Dr. Mark Hyman: Dietary Fat Does Not Make You Fat

Dr. Hyman rethinks the food pyramid with his new book, ‘Eat Fat, Get Thin.’

Dr. Mark Hyman will appear at Wanderlust Hollywood on March 19 for the launch of his new book, Eat Fat, Get Thin. Get tickets here

Food controls everything. Food affects the expression of your genes that cause or prevent disease. In other words, food literally turns on health genes or disease genes. It tells those genes to store or burn fat. Food influences your hormones, your brain chemistry, your immune system, and even your gut flora.

510iug9zlvl.sx320bo12c2042c2032c200Before we can change our health, we must shift our way of thinking about food. Our relationship with fat, in particular, must change. In my new book, Eat Fat, Get Thin, I’ve gone through the latest science and research on fat and what it does to our bodies, and what I’ve found is that the war on fat needs to end. As research proves, dietary fat does not make you fat.

Dietary fat deeply impacts health and wellbeing: Being deficient in healthy fat has an impact on our emotional and overall health. Fat deficiencies affect our hormones, immune system, digestive health, skin health, weight, and ability to deal with stress.

In fact, fat deficiencies can adversely affect our mood, cognitive health, behavior, and overall brain function, which makes perfect sense considering our bodies (including our brains) are made up of fat. Every cell membrane is partly made of fat. We must have healthy dietary fat for our body to function properly.

Historically, we ate mostly wild foods, which are very rich in omega-3 fats (like wild fish and animals and wild plants), and very limited amounts of inflammatory omega-6 foods.

What went wrong? The government’s dietary advice based on a few misguided studies created very real, unintended consequences, evident from the amount of chronic diseases plaguing this country. This advice led to the creation of the Food Pyramid, which told us to eat mostly processed carbohydrates and sugars.

One thing I do admire about the Food Pyramid is its simplicity. So I built my very own food pyramid, based on the principles of the “Pegan Diet,” which combines the best of a Paleo and vegan diet.


This is the way that I’ve been eating for years, and I’ve never felt better. Here are some tips on following a “Pegan” diet.

1. Focus on the glycemic load of your diet. This can be done on a vegan or Paleo diet, but is harder to do on a purely vegan diet. Focus on more protein and fats, such as nuts (but not peanuts), seeds (flax, chia, hemp, sesame, pumpkin), coconut, avocados, sardines, olive oil. And lots of non-starchy veggies.

  • Eat the right fats. Stay away from most vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, corn, and especially soybean oil, which now comprise about 20 percent of our calories. Focus instead on omega 3 fats, nuts, coconut oil, avocados, and yes, even saturated fat from grass-fed or sustainably raised animals.
  • Eat mostly plants. Eat a lot of low-glycemic vegetables and fruits. This should be 75 percent of your diet and your plate at each meal. I usually make two to three vegetable dishes per meal.
  • Focus on nuts and seeds. They are full of protein, minerals, and good fats, and they lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

2. Avoid dairy. Milk is for growing calves into cows, not for humans. Try goat or sheep products, and only as a treat. And always choose organic.

3. Avoid gluten. Most flour is from FrankenWheat. Look for heirloom wheat (Einkorn); and if you are not gluten sensitive, then consider foods containing gluten as an occasional treat.

4. Eat gluten-free whole grains sparingly. These grains still raise blood sugar and can trigger autoimmunity. I suggest about ½ cup a day, max.

5. Eat beans sparingly. Lentils are best. Stay away from big starchy beans. About ½ to 1 cup a day, max.

6. Eat meat or animal products as a condiment. Choose animal products that are sustainably raised or grass-fed. Think of them as a side dish not the main dish.

7. Think of sugar as an occasional treat, to be used sparingly, in all its various forms (honey, agave, etc.).

mark-hyman-headshotDr. Hyman is a practicing family physician, a 10-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, and an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in his field. He is the Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. He is also the founder and director of The UltraWellness Center, chairman of the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine, a medical editor of The Huffington Post, and a regular medical contributor on many television shows including CBS This Morning, Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, and The View, Katie and The Dr. Oz Show.