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Winter scenery, frosty trees and snowstorm in a city park

It’s a cold December night here in Connecticut (just outside of New York City) with rain and ice particles tapping against my window. I’m warm inside with the heat on which is certainly a stark contrast to the temperature outside. Even where Rick and I live in northern California, winter weather can be cold at times, especially at night. We’ve even had a couple of frosts there in recent years, but we know that many of you live in much colder places, so….

It’s not surprising that one of the many questions Rick and I are asked is how to stay raw or mostly raw in the winter time, especially in a cold or very cold climate. This question is especially pertinent and the answer is one I know from my own personal experience. I started my raw food journey in February of 1990 here in the northeastern United States. Snow was on the ground, temperatures were below freezing on most days, and good quality produce was scarce. I found out rather quickly that I would need to be creative in my raw food approach, given that many of the available raw food books at the time extolled the virtues of beautiful tropical fruits that I had never heard of and the benefits of moving to a warm climate. Neither was my reality at the time, so here are some tips that made that winter of 1990 a success with raw food along with some other strategies and thoughts I have learned since then:

  1. Keep it simple – My first winter on raw, I focused on produce that was available in my local grocery store. There weren’t any “health food” stores that sold produce in the area where I lived so I made the best with what was available to me. Availability of raw fruits and vegetables that winter back in 1990 was much more limited than today. Fruit choices included bananas, oranges, apples, pears, grapes, dried papaya, raisins, and some others. Leafy green choices included three different types of lettuce, spinach, and other greens that I had never tried, like kale. I was so excited with how good I felt on raw that the limited variety of produce in my area did not really phase me much at all. Instead I enjoyed my adventure exploring foods that were new to me and along with different raw food preparation methods.
  2. Make warm dressings for salad – Back in 1990, I made dressings in my low powered blender and found that they would get somewhat warm during the process. Years later, when Rick and I purchased a high-power blender, we found that our dressings and sauces could get quite warm.
  3. Use of warming spices can be an option – Back in 1990, I did not use warming spices mostly because I was not yet familiar with them. Now, many of our students speak about their use of ginger, cumin, curry, turmeric, and others in their recipes.
  4. Warm soups in the dehydrator – I did not have a dehydrator back in 1990, but in recent years I have used our dehydrator to warm various raw soups.
  5. Exercise! – I think this is one of the most underutilized strategies for people trying to stay warm in cold climates. I can understand why, especially if one has to go outside to exercise in cold or extremely cold temperatures. Since I have been running regularly for several years now, winter temperatures do not seem as cold to me. I find that my hands and feet are warm throughout the winter, which makes sense, given that one of the many benefits of exercise is increased peripheral circulation.
  6. Check on the availability of seasonal fruits and vegetables – Seasonal fruits for late fall and early winter include some of my favorites including persimmons and pomegranates. Many varieties of leafy greens grow in California during the winter and can be found at many markets throughout the winter here in the US. Back in the winter of 1990, I had much more slim pickings in the produce department, but with growing demand for quality produce in recent decades, it is likely much easier to find better-stocked produce departments in cold climates.
  7. Freeze fruits gathered in summer for winter – Another strategy for having a wider variety of produce available in the winter would be gathering and freezing seasonal berries in the summer. If gathering is impractical for you or if you live in an urban area, stores like Costco and Trader Joe’s have some varieties of organic frozen fruit available year ‘round. I know that freezing may not be optimal, but this may be better than the alternatives if there is little produce availability. These frozen fruits can then be used to make smoothies or defrosted to for use in fruit salads or other recipes. In the winter, when I make a smoothie with frozen ingredients, I find myself allowing the smoothie to warm for several minutes at room temperature so it won’t be as cold when I eat it.
  8. Raw food does not have to be cold – When I take vegetables out of the fridge to make salad for Rick and I, by the time the salad is finished the vegetables are close to room temperature. Adding a warm blended dressing on top of the salad makes for an even warmer meal.
  9. At what temperature do we comfortably eat cooked food, anyway? How many times have you experienced a burning sensation on the inside of your mouth eating food that was too hot? Before I became interested in raw food, I found myself blowing on hot food in an attempt to cool it to a temperature that was comfortable to eat. Through many searches of the scientific literature over the years I’ve found that certain vitamins, phytonutrients, and enzymes start to degrade at around 104°F (40°C) and find that food warmed in a dehydrator to 104°F is comfortably warm for me. When I haven’t had access to a dehydrator, I have warmed food on the stove to 104°F on a couple of occasions. My point here is that we often find it uncomfortable to consume hot foods, so does food really have to be cooked first in order to be warming to our body? Just some food for thought 🙂 …..

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Vitamin D In recent years, vitamin D has become one of the most discussed nutrients in the health community. It is also one of the most complicated and controversial of the nutrients, especially when it comes to supplementation and plant-based diets.

There are two supplemental forms of vitamin D: vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Vitamin D2, also known as ergocalciferol, has historically been thought of as the vegan form of vitamin D. On the other hand, vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol, has historically been considered a non-vegan form of vitamin D. Vitamin D2 supplements have traditionally been made from mushrooms. Exposure of ergosterol in these fungi to UVB light rays (ultraviolet B spectrum rays of the sun) leads to the production of vitamin D2. Conversely, vitamin D3 supplements have been made from lanolin found in sheep’s wool. Exposure of  7-dehydrocholesterol in lanolin to UVB rays leads to the formation of vitamin D3, similar to how vitamin D3 is produced in our skin.

sun and cloudResearch is mixed on which supplement is more reliably effective at raising our vitamin D levels. Much of this research has indicated that the D3 form of vitamin D is more effective at raising blood levels of vitamin D than D2, however some indicates the two can be equivalent. Many vegans have expressed concern to us about this, since they have found their vitamin D2 supplements are not giving them the results they are seeking. Consequently, some have considered using a D3 supplement to raise their vitamin D to desired levels. Where does this leave someone who wants to stay true to their vegan lifestyle and ethics? Fortunately in recent years, several supplement companies have formulated supplements with vitamin D3 sourced from lichen. What is lichen? It is an organism composed of some type of fungus and algae, or cyanobacteria in some cases, living together symbiotically. Lichen is often found growing on tree branches and rocks and can have a pale green to gray or mushroom color, as well as others. Does this mean that we should eat lichen to get our vitamin D? No, many species of lichen are not edible, so it would be best to stick with a supplement. But the good news is that a vegan vitamin D3 supplement does now exist and various supplement companies are offering it as an alternative to lanolin-sourced D3!

Interested in taking your knowledge to the next level? We cover this topic and so much more in our online Mastering Raw Food Nutrition and Educator Course. For more class details, click here.

One of the best ways to keep in touch with us is to join our email list. We send out monthly newsletters, notifications of our speaking engagements, and more:

Salmon Chinook

We hope your summer has been going well! We’ve been doing quite a bit of research lately on a variety of raw food nutrition related topics in preparation for our Mastering Raw Food Nutrition and Educator Course beginning in early September.

One thing we really enjoy doing in our classes is dispelling nutritional myths. Here’s a great example. You’ve probably heard that cold water fish and fish oil contain an omega 3 fat called DHA. Numerous educators, authors, and doctors have said that fish, or fish oil, are the sole sources of DHA.

What many people don’t realize is that DHA is produced much lower on the cold water aquatic food chain by certain types of algae. Fish and other marine animals obtain their DHA when they eat this DHA containing algae. This is how DHA progresses up the aquatic food chain.

DHA plays many important roles in the human body, including brain function. It is a super-unsaturated fat that contains 6 double bonds. These double bonds on the one hand allow DHA to conduct the electrical activity needed for brain function, while on the other hand these same 6 double bonds make DHA very susceptible to oxidation. Oxidation is another name for free radical damage.

DHA therefore is generally only made by organisms when they need it, or when metabolic conditions are favorable. The 6 double bonds in DHA make it very fluid and flexible and confers to it protection from freezing. This is why we see DHA in cold water aquatic organisms, such as salmon, krill, and certain types of cold water algae, but not in warm water aquatic organisms who do not need protection from freezing.

The human body makes DHA rather easily when nutritional and metabolic conditions are favorable. We know omega 3 conversion is a controversial topic, yet is one of our favorites. We love discussing our research and clinical experience with vegans and raw vegans regarding DHA, and so much else.

If you're interested in taking your knowledge to the next level.........

We cover this topic and so much more in our online Mastering Raw Food Nutrition and Educator Course. For more class details, click here.

One of the best ways to keep in touch with us is to join our email list. We send out monthly newsletters, notifications of our speaking engagements, and more:

 

CobalaminOver the years, people have asked me about the differences between the available supplemental forms of vitamin B12. What are they? Do they occur in nature or are they made in a laboratory? Do some forms work “better” than others?

The scientific name for vitamin B12, cobalamin, is derived from the element cobalt found at the center of the vitamin B12 molecule. There are several different forms of vitamin B12, each named for the chemical group attached to cobalt, including hydroxocobalamin, methylcobalamin, cyanocobalamin, and adenosylcobalamin. I have seen these forms of B12 available as individual supplements or in multivitamin formulas.

Hydroxocobalamin1

Hydroxocobalamin

Hydroxocobalamin is a naturally-occurring form of vitamin B12, as it is made by certain bacteria including some strains that live in soil. Not all types of bacteria make vitamin B12 and not all soil contains B12 producing bacteria. Yeast, mushrooms and other types of fungus do not produce vitamin B12, neither do animals nor plants.

Hydroxocobalamin is NOT active in the human body; it requires conversion to a human bioactive form. Hydroxocobalamin has an –OH (hydroxy) group attached to cobalt in the center of the vitamin B12 molecule. To activate this form of B12, the human body removes the –OH group and replaces it with, for example, a methyl (–CH3) group to create the human bioactive form of vitamin B12, methylcobalamin.

Methylcobalamin1

Methylcobalamin

Methylcobalamin is a form of vitamin B12 that is involved in methylation reactions in the human body. Another of my videos covers the importance of methylation and the role played by this form of vitamin B12, so I would encourage you to view it for further explanation. Dr. Rick and I have used methylcobalamin for many years and find it to be a reliable form of B12 for our needs. We especially like this form of vitamin B12 because it is a human bioactive form and does not require conversion.

Cyanocobalamin1

Cyanocobalamin

Cyanocobalamin is a synthetic form of B12 made exclusively in a laboratory. It is not a human bioactive form of vitamin B12 and is not made by bacteria in nature. Cyanocobalamin has a –CN (cyano) group attached to cobalt in the center of the vitamin B12 molecule. Many people have expressed concern about this cyano group as being problematic or toxic, but I have yet to see research or clinical data indicating the use of cyanocobalamin as being associated with these types of issues. When one expresses concern to me, I suggest the use of another supplemental form. As mentioned earlier, I have been using methylcobalamin for many years with good results. If someone is not getting the results they want from their vitamin B12 supplement, clinically or otherwise, I suggest that they contact a qualified healthcare provider to help them find the solution that works best for them.

Despite this controversy, cyanocobalamin is one of the most popular supplemental forms of vitamin B12 because of its stability and shelf-life. For example, cyanocobalamin has a longer shelf-life than methylcobalamin, so supplement manufacturers like to produce and sell it. Since cyanocobalamin is not human bioactive, our body must convert it to one of the human bioactive forms. In which case, the body must remove the –CN group and replace it with either a methyl group or an adenosyl group.

Adenosylcobalamin1

Adenosylcobalamin

Like methylcobalamin, adenosylcobalamin is one of the human bioactive forms of vitamin B12. This is the form of vitamin B12 that can be stored by our body, specifically in our liver. All previously discussed forms of B12 can be converted into adenosylcabalamin for storage, when our body has more vitamin B12 than is needed for body function.

Adenosylcobalamin is also very important for energy-producing reactions in the human body, as are various other B vitamins. Additionally, adenosylcobalamin is responsible for keeping methylmalonic acid levels appropriately low in the human body. I have a recent video and article describing the significance of methylmalonic acid and its conversion by adenosylcobalamin in the human body, and would encourage you to view it for more information.

Interested in taking your vitamin B12 and nutrition knowledge to the next level? We cover this topic and so much more in our online Mastering Raw Food Nutrition and Educator Course. For more class details, click here.

Additionally, our book The Raw Food Nutrition Handbook: An Essential Guide to Understanding Raw Food Diets addresses many hot topics in raw food nutrition such as vitamin D, essential fats, protein, nutrient content of raw food diets, food combining, enzymes, hydration, vitamins, minerals, and many more. We value education on these important topics and are happy to finally bring this book to you. The book is available on Amazon and other online booksellers.

One of the best ways to keep in touch with us is to join our email list. We send out monthly newsletters, notifications of our speaking engagements, and more:

Methylation thumbnail

Many people over the years have asked me about why vitamin B12 is so important for our health and what vitamin B12 actually does in the human body. Vitamin B12 is involved in numerous methylation reactions throughout the body and in a vitamin B12 deficiency, these reactions can become compromised.

Vitamin B12 is involved in the production of our genetic code (DNA and RNA), activation of folate, production of red blood cells, keeping homocysteine appropriately low in our body, the production of certain cell membrane components, the production of certain neurotransmitters (including serotonin, melatonin, epinephrine, and dopamine), important reactions involving energy production, and nervous system function. The bottom line is that vitamin B12 is vitally important for a number of life-sustaining activities in our body and should not be overlooked when considering one’s overall health.

Check out this video for more details:

The information in this video builds on a video I did several months ago on the vitamin B12 – folate connection. If you're interested in taking your knowledge to the next level.........

We cover this topic and so much more in our online Mastering Raw Food Nutrition and Educator Course. For more class details, click here.

Additionally, our book The Raw Food Nutrition Handbook: An Essential Guide to Understanding Raw Food Diets addresses many hot topics in raw food nutrition such as essential fats, protein, nutrient content of raw food diets, food combining, enzymes, hydration, vitamins, minerals, and many more. We value education on these important topics and are happy to finally bring this book to you. The book is available on Amazon and other online booksellers.

One of the best ways to keep in touch with us is to join our email list. We send out monthly newsletters, notifications of our speaking engagements, and more:

1990
A sampling of my early health book collection circa 1988 to 1990.

2015 is my 25 year raw food anniversary. Back in 1990, when I first learned of raw food, I could not have imagined the impact that it would have on my future life. In the beginning, I was naturally skeptical and thought that eating this way was a little extreme. Nonetheless, out of curiosity, I gave raw food a try and was surprised with the results. As my energy increased and my general health and well-being improved, my skepticism began to melt away. Looking back, I remember how I imagined the potential of raw plant food making a difference in people’s lives. I envisioned a time and place where raw food consciousness was more mainstream and that I would one day teach this valuable information to enthusiastic groups of students. Well, with a lot of work and dedication those dreams did come true and I am just as excited about raw food today as back then, with that early enthusiasm positively tempered by experience, research, and education.

The raw food world was a much smaller place back in 1990 as there weren’t nearly as many raw food resources as there are today. Back then there were a small number of raw food books and teachers, and I only knew a handful of raw food enthusiasts. This term is well-chosen since those that I knew were definitely enthused. The internet was not as we know it today and there was no social media. Finding information on raw food and plant-based diets was a bit of an adventure, and I was always happy to find books on the subject that most people would now consider classics. Given the few resources available, a lot of what I learned in those early days was through experience, and I ‘experienced’ many bumps and potholes along the way. There are so many things that I wish that someone had told me when I started with raw food back then. So here I will share with you the top five pieces of information that had I known, would have made my raw food journey smoother. I am hoping they can be of use to you:

#1: Move at your own pace. When I became interested in raw food, most of the literature I read and my social influences suggested that I had to be 100% raw right away. Transitioning was not really discussed, so I did not really see it as an option at first. Raw food seemed like an all or nothing proposition. But, I was honest with myself about what was achievable at that time. I found that I needed some time to become familiar with foods that were available in my area and how to prepare them. At the time, I was living in New England and it was winter. The fruits available were bananas, oranges, apples, pears, grapes, dried papaya spears, raisins, and a few other choices. Available leafy greens included three different types of lettuce, spinach, and other greens that I had never tried, like kale.  I had a low-power blender that I used to make “smoothies” that were more lumpy than smooth. A super-enthused raw friend of mine used to call my smoothies “chunkies”.

These and other day to day considerations that one needs to address when getting started with raw food became part of my own self-stylized transition that progressed as I became more educated. Another fellow raw food enthusiast from those days went 100% raw overnight, saying that she would never eat anything cooked ever again. This lasted three months, and shortly thereafter she lost interest in healthy eating because maintaining 100% raw was too restrictive for her. All too often I see people leave raw food discouraged for this same reason.

Where am I now? Currently, I am somewhere between 90 and 100% raw and this percentage has varied over the years, depending on my situation. Percentages differ per person and I encourage you to find the percentage that works best for you. The most successful long-term raw food enthusiasts understand this idea and tend to be flexible with their approach depending on their personal needs and situation. What dietary approach gives you the results you are looking for and is sustainable right now? What approach will be sustainable long term? I have found that research, experience, and education combined were the best training, and the approach that worked best for me revealed itself in time.

#2: Gather much information from multiple points of view and sources. It is important to consider information from other points of view than your own because you may learn information not acquired if you were only looking for information supporting your current paradigm. Searching for information that supports your current point of view is referred to as confirmation bias. I have been using this term and discussing this idea in our Science of Raw Food Nutrition series of classes for years, because I think that awareness of this tendency is so important. Countless times I have learned valuable information from people with a differing point of view, and that information has made a difference in my health, my thinking, and other aspects of my life.

While we are on the subject of information, when I began my raw food journey 25 years ago, I had so many questions, most of which were not answered in the raw food literature available at the time. I was looking for more concrete answers than these books provided, so I decided that I would one day write a book that answered these questions to make the raw food journey easier for people who came after me. This book is the Raw Food Nutrition Handbook: An Essential Guide to Understanding Raw Food Diets. In this book, Dr. Rick and I cover the “where do you get your” questions, like where do you get your protein, B12, vitamin D, omega 3 fats and more. We provide updated research-based information on classic raw food topics like enzymes, food combining, and raw plant sources of important vitamins and minerals. We also discuss the different approaches to raw food and how raw food diets compare nutritionally to other dietary approaches, and much more.

Front cover

#3: Know your source. Some raw food enthusiasts tend to follow one particular person’s point of view. I encourage you to educate yourself on a variety of points of view. One of the reasons why is because we all have different experiences and no one person can know everything about a subject. Very often, I have seen raw food educators change their approach as they learn more. The theme here is that we are all learning, even those of us who have been on this path for many years. The more that I learn about nutrition and how the body works, the more I realize how much I have yet to learn. Even after 25 years, I find myself asking questions and seeking answers. When the need arises, I encourage people to consult with a knowledgeable licensed healthcare provider to help with making important health-related decisions.

#4: Use critical thinking, be selectively open-minded, and enjoy the process. Critical thinking involves gathering as much information as possible about a subject, and making a decision based on that information while remaining open-minded to other information that may be learned in the future. As stated earlier, countless times I have discovered information that changed my point of view for the better. I think of researching as an ongoing and enjoyable opportunity to improve the quality of life for people in my life.

#5: Make changes if or when necessary. Here is my classic example: My introduction to raw food in 1990 was the natural hygiene approach. Nowadays, people commonly refer to this approach as various versions of LFRV, HCRV, etc. This approach worked very well for me for a while but as time went on, I refined my approach. The information I learned and the refinements and changes I made ultimately gave me the health results I was seeking.

Bonus #6: Surround yourself with a supportive community. As a long term raw food enthusiast, author, clinician, and educator, I have learned much on this path and sincerely hope this information can be of use to you. There is still much more that I have to share with you, which is why I have this blog, our YouTube channels, our book, and our classes, so I encourage you to check out these resources.

And if you are wondering, the super-enthused raw friend that used to call my smoothies “chunkies” is now my husband, Dr. Rick Dina. Back when we got started with healthy eating, our support system was our group of friends which made all the difference in that we helped each other to stay on track, shared our experiences and research, discussed changes and refinements, challenged raw food dogma, and had a lot of fun! We wish you the best in your journey and invite you to share in ours.

One of the best ways to keep in touch with us is to join our email list. We send out monthly newsletters, notifications of our speaking engagements, and more:

Fall foliage 2013 2

One answer is very simple: antioxidants. Xanthophylls and carotenoids are two types of antioxidants found in fruits, vegetables, and fall foliage.

Regarding fruits and vegetables, xanthophylls are yellow plant pigments found in these foods and leafy greens. Well-known xanthophylls include lutein and zeaxanthin which have been studied for potential benefits in human vision. Carotenoids are orange plant pigments found in some leafy greens and orange fruits and vegetables. Well-known carotenoids include beta carotene and alpha carotene.

DSC_0013

Regarding leaves on trees, xanthophylls and carotenoids are present in leaves for the entire life cycle and are only revealed when chlorophyll production ceases toward the end of this cycle, which happens on a large scale in the fall. Chlorophyll is a green pigment that plays a role in creating energy for green plants from sunlight through a process called photosynthesis. Chlorophyll breaks down with exposure to sunlight throughout the life cycle of leaves and therefore constantly has to be replaced. As autumn approaches and a leaf approaches the end of its life, chlorophyll is no longer replaced by the plant, revealing the xanthophylls and/or carotenoids underneath.

Easton, October 28 2012 3

In addition to yellow and orange pigments, we see red pigments called anthocyanins in some fall foliage. Other anthocyanins are purple and blue in color and are found in blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. In contrast to xanthophylls and carotenoids, anthocyanins are not present throughout the life of the leaf, but instead are made at the end of the life cycle when chlorophyll production ceases. Not all leaves contain anthocyanins.

Blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries

To summarize, xanthophylls, carotenoids, and anthocyanins are groups of antioxidants found in both fall foliage and fruits and vegetables. All three types of phytonutrients help protect the leaves of trees from stresses such as constant sun exposure which can generate free radicals. This is especially true for xanthophylls and carotenoids as they are present for the entire life cycle of the leaf. Similarly, the xanthophylls, carotenoids, and anthocyanins we eat from fruits and vegetables are thought to help protect our internal tissues from the free radicals to which they are exposed.

What about the brown pigment seen in some fall foliage? This pigment is called tannin and is revealed when chlorophyll, xanthophylls, carotenoids, and anthocyanins break down near the end of the leaf life cycle.

Interested in taking your nutrition knowledge to the next level?

We cover this topic and so much more in our online Mastering Raw Food Nutrition and Educator Course. For more class details, click here.

Additionally, our book The Raw Food Nutrition Handbook: An Essential Guide to Understanding Raw Food Diets addresses many hot topics in raw food nutrition such as essential fats, protein, nutrient content of raw food diets, food combining, enzymes, hydration, vitamins, minerals, and many more. We value education on these important topics and are happy to finally bring this book to you. The book is available on Amazon and other online booksellers.

One of the best ways to keep in touch with us is to join our email list. We send out monthly newsletters, notifications of our speaking engagements, and more:

Wheat

Gluten is a popular and controversial topic for a number of reasons, with very strong voices on all sides of the conversation. Being a clinician, I always have the interest of the individual in mind given that the achievement of personal health is the ultimate goal. To this end, I am constantly looking for reliable information grounded in reliable biochemistry, physiology, research, and clinical experience to help people reach their health goals, especially since much of the most compelling information is not common knowledge. There are many simple facts that are well understood about gluten which are often perpetuated in the media, but there are some important pieces of the gluten puzzle not popularly known or well understood. For the past couple of years, I have been hearing from students and other people with gluten-related health challenges that their gluten free diet was not getting them the results they were expecting. On closer inspection and with some recent research, I learned some fascinating information that I will cover in this article. But for now, let’s start with:

The basics

Foods that contain gluten are found in one plant family, the grain family, also known as the grass family. The scientific name for this family is the Poaceae. Often people may think that grains and grasses are in separate plant families, when in fact they are in the same plant family.

Although gluten is found only in grains, not all members of the grain family contain gluten. Currently, wheat, rye, barley, triticale, spelt, and kamut are the grain family members considered to contain true gluten. These foods, or foods that contain these foods as ingredients, such as certain processed or prepared foods, contain true gluten. Processed foods can often hide gluten-containing ingredients in them, so it’s important to read labels. Despite these grains being identified as containing gluten, there has been some concern about the gluten-free status of other members of the grain family. A 2009 study showed that a percentage of compliant people with celiac disease (gluten intolerance) on a gluten free diet still did not get the results they were seeking in terms of symptom reversal and lab test results. One of the possibilities considered by the researchers was cross contamination of their diet with gluten containing grains. Another concern raised was the consumption of other members of the grain family that contain proteins which resemble gluten.

The controversy

There are several perceived gluten free grains that are currently under investigation and information on them is growing, but for our purposes, we will focus on oats and corn, two of the most popularly consumed gluten free grains. Oats are a popular breakfast food and corn is commonly found in many forms in processed and prepared foods.

oats

Many sources consider oats to be gluten free, but there are some challenges with them. Oats can sometimes be processed in facilities that may also process gluten containing grains, so there may be some cross contamination between these other grains and oats. Another consideration is avenin, a protein found in oats that is biochemically similar to gluten. Some people who are sensitive to gluten may have a similar experience with oats for this reason. Recent research indicates there is a wide range of variation in potential effects that different cultivated varieties of oats can have on gluten intolerant individuals. This means that some varieties of oats may have notable effects while others may have less of an effect.

Corn on the cob

Corn is also a member of the grain family, and like oats, is considered to be gluten free by many sources. However, corn contains zein; a protein that is biochemically similar to gluten and is often referred to as “corn gluten.” A study published in 2013 indicated that some gluten intolerant individuals may have symptoms and lab test results consistent with the ingestion of gluten containing grains despite adherence to a gluten free diet. Corn consumption by these individuals was cited as being a possible reason for this outcome. The researchers also noted that even though a gluten intolerant individual may not experience overt symptoms from eating corn, there may still be small intestine effects that can be identified through laboratory testing.

At this time, more research is needed to fully understand the gluten status of oats, corn, and other members of the grain family. In the meantime, there are plenty of foods that do not contain gluten or gluten-like proteins. For example, foods commonly consumed on a raw plant based diet such as fruits, vegetables, sea vegetables, nuts, and seeds are not members of the grain family and therefore do not contain gluten. Although anything that can germinate (including grains) is botanically considered a “seed,” commonly understood seeds such as chia, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, flax, and poppy seeds do not contain gluten.

Quinoa and amaranth 2

Quinoa and amaranth are often mistaken for grains, but they are not members of the grain family. They are members of the amaranth plant family (Amaranthaceae), and do not contain gluten. Amaranth and quinoa are often referred to as pseudograins or pseudocereals, because of their resemblance to true grains.

The Bottom Line

The good news is that if one is eating a whole food plant based diet that does not contain members of the grain family (Poaceae), they are consuming a diet free of gluten. Gluten is an area of nutrition with ongoing investigation. Sometimes it takes a while for this research to reach the general population, so my goal here is to provide tools of exploration for people who are seeking their greatest health potential. In our Science of Raw Food Nutrition series of classes that we teach at Living Light, we cover gluten and other popular cutting edge raw food and nutrition related topics to assist you in achieving your health goals.

Fruits and vegetables larger

If you're interested in taking your knowledge to the next level.........

We cover this topic and so much more in our online Mastering Raw Food Nutrition and Educator Course. For more class details, click here.

Additionally, our book The Raw Food Nutrition Handbook: An Essential Guide to Understanding Raw Food Diets addresses many hot topics in raw food nutrition such as essential fats, protein, nutrient content of raw food diets, food combining, enzymes, hydration, vitamins, minerals, and many more. We value education on these important topics and are happy to finally bring this book to you. The book is available on Amazon and other online booksellers.

One of the best ways to keep in touch with us is to join our email list. We send out monthly newsletters, notifications of our speaking engagements, and more:


References:

Fric P, Gabrovska D, Nevoral J. Celiac disease, gluten-free diet, and oats. Nutr Rev. 2011 Feb;69(2):107-15.

Lanzini A, Lanzarotto F, Villanacci V, Mora A, Bertolazzi S, Turini D, Carella G, Malagoli A, Ferrante G, Cesana BM, Ricci C. Complete recovery of intestinal mucosa occurs very rarely in adult coeliac patients despite adherence to gluten-free diet. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2009 Jun 15;29(12):1299-308.

Maglio M, Mazzarella G, Barone MV, Gianfrani C, Pogna N, Gazza L, Stefanile R, Camarca A, Colicchio B, Nanayakkara M, Miele E, Iaquinto G, Giardullo N, Maurano F, Santoro P, Troncone R, Auricchio S. Immunogenicity of two oat varieties, in relation to their safety for celiac patients. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2011 Oct;46(10):1194-205.

Ortiz-Sánchez JP, Cabrera-Chávez F, de la Barca AM. Maize prolamins could induce a gluten-like cellular immune response in some celiac disease patients. Nutrients. 2013 Oct 21;5(10):4174-83.

Silano M, Pozo EP, Uberti F, Manferdelli S, Del Pinto T, Felli C, Budelli A, Vincentini O, Restani P. Diversity of oat varieties in eliciting the early inflammatory events in celiac disease. Eur J Nutr. 2014 Aug;53(5):1177-86.

Real A, Comino I, de Lorenzo L, Merchán F, Gil-Humanes J, Giménez MJ, López-Casado MÁ, Torres MI, Cebolla Á, Sousa C, Barro F, Pistón F. Molecular and immunological characterization of gluten proteins isolated from oat cultivars that differ in toxicity for celiac disease. PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e48365.

3

I am a huge fan of education. This makes sense, given that I teach a class called the Science of Raw Food Nutrition, read lots of research articles, and write quite a bit on the subject of raw food. So, it likely comes as no surprise that I often encounter misperceptions about raw food topics, especially from people eating a standard western diet and even from people eating a raw plant-based diet. Often times these misunderstandings are based on one’s particular personal experience.

Cantaloupe

Here is a great example:

Last week, Rick and I purchased two 35# cases of cantaloupe at our local organic wholesale produce market for under $10 each; an amazing deal for such a large amount of food. I spoke to a relative about our recent find and their response was along the lines of: “How on earth are you two going to eat all of that and why would you want to since fruit doesn’t have much nutrition anyway?” This observation brings up a couple of interesting points of how fruit is generally perceived.

Perception  #1:  Too much fruit

Before I became interested in raw food 25 years ago, I thought of fruit as being a dessert, condiment, or decoration for the top of my cereal. I did not particularly like fruit when growing up because invariably I would get an upset stomach almost every time I ate it, which was enough to keep me away. When I learned about raw food diets that included a notable amount of fruit, my initial thought was eating this way is not possible,  given how I felt after eating even small amounts. At the time, I was looking for a solution to a health challenge, so I was willing to explore my options. If it weren’t for this health challenge I would not have been inspired to make such large changes to my diet. I reluctantly gave eating more fruit a try and was surprised at how good I felt. What was the difference? Placebo? Was I so desperate to feel better that I wished myself into feeling better after eating fruit? Well, not really. I was hoping that raw food would not make a difference in my health because it seemed so different from the norm, or more specifically my norm. Raw food eating may seem a bit eccentric to most people now, but imagine how it was perceived back in 1990 when I was getting started. Much to my chagrin, raw food did make a big difference for me health-wise and my perception of it was radically changed. My attitude changed to gratitude with the health results I experienced.

So, why did fruit work for me digestion-wise when previously it had not? I’m sure that many of you can guess the answer. The fact is, before going raw I was eating fruit either as a dessert or on top of other heavier foods, and that did not work well for my digestion. From my own personal experience, the principle of eating fruits away from other foods for improved digestion has worked well. In fact, this aspect of food combining was really a revelation, since I was actually able to start enjoying fruit without digestive distress for the first time in my life. Fruit is no longer a dessert, instead it now plays an important role in my diet. In my book, the Raw Food Nutrition Handbook: An Essential Guide to Understanding Raw Food Diets, I give an updated perspective on the topic of food combining based on reliable research and digestive physiology.

Perception #2: Fruit is low in nutrients

Another misperception is that fruit doesn’t have very much of any important nutrients, other than carbohydrates. I can understand this thought, because when one considers how much fruit the average person eats in one sitting, it is usually a small amount accompanying other foods as it was for me. The amount of fruit I have seen raw food enthusiasts eat in one sitting, especially the very active ones, is often inconceivable to most standard western eaters or even many health conscious people. When one sees fruit as being a meal rather than a dessert or condiment, then the nutrients one can get from fruit increase as portion sizes increase. For example, here is a sampling of the nutrients found in one medium-sized cantaloupe:

Cantaloupe, one medium, 552 g Adult DRI
Calories 188
Beta carotene (mcg) 11,150
Vitamin A (RAE – Retinol Activity Equivalent) 933 700 mcg for women, 900 mcg for men
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) (mg) 4.1 14 mg for women, 16 mg for men
Vitamin B9 (Folate) (mcg) 116 400 mg for men and women
Calcium (mg) 50 1000 mg for women up to and including 50 years and men up to and including 70 years, 1200 mg for women over 50 and men over 70
Iron (mg) 1.2 8 mg for men and postmenopausal women,  18 mg for premenopausal women
Magnesium (mg) 66 310 – 320 mg for women, 400 – 420 mg for men
Zinc (mg) 1.0 8 mg for women, 11 mg for men

Rick and I each easily eat this amount of cantaloupe in one sitting, often with other fruit added. When eaten in quantity, fruit can be a strong source of many important nutrients. As we see here, cantaloupe is a great source of beta-carotene as exemplified by its rich orange color. How much of this beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A? Check out my video for an explanation. The calcium, iron, and zinc content of cantaloupe is surprising. How many times have I heard people say that fruit is low in minerals? Often times this may be true, but the reality is that it depends on the fruit and how much one is eating. I have some good videos on this topic, as well.

