When was the last time you checked how safe your air is?
With all of the wild fires, increases in industrial pollution, increases in population—not just in the U.S. but around the world—more than half of us are breathing dirty, polluted air, especially if you’re living anywhere close to an urban area, or an industrial area.
One of the most concerning things about breathing polluted air, is that it not only shaves years off of our lives, but it also decreases cognitive performance and actually makes us less intelligent.
When we’re breathing polluted air, when we’re eating polluted food or drinking polluted water, our livers are basically on overdrive and our bodies have to work harder to filter through a lot more junk.
Returning to the show today to help us put it all together is Mr. Max Lugavere. Max is a filmmaker, Health and Science journalist, and now the New York Times best selling author of Genius Foods.
Max has personally been touched by dementia in his own life, and has made it his mission to spread the word about how you can prevent a lot of these horrible things from happening.
On this show with Max you’re about to learn:
- How intermittent fasting affects your brain
- How to get smarter over time (instead of dumber)
- The dangers of air pollution and what you can do about it
- The difference between a wild banana and a cultivated banana
- How technological engagement becomes addiction
- And tons more…
Let’s go hang out with Max.
Max Lugavere: How to Protect Your Body and Mind
Abel: Returning to the show today is Mr. Max Lugavere. He’s a filmmaker, health and science journalist, podcaster and also New York Times bestselling author. Thanks for joining us once again, Max.
Thank you so much for having me. What a treat it is to be back on the show with you.
Abel: Well, you’re doing good work, and as we were just saying, you didn’t flame out. You’ve been at this for a while now. Actually you never really stopped.
Ever since you were young, you’ve kind of been on the screen trying to do good. And your latest work is very much needed right now. It seems like fewer people than ever know how to eat, how to live, especially when it relates to brain health.
And what some people might not realize is that it’s a very personal journey for you. Before this interview, I was looking at some of your social media and some of the work you’ve been doing, and I saw you dancing with your mom. I’m getting a little choked up just thinking about it.
And although I’ve seen some dementia in my family and people around me, can you tell us what it actually looks like? And how does it progress over time? What are the things that we should be concerned with in ourselves and the people around us?
Oh, man. Definitely for anybody, it’s a marked change in cognition.
They say if you forget where your keys are that’s normal. If you forget what your keys are for, then that’s a problem. That’s when you should go see your neurologist.
But the other thing is that people can have memory problems for a myriad of reasons.
Some of them could be medical conditions that are easily treatable. That’s why it’s really important to touch base with your physician if you have concerns about the way that your memory is working.
Not every memory complaint is going to end up being dementia, thank God. Because dementia is horrible. And this is something that I see every single day in my mom, and it’s really something that motivates my work in its entirety.
I can’t lie and say that I don’t completely love what it is that I do for a living, but it’s motivated by the fact that a couple of years ago my mom started to develop early symptoms of dementia.
And now at this point it’s pretty advanced, and it’s something that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. And I don’t purport to have all of the answers, this is a very rapidly evolving field of science.
90% of what we know about Alzheimer’s disease has been discovered only in the past 15 years, even though it was first named in 1906.
So this is something that is rapidly evolving. And the next 5 – 10 years are going to unearth so many unanswered questions when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease.
Dementia really is the umbrella category, because my mom doesn’t have Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s affects 5 million people in the United States, but it’s the most common form of dementia. And there are other forms of dementia.
There’s frontotemporal dementia, there’s Lewy body dementia, there’s Parkinson’s disease dementia. And so nonetheless, this is something that’s really set to explode in the coming years.
And I think that we have enough information today. At this point, we’re at this interesting juncture where we don’t have to sit on our hands any longer and wait idly until whatever our genetic fate dictates to us.
Abel: Yeah, and you had such a great point in your book, as well. You something like “We don’t need more science to tell us that stuff is wrong.”
The point is, even if you look at what’s happened with obesity since the time that we were kids, it’s a pretty obvious one to see, whereas dementia, it’s a little more ephemeral.
But we saw how quickly obesity has spread to more and more adults, and to more and more children. And looking forward, it seems that dementia is kind of doing the same thing. So why should that be concerning, and what can we do about it?
Well the truth is, it robs us of the essence of who we are.
It’s like neuroscientist DF Swaab says, “We are our brains.”
