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Frequently Asked Nutrition Questions

Click on a question below to view the answer:

Do you recommend a vegetarian or a vegan diet?
How do I get protein on a vegan or vegetarian diet? Do I need to combine proteins?
How do I get enough calcium on a vegan or vegetarian diet? What about osteoporosis?

What’s wrong with drinking milk? Is organic milk better? Is soymilk a safer alternative? What about other dairy products?
Is it safe to eat soybeans and other soy foods?
Someone in my family was diagnosed with cancer: What dietary recommendations would you offer him or her?
What are the safest types of fish to eat? Aren’t fish the best source of omega-3 fatty acids?
What’s the best diet for weight loss?
Is the Atkins diet healthy/safe? What about other low-carb diets?
Is it true that some foods are addictive?
Is it possible to lower blood pressure with diet? If so, how?
Are there natural approaches to menopause?

1. Do you recommend a vegetarian or a vegan diet?

Vegetarian diets, which contain no meat (beef, pork, poultry, or fish and shellfish), are naturally low in saturated fat, high in fiber, and full of vitamins, minerals, and cancer-fighting compounds. A multitude of scientific studies have shown that vegetarian diets have remarkable health benefits and can help prevent certain diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. We encourage vegetarian diets as a way of improving general health and preventing diet-related illnesses. Vegan diets, which contain no animal products (meat, dairy, eggs, or other animal products), are even healthier than vegetarian diets. Vegan diets contain no cholesterol and even less fat, saturated fat, and calories than vegetarian diets because they exclude dairy and eggs. Scientific research shows that health benefits increase as the amount of food from animal sources in the diet decreases, making vegan diets the healthiest overall.

However, vegetarianism is not recommended for everyone. Certain constitutional types do need some animal protein in their diets. Before embarking on drastic dietary changes, we recommend having a nutritional assessment by a qualified health practitioner.

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2. How do I get protein on a vegan or vegetarian diet? Do I need to combine proteins?

Protein is an important nutrient required for the building, maintenance, and repair of tissues in the body. It was once thought that various plant foods had to be eaten together to get their full protein value; this practice was known as “protein combining” or “protein complementing.” We now know that intentional combining is not necessary. As long as the diet contains a variety of grains, legumes, and vegetables, protein needs are easily met.  Especially protein-rich vegetarian foods include soy-based products like tofu, texturized vegetable protein, tempeh (a fermented soybean product), and veggie burgers, seitan (a meat substitute made from a wheat protein called gluten), black beans, lentils, chickpeas, grains such as quinoa and bulgur, and whole wheat bread. Combining brown rice with beans yields a more complete protein source than having brown rice or beans separately.

See chart below for protein values in vegetarian foods. Note: Tempeh and Seitan are fermented foods and should be used causiously by those who have cancer or other immune issues.


Healthy Protein Sources (in grams)

Black beans, boiled (1 cup)


Broccoli (1 cup)


Bulgur, cooked (1 cup)


Chickpeas, boiled (1 cup)


Lentils, boiled (1 cup)


Natural Peanut butter (2 tbsp)


Quinoa, cooked (1 cup)


Seitan (4 oz)


Spinach, boiled (1 cup)


Tempeh (1/2 cup)


Tofu, firm (1/2 cup)


Whole wheat bread (1 slice)


3. How do I get enough calcium on a vegan or vegetarian diet? What about osteoporosis?

By eating calcium-rich vegetarian foods, including leafy green vegetables such as broccoli and kale, white beans, fortified soymilks and juices, and a variety of fruits and vegetables, you can obtain all the calcium your body needs. But keeping your bones strong and avoiding osteoporosis depends on more than calcium intake—you also need to keep calcium in your bones. Magnesium, silicon, phosphorus, vitamin A, Vitamin B-6, selenium, zinc and copper are critically important for bone health. Keeping your body properly alkalinized is extremely important - so keeping the vegetable intake high and the sugar and animal intake low is key.

Sufficient exposure to natural sunlight, exercise and vitamin D help keep the calcium in your bones, while animal protein, excess salt and caffeine, and tobacco can cause calcium loss. High protein intake is known to encourage urinary calcium (and other critical minerals) losses and has been shown to increase risk of fracture in research studies. Plant-based diets, which provide adequate protein, can help protect against osteoporosis. Calcium-rich plant foods include leafy green vegetables, beans, and some nuts and seeds as well as fortified fruit juices, cereals, and non-dairy milks. 

A number of factors affect calcium loss from the body:

  • Diets that are high in protein cause more calcium to be lost through the urine. Protein from animal products is much more likely to cause calcium loss than protein from plant foods. This may be one reason that vegetarians tend to have stronger bones than meat-eaters.

  • Diets high in sodium increase calcium losses in the urine.

  • Caffeine increases the rate at which calcium is lost through urine.

  • Smoking increases the loss of calcium from the body.

A number of factors increase bone building in the body:

  • Exercise is one of the most important factors in maintaining bone health.

  • Exposure to sunlight allows the body to make the bone-building hormone vitamin D.

  • Eating a plentiful amount of fruits and vegetables helps to keep calcium in bone.

  • Consuming calcium from plant-based sources, especially green vegetables and beans, provides one of the building blocks for bone building.


We recommend a Trace Mineral Analysis (TMA) as well as a nutritional consult to those who wish to gain an in-depth understanding of mineral metabolism and how you can effectively improve your bone health.

See chart below for calcium and magnesium content in vegetarian foods.










Calcium and Magnesium in Foods (milligrams)

Source Calcium Magnesium

Apricots (3 medium, raw)



Barley (1 cup)



Black turtle beans (1 cup, boiled)



Broccoli (1 cup, boiled)



Brown rice (1 cup, cooked)



Brussels sprouts (8 sprouts)



Butternut squash (1 cup, boiled)



Chick peas (1 cup, canned)



Collards (1 cup, boiled)



Dates (10 medium, dried)



English  muffin



Figs (10 medium, dried)



Great northern beans (1 cup, boiled)



Green beans (1 cup, boiled)



Kale (1 cup, boiled)



Lentils (1 cup, boiled)



Lima beans (1 cup, boiled)



Mustard greens (1 cup, boiled)



Navel orange (1 medium)



Navy beans (1 cup, boiled)



Oatmeal, instant (2 packets)



Orange juice, calcium-fortified (1 cup)



Peas (1 cup, boiled)



Pinto beans (1 cup, boiled)



Raisins (2/3 cup)



Soybeans (1 cup, boiled)



Sweet potato (1 cup, boiled)



Tofu (1/2 cup)



Vegetarian baked beans (1 cup)



White beans (1 cup, boiled)



Source: Pennington JAT. Bowes and Church’s Food Values of Portions Commonly Used. 16th Edition, Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott, 1994.

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4. What’s wrong with drinking milk? Is organic milk better? Is soymilk a safer alternative?
     What about other dairy products?

Few foods in our culture are held in such high esteem as the mammary secretions of cows. One dollar of every seven spent for food in the United States goes for the purchase of milk and milk products. Each person in the U.S. consumes, on the average, 375 pounds of dairy products each year.

These items make up the second largest food expense, ranking behind only the combined expenses for meat, fish, poultry, and eggs. “There is no human requirement for milk from a cow,” says Suzanne Havala, R.D., author of the American Dietitic Association’s Position Paper on Vegetarian Diets and several books on nutrition. “The use of milk and its products in our country is strictly a cultural tradition,” she notes. “There are millions of people around the world who never consume cow’s milk and are none the worse for it.” Those who avoid dairy products may seem to be choosing an unusual diet by Western standards, but are actually choosing a typical diet by world standards. The belief that milk is essential in the diet is clearly incorrect.

Milk is a causative factor in most health problems plaguing Americans consuming the Basic American Diet. The drinking of cow milk has been linked to iron-deficiency anemia in infants and children; it has been named as the cause of multiple forms of allergies and plays a central role in the origins of atherosclerosis and heart attacks. Cow milk is linked with recurrent ear infections and bronchitis, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and simple dental decay. Milk is a carrier of radioactive substances. Dairy products are major contributors of saturated fat and cholesterol to the diet. According to cardiologist Dean Ornish, M.D., “Milk rates second only to beef as the largest source of saturated fat in the American diet.” One glass of 2% milk has as much saturated fat as three strips of bacon. Almost half the calories in whole milk come from fat. Humans are the only mammalian species that drinks milk after they’re weaned! Most animals are exclusively breast-fed until they have tripled their birth weight, which in human infants occurs around the age of one year. The earlier the human infant is exposed to milk from another species, the more likely he is to show signs of intolerance. In many other parts of the world, people regard cow milk as unfit for consumption by adult human beings.

The preceding two paragraphs come to you complements of , where you will find comprehensive coverage of this topic and articles on many more health topics.

Milk contains mucous, saturated fat, and cholesterol, and diets high in fat and saturated fat can increase the risk of allergies, several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease. Other dairy products, such as cheese, yogurt, butter, and ice cream, also contribute significant amounts of cholesterol and fat to the diet. Even low-fat and fat-free milk and dairy products carry health risks because of cholesterol. In addition, natural and artificial hormones are present in all types of milk and dairy products, regardless of fat.

Organic milk may not contain the pesticides and antibiotics that non-organic milk contains, but it is still loaded with fat and cholesterol. Organic cow’s milk, which does not contain artificial hormones, does contain naturally occurring hormones. The combination of nutrients found in both organic and non-organic cow’s milk increases our own production of some types of hormones. These hormones have been shown to increase the risk of some forms of cancer.

Health Concerns about Dairy Products
Many Americans, including some vegetarians, still consume substantial amounts of dairy products—and government policies still promote them—despite scientific evidence that questions their health benefits and indicates their potential health risks.
We recommend vsiting for in-depth information on this topic. 

Milk’s main selling point is calcium, and milk-drinking is touted for building strong bones in children and preventing osteoporosis in older persons. However, clinical research shows that dairy products have little or no benefit for bones. A 2005 review published in Pediatrics showed that milk consumption does not improve bone integrity in children. Similarly, the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, which followed more than 72,000 women for 18 years, showed no protective effect of increased milk consumption on fracture risk. While calcium is important for bone health, studies show that increasing consumption beyond approximately 600 mg per day—amounts that are easily achieved without dairy products or calcium supplements—does not improve bone integrity.

In studies of children and adults, exercise has been found to have a major effect on bone density.

You can decrease your risk of osteoporosis by reducing sodium and animal protein intake in the diet, increasing intake of fruits and vegetables, exercising, and ensuring adequate calcium intake from plant foods such as kale, broccoli, and other leafy green vegetables and beans. You can also use calcium-fortified products such as breakfast cereals and juices, although these products provide more concentrated calcium than is necessary.

Fat Content and Cardiovascular Disease
Dairy products—including cheese, ice cream, milk, butter, and yogurt—contribute significant amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat to the diet. Diets high in fat and saturated fat can increase the risk of heart disease, among other serious health problems. A low-fat vegetarian diet that eliminates dairy products, in combination with exercise, smoking cessation, and stress management, can not only prevent heart disease, but may also reverse it. Non-fat dairy products are available; however, they pose other health risks as noted below.

Case-control studies in diverse populations have shown a strong and consistent association between serum IGF-I concentrations and prostate cancer risk. One study showed that men who had the highest levels of IGF-I had more than four times the risk of prostate cancer compared with those who had the lowest levels. Other findings show that prostate cancer risk was elevated with increased consumption of low-fat milk, suggesting that too much dairy calcium could be a potential threat to prostate health.

Ovarian cancer may also be related to the consumption of dairy products. The milk sugar lactose is broken down in the body into another sugar, galactose. Research suggests that the dairy sugar galactose might be toxic to ovarian cells. In a study conducted in Sweden, consumption of lactose and dairy products was positively linked to ovarian cancer. A similar study, the Iowa Women’s Health Study, found that women who consumed more than one glass of milk per day had a 73 percent greater chance of ovarian cancer than women who drank less than one glass per day.

Prostate and breast cancers have been linked to consumption of dairy products, presumably related to increases in a compound called insulin-like growth factor IGF-I.  IGF-I is found in cow’s milk and has been shown to occur in increased levels in the blood of individuals consuming dairy products on a regular basis.16 Other nutrients that increase IGF-I are also found in cow’s milk.

Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is common among many populations, affecting approximately 95 percent of Asian Americans, 74 percent of Native Americans, 70 percent of African Americans, 53 percent of Mexican Americans, and 15 percent of Caucasians. Symptoms, which include gastrointestinal distress, diarrhea, and flatulence, occur because these individuals do not have the enzyme lactase that digests the milk sugar lactose. For those who can digest lactose, its breakdown products are two simple sugars: glucose and galactose. Nursing children have active enzymes that break down galactose. As we age, many of us lose much of this capacity. Additionally, along with unwanted symptoms, milk-drinkers also put themselves at risk for development of other chronic diseases and ailments.

Vitamin D
Individuals often drink milk in order to obtain vitamin D in their diet, unaware that they can receive vitamin D through other sources. The natural source of vitamin D is sunlight. Five to fifteen minutes of sun exposure to the arms and legs or the hands, face, and arms can be enough to meet the body’s requirements for vitamin D, depending on the individual’s skin tone. Darker skin requires longer exposure to the sun in order to obtain adequate levels of vitamin D. In colder climates during the winter months the sun may not be able to provide adequate vitamin D. During this time the diet must be able to provide vitamin D. Fortified cereals, grains, bread, orange juice, and soy- or rice milk are healthful foods that provide vitamin D. All common multiple vitamins also provide vitamin D.

Milk contains contaminants that range from pesticides to drugs. Milk naturally contains hormones and growth factors produced within a cow’s body. In addition, synthetic hormones such as recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) are commonly used in dairy cows to increase the production of milk. Because treated cows are producing quantities of milk nature never intended, the end result can be mastitis, or inflammation of the mammary glands. Treatment of this condition requires the use of antibiotics, and antibiotic traces have occasionally been found in samples of milk and other dairy products. Pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and dioxins are other examples of contaminants found in milk. These toxins do not readily leave the body and can eventually build to harmful levels that may affect the immune and reproductive systems. The central nervous system can also be affected. Moreover, PCBs and dioxins have also been linked to cancer.

Milk Proteins and Diabetes
Insulin-dependent (type 1 or childhood-onset) diabetes is linked to consumption of dairy products. A 2001 Finnish study of 3,000 infants with genetically increased risk for developing diabetes showed that early introduction of cow’s milk increased susceptibility to type 1 diabetes.

