9 Steps to Perfect Health - #2: Nourish Your Body | Chris Kresser
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9 Steps to Perfect Health – #2: Nourish Your Body

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This content is part of an article series.

Check out the series here


In step #1, we talked about what not to eat. In this article, we’ll talk about what to eat.

Most of the calories we get from food come from protein, carbohydrates and fat. These are referred to as macronutrients. We also get other important nutrients from food, such as vitamins and minerals. These don’t constitute a significant source of calories, so they’re called micronutrients.

For the last 50 years, we’ve been told to follow a diet low in this or that macronutrient. From the 1950s up until the present day the American Heart Association and other similarly misguided and pharmaceutically-financed “consumer organizations” have advocated a low-fat diet. More recently, low-carbohydrate diets are all the rage.

Not all macronutrients are created equal

The problem with these approaches is that they ignore the fact that not all macronutrients are created equal. There’s a tremendous variation in how different fats and carbohydrates affect the body, and thus in their suitability for human consumption. Grouping them all together in a single category is shortsighted – to say the least.

What many advocates of low-fat or low-carbohydrate diets conveniently ignore is that there are entire groups of people around the world, both past and present, that defy their ideas of what constitutes a healthy diet.

For example, the low-fat crowd will tell you that eating too much fat – especially of the saturated variety – will make you fat and give you a heart attack. Tell that to the traditional Inuit, who get about 90% of calories from fat, and were almost entirely free of obesity and modern degenerative disease. The same is true for the Masai tribe in Africa, who get about 60-70% of calories from fat (almost entirely from meat, milk or blood.) And then there’s the modern French, who have the lowest rate of heart disease of any industrialized country in the world – despite the highest intake of saturated fat.

The low-carb crowd is very much aware of these statistics, which are often used in defense of low-carb diets as the best choice. Tell that to the Kitavans in Melanesia, who get about 70% of calories from carbohydrate and, like the Inuit and Masai, are almost entirely free of obesity, heart disease and other chronic, degenerative diseases that are so common in industrialized societies. We see a similar absence of modern diseases in the Kuna indians in Panama and the Okinawans of Japan, two other healthy indigenous populations that get about 65% of calories from carbohydrate.

These rather inconvenient exceptions to the low-fat and low-carb dogma vigorously promoted by advocates of both approaches show us that humans can in fact thrive on a wide range of macronutrient ratios, ranging from extremely high fat (Inuit, Masai) to very high carb (Kitavans, Kuna & Okinawans). They also hint at the idea that perhaps not all carbohydrates are the same in terms of their effects on human health.

Human fuel: food that nourishes the body

We need to shift away from the idea of macronutrients – as Dr. Kurt Harris of PaleoNu recently suggested – and move towards the idea of nourishment or fuel and understand things like bone broth health benefits.

This means we classify foods not based on their macronutrient ratios, but on their ability to provide the energy and nutrition the body needs to function optimally.

Gasoline and diesel are both fuel that cars can run on. If you put gasoline in a diesel engine, or vice versa, the engine may run but it won’t run well – or for very long. In a similar way, the human body can run on the entire range of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. But it runs much better on the ones it was designed to run on, and if you put too much of the others in, the body will eventually break down.

With this classification in mind, let’s look primarily at how the different types of fat and carbohydrate (our primary sources of energy) affect us, and which of them we should choose as our preferred “human fuel”.

Know your fats

LONG-CHAIN SATURATED FAT
We’ll begin with long-chain, saturated fats (LCSFA): myristic, palmitic and stearic acid. These fats are found mostly in the milk and meat of ruminant animals like cattle and sheep. They form the core structural fats in the body, comprising 75-80% of fatty acids in most cells, and they’re the primary storage form of energy for humans. In other words, when the body stores excess energy from food for later use, it stores it primarily as long-chain saturated fat.

Unlike polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) and carbohydrates like glucose and fructose, saturated fats have no known toxicity – even at very high doses – presuming insulin levels are in a normal range. Long-chain saturated fats are more easily burned as energy than PUFA. The process of converting saturated fat into energy the body can use leaves no toxic byproducts. In fact, it leaves nothing but carbon dioxide and water.

This means that, assuming you are metabolically healthy, you can eat as much saturated fat as you’d like without adverse consequences.

I’m sure this will come as a surprise to many of you, since we’ve been collectively brainwashed for 50 years to believe that saturated fat makes us fat and causes heart disease. If you still believe this is true, watch these two videos (1 and 2) and read all of the articles in my special report on cholesterol, fat and heart disease.

Verdict: eat as much as you’d like. The majority of the fats you consume should be LCSFA.

MEDIUM-CHAIN TRIGLYCERIDES
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) are another type of saturated fat. They’re found in coconut and in mother’s milk, and they have unusual properties. They’re metabolized differently than long-chain saturated fats; they don’t require bile acids for digestion and they pass directly to the liver via the portal vein. This makes MCTs a great source of easily digestible energy. They’re so easy to digest, in fact, that they’re used in the liquid hospital formulas fed to patients that have had sections of their intestine removed and aren’t able to digest solid food.

In addition to being a good energy source, MCTs have therapeutic properties. They’re high in lauric acid, a fat found in mother’s milk that has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and antioxidant properties.

Verdict: eat as much as you’d like. Coconut oil is an especially good cooking fat, because it is not vulnerable to the oxidative damage that occurs with high-heat cooking using other fats.

MONOUNSATURATED FAT
Monounsaturated fat (MFA), or oleic acid, is found primarily in beef, olive oil, avocados, lard and certain nuts like macadamias. Like saturated fats, MFA form the core structural fats of the body and are non-toxic even at high doses. Interestingly, monounsaturated fats seem to be the only fats that typically fat-phobic groups like the AHA and fat-friendly groups like Atkins and other low-carbers can agree are completely healthy.

Verdict: eat as much as you’d like. But be aware that certain foods that are high in monounsaturated fats, like nuts and avocados, can contain significant amounts of the dreaded omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, which we’ll discuss below. Exercise caution.

These three fats – long-chain saturated, medium chain triglycerides and monounsaturated – should form the bulk of your fat intake.

In addition to their lack of toxicity, eating these fats will:

  • Reduce your risk of heart disease by raising your HDL, lowering your triglycerides and reducing levels of small, dense LDL (a type of LDL associated with a higher risk of heart disease). If you don’t believe me, read this.
  • Increase muscle mass. Muscle is composed of equal weights of fat and protein.
  • Stabilize your energy and mood. Fat provides a steadier supply of energy throughout the day than carbohydrate, which can cause fluctuations in blood sugar.

POLYUNSATURATED FAT: OMEGA-6 & OMEGA-3
Polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) can be subdivided into omega-6 and omega-3. PUFA are fragile and vulnerable to oxidative damage, a process that creates free radicals in the body and raises our risk for everything from heart disease to cancer. As I pointed out in Step #1: Don’t Eat Toxins, both anthropological and modern research suggest that for optimal health we should consume roughly the same amount of omega-6 and omega-3 fat (1:1 ratio), and that our total intake of PUFA should be no more than 4% of calories.

But Americans’ omega-6:omega-3 ratio today ranges from 10:1 to 20:1, with a ratio as high as 25:1 in some individuals! This means some people are eating as much as 25 times the recommended amount of omega-6 fat. And it is this excess consumption of omega-6 PUFA – not cholesterol and saturated fat – that is responsible for the modern epidemics of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, autoimmune disease and more.

Omega-6 PUFA (linoleic acid, or LA) is found in small or moderate amounts of a wide variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, cereal grains and meat. But it is found in very large amounts in industrial processed and refined oils, like soybean, cottonseed, corn, safflower and sunflower. These oils are ubiquitous in the modern diet, present in everything from salad dressing to chips and crackers to restaurant food. LA is also relatively high in most nuts and in all poultry, especially in dark meat with skin.

Linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid. This means it is required for proper function but cannot be produced in the body, and thus must be obtained from the diet. However, the amount of omega-6 that is needed is exceedingly small: less than 0.5 percent of calories when supplied by most animal fats and less than 0.12 percent of calories when supplied by liver. When consumed in excess amounts – as is almost always the case in industrialized countries like the U.S. – omega-6 contributes to all of the diseases mentioned above.

Omega-3 PUFA can be further subdivided into short-chain (alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA) and long-chain (EPA & DHA). ALA is found in plant foods like walnut and flax, whereas EPA & DHA is found in seafood and to a lesser extent the meat and fat of ruminant animals.

While ALA is considered essential, the long-chain EPA & DHA are responsible for the benefits we get from eating omega-3 fats, and they form the denominator of the omega-6:omega-3 ratio. A common misconception is that we can meet our omega-3 needs by taking flax oil or eating plant foods containing ALA. It’s true that the body can convert some ALA to EPA & DHA. But that conversion is extremely inefficient in most people. On average, less than 0.5% of ALA gets converted into the long-chain EPA & DHA, and that number is even worse in people that are chronically ill or have nutrient deficiencies (common in vegans and vegetarians).

This means that it is probably EPA & DHA that are essential, in the sense that they are crucial for proper function but cannot be produced in adequate amounts in the body, and thus must be obtained from the diet.

Of the two, evidence suggests that DHA plays the more important role.

Verdict: for optimal health, eat no more than 4% of calories (about 9g/d for a 2,000 calorie diet) of polyunsaturated fat, with an equal amount of omega-6 and omega-3. Make sure the omega-3 you eat is long-chain EPA & DHA (from seafood and animal sources) rather than short-chain ALA from plant sources like flax. It is very difficult to limit omega-6 to 4.5g/day. See this article for tips.

TRANS-FATS
There are two types of trans-fats: natural (NTF), and artificial (ATF). The primary natural trans-fat, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is found in small amounts (about 2%) in the meat, fat and dairy fat of ruminant animals. CLA does not have the harmful effects of ATFs, and may have anti-cancer properties and other benefits.

Artificial trans-fats have been linked with a variety of diseases. I think most people are aware of this, so I’m not going to belabor the point. We’ve still got carbs to talk about.

Verdict: avoid artificial trans-fats like the plague. Natural trans-fats like CLA are harmless and probably even beneficial, but as long as you’re eating long-chain saturated fats, you’ll get CLA. You don’t have to go out of your way to find it.

SUMMARY OF FATS
Long-chain saturated fat, monounsaturated fat and medium chain triglycerides should form the bulk of your fat intake. Long-chain omega-3 fats (EPA & DHA) should be consumed regularly, while omega-6 LA should be dramatically reduced. Click on the fat pyramid below for a graphic representation.

Know your carbs

Carbohydrates are broken down into either indigestible fiber, glucose or fructose. Let’s discuss the suitability of each of these as human fuel.

Glucose
Glucose is a simple sugar (monosaccharide) found mostly in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, starchy tubers and grains. It has three main uses in the body:

  • It forms structural molecules call glycoproteins;
  • Like fat, it is a source of energy for cells (especially in the brain); and,
  • it’s a precursor to compounds that play an important role in the immune system.

Glucose preceded fatty acids as a fuel source for living organisms by a very long time, and it is the building block of foods that have the longest evolutionary history of use by mammals like us. The fact that glucose can be produced in the body from protein is often used as an argument that we don’t need to eat it in the diet. But I agree with Dr. Harris’s interpretation that, rather than viewing this as evidence that that glucose isn’t important, we should view it as evidence that glucose is so metabolically essential that we evolved a mechanism to produce it even in its absence in the diet.

One of the few differences between our digestive tract and that of a true carnivore, like a lion, is that we produce an enzyme called amylase. Amylase allows us to digest starch – a long-chain polymer of glucose molecules we can’t absorb – into single molecules of glucose that easily pass through the gut wall into the bloodstream.

Presuming we are metabolically healthy, the glucose and starch we eat is digested and rapidly cleared by the liver and muscle cells. It is only when the metabolism is damaged – usually by years of eating toxins like refined cereal grains, industrial seed oils and fructose – that excess glucose is not properly cleared and leads to insulin resistance and diabetes.

Verdict: the range of glucose that is tolerated varies widely across populations and individuals. Assuming no metabolic problems and an active lifestyle, glucose may be consumed relatively freely. However, many people today do have some form of metabolic dysfunction, and live a sedentary lifestyle. If you fall into this category, glucose should probably be limited to 400 calories (about 100g) of glucose per day.

Fructose
Fructose is another simple sugar found primarily in fruits and vegetables. While it has the same chemical formula and caloric content as glucose, it has an entirely different effect on the body.

As I pointed out in Step #1: Don’t Eat Toxins, fructose is toxic at high doses. It damages proteins in a process called fructation, which disrupts metabolic function and causes inflammation and oxidative damage. To prevent this, fructose is shunted directly to the liver for conversion into glucose or innocuous fats. But this process damages the liver over time, leading to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (which one in three Americans now suffer from) and metabolic syndrome.

Another issue is that excess fructose is not well absorbed in the gut, which in turn leads to its rapid fermentation by bacteria in the colon or abnormal overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. Small-bowel bacterial overgrowth, or SIBO, is now believed to be the major cause of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a common functional bowel disorder that is the second-leading cause of people missing work behind only the common cold.

Most people without metabolic dysfunction can handle small amounts of fructose (as found in a few servings of fruit per day) without problems. But on the scale that fructose is consumed in the U.S. – including 64 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup per person each year on average – fructose wreaks havoc on the body. It should therefore be limited as a source of carbohydrate.

Verdict: 3-4 servings a day of fruit is fine for people without metabolic problems. Those with fatty liver, insulin resistance or other issues should further limit fructose intake, and everyone should avoid high-fructose corn syrup and other concentrated sources like agave syrup.

Fiber
Fiber is plant matter that is indigestible to humans. But although we can’t digest it, some of the 100 trillion bacteria that live in our gut can. In fact, up to 10% of the body’s caloric needs can be met by the conversion of glucose into short-chain fats like butyrate, propionate and acetate by intestinal bacteria. These short-chain fats are the primary energy source for intestinal cells in the colon, and butyrate in particular has been associated with several benefits. These are outlined in The Perfect Health Diet, by Paul & Shou-Ching Jaminet. Butyrate:

  • Prevents obesity.
  • Heals the intestine.
  • Improves gut barrier integrity.
  • Relieves constipation.
  • Improves cardiovascular markers.
  • Reduces inflammation.
  • Stabilizes blood sugar.

The evidence clearly suggests that vegetable fiber is beneficial. However, just as not all fats are created equal, not all fiber is created equal. Grain fiber – which the AHA and other so-called “heart healthy” organizations have been promoting for decades – is toxic for two reasons: it contains toxic proteins like gluten, and it is prone to injure the intestinal wall.

We’ve been bullied into believing that grain fiber prevents heart disease and provides numerous health benefits. But this claim has only been tested in a single clinical trial, and the results were less than spectacular. The Diet and Reinfarction Trial, published in 1989, included 2,033 British men who had suffered a heart attack, and compared a high-fiber group with a control group. The high-fiber group ate whole grains and doubled their grain fiber intake from 9 to 17 grams per day.

How did that work out for them? Not too well. Deaths in the high fiber group were 22% higher over the two year study. 9.9% of the control group died vs. 12.1% of the high fiber group.

There are other reasons to limit all types of fiber.

Fiber isn’t essential. Human breast milk doesn’t have any, and traditional people like the Masai – who are free of modern, degenerative disease – eat almost no fiber at all (subsisting on a diet of meat, blood and milk).

And while fiber can feed the good bacteria in our gut and increase the production of beneficial short-chain fats like butyrate, it can also feed pathogenic and opportunistic bacteria in the gut.

Verdict: vegetable (but not grain) fiber is beneficial in moderate amounts – about one-half pound of vegetables per day. But think about vegetables and fiber as accompaniments or flavorful condiments to fat and protein, which should form the bulk of calories consumed, rather than the other way around.

SUMMARY OF CARBOHYDRATES
Assuming a healthy metabolism (which isn’t necessarily a safe assumption these days), glucose and starch can be eaten relatively freely, which fructose should be limited to 2-3 servings of fruit per day. Vegetable fiber is beneficial but should also be limited, to about one-half pound of vegetables per day. See the carb pyramid below for a graphic representation.

Pyramid containing carbs we should eat

Know your protein

What about protein? As it turns out, eating the right type of protein is easy if you simply follow Step #1 (don’t eat toxins) and base your diet on the healthy fats I listed above.

Protein is mostly found in animal products, seafood, nuts, legumes and grains. Legumes and grains have toxic compounds that can damage the gut. These toxins can be partially and in some cases completely neutralized by traditional preparation methods like soaking, sprouting and fermenting. But the vast majority of people in modern industrial societies don’t do this and aren’t willing to do it, so I generally recommend that people avoid them altogether.

As I explained above, nuts are often high in omega-6 LA, which we get far too much of as it is. So nuts should not constitute a significant source of protein. Walnuts are especially high. Just 100g of walnuts a day amounts to a whopping 266g of omega-6 per week. Keeping in mind that we want a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, you’d have to eat 34 pounds of salmon a week to achieve a balance. Good luck with that.

Poultry, especially dark meat with the skin on, can also be very high in omega-6 and should also be limited. For example, chicken skin has about 14 times more omega-6 than even grain-finished beef, and 10 times more than grain-finished pork.

That leaves the meat and milk (including butter, cream and cheese) of ruminant animals (beef & lamb), pork, and seafood as the most suitable sources of protein.

Animal protein is easy to absorb, is not toxic and is rich in beneficial long-chain saturated fats and natural trans-fats like CLA. Seafood is similarly easy to absorb, and is the primary dietary source of long-chain omega-3 fats DHA & EPA, as well as micronutrients like vitamin D and selenium.

We don’t need a pyramid for protein; you can simply follow the fat pyramid and you’ll naturally get the right type and amount of protein.

145 Comments

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  1. Just because 10,000 people spout inaccurate information doesn’t make it accurate. Have you read any of the literature on (a) how humans evolved to eat and (b) the risks of veganism? Demonstrate that you’ve done your homework before you challenge the views Kresser writes about.

    Veganism is, at best, a misguided attempt to be ethical. The ecosystem destruction required to support a vegan way of eating with industrial agriculture is just as great as that required for the industrial livestock paradigm and more so than the damage done by traditional animal husbandry practices.

  2. This article is contrary to what MANY nutritionists and naturopathic practitioners advise. Youre advising that people eat animal fats? What about vegans?

  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3085074/

    Low breast milk levels of long-chain n-3 fatty acids in allergic women, despite frequent fish intake.
    Women with a combination of eczema and respiratory allergy had lower breast milk levels of several PUFAs (arachidonic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, EPA, docosahexaenoic acid, DHA, and docosapentaenoic acid, DPA), and a lower ratio of long-chain n-3 PUFAs/n-6 PUFAs. Their PUFA levels differed not only from that of healthy women, but also from that of women with only respiratory allergy. The latter had a fatty acid pattern similar to that of healthy women. Despite low EPA, DHA and DPA levels women with eczema and respiratory allergy consumed no less fish than did healthy women.

    http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/08/28/peds.2011-3104.abstract

    Postnatal Fish Oil Supplementation in High-Risk Infants to Prevent Allergy: Randomized Controlled Trial

    6 months of age, infant docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid levels were significantly higher (both P < .05) and erythrocyte arachidonic acid levels were lower (P = .003) in the fish oil group. Although n-3 PUFA levels at 6 months were associated with lower risk of eczema (P = .033) and recurrent wheeze (P = .027), the association with eczema was not significant after multiple comparisons and there was no effect of the intervention per se on the primary study outcomes. Specifically, between-group comparisons revealed no differences in the occurrence of allergic outcomes including sensitization, eczema, asthma, or food allergy.

