A diet high in animal-based and highly processed foods makes people sick and overweight. But many of these sicknesses can be prevented, halted, and even reversed by eating a whole-food, plant-based diet.
Watch Rip Esselstyn's (author of Engine 2 Diet) TEDTalk on how the Plant Strong Diet improved the health of his fire house.
By the way, Rip Esselstyn is the son of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, who was trained as a surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic and at St. George's Hospital in London. Dr. Esselstyn has been associated with the Cleveland Clinic since 1968. He was studying about how a plant-based diet can reverse chronic diseases, such as heart diseases, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, etc.
No kidding...we have cures for these common killers already.
A whole-food, plant-based diet has been shown to:
• Lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar
• Prevent and reverse heart disease
• Prevent and reverse obesity
• Lower risk of cancer and diabetes
• Slow the progression of certain types of cancer
• Improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
• Improve overall quality of life
Then, why agen’t we aware of this miracle diet?
Pharmaceutical companies are not advertising it. Doctors are not believing it, because they're trained to prescribe medications.
Anyway, watch "Forks Over Knives" documentary in Netflix, and you'll know who Dr. Esselstyn is and what the China Study discover.
BENEFITS OF A PLANT-BASED DIET”
Lower Oxidative Stress & Reduce Inflammation
Studies show that a diet rich in whole plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, see, tea, coffee, red wine and olive oil, decreases levels of oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, which are associated with the development of chronic diseases.
In the Adventist Health Study II, a vegetarian diet was linked to lower CRP levels, a marker of inflammation.
Promotes Healthy Gut/Immune System
Increasing evidence shows that a fiber-rich plant-based diet promotes healthy gut microbiota, and it is also linked to better immune support and digestive health.
EPIC study found lower rate of hospital admissions and risk of death from diverticular disease among vegetarians.
Protects the Brain
Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress lead to development of Alzheimer’s. Consuming a plant-based Mediterranean diet is linked to lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Protects the Environmental
All meat is NOT created equal. Lamb, beef, pork and cheese generate the most greenhouse gases. They are also high in saturated fats and have the worst environmental impacts.
Animal meats and dairy products require large amount of pesticides, chemical fertilizer, fuel, feed and water to cultivates. And, as a result, generates an enormous amount of greenhouse gases, toxic manure and other pollutants that contaminate our air and water.
To figure out how to lose weight for good, we need to first understand how our body works and what makes us gain all the extra weight in the first place.
The human body is hard-wired or programmed to survive. That’s how the human race has out-lived many species and survived.
Based on this fact, we know our body has special mechanism to keep us alive, such as the fight-or-flight response when we’re in a dangerous situation.
Let’s talk about nutrition a little…
There are 3 macronutrients that make up all the foods that we eat - carbohydrate, protein and fat.
I’m going to focus mainly on carbohydrate here…Carbohydrate’s main function in our body is to provide energy. Energy for us to breathe, for blood circulation, thinking, walking, running, etc. Everything that happens in our body needs energy.
Most of the time this energy comes from food we eat, specifically carbohydrates. Our body can, in very rare occasions, convert protein into carbohydrate for energy. But we don’t want this to happen because it means losing muscle mass.
Our body can also convert fat to carbohydrate to use as energy. This is usually the results that we wanted in terms of achieve weight loss goal.
Ok…now we know the function of carbohydrate, then let’s look at where our carbohydrates are coming from.
A typical American diet consists of lots of carbohydrates and most of us are not aware or thinks that it is good carbs, then it’s okay to eat.
Let’s look at a typical healthy diet…
Breakfast: oatmeal or cereal with milk or granola with yogurt, and a latte.
Mid-morning snacks: granola bar
Lunch: turkey and cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread, baked chips, an apple.
Afternoon snack: trail mix made with granola, chex mix, nuts and a latte.
Dinner: Grilled chicken, brown rice, steamed vegetables and orange juice.
Do you spot all the carbohydrates?
Oatmeal, cereal, granola, granola bar, latte, whole wheat bread, baked chips, trail mix, orange juice, brown rice.
Our body needs carbs for energy. What happens when we consume more carbs for energy than our body can use up.
Our body does not have a switch that you can flip at the end of the day to purge the excess carbohydrates eaten.
Remember, our body is a survival machine. It’ll convert all the excess calories from the carbohydrate into fat for storage for use later.
Why does the body do this? Because of survival. Our body stores the excess energy in preparation for possible famine or starvation.
It is this mechanism that human beings have lived for as long as history.
This weight problem starts here. When was the last time you didn’t eat for at least 24 hours because of lack of food (not for medical reasons)?
The answer to this question is “NEVER” in 99% of the population.
So our body is preparing for something that is almost never going to happen. Just like the dooms’s day people.
Our body also creates body fat to protect us from toxins in our environment (namely the food we eat and air we breathe). Many environmental toxins are fat-soluble, and that’s how the body can hide them away from the rest of the body.
As days go by, the fat storage increases alone with your weight and your risk of developing chronic illnesses.
Excess body fat interrupts the endocrine system, resulting in thyroid problems, hormone problems and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
We now know when we consume more carbohydrates than our body can used up, it gets stored as body fat and stays there until something happens.
To achieve weight loss (specifically fat loss), we need to stop the body from making more body fat and start using what is already stored.
First of all, you need to restrict carbohydrate intake and focus on eating only high quality, nutrient-dense carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables and beans.
Then, you need to increase your physical activities that will help create an energy deficit along with the diet change.
The diet change stop the body from making more fat, while the physical activities will create an energy deficit that will force the body to use stored up fat for energy.
And fat starts to melt figuratively. When this happens, the toxins that’s been stored in the body fat is released into the blood stream, and you’ll feel an initial “lousiness”. But your high quality, nutrient dense diet is going to save you.
All that extra vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from the fruits and vegetables that you’re eating is going help boost your body’s detox system and get rid of the toxins.
In no time you’ll feel brand new, lighter and fresher, with more energy.
Disclaimer: Weigh loss is never a desired goal for growing children. Weight management in children should be supervised by an experienced provider, such as a pediatric nutritionist, who can determine your child weight management goal.
This guy Joe Cross is good. For someone without any medical experience and/or background, he successfully demonstrated how reversing chronic diseases and weight loss are totally achievable with lifestyle changes that include dietary changes and exercise.
I know many medical professionals who are watching this documentary would disagree with the juice fast approach. After all, we've been taught in school that starving or fasting is a bad for the body. This idea has deeply ingrained in us.
But I disagree, as a registered dietitian.
The juice fast introduced in the documentary makes perfect sense. You're not 100% starving. You’re still getting calories and nourishing nutrients in its purest form.
You have no idea how long the human body can survivor without food. I see that every day in the hospital. Patients on NPO (nothing by mouth) for 5-7, sometimes up to 10 days or longer with only IV (intravenous) fluids (aka salt water).
Usually these patients have some kind of gastrointestinal disorders that prevents them from ingesting and digesting food. And in most case, these patients would have intravenous infusion of saline solution, sometimes sprinkled with some dextrose and electrolytes.
Then, there are adults and children starving without food or water in third world countries. These are more severe cases of starvation that last even longer than patients we see not eating in the hospital for medical reasons.
Technically, the juice fast is not a real “fast”. You’re just replacing your usually calories with pure nutrients. And in doing so, there is a small caloric deficit.
The juice fast feels like a “fast” because it is significantly a lot less calories and food compared to the usual diet someone eat to gain the excess body weight.
The juice fast probably provides enough calories to maintain a healthy weight, it’s just that our normal way of food consumption is so distorted that when we're consuming the APPROPRIATE amount of calories, that it seem deficit.
After all, it’s a lot easier to consume 2,000 calories in ONE meal of cheeseburgers, fries and milkshake than to consume 2,000 calories of pure fruits and vegetables juices in one day.
While the juice fast does create a caloric deficit (from 4,000 calories a day to 2,000), it also introduces an abundant of very high quality and powerful antioxidants that optimizes the body's detox system to facilitate cleansing.
With the caloric deficit, the body is forced to used the stored up fat from all those years of overeating and lack of physical activities for fuel.
As the body fat is being converted into energy and used, waste products are generated. The body fats also stored up toxic chemicals and artificial additives that we consume from our contaminated food supply. When fat cells are blasted up for energy, the toxic waste also leaks out. That explains why most people experience a period of ill-feeling during the initial weight loss process. However, as you continue to introduce the healing fresh fruits and vegetable juice potion, the body’s detox system will get more and more efficient.
The dark cloud eventually clears up, and you’ll feel brand new.
I promise you won't die in this process.
Do you remember why we have body fat in the first place?
Have you noticed that we, as a nation, eats a lot of carbs.
Think of the last meal or even snack you ate. Carb is the focus.
Almost all the convenient snacks that we consumed frequently for convenience are carb, such as crackers, rice cake, granola bar, cereal bar, chips, Belvita cookies, etc.
