We’re not going to use the fact that our paleo ancestors weren’t juicing as a reason not to do it. So let’s talk a little bit about the pros and cons of juicing, and then I’ll give you my sense of the role that juicing might play in a paleo or nutrient-dense type of diet.
In the sort of mainstream alternative health community, if you will, juicing is a hugely popular activity and something that gets a lot of airplay and discussion. It’s not discussed quite as much in the paleo world. It’s not really a part of the paleo meme partly because our ancestors didn’t really have any Champion Juicers around to juice anything, so certainly from that perspective it doesn’t really fit into the ancestral framework, but as I’ve said before, the fact that our ancestors didn’t do something is not enough of a reason for us not to do it.
In this episode, we cover:
3:00 What Chris ate today
5:50 Update on the clinician training program
17:40 The benefits of juicing
21:36 The drawbacks of juicing
26:08 The role juicing can play in a paleo or nutrient-dense type of diet
Steve Wright: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening. You are listening to the Revolution Health Radio Show. I’m your host, Steve Wright, co-author at SCDlifestyle.com. I want to let you know that this episode of RHR is brought to you by 14Four.me. Now, 14Four.me, if you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s a 14-day healthy lifestyle reset program. It handles the four areas of your health that we’re typically talking about on the show, specifically diet, sleep, movement, and stress. If you’ve ever tried to tweak all of those at the same time — I have — it gets really complicated, it can be very confusing and frustrating, and so what Chris has done is he has created this 14-day healthy lifestyle program where it sort of hand holds and walks you step by step how you might structure your day so you still eat well, sleep well, move a little bit, and stay low stress. It can be complicated, but in 14Four.me Chris has made it easy. So go check it out, 14Four.me, and we’ll get on with the show now.
With me is integrative medical practitioner, healthy skeptic, and New York Times bestselling author, Chris Kresser. Chris, how’s your day?
Chris Kresser: Oh, it’s going pretty well. How about you, Steve?
Steve Wright: It’s going great. I’m in the beautiful mountains in Utah right now.
Chris Kresser: Sounds nice. Is it snowing?
Steve Wright: It’s raining.
Chris Kresser: Wow.
Steve Wright: Kind of not to be expected.
Chris Kresser: Hmm. Not great for any snow activities, huh?
Steve Wright: Yeah. That’s why we’re having a podcast and I’m not skiing!
Chris Kresser: Right! Well, we had no measurable rain in California in January for the first time, I think, ever since they’ve been keeping records, and it’s a crazy drought.
Steve Wright: That’s not good.
Chris Kresser: You see pictures of the water levels in various areas around California. It’s looking pretty apocalyptic.
Steve Wright: I’m gonna have to ask you, Chris, to get on this problem because I really like your avocados, bananas —
Chris Kresser: Yeah, there’s not going to be a lot of that. Well, the upside is that while California turns into an uninhabitable desert, it’s at least a very nice place to live in the meantime!
Steve Wright: There are lots of cool people that live there!
Chris Kresser: I was out in my t-shirt enjoying 70-degree weather yesterday, so there’s always an upside to everything, right, Steve?
Steve Wright: That’s true. You have to look at both angles. There’s always a good side.
Chris Kresser: Yeah.
Steve Wright: So before we get on with today’s show, Chris, people are dying to know, what have you been eating all day?
What Chris ate today
Chris Kresser: Today was kind of a, well, not totally intermittent fast day. I skipped breakfast, went to the gym, got a lot of work done early on, and just was so focused. Something I was doing was the clinician training program, actually — I’ll come back to that in a second — and I just didn’t really want to take the time to stop and eat, so I kept working and then I went to the gym, came back, had brunch, and brunch was —
Steve Wright: Mimosas, right?
Chris Kresser: Exactly! I had this raw kale salad from The Zenbelly Cookbook that is, as I’ve said, one of my favorite cookbooks by far. It’s shredded kale that’s marinated and sits for a while and gets tender that way, some sauerkraut with beets and carrots and cabbage, a green chile pork sausage from my favorite charcuterie, The Fifth Quarter, and some white potato hash browns.
Steve Wright: Mmm.
Chris Kresser: The beloved, often maligned white potato.
Steve Wright: So delicious, though, especially with salt and butter.
Chris Kresser: So good, yeah. This was salt and a little bit of expeller-pressed coconut oil and a little bit of bacon grease just to give it that extra hash brown diner flavor.
Steve Wright: Nice.
Chris Kresser: Yeah, it was good.
Steve Wright: Were you able to crisp them up? Did you, like, boil them ahead of time and then shred them?
Chris Kresser: Oh, yeah. Well, we have this flat electric griddle, and what I do is I grate them with a grater so they’re pretty fine.
Steve Wright: And they’re raw?
Chris Kresser: Raw. And then I lay them out flat, but I put a baking sheet over them with this kind of weighted — I don’t know what it’s called, but it has a handle and it’s basically just a flat — it’s like a thing that you press stuff with on the grill, and it weighs down the cooking sheet and then that creates some steam so that the potatoes get kind of steamed, and it also makes them really crispy because it’s pressing down and pushing them into the griddle. That’s a little trick I picked up from our friend Robb Wolf, actually, when I was out visiting a couple years ago, he and Nicki and Zoe in Reno. We were staying with them, and Robb pulled out that trick for hash browns, so I’ve been using it ever since.
Steve Wright: I like it. I’m going to have to check this out. I’m going to try this.
Chris Kresser: It’s good.
Steve Wright: So tell us more about this project that’s got you extremely focused right now.
Chris Kresser: Got me skipping meals?
Steve Wright: Yeah.
Update on the clinician training program
Chris Kresser: You know, I’ve been talking about clinician training for a long time, and this has just come out of my experience working with patients and having a practice that’s been largely closed to new patients for the last several years and the growing demand for practitioners who understand both functional medicine and evolutionary ancestral nutrition and health. It’s so clear to me now that there’s no way that I as a single practitioner could ever even remotely come close to scratching the surface of meeting the demand for this kind of work. So many people want and need this kind of help, and even if I train associates that work in my practice as I’ve already started to do, there’s just a fairly hard limit on the number of people that can serve that way, and so I’ve always known that the next step would be to create a clinician training program that can serve a lot more people than I could train on a one-on-one basis in my clinic.
I’ve spent really the last year thinking about this, developing it. I’ve started and stopped on several different iterations. To be honest, it’s taken me longer than anything else that I’ve ever done to really figure out what the best way to move forward is. For example, I wrote my book in about four or five months, and the first draft of it was 600 or 700 pages! And of course, I had a lot of material that I had already written from years of blogging and stuff like that, so it wasn’t like I just started from complete scratch and wrote it in four or five months, but the outline came together very quickly, and my vision for it was clear from the start. It just went and I didn’t really have to rearrange any old ideas or concepts to make it work, whereas with this training program I’ve kind of gone back to square one.
First of all, I went and read the scientific literature on the most recent developments in learning theory and realized that almost everything that we think about learning is not true. The way that we have typically been taught in school is a disaster.
Steve Wright: Perfect.
Chris Kresser: Yeah, the worst possible way to teach, in many cases, in terms of retaining information. So I went down that rabbit hole for a while and got really fascinated by how we learn and how we retain information and how we translate knowledge into practical skills because, of course, that’s what the goal of this training is. It’s not to just give people a whole bunch of information that they then forget and don’t use in their life. It’s to transfer the knowledge and skills that people will need to start and manage a really successful and effective functional medicine practice.
Steve Wright: Can you give us, like, one cool tip about learning that will just blow our minds?
Chris Kresser: I don’t know about that, but the typical method of learning is what you might call ‘covering material.’ A textbook covers a ton of material, but it’s all out of context. It’s like learning the alphabet, A, B, C, D, E, F, G. It’s out of context. You don’t really understand when you read a textbook how it applies to real situations. You don’t understand the relative importance of one thing versus another because it’s all basically emphasized to an equal degree, and in terms of medical education, learning a bunch of facts without having any understanding how they apply to what you’re doing in terms of treating patients is not that useful.
An example of this would be, back in the ’80s, Harvard recognized this and Harvard Medical School transitioned to a case-based learning style in their medical school. It wasn’t pioneered by Harvard. It was McMaster University, I think, in Canada — if I’m getting that right — started it, but Harvard kind of really expanded it. It used to be that medical school, the first two years of it was just didactic education, lectures basically, lectures on pharmacology and physiology and all the medical sciences, and you didn’t really get into the clinic and start thinking about patients until the last two years, and that’s still how a lot of medical schools are set up, but they just totally switched it to where when students come in, they immediately just start working on case studies. I mean, they don’t know what they’re doing, but they get in small groups and they work on case studies. They get a case and then they have to figure out, what do I need to know in order to be able to work on this case? If it’s someone that has a cough, they go, OK, well, I need to study the physiology of the lung. I need to study pathology, what can go wrong in this kind of situation. I need to — And then they go off and they use their own learning styles and preferences in terms of how they like to learn to figure all that out. That’s an example.
