Interviews / August 16, 2012

Ralph Felder, M.D., Ph.D.

By Charles Platkin, PhD

Diet Detective: If you had to pinpoint one single food or activity that would help a person live a longer, better quality of life — what would you suggest?

Dr. Felder: Learning techniques and methods to cook in a healthy manner, specifically learning to cook seafood/fish and fruits and vegetables, these are the keys to a better quality of life.

Diet Detective: What’s the most impressive research that’s come out about anti-ageing in the last few years (something we haven’t heard about, but the research is really overwhelming)?

Dr. Felder: Clearly the role of diet in protecting the endothelium (the Teflon like lining of the blood vessels, which protects us from strokes and heart attacks when properly functioning) as described in The Bonus Years Diet/the polymeal (British Medical Journal December 2004) is the most important research over the past few years. In my speaking across the country, almost no one in the lay public is familiar with the concept of the endothelium and its absolutely critical role in prolonging and improving the quality of life, although this has been the most important conceptual breakthrough in medicine in the last 25 years and has revolutionized how cardiologists, neurologists, and internists practice.

Diet Detective: You mention seven miracle foods: Red wine, chocolate, fish, fruits vegetables, nuts, garlic. Why should we care about them? And what are you telling us about these foods that we have read or seen in the media?

Dr. Felder: All of the seven foods in The Bonus Years Diet have been selected because they help to protect the “Teflon” like lining cells (endothelium) of the blood vessels, which are critical in keeping the blood flowing smoothly and the vessels dilated. By eating the foods in the amounts prescribed by the diet, all of the major risk factors of cardiovascular disease are predictably and simultaneously lowered: blood pressure, bad cholesterol (LDL), inflammation and clotting in the arteries. We dose foods, rather than pills, with a resulting nutritional prescription that reproduces the same 75% reduction in cardiovascular disease (stroke, heart attacks, kidney disease), as the usual drug “cocktail” of pills that physician typically prescribe. This represents a conceptual breakthrough which your readers have never before seen presented; a radically new “food/prescription” paradigm for prolonging and improving life. We bring the latest in cardiovascular research out of the laboratory and into your readers’ kitchens, a practical and delicious plan to scientifically add 6.4 bonus years to their lives.

Diet Detective: How will these foods increase our quality of life? And isn’t most of the research on these foods funded by their respective industry trade associations?

Dr. Felder: The research that we used for the book comes only from peered reviewed medical and nutritional journals, we adhered to the highest academic and scientific standards in selecting the studies we based the diet on. This means that the risk reduction numbers we use in the book are accurate and widely accepted, and are not tainted or biased by any commercial considerations.

Diet Detective: If you had to pick only one, what do you consider the world’s most perfect food?

Dr. Felder: Salmon has to be the most perfect food. Very high in omega three fatty acids, high in protein, low in carbohydrates and saturated fats, and incredibly versatile in the kitchen.

Diet Detective: Is there anything about yourself that you’ve changed your mind about in the last 20 years?

Dr. Felder: Twenty years ago, I believed in a low fat diet, avoiding all kinds of fat. Now I know that many kinds of fat are critical in promoting health: the omega three fatty acids in fish, the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids in nuts and olive oil. We still need to keep away from the saturated fats, but fish and nuts are a real plus to everyone’s diet.

Diet Detective: If you could eat one forbidden food whenever you wanted without gaining weight or losing years of life, what would it be?

Dr. Felder: Butter without a doubt, it is great to sauté with, great to finish sauces off with, and great to bake with.

Diet Detective: What dessert do you dream about?

Dr. Felder: Strawberry shortcake with real whip cream, it was my mother’s favorite and mine also!

Diet Detective: What dessert do you dream about that’s healthy and low-cal?

Dr. Felder: Blackberry coulis served with low-fat vanilla yogurt.

Diet Detective: What’s your favorite healthy meal to prepare?

Dr. Felder: Pan roasted salmon with Shanghai red sauce

Diet Detective: What’s your favorite healthy ingredient? What’s the one thing you’d suggest people keep in their kitchen if they want to cook healthy and low-calorie meals?

Dr. Felder: Garlic — it is essential for cooking Chinese and Italian recipes, my two favorite cuisines. One food to have in the kitchen: fish/seafood

Diet Detective: Do you have a favorite low calorie healthy recipe or cooking tip?

Dr. Felder: Water blanching vegetables, poultry, and meats: An easy and totally fat-free and calorie-free method of producing beautiful and tender food.

Diet Detective: Do you have a Calorie Bargain?

Dr. Felder: Five spiced baked bean curd. You can find this in the refrigerated section of Asian and Chinese markets, it is packed in a cellophane wrapper, small brown squares of bean curd that have been pressed and then soaked and baked in five spiced powder (that gives them the dark brown appearance). Many people have trouble cooking with bean curd (tofu) because of the high water content. With five spiced (also called baked bean curd) most of the water has been removed by pressing, so you can cut the squares into small strips or dice and use it in stir fries just like beef or pork, but without the calories and fat. This has a very mellow flavor; you can cut the squares in half and eat them without cooking them first, as a replacement for cheese and serve with crackers. Because the water has been removed, they cook up very quickly in stir fries. But you can also dice them and add them to eggs, for example, for an extra soy and protein kick. And the final bonus: they are very inexpensive!

Diet Detective: What’s the best book about health that you’ve read?

Dr. Felder: The American Way of Life Need Not be Hazardous to Your Health, by Dr. John Farquhar, director of the Stanford Heart Disease Prevention Program. When I first read this book when I was a medical student at Stanford it changed my entire attitude toward diet and health. It is a landmark book.

Diet Detective: Define failure.

Dr. Felder: Knowingly not doing your best.

Diet Detective: What’s the most bodacious chance you’ve ever taken?

Dr. Felder: Taking off for six months during my medical residency to work in a hospital in Germany.

Diet Detective: What was your worst summer job?

Dr. Felder: The first three months of my medical internship (June, July, and August) at the old City Hospital in St. Louis. The hospital was built in 1875 and was not air conditioned. It practically killed me.

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