Health Concerns of Infants and Children
Milk proteins, milk sugar, fat, and saturated fat in dairy products pose health risks for children and encourage the development of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants below one year of age not be given whole cow’s milk, as iron deficiency is more likely on a dairy-rich diet. Cow’s milk products are very low in iron. If dairy products become a major part of one’s diet, iron deficiency is more likely. Colic is an additional concern with milk consumption. Up to 28 percent of infants suffer from colic during the first month of life. Pediatricians learned long ago that cow’s milk was often the reason. We now know that breastfeeding mothers can have colicky babies if the mothers consume cow’s milk. The cow’s antibodies can pass through the mother’s bloodstream, into her breast milk, and to the baby. Additionally, food allergies appear to be common results of cow’s milk consumption, particularly in children. Cow’s milk consumption has also been linked to chronic constipation in children. Researchers suggested that milk consumption resulted in perianal sores and severe pain on defecation, leading to constipation.

Milk and dairy products are not necessary in the diet and can, in fact, be harmful to health. It is best to consume a healthful diet of grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and fortified foods including cereals and juices. These nutrient-dense foods can help you meet your calcium, potassium, riboflavin, and vitamin D requirements with ease—and without health risks. We recommend vsiting for in-depth information on this topic.

Soymilk and other non-dairy beverages, such as rice and nut milks, are healthy alternatives to cow’s milk. These beverages come in different flavors, and many of them are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. They work well on cereal, in coffee and tea, and in baking and cooking. Grocery stores now regularly carry soymilk, and most coffee shops offer a variety of soy coffee drinks.

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5. Is it safe to eat soybeans and other soy foods?

Recently, questions have been raised about the possible health risks of soy consumption, but the overwhelming majority of studies on soy have shown positive health effects or, at worst, neutral ones. 

Eating soy in moderation is appropriate for a healthy diet. There have been concerns about processed soy products, such as “mock meats,” but moderate intakes of these foods are not likely to cause health problems. Some soy products are high in sodium and contain a higher-than-healthy level of fat, so be sure to check the labels and choose the healthier versions. Nonetheless, these foods are much healthier than the animal-derived foods they are intended to replace. 

If you do choose to avoid soy, you will find it can be easily replaced with other foods. Lentils, beans, and other legumes are a hearty and delicious source of plant-based protein and other nutrients. They are also the richest source of dietary fiber.

Health benefits and soy

Many people are including soy foods in their diets because of the reputed health benefits. Some of these findings include the following:

  • Epidemiological studies have found that soy protein may reduce the risk for cancers including breast, colon and prostate.

  • Soy protein has been shown to be useful for heart disease due to its ability to lower cholesterol, enhance coronary artery function, and reduce other heart disease risk factors. After reviewing the evidence for soy protein’s effect on cholesterol, the Food and Drug Administration allowed the food industry to place the health claim that 25 grams of soy protein may lower cholesterol on labels of foods containing soy protein.

  • Soy foods have been found to have a favorable effect on bone mineral density through the isoflavones it contains in addition to soy protein intake, which reduces the amount of calcium lost in the urine when compared to animal protein intake.

  • It is important to remember that the benefits seen in soy food consumption in epidemiological studies may be due, in part, to people replacing meat, chicken, dairy, and eggs with plant protein sources. Consuming some soy as part of a vegan diet based on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes will allow for far more benefits than just adding soy to a diet with animal products in it.

Soy and Alzheimer’s disease

A prospective study found that Alzheimer’s disease rates were slightly higher in individuals in Hawaii who had consumed significant amounts of tofu throughout their lives. There may be a number of reasons for this result that do not have any relation to soy products. Tofu in Hawaii may have higher levels of aluminum, which may be linked to Alzheimer’s disease, than in the rest of the United States. But this study did not measure aluminum levels, so no other correlations were made. Also, countries in Asia where soy intake is high do not have a high rate of Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, despite the high intake of soy in Okinawa, Japan, rates of dementia are much lower than those in this country. Some researchers have suggested that the tofu consumption in this study may be a marker for another factor that contributed to the higher rate of cognitive decline. Since only one study has found a possible correlation between soy and cognitive function, it cannot yet be concluded that soy poses a risk. The research is clearer, however, that a healthy lifestyle based on a diet of plant foods, exercise, and mental stimulation is associated with reduced risk of dementia in aging.

Soy and breast cancer

Researchers believe that certain chemicals in soybeans called isoflavones are responsible for the reduced risk for breast cancer among Asian women. Isoflavones are phytoestrogens (phyto means "plant"). They keep estrogen levels under control, as they can act  like a weak estrogen when body estrogen levels are low and can inhibit estrogen’s effects when body estrogen levels are high.

All this having been said, there is a growing body of information that strongly suggests soy is not for everyone and may not be the wonder food that the media and some health experts claim it to be.  We recommend consulting a health practitioner before using soy products.

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6. Someone in my family was diagnosed with cancer: What dietary recommendations would you
    offer him or her?

Scientific studies have shown that a low-fat, vegetarian diet can help in cancer prevention and survival. ECM recommends replacing meat, dairy products, and other animal products with healthy, low-fat meals rich in whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. These foods are full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and cancer-fighting compounds. And they don’t contain the high amounts of fat and cholesterol found in meat and other animal products.

Vegetarian diets—naturally low in saturated fat, high in fiber, and replete with cancer-protective phytochemicals—help to prevent cancer. Large studies in England and Germany have shown that vegetarians are about 40 percent less likely to develop cancer compared to meat-eaters. In the United States, studies of Seventh-Day Adventists have shown significant reductions in cancer risk among those who avoided meat. Similarly, breast cancer rates are dramatically lower in nations, such as China, that follow plant-based diets.6 Interestingly, Japanese women who follow Western-style, meat-based diets are eight times more likely to develop breast cancer than women who follow a more traditional plant-based diet. Meat and dairy products contribute to many forms of cancer, including cancer of the colon, breast, ovaries, and prostate.

Harvard studies that included tens of thousands of women and men have shown that regular meat consumption increases colon cancer risk by roughly 300 percent. High-fat diets also encourage the body’s production of estrogens, in particular, estradiol. Increased levels of this sex hormone have been linked to breast cancer. A recent report noted that the rate of breast cancer among pre-menopausal women who ate the most animal (but not vegetable) fat was one-third higher than that of women who ate the least animal fat. A separate study from Cambridge University also linked diets high in saturated fat to breast cancer. One study linked dairy products to an increased risk of ovarian cancer. The process of breaking down the lactose (milk sugar) into galactose evidently damages the ovaries. Daily meat consumption triples the risk of prostate enlargement. Regular milk consumption doubles the risk and failure to consume vegetables regularly nearly quadruples the risk.

Research studies have idntified phytochemicals, called isothiocyanates (ITCs), found in several cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli), and generated when vegetables are either cut or chewed. Phenethyl-ITC, or PEITC, is highly effective in suppressing the growth of human prostate cancer cells at concentrations achievable through dietary intake. Similarly, lycopene, a carotenoid found in tomatoes (especially cooked tomato) has been shown to inhibit ovarian, prostate and lung cancers.

We strongly recommend foods high in anti-oxidant and natural anti-cancer compounds such as cabbage,  brussels  sprouts, tumeric, red raspberries, granny smith apples, asparagus, black pepper, red wine, olive oil, green tea, mangosteen juice, acai berry, Inca berries, goji berries, chili peppers, grapefruit, cherries, bell peppers cranberries, beans and legumes, blueberries, hazel nuts, salmon (omega-3), black berries, cooked tomato (lycopene), pumpkin seeks, dark chocolate (ORAC factor), carrots, sweet potato, broccoli, pomegranate, garlic, onion.

Ellagic acid, found in 46 different fruits and nuts including blueberries and red raspberries is a proven anti-carcinogen, anti-mutagen and anti-cancer initiator.

Initial studies and clinical tests have shown that it prevents the destruction of the p53 gene in cancer cells and it seems to form "joints" with DNA by binding to sites which would otherwise be attached to mutagens or carcinogens.

Dr Daniel Nixon at the Hollings Cancer Institute, at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) began studying ellagic acid in 1993.

Recent published data from MUSC includes the findings that Ellagic acid:

  • Slows the growth of abnormal colon cell

  • Has antibacterial and anti-viral properties

  • Can prevent HPV infected cells developing, and cervical cells infected with IWV experience apoptosis (normal cell death).

  • Increases the rate of metabolism of carcinogens and prevents the development of cancer cells.

  • As a powerful antioxidant it neutralises the affects of aflatoxins produced by parasites within the body.

  • Affects and inhibits the action of arylamines, known as potent carcinogens.

And all this seems to come from eating just one cup of red raspberries per day!

Research has shown that ellagic acid can protect the p53 gene. This gene has the ability to rebuild damaged DNA under normal conditions. But as part of cancer development it becomes switched off. There is evidence that this is a factor in breast, prostate, pancreas, skin, cervical and colon cancers. Clinical References

We highly recommend visiting (Independent Cancer Research Foundation, Inc.) for more information on ellagic acid and many articles on holistic approaches to various types of cancer.

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7. What are the safest types of fish to eat? Aren’t fish the best source of omega-3 fatty acids?

The most nutritious sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are plant-based foods, including green leafy vegetables, legumes, wheat germ, soybeans, and ground flaxseeds. Only high quality fish such as wild salmon or bluefish are recommended - farm raised fish should be avoided. By getting omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and protein from plant-based foods, you can avoid the health risks associated with fish consumption.

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are important in the normal functioning of all tissues of the body. Deficiencies are responsible for a host of symptoms and disorders including abnormalities in the liver and kidney, changes in the blood, reduced growth rates, poor fetal brain development, decreased immune function, depression, and skin changes, including dryness and scaliness. Adequate intake of the essential fatty acids results in numerous health benefits. Prevention of atherosclerosis, reduced incidence of heart disease and stroke, and relief from the symptoms associated with ulcerative colitis, menstrual pain, and joint pain have also been documented. Omega-3 deficiency has also been linked with increased cancer rates.

While supplements and added oils are not typically necessary in the vegetarian diet, good sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fats should be included daily. It is important to take these two fats in the proper ratio as well. Omega-6 fatty acids compete with omega-3 fatty acids for use in the body, and therefore excessive intake of omega-6 fatty acids can be a problem. The U.S. diet has become heavy in omega-6 fats and low in omega-3 fats, secondary to a reliance on processed foods and oils. It is necessary to balance this by eating a low-fat diet that is low in processed foods and with fat mainly coming from omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Omega-6 fats are found in leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains, and vegetable oils (corn, safflower, soybean, cottonseed, sesame, sunflower). Other omega-6 fatty acids, such as gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), can be found in more rare oils, including black currant, borage, evening primrose, and hemp oils. Most diets provide adequate amounts of omega-6 fatty acids.

Plant Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

  • Ground flaxseed (flax meal)

  • Walnuts

  • Soybeans

  • Mungo Beans*

* Mung beans are particularly high in omega-3 fatty acids. They are sold in many Indian groceries and may be found under the name "urid."

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

It is important for vegetarians to include foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids on a daily basis. Alpha-linolenic acid, a common omega-3 fatty acid, is found in many vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and fruits. The best source of alpha-linolenic acid is flaxseeds or flaxseed oil. For those who are seeking to increase their intake of omega-3 fats, more concentrated sources can be found in oils such as canola (also known as rapeseed), soybean, walnut, and wheat germ. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in smaller quantities in nuts, seeds, and soy products, as well as beans, vegetables, and whole grains. Corn, safflower, sunflower, and cottonseed oils are generally low in omega-3s.

Omega-3 Content of Natural Oils

  • Flaxseed 53-62%

  • Linseed 53%

  • Canola 11%

  • Walnut 10%

  • Wheat germ 7%

  • Soybean 7%

Flaxseed for Omega-3's

Flaxseed oil and ground flaxseeds are particularly good choices to meet your needs for omega-3 fatty acids. One teaspoonful of flaxseed oil or a tablespoonful of ground flaxseed will supply the daily requirement of alpha-linolenic acid. To protect it from oxygen damage, flaxseed oil or ground flax seed must be stored in the refrigerator or the freezer. Use a little in dressings for salads or baked potatoes. Don't try to cook with this oil, however, as heat damages its omega-3s. For you to absorb what you need from flaxseeds, they must be ground. Simply put fresh flaxseeds in a spice or coffee grinder for a few seconds. Some people grind a cup every week or so and store it in the freezer. A spoonful can be added to a smoothie or sprinkled on breakfast cereal, a salad, or other dish.

Pregnancy and Lactation

In pregnancy and lactation, it is especially important to obtain adequate essential fatty acids from the diet. Recent research suggests that pregnant women may have increased needs for these fatty acids, as they are needed for fetal growth, brain development, learning, and behavior. Essential fatty acids are also important for the infant after birth for growth and proper development, as well as the normal functioning of all tissues of the body. Infants receive essential fatty acids through breast milk, so it is important that the mother's diet contain a good supply of omega-3s. Pregnant women and lactating mothers may also opt to take a DHA supplement (DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, is a form of omega-3 fatty acids). A DHA supplement based on cultured microalgae, under the trademark Neuromins, is available in many natural food stores.

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8. What’s the best diet for weight loss?

Fad diets only work short term and always have health risks associated with them. Both short-term and long-term, the most effective and healthy weight loss comes from avoiding simple sugars, starches, too many animal products and keeping fats and vegetable oils to a minimum. In addition, it helps to keep the natural fiber in the foods you eat. This means eating whole-grain breads instead of white bread, brown rice instead of white rice, and plenty of fruits, vegetables, and legumes (beans, peas, and lentils). It is important to reduce sugars and processed high starch foods as these stimulate more insulin production. Excess insulin programs the body for fat storage. Increasing your low-starch (water rich) vegetable intake and drinking enough water is key. And don’t forget the importance of physical activity for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

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9. Is the Atkins diet healthy/safe? What about other low-carb diets?

The Atkins diet and other low-carb fad diets, which are high in fat and protein and severely restrict all carbohydrates including healthy low-starch vegetables and low sugar fruits, are not healthy approaches to losing weight. High-fat, high-protein diets are associated with many health risks, ranging from mild (constipation, headache, and bad breath) to significant (impaired kidney function, osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer). 

The American Heart Association, the American Dietetic Association, and the American Kidney Fund have all published statements warning about the various dangers associated with low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets.

Visit our Links Page for more information (See Atkins Diet Alert link).

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10. Is it true that some foods are addictive?

Studies suggest that cheese, chocolate, sugar, and meat all spark the release of opiate-like substances that trigger the brain’s pleasure center and seduce us into eating them again and again. These foods stimulate the same opiate receptors in your brain as heroin or morphine, but to a much lesser degree.

Drugs used to block the effects of heroin and morphine can also reduce or end the appeal of these four foods. Luckily, there are many healthy dietary and lifestyle changes you can make to break food addictions.

University of Michigan researchers showed that chocolate does not merely tickle your taste buds; it actually works inside your brain in much the same way opiate drugs do. The researchers gave 26 volunteers a drug called naloxone, an opiate-blocker used in emergency rooms to stop heroin, morphine, and other narcotics from affecting the brain. It turned out that naloxone blocked much of chocolate’s appeal. When they offered volunteers a tray filled with Snicker’s bars, M & M’s, chocolate chip cookies, and Oreos, chocolate was not much more exciting than a crust of dry bread.


If you are hooked on sugar, chocolate, cheese, or meat, what do you do about it?

Actually, foods can come to your rescue. If you start your day with a good breakfast, hunger is less likely to fuel cravings. And if your lunch, dinner, and snacks include foods that keep your blood sugar steady throughout the day—beans, green vegetables, unprocessed grains, and fruits, for example, instead of sugary foods or white bread—you’ll be less likely to dip into unhealthy foods later on.

Be sure to eat enough food, so that your appetite-taming hormone leptin is working right. Leptin shuts down whenever you go on a starvation diet, leaving your appetite out of control. Exercise, rest, and social support all help, too.

Seven Steps to Breaking the Food Seduction

Tired of feeling like food has an uncontrollable hold on your life? Wondering whether you really could live without chocolate, cheese, sugar, or meat? Here’s a list of tips to help you free yourself from unhealthy food cravings:

1. Start with a good breakfast. Cutting hunger is the first step in cutting cravings.

2. Choose foods that steady your blood sugar. Beans, green vegetables, fruit, and whole grains help prevent blood sugar dips that can lead to cravings.

3. Eat at least 10 calories each day per pound of your ideal body weight. This tip is directed at calorie-cutting dieters who do not realize that, if they eat too little, their bodies stop making an appetite-controlling hormone called leptin. A person whose ideal weight is 150 pounds needs at least 1,500 calories per day, and probably much more.

4. Break out of craving cycles, which can occur daily, monthly (with a woman’s cycle), or yearly (with the change in seasons). Monthly chocolate cravings, for example, can be reduced with a low-fat, vegetarian diet, which tends to reduce the hormone swings that lead to cravings.

5. Exercise and rest are keys to restoring your physical resilience.

6. Use social support. Enlisting the help of friends and family makes changing habits much easier.

7. Take advantage of other motivators. New parents, for example, may decide to eat healthy foods not just for themselves, but for the sake of their children.

Most importantly, try the “Three-Week Break.” Research shows that if you have managed to set aside an addicting food, such as chocolate, for three weeks, you crave it much less than if you had just had it yesterday.

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11. Is it possible to lower blood pressure with diet? If so, how?

Changing the way you eat can lower your blood pressure and reduce or eliminate the need for medication. You can lower your blood pressure by reducing the salt in your diet, eating more low-sodium vegetarian foods, vegetables and fruits, losing weight, limiting alcohol, avoiding tobacco, and becoming physically active. People who follow vegetarian diets typically have lower blood pressure.

Often, those deficient in magnesium, potassium, Folic acid, vitamin B-5, Vitamim B-6, and certain key anti-oxidants such as pycnogenol and quercetin will find that correcting these deficiencies will help dramatically to lower blood pressure. Equally important is to make time for stress management. Adrenal hormones play a major role in hypertension. Get involved in a good yoga or tai chi program, get more rest, and make time for your favorite creative outlets.


We also recommend having a Trace Mineral Analysis (TMA) to check mineral electrolyte status.

If you think have high blood pressure, you should consult your physician.

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12. Are there natural approaches to menopause?

Women can make many dietary and lifestyle changes to ease the pain and discomfort of menopause without the side effects of estrogen. For example, switching to a healthier diet, avoiding alllergy foods (testing is recommended)  and taking key food supplements is better for your heart, bones and immune system than estrogen prescriptions.

Natural Changes

At around age 50, the ovaries stop producing estrogens. The adrenal glands (small organs on top of each kidney) continue to make estrogens, as does fat tissue. But the ovaries have produced the greatest share of the body’s estrogens for decades, and when they quit, the blood levels of estrogens drop dramatically.

Many women go through this change feeling fine, both physically and psychologically. Nonetheless, some women are bothered by symptoms, including hot flashes, depression, irritability, anxiety, and other problems.

There Is No Japanese Word for Hot Flashes

It has long been known that menopause is much easier for Asian women than it is for most Westerners. In a 1983 study, hot flashes were reported by only about 10 percent of Japanese women at menopause, compared to about two-thirds of women in America and other Western countries. And bone strength is not assaulted to the extent it often is among Western women. Broken hips and spinal fractures are much less common.

The most likely explanation is this: throughout their lives, Western women consume much more meat and about four times as much fat as do women on Asian rice-based diets, and only one-quarter to one-half the fiber. For reasons that have never been completely clear, a high-fat, low-fiber diet causes a rise in estrogen levels. Women on higher-fat diets have measurably more estrogen activity than do those on low-fat diets. At menopause, the ovaries’ production of estrogen comes to a halt. Those women who had been on high-fat diets then have a violent drop in estrogen levels. Asian women have lower levels of estrogen both before and after menopause, and the drop appears to be less dramatic. The resulting symptoms are much milder or even non-existent.

More evidence of the diet link comes from a fascinating study by a medical anthropologist from the University of California who interviewed Greek and Mayan women about their experience of menopause.

The Greek women were subsistence farmers. Menopause occurred at an average age of 47, compared to over 50 in the United States. About three-quarters had hot flashes, but they were considered normal events, however, and did not cause women to seek medical treatment.

The Mayan women lived in the southeastern part of Yucatan, Mexico. Menopause occurred earlier than in Greece or North America, at an average age of 42. Unlike the experience of Greeks and Americans, hot flashes were totally unknown among Mayans, and, like the Japanese, they have no word for them. Midwives, medical personnel, and the women themselves reported that hot flashes simply do not occur, nor are they mentioned in books on Mayan botanical medicine.

The difference between Americans and Greeks and other Europeans on the one hand, for whom hot flashes are common, and the Mayans and Japanese on the other, for whom they are rare or unknown, appears to be diet. The Mayan diet consists of corn and corn tortillas, beans, tomatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, radishes, and other vegetables, with very little meat and no dairy products. Like the traditional Japanese diet, it is extremely low in animal products and low in fat in general. The Greek diet, while rich in vegetables and legumes, also contains meat, fish, cheese, and milk, as does the cuisine of other countries in Europe and North America. Animal-based meals affect hormone levels rapidly and strongly, and undoubtedly contribute to the menopausal problems that are common in Western countries.

Treating Hot Flashes

For women who are experiencing hot flashes, there are useful steps in addition to the low-fat, vegetarian diet which is strongly recommended for so many reasons. Regular aerobic exercise helps. A vigorous walk every day or so, or any equivalent physical activity, seems to alleviate hot flashes.

Andrew Weil, M.D., a well-known physician and author, recommends trying the herbs dong quai, chaparral, and damiana, two capsules of each taken once daily at noon, or, if used as a tincture, one dropperful in a cup of warm water. Vitamin E, in doses of 400 to 800 IU per day, has also been reported to be helpful. People with high blood pressure should use no more than 100 IU per day. Jesse Hanley, M.D., a family practitioner in Malibu, California, has found that certain Chinese herbs, called Changes for Women, by Zand Herbal, and Menofem, by Prevail, are helpful in reducing menopausal symptoms for some women. Perhaps most helpful for most women experiencing hot flashes is to take Borage Seed Oil - 600 mg. twice daily with food. These supplements are available at most health food stores.

For those women who are considering hormone supplements, some preparations may be safer than others. Estrogens that are commonly prescribed by physicians contain significant amounts of estradiol, which is one of the forms of estrogen that has scientists and many postmenopausal women concerned about cancer risk. A different estrogen, estriol, appears to be safer. The best evidence indicates that estriol does not increase cancer risk. Plant-derived transdermal creams containing estriol and smaller amounts of other estrogens are available without a prescription. The estrogens pass through the skin and enter the blood stream, reducing menopausal symptoms. Creams containing pure estriol must be ordered by doctors, not because they are more dangerous (they are not), but because the process of concentrating them qualifies them as drugs, rather than natural preparations.

Dr. Hanley finds that a mixture of plant-derived estrogens and progesterone is often helpful. Transdermal creams containing estriol, estradiol, estrone, and natural progesterone are very effective in reducing hot flashes.

Unfortunately, less research has been done on the use of estriol, compared to estradiol. Even though there is no evidence of cancer risk with estriol, Dr. Hanley recommends that if any estrogen cream, including estriol, is used, that it be accompanied by progesterone to reduce the risk of uterine cancer, and that it be monitored by a physician so it can be tailored to a woman’s individual needs. “Whatever formula is used, it should have some progesterone in it,” Dr. Hanley said. “Also, women should cycle their hormones. The cream is used from day 1 to day 26 of the cycle, followed by 4 to 6 days off.” If additional natural progesterone is used, it should be added for the final two weeks (days 13 to 26) and stopped together with use of the cream.

Natural progesterone alone helps reduce symptoms for some women. Progesterone and estrogen creams are available from Professional Technical Services (800-648-8211), Women’s International Pharmacy (800-279-5708), or Klabin Marketing (800-933-9440).



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