Monthly Archives: March 2013

What’s All The Hype About Superfoods?

It seems as if every day the next “superfood” is introduced. It is usually from some exotic locale; it has just recently been discovered by someone and saved their life; it will cure all diseases known to man; and it is featured in the latest and greatest multi-level marketing program that is guaranteed to make you a millionaire. Also, it is generally rather expensive to buy! Some of the most recent examples include: goji berries, acai berries, Mona Vie juice, chia seeds, seaweeds, spirulina, dark chocolate, and of course all kinds of superfoods combined in green, red, orange, or purple powders to mix in your smoothie.

Please, don’t get me wrong. I’m in no way saying that these foods are not good for you. I’m sure they have many of the “super” qualities being touted. I’m only suggesting that there are many other foods that are probably just as “super” but do not have multi-million dollar marketing campaigns promoting them and will not take as huge a bite out of your wallet. Also, many of these products claim to cure or reverse aging, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc. While they may contribute to improved health these claims are likely stretching the truth to some extent.

Wikipedia has the following definition, “Superfood is a term used in various contexts. For example, it is sometimes used to describe food with high nutrient or phytochemical content that may confer health benefits.” We are also told, “They are superior sources of anti-oxidants and essential nutrients – nutrients we need but cannot make ourselves.”

Here’s the part I like the best, “The term is not in common use by dietitians and nutrition scientists, many of whom dispute that particular foodstuffs have the health benefits often claimed by advocates of particular superfoods. There is no legal definition of the term and it has been alleged that this has led to it being misleadingly used as a marketing tool.” This is exactly my concern. Terminology is being thrown around without any agreed upon definition of what exactly a “superfood” is, should be, or should do!

So, are there really “superfoods?” My answer is yes, but you don’t have to travel all over the world to find them nor do you have to surrender your whole paycheck to buy them. Superfoods are real foods. Most of them are located in a grocery store or farm near you. For example, you don’t have to buy exotic berries. Blueberries, strawberries, or blackberries work just fine.

What does my list of “superfoods” look like? This is In no special order. The best fruits are berries. Raw nuts and seeds are a great source of protein and fat. In the vegetable family it is the dark leafy greens (such as kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, mustard greens, and beet greens) and the Cruciferous family (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage). In the animal family there is grass fed beef, antibiotic and hormone free chicken and turkey, and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines which are high in Omega 3’s. For more details on my list of top foods to eat, click here and here .

Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He works with individuals, groups, and at corporations to create individualized nutrition and wellness programs. His office is in Mequon, WI. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, e-mail at, call (262) 389-9907 or go to

The Risk of Nutrient Deficiencies for Vegetarians

As I have written before there are many theories about what makes a proper human diet. And, what makes it more confusing is that you can always find a study to support each theory. One of the main arguments is whether or not humans should eat meat. From my personal experience and that of my clients I believe that we should. Yet at the same time I believe that a vegan or vegetarian or plant based diet can be very good for someone for a particular period of time. It can be healing.

But, here are some key questions. What is the plant based diet being compared to? What did the person eat before? Is the diet in and of itself healthy and providing all the nutrients or is it just cleaning up what was there? The answer could be yes, no, or maybe. Will this same diet provide long term health? What is the significance of the age the diet is started?

When we discuss animal product the most important question is the source. It is a healthy animal raised in a healthy manner? Or, is it a factory farmed animal raised in confinement on hormones, antibiotics, and food that it would not eat in nature? All of this makes a huge difference.

From my own personal experience I was a vegetarian for five years before studying nutrition. Yes, on that diet I certainly became healthier. I got my weight down from over 180 pounds to 150. However, I still suffered from seasonal asthma and needed an inhaler; I had virgin teeth that cracked; I could not get my weight below 150; I had high triglycerides levels; and less than optimal cholesterol levels . Once I started to consume animal products from healthy sources my weight got down to 140, I don’t have the seasonal asthma, and my triglycerides and cholesterol are in healthy ranges.

At the end of the day diet is a personal choice. My personal belief and from my studies and experience I believe that we need food that has animal origin. Some of this will be explained below. Also, there are many definitions of “vegetarian” and what that specific person will or will not eat. This is beyond the scope of this article. The purpose of this article is informational and to explain possible nutrient deficiencies that may occur in some vegetarians from not eating sufficient animal product.

As we begin to explore these specific nutrients you will notice one underlying theme. Vitamins come in many forms. I’ll explain using theoretical Vitamin X. While we may call it Vitamin X (and the government allows it to be labeled as Vitamin X), this Vitamin X has different chemistry in animals and plants. Since we are an animal, the animal form is more bioavailable to us. The plant form needs to be converted in our body into the animal form. Often times that process is not very efficient and that is where potential deficiencies can begin.

Also, I will not detail the functions of the various nutrients in this article. I will provide links to other articles for that information.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is also known as Beta-carotene. But, it gets confusing because they are not the same substance! Vitamin A (more specifically called Retinol) is found only in animal products, such as butter, egg yolks, liver, organ meats and shellfish. Beta-carotene is found in plant food, such as carrots, red bell peppers, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and leafy greens (collard greens, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, turnip greens). For the animal product to be a good source of Vitamin A, the animal needs to be eating green foods, such as cows eating green grass.

When we consume Beta-carotene from plants (or vitamin supplements) our body has to convert it into Vitamin A. And guess what – we aren’t that efficient in doing that. A variety of conversion ratios have been found based on different populations and experiments. The bottom line is that some people convert better than others. In fact, it may be nearly impossible to eat the amount of vegetables required to actually get what we need on daily basis.

It has also been found that large doses of beta-carotene supplements have led to increases in cancer mortality and total mortality in human trials. It was found that these massive doses increased oxidative stress and stimulated the production of enzymes that degraded true vitamin A. This caused a cellular vitamin A deficiency and the resulting cancer.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D – the “vitamin du jour” as I like to say. It certainly is in the news almost every day and it even has its very own “council” (The Vitamin D Council). I don’t think any other vitamin has achieved that status! Let me cut through the clutter for you – Vitamin D is very important and most of us don’t get enough of it – meat eaters and vegetarians!

When we discuss Vitamin D we need to understand there are two main forms. Humans and animals synthesize vitamin D3 in their skin from exposure to the Sun. Vitamin D2 is found in some plant foods, especially mushrooms that have been exposed to ultraviolet light. Studies have shown that Vitamin D2 may be five to ten times less effective at supporting long-term nutritional status.

In addition, Vitamin D is “fat soluble.” That means you need fat for it to be properly utilized by the body. Many vegetarian diets are low in fat diet. This may impact their ability to effectively utilize the Vitamin D.

Where do we get Vitamin D? The number one source is the Sun. It is also found in eggs, fatty fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines, tuna, and trout), liver, and milk products.

Vitamin K2

Vitamin K also comes in two forms: K1 and K2. Vitamin K1 is found in green plants, while vitamin K2 is found in animal fats and fermented foods. One of these fermented foods is natto, a soy food commonly consumed in Japan, but not elsewhere. Therefore, the vegetarian not eating natto may be at risk for a deficiency of Vitamin K2.

Vitamin K – easy to remember – K is for “clotting”, well there is actually lots more to it! Vitamin K1 is known for activating blood clotting. Vitamin K2 is used for all of vitamin K’s other functions, primarily bone mineralization. Therefore, these two K vitamins are not interchangeable.

For more information on Vitamins A, D, and K please click here

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 may be one of the most important of all the B vitamins, particularly because only true bioavailable B12 comes from animal sources. There is no such thing as “vegan” or “vegetarian” B12 as far as your body goes. Most supplements supply cyanocobalamin and call it B12. In this chemical each molecule of B12 is attached to a molecule of cyanide. Since vitamin B12 detoxifies cyanide by binding it and causing its excretion in the urine, this form has poor bioavailability in most people.

Vitamin B12 needs along with it what is known as “intrinsic factor” which comes from animals. Fortunately B12 (as other B vitamins) will store in the body, but over time you can become deficient. In fact, a good friend of mine, after years of being a vegetarian has reintroduced more animal product into her diet after seeing a live blood analysis showing a lack of B12 and a move towards anemia.

B12 is available from animal products such as fish (halibut, salmon, scallops, shrimp, and snapper are best sources), lamb, beef, organ meats, and yogurt. It is important for the blood, digestive, hepatic, and nervous systems.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 occurs in three forms: pyridoxine, pyridoxamine and pyridoxal. Plant foods contain pyridoxine, while animal foods contain pyridoxal and pyridoxamine. The human body requires pyridoxal for most functions, pyridoxamine for a few others. Pyridoxine has no role in the human body but can be converted into the other two forms in the liver using vitamin B2.

Therefore, the plant form of vitamin B6 in order to be useful to the body depends upon the status of vitamin B2. Also, as you would likely expect vitamin B2 levels tend to be higher in animal foods so again the vegetarian is at risk with their plant based diet. Another issue with plant foods is that much of their B6 is bound up with sugars that make it difficult or impossible to absorb. So we have both B2 and B6 risks.

Vegetarians should select plant foods that have the least amount of their pyridoxine bound up in sugar complexes. Bananas are an excellent source because the sugar-bound form is low, their total content is comparable to many meats, and they are typically eaten raw. Most plant foods are relatively poor sources, however, and B6 intake would be much higher on a mixed diet including muscle meats, seafood and organ meats.

The best plant sources are bananas, mushrooms, nutritional yeast, and wheat germ. The best animal sources are fish (cod, halibut, snapper, salmon, and tuna), lean beef, organ meats, and poultry.

To read more about the B Vitamins click here


Zinc is one of the most important minerals for the body. Essentially it is involved with enzymes and enzymes control every reaction in the body. Enough said? To read more about zinc click here

Zinc is present in both animal and plant foods. As is the theme of this article it all comes down to its bioavailability once in the human body. While zinc is present in grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, it is found in much lower concentrations compared to animal foods. In addition, zinc absorption in the body is inhibited by plant compounds such as phytate, oxalate, polyphenols and fiber, and enhanced by compounds present in meat. It is possible for a well planned vegetarian diet to escape zinc deficiency, it is difficult to maintain a truly healthy zinc status without eating animal foods.

