Trans Fat, Saturated Fat, & Cholesterol: Tolerable Upper Intake of Zero

Trans Fat, Saturated Fat, & Cholesterol: Tolerable Upper Intake of Zero
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The intake of trans fats, which come mostly from junk food and animal products; saturated fat, mostly from dairy products and chicken; and cholesterol, coming mostly from eggs and chicken, should be as low as possible.


Why stop at just sprinkling statins on our Happy Meal, when we could be even more aggressive? Is it time for the polypill? One pill, containing five or six drugs: a statin; three blood pressure medications—a thiazide, beta blocker, and ACE inhibitor; maybe some aspirin—suggesting even over-the-counter availability. The chance of benefit may be less than 1% per year, and that of side effects, 6% overall—some of which, like internal bleeding, may be life-threatening.

So, for those who would rather go with diet, rather than the five drugs, how do you do it?

To lower our cholesterol through diet, we need to avoid three things: trans fats, saturated fats, and cholesterol. Trans fats are mostly in junk food and animal products.

Here are the top food sources of cholesterol-raising saturated fat. That quarter-pounder doesn’t come in until eight. It’s cheese, ice cream, chicken, then pastries, pork, reduced fat milk, and then our burger.

Where is cholesterol found in the American diet? #1’s not beef. It’s eggs and chicken, and then beef, cheese, pork, and fish before getting to cakes, cookies, doughnuts, and ice cream.

How much should we reduce our consumption of these foods? What are the tolerable upper intake levels for trans fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol? “The Institute of Medicine did not set upper limits for trans fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol because any intake level above zero increased bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol).”

Here’s trans fat. There’s no level that’s safe. It’s like a straight line. The lower the better. Any level of trans fat intake above zero increased LDL cholesterol concentration,” the #1 risk factor for our #1 killer: heart disease.

And same with saturated fat—any intake level above zero, and similar findings for cholesterol.

So, intakes of meat, eggs, dairy, and junk food should be as low as possible, because there is no tolerable intake.

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 veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Why stop at just sprinkling statins on our Happy Meal, when we could be even more aggressive? Is it time for the polypill? One pill, containing five or six drugs: a statin; three blood pressure medications—a thiazide, beta blocker, and ACE inhibitor; maybe some aspirin—suggesting even over-the-counter availability. The chance of benefit may be less than 1% per year, and that of side effects, 6% overall—some of which, like internal bleeding, may be life-threatening.

So, for those who would rather go with diet, rather than the five drugs, how do you do it?

To lower our cholesterol through diet, we need to avoid three things: trans fats, saturated fats, and cholesterol. Trans fats are mostly in junk food and animal products.

Here are the top food sources of cholesterol-raising saturated fat. That quarter-pounder doesn’t come in until eight. It’s cheese, ice cream, chicken, then pastries, pork, reduced fat milk, and then our burger.

Where is cholesterol found in the American diet? #1’s not beef. It’s eggs and chicken, and then beef, cheese, pork, and fish before getting to cakes, cookies, doughnuts, and ice cream.

How much should we reduce our consumption of these foods? What are the tolerable upper intake levels for trans fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol? “The Institute of Medicine did not set upper limits for trans fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol because any intake level above zero increased bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol).”

Here’s trans fat. There’s no level that’s safe. It’s like a straight line. The lower the better. Any level of trans fat intake above zero increased LDL cholesterol concentration,” the #1 risk factor for our #1 killer: heart disease.

And same with saturated fat—any intake level above zero, and similar findings for cholesterol.

So, intakes of meat, eggs, dairy, and junk food should be as low as possible, because there is no tolerable intake.

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 veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

217 responses to “Trans Fat, Saturated Fat, & Cholesterol: Tolerable Upper Intake of Zero

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    1. This video presents an argument that appears to contradict another video presented on this website.

      Specifically, it is argued in the present video that foods with any quantity of saturated fat should be eliminated from the diet in order to lower the risk of heart disease.

      By that logic we should eliminate nuts and seeds as they contain substantial contributions of saturated fat. In fact, the data to support this is partially presented in one of the tables that you show in this video, where nuts/seeds appear on the list.

      However, in another video ( it is argued that eating nuts halves the risk of heart disease.

      Therefore, these two videos appear to contract each other.

      1. Best I can tell, this website frequently presents half-truths to convince you that animal products are absolutely terrible for your health.

        Weird, because every other site seems to indicate cholesterol is relatively harmless…

        1. The myth of the cholesterol myth is popular in the low carb blogosphere but does not stand up to the evidence. presents peer reviewed research, not misconstrued opinions from authors trying to sell you their products.

          “Serum cholesterol concentration is clearly increased by added dietary cholesterol but the magnitude of predicted change is modulated by baseline dietary cholesterol. The greatest response is expected when baseline dietary cholesterol is near zero, while little, if any, measurable change would be expected once baseline dietary cholesterol was >400-500 mg/d. People desiring maximal reduction of serum cholesterol by dietary means may have to reduce their dietary cholesterol to minimal level”

          This study looked at 13,148 participants using an ultrasound to measure arterial wall thickness. “In general, wall thickness increased with increasing intake of animal fat, saturated and monounsaturated fat, cholesterol and Keys’ score and decreased with increasing intake of vegetable fat…the association between diet and wall thickness was in the expected direction in all race-sex groups.”

          Participants were put on an oat diet or 2 egg a day diet for 6 weeks. Those that ate eggs did not have their cholesterol raised, while those who ate oats had their cholesterol lowered. Does this mean egg cholesterol does not affect serum cholesterol? No, it just means that baseline cholesterol was already too high to begin with, as the participants started out with an average cholesterol around 200.

          A 2010 follow up study of the one above placed hyperlipedemic subjects (average total cholesterol 240) either on a egg group, sausage and cheese muffin group or egg substitute group. The sausage and cheese group and the egg group did not have a significant change in lipid panel and both had unfavorable results from the brachial artery test. Both the egg group and sausage and cheese group caused endothelial dysfunction, a sign of inflammation. The egg substitute group did not experience this arterial impairment and their cholesterol numbers actually dropped significantly in the 6 weeks. Again, because the cholesterol was already high to begin with for the egg and muffin group, we should not expect much change in the lipid panel.


          Another interesting study took people who were insulin sensitive, insulin resistant, and obese+insulin resistant and put them on different egg feeding groups. The insulin sensitive group had an average total cholesterol of 186, which was much better then the insulin resistant group who had an average total of 209. After 4 eggs per day, the insulin sensitive group had a much bigger increase in serum cholesterol then the insulin resistant group. Not only this, but Apo B increased, the so called small dense ldl particles, the “bad kind” many paleo proponents make note of.

          Again, an old forgotten (but still relevant) study on eggs. Young healthy participants started out with cholesterol numbers averaging 195. They controlled for all macronutrients, keeping carbs, fats and proteins constant. The only thing that changed in the intervention was cholesterol. They added 6 eggs, a copious amount of cholesterol to their diet, after which cholesterol shot up to 253. And yet again, the feared ldl particle count was increased by the eggs.

          Non vegetarian and semi-vegetarians’ biomarkers were taken. The semi-vegeterians had much lower cholesterol starting out (but still not great) then the full omnivorous counterparts. When given dietary cholesterol, their serum cholesterol went up because their baseline was not too high as in other studies. Clearly this evidence along with the ones above show that dietary cholesterol raises serum cholesterol when the baseline is not already high.

          Please see here for more

          1. cholesterol and arterial fat is an inflammation response, LDL is there doing it’s job it did not start the fire it is just trying to put it out. Keys was the idiot scientist that started this whole invalid craze, by hand picking only 7 of the 22 countries studied and the media and pharma ran with it, to make millions off you guested it, Statins. Surgar is the enemy, a state of acidosis in the arteries is the true enemy. Unlike a leg muscle that is worked to hard, your heart, a muscle too, cannot take a break and in an inflammatory environment, acidosis reaks havoc and shear pressures at bifurcation points in the heart create cracks in the endothelium. Ever hear of a spleen attack? Kidney attack? Think about it. Heart disease is related to the autotomic nervous system, PNS and SNS in particular. too much to list here, but the bottom line is do not buy into the cholesterol and blocked artery theory of the ’cause’ of heart disease, it is a byproduct for sure. And the FDA food chain should have grains at the top not the bottom, and high quality fats at the bottom. Like medicine, even there pyramid is ‘upside down’…

          2. The cholesterol in eggs does not raise the “bad” cholesterol in the blood. It raises HDL (the “good”) cholesterol and eggs actually improve the blood lipid profile.

            The studies show that egg consumption is not associated with heart disease. Whole eggs are among the most nutritious foods on the planet.


            Rong Y, et al. Egg consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke: dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. British Medical Journal, 2013.

            Fernandez ML. Dietary cholesterol provided by eggs and plasma lipoproteins in healthy populations. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 2006.

            Blesso CN, et al. Whole egg consumption improves lipoprotein profiles and insulin sensitivity to a greater extent than yolk-free egg substitute in individuals with metabolic syndrome. Metabolism, 2013.

            1. MrGodofcar,

              This is false, eggs raise LDL as well as HDL, but HDL disproportionately lower

              In addition, the studies I cited used egg cholesterol, LDL did indeed increase. If one’s cholesterol is high, then dietary cholesterol will have limited to no impact on total cholesterol.

              “Serum cholesterol concentration is clearly increased by added dietary cholesterol but the magnitude of predicted change is modulated by baseline dietary cholesterol. The greatest response is expected when baseline dietary cholesterol is near zero, while little, if any, measurable change would be expected once baseline dietary cholesterol was >400-500 mg/d. People desiring maximal reduction of serum cholesterol by dietary means may have to reduce their dietary cholesterol to minimal level”


              Lastly, the citations you shared are cherry picked and do not represent the scientific consensus. To make it easier to see this and why, please view the videos below and view the sources cited section.


      2. The two videos you pointed out do contradict each other. Other studies clearly show that vegans or vegetarians that also consume 1.5 ounces of nuts/seeds daily live longer.
        The answer is to wait 100 to 500 years until there are definitive long-term studies that provide the science you are looking for. Meanwhile, I am a vegan, consume zero processed foods but my LDL is 150 even though my weight is about right.
        Other studies lead one to believe that it does not reduce heart attacks or strokes to take medicine to lower the LDL. Bottom line is nobody knows exactly what is going on but if you can get your LDL down around 70 without the medicine you will likely not get heart disease.

        1. Richard, I was reading the comments because I have been a vegan for 2 years, the only processed food I eat is soy or oat milk, I only cheat once a month with a ham and cheese sandwich (does that make me a flexitarian?) but my cholesterol ratios haven’t dropped since I gave up my ice cream/egg/pork-loving ways. Have avoided transfats for over 25 years. I infer from your comment about your weight that simply being obese can keep your cholesterol levels up. Can you elaborate?

          1. I finally found a clue to my problem farther down the comment list. A long-time vegan reported that cutting out nuts/avocados/seeds dropped her cholesterol down to acceptable levels. I’ll try that.

            1. Dear Elizabeth, Yes I also found that if I cut way back on the healthy fats my cholesterol dropped. If I had cut it out almost completely (I cut back but not as much as I could’ve) I assume my blood work numbers would’ve correspondingly gone down further.

            2. Elizabeth, Cutting out all nuts, seeds, and avocado made a huge difference in my cholesterol levels. That was still including about a tablespoon of ground flax seeds per day.

      3. Did Dr. Greger ever respond to this contradiction ? I have recently cut out nuts and seeds and all added oils to lower ldl. Ive been vegan for 10 years and my ldl is now too high. Curious what he said?

        1. Hello Joan,

          When you cut out oils, nuts, and seeds, did anything else in your diet change? Did you add anything in their place or eliminate other foods as well? One explanation is that nuts and seeds may actually lower cholesterol levels because of the fiber and phytonutrients, so eliminating them from your diet may result in a bit of an increase in cholesterol. However, if you have a much higher level now that wouldn’t be a satisfactory explanation. I’d like to have a little more information about other dietary changes that may have taken place and we should not rule out the possibility of the test you had being inaccurate as errors can occur from time to time. In that case, it may be warranted to take another test just to confirm the findings.

          Please let us know if we can be of further help,

          Matt, Health Support Volunteer

      4. So what is the answer? If we try to eliminate saturated fat, we need to cut out nuts, and seeds. Yet these are promoted as heart healthy. What to do?

        1. Hello Joan,

          Yes those foods contain saturated fat, but they also contain fiber and many phytonutrients that lower cholesterol levels. When you consume oils, meat, dairy, or eggs you get the saturated fat without the cholesterol lowering properties. That is why Dr. Greger recommends nuts and seeds because they have actually been shown to LOWER cholesterol levels, saturated animal fats raise it. This study in particular showed “too good to be true” reductions in cholesterol by consuming brazil nuts!

          I hope this clarifies things for you,


    2. A sign, I read today at the YMCA, states “The body makes approximately 75% of cholesterol, and the other 25% comes from animal products that we eat.” The subject of the sign is “Don’t be confused by cholesterol!” The source is “Aegis”. Don’t know who that is. My sense is that they are trying to minimize the the perceived affect of eating animal products on cholesterol. Is there more to the story of cholesterol. If the response I get significantly refutes the quote, I will take that information to the YMCA.

      1. Hello Rick and thanks for your question. I would actually agree with your assessment. That statement seems to make the assumption that everyone eats animal products, and does not make a lot of sense as it is. Cholesterol is made intrinsically (by our own bodies) and is a substance that we need for various biological functions. However, we make all that we need, and do not need any at all from external sources (the food that we eat). If a person has a low cholesterol, and they are not on any cholesterol-lowering medications, it could indicate a serious illness or a state of overall malnutrition (or both), yet it has nothing to do with cholesterol in foods.

      2. Yes, the body makes most of your cholesterol, but from what I understand, the amount it makes is dependent on your glucose levels or sugar intake because of the biological/chemical mechanism by which it is made. Someone at the Cleveland Clinic either works on this or has been interviewed about it.

    3. Hi Dr. Greg. What about the saturated fat and heart disease link? I’ve read that not all LDLs are bad. According to these sources sugar increases arterial plaque-causing LDL while saturated fat increases benign LDL. Since the lab equipment needed to distinguish between the two is so expensive most experiments have merely shown that overall LDL is correlated with heart disease, leaving us with the question: which specific LDLs are responsible and what causes those specific LDLs to increase?

    4. I hope this doctor has learned a few things since the post… saturated fats, assuming from grass fed animals and organic in nature, are ‘extremely healthy’… saturated fat has been duped by the establishment, just like Statin drugs. Don’t trust doctors, get the facts yourself.

    5. Dear sir,
      I have been on a ketogenic diet for the last 3 months and feeling great, thinking clear and have much more energy than I used to on a higher carb diet. Cholesterol has never been a concern for me. I weigh 143 pounds male 5 11. I am now however slightly concerned about cholesterol with a ketogenic diet, although all the literature I have read tells me that as long as I do not have inflammation in my body and no lesions in my arteries that cholesterol will not Lodge itself and cause plaque buildup problems. As a matter of fact things I am reading are debunking the whole cholesterol scare all together and say that cholesterol is actually good for you and good for your brain as long as you do not have artery disease that causes it to Lodge in your veins I am interested in your take on this and if there was a way to know that you did not have inflammation would it be safe to eat a higher cholesterol diet.

      1. Hi Todd: This is Dr. Daniela Sozanski, PhD, PScD Moderator for and Naturopath in Atlanta, GA.
        Excellent question and solid background. Some thoughts: the ketogenic diet may be effective in weight loss and definitely preferable to a diet rich in processed carbohydrates. The question remains however: is the ketogenic diet the healthiest diet? And here come into play your concerns regarding cholesterol levels.
        Let’s recap for a minute the steps of the making of a heart attack, though I am sure you are aware of them: injury to the endothelial cell leads to inflammation, which leads to oxidized cholesterol deposits, to blood clots formation and finally to a heart attack or stroke. A mainly plant based diet is known to have a protective effect against all these four steps leading to a cardiovascular event; an animal based diet has the opposite effect. (only caveat….B12 found only in animal foods, which is a key protector against homocysteine build up could be supplemented)
        My suggestion? The more plants in your diet the better: beans, legumes, fruits, green vegetables, nuts and seeds, all whole, unprocessed, un-extracted and unrefined.
        I hope this helps. Daniela

    6. Firstly, I love your videos. Life-changing to say the least. That aside, I’m using CRON-O-Meter in order to gauge my nutrition levels since recently going to a whole food plant based diet. My grandmother had Dementia and my father had Atherosclerosis. I’m able to get a lot of nutrition from cashews and coconut oil which appear to be very high in saturated fats. I’m allergic to most nuts except for cashews and it seems to deliver a lot of minerals and protein needed on this diet but cashews are high in copper and saturated fats which you pointed out were linked to Alzheimer’s. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn also advises against nuts and seeds. What advice can you give me? 1 cup of cashews and 3 cups of coconut milk a day bad or good?

      1. Hi Mark, I am a nutriotionist moderator in NF team. I would suggest reduce a little the quantity of cashews to half cup and as for coconut milk I’d say is better to take 1 cup and drink instead soja milk. In order to have a more specific advice I’d recommend to visit a nutritionist.

    7. Dear Dr Greger and co workers,
      Do homemade bread and (vegan) cake also contain transfats?
      And do storebought soy burgers, and/ or other vegan alternatives to meat, always have transfats in them, given they are processed foods?
      Also, you talk about ones’ LDL ideally being 70; how do we interpret the number 3,75 as a test result for LDL? (We live in The Netherlands, apparently they do things differently over here). Our GP told us it should come down to 2,50, and she prescribed statins.
      We have been on a plant based whole food diet for at least six months, nevertheless one of us apparently has high LDL (but no plaque in arteries) and other signs (in the brain) that indicate high risk for stroke.
      We have consumed some Brazil nuts and will be looking out for Amla berries to try to lower it.
      Might having high LDL despite healthy eating be related to alcohol consumption?
      It would be wonderful if you could find the time to help us whith these questions, we realize you are a very busy…

      Looking forward to hearing from you!

      Two big fans from the Netherlands

      1. Thank you for our question. Converting the US units of cholesterol mg/dl to the European units mmol/l you divide by 39
        Here is a conversion table from the Mayo clinic

        I believe any processed food has the potential to contain some transfat and in general if you are trying to lower your cholesterol you should avoid all added/processed fats even if they are from plants. Fats contained in whole plant foods are the best for you and both nuts and avocado have a beneficial effect on blood cholesterol levels.

        I don’t believe just the process of cooking with vegetable oils (like bread/cakes) will produce transfats per se but they are still not beneficial for cardiovascular health

    8. Hi Dr. Gregor, i found a person by the name of Dr. RHONDA patrick. She is not a medical Dr but a researcher like you. She combs thru the studies. She was saying that they found that saturated fat is not a bad thing on its own but when processed Sugars are introduced to the body thats when issues arise. She also pointed out an article in the New york times that talks about the sugar industry paying off scientists to falsify their research to make saturated fat look bad and to leave processed sugar out of it. Dr. Rhonda reminds me of you, caring and wanting to put it all out there for people to know whats going on amd to make smart decisions. She has done several Podcasts of her call “Found my fitness” and has a website with the same name. I wish you could go on her show. You two would be such a wonderful pairing. She has done the Joe Rogan podcast several times. I think the 3 of you were be amazing. They point out much of what you talk about but sometimes are unable to answer some questions aboit vegans so they admittadly speculate. I think with you in the mix the information the audience can gather would be incredible.
      I love what u do and i am getting healthier follow your lead. Thank you for everything.

    9. Hello! What about the latest research on how high cholesterol is not the culprit of heart conditions and more likely the effect of other hormone and metabolic problems? There are a couple of professionals reporting that highly processed foods and sugar in combination with transfats are more likely to be responsible for the heart problems in the world and blaming cholesterol for the issues is like blaming a paramedic for a traffic accident. I am not saying that there is not correlation, but is it exactly caused by this or by the combination of unhealthy lifestyles, stress and excessive glucose, fructose and hydrogenated oils that cause oxidation in the body and damage to the liver?

      1. No. Sure processed carbs lead to high triglycerides which is also a risk factor, but ALL the properly executed unbiased clinical studies clearly show that dietary cholesterol, without a doubt, increases serum cholesterol. Serum cholesterol, without a doubt, is an independent risk factor for heart attack.

        Dr. Ben

    10. First I love A huge fan and subscribe to Dr. Greger’s videos and have radically changed my diet. As a chef it was an easy transition. For over four years I have been plant based. I eat extremely healthy. Religiously. Right now I am freaked out and incredibly disappointed to get back blood work that says my total cholesterol is 212!!!??? HDL 37 LDL 143 Triglycerides 160.
      I work as a waiter. Constantly moving, I hike a couple times a week go to the gym once or twice a week – that could improve. But still!? What gives?!? Based on ALL the stuff I read from ALL the lifestyle medicine community there is NO WAY my numbers should be where they are?

      1. It’s very frustrating to learn my total cholesterol is 212 when I read over and over the way eating certain foods will lower cholesterol levels. For over four years I ate salads with a little olive oil but I cut out the oil last year. Now I eat huge salads with oil free dressings. I do the daily dozen. Lots of kale, broccoli, blueberries, flaxseeds, chia seeds, black beans, apples, quinoa, mushrooms, raw unsalted walnuts, almonds, pomegranate seeds, no sugar. no alcohol, no dairy, no meat, no fish or chicken. None. I eat peanut butter. Tahini, hummus every day. How are my blood numbers possibly not lower than they are??!!

        1. J.C. Spires, I can completely relate to your frustration 100%!! I went through the exact same thing. Total cholesterol well over 226 and LDL 140…and that was after a year of eating completely plant based, no oil, dairy, meat of any kind. I was eating tons of healthy greens, veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds, etc. It was beyond disappointing when I got those results. I began doing further research and uncovered that some people are just more prone to higher cholesterol because of the way it is processed in their body. I’ve also recently discovered through DNA testing that I have one APOE4 allele, so my stubborn cholesterol now makes more sense, though is none less bothersome. I read in Dr. Esselstyn’s prevent and reverse heart disease cookbook of one or more accounts where getting rid of the nuts and avocados were the big answer (for some people) when it comes to stubbornly high cholesterol. I reluctantly gave them up for a month. I continued to eat 1-2 tbsp of ground flax seeds, but beyond that no other nuts/seeds. I was also super vigilant when eating out that no oil was added to my food. In one month my total cholesterol went from 226 to 162!!!!! The lowest it has ever been in my life that I know of! My LDL went down to 99!! Again, lower than I’ve ever seen it. I was really reluctant to take out the nuts because, for one, I really enjoy them. And secondly, it just seemed so crazy that such a little change could make such a huge difference. It might be worth a try…even for just a few weeks…to see if it might help your numbers.

          1. High Cholesterol Mommy,

            THANK YOU!! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that you took the time to share your experience with me.

            I am on it. I’ve quit so many things that this will be ez, and 100% more easy because of your testimony.

            I look forward to sharing my results after I get more blood tests, probably this summer. But it’s so encouraging. Thanks again!

            Blessings and grace,


              1. Thanks Bill. I had a great email from another person in this thread that shared how had the exact same blood work numbers after a year of dedicated plant based eating. She said she reluctantly cut out all nuts and seeds and avocados and in a month her numbers radically dropped.
                Very encouraging.

          2. I too have been on PBWF diet except for using what I thought was minimal oils, stayed away from all animal products; but have to admit that over the holidays I wasn’t eating as well as I should have. Definitely ate too much junk…at the end of January I was in for my yearly gyne appt and had bloodwork done: my cholesterol was 221, I was devastated and so disappointed. I came home and read Preventing and Reversing heart disease by Dr. Esselstyn, Jr. , cover to cover.I am cutting out ALL oils and added sugar, nuts and avocados. Your experience has encouraged me

            1. Jennie!! Being really diligent about the use of oil, nuts, and avocado made such a huge difference for me! I think some people can keep in some nuts and avocado and still get their numbers down, but not so much for me. Try not to be too hard on yourself! The holidays are just hard… I think so anyway. I myself allowed some oil, nuts, etc over the holidays and I’m rebooting right now too! It feels good to get all the junk out! After several years of being WFPB, I’ve come to realize there are certain times of the year that it is just harder for me to stay 100% compliant. I’m doing my best…finding healthy alternatives for my cravings helps a ton. (Air frying some no oil potato chips right now…ha!!) If you get a chance you should update with your numbers after cutting out the nuts, oil, etc. I would love to hear how it helps for you. Reversing heart disease by Esselstyn is a favorite! So much amazing info!!

    11. I have been a vegetarian for 50 years. The past four years, I have been more conscientious of eating mostly plant-based foods and severely limiting any processed foods from my diet. Despite all my efforts to eat a healthy diet, I have high cholesterol. I do not want to take Lipitor or other cholesterol lowering medicine, so what can I do to lower my high cholesterol naturally. Is it common that plant-based vegan diets produce high cholesterol? My cholesterol is
      Cholesterol Total: 227
      HDL: 60
      Triglycerides: 118 LDL: 143. Cholesterol Ratio: 3.8. Non HDL Cholesterol: 167 Help!!!!!

      1. Hello Joanna,

        I see that your cholesterol is definitely not in the ideal range, but let’s see if there’s more we can do to help lower that. For starters, you mentioned that you’re “mostly” plant-based and severely limit processed foods. In your case, since your numbers are still not idea, it may be important to be 100% plant-based and completely eliminate processed foods. Oils also contain saturated fat and will raise cholesterol, so if you’re using oils at all, they should be avoided. Besides those steps, you may want to focus on foods that have been proven to lower cholesterol since simply avoiding cholesterol raising foods isn’t doing enough for you. I have linked an article below for you to read through.

        I hope this helps,

        Matt, Health Support

    12. Joanna de la Cuesta Ihave been a vegetarian for 50 years. The past four years, I have been more conscientious of eating mostly plant-based foods and severely limiting any processed foods from my diet. Despite all my efforts to eat a healthy diet, I have high cholesterol. I do not want to take Lipitor or other cholesterol lowering medicine, so what can I do to lower my high cholesterol naturally. Is it common that plant-based vegan diets produce high cholesterol? My cholesterol is Cholesterol Total: 227 HDL: 60 Triglycerides: 118 LDL: 143. Cholesterol Ratio: 3.8. Non HDL Cholesterol: 167 Help!!!!!

      1. We might be able to help if you list completely all the things, food and drink, that you’re ingesting over about a 4 day period. Everything.

  1. Dr Greger are you familiar with the book Nutrition and physical degeneration by Weston Price? Please let me know your thoughts. That book convinced me that animal fat was actually good and necessary. My Great grandparents living in Brazil lived to be 115 and 102 and they all ate meat, eggs, raw milk from their farm, they never visited a doctor. So I thought to myself, well Weston Price must be right and now I run into all of this contrary research…
    please help me

    1. Weston Price’s research now many decades old had good intentions. I think the studies have since shown that animal fat is detrimental to health. Can we eat it? Of course. Have alot of folks eaten animal fat and lived to be 100 certainly. However many of those who lived to 100 were never exposed in their early years to the processed food that makes up the standard american diet nor did they consume the quantities they do today. Additionally chemicals have been added to the food chain mainly since world war 2 see: So I would recommend avoiding all animal fats which are unhealthy and contain many harmful chemicals.

      1. Processed food and chemicals found in the standard American diet do not mean that all animal fats are bad. Organic, grass-fed animal fat is one of the healthiest things you can eat, whether you look at “decades old” WP or the most current research.

        1. Hi Frasier, I’ve been curious about this. Could you show me some of the current research that organic grass-fed animal fat is ‘super healthy’ as you seem to have found more than I have. I’ve been scouring the medical journals, but could not find a single one…

          1. Three years later, and still no support for such a bold claim as “Organic, grass-fed animal fat is one of the healthiest things you can eat.” It does make me laugh when you see someone in such overwhelming denial though. Claiming such an outrageous thing with zero links or citations to credible research haha.

            1. Blaice, there is no reason for you to act like disrespectful presidential candidate if your goal is learning.

              Grass fed animals are high in Omega 3 fatty acids, which you know are healthy if you took the time to read this same website that you post on:

              Not all sources of Omega 3 are equally healthy, but the limits of flax seeds (which I eat regularly because they are high in fiber, not for Omege 3 fatty acids) is that they are made of a less ideal form of Omega 3 called ALA. Our brains and bodies need EPA and DHA to function properly.

              Animals convert ALA to EPA and DHA. And like other animals, our bodies also convert ALA to EPA and DHA, but in smaller amounts, and not in the levels we need. By eating specific animals that eat ALA, we get the benefits of high levels of EPA and DHA.

              That’s not the entire story, but I’m not going to write a book here. It’s enough to answer your question and get you started.

              1. Btw, I don’t think the mention of ALA was ever made. Also, you seem act very educated, however, the information you “provided” is merely common knowledge. You DO NOT know how effeciently ALA is converted to epa and dha, because the research is not strenuous enough to be dictated conclusively yet. In addition, you also can not make a claim as bold as “Our brains and bodies need EPA and DHA to function properly. By eating specific animals that eat ALA, we get the benefits of high levels of EPA and DHA.”…. To function properly? Really? Maybe that is because we create all the we need via the fats that we are given. You make pretty brash assumption, that of the original poster, who gets his advice from Weston Price Foundation… Which clearly get no financial support from the industry they tote, right?

                1. You all keep talking bout the body supplying the things we need already which is entirely false…says common sense.try eating nothing and you will quickly see doctors are practicing phycians and dont know everything or there would not be as much sickness as there is today which is considerably more than early history of man. What is point blank is that all processed food is full of unaturel ingredients, its not complicated eat natural foods (unprocessed in anyway you will be healthy!) eat corporate money making food will certainly shorten life anything to look good appeal to the eye and taste sweet high intake of carbs and sugar shoot the metabolism off course talikg quickest source of energy storing the fat oooopsy the fda approves these things and drugs its all bout the money!!remember if doctors were so brilliant be a lot less dead people!!they are practicing physicians never forget that .imagine a supermarket and the food industry selling only healthy natural foods…. there would be a lot less product and a lot less medical service which is costly ridicously expensive opinions on worthless studies are for the most part a waste of energy….final say everybodys metabolism is different dependant mostly on activity of each individual eat natural unprocessed foods dont practice immoral or bad habits you might live longer ive had hep c since 1974 blood transfusion from a hospital and have literally proved every single doctor wrond ….literally..57now have a very mild state f1on fibroscore test which is bery minimal here is my lifesaver 5%carbs 20%protein70 percent healthy fats !!!!no sugar more free energy make your body burn fat thats what it is for…thats what it is for please dont stick with any one doctor to busy they are keeping for the better part people sick for lack of proper assesment of their patient. There is definitely an occasion good medicine but most will kill the kidneys and liver research your side effects on your medecine and your food.

    2. Your grandparents are eating properly! And it is probably organic and not GMO foods sprayed with Glyphosate that most all people fail to realize is in every meal if you are not 100% organic with not only fruits and veggies, but with grass fed dairy and meat as well. Cholesterol is ‘the most important product’ your body produces and is with out a doubt the problem in the USA and why so many people have dementia, Alzheimers’ and Autism, the young persons version of Alzheimer. Non-fat diet is a joke and killing us, I eat like your grandparents, organic whole milk and butter, though not a lot, and it is “UNPASTURIZED”. You and your family keep doing what your grandparents did, and if you live here just make sure anything in your mouth is organic… you will be head and shoulders ahead of 99% of the doctors and nutritionist out there :)

  2. Dr. Greger, so this video seems to be saying to eat plant based only and no processed food and 0 trans fats. This is very radical talk and go against the whole food set up currently surrounding me and us all. If there were people eating healthy , would they not stand out as being clearly superior physically to others and be a vivid display of the benefit of not eating animal and processed food? Why do vegans often look so pasty pale and meek and lacking in vitality? I would say that the appearance of vegans has been an obstacle for myself switching over easily and sooner. Also the growing obese population has also been a vivid display for me looking to make sure I don’t go down THAT path either.

    1. Vallis: Hi again. I happened to be skimming comments and came across this other comment by you. I really liked your comment because you pose some honest questions. If you aren’t tired of me yet, I have some thoughts for you.

      re: “Why do vegans often look so pasty pale and meek and lacking in vitality?”
      Whether or not someone looks attractive is of course subjective. But my first reaction to your comment was, “Gosh, who does she/he know? That’s not my experience *at all*.” Have you watched the documentary “Forks Over Knives”? It is available on Netflicks, many libraries and you can purchase it from Amazon. I *HIGHLY* recommend this documentary. I think it will answer a lot of your questions and it is spell-binding. Anyway, this movie has real-life people examples in addition to information on scientific studies. This movie shows vegan body builders and firemen and triathlon people and marathon runners. They all looked great to me.

      Also, you might consider some day signing up for Dr. Bernard’s 21 day KickStart program. Each day you will get an e-mail to a webpage. The webpage not only has meal plans and recipes, but it has inspirational words and tips from vegan: body builders, actors/actresses, athletes, doctors, and professional models. Maybe the “face of vegan” would change for you after seeing all these real-life examples of vegans.

      1. Thea, thanks for this responses. I hear it all the time: “I know X amount of vegans and they look skinny and unhealthy”.

        I always wonder how some meat eaters know so many more vegans ( less than 1% of US) than I.

        Anyone on any diet can look or be unhealthy, and yes it’s definitely subjective… to a certain extent. I know a lot of meat eaters who are obese and they look unhealthy. I’m not sure that’s very subjective though.

            1. I know some Vegans that are morbidly obese.  I’ve seen them at Dr. McDougalls!  Remember Oil is Vegan!-}  YUM!!

          1. I belong to a vegan group in my area and I can verify that all vegans come in different shapes and sizes. I would like to share that a newer member that I met a few months ago lost her husband a little over a year ago after he recovered from a heart attack and surgery, then succumbed to cancer and died a couple years later. It shook her up and she had a nursing background and knew their coach potato lifestyle was not a good one. So after much research and reading of the China Study, McDougall Program, Engine 2, Forks over Knives, and Neil Barnard’s PCRM she went vegan, lost 70 pounds over this past year and looks and feels great in her mid 50’s. So yes, people that eat a whole foods plant-based diet can slim down and look and feel great. We have been hiking together this month and she is in great shape and planning to do some backpacking.
            I just interviewed an Registered Dietician this past week and she is a competitive marathoner and triathlete. Talk about a healthy looking, thin and strong looking lady. They motivate me to get stronger, so I am off to the gym. Best to you! :)

          2. Vegans may be skinny. That is a possibility. But looking at the normal anyone with a BMI of 23 would look skinny. A comment about ‘vegan’. I occasionally teach about some of this. If you ever saw the movie “The Jerk” the main character, Steve Martiin, has a favorite meal of Tab, Twinkies and a tuna fish on white bread (SAD), I suggest we switch that to vegetarian of Tab, Twinkies and a cheese sandwich and ask if that is healthy. I then suggest we go to a vegan meal with a Tab, Twinkies, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and ask if that is healthy. Finally I suggest we go to an iced green tea (I like Chai) an apple, and a veggie wrap with hummus. Is that healthy? Probably depending on the hummus. I do not call myself vegan as there are too many that might be vegan do not live a healthy lifestyle including diet. I like the word Whole Food Plant Based as it defines what we eat and opposed to what we don’t eat. I would also comment about vegans and their appearance in term of being athletic. Some of the strongest most athletic people in the world are vegan, Carl Lewis, the great Olympian, is only one of many examples. Eat WFPB.

      2. Yeah I agree. I’ve met an enormous amount of vegetarians, vegans and raw foodists in my time and I only recall one guy looking “pale and pasty” and I’d say that’s his European (possibly German) ancestry not his diet.

    2. Vallis: This is part 2 of my reply to you.

      You also wrote: “If there were people eating healthy , would they not stand out as being clearly superior physically to others and be a vivid display of the benefit of not eating animal and processed food?”

      I think those are valid points/questions. And the answer is : Yes. And Yes They Do! If you watch more videos on this website, you will see that people eating a primarily whole plant food diet that is supplemented with a vitamin B12 (and maybe vitamin D), *absolutely* do have superior health compared to the rest of humanity. Such people are far less likely to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc, etc, etc. The areas of health abound. There are no guarantees in life, but if you wanted to maximize your potential for a long healthy life, you would be doing yourself a favor by eating a whole plant foods diet. This isn’t my opinion. This is what the science says.

      Don’t take my word for it. Watch more videos on this website. You might also consider watching the Forks Over Knives documentary that I mentioned in my previous post.

      1. They have to take supplements to be superior heathly on a whole plant food diet? I will stick to my occasional meat,eggs, dairy and skip the vitamins, and still remain of superior health to others, including your vegans. Also, don’t you think they are purposely picking the supplementing vegans, who are crazy active, fit and are at the peak of health for the videos/documentary? If you took a random sample of vegans from around the country, they would definitely not look like the people in the video. Last, I don’t see how being vegan is more healthy as I am the picture of a ridiculously healthy 31 yr old female and my doc brags about my bloodwork results every year and I am no vegan.

        1. Vegans do not require any supplements, any more than non vegans…animals don’t make b12 even, they get it from the fermentation of certain bacteria, and we can too…from just food…other than that, the latest science is clear on how a plants-only diet is healthier across the board, for everyone…

          1. Vegans should take B12. Vegan food does not contain B12 (unless it is fortified). B12 deficiency can cause irreversible damage and is not something to risk based on mistaken reasoning. has useful information on the topic based on science.

        2. Have you used your own logic on meat eating populations? Look at your average meat eater and they are obese now.
          If you eat occasional meat/diary/eggs you will become B12 defiicient, you need to eat it 2x a day, which isn’t occassional. B12 Deficiency is very common in general population.

        3. The reason meat contains b12 is because those poor animals have to be supplemented to remain alive. We’re animals, just like them and we don’t make it either. b12 can be obtained from a healthy soil, in other words live outside in nature and walk on bare feet and eat the stuff that grows there.

          I rather take a supplement than give an animal a supplement and use it as an excuse to eat the animal.

    3. Vallis: This is part 3 of my reply to you.

      You wrote: “This is very radical talk…”

      I can see why you would think that. It is certainly different from the Standard American Diet (SAD – how very sad). And I know that there are a lot of people who are still not educated about nutrition. But that doesn’t mean that this diet is “radical”.

      Yahoo just came out with an article that talks about vegan diets being mainstreamed. In addition, people highly educated in nutrition science have been advocating (and living) this diet for many years.

      A co-worker of mine (who is a social worker now) mentioned that he learned about a lot of this stuff when he went to school 30 years ago. As Dr. Gregor says in the introduction one of his DVD’s, the big picture, the scientific recommendations/body of information on good nutrition has largely been unchanged for decades.

      Yes, there is a LOT of conflicting information out there on nutrition. This makes it very confusing for mere mortals like you and me to know what to do. In the end, all you can do is research to the best of your ability, and then do what you think is right. That is the journey I have taken over the last couple of years, and I am so very glad I took the time to educate myself.

      Good for you for trying to educate yourself. I wish you all the luck.

    4. A diet has to be healthy. I could eat deep fried soy-cheese on white bread sandwiches all day. It would high in calories and very low in nutrients. But if you want to see real examples of what people could look like on a strict vegan diet, check out some of the Firehouse Diet and Engine 2 Diet books. When you see photos of those robust, muscular firemen who are eating a nutrient-dense vegan diet, you’ll get the picture.

      I went vegan decades ago after reading a Pritikin diet book. I was ready because at meals I would wonder if the animal on the plate had cancer or was full or hormones. Sometimes it even made me gag. At first, I still ate a lot of junk food, but I eventually learned. Those changes were the best things I have ever done for myself and might have saved my life.
      Wish you the best of health.


      1. Eating white bread all day would be a strict vegan diet. Which is why just going strict vegan doesn’t make a person any healthier. What you really mean is the right specific type of vegan diet can be healthy.

    5. At one point, those who worked to abolish human slavery were thought radical, and it is the same today with those of us who work to abolish animal slavery…such is the way of history…

    6. Don’t listen to that Non-sense, it is based off Essylstein and Ornish diets, while they have good points, all plant based is not healthy, especially for your heart!!! They are half right and brilliant, and half idiot and there studies were all flawed. You would hope they would have used absolute data, but like big pharmacy and journals they only reported ‘relative date’ which is worth NOTHING! Limit all your carbs, mediterranion type diet best, 60-65% quality fats, 20-25% Proteins, and 10-15 percent carbs, mostly all coming from vegetables and fruits.

  3. I think it would be helpful if this website provided some information on the different types of saturated fats and their differing effects on heart disease.

    Even on a well designed plant based diet, it seems virtually impossible to completely eliminate saturated fat intake since beneficial plant foods like nuts and seeds also contain some saturated fat.

    According to a recent book ‘Becoming raw’ (2010) by two experts on vegan nutrition, namely, Davis and Melina, saturated fatty acids differ depending on the length of their carbon chain and include lauric acid, myristic acid, palmitic acid and stearic acid. These saturated fatty acids are present to different extents in different foods and contribute differently to blood cholesterol profile and ultimately to heart disease. After reading this book, I was left with the impression that the effect of different types of saturated fats on heart health is complex and unresolved.

    Please comment.

    1. The jury is still out on the issue of saturated plant fats. Everyone agrees that artificially created saturated fats, such as the partially hydrogenated oils (aka trans fats) are very deadly. However, you are absolutely correct about nuts and seeds, which are are very nutritious. There are many examples of saturated fats that come from plant foods which either have a neutral effect on heart health or a beneficial effect, overall. In my opinion, the fats to avoid are the trans fats, and too much of the oils that contain high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids like corn, safflower and sunflower oil. Otherwise, I do not advise my patients to avoid any other types of fats (besides saturated animal fats of course). I only tell them to keep in mind that fats are more calorie dense, particularly if weight control is a concern.

  4. I’m also confused by this seemingly contradictory advice. You’re recommending 0% saturated fat, and yet olive oil is 17% saturated fat; sesame oil is 10% saturated fat; canola oil is 3% saturated fat.
    Let’s say someone recommends a diet of no more than 5% saturated fat. Is the saturated fat in plant oils (such as the ones listed above) counted in that 5%?
    Thanks for all your great work!

    1. As Dr. Esselstyn would say emphatically: NO OIL. Besides which, oils tend to be high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, of which I’ve heard may claims that PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) tend to be quite harmful in their own right. So, why would you want to use refined oils if they’ve got so much bad crap in them and they’re non-nutritive, they’re basically just empty calories…

  5. Hi Louisa, The question directly above yours was very similar; see my answer/comment. The types of saturated fats to avoid are animal fats and trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils, and in many cases the label will list “hydrogenated” without specifying if that oil/fat is partially or fully hydrogenated. Yet in most cases those are also partially hydrogenated though the manufacturer did not disclose that).

  6. Vegan diet + egg whites (no yolks) …. Bad idea? I’m not seeing why it would be??? for ethical reasons yes. But health reasons???

    1. 1. Egg whites are high in the amino Acid Methionine. Rice has 14 times less of this amino acid and beans 7 time less. When one consumes Methionine in a large quantity (like that found in egg whites), it is broken down into sulfuric compounds. these sulfuric compounds are buffered by the calcium of the bones. the result, over time, is osteoporosis and kidney stones.

      2. Methionine is metabolized into homocysteine. This substance is a risk factor associated with heart attacks, strokes, peripheral vascular disease, venous thrombosis, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression. (this study was done with mice, not humans.)

      3. Cancer cell metabolism is dependent upon methionine being present in the diet; whereas normal cells can grow on a methionine-free diet feeding off other sulfur-containing amino acids.

      4. Good ol’ Insulin like growth factor is raised significantly by Methionine. raised levels of IGF-1 = accelerated aging/tumor promotion.

      5. Sulfur from Methionine is known to be toxic to the tissues of the intestine, and to have harmful effects on the human colon, even at low levels, possibly causing ulcerative colitis. (this study done with rats)

      6. Restriction of methionine in the diet has been shown to prolong the life of experimental animals.

      also, egg whites are pure protein without any other nutrients, like antioxidants, fiber or carbs. Just as white flour is viewed as empty calories, so should egg whites.

  7. Dr. Greger, Assuming one eats a strictly plant based diet, is there an optimal amount of total dietary fat for preventing cancer or slowing the progression of cancer? Thank you Dr. Greger. You are providing a very helpful service!

  8. What about oils? I am trying to lower my cholesterol with diet. I am not eating any meat, dairy, fish, eggs, etc., but I do have a slight amount of oil. Olive oil, coconut oil and just a tad of canola oil in a salad dressing. Is this acceptable or should I get rid of oil 100%? Thank you!

    1. All oils have saturated fat which is metabolized to cholesterol by your body as Dr. Greger points out. So minimizing them helps. Fiber see… and phytosterols see…… available in plants also help lower cholesterol. John McDougall’s June 2003 Newsletter(check out his website, has an article entitiled, Cleaniing Out Your Arteries which I think you will find interesting. In his experience and mine fruits and juices can also elevate triglycerides and cholesterol due to the metabolism of fructose by the liver. So some patients need to moderate their intake of those as Dr. McDougall points out. Natural sources of fats such as nuts,seeds,avocados can be substituted for processed oils in salads to help boost the absorption of phytonutrients… see and

      1. A superb salad dressing is 1/2 of a small ripe avocado mashed up with any acid, lemon juice is great or balsamic vinegar! Many times I’ll just use the juice or balmamic vinegar but the avocado gives it a great “oily” mouthfeel!

        1. I’m just a little obsessed this summer with fruit-over-spinach salads. I always finish them off with a freshly-cut orange, and the juice that runs off is absolutely the best dressing. Now, I wouldn’t try that with romaine, but on baby spinach…yum!

  9. I have just ‘liked’ your facebook page. Thank you for all your information! I am aware that you are pro-vegan, however I am unsure as to what these studies of naturally occurring trans fats in animal products are based on. Can I assume that the meat and dairy products used in the studies came from factory farmed, crowded and stressed animals, fed an unnatural grain diet (and who knows what was added to these grains beforehand), and infused with hormones and antibiotics? These are sick animals. Of course their products are going to be a lot less than perfect. Animals that graze on grasses tend to be a source of omega 3 fatty acids, very much lacking in our diets, since the grasses contain omega 3. (I guess we can obtain that from the plant sources)Where do these animal based trans fats come from? And then wouldn’t we, as humans, have naturally occurring trans fats in our bodies, too? Just trying to understand this claim. Thanks!

  10. Question: It’s easy enough to avoid the trans fats. But I come across
    saturated fat listed in foods like raw organic almonds and other
    nuts, as well as a package of tempeh. Foods like those, for example,
    show 1-2 grams of saturated fat per serving. Should we then avoid those
    otherwise healthy foods because of the saturated fat? I’m confused now.

    1. There’s an interesting thread over here, called “When Vegan Isn’t Enough”:

      In it, Jeff Novick talks about the notion that “Well, I eat ‘vegan’ so it must be ‘healthy,’ right?” or “I ate junk food, but at least it was ‘vegan’ junk food.” Junk food is junk food, whether it’s “vegan” junk food or S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) junk food.

      It is entirely possibly to eat “vegan” or “vegetarian” and still eat CRAP foods. Technically, plant oils are “vegan” as they come from plant sources. However, just because they come from plant sources does not, per se, on its own, make them “healthy.”

      There’s a fine line between “vegan” / “vegetarian” and “healthful” eating. They are not necessarily always synonymous.

      Many of the packaged “vegan” foods are frankly still appallingly bad for you, because they still use CRAP ingredients like tons of processed oils, trans fats, etc. Or they still have high saturated fat content, etc. Or they’re using tons of highly refined, nutritionally deficient ingredients, or they’re packed with sugar (albeit from “planty” sources, as though it matter where the ton of sugar comes from)…

      Don’t know if it helps or confounds the issue. Just an extra bit of stuff to think about.

      1. That said, I suppose it depends on your stance on particular ingredients and qualities of their nutritive [or not] value. If your doctor is telling you to avoid foods high in saturated fats, and/or to keep certain fats to under some % of total calories consumed, then you should definitely take note of the ingredients and fat content and fat-as-percentage-of-calories in foods.

        Can’t recall whether it was Greger or Novick who talked about calorie density and fat as percentage of calories. Likewise, the notion that food manufacturers pull a little trick on us and don’t list fats and such as a percentage of calories (how the advice is given by nutritionists and researchers), but as a percentage of weight, whicih isn’t necessarily the same measurement and can be misleading.

        I think it may have been Novick. Anyway, his suggestion was that if you’re going to fudge on fats and eat some amount larger than suggested (as a percentage of calories), dilute those calories by eating foods that are considerably less calorie-dense and more nutritive like vegetables to balance it out, in toto.

  11. I have an ask the Dr. Question for you:

    My father seems to eat a lot of cheese – and I mean a lot: about 2.5 pounds per week. He kind of just eats on autopilot without thinking about it. He is probably about 40 pounds overweight. Everything else he eats is pretty healthy, mostly vegetables and brown rice. How concerned should I be about his health, and should I be taking measures to get him to quit the cheese before something bad occurs? I actually took him to see you talk once a few years ago, but it seems like he needs a refresher. Thanks for your advice.

  12. Many thanks for your work on health. I read it every morning.

    I’ve been trying to find a book that explains in some detail the outcomes of heart research, such as the Framingham study or the China Study by T. Colin Campbell. Since I’m not a physician I don’t want something highly technical. Instead, I’d like something written for lay people. (I’ve read “Change of Heart” by Levy and Brink, as well as “The China Study” by Campbell. They’re very interesting but I’d like more detail on the science.)

    I’ve tried reading some of the journal articles. They are too technical and seldom pull thing together into the big picture.

    Any suggestions as to how I can better inform myself on this subject?

    John Porter

  13. I guess I have a question about nuts, seeds and the non-sweetened dark chocolate or cocoa bean (nibs) …. I thought these things were actually good for your heart and cholesterol…. clarification please….. I have high cholesterol in the family naturally and do not want to get this one wrong… I am vegan/plant based whole /raw foods so I don’t do the “bad stuff”…

  14. I would like to hear your stance regarding “The big fat debate: taking the focus of saturated fat”. I couldn’t find a video addressing the issue.

  15. What about the saturated fat found in foods such as tofu, almonds, chocolate, walnuts etc.? Is the saturated fat in whole foods clogging my arteries just like saturated fat from animal products and junk food?

    1. Probably? There’s still some debate. You might try reading Esselstyn’s “Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease.” He advocates limiting fat intake (from all sources) to under 15% of calories (as opposed to % of weight, which isn’t the same measure).

      “To a degree,” fat is fat is fat, whether consumed from “plant” sources or from “animal” sources. Vegan junk food is still junk food, despite coming only from plant sources… “Junk” take precedence over “vegan,” unfortunately.

      Think of it this way, not all things that come from plants are, per se, healthy… Take for example alkaloids produced by certain plant families, yes, they come from plants/nature, but that doesn’t mean they won’t kill you in high enough quantities (for instance when accidentally eating sufficient quantities of deadly nightshade, etc.).

      Now, that said, there is still some debate on whether *all* fatty acids are bad or whether there are some forms that are beneficial (and in what quantity; any quantity? or only up to a certain dosage) and some forms that will kill you over time when consumed in excess (through heart disease, fatty liver, etc.)…

      1. Look into McDougall, Ornish and Pritikin (not a doctor). All have been reversing heart disease through lifestyle modification. Esselstyn isn’t the only one.

  16. there’s that assumption that total cholesterol profile or LDL level predicts heart disease. . only SMALL density LDL predicts heart disease, as well as testing your level of inflammation. actually, testing inflammation predicts a ton of chronic diseases. not that transfat aren’t bad, they are. saturated fats though? animal saturated fats have been linked with inflammation, but things like coconut oil – no evidence so far.

  17. Hi Doc, I’m confused by this meta-analysis. The conclusion: : A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD. What do you think?

    1. I think the primary message is that we should limit saturated fat as much as possible. Every food we eat contains saturated fat, but we can choose low sources, such as with whole grains, starchy vegetables, fruits etc.

  18. Hi Dr. Greger,
    I just had a conversation with a nutritionist at a local health food store. He said that our bodies needs some cholesterol even thought our bodies makes up to 75% of what we need. The other 25% is needed and cannot be found in plant foods. This info is coming from the “Grain Brain” book by Dr. Perlmuter. Do we need to consume some additional cholesterol?


    1. Rhonda: The nutritionist got one thing right: You can’t get cholesterol from plant foods. But that’s a good thing. As I understand it, our body makes *all* of the cholesterol it needs.

      I’m not an expert, but I have some thoughts for you on this topic.

      There’s a good amount of evidence on this site showing how helpful whole, intact grains are to have in our diet.
      This list is not filtered well, but it will get you started:

      Also, a great book for understanding brain health is “Power Foods For the Brain – an effective 3 step plan to protect your mind and strengthen your memory” By Dr. Neal Barnard. Dr. Barnard did a ton of good scientific research for that book and he encourages people to eat about a quarter of their food from whole grains.

      The Grain Brain author appears to be yet another person confused about what our ancestors ate and either unable to understand or deliberately misleading people on the science. While I don’t know the validity of the following articles, they make general sense to me given what I have learned from many known valid sources:

      Finally, I refer you to a series of videos on this site (see first three on the following list) which talks about how good (not) the advice is that we can from health food stores. ;-)

      Hope that helps.

      1. Thank you Thea for sharing these links and articles. Much appreciated to find sources that help refute the direction that a health food store has been recommending.

    2. One could place their trust in a nutritionist who works in a health food store who has read a book which offers a single simple solution written by subject matter experts writing outside of their field of expertise. There have been occasions when science has progressed due to the efforts and observations of outsiders, but the vast majority of today’s registered dietician and those involved dietary research recommend “whole” grains as part of a healthy diet. It’s your choice regarding who you find more credible. Whole grains are an excellent source of selenium, soluble and insoluble fiber. It is difficult to meet one’s selenium intake needs while eating a maintenance diet without whole grains. Glucose is the human brain’s preferred fuel although it cam survive on keytones in times of starvation. Whole grains are an excellent source of low glycemic index carbohydrates. Whole grains are not some new fad food that has just recently made an appearance. People have been happily eating them for millennium.

      1. Thank you for your input on this subject Joe. I do understand the nutritionists point that wheat, corn, soy and rice have been super mass produced over the past 40 – 50 years and with the GMO to complicate matters, grains that were not subjected to the mass production, chemicals, and GMO would certainly be a different product. But so are the rest of our foods in the system.

  19. Hey, my dad has bad cholesterol and is eating medicin for this. He has had a stroke and he loves meat, dairy and eggs. He is willing to make som changes but i have to show him som good facts that really shows that his cholesterol will be lowes and he can be off his medicins (after taking blood tests that shows the progress) if he changes his diet and he will not get any heart attacks and (more) strokes. He is also eating medicin because of his bad metabolism. Can you please link me some sites that states this fact that says what he should do. Can he stop with egg and stop eating read med (maximum once a week/month) or tips like this. I’m a vegan and i would love him to be that to. But I have to start som where with him, he is soon of gluten i think ;). Thank you in advance! :)

    (I also asked this on one of your youtube videos, so you don’t have to answer it on both sites)

    1. Mathilda: My recommendation is to show your dad the video Forks Over Knives. It is a powerful video that has changed a lot of people’s lives. Also, there is a nice segment in there with a firefighter that I think is helpful for men to see. It will help him see this diet change as a manly thing to do as well as save his life.

      Another suggestion is to get him the book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, MD. That book is full of plenty of facts, has some very helpful pictures in the middle, and is very easy to read. And since the back half of the book is recipes, it is not that much reading to do.

      Good luck to you and your dad!

      1. Do you know anything about fish?
        When i have watch a few of Michels videos its says clear that eggs, chicken, pork, cheese and so on is bad! But what about fish and diary? Do you know, do they talk about that in forks over knifes? :)

        1. Mathilda: Ah yes, fish and dairy (cheese is just concentrated dairy). Forks Over Knives addresses all animal foods. Fish and diary are no exceptions. Fish is just another type of meat. So what you learn from the movie Forks Over Knives will apply to all animal products.

          But I also wanted to mention that Dr. Greger does address fish and dairy quiet a bit on this site. Here are some links to get you started if you are interested:

          Like land animal meat and eggs, fish and dairy have cholesterol and saturated fat. And they both have animal protein, the type of protein that helps cancer to grow. And then there are the hormones in dairy that are best to stay away from. And the toxins/contaminants in fish are nothing that anyone should be eating. Etc.

          Hope that helps.

          1. This helped a lot!

            While I have you here… Maybe you also can help me about my dads metabolism problem. He eats medicin for that to… His blood values are more than dubble that it should be. Is there any facts that a planted based diet will help this to?

            Thank you, you are helping me a lot!!!!

            1. Mathilda: I’m not a doctor and do not know what medical condition you are referring to. All I can say is that a whole food plant based diet helps a whole lot of people with a whole lot of problems. But it is not a magic pill. There is no guarantee that a plant based diet will fix any particular problem, especially if someone has been eating poorly their entire lives.

              That said, as a lay person, I don’t think going to a properly planned plant based diet could hurt. If it fixed all his other problems except for this one, that would still be good and worth doing I would think…

              Just my thoughts on the matter.

  20. I had an angiogram 2 years ago that revealed a 50% blockage in one artery, very close to the heart. I was prescribed lipitor, which I refused to take. I don’t eat dairy, and have reduced meat intake to about once every 2 weeks or less, and only a few bites at that. I was vegetarian when I was a teen, and very rarely eat things like tortilla chips. Yet my cholesterrol level (the bad one) is going up and the good one going down. I eat almost exclusively organic fruits/veg/whole non-gluten grains, and cold pressed olive oil. Could you suggest what else I might do to reduce cholesterol? Thank you.

  21. I also eat quinoa as a staple, brown rice products several times a week, and walnuts almost daily. Fresh wild salmon 1-2 times per month. Avocados…and some dark chocolate several times per week. I wonder if high glucemic foods like rice cakes could contribute, or white rice, which I only eat if I eat out. I have had a lot of stress in the past few years, wonder if this would increase plaque.

  22. I can’t recollect where I read that different types of saturated fat have differing effects upon serum cholesterol; I think some of the longer ones like palmitic acid and lauric acid raise cholesterol, while others like stearic acid don’t raise cholesterol? I abandoned my use of coconut oil (and butter and eggs) over a year ago because at one point in time my cholesterol was over 300. More recently, I have been using a teaspoon or two of MCT oil (caprylic and caproic acid) to mix with turmeric and pepper to make a tasty coating for lentil and quinoa curry. Are these fatty acids going to affect my serum cholesterol?

    1. Studies on coconut oil actually show an increase in cholesterol with increasing intake.Many of these studies are the same ones used to purport that coconut oil is “heart protective” because HDL increases with LDL in those studies. LDL matters far more for heart disease risk as a major review has found, so the increase in LDL should not be seen as negligible.

  23. This is a little of topic but why is it that dairy and meat are still heavily apart of recommended food pyramids? I have my suspicions as to why, but how still are they being able to run this up the flag pole? A lot of people simply think a plant based diet is not great for you simply because of the recommendations to not.

  24. Hi, I really like your web site and appreciate all the work you put into this, it is a wonderful tool! I do have a question as well, I was wondering what your take on the abundance of research coming out that coincides with results from studies such as this one from long time Vegan Christopher Gardner, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center.

    1. This is a late response to your post (I am nothing to with but if memory serves me right, this was a study of overweight/obese, pre-menopausal women who were counselled to follow one of 4 popular diet books. The group counselled to follow the Atkins Diet had the best results with a mean weight loss of 4.7 kg (just over 10 pounds). . However, the groups were free-living and didn’t follow the diets exactly. The Ornish Diet, for example, is less than 10% fat, but at no time did the “Ornish Diet” group consume less than 21% fat. Indeed, at the 12 month point the so-called Ornish Group were consuming on average 30% of their total calories as fat.

      In the video you linked, Gardner notes that the one woman who followed the Ornish diet exactly lost 50 pounds. In addition, it is important to remember that all these women were very overweight or obese. it is accepted that standard mainstream “diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol are less effective in the obese and the most effective way for obese people to normalize their blood lipids is to lose weight”. (The Ornish diet would be considered I think a very low fat diet by mainstream standards.)

      So, all in all, the Gardner study showed that the Atkins Diet is easier to follow and can deliver effective short term weight loss in very overweight/obese people. I don’t have a problem with that. Note also Gardner’s qualifier in his concluding remarks in the study publication “While questions remain about long-term effects and mechanisms, a low-carbohydrate, high-protein, high-fat diet may be considered a feasible alternative recommendation for weight loss”.
      However, for people who are willing to follow a diet strictly, even those who do have damaged metabolic/lipid systems, it is an inferior solution:
      “Calorie for calorie, reducing dietary fat results in more body fat loss than reducing dietary carbohydrate when men and women with obesity have their food intake strictly controlled,” said lead study author Kevin D. Hall, PhD, of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, in a press release. “Ours is the first study to investigate whether the same degree of calorie reduction, either through restricting only fat or restricting only carbohydrate, leads to differing amounts of body fat loss in men and women with obesity.”

  25. “The U.S. government is poised to withdraw longstanding warnings about cholesterol”

    “The nation’s top nutrition advisory panel has decided to drop its caution about eating cholesterol-laden food, a move that could undo almost 40 years of government warnings about its consumption”

    Anxious to see the good Doc’s reaction.
    Also, who exactly is “The nation’s top nutrition advisory panel”?

  26. Are egg beaters or egg whites totally cholesterol free and a healthy source of protein to supplement dietary needs although they are high in arachadonic acid which causes inflammation in the endothelial lining of blood vessels ?
    Are plant based protein shakes such as plant fusion a reasonably healthy protein supplement ?

    1. Dr. M.: Your concern for protein is understandable given the media attention to it. However, protein supplements are just not needed for the average healthy person eating a whole plant food based diet. Here is the best info on protein that I have seen. It gives you the detail you need to really get the topic:
      So, you really don’t need even a plant based protein supplement. And generally when we start talking about processed foods, even plant based ones, we often wander into unhealthy territory. I can’t say anything in particular about plant based protein supplements. But history tells us that sticking to minimally processed foods is generally a good guideline to follow unless we have a special condition or good evidence otherwise.

      As for egg whites, they may be cholesterol free, but they come rife with a host of other problems. See list below for my standard response to the egg white question.

      Good luck. I hope this helps.
      Stay away from anything containing any real egg, including egg beaters. There are two problems with eggs, the yolk and the white. (To paraphrase Dr. Barnard.)

      According to Wikipedia, here’s what’s in egg beaters:
      “”Egg Beaters is primarily egg whites with added flavorings, vitamins, and thickeners xanthan gum and guar gum. It contains no egg yolks.”

      Since egg beaters do not have egg yolks, the cholesterol issue is not in play. But egg whites are just as bad for you. Dr. Barnard talks about the problems that animal protein presents for kidney health. Other experts talk about the (strong in my opinion) link between animal protein and cancer. The question scientists then want to answer is: Is there a causal link? If so, what is the mechanism by which animal protein might cause cancer?

      If memory serves, Dr Campbell in The China Study mentions several ways in which we think that animal protein causes and promotes cancer. Here on NutritionFacts, you can get a great education on how animal protein is linked to the body’s over-production of a growth hormone called IGF-1. IGF-1 helps cancer to grow. To watch the series about IGF-1, click on the link below and then keep clicking the “next video” link on the button to the right until you get through the bodybuilding video. Then you will have seen the entire series.

      And Darryl recently reminded me about the methionine issue. Egg whites have *the* highest concentration of methionine of any food:,18,9,0,13,14,5,4,42,16,17,15,6,3,2,11,7,19,21,12,10,8,22
      Dr. Greger did a nice video showing the link between methionine and cancer. So, there are two clear pathways linking animal proteins, especially egg whites, to cancer.

      Darryl also pointed out that, “…high methionine diets increase coronary risk in humans. In its associations with cardiovascular disease and other disorders, homocysteine may be functioning partly as a marker for the major culprit, excess methionine.”

      And while I can’t find it right now, I believe that Toxins has pointed out two other health issues with egg whites.

      Dr. Greger recently posted some videos on how animal protein can raise insulin levels. The first of the following videos even specifically addresses egg whites.

      With all of the information we have about the harmful effects of animal protein in general and egg white in particular, I think it’s best to stay away from egg white. Why not get your protein from safe sources? Sources which are known to have lots of positive health effects and will naturally give you a balanced amount of protein? (ie: whole plant foods) Make sense?

  27. How long might it take for the arteries of a 66 year old man to clean out when those arteries suffered under a Western Diet for 63 years but for the past 2 years have religiously been treated to a diet as recommended by your website as well as the website of Dr. McDoughall? I also exercise heavily and consistently.

    1. If you are really following a nutritious varied whole plant-based diet getting some fat from nuts, seeds and avocados but avoiding refined oils and animal products you should have a significant cleaning of your arteries within four years. However, the changes start immediately and several weeks reduces your risk of a heart attack significantly.

      You can see pictures of the arteries impacted within four weeks in books by Drs Esselstyn and Ornish.

    1. The UL is not zero. It is “As low as possible while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet” which can vary widely. While it is important to focus on saturated fat and keep levels low, nuts and seeds are so powerful and health promoting we still recommend their use. Note, a little (1 handful) go a long way. ​If interested in more information here is a great video by Dr. Greger that explains the research between nut intake and body weight. Make sure to checkout the bottom of the video’s “Doctors Note” to see more links and info. Lastly, a follow-up to that video is solving the mystery of the missing calories, which may also help.​ Thanks for your comment.

      1. Hm, shouldn’t the title of the video get changed? It says, “Trans Fat, Saturated Fat, and Cholesterol: Tolerable Upper Intake of Zero.” It sounds like the UL is 0 for trans fat and cholesterol, but not for saturated fat.

    2. Your comment indicates the answer, we can not! The longest living 7th Day Adventists were the vegans that consumed a fair amount of nuts and seeds weekly. I do not wish to be quoted on the quantity but I think it was 3.5 oz/week minimum.

  28. Hi, Dr. Greger,

    I just recently bought a food dehydrator and I’ve been sprouting brocolli seeds, dehydrating them and making a powder with my NutriBullet. I was wondering if you knew if any of the nutrients are spoiled after 4 hours in the dehydrator at 100 F. Would it be more beneficial to dehydrate for 3 hours at a slightly higher temperature.

    I noticed that you are coming to Ottawa, Ontario soon but unfortunately I will be away. You are the number one health guru. Thanks for helping me go vegan with a whole variety plant based diet.


  29. If saturated fats should have an intake of zero, what about flaked coconut? I watched your video about coconut flakes being harmless but I don’t understand how exactly. Can I have 1/2 tablespoon per day, everyday? I love to add that amount on top of oatmeal every breakfast. Thank you.

  30. Can topically applied coconut oil cause high cholesterol?

    My LDL is 193. I am not overweight, do not eat junk food, exercise daily, eat few animal products. I use approximately 1 tablespoon coconut oil every day as a moisturizer. (My HDL, triglycerides, and blood sugar are all good.)

    Is it possible the coconut oil is being absorbed through my skin and raising my cholesterol level? I googled this and could not find a definitive answer. There is apparently a study out there that concludes that rubbing sesame seed oil on babies makes them gain weight.


  31. Is Hemp seeds ok to consume?.. since they contain a Saturated fat and
    from what I understand saturated fats are bad for humans (causing high
    cholesterol thus strokes, etc)??

  32. Hi my name’s Ed and I have been following the vegan diet for 6mths now as suggested in the book how not to die. This includes all the recommended exercise. I am not a fat man my height is 6ft 1inch and my weight is 13 stone 7 pounds
    I had a colesterol test just before I went on the diet and I have just had another one. Before I went on the vegan diet my colesterol was 6.8 and now it is 6.4 but the ldl has increased significant enough for my doctor to put me on statins, he said I had a 32% risk of heart attack in the next 10 years. Any suggestions guys?


  33. Michael, ive just seen on nutritiondata website that 1 cup of flax seeds has almost the same amount of saturated fat as 1 cup of eggs. WHATGIVES???

    1. Hi Danny,

      I volunteer for Dr. Greger at I think what you brought up is an interesting point. You are correct that 1 cup of flax seeds have as much saturated fat or more, than 1 cup of eggs. However, 1 cup of flax contains nearly 900 calories, while 1 cup of chopped eggs would come in at about 211 calories. The first difference I would point out is that eating 1 cup of eggs would be very easily, but eating 900 calories of flax seeds would be quite a bit. Overall, there are many plant foods that have saturated fat, but with most of them, you would have to eat copious amounts in order to intake a high amount of saturated fat. Take spinach for example–spinach has a higher saturated fat:total fat ratio than flax seeds by three-fold! But of course you’d have to eat a boatload (maybe even literally!) of spinach to take in a lot of saturated fat.

      Also important to consider are the tremendous health benefits that a wide variety of research studies have shown for intake of flax seeds, while the health risks associated with egg consumption has been shown through the nutrition literature as well. I encourage you to search “flaxseed” or “eggs” in the search bar or locate it in the topics on the site if you aren’t already familiar with the pros of flaxseeds and the potential risks of consuming eggs.

    2. Danny,

      To expand on Cody’s answer, you might want to dig deeper and look at the type of oils, protein and fiber present when comparing an egg vs the flax seeds.

      All of these components should play into your choice, not based on cholesterol or fat content. Flax seed contains various amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, a precursor to the typically low amounts of omega 3 oils, DHA and EPA found in most of us. You will also find they contain some other helpful ingredients, phytoestrogens, which in specific populations have a positive effect on cortisol, one of our stress hormones, ( And we haven’t even touched on the fiber content, also a positive contribution to our intake.

      To amplify Cody’s statement, keep in mind that the amount one could consume is limited by the nature of the flax. Remember to keep your flax seed refrigerated and grind when you’re ready to use not before. Purchase your seeds as fresh as possible and enjoy them in loads of applications.

      Dr. Alan Kadish NF Moderator

  34. Dr. Gregor,
    First of all, you da man. I know I write on behalf of many when I write that I so very much appreciate and value your service here. What I love most about you is that you practice the first-principle logic that is typically seen in physicists more than physicians. You never tire of thinking things through thoroughly as you you develop your best recommendations. Thanks.
    My Question: We have read that if we biopsy fat from a human and look at it under an electron microscope, the source of this lips-to-hips/the-fat-you-eat-is-the-fat-you-wear fat, be it olive oil vs swine fat vs chicken fat etc. can be identified. I don’t doubt it. I would like to find the reference on that. Can you please help me with that? Thanks in advance.

  35. I got an email today from a scientist who studies nutritional topics, and in it she linked to the summary of a recent study that looked at various measures of heart health for two groups, both of which ate mostly whole foods with very little empty carbs. One group ate low fat, the other ate lots of fat about half of which was saturated. The fat came from cold pressed oils and from things like butter. The study conclusion was that saturated fat intake is not cardio-harmful, and in fact might be cardio-protective, if eaten in the context of a very healthy whole foods diet. Here is the link to the summary of the study:

    This study seems to agree with the recent (last couple of years) position of Dr. Mark Hyman concerning fat in general and saturated fat in particular. In his fat summits, he pretty persuasively argues that lots of recent, well conducted studies show that fat and saturated fat consumption are healthful, and swears that his cardio-related numbers are excellent and he is eating lots of fat including lots of coconut oil. He cites tons of studies to support his case, just as Dr. Greger does. I do not receive this information from Dr. Hyman well. I am very skeptical that fat and especially saturated fat can be good for us. But then I run across studies like the one mentioned in paragraph one that seem to support Dr. Hyman’s case.

    Two questions here. One, are there obvious flaws in the study cited in paragraph one? And two, is there any chance Dr. Greger could counter the things Dr. Hyman says in a systematic way? What I mean is, the studies Hyman cites are not the same ones Greger cites on the topic of saturated fat. What about those Hyman-cited studies? Are they deeply flawed? Why does Dr. Greger not take them into account in his reasoning on fat? The reason I wish Dr, Greger would counter Dr. Hyman systematically, study by study, is that it begins to seem like in the political realm where each side has its own information sources and claims the other side is getting sucked in by “fake news”. In science, aren’t things actually clearer than that?

    1. Tim Miller: I forwarded your post onto our medical moderators in the hopes that someone will dig into that study for you. (Or maybe Tom Goff, Darryl, Gatherer or someone else will take a stab at it for us.)
      In the meantime, I have some information (as a lay person like yourself) about Hyman that may help put things into perspective. When all is said and done, Hyman is citing studies, but he is misleading people in various ways when he does it. VegCoach found the following 4 minute video about one of Mark Hyman’s claims that demonstrates my point.
      Also, the following post from Tom Goff looks into some of the other of Hyman’s claims.
      I agree that it *is* terribly confusing for most people. I think all we can do is keep educating people as best we can on what the science really says.

    2. Hi Tim. I’ve not seen any type of “point/ counterpoint” style posts by Dr. Greger and agree it would be nice to see the confusion addressed point by point as Dr. Hyman and some others have come out in a very Weston Price style support for saturated fats which flies in the face of all we’ve read about the dangers of animal fats. The one place I’ve seen several articles where these points have been taken on point by point is on Dr. John McDougall’s website, most specifically by nutritionist extraordinaire, Jeff Novick. Please spend some time going through his many postings on his forum at the McDougall site. I’ve linked to his “Hot Topics” page and from there you can find some more recent posts and discussions regarding some of the controversial issues. Hope this helps with some of your questions.

      1. I hope Dr Greger and others that follow science and nutritional studies are not going to waste their time debating with the likes of Hyman.

        If a person wishes to follow fad diets like Paleo, Weight-Watchers or 5-2 for whatever reason, including losing weight quickly, that is their choice but there is far too much misinformation on the Internet, including blogs, to respond.

        I figure that science is 100 to 500 years away from having all or 99% of the food thing down. As has been repeated many times, there is no money in doing all the research that is needed. The USDA for many decades has been more interested in supporting the Agriculture Industry than the long term health of consumers despite the possible significant savings in health care cost.

    3. Hello Tim!

      First time post for myself… I’m certainly no expert, but I’ve been reading lots of WFPB diet science and books for the past while and I feel like I can comment on your question at least somewhat intelligently :P
      So the first thing I would say is don’t read the Science Daily article, that’s someone’s commentary on top of a Study. Go to the study itself and see what they say. In this case, the link on the Science Daily article didn’t work for me, but I found the study by just googling the study title.

      In truth, I didn’t read the whole study, just the abstract, which is not good practice, but even from this you can see enough to see both the slant of the authors and the slant of Science Daily commenting on the Study. Here’s a first quote:

      “Forty-six men (aged 30–50 y) with body mass index (in kg/m2) >29 and waist circumference >98 cm were randomly assigned to a very high–fat, low-carbohydrate (VHFLC; 73% of energy fat and 10% of energy carbohydrate) or low-fat, high-carbohydrate (LFHC; 30% of energy fat and 53% of energy carbohydrate)”

      What kind of “low-fat, high-carbohydrate” is FAT 30% of daily calories???? 73% for the high fatters is indeed high, but you’d think they would at least compare something similar. IIRC, the % of fat calories in Blue Zone people studies (populations with highest number of people aged 100+) ranged from like 6-14%. So yeah 30% FAT, in my opinion, is hardly what I would call a low-fat high carb diet. I think people put the Standard American Diet at ~34% FAT? In that context, 30% is NOT low fat.

      “Mean energy intake decreased by 22% and 14% in the LFHC and VHFLC groups.”

      This is important because it shows that everyone ate less than they normally would, calorically speaking, so things are probably going to look better across the board. Which is clear here:

      “The groups showed similar reductions in insulin, insulin C-peptide, glycated hemoglobin, and homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance.”

      Finally, this is the most interesting thing to me:

      “ Both groups improved dyslipidemia, with reduced circulating triglycerides, but showed differential responses in total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (decreased in LFHC group only), and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (increased in VHFLC group only).”

      This shows that even despite 30% FAT, the LFHC people’s LDL numbers went down! Exactly what Dr. Greger shows. Notice how they say “decreased in LFHC group only”… which leave open the question, did it increase in the high fat group? I bet it did.

      Why? Because their HDL (good cholesterol) went up. The reason HDL is considered good is because, from my understanding at least, it helps clear out the bad cholesterol. When LDL goes up, HDL goes up to help deal with the higher LDL. Similarly, when you eat healthy and your LDL numbers go down, so does your HDL, because less of the good stuff is needed to combat the bad. Does that make sense?

      Finally, eating cleaner more whole foods diet is basically always an improvement over the SAD regardless. The question is always “compared to what?” Is this cleaner, 73% FAT diet better for health than whatever these people were eating before? Looks like it, though I’m sure their LDL went up…

      Is a true WFPB diet with FAT% more in the 6-15% range even more healthy than this? We “don’t know” *wink, wink* because that’s certainly not what this study compared. ;)

      1. Blimpii: Nice post! I particularly liked how you not only quoted the study, but also included interpretation of the language for lay people, and then added perspective. Well done.

      2. The longest living 7th Day Adventists were vegans that consumed nuts and seeds frequently through the week. So much for zero saturated fats!

  36. Dr Greger, My husband and I have been plant-based for 5 years. Yesterday we both had Heart scans to detect plaque deposits in our coronary arteries. I went first and my score was zero. Expected the same for my husband but his was 344! With plaque noted in all coronary arteries.He is asymptomatic(no chest pain, no SOB) Yikes. We are shocked, surprised and depressed. Why the variation? We eat the same diet, in fact he eats even healthier than me. We do have the occasional organic tortilla chips with our hummus. No meat in 5 years, no dairy in 5 years. no animals at all! I’m really confused. We are both 55 years young and feel younger. We both had previous heart scans about 7 years ago. I was a zero and he was an 8(minimal plaque noted). We do have a vegan beer daily. Could that cause elevated triglycerides? Please help us Dr Greger. We saw you speak shortly after going plant-based and we loved your advice. Help us please. Cindy & Dan

  37. I did not see a graph for saturated fat in the video but it seems to me the science is not behind the zero level of saturated fats.

    Nuts, seeds and avocado have saturated fats. If the safe level is zero how does a scientist explain that in several studies those consuming a fair amount of nuts and seeds were living longer?

    I believe it is not difficult to also find studies indicating that consuming avocado is a long term healthy activity.

    Your book, “How Not To Die”, Dr Greger, advocated frequent consumption of nuts and seeds…

  38. Hello! I was wondering if saturated fat in peanut butter is as bad as for example, saturated fat in animal products? Or is saturated fat in whole foods as bad as animal products saturated fat?

    I’m having a very big problem, I would like to add peanut butter to my diet but peanut butter contains quite a lot of saturated fats and I don’t know what to do.

    1. Hi Korsow: All-natural nut butters are perfectly fine to include in your diet. They’re actually part of Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen! He recommends either 1/4 cup of nuts/seeds or 2 tablespoons of all-natural nut/seed butter per day. Hope this helps!

  39. hello,
    congratulations for this awesome web and full of good information. just one concern, there is a myth about cholesterol that some part of the scientist community (im a molecular genetics scientist but i don’t work in nutrition, i work in DNA biology) and the industry created. in this documentary, it is perfectly exposed. im sorry the documentary is in french but you can get subtitles in you tube.
    and also this book in english
    i would like to know the opinion of Doctor Michael Greger about this. the link between cholesterol and cardiovascular disease is not clear (saturated fats yes, but cholesterol?) and even more dangerous, the use of statins and the poor link with lower cardiovascular disease

    1. there is also this book: The Great Cholesterol Myth
      I’ve read half of the the book, but the theory has been clearly established: basically the main argument of the nutritionist and the cardiologist authors of the book, is that neither dietary cholesterol nor saturated fats will “directly” influence heart disease. They recognize that dietary cholesterol increases LDL levels, but that is harmless unless is oxidized by the intake of sugar or refined carbs. So there’s some logically overlapping there with the findings of the plant-based community, but clearly the way saturated fats are approached are a big difference. The book also goes one level deeper into the components of LDL particles A-B and how saturated fat affects each one, again saying that mostly the “good” fluffy lipoprotein A are increased. There is also the ratio Triglycerides / HDL, which points to be a better marker for CVD. Several studies that I have not checked yet are linked throughout the book.

  40. Dr. G has several vids on this. The UNBIASED peer-reviewed literature demonstrating the unequivocal link between dietary cholesterol and significant increases in serum cholestrol which is a risk factor for CVD, is VERY clear. There is plenty of “research” that fails to show a link, but the studies are poorly designed or worse: designed to confound and confuse. If you take a strict WFPB vegan and feed them cholesterol, their serum cholesterol increases significantly, which is a known risk factor for CVD. If you take a non-vegan that is already ingesting cholesterol or saturated fat from other sources such that they already have significantly increased serum cholesterol levels and feed them more dietary cholesterol, the serum cholesterol level does not increase much if at all. This effect can be used to the advantage of those that want to confound and confuse us. A simple poorly designed study is to feed someone cholesterol that is already eating a Standard American Diet filled with items such as butter or meat. Their serum cholesterol will not increase much. The researcher can then wave their flag and cheer “SEE! Dietary cholesterol has no effect on serum cholesterol!” This conclusion is, of course, total hogwash.

    Dr. Ben

  41. Hi! I’m a Health Support Volunteer, I hope I can help you with your question!

    The supposed benefits ( or disadvantages ) of coconut milk and coconut oil has been largely discussed over the last few years. Here at you’ll find many other resources that can help you answer your question. This one here will certanly do:

    What About Coconuts, Coconut Milk, & Coconut Oil MCTs? (see min 2:23)

    Is Coconut Milk Good For You?

    According to some studies coconut milk may impair artery function and has been linked with an increase in vascular disease, stroke and heart attack

  42. Great thanks Joan – I’m just needing to know the best milk to use for my smoothies – I’ll watch the video you suggested. I think Dr G said Almond milk was the best. But I couldn’t remember where he said it.

  43. Yes, and even more when wheat is not whole wheat. Refined carbohydrates increase colesterol too.

    Yared, Health Supporter Volunteer

  44. I started out a year ago with a total cholesterol of 234, LDL of 126. I went very strictly plant based with no added oils and very little nuts and avocados. Had it checked in December and total was down to 200 and LDL 111, not as great as I’d hoped but at least better. In January I began reading some of the Fuhrman books and began making my own salad dressing and some other items that include a bit more nuts than usual. However, I was very careful not to use any sugars (dates are the extent of that and not many of those) and very few carbs. Really mostly tons of healthy greens, fruits, and veggies, and some nuts. Just had my bloodwork done and my total cholesterol is 226 and LDL higher than ever at 140!! I’m at a loss…I am 41 and very lean. I will try to add in cardio, not much at the moment. I am also on thyroid medication and wonder if the thyroid could be contributing? Also on hormonal birth control which I’ve been reading could contribute to high cholesterol and I would like to get off of for multiple reasons. Sure would appreciate any helpful info or suggestions…I’ve been using the equivalent of probably 3-4 tbsp nuts including 1 tbsp of flax. Could all of these nuts cause my cholesterol to go up so much??

    1. I was wondering if you found out the reason for your cholesterol numbers. I am 65 and male, thin, and exercise regularly. I have been Plant Based for the last year and my cholesterol numbers after being initially low have increased including triglycerides. What is truly troubling is that a recent carotid ultrasound showed a significant increase in plaque. My arteries were 74 years old a year ago and are now 84. At this rate I will be vascularly 150 years old soon (or not)!

  45. I’m sure this is very frustrating! There many be several things going on. As for the thyroid, if your thyroid is underactive (hypothyroidism) that can cause elevations in LDL. So if the med if thyroid hormone, it’s possible a higher dose may be needed. You need to see the doc who adjusts your thyroid medication. Some people take meds for overactive thyroid. If the dose of those is a bit too high, the LDL can go up. Also, given your cholesterol despite such a great dietary pattern, you may have a genetic tendency for high cholesterol. For a month, try eliminating the nuts, avocados, and all oil then rechecking your cholesterol. You may be someone who responds best to this. I know when you’ve done everything right and the endpoint is what you hoped for it can be exasperating! As for hormonal birth control, in general both estrogen and progesterone tend to lower LDL. Hormonal birth control can raise triglycerides, though. Best luck! -Dr Anderson, Health Support Volunteer

    1. Thank you so much for the helpful response! I am hypothyroid and on levothyroxine, TSH was 2.58 last time it was checked. I’ve been reading that gluten could contribute to thyroid problems, wondering if cutting it out for a bit to help the thyroid might also help my cholesterol? Any thoughts? Should I continue to add 1 tbsp flax to my meals each day or cut out all nuts/seeds in your opinion?

      I sure do appreciate your opinion/ expertise!!

    2. Thank you so much for the helpful response! I am hypothyroid and on levothyroxine, TSH was 2.58 last time it was checked. I’ve been reading that gluten could contribute to thyroid problems, wondering if cutting it out for a bit to help the thyroid might also help my cholesterol? Any thoughts?
      Should I continue to add 1 tbsp flax to my meals each day or cut out all nuts/seeds in your opinion?
      Also, I’ve been making my own almond milk to use in fruit/veggie smoothies. Should I eliminate nut milks as well?

      I sure do appreciate your opinion/ expertise!

  46. Hi, High Cholesterol Mommy. Some people with hypothyroid conditions do find that eliminating gluten helps, although this is not known to affect cholesterol levels. You do want to make sure you are getting enough iodine and selenium (but not too much, as that can be just as bad as too little), and you can learn more about that in these videos:
    Foods high in fiber, such as oats (look for gluten-free oats, which are not processed on shared equipment with gluten-containing grains) help the body to eliminate cholesterol more efficiently.
    Kale and cabbage can help with cholesterol, as explained in this video:
    Amla may also help to lower cholesterol, as explained here:
    I do not recommend cutting out all nuts and seeds. Flax is a great source of lignans and omega-3 fatty acids, and nuts have health benefits. It only takes a small amount, though, about a handful a day.
    I hope that helps!

    1. Thank you very much for the reply, I sure do appreciate the response and video references! I will plan to continue including 1 tbsp flax each day. Do you think it would be advisable to cut out the almond milk I use in my smoothies, or might that be ok to continue? And the nuts I use in home made salad dressings (no oil added)? I do currently add Amla powder each day…I had really hoped that might help my cholesterol as well. I will try the less nuts and increase exercise as well as some thyroid support measures and see if I can retest in a month or two.

        1. Bill- I definitely understand your concern! I went nut-free and very strict no oil (I really hadn’t had much oil in my diet before, but got very strict about it) and in two months my total cholesterol went from 226 to 162! My LDL went from 140 to 99!! That was back in August and I’m not sure what it is right now. I do know that for me the very strict low fat in conjunction with plant based was what seemed to really make a difference. I had been very strict vegan/plant-based for an entire year and my total cholesterol just wouldn’t budge until I made those changes.

  47. Greetings,
    Could you help me understand what is meant by cummilative contribution (in the table ranking food). I was alarmed to see nuts at the highest level of cummulative contribution…

  48. Hi Lale Anne Gokigit,
    The adjective cumulative the way I understand it means the total amount of something when it’s all added together. For example eating one chocolate muffin is ok once in a while but the cumulative effect of eating a few all day is that you’ll probably feel not so good afterwards. If a food is good for you does not mean one can have unlimited amount of it without the other consequences of extra calories and certain extra nutrients that it has.

    1. Thank you so much for your care, I think nutrician facts has saved my life.
      But I am still concerned about nuts then…. I have moved to a whole plant based diet but have been eating and enjoying my nuts.
      According to the table nuts are the worst when it comes to cholestoral raising saturated fat in terms of cummilative effect… So does that mean I should eat less nuts?
      With deepest respect and gratitude

      1. Lale Ann Gokyigit, I’m not a doctor, but I have done a LOT of reading on the subject over the last year. MANY books, articles, etc. that I have read advocate the use of nuts and avocados for heart health. However, I remembered reading years ago that Caldwell Esselstyn is not a proponent of that school of thought because of the fat they contain. Here is what he says:

        “As nuts are a rich source of saturated fats, my preference is no nuts for heart disease patients. That also eliminates peanuts and peanut butter even though peanuts are officially a legume. For those with established heart disease to add more saturated fat that is in nuts is inappropriate. For people with no heart disease who want to eat nuts and avocado and are able to achieve a cholesterol of 150 and LDL of 80 or under without cholesterol lowering drugs, some nuts and avocado are acceptable. Chestnuts are the one nut, very low in fat, it is ok to eat.”

        Unfortunately, even though I have no heart disease as far as I know, I’m unable to achieve a total cholesterol of 150 and LDL of 80 while including nuts…actually, not even close. So, I’m cutting them out at least for now. It sounds like if you are able to keep your cholesterol down while eating nuts there are a lot of positive attributes. I’m just not one of those people. :-(

        1. From what i have heard and read from.Dr. Rhonda Patrick, the saturated fat alone is not an issue, its the combination of the saturated fat with processed sugar. If you listen to PODcasts listen to Joe Rogan and Dr.
          Rhonda patrick. Really good info. She does reasearch for health and reads a lot of the studies. Sort of the female version of Dr. Gregor. I wish they would get together on Joe Rogans podcast.

          There was an article in the New York times explaining that in the 1950’s some research doctors were paid by the sugar companies to falsify data implicating saturated fats as being bad for you instead of sugar.

          I dont claim to be an expert, but like u, i read and listen to different people talk. Check it out, I’ll be curious what you are able to uncover.

          Take care.

  49. In reference to the legume video I just saw by the Doctor, I would like an answer if possible. I read that beans contain a lot of iron and that iron raises your ldl. How do you answer that question, do beans raise your iron which is linked to an increase in LDL or is there a way to reduce the amount of iron intake from beans other than not eating them at all? Which is what I’ve basically done since being told I needed to reduce my LDL and since my diet was rich in eating beans naturally I cut them out. I eat mostly fish, salmon to be exact more than any other food. Eggs maybe once a month, and meat maybe once a week.

  50. Beans contain non-heme iron which is not an issue. The beans are good. Eat them. Often. Populations that eat beans live significantly longer than populations that don’t eat beans.

    Blood cholesterol comes from food cholesterol. Fish has a lot of cholesterol. Eskimos that eat a lot of fish and have high omega 3 in their blood do NOT have less heart disease than Eskimos that don’t eat much fish. If you want to lower your LDL cholesterol, stop eating animal products plain and simple. Also don’t eat processed food like refined carbs or refined fats. Eat “farm to mouth” with no factory equipment in between. Populations that eat animal products are at massive risk for heart disease. Heart disease causes 30% of all deaths in the western world.

    Dr. Ben

  51. I had high cholesterol was 220 went on 20MG statin, went down to 170, changed to 40MG at same time I started Plant based whole foods 3 months in was down to 118. Stopped statin stayed on Plant based then went back to 205.

    Any ideas why.

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