Posts Tagged ‘diet’

By Chris Kesser (web)

Bone broth and your health

At this point, I hope you have a solid understanding of the components of bone broth. Now let’s get on to the health benefits!

Skin health
Skin is composed of two layers, the epidermis and the dermis. The epidermis, or upper layer, is composed of keratinocytes and is largely responsible for skin barrier function. Underneath is the dermis, a dense matrix of collagen, along with some GAGs, that provides structural and nutritive support (22). Keratin, collagen, and GAGs are abundant in bone broth, particularly if the skin from the animal is included in the cooking process.

In a 2014 randomized and controlled trial, collagen consumption significantly improved skin elasticity and tended to improve skin moisture content (23). Collagen scaffolds are widely used in medical applications to promote tissue regeneration and heal wounds (24). One study in mice found that supplementing the diet with gelatin was able to protect against UV-induced skin damage (25). GAGs offer additional skin benefits. The GAG hyaluronic acid has been shown to promote skin cell proliferation and increase the presence of retinoic acid, which improves the skin’s hydration (26), and dermatan sulfate has been shown to aid in cell turnover and wound repair (27).

Metabolic and cardiovascular health
Remember glycine, an amino acid that is particularly abundant in bone broth? Glycine plays a role in blood sugar regulation by controlling gluconeogenesis, the production of glucose in the liver (28), and has even been suggested to counteract some of the negative effects of dietary fructose consumption (29). Glycine has also been shown to reduce the size of heart attacks (30).

Furthermore, glycine balances out methionine intake. Muscle meats and eggs are high in methionine, an amino acid that raises homocysteine levels in the blood. High homocysteine is a significant risk factor for serious diseases like heart disease, stroke, mental illness, and fractures and increases our need for homocysteine-neutralizing nutrients like vitamins B6, B12, folate, and choline (31). Those eating lots of animal protein need adequate glycine to balance out the methionine from meat, and you’ll get that from bone broth. For more information, check out Denise Minger’s awesome presentation in which she discusses this very issue.

Muscle and performance
Glycine is also important for the synthesis of hemoglobin and myoglobin, which transport oxygen throughout the blood and muscle tissue, respectively (32). Glycine also increases creatine levels, which leads to an increase in anaerobic (high-intensity) exercise capacity, and stimulates the secretion of human growth hormone (HGH), which may enhance muscle repair (33, 34, 35). Recent evidence suggests that proline may play a role in regulating the mTOR cellular signaling pathway, which integrates signals from nutrients, growth factors, stress factors, and cellular energy status to affect cell function and growth. Proline, together with other amino acids, activates mTOR, resulting in enhanced muscle protein synthesis (36).

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the chemical form of energy in the body that can be used to perform work. Phosphorus is required for the formation of this compound, and ATP cannot be biologically active unless bound to a magnesium ion. Phosphorus deficiency has been shown to reduce muscle performance (37, 38). Both phosphorus and magnesium are present in bone broth in modest amounts.

Bones and joints
It should be pretty obvious that the best way to get the nutrients necessary to build bone is from bone itself! Drinking bone broth provides all of the raw material for building healthy bones: calcium, phosphorus, amino acids, and more. A deficiency of the raw materials for building bone can result in a number of different conditions. For example, osteoporosis is associated with reduced levels of collagen and calcium in the bones (39, 40). Of course, you’ll also need the nutrients required to support the building process, like vitamins D, K2, and C. (To learn more about building healthy bones and where to get these nutrients on a Paleo diet, check out this article.)

As for joint health, lubrication by GAGs is the key to a full range of motion, whereby part of one bone can slide smoothly and painlessly over part of another. Sure, you could buy expensive supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate to keep your joints healthy, but why, when these and a host of other beneficial nutrients can easily be obtained from bone broth? After all, GAGs are not the only component of broth that improves joint health. Collagen supplementation has been shown to reduce joint pain in athletes (41).

Gut health
A healthy colon contains a single tight layer of epithelial cells, a thick mucus layer, and a diverse collection of microbes. Microbial dysbiosis and a thinning of this mucus layer can quickly compromise the integrity of the epithelial barrier. Microbes and dietary proteins can then “leak” into the bloodstream and invoke an inflammatory response by the immune system. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a component of bacterial cell walls, stimulates a particularly robust immune response (42).

Bone broth is a staple of gut-healing diets, and rightfully so! Gelatin absorbs water and helps maintain the layer of mucus that keeps gut microbes away from the intestinal barrier. In a mouse model, gelatin supplementation reduced the severity of colitis by strengthening the mucus layer and altering gut microbiota composition (43). Gelatin and glycine have also been shown to reduce the inflammation caused by LPS (44, 45). Glycine has been shown to protect against gastric ulcers as well (46). Glutamine also helps maintain the integrity of the gut mucosa and intestinal barrier (47).

Bone broth has so many benefits to gut health that I had to make digestion its own section! Drinking broth with meals is an excellent way to aid digestion. Glycine stimulates the production of stomach acid, which is essential for the proper digestion of food (48). Low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria) is surprisingly common in developed countries and can lead to a number of health issues.

Glycine is also an important component of bile acid, which is released to aid in the digestion of fats in the small intestine (49). Bile acid is important for maintaining normal blood cholesterol levels. The presence of gelatin in the gut also draws fluid into the intestine, improving gut motility and supporting healthy bowel movements. Low blood levels of collagen have been associated with inflammatory bowel disease (50).

Detoxification, liver, and kidney health
Recently, there has been some concern regarding the lead toxicity of bone broth. However, the vitamins and minerals that are abundant in bone broth, and in Paleo diets in general, can protect against the harmful effects of toxins like lead. Glycine also stimulates production of glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant (51). In animal models, glycine has been shown to speed recovery from alcohol-induced fatty liver disease (52), protect liver cells against hypoxia (53), and improve survival after liver transplantation (54). In humans, glycine reduces oxidative stress in patients with metabolic syndrome (55).

Proline plays a role in apoptosis, the process by which the body breaks down old cells, clears up waste products, and recycles raw materials for use in healthy cells (56). Proline can scavenge free radicals, effectively acting as an antioxidant (57). Glutamine, on the other hand, acts as a nontoxic nitrogen transporter, carrying amine groups safely through the bloodstream to the kidney. In the kidney, the conversion of glutamine to glutamate regulates acid–base balance by producing ammonium (58).

Eye health
Yes, bone broth may improve eye health. The cornea consists of three primary layers: an outer epithelial layer, a middle layer, and an inner endothelial layer. Hyaluronic acid stimulates proliferation of the epithelial cells that line the cornea (59) and is commonly used during eye surgery to help replace lost fluids (60). The middle, or stromal, layer is largely made of collagen, keratan sulfates, and chondroitin sulfates. Keratan sulfates have been shown to be essential to the transparency of the cornea (61), while chondroitin sulfate has been shown to influence the development of neural pathways in the retina (62). The amino acid glycine has also been shown to delay the progression of cataracts in a rat model of diabetes (63).

Brain health
Numerous components of bone broth influence the nervous system. The healthy fats in bone broth, particularly if made with marrow bones, provide a source of fuel and raw material for the brain. After all, more than 60 percent of the human brain is composed of fat (64). Glycine has been shown to protect against neuronal death after ischemic stroke (65) and likely plays a pertinent role in the development of the brain in the womb and during the first few months after birth (66). Calcium is essential for nerve conduction. When a nerve cell is stimulated, the influx of calcium triggers neurotransmitter release, allowing the signal to be passed on to the next nerve cell. Calcium deficiency affects this transmission and can result in symptoms of depression, insomnia, and hyperactivity. Lastly, chondroitin sulfate plays an important role in regeneration and plasticity in the central nervous system (67), meaning it is essential for learning and memory.

Mood and sleep
Bone broth can also improve both mood and sleep. Glycine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning it can decrease anxiety, promote mental calmness, and help with sleep (68). One study found that three grams of glycine given to subjects before bedtime produced measurable improvements in sleep quality (69).

