Image Credit: Anna Pelzer. This image has been modified.

What Are the Best and Worst Foods?

I’ve always pictured my role primarily as providing the latest science, but you can’t understand all the new discoveries without a good foundation. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans has a chapter on food components to reduce. But, when they say things like “reduce intake of solid fats (major sources of saturated and trans fatty acids),” what does that mean in terms of which foods to cut down on?

Similarly, there’s a chapter on nutrients we should increase our intake of, so-called “shortfall nutrients.” But, when they say we need more magnesium, for example, what does that mean in terms of actual food? There’s no magnesium aisle in the grocery store. In my video What Are the Healthiest Foods? I analyze 20 different types of foods to see, based on the federal guideline criteria, which are the healthiest and which are the least healthy. There are a lot of fascinating charts in the video, so I encourage you to check it out.

To give a better idea of which foods to eat and which ones to avoid, in the video I use traffic-light labeling, so imagine that a green light means to “go ahead and eat,” yellow or amber means “caution,” and red tells you to “stop and think before you put that in your mouth.” Note these don’t correspond to the more comprehensive Traffic Light designations I detail in my book How Not to Die. When considering what foods in our diet may contribute most of the added sugars we consume, as one would suspect, sweets and sodas are red-light foods, but there are often surprising levels of extra sugar even in savory snack foods, like Ritz crackers. So, what are the top five offenders? Soda contributes 36.6% of the added sugars we consume, with grain-based desserts like donuts contributing 11.7%, Kool-Aid-type beverages contributing 11.5%, dairy desserts including ice cream contributing 6.4%, and candy contributing 6.2%.

What about caloric density? Surveying which foods contain the most calories per serving, oils join desserts and processed snack foods as the worst, though eggs, meat (including fish and poultry), nuts, seeds, and soda can’t be considered low-calorie. The top five sources of calories in the American diet are basically desserts, which contribute 6.4% of our total calories, bread, which contributes 6.0%, chicken, which contributes 5.6%, soda and other sweetened beverages, which contribute 5.3%, and pizza, which contributes 4.5%.

Which foods contain the most cholesterol? Eggs, fish, chicken, and red meat all earn the red light, while desserts, dairy, and other meats earn the yellow. Which foods contribute the highest percentages of cholesterol intake to the American diet? Number one by far is eggs (24.6%), with chicken coming in second (12.5%), beef third (11.0%), cheese fourth (4.2%), and pork fifth (3.9%).

As for saturated fat, desserts, dairy, and snack foods are all designated as red light, with eggs, chicken, fish, and red meat getting the yellow light. Most of the saturated fat in the American diet comes from cheese (8.5%), pizza (5.9%), grain-based desserts (5.8%), dairy desserts (5.6%), and chicken (5.5%).  

Salt levels are highest in lunch meat and snack foods, which both get a red light. But, Americans get most of their sodium from bread (7.3%), chicken (6.8%), pizza (6.3%), pasta (5.1%), and lunch meat (4.5%).

Trans fats are present in many foods—naturally or artificially added or created. Snack foods earn red-light levels, while oils, animal products, and animal-derived products get yellow lights. The primary contributors of trans fat in the American diet are cakes, cookies, crackers, pies, doughnuts, and other grain-based processed foods (40%), followed by animal products (21%), margarine (17%), French fries (8%), and chips and microwave popcorn (5%).

Now, to the nutrients. If you fast-forward to the 3:00 minute mark of my What Are the Healthiest Foods? video, you can see which foods are the best sources of such nutrients as calcium, fiber, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A, C, D, E, and K. Foods in the chart with a green designation are a high source of a particular nutrient, while pale green designees are a medium source and white entries are a poor source. Since the body’s food currency is in calories, not grams or food weight, nutrient density by calorie is a better way of making assessments. Our body monitors how much energy we eat, not how much weight (of food) we eat. We only have about 2,000 calories in the calorie bank to spend every day; so, to maximize our nutrient purchase, we want to eat the most nutrient-dense foods.

To look for trends in nutrient density by calorie, we can rank the foods in the chart from best to worst, which you can see at the 3:47 minute mark of the video.

The clear winners are unprocessed, unrefined, plant-derived foods, including vegetables, herbs and spices, fruit, mushrooms, legumes, whole grains, and nuts and seeds. In general, these foods lack the disease-promoting components we want to avoid and, as the Dietary Guidelines Committee states, “These foods contain not only the essential vitamins and minerals…but also hundreds of naturally-occurring phytonutrients…that may protect against cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, and other chronic health conditions.” So, these foods also contain hundreds of phytonutrients found in whole plant foods that are largely missing from processed and animal-derived foods. Additionally, the lack of disease-preventing compounds may be compounded by the presence of disease-promoting compounds.

So this is why people eating more plant-based tend to end up eating a more nutrient-dense dietary pattern, closer to the federal dietary recommendations. The more plant-based we get, apparently, the better.


For more information on the best diet to maximize nutrient intake while minimizing the intake of harmful food components, check out my video What Is the Healthiest Diet?.  How low should one try to push their intake of some of the food components to avoid? See Trans Fat, Saturated Fat, and Cholesterol: Tolerable Upper Intake of Zero, How Much Added Sugar Is Too Much?, and, for sodium, High Blood Pressure May Be a Choice. Surprised that trans fats weren’t limited to partially hydrogenated junk? Check out Trans Fat in Meat and Dairy

And for an overview on why I do this work to publish the latest in health and nutrition, see my introductory series

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:

Discuss

Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.


84 responses to “What Are the Best and Worst Foods?

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  1. After thousands of years, humans have not been able to create a food product better than what they already had around way back then. They also exercised more, and had more contact with nature. But some people think that the best life is found in a white plastic refrigerator launched at space. Smart?

  2. Okay, I like the traffic light series, but where I am in this process is that I have transitioned to vegan, quite a bit whole food plant based, but I would like to know about all the vegan foods that are at the grocery stores.

    Where do they fall in this stop light series?

    I say it, because the grocery stores – and not just Whole Foods – I am talking the regular old grocery stores now have aisles of “natural foods” kale chips and beet chips and bean chips and sweet potato chips and edamame crunchy flavored in every way and every kind of veggie burger and veggie cheeses and vegan mayo and the list goes on and on and on.

    Some call them “transitional” foods, but, honestly, when I started becoming allergic to meat in my twenties, I started eating veggie chickn and veggie burgers and veggie bacon and veggie sausage and veggie meatballs. I haven’t been doing that right now, but I am curious how good, bad or indifferent those things are.

    It seems like the nut flours and nut milks and nut yogurts and nut cheeses would be a concept where suddenly someone could accidentally be eating ten servings of nuts every day or more if they do smoothies and baked goods and don’t think of it as all having nuts.

    Anyway, that is where I am.

    Today, I am trying Amy’s rice mac and cheese with a side of lots of fruit for lunch. I haven’t had rice or other grains in almost a year, but this just happens to be something, which was in the freezer at work and was easy to microwave, but I do wonder if it is healthy or not.

    Probably yellow light?

    1. Deb,

      When you mentioned all those veggie Chips, it brought to mind a video here on NF.org about deep frying/baking and high temperature cooking in general. Here’s a excerpt of that video:

      In the latest study on “[d]ietary patterns and breast cancer risk among women,” those eating healthier had only a quarter of the odds of breast cancer, whereas less-healthy eating was associated with up to nearly eight times the odds of breast cancer. Included in the unhealthy pattern were deep-fried foods, which have previously been linked to breast cancer, as well as pancreatic cancer, lung cancer, oral and throat cancers, esophageal cancer, and cancer of the voice box.

      No deep fried foods?! What’s a Southern belle to do? Well, instead of deep-frying, how about “the ‘traditional Southern’ [diet] characterized by high intakes of cooked greens, beans, legumes, cabbage, sweet potatoes and cornbread [which] may reduce the risk of invasive breast cancer significantly.”

      What about the “Consumption of Deep-Fried foods and Risk of Prostate Cancer”? We didn’t know, until now. They found that eating French fries, fried chicken, fried fish, and doughnuts was associated with about a third greater odds of prostate cancer, and after stratifying for tumor aggressiveness, found even slightly stronger associations with more aggressive disease, suggesting that regular intake of deep-fried foods may contribute to progression of prostate cancer as well.

      What’s in fried foods that’s so bad for us? Just heating oils that hot can “generate potentially carcinogenic…compounds,” and then “known carcinogens,” such as heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, form when the muscles of chickens and fish are cooked at that temperature. And, deep-fried plants can form different chemicals, like acrylamide.

      Here’s a link to the video:

      https://nutritionfacts.org/video/cancer-risk-from-french-fries/

      1. Thanks Hal, that is helpful.

        There is almost a mass hypnosis affect of going into the store and seeing kale, beets, beans, legumes, lentils all in the shape of chips.

        I did buy a bag of beet chips and I tried two flavors of kale chips and they were low in calorie and not bad in flavor, but there was this niggling sense that I was just doing the exact same processed food process, which my mother did decades ago and decades later it all causes cancer was the problem and she died of cancer at 53. It was in her family. Her father died of cancer in his fifties, too. (Where her mother’s side, all the women lived into their nineties.)

        The thing is, my mother kept her figure and tried to eat healthy and my father pigged out and he is the one who is still alive into his elderly years and I know that she tried to follow the logic.

        She was a microwave popcorn and rice cakes as snack person and ate chicken, because there was this logic of white meat being healthier back then.

        Everybody else ate atrociously and she is the one who died younger than we did.

        1. There does seem to be a genetic component to longevity, so all we can do is eat as healthy as we can. This blog post today gives us the general notion of healthy eating. And from all the research presented here over the years, it seems the less processed the food is, the better. Some foods are better cooked obviously, but I almost always use boiling when cooking food rather than other methods such as frying and baking, which involves higher temperatures.

          1. Yes, Panchito mentioned earlier the recent large French study which showed that processed foods – vegetarian or not – significantly increase our risk of cancer including breast cancer

            “Ultra-processed food intake was associated with higher overall cancer risk (n=2228 cases; hazard ratio for a 10% increment in the proportion of ultra-processed food in the diet 1.12 (95% confidence interval 1.06 to 1.18); P for trend<0.001) and breast cancer risk (n=739 cases; hazard ratio 1.11 (1.02 to 1.22); P for trend=0.02). These results remained statistically significant after adjustment for several markers of the nutritional quality of the diet (lipid, sodium, and carbohydrate intakes and/or a Western pattern derived by principal component analysis)."
            http://www.bmj.com/content/360/bmj.k322

        2. Deb, Check out Jeff Novick’s Shopping School:
          http://www.jeffnovick.com/RD/Fast_Food_Vol_3.html

          He walks through the grocery store, showing how to read labels, which are deceptive, and how to buy economically. He also has videos on making his versions of fast food, and he’s very entertaining while he enlightens. You may also be able to find some of his videos on Youtube.

          You will also find some of his videos on http://www.drmcdougall.com.

    2. Why have you been avoiding (whole) grains? All credible health authorities recommend that people include these in their diet. Sure, there are lots of trashy “health” books on the shelves of bookshops that tell us not to eat grains. But these deliberately confuse the effects of refined grains with those of whole grains in order to sensationalise their claims..