As millennials, we may be at the older end of the millennial spectrum, but we’re a generation that’s invested more in human capital than any prior generation.
And the loss of intelligence that this implies is staggering and tragic. And in a very real personal sense, to watch a loved one go through dementia it’s like… I can’t even… It’s so heartbreaking.
I’m just trying to cherish every moment that I have with my mom. And as much as I try to dictate my mom’s diet and try to put her on the diet that I believe to be the most brain protective diet, dementia often begins in the brain decades before the first symptom of memory loss.
If anybody is going to have an impact on this condition, it’s going to be me by getting this message out to younger people.
I believe that there’s a fundamental limitation that doctors have when it comes to spreading the message of prevention, especially when it comes to conditions that most people consider to be old people’s conditions, like dementia.
I felt so strongly that I actually might have the potential to make somewhat of a dent in this condition by sharing my story and by really doing the homework, doing my due diligence and spreading the science that I’ve been uncovering in my research.
Abel: It’s a creepy thing, because you can kind of see it start to appear, and then get worse in certain people around you who may or may not realize it. And I think if we’re honest with ourselves, a lot of us do see that.
You want to chalk it up to normal aging, if you’re in your 60s, or 50s, or 40s now. The problem is, it seems like that number is creeping down. What’s been normalized shouldn’t be so very normal, right?
You’re totally right. I was in the lab of Suzanne De La Monte at Brown University, who coined the term “type 3 diabetes” to describe Alzheimer’s disease. Which is a staggering theory as to why Alzheimer’s disease develops.
And Suzanne De La Monte, who has a Masters in Public Health, showed me some very interesting data. She basically accessed government records and organized the data in a way that hadn’t been previously done.
And she found that across all age groups, rates of dementia are actually increasing.
So this is not something that can be explained by genes, or the fact that we’re living longer. It’s that people are becoming demented more frequently.
And as you alluded to, the rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes in this country, it’s just out of control.
I don’t understand really why it’s taken us so long to connect the dots between Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other chronic diseases that we’re seeing just explode in Western society.
Abel: As all these things are getting worse, certain people appear to be not getting worse, and it’s a fluke, whether we like it or not. But there’s a certain sliver of health nuts that seem to be doing ok.
Yet if you’re not a health nut, it seems like almost everyone is getting swallowed up by the medical industrial complex, by pharmaceuticals, by poor quality food and all this other stuff.
How do you get to the other side?
We work in media, right? You and I, I think we live in a crazy time where information is coming at people 24/7. And at the same time our most trusted voices in terms of health and wellness, our physicians, are under-trained when it comes to nutrition.
So it leads to a lot of people basically being confused and ultimately feeling hopeless when it comes to making these choices for themselves.
I get this in my little microcosm on Instagram, for example, where I constantly battle with nutritional misinformation.
I take no side, I have no bias. I didn’t come into this world with any preconceptions, but it’s just that people are really confused. And media doesn’t do a good job at conveying science.
So people don’t really have anywhere to turn to for answers.
I think that leaves people kind of feeling like, well, there are no truths, and so therefore I just need to accept the fate that comes my way.
Or eat everything in moderation, which I think is the worst advice ever.
And genes also do play a role. Not to belittle basic biology, but my dad, knock on wood, he’s healthy, and he has drank alcohol and smoked cigarettes. He still smokes, and has smoked cigarettes his whole life.
He doesn’t eat very healthy, but he has always practiced, even before there was a name for it, “time restricted feeding,” which is very interesting.
Abel: That is interesting.
Yeah. He always ate one or two meals a day, and never ate breakfast. Always skipped breakfast and ate early dinners and that’s it. Very, very limited feeding windows for my dad. And knock on wood, he’s healthy today.
But my mom, on the other hand, my mom is somebody who really made a rigorous attempt to adhere to the dietary guidelines. She was always very concerned about heart disease, because her father passed away from heart disease.
So she was very tuned-in to the messaging that has pervaded this country over the past 50 years about fats and cholesterol and things like that.
And so my mom ate breakfast every day—low fat, low cholesterol cereals with skimmed milk.
We always used corn oil in my house. We always had margarine in the fridge.
And so, people eating the standard American diet, especially given a certain genetic background, I think are just setting themselves up for disaster.
Abel: And that’s what you ate growing up too, right?
That’s what I ate growing up. I grew up in New York City. I had access to healthy food.