Zinc we are often told is good for the immune system. True, but apparently viruses like it too! What does that mean? Taking that zinc lozenge may not always be the best idea if it is a virus you are fighting.

Animal sources of zinc are Cheddar cheese, lamb, lean beef and pork, liver, milk, poultry, seafood (crabs, oysters, shrimp), and yogurt. Plant sources of zinc are almonds, beets, carrots, cashews, green peas, mushrooms, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, spinach, wheat germ, and whole grains.

Essential Fatty Acids

The essential fatty acids are better known as the “omega” family, featuring the 3’s, 6’s, and 9’s. These are polyunsaturated fats and whenever we hear the word “essential” in nutrition it means that we must eat these nutrients, as our body does not manufacture them. We need all the essential fatty acids. The issue here again is balance. Omega 6’s are considered “pro-inflammatory” while Omega 3’s are “anti-inflammatory.” And you guessed it – the vegetarian diet is more prone to Omega 6’s.

Our body was designed to consume the Omega 3’s and 6’s in relatively equal amounts (you’ll see anywhere from 1:1 to 2:1 Omega 6’s to 3’s in the nutrition literature), most Americans are in the 20:1 to 50:1 ratio. Why? Omega 6’s are found heavily in grains – the foods featured in many vegetarian diets. Omega 3’s are found in cold water wild fish, something not too prevalent in most vegetarian diets. In fact, vegetarians have 30 percent lower levels of EPA and DHA than omnivores, while vegans have over 50 percent lower EPA and almost 60 percent lower DHA.

Plant sources of the essential fatty acids include: black current seed oil, evening primrose oil, flaxseed, lecithin, linseed oil, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, wheat germ, and winter squash. Animal sources include seafood (halibut, salmon, scallops, shrimp, snapper, and tuna) and grass-fed beef.

There are a few things you should know about flax seeds. First, beware of the marketing hype! If the flax seed is whole your body can not break it down. We can only work with flax seed in the form of meal or oil. If you buy flax seeds grind them up in a coffee grinder and store them in the refrigerator. As a polyunsaturated fat they go rancid very quickly, so only grind up a small amount. The ground flax you get in the store likely has preservatives added to keep it “fresh”, but the oils are likely already rancid.

Second, we are told that flax seed contain Omega 3’s. This is true. However it is not DHA or EPA meaning the body has to convert it. And guess what – once again this is not a very efficient process in the body.

To read more about the Essential Fatty Acids click here

Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He works with individuals, groups, and at corporations to create individualized nutrition and wellness programs. His office is in Mequon, WI. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, e-mail at, call (262) 389-9907 or go to

The China Study: What Did It Really Find?

What Did The China Study Really Study?

One of the most frequent questions I get as a nutrition consultant is, “What do you think of The China Study?” For those of you unfamiliar with it, this is a book written by T. Colin Campbell, PhD in 2006 which encourages a vegan diet (no animal sourced food) and inspired the recent documentary Forks Over Knives. The premise of the book and the movie is that all animal foods are dangerous and are the underlying cause of today’s leading killers – heart disease and cancer. It is further claimed that these can be prevented or even cured by avoiding all animal products and eating a diet consisting of only whole, unprocessed plant foods.

The China Study quickly became the “Bible” of the vegan and vegetarian communities. It was the undisputed proof that meat was bad and plant-only was good. While the book contains many well-referenced arguments, upon closer inspection it becomes clear that many of the claims result from selecting and manipulating the data that fits the hypothesis, rather than an unbiased analysis of all the information collected.

Does Animal Protein Cause Cancer? If Not, What Does?

Campbell’s main claim is that animal protein causes cancer. Here’s how he arrived at that conclusion. While working in the Philippines on a project to help combat malnutrition a colleague informed him of a startling observation. It was discovered that wealthy Filipinos were suffering from liver cancer at a much higher rate than their less-affluent counterparts. Disregarding a substantial number of lifestyle differences, Campbell believed the higher cancer rates were linked to their higher intake of animal protein. To further support his view he also learned of a recent study from India showing that a high protein intake encouraged liver cancer in rats, while a low protein intake seemed to prevent it. This led Campbell to investigate the relationship of nutrition (specifically protein ingestion) with cancer growth.

The China Study is based on Campbell’s experiments. His basic methodology was to expose rats to very high levels of aflatoxin—a known carcinogen (cancer causer) produced by mold that grows on peanuts and corn. He then fed them a diet consisting of varying levels of the milk protein casein. In study after study Campbell found that rats consuming 5 percent of their calories as casein had no tumors, while rats eating 20 percent of their calories as casein developed abnormal growths indicating the beginning of liver cancer.

Not to be “biased” he repeated the same tests with wheat protein and soy protein which showed no cancer growth. He did not test any other animal based protein. His conclusion from these experiments was that all animal protein—but not plant protein—could promote cancer growth. But the question remains. Can the effects of this isolated casein, which does not appear this way in nature (by this I mean how we actually eat food) be generalized to all forms of milk protein? And if so, can this then be attributed to all forms of animal protein? It seems like quite a stretch particularly when there are many studies that show the other major milk protein, whey, actually suppresses tumor growth.