      The evidence shows that

      ” Conclusions This meta-analysis provides further evidence that whole grain intake is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and total cancer, and mortality from all causes, respiratory diseases, infectious diseases, diabetes, and all non-cardiovascular, non-cancer causes. These findings support dietary guidelines that recommend increased intake of whole grain to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and premature mortality.”
      http://www.bmj.com/content/353/bmj.i2716

      “CONCLUSIONS:
      Our study shows that whole grain intake was inversely associated with risk of total, CVD and cancer mortality. Our results support current dietary guidelines to increase the intake of whole grains. Government officials, scientists and medical staff should take actions to promote whole grains intake”
      https://www.nature.com/articles/ejcn2017149?WT

      “Conclusions—Our meta-analysis demonstrated inverse associations of WG intake with total and cause-specific mortality, and findings were particularly strong and robust for CVD mortality. These findings further support current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommends at least 3 servings per day of WG intake.”
      http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/circulationaha/133/24/2370.full.pdf

      1. I have been following Dr McDougall’s starch based diet for 4 years. So Take low level of fat as it comes with whole food such as veggies, whole grains, potatoes, rice, beans, nuts and fruit. Lately I see videos by Dr Mark Hyman and books by Dr Pearlmutter grain brain that say the brain needs a diet high in fats and low in carbohydrates to be in mild ketosis so you use fat as the preferred energy form for the brain. This is to help avoid brain fog and dimentia. They even claim obese people loose weight on such a diet. So what am I to make of this?

        Hans

        1. Hello Hans,
          a good chemo-therapy also helps to lose weight. ;-)
          First of all, it is not possible to avoid fat in general – even if you eat no nuts, seeds or avocados for example – the rest plants have enough fat to run your body well. Your brain needs in the first line glucose – but also fat, right. If you add a hand full nuts/seeds every day to your meal, have a 1 tbl spoon of flaxseed or walnuts or hampseeds, chia – you will have enough Omega 3. Dr. McDougalls starch-diet is great, Dr. Gregers daily dozen also and the best source for basic informations is the china study from T.Colin Chambpell.
          If you are a German – we can have some inaction about this topic in German – direktly. You will find me at steffenjurisch.de

        2. Hans then go with your common sense. All oils are processed to some extent: Canola and Cottonseed is GMO. Stick with the plant based oils found in avocado, nuts etc. It is not good to heat the oils either. No problem going with a bit of extra virgin olive oil on your salads. Anyway personal research will tell you.

          1. Actually, Dr Greger recommends organic canola oil if we absolutely have to use a bit of oil for something (though he does not recommend ANY oil if we can help it). Organic foods and certified non-gmo foods are not gmo. Personally, I have found doing without oil very easy.

            1. ron,

              sunflower isn’t healthy at all: It’s high in omega-6 and low in omega-3. Safflower oirl provides no omega-3. So I wouldn’t recommend either.

              Hope that helps

              Health Support Adam P.

      2. Yes, TG,
        Brenda Davis and John Douillard have both explained that the best whole grains are intact, sprouted whole grains. If you eat flour, you get more flavor and nutrition by grinding it into flour that day, and making sourdough, like they did in the old days. Throwing out all grains as a group is short-sighted in my opinion. Throwing out flour based highly processed desserts is probably a good idea.

      3. TG, You’re a knowledgeable guy. Do you know which, if any, food allergy testing is most accurate? Or maybe one of the doctors following this could speak up.

        The reason I ask is related to Deb’s saying she doesn’t eat whole grains. Many years ago, when I was single, I did an elimination diet to try and figure out which foods were bothering me. It turned out that I would have some kind of reaction to various starchy foods, so, without the information I’ve since learned about healthy eating, and thinking the problem was the starch itself, I stopped eating all starchy foods. I was amazed to discover, a few months later, that some 25 or so years of severe seasonal hay fever had gone away! Poof!

        Much later, after an aggressive breast cancer that was stimulated by eating lots of “properly raised” beef, chicken, eggs and dairy, I read The China Study and later found Dr McDougall’s site. I began eating starches again, and that summer I had a bit of hay fever! NO!!! It got worse the next summer, and has not gone away with winter during the last few months.

        I tried doing another elimination diet, but now that I’m married and doing the cooking, I’m finding it much more difficult than when I was single. So I’m wondering if food allergy tests have become more accurate than they were back in the old days.

        1. starches throw me off as well. Bananas, potatoes,beans etc.

          Bums me out. I get tired, seems to be a macrobiome bacterial imbalance I think.

          What vegan foods can you eat?

          1. I pretty much eat all beans, veggies, fruits, and a few nuts. I eat chia and flaxseeds, daily. I’m still eating whole grains – oats, barley, wheat, rice, rye, etc., though some of them seem to be problematic. I eat greens, trying for at least once or twice a day, all sorts of fruits and berries.
            We’ve cut way back on potatoes and tomatoes because my husband finds they bother his arthritis and make his hands hurt all the time. At times they hurt my hands, too, but at other times they don’t.

            That’s part of the problem. A particular food will seem to cause problems one time one of us eats it, but not another time. That’s why I wonder if testing would help – if there are any accurate allergy tests. Years ago when I had a back scratch allergy test I was told the test isn’t totally accurate. That’s why I also did the elimination diet. But I can’t seem to stick with an elimination diet these days, while cooking for two.

        2. Hi Rebecca

          To my knowledge, hay fever isn’t related to food allergies/intolerances at all. Instead, it is supposed to be triggered by pollens of various sorts and also mold spores.

          It is possible therefore that the association between changes in your diet and hay fever onsets and disappearances, may just be coincidental. Climate, temperature ,prevailing winds etc may vary from year to year and this could affect bouts of hayfever. For example, if mold is the problem then you might expect hayfever in damp years and little or no hayfever in drier years
          https://www.webmd.com/allergies/understanding-hay-fever-basics

          On the other hand, you may right and diet could have affected your immune response to hayfever allergens. For example, if you are eating a lot of healthy starches and other whole plant foods you may be boosting your immune system and thereby amplifying your body;s response to polllens. On the bright side, strong immune systems are apparently related to reduced risk of cancer.
          .https://nutritionfacts.org/video/boosting-immunity-while-reducing-inflammation/

          But to respond to your actual question, no I am not aware that modern food allergy testing is significantly better than it was. It still apparently delivers many false positives and negatives.
          https://www.webmd.com/allergies/food-allergy-testing#1

          If you want a more detailed discussion, here might a good place to start looking
          https://www.nap.edu/read/23658/chapter/6#101

          I hope things work out for you.

          1. Tom Goff,

            Thank you. You always know where to look. I do feel that, when I eliminated food allergens, throwing out the baby with the bath water, so to speak, since when I eliminated all starches, the hay fever disappeared for about 25 years. Then, with the return of starches, back it came, complete with sneezing misery, itchy throat and inner ears, itchy eyes, etc.

            And, of course, as I’ve learned over the years, I now realize I don’t want to be taking any meds if I can avoid them, so I really don’t like it when the itching gets so bad I have to take Benadryl or another antihistamine.

            I will read the links you sent, and again, thank you. I appreciate your contributions to this forum.

      4. Tom,

        I am going to confess that I am carb-o-phobic.

        Not intellectually, but emotionally, because I used to struggle so much with hunger and haven’t had hunger even once since getting rid of those foods.

        Partly, I had Diabetes symptoms when I started and I have listened to Dr. Barnard say that the blood sugar would spike for a while eating those foods, so I decided to not have that spike until I felt my body was healed of those issues, but the hunger went away and I liked not being hungry.

        When I was young, I went Atkins, probably in high school, because of hunger and that is what those diets accomplished and that is why my friends want to be Keto and, no, I don’t want to be Atkins or Keto, but I also don’t want to be hungry all the time.

        I am pondering it, and have been all year.

        Honestly, after I had developed allergic reactions to meats in my twenties, I became a carb addict and would eat pasta every night in way too big helpings or would over eat bread products or over eat potatoes and I would add heaping butter and salt and other things.

        Rice, I tended to like the packaged flavored rice prepared with butter or oil, and I tended to not like white rice or brown rice when I got it plain at Chinese Restaurants, so it just became easier to break the bad habits going off of it.

        I have trepidation about going back on.

        I am sure it will happen, but I also have the issue that I am eating so many fruits and vegetables and nuts and seeds and I did a calorie chart and I am happily barely within what I should be and I am not sure I would succeed at doing that if I go back to the pasta and rice and breads, etc.

        Pondering it, but I am still happy with what I am doing and what I am doing is so easy.

        1. I have been watching Dr. Lisle on satiety and I am trying to learn how to do it the way he describes.

          I know that I have a fear of hunger. For those of you who are professionals, Atkins and Keto are about people being afraid of hunger. When I was at a dinner a month ago with people who are changing their careers to be keto oriented nutritionists, they talk about how easy it was to lose weight and never be hungry and they have such a strong sense of it radically improving their lives. Yes, I have watched the artery videos and am not even tempted to go Keto, but I end up staying awake nights for fear of them and they can’t follow the vegan logic right now, and I end up crying instead of presenting a perfect argument and they are vocal advocates who are good at arguing and I am only good at caring.

          I am doing vegan – mostly whole food plant based maybe with some fake chicken burgers every quarter, because I like them. I did find Dr. Greger’s video on them and was happy that I can continue to bring them to my cook outs without guilt.

    3. Hi Deb! From what I recall, Dr. Greger says green light foods are whole plant foods. He has meat, fish, dairy products, and products with trans fats as red light foods. That leaves yellow light foods which is where processed plant products usually fall. Dr. Greger describes processed as anywhere where plants have had their good qualities removed or bad quality ingredients added. Fried foods and foods exposed to high, dry temperatures (which forms AGEs) are also usually yellow or red light foods.

      Does that help at all?

      1. Thanks Ryan, yes it is helpful.

        I laugh, because I am so entertained by the red light green light series that I haven’t pondered the bigger picture.

    4. No No No… arrrggh. Big agri business has been elbowing into healthy lifestyle eating by producing all sorts of mystery foods laudable only for what they do not contain, not for what they do (big dairy owns some of the leading fake milk brands). They are worse for you often than eating a relatively unprocessed lump of meat or cheese.

      You do not need to eat ANY of this junk. It is the enemy of good health on a vegan diet as it is designed to be, and when you come out the other side of it a few months later you join all those who claim eating a vegan diet made them ill.

      Eat foods as whole and unprocessed as possible and learn to give up meat and cheese not just in their real form but fake forms too. You certainly do not want to be eating all that processed GMO soya… not to mention the dubious fats. Eat fresh fruit and veg and beans and whole grains. Macrobiotic books have good recipes using whole grains. Really, this is all you need. It is hell on earth for big food, though, the thought of people beginning to see most of the supermarket as redundant space.

  3. I guess I am thinking that it is easy to go from other processed foods and snacks and desserts straight to vegan processed foods and snacks and desserts.

    (I am eating my lunch right now and I am about to go back to work, but I can say that the list of links above are what got me asking myself if I was putting something healthy in my body or not, so I guess I should thank you for that.)

    I laugh, because I ate junk food, fast food, restaurant food, large quantities of soda and coffee all my life, so a package of gluten free soy free dairy free mac and cheese still has to be better than what I used to eat.

    1. But! unless you are genuinely allergic or sensitive to gluten or soy, they aren’t the bad guys. It’s the salt, sugar and fat that they pour onto restaurant and processed foods that does the harm, and it’s how they make their money. Lhpangler made a comment below too about the protein isolates not being what you want either, and Dr Greger agrees. Watch the video to see his recommendations and read labels carefully before you buy. (I dont buy food with labels except soy milk, cans of tomatoes or beans)

    1. Deb, this old video is one of my favs. Dr Greger himself tells how to transition to a whole plant food diet. Its a lot of fun. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9nNa81dSoY Also, there is a video or two about the Daily Dozen, and the free app you can download for your iphone or android with the Daily Dozen to help keep you on the straight and narrow. Good luck!

  4. We really enjoyed Dr. Greger in the documentary series “Live Longer”. Brilliant series – thank you for all the information. Regarding oils, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn explains so clearly in his book “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” why we need to move away from oils.

  5. Deb, i suspect that most of what you listed has a high fat content beyond 30%. Also, the processed fake meats is often made with soy protein isolates which isnt good for you. Vegan doesnt mean healthy or plant based.

  6. Thank you all for your feedback.

    Honestly, I am not eating the chips or very many of Amy’s products or Morning Star etc anymore.

    I just am pondering whether they are dangerous or just not as beneficial.

    I eat a lot of nuts and those are my Ghost Buster’s crossing the streams food.

    (For those of you who remember that movie of how the rules suddenly change to the opposite.)

    I am also pondering vegan dog food, though right now I am using Gentle Giant and the dogs on the package living almost thirty years makes me think that chicken from some sources might be better than chicken from other sources, but I am happy with fake chicken now and then.

    1. Dogs need meat but most processed dog food is actually made from dead dog (seriously)… you do not want to go here. Look after your pet properly, and then don’t get any more. Holding animals captive in the home is a cruel degenerate practice.

      And no, processed vegan food is not ‘just not as beneficial as whole food’ on a kind of beneficent curve. It is not as damaging as swilling transfat out of bucket, just more moderately damaging, but as people get older, moderately damaging does most people in.

  7. I haven’t had desserts or chips or popcorn or any snacks or grains or starches for almost a year.

    It took me almost the whole year to get rid of my latte with milk, but I haven’t craved any of it, and no, I don’t worry about soy or gluten for that matter, it is more that I was someone who got rid of hunger and all food cravings when I went off all of that stuff and it has made it easier to eat the fruits and vegetables.

    I used to be hungry all of the time, but haven’t been in about a year.

    1. Interesting. So what do you eat now, as far as meals?
      Nuts, fruits, veggies? Coffee, supplements? Would love to know
      what is your typical daily menu. Combinations of foods?

  8. Off topic question- is anyone else having their comments moderated or am I being targeted for posting ridiculous comments in response to our resident troll?

    1. I had a comment which was entirely benign removed for moderation so I do not know what is going on, but I continue to post because I so dearly support everything about this site.

  9. Dr. G,

    Please do a video/article on hormone therapy for cancer and dairy consumption. It seems that oncologists do not inform their patients that dairy products are loaded with mammalian growth hormones. So, therapy treatment to reduce hormones but then continue to consume a food that is rich in hormones.

  10. I have been a strict vegan but have recently learned I have hereditary fructose intolerance, a genetic defect whereby my liver lacks the enzyme necessary to break down fructose. Instead it produces a product that is harmful to my liver and kidneys. As such I have to limit my consumption of fructose to 2.5 grams a day. Since either fructose or sucrose (which contains fructose) is in almost all plant foods, I have had to drastically limit my daily consumption of most plant foods to the point that I cannot get enough calories and am losing weight. Since there is no fructose in animal products, I have begun to eat some salmon to get more calories without fructose. As I am still losing weight I am planning to increase the amount of fish that I eat. Since I don’t want to go back to my pre-vegan days when my cholesterol was high, can you tell me which animal foods would be the least harmful for me to eat?

    1. Hi William

      Sorry to hear about your diagnosis.

      The standard mainstream nutritional advice is to eat oily fish since these are high in PUFAs and therefore act to lower cholesterol relative to other animal foods (which tend to be higher in saturated fat) It may be better to eat oily fish lower on the food chain such as sardines to minimise mercury etc contamination. Wild game meats may also be an option since they are lower in total fat than meat from domesticated animals and tend to be higher in PUFAS and MUFAS and lower in SFAs.
      http://www.gunnersden.com/index.htm.hunting-game-nutrition-value.html

      However, there is a risk of lead poisoning from regular consumption of wild game.
      https://nutritionfacts.org/video/lead-contamination-in-fish-and-game/

      You may want to view this Boston University site
      http://www.bu.edu/aldolase/HFI/treatment/Diets.html

      1. Thank you for your reply. I am familiar with the Boston site but not with the wild game site. I will check it out. I will also look into sardines. I have also been told that tilapia, sole and flounder might also be good choices. I hope that I can eat these fish without my cholesterol rising too much.

        1. Tilapia is almost universally farm raised and does not have a favorable omega-3 to omega 6 ratio. Both flounder and sole are “bottom feeders” (scavengers). As Dr. G has reported, fish is found to contain excess mercury and “POP” (persistent organic pollutants) that are certainly not healthful. You might try foods such as nuts/avocados/greens that do not contain the fructose that you’re trying to avoid. Keep in mind that spinach is 51% protein.

          Dr. Ben

          1. Dr. Ben,I will take your comments about fish in mind.  My challenge is that I cannot eat foods with fructose or sucrose because sucrose contains fructose.  As such, I cannot eat much of the products you suggest because they contain sucrose.  Based on my body weight, I am limited to 2.5 grams of fructose/sucrose per day.  Since most plants have relatively substantial amounts of fructose/sucrose, I have resorted to eating animal foods which do not contain fructose/sucrose to try to get enough fructose/sucrose-free calories.  I have used the csidcares.org/treatment/food-comparison-database data to find the fructose/sucrose composition of foods.Thank you for your concern.

        2. Hi

          As Dr Ben has pointed out, bottom feeding-fish can be heavily polluted and tilapia found in shops are almost all farmed fish. There are significant concerns about the contamination and nutrient profile of tilapia imported from certain countries.

          As Dr Ben has also pointed out, certain vegetarian foods may in fact be a better source of the extra calories you need. Avocados and nuts are high in calories but have no or little fructose. Beans are another vegetarian source of good fats, proteins and calories that have no or little fructose. You might find this list helpful.
          http://familywellnesshq.com/fructose-in-fruits-veggies-nuts-seeds-legumes-grains/

          Tempeh and tofu are other relatively high calorie foods that are low in fructose, as is 100% peanut butter.

          You shouldn’t have any problem getting enough calories if you emphasise beans, nuts, avocados and peanut (butter) in your diet. Brown rice, oats and white potatoes can be eaten in virtually unlimited amounts also.

          You can additionally search the US National Nutrient Database to find foods low in fructose
          https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/nutrients/index

          1. Hi Tom,Thank you for your response.  I will look into the cleanliness of fish before I continue eating them.  Unfortunately I can’t eat much of, or any of, most of the foods you suggest because, although they have little fructose directly,  they contain substantial amounts sucrose which is a disaccharide  composed of fructose and glucose.  A such, I cannot eat foods with sucrose either, because they breakdown and release the fructose. According to the hereditary fructose intolerance website I should not eat more than 2.5 grams of fructose per day based on my bodyweight. It does not take much of these plant foods to exceed this limit.  This is why, in trying to consume enough non fructose calories,  I have begun to eat foods of animal origin because unlike plant foods, animal foods do not contain fructose or sucrose.  I found a good site that shows the fructose and sucrose content of foods is csidcares.org//treatment/food-composition-database.

            1. William

              Ah, OK. But I understand that avocado has no or very little sucrose either. Cooked navy and pinto beans also have only 0.37 gms and 0.34 gms of sucrose per 100 gms of beans.
              https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/nutrients/report/nutrientsfrm?max=25&offset=0&totCount=0&nutrient1=210&nutrient2=&nutrient3=&subset=0&fg=16&sort=f&measureby=g

              However, I can understand your position. I suspect that fish might be a safer and cheaper option than wild game. This old article from a newspaper in the UK may give you some ideas
              https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2005/sep/13/organics.food

              1. Tom, I appreciate your response.  I have been very selective in what I eat eg. only white beans and only brown lentils, etc.  However, it is very difficult to not exceed the 2.5 grams of fructose/sucrose per day (based on body weight) that the Hereditary Fructose Intolerance (HFI) web site says I should not exceed.  Since most if not all plants have fructose/sucrose, I have had to reduce my consumption of these foods with resultant loss of weight.  I have therefore turned to animal products for fructose/sucrose free calories, since they do not contain any fructose/sucrose.  My reason for trying to reduce my fructose/sucrose so much is that since becoming vegan I have developed macrocytic anemia whereby my red blood cells have become too large. My MCV (mean corpuscular volume) levels have risen above acceptable levels. The 3 reasons why this condition develops is either low B12, low folate, or alcohol abuse.  Since my B12  and folate levels are quite high and I don’t drink, doctors don’t know why I have macrocytic anemia.  My hemotologist has speculated that maybe my HFI is causing it.  In order to prove this, I am trying to minimize my fructose/sucrose levels as much as possible so that if my MCV levels reduce in my next blood test, I will know that my HFI is causing my macrocytic anemia.  I have tried to remain vegan as much as possible, but I realize that my strict vegan days are limited.  I have therefore turned to animal products and am trying to determine which of these is least harmful to me.  My first choice is fish (I’m not sure which one is least harmful), but I may have to explore other animal products as well.

    2. Dig deeper. Generally it is the processed fructose that is the problem but Big Food is insisting that all fructose must take the blame for any attack on fructose, or none of it.

      1. Gillian, Thank you for your reply.  I have been a vegan for several years and have largely avoided processed foods.  My problem with fructose and sucrose (a disaccharide that contains fructose) is beyond processed or non processed foods.  I have a genetic defect called hereditary fructose intolerance whereby my liver lacks the enzyme necessary to break down fructose.  In attempting to break down fructose, it generates a substance that is harmful to my liver and kidneys.  Based on my bodyweight, I should not consume more than 2.5 grams of fructose (or sucrose) per day.  This is a challenge since most plants contain fructose/sucrose.

        1. Sorry, William, I should have been clearer. Did you get the diagnosis confirmed? The only reason I ask is that this is such a serious condition it is usually picked up in the early years. But I know that there are alternative health practitioners terrifying people by telling them that they are fructose intolerant and then telling about the condition implying that this is what the patient has. It is a bit like saying to some one, you are wheat intolerant. There is a condition known as coeliac disease which means that… blah blah.  Do not think for a moment that I am discounting the seriousness of the genetic enzyme deficiency, but you would of course want to be absolutely sure before going through what sufferers have to endure to avoid fructose in all its forms. Much more common fructose intolerance is actually to the industrial kind and not whole foods at all. But the food industry has been most aggressive in suppressing this distinction, insisting that publications  attack all fructose or none of it, not least because industrial sugar syrups are such a cheap ubiquitous ingredient in processed foods.
          Finally for everyone who thinks they might be fructose intolerant, try consuming some fat with the veg, and cooking the fruit. Sometimes this is all that is needed to assist digestion and suppress the gas and bloating.
          My best wishes, William.

          1. Gillian, I had the original diagnosis of hereditary fructose intolerance from 23andme and had it verified last year through a blood test submitted by my doctor at Johns Hopkins.  As I am 68 years old, my doctor was quite shocked I tested positive.  As I have had a lifelong hatred of foods that tasted in any way sweet, this diagnosis explained this peculiarity.  As I was a heavy meat eater for most of my life, and ate no fruit and few vegetables, I did not consume much fructose/sucrose and so had no medical issues.  I became vegan 7 years ago to combat a high cholesterol problem without using drugs.  I succeeded but may have created another possible medical problem I am dealing with now.  My strict vegan days are probably behind me.

            1. Dear William, I wish there was another way for you, as I am sure do you, since as you know having to go large on animal protein brings its own health compromises. Was the vegan diet making you sick? Was that why after all these years you decided to take the issue of the fructose further?
              Sorry to be so interrogative but I am genuinely interested in how people get to the places they find themselves in when they do a halt and a stock take. Thank you for your generous time on this board.

              1. Gillian, since becoming vegan I developed macrocytic anemia whereby my red blood cells are larger than they should be. My MCV (mean corpuscular volume) began to elevate after I became vegan. The 3 reasons given for this anemia are a low B12, a low folate, or abuse of alcohol.  Since by B12 and folate are quite high and I don’t drink, doctors are puzzled why I have macrocytic anemia.  My hemotologist speculated that maybe my hereditary fructose intolerance was causing it.  To try to determine if my HFI is causing my macrocytic anemia, I have been attempting to reduce my fructose/sucrose intake as much as possible and then see if my MCV levels reduce as well.  Reducing fructose/sucrose is difficult while following a vegan diet since most plants have these sugars in them. Difficulty in doing this is increased also since sources that indicate the amount of fructose/sucrose in foods are not always consistent and not always specific as to which product they are testing.  Since this revised diet is causing me to lose weight, I have turned to eating animal products in order to eat fructose-free calories since animal products do not have fructose/sucrose in them.  The HFI web site says that for my body weight, I should not consume more than 2.5 grams of fructose/sucrose per day.  I do not think I will be able to achieve these low levels on a totally vegan diet.

  11. So according to this article, I would be better off eating cheddar cheese in moderate quantities than eating small quantities of wild caught salmon and organic chicken a few times a week?

      1. Thank you. So if I go on a totally plant-based diet, what vitamin and herbal supplements should I take to compensate for any shortfalls, if any. Is organic peanut butter and jelly on rye bread still safe? Any issues with using avocado oil on salad in lieu of store bought salad dressing?

        1. hi Jack, we have a snowy morning here so I am on the net checking recipes for a day of cooking. You asked great questions – it’s important to find a salad dressing that you like as Thea would say. (moderator for NF in the past) I google ‘great oil free salad vegan dressings’ to see new recipes. https://dreenaburton.com/oil-free-vegan-salad-dressings/ There’s a few to look over, though I find the simpler the better. Dr Greger has an amazing salad dressing made from silken tofu which I will post when I find it. I sometimes use ‘Lighthouse ‘ brand organic raspberry lime dressing when I am in a hurry. Goes great with most vegie salads.

          Your peanut butter sandwhich sounds yummy! From what I understand, people that adopt a 95% or more whole food containing a variety of foods would be doing great health-wise. Dr Greger makes these recommendations re supplements https://nutritionfacts.org/2011/09/12/dr-gregers-2011-optimum-nutrition-recommendations/

          You can also dowload a free app with the Daily Dozen https://nutritionfacts.org/app/themes/sage/dist/images/book/daily-dozen_6c40d3eb.jpg I printed out the list to stick onto my fridge as a reminder.

          You may find it, as I did, a lot of fun discovering new foods and cuisines as you transition to more vegies. Dr Greger has said numerous times that if there is a non-vegan dish you just ‘have to have’ once in a while, don’t sweat it. Enjoy it, and the benefits from eating a mostly wfpb diet. Best of luck Jack!

          1. Thanks Susan. I may stay with the fish (wild-caught cold water salmon) once a week because I am a bit concerned with relying too much on taking supplements. The chicken I can cut way back on. As it is, sometimes depending on how the chicken tastes after cooking it, I usually have a few bites and throw the rest in the trash. I am finicky that way.

            1. You’re most welcome Jack. Just a note about supplements. I do take a D3 and a B12 most of the time, but I don’t take an omega3 supplement. I do however have 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed in my porridge every morning. Also, after chasing calcium levels with supplements for decades I let them go years back. 3 years into wfpb eating my levels were tested and the doc said it was ‘perfect’. Might be from the greens and the 1 cup of soy milk I have daily – I do take magnesium glycinate as it stops cramping muscles, and I use a lot of spices regularly in Indian cooking. And that’s it.. fairly simple.

        2. B12, Omega 3, and D3 are the ones I think he recommends.

          (There are site volunteers who probably would confirm it)

          https://nutritionfacts.org/2011/08/30/3964/

          https://nutritionfacts.org/video/vitamin-b12-recommendation-change/

          With B12 – you choose between a few kinds and it is important to know which one you are taking, because the RDA is radically different between Cyanocobalamin and Methylcobalamin, though both seem to have studies saying that they work.

          Dr Greger recommends the cyano and I am just going to point out that if you interact with people about B12, they are likely to become the “nutrition police” and point out that the Cyanocobalamin has cyanide in it and you can tell them that so do fruits and vegetables or solve the issue by just buying Nutritional Yeast and they will change to “Yeast is bad for you.”

          I laugh, I alternate, just in case I am ever deficient in glutathione and can’t metabolize the cyano prefix properly, but I have never heard of even one B12 poisoning, it is more symbolic.

          Either way, you need to understand that the RDA is radically different depending on which type of B12 you are using.

          Omega 3’s

          Another “hot-headed” topic.

          Dr Greger recommends vegan versions and that helps avoid the big fish small fish anchovies versus krill arguments at the table

          https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/omega-3-fatty-acids/

          He has a whole series on D3

          https://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-much-vitamin-D-should-you-take/

          1. He gives the amount to take of B12 and D3 in the videos.

            D3, it depends a bit on how heavy you are, but there is an upper toxicity limit, so it might be good to know that type of thing. His video says 2000 IU gets 85% of the population up to the optimal level, but overweight and obese people and very elderly who have no sunlight may need 3000 to 3500 IU. Toxicity doesn’t happen until 10,000 IU over a long period of time. I say it, because they sell 10,000 and 20,000 and 50,000 IU and I know a lot of people taking those.