Thankfully, I was fortunate, my parents could afford healthy food. But my mom was busy, she was a working woman with three young children, and she had my dad, who was the fourth child, if you count his behaviors.
And so, my mom’s received her health information from magazines and newspapers and media.
And we know that over the past couple of decades, dietary cholesterol was something that was considered unhealthy.
Fats and especially saturated fats were considered deleterious to health. And so my mom always made an effort when we were shopping to buy the fat-free, low-sodium alternatives to natural foods.
So yes, that’s what I grew up with. That’s was totally my diet. And the irony is that we were trying to be healthy the whole time.
Abel: Right. As a precocious little kid, I kind of started reading my dad’s magazines. And I was like 8 when I started worrying about cholesterol, saturated fat and all these things that I had to take out of my diet, which is just absurd to think about.
Especially considering that it’s wrong.
But that was pretty typical, I think, for our generation to be eating food that we thought was healthy and trying so hard to be healthy while it’s actually making us sick.
Where like, your dad is smoking cigarettes and just like eating once or twice a day, and everyone thinks that he’s the un-healthiest. Yet he is doing certain things that are very in line with how we historically lived, right? Let’s talk about that a little more.
Exactly. And first of all I think one thing that’s really interesting and worth mentioning, I think the worst casualty of the demonization of fat over the past 50 years hasn’t been necessarily that we were all avoiding saturated fat, because I do think that when it comes to saturated fat, there’s still a genetic difference in the way certain people process saturated fat and respond to it in terms of their blood lipids.
But I think the fact that that recommendation was then exploited and our fear surrounding saturated fat was then exploited by the food industry really opened the door.
It was like the movie The Gate, remember that scary movie in the ’80s? Basically, like when they put the corpse of the dog into the hole in the ground, and all of a sudden any number of ghoulish creatures appeared?
That was basically the modern supermarket in the early ’90s, right? I mean, fat-free oils… Oils that basically wouldn’t be absorbed like Olestra, creating like a slip and slide through your digestive tract.
Those were the kinds of things we were told to eat instead of healthy natural fat-containing foods.
And by the way, one of the things that that our governmental agencies neglected to tell us when they were busy demonizing saturated fat for 50 years, is that every natural fat-containing food has saturated fat in it.
Every healthy natural fat-containing food is a significant source of saturated fat. Breast milk, right?
Extra virgin olive oil, the hallmark of the Mediterranean dietary pattern, which is just sort of like the darling child of nutritional epidemiologists all around the world, right?
Extra virgin olive oil is 15% saturated fat, which is one of the reasons why it’s so chemically stable. So yah, so it’s just been crazy and I’m super grateful that technology has allowed the truth to get out there.
And for people like us, true passionate health investigators, to unearth science that people really ought to know about, and bring it to people in a way that’s palatable. No pun intended.
Abel: Now, let’s talk a little bit about the fasting specifically, because your dad did it. I’ve been doing it for years. I believe you do, as well.
Abel: How does it show up in your life? And is it similar to your dad, or different?
The way I practice it is I don’t eat for 1 – 3 hours after I wake up, and I don’t eat for 2 – 3 hours before bed.
And the reason for that is that our bodies have natural circadian inclinations. And when we wake up, first thing in the morning, we have a hormonal milieu that wants to burn fat.
It’s like for 45 minutes after we wake up, cortisol is the highest that it’s going to be throughout the day, before really beginning a slow gradual decline until the end of the day. And that’s a fat-burning hormone.
Cortisol is one of the body’s chief catabolic hormones and it’s working to liberate stored fuels, amino acids, fatty acids, and stored sugar in the liver for use as fuel.
It does that during times of stress, which is one of the reasons why cortisol is an important stress hormone.
But in the morning cortisol becomes elevated to basically allow you the vigor to be able to seize the day, and go out and forage and hunt food, explore for new lands, and things like that.
And so what we tend to do when we eat breakfast in its most commonly consumed form, it is we thwart cortisol’s catabolic activity specifically on our fat tissue, because insulin acts like a one-way valve on our fat cells.
This is due to a number of things, but for one, insulin basically activates a protein in the adipocyte, called hormone-sensitive lipase. Which basically prevents fatty acids from leaving the fat cell.