On a side note – one the experiments he did not report in the book showed that when wheat gluten was supplemented with the amino acid lysine to create a complete protein, it behaves exactly like casein to promote tumor growth. This means that it is not necessarily the animal protein, but rather the full spectrum of amino acids in a complete protein that provide the right building blocks for growth, whether it be of malignant cells or healthy ones.

Thus, one could argue that a meal of rice and beans which creates a complete protein would provide the same cancer-promoting amino acids that animal protein does. One could further argue that Campbell’s experiments lose their relevance when placed in the real world in contrast to the scientifically manipulated menu of casein, sugar, and corn oil fed to the rats (poor rats!!).

However, there is even more to the story – again what the actual research showed and was not reported by Campbell. Are you ready? Yes the rats consuming the high-casein diet were getting the liver cancer as described. Yet the ones in the low-casein groups were suffering an even worse fate. Basically, they were dying before they could get the liver cancer. The acute toxicity of aflatoxin was poisoning the rats resulting in cell genocide and premature death. As I like to say it is not what happens in the test tube, but what happens in the body. Here’s what happens in the body. The lack of protein creates a deficiency that inhibits the liver’s ability to detoxify the body. Less of the aflatoxin gets converted into cancer-causing metabolites, but instead causes massive (and eventually deadly) tissue damage. The India research showed the same results.

There was another Indian study (again not reported by Campbell) that exposed monkeys to the aflatoxin with the same protein parameters, but with one important difference. These monkeys were exposed to lower, daily doses of aflatoxin, more like they would experience in the real world where aflatoxin is consumed frequently in small amounts from contaminated foods. Guess who got the cancer here? You guessed it – the low protein monkeys!

It appears that the cancer growth is related more to the aflatoxin exposure. When the exposure is unrealistically high the animals eating a low-protein diet don’t get cancer because their cells are too busy dying, while animals eating a higher protein diet are still consuming enough dietary building blocks for the growth of cells—whether healthy or cancerous to keep them alive. With a more moderate dose of aflatoxin, animals eating a low-protein diet develop cancer while their higher-protein counterparts remain in mighty fine health.

So, here is what is actually true:

1. High-quality protein promotes cell growth no matter where it comes from;

2. Protein deficiency inhibits the liver’s ability to detoxify dangerous substances; and

3. With more realistic doses of aflatoxin, protein is actually tremendously protective against cancer, while protein-restricted diets prove harmful.

What was the actual China Study?

Also known as the China-Cornell- Oxford Project, the China Study was an enormous undertaking exploring diet and disease patterns in rural China. It collected data on 367 variables and generated over 8,000 statistically significant correlations between nutrition, lifestyle factors and a variety of diseases. Obviously there was a lot to choose from!

Here we ask the fundamental question. Are correlation and causation always the same? The answer – when it is in your best interests to prove a point they are! Campbell stated that, “People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease,” and “People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease.”

Campbell discusses how the data showed relationships between cholesterol and cancers, as well as cholesterol and animal protein intake, jumping to the conclusion that animal protein and those same cancers must be linked. Yet nowhere in the data is that shown. The original China Study data shows virtually no statistically significant correlation between any type of cancer and animal protein intake.

What was found is that wheat consumption (and not rice) was strongly associated with higher insulin levels, higher triglycerides, coronary heart disease, stroke and hypertensive heart disease within the China Study data—far more so than any other food, including protein of any type.

So what did the actual data from the original publication show? Sugar, soluble carbohydrates, and fiber all have correlations with cancer mortality about seven times the magnitude of that of animal protein, and total fat and fat as a percentage of calories were both negatively correlated with cancer mortality.

There is also the issue of balance in reporting the “facts.” Throughout The China Study Campbell will present a study showing a relationship with animal protein and a specific disease (to support his hypothesis) and at the same time ignore other studies showing the same relationship with plant protein (which does not support his view). For example, he discusses the role of cow’s milk in causing autoimmune diseases, but ignores the role of wheat gluten in causing autoimmune diseases.

In Conclusion It’s All About Balance

To me, in the end it is all about presenting a balanced picture. You can find all kinds of studies to support all kinds of theories about nutrition. I believe that a vegan or vegetarian or plant based diet can be very good for someone for a particular period of time. It can be healing. But what is it being compared to? What did they eat before? Is the diet in and of itself healthy and providing all the nutrients or is it just cleaning up what was there? Will this same diet provide long term health? What is the significance of the age the diet is started? In looking at animal product, what is the source? It is a healthy animal raised in a healthy manner? Or, is it a factory farmed animal raised in confinement on hormones, antibiotics, and food that it would not eat in nature? All of this makes a huge difference.

Thanks to the Weston A. Price Foundation as a resource for this article.

Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He works with individuals, groups, and at corporations to create individualized nutrition and wellness programs. His office is in Mequon, WI. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, e-mail at, call (262) 389-9907 or go to

Installment 9 – Pre and Post Practice/Workout Meals

Pre and Post Practice/Workout Meals

What to eat before practice?

