Doctor's Note

Another example of nutrient synergy is the reaction between black pepper and the spice turmeric as described in Garden Variety Anti-Inflammation. For more on the food-as-a-package-deal concept see Plant Protein Is Preferable, Plant vs. Cow Calcium and Safest Source of B12. Friday's NutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day Risk Associated With Iron Supplements will discuss why plant-based sources of iron are preferable as well. For more on the hormones in dairy, check out videos like Dairy Hormonal Interference, Acne-Promoting Effects of Milk, and Dairy & Sexual Precocity. To explore the additional wonders of garlic, see #1 Anticancer Vegetable and Pretty in Pee-nk. For more on the wonders of the science of nutrition, check out my other videos on more than a thousand subjects.

For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Stool Size and Breast Cancer RiskHow to Enhance Mineral AbsorptionTreating an Enlarged Prostate With DietPlant-Based Diets for Metabolic Syndrome, and Anti-Cancer Nutrient Synergy in Cranberries

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Another example of nutrient synergy is the reaction between black pepper and the spice turmeric as described in Garden Variety Anti-Inflammation. For more on the food-as-a-package-deal concept see Plant Protein Is Preferable, Plant vs. Cow Calcium and Safest Source of B12. Friday’s NutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day Risk Associated With Iron Supplements will discuss why plant-based sources of iron are preferable as well. For more on the hormones in dairy, check out videos like Dairy Hormonal Interference, Acne-Promoting Effects of Milk, and Dairy & Sexual Precocity. To explore the additional wonders of garlic, see #1 Anticancer Vegetable and Pretty in Pee-nk. For more on the wonders of the science of nutrition, check out my other videos on more than a thousand subjects.

    • HemoDynamic, M.D.

      This video is great like all the vids.  And as I tell my patients everyday, probably the most important thing to do, everyday (besides eating plants), is to visit NutritionFacts.org and watch the 2-3 minute video.

      You see it’s just like anything that someone wants to become good at:  If one wants to be good at math then you need to study nearly everyday.  If one wants to perfect playing the piano one needs to do it everyday.  The same holds true for anything–If you want to be good at something then everyday spend a few minutes doing it. 

      So if you want to get good at understanding nutrition and the value of plants in your life and the benefits it has on the world as a whole, then spend the time studying the information.  Soon you will have incorporated all the great information that is found on this website and your health will be an after thought.  You will one day look at yourself in the mirror and say I not only look and feel healthier, I am healthier.

      That’s what NF.org offers not only my patients but the world.

      • HemoDynamic, M.D.

        I am replying to myself because I just read the opening statement to a publication from The National Acadamies Press in Health and Medicine that drives home my previous point of studying a little everyday but especially in plant based nutrition.  Here is the excerpt:

        How Can Health Care Organizations Become More Health Literate?:

        “Approximately 80 million adults in the United States have low health literacy – an individual’s ability to obtain, process, and understand basic health information. Low health literacy creates difficulties in communicating with clinicians, poses barriers in managing chronic illness, lessens the likelihood of receiving preventive care, heightens the possibility of experiencing serious medication errors, increased risk of hospitalization, and results in poorer quality of life.”
         http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13402&utm_medium=etmail&utm_source=The%20National%20Academies%20Press&utm_campaign=NAP+mail+new+7.24.12&utm_content=&utm_term=#description

        Teach yourself and then teach the world!

        • http://GreenMommyBlog.com/ Kristen Suzanne

          Interesting. Thx for sharing that.

        • Valnaples

          Yes yes! I’ve been having fun watching the number of “likes” on Dr. G’s facebook page going up and up. I share as much of his information and links to his videos as I possibly can every single day.

          • HemoDynamic, M.D.

            Great Job!!  Don’t ever stop!
            ;-}

        • albert

          Honestly this stuff has to be taught at all schools all over the world… What can be more important to know really?..

  • BPCveg

    I guess that those eating cooked food (as opposed to raw foods) are more likely to include onion and garlic along with their vegables, due to reduced astringency after cooking.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=725986334 Wendy Alfaro

    Dr. Greger: thank you so much for your everyday work. All this information is so eye-opening, specially if we take into account that veggies, fruits, seeds, nuts, etc. are so widely available. People around the world is benefitting from your science-based videos.

    • Valnaples

      @Wendy, not only are they widely available but mostly far less expensive than meat/poultry/dairy etc. Espcially with the drought situation in the U.S. which is largely affecting corn which is fed to the livestock, etc… If you eat more foods not linked to corn, yeah, baby, you are not impacted as much financially by the drought, it seems.

  • http://blessedveganlife.blogspot.com BlessedMama

    Another good reason to eat garlic and onions.  Yum!

  • Paulc

    Great video! It seems to answer the paleo peoples’ objections to plant foods because of their phytate content. Now, if we can only find reasons for the other things in the plant-based diet that they object to: oxalates, tannins, trypsin inhibitors, enzyme inhibitors, lectins
    (hemagglutinins), protease inhibitors, gluten, alpha-amylase inhibitors
    and alkylresorcinols .

  • AlexanderBerenyi

    Careful, now…things are not always so rosy with the phytochemicals, and not always so negative with the animal products.

    For (one quick) instance:
    Inhibitory effects of spices and herbs on iron availability
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18651292
    Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2009;60 Suppl 1:43-55. Epub 2008 Jul 4.

    • Jola

      I’d really like to know more about how this study was conducted (e.g., I’m curious about what “simulated digestion” means); but, it is kind of hard to analyze this study and its findings since to view the complete study you need to pay for it (I hate when that is the case). So, all we can use is the abstract.  
      Judging from the abstract, this study seems to be exploratory, i.e. the beginning of a bigger and better understanding of how iron availability is affected by spices and herbs. It seems to be trying to make a “proof of concept” to lay the groundwork for further more rigorous investigation. It really says very little about WHETHER culinary spices and herbs ACTUALLY play a role in iron nutrition IN HUMANS.  And, that is the case it will eventually need to make to show “that culinary spices and herbs CAN [emphasis mine] play an important role in iron nutrition” in people.

      We will have to see what comes out of further investigation in this area. At this point, however, this study is just a beginning. 

      (Aside from the study, I’m not sure what point you are trying to make or how you think this study supports your point.)

    • Gale

      I didn’t read anything about animal products. It said rice. Interesting finding though. I wonder how they simulated absorption?

    • Jola

      Given Dr. Greger’s video post today (http://nutritionfacts.org/video/risk-associated-with-iron-supplements/) on “Risks Associated with Iron Supplements”, it seems that the high occurrence of iron deficiency in individuals living in tropical regions may also be related to how different iron (i.e., plant-based vs animal based) is absorbed. That might be an interesting study to devise to look at the issue. At this moment, though, the “Inhibitory effects of spices and herbs on iron availability” study raises more questions than it answers, which is what thoughtful scientific investigation should do.

      At least we know, that adding a bit of vitamin C while consuming a meal with iron will lead to greater bioavialability (which is probably why the tamarind is the only spice/herb that enhanced iron availability rather than inhibit it–tamarind has vitamin C). It would be interesting to see what the results would yield if the researchers added a bit of vitamin C to the mix of the iron inhibiting spices. I hypothesize that they’d find that the iron bioavailability would not be inhibited by the spices.  

      • AlexanderBerenyi

        Heme iron absorption ≈ 15–40%. Nonheme iron ≈ 1–15%.
        For most vegetarian diets, the enhancing effect of
        ascorbic acid on nonheme iron absorption is unlikely to counteract the absence of unidentified enhancers provided by meat and the likely increased consumption of inhibitors.
        Nonheme iron absorption is inhibited by phytic acid found in everything from grains to
        legumes to leafy greens to nuts; polyphenols, such as tannic and chlorogenic
        acids,
        found in tea, coffee, red wines, and a variety of
        cereals, vegetables, and spices; soy protein (apparently independent of
        the phytic acid in soy); and eggs. In some instances, as little as one cup of tea can lower the availability of non-heme iron by as much as 60%.

        Please keep in mind that I love fruits, vegetables, spices, teas, superfoods, etc. I try to eat vegetarian with sparing amounts of certain meat. That said, I think it’s outright silly to make claims like animal source foods are just the equivalent of “a scoop of sewer sludge with some vitamins and minerals.”

        • WholeFoodChomper

          Interesting. Could you please share with us, the sources from which you are citing this information and refer us to the scientific evidence that supports the claims you make? I’d like to learn more about it from the direct sources.

          As for animal-based foods, being the equivalent of  “a scoop of sewer sludge with some vitamins and minerals”, did Dr. G say that? If so, what was the context? Given the current practice of commercial factory farming in the American meat/dairy industry, I don’t think that statement is far from the truth.

          • AlexanderBerenyi

             The sewer sludge comment was made in this video.

            Bioavailability of iron, zinc, and other trace minerals from vegetarian diets
            http://www.ajcn.org/content/78/3/633S.long
            (A very fair review for both sides, in my opinion)

            Is the iron in spinach bioavailable? The whole arena
            of iron and its availability is confusing to me—can you help to clarify
            it for me?
            http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=217

            Some unfortunate truths (coming from the opposite end of the argumentative spectrum, mind you) about plants:
            http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/plants-bite-back

          • WholeFoodChomper

            Alexander,

            Thank you for sharing the citations. I look forward to reading them when I have a bit more time. 

            As for the “sewer sludge” comment, I listened to the video again; and, I believe that you are mishearing (if not misrepresenting) what Dr. Greger is saying.  

            Dr. Greger does not say that “animal source foods are just the equivalent of  ‘a scoop of sewer sludge with some vitamins and minerals.’ ”   What he says, while talking about the legal definition of “excellent/good source” is:  “So, for example, you can throw a multivitamin into a scoop of sewer sludge and call it a good source of half a dozen things.”  He says nothing about animal source foods being equivalent to sewer sludge. Instead, he is showing how the legal definition of “excellent/good source” can be manipulated.  In fact, what he actually says about animal sourced foods (in this case, milk and beef) is that they are not a “good source” of nutrients because it is not possible to get certain nutrients without the harmful doses of, in the case of milk and beef, hormones or saturated fats. 

          • Toxins

             Alexander, I feel that you have a mission to spread misinformation, as we have discussed this many times before. Cooking deactivates these anti-nutrients which include lectins, phytic acid, trypsin and α-amylase inhibitors.This is fairly well established nutritional knowledge.

          • AlexanderBerenyi

            Sorry, but that isn’t entirely true. Please do some more research.

            Assessment of lectin inactivation by heat and digestion.
            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21374488

          • Toxins

            Cooking at low temperatures can amplify the lectins, in fact, under cooking kidney beans increases the toxicity of lectins. When one cooks these foods at boiling point temperatures then the lectins are indeed deactivated.

          • WholeFoodChomper

            We are all here trying to understand the “truth” behind what we
            eat.  We can play the “look-at-this-study-to-prove-my-point”
            game forever. I’m not sure that will serve any of us well, since 1) most of us
            do not have time or the ability to accurately read and interpret all of the relevant scientific studies, 2) there
            will always be a study pointing to an opposite point-of-view (just b/c that
            view exists and is published in a study does not in and of itself make it true),
            and, 3) what we need to be assessing is the balance of evidence, which requires
            multiple and repeatable studies –not just 2, 3, even 10 studies (which again leads me to my point #1). 

             

            As for the abstract of the study you shared, it states: “before they can be used safely, legume-based food/feeds
            usually require thorough … heat processing to inactivate antinutritive
            components.” Since one has to cook legumes to consume them anyway, you
            bring up a non-issue. Unless you eat your legumes raw. If that is the case, I can see your concern with the matter.

             

            If you are interested in learning how to read a
            scientific study critically, I recommend these sources as a beginning anyway: 

            http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/118/16/1675.full 

            http://psychcentral.com/lib/2007/research-101-understanding-research-studies/all/1/

            http://www.oandp.org/jpo/library/1996_01_024.asp

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2696241/

          • Toxins

             For whatever reason, WholeFoodChomper’s comment is not appearing, here is what he wrote, and i completely agree.

            We are all here trying to understand the “truth” behind what we eat.  We can play the “look-at-this-study to-prove-my-point” game forever. I’m not sure that will serve any of us well, since 1) most of us do not have time or the ability to accurately read and interpret all of the relevant scientific studies, 2) there will always be a study pointing to an opposite point-of-view (just b/c that view exists and is published in a study does not in and of itself make it true), and, 3) what we need to be assessing is the balance of evidence, which requires multiple and repeatable studies –not just 2, 3, even 10 studies (which again leads me to my point #1). 

             

            As for the abstract of the study you shared, it states: “before they can be used safely, legume-based food/feeds usually require thorough … heat processing to inactivate antinutritive components.” Since one has to cook legumes to consume them anyway, you bring up a non-issue. Unless you eat your legumes raw. If that is the case, I can see your concern with the matter.

             

            If you are interested in learning how to read a scientific study critically, I recommend these sources as a beginning anyway: 

            http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/118/16/1675.full 

            http://psychcentral.com/lib/2007/research-101-understanding-research-studies/all/1/

            http://www.oandp.org/jpo/library/1996_01_024.asp

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2696241/

          • WholeFoodChomper

            Thanks for reposting, Toxins. I posted this late at night and made an error which deleted my original post.

  • Shani

    In the raw food world many recommend soaking nuts to release the phytic acid which inhibits mineral absorption. Now I’m wondering….should I soak or not… since phytic Thank you!

