In This Issue:
During the month of June, I’ll be traveling to California for several Prevention Plus talks, in addition to the Juice Plus+ Summer Blast bootcamp. Click here for more information on these events.
You should also check out the From Here to Longevity website to access several new articles and MP3s of talks I’ve given. These can be found in the “Get Your Questions Answered” section of the website.
This edition of the newsletter will reach over 4,300 readers. Thank you to everyone who finds FHTL helpful, and to those who are passing it on to friends and family. We sincerely appreciate your readership and support.
Here’s to your health,
Mitra Ray, Ph.D.
“Good fats” are all the rage. We’re told that olive oil and coconut oil are healthy to cook with, and that we should supplement our diets with fish oil, or flax oil, or borage oil. The thinking is that these fat supplements contain critical omega3 and omega6 fatty acids that our bodies desperately need. While it’s entirely true that we need these healthy omegas, my contention is that the very model on which we do most of our research is off base.
Most people don’t eat well to begin with, and so their bodies stop making key enzymes. If you give such a person fish oil, or DHA, or EPA (fats that a healthy body can synthesize on its’ own, and which are precursors for important hormones), you will get short-term results. However, this is similar to short-term changes you see when taking isolated vitamin supplements. But in the long run, taking these isolated fats may be more harmful than beneficial.
Fat extracted from any food source, be an animal or a plant, is highly susceptible to free radical damage. When it’s in the bottle, air and light do the damage, and when it’s in the body, it is the first target for free radicals. So the “good fat” that you are supplementing with becomes rancid fat in the body. Sure we need those omegas, but not at that cost. Another problem with taking fat supplements is that no one actually knows what the correct dosage is. Clinicians are still debating various combinations of fats and dosages at scientific conferences. Every book you read on the topic will give you a different story.
So how do we get those critical omega3s and omega6s? The same way that we get the vitamins that we need: by eating them in their whole food form. Fresh ground flax seeds contain the right ratio of omega3s to omega6s, and because they’re a whole food, you’d be hard pressed to eat too much. Two tablespoons of fresh flax seeds each day is a great way to not only get your omegas, but also to get vital lignans and the important antioxidants that are in the seed itself in order to protect the fat. I grind up a week’s worth of seeds at a time and keep it in a tin can in the refrigerator. It needs to be protected from air and light, and this is an easy way to do that. You can also buy pre-ground flax meal at Whole Foods or other natural food stores. Just remember that these too need to be stored in a cool, dark place.
Flax seeds can be added to just about anything. When sprinkled on salads, they add a nice, mild, nutty taste. They can be added to smoothies, and are virtually tasteless when combined with all of the fresh fruit. But you don’t want to cook with them as the heat will destroy the beneficial fats. Also, don’t buy into the hype about breads and cereals with baked or toasted flax seeds – there isn’t much benefit after the cooking process. The same is true of raw nuts and other seeds. Raw is best. Roasted almonds may taste good, but they are not nearly beneficial as raw. For my kids, sometimes I buy roasted and salted nuts, and dilute them with raw nuts as a snack. This way they get a little flavor mixed with mostly the raw form. I also avoid cooking with oils, or adding extra oil to salads and other foods. Olive oil, canola oil, mustard oil, coconut oil, etc. are still just FAT. Shocker! There are lots of articles on the benefits of coconut oil, but at the end of the day it’s much better (and tastier) to just eat fresh coconut.
And forget what you’ve been told about olive oil being good for you. It has a high ratio of omega6 to omega3 fatty acids and thus throws the body’s fat balance out of whack, which is why people are told to supplement with additional fats in the first place.
Getting rid of olive oil and other cooking oils seems daunting at first, but it’s easier than it seems. Once your taste buds and your body adjust to life without added dietary fat, your food will be delicious and healthful. I make my pesto with water instead of olive oil now. The fresh basil and pine nuts are what taste so good. And I stir fry my onions and garlic in water or homemade vegetable broth. Most recipes that call for oil or butter are perfectly fine if you omit the fats, or if you substitute them with some other “wet” ingredient. Pancakes and waffles call for vegetable oil and eggs, but you can use things like applesauce and bananas to give them moistness and flavor. And you get the added benefit of having real fruit in your food, rather than fatty eggs, butter, or isolated vegetable fat.
When I have company, or on special occasions, I will cook with organic canola oil, coconut oil, or mustard oil, depending on the recipe. But it’s more for my company than for me, because over time I have grown to vastly prefer food without added fat. Now when I go out to eat, or when I cook with any fat, I notice an oily film taste on my tongue and I realize, this is not natural, this is not the way it was meant to be.
Since books like The China Study have brought the benefits of a whole-foods, plant-based diet to the attention of mainstream media, more and more is being written about the dangers of B12 deficiency. This is hysteria fueled by the meat and dairy industries in an attempt to frighten people into believing that meat and dairy are critical for a healthy diet. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The risks of illness as the result of too little B12 are extremely rare, experienced by fewer than 1 person in 1 million who follows a healthy plant-based diet. Have you ever met a person who’s actually suffering from a B12 deficiency? Probably not.
The risks of a diet heavy in animal fats, however, are huge, and they are far from rare: heart disease, cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, infertility, obesity, and the list goes on and on. Have you ever met a person suffering from one of these diseases? Probably.
While there have been a handful of highly publicized examples of B12 deficiencies leading to illness, these are largely hype. But I want to give people the green light to follow their heads and their hearts when choosing a diet that supports them and the world that they live in. If B12 deficiency is the fear keeping people from adopting a whole-foods, plant-based diet, then they should by all means make sure to eat sufficient B12 to ease their minds.
An easy way of getting enough B12 into your diet is to eat plenty of fresh, organic whole fruits and vegetables. Tubers are a great option, especially if you don’t scrub all of the dirt off of their skin. This is because the dirt will have a small number of little microorganisms that make B12 – enough for us to get what we need. Wash your potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips, parsnips, and sweet potatoes gently. You’ll get a bit of Mother Nature’s “good dirt,” which will provide you with plenty of B12. (see recipes below for a fabulous soup of gently-washed tubers). The main reason that B12 deficiencies even exist is that we live in a world that now bears little resemblance to the natural conditions in which we are supposed to eat and thrive. Our food and our homes have been washed, sanitized, sterilized, and cleaned until all beneficial “dirt and bugs” are gone. So save yourself some time and leave a bit of skin and dirt on those carrots, and you’ll be in good shape.
However, if you’re feeling especially low in energy or have experienced hair loss, you may want to take a B12 supplement. 5 micrograms of B12 daily, taken sublingually, is a more than sufficient means of consuming enough B12. Also, those who have followed a strict plant-based diet for more than three years, and pregnant or nursing women, may benefit from taking 5 mcgs of B12 daily. If nothing else, it should ease their concerns about B12 deficiencies.
This simple dish is delicious, quick, and loaded with healthy carbs. I like to grate the zucchini in a food processor; It’s hardly noticeable by children or picky eaters, but it adds substance and packs a nutritional punch in this tasty recipe. However, for those of you who like your squash to have more of a place of honor, the zucchini can be diced to whatever size you like.
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil, or preferably, 1 Tablespoon low-sodium vegetable broth (for sautéing veggies)
- 1 bunch scallions, white parts thinly sliced, ½ cup green tops thinly sliced and reserved
- ½ pound zucchini (about 1 medium), chopped, diced, or grated
- 2 cups vegetable broth or water
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1.5 cups whole wheat couscous
In a medium saucepan, heat oil or 1 T vegetable broth over medium heat. Add the white part of the scallions, stirring constantly until softened, about 2 or 3 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add broth and lemon juice; bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the couscous and remove from heat. Cover, and let stand 7 minutes, until all liquids are absorbed.
Uncover and fluff with a fork, adding the reserved green scallions and toss well. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot or cold.
Adapted from a recipe in The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen
This lovely soup is not only yummy, but the velvety red color and combined veggies and legumes make it satisfyingly hearty.
Add some whole grain sprouted bread and a salad for a complete summer (or anytime) meal.
- 3 medium carrots
- 2 beets
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable broth or water
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, or 2 teaspoons dried
- 1 Tablespoon fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1 cup dried red lentils
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- 2-3 Tablespoons light miso
Gently wash carrots and beets, and chop coarsely. Heat 2 Tablespoons broth in a soup pot, and sauté onion until soft. Add carrots and beets. Saute a few minutes more. Finely chop rosemary and oregano, if using fresh herbs. Wash and drain lentils. Add herbs, bay leaves, lentils, and stock to onion mix, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 40 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Puree soup with stick blender, or in a food processor or blender. Dissolve miso in ½ cup water and add to soup. Gently reheat before serving. Do not bring to full boil.
Adapted from a recipe in Feeding the Whole Family
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