Doctor's Note

The reference to protection from heart disease is explained in yesterday’s video and beet-boosting athletics in Doping With Beet Juice and continuing with Priming the Proton Pump and subsequent videos in this 3-week video series. Another way that greens, The Healthiest Veggies, may protect heart health is explained in Boosting Heart Nerve Control. There are also hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects if you can't wait until tomorrow for your NutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day fix.

For some context, please check out my associated blog posts:  Using Greens to Improve Athletic Performance and Which Common Fruit Fights Cancer Better?

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    The reference to protection from heart disease is explained in yesterday’s video and beet-boosting athletics in Doping With Beet Juice and continuing with Priming the Proton Pump and subsequent videos in this 3-week video series. Another way that greens, The Healthiest Veggies, may protect heart health is explained in Boosting Heart Nerve Control. There are also hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects if you can’t wait until tomorrow for your NutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day fix.

    • Stephen Lucker Kelly

      What vegetables are low in oxalates and high in nitrates… Or is it not
      possible to have low oxalate levels with high nitrate levels… and if
      so won’t this stop people from absorbing calcium and cause kidney
      stones??

      • Stephen Lucker Kelly

        I heard Coriander (Cilantro) & Arugula (Rocket Lettuce), are low in oxalate and obviously high in nitrates. Is this true?

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregmil Greg Milette

    How about turnips? Would it be slightly better than beets?

    I’d be impressed if anyone has the courage to try turnip juice :)

  • pasticana

    I don’t understand this article, because i have read a lot of articles that warn about the toxicity in the high nitrates levels in vegetables, recommending not to give spinach and others green vegetables to children.

    Who is right then?

    • Toxins

      Pasticana, there are confused issues with nitrites. Nitrites found in animal products for example, are harmful. When animal fat is present, nitrites convert to nitrosamines. In infants (who should be drinking breast milk anyway), they should not have high nitrate vegetables because they lack full capabilities of the enzyme to convert methemoglobin to hemoglobin. How do nitrites keep from transforming into the cancerous nitrosamines? When antioxidants, like vitamin c, are present, they do not convert. Also, there must be no animal fat. Under these 2 conditions, nitrosamines do not form. If there is animal fat present + antioxidants, the nitrosamines are amplified. We can conclude that a vegan diet with high nitrite vegetables is not only safe, but highly beneficial. Dr. Greger’s later videos will delve into this topic more deeply.

    • Toxins

      (deleted)

  • pasticana

    Thank you about the explanation, it makes sense to me. I really like the information in this place.

    I hope find answers about topics like Solanaceae, because i’ve found a lot of vegetarian forums where they recommend not to eat tomatos, potatos, eggplants because it removes calcium from blood stream and put it on wrong places.

    I’m not sure it’s acually true, but if it’s not they are misleading people, in the mediterranean where i live tomatos are ate in a daily basis.

    • Toxins

      Here is a quote from Jeff Novick (a well known plant based nutritionist) about solanine.

      “All food, including fresh vegetables, fruits, starchy vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, have natural toxins in them. Many of these occur naturally in the food and are part of the plants natural defense system. Bruce Ames has published some articles on this, showing just how many toxic chemicals occur naturally in common fruits and veggies.

      Ames, B. N., Profet, M. and Gold, L. S. (1990) Dietary Pesticides (99.99% All Natural). Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 87, 7777-7781

      Ames, B. N. (1990) Natural Carcinogens: They’re Found in Many Foods. In: Health & Environment Digest, B. Murdock, ed., pp. 4

      So, the real issue is not whether or not a food has any toxic chemical in it, but how much of the toxic chemical is in the food and does it exist at a level that can be toxic to humans. Nicotine occurs in many common vegetables.

      N Engl J Med. 1993 Aug 5;329(6):437. The nicotine content of common vegetables.

      In regard to nightshades [solanine vegetables], there is no credible and reputable evidence that the nightshade family is harmful.”

      Dr. McDougall also says that

      “The most pharmacologically active compounds found in the potato are the solanine glycoalkaloids (α-solanine and α-chaconine). Their primary purpose is to defend the potato plant against bacteria, fungi, viruses, insects, animals, and humans. However, at appropriate levels these glycoalkaloids have medicinal effects for people.

      Known Medical Benefits from Extracts of Solanine

      Lowers cholesterol
      Anti-diabetic
      Anti-allergic
      Anti-itching
      Anti-inflammatory
      Antibiotic (bacteria, fungi, parasites, viruses)
      Anticancer ”

      He notes though that at high levels they do become toxic, but to avoid this he says
      “To eliminate the risks, do not eat spoiled potatoes; which usually means those potatoes with green discoloration under their skin and/or sprouted potatoes, having “growing eyes.””

      • pasticana

        I forgot to thank you. :) I don’t know if it’s better only check thumb up, so there is not to many comments and email alerts. And it’s easy to people follow the comments.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=670735069 Tan Truong

        “Here is a quote from Jeff Novick (a well known plant based nutritionist) about solanine.”

        Dietician would probably be a more appropriate title. :)

  • Thea

    When you focus on one issue, it all seems so clear. But when you try to take into account all the information you have, it becomes confusing.

    For example, I have heard that it is important to get significant levels of absorb-able calcium in ones diet and that getting such levels is very achievable through eating certain greens. BUT you need to stay away from greens such as swiss chard and beet greens, because they have high oxolates (sp?) and the oxolates interfere with calcium absorption. Then there are studies like this that tout the benefits of eating such greens.

    This seeming conflict makes nutrition seem complicated. Am I missing something? How does one put all this information into a useful whole package of “how to eat healthy”? I know the answer many would give on this site. What I am asking is how to do it in light of conflicting information.

    • barbarabrussels

      Tricky indeed, my 2 cents, trust vegetables above anything else and variety, don’t overdo on one thing and you’ll be fine…

  • Lisa21012

    My 16 year old daughter who is a vegan was tested as borderline low for iron. She makes sure that she consumes citrus everyday to help her absorbtion. My understanding is that it’s best to limit consumption of spinach because that could limit her iron absorbtion. Would beets fall into the same category? Do all foods that are high in nitrates have an impact on iron absorbtion?

    Somewhat off topic but related… She consumes a great amount of chocolate soy milk, possibly 3 12-oz. glasses per day. Is that good or bad for iron absorbtion?

    Recently, the recovery drink of choice has been chocolate milk but since she is vegan she drinks chocolate soy milk. Is she getting the same benefits from soy that she would get from cow’s milk as a recovery drink? No matter what I think chocolate soy has to better than any of the vegan alternatives such as Gatoraid or Propel. With her knowledge of factory farming she would never consume cow’s milk.

    • Toxins

      I am going to answer the third part of your question dealing with “recovery”. I assume you are referring to an after workout recovery drink. The anabolic phase is a critical phase occurring within 45 minutes post-exercise. It is during this time that muscle cells are particularly sensitive to insulin, making it necessary to ingest the proper nutrients in order to make gains in muscle endurance and strength. If the proper nutrients are ingested 2 – 4 hours post-exercise they will not have the same effect. It is also during this time in which the anabolic hormones begin working to repair the muscle and decrease its inflammation.
      Immediate ingestion of carbohydrate is important because insulin sensitivity causes the muscle cell membranes to be more permeable to glucose within 45 minutes post-exercise. This results in faster rates of glycogen storage and provides the body with enough glucose to initiate the recovery process (Burke et al., 2003). Muscle glycogen stores are replenished the fastest within the first hour after exercise. Consuming carbohydrate within an hour after exercise also helps to increase protein synthesis (Gibala, 2000).

      In other words, the best post recovery food would be simple carbohydrates such as fruits, like a couple of bananas or some dates. The post recovery drink is a creation of the industry and doesn’t serve a significant purpose.

      Some words of caution: you said she is drinking chocolate soy milk as a post recovery drink, you don’t mean a chocolate soy recovery drink do you? If so, these are purposefully filled with soy protein isolates which is the refined soy protein that can spike our insulin like growth factor. This leads to accelerated aging and tumor growth promotion. Dairy has the same effect but soy protein isolates are twice as potent, making it more dangerous in that regard.

      • Lisa21012

        She drinks Silk brand chocolate soy milk. Is this what you are referring to that is going to accelerate aging? I thought soy milk was healthier than dairy?

        We have tried almond milk but the protein content is not as high. With her being tested low for iron I thought soy was a better alternative. Would it be better to be sure to increase bean consumption and the citrus to be sure that she’s getting enough iron?

        • Michael Greger M.D.

          Soy milk is an excellent alternative to cow’s milk, no saturated butterfat or cholesterol and even has a little fiber and iron (unlike cow’s milk). And indeed much more protein than almond or rice milk.

        • Toxins

          As Dr. Greger said above, soymilk is indeed healthy. I was confused by your wording, I thought you meant a soy recovery drink. But now you know to avoid them.

          • luvmy2pugs

            Is pea protein isolate equally bad for you?

