A Big, Fat Oily Mess

1 05 2012

I have searched the internet for articles and information on oils and have read many articles. Trying to filter out what is right, what is wrong, what is good, and what is bad is truly an “oily mess.” It would be easy to just say virgin coconut oil is the best or never eat margarine, and that would be that. But there is so much more to understand about fats in oil, cooking with oil, uses of different oils and your health. So, sorry to say, this will be a slightly exhaustive look at fat and oils. I will try to keep it as short and sweet as possible and provide lots of links so you can read further on your own. I want to say upfront that I copied big parts liberally from Dr. Ben Kim (see link below). Here we go!

The Basics of Fat

Fat that is found in food is composed mainly of fatty acids. Fatty acids are classified into three major groups: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. All fatty acids are made up of a chain of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms filling in the spaces around each carbon atom.

Saturated Fatty Acids: When the spaces surrounding each carbon atom are filled, or saturated with hydrogen atoms, you have a saturated fatty acid. Because each carbon atom is completely surrounded by hydrogen atoms, saturated fatty acids are compact and extremely stable, even under high temperatures. Saturated fatty acids are usually solid at room temperature and are found mainly in animal fats such as butter, other dairy, red meat, and tropical oils. Your body makes some of its saturated fatty acids from carbohydrates in your diet.

Monounsaturated Fatty Acids: When a fatty acid is missing two hydrogen atoms, it has a double bond between two of its carbon atoms. This type of fatty acid is called a monounsaturated fatty acid, mono, because there is only one double bond, and unsaturated because the two carbon atoms that share a double bond are not saturated with hydrogen atoms. Monounsaturated fatty acids are usually liquid at room temperature are relatively stable, even when exposed to some heat. The most common type of monounsaturated fatty acid found in food is called oleic acid. Monounsaturated fatty acids are found in olive oil, avocados, peanuts, almonds, pecans, and cashews. Your body can also make monounsaturated fatty acids out of saturated fatty acids.

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: When a fatty acid chain is missing several hydrogen atoms, it has two or more double bonds. These fatty acids are called polyunsaturated fatty acids, poly, because there is more than one double bond. Because each double bond represents a kink in the fatty acid chain, polyunsaturated fatty acids have two or more kinks, and therefore are less saturated, and remain liquid even in the refrigerator. The most common polyunsaturated fatty acids found in foods are omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are considered to be essential fatty acids, because your body cannot make them – they must be obtained through your diet. See more discussion below.

Oils high in polyunsaturated oil include corn oil, soy oil, grape seed oil, regular safflower and sunflower oils (i.e., not “high oleic” oil – more on this below), and cottonseed oil and are highly unstable, and go bad quite easily when exposed to heat and light. You don’t want to cook with them. When polyunsaturated fatty acids go bad, free radicals are created. Free radicals are compounds that travel around in your blood, causing damage to just about everything that they come into contact with. Consistent exposure to free radicals has been strongly linked to the development of tumors, cardiovascular disease, premature aging, autoimmune diseases, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and cataracts.

The Dangers of Polyunsaturates – An Excerpt: From Enig and Fallon’s important paper on The Oiling of America: (see link below): “Because polyunsaturates are highly subject to rancidity, they increase the body’s need for vitamin E and other antioxidants. Excess consumption of vegetable oils is especially damaging to the reproductive organs and the lungs—both of which are sites for huge increases in cancer in the US. In test animals, diets high in polyunsaturates from vegetable oils inhibit the ability to learn, especially under conditions of stress; they are toxic to the liver; they compromise the integrity of the immune system; they depress the mental and physical growth of infants; they increase levels of uric acid in the blood; they cause abnormal fatty acid profiles in the adipose tissues; they have been linked to mental decline and chromosomal damage; they accelerate aging. Excess consumption of polyunsaturates is associated with increasing rates of cancer, heart disease and weight gain; excess use of commercial vegetable oils interferes with the production of prostaglandins leading to an array of complaints ranging from autoimmune disease to PMS. Disruption of prostaglandin production leads to an increased tendency to form blood clots, and hence myocardial infarction, which has reached epidemic levels in America.”

The Importance of the Omega-6 and Omega-3 Ratio in Polyunsaturates

One of the essential keys to excellent health is to maintain a good balance between the two most common polyunsaturated fatty acids – omega-6 and omega-3. An optimal ratio is about 1:1. Vegetable oils like safflower, corn, sunflower, soybean, and cottonseed all contain at least 50 percent omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and very little amounts of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, putting their omega-6 to omega-3 ratios as high as 20:1 which is why you want to avoid them.

Why is this ratio so critical to your health? If you have too much omega-6 compared to omega-3, you will have imbalances at a cellular level that will contribute to generalized inflammation, high blood pressure, digestive passageway disturbances, depressed immune function, sterility, weight gain, increased tendency to form blood clots, and even cancer. The excerpt above from Enig and Fallon’s article supports this.

How can you get a good ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids?  The best way is to eat a well balanced diet of whole, relatively unprocessed foods. A diet that is abundant in vegetables with smaller amounts of fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and organic or wild animal products including cold-water fish will very likely result in a healthy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. If you prefer not to use animal products, or are unable to locate organic or wild sources of animal products, you should consider using a high quality cod liver oil. Cod liver oil has an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly the longer chain omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA. Without supplementation, it is extremely difficult for strict vegans to obtain adequate quantities of DHA from only plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids like flax seeds and walnuts. This nutrient is particularly important for those with cardiovascular disease, any condition that is accompanied by chronic inflammation, and women of child-bearing status, as DHA is critical for proper development of the nervous system. Cutler and I have been taking cod liver oil and DHA since I discovered Dr. Sherry Rogers in November. I order ours from Carlson Labs (www. carlsonlabs.com).

An Oil Primer

Now we get to the nitty gritty and the original purpose of this post! All fats and oils from animal and plant sources are made up of a combination of all three types of fatty acids. In general, animal fats such as butter and fat found in beef and chicken have around 40-60 percent saturated fatty acids. Vegetable oils from low temperature climates tend to have a higher percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids and vegetable oils from warmer climates, like coconut oil and red palm oil, have high percentages of saturated fats because the saturated fats impart necessary stiffness to the leaves of plants in tropical climates. The following is a quick review from Dr. Kim’s guide to oils (http://drbenkim.com/articles-oils.html). Oils are listed starting from best to use and go down to those to avoid completely.

Coconut Oil: 91.9% saturated, 6.2% monounsaturated, 1.9% polyunsaturated. This is the healthiest cooking oil. Also great for skin care. Learn more about coconut oil here:
I have ordered some Garden of Life organic coconut oil from Amazon and am going to give it a try. (Read the reviews.)

Palm Oil: 51.6% saturated, 38.7% monounsaturated, 9.7% polyunsaturated. Excellent for cooking because it remains stable, but apparently may have a “different” taste and odor. It’s common in peanut butter and microwave popcorn.

Olive Oil: 13.8% saturated, 75.9% monounsaturated, 10.3% polyunsaturated. Olive oil is a case where there are competing “facts”. It is definitely better than vegetable oils, but it’s not necessarily as healthy as we want to believe. Because its monounsaturated fats are prone to being stored as fat, heavy use of olive oil can make it difficult to lose weight. Actually, butter is less likely to cause weight gain than olive oil (it all has to do with lengths of fatty acid chains). Interestingly, about 11 years ago, I gave up butter for a year and substituted olive oil – zero change in my cholesterol or weight. Personally, I love all my different flavored olive oils and love to use them in cooking! Hopefully the cod liver oil is keeping things right. Learn more about olive oil here:  http://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/oils/health-benefits-of-olive-oil.html

Avocado Oil: 12.1% saturated, 73.8% monounsaturated, 14.1% polyunsaturated. Generally not used for cooking, excellent for skin moisturizing, but more expensive than coconut oil.

Peanut Oil: 18% saturated, 48% monounsaturated, 34% polyunsaturated. Relatively stable when exposed to heat, but should be used sparingly because of high calorie content.

Sesame Oil: 14.9% saturated, 41.5% monounsaturated, 43.6% polyunsaturated. Because it’s pretty even in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, it shouldn’t be used for cooking on a regular basis and should be used raw only on occasion.

Canola Oil: 7.4% saturated, 61.6% monounsaturated, 31% polyunsaturated. Canola oil (short for Canada Oil, Low Acid) does not come from the canola plant (no such thing), but is highly processed from the rapeseed. Although canola oil contains a large percentage of monounsaturated fatty acids, it should be avoided because it has a high sulfur content and goes bad very easily. It  is also highly susceptible to developing trans fatty acids during processing, making it similar to margarine and shortening. You do not want to use or buy products with canola oil whenever possible! Here is a link that will give you all the facts you need to know about canola oil.
http://www.smallfootprintfamily.com/2009/09/25/the-inconvenient-truth-about-canola-oil/ Spectrum (see link below), a maker of various oils, will refute these claims and asserts, along with others, that canola oil is perfectly safe and healthy. Personally, based on what I’ve been reading, I am staying away from it for cooking, but you must decide for yourself.

Corn Oil: 13.6% saturated, 29% monounsaturated, 57.4% polyunsaturated; Sunflower Oil: 10.8% saturated, 20.4% monounsaturated, 68.7% polyunsaturated; Safflower Oil: 6.5% saturated, 15.1% monounsaturated, 78.4% polyunsaturated; Cottonseed Oil: 27.1% saturated, 18.6% monounsaturated, 54.3% polyunsaturated. All of these oils should be avoided because of their high percentages of polyunsaturated fats and high concentrations of omega-6 fatty acids.

Soybean Oil: 15.6% saturated, 22.8% monounsaturated, 57.7% polyunsaturated. The only way to avoid consuming soybean oil is to quit eating processed foods. As pointed out below in the excerpt from Enig and Fallon’s article, soybean oil has replaced natural fats in food processing. For example, a quick look in my cupboard shows that Wheat Thins and Girl Scout cookies are made with soybean oil or partially hydrogenated soybean oil. Another reason to try to avoid the middle aisles of the grocery store! More on diet recommendations from Dr. Kim below.

Hemp (10% saturated, 12.5% monounsaturated, 77.5% polyunsaturated) and Flaxseed Oils (9.8% saturated, 21.1% monounsaturated, 69.1% polyunsaturated): These oils are not recommended for cooking. Better to just eat the seeds (ground or whole).

Grape Seed Oil: 10% saturated, 16.8% monounsaturated, 73.2% polyunsaturated. Interestingly, because this oil has a high smoke point, you’ll find many websites recommending it for healthy cooking. I actually bought some based on these claims – it’s going in the trash. The high percentage of polyunsaturated fats will produce a significant amount of free radicals when exposed to heat, so you don’t want to use this oil.

90’s See the Nation Well-Oiled – An Excerpt

From Enig and Fallon’s important paper on The Oiling of America: (see link below): “By the nineties the operators had succeeded, by slick manipulation of the press and of scientific research, in transforming America into a nation that was well and truly oiled. Consumption of butter had bottomed out at about 5 grams per person per day, down from almost 18 at the turn of the century. Use of lard and tallow had been reduced by two-thirds. Margarine consumption had jumped from less than 2 grams per person per day in 1909 to about 11 in 1960. Since then consumption figures had changed little, remaining at about 11 grams per person per day—perhaps because knowledge of margarine’s dangers had been slowly seeping out to the public. However, most of the trans fats in the current American diet come not from margarine but from shortening used in fried and fabricated foods. American shortening consumption of 10 grams per person per day held steady until the 1960’s, although the content of that shortening had changed from mostly lard, tallow and coconut oil—all natural fats—to partially hydrogenated soybean oil. Then shortening consumption shot up and by 1993 had tripled to over 30 grams per person per day.

But the most dramatic overall change in the American diet was the huge increase in the consumption of liquid vegetable oils, from slightly less than 2 grams per person per day in 1909 to over 30 in 1993—a fifteen fold increase.”

Trans Fats and Hydrogenated Oils

Hydrogenation is a process that converts polyunsaturated fatty acids – which are normally liquid at room temperature – into solid fats at room temperature. The most common example is the conversion of vegetable oils into margarine and shortening. In case you’re curious, this is done because hydrogenated vegetable oils don’t go bad nearly as quickly as regular vegetable oils do, prolonging the shelf life of whatever product they are in. Remember that the large concentration of polyunsaturated fatty acids in most vegetable oils are harmful to begin with, as their inherent instability leads to formation of free radicals. Hydrogenated vegetable oils are even worse. This is because the process of hydrogenation changes the configuration of hydrogen atoms in polyunsaturated fatty acids to a formation called “trans”.

The trans formation is a huge problem for your tissues, as trans fatty acids are incorporated into your cell membranes and cause serious problems in cell metabolism. More specifically, trans fats are known to cause immune system depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, sterility, birth defects, decreased ability to produce breast milk, loss of vision, and weakening of your bones and muscles. And margarine, loaded with its trans fatty acids, is promoted as a health food?

The most concentrated sources of trans fats in the North American diet are margarine, shortening, French fries, fried chicken, doughnuts, cookies, crackers, and pastries. To give you some numbers, french fries typically have 40 percent trans fatty acids, while many popular cookies have anywhere from 30 to 50 percent trans fatty acids. Doughnuts usually have between 35 to 40 percent trans fatty acids. Sad to say but french fries and doughnuts are probably two of the worst foods for your health. Not all commercial cookies are harmful – read the labels. The reason food companies use trans fats is because the food stays fresh longer and preserves flavor.

Trans Fats – Are They Still in Our Processed Foods?

I would say the answer is yes. For one thing, a serving that contains less than .5 grams of trans fat, can be listed as 0 grams by the FDA. WebMD has a great article that reveals the top ten foods with trans fats. http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/top-10-foods-with-trans-fats And another reason to read the label? Many companies have switched from trans fats to canola oil – that’s not an improvement. Some cities are trying to regulate the restaurant industry and ban them from using trans fats in their kitchens. I’m not going to get bogged down in that discussion.

High Oleic Oil is Replacing Hydrogenated Trans Fat Oils in Processed Foods

The food processing industry is also trying a new type of oil called “high oleic”. Sunflower and safflower oils have been bred to be high in monounsaturated fats and low in saturated and polyunsaturated fats, and have no trans fat so they can be used in products that need a longer shelf life. Many companies, fast food chains, and restaurants have switched to these oils. If you’re going to buy packaged, processed foods then look for the term “high oleic sunflower (or other) oil” in the ingredients list.  Are they “healthy”? They’re definitely better than other oils used in processed foods, but the more you stick to whole, fresh foods, the better.

Why Do We Love Fat?

I couldn’t finish this article without mentioning why we love foods with fat and why they give us so much pleasure. There are studies out there that call our cravings for fatty foods a low-grade addiction, not dissimilar to drug addiction. Yummy fat food triggers pleasure receptors in the brain. The more often you eat fat, the less the pleasure receptors respond, so you eat more and more fat to gain that feeling of pleasure from food. Forks Over Knives has a great section that illustrates this cycle. It’s only five minutes – give it a look-see! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhriVF7L3m0 It certainly begins to explain obesity in America. I’m sure this could be an article all on its own.

Some Conclusions and Diet Do’s and Don’ts*

1. The very best oil for you to cook with is virgin coconut oil.

2. Olive, peanut, and sesame oil can withstand some exposure to heat without becoming harmful, but Dr. Kim says it is best to avoid using these oils for cooking on a regular basis. Olive oil is best eaten raw or added to your food after it is off the stove. (This could be difficult for me.)

3. Avoid the following polyunsaturated vegetable oils: safflower, corn, sunflower, soybean, cottonseed and canola.

4. Never eat margarine or shortening and foods that contain them.

5. For people who use butter, it is important to use organic butter. Rich, dark yellow colored butter represents great nutritional density.

6. Avoid all deep fried foods, unless they have been deep fried in virgin coconut oil or red palm oil. You can safely bet that very few restaurants in Canada or the States use these two tropical oils to deep fry.

7. Avoid anything that is made with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. This includes French fries, onion rings, tempura, doughnuts, and most processed, commercially prepared baked foods like, crackers, potato chips, cookies, chocolate bars, muffins, cakes, and pastries.

8. Avoid nuts and seeds roasted in oil.

9. Excellent, concentrated sources of fat from plant foods include: avocado, raw nuts, raw seeds, unsweetened coconut, coconut milk, virgin coconut oil, and raw olive oil. Most people should limit their intake of raw nuts and seeds to approximately one to two handfuls per day.

10. Excellent, concentrated sources of fat from animal foods include: cod liver oil, organic eggs from free-range birds, cold-water fish, organic chicken, grass-fed red meat (beef, buffalo, and lamb), and wild game. (As with all of the foods that you eat, it is important to observe your body’s feedback in order to determine which healthy foods are in fact healthy for your unique biochemistry.)

11. Processed foods are obviously difficult to avoid and who doesn’t like eating out? Based on what I’ve read, it seems to me that regular doses of cod liver oil will help you keep the right ratio between Omega 6  and Omega 3 fats, and help mitigate the effects of oils and fats you can’t control.

12. One last note: Oils (and butter) are high calorie foods so not only is it important to choose the right fats to consume, but also to limit the intake.

*Most Do’s and Don’ts are from Dr. Kim (link below)

The End! 🙂


I liberally copied and edited from Dr. Ben Kim’s article, “A Guide to Choosing Healthy Oils” http://drbenkim.com/articles-lipid.html

Dr. Kim’s article references an exhaustive research article, “The Oiling of America”, by Dr. Mary G. Enig, PhD and Sally Fallon. http://www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/the-oiling-of-america This detailed research paper will give you whole history of oil and fat in America.

Other links:

Drum Roll – My Recent Results

7 04 2012

In December I watched and wrote about Forks Over Knives. It was at that point that I made a big change in my diet (Cutler’s too). I no longer eat any meat whatsoever – the only meat I really miss is bacon. However, I will eat some meat if I’m at a friend’s house for dinner and that’s what they’re serving or it’s in a casserole, etc. We now eat a lot of veggies, seafood, and pasta. I’ve also cut out about 70% dairy. I still can’t give up putting sour cream in some things, or cheese, but I’ve definitely cut way back. I used to go through a gallon of milk a week – no more! I’ve also cut way down on my sugar/candy intake – it’s been difficult and I still indulge every so often. Dark chocolate has not been eliminated. One thing for all you wine and alcohol lovers out there, I haven’t cut back on that a bit! Haha!


Spring a year ago I went off my statin because of the muscle pain in my hips and glutes. Got re-tested in August and it was way back up so I went back on it again. In November, I went off the statin for good. At that point, I had not changed my diet, but I told my doctor I was cutting back on some things and trying to eat well, etc. She said to test it all again in March. Then in December I radically changed my diet. The numbers below reflect the difference since November.

Okay News

My total cholesterol number went down a whopping 7 points. However, the good news in that is that it didn’t go up like it did when I went off it last spring. Also, my LDL (the bad stuff) only went down 1 point!

Good News

My triglycerides dropped 133 points – it’s okay now! My HDL (the good stuff) went up 15 points and is in acceptable range now.

Great News

The best news about the diet change is that although I wasn’t on a “diet”, I lost 14-1/2 pounds (between November and March)! Not even trying! I love it.

Looking Forward

My doctor really wanted to put me back on a statin because she doesn’t like the LDL number – she’d like to see it go down another 10 points. This diet and nutritional change has only been going on for 3 months, so I convinced her to let me keep going and we’ll test again in July.

If you’ve been thinking about making some diet changes of your own to improve your health, I hope you found this update helpful and inspirational! Also, if you have any questions about the specifics of what I’ve been doing, fire away!

P.S. Working on a couple posts, but have been traveling a lot. Stay with me!


My Acupuncture Story

12 03 2012

I’m writing today about acupuncture because it’s something I’m doing regularly right now and thought I would share my experience. If you have chronic pain and are having trouble getting relief with traditional medicine, acupuncture may be an alternative treatment to consider.

My Story

A year ago January I was on a small airplane and when I got up to exit the plane, I had sharp pain in my lower back. I took a lot of ibuprofen, stretched, applied heat and ice, and went snow skiing anyway! Haha. My lower back did get better, but then the pain shifted to my right glute – I had sharp pain especially when I had to bend over to pick up something. I could feel it pulling. Over the course of the next couple months, the pain in my lower back and glutes started to move around from the right to the left to the lower back and back again. I did stretches (the yoga stretch “pigeon” really targeted the “spot”), I sat on a heating pad, I took ibuprofen and muscle relaxers, I had massages – I could never get it to “release”. In fact, during the Spring tennis season, I could feel my glute muscles seizing and twisting while I was on the court in the middle of a point. It was pretty painful, too.

At about that time, I learned that statins can cause muscle pain and damage. I said to myself, “That must be what’s causing my chronic muscle pain.” So, I went off my statin over the summer. I did not experience any relief or improvement during that time – in fact, the pain continued to get worse. By July, when I bent over to get something out of the fridge or pick up something off the floor, I couldn’t straighten up easily and had significant pain in my right leg in the quad (in front). I’d have to slowly work my way upright by stretching my lower back with my hands on my knees, and then rub my quad to get completely upright again.

In August, I got my blood tested – my cholesterol had gone up again. Since I had not experienced any improvement while I was off the statin, I went back on it. Still, I was at my wits’ end with the constant pain. My friend Kim Quinn told me about the acupuncture treatments she’d been getting and had experienced pain relief, so I decided to give it a try.

OMG! In the first session, I could feel my glute muscles twitching all over the place and reacting to the needles. Within a week of my first acupuncture appointment in August, my quad muscles started to release. By the second and third sessions, my glutes were releasing and I felt I was at about 75%. I couldn’t believe that I could bend over, touch the ground, and stand back up again without tons of pain. I would realize with a start that I had gone hours without thinking about pain! After two months (going once a week), I was at 90% in regards to pain and mobility. Now, I’m at about 95% (still have some occasional radiating pain in my lower back and glutes). I go days and days without thinking about the pain in my butt! I love it! On the tennis court, I continue to have to relieve tension in my lower back periodically by bending over with my hands on my knees and stretching my glutes, but overall, I feel fantastic. I never want to get in that condition again so I get acupuncture about every 3 weeks to stay tuned up.

In November, when I started this blog and learned more about the harmful side effects of statins, I went off my statin for good. I’m convinced it caused all my muscle problems. So, with being off the statin, changing my diet, and continuing with regular acupuncture appointments (every 3 weeks or so), I’m hoping my muscles will eventually repair and heal.

There is a lot of information on the web about acupuncture. I have attempted to distill it at a basic level, but have provided links to various websites so that you can learn more about it should you be curious.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is thousands of years old and is thought to have originated in China. The basic theory is that the body is regulated by an energy called “qi” (chee) which flows through the body along pathways called meridians. The flow can be interrupted or blocked by disease or injury. Using thin metal needles at specific acupuncture points on the body along the meridians, the flow is released and the body’s qi rebalances and restores harmony. If you’ve ever seen an acupuncture chart, you can see that there are many meridians running through the body and hundreds of specific identified points for various aches, pains, and diseases.

My acupuncturist is Sarah Shupe (see link). When she puts the needles in, it does not hurt. However, if she hits a hot spot, the muscle may jump or the inflamed part may hurt initially, but it goes away. When she comes in after 15 minutes to turn the needles, I’ll sometimes feel another muscle jump or it will pulsate. Usually, I take a nap.

This website is a basic, thorough discussion of what acupuncture is and what to expect: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/acupuncture/MY00946

The Benefits of Acupuncture

When performed correctly, acupuncture is perfectly safe and there are very few side affects. Acupuncture is most commonly known for its ability to help relieve pain. Acupuncture can help relieve low back pain, sciatica pain, osteoarthritis pain, and headaches and migraine pain. Additional benefits of acupuncture are faster recovery from injuries, improved circulation, relief from symptoms of stress, and improved circulation. Acupuncture can also strengthen the immune system enabling people to better withstand colds, flu, and minor infections. It is also becoming more common to help relieve post-surgical nausea and can help patients feel more vital and “normal” sooner. Also, you’re not popping a pill.

Of course you can’t talk about the benefits without mentioning the risks. If you have a bleeding disorder or are on blood thinners, you should check with your doctor. There can be some bleeding, bruising, and soreness where the needles are inserted. Also, a good, qualified acupuncturist will always use new needles – unsterilized needles can cause infection. In very rare instances, a needle may break and damage an internal organ or if inserted deeply in to the chest or upper back, it could collapse a lung.


Science of Acupuncture

Whereas I am happy and satisfied with my faith in acupuncture working wonders, there are inquisitive minds that want to know exactly “how” acupuncture works. What is the science? What are the chemical reactions? Is it a placebo effect? Why do some “fake” acupuncture treatments get the same results? There have been some studies that have tried to answer these questions. They are actually quite interesting. I have provided the links below. There are also opinion articles around that claim acupuncture is a bunch of quackery – a majority of these articles are fairly dated, so I have ignored them. The third link below is a major discussion and clarification of rumors of Chinese using acupuncture anesthesia – in case you’ve heard about open-heart surgery using only acupuncture for anesthesia (not true).


Your Story

If you have an acupuncture story you would like to share, please post it in comments. We can all learn from each other!

“Minding Your Mitochondria”

12 02 2012

“Everyone has a doctor in him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food.” Hippocrates Greek physician (460 BC – 377 BC)

The more I research, the more I read, the more I watch, the more I am convinced that food is the key to good health. Of course, not just any food – the right foods. I’m posting a video Kendra Ryan sent me by a doctor who had Multiple Sclerosis and cured her disease by changing her diet! For me, as in “Forks Over Knives”, Dr. Wahl’s story is further affirmation of the power of food as medicine. Why don’t we hear more of these stories? I believe the government, the media, the advertising industry, the food processing industry, and the pharmaceutical companies all have too much control over the health and nutrition information we receive. We the people need to take control of the message and get the word out. Popping pills or just accepting our fates aren’t our only choices. In “Forks Over Knives”, the addicting qualities of many convenience/processed foods are discussed – it takes an effort to break away not only from the “establishment” messages about food and nutrition but also from the easy and convenient offerings in the middle aisles of the grocery store and try a different way of eating. That’s why, videos such as Dr.  Wahl’s are so inspirational and reaffirming.

At any rate, her TED talk is almost 18 minutes long. Click on the link and listen to what she has to say while you check your email or do other internet searches/business. There are a few graphs and pictures, but for the most part, you can just listen and learn. Enjoy.

Presenting TEDxIowaCity – Dr. Terry Wahls – Minding Your Mitochondria:




Vitamin D is Not a Vitamin!

22 01 2012

I have been all over the internet researching Vitamin D. Honestly, the information that is out there is all over the page. The main concerns of taking Vitamin D seem to be with how much is the right amount (too little you get disease, too much can be toxic). Of all the articles I’ve read, no review has been more clear, more succinct, more accurate, and more thorough than my own TopDoc, Dr. Benjamin Newman. A few years ago, he wrote a paper on Vitamin D and sent it to me. It was very powerful and I forwarded it on to family and any friends who were interested. He said I could reference his article so I have published it in full below! I could have made a “pdf” link but then maybe you all might not take the time to look at it!

Recently, I had my Vitamin D tested and my doctor wasn’t concerned with the level at all. Well, actually, maybe she should have been. It was 35 ng – barely sufficient. She had kind of scared me off it awhile back saying my Vitamin D was too high – unfortunately I don’t know what that reading was. Regardless, now that I know what it is, I am back to taking 5,000 iu per day. In March, when I get my blood work done, then I’ll take a look at it from a much more informed point of view. I have a friend that has been taking 10,000 iu per day – so far so good for her. This just underscores that you want to get your blood tested a few times when you start out on your Vitamin D regimen to make sure you are within the recommended “ng” levels. Read the article and you’ll know what I’m talking about! 🙂 I did add subtitles to break it up and help you read it!




A Short History

There are thirteen vitamins humans need for growth and development and to maintain good health. The human body cannot make these essential bio-molecules. They must be supplied in the diet or by bacteria in the intestine, except for vitamin D. Skin makes vitamin D when exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from the sun. A light-skinned person will synthesize 20,000 IU (international units) of vitamin D in 20 minutes sunbathing on a Caribbean beach.

Vitamin D is also unique in another way. It is the only vitamin that is a hormone, a type of steroid hormone known as a secosteroid, with three carbon rings.

Steroid hormones such as cortisone, estrogen, and testosterone have four carbon rings. Ultraviolet B radiation in sunlight breaks open one of the rings in a steroid alcohol present in the skin, 7-dehydrocholesterol, to form vitamin D (cholecalciferol). The liver changes this molecule into its circulating form, 25-hydroxyvitamin D (calcidiol, 25[OH]D), the “vitamin D” blood tests measure. Cells throughout the body absorb 25-hydroxyvitamin D and change it into 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (calcitriol), the active form of vitamin D that attaches directly to receptors on the DNA of genes in the cell’s nucleus.

The vitamin D hormone system controls the expression of more than 200 genes and the proteins they produce. In addition to its well-known role in calcium metabolism, vitamin D activates genes that control cell growth and programmed cell death (apoptosis), express mediators that regulate the immune system, and release neurotransmitters (e.g., serotonin) that influence one’s mental state.

Severe deficiencies of some vitamins cause vitamin- specific diseases, such as beriberi (from a lack of vitamin B1, thiamine), pellagra (B3, niacin), pernicious anemia (B12), and scurvy, (vitamin C). A deficiency in iodine produces a goiter, mental retardation, and, when severe, cretinism.

Rickets, a softening and bending of bones in children, first described in 1651, is another nutritionally-specific disease. It reached epidemic proportions following the industrial revolution, which began in the 1750s. In the 19th century, before the importance of exposing children to sunlight was recognized, the majority of children that lived in cities with sunless, narrow alleyways and pollution developed rickets. An autopsy study done in Boston in the late 1800s showed that more than 80 percent of children had rickets.

Early in the 20th century an investigator found that cod liver oil could prevent rickets in puppies. The nutritional factor in the oil that promotes skeletal calcium deposition was named “vitamin D,” alphabetically after already-named vitamins A, B, and C. Rickets was thought to be another vitamin-deficiency disease, and the curative agent, a steroid hormone, was mislabeled a “vitamin.”

Now, a century later, a wealth of evidence suggests that rickets, its most florid manifestation, is the tip of a vitamin D insufficiency/deficiency iceberg. A lack of Vitamin D can also trigger infections (influenza and tuberculosis), autoimmune diseases (multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease), cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Practitioners of conventional medicine (i.e., most MDs) are just beginning to appreciate the true impact of vitamin D deficiency. In 1990, medical journals published less than 20 reviews and editorials on vitamin D. Last year they published more than 300 reviews and editorials on this vitamin/hormone. This year, on July 19, 2007, even the New England Journal of Medicine, the bellwether of pharmaceutically-oriented conventional medicine in the U.S., published a review on vitamin D that addresses its role in autoimmune diseases, infections, cardiovascular disease, and cancer (N Engl J Med 2007;357:266–281).

Vitamin D and Cancer

Up until 1980, doctors thought that vitamin D was only involved in calcium, phosphorus, and bone metabolism. Then two investigators proposed that vitamin D and sunlight could reduce the risk of colon cancer. A growing body of evidence indicates that they were right and that vitamin D can prevent a whole host of cancers – colon, breast, lung, pancreatic, ovarian, and prostate cancer among them. Colon cancer rates are 4 to 6 times higher in North America and Europe, where solar radiation is less intense, particularly during the winter months, compared to the incidence of colon cancer near the equator. People with low blood levels of vitamin D and those who live at higher latitudes are at increased risk for acquiring various kinds of cancer. Many epidemiological, cohort, and case control studies prove, at least on a more likely than not basis, that vitamin D supplements and adequate exposure to sunlight play an important role in cancer prevention (Am J Public Health 2006;96:252–261).

There is now strong scientific evidence that vitamin D does indeed reduce the risk of cancer. Evidence from a well- conducted, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial proves beyond a reasonable doubt that this is the case, at least with regard to breast cancer. A Creighton University study has shown that women over the age of 55 who took a 1,100 IU/day vitamin D supplement, with calcium, and were followed for 4 years had a highly statistically significant (P <0.005) 75% reduction in breast cancer (diagnosed after the first 12 months) compared with women who took a placebo (Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:1568– 1591).

Some of the genes vitamin D activates make proteins that halt cancer by inducing apoptosis (programmed cell death), which destroys aberrant cells before they become cancerous, like adenoma cells in the colon and rectum. Others promote cell differentiation and reining in of out-of- control growth of cancer cells (like prostate cancer cells).

Vitamin D-expressed genes inhibit angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels that malignant tumors need to grow, as studies on lung and breast cancers show. Other genes inhibit metastases, preventing cancer that arises in one organ from spreading its cells to other parts of the body, as studied in breast, and prostate cancers.

Vitamin D and Other Disease

Vitamin D also expresses genes that curb cardiovascular disease. One gene controls the renin-angiotensin system, which when overactive causes hypertension (high blood pressure). Others stifle the immune system-mediated inflammatory response that propagates atherosclerosis and congestive heart failure (Curr Opin Lipidol 2007;18:41– 46).

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurologically devastating disease that afflicts people with low vitamin D levels. Its victims include the cellist Jacqueline Du Pré, whose first symptom was loss of sensation in her fingers, and some 500,000 Americans who currently suffer from this malady. MS is an autoimmune disease, where the body’s immune system attacks and destroys its own cells. With multiple sclerosis, T cells in the adaptive immune system, Th1 cells (CD4 T helper type 1 cells), attack the myelin sheath (insulation) of the axons (nerve fibers) that neurons (brain cells) use to transmit electrical signals. The Vitamin D hormone system regulates and tones down the potentially self-destructive actions of Th1 cells. These cells make their own 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D if there is a sufficient amount of vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D) circulating in the blood. Researchers have shown that the risk of MS decreases as the level of vitamin D in the blood increases (JAMA 2006;296:2832–2838). People living at higher latitudes have an increased risk of MS and other autoimmune diseases. Studies show that people who live below latitude 35° (e.g., Atlanta) until the age of 10 reduce the risk of MS by 50% (Toxicology 2002;181–182:71–78 and Eur J Clin Nutr 2004;58:1095–1109).

In a study published earlier this year, researchers evaluated 79 pairs of identical twins where only one twin in each pair had MS, despite having the same genetic susceptibility. They found that the MS-free twin had spent more time outdoors in the sun – during hot days, sun tanning, and at the beach. The authors conclude that sunshine is protective against MS (Neurology 2007;69:381–388).

New research suggests that influenza is also a disease triggered by vitamin D deficiency. Influenza virus exists in the population year-round, but influenza epidemics are seasonal and occur only in the winter (in northern latitudes), when vitamin D blood levels are at their nadir. Vitamin D-expressed genes instruct macrophages, the front-line defenders in the innate immune system, to make antimicrobial peptides, which are like antibiotics (Science 2006;311:1770–1773). These peptides attack and destroy influenza virus particles, and in human carriers keep it at bay. (Neutrophils and natural killer cells in the innate immune system and epithelial cells lining the respiratory tract also synthesize these virucidal peptides.) Other vitamin D-expressed genes rein in macrophages fighting an infection to keep them from overreacting and releasing too many inflammatory agents (cytokines) that can damage infected tissue. In the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which killed 50 million people, of which 500,000 were Americans, young healthy adults (as happened to my 22- year-old grandmother) would wake up in the morning feeling well, start drowning in their own inflammation as the day wore on, and be dead by midnight. Autopsies showed complete destruction of the epithelial cells lining the respiratory tract due, as researchers now know, to a macrophage-induced overly severe inflammatory reaction to the virus. These flu victims were attacked and killed by their own immune system, something researchers have found vitamin D can prevent (Epidemiol Infect 2006;134:1129–1140).

Randomized clinical trials need to be done to test the vitamin D theory of influenza. With what we know now, however, perhaps an annual shot of 600,000 IU of vitamin D (Med J Aust 2005;183:10–12) would be more effective in preventing influenza than a jab of flu vaccine.

Vitamin D and Latitude 35N

Our species evolved in equatorial Africa where the sun, shining directly overhead, supplies its inhabitants with year-round ultraviolet B photons for making vitamin D. Our African ancestors absorbed much higher doses of vitamin D living exposed in that environment compared to the amount most humans obtain today. A single mutation that occurred around 50,000 years ago is responsible for the appearance of white skin in humans. It turns out that a difference in one rung, or base pair, in the 3 billion-rung DNA ladder that constitutes the human genome determines the color of one’s skin (Science 2005;310:1782–1786). White skin, with less melanin, synthesizes vitamin D in sunlight six times faster than dark skin. People possessing this mutation were able to migrate to higher latitudes, populate Europe, Asia, and North America, and be able to make enough vitamin D to survive.

The majority of the world’s population now lives above latitude 35° N and is unable to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight for a period of time in winter owing to the angle of the sun. At a large solar zenith angle, ozone in the upper atmosphere will completely block UVB radiation. In Seattle (47° N) and London (52° N), from October to April UVB photons are blocked by the atmosphere so one’s skin cannot make vitamin D. (The half-life of circulating vitamin D is approximately one month.) Making matters worse, even when UVB radiation is available in sunlight, health authorities, led by the American Academy of Dermatology, warn people to shield themselves from the sun to avoid getting skin cancer.

How Much Vitamin D

Except for oily fish like (wild-only) salmon, mackerel, and sardines and cod liver oil – and also sun-dried mushrooms – very little vitamin D is naturally present in our food. Milk, orange juice, butter, and breakfast cereal are fortified with vitamin D, but with only 100 IU per serving. One would have to drink 200 8-oz. glasses of milk to obtain as much vitamin D as skin makes fully exposed to the noonday sun.

The U.S. Food and Nutrition Board in the Institute of Medicine puts the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin D at 200 IU for children and adults less than 50 years old, 400 IU for adults age 50–70, and 800 IU for adults over the age of 70. Most multivitamin preparations contain 400 IU of vitamin D. These guidelines are directed towards maintaining bone health and are sufficient to prevent rickets – but not cancer, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, or influenza. Without evidence to support it, the board arbitrarily set the safe upper limit for vitamin D consumption at 2,000 IU/day.

Vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D) blood levels, the barometer for vitamin D status, are measured in nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) or nanomoles per liter (nmol/l), where ng/ml = 0.4 nmol/l. Children and adults need a vitamin D blood level >8 ng/ml to prevent rickets and osteomalacia (demineralization and softening of bones) respectively. It takes a concentration >20 ng/ml to keep parathyroid hormone levels in a normal range. A level >34 ng/ml is required to ensure peak intestinal calcium absorption. Finally, neuromuscular performance steadily improves in elderly people as vitamin D levels rise up to 50 ng/ml. Accordingly, a vitamin D blood level <8 ng/ml is regarded as severely deficient; 8–19, deficient; and 20–29, insufficient, i.e., too low for good health. A level >30 ng/ml is sufficient, but experts now consider 50–99 ng/ml to be the optimal level of vitamin D. Levels 100–150 ng/ml are excessive and >150 ng/ml, potentially toxic.

A majority of Americans have insufficient or deficient vitamin D blood levels. In veterans undergoing heart surgery at the Seattle VA hospital, I found that 78% had a low vitamin D level: 12% were insufficient; 56%, deficient; and 10% were severely deficient.

In order to enjoy optimal health, we should maintain a vitamin D blood level of ≥50–99 ng/ml. Without sun exposure, to reach a level of 50 ng/ml requires taking a 5,000 IU/day vitamin D supplement. There are two kinds of vitamin D supplements: vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), the kind our skin makes, and vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol), a synthetic variant made by irradiating plants. Vitamin D2 is only 10–30% as effective in raising 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood levels compared to vitamin D3, leading the authors of a recent study conclude, “Vitamin D2 should not be regarded as a nutrient suitable for supplementation or fortification” (Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:694–697).

Concerns about vitamin D toxicity are overblown, along with those about sun exposure. As one researcher in the field puts it, “Worrying about vitamin D toxicity is like worrying about drowning when you’re dying of thirst.” The LD50 of vitamin D in dogs (the dose that will kill half the animals) is 3,520,000 IU/kilogram. One can take a 10,000 IU vitamin D supplement every day, month after month safely, with no evidence of adverse effect. (Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69:842–856). A person must consume 50,000 IU a day for several months before hypercalcemia (an elevated calcium level in the blood, which is the initial manifestation of vitamin D toxicity) might occur. Vitamin D in a physiologic dose (5,000 IU/day) prevents the build up of calcium in blood vessels. (Circulation 1997;96:1755–1760). If one takes 10,000 IU of vitamin D a day and spends a lot of time in the sun, it would be prudent to check vitamin D blood level to ensure that it does not exceed 100 ng/ml.

Sensible sun exposure should be encouraged, not maligned. If one avoids sunburn, the sun’s health-giving benefits far outweigh its detrimental effects. A large body of evidence indicates that sunlight does not cause the most lethal form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma. A U.S. Navy study found that melanoma occurred more frequently in sailors who worked indoors all the time. Those who worked outdoors had the lowest incidence of melanoma. Also, most melanomas appear on parts of the body that are seldom exposed to sunlight (Arch Environ Health 1990;45:261– 267). Sun exposure is associated with increased survival from melanoma (J Natl Cancer Inst 2005;97:195–199). Another study showed that people who had longer lifetime exposure to the sun without burning were less likely to get melanomas than those with less exposure (J Invest Dermatol 2003;120:1087–1093.)

The rise in skin cancers over the last 25 years parallels the rise in use of sunscreen lotions, which block vitamin D- producing UVB radiation but not cancer-causing ultraviolet A radiation (UVA). (Newer sunscreen lotions also block out UVA.) Each year there are 8,000 deaths from melanoma and 1,500 deaths from nonmelanoma (squamous and basal cell) skin cancer. Surgical excision of nonmelanoma skin cancers cures them, except in rare cases where the growth has been allowed to linger for a long time and metastasize. Dr. John Cannell, Executive Director of the Vitamin D Council, makes this point: 1,500 deaths occur each year from non-melanoma skin cancer, but 1,500 deaths occur each day from other cancers that vitamin D in optimal doses might well prevent. (The Vitamin D Council website is an excellent source of information on vitamin D.)

The U.S. government and its citizens currently spend $2,000 billion dollars ($2 trillion) on “health care,” i.e., sickness care, each year. The cost of taking a 5,000 IU supplement of vitamin D every day for a year is $22.00. The cost for 300 million Americans taking this supplement would be $6.6 billion dollars. The number and variety of diseases that vitamin D at this dose could prevent, starting with a 50 percent reduction in cancer, is mind-boggling. If everyone took 5,000 IU/day of vitamin D, the U.S. “health care” industry would shrink. It would no longer account for 16 percent of the gross domestic product.

Health food stores typically do not sell vitamin D3 in 5,000 IU tablets, but they are readily available online. BIO-TECH Pharmacal produces both 5,000 and 50,000 IU tablets of Vitamin D3, which online sites sell. Some people prefer to take one 50,000 IU table a week (equivalent to 7,100 IU a day) and a three-day course of 150,000 IU vitamin D at the first sign of a cold.


Forks Over Knives

29 12 2011

The documentary Forks Over Knives is a life changing hour and a half! If you are on a statin, taking meds for hypertension, have any sort of heart disease, have Type 2 diabetes, have cancer, or want to prevent cancer, then I cannot recommend this movie enough.

Coincidentally, our friend Kelly Browning, Executive Vice President of the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR), actually knows Dr. Colin Campbell and AICR funded his China study featured in the movie. I’ve provided a link to the AICR website where they offer lots of tips and information on diet and its effect on cancer – they have been researching this topic for years.

You can rent Forks Over Knives from Netflix or go to the website to read about it and order it (link below).

Thoughts About Food

I have a friend who has ovarian cancer. During her chemo, I took her some meals, and one of the meals was grilled flank steak (veggies, salad, bread, too). Her doctors are telling her that the meat is good for her – gives her good protein energy during chemo! In watching Forks Over Knives, I’ve learned that’s one of the worst things she can eat. Also, Dr. Sherry Rogers (Is Your Cardiologist Killing You?) says she has seen many people who have been extremely ill with heart disease or cancer recover completely when they go on a 100% macrobiotic diet (includes no meat). Something to think about!

Cutler watched the movie with me and we are convinced! Enough to never have another steak or cheese pizza? No. I guess we can say that because we are not currently fighting cancer or have debilitating heart disease. However, meat and dairy will definitely be smaller portions on our plate and we are taking the first steps toward a whole foods, plant-centered diet (juicing, smoothies, smaller portions of meat and cheese, etc.). The AICR recommends a “plate” of food that is 2/3 veggie, 1/3 animal based products – we’re going to shoot for that at the minimum. In fact, I have started searching the web for food ideas and found a great “vegetarian starter” website (see below). I’ve also provided a link to Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat to Live website and book. A friend told me about him and he is a great resource, too. If our daughter Devon is reading this, she is amazed!

I am okay with cutting back on animal-based products, but I just can’t bring myself to cut it out completely – Cutler definitely doesn’t want to. For instance, the other day I made twice-baked potatoes for a dinner party. I put in a big glob of silken tofu to help mash the potatoes. The flavor/smell just wasn’t that great. Fortunately, I had planned on putting in regular sour cream and a bit of 1% milk, too, and it covered up the flavor. I also added green onions and smaller amounts of shredded cheddar cheese and cut up bacon, and with little potatoes, the servings weren’t huge. So, one way to look at it is that I did cut down on the normal amount of dairy I would have used but I didn’t eliminate it completely. And we don’t have twice-baked potatoes that often, so I want them to be yummy when I do.

Another example of change is at breakfast. I grew up on milk and cereal and have still eaten it as an adult. Right now, I have successfully cut that out and I’m eating oatmeal or whole grain toast with jam (no butter!) or making a green smoothie!! It’s satisfying. I’ve even made whole grain buckwheat pancakes on the weekend.

P.S. There was no discussion of libations in Forks Over Knives and I’m not asking! Haha!


I am onboard with going more whole foods and plant-based to help extend my life and keep me free from disease. And after just a couple weeks, I’ve already lost a few pounds. But life is for living and enjoying things and good food is one of them. I could be in an accident and then I would never have had another steak or salmon or burger & fries or baked brie – that would be a bummer. So maybe the occasional steak will be the size of a half a deck of cards, butter will be eaten more sparingly, cheese and crackers will be for special occasions, etc. I can do that. I saw the term “flexitarian” the other day and I like it!

I have 100% of control of what I eat when I’m at home. I’m not going to freak out if I’m at somebody’s house and they are serving foods incompatible with my diet lifestyle – I’m going to eat what they serve (I can control the serving size) and I’m going to enjoy it. I always appreciate a dinner invitation! At restaurants these days, they seem to offer something for everyone so that’s easy, too.

The closing line in Forks Over Knives is that you want to “eat to live, not live to eat.” I think if you want to make some changes in your diet and adopt that as your motto, you will be successful! Who knows? You could be a closet vegetarian and not know it!


Get on the “Kale Trail!”

20 12 2011

I love juicing!! That’s not referring to steroids, by the way – it’s all about fruits and vegetables! How did I get started on this? I’m pretty sure Peggy Lockard made a remark on our recent trip that she and John “juice.” Then, when I was strolling through Costco, I spotted the Jack LaLanne Power Juicer and I said to myself, “I’ll give it a try.” So, now I am officially on the “Kale Trail” and Cutler is right there with me.

The Benefits of Juicing

Just about every place you read, 6-8 servings of vegetables and fruits is the recommended daily amount. That’s a hard target to reach. And then, when you cook them, many of the valuable nutrients you want are cooked away, so your servings aren’t as beneficial as they could be. When you juice, it’s a pure nutritional cocktail. So what are some of the benefits?

1. Because the juice requires little digestion, it gets in to your system quickly. And because you are juicing more vegetables and fruit than you would actually eat, you’re getting a densely packed amount of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, and other plant-based nutrients. Some recommend drinking the juice at least an hour before any meal, but for me, that doesn’t always work with meal preparation and our schedule.

2. It’s a great way to consume vegetables and fruits that you normally wouldn’t eat raw as a whole food (such as kale, mustard greens, etc.).

3. The antioxidant effects of juices will help detoxify your body and help you eliminate the toxins, fats, preservatives, and chemicals that a diet of processed foods leaves behind in your body. A side benefit of all the nutrients and detoxifying is increased energy.

4. Vegetable juice (fruit juice is acidic) helps alkalize your system (alkaline and PH levels will be the subject of a future article)

5. Some specific juices help relieve symptoms of disease. For example, fresh ginger juice can relieve arthritis pain, cherry juice can ease joint pain caused by gout, and carrot juice can relieve constipation. As well, juicing can boost your immune system.

6. Vegetable juice is an excellent source of chlorophyll (the pigment that gives plants their green color) which in itself is an excellent source of magnesium, aids in gastrointestinal problems, promotes the formation of hemoglobin and red blood cells, treats bad breath, aids in detoxifying toxins that cause cancer, helps assimilate calcium and other minerals, helps fight infections.

The “Risks” of Juicing

In the general scheme of things, the “cons” to juicing are minimal. Store-bought juice has been pasteurized (heated) to kill any “pathogens” such as E. coli, hepatitis, dysentery, etc. It sounds really alarming, but it’s not a hazard that’s singular to juicing. Regardless of whether you juice your vegetables and fruit or eat them whole in salads or side dishes, you need to wash them thoroughly.

Another risk factor of juicing is if you ONLY drink juiced vegetables and fruit (some do it for a cleanse or for a diet), and ignore the other necessities of nutrition such as whole grain, protein, and fiber (which you can also get by eating fruits and vegetables in their whole form), then you are not eating a well-balanced diet and you will get sick.

Likewise, if you ONLY juice a bunch of kale for example, it is possible to get hyperkalemia (too much potassium) – but believe me, you won’t juice only kale – it’s too bitter. The “kale trail” refers to vegetable juicing in general, by the way.

If you’re diabetic, you want to watch the amount of sugars in what you juice to avoid spikes in glucose levels. You also want to watch the calories in fruit juices.

NOTE: You’ll want to drink the juice right away for optimal nutrients (can store in the fridge for up to 24 hours), because the longer it sits the more the nutrients oxidize and dissipate and you don’t want to attract bacteria and stuff.

So, as the saying goes, everything in moderation.

What to Juice?

One of the great things about juicing is that you are able to consume lots of vegetables you wouldn’t normally eat (at least me!) and a lot of them. The purists recommend organic vegetables but frankly, those aren’t always available in a wide variety (at the commissary, for example) and they’re more expensive. Purists also juice only greens and add lemon or lime to cut the taste. That is not up my alley – I have to make it work for me. I always add an apple, carrots, and maybe some grapes to sweeten it up. It truly is delicious. Typically when I juice for me and Cutler, it will be a concoction of a wedge of cabbage, a few whole kale leaves, a few whole collard green leaves, a big handful of spinach, a tomato, a big handful of baby carrots, 2-3 broccoli flowers with stems, a fuji apple, some grapes, and maybe some blackberries. That makes two 8 ounce glasses of juice. Yum!

The list is long and varied but here’s a vast list of fruits and veggies you can juice: celery, fennel, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, endive, cabbage, bok choy, parsley, cilantro, kale, collard greens, dandelion greens, mustard greens, carrots, beets, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, sweet potatoes and potatoes (cut in little pieces), tomatoes, apples, oranges (peeled), grapes, mangos, blackberries, pears – and the list goes on.

The Bastis Foundation recommends juicing vegetables and fruits separately because they require different digestive processes, except that it is okay to use apples with veggies as a sweetener, and lettuce and celery can be used with either fruits or vegetables.

Keepin’ it Easy!

I’m sure there are a million excuses to avoid using a juicer regularly: another appliance to learn, takes up space, a hassle to clean – you name it. Of course you could let these be obstacles. For me, I have decided the health benefits are worth the extra bit of time. One thing I do after I get all the veggies and fruits home is to wash them all at once – thoroughly, and break them in to pieces. Then I put all the greens in one shopping bag and put in the drawer in the fridge. Each day, I bring out the bag, pick out what I want to juice, then put the bag back – I don’t have to take extra time each day to wash what I’m going to juice. I generally buy a week’s worth of veggies and fruits. Cleaning the juicer is very simple: I bang the pulp out of the top and the collector in to the trash, then I put all the parts in the sink, run the water, use the scrub brush, and put the parts on a towel to dry. Later that night or the next morning, I put it back together and it’s ready to go when I want it. Simple.


I did absolutely no research on the best juicers or anything; I was spur of the moment and just trusted Costco to sell quality products. I am very happy with the Jack LaLanne Power Juicer. (Sometimes the motor slows down or stops, and I just open and reclose the lock handle and it gets going again – motor has a lifetime warranty.) It turns out, there are a lot of juicers on the market and I found a website that has evaluated a wide variety of juicers if you are a more particular shopper (see link below). They certainly come in a wide range of price points from less than a hundred dollars (the Jack LaLanne is $89.99 at Costco in stainless and $109.99 in white at Target) to hundreds of dollars! If you’re not sure juicing is going to be a permanent part of your lifestyle and you just want to give it a try, I think the Jack LaLanne is a great way to get started without committing the big bucks.


Smoothies – For Advanced Juicers

Fiber is the one thing missing when you juice – you throw out all the pulp (also has a bunch of good stuff for you in it). If you’ve been juicing and want to move to the next step or if you want to start out using the whole vegetable, then blenders are the way to go. VitaMix and Blendtec sell really good blenders that will pulverize anything you put in it. So when you put in all your vegetables and fruits, mixed with some water, you get more of a smoothie texture. Also, they make great soups and even ice cream. Again, I was at Costco, and they had an in-store demo of the Blendtec blenders and the demo guy made a vegetable-based smoothie and some soup (fresh whole veggies, avocado, a chunk of cheese, spices, and hot water – I was drinking delicious hot soup in 90 seconds). Did I buy one? Yes!

Because these blenders are expensive (hundreds of dollars), I think they take a real commitment to this kind of food preparation. The GreenSmoothie Girl website, linked below, is a great website. Her personal story of how she cured her son’s asthma with smoothies is both fascinating and encouraging. Her website is basically a “how to” on eating healthily with lots of tips and articles on how to incorporate the blender and smoothie into your diet, do’s and don’t of nutrition, blender “group buy” options, and more.



Well, it’s been a pretty comprehensive discussion of juicing and all my research links are below. I truly love juicing – I just really like the idea of drinking all those nutrients and vitamins! So, I say to you: “Try it, you’ll like it!”