Dr. William Li: Eat To Beat Your Diet, Myths Around Metabolism, & The Top 5 Fat Fighting Foods

Elizabeth welcomes back Dr. William Li, an internationally renowned physician, scientist, and bestselling author. He dives into his latest book, "Eat to Beat: Your Diet, Burn Fat, Kill Your Metabolism, and Live Longer," already making waves on The New York Times bestseller list. Dr. Li's groundbreaking research that has revolutionized care for diseases like diabetes, blindness, heart disease, and obesity. He shares invaluable insights on metabolism, debunking misconceptions, and revealing the power of healthy fats and the top five metabolism-boosting foods.

Order Dr. William Li's new book, Eat To Beat Your Diet here.

The power is in our hands and the power is on our plate. We can make those decisions that actually help fight the harmful body fat and slows your metabolism.
-Dr. William Li


Listen now:


Podcast transcript below:

Elizabeth Stein 00:00
Hi, everyone. I'm Elizabeth Stein, founder and CEO of purely Elizabeth. And this is live purely with Elizabeth, featuring candid conversations about how to thrive on your wellness journey. This week, Dr. Li is back on the podcast talking about his brand new New York Times bestselling book, Eat to Beat your diet, burn fat, heal your metabolism and live longer. Dr. Li is an internationally renowned physician, scientist and author of The New York Times bestseller Eat to Beat disease the new science of how your body can heal itself. His groundbreaking research has led to the development of more than 30 new medical treatments that impact care for more than 70 diseases, including diabetes, blindness, heart disease and obesity. His TED Talk Can we eat to starve cancer? has garnered more than 11 million views. Dr. Li is also president and Medical Director of the angiogenesis Foundation, and he is leading global initiatives on food as medicine. In this episode, Dr. Li shares his key learnings about how we should burn fat, heal our metabolism and live our best life. He explains everything you need to know about how metabolism actually works, debunking the idea that people have a fast or slow metabolism. How healthy fat can actually help you lose weight, how inflammation impacts our metabolism, the top five foods that you can eat to fight harmful fat and improve our metabolism and the truth about soy. Dr. Li is such a wealth of information keep listening to learn more. If you haven't had the chance to try our grain free granolas yet head on over to Walmart to now find them in the gluten free Healthy Living aisle in select Walmart locations are grain free granolas have crunchy clusters of nuts, superfood seeds and creamy nut butters all baked with organic coconut oil and sweetened with coconut sugar. They are gluten free paleo and keto certified, use the link in the notes section to find clearly Elizabeth products at a Walmart store near you. Dr. Li, welcome back to the podcast. It's an absolute honor to have you back on. I am such a huge fan of yours and such a fan of your new book Eat to Beat your diet.
Dr. William Li 02:31
Thanks, Elizabeth. It's a real pleasure to be on. I always love our conversations.
Elizabeth Stein 02:35
So let's just dive right into it and start off with what was your why behind your new book? And kind of what was that process? How long has that taken in? Hey, I have this great idea of a next book to it hitting shelves.
Dr. William Li 02:51
Well, you know, after I wrote my first book, Eat to Beat disease. I wasn't really sure if I was going to write a second book to be honest with you. But during the pandemic, my publisher and agent came to me and asked if I would like to write not just one but two more books. So what happened is that people started to get connected to reading again. Right, so and so I thought about what I would do in a sequel and the sequel to our body's health defences, you know, how, what's the definition of health and what's responsible for our health, which is what I wrote about in my first book really was how do you take things to the next level, that next level of health really has to do with our metabolism. I mean, the word metabolism is something that everyone recognizes and probably thinks about once in a while. And everybody assumes that they know what it means. And I'm a doctor. So I also assumed that I probably knew a little bit more than most people. It turns out that much of what we believe about metabolisms just not true. And so what really ignited me set me on fire to write this sequel was to really be able to say, Okay, you want to take your health to the next level, we've got to improve your metabolism. But if you want to improve your metabolism, it's not just about weight loss. That's not what the focus of metabolism is. And in fact, when it comes to body fat, there's lots of really big surprises there, as well. So the deeper I got into my own research and into writing this book, the more I realized there was something quite miraculous and wonderful to communicate to the public about what do we now know about metabolism based on this new science around metabolism? How do we not fear body fat and really tame it so it actually can be used to our advantage? And then the thing that really got me kind of like put the rubber on the road is that it turns out you can actually eat foods to fight fat that actually free up your metabolism. So it's all that kind of like the inside out of what everybody thinks where you don't want to eat. You're supposed to not eat and then eat really tasteless foods, and you have to restrict yourself. And that's the only way to get a better metabolism. And turns out, you can actually do it in a very, very delicious and joyful way. So anyway, those were all the things that kind of all converged together, as I was thinking about, alright, how do I write a sequel to my first book? And the more I uncovered, the more excited I got to put it together.
Elizabeth Stein 05:21
Well, I love how you really have taken what we've thought of historically and really turned it up on its head, as you said, like, with restrictive eating and thinking there's only one way but really, it's all about being full of full of the good things and, and adding that into your life. I'm curious to hear in your research and putting the books together, what was the one thing if you could pick one that you were most surprised by?
