At our recent Health & Wellness Experience at 1 Hotel South Beach, Robb Report sat down with Dr. Mehmet Oz, the eight-time Emmy Award–winning talk-show host of The Dr. Oz Show who is also a best-selling author, a cardiothoracic surgeon, and, most recently, Turkish Airlines’ brand ambassador. He’s collaborating with the airline on making air travel a healthier and more soothing journey.
What are five key longevity habits?
- Daily physical activity, which includes some heart-rate elevation and stretching. I’m collaborating with Turkish Airlines on their Fly Good Feel Good project to develop a healthy travel experience that uses small strategies that can make a big difference. Even while traveling, kneel on your seat facing the back of the plane, make a circle with your butt, and lean back onto your heels. Your neighbor might look at you like you’re crazy, but when they get a leg cramp later on in the trip, you’ll be having the last laugh.
- Eat food that comes out of the ground looking the same as when you eat it. And flying does not have to be an exception to this rule. Turkish Airlines’ menus feature traditional Turkish delicacies as well as contemporary cuisines, all prepared using the finest and freshest ingredients. Business-class passengers on extended range flights can enjoy gourmet dishes prepared by Flying Chefs, another innovative initiative to ensure healthy eating while in the air.
- Daily routine that reduces perceived stress. Listening to music is a great way to relax the brain. Music has the power to shift consciousness and change the brain chemical activity.
- Give your heart a reason to keep beating by focusing on your purpose.
- Use all five of your remarkable senses to be fully aware in the moment. This is easier for me to appreciate when I am traveling, but traveling is not just about getting from one place to another. For me, it’s also about encouraging people to discover the world and the unknown through our five senses. We see, smell, hear, taste, and feel unique things every place we go, discovering the world through countless miracles we have in our bodies.
Habits like these can be kept during the entire travel experience, beginning on the ground to prepare for the flight, avoiding dehydration, exercising onboard—all of which can help avoid jet lag after the flight.
Can you describe the Pegan diet? How is it different from diets such as Atkins or South Beach?
This is best done visually using our printable plan, which you are welcome to adapt. With the Pegan 365 plan, it’s easy to eat healthy and stay on track all year long. On this diet, just remember to eat five-plus cups of vegetables, four carbohydrates, three proteins, two healthy fats, and one dairy substitute every day to achieve your weight-loss goals. You’ll eat three full meals each day along with two good-for-you snacks. When it comes to alcohol, you can have up to two drinks each week. Indulge in dessert twice a week, as well, so you don’t feel deprived. If you have a special occasion coming up or just need a break once in a while, you’re allowed one cheat day per week.
Pegan differs from Atkins and South Beach in two ways: It is not super low-carb, and it leans heavily vegan, although one of the three protein servings can be meat, so it’s more flexible than a traditional vegan diet.
From your book, Food Can Fix It, what are the most powerful foods?
In Food Can Fix It, we lay out a simple, easy-to-follow blueprint for harnessing the healing power of food. Through simple modifications and a meal plan filled with nutrient-rich superfoods, we explain how to kick-start weight loss, improve your energy, decrease inflammation, and prevent or alleviate a host of other common conditions—all without medication.
One major theme is that food is medicine. When I traveled the world collecting vignettes for Turkish Airlines last summer, I noticed that in Italy, pharmacy is spelled farmacia. There is a lot of truth embedded in how we read that word. Some of the world’s best cures are grown on our farms and available in our supermarkets, ready to go to work in your body if you know what to reach for and how to prepare it. The right food can even replace that daily pill (and all the annoying side effects that come with it).
The most powerful foods include omega-3 fatty acids, which help the brain cope with stress and the heart cope with irregular heartbeats and blockages.
I also love tart cherry juice before bed to help sleep. In fact, when we put my show “on the air in the air” for Turkish Airlines last summer, we gave all the passengers tart cherry juice to help with their sleep and avoid jet lag. The airline’s Fly Good Feel Good program also offers a selection of specialty teas designed for passengers’ needs—whether that’s to boost the immune system (linden, roselle, ginger, echinacea, clove, lemon peel, licorice, and cinnamon), detox and reduce swelling (green tea, roselle, corn silk, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, black pepper, and clove), or energize and speed up the metabolism (green tea, mate, sage, mint flower, and ginger).
Finally, we have to respect the advice of our grandmothers—chicken soup. Or maybe our elders were up on their history of Moses Maimonides. The 12th-century Jewish physician and philosopher is said to have been the first to write about the medicinal benefits of hen and rooster eaten in their own broth. He wrote that this concoction “neutralizes the bodily constitution,” which, really, is just a 12th-century way of saying “food fixes.” (And then he went a little off the deep end, claiming that eating the testicles of any living creature could increase libido!)
And what are the most powerful behaviors around food?
Research suggests that two key hormones—serotonin and dopamine—play roles in your mood. When dopamine and serotonin are high, you feel good. And when you feel good, you want to keep doing the thing that feeds that dopamine and serotonin rush. Take one guess as to something that creates a rush of those feel-good hormones. Yep, sugar. The sweet stuff stimulates dopamine in the rewards center of the brain (just like other things do, including social stimulation, sex, drugs, etc.) as well as indirectly boosting serotonin. So when you feel down, it’s not uncommon to want to reach for something that will make you feel up, aka sugary treats.
Ideally, eating protein with slowly absorbed carbs—like sweet potatoes, nuts, and brown rice—will calm those sugar-seeking moments. In a study of 3,500 older adults, greater consumption of a Mediterranean-based diet was significantly associated with lowering the risk of symptoms tied to mood issues. Researchers suspected that B-vitamins, antioxidant nutrients, and healthy fats made the difference.
I know both are important, but if you had to emphasize diet or exercise, which is more powerful for a healthier lifespan?
Diet wins this close race. It is more important since it drives more risk factors in youth, including obesity and hormonal abnormalities. However, longevity in Blue Zones (where people live to age 100 more commonly than anywhere else on the planet) is closely tied to physical activity, in part because frailty is avoided. So eat well when you are young, and focus on being active with age.
What do you think of fasting diets and ketosis? Is it helpful for weight loss and longevity?
I like a cleansing fast once a year and generally try to avoid eating for 12 hours a night. This mini-fast has been shown to induce some ketosis and is favored by athletes and some physicians managing chronic illnesses like Alzheimer’s. By allowing our hormones to settle down, 12-hour fasts are becoming popular standards for many diets, in part because people tend to lose weight even if their calorie intake remains high.
What’s the best way to treat jet lag
The fatigue management team at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston helps astronauts—who, for training purposes, must fly frequently among international space agencies in Russia, Japan, and Germany—overcome jet lag two to three times faster than other travelers. The general principles can be simplified for the bleary-eyed rest of us.
First, understand that the direction you are traveling makes a difference. It’s only in the past 100 years that we’ve been able to jump time zones. Begin by determining whether you are traveling east or west. Three-quarters of people have an internal body clock that makes it harder for them to travel east.
Second, schedule when to expose yourself to light and when to avoid it. It usually takes about a day to shift one time zone. To do it faster, you must regulate your exposure to light—both natural and artificial—and darkness.
With that in mind, here are the general guidelines: If you are traveling east, you must expose yourself to light early, advancing your body clock so that it will be in sync with the new time zone. Conversely, if traveling west, you should expose yourself to light at dusk and the early part of the evening, delaying your body clock so that it will be in sync with the new time zone.
This may be best understood with an example. Let’s say that at 1 pm you board a plane in Istanbul that is scheduled to arrive in New York at 6 pm local time (when it’s 1 am in Istanbul). You’re traveling west, which means you need to retard your internal clock toward N.Y.C. time. To do that, avoid light early in the day prior to boarding your flight; try to take a nap at the end of the flight and see light in the evening after arriving. An obvious (albeit odd) way to accomplish this is to wear sunglasses, even on the plane. People will think you’re a rock star.
Third, avoid large or spicy meals in the evening at your destination because the body is not as efficient at metabolizing food at that time.
Try a relaxing tea that promotes sleep with a mixture of ooibos, melissa, chamomile, sage, cherry stalk, and lavender. Before bed, I take tart cherry juice or dried tart cherries to induce sleep and try to adjust my body to the new time zone straight away, by staying up until the normal bedtime of my destination instead of taking a nap. No plush hotel bed naps. Eat at new times, as well, so your gut catches up to your brain.