Monday, October 13, 2008

How much vitamin B6 and B12 should we take?

If you don’t eat well, have heavy menstrual periods, use oral contraceptives, etc., you likely need extra iron and/or vitamin B6. Try a B-complex containing from 10-100 mg of vitamin B6, and 10-100 mcg of vitamin B12.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Ensuring that your vegetarian diet contains enough iron & protein (& vitamin B12)

Someone asked me about getting enough iron and protein in a vegetarian diet with milk, but no eggs. It's difficult to get enough iron or protein without meat, fish, or eggs, so I’m not surprised that the questioner’s son has low hemoglobin. My answer: try to eat beans at most meals (together with fruit or veggies for vitamin C to help you absorb the iron). You’ll need to eat all sorts of beans, like lentils (dal), kidney beans (chili), garbanzos (hummus), etc. to get some variety, but in particular try to eat soybeans (edamame) or tofu. Here’s a quick recipe that kids like:

Crispy Tofu Tenders
Cut open tofu package with a knife and drain out water. Cut tofu into slices about 3/4 inch thick, and drain on several layers of paper towel. Cover with additional paper towels, and press lightly to dry. Leave to dry for a couple of minutes. Cut slices into cubes. Heat about one tablespoon of olive oil in a nonstick pan, or two tablespoons in an iron frying pan. Fry tofu until it is crispy and brown on at least two sides. Serve immediately with soy sauce for dipping. An alternative dipping sauce is mayonnaise with a little catsup mixed in.

P.S. It’s very unlikely that you’re getting enough vitamin B12 if dairy products are your only animal foods. Take a multivitamin&mineral with B12.

Friday, October 3, 2008

How to use healthy fats in your cooking

People are always asking me “What is the best oil for cooking?” and “Is coconut oil good for health?” Those are great questions, that I’ve written about quite a bit, so for the answers, I can refer you to either my book, Fat Is Not The Enemy, for an in depth discussion, or to an article I wrote for How To Do, at - this can also be accessed from my How To Do profile page: . Let me know if you have trouble accessing it- maybe I’ll reprint it here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Don’t use grapeseed oil for frying

Over the past few years, more and more people have asked me if they should use grapeseed oil for frying, since they’ve heard that it has a very high smoke point. I don’t think grapeseed oil is optimal and here’s why.
For frying foods, it is desirable to use an oil that will not smoke, for both taste and health reasons. But it is also desirable to use an oil that will not become oxidized.
The oxygen in air attacks polyunsaturated fats, especially when they’re heated. This is called oxidation, and it will cause the production of oxidized fats that taste rancid and probably contribute to coronary heart disease.
Grapeseed oil is very high in the polyunsaturated fat, linoleic acid- an essential nutrient that you would die without. Like other polyunsaturated fats, linoleic acid lowers blood cholesterol too. This is all good, so if you like it, use it in salads and for baking, but don’t subject this delicate oil to high temperatures where it will become oxidized.
But what we need even more than linoleic acid is the other essential fat, alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fat. So for baking or salads, why not use walnut oil or canola oil, and get them both?
Back to frying- for high temperature cooking use oils that are low in polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil and peanut oil, and in particular, use refined oils (clear) from which all the troublesome proteins, etc., have been removed that contribute to smoking.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Diet or drugs for cholesterol-lowering?

The American Academy of Pediatrics caused a big stir by recommending the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins) in kids, even though there have not been safety or efficacy studies of these drugs in children. I looked at the AAP position paper to get the details, hoping that they would recommend starting out with safe nutritional strategies before progressing to drugs. Well, yes and no. They do recommend dietary intervention, but just the same old low fat and low cholesterol diet that has been ineffective for adults and has driven them by the scores to statins.

The authors of the AAP position paper are not nutritional scientists, they are M.D.s. They need to be told of research by Chris Gardener at Stanford, Jenkins & Kendall in Toronto, and others, showing that there are much more effective means to lower cholesterol than the documented-ineffective “low-fat” diet. Through a variety of mechanisms, eating more plant foods (including fatty ones) can be quite effective at lowering cholesterol. With simple nutritional strategies, a client of mine lowered her LDL cholesterol from 164 to 123 in 3 weeks, and then to 106 in another 4 weeks. What will it take to get medical doctors to stick to medicine and to let more knowledgeable nutritional scientists make diet policy?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Is eating fish a big deal for heart health?

Contrary to popular belief and contrary to the sources cited in “Eating your way to a sturdy heart”, by Tara Parker-Pope in the 5/13/08 New York Times, the evidence that eating fish prevents heart attacks is not overwhelming. A 2006 analysis of the well-controlled studies to date concluded that at most, fish or fish oil might reduce mortality by 17%, not a huge effect (Mozaffarian D & Rimm EB 2006 JAMA 296: 1885). Of course fish is good for you in so many ways- it contains protein for healthy muscles & bones (yes bones), and vitamin B12 for energy and improved brain function with aging. Just don’t be cavalier about mercury and other contaminants in fish- they are likely to be a problem if you eat albacore tuna as suggested (stick to the cheap stuff) or farmed salmon (try to get wild fish).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

In defense of nutritional scientists

Have any of you read Michael Pollan’s newest book, “In Defense Of Food”? I like his advice that we should eat real, unprocessed foods. As a nutritional scientist, I have always told people that this is the easiest way to eat healthily. So why does Pollan claim that nutritional scientists are the bad guys who have been the cause of American reliance on processed, unhealthy foods? Because he is a journalist, and that is a common journalistic technique. Invent a conflict where there is none.
Well, there actually is a conflict, but scientists are not as central as Pollan would claim. The guilty parties who have been confusing the public by advertising the virtues of fake foods with few nutrients like vitamin drinks, are food companies who want to make money. The guilty parties who have been wreaking havoc with overly simplistic pronouncements like “don’t eat fat”, and “don’t get your vitamin D from the sun”, are medical doctors and their professional associations such as the American Heart Association.
Hey, by inventing a conflict with Michael Pollan can I sell more of my book, “Fat Is Not The Enemy”?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Did you know that you need some sunlight?

I hate seeing people completely covered up so that no sunlight touches their skin. Sure, that may reduce the risk of some skin cancers, but it will also increase the risk of vitamin D deficiency, osteoporosis, and probably breast cancer.

As with all things nutritional, moderation is the key- you need about 15 minutes of sunlight per day on your arms and legs (more if your skin is dark) in order to make vitamin D. Don't fool yourself that the tiny bit of vitamin D added to milk is enough- spend some time in the sun and your body will make hundreds of times as much as is added to a cup of milk.

Probably because we all spend so much more time blogging than sun bathing, recent studies have found low vitamin D levels in well over half of the people they test, including kids in Georgia and the northeastern U.S.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

My first blog

I love to talk about food and shopping for food and cooking food and about all the healthy nutrients that are in good-tasting foods. I like to come up with recipes for people that contain the vitamins and minerals that will help them with their specific health concerns. I like to tell people what nutritional scientists really know (and don't know). Nutritional scientists actually know a lot of useful things that you have little way of accessing, regardless of what Michael Pollan says. What we know has been distorted and misrepresented by organizations that you would hope you could trust, such as the American Heart Association and the American Dietetics Association. If you want good nutrition advice, don't go to a journalist, a medical doctor, or ads & products created by companies trying to sell products, ask a nutritional scientist. You can find out more about me at my website: