Tag Archives: Vegan

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!





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.

Raw Vegan vs. Vegan: Which Diet is Best for Optimal for Health?

In a previous article I wrote about how vegans have been shown to have decreased risk of heart disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality. In addition, in 3 separate articles I’ve written about how cooking food at high temperature (above boiling, 212ºF), whether it is roasting, baking, frying or grilling produces molecules that have been shown to shorten lifespan (AGE products), and, that cause cancer in rodents (both acrylamide and furan). Collectively these data indicate that a vegan diet without cooking any of the food at high temperature is optimal for health. However, within the confines of a vegan diet, which is best for health, raw, or raw plus boiled? In this article, I will discuss why a purely raw food diet is not optimal for health.

In short, the reason is because of fructose. Fructose isn’t only found in HFCS, it’s also the main sugar found in fruit. Raw food diets consist of nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables. However, on a 80-10-10 diet, in which nuts are rarely used, almost all of the calories will come from fruit. For example, bananas contain 27% fructose (http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/list). In other words, if you eat nothing but bananas in a single day, this would be equivalent to a 27% fructose diet. And, on the fructose scale, bananas are relatively low in fructose. For example, strawberries, cherries, blueberries, oranges, peaches, pears, grapes, watermelon and apples contain 34%, 35%, 35%, 36%, 40%, 46%, 48%, 53%, 53% fructose, respectively. If you ate nothing but watermelon all day you would be on a 46% fructose diet. So, are there any adverse health effects of this amount of dietary fructose?

The answer is yes: both high and low fructose diets have been shown to elevate blood levels of triglycerides, which are a well documented risk factor for cardiovascular disease (Austin et al. 1998). On a 20% fructose diet for 5 weeks, triglycerides (20%), LDL (12%) and total cholesterol (10%) each increased (Reiser et al. 1989). In contrast, although triglycerides were not found to elevated after 4 weeks of a 20% fructose diet (compared with 3% fructose in the controls) in a separate study, both LDL and total cholesterol were significantly elevated (Swanson et. al  1992). However, evidence from 2 additional studies in humans clearly show the positive association between increased fructose intake and elevated triglycerides. Le et. al (2006) found that fructose supplemented at 1.5g/kg body weight for only 1 month was sufficient to raise blood levels of triglycerides by 36% and VLDL-triglycerides by 72%. The amount of fructose supplemented is the Le study is equivalent to 75g and 105g fructose for a 50kg and 70 kg woman and man, respectively, and can easily be obtained by eating 11-15 bananas. In addition, Faeh et. al (2005) showed that fructose supplemented at 3 grams/kg body weight increased triglycerides by 79%. This amount of supplemented fructose is equivalent to eating 22-30 bananas. In addition, these are relatively low-fructose containing diets.

In contrast, rats fed a 67% fructose diet (the control diet contained only starch) more than doubled plasma triglycerides, increased the concentration of triglycerides in liver, increased liver size, and, decreased liver copper content. The importance of copper depletion is illustrated by its role as a cofactor in the enzyme Copper-Zinc superoxide dismutase (CuZnSOD), the first line of defense against superoxide radicals located in the cytosol of all cells. Depletion of liver copper would be expected to reduce CuZnSOD activity, thereby increasing liver oxidative stress. Indeed, the concentration of lipid peroxidation products was shown to be higher in plasma, heart and urine in rats fed the high fructose diet (Busserolles et al. 2003). The good news is that an all fruit diet would never reach the 67% fructose diet found in the Busserolle study, but evidence from relatively low fructose diets (20%) still show elevations in triglycerides.

If on a raw food diet the answer is to not to eat only fruit, what should be substituted? As mentioned earlier, there is no risk of forming AGE products, acrylamide or furan when boiling food. Therefore, substitution of some amount of fruit on a raw food diet, perhaps one third to half of the total calories should come from whole grains. Boiled whole grains (with vegetables, for the added flavor) is a great way to keep your total fructose intake relatively low. To ensure no loss of nutrients during the boiling process, don’t dump the soup, drink it, it’s delicious! The tocotrienols found almost exclusively in whole grains have been shown to reduce cholesterol (Zaiden et. al 2010), to reduce inflammation (Wu et al. 2008), to reduce DNA damage (Chin et al. 2008), to reduce cancer progression (Wada et al. 2005), and are neuroprotective (Khana et al. 2003). Therefore, when substituting fruit for whole grains, you won’t be sacrificing nutrition!

From a personal experience, in 2011 I switched from a Mediterranean diet to almost exclusively raw vegan. However, my triglycerides, which have never been higher than 60 mg/dL jumped from 40 mg/dL in 2011 to 90 in 2012! Nothing else changed in my routine-the supplements that I take, or how often I exercise, my body weight/composition was the same-only my diet changed. Based on this, it seems like raw plus boiled may be the path to optimal health!

Austin MA, Holkanson JE, Edwards KL. Hypertriglyceridemia as a cardiovascular risk factor. Am J Cardiol 1998;81:7B-12B.

Busserolles J, Gueux E, Rock E, Demigné C, Mazur A, Rayssiguier Y. Oligofructose protects against the hypertriglyceridemic and pro-oxidative effects of a high fructose diet in rats.
J Nutr. 2003 Jun;133(6):1903-8.

Chin SF, Hamid NA, Latiff AA, Zakaria Z, Mazlan M, Yusof YA, Karim AA, Ibahim J, Hamid Z, Ngah WZ. Reduction of DNA damage in older healthy adults by Tri E Tocotrienol supplementation. Nutrition. 2008 Jan;24(1):1-10.

Faeh D, Minehira K, Schwarz J, Periasami R, Seongus P, Tappy L. Effect of fructose overfeeding and fish oil administration on hepatic de novo lipogenesis and insulin sensitivity in healthy males. Diabetes 2005;54: 1907-13.

Khanna S, Roy S, Ryu H, Bahadduri P, Swaan PW, Ratan RR, Sen CK. Molecular basis of vitamin E action: tocotrienol modulates 12-lipoxygenase, a key mediator of glutamate-induced neurodegeneration J Biol Chem. 2003 Oct 31;278(44):43508-15.

Lê KA, Faeh D, Stettler R, Ith M, Kreis R, Vermathen P, Boesch C, Ravussin E, Tappy L. A 4-wk high-fructose diet alters lipid metabolism without affecting insulin sensitivity or ectopic lipids in healthy humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Dec;84(6):1374-9.

Fructose data in foods provided by http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/list

Reiser S, Powell AS, Scholfield DJ, Panda P, Ellwood KC, Canary JJ. Blood lipids, lipoproteins, apoproteins, and uric acid in men fed diets containing fructose or high-amylose cornstarch. Am J Clin Nutr. 1989 May;49(5):832-9.

Swanson JE, Laine DC, Thomas W, Bantle JP. Metabolic effects of dietary fructose in healthy subjects. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992 Apr;55(4):851-6.

Wada S, Satomi Y, Murakoshi M, Noguchi N, Yoshikawa T, Nishino H. Tumor suppressive effects of tocotrienol in vivo and in vitro. Cancer Lett. 2005;229:181-91.

Wu SJ, Liu PL, Ng LT. Tocotrienol-rich fraction of palm oil exhibits anti-inflammatory property by suppressing the expression of inflammatory mediators in human monocytic cells. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2008 Aug;52(8):921-9.

Zaiden N, Yap WN, Ong S, Xu CH, Teo VH, Chang CP, Zhang XW, Nesaretnam K, Shiba S, Yap YL. Gamma delta tocotrienols reduce hepatic triglyceride synthesis and VLDL secretion. J Atheroscler Thromb. 2010 Oct 27;17(10):1019-32.

Vegans, Vegetarians, Fish and Meat eaters: Which diet is best for minimizing risk of disease and death?

To answer the question proposed in the title, today I’ll look at the results of the Oxford Vegetarian study, in which risk for all-cause mortality, ischemic heart disease and malignant neoplasms was determined (Appelby et al.  1999). 6000 vegetarians and 5000 non-vegetarians were recruited, and, all participants were further divided into 4 groups: vegans, defined as those who never ate animal products; vegetarians, who never ate meat or fish but did eat dairy products, eggs, or both; fish eaters, who ate fish but no meat; and meat eaters (who ate meat more than once per week).

All groups consumed the same amount of total calories. However, when comparing individual macronutrients, vegans had the lowest protein (3.3% of total calories less than meat eaters) and fat intake (4.6 % less), but they made up for this difference by having a higher carbohydrate intake (9.5%), relative to all other groups. A similar dietary pattern was found in vegetarians, when compared with both fish and meat eaters.

A decreased total cholesterol/HDL ratio (TC/HDL) was found in vegans, when compared with vegetarians, fish and meat eaters  The TC/HDL ratio has been shown to be a strong independent predictor for the development of peripheral arterial disease (PAD, Ridker et al.  2001), a disease in which plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood to the head, organs, and limbs. In vegans, TC/HDL = 2.88; in vegetarians, 3.25; fish eaters, 3.21; meat eaters 3.56. Based on these results, the incidence of ischemic heart disease was predicted to be 57% lower in lifelong vegans and 24% in lifelong vegetarians than in meat eaters.

When considered as a whole group (11,000 subjects), significant associations between individual dietary components and mortality risk for ischemic heart disease were determined. For example, eating up to 5 eggs per week did not significantly increase mortality risk, but eating 6+ eggs per week increased risk by 270%. Eating cheese (excluding cottage) up to 4 times per week did not increase mortality risk, but eating cheese more than 5 times per week increased mortality risk by 247%.  Relative to the lowest intake of animal and saturated fat, mortality risk was increased by 329% and 277%, in the highest intake, respectively. Similarly, those that ate the most cholesterol had a 353% increased mortality risk, relative to the lowest intake. In other words, high amounts of eggs cheese, animal and saturated fat were found to be associated with increased risk for ischemic heart disease.

Death rates, risk of ischemic heart disease and the risk of malignant cancer were 20%, 28% and 39% reduced in in non-meat-eaters when compared with meat eaters.Cumulatively, these results provide yet another reason to reduce meat consumption! (Also see https://michaellustgarten.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/methionine-restriction-extends-lifespan-another-reason-to-reduce-meatprotein-intake/).



Appleby PN, Thorogood M, Mann JI, Key TJ. The Oxford Vegetarian Study: an overview. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Sep;70(3 Suppl):525S-531S.

Ridker PM, Stampfer MJ, Rifai N. Novel risk factors for systemic atherosclerosis: a comparison of C-reactive protein, fibrinogen, homocysteine, lipoprotein(a), and standard cholesterol screening as predictors of peripheral arterial disease. JAMA. 2001 May 16;285(19):2481-5