just love everything you're saying I'm super excited about your book coming out.
And I know that you also have a guide, a free ebook to celebrate that as well, which I'm going to put at JJvirgin.com/geniuskitchen. Tell everyone about this next book in this guide that you'll be giving everyone.
Max Lugavere: Yeah, so my, my new book is called genius kitchen. It's a. It's a cookbook primarily. So we've got over a hundred super delicious, easy to prepare recipe recipes using easy to access foods.
I mean, I'm, I'm so in love with the recipes in this book, I can't even tell you, JJ, they're so good, but I didn't use any esoteric, weird ingredients that are gonna be hard to find. It was really my goal to make, to make recipes that can actually be made by the average person. So the book is full of recipes.
Like. And then the first half of the book is actually a kitchen and wellness guide. So it's not just a cookbook. It's a two in one book where I provide breakdowns of each food component, whether we're talking about dairy or salt or meat or plants or fish or eggs so that people can really get a sense of my dietary recommendations in [00:43:00] the most sort of practical, practical, spelled out fashion.
Especially also as they've evolved over the years, which I think is really important to always be able to like be agile as the science evolves. So it's called genius. And it's available at geniuskitchenbook.com. I'm sure you'll put up the link in your show notes, but for people who pre-order the book, I also have a free ebook that I've written which people will have instant access to when they pre-order and it's called 15, 15 daily steps to lose weight and prevent disease.
So we'll
JJ Virgin: put that all at jjvirgin.com/geniuskitchen. This is like such a needed. So thank you for writing this book. This is so needed. I'm super excited about this one. And this has been again, like, I think one of my top 10 all-time favorite interviews. Incredible, incredible work.
Max Lugavere: Thank you so much.
JJ Virgin: For more info on this and other health topics I cover or to rate and review [00:44:00] find me on Instagram, Facebook and my website, JJvirgin.com. And don't forget to subscribe to my show. So you won't miss a single episode. Go to subscribetojj.com. Thanks again for being with me this week. .


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