    • Toxins

      Soaking, germination, boiling, cooking, and fermentation all inactivate phytic acid and free up minerals for absorption.

      http://www.ajcn.org/content/70/3/459S.full

    • Lyra

      Phytic acid may actually have a protective effect, so it’s probably not necessary or even wise to soak your grains or nuts. As Sue Becker who blogs @the Bread Beckers reminds us, “whole grains themselves are an abundant source of iron, calcium, and zinc.” Just add some onions or garlic, as Dr. Greger suggests, to enhance mineral absorption. Sara Shannon in Diet for the Atomic Age notes that phytates bind with radioactive and toxic substances and carry them out of the body. And they are protective against certain cancers. So, no worries…bon appetit!

      http://info.breadbeckers.com/phytic-acid/

  • Thinkabouddit

    Onions are notably beneficial for quercetin and other things, but to get the antioxidant effects, do we need to eat them raw or cooked? Has anyone ever juiced an onion in their green drink? Does anyone know?

  • http://www.facebook.com/rick.yen.1 Rick Yen

    wow good to know my question is should be include raw or cooked too like the rice?

  • karina

    Dr. Greger. Is it ok to soak grains, nuts and seeds to reduce the phytic acid in order to increase the mineral and vitamin absorption?

  • Rebecca

    Hi Dr. Greger, I would like to understand more about fulvic acid/fulvic mineral supplementation. Is it safe to drink water with fulvic added, and how much? What about long term consumption? Thanks!

  • Frank Streibel

    (1) The study used garlic and onions because they are “sulfur compound-rich”. Thus, other sulfur-rich vegetables such as Brassicaceae vegetables (cabbages, broccoli etc.) may have a similar (but probably lower) effect. (See the video “#1 Anticancer Vegetable” that shows how these 2 vegetable groups excel – maybe because of their sulfur)

    (2) It may be worth pointing out that the study (according to the abstract) found similar effects for PULSES. In Indian cuisine, lentil soups (dal) are typically prepared with garlic and onion.

    (3) Does anyone know whether in the study it is stated whether the garlic/onion has to be cooked with the grains/pulses or whether it is sufficient to eat it at the same time (for example stir-frying vegetables with garlic and onions and eating them with brown rice that was cooked plain)?!

    (4) I would expect, however, that the quantities of onions and garlic many people typically use are lower than those of the study. Therefore, the absorption “boost” should not be so high.

  • lovestobevegan

    Apple of My Heartbeet Chili

    – 4 cups cooked* kidney beans
    – 2 cups beets, cubed
    – 2 cups carrots, cut into rounds
    – 2 cups rutabaga, cubed
    – 2 organic^ apples, chopped
    – 2 tomatoes, chopped
    – 4 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
    – 2 red onions, chopped
    – 4 cups water/homemade vegetable broth
    – 2 tbsp chili powder
    – 1 tbsp Ceylon cinnamon http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-safer-cinnamon/
    – 2 tbsp marjoram
    – 1 tbsp basil
    – ⅛ tsp white pepper

    Add all ingredients, except beans, to a large stock pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Add beans and cook a couple minutes longer until beans are hot. Season to taste with sea salt.

    *If using canned beans select those packaged in BPA-free cans such as Eden Organic brand. http://nutritionfacts.org/video/bpa-plastic-and-male-sexual-dysfunction/

    ^Apples rank 1st (most contaminated) for yet another year in the “dirty dozen: 12 foods to eat organic” so choose organic. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php

    Bookmark my new Plant-Based Emporium Facebook page for all my latest recipes. https://www.facebook.com/PlantBasedEmporium?ref=stream&hc_location=timeline

    ~Complements of lovestobevegan

  • matt

    One way I like to look at food is how it appears in nature. I dont believe grains are meant to be eaten by humans. If you were to eat them as found in nature, like wheat for instance, you cannot eat it as it is, nor will it sustain you. The aglutinins in wheat and other grains appear to be more problematic than gluten itself.

    • allen

      Most of the world depends on grains for their sustenance. That’s where they get most of their calories. If we don’t eat grains, what do you suggest we get our calories from instead? Only a tiny minority of people have a problem with grain allergies.

      You can in fact, eat wheat right off the stalk. Just rub the heads in your hands the blow the loosened chaff off and pop the berries in your mouth. You can’t bite down on them, but they eventually dissolve in your mouth. There’s even a place in the bible where it says that people did this: Mathew 12:1

      • matt

        Hi Allen, True grains are a big part of our diet. I would think it is a big part as it is big business and generates big $$$$$. From info I have come across stating health benefits of grains and other foods because of their specific nutrients etc. I just watched the video attached to this article and do agree with the part just because it contains this and that and not been evaluated as a whole. True a minority regarding allergies but from what i believe or seen is that you don’t have to have allergic symptoms to note it is not well received by the body. Just like dairy proteins can be problematic, it was observed in a group of children with dairy allergy and symptomatic when consuming dairy and other children without noticeable symptoms had sub-clinical responses measured. Yes we all are metabolically different and react or respond differently to te foods or food like substances we consume. I dont know much about the bible but from what I remember i think the wheat mentioned was sprouted bread? I do know that the negative aspects of wheat are still in sprouted wheat up to 21 days or so after germination. I believe there is a good book out but I have yet to read it called “The dark side of wheat”. There are other aspects of grains verses other food choices I could mention like you would chose fruits and berries over wheat or other like plant in nature if you were living off the land. I do believe the human body may like variety as sometime you see developed food sensitivities etc if one food is consumed to often as a single food choice, but other things probably come into play like leaky gut etc. You hear so much on this is good then down track now not good. I will stop rambling now :P and ponder some more :P I love Dr Greger stuff! keep pumping it out doc ;)

    • Toxins

      I understand the logic, but it is not necessarily true that because we cannot consume something in nature that is raw, it should be avoided. Cooking eliminates the antinutrients in wheat, beans, potatoes and other grains. These foods only have healthy attributes, and I know of no studies showing that beans are linked with chronic disease. The opposite is true.

      Again, I understand the logic, but it is a flawed way of viewing nutrition.

      • matt

        I would say is cooking unnatural? I think it is, I know it depends on the temperature of the thing being cooked before it’s molecular structure is altered and therefore behave differently or unusable by the body, just like acrylamide but I am sure there is many other reactions that are unfavorable. Humans are the only organisms that cook their food and we have probably more health issues than any other living organism. I am sure lifestyle, food choices and man made unnatural products all play a part.

        • Toxins

          This is the type of thinking I am talking about. Calling something “unnatural” because we did not consume it in the past (which by the way, we probably may have) is completely irrelevant in the field of nutrition as cooking does not make food harmful. There is not a single study linking cooking food with ill health. Cooking may cause some harmful compounds in meat, and fried carbohydrates, but overall, cooked rice and cooked veggies pose no health risk whatsoever.

          • matt

            I would agree that cooking rice veggies and many other foods pose no harmful effects. I find that when more raw foods are incorporated or in many cases only raw foods are consumed the body tends to rejuvenate better and the skin can reflect this whites of the eyes etc. I think there is more to nutrition than just protein fats and carbs, i understand you would agree with that. I would like to see more studies of living foods and the energetics of the raw live food including bio-photons etc. I have seen some small amount of info on it and how it increases cell to cell communication etc.. This effect is markedly reduced in cooked foods. I is at its highest in raw foods and herbs. If you know of any reliable sources of food energetics I would love to see it. Cheerz

          • Guest

            I body does not get along with a lot of raw food. If you feel better on raw food go for it but don’t push it on everyone. Every body is different.

  • Chelsie Beck

    I have heard that the phytates in oats prevent calcium absorption which can lead to osteoporosis. Is this true?

    • Toxins

      Phytates in oats are eliminated with cooking, I would not worry about it. Phytates also double as antioxidants so even eating raw oats is not something that will cause you harm.

    • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

      Oats like all grains tend to place a relatively small acid load on the body. The body is well equipped to maintain calcium balance and bone strength if we eat properly. The best resource I have read on this issue is Building Bone Vitality by Amy Lanou. I know of no studies that would show a clinically significant effect on osteoporosis from eating oats.

  • DStack

    Fascinating video. I especially like that rainbow assortment of veg behind the box.

  • Humprey

    Thanks for your always informative work Dr. Greger!

    Recently I’ve been researching about FODMAPs (BTW, I can’t seem to found anything here about it) for Gastrointestinal health (esp., the gut) and so as for acne. I seem to found out that garlic and onions, while maybe a good absorption-enhancers, are taboos for a low-FODMAP diet.

    What do you think about it sirs? Thanks!

  • tina stamatakis

    dr. greger, have i told you lately that i think you’re awesome? thank you for the fantastic videos. i have recently been recommended to take iron suppliments because my levels are rock bottom! coming in at 57 when the normal rate is 59-158 (i live in greece and believe we have a different rating system…) my feretin is 11, normal being 13-151. not only am i not thrilled at having to take a supplement but am also rather confused by foods which inhibit iron absorption, like whole grains, some fruits and nuts and certain veg. however these foods make up the bulk of my diet. what the heck is one supposed to eat?
    confused in crete

    • Toxins

      Whole grains, when cooked or when soaked lose the inhibitors. Combine vitamin C with your meals in addition to garlic and onions and you will significantly enhance absorption.