9 Steps to Perfect Health - #1: Don't Eat Toxins | Chris Kresser

9 Steps to Perfect Health – #1: Don’t Eat Toxins

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This content is part of an article series.

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Imagine a world where:

  • diabetes, heart diseases, autoimmunity and other modern diseases are rare or don’t exist at all
  • we are naturally lean and fit
  • we are fertile throughout our childbearing years
  • we sleep peacefully and deeply
  • we age gracefully without degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis

While this might sound like pure fantasy today, anthropological evidence suggests that this is exactly how human beings lived for the vast majority of our evolutionary history.

Today, most people accept diseases like obesity, diabetes, infertility and Alzheimer’s as “normal”. But while these diseases may now be common, they’re anything but normal. Humans evolved roughly 2.5 million years ago, and for roughly 84,000 generations we were naturally free of the modern diseases which kill millions of people each year and make countless others miserable. In fact, the world I asked you to imagine above – which may seem preposterous and unattainable today – was the natural human state for our entire history on this planet up until a couple hundred years ago.

What was responsible for the change? What transformed us from naturally healthy and vital people free of degenerative disease into a world of sick, fat, infertile and unhappy people?

In a word? The modern lifestyle. And though there are several aspects of our current lifestyle that contribute to disease, the widespread consumption of food toxins is by far the greatest offender. Specifically, the following four dietary toxins are to blame:

  • Cereal grains (especially refined flour)
  • Omega-6 industrial seed oils (corn, cottonseed, safflower, soybean, etc.)
  • Sugar (especially high-fructose corn syrup)
  • Processed soy (soy milk, soy protein, soy flour, etc.)

What is a toxin?

At the simplest level, a toxin is something capable of causing disease or damaging tissue when it enters the body.

When most people hear the word “toxin”, they think of chemicals like pesticides, heavy metals or other industrial pollutants. But even beneficial nutrients like water, which are necessary to sustain life, are toxic at high doses.

In their book The Perfect Health Diet, Paul & Shou-Ching Jaminet apply the economic principle of declining marginal benefits to toxins:

It implies that the first bit eaten of any toxin has low toxicity. Each additional bit is slightly more toxic than the bit before. At higher doses, the toxicity of each bit continues to increase, so that the toxin is increasingly poisonous.

This is important to understand as we discuss the role of dietary toxins in contributing to modern disease. Most of us won’t get sick from eating a small amount of sugar, cereal grain, soy and industrial seed oil. But if we eat those nutrients (or rather anti-nutrients) in excessive quantities, our risk of developing modern diseases rises significantly.

That’s exactly what’s happening today. These four food toxins – refined cereal grains, industrial seed oils, sugar and processed soy – comprise the bulk of the modern diet. Bread, pastries, muffins, crackers, cookies, soda, fruit juice, fast food and other convenience foods are all loaded with these toxins. And when the majority of what most people eat on a daily basis is toxic, it’s not hard to understand why our health is failing.

Let’s look at each of these food toxins in more detail.

Cereal grains: the unhealthiest “health food” on the planet?

The major cereal grains – wheat, corn, rice, barley, sorghum, oats, rye and millet – have become the staple crops of the modern human diet. They’ve also become the “poster children” of the low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet promoted by organizations like the American Heart Association (AHA) and American Diabetes Association (ADA). If you say the phrase “whole grains” to most people, the first word that probably comes to their mind is “healthy”.

But the fact is that most animals, including our closest relative (the chimpanzee) aren’t adapted to eating cereal grains and don’t eat them in large quantities. And humans have only been eating them for the past 10,000 years (a tiny blip of time on the scale of evolution). Why?

Because plants like cereal grains are always competing against predators (like us) for survival. Unlike animals, plants can’t run away from us when we decide to eat them. They had to evolve other mechanisms for protecting themselves. These include:

  • producing toxins that damage the lining of the gut;
  • producing toxins that bind essential minerals, making them unavailable to the body; and,
  • producing toxins that inhibit digestion and absorption of other essential nutrients, including protein.

One of these toxic compounds is the protein gluten, which is present in wheat and many of the other most commonly eaten cereal grains.

In short, gluten damages the intestine and makes it leaky. And researchers now believe that a leaky gut is one of the major predisposing factors for conditions like obesity, diabetes and autoimmune disease.

Celiac disease (CD) – a condition of severe gluten intolerance – has been well known for decades. Celiacs have a dramatic and, in some cases, potentially fatal immune response to even the smallest amounts of gluten.

But celiac disease is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to intolerance to wheat and other gluten containing grains. Celiac disease is characterized by antibodies to two components of the gluten compound: alpha-gliadin, and transglutaminase. But we now know that people can and do react to several other components of wheat and gluten. The diagram below shows how wheat and gluten are broken down in the body:

diagram of components of wheat

Current laboratory testing for gluten intolerance only tests for alpha-gliadin and transglutaminase, the two components of gluten implicated in celiac disease (highlighted in red in the diagram). But as you can see, wheat contains several other components including lectins like wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), other epitopes of the gliadin protein like beta-gliadin, gamma-gliadin and omega-gliadin, another protein called glutenin, an opioid peptide called gluteomorphin, and a compound called deamidated gliadin produced by the industrial processing or digestion of gluten.

So here’s the thing. Studies now clearly show that people can react negatively to all of these components of wheat – not just the alpha-gliadin and transglutaminase that celiacs react to. And the worst part of this is that up until about 2 weeks ago, no commercial labs were testing for sensitivity to these other subfractions of wheat.

This means, of course, that it’s extremely likely that far more people are intolerant to wheat and gluten than conventional wisdom would tell us. In fact, that’s exactly what the latest research shows.

Dr. Kenneth Fine, a pioneer in gluten intolerance research, has demonstrated that 1 in 3 Americans are gluten intolerant, and that 8 in 10 have the genes that predispose them to developing gluten intolerance.

This is nothing short of a public health catastrophe in a nation where the #1 source of calories is refined flour. But while most are at least aware of the dangers of sugar, trans-fat and other unhealthy foods, fewer than 1 in 8 people with celiac disease are aware of their condition. A 1999 paper in the British Medical Journal illustrated this well:

Graphic depicting incidence of undiagnosed celiac disease

Patients with clinically obvious celiac disease (observable inflammation and destruction of the gut tissue) comprise only 12.5% of the total population of people with CD. 87.5% of those with celiac have no obvious gut symptoms. For every symptomatic patient with CD, there are 8 patients with CD and no gastrointestinal symptoms.

But does that mean patients with CD without gut symptoms are healthy? Not at all. It was long believed that the pathological manifestations of CD were limited to the gastrointestinal tract. But research over the past few decades has revealed that gluten intolerance can affect almost every other tissue and system in the body, including:

  • brain;
  • endocrine system;
  • stomach and liver;
  • nucleus of cells;
  • blood vessels; and,
  • smooth muscle,

just to name a few!

This explains why CD and gluten intolerance are associated with several different diseases, including type 1 diabetes, thyroid disorders, osteoporosis, neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and dementia, psychiatric illness, ADHD, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine, obesity and more. The table below from the same 1999 BMJ paper depicts the increased incidence of other diseases in patients with CD:

table showing associations of other diseases with celiac disease

As you can see, up to 17% of people with CD have an “undefined neurological disorder”. But even that alarmingly high statistic only accounts for people with diagnosed CD. We know that only 1 in 8 people with CD are diagnosed. We also know that those with CD represent only a small fraction of the population of people with gluten intolerance. With this in mind, it’s not hard to imagine that the number of people with gluten intolerance that have “undefined neurological disorders” (and other associated conditions on the list above) could be significantly higher than current research suggests.

Finally, we also now know that when you are gluten intolerant – which 33% (if not more) of you are – you will also “cross-react” with other foods that have a similar “molecular signature” to gluten and its components. Unfortunately, the list of these foods (shown below) contains all grains, which is why some medical practitioners (myself included) recommend not just a gluten-free diet, but an entirely grain-free diet. As you can see, it also contains other foods like dairy (alpha & beta casein, casomorphin, milk butyrophilin) and coffee (which is a very common cross-reactant).

  • alpha-caesin
  • beta-caesin
  • casomorphin
  • milk butyrophilin
  • cow’s milk
  • american cheese
  • chocolate
  • coffee
  • all cereal grains
  • quinoa
  • amaranth
  • buckwheat
  • tapioca
  • rice
  • potato
  • corn
  • sesame

Industrial seed oils: unnatural and unfit for human consumption

Industrial seed oils (corn, cottonseed, soybean, safflower, sunflower, etc.) have not been a part of the human diet up until relatively recently, when misguided groups like the AHA and the ADA started promoting them as “heart-healthy” alternatives to saturated fat.

The graph below shows how dramatically seed oil consumption has risen over the past several decades:

pufaconsumption

Throughout 4-5 million years of hominid evolution, diets were abundant in seafood and other sources of omega-3 long chain fatty acids (EPA & DHA), but relatively low in omega-6 seed oils.

Anthropological research suggests that our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed omega-6 and omega-3 fats in a ratio of roughly 1:1. It also indicates that both ancient and modern hunter-gatherers were free of the modern inflammatory diseases, like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, that are the primary causes of death and morbidity today.

At the onset of the industrial revolution (about 140 years ago), there was a marked shift in the ratio of n-6 to n-3 fatty acids in the diet. Consumption of n-6 fats increased at the expense of n-3 fats. This change was due to both the advent of the modern vegetable oil industry and the increased use of cereal grains as feed for domestic livestock (which in turn altered the fatty acid profile of meat that humans consumed).

The following chart lists the omega-6 and omega-3 content of various vegetable oils and foods:

efa content of oils

Vegetable oil consumption rose dramatically between the beginning and end of the 20th century, and this had an entirely predictable effect on the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in the American diet. Between 1935 and 1939, the ratio of n-6 to n-3 fatty acids was reported to be 8.4:1. From 1935 to 1985, this ratio increased to 10.3:1 (a 23% increase). Other calculations put the ratio as high as 12.4:1 in 1985. Today, estimates of the ratio range from an average of 10:1 to 20:1, with a ratio as high as 25:1 in some individuals.

In fact, Americans now get almost 20% of their calories from a single food source – soybean oil – with almost 9% of all calories from the omega-6 fat linoleic acid (LA) alone! (PDF)

This reveals that our average intake of n-6 fatty acids is between 10 and 25 times higher than evolutionary norms. The consequences of this dramatic shift cannot be underestimated.

So what are the consequences to human health of an n-6:n-3 ratio that is up to 25 times higher than it should be?

The short answer is that elevated n-6 intakes are associated with an increase in all inflammatory diseases – which is to say virtually all diseases. The list includes (but isn’t limited to):

  • cardiovascular disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • obesity
  • metabolic syndrome
  • irritable bowel syndrome & inflammatory bowel disease
  • macular degeneration
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • asthma
  • cancer
  • psychiatric disorders
  • autoimmune diseases

The relationship between intake n-6 fats and cardiovascular mortality is particularly striking. The following chart, from an article entitled Eicosanoids and Ischemic Heart Disease by Stephan Guyenet, clearly illustrates the correlation between a rising intake of n-6 and increased mortality from heart disease:

landis graph of hufa and mortality

As you can see, the USA is right up there at the top with the highest intake of n-6 fat and the greatest risk of death from heart disease.

On the other hand, several clinical studies have shown that decreasing the n-6:n-3 ratio protects against chronic, degenerative diseases. One study showed that replacing corn oil with olive oil and canola oil to reach an n-6:n-3 ratio of 4:1 led to a 70% decrease in total mortality. That is no small difference.

Joseph Hibbeln, a researcher at the National Institute of Health (NIH) who has published several papers on n-3 and n-6 intakes, didn’t mince words when he commented on the rising intake of n-6 in a recent paper:

The increases in world LA consumption over the past century may be considered a very large uncontrolled experiment that may have contributed to increased societal burdens of aggression, depression and cardiovascular mortality.

And those are just the conditions we have the strongest evidence for. It’s likely that the increase in n-6 consumption has played an equally significant role in the rise of nearly every inflammatory disease. Since it is now known that inflammation is involved in nearly all diseases, including obesity and metabolic syndrome, it’s hard to overstate the negative effects of too much omega-6 fat.

Sugar: the sweetest way to wreck your health

About 20 years ago, Nancy Appleton, PhD, began researching all of the ways in which sugar destroys our health. Over the years the list has continuously expanded, and now includes 141 points. Here’s just a small sampling (the entire list can be found on her blog).

  • Sugar feeds cancer cells and has been connected with the development of cancer of the breast, ovaries, prostate, rectum, pancreas, lung, gallbladder and stomach.
  • Sugar can increase fasting levels of glucose and can cause reactive hypoglycemia.
  • Sugar can cause many problems with the gastrointestinal tract, including an acidic digestive tract, indigestion, malabsorption in patients with functional bowel disease, increased risk of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
  • Sugar can interfere with your absorption of protein.
  • Sugar can cause food allergies.
  • Sugar contributes to obesity.
But not all sugar is created alike. White table sugar (sucrose) is composed of two sugars: glucose and fructose. Glucose is an important nutrient in our bodies and is healthy, as long as it’s consumed in moderation. Fructose is a different story.

Fructose is found primarily in fruits and vegetables, and sweeteners like sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). A recent USDA report found that the average American eats 152 pounds of sugar each year, including almost 64 pounds of HFCS.

Unlike glucose, which is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and taken up by the cells, fructose is shunted directly to the liver where it is converted to fat. Excess fructose consumption causes a condition called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is directly linked to both diabetes and obesity.

A 2009 study showed that shifting 25% of dietary calories from glucose to fructose caused a 4-fold increase in abdominal fat. Abdominal fat is an independent predictor of insulin sensitivity, impaired glucose tolerance, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides and several other metabolic diseases.

In a widely popular talk on YouTube, Dr. Robert H. Lustig explains that fructose has all of the qualities of a poison. It causes damage, provides no benefit and is sent directly to the liver to be detoxified so that it doesn’t harm the body.

For more on the toxic effects of fructose, see The Perfect Health Diet and Robert Lustig’s YouTube talk: Sugar, The Bitter Truth.

Soy: another toxin promoted as a health food

Like cereal grains, soy is another toxin often promoted as a health food. It’s now ubiquitous in the modern diet, present in just about every packaged and processed food in the form of soy protein isolate, soy flour, soy lecithin and soybean oil.

For this reason, most people are unaware of how much soy they consume. You don’t have to be a tofu-loving hippie to eat a lot of soy. In fact, the average American – who is most definitely not a tofu-loving hippie – gets up to 9% of total calories from soybean oil alone.

Whenever I mention the dangers of soy in my public talks, someone always protests that soy can’t be unhealthy because it’s been consumed safely in Asia for thousands of years. There are several reasons why this isn’t a valid argument.

First, the soy products consumed traditionally in Asia were typically fermented and unprocessed – including tempeh, miso, natto and tamari. This is important because the fermentation process partially neutralizes the toxins in soybeans.

Second, Asians consumed soy foods as a condiment, not as a replacement for animal foods. The average consumption of soy foods in China is 10 grams (about 2 teaspoons) per day and is 30 to 60 grams in Japan. These are not large amounts of soy.

Contrast this with the U.S. and other western countries, where almost all of the soy consumed is highly processed and unfermented, and eaten in much larger amounts than in Asia.

How does soy impact our health? The following is just a partial list:

  • Soy contains trypsin inhibitors that inhibit protein digestion and affect pancreatic function;
  • Soy contains phytic acid, which reduces absorption of minerals like calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc;
  • Soy increases our requirement for vitamin D, which 50% of American are already deficient in;
  • Soy phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function and have the potential to cause infertility and to promote breast cancer in adult women.
  • Vitamin B12 analogs in soy are not absorbed and actually increase the body’s requirement for B12;
  • Processing of soy protein results in the formation of toxic lysinoalanine and highly carcinogenic nitrosamines;
  • Free glutamic acid or MSG, a potent neurotoxin, is formed during soy food processing and additional amounts are added to many soy foods to mask soy’s unpleasant taste; and,
  • Soy can stimulate the growth of estrogen-dependent tumors and cause thyroid problems, especially in women.

Perhaps most alarmingly, a study at the Harvard Public School of Health in 2008 found that men who consumed the equivalent of one cup of soy milk per day had a 50% lower sperm count than men who didn’t eat soy.

In 1992, the Swiss Health Service estimated that women consuming the equivalent of two cups of soy milk per day provides the estrogenic equivalent of one birth control pill. That means women eating cereal with soy milk and drinking a soy latte each day are effectively getting the same estrogen effect as if they were taking a birth control pill.

This effect is even more dramatic in infants fed soy formula. Babies fed soy-based formula have 13,000 to 22,000 times more estrogen compounds in their blood than babies fed milk-based formula. Infants exclusively fed soy formula receive the estrogenic equivalent (based on body weight) of at least five birth control pills per day.

Click here for a complete list of studies demonstrating the harmful effects of soy products.

400 Comments

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  1. Just watched a video about the “centenarians village” in China. 1/3 of the villagers are over 100 years old! And they eat predominantly homegrown corn, potatoes and rice…So these weeds can be healthy – if they are homegrown in clean environment.

  2. I avoid grains. However I’m considering adding organic hemp protein powder(pure) to my diet. Thing is… isn’t hemp also a grain? Technically all seeds are grains right? Plus hemp is also a grass seed – which is what most commenly refered to grains are. Am I right? If so wouldn’t this mean it’s likely to have similar ‘hard to digest’ qualities (ie lectins etc) and damage the gut?

    Thanks

  3. I have been wondering this but not sure where to find the answer. I was born and grew up in an East Asia country by East Asian parents whose parents were from the same origin, etc. For 25 years since birth I ate a whole food (white) rice-based diet with regular but small amounts of dairy (mostly yogurt and in baked goods) and other animal products (meat, fish, eggs), more or less similar to that of my parents’ and grandparents’. Then I went to live in the U.S. where I started eating a lot of *whole* wheat (I had eaten small amounts of *refined* wheat before as well) in breads, pastas, cereals, etc. and for about a year did eat quite a bit of processed food. Then about 1.5 year ago I started (gradually) eating a WAPF diet (still eating gluten BUT rotating among a variety of grains) and about 6 months ago transitioned into a half-WAPF half-Paleo diet with lots of saturated fats and moderate amounts of dairy (only fermented dairy and butter, all raw), together with lots of fermented vegetables.

    About 2.5 months ago I started having some digestive issues. Now there can be different factors contributing to them BUT I wonder if the changes in diet was too dramatic and my system did not keep up. Is it possible I was born with organs suitable for eating the way my people have probably been eating for a long time and not quite adapted to such a diet as SAD or even “Paleo”? (I may need to look into whether Western and Eastern paleolithich people ate significantly differently… )

    Any thought is appreciated!

  4. I cut down my sat. fat to about 25-30% of my calories a day, which is what I have now. My cholesterol is dropping. That’s why I do some form of exercise daily. When it was higher, like 40-50% of my calories, and when I was only exercising 2-3 times a week, my total cholesterol went up 78 points to198, over a period of several years. Used to be 120, 7 years later, 198……….now, after cutting fat fr. 40-50% to 25-30%, plus daily exercise, it is on the way down again, I think it was around 160-164….Anyway, thanks for the advice! I appreciate the replies.

      • Yes, only b/c my mom was a little puffy let’s just say. I’m a small boned ectomorph if you’re wondering why I’m this weight and height…..one of the lucky .08% of women who can eat whatever and still be underweight. But, I’m not w/out troubles, when I was 108 and 16% body fat I have some excess fat on my butt. Though, was still ‘underweight’ accord. to BMI, even though I was OVERweight for me.

  5. I have spent the last two weeks on veg/fruit/fish/poultry/game/olive oil/occasional nuts…….three meals a day, calories averaging around 2,000/day. My protein, I figured it up, is about 25% of my daily calories, my carbs are about 40-50% and fat is about 25%-30%. I’ve gone from about 13% to 11.9%, same person, same calipers…….I see the difference in myself. I am terribly lean, almost too much. Every time I cut out rice and beans, which provided me with a significant amount of extra calories, I lose weight, and dip to too low fat levels. It’s a shame almost, b/c I almost rather prefer not to eat them, one more thing to cook. My stats have changed too, I now 103, and 5 ft 7…too low. Still exercising daily. My normal weight is 105, and about 13% fat, this when exercising daily.