  • Racham

    A sports dietician told me that one loses more sodium in sweat than potassium after strenuous exercise. She is the sports nutritionist for a major football team. She recommended a sodium enhanced coconut water for post exercise recovery. Apparently regular coconut water does not have enough sodium to make up for the electrolyte losses after vigourous exercise. You can calculate your sweat rate (how many pounds you lose in physicial activity). For every 1 lb of body weight you lose after exercise that corresponds to the loss of 16 ounces of sweat. To rehydrate you need 16-24 ounces of extra fluid per pound loss. The extra fluid requirements compensates for the water loss in urine.

    If you are exercising in the heat you will most likely need electrolyte/fluid replacement. Everyone knows that sweat tastes like salt that is why she states you are better off with water and a salt shaker rather than a banana. Some of her athletes lose so much water through sweat that they require IV fluids because the gut can only hold 1-2 litres of water.

    • Toxins

      We should strive to keep sodium levels 1500 mg or under. A cup of coconut water already has 250 mg of sodium. 16 ounces of coconut water rehydration is 500 mg of sodium, and to enhance the sodium content even more doesn’t seem very healthful.
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/salt-ok-if-blood-pressure-is-ok/

      In the words of Jeff Novick (a well known plant based dietician) :

      “Endurance athletes who work out in high temperatures who are adapted to a high sodium diet can lose sodium though their sweat.

      However, when one adapts to a low sodium diet, which can take about a week or so, they will lose much less sodium through their sweat and this will not be an issue.”

      Simple carbohydrates should be more of the focus when one is considering post exercise food, i.e. fruits

      • Racham

        Rehydration is important…just don’t drink the Kool-aid! ;o)

  • Vicki Reesor

    Dr. Greger, I’m hoping you can help me help my friend. This friend (who lives in Russia) is very afraid of nitrate poisoning due to some highly publicized cases in Europe. She tests all fruits and vegetables using a nitrate-testing device, and finds almost nothing “safe” to eat. She does not eat any meat, so processed meats are not a concern. The EFSA http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/689.htm recommends a “safe” intake of nitrate of 3.7 mg/kg b.w. per day (which would be exceeded by consumption of 100g of almost any leafy green vegetable). I have found some articles but I’m still confused. http://www.ambientemola.it/html/wp-content/doc/nitrate_review.pdf
    Have you written or made a video addressing this question somewhere? What’s the clear message I can deliver to my friend to calm her fears so she can start buying and eating vegetables and fruits? I want to mention that I personally eat pounds of kale, collards, chard, and other vegetables every day and I experience no ill effects – but I live in Canada where the food supply may be very different from what’s available “across the pond”

  • Vicki Reesor

    Ah, and I see my question has been at least partially answered by some other posters to this thread, but I hope it’s still relevant!

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      Did you see my NutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day yesterday Vicki? If not check out Are Nitrates Pollutants or Nutrients?

      • Vicki Reesor

        Thank you, Dr Greger. That makes things much clearer now.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    For some context, please check out my associated blog post Using Greens to Improve Athletic Performance!

  • Demonva1972

    It is possible to treat asthma and COPD with foods high in nitrates?  I am experimenting on myself as best I can by adding arugala to my smothies

  • Helene Shore

    I have been a vegetarian for about 20 years and just recently became vegan. I limit salt, don’t even have a salt shaker, eat lots of greens, bananas, etc. My pressure is still high. What else can I do. I really want to get off the drugs.

    Thanks so much

    Helene

    • albert

      I just wanted to share some of my experience. After being fortunate
      to discover this fantastic guy’s channel and watching a video on NO I
      remembered that I always liked eating salad of beets with garlic
      (and I’ve had some problems with cerebral blood flow also resulting in
      my heart discomfort). Hm, I said to myself. After some experimenting
      here are my results. I am able to lower by blood pressure by 10 mm easily eating just one small (smaller than my fist) shredded beet a day. Sometimes I hit harder on my beets (adding garlic is probably relevant too) and have my BP go down too much (making me wake in the middle of a night and drink some coffee!). My exercise stamina went high up. I feel better overall.

      Just a half of shredded beet a day. Not forgetting to get some vitamin C in the mix (in plants or sometimes just a pill). Also I don’t know why there is such thing as a juicer when we all know whole plants are best. Just grind your veggies as fine as possible if in any doubt.

      Probably getting l-arginine (NO precursor) rich food is a good idea too – lentils, beens, peanuts.

      Moderate aerobic exercise such as brisk walking (at about 60-70% Max heart rate) works fine to get those vessels dilate. I always feel better after working out – especially in those days of changes in weather (being very sensitive to atmospheric pressure fluctuations)

      There is another video on youtube with C Essestyn (or was it McDougal?) saying one has to substantially reduce fat consumption to unclog one’s arteries so their lining (endothelium) is able to interact with NO and dilate as a result.

      Also McDougal or Essetstyn said salt reduction doesn’t do much (resulting maybe in just a couple mm).

      I hope by the time I’m writing this you’ve already figured out all of this and more.

      Oh, yes, stress reduction works miracles!! :) This also could be the key. I prefer to listen to music for meditation and work on my breathing while listening and throughout my day. Taking a bath with a lit candle feels good too.

      But these as just my 5 anecdotal/amateurish cents..

  • Carlo

    Hello,

    When you say “coriander”, do you mean the seeds, the leaves or both? Thanks!

    • Carlo

      Sorry, to be understood I should have written “cilantro”, but “coriander” is a synonym.

      Anyway, still no ideas about the dried seeds?

  • Martin Miller Poynter

    Dr. Greger, I’m assuming you are comparing the nitrate levels on a per calorie basis rather than a per serving or per weight or volume basis? I love arugula, one of my favorite greens actually, just wondering how much arugula I’ll need to eat to obtain the equivalent benefit. Rather than juicing my beets, I’m just going to go with eating the whole raw beet today with some kale. Earthy! Thanks!

    • Martin Miller Poynter

      Ah, just watched the video again and heard you say the measurement was in mg per 100 gram serving. So that pretty much answers my question about just how much arugula I’d have to eat to obtain the equivalent effect. Beets are so much heavier than arugula that it would not be feasible to eat the weight of arugula that would make 16 oz beet juice. I did juice up 3 medium beets yesterday (~10 oz beat juice) and added in a few carrots and some celery for taste and drank it up 2.5 hours prior to a “race” type group bike ride that I regularly ride in. I noticed a significant improvement in my performance and was able to keep up with the big dogs for a longer time than I normally am able to compete. Needless to say, next week I’ll be juicing up 6 beets! Thanks for your videos!

      • Martin Miller Poynter

        Well, looking again, I suppose I’d only have to eat less than 1/4 of the weight. Since the 16 oz volume of beet juice probably weighs 16 oz also, perhaps the best bet would be to eat 8 oz arugula as it is close to twice the potency.

  • Guest

    What vegetables are low in oxalates and high in nitrates… Or is it not possible to have low oxalate levels with high nitrate levels… and if so won’t this stop people from absorbing calcium and cause kidney stones?

  • Sebastian

    Hello Dr M Greger, thanks for your videos… they are amazingly helpful. My vegan arguments pack a better punch these days thanks to your work. :D

    I was going to ask though? As we are close approaching Halloween, would you be able to post some interesting bits about actual squash varieties? For instance, which is best and most nutrient dense if any? best value per “buck” and so forth…

    Thanks again!

    Sebastian

  • Francis

    I’d be interested to know what an Athlete should be eating during long training sessions. As a cyclist I need to consume a lot of carbohydrate during training (5 hour rides!), what ingredients would you suggest for an energy bar? Should I be avoiding certain things like refined sugar? Flapjacks are popular but should they be shunned because of the saturated fat in them?

    Bear in mind I’m restricted to one large pockets worth of food and bananas don’t last long before they turn to moosh.

    Thanks.

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

      You might get some ideas from reading Scott Jurek’s book, Eat Run. He is one of the worlds best ultra marathoners and fuels himself with plants. His book which is his autobiography has recipes in it and I found it a fun read.

    • Martin Miller Poynter

      Dates

  • Bill Misner PhD

    Dr. Greger, here is a spelling error in this transcript…please forgive that someone pointed out to me when I quoted that it should be Mesclun greens [to mix-Latin] not the drug “Mescaline…”
    Transcript says:
    “Here are the top ten widely available sources, and with all this talk
    about beet juice you’d think beets might be number 1, but they just
    barely made the top ten list. Swiss chard has more; next comes oak leaf
    lettuce; then beet greens; basil; spring greens, like mescaline mix;
    butter leaf lettuce; cilantro; rhubarb; and arugula.”

    Bill Misner PhD

    • Tommasina

      Bill, thank you for pointing that out! Too funny. I think it should be corrected now. :)

  • Gialuka Raffel

    So would it be correct in assuming that arugula juice will contain almost twice the nitrates as just eating arugula?

  • Ryan m

    Is it better to get your nitrates for athletic performance through concentrated un organic beet juice shots 0.4g of nitrate per shot or 500 mills of beet juice un concentrated thanks