All these so-called healthy snacks are not so healthy after all.
The main purpose of carbohydrate is to provide energy. Our body needs energy for basic body functions, such as breathing, heart pumping blood to circulate the body, thinking, digesting foods, etc. We also need energy for physical activities, even sitting, standing requires energy, and, of course, fun activities, such as hiking, swimming, sports, etc.
However, when we consume too much carbohydrates from food and beverages, especially simple carbohydrates and our body is not using up all the energy. Your body will start to store the extra energy in the form of body fats.
Our body does not have a purging mechanism that purges all the excess calories at the end of the day. Instead, our body stores the excess calories consumed and stored them as body fat, which is the storage unit of excess energy.
Our nation, in general, consumes a lot of carb, and that was the old idea from the historic Food Guide Pyramid.
The body stores excess energy just in case famine happens. But when was the last time you did not eat for 24 hours because of circumstances you cannot control?
The juice fast induces the body to start dipping into the body fat to use as energy while infusing the body with life-enhancing powerful antioxidants from fresh fruits and vegetables.
This is exactly what should happen In weight loss. You burn body fat while cleansing the whole system.
The Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead 2 is even better. I wasn’t even going to watch this thinking that most sequel are disappointing. But Cross proves me wrong.
In this follow-up of Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, Cross shows the continued challenges people face after losing lots of weight initially with the juice fast.
The show dealt into the emotional aspects of eating, life stressors, social isolations, and how having a supportive community is crucial to life long success in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
The documentary shows a surprising side effect of changing our lifestyle. It went back to some people featured in the first episodes. It shows that changing YOUR OWN lifestyle not only impacts your own life, but can potential affects the people around you, and possibly your whole community.
I have to say, it is very inspirational and motivating not only for people who wants to lose weight, but for anyone who wants to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
I wish more people struggling with weight loss and making lifestyle changes would watch this and be inspired as well.
A plant-based diet focuses on whole, unrefined, or minimally processed plants, such as organic fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, seeds, nuts and legumes. It excludes or minimizes animal protein, such as meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products, and eggs. This diet also exclude highly refined or processed foods like bleached flour, refined sugars and oil.
It’s very interesting that a vegetarian or vegan diet is often frown upon in the medical setting. I get lots of consults from concern pediatricians and parents.
A plant-based or vegan diet is almost synonymous as starvation or malnutrition or a cover for an eating disorder in teenagers.
Pediatricians freak out if parents is vegan, and the child is at eminent risk of malnutrition. Parents freak out if their child wants to be vegan. The consult is either for me to educate the family of a proper vegan diet or the parents want me to pursuede their child to change their mind.
Despite all the things we’re taught in school about risk of protein deficiency, iron deficiency, calcium deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency in a vegan diet, I have never, in my professional life, see a vegan or vegetarian with any of these deficiencies.
I’ve seen iron deficiency in women, children and teenagers who eats a regular American diet. I’ve seen protein deficiency, calcium deficiency and calcium deficiency in very sick children who eats a regular American diet.
How Does the Plant-based Diet Work?
To understand how the plant-based diet works, we need to first understand the chemistry of the human body.
Don’t worry…I’m not going to pull out my organic chemistry or biochemistry hat and start lecture.
What I want to get to is that the human body is a giant water bag filled with interacting elements. The human body is kept alive and functioning by thousands of chemical reactions. Every single one of these reactions requires a “catalyst” to make the reaction happens.
And coincidently, these catalysts are minerals and vitamins found in lots of fruits and vegetables that God made for us.
So in order for the human body to function well to include staying focus, having energy, fight diseases, etc, we need all our chemical reactions to work at their best, which requires lots of minerals and vitamins.
Antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables also plays significant role in our body functions. Antioxidants help neutralize harmful free radicals and speed the healing process.
The living body is a dynamic structure where cells are constantly dying and being replaced with new ones. With proper nutrition (or ingredients) our body can build better replacement cells and tissues that works even better than the last.
And there’s something to say about “cravings”. We have always been right about cravings. It’s our body’s way to tell us that some important ingredients are missing. But we have been tackling cravings wrong all this time.
We’ve been told to drink water when you have a craving. Or try to figure the texture (crunchy, gooey) or taste (sweet or salty) of the food that you crave, and find the food with the right texture or taste to curb the cravings.
In fact, what our body is really craving for are nutrients. Vital nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from fruits and vegetables, to facilitate life-supporting chemical reactions.
That’s the point we’ve been missing.
When your body is well-nourished, your cravings will stop. You can look at cravings as thirst or hunger. You need hydration when you’re thirsty, energy from food when you’re hungry, and nutrients when you have cravings.
Look at the United States, you think we’re a well-informed and well-fed nation. But look at our spending on healthcare, and statistics of people dying from lifestyle diseases, such as heart diseases, cancers, obesity, diabetes, etc.
The Healthcare costs well-exceeds the GPD. will eventually bankrupt this country. And 1.2 million deaths that could have been prevented.
All these are diseases of malnutrition (or overnutrition) and nutrient-deficiencies.
What About the Nutrients in Animal Protein? It’s true that animal protein does provide all 20 essential amino acids (building blocks of protein) in one source. However, it turns out animal protein is not the best or only source of protein or amino acid, or calcium, iron, zinc, etc.
High intake of animal protein (to include dairy and eggs) are associated with increased risk of certain cancers and chronic conditions.
According to the China Study, dairy products are not even a good source of calcium as we’ve been told by the Dairy Council.
It’s a big fat lie to get us drink loads of milk and eats tons of cheese so dairy farmers to make money.
In fact, the milk protein in dairy products increase risk of osteoporosis and osteopenia, and certain types of cancer. Studies have also shown that countries with the most dairy consumption also have the highest incidence of osteoporosis and osteopenia.
Red meat, as we know, increases risk of cardiac disease due to the oxidative effects of iron.
Despite the fact that plant protein is consider “incomplete”, it is the best source of protein. The human body does have 20 essential amino acids that we just can’t create on our own, and we need to acquire these essential amino acid from food that we eat. We’ve been told for decades that animal protein is ‘the best” source of protein because it provides ALL 20 essential amino acids. However, our body does not care where these amino acids come from.
Consuming animal protein to acquire these amino acids comes with a price - carcinogens, hormones, antibiotics, free radicals, etc.
On the other hand, assuming you’re eating a wholesome plant-based diet with a variety of unprocessed fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, seeds and whole grains, you’re guarantee to have all your essential amino acids complete.
Cancer is the number two killer in the adult world.
Children get cancer too. it is the leading cause of death in children under age of 18. But cancer in children is rare.
There are a few common childhood cancers, but they’re are rare too. And the other cancers that children get are even more rare than the common ones listed here.
I recently have a few tragic inoperable rare cancer cases.
Due to HIPPA, I would not disgust these at all.
It’s often very sad to have to work with these dying children…and you just cannot help but wonder why are these young children suffering. They have barely experience this world or acquire any bad lifestyle habits yet, and yet their tiny bodies are already burden with the most deadly disease.
We generally know the lifestyle and cancer relationship in adults - being overweight, eating an unhealthy diet, not getting enough exercise, and lifestyle habits like smoking and drinking alcohol are all risk factors for developing cancers in adults.
Lifestyle factors usually take years to influence cancer risk, but they cannot be the cause of many childhood cancers, as many children with cancer has not even lived long enough for these risk factors to cause cancers.
But I would say environmental factors, specifically environmental toxins have something to do with childhood cancer.
Environmental factors, such as radiation (such as X-ray) exposure, radioactive (barium study) compound exposure, contaminated water source, pesticides/herbicides in produce, have been linked with some types of childhood cancers. Not to mention prenatal exposures, such as radiation exposure during pregnancy, cancer treatment during pregnancy, maternal smoking, excessive caffeine consumption might increase a fetal’s risk of cancers, but more studies are needed to explore these possible links.
There is another very important risk factors that are very seldom mentioned. US performed many nuclear testing in the Pacific Islands during World War II, leaving behind a lot of tragedy that continues to haunt these islands and their people today.
The US testing not only affected the psychosocial and economic aspects of these island, but the health of generations to come.
During those testing the environment was contaminated with radioactive and nuclear materials. Rare and unusual malignant growth started popping left and right in people on these islands, both adults and children.
The US government realized that it is their fault of what’s going on, there was an agreement between the United States and the Pacific Islanders. The US government will provide medical care to the residence of these affected islands.
And that’s how I get the experience with all kinds of rare unusual cancers in both children and adults.
In recent years, scientists have made great progress in understanding how certain changes in our DNA can cause cells to become cancerous.
DNA is the chemical in each of our cells that makes up our genes – the instructions for nearly everything our cells do. We usually look like our parents because they are the source of our DNA. But DNA affects more than just how we look. It also influences our risks for developing certain diseases, including some kinds of cancer.
