The 17 Healthiest Chinese Food Takeout Options, According to Registered Dietitians

Yes, you would like to place an order for pick-up, please and thank you.
15+ Chinese Takeout Orders That Are R.D.-Approved

Ordering Chinese takeout is easy. Ordering healthy Chinese takeout takes a little more thought. But finding the healthiest food from your favorite Chinese restaurant shouldn’t be hard—hi, that defeats the whole purpose of ordering in—so we’ve put together something of a healthy Chinese food options cheat sheet for you. We asked registered dietitians how they navigate the menu when there’s just no way they’re cooking tonight. The themes we heard over and over again? Watch out for sauces that go overboard on the sodium, steamed is healthier than fried (duh), and load up on veggies.

What if your favorite dish doesn’t make this list? Well, there are a couple ways to think about it. If you’re ordering out of sheer convenience and determined to make the healthiest choices possible, use this advice as a guide to meet this goal. If you’re ordering because you’re seriously craving something in particular…order it, enjoy the hell out of it, and don’t waste your time feeling guilty about it.

These 17 healthy Chinese food options are what registered dietitians order for themselves, and we have to admit, we’re getting hungry just looking at them. Let this list inspire your next takeout order. Who knows, you might even discover a new favorite.

1. Shrimp and Vegetables With Black Bean Sauce

“You get lean protein from the shrimp, and lots of antioxidants, fiber, and even a bit of water from the veggies,” says Keri Glassman, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., and founder of Nutritious Life in NYC. She always orders her sauce on the side, so you can control how much is on there.

TheCrimsonMonkey / Getty

2. Beef and Broccoli

This classic dish gets a thumbs-up for its filling power. “I like beef and broccoli with brown rice,” says Rebecca Scritchfield, R.D. “You don’t need too much beef to feel full.” Chicken and broccoli is a good option, too.

3. Mixed Vegetables

You’re probably not surprised that vegetables made the list. Patricia Bannan, M.S., R.D., recommends ordering steamed or even lightly stir-fried veggies on the side—the more, the better.

4. Extra Vegetables

Rather than ordering a separate dish, see if the restaurant will bulk up your current order with extra veg. “Ask for extra broccoli, carrots, or snow peas in any dish,” suggests Sarah-Jane Bedwell, R.D., L.D.N. “These are three veggies that Asian restaurants typically have on hand.” This tactic is one of her favorites for filling up her plate.

Daniel Frauchiger, Switzerland / Getty

5. Moo Shu Vegetables

Maxine C. Yeung, a registered dietitian, personal trainer, and wellness coach, and owner of The Wellness Whisk, likes to order this dish, which is typically served with hoisin sauce and thin pancakes for wrapping. “This dish is majority vegetables—a mix of diced egg and vegetables, such as cabbage, mushrooms, carrots, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, and sometimes cashews, flavored with scallions, ginger and garlic,” she says, adding, “It’s low in carbohydrates if you limit the number of pancakes or substitute with lettuces for wraps.”

6. Moo Shu Chicken

Glassman goes for the chicken version for the lean protein it provides. “But make sure to ask for light sauce,” she says. “It’s most likely high in sodium and (unhealthy!) fat.” Yeung also points out that the hoisin adds unnecessary sugar.

7. Steamed Anything

“I usually ask for my dish steamed with the sauce on the side,” says Scritchfield. “Steamed helps to reduce the oil in the dish, making it lighter in calories and possibly a bit easier to digest. You can get most any dish steamed.” This works for veggies, lean protein, rice, you name it.

Karen Beard / Getty

8. A Small Soup

Eating a broth-based soup first can help you eat less later on, explains Alissa Rumsey, R.D. She prefers hot and sour soup, while Bedwell goes for wonton. Keri Gans, R.D., always orders egg drop soup. “A one cup serving is only 66 calories, so even though your serving from a restaurant is larger, the calories are still in check. It also provides around 3 grams of protein and 1 gram of fiber per one cup serving.” It’s high in sodium, thought, which is something to keep in mind if you’re trying to watch your intake.

9. Moo Goo Gai Pan

Entrees that come with plenty of veg are always good options, says Rumsey. “Moo Goo Gai Pan typically consists of stir-fried chicken with mushrooms and other vegetables, providing a balanced meal with just a light sauce. It comes with a lot of vegetables, so they are the main part of the meal, not just an afterthought.” This is a favorite of Bedwell’s, too: “It’s flavorful and lean with chicken, mushrooms, and other mixed veggies and is not as high in sugars and fats as many other dishes.”

10. Chinese Eggplant With Garlic Sauce

“I like Chinese eggplant in spicy garlic sauce because it’s all vegetable! In addition to the eggplant, it usually comes with broccoli too,” says Scritchfield.

Victoria Pearson / Getty

11. Steamed Dumplings

“If you want an appetizer, [go for] a vegetable dumpling that is steamed and not fried,” says Gans. You might also recognize these as potstickers—either way, they get top marks when they haven’t been fried in oil and they’re filled with veggies.

12. Brown Rice With a Scrambled Egg

Scritchfield has a simple, healthier swap for fried rice: Order brown rice and ask for a scrambled egg on the side. “Most takeouts have eggs for the fried rice, and they are willing to do this for you,” she explains. “Brown rice has a lower glycemic index as compared to white rice, which helps reduce insulin spikes.”

Richard Jung / Getty

13. Shrimp or Tofu Entrées

While Gans herself typically prefers broccoli and garlic sauce, “If it is a higher-end restaurant I might opt for some shrimp,” she says. Bedwell adds that steamed shrimp is a great way too add lean protein to your meal—if you’re a vegetarian, she recommends grilled tofu instead.

14. Kung Pao Chicken

Bring on the spice. Order Kung Pao chicken instead of sweet-and-sour chicken, sesame chicken, and General Tso’s chicken, says Bedwell. “It comes with abundant vegetables, sans the fried chicken!”

15. Buddha’s Delight

“If I want to do a vegetarian meal, I’ll go for Buddah’s Delight since it is a flavorful dish that is primarily steamed veggies with a little tofu for protein,” says Bedwell. This is a personal favorite of Rumsey’s, too.

16. Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Glassman calls this “an obvious choice to get veggies and protein all in one.” Plus, they’re fun to make and eat.

17. Sauce on the Side

This tip came up again and again. “By getting it on the side you can better control the amount you eat,” says Rumsey. “Often I take two or three tablespoons of the original sauce and mix it with low-sodium soy sauce.” Bannan adds, “For comparison, one tablespoon of low-sodium soy sauce has 22 percent of your days’ worth of sodium and one tablespoon of regular soy sauce has about 38 percent of your days’ worth of sodium.”


What Drinking Coffee Actually Does To Your Body

Its effects may appear to be magical, but there’s a lot happening under the surface when you’re enjoying your morning mug.

Whether you just like the taste of coffee, drink it out of habit, or truly rely on it for energy, it’s no secret the drink has magical powers. But have you ever thought about what it’s actually doing after you gulp down your morning mug?

Coffee comes from a bean, so it contains phytonutrients and polyphenols, chemical compounds found in plants that are believed to have antioxidant benefits, Dana Hunnes, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., senior dietician at UCLA Medical Center and adjunct assistant professor at the Fielding School of Public Health, tells SELF. “But for the most part, caffeine tends to be the nutrient in coffee that people are most aware of and that’s the best studied.”

From your brain to your bowels, coffee does work on your body. Here’s what’s really happening when you drink it.

The caffeine enters your bloodstream and quickly finds its way to your brain, where it works as a stimulant and boosts alertness and energy.

“The chemical enters your bloodstream fairly quickly,” Hunnes says. It can take as few as 10 minutes from drinking for caffeine to start working. Caffeine binds to adenosine receptors in the brain. Adenosine is a nervous system depressant, meaning its presence suppresses arousal and promotes sleep. When caffeine intrudes and binds to the receptors, adenosine’s effects are lessened, and we become stimulated. This increased brain activity then stimulates the release of adrenaline, which is what gives us that big burst of energy and attentiveness associated with a morning cup of Joe. Studies also have connected caffeine consumption to a boost in memory.

The downside is that drinking too much can cause insomnia.

“If you have caffeine later in the day, it can actually predispose you to develop insomnia or make it worse if you already have it,” Rachel Salas, M.D., an associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Medicine who specializes in sleep medicine, tells SELF. It can keep anyone up if they drink it too close to bedtime, but if you’re prone to develop insomnia, a coffee habit can be the trigger that causes a chronic problem. Salas suggests stopping coffee (and all other caffeine) consumption at noon if you think it may be impacting your ability to fall asleep at night. If you can’t function before your morning cup, it’s a red flag you need to take a look at your sleep habits. Coffee is a helpful crutch when you’re tired, but it’s not going to actually give you more energy in the long term. Only good sleep can do that.

That’s partially because caffeine stays in your system for hours and hours.

“The way we metabolize coffee is called a half-life,” Hunnes says. In most people, caffeine’s half-life is 4 to 6 hours. “It takes about 6 hours to reduce the amount of caffeine in our blood by about 50 percent,” she explains. So if you drink a 200 mg cup at 9 AM, by 3 PM you’ll have 100 mg left, and by 9 PM you’ll have 50 mg. Keep in mind, that’s the average half-life—how quickly you metabolize caffeine really depends on your individual body chemistry and genetics.

Caffeine also impacts our pleasure centers, which improves our mood…and keeps us hooked.

“It can help you be more alert and reactive, but it can also help pep you up and impactyour mood,” Salas says. Like most drugs, caffeine in coffee increases the levels of feel-good chemical dopamine in our brains. (Other stimulants like cocaine have the same effect, but just much stronger.) This can improve our moods and increase happiness. But for daily drinkers, this can create dependence, resulting in withdrawal symptoms when you go without—it’s why habitual users tend to wake up grumpy and get headaches if they don’t get their fix.

Too much caffeine can have a negative impact on mood and mental health.

High doses can mess with your brain chemistry too much, and cause jitteriness and nervousness. Studies have shown that high doses of caffeine can increase anxiety and panic attacks. Those who already struggle with these mental health challenges tend to be more sensitive to caffeine and its mood-altering effects.

Drinking large amounts of coffee can cause a spike in blood pressure and heart rate.

Studies have suggested that coffee increases heart rate, thanks to caffeine’s impact on hormones and neurotransmitters. But drinking coffee in moderation—one to three cups per day–shouldn’t have a noticeable impact on a healthy adult. According to the Mayo Clinic, some habitual drinkers may have a slightly higher blood pressure, while others develop a tolerance and are not affected in the long term. There isn’t a clear explanation as to why caffeine causes this increase in blood pressure, but it’s likely due to increased adrenaline and other hormonal responses brought on by the stimulant.

Coffee stimulates bowel movements, and may even reduce the risk of gallstones.

Ever notice you really have to hit the bathroom after a cup of coffee? Experts believe caffeine directly stimulates the colonic muscles, prompting bowel movements. Plus, if you’re drinking it hot, the warm liquid itself can help relax the colon and prompt muscle contractions, adding to the laxative effect. When the muscles in the gallbladder specifically are stimulated, it increases emptying, which can reduce the risk of gallstones.

It’s a myth that coffee is dehydrating.

“It’s a very mild diuretic,” Hunnes says. “But it’s not really much of a dehydrator.” She says that if you were to drink a huge amount in one day, say 8 cups (which is not recommended), and have no other fluids all day, you might experience slight dehydration. But coffee contains a lot of water, and it counts toward your daily fluid intake just like a plain glass of H2O would.

Coffee may suppress appetite and boost calorie burn, but it’s not a magic weight-loss bullet (sorry).

Coffee is a known appetite suppressant and may stimulate thermogenesis, or the process our bodies use to create heat, which theoretically leads us to burn more calories. But there’s not much evidence that these effects are large enough to result in significant or long-term weight loss, the Mayo Clinic says. Black coffee is a good low-cal way to get your fix, but choking it down for its supposed weight-loss benefits probably won’t bring any noticeable changes.

Stringent Diet May Suppress Gluten Neuropathy

A strict gluten-free diet may protect against peripheral neuropathic pain associated with gluten sensitivity, according to researchers in England.

A rigidly enforced, gluten-free diet was associated with lowering the odds of peripheral neuropathic pain by 88.7%, reported Panagiotis Zis, MD, PhD, of the University of Sheffield, and colleagues in an early-release abstract from the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting.

“We think of gluten sensitivity as an immune disease triggered by eating gluten in susceptible people,” said Zis. “Ingestion of gluten causes an immune reaction that, in this case, damages nerves, which can be painful. A strict gluten-free diet removes the main factor triggering the inflammation, allowing the immune response to calm down and alleviating the neuropathic symptoms, including pain.”

Gluten neuropathy is idiopathic and is the second most common neurological manifestation of gluten sensitivity after cerebellar ataxia. “Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are often diagnosed as the cause of a peripheral neuropathy when other causes, such as diabetes and vitamin deficiencies are excluded, and in the setting of seropositivity to gliadin antibodies,” said Kourosh Rezania, MD, of the University of Chicago Medicine, who was not involved in the study.

“Treatment of neuropathy pain can often be very challenging, often including use of multiple medications, and the finding of this study that compliance with a gluten-free diet may help the pain is very important,” he told MedPage Today.

For this research, Zis’ group recruited 60 patients with gluten neuropathy. Their average age was 70 and 76.7% were men.

The researchers used Douleur Neuropathique 4 Questions (DN4) and visual analogue scales (VAS) to assess pain, and Overall Neuropathy Limitations Scales (ONLS) to measure neuropathy severity. They also looked at Mental Health Index (MHI-5) scores to gauge general mental health status. The MHI-5 has a range of 0 to 100; a higher score represents a better mental health status.

More than half of the sample (55%) had neuropathic pain. There were no significant differences in age, gender, neuropathy severity, or neuropathy type between patients who had pain and those who did not.

Patients with painful gluten neuropathy had significantly worse MHI-5 scores (75.9 versus 87.4, P<0.001). And patients without pain were more likely to be following a strict gluten-free diet (55.6% versus 21.2%, P=0.006).

After adjusting for age, gender and MHI-5, the researchers found that a strict gluten-free diet was associated with lowering the odds of peripheral neuropathic pain by 88.7% (95% CI 47.2%–97.6%, P=0.006).

“It’s important for physicians to appreciate that gluten neuropathy can exist independently of small bowel inflammation — that is, in people without celiac disease,” Zis noted.

“The diagnosis of gluten neuropathy depends on testing the appropriate serological markers,” he told MedPage Today. “In the cases described in our paper, antigliadin antibodies were used to define the presence of sensitivity to gluten. Our advice to clinicians is that patients with painful neuropathy and serological evidence of gluten sensitivity may benefit from being on a strict gluten-free diet, with relief of pain. ”

More research is needed to confirm these results and determine whether a gluten-free diet actually led to the reduction in pain, he added.

More Coffee May Up Metabolic Syndrome Risk in Type 1 Diabetes

In a snapshot cross-sectional analysis of study participants with type 1 diabetes in Finland, drinking three or more cups of filtered coffee a day was associated with increased odds of having metabolic syndrome, in contrast to previous findings in the general population.

The article, by B Stutz of the University of Helsinki, Finland, and colleagues, based on data from the Finnish Diabetic Nephropathy (FinnDiane) study, was published online February 1 in Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases.

“In contrast to the previous observations in other populations, coffee consumption was associated with higher odds of [metabolic syndrome] in the current study” in people with type 1 diabetes, the researchers report.

Among these individuals with type 1 diabetes, those who drank moderate or high amounts of coffee had a significantly increased risk of metabolic syndrome compared with those who did not drink coffee, after adjusting for multiple variables.

Those who drank any amount of coffee were more likely to have hypertension.

The reasons for these findings remain to be determined and more study is also needed to see how coffee consumption might affect health outcomes in people with type 1 diabetes, the researchers conclude.

Association Mainly Driven by Hypertension

In the general population, regular coffee drinkers have been reported to have a lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome, and thus a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and early mortality.

However, it has not been clear whether patients with type 1 diabetes who are regular coffee drinkers would also have a lower risk of metabolic syndrome.

To investigate this, researchers examined 1040 participants from the FinnDiane study who had type 1 diabetes — defined as diabetes onset before age 35 years and permanent insulin therapy within a year of diagnosis — and complete data from a diet questionnaire along with information on metabolic syndrome criteria.

Metabolic syndrome was defined as having three of the following five criteria: waist circumference ≥ 94 cm in men and ≥ 80 cm in women; triglycerides ≥ 1.7 mmol/L or on lipid-lowering medication; high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) < 1.0 mmol/L in men and < 1.3 mmol/L in women, or on medication to increase HDL-C; blood pressure ≥ 130/85 mmHg or use of antihypertensive medication; and fasting blood glucose ≥ 110 mg/dL.

Participants were classed as having the following coffee consumption levels:

  • None: < 1 cup/day, 134 participants (13%)
  • Low: 1–2 cups/day, 230 participants (22%)
  • Moderate: 3–4 cups/day, 371 participants (36%)
  • High: ≥ 5 cups/day, 305 participants (29%)

Of the 906 coffee drinkers, 825 (91%) drank filtered coffee, so researchers pooled data for the different types of coffee.

On average, individuals who did not drink coffee were 40 years old and had diabetes for 21 years, whereas coffee drinkers were older (mean age 46 to 49 years) and had diabetes longer (mean duration 27 to 30 years).

There were more current smokers in the group that had a high consumption of coffee (22%) than in the groups that drank less (up to 12%) or no coffee (3%).

There were also more men in the group who drank 5 or more cups of coffee a day (60%) than in the groups that drank less or no coffee (32% to 45%).

Coffee drinkers were more likely to be taking antihypertensive or lipid-lowering medications than nondrinkers.

The prevalence of metabolic syndrome increased stepwise from 51% to 64% to 65% to 70% among people whose coffee consumption was none, low, moderate, or high, respectively.

Compared with noncoffee drinkers, those who drank 3 or 4 cups a day had a 1.8-fold increased risk of having metabolic syndrome, and those who drank 5 or more cups a day had a 2.1-fold increased risk (P < .05 for both), after adjusting for age, sex, total calories, alcohol, physical activity, and smoking.

Similarly, compared with noncoffee drinkers, those who drank 1 or more cups of coffee a day had a 2.2- to 2.8-fold increased risk of hypertension, after adjusting for multiple variables (P < .05).

“The association between coffee consumption and [metabolic syndrome] seems to be mainly driven by the blood pressure component,” Stutz and colleagues observe.

The Big Fat Surprise — Higher Cholesterol Levels Associated with Better Health

Saturated Fat and Cholesterol are Important Parts of a Healthy Diet

Saturated fat and cholesterol have been wrongfully vilified as the culprits of heart disease for more than six decades. Meanwhile, research has repeatedly identified refined carbs, sugar and trans fats found in processed foods as the real enemy.

The first scientific evidence linking trans fats to heart disease while exonerating saturated fats was published in 1957 by the late Fred Kummerow,1 biochemist and author of “Cholesterol Is Not the Culprit: A Guide to Preventing Heart Disease.” Unfortunately, Kummerow’s science was overshadowed by Ancel Keys’ Seven Countries Study,2,3 which linked saturated fat intake with heart disease. The rest, as they say, is history. Later reanalysis revealed cherry-picked data was responsible for creating Keys’ link, but by then the saturated fat myth was already firmly entrenched.

Keys’ biased research launched the low-fat myth and reshaped the food industry for decades to come. As saturated fat and cholesterol were shunned, the food industry switched to using sugar and trans fats (found in margarine, vegetable shortening and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils) instead.

The Big Fat Surprise

Investigative journalist Nina Teicholz was one of the first major investigative journalists to break the story on the dangers of trans fats in a 2004 Gourmet magazine article.4 In the video below, Joe Rogan interviews Teicholz on her 2014 book, “The Big Fat Surprise,” which grew out of that initial exposé.

In it, not only does she dismantle the belief that saturated fat and cholesterol make you fat and cause disease, she also reveals that while the dangers of trans fats are now becoming widely recognized, the recommended replacement — vegetable oils — may actually be even more harmful. She also delves into the politics and shady underbelly of nutritional science, revealing how the food industry has manipulated the scientific discussion and built a largely false foundation for the nutritional recommendations we’re given.

Corruption is not the sole problem, though. Teicholz notes there is a very strong tendency to “fall in love” with your own ideas and beliefs, and this is as true for scientists as it is for regular people. And, when you strongly believe something to be true, you will tend to find the evidence you’re looking for and ignore anything that refutes it. So, it’s really a human psychology problem.

Scientists are not supposed to fall into this all-too-human trap. “They’re taught to distrust their beliefs [and] shoot down their own hypothesis,” Teicholz says, “but in the case of nutrition science, that didn’t happen … They cherry-picked the evidence and completely ignored and actively suppressed, even, anything that contradicted their ideas.” This certainly included Keys, who was passionately wed to his hypothesis that saturated fat caused heart disease.

Busting the Low-Fat Myth

Teicholz points out the fact that saturated fat has been a healthy human staple for thousands of years, and how the low-fat craze has resulted in massive sugar consumption that has increased inflammation and disease.5 The American Heart Association (AHA) started encouraging Americans to limit dietary fat, particularly animal fats, to reduce their risk of heart disease in 1961, and maintains this position to this day.

Just last summer, the AHA sent out a presidential advisory to cardiologists around the world, reiterating its 1960s advice to replace butter and coconut oil with margarine and vegetable oils to protect against heart disease. Yet historical data clearly shows this strategy is not working, because concomitant with low-fat diets becoming the cultural norm, heart disease rates have soared. The AHA also ignores research demonstrating the low-fat, low-cholesterol strategy does more harm than good. For example:

  1. In 2012, researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology examined the health and lifestyle habits of more than 52,000 adults ages 20 to 74, concluding that lower cholesterol levels increase women’s risk for heart disease, cardiac arrest and stroke. Overall, women with “high cholesterol” (greater than 270 mg/dl) actually had a 28 percent lower mortality risk than women with “low cholesterol” (less than 183 mg/dl).6
  2. In 2013, prominent London cardiologist Aseem Malhotra argued in the British Medical Journal that you should ignore advice to reduce your saturated fat intake, because it’s actually increasing your risk for obesity and heart disease.7
  3. A 2014 meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, using data from nearly 80 studies and more than a half-million people, found those who consume higher amounts of saturated fat have no more heart disease than those who consume less. They also did not find less heart disease among those eating higher amounts of unsaturated fat, including both olive oil and corn oil.8,9

Related reading: Debunking More Bad Science – People With High Levels of ‘Bad Cholesterol’ Actually Live Longer Than Those With Low Levels

The following graph, from a British Journal of Nutrition study published in 2012, also shows how Europeans who eat the least saturated fats have the highest risk of heart disease, whereas those who eat the most have the lowest rates of heart disease — the complete opposite of conventional thinking and AHA claims.

Your Body Needs Saturated Fat and Cholesterol

Cholesterol is not only beneficial for your body, it’s absolutely vital for optimal functioning. For example, cholesterol is needed for the construction of your cell membranes and helps regulate the protein pathways required for cell signaling. Having insufficient amounts of cholesterol may negatively impact your brain health, hormone levels, heart disease risk and more.

Your body also needs saturated fats to function properly. One way to understand this need is to consider the foods ancient humans consumed. Many experts believe we evolved as hunter-gatherers and have eaten a variety of animal products for most of our existence on Earth. To suggest that saturated fats are suddenly harmful to us makes no sense, at least not from an evolutionary perspective.

Reducing saturated fat to extremely low levels, or shunning it altogether, also doesn’t make sense when you consider its health benefits and biological functions, which include but are not limited to:

Providing building blocks for cell membranes, hormones and hormone-like substances Facilitating mineral absorption, such as calcium Acting as carriers for fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
Converting carotene into vitamin A Helping to lower cholesterol levels (palmitic and stearic acids) Antiviral activity (caprylic acid)
Optimal fuel for your brain Providing satiety Modulating genetic regulation and helping prevent cancer (butyric acid)

High-Carb Versus High-Fat Diets

As noted by Teicholz, by eliminating saturated fat and cholesterol-rich foods we’ve also eliminated many of the most nutrient-dense foods from our diet — eggs and liver being just two examples — and this also has its repercussions for human health and development. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble, which means you need the fat that comes naturally in animal foods along with the vitamins in order to absorb those vitamins.

Additionally, fat is very satiating, so you’re far less likely to overeat on a high-fat diet than a high-carb diet. Most people who complain about “starving” all the time are likely just eating too many carbs (quick-burning fuel) and not enough fat (slow-burning fuel).

Then there’s carb-addiction, of course, which further fuels the cycle of hunger and overeating. What’s worse, when you eat a high-carb diet for a long time, it blocks or shuts down your body’s ability to burn fat, which means all of your body fat remains right where it is, as it cannot be accessed for fuel.

By shifting your diet from high-carb to high-fat, you eventually regain the metabolic flexibility to burn both types of fuel — fat and sugar — which solves most of these problems; the hunger and cycle of overeating, weight gain, inflammation and related disease processes. Cyclical ketogenic diets are very effective for this, as is intermittent fasting and longer water fasts for those who are overweight.

The Problem with Vegetable Oils

As mentioned earlier, Teicholz’s book also delves into a new nutritional twist that has developed as the dangers of trans fats have been exposed and accepted. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has removed partially hydrogenated oils — the primary source of trans fats — from the list of “generally recognized as safe” ingredients, the vegetable oils (such as canola, peanut, corn and soy oil) that have replaced them may have even more harmful health ramifications.

When heated, vegetable oils degrade into extremely toxic oxidation products. According to Teicholz, more than 100 dangerous oxidation products have been found in a single piece of chicken fried in vegetable oils. As early as the 1940s, animal experiments showed animals would develop cirrhosis of the liver or enlarged liver when fed vegetable oils. When fed heated vegetable oils, they died prematurely.

Cyclic aldehydes are among the most toxic of these byproducts, and animal research has shown even low levels of exposure cause serious inflammation, which is associated with heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Findings like these make the AHA’s recommendation to use margarine and vegetable oils all the more troubling.

In her book, Teicholz also cites research in which aldehydes were found to cause toxic shock in animals by damaging the gastrointestinal tract. We now know a lot more about the role your gut plays in your health, and the idea that aldehydes from heated vegetable oils can damage your gastric system is frighteningly consistent with the rise we see in immune problems and gastrointestinal-related diseases.

How a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet Can Improve Your Health

Two-thirds of the American population is overweight or obese,10 more than half of all Americans struggle with chronic illness,11 1 in 5 deaths in the U.S. is obesity-related12 and 1 in 4 deaths is related to heart disease.13 Saturated dietary fats and cholesterol are not to blame for these statistics. The evidence is actually quite clear: Excessive net carbohydrate intake is the primary culprit behind these disease statistics, primarily by decimating your mitochondrial function.

To address this, you need to eat a diet that allows your body to burn fat as its primary fuel rather than sugars, and to become an efficient fat burner, you actually have to eat fat. In my latest book, “Fat for Fuel,” I detail a cyclical or targeted ketogenic diet, which has been scientifically shown to optimize metabolic and mitochondrial health. A primary difference between this program and other ketogenic diets is the cyclical component.

See: A Beginner’s Guide to the Ketogenic Diet: An Effective Way to Optimize Your Health

It’s important to realize that the “metabolic magic” in the mitochondria occurs during the refeeding phase, not during the starvation phase. If you’re constantly in ketosis, you’re missing out on one of the most valuable benefits of the ketogenic diet. Basically, once you have established ketosis, you then cycle healthy carbs back in. As a general rule, I recommend adding 100 to 150 grams of carbs on the day or days each week that you do strength training. Some of the most important benefits of this kind of eating program are:

Weight loss

By rebalancing your body’s chemistry, weight loss and/or improved weight management becomes nearly effortless. Studies have shown a ketogenic diet can double the weight lost compared to a low-fat diet.14

Reduced inflammation

When burned for fuel, dietary fat releases far fewer reactive oxygen species and secondary free radicals than sugar. Ketones are also very effective histone deacetylase inhibitors that effectively reduce inflammatory responses. In fact, many drugs are being developed to address immune related inflammatory diseases that are HDAC inhibitors.

A safer and more rational strategy is to use a ketogenic diet, as it is one of the most effective ways to drive down your inflammation level through HDAC inhibition.

Reduced cancer risk

While all cells (including cancer cells) can use glucose for fuel, cancer cells lack the metabolic flexibility to use ketones, while regular cells thrive on these fats. Once your body enters a state of nutritional ketosis, cancer cells are more susceptible to being removed by your body through a process called autophagy. A cyclical ketogenic diet is a fundamental, essential tool that needs to be integrated in the management of nearly every cancer.

Increased muscle mass

Ketones spare branched-chain amino acids, thereby promoting muscle mass.15 However, make sure to implement cyclic ketosis. Chronic ketosis may eventually result in muscle loss as your body is impairing the mTOR pathway, which is important for anabolic growth. mTOR needs to be stimulated, just not consistently, as many people do with high protein diets.

Lowered insulin levels

Keeping your insulin level low helps prevent insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes and related diseases. Research has demonstrated that diabetics who eat a low-carb ketogenic diet are able to significantly reduce their dependency on diabetes medication and may even reverse the condition.16

Lowering insulin resistance will also reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s. Recent research strengthens the link between insulin resistance and dementia even further, particularly among those with existing heart disease.17,18,19

Mental clarity

One of the first things people really notice once they start burning fat for fuel is that any former “brain fog” lifts, and they can suddenly think very clearly. As mentioned earlier, ketones are a preferred fuel for your brain; hence, the improved mental clarity.

Increased longevity

One of the reasons you can survive a long time without food is due to the process of ketosis, which spares protein breakdown.20 A fairly consistent effect seen in people on a ketogenic diet is that blood levels of leucine and other important structural proteins go up, allowing these proteins to perform a number of important signaling functions.

Ketones also mimic the life span extending properties of calorie restriction21 (fasting), which includes improved glucose metabolism; reduced inflammation; clearing out malfunctioning immune cells;22 reduced IGF-1, one of the factors that regulate growth pathways and growth genes and which is a major player in accelerated aging; cellular/intracellular regeneration and rejuvenation (autophagy and mitophagy).23

The Big Fat Surprise: Nina Teicholz on The Joe Rogan Experience

Sources and References:

Vegan Diet Rapidly Improves Type 2 Diabetes Markers in Adults

In overweight adults with no history of diabetes, a low-fat, plant-based vegan diet can reduce visceral fat and significantly improve both pancreatic beta-cell function and insulin resistance, potentially decreasing the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to researchers.

The 16-week randomized controlled trial in 73 adults showed that participants who ate a diet of vegetables, grains, legumes, and fruits significantly improved their overall metabolic condition, say Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, DC, and colleagues.

“Our study suggests the potential of a low-fat plant-based diet in diabetes prevention, addressing both core pathophysiologic mechanisms — insulin resistance and diminished beta-cell function — at the same time,” they write in their article, published online February 9 in Nutrients.

In a statement by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Kahleova said the study “has important implications for diabetes prevention.” An estimated 30 million Americans have type 2 diabetes and it is projected that a third of the population will develop diabetes, she pointed out.

“Fortunately, this study adds to the growing evidence that food really is medicine and that eating a healthful plant-based diet can go a long way in preventing diabetes.”

Vegan vs Normal Diet

Previous studies have shown that the prevalence of diabetes is 46% to 74% lower in people who eat a plant-based diet compared with meat lovers in the general population, according to background information in the article.


A vegan diet has also been shown to improve glycemic control in type 2 diabetes better than calorie-restricted, low-carbohydrate diets, the researchers note.

Insulin resistance leading to impaired pancreatic beta-cell function is a key factor in type 2 diabetes, even though current treatment isn’t usually focused on improving beta-cell function, they add.

The study, conducted between October 2016 and June 2017, enrolled eight men and 67 women, age 25 to 75 years, with a body mass index (BMI) of 28 to 40 kg/m2. Participants on the vegan diet were told to avoid animal products and added fats, and they took a daily vitamin B12 supplement (500 μg).

The vegan diet provided 75% of caloric energy from carbohydrates, 15% from protein, and 10% from fats (20–30 grams/day). There was no calorie restriction in the vegan diet. The control group was asked to make no changes to their diet. However, alcohol intake was restricted in both groups: one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.

The vegan diet elicited marked increases in meal-stimulated insulin secretion and beta-cell glucose sensitivity, along with decreased fasting insulin resistance and decreased fasting and postprandial plasma glucose concentrations in individuals with no history of diabetes.

Specifically, the homeostasis model assessment – insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) index, used to assess fasting insulin resistance, fell significantly in the intervention group (P < .001), but not in controls (treatment effect −1.0). No significant change in oral glucose insulin sensitivity was observed in either group.

Notably, changes in the HOMA-IR index correlated positively with changes in BMI (r = 0.34; P = .009) and visceral fat volume (r = 0.42; P = .001), and the latter remained significant after adjusting for changes in BMI. Changes in glucose-induced insulin secretion correlated negatively with changes in BMI (r = −0.25; P = .04), but not visceral fat.

In the control group, beta-cell glucose sensitivity did not improve.

As HOMA-IR primarily reflects hepatic insulin resistance, the results “suggest a marked improvement in hepatic, rather than peripheral, insulin sensitivity,” the researchers note. Also, the decrease in insulin resistance was related to loss of visceral fat, independent of changes in BMI, while changes in glucose-induced insulin secretion were related to changes in BMI only.

“In this context, it seems plausible that a low-fat vegan diet in our study decreased hepatic insulin resistance and led to a subsequent improvement in beta-cell function,” the researchers observe.

There was also improvement in plasma lipid concentrations in response to a low-fat vegan diet, which is consistent with previous studies.

Food intake was based on participants’ own dietary records, which may limit the generalizability of the findings, the study authors acknowledge.

Jury Still Out on Benefits of Vegan Diet

As previously reported by Medscape Medical News, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics said in its 2016 position statement that plant-based diets are appropriate for people from infancy to old age, and during pregnancy.

For others, however, the jury’s still out on the disease-prevention merits of a vegan diet.

The definition of a plant-based diet can vary widely, the authors of one report point out. Another warns that vegetarian and vegan diets might be associated with nutrient deficiencies that could be harmful during pregnancy.

And recently, a National Institutes of Health study linked a vegetarian diet to higher risk of depression in men.

Vegetarian or Mediterranean? Both Diets Improve Weight, Lipids

Three months of a low-calorie vegetarian and a low-calorie Mediterranean diet were equally beneficial in reducing weight and improving cardiovascular risk profiles, in the first randomized crossover trial comparing the two directly.

The vegetarian diet was more effective in reducing LDL cholesterol, whereas the Mediterranean diet led to a greater reduction in triglycerides, which was not surprising, the researchers say.

These findings from the Cardiovascular Prevention With Vegetarian Diet (CARDIVEG) by Francesco Sofi, MD, PhD (University of Florence, Italy), and colleagues were published online February 26 in Circulation.

Participants received individual, in-person counseling from nutritionists on how to adhere to each of the two evidence-based healthy eating patterns. The vegetarian diet excluded meat and fish but included dairy and eggs.

This was the first “intervention study that follows the principles of evidence-based medicine, in a general population at low risk of cardiovascular disease, that compared these two beneficial diets,” Sofi told | Medscape Cardiology.

“We can conclude that both diets are beneficial for heart health,” she said. The result was not surprising, she said, because both diets have a strong foundation of healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

“We [now] have data on two strategies that might be helpful in reducing cardiovascular risk and promoting cardiovascular health,” Cheryl AM Anderson, PhD, MPH, MS, University of California, San Diego, author of an accompanying editorial, told | Medscape Cardiology.

“This is a study that provides some evidence base on which you can begin to feel reasonably reassured in counseling patients that there’s not necessarily one path to Rome, but multiple strategies can be helpful.”

“It’s easy to focus on meat vs no meat, but what’s really important is the rest of the diet,” Anderson stressed.

A healthy diet should be “nutrient dense; rich in vegetables and fruits, whole grains, legumes and nuts; low in refined grains and commercially processed foods with added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium; sustainable; culturally relevant; and enjoyable.”

There is helpful information and tools online at, she noted, which are based on the most recent US guidelines.

Two Healthy Diets

The Mediterranean diet is widely reported to be one of the healthiest eating patterns to prevent cardiovascular disease, Sofi and colleagues note. In an earlier meta-analysis, the researchers reported that a vegetarian eating pattern was associated with improvements in cardiovascular risk factors.

To compare the two diets, the CARDIVEG trial randomly assigned 118 participants (78% women) living in Florence in 2014 to 2015 who were age 18 to 75 years and overweight (BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2).

The participants also had one or more of the following risk factors for cardiovascular disease, as defined by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) guidelines: total cholesterol greater than 190 mg/dL, LDL cholesterol greater than 115 mg/dL, triglycerides greater than 150 mg/dL, and glucose greater than 110 but less than 126 mg/dL.

On average, they were 51 years of age, weighed 84 kg, and had a BMI of 31 kg/m2. Close to half (48%) were obese (BMI > 30 kg/m2).

All participants received in-person, individual counseling as well as a detailed, 1-week menu plan for each diet and recipes for the vegetarian diet.

After a run-in period, they ate a vegetarian or Mediterranean diet for 3 months and then switched diets for another 3 months. A total of 85% of the participants (50 for each intervention) completed the study.

Both diets had similar low calories and consisted of 50% to 55% carbohydrates, 25% to 30% fat, and 15% to 20% protein.

The participants ate a similar number of servings of cereals, fruits and vegetables, potatoes, sweets, and olive oil on both diets, but on the vegetarian diet they ate more legumes, nuts, eggs, and dairy products, as well as flaxseed and avocado (to compensate for the lack of essential fatty acids from fish).

Both diets were similarly effective for weight loss. After 3 months, the participants lost a mean of 1.88 kg and 1.77 kg while on the vegetarian and Mediterranean diets, respectively.

They also lost a similar amount of fat mass (about 1.3 kg) and lowered their BMI by a similar amount (about 0.65 kg/m2).

During the vegetarian diet, 46 participants (44%) modified their cardiovascular risk category by reaching ESC-recommended target levels: Sixteen reached the target for total cholesterol, 17 for LDL cholesterol, 6 for triglycerides, and 14 for BMI.

During the Mediterranean diet, 35 participants (34%) modified their cardiovascular risk category: Seven reached the target for total cholesterol, 6 for LDL cholesterol, 8 for triglycerides, and 10 for BMI.

The vegetarian diet is low in cholesterol, total fat, and saturated fatty acid, leading to lower rates of cholesterol in the bloodstream, whereas the Mediterranean diet “can reduce triglyceride levels through its beneficial components, including olive oil, dietary fiber, and many phytonutrients,” Sofi and colleagues explain.

Vitamin B12 levels were significantly lower with the vegetarian diet.

However, there were no significant differences in levels of oxidative stress markers or inflammatory cytokines after 3 months of each diet.

The study shows that “if a person would like to follow a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet he/she can obtain a beneficial effect as well as with the Mediterranean diet, or probably in a greater extent as for cholesterol and lipid variables,” Sofi said. “The most important thing is that he/she needs to be followed and instructed by an expert nutritionist in order to avoid possible deficiencies.”

Although these diets should be investigated in larger studies in other populations, this research suggests that “a low-calorie healthy vegetarian or Mediterranean diet pattern may offer a possible solution to the ongoing challenges to prevent and manage obesity and cardiovascular diseases,” Anderson said.

The researchers are continuing to follow the study participants, Sofi said, and “a considerable portion of them declared that they learned how to eat without meat, at least in part and for a short period. In my opinion, this is already a good result.”

DASH Diet Linked to Lower Risk for Depression

A diet previously shown to reduce hypertension and stroke risk may also help ward off depression, new research suggests.

Participants who most closely adhered to the low-sodium Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet were 11% less likely to become depressed over time than those least adherent to the diet, the study found.

The results suggest that the DASH diet may have the “dual benefit” of protecting against cardiovascular disease and helping to boost mood, lead author, Laurel J. Cherian, MD, assistant professor, vascular neurology, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, told Medscape Medical News.

“I think that’s a valuable tool for us as neurologists.”

Late life-depression is a “major issue,” not only for patients aging normally but also for those with cognitive issues and those who have had a stroke, said Cherian. “For me, as a stroke doctor, I know that post-stroke depression is a major issue that is undertreated, and contributes to morbidity.”

The study will be presented April 23 at the upcoming American Academy of Neurology (AAN) 2018 Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, California.

Food Frequency

The analysis included 964 participants in the Memory and Aging Project (MAP), a cohort of Chicagoans aged 60 years and older who are followed annually and evaluated over time for development of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to having regular cognitive assessments, MAP participants are screened for depression by using the 10-item version of the Center for Epidemiology Studies-Depression scale.

They also complete a 144-item food-frequency questionnaire. Participants are asked how often and how much they ate of various items over the past year.

On the basis of this self-reported intake, researchers then looked at how closely participants adhered to the DASH diet. In addition to emphasizing low sodium, this diet encourages consumption of foods rich in nutrients, such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium, that help lower blood pressure.

The diet scoring system used in the study has been validated in previous research. The DASH score ranges from 0 to 10, with more points given for eating healthier foods daily.

Researchers divided participants into tertiles based on their diet scores. “For example, the highest tertile would be people who were scoring 8, 9, or 10 on the DASH diet and the people who were scoring 1, 2, or 3 would be in the lowest tertile, which is probably closer to the typical Western diet,” said Cherian.

The typical Western or American diet is generally low in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and high in sweets, saturated fats, and processed foods.

Those in the middle tertile might have some good dietary habits but might be eating too many unhealthy saturated fats and salty foods, said Cherian.

High-Risk Population

The mean age of study participants was 81.32 years. Cherian pointed out that their age made them a high-risk population for depression.

For this study, depression was defined as the presence of four or more depressive symptoms, for example, feeling hopeless about the future and being troubled by things that aren’t usually bothersome.

Participants were followed for an average of 6.53 years. The researchers controlled for factors known to affect depression, including age, education level, sex, caloric intake, and cognitive function.

The analysis showed that participants who were most adherent to the DASH diet were less likely to become depressed. Those in the second (β = – 0.0786; P = .0319) and third (β = – 0.1109; P = .0061) tertiles of the DASH diet had lower rates of depression over time than those in the first tertile (β = –0.03; P = .004).

On the other hand, the analysis showed that eating more of a Western diet was positively associated with depression over time (β = 0.0195; P = .0346).

Depression symptoms can come and go, but because depression was assessed annually, and not just once, the study was less likely to have captured a depression episode by chance, said Cherian.

This study did not separate out stroke survivors, but Cherian and her colleagues aim to do so in another analysis.

MIND, Mediterranean Diets

The researchers also looked at the Mediterranean diet. This diet emphasizes fish, fruits, and vegetables, with olive oil as the main source of fat.

As well, they examined the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet, a kind of hybrid of these two diets. But the MIND diet also emphasizes brain-healthy foods, such as green leafy vegetables, berries that are loaded with antioxidants, and olive oil.

In previous studies, both the Mediterranean and MIND diets protected cognition, and recent research has suggested that the Mediterranean diet can improve mental health in patients with depression (for example, the SMIILES study and the HELFIMED study).

The scoring patterns for the Mediterranean and MIND diets are different from that of the DASH diet, but in this current study they were standardized in tertiles so the diets could be compared to each other, said Cherian.

The new study did not find a statistically significant association between depression and the Mediterranean or the MIND diet. It’s not clear why these other healthy diets didn’t have a significant effect on depression, but a larger study might have found that they also affect mood, said Cherian.

In the meantime, she’s keen to learn what it is about the DASH diet that seems to boost mood.  “We need to do some additional studies to try to figure out what is it about the DASH diet that may be helpful,” said Cherian.

It could be that the DASH diet focuses on low sodium. However, Cherian emphasized the difficulty of quantitatively measuring sodium in the diet, especially when some people aren’t even aware they’re taking it in.

Food as Medicine

The bottom line, though, is that all three diets — DASH, Mediterranean, and MIND — “are substantially better for people than the typical Western diet,” she said.

This new study and others highlight the power of food as medicine, said Cherian.

“As a neurologist, I realize that medicines are wonderful tools; they’re very powerful and something we definitely want to utilize. But medicines have side effects and for some people, it’s challenging to be on psychiatric medications.”

Cherian said she hopes this research will draw attention to this area.

“We know that our elderly population is at increased risk of developing depression. I think a healthy lifestyle, and in particular including a healthy diet, can be a way to ward off depression.”

Commenting on the study, Helmi Lutsep, MD, vice chair and Dixon Term Professor, Department of Neurology, Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), associate director, OHSU Stroke Center, and a fellow of the AAN, said it’s “very valid.”

“We always love randomized trials, but it can be very difficult to answer some of these questions that way,” she told Medscape Medical News.

The approach the researchers took was commendable, added Lutsep. “They’ve got a large patient population; they seem to have followed them for a long period of time; and assessed them quite frequently, so from what I can tell from the abstract, it looks well done.”

It’s possible that the DASH diet is a little more “prescribed” than the other diets so people may be more likely to stick to it, said Lutsep. “Maybe they were just a little more careful or compulsive about food intake compared to those following other diets.”

She agreed that having “that extra element of watching your sodium intake” might have affected depression among adherents to the DASH diet.

Lutsep noted that of all the diets, the DASH diet emphasizes alcohol the least. Alcohol can be a depressant and drinking more than the recommended amount can increase blood pressure, she said.

Red wine is part of the Mediterranean lifestyle, and the MIND diet also includes some alcohol.

“So very theoretically, if people are trying to control their blood pressure, maybe that would also be the group that is drinking less than the other groups,” said Lutsep.

She also pointed out that the economic status of the different groups wasn’t clear and that eating a healthy diet can be expensive.

“There are potential constraints, or things we can’t always tease out in a study like this.”

What Are ‘Ultra-Processed’ Foods Exactly?

And no, you don’t need to give them up completely.

You’ve been warned about processed foods (as opposed to whole foods) because research has shown us time and again that a diet rich in a processed foods is often high in added sugar, sodium, and trans fats and, therefore, comes with a higher risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

So what the heck is a processed food? Essentially, a processed food is just anything that’s been deliberately altered in some way before you eat it, which could mean that it’s been frozen, dried, or artificially formulated from scratch into a microwaveable dinner.

But obviously there are significant nutritional differences between a processed food like frozen peas and a processed food like chicken nuggets.

Now, a new study looked at how processed foods were associated with someone’s overall health. And to do so, they looked specifically at what are called “ultra-processed” foods.

It’s a term that other researchers have used before to differentiate between the many shades of gray associated with processed foods. And the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics similarly breaks down the variety under the umbrella of “processed” foods.

For this particular study, published recently in the BMJ, the researchers defined “ultra-processed” foods really by what they aren’t more than by what they are. They aren’t “unprocessed or minimally processed foods” (e.g. fresh veggies, rice, meat, and eggs). They aren’t “processed culinary ingredients” (such as salt, butter, or sugar). Nor are they “processed foods,” which includes foods like canned vegetables with added salt, canned fruits with added sugar, cheeses, and meats preserved only by the addition of salt.

As such, “ultra-processed” foods tend to be mass produced packaged goods, such as sodas, packaged sweet and savory snacks, instant noodles, chicken nuggets, and frozen meals. It’s still a huge group of foods, but breaking out these types of industrialized snacks and treats does make sense.

“These are foods that have a lot of added sugar, salt, and fat,” Lisa R. Young, Ph.D., R.D., adjunct professor of nutrition at NYU Steinhardt, tells SELF. Additionally, these foods are often made from processed substances that are extracted or refined from whole foods, like oils, hydrogenated oils, fats, flours, starches, variants of sugar, and cheap parts or remnants of animal foods, Ruth Kava, Ph.D., senior nutrition fellow at the American Council on Science and Health, tells SELF. Basically, they have limited nutritional value and even when you are getting some protein (in those chicken nuggets, for example), you’re also getting a bunch of stuff you probably don’t want (e.g. sodium and maybe trans fats) and lots of calories in exchange for limited satiety.

“Most are made, advertised, and sold by large or transnational corporations and are very durable, palatable, and ready to consume,” she adds, “which is an enormous commercial advantage over fresh and perishable whole or minimally processed foods.” They’re everywhere, they taste great, and are aggressively marketed to the public, which makes it pretty unrealistic to think you’ll always be able to turn down these foods in favor of their healthier cousins.

Are they convenient? Oh yeah. Are they delicious? Absolutely. Should they make up the bulk of your diet? Probably not.

It’s pretty safe to assume that “ultra-processed” foods are foods you already know aren’t great for you. But it helps to think of processed foods as existing on a spectrum—and to recognize that they aren’t all equally bad.

Overall, it’s a good idea to limit how much of these foods you eat and opt for more fresh, minimally-processed, and homemade foods, Bernard Srour, Pharm.D., one of the authors on the new study and a Ph.D. candidate researcher with the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team at the French Institute of Health and Medical Research, tells SELF.

For the study, Srour and other researchers analyzed daily food data for 104,980 people who participated in the French NutriNet-Santé cohort between 2009 and 2017, an ongoing online survey that studies the link between nutrition and health. They found that as the amount of ultra-processed food people ate increased, so did their risk for cancer. If they increased the amount of ultra-processed foods they ate by 10 percent during the study, their cancer risk also went up by more than 10 percent.

But this is the first prospective study to assess a person’s cancer risk alongside their ultra processed foods habit, and way more research needs to be done before any definitive conclusions can be made, says Srour. It’s also worth noting that the study didn’t prove that eating ultra-processed foods actually causes cancer—just that people who developed cancer at some point were also a little more likely to eat ultra-processed foods.

“People should not be alarmed by this,” Srour says.

Of course, considering how inexpensive and freely available processed (and ultra-processed) foods are, it’s not super realistic to think that everyone can steer clear of them.

And you don’t really need to avoid them entirely. In general, experts advise that minimally processed foods should make up the majority of our diets (meaning those nutrient-rich fresh veggies, lean meats, and the like). But cooking three fresh meals from fresh ingredients every day (plus snacks, of course) is a lot to ask for basically anyone, especially those of us with full-time jobs and other obligations.

So, thinking of foods on a spectrum like these researchers describe (with unprocessed fresh foods on one end and ultra-processed foods on the other) is helpful in that it highlights the fact that just because something is processed in some way doesn’t make it inherently awful for you, even if there are ways in which foods may be processed that are more likely to be harmful. Some lightly-processed foods—canned fruit, frozen veggies, sliced cheese, canned tuna—are actually full of nutrients and way more convenient than their totally fresh and whole alternatives. Plus, with some minimal label reading, you can make sure you’re getting versions of those that don’t have added sugar (in your frozen fruit) or sodium (in your canned beans or tuna).

Even when it comes to ultra-processed foods, they can be a totally fine (although preferably small) part of your overall diet. “When consumed in small amounts and with other healthy sources of calories, ultra-processed products are harmless,” Kava says. “It’s not problematic if you have the occasional treat,” Young adds.

In fact, allowing yourself those treats may make it easier for you to choose more nutritious options at other times. Not to mention, the entire idea of sorting foods into “good” and “bad” categories may be problematic or triggering for those with a history of disordered eating. So, as much as possible, keep your expectations reasonable and your food choices balanced—whatever that means for you.

Wheat Contains Not One, But 23K Potentially Harmful Proteins

Wheat Contains Not One, But 23K Potentially Harmful Proteins

Despite popular misconceptions gluten is only the tip of a very large iceberg. There are actually 23,788 distinct proteins that have been identified in wheat, any one of which could incite a negative immune reaction in the body. 

Most folks don’t realize that when we are talking about health problems associated with wheat, or gluten, we are not talking about a monolithic entity, a singular “bad guy,” solely responsible for the havoc commonly experienced as a consequence of consuming this grain. After all, how could just one villain cause the 200+ different clinically observed adverse health effects now linked in the biomedical literature to wheat consumption?

No, the problem is that “gluten” is an abstraction, and in its perceived singularity profoundly misrepresents the true extent of the problem, much in the way that the tip of an iceberg does not convey the massive threat submerged below …

Gluten is the Latin name for “glue,” and signifies the doughy complex of proteins within the wheat plant, further classified as either gliadins (alcohol soluble), glutelins (dilute acid or alkalis soluble), or other. Because wheat is a hexaploid species  (doesn’t that sound creepy?), the byproduct of three ancestor plants becoming one, with no less than 6 sets of chromosomes and 6.5 times more genes than found in the human genome, it is capable of producing no less than 23,788 different proteins – a fact as amazing as it is disturbing.[i]

Disturbing, how?

Well, any one of these proteins could elicit what is known as an antigenic response, i.e. the immune system identifies a wheat protein as other, launches either an innate or adaptive immune response, and attacks self-structures accidentally, as a result.

So, if only one protein could incite an adverse reaction, what would 23,000 different proteins do when presented to the body for processing simultaneously? And what if many of these wheat proteins were disulfide-bonded proteins, that is, “glued” together (Remember, gluten is the Latin word for glue) with the same, sturdy sulfur-based bonds found in human hair and vulcanized rubber – (think bowling ball plastic tough!) – which is to say, impossible for our digestive system to break down fully?*

What would happen is that many of these proteins would pass through our intestinal tract, made more permeable by the dual effects of gliadin (zonulin up-reguation) and wheat lectin (the invisible thorn), hence “opening pandora’s bread box” of autoimmunity and systemic inflammation.

Keep in mind that 23,788 proteins is a very large number. And given the recombinatorial possibilities inherent in such a large number of distinct, different proteins, some of them have emerged — by sheer accident — as nearly identical (homologous) in structure and configuration to both narcotic drugs and virulent components of immune-system activating microbes.

Narcotic Potential

Gliadin can be broken down into various amino acid lengths or peptides. Gliadorphin is a 7 amino acid long peptide: Tyr-Pro-Gln-Pro-Gln-Pro-Phe which forms when the gastrointestinal system is compromised. When digestive enzymes are insufficient to break gliadorphin down into 2-3 amino acid lengths and a compromised intestinal wall allows for the leakage of the entire 7 amino acid long fragment into the blood, glaidorphin can pass through to the brain through circumventricular organs and activate opioid receptors resulting in disrupted brain function.

There have been a number of gluten exorphins identified: gluten exorphin A4, A5, B4, B5 and C, and many of them have been hypothesized to play a role in autism, schizophrenia, ADHD and related neurological conditions.   In the same way that the celiac iceberg illustrated the illusion that intolerance to wheat is rare, it is possible, even probable, that wheat exerts pharmacological influences on everyone. What distinguishes the schizophrenic or autistic individual from the functional wheat consumer is the degree to which they are affected.

Immunotoxic Potential

The digestion of gliadin produces a peptide that is 33 amino acids long and is known as 33-mer which has a remarkable homology to the internal sequence of pertactin, the immunodominant sequence in the Bordetella pertussis bacteria (whooping cough). Pertactin is considered a highly immunogenic virulence factor, and is used in vaccines to amplify the adaptive immune response. It is possible the immune system may confuse this 33-mer with a pathogen resulting in either or both a cell-mediated and adaptive immune response against Self.

So, while acknowledging that “gluten” is a problem is a good, first step in the acknowledgment of the dangers of wheat, it is just the beginning of a journey into understanding the true nature, and extent of damage caused by this debilitating food.

%d bloggers like this: