Which Vegetable Binds Bile Best?

Which Vegetable Binds Bile Best?
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Which foods are best at removing carcinogenic bile acids from the body: asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collards, eggplant, green beans, kale, mustard greens, okra, or peppers? And do they work better raw or cooked?

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To lower the risk of diet and lifestyle-related premature degenerative diseases and to advance human nutrition research, relative bile acid–binding potential of foods and fractions need to be evaluated. Since the bile acids are absorbed back in to the system they may increase cancer risk.

Some vegetables bind bile acids better than others. We know that those eating more plant-based diets are at a lower risk of heart disease and cancer, which could in part be because of phytonutrients in plants that act as antioxidants and potent stimulators of natural detoxifying enzymes in our bodies. They can also lower cholesterol and detoxify harmful metabolites, functions that can be predicted by their ability to bind bile acids so as to remove them from the body.

This group of researchers discovered three important things. First, an over five-fold variability in bile acid binding among various vegetables that had similar fiber content, indicating that the bile acid binding is not related to the total dietary fiber content, but instead some combination of unique phytonutrients yet to be determined.

Second, they found that steaming significantly improves the bile acid binding of collards, kale, mustard greens, broccoli, peppers, cabbage, as well as beets, eggplant, asparagus, carrots, green beans, and cauliflower, suggesting steaming vegetables may be more healthful than those consumed raw.

And finally, which vegetables kicked the most bile binding butt? Turnips turn-up last. Then comes cabbage, cauliflower, bell peppers, spinach, asparagus and green beans. Mustard greens and broccoli are better. Then eggplant, carrots and Brussels sprouts basically tie for the #5 slot. Then collards at #4. We have beets, kale, and okra left in the running. Any guesses as to #1? Kale gets the bronze, and beets get the gold. Kale, surprisingly, got beat.

Both these papers ended the same way: inclusion of all these vegetables in our daily diets should be encouraged. Our two leading killers are to a large extent preventable by appropriate diet and lifestyle modifications, such as eating these vegetables, which when consumed regularly, may lower the risk of premature degenerative diseases and improve public health.

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

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

To lower the risk of diet and lifestyle-related premature degenerative diseases and to advance human nutrition research, relative bile acid–binding potential of foods and fractions need to be evaluated. Since the bile acids are absorbed back in to the system they may increase cancer risk.

Some vegetables bind bile acids better than others. We know that those eating more plant-based diets are at a lower risk of heart disease and cancer, which could in part be because of phytonutrients in plants that act as antioxidants and potent stimulators of natural detoxifying enzymes in our bodies. They can also lower cholesterol and detoxify harmful metabolites, functions that can be predicted by their ability to bind bile acids so as to remove them from the body.

This group of researchers discovered three important things. First, an over five-fold variability in bile acid binding among various vegetables that had similar fiber content, indicating that the bile acid binding is not related to the total dietary fiber content, but instead some combination of unique phytonutrients yet to be determined.

Second, they found that steaming significantly improves the bile acid binding of collards, kale, mustard greens, broccoli, peppers, cabbage, as well as beets, eggplant, asparagus, carrots, green beans, and cauliflower, suggesting steaming vegetables may be more healthful than those consumed raw.

And finally, which vegetables kicked the most bile binding butt? Turnips turn-up last. Then comes cabbage, cauliflower, bell peppers, spinach, asparagus and green beans. Mustard greens and broccoli are better. Then eggplant, carrots and Brussels sprouts basically tie for the #5 slot. Then collards at #4. We have beets, kale, and okra left in the running. Any guesses as to #1? Kale gets the bronze, and beets get the gold. Kale, surprisingly, got beat.

Both these papers ended the same way: inclusion of all these vegetables in our daily diets should be encouraged. Our two leading killers are to a large extent preventable by appropriate diet and lifestyle modifications, such as eating these vegetables, which when consumed regularly, may lower the risk of premature degenerative diseases and improve public health.

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

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

Why would we want to bind bile in the first place? Make sure you see the "prequel" to this video, Breast Cancer and Constipation.

More raw versus cooked comparisons in:

Beets also have a number of other remarkable properties. Check out my video series on Doping with Beet Juice, including Hearts Shouldn’t Skip a Beet.

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

52 responses to “Which Vegetable Binds Bile Best?

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    1. Yes and no. Yes it cooks with steam, but the difference is that it takes place at a higher temperature, thus the shorter cooking times compared with steaming. The concern is that higher temperatures might possibly break down something beneficial. Vegetables cook very quickly with regular steaming, and it is easy to overcook them in a pressure cooker.




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      1. Baking often runs in the 350-400 F. range, with steaming likely somewhat below boiling temperature. Looks like pressure cooking can reach 250 F. Anyway. I find that pressure cooking allows for more precise doneness levels once you determine what works for what veggies. It’s exact every time. With regular steaming, it seems that I need to check it frequently… and if by chance you’re distracted, it’s easy to overcook. Though I suppose you could use a timer vs the built-in timer of pressure cookers.




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      2. If you pay attention while pressure cooking, using it ought not to be a problem with overcooking. (I always suggest paying attention in life, in general.)
        If you compare the color of pressure cooked vegetables to those cooked in any other way you will see how bright and vibrant they are. They cook for a shorter time than with steaming. I will choose pressure cooking any day.
        We are not talking about your Grandma’s gray veggies.




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        1. I steam vegetables as a cooking method but they never, ever come out gray, they’re always still very vibrant. I use organic veggies and I never overcook them. It takes me minutes, at most, to steam veggies. I heat the little amount of water I use first before I add the veggies to reduce unnecessary heating time.




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        1. Dr. Forrester, I have no doubt that this is true. Bioavailability of some isolated nutrients is increased while that of others may be decreased. However, the thing that interests me even more than isolated nutrient availability is the evidence for cancer protection. It seems to me that there is mounting evidence that uncooked vegetables provide more protection from cancers than cooked ones do. I’ve complied a list of references here:
          http://home.ite.sfcollege.edu/~carol.demas/raw_veg_cancer.htm




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        2. That’s why it’s good to have a variety. Raw and cooked. Personally I feel best on raw veggies. I also wonder if blending them increases this ability in the same way steaming does. Anyways, I personally think raw veggies are best but I think cooked have incredible benefits as well. Very important to eat raw veggies though, I think most people consume them cooked and rarely if ever raw.




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    2. Don’t worry, the point seemed to be just that these vegetables were better for us cooked than raw. Steaming seems to be just the method of cooking they happened to use.




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      1. Steaming is so awesome …no special equipment is required exept for perhaps a rack upon which to steam the foods…I love my pressure cooker for SOME THINGs, mostly beans, but I adore steaming my greens …and I also eat them raw…whatever…I go *both ways*!




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  1. I am so happy that I made Borscht yesterday with beets and cabbage. It was tasty and delicious.
    Since pressure cooking is super steaming, I guess that I am getting super nutrition in my food.
    Thanks for another great video.




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    1. “super steaming” doesn’t necessarily mean super nutrition. Over steaming/over cooking may not necessarily be good. I like to expose veggies to as little heat as possible even when steaming them, so as to keep more antioxidants and other nutrients intact.




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  2. I wonder by how much steaming increases the availability? I find that for myself and other vegans who have very little to no time to cook each day, the only way I can eat vegan is to eat raw (I usually barely have time to wash them). So how much more do I have to eat of raw carrots or broccoli to equal a serving of steamed carrots or broccoli?




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    1. I have a 2-tier electric steamer – I throw in cabbage, brussel sprouts, beets, carrots, onions, mushrooms – then at the 18 min mark – add small tomatoes, broccoli and asparagus for another 8 minutes. Hardly any cleanup. Easy.




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        1. My steamer is an Oster 5711. Got it on Amazon. It’s important to get a steamer that uses cold water, and just a small area around the element heats up and does the steaming. I had a steamer years ago that needed hot water to start and it still took forever to get going. This Oster steams in a few seconds. http://www1.macys.com/shop/product/oster-5711-food-steamer-61-qt?ID=138083&pla_country=US&cm_mmc=Google_DMA_Home_Electrics_PLA-_-PLA+Home+Generic+-+Electrics_PLA+-+Electrics-_-37669295516_-_-_mkwid_ueEgv6mm|dc_37669295516%7C-%7CueEgv6mm




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          1. I love my steamer – a three tier – Wolfgang steamer with a timer – steams vegetables, chicken, fish, etc. Everything comes out very tasty. I can’t live without it.




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    2. What?!! That is so not true about vegans and cooking. Sounds like your life (and that of your friends) is just very busy and you’ve chosen not to prioritize food preparation. Which is the same for many people of all diet types.




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    3. Just blend them! It’s quick and makes their nutrients SUPER bioavailable! For your cooked veggies, you could get frozen (you wouldn’t have to wash them and often they’re even fresher). Steaming takes me minutes at most. I just heat the little bit of water I use and then add the veggies and check like a minute later. It would probably take a few minutes longer to steam frozen veggies but at least you wouldn’t have to wash them or chop them or anything.




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  3. In previous videos segments, broccoli was trumpeted as more nutritious if eaten raw because of phytonutrients including the enzyme sulforaphane which steamed broccoli is lacking. I’m wondering if it’s better to continue my practice of eating raw broccoli or dropping a few of its florets in my smoothie, and eating only cooked veggies that I enjoy being served that way. I love raw beets but can’t stomach them cooked. As previous videos have noted, the best way to eat vegetables the one that encourages you to eat the most of them.




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      1. Thanks laregelytrue for this posting. That was a great answer.

        I’ll also add: Stay tuned everyone for more exciting broccoli news! Dr. Greger has some new info on this story in upcoming videos. (I purchased volume 20, so I got to see all of the videos ahead of time.)




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    1. This is what I learned at last year’s AICR conference and through many interviews with food scientists for my work as a health journalist:

      Most crucifers need light steaming in order to inactivate compounds that produce nitriles, which don’t fight cancer and which compete for production with compounds that produce isothiocyanates, which do fight it. Exceptions: watercress, napa cabbage, radishes (white and red) don’t produce nitriles. More here… http://eatandbeatcancer.wordpress.com/2014/05/03/anti-cancer-foods-which-crucifers-are-best-raw/

      The problem is: heat destroys the enzyme responsible for sparking the cascade of actions that leads to isothiocyanate production, but you can add the enzyme back by eating a little raw crucifer in the same meal. You don’t need much of that raw one.
      http://eatandbeatcancer.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/anti-cancer-recipes-groundbreaking-news-about-crucifers-another-bombshell/

      http://zesterdaily.com/cooking/how-to-prepare-broccoli-to-fight-cancer/

      As for powders, make sure they’re made from foods that are freeze dried and not spray dried. The spraying uses a gas that degrades phytonutrients.http://zesterdaily.com/cooking/tips-picking-unseasonal-berries/

      As for juicing raw crucifers, make sure you use a machine with a high speed motor that produces juice without lumps. That way the enzymes and isothiocyanates end up in the juice. More here… http://eatandbeatcancer.wordpress.com/2011/12/20/crucifers-to-fight-cancer-cooking-tips-take-two/




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  4. Thank you Dr. Greger for this important education piece. I wonder what causes the steaming advantage – medicinal components of the vegetables being bound inside the cellulose, which breaks down and releases/becomes more available with light steaming? Or could we achieve this with a whole food Juice machine such as a Bullet or VitaMixer? This question comes up over and over for us self-administered cancer treatment people – the question of which method of preparing and consuming the plant-based medicine is the most advantageous. Also, dehydrating might matter as a method of concentrating a stable supply of the medicinal components (phytochemicals) if one does not allow the dehydrator to get above 118 degree F. This gives cancer self-treatment patients a whole other option to steaming and juicing because once the plant is dry, it can be ground into a powder which can then go into drinks, soups, pestos, etc. while offering a method of delivery which competes with OTC capsules sold at sometimes 20xs the price (especially if we purchase these things in bulk or grow the plant in our own garden). The advantage of focusing one’s daily consumption to include concentrated amounts of the highest phytochemical medicine plants is that it disrupts one’s kitchen habits less.




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  5. My mom used to say beets give girls rosy cheeks. Is that because we aren’t green from bile! I love beets! Now I’ll eat them more than before. Thanks for reporting this.




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    1. Also a powerful vasodilator, improving blood pressure and blood flow. Mom knows best! :) p.s. have you seen this wonderful video series about nitrates, nitrites, and nitrosamines (and of course beets)? It’s one of my favorite little true crime detective “miniseries” here on NF. Up there with the series on Neu5Gc.

      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/hearts-shouldnt-skip-a-beet/

      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/vegetables-rate-by-nitrate/

      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/is-bacon-good-or-is-spinach-bad/

      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/are-nitrates-pollutants-or-nutrients/

      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/so-should-we-drink-beet-juice-or-not/




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    2. Beets are also one of the foods that promote the production of nitric oxide in the arterial endothelium for healing and proper dilation. Dr. Esselstyn has tremendous success in reversing heart disease in patients with very severe CAD. Dr. E says:
      “I recommend greens (which includes broccoli,
      cauliflower, bok-choy, Swiss chard, kale, collards, beet greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, Napa cabbage, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cilantro, parsley, spinach, arugula, etc) 6 times a day for those specific people who have significant cardiovascular issues.” He asks his patients to eat ‘greens’ 6x a day “and not just a few spinach leaves.” And the act of chewing is important for nitric oxide production – smoothies don’t provide the same benefit as chewing the food.




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  6. Does this apply to any types of beets for primarily the red ones? The photo for this video shows red stripped ones and yellow ones. My local market has the yellow ones and though I like red, these are delicious…




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  7. I just started a vegetarian diet a few weeks ago, with mostly vegan foods. In the past couple of days on total vegan foods, I’ve felt really hungry and felt the need to eat more than I usually did before the diet change. Is this normal? lol




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    1. If you haven’t already, check out Dr. McDougall’s The Starch Solution. His plan of whole grains, legumes, starchy and non-starchy vegetables, fruits, and judicious use of fatty veggies (nuts, seeds, avocado) is nutritionally complete except for Vitamins D and B12 and totally satiating. It’s important to eat starches at every meal (potatoes, corn, sweet potatoes, rice etc) If you try to do it with mostly non-starchy veggies, you WILL be hungry and that is not a sustainable diet. McDougall Friends on FB is a closed group – we have about 3500 members who eat according to McDougall guidelines or people who want to learn more.




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      1. JoAnn, thanks for the advice, I will check out the book. I love avocados and sweet potatoes and will add more of these with my meals.




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    2. Olivia: I second the suggestion to check out the book, The Starch Solution.

      I would also add that what you are experiencing is not uncommon at all–especially if people are eating whole plant foods that are a lot less calorie dense than they were used to eating previously. You are in good company. I have a close family member who went vegan some years ago and had to eat more often and larger quantities of food in order to feel full. It was a change for her, but not a bad thing at all! She got to eat more, a pleasurable activity, and still lost a ton of weight. She has been doing the vegan thing for a few years now and grown accustomed to her new eating habits.

      If the ideas in The Starch Solution does not do it for you, you might want to consider adding some additional calorie-dense foods to your diet, such as additional nuts, seeds, dried fruits, avocados and tofu. Whether or not those foods make sense for you will depend on your situation. But I can say that a co-worker who went whole food vegan was able to solve her hunger problems by adding some of those foods to her diet.

      Good luck Olivia. Let us know how it goes.




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      1. Thea, thanks so much for the advice, I will surely get that book. It’s good to know that my hunger is normal :) It really makes a lot of sense about the density of food. Well, we bought a dozen avocados, and my family loves fresh guacamole. It helped a lot with my hunger. I will try some raw nuts for snacks, and I’ve also tired adding ground flax seeds to my morning smoothie. It helps me to feel full.

        I’ve made a delicious tofu scramble yesterday, because I had been missing eggs. I sautéed some chopped red onion, red pepper, jalapeño pepper, fresh garlic, and tomato with a bit of turmeric, cayenne, and black salt (kala namak) in a little evoo, then tossed in the crumbled tofu. It was spicy and delicious, served with a slice of whole grain toast. The black salt gave it a nice egg-like flavor. Now I don’t miss eggs anymore!

        I actually feel much better since giving up the dairy and eggs, which was not easy to do, and finding alternatives really helps with the transition to a WFPB diet. I’m headed out to TJ’s later, because I saw they have this peanut butter with flax and chia seeds in it! :)

        Thanks again!




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        1. Olivia, I hope you didn’t misunderstand me about the avocados and nuts. Dr. McDougall’s guidelines for health and weight loss are based on starchy vegetables for satiation, NOT on fatty veggies like avocados nuts, nut butters. He allows NO OIL and for people trying to lose weight, he limits fat intake which pretty much cuts out nuts and avocados. Load up on starches and whole grains (NOT whole grains ground up into flour) and you will not be hungry. Potatoes, corn, rice, sweet potatoes etc are the foods you want to concentrate on. And try using veggie broth for sautéing, not oil.




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          1. JoAnn, thanks for your great advice. No, I didn’t misunderstand about the avocados and nuts. While I can understand adding starches with vegetables, I don’t know if I can buy the “no oil” theory yet. I use very small amounts of organic extra virgin olive oil in my cooking, and on occasion use Earth Balance. I do agree that using lots of oils may keep one from losing weight (or may cause weight gain), so I use it very sparingly. I will try the veggie broth too :)

            Also, Dr. Greger talked about nuts and how they can actually help facilitate weight loss. I guess a small handful a day won’t hurt, and can actually be good for you, besides, how do you absorb fat soluble vitamins properly with no healthy fats in your diet?

            http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/nuts/




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            1. With the 2T of ground flaxseed and 1tsp chia seeds and a couple of walnuts PLUS all the whole grains, legumes, starches and veggies and fruits, I am always at about 10% fat. The only essential fatty acids are Omega 3s and 6s – our bodies can make all the other fats as required. Blueberries are 4.8%fat, spinack 9.2% fat, brussel sprouts 11.6% fat, tomatoes 9.3% fat, shitake mushrooms 11.7% fat for example so eating a variety of plant foods gives us plenty of fat for absorption of A,D,E and K. The reason I don’t do oil is because I had aortic plaque several years ago and I want my diet to be as anti-inflammatory as possible. I follow Dr. Esselstyn who successfully reversed coronary artery disease using the 10% total fat and no oil plan. I myself ‘lost’ the aortic plaque on this plan. Here’s a link which explains how oils are damaging to the endothelium of the arteries. Scroll down in the article and you’ll understand my oil position. http://www.happyhealthylonglife.com/happy_healthy_long_life/2008/07/im-going-to-miss-my-olive-oil—who-knew-it-wasnt-so-healthy-after-all-drs-esselstyn-ornish-vogel-rudel-did.html




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              1. Yes, I can understand for those who have severe CVD, that they may want to keep it low fat or avoid adding oils because of the temporary arterial constriction after consuming foods made with those oils. I don’t know about long term affects, because I’ve never read anywhere that temporary arterial constriction causes cholesterol plaque to build up. Vessels can constrict even from being frightened or angry, but this is temporary, of course.

                I suppose everyone has to find out what works best for them. I do keep my oil intake very minimal and eat a lot of fresh green veggies and fruits, legumes, and some whole grains, avocados, flax seeds, and now some nuts.

                Thanks again for your advice and sharing all that with me. Very much appreciated!




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        2. Olivia: Yes! A good tofu scramble, especially with the black salt can be such a comfort food.

          I know what you mean about transition issues. Dr. Barnard actually talks about this a lot. As an example, Dr. Barnard doesn’t actually believe that the fake meats you buy in the store are really good for you, but he recognizes that “transition foods” can have an important role in helping people move toward healthier eating. (Though I’m not saying that tofu is a transition food. You already made it with that dish!)

          Best of luck as you move toward a healthier diet. It is an exciting time for many people as they discover new foods they love and that they never dreamed of eating before.




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    3. Olivia, I took Thea’s advice when first switching to Vegan in January (hungry all the time like you). I put a bowl of nuts and dried fruit at my desk and just munched – and I sucked down the avacados. That fixed it. Also, I just had to learn to eat more at one sitting. [I am petite and was not trying/wanting to loose weight.] Meat and cheese have a lot more calories per bite than, say, broccoli. So if your whole meal is plants, the portion size has to be bigger to give you enough calories. I had my favorite bowl that was the perfect portion size for me – that is until I started WFPB. I had to get a bigger bowl!

      You should read her great advice to me as I was transitioning. It’s in the comments under the video:
      One in a Thousand: Ending the Heart Disease Epidemic




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  8. Dr. Greger, this video isn’t the first time I noticed that you sound tired, less focussed and way less upbeat then you used too.

    Stress is also bad for your health, and often counterproductive.
    I’m sure people will settle for a few video’s less if it means a jolly old Greger.

    Friendly Regards.




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  9. This is really interesting!

    I am not sure if this is true of all Japanese, but my girlfriend and her mother eat a ton ton ton of Okra. They are also both so confused about me being vegan, as almost no one truly is in Japan.

    I’ve had many broken english lectures about why I should eat meat.

    Maybe all that okra is an important factor into why Japanese live so long.




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  10. While looking for something else in a health food store, I noticed a bottle of powdered artichoke leaves. The label touted the ability of the product’s 6% caffeoylquinic acid to increase bile production and thus help blood metabolism of fat. Since you say bile acids are carcinogenic and should be removed from the body as quickly as possible, I’m wondering if this indicates a drawback to eating artichokes. I certainly hope not, since my favorite breakfast is an artichoke with mayo!




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  11. I am looking for a natural, drug free way to cure the chronic diarrhea I have experienced following gallbladder removal last November. I too would like to know if there are foods that could help with this.




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