And so in the morning, hormonal milieu when we consume the bran muffin, the glass of orange juice, the bowl of oatmeal, cortisol is going to continue to exert its catabolic effects, but only on your muscle tissue and the sugar that you have stored in your liver, not your fat.
So an hour or two after I wake up, then I’ll eat. Generally speaking, I’ll eat a huge salad.
So a rule that I set for myself, I try to eat a big fatty salad every single day. It’s a great way of checking off your nutritional boxes for a multitude of minerals and vitamins.
The Nutrient Depletion of our Produce
I was doing a deep dive recently into the change in what’s called our ionome, which is basically the sum nutritional content of our produce over the past 50 years. And you know, our produce is becoming less nutritious over time. .
Abel: Did it say how much?
Some nutrients, like riboflavin, had about a 40% decline over the past 50 years.
Abel: Magnesium is another one that’s really dropped off, right?
Magnesium, protein, vitamin C—basically, why this happens is that it’s a combination of factors. But in part, our agricultural methods that put yield as the utmost priority basically causes our produce to grow faster than ever before in history.
By doing that, our produce is diluted with starch and sugar, and it’s less nutrient-dense.
The other thing that has actually been proven, they have a number of methods coming to this hypothesis that increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere also does the same thing.
So, completely independent of our farming practices, CO2 in the atmosphere.
Yah, because plants use CO2 to generate energy, and so the fact that the CO2 in our atmosphere has either doubled or quadrupled over the past 100 years, it’s caused our plants to grow faster, as well.
And so essentially, what this is doing is causing our plants to become less nutritious and contain more starch and sugar. And that’s a pretty bad thing over time.
But produce is still a category that represents some of our most nutrient-dense foods.
Abel: Progress is turning it into empty calories.
Yes. 100%. And this might actually indirectly be contributing to the obesity crisis in America, as well. Because when we eat less protein, which we now know our produce is storing less and less protein because it’s growing faster, we tend to eat more of everything else.
This is the idea behind what’s called the protein leverage hypothesis. And this may be a new sort of lever by which people’s waistlines are expanding, because our produce is becoming less satiating.
It has less protein and less nutrients. It is also one of the reasons why so many of us are malnourished. 90% of Americans are now deficient in at least one essential nutrient.
But that being said, every day, I’m still trying to eat a large daily salad. I’m trying to do my best, given the timeline that I was planted on this earth in the middle of.
So, dark leafy greens, kale, spinach and arugula. That’s going to be like my first meal of the day.
Yah, typically raw. I do eat lots of cooked vegetables for dinner, but during the day, I like to get in a decent amount of raw vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables.
When you chew raw cruciferous vegetables, you create a number of compounds in your mouth—sulforaphane is one of them.
As a sort of genetic modulator, I’ve become interested in these. Sulforaphane been shown to boost levels of glutathione in the brain, which is really important.
I’m trying to transmute the awe and wonder that I feel about all this stuff to other people, because I think above and beyond being healthy, I think it’s so cool.
Each one of us is heir to this incredible legacy, honed by millions of years of Darwinian struggle.
And here we are without an owner’s manual. What are we to do?
Abel: Especially when 80% of us are overweight, or ill in some way.
I know, and that’s the big tragedy of 21st century.
Abel: We’re meant to be healthy. Our bodies are incredible, right?
We’re all meant to look like you, Abel.
Abel: Oh, come on.
But the thing is, whether we’re scrambling up rocks behind the house, we live in the Rockies now, and if you let yourself be that squirrel on the telephone wire, then you can move so much better than your brain could make you move, if that makes sense.
When you eat something, it’s not like, “Oh, I’m eating vitamin D and vitamin A,” or whatever. It’s like, you eat a vegetable that’s hearty, because you look at it, you touch it, you feel it, it’s hearty. It was raised in a natural environment, and your body does just fine.
Before 100 or so years ago, no one ever had to worry about any of this stuff. It was all about, “Where’s our next meal going to come from?” Whether we’re talking about hunter-gatherer days, or even early agriculture.
And to your point, the problem is that nutrient density has been kicked out of almost every category of our foods, even the nutrient-dense ones.
But once agriculture came, and now we’re eating three crops that are like 60-80% of our diet—depending on who you’re talking about—and it’s the lowest quality, least nutrient-dense foods that humans, arguably, have ever been eating.
That’s a problem, right? To come over to the health nut side actually isn’t that hard from a dogmatic, tactical standpoint, right?
Yah, exactly. You’re 100% right. We really are living in a time that makes it incredibly difficult to reach our optimal selves, and that’s why I have empathy for people who are struggling to be well.
I didn’t come at this from an interest in fitness and trying to attain a six-pack and look like an Adonis.
I came at this because I see true sickness every single day, and I’ve seen what the medical establishment can offer a person with this degree of illness, and it’s bleak, man. It is bleak.
In some of the most storied cathedrals to Western medicine that I’ve had the privilege of being able to go to, it’s diagnose and adios in every instance.
So, even though it’s hard, I think it’s worth it. And even though it’s expensive at times, especially if you don’t kind of think about it and plan, it’s not as expensive as disease.
And I’ll tell you, nothing is as expensive as chronic disease.
It’s expensive for the individual. It’s expensive for the nation. No matter what side of the political spectrum you fall on, this is something that’s bankrupting the nation.
Abel: Literally, yah.
It’s something that I really think that we should all try. We can all afford to try a little bit harder.
We’re going to feel better. We’re going to be more fully expressed. We’re going to be able to love one another more deeply.
It’s something that I really strongly believe in.
Abel: One thing that I’ve been thinking about recently, especially when you look at our books, The Wild Diet and Genius Foods, for example. Once they’re published, it looks like we’re playing offense, right?
But we’re playing defense, and we’re trying to give other people defense, as well.
And it can be hard to see that from the outside in, but I think that’s really what you have to do today. It’s not like I’m going to chase that six-pack, or I’m going to be a marathon runner, or a triathlete.
It’s more like I need to practice responsibility and self-reliance and put my shields up and play some defense here.
Because if we just follow the options that are given to us, whether it’s by the medical community, the food marketing community, or just eating at a cafeteria. If you just go the way that everyone else is going, it’s pretty grim.
That should be obvious to everyone, but self-defense is really what we all need to do. And that also, hopefully, will help people frame the idea.
It’s not like chasing some other silver bullet. It’s not like we need a ton more research to tell us that it’s good to eat nutrient-dense, dark leafy greens, right?
We know enough about that to all be eating our fatty salads, which is what I do pretty much every day as well, by the way. We can all be doing that right now with exactly what we have, right?
Yah, 100%. Frequently we place the burden of proof onto foods that have been in the human food supply for a really long time.
And it’s like, the new foods, the new inventions and creations by the food industry, we sort of give a hall pass to, like a free get out of jail card. I believe modern food products should be guilty until proven innocent.
Instead, they’re put on the market, and scientists have to play catch up. They’re trying to really find the money, and try to find the resources to prove that these modern foods and inventions and chemicals are not safe for human consumption.
Abel: And who’s going to pay for that? Whose advantage is that towards? Regular people, the population doesn’t have money like that to sponsor studies like this, and the government usually doesn’t either.
Right. The NIH funding for nutrition research is very limited. And so why should the burden of proof be placed on grass-fed meat, for example, or studying wild berries or dark leafy greens.
I’m not saying that we don’t need to research. But consuming all the corn oil and canola oil that we can with abandon, not thinking for a second that these foods didn’t exist in the food supply until 70 years ago is just problematic.
And there are numerous case studies where things have been on our supermarket shelves for years, only later to be discovered as being very harmful. Trans fats, for example.
Abel: Olestra was one of them. It gave people anal leakage.
Anal leakage, yah. The worst. I remember buying chips with Olestra, because I was like, if can eat healthy Doritos that aren’t going to make me fat, I’m all about it.
Abel: Of course, that’s what America is all about.
Totally, we want to have our cake and eat it, too. That’s probably where that saying comes from.
So, trans fats are the worst dietary emulsifiers now.
I was just reading about purified fiber extracts. I eat low carb protein bars when I’m traveling and on the road. They’re sweetened using fiber extracts, like chicory root extract or tapioca soluble fiber extract, which is like the second or third ingredient.
And these are new lab-made creations that I have assumed are going to be inert, if not healthy in my body, because they may have some kind of prebiotic effect.
Well, I was just reviewing a study that came out recently, where it showed that in mice, not a perfect study, the mice were at an increased genetic risk for liver cancer when they supplemented with, I believe it was chicory root extract.
They had a significantly increased risk of aggressive liver cancer.
So, I’m not saying that it translates to humans, but I do know. If I eat one too many of these protein bars made with chicory root, I don’t know if it’s going to be problematic.
We know that humans have a tolerance of about 10 grams of chicory root fiber. So I don’t know what future science is going to say about these extracts.
But I think we all need to be a little bit more skeptical about new foods, modern culinary creations.
Abel: That interesting. Because it’s tempting, if there’s like this new superfood on the market, and it’s supposed to do all these amazing things.
I remember when MCT oil started taking off a few years ago. Now everyone’s into MCT oil. But if you ask most people who consume it, what’s the difference between MCT oil and coconut oil, I would venture to guess that most people couldn’t answer that question.
And when a lot of the people who were in a multi-level marketing keto thing kept trying to get me to sell their crap—and there were a lot of those—they asked me what I thought about some of the MCT keto powders they’d send my way, and almost all of them upset my stomach.
And they’re just like, “Oh, I thought you were hard, you’re just a softie.”
I’m just like, “No, your product sucks, and I don’t think it’s good for people.”
Maybe I am a softie, but I’d rather be more sensitive and know a little bit about whether something I’m consuming is good for me or not.
And not that MCT oil is bad, I’m just saying that having more and more and more and more and more of something like that is not a good thing.
And what’s the matter with coconut oil, which is already a somewhat processed product. It originally came from a fatty coconut, which lest we forget, is almost all saturated fat, and that’s why it’s supposedly good for us, right?
Yah, there are entire populations that use tons and tons of coconut oil, but they have different genes than us. My genes, I’m of northern European descent.
So, did we have coconuts growing up there? No.
Abel: Or bananas, or tropical fruits. But you had milk, maybe. You might have had dairy, whereas people down in the tropics might not have.
There you go, great point. So now we live in this world where we always have access to these things, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, from all different parts of the world.
You go to your modern supermarket. I live in New York City, I’ve got strawberries grown in Mexico, medjool dates from Morocco. A pineapple and coconuts grown in, who knows where?
And now we’ve got people with different genetic backgrounds, different fitness levels, all thrust into the same modern food environment.
There’s no question that there’s a relationship between the level of disease that we’re seeing and the modern food supply.
Abel: Speaking of modern food supply, if you’re eating at a restaurant then good luck avoiding guar gum, carrageenan, prebiotic fibers, and sulfates like aluminum.
All sorts of stuff is inside of our food, especially if we don’t know what’s inside of our food.
And I think we have these gigantic blinders on, because if you are eating from a cafeteria, or if you’re at a hotel, if you’re traveling, or if you’re just eating at a friend or family’s house, oftentimes those foods don’t come with a giant label explaining everything that’s in there.
Most of us are consuming some of these things, and we don’t really know what they’re doing to us. Like we were talking about before, who is going to sponsor the study that says that all of these food additives that are assumed to be safe because they’re in all these organic products now?
Who’s going to say that they’re actually not safe for us? And then once that does happen, like BPA is a perfect example.
It’s like, “Oh, BPA is bad, it’s doing all this bad stuff to us. We have to get it out of everything.”
And now everything is BPA-free. But what did they put in instead? And is that good for us? And also, what’s the matter with glass and stainless steel, which we’ve been using for at least hundreds of years?
Yah, totally. I mean, just going back to food. We’ve been using extra virgin olive oil for 8,000 years.
So, that tells you something, right?
We didn’t have the chemistry labs required to extract oil from corn and soybeans up until 80 or 100 years ago.
I think by focusing on food quality, I think that really makes everything a lot easier.
Because we don’t want to be walking around obsessed. We still want to be able to go and have dinners with our friends in restaurants and things like that.
But by focusing on food quality and whole foods, shopping around the perimeter of the supermarket. I think that’s just kind of allows you to offload some of that anxiety.
Just the age-old wisdom to consume less packaged, processed foods.
At the end of the day, we can get into the nitty gritty of why these foods are so damaging to us, and why they’re so unhealthy.
But you basically avert any risk of any of these foreign toxic substances entering your body by sticking to whole foods.
And it becomes even more critical today because of what we talked about earlier. The fact that our whole foods are becoming less nutritious just by virtue of the environment.
And so I think that at the end of the day, the answer is sticking to those whole foods.
Because it’s the best shot that you’ve got today to be well-nourished and to be able to equip your body with the tools that it needs to fight off against the many insults thrown at it by the modern world.
Our Brains on Technology
Abel: Right on. So that’s the food piece. But I do want to make sure that we talk as well about what’s happening to our brains in terms of attention and focus. Especially in the days of notifications, social media, email technology on us all the time, especially for our generation.
I feel that our generation, millennials, were to some degree raised on it. Maybe not digital natives like the folks who are younger than us, but at least we have some understanding and defense against it.
Whereas our parents’ generation is really getting into technology, getting addicted to Apple watches and all these notifications, and sleep-tracking, and all this stuff.
But what is it doing to our brains over time?
Well, I think technology is a perfect example of a double-edged sword. It’s incredible to be able to connect with people. Loneliness is a toxin. It has an epigenetic effect. It’s able to regulate gene expression.
And I think, obviously, we should all try to be more connected in our social environment. But for some people for whom loneliness is not a choice, I think social media allows an incredible way of reaching out and connecting with like minds.
If you live in a small town and you feel ostracized for whatever reason, social media is amazing to be able to allow people to connect and feel like they’re part of a larger fabric of society.
But on the other hand, I think it’s also damaging. Because first of all, it short circuits our brain’s reward centers. We’re always looking for that next like, or that next comment, or the new follower.
Abel: And importantly, it’s designed to do that.
It is designed to, yeah. These apps are literally created by people that are working in isolation and their paycheck depends on them increasing engagement of their products.
So they’re all designed to increase addiction, increase engagement, and things like that. And I think that’s problematic.
I think we’re spending far too much time with our faces plugged into our iPhones.
Abel: Not our brains, though.
Yeah, better than being plugged into our brains, that’s for sure.
I don’t know if you believe in the singularity and what they’re projecting, but who knows what’s coming down the pike.
Abel: Well, I was just listening to Elon Musk the other day, and I do not think that man is a hero by any means.
He was basically saying that it looks like we’ll have no other option than to all get brain implants, because otherwise you won’t be able to get a job to keep up with all the other people who are getting brain implants to work better at their jobs, and be smarter than you.
And it’s like, I’m not sure that’s the best way to be thinking about all of this right now.
Well, my perspective on that, because I dabbled a little bit in the futurism community a couple of years ago, and I think that we need to parse out artificial intelligence from human intelligence.
When you look at an ant walking around on the ground, that ant is an intelligent creature. Especially when you zoom out and you look at a colony of ants, there is a profound intelligence there.
So we can design software and machines that display a certain level of intelligence, that’s for sure. But whether or not a computer is ever going to be able to emulate human intelligence, I just don’t really believe that that’s possible.
Abel: It could augment human intelligence, but that means it could also be a double-edge sword, doesn’t it?
Well, it’s already augmenting human intelligence. Because of technology, this is my outsourced hive mind. My smartphone is an extension of me.
When I’m curious about something, a few movements of my fingers and I basically get plugged into all the world’s knowledge within seconds.
Abel: Or what appears to be all the world’s knowledge.
I think that’s important, because people do say, “Now I have all the knowledge in the universe in my hands.”
But you also have all the BS in the world in your hands.
There you go. Yah, that’s true. And so it’s going to be a challenge, I think, when the friction between our interface with them becomes less and less.
Right now, we require mechanical movements of our thumbs to interface with our technology.
Eventually, we’re going to have new ways of interfacing with it. I don’t even know what that’s going to look like, but…
Abel: Not Google Glass.
Yah, it’s definitely not going to be Google Glass, that thing was so nerdy. But yah, I have my own technology addictions that I struggle with.
I’d like to spend less time on my smartphone, but at the end of the day I’m just very grateful for what it’s allowed me to do.
I’m able to do what I do for a living and affect people based solely on technology.
I’ve obviously done my homework, which technology certainly enabled, but writing my book and being able to create a platform for myself that allowed that book to actually get into the hands of other human beings, it’s all thanks to technology.
Abel: You can definitely use it as a tool. I think that’s the message I would like to pass on that’s really helped me, especially having taken more than a year off several times from the internet and tech for the most part. Not ever 100%, but for the most part.
But man, we live in the age of Star Trek. The things that we can do with technology are absolutely insane.
The problem is if you just follow the path that technology takes you on, then it’s a rabbit hole you don’t want to go down.
People are setting these paths that are meant to make you… the Silicon Valley folks call it engagement, on our side we call it addiction.
Obviously, I’m not anti-technology. There’s no way we’d be able to do any of this without technology.
But we don’t want to be slaves to technology.
And I think when our brains are concerned and our consciousness is concerned, our minds, all of this, even our memories and our dreams, these things can be augmented negatively by technology. And they are right now without us realizing it.
And for the sake of brain health, we need to practice self-defense with our consciousness and technology in a similar way that we do when we’re eating our vegetables and not eating all the new garbage that they’re trying to shove down our throats.
Yah, Abel, that’s a perfect analogy. We can’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Technology is here to stay. The genie is not going back in the bottle.
It’s incredibly powerful. It’s an amazing tool. We’re more informed than we’ve ever been, all thanks to technology.
The same parallel can be drawn with food. We’re not going to stop eating food because we have a food supply that’s become saturated with hyper-palatable food-like products.
No, we just avoid to the best of our abilities the hyper-palatable food-like products and stick to the real food.
The same thing for technology, like social media. We know that it’s addictive. We know that social media provides to our brain the same level of dopamine response as hyper-palatable foods.
So I think the onus is really on us to recognize that, to become aware of that and then to use our devices accordingly with that level of consciousness about it.
That doesn’t mean that we’re going to stop googling topics the minute we become curious about something. I think that’s where technology really is amazing.
But it’s sort of about taking the term hyper-palatability and extending it beyond food to…
Abel: Clickbait memes.
Yah, clickbait memes. That headline was hyper-palatable, I had to click on it.
Just recognizing that and taking a little bit of a pause, even if it’s just like a beat or two, and kind of recognizing that impulse that we have, and acting more consciously about it, I think we’d all be a little bit better off.
Where to Find Max Lugavere
Abel: What a great point. Well, we’re just about out of time, Max, but before we go, please tell folks where they can find your book and what you’re working on next.
My book Genius Foods is available everywhere books are sold. I highly recommend picking it up. I’m biased, of course. But it’s helped a lot of people. It’s a nutrition master class. It’s a care manual for the modern human brain.
Abel: Well you’ve been on this show twice, Max, we’re going to have to go for the hat-trick pretty soon.
Yah, man. Well, it’s always a pleasure hanging with you. You’re a light in this industry and there are not many.
When you meet good people putting high quality information out into the universe, you want to keep those people close.
So thank you for doing what you do, Abel.
Abel: Thank you. Thanks so much for coming on the show, man.
Before You Go…
Here’s a review that just came in from Steve. He says:
The Wild Diet changed my life. I have always been a relatively healthy eater, but hearing more about how the food industry works really changed the way me and my fiance approach what we eat. We now adhere to the Wild Diet, and are loving every meal.
We don’t just eat to eat, now we turn every dinner into an event with great anticipation that we truly enjoy together. The book didn’t only change the way we eat. It strengthened our relationship by spending more quality time together.
Steve, thank you so much for writing in and sharing that. What a gem right there.
The Wild Diet is not meant to be this dogmatic diet that you follow. It’s more like a philosophy, lifestyle, or way to approach food again in this crazy, messy confusing world of dieting, nutrition and fitness.
One of the biggest gifts about getting into food and becoming a foodie comes when you share it with the people who you love.
For myself, sharing dinner every night with my wife Alyson is always one of my favorite parts of the day. And we even shop for food together. We go to farmers’ markets, we kind of make it something that really means a lot to us. It’s a small visceral thing that we get to enjoy together.
But you also get to make mistakes together, learn together. And man, I’m just so glad that you folks are enjoying that yourselves and really enriching your own relationship through food. It’s a great excuse to do that.
So if you’re listening and you haven’t tried getting into food as a fun hobby. Then carve out some time for it. It’s really worth it.
And honestly, I think it’s one of the biggest predictors of success over the course of your life.
If you can enjoy eating this way, eating clean, living clean, moving your body with somebody else, you’re going to have a much better shot of doing it for the rest of your life.
I believe you don’t just sign up for this a little bit. Health is something that is a moving target, and you’ve always got to keep your eye on it. So kudos to you both.
And if you’re listening right now and you have a story to share, please just drop me an email (sign up for my newsletter and reply to my email), or leave a comment below.
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What did you think of this interview with Max? Drop a comment below to let us know!