Tag Archives: Paleo

Collard-rito, Collard-acos (Recipe)

One meal that I’ve been eating a lot of lately are what I call collard-rito, or collard-acos:



7-10 oz of collard greens

~Half of a pound of raw cherry tomatoes

1 container of raw white button mushrooms

~80g of raw purple onion

1 avocado

1g Salt



Cut the stems off the collards, then add the collard leaves to a large pan with half a cup of water. Boil/steam this for less than 5 minutes,then take out the slightly softer leaves. I don’t waste the resulting the collard-tea, as I drink it after it cools! Take half of the collard leaves and bunch them flat together on a plate. Add half of the avocado, then half of the 1 gram of salt, then some of the onions, a few pieces of the mushrooms, and whatever room is left for the tomatoes. While I’m making this meal, I snack on the raw mushrooms, eventually finishing the entire container. Then, I fold it all together. If I add less veggies and can wrap it like a burrito = collard-rito. If I stuff it with too many veggies (like a taco), = collard-aco. It’s delicious!





Think Your Diet Is Paleo? Not If Your Potassium Intake Is Less Than…

The stereotype about the Paleo diet is that it is meat heavy. How much meat Paleo era-eaters ate is debatable, but that they consumed large amounts of potassium rich, plant-based foods is not! When examining 159 Stone Age diets, the average daily potassium intake has been reported to be 400 meq/day (Sebastian et al. 2006), as shown below:


How much is 400 meq in milligrams (mg) of potassium? 1 meq = 39.1 mg of potassium, so to figure that out we multiply 400 *39.1, thereby yielding an average daily potassium intake of 15,640 mg/day! It’s important to note that this value is based on a 3000 calorie diet (Eaton et al. 1997). Dividing 15,640/3000 yields 5.21 mg potassium/calorie.

In contrast, as studied in 12,581 US adults, the average dietary potassium intake has been reported to be only ~2600 mg/day (Cogswell et al. 2012). Furthermore, only 1.4% of all subjects had potassium values greater than 4700 mg/day!

What’s my potassium intake? Shown below is my 7-day average intake from 8/29/2015-9/4/2015. The black rectangle in the lower right corner shows my average daily potassium intake to be 10,383 mg/day.

my potass

My average daily calorie intake during that week was 2193. In terms of mg potassium/calorie, my value is 4.73 (10,383/2193), which isn’t far from the reported average Paleo value. What’s yours?

For reference, shown below is a representative day during that week (Wednesday, September 2; 2251 calories) for what I ate.

my intake



Cogswell ME, Zhang Z, Carriquiry AL, Gunn JP, Kuklina EV, Saydah SH, Yang Q, Moshfegh AJ. Sodium and potassium intakes among US adults: NHANES 2003-2008. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Sep;96(3):647-57.

Eaton SB, Eaton SB 3rd, Konner MJ. Paleolithic nutrition revisited: A twelve-year retrospective on its nature and implications. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1997 Apr;51(4):207-16.

Sebastian A, Frassetto LA, Sellmeyer DE, Morris RC Jr. The evolution-informed optimal dietary potassium intake of human beings greatly exceeds current and recommended intakesSemin Nephrol. 2006 Nov;26(6):447-53.

If Your Goal Is Optimal Nutrition, Which Is Better, Carrots Or Sweet (Orange) Potatoes?

If your goal is optimal nutrition, which orange root vegetable would you choose, carrots or sweet potatoes? 100 calories from carrots vs. 100 calories from sweet potatoes, let’s have a look!

First, to get 100 calories you can eat almost double the amount of carrots, 245g compared with 111g of a baked sweet potato. Protein and carbohydrate are about the same, whereas there is marginally more fat in carrots. However, for the same amount of calories, carrots have almost double the fiber! Fiber feed gut bacteria, which may be involved in lifespan (https://michaellustgarten.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/are-the-bacteria-in-our-intestines-involved-in-mechanisms-underlying-health-and-lifespan/), so I’m all for that!

carr pot1

What about vitamin content? For the 17 Vitamins below, carrots have higher values for 10 of them, whereas sweet potatoes have higher values for only 3 vitamins. It’s important to note that for the same amount of calories, carrots have almost double the Vitamin A and beta-carotene,  17+ fold more alpha-carotene, and contain lutein+xeaxanthin (whereas sweet potatoes don’t have any!).


What about mineral content? For the 10 minerals shown in the below, raw carrots are better than sweet potato for 5 minerals, whereas sweet potato leads for 4 mineral categories. However, sweet potato is barely better for some, like magnesium, iron and copper, by 1 milligram, 0.1 and 0.1 milligrams, respectively.


Carrots also contain flavanoids, including flavones (luteolin) and flavanols (kaempferol, myricetin, quercetin), whereas these metabolites are absent in sweet potatoes . An increased flavanoid intake in older adults is associated with reduced all-cause mortality risk (Ivey et al. 2015):

flav mort

So, based on energy and nutrient density (you can eat more carrots, and carrots have far more nutrition than sweet potatoes, for the same amount of calories), I would choose carrots over sweet potatoes. However, as an argument against this, Okinawans, who have one of the highest life expectancies in the world (shown below) consume more than half of the their calories from sweet potatoes (Wilcox and Wilcox 2014). Maybe carrots being better than sweet potatoes doesn’t matter? Or maybe the Okinawans would have slightly better health if they got a similar amount of calories from carrots instead?


Interestingly, vegetables and fruits comprise the base of the Okinawan food pyramid (shown below; Wilcox et al. 2009), which I’ve suggested is both evolutionary accurate (https://michaellustgarten.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/on-a-paleo-diet-not-if-you-fiber-intake-is-less-than/) and is optimal for maximizing nutrient density (https://michaellustgarten.wordpress.com/2015/06/03/in-search-of-optimal-nutrient-density-veggies-or-whole-grains/).

okinawan food pyramid

So the take home here is that while carrots are better, it looks like you can’t go wrong eating either carrots or sweet potatoes!


Nutrition info (including flavanoid content) via ndb.nal.usda.gov

Ivey KL, Hodgson JM, Croft KD, Lewis JR, Prince RL. Flavonoid intake and all-cause mortality. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 May;101(5):1012-20.

Murphy MM, Douglass JS, Birkett A. Resistant starch intakes in the United States. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008 Jan;108(1):67-78. Erratum in: J Am Diet Assoc. 2008 May;108(5):890.

Willcox DC, Willcox BJ, Todoriki H, Suzuki M. The Okinawan diet: health implications of a low-calorie, nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich dietary pattern low in glycemic load. J Am Coll Nutr. 2009 Aug;28 Suppl:500S-516S.

Willcox BJ, Willcox DC. Caloric restriction, caloric restriction mimetics, and healthy aging in Okinawa: controversies and clinical implications. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2014 Jan;17(1):51-8.

On a Paleo Diet? Not if your fiber intake is less than…

Do you think Paleo diets involve eating mostly meat? While how much meat was eaten in that era is debatable, what is known is that they ate a lot of high-fiber fruits and vegetables. Shown below are the estimated daily fiber and energy intake (Eaton et al. 1997). On a 3000 calorie diet it’s estimated that those who lived in the Paleo era consumed 104 g fiber/day. That translates into 3.3 g fiber per 100 calories.

paleo fiber

Do you consider yourself a Paleo eater? If so, do you get that much fiber? For example, I average 2200 calories per day. Based on the estimated Paleo fiber intake of 3.3g fiber/100 calories, I should average 66g or more dietary fiber per day. As shown below, my 7-day average for fiber intake is 94g/day.




Eaton SB, Eaton SB 3rd, Konner MJ. Paleolithic nutrition revisited: A twelve-year retrospective on its nature and implications. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1997 Apr;51(4):207-16.

Is Dietary Fiber Associated with Reduced Mortality?

In an earlier I post I hypothesized that gut bacteria may be involved in mechanisms that affect lifespan. Because gut bacteria ferment dietary fiber to make short chain fatty acids such as butyrate, which may be involved in processes that mediate lifespan, investigation of large-scale epidemiological studies about the association between dietary fiber intake with all-cause mortality would be a good way to test this hypothesis. While this post won’t summarize all of the studies that relate fiber intake to mortality risk, in future posts I will sequentially investigate all the studies that have examined this association.

The Dietary National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study (Park et al. 2011) included 567,169 men and women, aged 50–71 years who provided dietary intake data for a 9-year period. Dietary intakes were assessed with a self-administered 124 item food frequency questionnaire.

Compared with the lowest dietary fiber intake (13g in men, 11g in women), death from all causes was reduced by 22%, when compared with those with the highest intake (29g in men, 26g in women). So, the answer is to eat more fiber! I should say it’s easy to get 30 grams of fiber/day. That’s pretty close to my breakfast, which includes 100g of flaxseed, 35g yacon and ~90g of medjool dates.

Which dietary component was associated with this reduced risk, fiber from grains, fruits, vegetables or beans? Relative risk (including 95% confidence intervals) for men is shown in Table 1.

Grains Fiber Mortality Table 1

In comparison with the lowest grain fiber intake, those with the highest intake had significantly reduced risk of 23%, 23%, 17%, 52% and 26% death from all causes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, infectious diseases and, respiratory diseases, respectively. In women, fiber from grains significantly reduced mortality risk for each of these categories by 17-28%, with the exception of deaths from infectious disease. So, for the Paleo types who say don’t eat whole grains, the evidence doesn’t support that idea!

In Table 2 we see that fiber from fruits was not significantly associated with reduced mortality risk for any outcome. Does that mean don’t eat fruit? No. Fruit intake is well documented to be associated with improved health, so other components besides fruit fiber are likely involved.

Fruit Fiber Mortality Table 2

What about mortality risk for fiber from vegetables (Table 3)?

Vegetable Fiber Mortality Table 3

In men, compared with the lowest vegetable fiber intake, those with the highest vegetable fiber intake had 5% and 8% significantly reduced all-cause mortality risk and, cancer deaths, respectively. In women, all-cause mortality was significanty reduced by 5%, whereas respiratory disease deaths were reduced by 28%.

The association between fiber from beans with mortality risk is shown in Table 4.

Beans Fiber Mortality Table 4

Fiber from beans was not associated with reduced mortality risk for any outcome in men, but, all-cause, CVD, cancer and infectious disease deaths were significantly reduced by 13%, 17%, 3% and 41%, respectively in women.

The take home message? Eat more fiber!



Park Y, Subar AF, Hollenbeck A, Schatzkin A. Dietary fiber intake and mortality in the NIH-AARP diet and health study. Arch Intern Med. 2011 Jun 27;171(12):1061-8.