Regarding the consumption of cantaloupe and other melons, do I “eat them alone or leave them alone” as espoused by food combining adherents? No, I often eat cantaloupe in smoothies with other fruits and even leafy greens. My digestion is just fine. The most important point to remember with food combining principles is that they are a good starting point, and not necessarily to be taken as dogma. From these guidelines one can determine which works best for them personally. While I don’t follow all of the principles, I am happy that they do exist because without them, I might still be thinking of fruit as a dessert and unnecessarily avoiding it.

Here is a surprisingly flavorful and simple recipe that I recently made with cantaloupe from our produce haul:

Simple Cantaloupe Banana Smoothie

Flesh of one medium cantaloupe

Approximately three medium frozen bananas, cut into pieces

Scoop the cantaloupe flesh into a blender and blend until smooth. Then add the bananas and blend again until smooth and thick. More bananas will result in a thicker smoothie.

Pour into a glass or bowl and optionally garnish with mint.

Enjoy!

Cantaloupe Banana smoothie

Watermelon and lettuceWatermelon season is here! For me, watermelon is totally synonymous with summer fun and enjoying it often brings me to another time and place. My childhood memories of watermelon-soaked backyard gatherings, pool parties, and beach parties abound. In fact, I am eating a watermelon as I am writing this!

His and hers watermelons

When I became interested in raw food 25 years ago, watermelon became an actual food for me, rather than a dessert. And just like at summer gatherings, back then I would remove the seeds from the watermelon before eating. Ever heard that old wives' tale that if you eat watermelon seeds they will sprout in your body? Well, we all know that doesn’t happen, but I did grow up thinking watermelon seeds were to be removed before eating the melon.

It wasn’t until college that I learned that those little white watermelon seeds were actually edible. Watermelon is in the cucumber plant family (Cucurbitaceae), along with summer squash, zucchini, winter squash varieties, pumpkin, and other melons such as honeydew and cantaloupe. Pumpkin seeds are famous for their zinc content, so what about watermelon seeds?

Two tablespoons of shelled dry watermelon seeds contain 1.4 mg of zinc, along with 1 mg of iron, 70 mg of magnesium, and more. For only 75 calories, the iron, zinc, and magnesium content of these seeds is excellent. When compared to a similar measure of pumpkin seeds, the zinc content is similar.

Watermelon seeds – Two tablespoons Pumpkin seeds – Two tablespoons Adult DRI
Calories 75 93
Magnesium 70 92 310 – 320 mg for women,  400 – 420 mg for men
Iron 1.0 2.6 8 mg for men and postmenopausal women,  18 mg for premenopausal women
Zinc 1.4 1.3 8 mg for women, 11 mg for men

Most watermelons these days are seedless, but now when I come across the occasional white seed, I eat it along with the watermelon flesh. I do not eat the black seeds largely because I rarely find them. When I do find them, I compost them simply because I do not enjoy their flavor.

What about watermelon itself? Isn’t it controversial for some reason?

To make it easy for people to find reliable information on watermelon and other fruits, the glycemic index, glycemic load, fructose, glucose, and carbohydrates in general, we dedicated a chapter in our book, The Raw Food Nutrition Handbook: An Essential Guide to Understanding Raw Food Diets to answering many common carbohydrate questions.

In the book we also cover other hot topics in raw food nutrition such as essential fats, protein, nutrient content of raw food diets, food combining, enzymes, hydration, vitamins, minerals, and many more. We value education on these important topics and are happy to finally bring this book to you. The book is available on Amazon and other online booksellers.

The Green Difference June 2015

Ever since my introduction to raw food 25 years ago, I noticed that there are at any given time a number of raw food enthusiasts who choose to limit their intake of vegetables, especially leafy greens, for various reasons. From my own research, clinical and personal experience, I have found that leaving out these important foods decreases the amounts of important nutrients in one’s diet.

In a recent video I show the content of selected important nutrients in three different smoothies: a fruit smoothie, the same fruit smoothie with dandelion greens added, and the same fruit smoothie with kale added. The nutrient differences between the non-green smoothie and the green smoothies are astonishing, especially for calcium and iron. Here is a chart summarizing the differences:

Fruit Smoothie Fruit smoothie plus dandelion greens Fruit smoothie plus kale DRI
Calories 436 510 536
Calcium 110 418 381 1000 mg, 1200 mg
Iron 2.0 7.0 5.4 8 mg, 18 mg
Magnesium 118 177 136 310 mg, 420 mg
Potassium 1484 2139 2382 4700 mg
Folate 157 202 216 400 mcg

Fruit smoothie recipe:

  • One Valencia orange
  • Two bananas
  • 2 cups pineapple chunks
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • ½ cup strawberries
  • ¼ cup blackberries

Fruit smoothie plus dandelion greens: the ingredients in fruit smoothie with 3 cups of dandelion greens added

Fruit smoothie plus kale: the ingredients in fruit smoothie with 3 cups of chopped kale added

Calcium and Iron: The dandelion greens and kale increase the content of all nutrients listed in the table significantly, especially iron and calcium. The amounts of calcium and iron in the fruit smoothie alone are a good start, but when leafy greens are added, the amounts of these important minerals increase dramatically. Per calorie, the green smoothies are a great value calcium and iron-wise and go a long way in helping to provide the adult DRIs (Dietary Referenced Intakes) for these important nutrients. Without leafy greens, one would be missing out on these nutrients and the health value they provide.

Magnesium: Leafy greens are a reliable source of magnesium because of their chlorophyll content. Chlorophyll is the green coloring that one finds green plants, especially in leaves. The mineral at the center of the chlorophyll molecule is magnesium, so it is not surprising to see that the magnesium content of this smoothie notably increased when leafy greens were added.

Folate: Also known as vitamin B9, folate got its name from the Latin word for foliage, which makes sense given that some strong sources of folate are leafy greens. As evidenced in the table above, adding leafy greens to one’s diet can increase folate intake in many cases significantly. Folate is critical for cell division and DNA replication along with vitamin B12, and has a synergistic relationship with vitamin B12. For clarification of this relationship please see my previous blog post and video on folate and vitamin B12.

Potassium: Fruit is known as a great source of potassium and leafy greens can contain a notable amount of this important alkaline mineral, as the table above indicates.

Many more: There are so many more important nutrients found in leafy greens that we talk about in our book, the Raw Food Nutrition Handbook: An Essential Guide to Understanding Raw Food Diets. Some of these nutrients include the essential omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid, carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, protein, vitamins C and E, and many more. Many of these important nutrients work together synergistically to create an effect that is greater than the sum of the individual nutrients, so getting them from a whole food source is important. But if we don’t eat the food, we don’t get the nutrients. I see leafy greens and vegetables in general as playing a necessary role in a healthy raw food plant-based diet.

Video summarizing the points covered in this article:

Apricots

While on a 6-mile run yesterday, I found several different types of fruit trees with developing fruits, one of which was an apricot tree. Since it is June, the fruits are still small and green, but later this summer this tree will be packed with beautiful, orange, ripe apricots!

People often think of fruit as being low in important minerals, but what I have found from my research tells a different story. It is important to look at individual fruits and their mineral content before jumping to conclusions. For example, 15 pitted apricots have 70 mg of calcium and 2 mg of iron. It is not unusual for raw food enthusiasts to consume this amount of fruit or more in one sitting, so when considering the daily values, apricots when eaten in quantity can potentially provide a significant amount of these two important minerals.

Apricots, like other fruits such as bananas and dates, are not surprisingly a great source of potassium and 15 pitted apricots contain 1360 mg. For 252 calories worth of food, the amounts of these important minerals can make a great contribution to our daily needs.

Apricots – 15 pitted Adult DRI
Calories 252
Calcium 70 mg 1000 – 1200 mg
Iron 2 mg 8 mg for men and postmenopausal women18 mg for premenopausal women
Potassium 1360 mg 4700 mg

Apricots 2015

Apricots in-training

________________________________________________________________

2

Apple earth sustainability

Every 5 years the USDA and US Department of Health and Human Services publish updated dietary guidelines for the American public based on recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) is responsible for providing the US Federal government with current research-based evidence on diet, health, and nutrition, in a document titled the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. From this report, the Federal government develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015, which will be released later this year.

For the first time in history, the DGAC has suggested that ‘health, dietary guidance, and the environment’ be considered in dietary choices and encourages people to focus their diet on whole natural plant foods including vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes, etc. The committee especially emphasized the importance of the inclusion of vegetables and fruit in a healthy diet, which make up one-half of the current USDA MyPlate graphic.

The DGAC considers healthy plant-based diets to be more nutritious and of lower ‘environmental impact in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and energy use’ than the average US diet. The committee acknowledges an overlap between health-promoting plant-based diets and reduced environmental impact. This connection has been a topic of discussion for many years in health circles, and now more than ever has become an especially timely topic given the current drought situation in many of the US western states, including California, where much of the food in the United States is grown.

Fruits and vegetables larger
The committee recognizes that access to food is a major consideration and that ‘a sustainable diet ensures this access for both the current population and future generations.’ It is good to see that research-based strategies for producing enough food to feed our growing population healthfully and sustainably are beginning to get the attention of US policy makers. Intake of animal-based foods in the US is currently higher than the suggested plant-focused dietary patterns suggested by the committee. The committee is not necessarily asking people to completely give up any particular type of food, but rather to have a dietary emphasis on whole plant foods for both health and sustainability reasons.

It will be interesting to see the extent to which these plant-focused recommendations by the DGAC are reflected in the final Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015. Regardless of the special interests that may have influence over the final document, I am happy to see that the DGAC makes their recommendations based on sound research and recognizes that the most health promoting diet is also the most environmentally sustainable. I am also pleased to see that the suggestions advocated by the committee are more aligned than ever with the information we teach in our online Mastering Raw Food Nutrition and Educator Course. For more class details, click here.

Blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries

References and Research

Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee:

http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/02-executive-summary.asp

http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/

1

fruit and veg heart

Raw fruits and vegetables are well-known for their health promoting benefits, so much that the current USDA MyPlate suggests that half of our diet be composed of fruits and vegetables. Here are many of the reasons why:

Vitamins

Fruits and vegetables contain many important and synergistic vitamins. Good examples include vitamins C and E. Many fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin C, including red bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, papaya, lemons, tomatoes, cantaloupe, and of course, oranges. Leafy greens are rich in both vitamin C and vitamin E, and great sources include romaine lettuce, kale, mustard greens, dandelion greens, and collard greens.

Minerals

Bananas are famous for their potassium content, but fruits in general are great potassium sources. Dates, durian, apricots, honeydew melon, tangerines, oranges, peaches, nectarines, and mangoes are especially high in potassium.

Where do you get your calcium? Where do you get your iron? Many leafy greens can be rich sources of these important minerals, including kale, bok choy, dandelion greens, and even lettuce when eaten in quantity. Three cups of kale or dandelion greens provide over one quarter of the daily value for calcium and notable amounts of iron. A little-known fact is that some fruits can be notable sources of these two minerals as well. For example, only two valencia oranges or 5 figs provide 10% of the daily value for calcium. When eaten in greater quantities than this, as many raw food enthusiasts do, the calcium content can really add up. In regard to iron, although not as rich as leafy greens, mulberries, blackberries, and raspberries when eaten in quantity can provide notable amounts of this important mineral.

Phytonutrients

Plant foods in their fresh, raw state contain numerous phytonutrients, many of which can act as antioxidants which help protect our cells from age accelerating free radicals. Anthocyanins are antioxidants found in blue or purple foods such as blueberries and blackberries. Isothiocyanates are antioxidants found in cabbage family plants, also known as cruciferous vegetables, including collard greens, kale, bok choy, broccoli and Napa cabbage. Lutein and zeaxanthin are yellow-colored antioxidants, and are believed to play a role in protecting the macula of our eyes from damage caused by sunlight-induced free radicals. Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in foods such as dark leafy greens and yellow-orange fruits and vegetables, such as summer squash. Additional rich food sources include kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, romaine lettuce, broccoli, red bell peppers, dandelion greens, and zucchini.

Water

Water is involved in many essential body processes and makes up a significant percentage of body weight. In some raw food menus where fruits and vegetables make up the majority of foods eaten, the water content can be close to a gallon (almost 4 liters) or more! By comparison, raw menus that focus on denser more dehydrated foods, nuts, seeds, or oils can be less than half of this amount. Standard western menus are generally lower still at about one third the quantity of a high fruit and vegetable menu, creating the need for additional water consumption to meet daily needs. Unlike plastic water bottles, fruits and vegetables provide an abundance of healthy water in biodegradable containers!

Fiber

Dietary fiber is the indigestible portion of plant matter that is often referred to as roughage. Fiber plays critically important roles in various aspects of intestinal health, blood sugar and cholesterol regulation, and other important health benefits. Fiber keeps food moving though the intestines. It can help carbohydrates be digested more slowly, which in turn helps to stabilize blood sugar levels. It can bind to excess cholesterol in the digestive tract, helping keep blood cholesterol levels at an appropriate level. Fiber also plays a very important role in maintaining the health of the all-important human microbiome, as it provides food for healthy probiotic bacteria.

And the list goes on…

This is just the beginning! There are so many other reasons to include more fruits and vegetables in one’s diet and we are happy to see that the USDA now emphasizes the importance of these foods to the American public more than ever before.

myplate_blue

Posted in accordance with USDA MyPlate icon usage guidelines: The USDA does not endorse any products, services, or organizations.

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B12 folate thumbnail

This pathway is a little biochemically-intense, so I encourage you to watch the video first and then read the text below for clarification.

Vitamin B12 converts homocysteine to methionine by transferring methyl groups from 5-methyl tetrahydrofolate to homocysteine.

In a vitamin B12 deficiency, we often see elevated homocysteine levels, because vitamin B12 is not available to transform homocysteine into methionine. So, homocysteine levels increase.

In a vitamin B12 deficiency we can also see large red blood cells, referred to as macrocytic anemia, because vitamin B12 is not available to convert 5-methyl tetrahydrofolate back into folate. This is called the "methyl folate trap", where folate is "trapped" in the form of 5-methyl tetrahydrofolate. Folate is used to create red blood cells and DNA, and when there isn't enough folate available, red blood cells do not fully mature and stay large. On a lower folate diet, such as with many versions of the standard western diet, we tend to see this situation.

However, when someone with a vitamin B12 deficiency eats a higher folate diet, such as on a plant-based diet, there is a constant supply of folate to create red blood cells and DNA, so red blood cells may appear normal in size. This is how folate can mask a vitamin B12 deficiency. In other words, one needs look beyond the size of red blood cells when testing for vitamin B12 deficiency, and employ other reliable vitamin B12 tests. Accurate vitamin B12 testing by a knowledgeable, licensed clinician is essential for determining one's vitamin B12 status.

If you're interested in taking your knowledge to the next level.........

We cover this topic and so much more in our online Mastering Raw Food Nutrition and Educator Course. For more class details, click here.

One of the best ways to keep in touch with us is to join our email list. We send out monthly newsletters, notifications of our speaking engagements, and more:

What is Methylmalonic AcidMethylmalonic acid (MMA) is a popular vitamin B12 test.

But what actually is MMA and where does it come from? In the human body, MMA is a breakdown product or byproduct of protein, carbohydrate, and cholesterol metabolism. In other words, when a variety of proteins, fatty acids, and cholesterol are used to create energy, one of the byproducts is methylmalonic acid.

The specifics of this energy producing pathway are described as follows: In the creation of energy, the amino acids valine, isoleucine, methionine, threonine, odd-chain fatty acids, and cholesterol all go through a variety of metabolic processes to be converted into a substance called propionyl CoA. Propionyl Co-A is then converted into methylmalonyl CoA. When we are in good human bioactive B12 status, methylmalonyl CoA is then converted into succinyl CoA by an enzymatic reaction in which vitamin B12 is a co-factor. In other words, vitamin B12 is essential for the conversion of methylmalonyl CoA into succinyl CoA.

MMA 1

Succinyl CoA is an intermediate in the Kreb’s Cycle (also known as the TCA cycle), which is involved in energy production. We now see how vitamin B12 plays a role in energy production in our body.

What happens when someone becomes B12 deficient? The pathway that converts methylmalonyl CoA into succinyl CoA becomes de-emphasized and the amount of methylmalonyl CoA starts to increase. As this amount increases, methylmalonyl CoA is converted into methylmalonic acid. Methylmalonic acid does not have any specific function in the body, so it is eliminated from the body by the urinary tract. When one is deficient in vitamin B12, their blood and urine generally have elevated levels of methylmalonic acid.

MMA 3

Vitamin B12 is very important for this pathway and many other reactions throughout the body. The bottom line is that it is a good idea to know our vitamin B12 status, which we can achieve through reliable B12 testing.

We cover the importance of vitamin B12, reliable testing, and reliable sources in our book, The Raw Food Nutrition Handbook, An Essential Guide to Understanding Raw Food Diets. If you are interested in our lab testing and nutrition consulting services, please visit www.rawfoodconsulting.com.

This video explains how and why methylmalonic acid can be created in the human body:

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Mung beans and mung bean sprouts

Are sprouts as rich in protein as they are rumored to be? How does the protein content of different types of sprouts compare? This video gives a good summary of available information:

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fruits and vegetables

From our experience, this is by far one of the most commonly asked questions of people on raw or plant-based diets. The answer is fortunately quite simple: all plants contain protein. This may come as a surprise for some given that meat is commonly thought to be the sole or main source of protein in food.

Because all plants contain protein, all whole natural plant foods contain protein. Here is a summary of the protein content in a variety of plant foods found on a plant-based diet:

Type of Food Carbohydrate Protein Fat
Sweet Fruit 89% 6% 5%
Vegetables 73% 18% 9%
Nuts and Seeds 16% 11% 73%
Avocados 19% 5% 76%
Coconuts 17% 4% 79%
Legumes 66% 30% 4%
Grains 80% 12% 8%
Pseudograins 71% 15% 14%
Yams 92% 7% 1%
Spirulina 26% 64% 10%
Oil 0 0 100%

This chart shows the macronutrient (carbohydrate, protein, and fat) averages in a variety of types of foods as a percentage of calories. Some people may think that fruit does not contain protein, but as we can see, about 6% of the calories in fruit come from protein. Vegetables are higher in protein than fruit and nuts and seeds.

Salad plain

Even coconuts and avocados that are known for their high fat content contain some protein. Legumes are high in protein and low in fat, and can be considered a lean source of protein. In general, pseudograins are higher in protein than grains. True grains are found in the grain or grass family, known as the Poaceae, while pseudograins or pseudocereals including quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat and are not members of the grain family. Quinoa and amaranth are found in the amaranth plant family (Amaranthaceae) and buckwheat is found in the Polygonaceae plant family.

Yams are well-known for their carbohydrate content and contain 7% of the calories from protein. Spirulina, a cyanobacterium, is the highest of all at 64% of the calories from protein. For more information on spirulina, check out my video. All oils are 100% of the calories from fat, which is one of the many reasons that I encourage people to eat whole natural plant foods, which are some combination of carbohydrate, protein, and fat.

How does this information compare to our protein needs? The World Health Organization suggests that a protein intake of 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight is estimated to cover 97.5 percent of the human population’s needs. For someone who weighs 120 lbs. this would be 44 g of protein per day or 9% of the calories on a 2000 calorie per day diet. For someone who weighs 150 lbs. this would be 54 g of protein or 10% of the calories on a 2200 calorie per day diet. Our daily diets are composed of a combination of whole plant foods that contain more protein than these respective gram measurements and average out to greater than these percentages of calories from protein. Not surprisingly, after a combined 50 + years of living this lifestyle, we feel great.

We encourage you to learn more about this fascinating and often contentious topic, so we further delve into the protein content of raw and plant-based diets in our online Mastering Raw Food Nutrition and Educator Course. For more class details, click here.

Our book The Raw Food Nutrition Handbook: An Essential Guide to Understanding Raw Food Diets addresses plant protein in greater depth and many other hot topics in raw food nutrition such as essential fats, nutrient content of raw food diets, food combining, enzymes, hydration, vitamins, minerals, and many more. We value education on these important topics and are happy to finally bring this book to you. The book is available on Amazon and other online booksellers.

One of the best ways to keep in touch with us is to join our email list. We send out monthly newsletters, notifications of our speaking engagements, and more:

One of the best ways to keep in touch with us is to join our email list. We send out monthly newsletters, notifications of our speaking engagements, and more:

Got wilted greens? Don't compost them, rehydrate them! This simple, short video shows how our wilted collard greens regained their turgor:

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