    Does anyone else have this problem? Not getting enough calories and/or losing too much fat? Very curious here…….

    • You mention olive oil (Extra Virgin preferably) and nuts….but what are your other fat sources?

      How grams of carbs are you taking in a day?

      Finally, why do you need to exercise everyday? Even if you’re competing that’s too much

      • Um, occasionally guacamole, Earth Balance soy free spread until I found out it had corn…the my protein sources, olive oil & occasional nuts are my fat. Nuts are just hard for me to digest, even after soaking them and dehydrating them in my oven, so I cut them out just recently.

        The grams of carbs…haha, I figured out my percentages based on my grams, I don’t remember, I’d have to check my notes…

        And yeah I have to exercise everyday, I don’t feel right unless I do, helps me sleep, I’m a thin wiry type w/ lots of energy, I stay up all night if I don’t exercise daily. I was a dancer for many years, so, now I take it easy w/ just an hour a day walking/jogging/dancing……weights 4 times a week. Can’t go a day w/out being active……except Sundays. I mean……..maybe 30 minutes a day instead of 60……IDK, was just wondering if other people have this problem? Not enough cals…….by cutting out all grains and legumes. I’ve snuck back plain white rice in my diet like 3 times last week……who knows. I may have to cut down my exercise time. You ever seen this before? Like, really lean types losing too much fat when going Paleo? Not enough calories? I get hungry as heck…flying through veg/protein/fat/fruit………..

        • You need more saturated fat…the books I recommended before will help you. However the main recommendations are: Ghee, butter, coconut oil, lard. duck fat, full fat diary, etc.,

          I’m not good with nuts either. Most nuts have more omega 6 than omega 3 (apart from Macadamia nuts)…so given all that exercise you’re doing you’re not helping your body combat inflammation.

          Now. You’re definitely working out too much, dare I say it’s close to an addiction? There’s really no need to train that much especially weights four times a week. It’s doing more harm than good. I do 15 mins of HIT (weights) once every 7-10 days and martial arts when I have the time and occasional sprint training…that’s all. Search for Doug McGuff, Drew Baye, and James Steele (there’s no such thing as cardio) on YouTube.

          You may need to explore other methods to help you sleep. Google for Mark Sisson and sleep.

          Yes being active is ok, do as much as you want in fact it’s your choice, but do you really need it? http://www.marksdailyapple.com/why-you-shouldnt-burn-more-than-4000-calories-a-week-through-exercise/#axzz2ig1eTVws

          • Lorraine, sounds like a little more energy in the forrm carbs is what you need. Your exercisee is fine, many ectomorphs need lots of exercise, ooften more than other types. The average American iis now recomeended to do an hour of some cardiovascular workout every day. I too need to exercise daily to feelwell and sleep well, and know quite a few people who are also very lean and need more calories particularly carbs, than moost. Granted most of them are young men, not women in their forties. You are lucky indeed. Most women are overweight or obese. Buut try more carbs and more calorries in general.

            • In the past week or so I’ve gained almost a lb. Been eating more veg, starchy sweet potatoes, starchy/sweet fruit, and rice like twice a week. Also, high calorie brewer’s yeast, rice milk, frozen fruit, honey drink. I honestly don’t think the guy who did my body fat was right, I think I’m more like 13% now, and WAS like 14 or even 15%. Anyway, I agree w/ the basic premises here, all I’m doing is just adding rice when I really feel like I need a shot of high carbs. Lean people cannot burn fat off their body, if it’s not there…not everyone is the same, I agree. Thanx.

              • * the guy who did my body fat was NOT right, calipers…got a slightly different result when someone else did it.

          • I have read all of the comments down to this one and nothing, regardless of my opinion has prompted me to reply. This one has.

            Why do you say exercising every day is wrong? Tai Chi, stretches, walking, climbing, running, rowing, martial arts, sex and lifting (and I’m sure many more) are things that have been done naturally every day since the beginning of man. Do you really think the original ‘man’ (man or woman) would have gone much more than a single day where they could sit around doing nothing? Everything in [healthy] human life require exercise. This is, in my opinion, the prime issue with modern life – PROLONGED SITTING. If somebody CAN exercise everyday without any repercussions, why shouldn’t they? Now you can come up with excuses with regards to joint issues etc in later life – but that’s only the same responses we’re seeing here about eating certain foods. Answer is really, they’re inevitable.

            And just for clarification, you don’t ‘do martial arts’ if you only do it when you have time, you are just practicing a glorified cardiovascual routine. Martial art means the art of war and if you train in it then you dedicate a lifestyle to it, without frequent training you will not be prepared for combat and without partaking in more than just the self-defense training there is no art.

          • Good comment. He does need more saturated fat. The low saturated fat diet replaced with vegetable oil is killing people. I got veBody needs saturated fat

    • Lorraine, here are a few comments to your postings:

      My personal experience when I shifted (from a vegetarian diet) to Paleo, was similar regarding weight loss. I am 5-10.5 and weighed about 165, and dropped to about 158 in 2 weeks while eating as much as I wanted and snacking a lot between meals. Actually, I was happy with this result, as my body looked like it did 20 years earlier, with a nice flat stomach. In your case, it seems that 103 is too low for your height. Given the exercising you are doing, I would add more calories. The mix you reported is not bad, — maybe more fat could be tried (like avocados, butter, nuts, coconut, etc.). Maybe try adding another light meal (250 cals?) somewhere during the day, and see if you can gain an ounce or two a week. I would stay away from the pasta, breads, and grains (except buckwheat, which is not a true grain) but, I admit, I do slip in some organic red potatoes into my chicken cacciatori or beef stew.

      Regarding cholesterol, there is a lot of new info about how to measure it properly, and you should read this article on Dr. Mercola’s website: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/04/28/nmr-lipoprofile.aspx
      He actually references work done by Chris Kesser in this article. Certain ratios and particle size are more important than the usual numbers given by the labs.

      Regarding your body fat, that also seems way too low for a woman. Here’s a table, again from Dr. Mercola, found in this article: http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2012/04/27/vitamin-d-and-blood-test-health-factors.aspx

      Category Women Men
      Essential Fat 10-13% 2-5%
      Athletes 14-20% 6-13%
      Fitness 21-24% 4-17%
      Acceptable 25-31% 18-24%
      Obesity >32% >25%

      Soaking buckwheat is mostly for reducing phytic acid, another plant toxin implicated in digestive problems.

      I hope this is helpful!

      • Yeah..haha I seem to be alone in this ‘dilemma’ I guess. I mean, I feel good but……….yeah, a little low. I tried that soaking of buckwheat flour for cakes (lemon one time, acv one time)…..they came out good, but I hate ANY sweet foods, and with the syrup and berries and stuff it was too sweet for me, I don’t even like sweet potatoes ha. But, OH, what is your opinion on anti-nutrients of white rice? compared to buckwheat flour soaked? w/out the bran of brown rice? I boil it straight at high heat for 15 min. in a ton of water then drain. I’m more likely to eat this, b/c it goes w/ tomato sauce, ground bison, fish, chicken, salads, garlic and olive oil……a lot of the Mediterranean cooking I like to do.

        My biggest thing is, sometimes I just want/need more carbs….I stuff literally stuff w/ veg and fruits and winter squashes, but sometimes I just feel like I need more concentrated carbs, esp. w/ the dancing/jogging. Let me know what you think of long grain white rice……toxins/lectins/anti-nut. etc…when you have time. Thanks!

        Tonight is a nice Paleo Mediterranean meal! Recipe from Corfu…….Bourdetto. I will serve w/ salad, and sauteed leeks.

        IDK, don’t know if we can post links here, guess so right? here’s the link for anybody who likes Greek food. Ha, when need glucose infusion, might do white rice ahhaha!

        http://kalisasorexi.com/2010/03/bourdetto/

      • So disappointing to see people still look to charts to tell people how much fat they should have. I’m the exception, the one in a million. On me, 16% fat, meant I had cellulite on my buttocks, was eating 3,000 calories a day in high fat foods, and was not doing a lot of cardio (was still doing weights, never stopped that). On me, 13, even 12 % fat is what my body wants to fall to, w/ healthy diet and exercise. This is NOT what most women will do……most would have to starve to get where my body wants to go to, naturally.

  6. Um, if you aren’t supposed to eat fair amounts of fructose (b/c it goes straight to the liver to be stored as fat, and it’s a poor energy source)…and we are not supposed to eat grains (that are glucose), what are we supposed to eat? If living off salads and green leafy vegetables can give anyone here enough energy, I’d like to know. I’m 5 ft 7 and 105 lbs, I’m 13% body fat, and ectomorphic and very active. Even with a lot of fructose containing root vegetables and fruit, I’m still hungry, 3 meals a day, good protein, good fat. I eat vegetables starchy and non starchy, fish, poultry, fresh fruit and olive oil. I mean there is only so much fat, protein and vegetables one can eat. I think it’s possible that the very lean, with not much fat to spare, can just need more energy than those with normal or over abundant fat reserves (fat cells being used as energy source). In spite of running an hour today and lifting weights, I’m still up, not tired. Not tired b/c I’m hungry. Any comments/help/suggestions would be appreciated.

    • Sounds like you need to do a bit more research :-). Wait for Chris’s book, and/or take a look at Aglaee Jacob’s http://www.eat-real-food-paleodietitian.com/ or Diane Sanfilippo’s books http://www.amazon.com/Practical-Paleo-Customized-Whole-Foods-Lifestyle/dp/1936608758/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1382187757&sr=1-1&keywords=balanced+bites

      “Only so much fat…” – You can eat as much as you need. Protein is usually no more than 30-35% of total calories depending on need. Carbs no more 150g a day, however, again depending on individual need you can higher than that (but usually opt for more fat first). So eating more saturated fat and/or a bit more starchy carbs might be my short answer. Perhaps four meals a day might help too.

      • Thanks for replying…I’m already doing enough saturated fat, too much in fact, since I’ve increased my saturated fat my cholesterol went from 120 to 198. I am generally eating starchy carbs 2 meals a day….I think you are right, maybe 4 times a day feedings would help.

        I will check out the sources you recommended.

        I am considering a serving of legumes/grains in the morning, leaving the other 2-3 feedings to be without. I am concerned w/ lectins mainly, and getting rid of them. And anti-nutrients and hard to digest sugars, as well.

        Does soaking buckwheat flour in lemon, probiotic, apple cider vinegar get rid of lectins? Is that what is known as the ‘sourdough’ process? Does pressure cooking legumes get rid of lectins?

        • Paleo people tend to avoid grains and legumes. As to soaking etc., I don’t know… Maybe cut back on your starchy carbs and eat only on weight training days (I hope you’re not training too often though).

          Cholesterol needs to be measured correctly. If it’s an increase in HDL then that’s great, nothing to worry about. It’s the small dense LDL that causes problems. Try cutting back on carbs and maintaining saturated fat consumption. Sign up to this: http://highcholesterolplan.chriskresser.com/

          May I recommend that you read some more of Chris’s, Robb Wolf, or Mark Sisson’s work to find out more about cholesterol tests

          • It was total cholesterol, went up from 120 to 198.

            I am really wondering if the fact that I’m only 13% fat has something to do with the fact that I need more calories than the typical woman, my body does not want to burn anymore fat, it will have nothing left… I’ll check out the cholesterol sources. Thank You!

            • To lose fat think about using MCT like coconut oil. In Obesity Research and in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, researchers demonstrated that by simply adding MCT oil into the diet, it increased fatty acid oxidation.

  7. I know this is fairly old but oh well surely someone will still comment
    Anyways, I’m 17, a vegetarian for about 7 years but can be a fussy eater
    I am slightly underweight but find it incredibly difficult to put any on as I’ve been trying for many years, since before I was a vegetarian
    I’m considering changing my diet a bit so I’m in the long run a whole lot healthier but I don’t want to loose more weight as if I lost any it would be very unhealthy haha
    Anyone have any tips or think I should wait a bit longer?
    Also, what foods would work?

    • Molly, your problem may be due to the way you are processing your food. See this article in Smithsonian magazine: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/Why-Fire-Makes-Us-Human-208349501.html#Mind-on-Fire-cooking-evolution-1.jpg

      It appears that only a fraction of the calories and nutritive ingredients of raw foods and other similar foods eaten by vegetarians are able to be utilized by the body. Cooking is important, as well as mechanically processing the food, and chewing properly, in order to maximize how much can be absorbed in the digestive process. A vegetarian or raw food diet can be especially dangerous for young people, especially children, if not managed properly.
      Here’s one paragraph from the article, but you should read it all:

      “Which is, in a way, his point: Human beings evolved to eat cooked food. It is literally possible to starve to death even while filling one’s stomach with raw food. In the wild, people typically survive only a few months without cooking, even if they can obtain meat. Wrangham cites evidence that urban raw-foodists, despite year-round access to bananas, nuts and other high-quality agricultural products, as well as juicers, blenders and dehydrators, are often underweight. Of course, they may consider this desirable, but Wrangham considers it alarming that in one study half the women were malnourished to the point they stopped menstruating. They presumably are eating all they want, and may even be consuming what appears to be an adequate number of calories, based on standard USDA tables. There is growing evidence that these overstate, sometimes to a considerable degree, the energy that the body extracts from whole raw foods. Carmody explains that only a fraction of the calories in raw starch and protein are absorbed by the body directly via the small intestine. The remainder passes into the large bowel, where it is broken down by that organ’s ravenous population of microbes, which consume the lion’s share for themselves. Cooked food, by contrast, is mostly digested by the time it enters the colon; for the same amount of calories ingested, the body gets roughly 30 percent more energy from cooked oat, wheat or potato starch as compared to raw, and as much as 78 percent from the protein in an egg. In Carmody’s experiments, animals given cooked food gain more weight than animals fed the same amount of raw food. And once they’ve been fed on cooked food, mice, at least, seemed to prefer it.”

      Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/Why-Fire-Makes-Us-Human-208349501.html#ixzz2hu1mtNps

      By the way, I was a veggie for 5 years, then last year switched to a Paleo diet (about 30% meats/fish/poultry/eggs, 50% healthy fats like avocados, nuts, coconut, etc., lots of vegetables – mostly cooked, and minimal carbs. Little or no grains, seeds, breads, pasta, rice, etc.). I feel very good on this diet, but actually lost about 5 pounds due to eliminating the carbs, which are usually a big part of most of the veg prepared foods. My wife has stayed on the veg diet, and struggles to keep her weight down, even after eating only 1200 to 1500 calories a day and being always hungry. She also runs about 12 miles a week. I think it’s all because of the carbs in her diet, and few in mine. This may not be a big deal for you now, but in 10 years, it might be beneficial due to you becoming less active, or having children, etc.
      Best wishes for your health……

      • I shall deffinately read the whole thing
        Hmm, well I eat cooked and processed food right now, well always, and have searched up what’s supposed to help me gain weight and school doctors always monitored me and just said it was while I was growing
        but I’ve pretty much stopped growing as far as I can tell for quite a while now and I eat as much as I can but no change, oh well
        and I don’t think I could eat meat or fish again, just the thought of it is impossible to me, I never really liked meat and now I just can’t imagine putting it near my face, it’ll sound silly probably but just the way I am sadly haha
        And thanks
        I think I too would definately prefer cooked meals haha but at some point if I do eat more raw stuff I could get used to it surely and may feel better, can always have treats haha

        PS- sorry if I’m understanding any of what you said wrong I sometimes have difficulty reading certain sentence structures or something – don’t know what it is but random things that make complete sense in my mind just won’t click at times

        • I absolutely understand what you are saying, and it’s totally up to you whether to eat meat, fish, etc. again.

          So, maybe a good alternative would be to increase the energy density of the foods you’re eating, such as by increasing the healthy fats. Healthy fats are good sources of energy and calories, such as avocados, nuts (not peanuts), coconut and coconut oil, olive oil, etc. Maybe carry a bag of almonds around with you during the day, and have a handful when you feel hungry and can’t eat a meal. Also, you could try some organic whey protein powder (Source Naturals is a good brand) and mix a heaping spoonful with water or in a smoothie, especially right after playing sports or doing any cardio or strength workouts. This will enable you to build muscle mass, which will add weight without adding to your body size very much, and keep you strong. 🙂

          • Oh good, almonds are the only nut I don’t seem to be repulsed by haha
            I tried eating nuts before but the texture repulsed me haha but almonds seem to be ok

  8. I think it’s quite simple. Eat lots of green leafy vegetables and good quality organic meats.
    Boiled foods are better than fried. Raw vegetables are better than cooked.
    Plain foods are better than processed so that you can control the amount of salt etc. that is in them.
    Herbs and spices for taste. Mushrooms, Onions, Berries and Beans. All preferably organic to make sure they haven’t been sprayed with chemicals.
    Apples, cores and all. Drink water.
    A variety of colors

    • Paul, not good advice to eat apple seeds, or several other types of seed as well, because of cyanide. See the below, from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition article Chris referenced:

      “Kidney, haricot and navy beans, black-eyed peas, and lima beans contain cyanogenetic glycosides. Black lima bean is most bitter and most toxic—its importation is restricted to varieties yielding <200 ppm hydrogen cyanide. (27). Bitter cyanogentic glycosides are contained in kernels of almonds, lemons, limes, apples, pears, cherries, apricots, prunes, and plums. Some of these compounds are purported to have a use in chemoprevention."
      http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/72/6/1424.full

  9. I’m sick of reading all these articles about what foods are bad for you. Not to say I oppose the information presented here, but how about a few suggestions on what we can actually eat? I’ve done so much research and all of it contradicts each other. One diet says I can eat Quinoa and brown rice, and another says to avoid them. How about some helpful, useful information on how to combat these diseases besides telling us all the things that we CAN’T eat? How about providing a few helpful options on what we CAN?

  10. What about organic soybeans, steamed, in the pod as edamame? Still toxic? I love them so it’s an important question for me. Thank you Chris!

  11. I am interested more in the people who visit this website than in diets and nutritional theories. I am considering writing a book on the people who follow this kind of information, how they became interested in it, and the impact of this information on their lives. I am also interested in their backgrounds and want to develop a questionnaire based on that and on some other views that seem unrelated to foods. I am particularly interested in cancer patients.

    I request that the webmaster here write me privately if he is willing to help me gather (with permission, of course) this sort of data from respondents.

  12. I am 71 and sleep well, eat most things, no pains, no illenesses. Gym 5 times a week. I quetion the most written about subject i.e. diets, ways of eating. It is just so difficult to know who really knows what they are talking about simply because there are so many “experts” out there trying to tell us what is wrong and what is right. I do understand that some form is control is needed, but what and with whom is the problem. I would say that there are thousands of so called experts out there and there are only 24 hours in a day – who has the time for this when there are so many other issues out there effecting us all.

  13. Thank you so much for the information Chris, it is what I have been needing to hear for some time now! I was just wondering what are your thoughts on drinking alcohol? I already stay away from anything that isn’t wheat/gluten free but I enjoy a glass of wine now and then. Should I be avoiding it as well due to the sugar content? I am trying to heal from leaky gut and want to avoid all that I can. Thank you for all of the great information, I am very grateful I stumbled upon it!

  14. Great post Chris. It’s alarming how we our becoming a world where fraken-foods are more popular then real foods. I run a personal training and boot camp business in a gym where I encounter kids daily. It get so upset seeing what they eat. It’s practically processed foods! this article should open up many eyes of people especially parents so we can create a trend in the right direction.

  15. What about sugar alcohols, in particular erythritol which has not calories and no affect on tooth decay or insulin? It is made from natural substances.

  16. If soy is ‘bad’ what about tofu? It seems that it is a staple in the Japanese diet, yet overall they have relative few health issues compared to those of us in the U.S. Although, with the importation of our fast food chains, they are catching up with regards to heart disease and obesity.

  17. My son is on 1 Cup of rawmilk mixed with a raw egg daily. If dairy is on the list what does that mean for him.

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