Another example is this kind of fire hose method of education, like the weekend seminar where you sit there for 16 hours and then you just have, like, information fire-hosed at you, and then you go back to your clinic at the end of that and you’re like, What?! How do I even apply this?!
So the way I’m setting things up is in a way that maximizes what we know about learning science to retain information and be able to use it in a practical manner, so it’s going to be a case-based learning method where we just immediately start looking at labs, interpreting labs, designing treatment protocols, and there will be a lot of reference material provided to fill in the gaps, but really my intention is that when somebody finishes this training, they will be able to start and run a very effective, successful functional medicine practice. That’s the goal. I’m not setting out to deliver a whole bunch of information or to give people the broadest possible education in functional medicine. I’m setting out to create super-effective functional medicine practitioners.
That’s kind of the whole background of it! And more specifically, the curriculum is going to be offered in much shorter segments, like 8-10 minutes, to maximize retention. There are going to be low-stakes quizzes because we know from the learning research that having to recall information after you’ve learned it really dramatically increases retention. There’s going to be homework assignments and case assignments, and there’ll be a monthly workshop, a longer seminar with me where I present cases and advise on cases of participants and answer questions. There will be weekly support with my trained clinicians, kind of like the university model where there’s the larger lecture and then there are the discussion sections with the TAs on a week-by-week basis.
And it’s going to cover four key areas: diet and lifestyle, like how to customize diet and lifestyle recommendations from an ancestral perspective based on the particular patient that you’re seeing; functional blood chemistry; GI disorders; and HPA axis or adrenal fatigue syndrome. Those are the four core areas that I think should be the starting place for any functional medicine encounter. They’re going to help the greatest number of people. And certainly some people will need more than that, but if that’s all you focused on in your entire career and you just learned to do that really well, you would be able to help an enormous number of people, and for probably 80% of the people that come through the door, 70%, that’s going to be enough to get them back to health.
Steve Wright: Yeah, I’m excited for that, Chris. I think it’s going to be a wonderful program, and I think you’re hitting on something that’s really important that’s kind of missing from almost all areas of different medicine, at least that I’ve been involved with, which is that as a clinician you have to recognize that everyone’s different and yet, if you have a framework that you can sort of hang the whole problem around, typically you can move the ball way down the field just using the framework, and then once you start to hit some obstacles, that’s when you get into the custom stuff. So I’m looking forward to having a big group of people who really get this stuff. I think it’s going to be amazing for the world.
Chris Kresser: Yeah, I’m excited. I’m really excited to teach it, and I think it’s going to go a lot faster now. All those months were just figuring out the frame and the context and the strategy for how to deliver it, and now that I have that settled, I’ve just been making very quick progress in terms of taking the actual steps to get it out there. I hesitate to make any projections, but my strong intention is to launch it this year and hopefully before the end of the summer.
Steve Wright: Perfect.
Chris Kresser: Fingers crossed.
Steve Wright: Alright.
Chris Kresser: Alright. So today we have an interesting question. Let’s give it a listen.
Question: Hello. I’d like to know your thoughts on juicing, the kind of juicing done by Jay Kordich, and your thoughts on the benefits or negatives of doing so.
Chris Kresser: Alright, so juicing. In the sort of mainstream alternative health community, if you will, juicing is a hugely popular activity and something that gets a lot of airplay and discussion. It’s not discussed quite as much in the paleo world. It’s not really a part of the paleo meme partly because our ancestors didn’t really have any Champion Juicers around to juice anything, so certainly from that perspective it doesn’t really fit into the ancestral framework, but as I’ve said before, the fact that our ancestors didn’t do something is not enough of a reason for us not to do it. We’re not going for paleo reenactment here. We look at things from an ancestral perspective to generate questions and hypotheses and give us some ideas about what may or may not make sense, but we’re not going to use the fact that our paleo ancestors weren’t juicing as a reason not to do it. So let’s talk a little bit about the pros and cons of juicing, and then I’ll just give you my sense of the role that juicing might play in a paleo or nutrient-dense type of diet.
The benefits of juicing
The pros are that fruits and vegetables are loaded with phytonutrients that more and more studies suggest have a lot of health benefits. These are nutrients that are not the same as the essential nutrients that research is very clear that we need, things like vitamins and minerals, you know, vitamin A, D, C, and minerals like zinc and iron and things like that. I mean, those are all, of course, important and are found in fruits and vegetables, but we’re talking about other phytonutrients and things that are referred to as antioxidants that are found pretty exclusively in fruits and vegetables. They’re not found so much in meat and animal products. They’re found more in plants, and these things do, I think, have important health benefits. Overall they seem to play a hormetic role, and what this means is that something that’s hormetic is something that induces a positive adaptation. It’s a stressor, but it’s a stressor that helps us to adapt and evolve, evolve over a longer timescale or adapt in a shorter timescale.
An example of hormesis that everybody knows about is exercise, and we can talk about weightlifting in particular. If you go and you lift a weight at a gym and you lift a weight to the point of failure, you’re going to be creating some tears in the muscles, and that’s a stressor, putting stress on the muscles, and the body’s response will be to rebuild that muscle so it’s a little bit stronger so it can ideally deal with that amount of weight the next time you lift weights. This is an oversimplification, but that’s the general idea. So exercise and weightlifting, in particular, has a hormetic effect.
It appears that a lot of the phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables have the same effects. They’re referred to often as antioxidants, but they’re really more pro-oxidant in that they have this hormetic effect where they ramp up the body’s own antioxidant defense system. They cause a little bit of stress, and they ramp up the body’s own internal antioxidant defense system. So they have an antioxidant effect, but they, the nutrients themselves, are not antioxidants. And this probably explains, in part, why studies consistently show that eating fresh fruits and vegetables is associated with better health.
Juicing is a way that some people find easier to get more fruits and vegetables into their diet, so that’s one possible pro.
People with digestive issues who might have trouble breaking down a lot of the fiber that’s in whole fruits and vegetables might be able to tolerate juices, and they’re part of the GAPS diet, which is a gut-healing diet, for this reason, I think. The nutrients in fruits and vegetables can be important for healing, but a lot of people who have a really inflamed gut can’t deal with the insoluble fiber and other tough fibers in fruits and veggies.
Raw fruits and veggies contain nutrients and substances that are not found in cooked foods or that are lower in cooked foods. Glutathione is a really good example. It’s the master antioxidant in the body and helps protect against oxidative damage and has a regulatory effect on the immune system. Glutathione is not really present in cooked vegetables or cooked meats. It’s in raw fruits and vegetables and raw meats, so juicing can give you glutathione. There are enzymes in raw fruits and vegetables that are destroyed in the cooking process, so that’s another potential pro.
And then some people feel really good when they do some juicing, and that’s obviously another pro.
The drawbacks of juicing
On the con side, depending on what’s being juiced, juices can have a lot of sugar. I’ve written and talked about how I don’t think that even small amounts of sugar are toxic and that we can’t tolerate sugar in the form of honey or juices like this, but certainly for some people that could be problematic, depending on their metabolic function and insulin and glucose tolerance. That’s one potential issue.
When you juice using most juicers, it removes the fiber, and the fiber in fruits and vegetables can feed the beneficial gut microbiota, and it also increases satiety. I don’t think most people are going to eat too many calories with fruit or vegetable juicing because they’re super low in calories anyway, but fiber does play a beneficial role overall in terms of feeding the gut microbiota and increasing satiety. Of course, you can get around that. There’s a new kind of device that’s become pretty popular called the NutriBullet. Do you know about the NutriBullet, Steve?
Steve Wright: I’ve heard a little bit. I get marketed to a lot, so yes, I’ve seen some of these.
Chris Kresser: The NutriBullet is essentially a blender, I think. I don’t own one, but I know people who do, and it basically blends and pulverizes the fruit or vegetable so that the fiber is still intact, so it’s not technically a juicer. It’s more of a blender. And of course, things like the Vitamix, which has been around for a long time, can do that as well. So you’re putting a whole fruit in there or whole vegetables, and you blend it around and it’s more like a fruit or vegetable shake, I suppose, than a juice.
Steve Wright: A smoothie.
Chris Kresser: A smoothie, yeah. There’s still the fiber, so it may not be absorbed as quickly or as fully as the juice for some people, but on the other hand, it will have the benefits of the fiber.
Another potential con on the flipside for people with digestive issues is that a lot of raw juices can cause loose stool or diarrhea in some susceptible people. I’ve seen that in people on the GAPS diet early on who start to add raw juices into their diet.
Juicing a lot of raw green vegetables, which is really popular in the juicing community, can be problematic for people with thyroid issues because a lot of those green vegetables have goitrogens, and if iodine intake is low because someone’s not eating iodized salt and they’re not having fish head soup or sea vegetables, then they could very well be iodine deficient. If they have a pre-existing thyroid problem, that could be problematic to have tons of raw kale juice, for example. It’s not going to affect everyone, but it can affect some people.
And then the last con is just a personal pet peeve about juicing and juicers, is that they’re a pain in the butt to clean!
Steve Wright: I have another good one for you, but that one sucks. That one totally sucks.
Chris Kresser: That’s my biggest reason for not juicing, to be honest!
Steve Wright: Yeah, I’m with you on that! I’ve actually had some friends who were essentially sticking to the same recipe on a regular basis and they were trying to cut cost because obviously sourcing the same recipe every day, good fresh stuff organic is tough.
Chris Kresser: Yeah.
Steve Wright: They end up with, like, half non-organic vegetables, and so you’re actually increasing your pesticide load if you continue with the same recipe and you do non-organic, so you have to watch out for that, too.
Chris Kresser: Yeah. The con would be it’s expensive to do right, if you’re getting local farmers’ market kind of produce, and you have to have quite a lot of it to make enough juice, of course. Yeah, that’s another one.
The role juicing can play in a paleo or nutrient-dense type of diet
So how do I feel about juicing overall and what role could it play in someone’s diet? I think occasional juicing or even a small amount daily in the context of a whole-foods, nutrient-dense diet is perfectly fine, assuming you don’t have any of the issues that I mentioned and you follow some of the guidelines that I just mentioned. I think it can play a therapeutic role in certain situations. I know it’s been successful for some people doing the GAPS diet. Some people seem to like doing it at certain times of the year if they start to feel sluggish or if they’re fighting a cold or the flu and they feel like they need some additional nutrient support or something like that. Like everything else, it depends on the individual and their needs and their health status and circumstances. If a patient asks me about it, I essentially say what I’ve said here and I’m not opposed to them trying it as long as it doesn’t become the focus of their nutrition plan. I’m not a big believer, obviously, in a diet that is centered around juicing.
Steve Wright: Yeah, it seems to be one of those things that’s the last 10% or last 15% of the overall sort of treatment plan for monitoring your health. When you try to mix in sleep and stress and food and movement and then supplements and maybe some tests, juicing can eat up a lot of that budget both mentally as well as monetarily. It does seem to be very therapeutic for some people, but like you said, if you get focused on that and you miss the 80% that really seems to matter, I think that’s where a lot of people don’t get what they’re looking for.
Chris Kresser: That’s a great point, Steve, and I’ll just put that another way: You’ll probably get more bang for your buck in just dialing in the basics, making sure you’re maximizing nutrient density and minimizing toxicity in the diet, you’re dialing in the best macronutrient ratio for you based on your circumstances and your health status, you’re making sure to eat plenty of paleo superfoods like sea vegetables for iodine, fermented foods, fermentable fibers, bone broth, organ meats — all the stuff that I talk about in my book. And then once you have all that dialed in, then if you want to mess around with juicing, that would be fine, but I definitely agree with Steve that focusing on the other stuff first is probably going to be the best approach for most people.
Steve Wright: Awesome. Well, if you’d like your question answered on the Revolution Health Radio Podcast, please go to ChrisKresser.com/PodcastQuestion and record your question there, and hopefully we will be talking to you soon about it.
Chris Kresser: Alright, everybody, thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next week.
Steve Wright: Yeah, thank you, everyone. In between shows, if you’re wondering what Chris is working on, what sort of research — apparently he might be posting things about learning behaviors and cool fun facts like that — he posts all that cool stuff that doesn’t necessarily always make the show or the blog at Facebook and Twitter, so go to Facebook.com/ChrisKresserLAc and Twitter.com/ChrisKresser to get those updates. Thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you on the next show.
Chris Kresser: Thanks, everyone.