            He didn’t cover weight with B12, but he did say that it is safe to take extra, and that you will just have expensive pee, rather than toxicity.

            1. I just wanted to say about these supplements that people end up with things like Alzheimer’s and dying doing Plant Based vegan without B12 and Omega 3.

              I say that, because people can cause fear about things like the cyano or supplements or yeast, but the reality is WFPB vegan means you NEED to supplement those.

              A lot of supplements will kill you faster, but the three I listed are ones Dr. Greger points to as having been studied to keep you alive longer.

              That is important, because Vitamin and Supplement studies are usually evidence against supplementing altogether.

              You asked about herbs and I know Dr. Greger talks about different herbs, which you can look up by topic. He recommends the food, not the supplements for most things.. Turmeric, Garlic, Cloves, Rosemary, Oregano, Saffron, Amla, Dragon’s Blood are somethings I remember and I am not sure all of them are in the herbs category, but there are some warnings he had about one in five Ayurvedic herbal dietary supplements were found contaminated with lead, mercury, and/or arsenic.

              He doesn’t seem to have a position on avocado oil, but other WFPB doctors are not for using oils. I would check with Dr Barnard’s site about his position on it. I think he is against it.

              Though you aren’t cooking with it, so it might be don’t use too much of it.

            2. Thanks Deb. I have a bottle of B-Complex and the label lists a large group of B vitamins. Some of them are 5,000 – 6,000%. Wouldn’t 100% be enough? When I pee, it is bright yellow. Doesn’t that mean that it is far too much to process? I am 5-10, 145 lbs. I am trying to strike a balance without over-compensating and creating problems. I am already taking 6 supplements to keep the Dupuytren’s in my right hand in check. That is my only health complaint. I am 53 and don’t take any meds. My last blood test was a month ago which was nearly perfect except for slightly elevated bilirubin (1.5), high end is 1.2. I was vaccinated against hepatitis B about 28 years ago when I became a police officer as a protection against dealing with other people’s blood and needles. I am not sure if that is the cause.

  12. By far the best most nutritions food to consume accordingly to all the mountains of research is Raw Living Spirulina. Nothing on this planet even comes close. NASA study in 2012 showed that 1 pound of Raw Living Spirulina is equal to 1000 pounds of fresh vegetables.

    Note: Be sure when consuming spirulina that is 100% raw, fresh and living. DO NOT consume powdered or pills of spirulina or any other algae that is processed in any way.

  13. I have been reading Dr Greger’s Carbophobic response to Atkins.

    Is Keto just Atkins renamed? Does anyone know the difference?

    I am pondering the cholesterol going down while they are losing weight and then shooting back up part.

    So, if my Keto people are still losing weight and are still thrilled with their lowered cholesterol, I am wondering how long before it spikes back up and how long until people start having heart attacks and Cancer.

    I haven’t read it carefully enough to have put it to memory or learned the science, but what is popping into mind was that they were developing polyps fast, so colonoscopy might be where I can try to get them to back up to Paleo, Pritikin or Mediterranean.

    Does anyone know the difference between Atkins and Keto?

    1. Keto is Atkins with fruit and veg AKA the Mediterranean diet but minus the pasta. Any old diet, Deb to justify consuming animal parts. People surround munching on animal fats with ritual obeisance to spinach and think they will be OK. Forget the degenerative diseases. Most of these high animal protein diets do in people’s kidneys before they get that far….Then there’s the bile acid diarrhoea….. gallbladder disease…….

      1. Thanks Gillian.

        I have been pondering how tricky it is for them. Most of them had health problems and Keto brought down their weight, their blood sugar and their cholesterol.

        The concept that their cholesterol might shoot back up after they stop losing weight is going to be complicated in their minds, because it is going to be the thought, “I blew my diet and ate carbs and my weight went up and my cholesterol went up” and Keto proponents believe that it is sugar that causes artery blockage in the first place.

        Honestly, it is making me tear up even right now.

        Today, I had two people use the big “C” of Cancer word and one is a woman who also has Diabetes and she cut back on carbs and sugars, but was excited by some processed food she found and I know there are two opposing logics and people don’t listen to the whole arguments first, before deciding what to believe.

        I am trying to do that balanced process. If Paleo and Keto are healthier than the SAD, then it may be like people arguing for pot and it might be really good if you are a smoker and not so good if you are eating and drinking clean and getting rid of toxins is how my analogy would work.

        Paleo claims to be healthier than Mediterranean and if so, then, hooray for steps in a better direction rather than steps in a worse direction, but I really long for those types of decisions to be based on genuine understanding of the bigger picture.

        My friend today said that she is worried about her Diabetes, her back aches and she is afraid she might have Cancer, but wouldn’t pause for one second to listen about vegan, because she has a logic which is going in the other direction.

        Another friend is bringing me all of her rice and rice flours and her whole family is going keto and she just got diagnosed with Paget’s Disease and I said that I had symptoms of that a year ago, but those symptoms are gone and have been gone for six months, but the Keto people lost weight faster and have their better blood tests and I didn’t go to a doctor to get blood tests or diagnosed for anything and I have lost some weight, but not as quickly as they did.

        Don’t blame them for choosing that way. Just wish people would listen to both arguments first.

  14. What makes me laugh though at the end of the night, even while I wait for bad news about someone who has blessed my life so much….

    My friends and family and I are all at the age where the killer and dreaded and disabling diseases are coming in and that part is clearly not funny, but every person in the mix is going to the doctors and they are going on meds and Keto

    And I am the lone holdout who immediately agreed with the study telling me to not go to the doctor every year.

    I am laughing, because I already know that I have learned more searching the Internet and they are learning all the wrong things.

    So will it be over diagnoses or Keto that causes the problems first.

    I am praying my heart out.

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