Some genes (parts of our DNA) control when our cells grow, divide into new cells, and die. Genes that help cells grow, divide, or stay alive are called oncogenes. Others that slow down cell division or cause cells to die at the right time are called tumor suppressor genes.
Cancers can be caused by DNA changes that turn on oncogenes or turn off tumor suppressor genes.
Some children inherit DNA changes (mutations) from a parent that increase their risk for adult cancer later in life. These DNA changes are present in every cell of the child’s body, and can often be tested for in the DNA of blood cells or other body cells.
Some of these DNA changes only increase the risk of cancer, while others can cause syndromic disease that causes other health or developmental problems.
Acquired DNA Mutation
Childhood cancers are generally not associated with inherited DNA changes. They are likely the result of DNA changes or mutation that happen early in the child’s life, sometimes even before birth.
Every time a cell prepares to divide into 2 new cells, it must copy its DNA. This process isn’t perfect, and errors do occur sometimes, especially when the cells are dividing rapidly. This kind of gene mutation can happen at any time in life and is called an acquired mutation.
Acquired mutations usually start in one cell. This affected cell then passes the mutation on to all the cells that come from it as it divides into more cells. These acquired DNA mutations remains in the affected cells only and will not be passed on to his or her children.
Sometimes the causes of gene changes in certain adult cancers are known (such as cancer-causing chemicals in cigarette smoke), but the reasons for DNA changes that cause most childhood cancers are not known.
Some may have outside causes like radiation exposure, and others may have causes that have not yet been found. But many are likely to be caused by random events that sometimes happen inside a cell, without having an outside cause.
COMMON CHILDHOOD CANCERS
Leukemia is the most common childhood cancer. It is cancer of the bone marrow and blood. They account for about 30% of all cancers in children. The most common types in children are acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). These leukemias can cause bone and joint pain, fatigue, weakness, pale skin, bleeding or bruising, fever, weight loss, and other symptoms. Acute leukemias can grow quickly, so they need to be treated (typically with chemotherapy) as soon as they are found.
Brain and central nervous system tumors are the second most common cancers in children, making up about 26% of childhood cancers. There are many types of brain tumors, and the treatment and outlook for each is different.
Most brain tumors in children start in the lower parts of the brain, such as the cerebellum or brain stem. They can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, blurred or double vision, dizziness, trouble walking or handling objects, and other symptoms.
Neuroblastoma starts in early forms of nerve cells found in a developing embryo or fetus. About 6% of childhood cancers are neuroblastomas. This type of cancer occurs in infants and young children. It is rarely found in children older than 10. This tumor can start anywhere but is usually in the belly (abdomen) and is noticed as swelling. It can also cause bone pain and fever.
Wilms tumor (also called nephroblastoma) starts in one, or rarely, both kidneys. It is most often found in children about 3 to 4 years old, and is uncommon in children older than age 6. It can show up as a swelling or lump in the belly (abdomen). Sometimes the child might have other symptoms, like fever, pain, nausea, or poor appetite. Wilms tumor accounts for about 5% of childhood cancers.
Lymphoma are cancers that start in the cells of the immune system called lymphocytes. They most often grow in lymph nodes and other lymph tissues, like the tonsils or thymus. Lymphomas can also affect the bone marrow and other organs, and can cause different symptoms depending on where the cancer is. Lymphomas can cause weight loss, fever, sweats, tiredness (fatigue), and lumps (swollen lymph nodes) under the skin in the neck, armpit, or groin.
The 2 main types of lymphoma are Hodgkin lymphoma (sometimes called Hodgkin disease) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Both types occur in children and adults.
Hodgkin lymphoma accounts for about 3% of childhood cancers. It is more common, though, in 2 age groups: early adulthood (age 15 to 40, usually people in their 20s) and late adulthood (after age 55). Hodgkin lymphoma is rare in children younger than 5 years of age. This type of cancer is very similar in children and adults, including which types of treatment work best.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma makes up about 5% of childhood cancers. It is more likely to occur in younger children than Hodgkin lymphoma, but it is still rare in children younger than 3. The most common types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in children are different from those in adults. These cancers often grow quickly and require intensive treatment, but they also tend to respond better to treatment than most non-Hodgkin lymphomas in adults.
Rhabdomyosarcoma starts in cells that normally develop into skeletal muscles. (These are the muscles that we control to move parts of our body.) This type of cancer can start nearly any place in the body, including the head and neck, groin, belly (abdomen), pelvis, or in an arm or leg. It may cause pain, swelling (a lump), or both. This is the most common type of soft tissue sarcoma in children. It makes up about 3% of childhood cancers.
Retinoblastoma is a cancer of the eye. It accounts for about 2% of childhood cancers. It usually occurs in children around the age of 2, and is seldom found in children older than 6. Retinoblastomas are usually found because a parent or doctor notices a child’s eye looks unusual. Normally when you shine a light in a child’s eye, the pupil (the dark spot in the center of the eye) looks red because of the blood in vessels in the back of the eye. In an eye with retinoblastoma, the pupil often looks white or pink. This white glare of the eye may be noticed after a flash picture is taken.
Bone cancers that start in the bone (aka primary bone cancers)occur most often in older children and teens, but they can develop at any age. They account for about 3% of childhood cancers.
Primary bone cancer is different from metastatic bone cancer, which is cancer that starts somewhere else in the body and then spreads to the bones. Metastatic bone cancer is more common than primary bone cancer because most other types of cancer (including many cancers in adults) can spread to the bones.
Two main types of primary bone cancers occur in children:
Osteosarcoma is most common in teens, and usually develops in areas where the bone is growing quickly, such as near the ends of the long bones in the legs or arms. It often causes bone pain that gets worse at night or with activity. It can also cause swelling in the area around the bone.
Ewing sarcoma is a less common type of bone cancer, which can also cause bone pain and swelling. It is most often found in young teens. The most common places for it to start are the pelvic (hip) bones, the chest wall (such as the ribs or shoulder blades), or in the middle of the long leg bones.
Fatty fish is the best source of omega-3s because docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are the active forms of omega-3 fatty acids that the body can use right away.
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) are found mainly in plant sources and requires enzymatic conversion to DHA or EPA.
There are many health benefits to these omega-3 fatty acid due to it’s anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-3 fatty acids are most well-known for its heart health benefits and alleviation arthritic pain.
In children, omega-3 fatty acids are major components of brain tissues and eye development. Pregnant women and lactating moms are encourage to take more to provide their babies with this benefit substances.
Omega-3 fatty acids are some of the most studied nutrients for the treatment of ADHD in children.
Of course, you’ve probably seen DHA and EPA being added to many grocery products as well. However, be wary of these so-called fortified products. Frequently, food manufacturers want to jump on the fancy bandwagon of the omega-3 fatty acid hype, so they come up with adding DHA and EPA to everything they made. Sounds pretty good right? Now you can easy get DHA and EPA from foods you like too.
Here’s the dilemma…the amount of the DHA and EPA is usually a sprinkle. I shall call this the “sprinkle dilemma”. Of course the manufacturers are not going to give you a full dose of the omega-3 fatty acid. They’ll just sprinkle a little in their products and “voila, our products are fortified with omega-3 fatty acids”.
My recommendations? Don’t bother…just eat foods that are naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids or take a couple of supplement pills or take cod liver oil.
The three most nutritionally beneficial omega-3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Research suggests these omega-3 fatty acids are better absorbed by the body when obtained from food rather than omega-3 supplements.
Natural Sources of Omega-3 EPA and DHA
EPA and DHA omega-3s are mainly found in fish, especially cold-water, high-fat varieties such as:
If fish is not your taste…you can still get omega-3 fatty acids, such as ALA, from plant sources. Approximately 35 percent of ALA found in food is converted to DHA and EPA in our body. Since the body cannot make ALA, it must be consumed in the diet.
Natural Sources of Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA)
Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
Soybeans and soybean oil
Omega-3 fatty acids are not only found in fish, nuts, seeds and oils. Fruits and vegetables that are good sources of omega-3s include: kidney beans, navy beans, tofu, winter and summer squash, certain berries such as raspberries and strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, romaine lettuce, and collard greens. Wheat germ and free-range beef and poultry are also good sources of omega-3s.
If foods rich in ALA are the only dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids, it is important to limit saturated and trans fats in the diet as both can interfere with the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA.
Daily Recommended Intake for Omega-3s
The Institute of Medicine suggests an Adequate Intake level of ALA at 1,600 mg per day for men and 1,100 mg per day for women, and 110mg to 160 mg per day of EPA and DHA.
The American Heart Association recommends 500 to 1,000 mg per day of DHA and EPA.
The National Institute of Health recommends consuming at least 2 percent of total daily calories from omega-3 fatty acids; based on a 2,000 calorie diet, this would be at least 2,000 mg of omega-3 fats daily, about 2 fish oil pills per day.