    http://www.gnldcontent.com/omega3/us/pdf/Omega-3-and-pregancy-scientific-review.pdf

    Studies show that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation during the last trimester
    dampen certain immune responses (e.g. PGE2 secretion) involved in allergic inflammation. xxii In
    a recent study of 150 pregnant women, who suffered from allergies themselves or had a husband or
    previous child with allergies, supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids lowered risk of allergic disorders
    in their infants. In this randomized placebo-controlled trial, mothers received an EPA/DHA supplement
    from the 25th week of pregnancy through the 3rd or 4th month of lactation. Maternal omega-3 fatty
    acid supplementation decreased the risk of food allergies and eczema in infants with a family history
    of allergic disease. xxiii This study follows a large cross-sectional study in Japan showing that DHA
    intake is associated with a lower prevalence of atopic eczema in pregnant women. xxiv
    Finally, a long term population-based study showed that children from mothers that received an omega-3 fatty acid supplement during gestation had 63% lower risk of developing asthma and 87% lower risk of allergic asthma. xxv

  4. Chris,

    Thank you. I understand. However, the amount of omega 3 in fruits and vegetables is very small so it could not constitute the ‘proper’ ratio for the past humans. Additionally, as you say, the veg omega 3 is hardly convertible, so useless mostly anyway.

    What is your opinion of this?
    “Mothers whose breast milk contains more long-chain n-3 fatty acids are more likely to have allergic children (Stoney, et al., 2004). (And children whose mothers are allergic have higher levels of DHA and EPA in their tissues.) ”

    http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/unsaturatedfats.shtml

  5. Hi Chris,

    VERY good article that is really useful in trying to pick better foods.

    I was thinking if there’s a difference to eating Brie vs. Gruyere/Parmesan/Cheddar for instance because of the shorter aging process of Brie? Or doesn’t it matter as long as the cheese is made with raw milk from cows fed with grass?
    I’ve seen other mention that the more mature cheeses should be preferred.

    Thank you.

    Best regards,

    Hemming

  6. Omega 3 is preferred by enzymes over omega 6, so omega 6:3 of 2:1 or 3:1 can come out as 1:1.
    Omega 3 is in vegetables, greens, fruit etc, while 6 is in seeds.
    Peat is wrong, he”s playing the hard skeptical position there, not the sensible one. His thoughts on PUFA are interesting and educational but his conclusions aren’t right. This is one area of nutrition where it pays to keep up to date and you can’t rest on old research.

  7. Chris,

    I was wondering about the Paleo concept that in that ‘ideal’ world before agriculture we all had diet with 1 to 1 ration of Omegas 3 and 6. In all the food charts that I have seen, except of fish and couple of some other stuff (that one rarely eats) omega 6 is always higher than omega 3. How our ancestors actually managed to find enough omega 3? I mean those who did not fish in the sea. And is this ratio another myth that everyone accepts but it is a product of imagination, a way to sell more of that horrible fish oil?

    According to Peat, omega 3 is simply toxic and we don’t need it. It is in fact not ‘essential’ at all:
    http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/fats-degeneration3.shtml

  8. Hi Chris,

    Thank you for the inspiriting and clarifying article! Since I have been taking veg omega 3 supplements (made from sage oil), I only now realized that they have only the ALA. However, as I did some researches, there are many claims that we convert the ALA just fine. http://www.azchia.com/ala_conversion_epa_dpa_dha.htm

    “There is sufficient evidence that supplementation of the diet with ALA will lead to increased amounts of EPA and DHA in the plasma. The confounding factor that must be taken into account is the amount of LA in the diet, since this does affect conversion. As further evidence of this a study by Cleland et al. (1992) showed that LA even inhibits incorporation of EPA into cell membranes of humans. Thus if it does affect EPA incorporation, it would seem most logical that it would also affect ALA conversion.”:

    There is also an interesting, (and rather objective) vegan link speaking of this matter. It all seems rather complicated: http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/omega3

    Is it true that eggs also have some good omega 3?

    thanks

    • The majority of the studies indicate that conversion is poor with the average background intake of n-6 in the diet. Even mainstream, conventional health authorities are urging fish consumption for this reason. It is possible to get enough EPA with ALA consumption, but rarely enough DHA.

  9. Dear Chris,
    Hello, I’m from Hungary.
    I love you for all of your posts :), but seriously.

    “nuts should not constitute a significant source of protein. Walnuts are especially high. Just 100g of walnuts a day amounts to a whopping 266g of omega-6 per week. Keeping in mind that we want a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, you’d have to eat 34 pounds of salmon a week to achieve a balance. Good luck with that. ”
    Well, we have a lot of walnuts, from our own garden, and I eat walnuts every day – I soak them -, sometimes even almonds or poppy-seeds, sesame seeds, etc. I worry about my omega 6 intake. I cannot eat a lot of meat.
    What is your opinion about this article?
    http://donmatesz.blogspot.hu/2010/03/paleo-diet-basics-why-i-eat-walnuts.html

    What will I do with that lot of walnuts? 🙂
    My other question: I always have constipation and I can not solve this problem, what should I do?
    Where can I find the further 7 Steps to Perfect Health?

  10. Chris- I have just started to read your website as well and I am becoming more confused. Mostly everything I read is exactly the opposite of what you indicate is healthy and appropriate. One of the biggest consternations for me is walnuts- I have always understood walnuts were high in omega 3 (and I see this everywhere) and good for heart. Your information indicates walnuts (and other nuts) are actually high in Omega 6 and not as good as thought. Can you clarify the omega 3 and omega 6 issue. There seems to be a lot of conflicting information.
    thanks

    • You’re right, and that’s partly because my views on certain issues have evolved over time. At this point I think that the omega-6:omega-3 ratio may be less important than I previously thought, and it’s more the overall intake of omega-3 that is paramount. I also think there’s a significant difference between obtaining omega-6 from whole foods vs. industrial seed oils, because the seed oils are completely devoid of nutrients and are highly processed.

        • I would think this guy needs to go back to vegetarian eating!- it obviously works for him.
          I do not see such obvious and dramatic differences when I eat vegetarian vs eating a more paleo diet.
          I have eaten vegetarian, high carb and have not noted any significant changes in my weight and well being- but have felt slightly more tired. Recently I have switched to veggies and more animal protein in an effort to lose weight and have also nearly eliminated wheat with a slight reduction in weight- so far. I feel better with the elimination of wheat. I am less tired, have fewer aches and pains.. I am type O (blood type diet) and also pitta (ayurveda)- both of which suggest a reduction in wheat and a diet of quality protein.(you have to use every bit of info you can get!) I truly think each person has to determine for themselves what works best for them. I tend to think elliminating the toxic substances, increasing veggies, adding more raw foods are some of the basics for most without allergies or disease and what kind of protein and carbs they add depends on how it makes them feel and what can be sustained over time. The bottom line is that there is no one right answer for everyone.
          However, I am annoyed by basic conflicting information on the facts. It makes it more difficult to make a good decision.
          The discussion over fats is one such example. IS saturated fat good or bad????!!!
          Drives me nuts!

  11. Hi Chris,

    Just introduced to your website and podcast. I have been moving towards a low carb diet (also have been doing a lot of fasting and juicing). I have mainly been eating turkey, avocados, sunflower seed butter. I’m starting to see that is way off base. Sounds like grass feed beef and lamb should make up the bulk of your diet (along with their dairy products)? So Turkey and I need to part ways? The Sunflower seed butter is no good as well? Where to eggs fit in? It blows my mind that I am 42 and just starting to get a clue on what to eat. Thanks, any information would be very appreciated.

  12. Chris,

    I have been studying and experimenting with paleo nutrition for a few months, and this relatively brief article is the best summary of facts I have read – including those of the most well known paleo experts.

  13. One confounder might be that PUFAs such as arachadonic acid are conserved in membranes on a low-carb diet, with fewer prostaglandin-type conversions (Voleck et al.). So deficiency would then be prevented by a lower rate of degradation.

    I prefer to follow the Nanji-French experiments with PUFA vs SFA in liver disease. These appear to show that 5% of FATS (not calories) as PUFA is consistent with good health (at 35% total calories as fat; high fat intakes would probably support lower PUFA).
    A 50/50 mix of beef dripping or coconut oil with olive oil or lard meets this prescription. And is practicable and not unduly restrictive.

  14. Your statement “However, the amount of omega-6 that is needed is exceedingly small: less than 0.5 percent of calories when supplied by most animal fats and less than 0.12 percent of calories when supplied by liver.” is a misinterpretation of the the paper you linked to, written by Chris Masterjohn. I thought the figure seemed rather low, I wrote Masterjohn directly about this quote in July, 2012, and he said the 0.5% figure is a **minimum required to prevent deficiency. Further, he said, “I’m planning on coming out with a second report as a sequel that addresses potential harms and benefits of consuming higher amounts, whether omega-3 or omega-6. I am far from sold on the idea that more is harmless or beneficial, but I’m not done with my research yet, so God willing I will be able to put it together later in the year.”

    In addition, Dr. Bill Harris presents what seems to be credible evidence (http://www.lecturepad.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1048:n-6-fatty-acids-harmful-or-helpful-n6n3-rations-useful-or-not&catid=47:prevention&Itemid=423) that disputes the advice to eat a very low percentage of PUFA (1–4% of calories). Since American ate about 15 g of omega-6/day until the 1930’s (http://www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/precious-yet-perilous), before eating vegetable oils became entrenched, I figure that’s a reasonable goal to aim for.

    • My views on this have changed since I wrote this article, and I think Chris’s have as well (I’ve corresponded with him about it). I’ve watched Dr. Harris’s presentation, and there are several issues with it. He selected evidence that supports his view, and neglected evidence that doesn’t. Both sides are guilty of that. I think the bulk of the evidence now suggests that long-chain n-3 consumption is by far the most crucial factor, and everything else is secondary. That said, if an individual isn’t consuming adequate n-3 LCFA, then a high background intake of n-6 will inhibit conversion of ALA to DHA, and to a lesser extent, EPA. I think eating n-6 in foods like avocados, nuts and poultry is unlikely to be problematic in the context of sufficient n-3 LCFA intake, but industrial seed oils (which is how most Americans get n-6) are highly processed and devoid of nutrients and not a good idea.

      • Thanks for sharing your current thinking on this issue. I hope you find the time to revise the article along the lines you’ve mentioned, so that everyone has the benefit of your current ideas. I’ve mentioned your older stance about dark meat chicken in several places in the LC virtual world, and I’ll have to go revise those posts.

  15. Chris, can you please speak on your views about chicken bone broth. I have UC and both the gaps diet as well as the SCD diet suggests drinking it on a daily basis and even with every meal. Is this too much chicken for an already sensitive inflamed digestive system? I eat very little of the meat but I do ingest the bones and marrow. Should I be making beef broth instead?

    • Broth has a lot of glycine, which helps repair a leaky gut. So I do recommend 1-2 cups of bone broth per day.

  16. Two things:
    1) you don’t mention sugar as a source of fructose (or honey)
    2) sweet roots and tubers deliver fructose too, sometimes significant amounts
    make that three:
    3) galactose from dairy is also worth investigating

  17. Hi Chris,

    Has anyone come to you about having serious gas issues after starting a paleo diet? Me and my boyfriend have just started eating only grass fed beef and sweet potatoes, and really nothing else (to get started for the first month) and yet we have serious gas. Any comment is appreciated.

    Amanda

  18. Hi,

    What do you think about using freshly juiced vegetable juice. Would say a glass or a glass every other freshly juiced beetroot, apple and ginger juice be OK, or should fruits only be eaten whole?

    Thanks,
    Vanessa

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