Doctor's Note

I previously touched on this in my video Diet or Exercise, What’s More Important For Weight Loss?

Don't get me wrong--exercise is wonderful! Check out, for example:

Best to stick to foods rich in nutrients but poor in calories: Calculate Your Healthy Eating Score. It’s cheaper too, see Best Nutrition Bang For Your Buck.

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  • Guest

    Dr. Greger, I’d like to know if distilled water is healthy to drink as my only water. I have been reading online that distilled water is the best for humans, and there seems to be anecdotal evidence that it helps a lot of ailments, but there is just as much anecdotal evidence that it leaches minerals from the body. Do you have any knowledge of this issue.

    And how about mineral water containing inorganic minerals that our body can not process and that disrupt and negatively alter certain bodily organs, functions, and other stuff?

    I tried to find real studies that have looked into these two water claims, but only find a lot of lay people, as well as many Doctors, talking about the issue and offering their opinions, but no one seems to have a study or studies to substantiate.

    • tedster

      I’m not the expert, but I consider distilled water to be the ultimate processed “food.” Everything good taken out (except H2O) and nothing added back. Even white flour is better. At least it’s fortified.
      Those inorganic minerals you asked about (I’m assuming calcium, magnesium, sodium, etc.) are essential for bodily functions. Without them you would die. Other minerals, such as arsenic, lead, mercury, etc., you want to avoid. I recommend drinking good, ol’ tap water that you’ve filtered with an activated carbon filter (like a Britta filter). This will remove many of the “bad” minerals (as well as some pharmaceuticals and some other organic molecules that you don’t want to be ingesting) while retaining the essential minerals.

      • Guest

        It has been claimed by many that the inorganic minerals are not necessary for bodily functions……that we get the organic version of these minerals in fruits and vegetables….that they have a form of these minerals that are bioavailable. And that the inorganic versions have no bioavailability.

        • tedster

          I guess I cannot comment on the bioavailability of inorganic minerals outside of organic molecules versus within organic molecules; however, you pose an interesting hypothesis. That being said, inorganic minerals from water will affect the electrolytic balance of blood plasma. If one drinks too much regular water, that can create a state of hyponatremia where the excess water effectively dilutes the salt level in the blood. (This can also happen to athletes/workers who sweat out too many electrolytes.) Now imagine constantly drinking distilled water where there are no salts to contribute toward electrolyte equilibrium. I would think that might lead to chronic hyponatremia.

        • Darryl

          With the notable exception of heme iron (which is better absorbed than free iron, sometimes to a dangerous extent), essential minerals are all absorbed just fine in their ionic/inorganic forms as found in non-distilled water. Indeed dissociating them from their organic matrix and dissolving to ionic/inorganic form is often required for absorption.

          With regard to supplements, certain mineral forms are unlikely to to dissolve (eg MgO), and with regard to meals, other coingested compounds like phytate can chelate and hence prevent absorption. But for the most part, the dissolved minerals in non-distilled water (and in particular Ca, Mg, Cu, I and Se) are in an ideal form for absorption.

          • guest

            Any thoughts on distilled water creating health issues, if this all the only beverage one is drinking?

          • Darryl

            I’m not aware of any issues, provided the diet provides adequate amounts of minerals, but I’m by no means an expert. 2 L of median North American tap water provides around 5-6% of the RDA for Ca and Mg, so its a significant source, but small compared to solid foods.

          • Bev

            Based on what I have looked at, opponents of distilled water claim that its ingestion provoke the body to release stored minerals – from bones, mineral deposits elsewhere in body – to make up for the completely mineral- empty beverage just consumed. Basically, distilled water causes leaching of internal body minerals. Maybe this is a good thing for some people, (arthritis, calcium deposits, etc.) but maybe there is science that proves these fears of drinking distilled water are unfounded.

          • More than a label

            I drank distilled water from 1990 till about 2004. It is slightly acidic and it does take all the minerals (good & bad) / heavy metals out of your system. I started having bone spurs and osteoarthritis in joints etc. I was acidic and that causes arthritis along with injury. I highly suggest only using distilled for a cleanse and drinking either Alkaline Water or Fiji water along with 75% green vegetables or more in your diet. To remove the osteoarthritis I used Serrapeptase and also supplemented with a product called AcidCal to be more basic. 10 months later the orthopedic doctor doing some wrist surgery took xrays of my joints again and the white in the joints was gone. Unfortunately the pitting of the cartilage was permanent in my big toe joint. I had the bone spur for about 4 years in that joint before surgery to remove it.

      • Julot Julott

        do you know we are Heterotroph?

    • tony

      If you see what a distiller takes out of tap water……Putrid stinking sludge… You want to check it out some time, you would be horrified by the smell and you may change your opinion on drinking tap water…Food is where all your nutrients come from… distilling is the closest process to nature for taking impurities out of water. all it does is catch the steam , which is pure. and is similar to the rain process… Rain water that runs across the ground and picks up the impurities and you drink the tap water…. just like you can’t eat dirt, your body has trouble digesting inorganic minerals. loads up your kidneys, forms stones etc, Drink the cleanest purest water you can… Distilled…. I have been drinking pure distilled water now for 20 years and so has my mum, 81…. Blood counts are perfect and both of us are on no medication and no lifestyle disease that we know of… (touch wood) We follow a vegan lifestyle.

      • Kim

        I have to agree with Tony. What is left in the bottom of my distiller after it is finished is the most disgusting smelling, vile brown liquid. The smell is putrid. I am going to buy a gallon of brand name “spring” or “filtered” water at the grocery store, and see what leavings remain. So far though, we will only drink distilled.

    • CarrotBrocante

      I would like to know too! I don’t distill water but I do use a water filter. I have read that the kidneys cannot handle too much inorganic minerals in water.

  • Bo

    So if you eat a lot of calories of whole foods plant based with carbs around 90% you will still gain weight?

    • Jason

      You might be right Bo, but I have to say I eat between 2500 and 3000 calories a day, which is a ton of WPF, and that amount maintains my current weight and body fat percentage. I also exercise six times a week. That’s one of the benefits I love about eating a plant strong diet. I can eat a ton and not gain weight!

      • Bo

        i eat 4000-5000.. i do light exercise, callisthenics and stuff 5 days a week. should i be worried then?

        • Jason

          That does sound like a lot. I would be concerned about the money factor money, unless your eating coloricaly dense foods which can be pretty unhealthy 6000 cal. A day could get pretty expensive. Are u spending 10 hours a day hiking through the Alaskan wilderness or something. I can’t imagine why u would need that many calories.

          • Brandon Klinedinst

            Is it even possible to eat 5000 calories worth of whole plant foods? Seems like you’d nearly be eating all day.

          • Darryl

            That’s just 700 g (1.5 lbs, ~5 cups) of macadamia nuts, the highest caloric density whole plant food I’m aware of.

            Or 30 medium potatoes.

          • Brandon Klinedinst

            Oh okay. Only 30 medium potatoes or 5 cups of macadamia.

          • sheller

            Macademia wouldn’t be a heavily-weighted part of a plant-based, HIGH carb diet as specified in the the OP. The most calorie dense way to do high carb whole foods is probably to focus on processed low-fiber starches and dried fruits. A diet of corn tortillas and raisins would get the caloric load up fairly quickly though it looks like it would still take 4 pounds or so to get in range, which is still quite a lot of grazing.

          • Veganrunner

            Darryl is this tongue in cheek? 5 cups of nuts? I would be sick to my stomach before I could finish that. 30 potatoes! No way could I eat 30 potatoes. You must be joking.

    • Will Kriski

      Yes you don’t need to eat that many calories. I do calisthenics as well and eat probably no more than 2500 calories. I’m gaining muscle and burning fat. Over 25 lbs of fat so far, and I also monitor body fat with a monitor.

    • Bo

      No i’m not gaining weight so far but i do WFPB for several months only. I do exercise because i want to and i eat as much as i want to, 3 times a day. I don’t eat nuts, i eat 1 avocado a day. I eat because i’m hungry and if i’m not hungry i don’t eat. Yes i’ve used cronometer, that’s where i’ve taken these numbers from. Doesn’t look like a lot of food to me though, dinner is the biggest meal – around 2k cal. The total can get up to 6000 cal sometimes. Still a bit hungry afterwards though. Yes i do live in cold climate (in winter) and ride my bike through the snow but i don’t know if that counts as alaska wilderness. All i need to know is that will eating that amount of calories on a low-fat WFPB diet make me gain weight?

  • HemoDynamic, M.D.

    Interesting! I never put the two together–Sex and Fries.

    • Veganrunner

      He’s Back!

      • HemoDynamic, M.D.


  • Drew Corrigan

    As another Doctor I also follow (Dr Fuhrman) says, “You lose weight in the kitchen, and build muscle in the gym.”

    • Blanster

      What a great quote!!!

    • Daniel Wagle

      I like Dr Fuhrman a lot, but I would say, “stop feeding the fat in the kitchen and burn it off in the gym.” However, I get my exercise, not in the gym, but by bicycling everyday to work as well as other places. Exercise is much more sustainable if it is built into one’s lifestyle. Bicycling instead of driving also helps the environment. My experience is that a very high dose of exercise does help with weight loss. I have maintained a 100 pound weight loss for 4 years, largely by exercise. I also count calories, but because I exercise every single day of the year, I can consume 3500 calories a day and maintain my weight loss. I didn’t have to limit calorie intake that much to lose the weight, either. Switching my diet to a Whole Foods Plant Based over time also helps tremendously, because it reduces toxic hunger and cravings. Therefore I don’t feel hungry all the time- but also being able to consume 3500 calories and not gain weight helps to control hunger as well. A person can’t go wrong by counting calories, exercising everyday and eating a nutrient dense whole foods plant based diet.

    • LynnCS

      I have always had a weight problem till I got on whole plant foods. Now I eat all I need and want. I eat a well balanced plant based diet and eat a lot. I lose easily. I’m sure I’ll need to make some adjustments when I reach a good weight/fitness level. I do some basic exercise such as walking and light weight lifting. I don’t count on the exercise to lose weight but to maintain a healthful, nicely muscular body. I haven’t heard that saying before, but I like it. Thanks for quoting it.

      I’ve never thought it wise to try to exercise off the calories you eat in order to lose weight, or to “get by with eating badly” and then kill myself at the gym. I eat to serve my body; to feed all the body’s cells. The food I eat gives me the energy to do what I want, including my exercise program. Exercise is good for all round health, but shouldn’t be used to lose weight. It does contribute to the overall healthy weight by oxygenating the cells and building healthy muscles. We should never do anything that tears down our bodies, only build it up. Ironically eating a plant based diet and light exercise while losing weight is a way to build it up. Finding this awesome way to live is life changing. Actually we need to find a different word to use instead of “losing weight” because there is no losing about it when we eat this way. It doesn’t take much exercise to do what the body needs and it can be done at any age. It can only build us up.

      • Daniel Wagle

        I think a good paradigm shift would be to exercise so that a person can eat more healthy food, rather than exercising to out train a bad diet. People can actually gain weight by eating too much healthy food and a high daily dose of exercise can prevent this gain. Since I exercise everyday, I am able to consume 4 ounces of nuts and two tablespoons of of course natural peanut butter each day and not gain weight. Nuts are a healthy high calorie food that exercise enables a greater consumption of. Sweet potatoes, bananas and starchy vegetables are also examples of higher calorie healthy foods that exercise enables a greater consumption of without weight gain.

  • John D

    In my experienced carbs and sugars induce significant addictive cravings which result in a non-stop cycle of eating more carbs and sugars. I eliminated most of both of those and now focus on 1/3 leaf plants, 1/3 vegetable plants and 1/3 meats as the baseline diet, and I really have seen cravings literally go to zero. Body fat is 15 (down from 25). Exercise is not going to get you anywhere unless you access fat stores for energy. I am a medical layman but this is indisputable to me.

    • Veganrunner

      No cravings here. And I don’t eat meat……

    • Will Kriski

      No way if you eat mostly complex carbs. I eat a ton of potatoes and am losing fat and gaining muscle like crazy with some bodyweight exercises. The fat you eat is the fat you wear. People are addicted to meat and fat from cheese and oil. Check out the book Sugar, salt, fat – people can be addicted to any of these things.

    • Markus

      Hi John,

      exactly the same experience from me! This way of eating rocks!

      Ah, not to forget; skipping the O6 and some bodyweight training. So my BF went from 25 to 14, almost without any efforts (25 min training 3x a week). Having endless energy since then is the best part of this diet.

      Adding one day of the week some rice and fruits as “cheat meals” is OK.

  • rcwilk

    One thing I never see discussed about diet and exercise is that when I exercise, I’M NOT EATING. “So what?” you might say, but taking a hour or two a day out of my grazing can mean significant calorie loss. In an hour or two I can graze my way through a bag of potato chips, or even bake a potato and eat it, fry up a batch of chicken, or go though half a package of cookies. I think we need to add this factor to exercise-diet studies. I know it makes a big difference in my own consumption total.

    • LynnCS

      We don’t eat potato chips (refined and processed) nor chicken (fatty animal products,) Anything I may eat during the day is only healthy whole, delicious food. I take apples to the gym and even other whole food like a cooked potato or a wrap, to fill up, if needed. It doesn’t slow me down at all. There’s no oil or animal products to sludge up my system. Try it, you’ll love it and won’t have to exercise to overcome something like chips and fatty meats. You’ll exercise because you love to move and are fueled by wonderful whole foods. No need to avoid eating. Eat. Eat plenty.

    • Charles Peden

      I agree that exercise has benefits by taking time from eating. I think that is mostly how it contributes to weight loss. The longer and more often one exercises, the more effective it is for weight loss. Also, eating less appetizing foods obviously works for weight loss because it cuts down on consumption (whether those foods are low-carb or whole food plant based). The less time one spends in a fed state, the more weight is lost.

      I believe in eating a nutritious plant based diet for health, but from my experience it seems to be a placebo for weight loss.

  • Will Kriski

    I just did a video on this and totally agree. Diet is 90+% of the issue. When I ate crap I used to walk and often worked out but didn’t have great results.

    • val

      And may I say that “eating crap” will eventually show up…ex spouse is and always has been a runner and always stayed at his high school weight…but after donating blood in the late 90’s, blood lab called him and told him his triglyceride levels were “off the charts, sky-high, please see a doctor!” Well, walking to Subway from his office 2 or 3 times each week was showing up in his blood work, even though he was fit & trim. He admitted that he thought Subway was the lesser of fast-food evils; wrong!

      • Jack

        You can get good wholesome food at Subway, or you can get crap. Most people get the crap so they carry more of that… and it’s a shame.

  • ANJ

    What about the effect of exercise in raising the basal metabolic rate and building muscles which will also burn more calories. I think these were both undermined in the video.

    • AmyR

      I think the point of the video was that people eat too much. You can exercise everyday, be working at the right intensity, yet not make a dent in weight loss. This is true for a person who overeats or skips meals. One’s diet has many roles with weight loss. Eating regularly and with an appropriate amount of calories alone can increase metabolism. Certainly emphasis should be made to include exercise so lean body mass is not lost to such a great extent when trying to lose weight.

  • Coacervate

    Yeah but that’s two and a half hours of action crammed into 6 minutes…no wait thats baseball …or is it the other way round? ~ “NO OIL”~

    • Thea

      Coacervate: You crack me up. :-)

  • Pandabonium

    Alternate title for this clip: “Sex and the Single Fry”. ;)

  • Bo

    No i’m not gaining weight so far but i do WFPB for several months only. I do exercise because i want to and i eat as much as i want to, 3 times a day. I don’t eat nuts, i eat 1 avocado a day. I eat because i’m hungry and if i’m not hungry i don’t eat. Yes i’ve used cronometer, that’s where i’ve taken these numbers from. Doesn’t look like a lot of food to me though, dinner is the biggest meal – around 2k cal. The total can get up to 6000 cal sometimes. Still a bit hungry afterwards though. Yes i do live in cold climate (in winter) and ride my bike through the snow but i don’t know if that counts as alaska wilderness. All i need to know is that will eating that amount of calories on a low-fat WFPB diet make me gain weight?

    • Veganrunner

      Hi Bo,
      Oh yes. 8 bananas. Your day looks good. One thing to think about is variety. Maybe tweak the bananas to include more berries. This may not be that easy for you. I live in Southern California so we have a large selection of fruit available. Have you watched Dr Greger’s videos on “the best” fruit etc. I find those very helpful.

      But if you aren’t gaining weight why worry?

      • Bo

        Because i thought maybe i might ;) Yea, no fresh berries whatsoever where i live..
        thank you for replies.

  • Sebastian Tristan

    This is my current dilemma. I exercise a lot but I don’t have the body I want mainly because I am forced to eat more to get enough protein from my plant-based diet. My weight is 75 kg. Optimally, I would need 1.2 g of protein per kilogram, or 90 g of protein per day. However, I have to force myself to eat lentils, beans, etc. to get to that amount.

    • Coacervate

      May the Force bean with you

      • Sebastian Tristan

        Wake up and smell the flatulence, Mr. Larusso.

      • Rain

        You can’t beet a root.

  • DGH

    Exercising has really helped me maintain my current low weight but it did not really promote weight loss. The latter was almost all attributable to diet. However, now that I am at a healthy body weight, exercise really helps me keep there, as long as I don’t overdo it (which causes rebound hunger and overeating). On the other hand, if you exercise during periods of 8-12 hour fasting, you burn your fat stores and can slim down that way. If you exercise after you eat a meal, you only burn the food in that meal.

  • Bedreddin Ulusoy

    Any suggestions about high intensity interval training, which has been found to increase the number of mithocondria in human muscle cells and to be more effective in elevating the metabolic rate as compared to exercise of longer duration with a steady course? Thank you.

  • Donna

    LOL! Thank you Dr. Greger, for serving up this information with large side of humor! Much appreciated! Hmmm, so at 14 calories a pop (assuming that goes for women too), I’d only have to do it, what, maybe 7 times a day to lose a couple of pounds a week? So 6 minutes every couple of hours if I calculate right. Now if I could only convince my boss… :)

    • Thea

      Donna: Too funny.

      Note: I’m pretty sure I know what you meant (looking for time at work to fit in this important exercise), but are you by chance married to your boss or have a big crush??? Your last sentence could be interpreted some interesting ways… ;-)

  • Han

    /me tells Dr. Greger about Freelee the bananagirl. Check her out on Youtube.

    Current state of popular science says: eat at least 3000 Kcals from fruits, veggies and starches a day and make it really low fat and don’t even bother with adding stuff with extra proteins (highly overrated)

    And you have all the energy you want and you loose extra weight in a natural way.

    It’s all the meat and fat we eat that makes us sick and obese!

  • judas_priest

    I recently encountered a discussion of the use of irvingia gabonensis (African mango) seed (ground) and a means to change one’s hormone balance to help weight loss. Dol yiu have any information on this? FWIW, WebMD says efficacy is uncertain but that it is, at worse, harmless.

  • 48south

    Seems the Dr. and his team chose to be funny, rather than finishing their point. Some of us still believe diet AND exercise are both important to live a full active life. It’s like if I’m going to eat healthy, I should benefit from that, so I’ll go on a hike that maybe an obese person may not be able to do. I don’t want to show up 2/3rds of the population necessarily, but if i’m going to take care of my body, I’m going to enjoy some extra achievement along the way. Please don’t get lost in your research only to find little jokes. I’m sure a lot of us really find benefit in what you present, especially the ones that don’t waste words and time.

  • Jarrod Greer

    Dr. Greger, My wife and I have a problem with loosing weight right now. We started eating Vegan about six months ago and at first we were eating about 2500 Cal a day with about 12% protein, 70% carbs, and 18% fat. We still have the same percentages now but we dropped calories to about 1200 per day. We still arent loosing any wight though, even though we do something equivalent to power walking for 2.5 miles a day. My wifes struggling with PCOS symptoms again which seemed to be somewhat under control while we werent eating so many carbs (we ate meat). Its a bit discouraging, especially for her. Are there any modifications that need to be made to a whole food vegan diet for someone with PCOS?

    • Thea

      Jarrod: I’m sorry to hear about your weight loss problems. I’m not sure about your question in regards to PCOS, but I do have a recommendation regarding weight loss. Check out this free lecture from Dr. Lisle:
      “How To Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind”

      And then, to make sure you understand all of the nooks and cranies regarding the concept of calorie density, check out this talk:
      Calorie Density; Eat More, Weigh Less and Live Longer. Also check out Jeff’s DVDs in the Fast Food series. Great, affordable food that is easy to make.

      Between those two talks, you can forget about worrying about calories, and instead just focus on eating lower density calorie foods. If you go low enough, you should just start to loose weight – without being hungry or having to worry about portion control.

      You might also consider going through the free 21 Day Kickstart program by PCRM. They will hold your hand for 21 days, including meal plans, recipes, videos, inspirational messages, and a forum where you can ask questions.
      (Click the green “Register Now” button.)

      Good for you both on the power walking. That’s going to help long term. Best of luck.