Dr. William Li 05:53
Yeah, I had a lot, I had so many AHAs on this. The biggest aha is actually our metabolism is hardwired into our bodies, like an operating system. And that when we're adults, between the ages of 20 and 60, it turns out completely opposite to what most people think our metabolism is hardwired to be rock steady, it does not automatically decline when we hit our 40s and 45, 50, 55 does not automatically degrade. I mean, I also walked around thinking that it probably does. I mean, we.. you know, the people's experiences are that usually their shape changes, they begin to struggle with their weight in different ways. Actually, it's not true when it comes to metabolism, it is rock solid, throughout your our adult lives. In fact, it only went by the time you reach 90 years old, you know, if you're lucky to live that long. Metabolism does slow down, but only by about 17% compared to the rest of your adulthood. So we're hardwired to actually have a lot of energy. And so I think that was probably the single biggest surprise for me.
Elizabeth Stein 07:00
So can we start with what is metabolism? Because I think you kind of started with going there. And it made me think about just you know, if you were to go around and ask people in Times Square, what is metabolism? While we've all heard that terminology so much, I think it'd be really hard for a regular person to define like what that means.
Dr. William Li 07:20
Well, first of all, you know, I think no matter who you are, if you wanted to learn a definition of something, what do we all do? We go to Google Wikipedia, and liquid metabolisms. And actually, the Wikipedia definition of metabolism is pretty close to the way I was taught in medical school. And it goes something like this metabolism is the sum of all chemical reactions in the body at the cellular level to give us energy, right? Well, if that just kind of went over your head and your eyes glazed over a little bit, I can tell you saying it made my eyes glaze over, it doesn't really have a lot of meaning it doesn't like it's not tangible, what that definition is, and that definition isn't wrong. It's just that it's impossible to really understand. So one of the things that I tried to do it with my new book, eat up your diet is to bring metabolism to people in a way that is easy to understand. And what I'll say, you know, on this podcast is that our metabolism is all is a process that really does give our body energy, but it gives our body energy, like gasoline or petrol, put into the into the gas tank of your car, feeds the engine of your car. So you can actually drive from point A to point B, if you're driving a car, and you're not thinking about the process that the car designers put into place so that the gas in your fuel tank goes through fuel injector goes through, you know, from the back of the car to the front of car to the engine, you don't think about the pistons, you just go about your way. And I think that's how we are with the engines of our life, we just kind of go from point A to point B getting done, what we want, what we need to get done or what we want to get done. But the energy that it takes for us to do that does come from our metabolism. All right, so now what's interesting is in a car to get that fuel into your car, you look at the gas gauge, and it looks like a sort of heading towards empty. So what do you do? Like that's the only time you think about it like yeah, just feel gay just towards empty. All right, you're gonna pull over to the filling station, you're gonna take that nozzle out, stick it into the, into the into the gas tank, and you're gonna fill it up, turn off the engine, of course. And then basically when it's full, the tank is full, it goes click, and now you're done. Okay, but back, get back in your car, you're not thinking about the fuel anymore. Well, in our body, we don't actually have a fuel gauge like that. But we've got sensors, in our muscles in our gut, in our brain in our bloodstream, that help that do teach us tell us warn us when our fuel tanks are low. You know, anytime you feel hungry. Oh man, you know, I gotta get something to eat. Right? We've all we've all been there, that's really are the sensors in our body like that fuel tank running on empty. So what do we do, we don't go to the gas station, but we do pull over to a different kind of filling station, which is our kitchen table, or our fridge or our pantry or to a restaurant, okay, and flip it up with a menu to say, Well, what kind of fuel do I want to put my body? Right, so this is exactly like, and in that process, that metabolism, takes that fuel, and uses it to run the engine of our bodies, that's what metabolism is, by the way, the fuel, we get fuel from our food. So just like a car, we have a choice of the quality of fuel that we're actually going to put into our car, you know, at the gas station, they've got like these four or five different versions of the fuel, and you can decide which kind you're going to take, right. So look, if you put really poor quality fuel into your car, every now and then you're not going to notice it all guarantee you're not going to notice it. But if you were to use the poorest quality, lowest quality fuel, lowest quality fuel, week in and week out month after month, year in and year out, I guarantee you, your car is not going to run as long or as well as somebody who does take care of their car and uses high quality fuel most of the time. And so the food that we eat is the fuel that our body the metabolism uses to get this energy. And you know that old saying not all calories are equal. And so the bottom line is that if we put really really low quality fuel into our tank, our body, every single time we sit down to eat, you know, month after month, and year after year, what will wind up happening is that our engine is not going to run as long or as well. And that's why people talk about the quality of the food. Our metabolism is simply that process that lives inside that exists inside our body hardwired, to be able to take fuel from the food we eat, and translate that, store it and translate that into energy wherever we actually need it.
Elizabeth Stein 11:59
So if we see your earlier point that our metabolism doesn't change throughout, you know, the mid areas of our life ever, it's a consistent metabolism, or it's hardwired to be the same. So if we're feeding it, or giving it the right fuel throughout those years, it should stay the same it's when we give it the bad fuel, the bad foods that that's what's quote unquote, going to slow down our metabolism is that the right way to think about?
Dr. William Li 12:26
That that is true. And there's a reason why poor quality fuel slows down the metabolism. So here's another myth that I want to bust for the listeners. And that is that, like most people, I always believe that if you have a slow metabolism, it's going to make it easier for you to gain body fat and gain weight. Right. And so that's the curse that people always say, my sister, she was born with a fast metabolism and she's skinny as a stick and she can eat anything, never have a problem getting,
Elizabeth Stein 12:55
You blame like a slow or fast metabolism.
Dr. William Li 12:58
Right, exactly. Well, it turns out, we all are born with exact same metabolism, we come out of the box with the same metabolism just like a laptop comes out of a box. If you went to the computer store, Elizabeth and I went to the computer store, we bought the same model, took it out of the box, your house in my house, plugged it in and booted it up, it should run exactly the same way. And that's how humans are born. That's part of the new realization about metabolism there isn't you're not cursed. You can't curse your parents. For this. We're all the same. Out of the box. We're the same. However, I also used to think that slow metabolism causes you to gain body fat and gain weight. It turns out that's not the case. What actually happens is our metabolism runs along its program the way it's supposed to run. But excess body fat can sit on and slow your metabolism. So it's not the metabolism that causes the fat to grow. It's that the growing fat slows the metabolism completely the opposite. Now, why is that? A good kind of surprise. What it's good because you know if it was genetic, there's not much we can do about it, right. And that's really why people start giving up on their stuff. But if it really is the excess body fat that slows our metabolism. Well, now the power is in our hands, the power is on our plate, we can make those decisions to actually help fight the harmful body fat, that slows our metabolism. So there is a reason to be able to fight your body fat in order to help your metabolism. And by the way, this is in skinny people, as well as some people who are clearly large bodied and overweight or even obese, even thin people can have too much body fat and that's perhaps another big surprise that I actually had, which is you can't judge the book of health by its cover. So just because somebody looks thin, doesn't mean that they are healthy and don't have a lot of dangerous fat packed inside their thin frame. And just because somebody has got large a large body doesn't mean that they're unhealthy. Okay, Because depending on their body size, they may have just the right amount of fat that they need.
Elizabeth Stein 15:04
So if too much fat is slowing down your metabolism is Is it a myth is there such thing then as a fast metabolism or that just really means like an optimal metabolism?
Dr. William Li 15:17
I think fast metabolism is optimal metabolism. Yeah, you're running, you're running kind of at a high clip. Now, obviously, there are things that can actually speed up our metabolism if you're if you're if you have a hyper thyroid condition where your thyroid is really ramping up, if you are under a huge amount of short term stress. And it's going to cause your heart to race. Gotta catch that airplane, you gotta run to the gate, you know, you'll actually Supercharge Your Metabolism a little bit, but honestly, really a fast metabolism, better understood as just an optimal metabolism. And short of that, we, you know, like, it's sort of like, well, my metabolism is compromised. So I need to be able to climb back up the ladder to where, where it should be.
Elizabeth Stein 16:03
Okay, that's great. All right, so then let's dive into fat. So that's, we got this, the fat that sitting there on there that's slowing down the metabolism. And we've been thinking about fat totally wrong it sounds like.
Dr. William Li 16:15
Right, okay. So most of us, as adults, have this kind of negative perception with the idea of body fat, right? So here's how it goes, I'm sure everyone can relate to this, taking a shower in the morning, you step out of the shower, and you're drying yourself off and out of the corner of your eye, you see a lump or a bump that you're not happy with, doesn't matter what you look like, it's sort of what your idealistic your, your ideal sense of self is like, and then you go, Oh, man, I'm getting fat, I'm gaining weight, I don't like that, right. So it's negative immediately, then the next thing you do is step on a scale. And if that number isn't the number you were hoping for expecting you, it also just kind of like makes you upset, pisses you off, I gotta work out, I gotta eat better. I'm not as healthy as I want to be. That's really kind of the story of our lives. And in fact, if you go to the grocery store, and you're just kind of wheeling this, I don't care if you're vegetarian or vegan or not. Or if you eat meat, you will buy the butcher counter, right, the meat section, and you see a big steak with a big rind of fat around it. Immediately when you see that you go. I hope nobody needs that. Right? So our relationship as adults with body with fat of any sort is really quite negative, except in one condition. And that's actually when we see a baby. Because when we see a baby, everyone smiles, ear to ear, right? And what do you see that makes you smile when the baby's there? It's a big, rolly polly pudgy baby, it's gotta be a tummy, big fat cheeks, arms and legs are like balloons, you know, like the clown makes at the fair, like the poodles, you know. And so fat can't be all bad, because, you know, we see it in babies, and a healthy baby is a chubby baby. In fact, by the way, think about this, Elizabeth, if we saw a baby that had those adult aspirations of body shape, if you saw a baby with chiseled cheekbones, long, thin arms, and long, thin thighs, okay, flat tummy, like it would freak you out. You would think there's something totally wrong with that baby. And you'd be right. Okay. And so one of the things that I really learned in writing this book is how our notion, the way that we think about fat is really kind of distorted. And what we need to understand is that fat forms, when we're still in our mom's womb, we had fat forming in our body long before we had a face, we could stuff with food. All right. And basically, what happens is that about three months into pregnancy, our blood vessels are laid down, because all organs need a circulation, our nerves are laid down because all organs and cells need instructions on what to do and nerves can provide that. And then fat is actually laid down. In fact, when it forms in the womb, it's like bubble wrap, you know, that sheet of packing stuff. It's a sheet with all these little bubbles on it. And each of those little bubbles is a fat cell. We call those fat cells, adipoe sites, you know, adipose tissue is basically what we call fat tissue, adipoe sites are the cells that make up fat. And they, they roll around, they wrap around every blood vessel, like bubble wrap, okay, now you get to understand like, read ask the question, like, why are they forming around blood vessels? Well, it has to do with what fat is going to do after you're born. Okay, fat has a couple of different various has four at least four important functions that we didn't appreciate as much. One is that it's padding it's padding inside our body. Look, if we didn't have fat and we tripped on the rug and fell hard on the ground, our organs might split open. Alright, so thank goodness, we've got some padding. Second, our fat cells, actually are fuel tanks remember like that car was telling you you pull over to the gas station or pull over to the kitchen table and fill up with fuel gas stations that has the fuel for the car, the kitchen table has a has few other fridge has fuel for our that our metabolism uses to for our body. Now, when we actually eat food and put it in our mouth, another organ in our body called the pancreas creates a hormone called insulin. Now most people have heard of insulin, when you put food in your mouth and start chewing insulin go levels go way up. Insulin is a hormone that helps that energy from the food that you're chewing and swallowing. And getting into your bloodstream, pull that energy into your cells ourselves. So that we actually have the energy to run, you know, to do what we have to do what everything we're gonna do, just run the operations of our body, anything extra, our bodies really smart, our metabolism goes, Oh, I got a little extra energy, let's store it in our fuel tank. That's adipoe sites. That's body fat. So the second function, the first function of our fat is padding. The second function is our fat is a fuel tank. Every time we eat anything extra that we have that we don't need to beat our heart and blink our eyes actually gets stored into our to our fat cells. Now fat cells are very different than the fuel tank in your car fuel tank in your car is made out of metal and it's very hard. It actually is only on one shape. Fat cells are soft, so you can blow them up like a balloon. In fact, when you feel when your body metabolome fills up a fat cell with with energy with fat, it can blow up to 300 times it's size. So that's why you can't really see fat with the naked eye. You need a microscope to look at it. But when you actually start to expand that fat 300 times, yeah, you can start to see it now. So that's why we don't want to overeat because every time you eat, anything extra gets stored into the fat gets bigger and bigger. 300% Oh, you're still eating? Let's go stuff another fat cell. And that one blows up. Oh, still more. Another bite. Okay, now you fill it up. Now you run out of fat cells. Now your fat is gonna go, we need more fuel tanks. How do we make them our body fat knows how to take stem cells in our body and make brand new fat cells so that we have more fuel tanks. Alright, bring it on. Let's go ahead. Another bite of that. Now, another forkful of that food. Okay, you plug fill that. So Oh, when take thirds. Now. Besides seconds. Now the next one fills up and so on and so on. And you can kind of see how overeating makes your fat grow because you're filling up these fuel tanks. Okay. Now, that's the second function is it as a fuel tank. The third function of fat cells that's really so important is that, surprisingly, this is another surprise I had is that our body fat is actually an organ in our body. That's right. An organ like your heart, your brain, your kidneys, your lungs, and you're like, wait a minute, I thought that was just like something you could suck out burnout freeze out, poison? No, no, no, no, absolutely not. Your fat is an endocrine organ. endocrine organ means that your fat releases hormones. You know, like your thyroid releases hormones, your ovaries release hormones, your test testicles release hormones, your fat releases healthy hormones, without which you wouldn't have any energy, you would have your metabolism be wrecked. Wait a minute, I thought fat actually slows down your metabolism. That's right. If you have too much fat, it'll slow it down. And I'm going to explain to you why. What you need to have is the right amount of healthy fat. And fat makes about 15 different hormones at least 15 hormones. One of them's called leptin, which is like the volume switch of your appetite. Okay, when your leptin is low, it's like your fuel tank slow. Nope, gotta fill up on the tank. Go eat something you're hungry. When your leptin is high. Well, your tank is full. Now don't bother filling up just drive right by that filling station. And so your full, most people think of the leptin is like a switching on off switch. Nope, it's more like a volume switch, or the arrow and a fuel tank. That's one hormone another hormone is called a Depoe nektan. Now a disconnect in some most people may people may have heard of leptin, but I bet they haven't heard of a different nektan. Adiponectin is a fat hormone that partners up with your insulin to draw in energy into your body. And in fact, it's so important because we need energy all the time. So important that if I were to draw a vial of your blood Elizabeth and as a doctor and send it to the lab, and I checked the box that says test every hormone in the blood, okay, I'd get a big long list of hormones. And I'll tell you adiponecton would be the number one hormone it's 1000 times higher in your bloodstream than any other hormone or the thyroid, higher than estrogen higher than testosterone higher than any other hormone in your body cortisol. And the reason is, we need energy all the time. So adiponectin is released in huge amounts and if adiponectin by the way is the gas pedal to allow you to get in the fast lane to absorb a lot of energy. So you can run your body like a car faster and faster in the fast lane. Then another hormone called resistance slows everything down. So adiopnectin faster. Like like getting into the fast lane, you're revving up you see a truck ahead, resistant comes in to slow things down a little bit. All right. So this is really these are normal, healthy hormones. Now what happens? Remember, I told you just a few minutes ago, if you overeat and you're growing your fat, bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger, you know outstrip its blood supply with so grow so big, so fast, that it doesn't have enough blood vessels feeding it, the inside of that fat starts to die. And when it starts to die, it's called hypoxia, and can become necrotic necrotic necrosis. It's like something that doesn't have enough blood vessels, blood flow just can't live, then inflammation sets in. Inflammation comes into the fat. Now when inflammation is, in fat, guess what? All of your fat hormones don't know what to do anymore. It's like, you know, it's like a protester breaking into a concert of a symphony orchestra in the middle of the concert. It's so disruptive, your leptin goes, Oh, man, what's going on here? Should we be hungry or not hungry? I can't tell anymore. I don't know what to do. It's adiponectin. Okay, it goes, I don't know, should we be drawing more energy in or less energy, I can't tell, I can't hear. And then the resistance resistance goes, Do we slow down or speed up, I don't know what the instructions are, the moment these hormones actually go haywire. All of a sudden your metabolism is slowed way out of whack. And now you can kind of see why over eating growing extra body fat, disrupting the hormones that your fat makes, leads to slower metabolism because you've actually just wrecked it. And that's why fighting extra body fat. Lowering inflammation, suddenly, very quickly can start to set things, reboot things so that the orchestra can play again.
Elizabeth Stein 27:02
We'll be right back. Since the beginning purely Elizabeth has been committed to the healing power of food. We believe there's a direct connection between the health of our farms and soil and the health of our food. That is why I'm so excited to announce our newest product launching our number one selling our original ancient grain granola is now available in an 18 ounce value size made with regenerative organic certified coconut oil and coconut sugar. For those who are not familiar with regenerative agriculture, it focuses on improving soil health, which is known to help improve crop yields, biodiversity, carbon emissions and water conservation. You can find our value size at your local Whole Foods Market or on our website at purelyelizabeth.com. If you're interested in learning more about our sustainability journey and how it impacts the delicious food you enjoy, please visit purelyelizabeth.com/journey. Enjoy. As you think about, you know, if people were to say that I was just born fat, you know, taking taking the predisposition that we were talking about with metabolism, like I'm born with a slow metabolism. And now people use the terminology I was, you know, born fat, or predisposed to being fat. How do you think about that? Versus like the genetics versus epigenetics when it comes to fat?
Dr. William Li 28:28
Sure. Well, here's an interesting thing. It is true that we can inherit genes from our parents that predispose us to all kinds of conditions, right? I mean, think about it. How about that kid, when you were in elementary school who just was lightning fast when they were running across the field on the playground? Right? I mean, some people are just naturally going to be a little bit. They're gonna have a little more stuff in whatever it is you're talking about. And it also applies to weight. But in general, there's sort of isn't a classic I was born fat. You want to argue that? You know? Sure, actually, we're all born fat. Well, born has big, fat, chubby baby. Right? So here's the interesting thing. Remember, I told you metabolism is hardwired? Well, just within the last two years, Elizabeth, a major research study done by a guy named Herman Pontzer looked at 6,000 people from age, one week old to 90 plus years old, across the entire human lifespan, and they looked at human metabolism. And when they removed the effect of extra body fat when they removed excess body fat, in order to find out what human metabolism supposed to be. They found that all humans only go through four phases of metabolism. The stage one is from age zero, you're born to the first year of life, your metabolism skyrockets, goes up, up, up, up, up. Alright. Phase two is from one year old to 20 years old. It goes down, down, down, down, down Now, why is that phase two surprising is that anybody who's seen a teenager, or lived with a teenager knows that they're eating two or three dinners, they're bouncing off the wall with energy, they're growing, there's sprouting a beansprout, you automatically assume that their metabolism must be going up, right? Wrong. It's actually heading down, down, down, down down to adult levels. Now, why am I bringing this up in the context of like young kids gaining a lot of weight, okay, it's because that first phase, from the time you're born to one year old, your metabolism is skyrocketing, 50% higher than what it's going to be when it's an adult. So anything that you're exposed to, is going to get processed really fast in your body. Now, there are things called thali meats that are found or shed from plastic bottles being keys, stuffed animals, car seats, think about all the things that we expose young children to, that are shedding these chemicals during a high metabolism phase that is going to start to get processed in their body. And by the way, some of these talents, you know what they're also known as they're called obesogens. These chemicals, actually warp your metabolism, your hardwiring in a way that makes it more likely that you're going to actually gain extra body fat. So, you know, I'm glad you're bringing this up, because most people will talk to me, they are talking to me about adult obesity. But the fact that you know, we're talking right now about like, what could possibly explain this youth epidemic? You can't just blame the cereal companies and soda companies? Yeah, they're, you know, they're an easy punching bag. Right? It's easy to villainize them. But I think there's a lot more to the story than meets the eye.
Elizabeth Stein 31:42
Yeah, that's super interesting. So as you think about the what you learned in the book, we haven't even touched on yet the 150 foods, but really, to dive in a little bit into the what are the ways that we can burn fat heal our metabolism. And before we get into the food, I'd love to dive into thermo Genesis brown fat, because that I thought was super fascinating. And something that maybe everyone hasn't heard before.
Dr. William Li 32:13
Yeah, okay, great, cool. Well, okay, body fat, I told you three functions of healthy body fat, padding, fuel tank, and makes hormones. It's an organ and endocrine organ. There's a fourth important role, which is that a certain kind of fat called brown fat actually acts like a space heater, it can generate heat. Now, what do I mean by special kinds of fat? Well, fat comes in two main colors. I don't know if you've had to do this recently. But I have, you gotta you gotta paint a room. It's like a project home project. So you go to the paint store, and you go to the Benjamin Moore section or whatever, whatever. Whoever makes the paints. Sure, Sherwin Williams. And you got to go pick out all the different paint colors, right? And you got to pick out well, that actually comes in two colors, just like the Benjamin Moore, the paint palettes. So there's white color fat, and there's brown colored fat, right. And when you look under the microscope, this is exactly what it looks like. white fat looks kind of white, transparent. Brown fat looks really really brown. Now white fat, let me explain to you. white fat is wiggly, jiggly, lumpy, bumpy white fats, what's under the arm, it's underneath the chin. white fat is the muffin top, it's in the thoughts and the butt white, that's usually what people see. And want to kind of get rid of, or reshape. But white fat isn't always visible. When it's visible. It's called subcutaneous. It's still white fat we're talking about, but the dangerous kind of white fat is inside the tube of your body. So no matter whether you're a big person with a bigger body size, or you're a tiny petite person with a smaller body tube, the fact of the matter is you can you can stuff a lot of extra fat in there, you can't see it. All right when it's inside deep inside your your body cavity, but it's very dangerous because when that fat billows up and grows and fills up with fuel from overeating, like I talked about earlier, and that center that fat packed inside your belly starts to dine inflammation occurs inside that visceral fat. Visceral means gut gut fat. It's white fat, not under the skin. It's deep in your your gut. Man that's really dangerous because that visceral fat wrapped around your organs is like a baseball glove, inflammatory and inflamed baseball glove wrapped around all of your organs. Okay, and that's really dangerous because the inflammation leaks out and now your whole body is actually inflamed. Now, here's the key thing that's white fat, but you need you need some white fat in order to be able to have all those healthy functions I just talked about. Brown sets different. Brown fat is not lumpy, bumpy, wiggly jiggly. It's not near the surface and you can't see it. Brown fat is paper thin and it's not near this skin, it's close to the bone. And it's it's strapped to near the muscles and a bone around your neck, underneath your breastbone behind your breastbone, a little on your arms like a girdle a little bit in your belly. And that's it. Okay. And what's the purpose of brown fat? Brown fat fires up like a nuclear engine to generate heat. Now, why does it actually do that? Well, it turns out brown fat is what animals that Hibernate actually have. So think about a woodchuck or, you know, some hibernating animal. What do they do? It's Fall time and end to the fall going into the winter. Snow hasn't come down yet. They got to eat, they eat, they eat, they overeat, they actually stuffed themselves, fat cells get bigger and bigger fuel tanks get bigger, more and more stuff, right? So this is why a lot of this why hibernating animals build up their body fat to get ready for the winter. Now they go into their cave, and it's freezing cold. And now that cold temperature activates brown fat in these hibernating animal and the brown fat fires up. Okay, it fires up to generate heat, right? Because think about animals like pretty much out there with with nothing in the freezing cold. But it doesn't freeze to death. Because it generates heat brown heat fat generates heat. And like it when it generates heat. It's got to draw that energy from someplace you know where it gets it from? It gets it from the stored flight fat that the animal chopped up on all winter long right now.
Elizabeth Stein 36:29
That's like three hundred percent size. Right?
Dr. William Li 36:32
Exactly. Right. That's why these hibernating animals are like roly poly, okay, they're storing up for the for the winter. Now, humans also have brown fat, and the brown fat also will generate heat. And when human brown fat generates heat, it's got to draw the fuel from someplace and just like an animal hibernating animal, it draws brown human brown fat draws energy from your white fat. Oftentimes, your visceral fat, the fat that's actually inside the tube of your body, the harmful fat, so good fat, brown fat can burn down white fat, bad fat when it's in excess. And that's really why by the way, this is one explanation for why cold plunges were actually work, you go to our cold plunge. All right, what's what's going to happen? Now you're activating your brown fat. By the way, I'd like to give a demo to show people how brown fat actually works. So brown fats like this. Okay, this is a little lighter torch, you see that? That flame, I'm actually showing you that flame is generating heat, okay, and it's gotta get that fuel from someplace. Now in this in this lighter, it's actually drawing it from the center of the lighter. But if this were brown fat, and this is brown colored, actually, it's drawing the fuel from your white fat. So every time you light up your brown fat, you're burning down fuel from your white fat. That's a also a big surprise that we can actually use fat to fight fat, good fat to fight bad fat. Cold temperatures will do it. But so will foods. And that's really where the 150 foods come from, that I write about in my book, Eat to Beat your diet is like, oh my gosh, if we can actually take charge of our body fat, use good fat to fight bad fat. And I don't want to be in a cold plunge all the time. What else can I use? And it turns out foods can actually do that.
Elizabeth Stein 38:12
Alright, so let's get into your top couple foods to fight that to really ignite that thermogenesis. What are they?
Dr. William Li 38:12
Okay so you're asking me to choose like top three or top 5?
Elizabeth Stein 38:12
Let's do top 5.
Dr. William Li 38:14
All right, top five out of 150 foods that I wrote about. So anybody who really wants to get the entire list. You got it, you can get it in my book. But here's the thing. In this section of the book, I wrote about all the foods, I wrote about it as an author imagining that you the reader are sitting in my shopping cart as they enter a grocery store. So Elizabeth, just like you know, you and I probably sat in our mom's grocery cart when we were kids. And she was pushing us around. I'm pushing the reader around the grocery store whispering in their ear, what they should put into the cart in order to be able to activate their metabolism is supported by research. Okay, so we go into the produce section, and there are lots and lots of foods there. What are some of them in my favorites like tomatoes, I love tomatoes. There's something in tomatoes called lycopene. We even know what's in these foods that can activate the brown fat, lycopene will light up brown fat. And by the way, studies have been done in Portugal, for example, at the University of Porto, where they gave young women just just one ripe tomato to eat per day, and they can actually shrink an inch off of their waistline by shrinking their visceral fat. Just one tomato, you don't need a lot. Besides tomatoes. What are some of the other things that's not my first one? What are some of the other things I love mushrooms, mushrooms have a lot of soluble fiber, soluble fiber, add glue can activate activates is good for your gut microbiome. Your gut microbiome streamlines your metabolism and it helps to burn harmful body fat and it actually activates brown fat So fresh mushrooms are really great.
Elizabeth Stein 40:02
Do you hvae a favorite type of mushroom?
Dr. William Li 40:03
You know my current I love all kinds of mushrooms. I will. I'll tell you some of the mushrooms I like but even the lowly white button mushroom the simple inexpensive one has got a lot of health Goodness It activates your health defenses good fear activates brown fat. You know the things I like we shitake mushrooms. I love morel mushrooms when you can get them in season. I like my Takei. It's kind of meaty, and you slice them up and you sear them on a plateau or on a grill or roast them absolutely delicious. And so the thing is that you don't think about it having a lot of dietary fiber, but it does. I love pears, pears are really also have something called chlorogenic acid, and Chlorogenic Acid activates your brown fat to burn down white fat. And studies have been done as well on pears, you only need to eat two pears a day over the course of a month to begin seeing visible burndown of harmful white fat. That's weight loss, shrinking waist circumference, improving blood cholesterol lowering, you can reverse metabolic syndrome, actually with this. And so the really interesting thing is that you can go to the fresh section of the grocery grocery store and pick Polly's things that I think I gave you for them, three or four. Now let's go to the middle aisle. And this is supposedly like stay out of the middle aisle. But I'm going to tell you go into the middle aisle and look for the treasures that are in there that activate your metabolism. So I'll settle on one that I actually like very much. But you know olive oil will do it. Lentils will do it. Even can white beans will actually do it. But I like chili flakes. You know, I like spicy food. And so if you have chili and chili flakes, you put on your pizza or whatever it is those chili flakes, the thing that gives you the zing on your tongue. Okay, basically lights up a switch on your tongue. And when you feel that heat on your tongue, it sends a message to your brain it text message your brain say Hey, turn on guys. And your brain will actually release a hormone called norepinephrine. You actually feel it running down the side of your neck, the nerves. Next time, Elizabeth that you have anything spicy if you like spicy food, close your eyes and block out the sound. And literally as you put the the zing in your mouth and you feel it. You watch the feel the hormones being released on the side of your neck. Okay, that's really amazing. And what is it doing? That is activating your brown fat because it's on the side of your neck, that paper thin stuff. Alright, so you can feel your brown fat being activated. Now what's the hormone this release is called noradrenaline. noradrenaline. noradrenaline, by the way, actually makes you sweat opens up your nostrils and makes you flush. And so that's basically why people who eat hot foods start to sweat as well. Right? So anyway, it all makes sense. And so chilli flakes are something that I like in the middle out, but there's all these other foods that I like as well, I'm gonna throw one bonus food in because I think it's something that people should know about. It's actually coffee. I drink coffee every day, I did a gap year before I went to medical school, I lived in Italy and I picked up this wonderful habit of you know, loving a nice cup of espresso or, you know, coffee. And it turns out coffee also activates your brown fat. coffee contains Chlorogenic Acid just like pears. But organic coffee made from organic beans have much more chlorogenic acid like three times as much compared to or conventionally grown beans. So if you want to get that extra metabolic boost from your coffee, you know, the organic coffee beans are actually really, really better for you. But those are some of my favorites to choose.
Elizabeth Stein 43:44
I was gonna say it's hard to choose, I know that there's 150 in them. And I really appreciate how in the book, you not only give the explanation for the why and when it's what the plant does to the body, but also the dosage amount because as the customer consumer, it's like okay, I know tomatoes, good, but how much do I need every day to get these benefits? So you lay it out so nicely, I think a great takeaway for people. One question I had on their on your list of 150 was soy which I feel like there's been so much controversy so it was interested that you are you know, a pro soy and if there's anything you want to share about that or Sure,
Dr. William Li 44:24
sure. Absolutely. Look, you know soy is one of these foods that has gotten a bad reputation in some quarters for different reasons. It's GMO, a big food company industry actually owns a soy and soy we don't like them, or soy has phyto estrogens and those estrogens are dangerous for women because some forms of breast cancer actually are are spurred on by by estrogen. Soy soy must be dangerous for women. Well, look, I'm not going to comment on the big food part of it. And I'm not going to talk about the GMO component of it. I think for the most part, so much of our food supply is has some genetic modification that it's really hard to avoid. But I will tell you that the issue about soy and breast cancer is a gigantic urban legend that that actually is spread from doctor, even among the medical community, doctors spread it to other doctors, of course to their patients, and it's just not true. I'm a cancer researcher. I study the mechanisms on what could be helpful and what can be harmful. I will tell you that the myth of soy phytoestrogens being dangerous comes from well intentioned people who know that some forms of human breast cancer can be triggered by estrogen. And so when they heard that soy has phyto estrogens, plant estrogens, they're like, oh, my gosh, they must be dangerous to eat. It turns out, and because I'm a scientist, I can look at the chemistry. If you look at this physical structure of human estrogen, and look at the physical structure of soy phyto, estrogen, they don't look anything alike. Okay. In fact, soy estrogen blocks the human estrogens like Mother Nature's tamoxifen, it's actually does the same thing that a drug is designed to actually do to prevent to treat and prevent breast cancer. And in Asia, this is like the proof in the pudding. You know, in Asia, when women get breast cancer, their doctors don't tell them don't stay away from soy, it's very dangerous don't have at a mommy. In fact, women in Asia actually drink plenty of soy. And they eat plenty of soy foods, there's like hundreds of soy foods that are out there. And the real kind of rubber meets the road was a study called the Shanghai breast cancer study, where researchers looked at the women at the highest risk from breast cancer, because they already had breast cancer. And they found that those women who ate more soy ate more soy products actually had lower mortality 30% More or less lower mortality if they ate more soy, okay. And if they had their cancer treated with surgery, or chemo radiation, and wasn't there, those women who had more soy had a better chance of it not coming back.
Elizabeth Stein 47:12
Oh, so thank you for dispelling all those myths.
Dr. William Li 47:15
Listen, I, you know, I love science. And I like talking about the good thing, like all the new discoveries that are exciting. But the one thing I really feel like I need to wield a mallet on is to really bash urban legends because I think it's, it's, it's so confusing to people, and then they feel like they don't know what to do. And this is where I think, you know, sort of like the, the headlights of science, allow us to kind of look what's ahead. And so we can know whether or not there's something dangerous or not.
Elizabeth Stein 47:49
Absolutely. All right, well, we're gonna wrap it up with some three rapid fire questions. What's one thing that you're working on for your own personal health?
Dr. William Li 48:05
I'm actually trying to destress like most of us, I think after three years of feeling a lot of tension with a pandemic, and worry, if not for yourself and for your family, or the community around us. Like I'm trying to figure out how to do a reset. And it's not easy. I think all of us have been a little traumatized by, you know, this once in 100 year event that affected every human on the planet. And so for me, I'm, I'm aware that I need to actually do do better. So I'm actually trying to de stress,
Elizabeth Stein 48:38
love that. You've done some incredible work in your life. What are you most proud of? The one thing you had to pick one?
Dr. William Li 48:47
You know, I started a nonprofit, a charity organization 29 years ago called the angiogenesis Foundation. And we looked at common denominators of disease, we thought that might be a gap that everyone else was missing. And we were right. And out of looking at common denominators of disease. My organization, as a charity helped push and drive the successful development of 43 FDA approved treatments for cancer, to heal wounds and to prevent vision loss. So I sleep pretty well at night, you know, kind of knowing I gave at the office in a really big way.
Elizabeth Stein 49:24
Yeah, it's incredible. So I'm going to drill down once more on that question and say of all of those 43 If there is one that you're most proud of there one,
Dr. William Li 49:34
there isn't one but I will tell you something that that has made a huge difference in people's lives, which is that there's a whole set of treatments or vision loss in as people get older. There's something called age related macular degeneration, blood vessels leaking and growing and leaking in the back of the eye. You know, here we are talking and if you have your and they leak you it destroys your Vision you can't see in front of you. Like if you open your somebody reads the doorbell, you open a door, he can't recognize who it is you can't read, you can't drive. And you know, here we are at this point in time where people are talking, you know, wellness influencers, and researchers and investors are all talking about longevity. Right? And you know, you wouldn't want to live longer if you could not see what's in front of you. Right, that would be horrible. And so, I do think that of all the treatments that you know, we have been involved with helping to foster and push the development of the ones that say vision are probably the unsung heroes of being able to live long, vibrant lives.
Elizabeth Stein 50:39
That's amazing. Well, Dr. Lee, thank you so much for your time today. You are such a wealth of knowledge. And this was really just scratching the surface of your new book. So everyone, go out and get it and follow. Dr. Lee, thank you so much for your time today. I so appreciate it. prosperous life
Dr. William Li 50:59
to you as well. Thank you. Thanks.
Elizabeth Stein 51:03
Thanks so much for joining me and live purely with Elizabeth. I hope you feel inspired to thrive on your wellness journey. If you enjoy today's episode, don't forget to rate subscribe and review. You can follow us on Instagram at purely_elizabeth to catch up on all the latest. See you next Wednesday on the podcast.