Doctor's Note

Tips on moving our children away from junk food can be found in my videos Tricks to Get Kids to Eat Healthier at Home and Tricks to Get Kids to Eat Healthier at School.

What about artificial sweeteners? Though some are less harmful than others (Erythritol May Be a Sweet Antioxidant as opposed to Aspartame-Induced Fibromyalgia), they could still have adverse effects regardless of their individual chemistry. See my 3-part series:

  1. How Diet Soda Could Make Us Gain Weight
  2. Neurobiology of Artificial Sweeteners
  3. Unsweetening the Diet

What about fatty foods like meat? That’s my next video, Are Fatty Foods Addictive?.

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  • Adrien

    What about the science on salt and oil ? Tomorrow’s video :)
    Pamela Peeke talk about salt, oil and sugar. Stuff that can interfere in a vegan diet if it’s not whole food. It seems that whole food is the “Fix” of that issue. No evidence of any whole food and food addiction ? What about animal product and food addiction, milk and caso-morphin ?

  • Susan

    I have found that after several years of avoiding sugar, as well as artificial sweeteners, that my blood sugar becomes whacky if I have anything containing any sugar at all. It’s as if I’ve taken some horrid drug or something. Now I eat only whole foods. Fruit mostly.

    • guest

      When I cut out grains (completely) and then added them back after
      a long hiatus (one year) I had what might be the same experience. It was though I was diabetic or something. I would just absolutely “crash” and zone out after eating rice or wheat. Same goes for dried fruit, honey, agave, brown sugar, etc. My system seems to not be able to handle it now when I add this sort of stuff back in. Could we become too pure to handle these types of foods?

      • Toxins

        Whole, unrefined grains do no cause blood sugar spikes the same way that refined grains would, as the resistant starches and fiber is intact. Also, sugars from whole fruits are not quickly absorbed due to the fibers. Eating honey, agave or other non whole food sugar sources is undesirable.

        • guest

          Thank you. I wish this were the case with me with the unrefined whole grains, that they did not cause blood sugar spikes, but it is not so. And wow, seems as there are plenty of others who have problems with whole grains as well (as far as blood sugar spikes). Oats cause me a bigger spike then honey. I find this interesting.

          • Dan

            Are you monitoring your blood sugars? If you are a type 1 diabetic or autoimmune type 2 or burnt out pancreas then I think it’s quite possible that whole grains could be problematic for you. On the other hand, many people talk about blood sugar spikes without actually measuring them – based on how they feel symptomatically. But I’m not sure this is as accurate as measuring your blood sugars peripherally using a device.

          • Toxins

            Instant oats can be absorbed quite quickly. Fine and coarse flours also tend to cause undesirable blood sugar spikes. Please note Figure 1

        • DanielFaster

          Hey Toxins, when you put koji mold on brown rice (or theoretically any grain) it turns it really really sweet (a drink the Japanese call amazake), apparently the enzymes hydrolyze the polysaccharides to sugars. Sure seems a lot more filling than steamed rice, but I am wondering what the saccharide profile on this would look like and whether the koji digestate is saccharide-nutritionally more like honey (undesirable) or dates (fiber-mediated).

      • JVC

        I’ve noticed, for myself, that my body becomes less tolerant of certain foods (such as dairy) when I try to add it back into my diet after have cutting it out. This videohas some good information on gluten intolerances specifically.

  • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

    Sugar, salt and processed oils are the recipe for (health-) disaster. The right amount of these 3 things, and you can make people eat nearly anything – even stuff so highly processed that it cant be categorized as food anymore.

  • Francis Fong

    What about freshly pressed raw sugar cane juice?

    • NotRappaport

      cane juice = sugar + water

      • Francis Fong

        Cane juice is unprocessed and contain more than sugar, right? I am looking for any studies on the health benefits of sugar cane juice.

      • Darryl

        Not quite, cane juice = sugar + water + molasses.

        The molasses has a decent amount of Ca, Mg, and K. I’m not sure the Cu and Mn are as welcome. But Ruth Heidrich used blackstrap molasses daily, and I can’t argue with her results.

        • Mike Quinoa

          Once in a while I make a hot drink concoction with plain cocoa and unsulphured blackstrap molasses (wonderfully gooey stuff). I made one for my son, and he made a bit of a face and said “Bitter!” He still drank it all though. The molasses are apparently a good source of Fe.

  • Guest

    Dr Pam Popper, who is close to Dr McDougall, recently argued that the salt issue is blow out of proportion,

    • nc54

      I wonder what kind of salt we should consume? Himalayan salt is all the rage these days, but it has no iodine. So if we consume Himalayan we better make sure to consume some dulse or other seaweed along with it. They sell dulse flakes in a salt shaker at Whole Foods. That’s what I was using but now I’m thinking maybe I should add a little Himalayan salt as well.

      • Darryl

        The Adequate Intake for sodium for adults is 1.5 g, provided by two-thirds a teaspoons of salt (Himalayan or otherwise). That amount of Himalayan pink salt would provide:
        Mineral % RDA (or AI)
        Sodium 1500 mg 100 %
        Sulfur 48 mg –
        Calcium 16 mg 1.6 %
        Potassium 13 mg 0.3 %
        Lithium 1.6 mg –
        Magnesium 0.62 mg 0.1 %
        Iron 0.15 mg 0.2 %
        Zinc 9.3 μg 0.02 %
        Bromine 8.2 μg –
        Barium 7.7 μg –
        Tantalum 4.3 μg –
        Aluminum 2.6 μg –
        Cobalt 2.4 μg –
        Copper 2.2 μg 0.2 %
        Manganese 1.1 μg 0.05 %
        Nickel 0.5 μg –
        Chromium 0.2 μg 0.6 %
        Vanadium 0.2 μg –
        Selenium 0.2 μg 0.3 %
        Silver 0.1 μg –
        Other elements were below detection thresholds. In other words, its slightly contaminated salt, with negligible amounts of either essential trace minerals or toxic ones. Like any other salt, its easy to push dietary sodium to levels that increase risk for hypertension, stroke, vascular dementia etc.

        Personally, I detected the inorganic sulfur and metallic taste and didn’t care for it. If you use non-iodized salts (sea salt, rock salt, or kosher salt), ensure you have an alternate source of iodine. Iodine deficiency effects 2 billion and is a leading cause of mental retardation.

        • nc54

          Thanks for the info, Darryl. I wonder if there are phytonutrients in Himalayan salt from the pink color? I bet that’s another reason it’s so popular, people figure the pink color must offer some anti-oxidants. If it did have phytonutrients, that could mitigate some of the potential damage from the toxic compounds. But only 2/3 of a teaspoon? I guess Pam Popper would say a little more is ok. I’ll probably go with just 1/2 a teaspoon to be on the safe side. Just get the extra sodium needed from celery and seaweed.

          What kind of salt do you use?

          • Darryl

            No phytonutrients (“plant nutrients”) whatsoever. Sodium chloride is a pretty tight crystal, and doesn’t permit much of any other atom in its lattice. In Himalayan salt, there’s just enough trace elements for absorption of some visible wavelengths, much as trace elements do in colored quartz. The conditions of its deposition in ancient evaporite basins (like the modern Dead Sea or Salt Lake) were also too extreme for much biology. See this slide presentation for the geology, which was much the same in Ediacaran era India or Permian era Arkansas. All mined salt is sea salt. Some is just refined to reduce metallic taste.

            I don’t use much salt, but I have some kosher salt by the stovetop. Its just large-grained non-iodized refined salt, but I have wakame and nori often enough I suspect I’m getting sufficient iodine.

          • nc54

            Awesome info, Darryl, thanks!

  • Steve Billig

    A tip of the hat to Kathleen DesMaisons’ 1998 book Potatoes not Prozac. She had it pretty right-on 15 years ago.

  • guest

    THe comments section from “How to Avoid Phosphate Additives” in not loading.

    This does not seem to be the case for other videos, just this one.

  • Dan

    For me, the big ‘addictogen’ has always been fat. I was able to get rid of sugar and salt from my diet completely and quickly. I have never regretted that, or craved substances rich in processed sugar or salt. But despite adopting a completely plant-based diet, I remain unable to minimize its fat content. For example, in the morning I continue to blend 4-5 tablespoons of nuts and seeds into my breakfast smoothie (though I’ve ramped down on the brazil nuts and got rid of avocados). For my lunch salad, I have yet to be able to create a salad dressing that does not contain some form of oil — has anyone got a good recipe for this? The best I can come up with – and it’s delicious – is a tablespoon of tahini with copious amounts of lemon juice, and whip it until it’s very fine, add nutritional yeast to sprinkle on top.

    For dinner, I’ll take in about 1/3 of a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.

    What I’d really love to do is eliminate all of this junk fat and go with an ultra low fat plant-based whole foods diet. I don’t think there are really good ‘equivalents’ for fat in terms of interchangeability of ingredients, so I may just have to try a different type of cuisine altogether.

    • guest

      Have you considered that nutritional yeast might be a neurotoxin?
      I don’t know for sure but if you google-it there will be a wealth of people who avoid nutritional yeast with the utmost conviction. Interesting.

      • nc54

        And they have no peer reviewed research to back up any of their claims. I don’t listen to the dietary philosophers.

      • Dan

        Why would nutritional yeast be a toxin?

        • b00mer

          It’s the people that claim glutamate is toxic. They often extend their fear of msg to nutritional yeast, though tend to overlook other naturally savory umami-rich foods like tomatoes or mushrooms. Just my observation.

          • Dan

            Glutamate is only toxic when it is released from destroyed neural tissue, such as can be seen in an acute stroke (glutamate-mediated excitation of ischemic tissue in the penumbra). Glutamate antagonists do not prevent stroke or reduce the complications of stroke, so that destroys the glutamate theory in my view. I think it’s silly to generalize from a food that contains glutamate to a molecular marker that participates far downstream in neurological events such as stroke, TIA, etc.

          • Nicole

            Glutamate might not be toxic but what about synthetic vitamins in nutritional yeast? Are they toxic long term? I don’t know the answer but I am concerned.

          • Plants for better health

            That’s a good point. I only eat the unfortified brands, and since I consume very little grain, I actually need those B vitamins (especially thiamine, riboflavin, pyridoxine, niacin and pantothenic acid). Unfortified nutritional yeast flakes actually have some of these, although obviously a lot less than the fortified stuff. I eat maybe 2 tbsp. per day on salads.

          • Nicole

            I am being told by what seems to be the main producer of nutritional yeast that the “un-fortified” version does not have synthetic vitamins added to it after it is grown, (thus it is un-fortified), but it was grown using synthetic vitamins. This seems to be a loop-hole to be able to call the product un-fortified when in fact it was grown with “fortified ingredients”. The niacin and pantothenic acid and other B vitamins are predominately synthetic, even in the “un-fortified” version. I know this probably sounds confusing but I hope I make some sense here.

        • Nicole

          I don’t know the answer to this but I’ll chime in and say that when the nutritional yeast says “unfortified” “no added vitamins” on the label, it was likely grown with synthetic vitamins. I had a major seller of nutritional yeast admit to me that their “unfortified/no added vitamins” nutritional yeast is grown with synthetic vitamins. This way they are able to add them before the finished product and still be able to claim no synthetics. I think the question that should be asked is “are synthetic vitamins something humans should be consuming?”

      • DanielFaster

        No I haven’t; sounds like it could be the same folks saying cholesterol is good for you and grains have antinutrients, but it’s Dr. Blaylock I believe because it contains the amino acid glutamate, a mythic ‘excitotoxin’ per

        Doing a lot of strenuous biking in cold weather, I swear by the stuff myself:

        And Dr. Greger is really good on talking about neurotoxins, even in vegan food faves:

    • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

      There are a lot of different, very delicious balsamic vinegars, you can use on salads. Blend it vith a little mustard and garlic.
      BTW: I cant get rid of the salt…

      • Dan

        That’s the obvious answer I hadn’t considered. Thanks PSdoc.

        • b00mer

          Have you tried balsalmic glaze? It’s my go-to salad dressing. Straight vinegar is too watery for me. Weirdly it looks like chocolate sauce when you drizzle it on but it tastes great!

    • Michael Lederer

      As ‘Toxins’ and Dr. Greger will surely advise and you seem to understand, oils are nutritionally deficient caloric catastrophes. That said, you can still have a wee amount in your diet if you have no cardiovascular issues. I have opted out of oils completely, which was a lot easier than it sounds; albeit makes ordering in a restaurant a bit time consuming and arduous (I live in Indonesia, where oil is king). As I eat copious amounts of raw vegetables, I have had to get fairly creative with the types of dressings that are not only tasty but also nutritious. One that I found ages ago online that I still use as a base with slight variations in the herbs is as follows:

      Add all ingredients into a blender or food processor:

      +/- 1 cup organic tofu

      +/- 1 cup homemade organic soy milk

      (amounts depend on the desired consistency)

      a very large handful of your favorite fresh herb, I often use Basil or Coriander

      1-2 cloves of raw garlic

      3-4 shallots (any onion can be substituted if necessary)

      a generous pinch, two or three of black pepper

      pinch of organic sea salt (not necessary)

      juice of a quarter lemon

      2-4 tablespoons of ground organic flax seed for flavor/Omega 3s/ and to thicken

      1/4 teaspoon dried celery seed

      Blend for a few minutes until desired consistency and add more ground flax if you want it supah-dupah thick. Any variations/suggestions that anyone else has tried would certainly be appreciated. Good Luck and good health!!!

      Bon Appetit


      • Thea

        Michael: Thanks for posting this. Just 2 days ago, someone asked me for salad dressing recipes that don’t contain oil. I’m going to pass on this one. :-)

        • DanielFaster

          Also Thea you can try say 1/2 cup of nuts (walnuts e.g.) or edamame or green garbanzos (can buy frozen) and 2 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari or miso and a clove or two of garlic in the vitamix with 1/2 cup water (or non-dairy milk) +/- to desired thickness. I think this follows an Esselstyn recipe called OMG walnut sauce.

          For mayo you can find some silken tofu-based recipes that don’t use added oil – great for vegan potato salad!

          • Thea

            Thanks! Much appreciated.

          • Michael Lederer

            Vegan vigilance:

            Just be sure not to actually use the ‘silken style’ tofu, as they are typically made with egg.

          • DanielFaster

            Don’t know where you heard or saw that?? Sometimes eggs are cooked with tofu, but I’m not aware of any tofu containing egg ingredients. What is your source?

          • Michael Lederer

            Here’s a North American reference for you:


            I live in Indonesia and it plainly states it in the ingredient list on most, if not all, silken tofu packaging. It’s commonly used in a dish known as ‘Ma Po tahu, originally a Chinese dish (tahu=tofu:Indonesian) as it works much better with a very soft textured tofu.

        • Michael Lederer

          You’re very welcome! We all have to help as much as possible.

      • Plants for better health

        Michael, that sounds amazing. Is it necessary to use home-made organic soy milk? Are you doing this to avoid hexane? I am actually going to try this recipe – would it work in a very large blender (like a ninja 2 L blender), or do you need a smaller blender/food processor? And do the flax seeds need to pre-ground, or can they be ground in the main blender?
        I am really going to try this one! Thanks!

        • Michael Lederer

          It really is amazing. No, it’s not necessary to use ‘homemade’ organic soy, I just make my own as it’s about ten times cheaper than buying it, far tastier and really easy to do; I’ve also noticed most commercial soy milk having a few too many added ingredients that I would prefer not to ingest.
          No deal breakers really, simply trying to stick to as close to WFPB-ed as possible.

          As per the blender situation, I use a cheap little 1.5 liter generic one that works fine.

          Yes, I grind the flax seeds separately with my little grind attachment to the aforementioned cheap-o blender. You should give it a go. I love it.

          Also, as b00mer suggests below, I’ve also experimented with dijon mustard and herbs and varying other ingredients such as ‘doenjang’ (Korean miso paste). I’d steer clear of commercially bought ketchup however.


      • b00mer

        I usually use tofu also, but if you want the creamy style dressing but don’t want to get out a blender, I’ve seen other people whisking different ingredients into [non-dairy] yogurt.

        Fresh garlic, dijon, ketchup, sweet pickle relish, and dill added to tofu make what other people have informed me is “thousand island” style dressing (recipe here: Left overnight the garlic gets super strong and almost spicy. I love to eat it on a salad with crumbled up bean burgers. I love it so much I’ve taken to calling it “crack sauce”.

        • Thea

          More great ideas! Thanks.

      • guest

        Michael, one more quick follow-up question for you on this recipe.

        1) Do you use soft, medium, firm or extra firm tofu? (I imagine soft works best, since it’s a dressing, but wanted to check with you).


        • Michael Lederer

          I occasionally use a more medium textured tofu for the recipe, but as the best organic brand over here, Indonesia, only has a firm one, I use that one. I haven’t noticed a taste difference and a very slight texture difference but hardly noticeable.

          • guest

            I made it last night precisely as your recipe stated (the only difference being store-bought organic soy milk instead of home-made). I’m not sure if I did something wrong but it came out incredibly oniony! My mouth was on fire, perhaps because I put it onto a salad that already had lots of scallions (green onions) down to their roots.

            I think next time I will back off on the shallots – I used three big ones, plus two cloves of garlic. One quarter teaspoon of dried celery seed, as you suggested in the recipe. I also squeezed the hell out of that quarter lemon with a lemon press and wonder if that contributed to the flavor punch; finally, I used a heap of basil, but I don’t think that’s the issue.

            I am going to see how it sits overnight in the fridge to let the flavors meld a bit better.

            Next time, less shallots!

          • Michael Lederer

            Perhaps it’s the combo of the copious amounts of scallions that you used as well; the white roots can be quite potent. I also do the recipe without lemon juice as well with nice results.

            You could simply check it out tomorrow, but I think to really save the batch you would need to cut it with a bit more tofu and soy milk. Or, if it’s beyond repair, next time simply cut back on the allium family of veg; although, it’s wise to get as much of that as possible.

            Good Luck and let us know.

          • DH

            Hi Michael,

            (sorry for all the name changes – settling on a handle here – it’s all the same guy though)

            1) It did meld much better the next day! I have been eating it twice a day on my plants. I love this recipe but it is a bit time-consuming in that one has to ensure one has fresh herbs, fresh tofu and soy milk (I don’t make it from scratch). Not so much a problem as I shop once a week for these items, but it’s not exactly an off-the-kitchen-shelf dressing…..

            2) ….but what do you think of the fat content of this recipe – I suppose it’s coming from the soymilk and tofu. Now with the tofu, one can purchase low fat tofu (these tend to be the less firm types), but with soymilk, unless one is making one’s own (which you do – have no idea how you do that!), low fat soymilk tends to have A LOT of sugar added to sweeten it. Just my impression. Also if the soymilk and tofu are adding alot of omega-6-rich fat (soybean oil) to this recipe, is it somewhat self-defeating? Are these omega-6’s better than tahini (sesame seed fat)? I think it’s all the same – linoleic acid.

            3) In that vein, what do you think of the OMG Walnut Sauce recipe that someone else posted here, basically just a 1/2 cup of walnuts, 2 tbsp of low sodium tamari, 1-4 garlic cloves, and water — the fats would be more omega-3 (ALA) coming from the walnuts, although if you calculated the density per volume, you are probably looking at the same amount of total fat. I eat a large amount of omega-3 ALA already, but I am trying to keep down my omega-6’s, to enable conversion to EPA from ALA (omega-6 acts competitively to inhibit the desaturase enzyme that converts ALA to EPA).

            Thanks for sharing your recipes here.

          • Michael Lederer

            Good Morning DH; at least you have a handle now. I’m a bit busy with work at the moment but wanted to reply to a few of your concerns.

            1. Great news on the success of the dressing mellowing out after a day in the fridge.

            2. Low fat tofu? Really? I’m not concerned about the fat content at all, as it merely contains 3 grams of saturated fat for the whole recipe that I can easily use on 4 – 6 salads. In regards to the higher Omega-6 content due to the soy milk and tofu, that is why I use flax seed in order to balance the fatty acid; perhaps this was simply overlooked. I use at least 4 tablespoons per batch. Remember, we’re looking for the Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio to be as close to 1:1 as possible. This recipe boasts slightly better than this coming in at:

            Omega-3 = 7208 mg

            Omega-6 = 7113 mg

            3. To be honest and only from your description of the aforementioned dressing; It doesn’t sound too appealing to me. But, different strokes.

            In reference to the scenario you presented concerning conversion of ALA to EPA; while there is a distinct competition by the PUFAs Omega-3, 6 & 9 for them, the desaturase enzymes exhibit a preference to the Omega-3 first and foremost, followed by 6 and then 9.

            Anyway, your concerns should be mitigated by the fact that your levels should hopefully be near the aforementioned ratio of 1:1 in your overall dietary intake.

            Good Luck

          • DH

            Michael, perhaps just call me ‘Dan’. Easiest that way. I am relieved that you have numbers on the balance of omega-3 and omega-6 in this dressing, and frankly, given your obvious fine intelligence, intellect and knowledge base, I am not surprised that you’ve worked it out. Thank you!

            I was concerned because soybean oil — obviously not the same thing as tofu or soymilk — is a particularly rich source of omega-6. This is the main reason I am trying to get away from sesame paste in my dressings. I do realize that your dressing, which I have now enjoyed for 4 or 5 nights, is not the same thing as direct soybean oil. But if you had access to low fat organic tofu in Indonesia, would you use it in place of the regular medium firm organic tofu? (you might have to up the flaxseed to increase the consistency).

            Speaking of which, I didn’t overlook the flaxseed. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with it because I am already getting copious ALA in my diet and there have been some epidemiological worries about macular degeneration with too much ALA. But I did add 2 tbsp of ground flaxseed at the beginning.

            I love your recipe and the only things I would tweak in it, for my own tastes, is to drop the shallots to 1-2 from 3-4, and perhaps consider using low fat tofu rather than regular tofu (having said this, I’ve never purchased low fat tofu before, and I’ve never seen an organic version of it, which is more important to me than potentially something that has been sitting in a hexane bath and is described as “low fat”).

            I would love to hear your recipe for making homemade soymilk, although you may be too busy to post it and so I can check this online with google.

            Michael – thanks for all your help! It’s a brilliant recipe and I certainly wasn’t attacking it! I think it’s going to be my go-to — I’m already putting it on my steamed vegetables as well (I eat both raw and steamed to reduce goitrogenic risk from too much raw cruciferae) :-)

          • Michael Lederer

            You’re very welcome! Sorry for the extremely late response; hibernating. I’m so glad that you enjoyed it. How is your dietary shift coming along I wonder. Please keep us updated. In so far as using mint, I think it’s a fabulous idea, although I’ve never tried it before. I think you could probably skip most or all of the garlic and shallots in that case and stick with the lemon to give it a somewhat Mediterranean taste; that said, perhaps throw some chickpeas into the mix while you’re at it!

          • DH

            PS, Michael, I wonder how your recipe tastes with other herbs, in particular mint leaves, which I often enjoy ‘raw’. Might be overwhelmed by the shallots/garlic, but have you ever tried it with mint? I am also going to try coriander as per your original post…

  • Wegan

    Are 30 bananas a day overeating? Do we know which genes cause the low dopamine levels? Is there anything we can do? Mucuna Pruriens? I wonder why there is so much more obesity now. I suppose the real problem is how ubiquitous sugary treats are these days though I did grow up with a pretty steady diet of sugar in the 60’s.

    • Dan

      You might want to consider reading the book ‘The Pleasure Trap’ by Lisle and Goldhamer (or watching ‘Losing weight without losing your mind’ on youtube).

  • Wegan

    My daughter feels good after eating 100% chocolate but feels depressed after eating fruit. What’s up with that?

    • Katja Breceljnik

      Hi, Wegan. I just found your question and have some thoughts on it. I hope that your daughter’s situation is better now, but just in case if this can still be helpful to you or someone else:

      – Does her depression happen after eating any fruit or only certain types of fruit?
      – Does depression happen with any other food or just fruit?
      – Did you notice her depression being triggered if she eats any high glycemic index foods or is it localized to fruit only?
      If so, she could have fruit malabsorption.
      “Fructose malabsorbers showed significantly lower plasma tryptophan concentrations and significantly higher depression scores compared to normal. Fructose malabsorption is associated with lower tryptophan levels which may play a role in the development of depressive disorders..”

      She could get tested to be certain, and by the way, this condition could be genetic.

      I hope this can shine some light in the right direction. I love fruit, but have intolerance to certain fruits, so I understand how frustrating this can be. Wishing you both all the best!

  • PetraS

    Dear Dr. Greger,
    Could you create a video on what plant foods and herbs are especially beneficial to counter the addiction to opioids?