It is best to eat before you leave. Depending upon the time of day you will want to choose an appropriate meal or snack. See below for ideas. If you must eat while driving to practice your best options are:

1. Having a protein drink that was made before you leave and drinking it in the car. This is also a great recovery drink. That drink should include:

a. A high quality protein mix from undenatured whey, brown rice protein, or pea protein, or combination of them. No soy protein.

b. Use water or organic fruit juice.

c. Add one cup of blueberries or strawberries (frozen is fine). You may add ½ of banana.

d. Optional: flax seed oil, ground flax seeds, or chia seeds.

e. Optional: raw (not roasted) nuts or nut butter (almond, walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds).

f. Optional: powdered greens, celery, cucumber, ½ an avocado.

g. Best mixes are those you need to blend that have fewer ingredients.

h. Watch out for artificial sweeteners, specifically aspartame, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium. These are hidden in the long ingredient lists of many protein powders.

2. Whole grain bread (sprouted bread is best) with nut butter or hummus. Again, almond is better than peanut. If use peanut be sure only ingredients are peanuts and oil. Organic peanut butter is best. Have some veggie sticks on the side: carrots or celery. For additional protein add hard boiled eggs or jerky.

What to eat after practice (i.e. while driving home, right when they get home)?

This is a good time for a Recovery Drink (when get home). During the drive have a snack from the healthy snack list.

Other tips:

1. Add green drink to recovery drink.

2. Add fresh lemon to water when possible.

3. If you drink coffee – reduce or eliminate.

4. Have recovery drink within 30 minutes.

Installment 8 – Water and Hydration

Of course the big question with water is how much to drink. To be honest, this is an individualized question and greatly depends on your activity level. We have all heard to drink eight glasses of water a day, but I do not know about you, but whenever I have followed that advice, I wind up running to the bathroom every 20 minutes!

Here is my rule of thumb for normal daily activity. I go by how often I have to urinate. Once every 2-3 hours seems reasonable. I do not think our body was designed to go every 20 minutes!

That being said many people do not drink enough water. Perhaps telling them eight, will get them to do six!

Many discomforts we experience can be linked to sub-clinical dehydration. That means we are not officially dehydrated, but we could certainly use more water!

Water sources: Pure water, fruits and vegetables.

Water, water, water!
Avoid tap water, drink filtered water
Lemon water
Other acceptable drinks

· Organic, herb teas

· Roasted chicory, replacement for coffee

For the competitive athlete this discussion goes beyond water into the whole concept of hydration. Here are some general hydration guidelines:

Before exercise: Drink about 15-20 fluid ounces 2-3 hours before exercise and drink 8-10 fluid ounces 10-15 minutes before exercise.

During exercise: Drink 8-10 fluid ounces every 10-15 minutes during exercise. If exercising longer than 90 minutes drink 8-10 fluid ounces of a sports drink every 15-30 minutes.

Hydration after exercise: Weigh yourself before and after exercise and replace fluid losses. Drink 20-24 fluid ounces of water for every 1 pound lost.

Installment 7 – The Calorie Myth

The Calorie Myth

What should I eat? How many calories per day should I have?

Most diet and exercise programs are based on us “counting calories” and assuming all calories are created equal. What if this were not quite true?

This way of thinking goes back to the 1870’s and the science of the First Law of Thermodynamics. We learn from Wikipedia, “The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can be transformed, i.e. changed from one form to another, but cannot be created or destroyed. It is usually formulated by stating that the change in the internal energy of a system is equal to the amount of heat supplied to the system, minus the amount of work performed by the system on its surroundings.”

Sounds good in theory, but what about the real world – the human body? Does it apply to the human body? If it does then the logical conclusion is what we have so often heard – the calories we consume through eating we need to burn through activity. Otherwise, these calories will store as fat and we will gain weight. But, what if it does not work that way?

Consider the following – we are told that if we eat x less calories per day we will lose y number of pounds over a certain period. Here’s the actual numbers. We’re told that to lose one pound we need to burn or cut 3500 calories. If we want to lose a pound a week we can cut 500 calories per day from our diet. Therefore, it is only logical if we maintain that restricted calorie diet we will eventually melt away to nothing (if you started at 300 pounds this would take six years!). Since we have never seen anyone disappear we can conclude that it may not work that way.

Also during this period there was another scientific breakthrough. Scientists were able to assign specific calorie counts to specific foods through the use of a new breakthrough – the bomb calorimeter. Here is how it works. In one compartment a substance is burned. This is surrounded by water in another chamber. As it burns it gives off heat. The heat is measured.

The temperature increase in the water is converted into calories. The energy needed to raise a liter of water 1 degree is a kilocalorie (that we have shortened to “calorie” further confusing us). Thus telling us how many calories that food potentially stores.

This leads us to two key questions. First, does our body work like a bomb calorimeter? And, second are all calories the same? Are all calories used for energy and therefore the same independent of the food we eat?

To the first question I think it is safe to conclude that our body is not a bomb calorimeter. End of story. But for argument’s sake and to address the second question, let us assume that it does. Does the body treat all calories equally?

While you will read and hear many distinguished authors citing many studies supporting the notion that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie does this really make sense? Let us take a logical approach.

A hardboiled egg has 75 calories. Approximately one slice of bread or a quarter of a bagel has 75 calories. One bite of a chocolate covered donut or a piece of cake has 75 calories. Who really believes that these 75 calories will have the same impact in your body after you eat them? I don’t think so and shortly you will see why.

Let us return to the calorimeter for a minute. Here is what was found. Carbohydrates had 4.2 calories per gram. This was rounded down to the familiar 4.0 that we know of today.

Proteins had 5.0 calories per gram. They were rounded down to 4.0 due to some perceived inefficiencies of how they burn.

Fats had 9.2 calories per gram which was rounded down to 9.0.

This gives us the numbers that we are all familiar with: 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate and protein and 9 calories per gram of fat. Simple conclusion – eat too much fat and you get fat.

Well, to start with, the figures are misleading! Let us look at fats first.

Different fats have different amounts of calories depending upon saturation levels. Further studies have shown that polyunsaturated fats have 9.1 calories per gram, animal fats range from 6.5 to 8.0 calories per gram, while cocoa butter (the most saturated of fats) has 5.5 calories per gram.

Now let us turn our attention to carbohydrates. As we learned earlier your body operates with a very simple equation: carbohydrates = sugar. All carbohydrates (both “simple” and “complex”) are ultimately broken down into simple sugars.

To accomplish the conversion to simple sugars your body uses a process called hydrolysis in which water is added to the chemical reaction. This causes total mass to increase which actually creates more calories! So, simple sugars really have 4.2 calories per gram, yet starches (the more complex carbohydrates) have 4.44 calories per gram. Also note that soluble fiber has 2.0 calories per gram.

What does this mean? We are getting significantly more calories per gram of carbohydrate than we may think.

Now for the grand finale! This whole theory assumes that all calories we consume are used for energy. This too simply is not true.

As we saw protein is used for a variety of body building functions. In fact very little protein is used for energy. We could even possibly say that these calories do not count. Think about the Atkins diet. It includes lots of protein, yet people lose weight. In fact they are told to eat as much as they want and still lose weight.

Next, let us look at fat. Fat too is used for other functions besides energy. So, in reality, only some of these calories truly count.

And here is the important point – it is only carbohydrates where all the calories count! Many studies have shown that the number of calories is insignificant compared to their composition. People can gain or lose weight on calories ranging from 1000 to 4000 calories per day. It is all about how much fat, protein, and carbohydrate are in the diet!

If you’d like to read more about this topic I refer you to books written by Barry Groves – “Trick and Treat: how healthy eating is making us ill” and “Natural Health and Weight Loss.”

Installment 6 – Fats


Everybody knows that fat is bad for you. Right?

Well, not exactly. Of all the nutrients, it is fat that has been most unjustly demonized. We have been suffering from a low fat craze for the last thirty years. Everybody (well not really everyone!) has been convinced that fat is bad for us and should be avoided at all costs. So what has happened? We got fatter! Obesity rates are going through the roof. If you remember from the carbohydrate discussion it is excess carbohydrates and sugar that causes us to gain weight.

So yes, we need fats. They make up cell membranes and hormones, are required for absorption of the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), are critical for infant brain development and the female reproductive system, and provide energy. Ever wonder why everyone seems to have a Vitamin D deficiency these days? Perhaps because they are not consuming the right fats for Vitamin D metabolism.

There are two types of fats – saturated and unsaturated (further defined as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). One of the easiest ways to tell them apart is that saturated fats are solid while unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats are much more sensitive to oxygen, light and heat.

This sensitivity underlies the critical nature of fat you need to understand. When fats are heated or exposed to excess light and oxygen they oxidize. It is dangerous when we consume oxidized fats. Oxidation leads to inflammation which damages cells and is linked to a variety of diseases including heart disease.

Saturated fats are able to withstand greater temperatures before oxidation occurs. The most susceptible fats to oxidation are the unsaturated fats, particularly the polyunsaturated ones such as vegetable oil, corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil, and cottonseed oil. Note that margarine is made from various combinations of these oils.

Therefore, when cooking with fats and oils we want to use saturated fats such as butter, clarified butter (ghee), or coconut oil. For salad dressing or other room temperature uses olive oil is best.

Another fat we hear of are trans-fatty acids. These are formed during the process of hydrogenation. Hydrogenation is used to “stabilize” vegetable oils so they will not oxidize and was initially developed to lengthen shelf life of processed foods.

In the hydrogenation process polyunsaturated oils, usually corn, soybean, safflower, or canola, are heated to high temperatures and injected with hydrogen atoms. During the heating process the nutrients in the oils are destroyed, the oils become solid and have oxidized.

Trans-fats have been linked to many ailments, including cancer, heart disease, and reproductive problems. Trans-fats are commonly found in commercial baked goods, cookies, crackers, margarines, vegetable shortenings, and processed dairy products.

What fats should I eat?