Unlike methionine, glycine does not compete with tryptophan for transport across the blood–brain barrier (70). Tryptophan is the precursor (raw material) for serotonin, a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being. Serotonin, in turn, is a precursor to melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep–wake cycles. This is why a diet that includes bone broth and fattier cuts of meat can help prevent the depression and insomnia that some people may experience when eating a diet high in methionine-rich lean meat and eggs.

Immune function
While ancient folk wisdom suggests that bone broth can cure the common cold, modern science has confirmed that the components of bone broth do indeed influence the immune system. For example, glycine receptors have been identified on the outer surface of several different types of immune cells (71, 72). The effect is a dampening of the immune response, resulting in reduced inflammatory signaling molecules and oxidative stress that may reduce damage to lungs and other tissues (73). The GAG heparin sulfate has been shown to influence B cell function, T cell function, and macrophage activity (74).

Where to source bone broth

To summarize, bone broth has an incredible number of potential health benefits and is rooted in a long history of human use. It makes an excellent addition to any diet and can be used in a multitude of dishes. Bone broth can be made at home or it can be bought pre-made.

Homemade bone broth is simple to make. Ask your local farmers if they have soup bones, or roast a whole pastured chicken and save the bones for making broth. Chicken feet, chicken necks, calves’ feet, and marrow bones are particularly valuable additions to broth. You can find a good basic recipe over at the Weston A. Price Foundation website.

Pre-made bone broth is also a good option. Be sure to:

  • Buy broth that is organic and made from pasture-raised animals or wild-caught fish (this minimizes the toxins and maximizes the nutrients you get from the bone broth).
  • Avoid cans and other containers that contain bisphenol A (BPA), a potent endocrine disruptor, or other BPA substitutes.
  • Check out my favorite brand of broth: Kettle and Fire uses bones of organic, pasture-raised animals along with organic vegetables, sea salt, and herbs, all slow-simmered for 24 hours.

However you choose to get your hands on this liquid gold, be sure to make bone broth a staple in your diet!


By Chris Kesser (web)

Bone broth: a nutrient gold mine

Bones contain an abundance of minerals as well as 17 different amino acids, many of which are found in broth as proteThe Bountiful Benefits of Bone Broth: a Comprehensive Guide Vol.1ins like collagen and gelatin. Though the exact nutritional content varies based on the bones used, cooking time, and cooking method, the following nutrients are consistently found in most bone broths.

With 28 different types, collagen makes up about 30 percent of the protein in your body (4) and is the main component of connective tissues like cartilage, ligaments, tendons, bone, and skin. It is also present in the blood vessels, cornea, and lens of the eye. The name collagen comes from the Greek “kólla,” meaning “glue, and the suffix “-gen,” which means “producing.” In fact, early glue was made from collagen more than 8,000 years ago, likely by boiling the skin and sinews of animals (5). In addition to providing structure, collagen also plays an important role in tissue development and regulation (6, 7).

When collagen is simmered, it forms gelatin. This hydrolysis of collagen is irreversible and results in the breakdown of long collagen protein fibrils into smaller protein peptides. However, its chemical composition is very similar to its parent molecule, collagen (8). Gelatin is what gives bone broth or stock its Jell-O-like consistency once it has cooled.

Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) are complex carbohydrates that participate in many biological processes. They can attach to proteins in order to form proteoglycans, which are integral parts of connective tissue and synovial fluid, the lubricant that surrounds the joint (9). If the connective tissue, such as tendons, ligaments, and cartilage, is still attached, the bones in broth will provide our bodies with the whole spectrum of GAGs, including keratan sulfates, dermatan sulfates, chondroitin sulfates, and hyaluronic acid, which are the raw materials for skin, bone, and cartilage formation.

Glycine is an amino acid that makes up more than a third of collagen. It also acts as a neurotransmitter, binding to glycine receptors present throughout the nervous system and peripheral tissues. Signaling through this receptor is particularly important in mediating inhibitory neurotransmission in the brainstem and spinal cord (10, 11).

Proline is an amino acid that makes up about 17 percent of collagen. The addition of hydroxyl groups to proline significantly increases the stability of collagen and is essential to its structure. Though small amounts of proline can be manufactured in the body, evidence shows that adequate dietary proline is necessary to maintain an optimal level of proline in the body (12, 13). Proline is not typically thought of as a neurotransmitter, but it is able to weakly bind to glutamate receptors and glycine receptors (14).

Glutamine is yet another important amino acid found in bone broth and is the most abundant amino acid in the blood (15). It is one of the few amino acids that can directly cross the blood–brain barrier (16). Intestinal epithelial cells and activated immune cells eagerly consume glutamine for cellular energy (17, 18).

Bone marrow
Inside the center cavity of the bone is the bone marrow, consisting of two types, red and yellow. Both types contain collagen. Red bone marrow is the site of manufacturing for new immune cells and red blood cells, while yellow marrow consists of healthy fats (19, 20). It is thought that important nutritional and immune support factors might be extracted from marrow during cooking, but the bioavailability of these factors has not been studied.

Bone is also full of minerals, including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc (21). An acidic medium is necessary to extract these minerals from food. When making broth, always add a splash of vinegar or other acid in order to extract the most minerals from the bone.

Vol.3 coming soon






By Amy Kubal (source)


Every day there’s a new blog post, podcast, book or expert telling you exactly what to eat (and/or not eat), when to eat, how to exercise (or not exercise), which supplements to take, how much you need to sleep… All you have to do is follow the protocol and you’ll lose weight, perform like a beast, start feeling better, see your abs, cure your disease, have the best sex of your life, meet the man or woman of your dreams and generally just reach a state of pure euphoria. And there’s the success stories – hundreds of people writing and telling how it ‘worked for them’ – all of them with before and after pictures and amazing stories. This shit works – there’s no denying it.

But wait… WHAT is it exactly that works? One website says you can have rice and the next tells you that it’s gonna kill you faster than a gunshot wound to the head. One podcast tells you never to run and the next says that running isn’t so bad. The food lists are conflicting the supplement recommendations are all different; and should you intermittent fast or is it going to mess you up? This is CONFUSING!!!

You do your best to take everything you read, hear, and see and you put together the “perfect” program – yep, you’re gonna be the next success story on that website… You’re going strict AIP (autoimmune protocol), very low carb, with a side of intermittent fasting. I mean, how can this not work…

Fast forward 3-6 months – WHAT FREAKING GIVES??? Why the hell are you not a success story yet? Seriously, you are in the EXACT same spot you were when you started this life-changing plan; in fact, some days you feel even worse than you did when you started and you haven’t even lost ½ a pound?!?!?! It doesn’t make sense – you did EVERYTHING the blog post, podcast, expert, etc. said; like, followed it to the letter. You start reading more blog posts and now you’re convinced that it’s your thyroid, or maybe candida or it could be SIBO or leaky gut… There is DEFINITELY something wrong with you and you’re not going to stop searching (this may involve reading copious blog posts and/or message boards, investing $1,000’s in doctors, medical tests and/or supplements or just switching to the latest AWESOME program that’s circulating) until you figure it out. You’re uber frustrated, stressed as all get out and a little pissed off too. How come this works for EVERYONE else, but not for you?

Okay, if any of this hits home – the first step is to CALM DOWN, BREATH and just be. This isn’t cause for completely abandoning all the positive changes you’ve made and hitting every Dunkin’ Donuts, Burger King and Taco Bell within a 25 mile radius. It doesn’t mean that you should stop exercising or that you’re broken. What it does mean is that the things that you’ve been doing either need a little tweaking OR that just because the ‘protocol of the month’ seems to be right for EVERYONE else, that it’s right for you too. Here’s the deal folks – there aren’t groves of people rushing out to share their stories of un-success. What you see in blog posts and on message boards and hear about in podcasts, yeah, it’s real – BUT it’s not always the whole story. Success stories are the ones that get shared and broadcasted – you’re not going to hear about the less than happy endings and the exceptions to what seems to be the rule. Know that you aren’t alone in your struggles and it’s all going to be okay. Really, it’s going to be OKAY!

