Flashback Friday: The Protein-Combining Myth

Flashback Friday: The Protein-Combining Myth
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The myth that plant proteins are incomplete, necessitating protein combining, was debunked by the scientific nutrition community decades ago.

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All nutrients come from the sun or the soil. Vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin,” is created when skin is exposed to sunlight. Everything else comes from the ground. Minerals originate from the earth, and vitamins from the plants and micro-organisms that grow from it.

The calcium in a cow’s milk (and her 200-pound skeleton) came from all the plants she ate, which drew it up from the soil. We can cut out the middle-moo, though, and get calcium from the plants directly.

Where do you get your protein? Protein contains essential amino acids, meaning our bodies can’t make them; and so, they are essential to get from our diet. But other animals don’t make them either. All essential amino acids originate from plants (and microbes), and all plant proteins have all essential amino acids. The only truly “incomplete” protein in the food supply is gelatin, which is missing the amino acid tryptophan. So, the only protein source that you couldn’t live on is Jell-O.

As I covered previously, those eating plant-based diets average about twice the estimated average daily protein requirement. Those who don’t know where to get protein on a plant-based diet don’t know beans! Get it? That’s protein quantity, though, but what about protein quality?

The concept that plant protein was inferior to animal protein arose from studies performed on rodents more than a century ago. Scientists found that infant rats don’t grow as well on plants. But infant rats don’t grow as well on human breast milk either; so, does that mean we shouldn’t breastfeed our babies? Ridiculous! They’re rats. Rat milk has ten times more protein than human milk, because rats grow about ten times faster than human infants.

It is true that some plant proteins are relatively low in certain essential amino acids. So, about 40 years ago, the myth of “protein combining” came into vogue—literally, the February ‘75 issue of Vogue magazine. The concept was that we needed to eat “complementary proteins” together, for example, rice and beans, to make up for their relative shortfalls. This fallacy was refuted decades ago. The myth that plant proteins are incomplete, that plant proteins aren’t as good, that one has to combine proteins at meals—these have all been dismissed by the nutrition community as myths decades ago, but many in medicine evidently didn’t get the memo. Dr. John McDougall called out the American Heart Association for a 2001 publication that questioned the completeness of plant proteins. Thankfully though, they’ve changed and acknowledged that, “Plant proteins can provide all the essential amino acids, no need to combine complementary proteins.”

It turns out our body maintains pools of free amino acids that it can use to do all the complementing for us, not to mention the massive protein recycling program our body has. Some 90 grams of protein are dumped into the digestive tract every day from our own body to get broken back down and reassembled, and so our body can mix and match amino acids to whatever proportions we need, whatever we eat, making it practically impossible to even design a diet of whole plant foods that’s sufficient in calories, but deficient in protein. Thus, plant-based consumers do not need to be at all concerned about amino acid imbalances from the plant proteins that make up our usual diets.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Mikhaylovskiy via Adobe Stock.

All nutrients come from the sun or the soil. Vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin,” is created when skin is exposed to sunlight. Everything else comes from the ground. Minerals originate from the earth, and vitamins from the plants and micro-organisms that grow from it.

The calcium in a cow’s milk (and her 200-pound skeleton) came from all the plants she ate, which drew it up from the soil. We can cut out the middle-moo, though, and get calcium from the plants directly.

Where do you get your protein? Protein contains essential amino acids, meaning our bodies can’t make them; and so, they are essential to get from our diet. But other animals don’t make them either. All essential amino acids originate from plants (and microbes), and all plant proteins have all essential amino acids. The only truly “incomplete” protein in the food supply is gelatin, which is missing the amino acid tryptophan. So, the only protein source that you couldn’t live on is Jell-O.

As I covered previously, those eating plant-based diets average about twice the estimated average daily protein requirement. Those who don’t know where to get protein on a plant-based diet don’t know beans! Get it? That’s protein quantity, though, but what about protein quality?

The concept that plant protein was inferior to animal protein arose from studies performed on rodents more than a century ago. Scientists found that infant rats don’t grow as well on plants. But infant rats don’t grow as well on human breast milk either; so, does that mean we shouldn’t breastfeed our babies? Ridiculous! They’re rats. Rat milk has ten times more protein than human milk, because rats grow about ten times faster than human infants.

It is true that some plant proteins are relatively low in certain essential amino acids. So, about 40 years ago, the myth of “protein combining” came into vogue—literally, the February ‘75 issue of Vogue magazine. The concept was that we needed to eat “complementary proteins” together, for example, rice and beans, to make up for their relative shortfalls. This fallacy was refuted decades ago. The myth that plant proteins are incomplete, that plant proteins aren’t as good, that one has to combine proteins at meals—these have all been dismissed by the nutrition community as myths decades ago, but many in medicine evidently didn’t get the memo. Dr. John McDougall called out the American Heart Association for a 2001 publication that questioned the completeness of plant proteins. Thankfully though, they’ve changed and acknowledged that, “Plant proteins can provide all the essential amino acids, no need to combine complementary proteins.”

It turns out our body maintains pools of free amino acids that it can use to do all the complementing for us, not to mention the massive protein recycling program our body has. Some 90 grams of protein are dumped into the digestive tract every day from our own body to get broken back down and reassembled, and so our body can mix and match amino acids to whatever proportions we need, whatever we eat, making it practically impossible to even design a diet of whole plant foods that’s sufficient in calories, but deficient in protein. Thus, plant-based consumers do not need to be at all concerned about amino acid imbalances from the plant proteins that make up our usual diets.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Mikhaylovskiy via Adobe Stock.

Doctor's Note

I cover protein quantity in my Do Vegetarians Get Enough Protein? video.

For more detail on the benefits of protein from plants, see:

Plant protein also doesn’t have the same effect on the cancer-promoting growth hormone IGF-1 that I discuss in the cancer section of my Food as Medicine presentation. Meat-heavy maternal diets may even affect the obesity rates and stress responses of their children, as I explore in my videos Animal Protein, Pregnancy, and Childhood Obesity and Maternal Diet May Affect Stress Responses in Children.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

150 responses to “Flashback Friday: The Protein-Combining Myth

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  1. As a registered dietitian I wish this information was required knowledge for our schooling. I remember getting into disagreements with the professors over this topic and with other practitioners to this day…

    Bro-science that just won’t go away no matter the volume of scientific data and understanding. Neat;-(

    1. This is pervasive across the internet. On a majority of non-vegetarian sites, the phrase “plant protein is low in or MISSING one or more of the essential amino acids” is written. Kind of like this:
      https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/InteractiveNutritionFactsLabel/protein.html

      “Incomplete proteins are missing, or do not have enough of, one or more of the essential amino acids, making the protein imbalanced. Most plant foods (such as beans and peas, grains, nuts and seeds, and vegetables) are incomplete protein sources.”

  2. I wanted to tell people that Dr. Greger will be one of the speakers if you sign up for the

    The Truth About Weight Loss Summit

    It is free. The talks take place from Feb 8th to 16th

  3. Not being an expert on anything related to dieting or nutrition, I just wonder if the myth has gotten some boost from people who wanted to lose weight by dumping sweets, cheese and red meat and just ate greens and a few vegetables (back home, in the 60’s through the 80’s, they used to call it the lettuce and tomato diet” or “veggie soup diet”). I suppose they missed out on the protein from beans, became anemic and blamed it on the lack of dairy and read meat. A friend of mine did.

    1. “I suppose they missed out on the protein from beans, became anemic and blamed it on the lack of dairy and read meat. A friend of mine did.”

      The video said that all vegetable protein is complete. Yes, beans are a good source of protein but so are all other fruits and vegetables. It is possible to get sick from not eating enough calories regardless of diet.

  4. The Bro-science concept got a major boost when Frances Moore Lappé published the incomplete protein meme in her book “Diet for a Small Planet”. She later learned that her intuitive guidance was errant, and revised her book to no avail… it appears it’s impossible to “unring” that bell.

    Not only do people like good news about their bad habits, they also revel in apparent bad news about good habits they want to avoid like the plague

    1. Ralph,

      “Not only do people like good news about their bad habits, they also revel in apparent bad news about good habits they want to avoid like the plague”

      That is the truth.

      But, they actually ARE also confused.

      Relieved about all of the wrong things, happy about all of the wrong things, but also confused into believing the wrong things.

  5. Thank you! Having come of age and into vegetarianism with Frances Moore Lappe’s Diet For a Small Planet, I believed this myth for a long time, though no longer follow it. (That is still a valuable book in that it made many aware of the inefficiencies of a meat-centered diet, however.)
    By the way, if you can add a Sarasota stop on your tour, we would go. I think you will be as close as Fort Myers, an hour or so away.

  6. When I grew up in Sweden in the 70’s and 80’s there was almost no information about plant proteins and plant nutrition. So like most people I believed the commercials and”bro science”. I ate a LOT of meat and dairy foods to perform good playing hockey.
    Today I read the science, and I’m not only stronger than I’ve been in many years but I’ve also lost the overweight I’ve been carrying around for 20 years.
    My doctor told me a year ago that I was the first patient he had ever taken off the blood pressure meds. Thanks to a Whole food plant based diet I actually got my life back and are healthier than ever. Not only loosing weight but my blood work are better than before, proteins included. And guys, my testosterone levels more than doubled in less than a year!
    So after all the animal foods and dairy I stuffed myself with, I can now say that after 2 years on a plant based diet I no longer suffer from erectile dysfunction. And that single thing made it worth sacrificing the cheeseburgers and the other crap I filled myself with for more than 40 years.

    1. That’s a great testimonial Peter. I bet more men will lighten their attitudes about the barbaric form of nutrition just from animals if they hear directly from people like you.

      1. here ya go, ms A: lawrencerspencer.com/2020/02/07/food-chain/
        FOOD CHAIN
        lawrencerspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/killer-food-chain.jpg
        killer-food-chain

        Humans are the most vicious predators and murderers of life forms in the history of Earth.  The “food chain” is a poor excuse to justify the premeditated slaughter of other sentient beings.  What is your opinion of another life form that will kill and eat your dead body? Criminal? Cannibal? Carnivore?
        The fact is that you really don’t need to eat dead animal bodies to live.  The largest, longest-lived and strongest animals on Earth are all vegetarians.

        1. Well said dd, but lets not forget that the preponderance of the unbiased scientific data clearly shows that eating as a carnivore or omnivore significantly increases the risk for disease and premature death of humans.

    2. Pete,

      Thanks for sharing.

      The concept that males are “fed” all kinds of advertising that it is steak and beer and junk food that makes men feel “manly” psychologically and they have no idea that it is actually taking their manhood is one of those ridiculous consequences of Big Food pushing the wrong logic over and over again.

    3. “I can now say that after 2 years on a plant based diet I no longer suffer from erectile dysfunction.”
      – – – – –

      Well, now that’s something to get cocky about! :-)

        1. yes, it reminds me of the crooks that robbed a store of all its viagra. the pubic, i mean public was warned to consider these HARDENED criminals as armed
          & dangerous.

    4. right on peter! i love hearing stories of people who improve their lives by changing their diets. do u eat any dairy products at all & what do u do to get enough vitamin b-12?

      1. No dairy whatsoever. It was actually the first food I stopped eating and drinking. In less than a week I got my sleep back! And that was amazing… When it comes to b12 I don’t worry about it. I have some fortified plant drinks daily and a couple of times every week I take a pill.
        For me, the biggest difference compared to when I had animal foods, is that I’m eating more food now and feel full and satisfied without getting too much calories. Which explains why I lost a lot of overweight :)

  7. Food combining is not only about nutrition. Each food we eat influences our digestive system in its own way. Some foods take longer to digest than others and cause common indigestion in people if combined improperly. Just eat some watermelon with about anything and try not to have a gassy day. You can’t. Yet by itself all is fine.

    1. I’ve always heard the same advice about watermelon: Never eat it with other foods, just by itself.

      So that’s what I’ve been doing.

  8. another highly questionable vid. Try a dose of grass fed whey protein + 3g of creatine/day and see how much better and stronger u feel.

    1. One topic that comes up with respect to protein intake is the amount required to build muscle from weight training. Although some extra protein, particularly combined with carb, after workouts can aid recovery and stimulate protein synthesis, any anabolic effect levels off fairly quickly, according to Dr. Mirkin.

      Extra Protein Does Not Enlarge Muscles
      https://www.drmirkin.com/fitness/extra-protein-does-not-enlarge-muscles.html

      “A review of 49 studies on a total of 1800 weightlifters, who lifted at least twice a week for at least six weeks, found that doubling the recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of protein increased strength gains by nine percent and added about a pound of muscle (British Journal of Sports Medicine, Mar 1,2018;52(6):376-384). With aging, the extra protein offered less muscle growth.

      The authors ****found no difference between different sources of protein or whether the extra protein came from food or supplements***.

      They wrote that ***going to the gym and doing resistance exercise is what makes muscles grow, not taking large amounts of protein from any source****.

      You need more protein than usual when you are trying to make your muscles larger, but taking in more than twice the RDA for protein causes no additional muscle growth. The recommended daily requirement for the average person is 0.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight. ****The additional gains in muscle strength from taking extra protein leveled off at 0.7 grams per pound of body weight.****

      Thus when you are doing resistance exercises to grow larger muscles, you need to take in up to twice the RDA for protein and you do not need more protein than that. You can easily accomplish this just by eating more food.”

    2. I dare say that people would feel better and stronger taking up heroin and cocaine too. However, the real question is are these things good for our health?

      Consuming animal protein rather than plant protein appears to be associated with significantly higher mortality. That sounds distinctly unhealthy to me

      https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27479196-association-of-animal-and-plant-protein-intake-with-all-cause-and-cause-specific-mortality/

    3. Tbh I always prefer a dose of science – fantastic antidote to denial and to dealing with my intrinsic resistance to change the habits that keep me under the spell of the media and the masses keep up the great work, Dr. G

  9. Interesting and true. We have the apes to admire on their varied green diet. Question on “pool” of circulating amino acids: I image they come from breaking down muscle if the dietary intake of protein is not sufficient for metabolic function – Hence is quantity of vegetarian protein intake different than non vegetarian protein intake? Thanks for your input.

        1. Here is the video with the MRI results.

          https://nutritionfacts.org/video/should-vegans-take-dha-to-preserve-brain-function/

          A lot of the doctors have turned against the concept of supplementing DHA. The studies have been conflicting, so it isn’t a simple issue. Dr. Fuhrman is pro-DHA because of vegans he has known who ended up with Parkinson’s. People like Dr. McDougall are against most supplements and point to the conflicting studies.

          The thing is, once you lose the structure of the brain, it is gone.

          Males don’t convert ALA to DHA very well would be the type of argument the doctors who are “pro” DHA use.

          But it is one area where there isn’t a consensus at all.

          1. The doctors who recommend against it often point to a study where they think it might contribute to Prostate cancer, but Dr. Ornish recommends using it and he reversed Prostate cancer with a diet that included it, so that argument was a wash for me.

            1. Okay, I remember now.

              For Prostate Cancer: there were 10 studies where there was a significant INVERSE trend between Prostate Cancer and fish/fish oil. One found a dose-response relationship where greater intake of PUFA’s increased the risk of Prostate Cancer. Three studies showed that the Prostate Cancer was less aggressive with the greater intake. Three studies showed reduced mortality with it.

              1. Deb

                If I remeber correctly, those two papers by Brasky didn’t show that greater intake of PUFAs increased prostate cancer risk. They showed that there was an association between circulating levels of PUFAs in the blood and increased risk of prostate cancer. The same study also showed an association between higher levels of trans fatty acids in the blood and lower risk of prostate cancer! It is suggested that this is because the cancer itself affects the body’s synthesis and regulation of fatty acids.

          2. So, just get a blood test to see if your DHA is at a good level. I made sure I ate 2 tablespoons of flax a day before I got mine and my levels were fine.

            1. Roger,

              That is good.

              I will say that when they did a study of how well men converted ALA to DHA, some didn’t at all.

              But that is where testing is a good thing.

        1. Roger, testing is worthwhile ! I got results back on b12 and iron this afternoon from ythe doc. b12 way too high, and iron way too low (12). I had cut back the b12 months ago too. I was taking 1 or 2 1200 mcg per week. It’s too much apparently. We just can’t guess these things.

        2. David W

          I suspect that the link just shows that those people, smart though they are, don’t do enough fact-checking.

          To my knowledge, Dr G’s daily dozen has NEVER included supplements of any kind – it is only about foods, herbs, spices, water and exercise.

          They are confusing Dr G’s daily dozen with his optimum nutrition recommendations which still advise people to take DHA. Presumably, they just recently looked at the daily dozen, didn’t see DHA supplements, and assumed that he is no longer recommending them……. 2+2=5 thinking

          https://nutritionfacts.org/video/dr-gregers-daily-dozen-checklist-2/
          https://nutritionfacts.org/2011/09/12/dr-gregers-2011-optimum-nutrition-recommendations/

          If they can get something as basic as this wrong, what else are they missing? I honestly don’t think that these people have done enough fact checking on this issue to merit one’s confidence in their conclusions.

          1. The concept that it would be Jeff N posting Dr Greger’s logo on the McDougall site As if Dr Greger had made a change in his recommendations has irony to me that I got banned My first comment for going off topic, but he is still there making up topics.

              1. I really like Jeff Novick. (not surprised by the forum rules. … but that’s McDougall’s doing). Jeff has worked hard in several programs as I understand it to bring the “how” of wfpb eating to lower income areas. He is funny, creative, and a dietition yet!

                1. Barb,
                  Regarding the Dr Klaper video you posted above about DHA, I watched the video and tend to agree with his main emphasis that the human body is so complex that we all must be very careful about the unintended consequences of supplementing with chemicals that the body produces on it’s own. It seems to me there are so many “feed-back loops” that the body uses to stabilize it’s functioning, that science has not even begun to model and understand all the intricate relationships. This is also the main theme of Dr T. Colin Campbell’s book “Whole”. Researchers are still over emphasizing the “reductionist” approach of studying a single “nutrient” at the expense of losing sight of the unintended consequences. Hopefully, in the future, researchers will start building more sophisticated computer simulation models that will expose some of these complex inter-relationships.

                  1. I agree Darwin Galt! His talk caught my attention for sure. The ‘backup’ of epa from taking DHA was scary, especially when some of these trials are using prescription strength products 2 or 4 gm. In fact, my neurologist said that unless the dose is that high, we are wasting our time. (and it’s not without risks.. like Dr Klaper said we try to avoid dementia in our 90’s and up up having a stroke in our 70’s!)
                    However, in my searches and discussions I have learned that sleep, exercise, meditation, can all positively impact brain size. I know people would rather just take a pill, but time and again we see there are no shortcuts without consequence!

                  2. Darwin Galt, I don’t disagree with the general point about the complexity of the biochemical pathways and possible unintended negative consequences of supplements, etc., but that does not show per se that no preformed EPA/DHA is required by anyone or beneficial to many for optimal cognitive health over the long term.

                    The Japanese, after all, tend to have much higher levels of preformed DHA in their blood serum from eating fish, and there is no indication this is detrimental. Arguably, quite the opposite. Dr. Klaper is concerned that a build up of EPA might lead to excessive oxidation and that DHA, since a PUFA, might increase the risk of prostate cancer. But Japanese men have relatively low rates of prostate cancer. He also does not differentiate PUFAs from extracted oils, O6:O3 ratios, or the possible protective effects of a diet high in antioxidants from food.

                    I realize, of course, that eating fish, a whole food, might be significantly different in terms of effects from a supplement, but that would simply argue that people should eat at least small amounts of fatty fish to get desirable levels of preformed DHA. Unfortunately, that creates a dilemma b/c of issues of contamination, but that too does not imply preformed DHA is not advisable for some/many, e.g. poor converters.

                    It’s a question of possible benefits vs. risks, and unfortunately the any cost to a particular decision would not reveal itself for many years, likely decades. I’ve had my Omega 3 index checked, but Klaper claims the results are unreliable, but without references backing up the claim, which bothered me. If true, that’s unfortunate and would mean only DNA testing might tell someone whether they need to supplement. An unfortunate situation.

                    Although the newer video by Dr. Klaper is superior to his previous one, and does provide some food for thought, I did not find it completely convincing. In my view, some of the logic was too loose / hypothetical, and as Fumbles has stressed, he seems to ignore some studies indicating benefits without any obvious justification. If I were willing to eat fish, I’d eat some sardines or some salmon each week and hope the level of contamination too low to cause harm (but I am not willing to do so). So for now, I’m sticking with Dr. Fuhrman and Dr. Greger (assuming he has not changed his mind) and will hope for the best.

            1. Deb, Dr.Greger’s DailyDozen iOS app under supplements, only B12 is listed. So the “bare bones” recommendation there is inconsistent with the more nuanced info on the Nutritionfacts website. Jeff N merely availed himself of this publicly available info to make his claim. It is certainly confusing, although possibly understandable since only B12 is absolutely required. The app also does not mention iodine, which if you skip iodized salt and seaweed like I do, you could easily be deficient in. It seems to me this points out a problem with the downloadable app.

    1. A Chinese randomised, double blinded, placebo-controlled trial found that it both increased brain volume and improved cognition scores (in older people with mild cognitive impairment)

      https://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-alzheimers-disease/jad160439l

      That convinced me that Dr Greger’s stance remains correct. Arguments to the contrary seem based on observational studies or the highly questionable conclusions reached by Brasky et al

        1. Thanks Barb. It came up on my YouTube feed yesterday but I haven’t got around to watching it yet.

          TBH, I get fed up with the half truths and and misrepresentations of Jeff Nelson and I am assuming that Klaper is only echoing Nelson’s argument on this issue, so I didn’t fancy another harangue which doesn’t acknowledge all the evidence. There are only so many hours in the day after all..

          I watched Nelson’s latest video a week or so ago where he got stuck into Joel Kahn again. He also tore into the DHA brain health link stating that there is no evidence of benefit and cited a JAMA study which he said showed this. In fact his link actually went to another study altogether (not in the JAMA) which showed the exact opposite. So he is obviously fully aware of this evidence but chooses not to mention it. I then posted a comment stating that I was confused by his link since it appeared to completely refute his statement on this point. When I went back the next day, the entire video had disappeared. Possibly because his lawyers had advised him that it libelled Kahn and left him open to being sued for damages …… but i can’t know for sure.

          1. Fumbles, I hear ya, and if it was same old, I wouldn’t have posted it. Dr Klaper is such a gentleman. Nelson doesn’t appear at all. In this one Dr Klaper goes through both sides of the issue (of omega 3) and brings up some questions for which we don’t have answers for yet.

  10. Just this afternoon, I had a discussion with a friend after a meeting who asked me, about eating whole plant foods, “But where do you get your proteins from?” She simply waved off my answer: “From plants!” Her position was: That’s impossible. I told her that all plants have protein — and they also have carbohydrates and oils. And that I should know, as a former plant biochemistry research scientist. She waved that off as well. You see, she goes to some muckety-muck doctor, and his muckety muck recommended nutritionist, who recommend animal products to her and who knows what else. She also knows that there are some healthy oils, but that canola is not an oil. She takes several meds, for what I don’t know, but she’s on some sort of injected drug for osteoporosis which is working! But requires her to eat calcium — which she can only get from almond milk (“But that’s supplemented with added calcium” — hand wave) and vitamin D (I forget where that comes from).

    Anyway, an amazing encounter. She did acknowledge that if I ate beans, I might get some protein in my diet. But she claims that overall, the way I eat is extreme. And unhealthy. Without enough protein. And she should know. Hand wave.

    Oh, my.

    1. Then some time later, I talked with a neighbor. Who is concerned about his weight, and blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. So naturally, I don’t give up, and suggest to him that it’s probably his diet.

      Oh, no, he replied, he’d rather take drugs, and continue to eat his steak.

      However, I might be having some effect; he told me that he’s substituting fruit for candies and sweets. And he plans to eat more vegetables. That’s a good start, I responded.

    2. Dr. J., I don’t know if you eat soy (tempeh, tofu, soymilk), but that’s high in protein, as you know. You might have mentioned this, if you do.

      Of course, soy is still controversial for various reasons, so she might have replied, “Oh no, I’d never eat soy.”

      1. YR,

        I eat soy. I didn’t realize that it’s consumption was still controversial; to me, the evidence favors eating it. All the arguments I’ve heard to the contrary are not apparently supported by current evidence that I know of. I make my own soy milk, and don’t filter it, so we can eat the whole bean. I also make soy yogurt from commercial soy milk, and we eat tofu, edamame, and tofu and tempeh.

        But I eat soy food in moderation. Just as I eat most things in moderation. If I try to eat a balance of food, then any one food type is necessarily eaten in moderation. Except perhaps I could try to eat greens immoderately; that way, I might actually come closer to eating enough.

        But as I recall, there is a video on this site which states that both plant food eaters and meat eaters eat about 70% more protein than needed, and that protein deficiency is basically unknown in this country. And I think it also states that about 97% of the US population is deficient in fiber, so fiber deficiency is a huge health problem.

        1. Fruit and vegetables are of course the main sources of fibre in the diet.

          The biggest micronutrient deficiency in the US diet is apparently potassium – virtually all US adults are deficient. Fruit and vegetables are also the main sources of potassium.and about 75% of the US population do not meet recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption.
          https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/micronutrient-inadequacies/overview

          To make matters even worse, , there are people out there claiming that we can address all the problems associated with inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption by eating low carb/keto diets.

  11. Dear Dr. Greger, your latest book left me confused about the glycemic index. If I understand what you were saying, it was that if we eat high glycemic foods, it spikes our blood sugar, releasing insulin, driving sugar into our cells, and turning it into fat, making us gain weight. Meanwhile, our blood sugar goes too far down and we get hungry and so, we binge and the whole cycle repeats itself making us even fatter. Now I can see why we shouldn’t eat what you called C.R.A.P. foods (calorie rich and processed) but what about an unprocessed food that happens to have a high glycemic index. For example the potato which I read, has a higher glycemic index than table sugar. I have several WFPB friends who eat potatoes and some of them could use some extra weight. In fact, I guess most of us have read about obese people going on a potato diet and loosing lots and lots of weight. So, I guess the whole high glycemic food, blood sugar, insulin weight gain scenario doesn’t hold with potatoes and some of my skinny friends should avoid them because of their slimming effect. In particular, I wanted to ask you if eating oat groats as you recommend in your book, is really worth it when they cost at least 5 or 6 times more than steel cut oats. I haven’t been able to find a reliably source with specifics on their comparative glycemic indexes yet, but they seem to be nearly the same. So if one is just a few points different than the other, what difference does it make and why should we spend the extra cash?

    1. ‘Steel-cut oats (GI=55 (se 2·5)), large-flake oats (GI=53 (se 2·0)) and muesli and granola (GI=56 (se 1·7)) elicited low to medium glycaemic response. Quick-cooking oats and instant oatmeal produced significantly higher glycaemic response (GI=71 (se 2·7) and 75 (se 2·8), respectively) than did muesli and granola or large-flake oatmeal porridge. The analysis establishes that differences in processing protocols and cooking practices modify the glycaemic response to foods made with whole-grain oats. Smaller particle size and increased starch gelatinisation appear to increase the glycaemic response.’

      https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/systematic-review-of-the-effect-of-processing-of-wholegrain-oat-cereals-on-glycaemic-response/5EF9C5793F644D08E0FE4718F71B93E7

    2. Roger, you will see comments on this board from men who eat wfpb, and they say they can eat all they want. It certainly is true that when you are eating just fruit, veg, beans, whole grains (not flour products), spices and herbs, no oil, salt or sugar, you CAN eat a lot more volume of food with fewer calories than say restaurant food. Some of the men who comment on here are cyclists or runners and need a lot of calories daily.
      I only say this because I do not put potatoes in the “slimming food ” category… I can not include them in my menu without gradually putting on weight.
      As for the oats, whatever breakfast you enjoy the most is what you should eat. I find steel cut oats are not worth the money, take a long time to cook, and I don’t care for reheating leftovers. I use organic oatbran or rolled oats with a tbsp of ground flax added, served with berries and soy milk. Sometimes I prefer a savory breakfast like a rice bowl with veg and mushrooms.

      In the beginning I printed a copy of the Daily Dozen, and followed it, gradually developing meals that I really enjoyed.

  12. I note that the caveat is to eat enough calories. How many calories is that please based on a normal vegan whole food plant based day? Thank you

    1. Charmaine

      I don’t think there is a simple answer for you because people are different shapes and sizes and ages and activity levels.

      I know that Chef AJ today said that she eats about 1700 calories, but there are vegans who eat way more than that

      Raw would be the one vegan diet type where people might get too few.

      Dr. Lisle did a good interview on that topic. Mostly, women shouldn’t be eating so few calories that they lose their period.

      If you are eating cooked foods such as soy and beans and lentils or starches, like sweet potatoes or rice, you will be more likely to eat enough calories versus someone who just eats fruit.

    1. The ironically named Scottish (the Scots were a gaelic speaking tribe from Ireland who invaded Northern Britain about 1500 years ago) is probably the oldest and purest form of English spoken today. However, the people then inhabiting most of what is now Lowland Scotland were ‘English’ (Angles, Friesians, Jutes etc) and when they were conquered by the Scots, their dialect of English came to be called ‘Scots’ or ‘Scottish’

      ‘Groat’ was found in various dialects of old English and other Germanic languages too it basically means a small hard pellet cf ‘grit’ There are also various old coins called groats but that name is a derivation of ‘great’ (as in great coin) perhaps from old Dutch 9another Geranic language)

  13. I would like to reach out to Dr Greger and the team to find out if you would share some of the research papers you have. I am a masters in public health student and would like to do a systematic review on the benefits of a vegan diet. I have not narrowed down my research question yet so I am trying to read as widely as possible. Please contact me if possible. Thank you

    1. JJ, you’re in the right place. Simply start watching Dr. G’s videos and reading his blogs. All the information and all his references are here in a very organized fashion. Using these resources, I created a 3 hour continuing education course for dentists and hygienists that I provide online monthly, on the exact subject you’re referring to.

  14. so do i understand correctly that this isn’t just saying that u need to combine legumes & grains. etc at the same meal, but also that u don’t have to eat both within the same day? that i could eat only legumes the next couple days & only grains the next couple days, as long as i eat from a wide variety of whole foods?

    1. It’s something I wouldn’t do; I call myself “The Casserole Kid.” A little of this, a little of that. Too much of just one thing would get boring.

    2. I believe what he’s saying is that with most plant foods, you don’t need to combine at all. In other words, you can just eat beans all day, every day, and you’d get all the essential amino acids you need.

    1. That is cool, YR.

      I am interested in that topic.

      There is a woman Scientist who Had a TED Talk who declared emotions to be…magnetic waves or something like that, but how she came up with it didn’t impress me.

        1. This one was about MRI. The other woman researcher said things like the mind existed as a diffuse magnetic field around the body and emotions were electrical impulses or something like that.

          She is a researcher, but, well, I just felt uncomfortable.

          I am open to new concepts, but she didn’t give me enough of a foundation for how she got there.

          Maybe my mind had spilled out too far away from my brain.

          1. Sounds interesting. It’s actually a pretty old concept I think since all cells produce electromagnetic fields and I have memories of coming across it many years ago. The general topic is called something like bioelectromagnetics. In this hypothesis, the mind is an epiphenomenon of the brain’s electromagnetic field.

            I remember reading a report years ago about another researcher, also a woman, who stated that romantic love lasted about 18 months. Apparently she had been measuring the production of certain chemicals in the brain, associated with falling in love. production declined or ceased after 18 months or so.

            1. Fumbles, Regarding your statement: “I remember reading a report years ago about another researcher, also a woman, who stated that romantic love lasted about 18 months.”,

              I’ve run into a few men who claim romantic love lasts about 18 hours! They claim that’s about how long it takes them to sober up after a one night stand. ;-)

              1. “I’ve run into a few men who claim romantic love lasts about 18 hours! They claim that’s about how long it takes them to sober up after a one night stand. ;-)”
                – – – – – – – – – –

                :-) They shouldn’t call it romantic “love,” though. LUST is a better word!

  15. Excellent topic and explanation! I wish Dr. Greger had included a bit more discussion on the amazing work our bodies do in recycling proteins, have circulating pool of various amino acids, sensing the amino acid makeup of foods we eat, adding the needed amino acids to our gut to make the combined (food+added by body) amino acids profile opt for efficient absorption.

    All dietary protein disCussion comes down to essential amino acids, as the our bodies can make whatever non-essential amino acids the body needs. Plant source foods have varying degree of essential amino acids and marginally diverse vegetarian diet should get us all of the essential amino acids we need. Minor deficiencies now and then doesn’t matter as body senses the deficiency and adjusts with circulating amino acid pool.

    The next up is the quantity of protein we need… low end of 0.8gm/kg of body weight itself is high, and unnecessary higher protein intake causes renal issues. Would like to see Dr. Greger’s assessment of theoretical daily protein need (what body loses), body’s adsorption efficiency, and any additional factors as exercise, nursing, recovery from illness, etc.

    1. Srini

      Each of Dr Greger’s videos has a bite-sized nugget of information.

      If you look up the topic of protein, there are several videos. Some of those might cover what you are looking for.

    1. cornel hendrikx, some people never do make it to 70, even with statins added. It depends on a few things, such as the quality of the diet , eating no salt, oil, sugar or flour products, and if you are losing weight at the same time, genetics, gender, age. In a couple of trials led by researcher Jenkins, the lowest LDL readings were obtained between 2 to 4 weeks but an individual may ‘work at it’ for some time before they see results.

    2. In Dr. McDougall Program participants, patients with total cholesterol > 240 mg/dL when entering experienced a 43 point drop in total cholesterol (to 222 mg/dL) after 7 days on a 10% (very low) fat plant based diet. While the report doesn’t break out LDL cholesterol by baseline values, all participants averaged a 41 point drop in LDL to 92 mg/dL.

      In the famous Dr. Ornish trial, after 12 months of a 10% fat mostly plant based diet, the patients averaged 172 mg/dL total cholesterol and 95 mg/dL LDL.

      I think these are reasonable expectations for low fat plant based diets in the general population. As for myself, I monitor blood cholesterol every 8 weeks when I donate blood, and I fell from 220 mg/dL total cholesterol to 170 mg/dL, and there my gains plateaued. I found I could lower it about 15 more points by adding foods high in phytosterols, like sesame, almonds, and rice bran oil.

      Dr. Esselstyn in his long term study used a similar diet to McDougall’s and Ornish’s in heart attack survivors, but targeted <150 mg/dL with lovastatin, and his results (eliminating vascular events) speak for this approach. Today, he doesn't prescribe statins to patients without a history of vascular disease.

      If your LDL is actually 300, it sounds like you may have familial hypercholesterolemia, some genetic variant that elevates LDL and total cholesterol. Personally, If I had couldn't bring my total and LDL cholesterol down by diet alone, I'd be tempted to see a doctor. Especially a lifestyle medicine doctor familiar with the benefits of plant based diets.

  16. I think it was the best interview I have ever heard Dr. Fuhrman give and Susan Roberts, and Hans Diehl were both really good.

    I am so excited that I am finding all of these new speakers to listen to.

    1. Hans Diehl’s final point was about the reality that 80% of morbidly obese people come from serious trauma such as sexual abuse from a father figure. I say that for the people who come here and aren’t succeeding. AJ is going to have speakers talking about trauma in it.

      I have already switched to agreeing with Dr. Lisle that it is the food, but his acknowledging that such a high percentage of people still don’t succeed even after going WFPB, I would say that time of day eating and trauma are the next things on the list.

  17. I’m vegetarian 49 years, vegan nearly 10, mostly for humane reasons. Started studying nutrition in 1974 when an immediate family member suffered a terrible stroke at 59, and have continued following many nutritionists consistently all of these 46 years since, including the last 4 with Dr. Greger. In all of these years I have never heard or read per this video ““our bodies maintain pools of amino acids that can do all the complementing for us—not to mention the massive recycling program our body already has. Some 90 grams of protein is dumped into our digestive tract every day from our own body to get broken down and reassembled into whatever formation is needed”. Startling to me. Where does the body get the “90 grams of protein?” So it doesn’t matter if we eat a VARIETY of foods ??? And what about the approx. 56 grams of protein a day recommended that we consume ? Why do we even need that amount if our body is already “dumping 90 grams a day into our system ? I would never say I am an expert in nutrition, but I’m no novice either. I never heard ANYONE mention the quotes I copied here. No mention of “eat a variety of foods to give the body what it needs”. Just from what is here in this video it sounds like eating a variety of vegetarian food sources is not even that important. What about the daily dozen ? How can the body make what you don’t give it ????

    1. John,

      In Dr. Greger’s video about whether vegans and vegetarians get enough protein, he said, “On average, vegetarians and vegans get 70% more protein than they need every day.”

      His caveat was unless they were starving themselves.

      He also said that only 3% of people don’t get enough protein.

      He also said that 97% of Americans are deficient in fiber and should be more worried about that than protein.

      But that doesn’t mean they don’t need things like folate and potassium and all the other nutrients and that we need to eat enough calories to live.

      We just don’t have to worry too much about protein.

        1. I did look up fruit eaters and found an athlete page and found one that showed that many fruits have at least 5%.

          I suspect that it would be fruitarians who may have to pay closer attention.

    2. This is off your subject, John, but it’s interesting to see that your family member was going through his/her Second Saturn Return. It can be a time of big changes in one’s life. It’s amazing to see that many celebrities have died at that time. (Rock Hudson, Richard Burton, etc.) One of my own family member died of a massive heart attack at age 58. (You could also win the lottery or have other good fortune at that time.)

      Briefly….how we live our lives from the First Saturn Return (around 28-29) to the Second pretty much “culminates” around 58-59. If we were heavy boozers, druggies, ate a horrible diet, etc. during the years leading to 58-59, a piper might have to be paid.

      https://www.shortstories101.com/story/astrological-landmarks-age-58-59-the-second-saturn-return/

      1. YR, Regarding your comment: “You could also win the lottery or have other good fortune at that time.”

        I knew I should have bought a few lottery tickets back when I was 58-59 ;-)

        Seriously, I know from some of your previous posts that you know a lot about astrology. I’m curious if you went through some major life changes at that age? Looking back on it, I had a major career change at that age, myself.

        I’ve never studied astrology, but am a student of theoretical physics theories and notice that more and more physicists are leaning towards the idea that the whole Universe is “connected” in some way. This idea is not really that new but it began to be studied seriously and mathematically back as far as Ernst Mach in the 1800’s. Here’s a link to one of the latest theories:

        https://www.spaceandmotion.com/Wolff-Wave-Structure-Matter.htm

        1. Darwin, I definitely believe we’re all “connected.” We’re all part of Source, and have a lot to do with creating our own realities. But I dare not get too woo-woo here. :-)

          Anyway, just insignificant things happened during my Second, but at my First I finally stopped playing the field dating-wise and met the guy I was to marry (in Manhattan). The First is when we finally mature, as they say…..when we grow up and get more serious about life.

          Some people divorce when they hit their first. Others might get a huge promotion or better job….

          https://astrostyle.com/saturn-return/

          1. YR,

            >>>”But I dare not get too woo-woo here. :-)”

            As far as I am concerned, you’re past that point, but I love your sense of humor and other non woowoo comments. :-)

            1. Cute tune, Fumbles. :-)

              I play boogie on the piano (woo-woo or otherwise); rags; dixieland; classical; show tunes; country; a whole variety of stuff. I don’t play by ear like some people, but have tons of sheet music that unfortunately are falling apart before I do. :-(

              I love music. Rather than tune into the media-controlled TV news, I turn to the Easy Listening Music channel. *tra-la!*

    3. John Trani,

      The short answer is that the “pool” includes what you get from diet.

      The phrase “amino acid pool” is misleading as it suggests there’s some anatomical location in the body containing amino acids. This is not so.
      The “amino acid pool” by definition is the amount of amino acids available at a given time for protein synthesis from all sources, including from dietary protein, tissue protein breakdown, and de novo synthesis of nonessential amino acids. The liver regulates blood levels of amino acids, converting any excess to carbs.

      https://www.slideshare.net/mobile/RajeshChaudhary10/amino-acid-pool

  18. Hello, I was at the seminar 2/8/2020 in Roseburg, Or. I tried to have a live question but was never called, so I am reaching out this way. I have a rare genetic disease called HYPOPHOSPHATASIA, ADULT ONSET, supposedly (child onset could have been misdiagnosed, due to my autoimmune-diseases, psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis conditions. you mention the plant based diet, which sounds delicious, however, I was told that vegan or vegetarian diets are NOT good for me due to the HPP condition. legumes and beans have to much Vit B-6, which mine is already to elevated and to much phosphorus, as far as the auto immune diseases, there is a lot of restrictions with that as well, no night shades, no this or that. I was just recently diagnosed, 2/5/2020. My Endocrinologist, has NEVER had a patient with HPP, until now, (ME!) he knows very little about the condition, or the expensive 16K plus monthly injection, he wants me to be on. None of the doctors in the Douglas County area, seem to know what to do diet wise, nor do the dietitians/ nutritionist.
    I have no idea what to do, medication, or diet, or doctors…..Please if you have any advice , PLEASE let me know. I wanted to ask this last night, but there was no time in the Q&A nor the book signing.
    thank you
    Sharon =)

    1. Sharon,

      Here are some PubMed links with images regarding what Dr. Kadish spoke about.

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31967067

      There are a lot of PubMed success stories with it.

      As far as diet goes, try to find an excellent WFPB nutritionist. Maybe you could talk to someone like Dr. Klaper to start? I am only saying that because they say that he is a clinician. No matter what you will want to talk to an expert, and you may want to find out if the science of phosphorus from plant sources being less damaging still applies. Please ask an expert who understands the whole kidney thing in the first place and don’t try anything without help because of how rare the condition is.

      Watch Dr. Greger’s kidney failure videos for why I mention the plant sources of phosphorus. Kidney patients generally have to eat lower phosphorus and there are plant-based ways to do it. Though, as we have learned, the plant sources of phosphorous such as dried beans and peas and whole grains are high in phosphorus, have a higher phytate content, they may not cause phosphorus in the blood to be elevated as much as would be expected. (See Dr. Greger’s kidney failure/kidney disease videos) I think it is a good question but only a WFPB doctor would understand the kidney part and if they don’t know that part, they will just tell you that diet won’t help and that answer will be frustrating.

      I am not making a medical recommendation at all. I am just saying that plant sources of phosphorous don’t tend to affect people the same as animal sources of phosphorous, so maybe you can work with someone and keep getting tested or something. (Yes, I am not a doctor and that is why I just try to think of something and see if it helps.)

      As far as the elevated B-6, do you know if you also have the MTHFR gene? I am only saying that because that community sometimes has elevated B-6 on paper but well, I am not going to try to explain it. Dr. Klaper or somebody like him would understand why I am asking that and what to do. Okay, I can post a sentence from that community: “Ironically, in these cases, Vitamin B6 Levels and Vitamin B12 Levels will be HIGH, despite actually being a DEFICIENCY of these vitamins. This is because the vitamins build up in the bloodstream, where they are measured, but the vitamins can’t get into the cells where they are needed.”

      1. Sharon,

        I said all of that and the only reason I am saying it is because of the Kidney videos.

        My cousin was told over and over again to not eat WFPB because of phosphorous, but this is the type of testimonial I see over on Forks Over Knives.

        https://www.forksoverknives.com/from-3-percent-kidney-function-to-dialysis-free-on-a-whole-food-plant-based-diet/#gs.wilak7

        You have a different condition and there might be a different reason for them to say low phosphorous, but if they are saying it as a way to protect your vulnerable kidneys, then, and just in that case, maybe they are wrong.

        But a WFPB doctor would be who you have to ask.

          1. Thank you for the information. So far I have good kidneys. It’s a liver enzyme disease I don’t know exactly, yes I do have the MFTH genes both of them mutations.

            1. Hi Sharon,

              He is a research doctor who also has a clinical practice. That is what you are looking for.

              Someone who is a doctor and who is into the science and research and nutrition.

              https://www.drfuhrman.com/

              His diet is Nutritarian. I am pretty sure you can ask if it is right for you and you will get a real response.

              The McDougall site might be another place you can maybe talk to someone.

              The McDougall’s are also doctors who are into Nutrition and into research.

              That is The Starch Solution diet, which is slightly different than Nutritarian.

              .https://www.drmcdougall.com/

              They have moderators on their site. The moderators there don’t always answer, but you might be able to do some sort of consultation.

              Dr. Klaper is here:

              https://www.doctorklaper.com/

              Dr. Ornish’s site might answer.

              https://www.ornish.com/

              I would ask each site whether you could do Whole Food Plant-Based or whether it is wrong for someone with your condition.

              See if anyone answers.

              Some of them do consultations over the phone, but I can’t remember which ones do.

              1. I know that you are trying to figure out what to eat and that has to be so frustrating.

                My cousin went through it because they were telling him not to go Plant-Based and I was telling him about kidney diseases getting better on Whole Food Plant-Based and you definitely need to see if anyone from the Whole Food Plant-Based community has something to say before you just eat something else for the rest of your life.

                1. I am going to tell you that going to the site and just asking if you can do their plans might be enough to get you an answer.

                  But because it is a rare condition without a lot of research, they might tell you to talk to your own doctor.

                  That is more about liability.

                  1. Another thing you can try is signing up for something with Chef AJ and asking her if you can do it and let her ask the doctors.

                    Laughing.

                    That is a little sneaky for me to recommend.

                    The thing is, they won’t want you to do it unless it is safe and some of them are research doctors and may know a researcher who would be interested or something, but it is always hard with rare diseases.

                    At the very least, you can get the condition in their minds because they are researchers.

                    Asking if the phosphorous in plants works differently in your condition is a good one to ask to cause them to think.

                    And asking if your B6 being high is something that is similar to the MTHFR community where it is more that your body isn’t using it and if there is anything that you can do so that you can eat plant foods is another good enough question to maybe get your condition into the minds of someone out there.

                    1. And, by sneaky, I mean that she runs a WFPB program but isn’t a doctor, but she is a talkative sweetheart who interacts with all of the doctors and who just interviewed all of them recently.

                      She would be the least likely to know offhand, but the most likely to call people and try to figure it out.

                    2. If they all say that you can’t eat Plant-Based, maybe the question for AJ is what to do if you can’t eat Plant-Based for medical reasons.

                      She is hosting, “The Truth About Weight Loss summit” and she reads all of the comments on Facebook every day, and it is a free Summit and she talked about it again today that it isn’t too late to sign up even though it is a few days in.

                      You could ask right there in the comment section all week long, in case she misses it the first time through.

  19. Sharon,

    First let me be clear that this forum is not for medical advice. With that said I’m assuming the medication suggested is for the enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) called, asfotase alfa.

    After reading about this disorder and the fact that you’re an adult onset patient, I would suggest that you work with a physician willing to do the experimental work of diet controls, with frequent testing to actually see what seems to be the best course of action. I would be interested to know what other factors may have influenced the onset of symptoms and epigenetically changed your alkaline phosphatase expression. This eval would involve an extensive history and some follow up labs. Give consideration to any and all changes in your lifestyle, from food to stress from exposures to……

    As a note there is a single recent very positive finding of an adult onset HPP patient with a significant response to the ERT: https://journals.aace.com/doi/full/10.4158/ACCR-2019-0143 that is well worth the read.

    Dr. Alan Kadish moderator for Dr. Greger http://www.Centerofhealth.com

    PS We hope your enjoyed Dr. G’s talk…..

  20. It’s hard to design a varied whole plant food diet for the physically active that’s deficient in any of the amino acids, but very easy to create a restrictive diet, or lower calorie diet for the sedentary, that is deficient.

    For example, Walter Kempner’s white rice diet has at most only 60% of the lysine requirement (and less with higher amounts of permitted fruit and sugar). That very deficiency may account for its therapeutic benefits (my money is on FGF21 mediating this).

    For the sedentary, elderly, or those seeking weight loss with hypocaloric diets, lysine sufficiency can still be an issue. Here is where a few daily servings of beans (which are relatively high in lysine) can complement the other plant proteins and ensure all the requirements are met.

  21. Vitamin C is well distributed throughout most plants, especially fruit, like peppers (just about anything with a seed in it is a fruit). If you eat a varied, unprocessed plant based diet, there is no need to be concerned about removing seeds or other parts of the pepper. You’ll still get adequate Vitamin C and adequate amounts of thousands of other phytonutrients that are all equally important as Vitamin C for human health.

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