What Does Dr. Sukol Eat?

Folks make a lot of assumptions about what I eat. In recent weeks it’s been announced (in my presence, and not by me) that I eat vegan, as well as Paleo, that I follow Weight Watchers, and that I’m just lucky, whatever that is, so I can eat whatever I want. In a funny way, this last part is true; I do eat whatever I want. It’s just not what you might think I want. At the grocery store, you can watch my neighbors taking nonchalant peeks into my grocery cart. So I’m going to spare you the trouble and explain it myself, right here and now.

For breakfast this morning, I had a cup of black coffee, a handful of grapes and a big bowl of soup, a perfect choice for a day when the temperature is 15F. Made late last week, this simple soup had just a few ingredients: turkey stock, turkey meat, greens (swiss chard, bok choy), and the juice of a squeezed lemon. That’s all and that’s enough. I made the stock from a leftover turkey carcass. [Place the carcass in a large soup pot, cover with water, add a tablespoon of vinegar, cover with the lid and cook in oven at 200F for 18-24 hours. Then strain through a colander lined with cheesecloth.] Nothing wasted.

What’s for lunch? Let me preface the answer to this question with a very important caveat: I almost always (99%) bring my lunch to work. It might be leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, like stew or vegetables. It often contains some beans, tofu, chicken, or fish. Or an avocado, sprinkled with salt, or a bowl of homemade soup (which I bring to work in a tightly sealed Ball jar), and a couple pieces of fruit. Favorite fruits this time of year are clementines, oranges, bananas. At the moment, the kitchen counter also holds two Chinese apples and a large, beautiful, red pomegranate. Afternoon snack consists of nuts (any and all kinds), another piece of fruit, and usually a piece of dark chocolate. I keep a small knife and small flat cutting board in my desk drawer at work to slice up apples, oranges, and the occasional mango.

Dinner might be salmon, cod, bean soup, eggs poached in tomato sauce, salmon, turkey meatballs, canned tuna. There is always a green salad, and always a vegetable, like asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, eggplant, carrots, or celery (braised, steamed, sauteed, or roasted). Sometimes there are a couple of vegetables, but one is always green. There is the occasional sweet potato (baked), quinoa, kasha, or brown rice, but never more than once or twice a week. On the nights when no one has time to cook dinner, I heat up leftovers and make a salad. Salad means lettuce, olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt, and that is all. Rarely, a few olives get sprinkled on, or maybe some cucumber or tomato slices. Very rarely.

So, what do I eat? Well, it’s not any of the diets listed above, at least not exactly. I eat no gluten, which means no wheat, barley, or rye. I eat no dairy, so there’s no milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream. Why? Let’s just say that, for many reasons, it’s better that way. I highly recommend it. And I eat virtually no processed food-like items. No soda, no corn syrup or modified corn starch. No “vegetable oil,” and that goes double if it’s partially hydrogenated. The benefits of avoiding manufactured calories cannot be overstated.

Well then, what do I eat? Everything else. Real food, and plenty of it. Like loads of vegetables and fruit, and fish. Occasional beef or poultry. Eggs. Nuts. Beans (often in soup). Some whole grains. A friend pointed out that my diet probably has significantly more variety than the standard American diet, heavily weighted as it is with wheat, corn, and soy. Since I eat virtually no processed food-like items, pretty much the only corn I eat is straight off the cob, and the only soy I eat is from a bowl of fresh, green edamame.

Today for lunch I had marinated broccoli salad, sautéed box choy, leftover salmon, and a few salty black olives. I think I’ll make scrambled eggs and tomatoes tomorrow.

And what did my most recent set of lab results show? The total cholesterol was 186 (goal: below 200), and HDL cholesterol was 76 (goal: above 55). LDL was 92 (goal: below 130), and triglycerides were 92 (goal: below 150). My fasting blood sugar was 82, and my average blood sugar over the past 3 months was 100 (corresponding to a Hemoglobin A1C of 5.1). My B12 levels were in the normal range, which means that my diet supplies a generous amount of B12. The last time my Vitamin D level was checked, it was in the 40’s. I probably could use a supplement in the winter, when I both leave for and return home from work in the dark. In the summer I like to walk outside in the light every day.

So how am I doing? 

Everything You Need to Know About Your Cholesterol

Every once in a while, a friend thrusts their latest cholesterol lab results in front of me and asks a barrage of questions:

“What do you think of these results, are they okay?”
“My doctor said the HDL is too low.”
“Why are my triglycerides so high?”
“What should the LDL be?”
“And why is the total so high if the individual numbers are good?”

This week we’re talking about what your cholesterol profile results mean, and how to make them better. Continue reading

Should I Be Drinking Whole Milk?

After medical school, my friend Brian moved to Baltimore and became a pain management specialist. He wrote to ask my opinion about the newly re-constituted controversy about whole milk vs. skim milk. In Brian’s pain management practice, he has noticed that diabetic and pre-diabetic patients seem to struggle with more pain and arthritis than patients without these diagnoses.  

Continue reading