Sometimes we get so caught up in what everyone else is doing and telling us that we need to do that we stop listening to the signals that our bodies are sending us. If something feels wrong, it probably is. Being in ketosis, intermittent fasting, carb-backloading, chugging Bullet Proof coffee, etc. – is not right for every ‘body’. Some of us need some starch and GASP – that may even mean some grains or legumes… (HOLY BUCKETS!! YES, I DID SAY THAT!) And guess what? Fruit is NOT the devil either – not even BANANAS!!!! (I know – this is getting downright CRAZY…)

Sometimes the STRESS that we place on what we put in our mouths is, in and of itself, enough to make us sick and unsuccessful in our endeavors. We get so obsessed with trying to ‘feel’ an effect from something that we can actually create that effect or symptom. I’m not joking. I’ve done it to myself and I see it over and over again in my clients.

**Example** “I added nuts back to my diet yesterday and I’m not sure, but I think I might be a little more tired and I have this twitch in my knee that wasn’t there the day before.” Bear in mind this person did a pretty intense workout the same day the nuts were consumed and has only been averaging about 5 hours of sleep per night for the past 3 nights… Um, yeah, let’s go ahead and blame the tiredness and the knee pain on the almonds. It’s a classic case of overthinking and LOOKING for something bad to happen.

Now, don’t misunderstand me, there is definite validity to food intolerancies and reactions in a lot of folks – but this isn’t an across the board phenomenon. Not EVERYONE is sensitive to dairy, legumes, nuts, nightshades or even gluten (yeah, I went there.). Food does not cause everything and cannot fix everything. This doesn’t mean that you should go buy a box of Pop-Tarts, some bean and cheese dip and a bag of Fritos – but what it does mean, is that you may just need to relax around food and your attitude toward it. It’s just FOOD!!!

The same can be said about weight and body composition– there’s a point when the stress around achieving a certain body fat percentage or number on the scale can deter any and all progress. When you place your life and happiness on hold UNTIL you lose 10 pounds or get your body fat under a certain percentage – your only focus becomes those 10 pounds or that percentage – and when they aren’t magically reached the end result is depression, unhappiness, frustration and anger.
NEWS FLASH!! Your entire life should NOT revolve around what you put in your mouth, how much you weigh and/or how you look. Life isn’t going to magically “start” and be awesome when you dial you’re eating perfectly every single day, when you lose weight or when you’re abs are clearly visible. And not everything you read on the internet or hear on a podcast is your magic answer too. It’s time to STOP – STOP placing so damn much focus on food, weight, exercise, and body comp – it’s NOT WORTH IT (unless your health is in serious danger because of it). I’m not kidding when I say that no one else cares if you weigh 10 pounds more or less, if you drop your body fat 2 more percent or if you think you feel tired when you eat nuts – this is SMALL stuff and obsessing about it is sucking the life out of you. It’s NOT okay to spend your life caught up in the idea that life sucks because you don’t weigh a certain amount or because you look a certain way. Until you start loving yourself – where you are and for who you are – you aren’t going to find happiness.

Surround yourself with people that love you for who you are and where you are – not for what you eat or don’t eat or how you look. Go out there and be YOU! Listen to your body – and do the things that make you feel good long term. That doesn’t mean bingeing, stuffing your feelings with food, over exercising or completely throwing away everything you’ve been doing to be healthy. It does mean living, being and knowing that who you are, where you are is enough. Stop trying so hard to do everything right by the world’s standard and start doing what feels right for YOU! There is no blog post, book, podcast or ‘expert’ out there that can know better than you what makes YOU feel good. Go out there – live and be the best you that you can be – because that’s enough.

written by: Mike Sheridan

One of the reasons I quit nutrition school is because class often consisted of discussing the benefits of foods that are clearly harmful, and learning tedious preparation methods for making them edible. After a considerable number of irritating debates with teachers and classmates (mostly vegetarians), it occurred to me that this probably wasn’t a designation I wanted to be associated with.

Call me a different cat, but the letters after my name have never meant much to me. Other than saving thousands of dollars on education, I can read the same textbooks, watch lectures from better educators, and form an opinion based on reliable evidence. With the current state of the medical profession, and the embarrassing recommendations from the government associations, I’d say my lack of fancy letters is a blessing in disguise…or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.

One of the best things about self-educating, is that you get to learn what you want, when you want. Whether this puts me at an advantage is debatable, but I’m sure as heck not wasting time learning the 58 side effects of a new pharmaceutical drug, or the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) ridiculous nutrition recommendations for diabetics.

Why bother, when I know I can eat like a hunter-gatherer and never get sick?

And that the ADA’s recent dietary recommendations make a diabetics blood sugar look like this:

Image 1 - Grains- What's the Upside_

While a low-carb paleo plan makes it look like this:

Image 2 - Grains- What's the Upside_

The other great thing about self-educating is thinking for yourself instead of being told how to think. Questioning the information instead of blindly following it.

Why sit through nutrition school learning the benefits of inedible grass seeds when I can question whether they’re worth consuming at all?

As you probably guessed from the title, I’m referring to grains. I know I’m preaching to the choir on this one, as most of you have already opted to avoid them entirely; however, there’s plenty of non-Paleo visitors to this website that are reluctant to change because of heavily inGRAINed beliefs. I’m hoping that the evidence and rationale I’ve put together below will put their apprehension to rest.

Who knows, maybe I can even get through to my old teachers and classmates!

Grains – The Promoted Pros

What are the benefits of eating grains? I don’t know, you tell me. My old classmates would probably tell you that they’re nutrient dense and packed with fiber. To which I ask:

“Compared to what?”

Grains are actually nutrient defunct compared to meat, nuts & seeds, and vegetables. At least when using Harvard Researcher, Matt Lalonde’s, Nutrient Density Value chart:

Food Category Nutrient Density Value
Organ Meat and Oils 17
Herbs and Spices 17
Nuts & Seeds 10
Cacao 8
Fish and Seafood 1
Pork 0.7
Beef 0.3
Eggs and Dairy -0.6
Vegetables (Raw) -0.7
Lamb, Veal, Raw Game -1.2
Poultry -1.7
Legumes -2.9
Processed Meat -3.1
Vegetables (Cooked, Canned) -4.8
Plant Fat and Oils -5.4
Fruits -5.6
Animal Skin and Feet -6.2
Grains (Cooked) -6.2
Refined and Processed Oils -6.4


I’m not sure about you, but this chart leads me to believe that if I was concerned about nutrients, I should prioritize organ meat ands nuts and seeds. Likewise, it looks like a few pinches of cilantro, basil, and thyme, may be enough to make up for any lack of grains.

The dietician or nutritionist tells us we need whole grains for B-vitamins, but do we really?[i]

  Food Mg per serving
Thiamin (B1) Sunflower Seeds (1/2 cup) 1.08
Ground Pork (75g) 0.75
Oatmeal (1/2 cup) 0.48
Riboflavin (B2) Liver (75g) 1.6-2.7
Cuttlefish 1.3
Eggs (2 large) 0.5
Muesli cereal (1/2 cup) 0.2
Niacin (B3) Anchovies (75g) 19.0
Tuna (75g) 12.0
Liver (75g) 10.0
Chicken (75g) 8.0
Mushrooms (1/2 cup) 6.0
All Bran 3.0
Pyridoxine (B6) Liver (75g) 0.76
Tuna (75g) 0.68
Venison (75g) 0.57
Banana (1 medium) 0.43
Wheat bran (1/2 cup) 0.35
Folate (B9) Liver (75g) 420.0
Lentils (1/2 cup) 176.0
Okra (1/2 cup) 142.0
Spinach (1/2 cup) 121.0
FORTIFIED Pasta (1/2 cup) 83.0
Whole Wheat Bread (1 slice) 18.0
Cobalamin (B12) Clams (75g) 74.2
Kidney (75g) 59.2
Liver (75g) 52.9
Oysters (75g) 18.2
Mackeral (75g) 13.5
Caribou (75g) 5.0
All Grains N/A (<0)

Again, it appears animal source foods are superior. Especially when it comes to one of the most common deficiencies in B12.

In the year 2000, data from the Framingham Offspring Study found that nearly 40% of the adult population was flirting with B12 deficiency.[ii]

More importantly, the nutrient amounts listed for grains are nowhere near the same as what’s absorbed. In their ‘whole’ form, the vitamins and minerals are locked up in phytic acid;[iii] and in their refined form, the vitamins and minerals have been removed with the bran. In other words, even if you’re consuming the more nutrient dense source (whole grains), you’re not absorbing the nutrients.

Sadly, the phytic acid in grains also binds to essential minerals[iv] (like magnesium,[v] zinc,[vi] iron,[vii] and calcium[viii]) and reduces their absorption. Meaning, the grains themselves are not only inferior in nutrient content and availability, but they can disrupt the content and availability from other food sources. As the father of The Paleo Diet, Dr. Loren Cordain, lays out in The Paleo Answer:

Calcium absorbed with 100 calories of grain is 7.6 mg. Calcium absorbed in an equal amount of vegetables is 116.8 mg’s.

Arguably, this is why rickets and osteoporosis are extremely common in populations that rely heavily on cereal grains.[ix] And aside from a lack of animal protein, it’s also why vegetarians and vegans are commonly deficient in essential nutrients.[x]

So, should we eat whole grains for b-vitamins and nutrients?

Maybe if we’re about to die of starvation. Other than that, no! Clearly, the paleolithic foods have more nutrients, and unlike grains, they’re actually absorbed.

What About Fiber?

Conventional wisdom says the fiber in whole grains keeps us regular, and this prevents colon cancer, right?

It also lower cholesterol, and this prevents heart disease, right?

Sorry to burst your bubble, but you’re at risk of heart disease and colon cancer because you’re fat and inflamed. And the reason you’re fat and inflamed is because you listened to the government that told you to eat less meat and saturated fat and start stuffing your gullet with 6-11 servings of whole grains.

Meanwhile, there’s no association between fiber intake and colon cancer. This was concluded in a study from 1999 in the New England Journal of Medicine based on data from 89,000 Nurses:[xi]

“Our data do not support the existence of an important protective effect of dietary fiber against colorectal cancer or adenoma.”

And it’s the same story with heart disease. The only evidence producing a positive result attributed the lower risk to a “slight” decrease in total cholesterol;[xii] which is a horrible predictor of heart disease.[xiii]

More importantly, whole grains are extremely high in bodyfat-storing, insulin-raising, triglyceride-forming carbohydrates, and this increases our risk of heart disease far more than any indigestible fiber may lower it. In fact:

The DART study from 1989 looked at long-term fiber intake, and found that the group eating twice as much fiber ended up with a 23 percent greater risk of heart attack and a 27 percent increased risk of dying.[xiv]

Realistically, the ‘fiber’ in whole grains is the equivalent of swallowing a loufa – the body wash latherer that women (and some men) use in the shower.

Image 3 - Grains - What's the Upside_

Grains keep you regular because they’re predominantly insoluble fiber that you can’t digest. The only reason you think they’re beneficial is because they expand in water, push everything through your digestive system like a plunger, and make your deuces looks massive.

As you may’ve guessed, this does more harm than good when it comes to your health. Proper transit time and elimination speed is important, but when it’s too quick we run the risk of decreased absorption.[xv] And when that fiber source is grain, it causes inflammation,[xvi] and intestinal damage.[xvii] As researchers from the Medical College of Georgia put it:

“When you eat high-fiber foods, they bang up against the cells lining the gastrointestinal tract, rupturing their outer covering.”[xviii]

Basically, that loufa you’re eating is stiffer and pointier than the one in the pic.

Although the Cereal Giants will tell you otherwise, the health of your gastrointestinal system has less to do with transit time (mouth to butt speed), and more to do with the proportion of ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ bacteria in your colon, and integrity of your gut lining. Unlike grains, the soluble fiber in fruits and vegetables feeds healthy gut bacteria and facilitates the absorption of essential nutrients.[xix] The beneficial prebiotic content in these foods increases the production of short chain fatty acids (like butyric acid) and good bacteria (like bifidobacteria[xx]) in the colon, while improving nutrient absorption (like calcium and magnesium[xxi]) and reducing the key biomarkers (like fasting glucose) for diabetes and heart disease.

Interestingly, even if we forget about the inflammation, intestinal damage, and disrupted absorption with whole grains, fruits and vegetables supply more grams of fiber per serving:

  • Half an avocado provides 6+ grams of fiber[xxii] – more than a bowl of oatmeal (4g)
  • 1 cup of kale has more fiber than 3 slices of whole-wheat bread[xxiii]
  • 1 artichoke supplies10+ grams of fiber[xxiv] – more than 3 bowls of Cheerios

As Dr. William Davis puts it:

“If you replace wheat calories with those from vegetables and raw nuts, fiber intake goes up.”

So, other than holding pizza toppings and adding handles to your hamburger, what’s the upside of eating grains?

And don’t tell me it’s fuel, as even the Institute of Medicine understands that:

“We don’t need carbohydrates for energy.”[xxv]

The reality is, there’s no upside – and plenty of downside.

Grains – The Consistent Cons

When foods are immunogenic it means they activate the immune system and induce inflammation. Although most make an effort to refrain from foods they’re allergic to (i.e. activates immunoglobulin E), many are unknowingly consuming foods that are immunogenic.  The most common example is wheat, with some research showing that it promotes inflammation in more than 80% of the population.[xxvi]

Renowned gluten intolerance researcher, Dr. Kenneth Fine, believes 1 in 3 Americans are gluten intolerant and 8 in 10 has the genetic wiring to develop it.

Even if we forget about gluten, many of the gliadin proteins in wheat and other grains are responsible for inducing a pro-inflammatory immune response,[xxvii] whether the individual has a known intolerance or not.[xxviii] A paper from Ian Spreadbury in 2012 suggests that this is partly the result of an unfriendly bacteria left behind after the breakdown of acellular carbohydrates (grains, flour, sugar).[xxix]

Image 4 - Grains- What's the Upside_

Basically, that loufa you just swallowed was a used one.

Similar findings have determined that an endotoxin called LPS (lipo-polysaccharides) is elevated in the GI tract when the typical High-Carbohydrate Grain-Dominant diet is consumed,[xxx] and this is strongly correlated with obesity and diabetes[xxxi] – something not seen in our grain-free paleolithic ancestors.[xxxii]

Chronic gut inflammation also promotes an increase in intestinal permeability (leaky gut), which is associated with various autoimmune[xxxiii] and inflammatory bowel disorders,[xxxiv] and negatively affects our absorption of essential vitamins and minerals.[xxxv] Essentially, grains are a double-whammy, as they damage the intestinal lining where nutrients are absorbed, and most of them come equipped with ‘anti-nutrients’ (phytic acid and lectins) that prevent nutrient availability.

A paper released in 2005 outlined that the switch to a cereal based (agrarian) diet high in anti-nutrients is to blame for the development of leptin resistance and the degenerative diseases that come with it.[xxxvi]

Although lectin activity has been demonstrated in a variety of grains (rye, barley, oats, etc), wheat-germ agglutinin (WGA) is the most heavily studied, and has it’s highest concentration in wheat.[xxxvii] WGA and other lectins have the ability to bind to nearly every cell type,[xxxviii] and notably those of the gut.[xxxix] Similar to gliadin and the other wheat proteins, lectins promote an inflammatory response[xl] and effect otherwise healthy individuals without a known allergy.[xli]

Yes, other foods are high in lectins and phytates (ex: nuts & seeds),[xlii] but there’s less reliance on these foods as a dietary staple. These ant-nutrients don’t seem to cause problems in small amounts,[xliii] but the digestive damage becomes increasingly prominent with consistent and excessive consumption. Sadly, this has become characteristic for the majority of the population when it comes to grains.

The cereal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, pasta for dinner regimen damages the gut and leaves no opportunity for repair.[xliv]

The biggest concern is for those avoiding animal protein, as grains, beans, nuts, and seeds are their sole protein source. Not only does this leave them extremely deficient in essential nutrients because of a lack of meat, but the excessive intake of phytates and lectins decreases the availability in their foods, and damages the intestinal lining where nutrients are absorbed.[xlv]

A vegetarian will tell you that the phytates and lectins can be removed with proper preparation procedures (such as sprouting, soaking, drailing, and boiling), but research tells us that only 50% of phytates are removed with an 18hr soak,[xlvi] and most lectins are resistant to heat.[xlvii]

One study from 2002 in the Journal of Food Science determined that a16hr soak at 77 degrees Fahrenheit (or 3 day germination period) had no reduction in phytic acid.[xlviii]

More importantly, given the North American norm of prioritizing speed and convenience over quality, what percentage of the population is actually going to go through with this?

Is it just me or are we trying extremely hard to make a food edible and beneficial, that clearly isn’t edible and beneficial?

Maybe 0.0001% of the population will take the necessary 5 days to malt and sprout oats at 52 degrees Fahrenheit, and soak them for 17 hours at 120 degrees Fahrenheit to remove 98% of the phytic acid.[xlix] But after all that, what are we left with?

30 grams of carbohydrates in a ½ cup!

Regardless of whether or not you soak grains to remove the phytic acid and access more nutrients, it doesn’t change the fact that they’re still far too high in insulin-skyrocketing carbohydrates.[l] You know, the ones that continue to drive obesity through the ceiling.

image 5 - grains - what's the upside_

North Americans stay fat and get sick because they prioritize foods that are high in carbohydrates. And I’m not talking about the creamer in your coffee and candy in your top drawer. I mean the bagel for breakfast, pizza for lunch, pasta for dinner, and popcorn in front of the t.v.

Fortunately, many are finally receiving the message that sugar is bad, but they’re failing to recognize that the bread they’re putting zero-sugar jam raises their blood sugar faster than pure table sugar.[li]

What About Whole Grains?

Despite what you’ve been told (and continue to hear), the difference in blood sugar between whole and refined grains is negligible.[lii] Likewise, swapping refined grains for whole grains has no significant reductions in body fat or other risk factors for the metabolic syndrome.[liii]

But lets say we play along, and pretend that the fiber in whole grains really does make that much of a difference in blood sugar. This still doesn’t change the fact that we’re left with a food that excessively contributes to our daily carbohydrate load.

1 serving of grains is going to add at least 30 grams of nutrient degenerate carbohydrate, that is eventually broken down into the exact same simple sugars (glucose) as candy bars.[liv]

And aside from promoting insulin resistance, obesity, and diabetes, these chronically elevated blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) are driving degenerative diseases of the heart[lv] and brain.[lvi] [lvii]

“Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) has been proposed as a mechanism that may contribute to the association between diabetes and reduced cognitive function.”[lviii]

Sadly, the excess body fat[lix] and impaired glucose tolerance[lx] that develop from a diet dominated by high-glycemic carbohydrates are also directly associated with cancer mortality.[lxi]

image 6 - grains - what's the upside_

image 7 - grains - what's the upside_

Grains – Lose/Lose

Basically, whole grains versus refined grains is a choice between inflammation and hyperglycemia, or unavailable and non-existent nutrients. Even if there was a blood sugar benefit (which there isn’t), it’s trumped by a loss in vitamin and minerals.

To say you eat grains for nutrients is like saying you go to the strip club for action. Although it appears they’re available, clearly you’re not getting any.

There’s plenty of foods that supply accessible nutrients and beneficial fiber, without the negative health consequences that come with grains. Bread and cereal companies and governments funded by them are going to tell you otherwise, but let’s remember what their livelihood depends on.

Grain Consumption = Bread & Cereal Sales = Government Funding

Sadly, your doctor will probably mislead you too; as aside from being to less nutrition classes than me,[lxii] he spends his time learning what they want. ‘They’ being the companies and governments that profit off you being sick.

Sick People = Pharmaceutical Sales = Government Funding

Personally, I wouldn’t trust anyone that says you need grains, because you don’t. What you need, is less body fat and inflammation, and a stronger, healthier gut.

Stay Lean!

Coach Mike

eat meat stop jogging coverIn Eat Meat And Stop Jogging, Mike Sheridan uncovers the flaws in the prevailing advice to get healthy and fit. Despite conventional beliefs, he contends that the instruction to limit red meat, restrict calories, increase fiber, run long distances, avoid saturated fat and reduce cholesterol is increasing our waistline, decreasing our lifespan, and leading to an unnecessary struggle.

Vegetarian diets are correlated with an increase in mental health problems

Published on November 11, 2012 by Emily Deans, M.D. in Evolutionary Psychiatry


Entirely vegan diets are unknown among traditional human cultures. Back in the early part of the 19th century, dentist and explorer Weston Price went looking for vegans, but found only cannibals*. Since vegan diets in nature provide no vitamin B12 and very little in the way of usable long chain omega3 fatty acids, it is not surprising that humans have continued to eat animals and animal-derived products. Nowadays one can obtain algae-derived DHA (the major long chain omega3 fatty acid present in the brain). and supplement B12. That wasn’t possible until a few years ago, and there’s little evidence that supplementation with DHA alone is helpful for the brain.We have been encouraged to eat more plants and less animals. Various writers have suggested it is healthier for our bodies and our planet. I have no objections to a mostly plant-based diet as long as attention is paid to protein requirements and micronutrition. However, since little things in animal products (some essential like B12, some that can be created in our bodies but perhaps not in the amounts we need, such as creatine) seem to be very important for the brain, it’s interesting to look at the literature on vegetarian diets and mental health. Here is the latest (and the best) observational study:  Vegetarian diet and mental disorders: results from a representative community survey.

It’s a German study, and for a large population-based retrospective observational design, it’s actually fairly thorough and sensible.  And if you are a vegetarian, it certainly doesn’t say that vegetarianism causesmental health problems.  But in all but two studies done in the past, vegetarianism has been linked with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and particularly eating disorders (bingeing, restricting, and purging behaviors).  But to be perfectly honest, all those studies had some serious limitations (they were small, done special populations, and often measures based on just a few answers to general survey questions).  I’ve reviewed a few of them.  (My favorite has to be the one where they calculated arachidonic acid ingested to the hundredth of a gram based on data from a food frequency questionnaire, which seems very unlikely to be accurate)  I don’t think it is a coincidence that the two positive studies were done by the same group of researchers in the Seventh Day Adventist population.

The interesting thing about the general trend that vegetarians aren’t quite as mentally healthy as omnivores (in observational studies) is that vegetarians tend to do better in other measures of health. They are better educated, as a population they are generally younger, less likely to smoke or drink, more likely to exercise, and they tend to care about ethicsand the quality of their food. However, vegetarians are also more likely to be female (which is more likely to be associated with anxiety, depression, and eating disorders by a long shot).

So this new study has some things to recommend it. For one thing, the mental health diagnoses were determined not by answers to typical questionnaires, but by a full clinical interview using psychologists or physicians, lasting an average of 65 minutes each. (Pretty impressive, considering there were over 4,000 participants in the population-based study). In addition, the researchers matched omnivores to vegetarians based on age, educationsex, and whether they were urban or rural and crunched those numbers as well, so we got a good sample that took out some of the major confounders that dogged the previous studies. Finally, this cohort was a purposeful random sampling of the German adult population (excluding people over 65, however), rather than the Seventh Day Adventists or adolescents and college students sampled in previous studies.

And when the researchers went down the line of depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, somatoform disorders (things like body dysmorphic disorder, health anxiety and hypochondriasis), and eating disorders, the mostly vegetarian were more likely to be afflicted, and the strict vegetarian even more likely.** The full blown eating disorder diagnoses were rare enough, however, that the researchers didn’t compute the odds ratios, as they felt the dataset was not robust enough to be fair. Compared to the general population, the vegetarians were more likely to have mental disorders, and compared to the sex and education andpopulation and age matched controls, the risk of mental disorders in vegetarians really shot up, with odds ratios hovering around 2 fold increased risk, some as high as 3 fold.

When the data was taken apart from another direction, it was found that participants in the study with depressive, anxiety, somatoform, and anxiety disorders consumed less meat than people without a mental disorder. The amount of vegetables, fruits, fish, and fast food did not have a consistent pattern separating those with and without mental disorders (except fish consumption was linked with reduced anxiety. Hmmm).  In fact, unlike the 2010 Australian study, those with mental disorders in this German population were less likely to consume fast food than the mentally healthy population.

Temporally, the adoption of a vegetarian diet, on average, tended tofollow the mental health diagnosis, suggesting that the vegetarian diet was not in fact causal. I know originally the abstract of the article said the opposite, but if you read the full text, you find that the abstract was misrepresentative. A retrospective study isn’t the most robust way to determine this issue, but I would tend to believe this timing to be true, particularly for anxiety disorders, which often begin before the age of 10. The main exception to the temporal findings in this study were the eating disorders, which tended to start right around the same time as adoption of a vegetarian diet. As I’ve reported before, several of my eating disordered patients have told me they adopted vegetarianism so they would have an excuse to restrict food and not have to eat in public.

So what is going on? In Germany, are the neurotic perfectionists who are more likely to be choosey about food (and thus select vegetarianism and eschew fast food) also more vulnerable to depression and anxiety? Sure, could be. Or maybe those with mental troubles try to avoid what is thought to be bad food (meat and fast food). It is also possible that the nutrient deficiencies common in vegetarian diets (the most robustly studied being long chain omega 3 fatty acids and B12, though I think zinc and creatine and even too low a cholesterol could also be issues) could accelerate or worsen pre-existing mental conditions.

A large study comparing choosey, neurotic, perfectionistic omnivores (ahem) with strict vegetarians would be interesting, I think.

*these cannibals preferentially ate fisherman, who would be chock ful of long chain omega3 fatty acids!!

**the German word for “meat” excludes poultry.

by Chris Kresser (web)


“All disease begins in the gut.” – Hippocrates

Hippocrates said this more than 2,000 years ago, but we’re only now coming to understand just how right he was. Research over the past two decades has revealed that gut health is critical to overall health, and that an unhealthy gut contributes to a wide range of diseases including diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, autism spectrum disorder, depression and chronic fatigue syndrome.

In fact, many researchers (including myself) believe that supporting intestinal health and restoring the integrity of the gut barrier will be one of the most important goals of medicine in the 21st century.

There are two closely related variables that determine our gut health: the intestinal microbiota, or “gut flora”, and the gut barrier. Let’s discuss each of them in turn.

The gut flora: a healthy garden needs healthy soil

Our gut is home to approximately 100,000,000,000,000 (100 trillion) microorganisms. That’s such a big number our human brains can’t really comprehend it. One trillion dollar bills laid end-to-end would stretch from the earth to the sun – and back – with a lot of miles to spare. Do that 100 times and you start to get at least a vague idea of how much 100 trillion is.

The human gut contains 10 times more bacteria than all the human cells in the entire body, with over 400 known diverse bacterial species. In fact, you could say that we’re more bacterial than we are human. Think about that one for a minute.

We’ve only recently begun to understand the extent of the gut flora’s role in human health and disease. Among other things, the gut flora promotes normal gastrointestinal function, provides protection from infection, regulates metabolism and comprises more than 75% of our immune system. Dysregulated gut flora has been linked to diseases ranging from autism and depression to autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s, inflammatory bowel disease and type 1 diabetes.

Unfortunately, several features of the modern lifestyle directly contribute to unhealthy gut flora:

  • Antibiotics and other medications like birth control and NSAIDs
  • Diets high in refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods
  • Diets low in fermentable fibers
  • Dietary toxins like wheat and industrial seed oils that cause leaky gut
  • Chronic stress
  • Chronic infections

Antibiotics are particularly harmful to the gut flora. Recent studies have shown that antibiotic use causes a profound and rapid loss of diversity and a shift in the composition of the gut flora. This diversity is not recovered after antibiotic use without intervention.

We also know that infants that aren’t breast-fed and are born to mothers with bad gut flora are more likely to develop unhealthy gut bacteria, and that these early differences in gut flora may predict overweight, diabetes, eczema/psoriasis, depression and other health problems in the future.

The gut barrier: the gatekeeper that decide what gets in and what stays out

Have you ever considered the fact that the contents of the gut are technically outside the body? The gut is a hollow tube that passes from the mouth to the anus. Anything that goes in the mouth and isn’t digested will pass right out the other end. This is, in fact, one of the most important functions of the gut: to prevent foreign substances from entering the body.

When the intestinal barrier becomes permeable (i.e. “leaky gut syndrome”), large protein molecules escape into the bloodstream. Since these proteins don’t belong outside of the gut, the body mounts an immune response and attacks them. Studies show that these attacks play a role in the development of autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s and type 1 diabetes, among others.

In fact, experts in mucosal biology like Alessio Fasano now believe leaky gut is a precondition to developing autoimmunity:

There is growing evidence that increased intestinal permeability plays a pathogenic role in various autoimmune diseases including [celiac disease] and [type 1 diabetes]. Therefore, we hypothesize that besides genetic and environmental factors, loss of intestinal barrier function is necessary to develop autoimmunity.

The phrase “leaky gut” used to be confined to the outer fringes of medicine, employed by alternative practitioners with letters like D.C., L.Ac and N.D. after their names. Conventional researchers and doctors originally scoffed at the idea that a leaky gut contributes to autoimmune problems, but now they’re eating their words. It has been repeatedly shown in several well-designed studies that the integrity of the intestinal barrier is a major factor in autoimmune disease.

This new theory holds that the intestinal barrier in large part determines whether we tolerate or react to toxic substances we ingest from the environment. The breach of the intestinal barrier (which is only possible with a “leaky gut”) by food toxins like gluten and chemicals like arsenic or BPA causes an immune response which affects not only the gut itself, but also other organs and tissues. These include the skeletal system, the pancreas, the kidney, the liver and the brain.

This is a crucial point to understand: you don’t have to have gut symptoms to have a leaky gut. Leaky gut can manifest as skin problems like eczema or psoriasis, heart failure, autoimmune conditions affecting the thyroid (Hashimoto’s) or joints (rheumatoid arthritis), mental illness, autism spectrum disorder, depression and more.

Researchers have identified a protein called zonulin that increases intestinal permeability in humans and other animals. This led to a search of the medical literature for illnesses characterized by increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut). Imagine their surprise when the researchers found that many, if not most, autoimmune diseases – including celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease – are characterized by abnormally high levels of zonulin and a leaky gut. In fact, researchers have found that they can induce type 1 diabetes almost immediately in animals by exposing them to zonulin. They develop a leaky gut, and begin producing antibodies to islet cells – which are responsible for making insulin.

In Step #1: Don’t Eat Toxins, I explained that one of the main reasons we don’t want to eat wheat and other gluten-containing grains is that they contain a protein called gliadin, which has been shown to increase zonulin production and thus directly contribute to leaky gut.

But what else can cause leaky gut? In short, the same things I listed above that destroy our gut flora: poor diet, medications (antibiotics, NSAIDs, steroids, antacids, etc.), infections, stress, hormone imbalances, and neurological conditions (brain trauma, stroke and neurodegeneration).

Leaky gut = fatigued, inflamed and depressed

Here’s the takeaway. Leaky gut and bad gut flora are common because of the modern lifestyle. If you have a leaky gut, you probably have bad gut flora, and vice versa. And when your gut flora and gut barrier are impaired, you will be inflamed. Period.

This systemic inflammatory response then leads to the development of autoimmunity. And while leaky gut and bad gut flora may manifest as digestive trouble, in many people it does not. Instead it shows up as problems as diverse as heart failure, depression, brain fog, eczema/psoriasis and other skin conditions, metabolic problems like obesity and diabetes and allergies, asthma and other autoimmune diseases.

To adequately address these conditions, you must rebuild healthy gut flora and restore the integrity of your intestinal barrier. This is especially true if you have any kind of autoimmune disease, whether you experience digestive issues or not.

How to maintain and restore a healthy gut

The most obvious first step in maintaining a healthy gut is to avoid all of the things I listed above that destroy gut flora and damage the intestinal barrier. But of course that’s not always possible, especially in the case of chronic stress and infections. Nor did we have any control over whether we were breast-fed or whether our mothers had healthy guts when they gave birth to us.

If you’ve been exposed to some of these factors, there are still steps you can take to restore your gut flora:

  • Remove all food toxins from your diet
  • Eat plenty of fermentable fibers (starches like sweet potato, yam, yucca, etc.)
  • Eat fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kim chi, etc., and/or take a high-quality, multi-species probiotic
  • Treat any intestinal pathogens (such as parasites) that may be present
  • Take steps to manage your stress
by Chris Kresser (web)

picture of man made by supplementsIn the first three articles in this series, we discussed which foods to eat and which foods to avoid. In this article we’re going to talk about when to supplement and how to do it wisely. We’ve got a lot of material to cover, so you might want to grab a cup of tea and get comfortable!

There are three principles to supplementing wisely:

  • Get nutrients from food whenever possible.
  • Take nutrients in their naturally occurring form whenever possible.
  • Be selective with your supplementation.

Get nutrients from food whenever possible

Humans are adapted to getting nutrients from whole foods. Most nutrients require enzymes, synergistic co-factors and organic mineral-activators to be properly absorbed. While these are naturally present in foods, they are often not included in synthetic vitamins with isolated nutrients.

In a paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition called Food Synergy: An Operational Concept For Understanding Nutrition emphasizing the importance of obtaining nutrients from whole foods, the authors concluded:

A person or animal eating a diet consisting solely of purified nutrients in their Dietary Reference Intake amounts, without benefit of the coordination inherent in food, may not thrive and probably would not have optimal health. This review argues for the primacy of food over supplements in meeting nutritional requirements of the population.

They cautioned against the risk of reductionist thinking, which is common in conventional medicine and nutritional supplementation. Instead, they urge us to consider the importance of what they call “food synergy”:

The concept of food synergy is based on the proposition that the interrelations between constituents in foods are significant. This significance is dependent on the balance between constituents within the food, how well the constituents survive digestion, and the extent to which they appear biologically active at the cellular level.

They go on to provide evidence that whole foods are more effective than supplements in meeting nutrient needs:

  • Tomato consumption has a greater effect on human prostrate tissue than an equivalent amount of lycopene.
  • Whole pomegranates and broccoli had greater antiproliferative and in vitro chemical effects than did some of their individual constituents.
  • Free radicals were reduced by consumption of brassica vegetables, independent of micronutrient mix.

In short: get nutrients from food, not supplements, whenever you can.

Take nutrients in their naturally occurring form whenever possible

Synthetic, isolated nutrients don’t always have the same effect on the body. It matters whether the nutrients have been produced by technologic or biological processes, because industrial processing sometimes creates an entirely new compound with different physiological actions. Trans fat produced in ruminant animals (such as conjugated linoleic acids in dairy products) are beneficial to health, whereas trans fats produced in the processing of industrial seed oils are highly toxic.

Folic acid is another example. The naturally occurring form of folate is not folic acid, a compound not normally found in food or nature, but tetrahydrofolate. While folic acid can be converted into folate, that conversion is poor in humans. It’s also important to note that unlike natural folate, folic acid does not cross the placenta. This is significant because folate is a crucial nutrient for pregnancy, and while folic acid can prevent neural tube defects it doesn’t have the other beneficial effects of folate. What’s more, several studies have shown that folic acid – but not natural folate – increases cancer risk. Unfortunately, folic acid is what’s often used in multivitamins, because it’s significantly cheaper than natural folate.

Be selective with your supplementation.

Multivitamins have become increasingly popular: half of Americans currently take one. But is this a good idea? Most studies show that multivitamins either provide no benefit, or may even cause harm. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that multivitamins have little to no influence on the risk of common cancers, CVD or total mortality in postmenopausal women. A now infamous meta-analysis in the Journal of American Medical Association, which looked at over 68 trials with 230,000 pooled participants, found that treatment with synthetic beta carotene, vitamin A and vitamin E may increase mortality.

The problem with multivitamins is that they contain too little of beneficial nutrients like magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K2, and too much of potentially toxic nutrients like folic acid, calcium, iron and vitamin E. This means that multivitamins can actually cause nutrient imbalances that contribute to disease. Another problem is that multivitamin manufacturers often use the cheapest possible ingredients, such as folic acid instead of natural folate – the consequences of which we discussed above.

Which supplements may be necessary?

At this point you might be thinking I’m against supplementation entirely. Not so. No matter how well we eat, some nutrients are difficult to obtain enough of from food alone. There are also circumstances where are need for certain nutrients may increase, such as vitamin C during infections and magnesium with blood sugar imbalances or metabolic problems. In these cases, it makes sense to supplement selectively with beneficial nutrients.

The five nutrients I recommend most people supplement with are:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin K2
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin C

Vitamin A (Retinol)

Vitamin A is important catalyst for a variety of biochemical processes in the body. It’s required for assimilation of protein, minerals and water-soluble vitamins, and it also acts as antioxidant > protecting body against free-radical damage and diseases like cancer. Vitamin A plays a crucial role in reproduction, promoting full-term pregnancy and proper development of face (eyes, nose, dental arches & lips).

The RDA for vitamin A (2,600 IU) is woefully inadequate, and even then, over 25% of American consume less than half of the recommended amount. Native populations such as the traditional Inuit – which were free of modern, degenerative disease – got much more vitamin A than the average American. The Greenland Inuit of 1953, prior to much contact with the Western world, got about 35,000 IU of vitamin A per day.

Vitamin A (retinol) is only found in significant amounts in organ meats, which explains why many Americans don’t get enough of it. If you follow my recommendations in #2: Nourish Your Body, and you do eat organ meats (especially liver), you’re probably getting enough vitamin A and thus don’t need to supplement. However, if you’re like most Americans and you’ve never eaten liver in your life, you would benefit from supplementing with A.

There’s been a lot of discussion in the media about the toxicity of vitamin A. Some researchers and doctors now recommend avoiding cod liver oil because of this concern. Even Dr. Mercola has jumped on the “vitamin A is toxic” bandwagon. But is this true?

It is true that vitamin A is potentially toxic. Some evidence suggests that excess vitamin A increases the risk of osteoporosis. For example, this study showed both low and high serum A carried double risk of fractures as did optimal levels.

But if we dig deeper we find that excess vitamin A only causes problems against a backdrop of vitamin D deficiency. In his excellent article Vitamin A on Trial: Does Vitamin A Cause Osteoporosis, researcher Chris Masterjohn summarizes evidence demonstrating that vitamin D decreases the toxicity of and increases the dietary requirement for vitamin A. Studies show that supplementing with vitamin D radically increases the toxicity threshold of vitamin A. In a hypothetical 160 lb. person, vitamin D supplementation increases the toxicity threshold of vitamin A to more than 200,000 IU/d. You’d have to eat 22 ounces of beef liver or take 5 TBS of high vitamin CLO each day to get this amount. Not likely!

To meet vitamin A needs (assuming you’re not up for eating organ meats), I recommend taking high vitamin cod liver oil (CLO) to provide a dose of 10-15,000 IU per day. Cod liver oil is really more of a food than a supplement, but since it’s not a normal part of people’s diet we’ll consider it as a supplement. CLO is an ideal vitamin A source because it also contains vitamin D, which as we just learned, protects against the toxicity of A.

Vitamin D

Much has been written about the need for and benefits of vitamin D supplementation over the past several years – and with good reason. It’s absolutely critical for health, and up to 50% of Americans are deficient.

We can get vitamin D from two sources: food, and sunshine. Seafood is the only significant source of vitamin D, but you’d still have to eat a lot of it to get enough. 8-9 ounces of herring provides about 2,000 IU of vitamin D, which is a minimum daily requirement for most people to maintain adequate blood levels.

Sunlight converts a precursor called 7-dehydro-cholesterol in our skin to vitamin D3. This D3, along with the D3 we get from food, gets converted by the liver into 25-hyrdroxy-vitamin D (25D), which is what typically gets measured when you have a vitamin D test. The optimal 25D level is somewhere between 35 and 50 ng/mL.

Contrary to what some researchers and doctors have recommended, there’s no evidence that raising blood levels of 25D above 50 ng/mL is beneficial, and there’s some evidence that it may cause harm. Studies show that bone mineral density peaks at 45 ng/mL and then falls again as 25D levels rise above 45. Other studies have shown that the risk of kidney stones and CVD increase with high 25D levels, due to elevated serum calcium levels that accompany excess vitamin D.

However, we also know that vitamin A and vitamin K2 protect against vitamin D toxicity, and vice versa. As I explained in the vitamin A section, fat soluble vitamins exist in a synergistic relationship. It’s possible that the people in the studies above that experienced problems with excess 25D levels were deficient in vitamin A or K2, or both. This is why it’s so important to supplement with all of the fat-soluble vitamins together.

What about sunlight? Well, in summer mid-day sun with pale skin, 30 minutes of direct sunlight will produce 10-20,000 IU of vitamin D. But this is a best case scenario. With darker skin, or different times of year, or buildings that block the sunlight, or increased time spent indoors, we won’t be producing that much. It’s also true that aging, overweight and inflammation reduce our conversion of sunlight to vitamin D. This is why sunlight alone isn’t normally a sufficient source of vitamin D.

With this in mind, most people should supplement with D. The amount needed to maintain blood levels of 35-50 ng/mL varies depending on some of the factors I’ve listed above, but in my clinical experience it’s usually somewhere between 2,000 – 5,000 IU. With vitamin D, it’s important to test your levels, begin supplementation, and then re-test a few months later to determine the correct maintenance dose.

As with vitamin A, the best source of vitamin D is high-vitamin cod liver oil. It contains not only vitamins A & D, but also natural vitamin E and other quinones.

Vitamin K2

Vitamin K2 may be the most important vitamin most people have never heard of. It’s needed to activate proteins and it also regulates calcium metabolism (keeping it in the bones and teeth where it belongs, and out of the soft tissue where it doesn’t belong). Elevated blood calcium significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), which explains why vitamin K2 has been shown to prevent atherosclerosis and heart attacks. It also strengthens bones.

Unfortunately, many (if not most) of Americans are deficient in vitamin K2. It’s important to point out that vitamin K2 is not the same as vitamin K1, which is found in green, leafy vegetables like kale and collards. Some K1 is converted into K2 in our bodies, but that conversion is inefficient in humans. It is efficient, however, in ruminant animals – which is why grass-fed dairy is the most convenient source of vitamin K2 in the diet. This is only true in animals raised on pasture, because it is eating the K1-rich grass that allows them to convert it into K2.

Most people should aim for at least 100 mcg/d from a combination of food and supplements. If you eat a large amount of cheese from grass-fed cows and pastured egg yolks, you may be able to get this amount from food alone. 100 g of hard cheese contains 67 mcg, and 6 pastured egg yolks contain about 32 mcg. Otherwise, supplementation is probably beneficial. I recommend a dosage of 1 mg/d in the MK-4 form, which is the form of vitamin K2 found in pastured dairy and the one shown to have the most benefit in clinical studies. There is another form, MK-7, that is found in fermented foods like natto, but it has not demonstrated the same properties as MK-4 in clinical studies.


There are few compounds in the body more important to overall health than magnesium. Over 300 enzymes need it, including every enzyme associated with ATP, and enzymes required to synthesize DNA, RNA and proteins. Magnesium also plays an important role in bone and cell membranes, as it helps to transport ions across the membrane surface.

Studies show that most Americans are deficient in magnesium. The median intake across all racial groups is far below the RDA, which is 420 mg/d for men and 320-400 mg/d for women. Although half of Americans take a multivitamin daily, most don’t contain enough magnesium to prevent deficiency.

Magnesium is also difficult to obtain from food. Nuts and seeds are the highest source, but it’s difficult to eat enough of them to meet magnesium needs without getting too much polyunsaturated fat. Another issue is that magnesium levels in food have dropped as modern soils have become increasingly depleted. What this means is that if you’re not supplementing with magnesium, you’re probably not getting enough.

And magnesium deficiency is no small thing. It has serious – even fatal – consequences. It produces symptoms like muscle cramps, heart arrhythmias, tremor, headaches & acid reflux, and it’s associated with CVD, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, migraines, PMS, asthma, hypothyroidism. In fact, it’s hard to find a modern disease magnesium deficiency isn’t associated with.

Because of this, I think everyone should supplement with magnesium. Intake of 400 – 800 mg/d from a combination of food and supplements is an optimal range to shoot for. Since most people get less than 250 mg/d from food, a dose of 400 – 600 mg/d in supplement form is ideal. I recommend using chelated forms of magnesium like glycinate and malate, because they’re better absorbed and tend to have fewer side effects.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is needed for building the structural components of the body, and for maintaining levels of glutathione, the master antioxidant in the body. But vitamin C deficiency is also common: studies suggest that 34% of men and 27% of women don’t get enough. This is especially true for the elderly and those struggling with chronic illness.

400 mg/d is the saturation range in healthy people, and that number is probably higher in the elderly and the sick. As with the other micronutrients in this article, it’s difficult to obtain adequate levels of vitamin C from the diet. Acerola cherries are the highest food source, with 1677 mg per 100g. A cup of cooked red peppers has 235 mg, which is one of the highest dietary sources.

I’m somewhat less certain about the need to supplement with vitamin C, but in general I recommend approximately 500 mg to 1 g of vitamin C each day. If you’re dealing with a chronic health challenge, or fighting an infection, you can take several grams a day with no toxic effects. It’s best to space the doses out to avoid diarrhea, however.

Other contenders

In addition to the fat-soluble vitamins A, D & K2, and magnesium and vitamin C, some may want to consider supplementing with selenium and iodine. Selenium plays important role in thyroid function, which affects every aspect of physiology. The recommended dose is approximately 200 mcg/d.

Selenium is plentiful in organ meats, ocean fish, and in brazil nuts. One brazil nut contains 100 mcg of selenium, but it also contains a whopping 1 g of omega-6 linoleic acid, which as you know from previous articles in the series, we want to limit significantly. This is why I don’t recommend brazil nuts as a source of selenium. Ocean fish are also good sources of selenium. 100 g of cod contains about 150 mcg.

Iodine also plays a crucial role in thyroid function, and it prevents brain damage and strengthens the immune system. The amount iodine needed for thyroid function is incredibly small: we need about a teaspoon of iodine over a lifetime to avoid deficiency. I’m not convinced humans need to supplement with iodine above what can be obtained from seafood, but some research does suggest that increased intake of iodine is beneficial. This is especially true if you’re fighting a chronic infection or dealing with a hypothyroidism caused by iodine deficiency.

But be careful: iodine can trigger and flare autoimmune diseases, especially Hashimoto’s and Graves’(autoimmune thyroid disease). In the U.S., 9 out of 10 women with hypothyroidism actually have Hashimoto’s, so the typical advice to supplement with iodine if you are hypothyroid is dangerous. I’ve written extensively about this in my special report on thyroid disease.

For those without autoimmune disease, a dose of 12.5 mg – 50 mg per day may be beneficial, but it’s best to work up slowly over time, beginning at a much lower dose.