Eat these foods for healthy fat:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Virgin Coconut Oil
Fish oils
Fresh Flaxseed oil or ground flax seeds
Chia seeds

Practice balance and moderation of these foods:

NUTS & SEEDS: Nuts and seeds, almonds, cashews, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc., raw or dehydrated

· Eggs

· Butter

· Cheese, Cottage cheese

· Yogurt without added sugar

Avoid these foods (the trans-fats and oxidized oils):

Vegetable oil, corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil

Installment 5 – Carbohydrates


Carbs are great for energy, right? Need to carb load before the game, right?

Carbohydrates are one of the more controversial of the macronutrients. You will see heated debates illustrating the benefits of both low carbohydrate diets and high carbohydrate diets. The Standard American Diet (SAD) has become a high carbohydrate diet.

We use carbohydrates for energy. They provide quick energy. Carbohydrates are converted into blood glucose which feeds our brain and red blood cells. Ever notice how irritable you get when hungry? The brain does not operate very well without nourishment.

Remember our previous discussion regarding energy, fats and carbohydrates: the paper and the log? What happens in your body?

Do you have energy throughout the game or do you fatigue as the game progresses? This is a combination of being fit and having energy reserves to fuel the fitness.

What carbohydrates are best for me?

When most of us think carbohydrate we think grains, breads, and sweets. They are not the only choice. Vegetables and fruits contain carbohydrates and roughly 30% of protein converts to carbohydrates.

Remember this simple equation. To your body: CARBOHYDRATE = SUGAR! That’s all you need to know. If we consume lots of carbohydrates we consume lots of sugar. While sugar can be used for energy, excess sugar depletes essential nutrients (such as the B vitamins) and is converted into fat and stored. It has many adverse affects on the body.

The bottom line – it is sugar that makes us fat! For a more complete look at the dangers of excess sugar I recommend this web site: and particularly this page:

Eat these foods for carbohydrates:


· Raw or steamed vegetables, preferably low carbohydrate veggies (leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower) with two meals per day and snacks

· LIMIT starchy veggies (potatoes, yams, corn, squash, peas) to 3-4 times per week

· Fresh vegetable juices, diluted 50% with water

· V-8 and tomato juice (low sodium)

· SALADS: Raw vegetable salads

Practice balance and moderation of these foods:

GRAINS (Limited quantities ONLY – 1-2 times per day maximum):

· Sprouted grain bread: such as “Ezekiel”

· Whole grain breads/crackers

· Whole grains – brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, millet, wild rice

· Whole grain cereals, pastas – i.e. oatmeal, health store cereals


· Fresh grown fruits

· Fresh fruit juices, diluted 50% with water

· Limit to 25g of fructose per day (see Fructose table below)

SWEETENERS: Not advised at all. But if you must, limit to limited amounts of the following

· Stevia (a natural sweetener)

· Raw Honey

· Pure Maple Syrup

Avoid these foods as best as possible:

Refined/White flour
Refined/White grains
Cookies, cakes, pastries
White sugar, brown sugar, all sweeteners not listed above
Processed refined grain cold and hot cereals
All artificial sweeteners

While it would be ideal not to eat these foods I recognize reality. So, since most people will continue to eat these foods, it is even more important to consume the foods listed as healthy!!

Assessing Fructose Burden
-Fruit Fructose Content
Fruit Serving Grams Fructose
Limes One 0
Lemons One 0.6
Cranberries 1 cup 0.7
Passion Fruit One 0.9
Prune One 1.2
Apricot One 1.3
Guava Two 2.2
Dates (Deglet) One 2.6
Cantaloupe 1/8 2.8
Raspberries 1 cup 3.0
Kiwi One 3.4
Blackberries 1 cup 3.5
Star fruit One 3.6
Cherries 10 3.8
Strawberries 1 cup 3.8
Pineapple 1 Slice 4.3
Boysenberries 1 cup 4.6
Tangerine/Mandarin One 4.8
Nectarine One 5.4
Peach One 5.9
Orange One 6.1
Papaya Half 6.3
Honeydew 1/8 6.7
Banana One 7.1
Blueberries 1 cup 7.4
Date (Medjool) One 7.7
Apple One 9.5
Persimmon One 10.6
Watermelon 1/16 11.3
Pear One 11.8
Raisins ¼ cup 12.3
Grapes (green or red) 1 cup 12.4
Mango Half 16.2
Apricots (dried) 1 cup 16.4
Figs (dried) 1 cup 23.0

Seek to limit daily consumption of fructose to
25 grams per day to avoid fatty degeneration

Installment 4 – Neurotransmitters


Before we learn about carbohydrates and fats it is important to have a brief discussion of neurotransmitters.

Ever wonder what really makes you feel good?

While many people will answer “sugar” because they notice the “high” as sugar is flowing into their blood stream and giving them energy. Of course, we all know what follows – the “low” as the sugar runs out and we crave more sugar to feel good again. As you may have guessed, the correct answer is protein and the neurotransmitters which are made from it. Neurotransmitters help you feel good for the long haul.

We can certainly see the physical nature of proteins – a healthy and strong body contributes to how we feel. But that alone does not do it. We need the mind as well. This is where the neurotransmitters come in to play – the “messengers” from the brain to the body. Protein is essential for building neurotransmitters and their receptor sites on cell membranes.

Think of receptor sites as parking spaces and the neurotransmitters as cars. Without a place to park you just keep driving around in circles. Once you are parked you can go about your business. The same goes for neurotransmitters and receptor sites. You need the message to be sent and for it to reach its destination – the cell.

Quite simply – neurotransmitters give us the ability to be happy, alert, remember, and focus – all essential for the competitive athlete.

There are two types of neurotransmitters. Excitatory neurotransmitters energize, excite, stimulate, focus, learn, and remember. Inhibitory neurotransmitters keep us happy, relaxed, and peaceful. As with most areas of life, it is all about balance.

There are six key neurotransmitters: For focus – dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine; for learning and remembering – acetylcholine; for feeling relaxed – GABA; and for being happy – serotonin.

Perhaps the most significant of all is serotonin, the “feel good” neurotransmitter. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression. The major anti-depressant medications (Prozac, Zoloft, and Lexapro) are known as SSRIs (or serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors). These drugs work by making serotonin last longer in the brain so that you feel good longer.

Of course this is not addressing why one would be low in serotonin in the first place. Low serotonin is also linked to cravings, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, aggressive behavior, and headaches.

Another important feature of serotonin is that it converts into melatonin. This hormone regulates sleep and is an important antioxidant. Some sleeping disorders may be from lack of melatonin. Serotonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan which is found in turkey and seafood. Also note that serotonin is depleted by high sugar (carbohydrate) diets.

Dopamine is our pleasure and reward neurotransmitter. It is responsible for keeping us focused and alert (thus allowing us to receive our reward!). Dopamine is made from the amino acid tyrosine which is found in poultry, fish (particularly tuna), eggs, beans, nuts and seeds.

Epinephrine and norepinephrine work with dopamine and are stimulating and energy-giving. They are made from the amino acids tyrosine and phenylanine. Low levels of dopamine are associated with attention and behavior disorders (such as addiction).

Acetylcholine supports our memory, attention, and ability to think. One of the key ingredients is choline – found in highest quantities in eggs, beef, and beef liver, but also in broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

GABA is our calming neurotransmitter. It is made from the amino acid taurine. Taurine is a non-essential amino acid that can be manufactured from cysteine in the liver, but vitamin B6 must be present. Taurine is found naturally in seafood and meat. Low levels of GABA are associated with panic attacks, anxiety and insomnia.

As you can see protein (and mainly animal based protein) is a key source of the nutrients required to build our neurotransmitters. Unfortunately, many of our diets lack sufficient protein. Does yours?

Therefore I recommend protein is consumed with each meal.

Installment 3 – Meal and Snack Suggestions

Specific Ideas for Snacks and Healthy Meals

Since I don’t believe in reinventing the wheel I will refer to another web site for specific ideas for snacks and healthy meals. Eat Like the Pros and SportFuel are web sites developed by Julie Burns, MS, RD, CCN. SportFuel is an integrative nutrition consulting firm based in Western Springs, a west suburb of Chicago. They incorporate nutrition strategies that have worked for professional and elite athletes into everyday living.

Their current and past clients include the 2010 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks hockey team, the 2005 World Series Chicago White Sox baseball team, the Chicago Bears football team, the 1993-1998 NBA Champion Chicago Bulls, the NBA Development League, Northwestern University’s varsity teams, Next Level Performance and individual pro and elite athletes worldwide.

These are the same nutrition strategies that I utilize with my clients. They provide lots of excellent information on the two web sites and are great about sharing that information, so here it is!

Do I have to eat organic?

The following lists emphasize organic. I’d like to address the question of whether or not it is necessary to eat organic. The answer is no. I would certainly encourage you to do so for a variety of reasons, but I understand that there may be economic or other considerations.

I believe the healthiest food choices are organic vegetables, fruits, dairy, and whole grains; grass-fed or pastured beef, chicken, turkey, eggs, and pork; and wild caught fish. I mentioned above that “we are what we eat.” I have a second saying, “we are what we eat eats.” What we feed our plants and animals ultimately will find its way into our bodies. This refers specifically to the chemical soup of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, antibiotics, and hormones that are used in producing much of our food. These are toxic to our body. There are many studies showing the dangers of these chemicals to our body. I will not get into this further here as there are many other sources.

That being said, and this is very important, I still believe that eating non-organic vegetables is still better than not eating vegetables and eating farm raised fish such as Atlantic salmon is better than not eating salmon. So, I repeat, you do not have to eat organic. The foods that are recommended for you to eat are still the best foods to eat.

When eating conventionally produced animal products I do encourage you to limit the consumption of fat and avoid the skin. Organic is emphasized even more for dairy than for vegetables. Why? Fat stores toxins. When animals are being fed hormones, antibiotics, and the food they eat has been treated with pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides this gets into their fat and eventually into our body.

Also, please be aware that there are options to buy organic and healthier foods at reasonable prices at such stores as Trader Joe’s, Costco, Woodman’s, and Sendik’s.

Ideas for Snacks

300 Calorie Snack List:

Healthy Meals

2300 Calorie Meal Plan:

1900 Calorie Meal Plan:

1700 Calorie Meal Plan: