Six diet tips doctors should be giving — but aren’t

Here’s some “breaking news” that gave me a chuckle — not because it’s funny, mind you. In fact, it’s so ridiculous that it’s almost sad.

I recently came across an article outlining six dietary tips that patients should be getting from their doctors. “The research is out,” it states. “Diet matters. Here’s what patients need to know.”

Oh, “the research is out,” you say?! Like the scientific community just unraveled this great mystery yesterday? Well, okay then!

Look, I’ve been practicing this type of medicine for almost 25 years. And I don’t need to tell you that I have always known that diet matters. It’s my primary way of treating patients!

So you’ll have to excuse me if I get a little annoyed when semi-ridiculous articles like this come along, posturing as though they’re exposing some hidden truth. When all they’re really doing is condescending to physicians (and their patients) under the guise of being news.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. How about we go through these six tips one by one… and then you can judge for yourself.

  1. Choose foods with a wide variety of colors and textures, in their most natural forms. Foods that are enjoyed in a natural state provide the greatest satiety and nutritional value.

Now before you wonder what I’m making such a fuss about, let me acknowledge that, yes — this statement is totally accurate. A rainbow of fresh, whole foods is absolutely your best bet for health and longevity. I can’t take issue with that. It’s what this statement leaves out that bothers me.

Like the fact that, as anyone who tries to eat healthy knows, this has become an increasingly difficult proposition — especially with all the lying that is currently taking place on food labels. You can’t walk down a single aisle in the grocery store these days without practically tripping over boxes labeled “all-natural” or “preservative-free.”

It’s not enough to tell your patients to eat things that are more “natural.” Here’s the advice doctors should be giving: Eat only real foods — that is, food that doesn’t require a label at all. And buy it organic and directly from the farm whenever you can.

Which brings us to the next piece of diet advice…

  1. Avoid or dramatically minimize processed foods, such as packaged snacks, smoked meats, white flour, and sugar-sweetened foods and beverages.

Okay, once again — this is not a groundbreaking revelation. I’ve been saying it for years. Sugar kills, and artificial sweeteners and diet soda aren’t much better. And as for packaged and processed food, well… duh!

I didn’t include over 100 recipes in The A-List Diet because I was bored! If you’re not preparing your own meals already, you should be. It’s the only way to know what you’re really putting into your body.

Which brings me to the next forehead-slapper…

  1. Choose realistic, balanced diets for weight loss and weight maintenance. When dieters fail, it is because they attempt to follow diets that are too restrictive; are unbalanced; or cause rapid weight loss, which leads to yo-yo dieting.

This is about as boilerplate as nutritional recommendations come. But what do tired terms like “realistic” or “balanced” mean? And what, exactly, makes a diet “too restrictive?”

Because if you ask me, grains and sugar have NO place in anyone’s diet. And anyone who thinks that’s “too restrictive” is going to run into some real problems getting healthy.

Which isn’t to say that cleaning up your habits is a lost cause, or that you have to sacrifice the pleasure of eating to lose weight. You simply need to change how you think about food and dieting and in the long run — and focus on how you’re going to eat for the rest of your life.

So let’s stop all the hand-holding and call dieting what it is — a difficult process that absolutely gets easier and easier with practice… plain and simple.

But while we’re on the subject of “balanced” eating, let’s take a look at the next couple of recommendations…

  1. Consume healthy oils for heart health: fish, olive, and avocado.

Allow me to include macadamia nut oil in this list — and also to point out that it was not that long ago that mainstream nutrition advice pegged fat of any kind as public enemy No.1.

Once again, this is sound advice that took far too long to trickle down. Primarily due to the insidious myths that somehow still dominate conventional dietary advice. Case in point…

  1. Forego red meat and live longer.

WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! Grass-fed and grass-finished red meat is one of the healthiest foods on the planet. The above advice applies only to regular, factory-farmed red meat from cows that have been pumped full of hormones, antibiotics, and grains. That is the kind of red meat you should avoid. But otherwise, a juicy burger (provided you hold the bun) is better for you than sugar-packed fruits any day of the week.

And finally…

  1. Consume fermented foods/probiotics and fiber for gastrointestinal and overall health. Probiotics contain microorganisms that confer gastrointestinal benefit, which in turn promotes overall health.

More great advice, which simply doesn’t go far enough. Probiotics require prebiotics as food, not to mention postbiotics. All of which can be found in my favorite probiotic brand, Dr. Ohirra’s — but not in many others. And certainly not in popular, sugar-laden, so-called “probiotic” yogurts.

Am I being nitpicky here? Maybe. Maybe I should just be happy that doctors are being encouraged to discuss things like probiotics with their patients at all. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that recommendations like this were dismissed as fringe. (Trust me, I would know.)

I’ll admit that vindication has been way too slow in coming for my taste. Still, the conversation about diet’s critical role in medicine is finally happening. And there’s no question that we’ll all be better off because of it.

Even if the only thing left for me to say is “I told you so.”



Saleh, Naveed. (2017 June 29). “The 6 Dietary Tips Patients Need to hear From Their Clinicians.” Medscape. Retrieved from: