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Which Foods Are More Nutritious Raw vs. Cooked?

By Ginny Messina, RD

Every whole plant food is a complex mix of hundreds of chemical compounds. Some are nutrients like vitamins and minerals, which are essential for health. Others are phytochemicals — compounds that are not essential nutrients, but may have important health benefits.

Food scientists estimate that there are tens of thousands of these phytochemicals in foods. Our knowledge about them is still in its infancy since researchers have only just begun to study them.

Food preparation has a big effect on the levels of nutrients and phytochemicals in food and also on how well they are absorbed. Cooking, chopping, blending and juicing have both positive and negative effects making it hard to determine the single best way to prepare each and every food.

Raw versus Cooked

Cooking reduces some of the nutrients and phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C is especially vulnerable to heat and even boiling foods for a few minutes can greatly reduce the vitamin C content of foods.

Heat also reduces the absorption of some of the phytochemicals found in the cruciferous vegetables — cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, bok choy, turnips and radishes.[1] It can also interfere with activation of protective phytochemicals in garlic and onions.[2]

However, cooking has positive effects on foods as well. For example, it makes both protein and carbohydrate more digestible. Heat also softens plant cell walls which releases some of the phytochemicals and makes them available for absorption.[3]

Lycopene — which is a phytochemical associated with reduced risk for prostate cancer[4] — is absorbed at much higher rates from cooked tomatoes than from fresh raw tomatoes.[5] People who eat exclusively raw food diets have lower levels of lycopene in their blood.[6] The vitamin A precursor beta-carotene is also absorbed better from cooked vegetables than from raw.[7]

Cooking also destroys antinutrients in foods including compounds that interfere with protein digestion.[8] Boiling vegetables can reduce levels of oxalate, a compound that binds calcium and makes it unavailable for absorption. It should be noted, however, that it’s still not clear how this might affect the levels of calcium in the food since calcium could be lost along with the oxalate.[9]

Many of the phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables are antioxidants. They neutralize free radicals which are naturally-formed compounds in the body that can damage cells and raise risk for chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. The antioxidant potential of fruits and vegetables is one reason why these foods are thought to lower disease risk.

Some antioxidants are destroyed by heat but others are actually enhanced by it. Cooking often reduces the total antioxidant activity of foods, but in some cases, these levels are increased in cooked foods.[10]

Juicing, Mashing, and Pureeing

Manipulating the food “matrix” has an even greater effect than cooking on the bioavailability of healthful compounds in foods.[11] For example, juicing foods eliminates some of the fiber and liberates certain compounds for absorption. Juicing can also increase the availability of phytochemicals.[12]

And simply mashing or pureeing a food can break down cell walls and improve the absorption of compounds like lycopene and beta-carotene.[13] One study showed that beta-carortene is absorbed at a much higher rate from pureed spinach than from whole spinach leaves.[14] Likewise, crushing garlic results in activation of some of its anti-cancer compounds.[15]

However, pureeing, blending and juicing foods, or even cutting them into small pieces exposes the nutrients and phytochemicals to air which can be destructive to certain compounds. Levels of vitamin C in particular are quickly reduced by exposure to air.

Finally, how we serve food affects absorption of nutrients and phytochemicals. Some, like beta-carotene, depend on fat for absorption.[16] As a result, eating very low-fat meals can interfere with absorption. Simply tossing an oil-rich avocado into a blended raw or cooked soup can greatly enhance absorption of some phytochemicals.

Food Preparation is a Balancing Act

When we consider the competing effects of processing on the thousands of potentially beneficial compounds in fruits and vegetables, it becomes difficult to make specific decisions about how to prepare different foods.

Here are just a few examples of how complex the situation is:

- Cooking tomatoes liberates lycopene, but reduces levels of vitamin C.

- Cooking broccoli boosts its overall antioxidant activity and frees up beta-carotene for absorption, but can greatly reduce some specific phytochemicals that may have anticancer activity.

- Juicing foods breaks down plant cell walls making some phytochemicals more readily absorbed, but it can eliminate healthful fiber and greatly reduce vitamin C levels.

- Boiling spinach might reduce its oxalate content and make calcium more available, but many vitamins and phytochemicals are leached out into the cooking water along with the oxalate.

Getting the Most From Fruits and Vegetables: Some Simple Guidelines

The fact is, there is no perfect way to prepare each and every food. No matter how you choose to prepare any particular fruit and vegetable, there will be some losses and gains. Yet, while it’s not possible to come up with specific recommendations for most foods, you can follow some simple guidelines to make certain you’re getting the most from your intake of fruits and vegetables.

- Choose raw fruit as often as possible. There isn’t much science showing benefits of cooking fruits so it makes sense to go with the most convenient and obvious way to enjoy these foods.

- Treat vitamin C-rich foods like oranges, grapefruit, papaya, kiwi, and cantaloupe with care. That is, eat them whole rather than juiced or blended into smoothies. Cut them up right before serving. This keeps the vitamin C protected from the destructive effects of oxygen.

- Eat blended or juiced foods as soon as possible after preparing them to get the most of their nutrient content.

- Don’t count on high-oxalate vegetables to meet calcium needs. While these foods — spinach, beet greens and Swiss chard — are super-nutritious and should play an important role in your diet, regardless of how you cook them, they shouldn’t be relied on for calcium. Instead, focus on low-oxalate choices like kale, collards, and bok choy for boosting your calcium intake.

- When you cook vegetables, be gentle. Opt for steaming or baking over boiling and microwaving. Cook foods just to the tender-crisp stage. That gives you the best of all worlds—a little heat to soften cell walls, without cooking the compounds right out of the vegetables.

- Aim for the best of all worlds by eating about half of your vegetables raw and half in the gently-cooked state.

- Include some raw cruciferous vegetables and onions in your diet to get the most of their healthful phytochemicals.

- For men especially, eating cooked tomato sauces — even prepared ones from a jar — may be a good choice for reducing risk for prostate cancer.

- Include some healthful plant fats in your meals — from naturally high fat foods like nuts, seeds, and avocado or from very small amounts of oils.

- Both roasted and raw nuts have been shown to be highly protective against chronic disease. However, roasting nuts does decrease nutrient and antioxidant levels and there doesn’t seem to be any nutritional advantage over raw. It’s fine to quickly toast nuts to improve their flavor, but for the most part, raw nuts are a better choice.

- Eat lots and lots of fruits and vegetables. Whether you eat them raw or cooked, chopped, blended or whole, simply by consuming generous amounts of these foods, you’ll get the benefits of their thousands of health-promoting compounds. If fresh produce isn’t always available or affordable, frozen options are often just as nutritious and beneficial. In fact, in the winter months, they can be even better.[17] The amount of fruits and vegetables you eat is actually more important than how you prepare them.


[1] Vermeulen M, van den Berg R, Freidig AP, van Bladeren PJ, Vaes WH. Association between consumption of cruciferous vegetables and condiments and excretion in urine of isothiocyanate mercapturic acids. J Agric Food Chem 2006;54(15):5350-8.

[2] Fujisawa H, Suma K, Origuchi K, Seki T, Ariga T. Thermostability of allicin determined by chemical and biological assays. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 2008;72(11):2877-83.

[3] Reboul E, Richelle M, Perrot E, Desmoulins-Malezet C, Pirisi V, Borel P. Bioaccessibility of carotenoids and vitamin E from their main dietary sources. J Agric Food Chem 2006;54(23):8749-55.

[4] Dahan K, Fennal M, Kumar NB. Lycopene in the prevention of prostate cancer. J Soc Integr Oncol 2008;6(1):29-36.

[5] Gartner C, Stahl W, Sies H. Lycopene is more bioavailable from tomato paste than from fresh tomatoes. Am J Clin Nutr 1997;66(1):116-22.

[6] Garcia AL, Koebnick C, Dagnelie PC, et al. Long-term strict raw food diet is associated with favourable plasma beta-carotene and low plasma lycopene concentrations in Germans. Br J Nutr 2008;99(6):1293-300.

[7] Rock CL, Lovalvo JL, Emenhiser C, Ruffin MT, Flatt SW, Schwartz SJ. Bioavailability of beta-carotene is lower in raw than in processed carrots and spinach in women. J Nutr 1998;128(5):913-6.

[8] Kiran KS, Padmaja G. Inactivation of trypsin inhibitors in sweet potato and taro tubers during processing. Plant Foods Hum Nutr 2003;58(2):153-63.

[9] Chai W, Liebman M. Effect of different cooking methods on vegetable oxalate content. J Agric Food Chem 2005;53(8):3027-30.

[10] Wu X, Beecher GR, Holden JM, Haytowitz DB, Gebhardt SE, Prior RL. Lipophilic and hydrophilic antioxidant capacities of common foods in the United States. J Agric Food Chem 2004;52(12):4026-37.

[11] Gibson RS, Perlas L, Hotz C. Improving the bioavailability of nutrients in plant foods at the household level. Proc Nutr Soc 2006;65(2):160-8.

[12] McEligot AJ, Rock CL, Shanks TG, et al. Comparison of serum carotenoid responses between women consuming vegetable juice and women consuming raw or cooked vegetables. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 1999;8(3):227-31.

[13] van Het Hof KH, West CE, Weststrate JA, Hautvast JG. Dietary factors that affect the bioavailability of carotenoids. J Nutr 2000;130(3):503-6.

[14] Castenmiller JJ, West CE, Linssen JP, van het Hof KH, Voragen AG. The food matrix of spinach is a limiting factor in determining the bioavailability of beta-carotene and to a lesser extent of lutein in humans. J Nutr 1999;129(2):349-55.

[15] Song K, Milner JA. The influence of heating on the anticancer properties of garlic. J Nutr 2001;131(3s):1054S-7S.

[16] Brown MJ, Ferruzzi MG, Nguyen ML, et al. Carotenoid bioavailability is higher from salads ingested with full-fat than with fat-reduced salad dressings as measured with electrochemical detection. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80(2):396-403.

[17] Rickman JC BD, Bruhn CM. Nutritional comparison of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. Part 1. Vitamins C and B and phenolic compounds. J Sci Food Agric 2007;87:930-44

Dr. Michael Klaper Reveals The Truth About Vitamin B12

To download our recorded B-12 interview with Dr. Klaper, click here.
Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin needed in DNA synthesis. It’s critical in maturing red blood cells in your bone marrow. And it helps nerve fibers form and function in your brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves.

With a deficiency of B-12, vital cells will not develop properly. You can become anemic and suffer from spinal cord damage.

B-12 is also required to turn the amino acid homocysteine into methionine. If you have a B-12 deficiency, homocysteine will build up to toxic levels in your bloodstream, damaging your arteries and leading to atherosclerosis.

Not to be grim, but advanced B-12 deficiency will lead to paralysis, dementia and death.

Where Does B-12 Come From?
Vitamin B-12 comes from microorganisms… mostly bacteria that live in soil, water, and the digestive tracts of animals.

In centuries past, people could get B-12 by drinking from streams. Or by working in gardens and then eating without washing their hands thoroughly. Since we no longer do these things, “natural” plant based sources of Vitamin B-12 have dropped out of modern life.

It’s true that there are bacteria in the human gut that synthesize B-12. But they live well beyond the part of the intestine where B-12 is absorbed.[1]

If you’re a vegetarian, please read Lesson 9.2: Addendum for Ovo-Lacto Vegetarians after this lesson. However, if you’re a vegan, there are only two reliable sources of B-12: fortified foods and supplements. These are covered in further details later in this lesson.

Storage In Your Body
For B-12 to be absorbed from your gut into your bloodstream, it must combine with a protein secreted by the stomach lining called intrinsic factor.

B-12 is stored in your blood, liver and muscles. 0.2% of your B-12 stores are lost each day.[2] So if you don’t consume a regular, reliable source of B-12, you’ll eventually become deficient. This could take years to manifest fully.

Unfortunately, the medical literature brims with case studies of vegans — infants, children, adults, and the elderly — who’ve incurred bodily damage from B-12 deficiency.[3]

Long-term vegans who don’t supplement may not appear to suffer in the short term. But they may actually have elevated levels of homocysteine, or subtle neurologic dysfunction.

Two subgroups of vegans are at particular risk.

  1. Vegans who avoid fortified foods like cereal, rice milk, and soy milk. These most typically include raw food vegans and macrobiotics.
  2. Infants who are breast fed, and whose vegan mothers don’t consume enough B-12.[4]

If these groups don’t supplement their diets with a reliable B-12 source, they will eventually develop deficiency.

Signs of Deficiency
In adults, typical deficiency symptoms include loss of energy, tingling, numbness, reduced sensitivity to pain or pressure, blurred vision, abnormal gait, sore tongue, poor memory, confusion, hallucinations and personality changes.

These symptoms often develop gradually over several months to a year before the B-12 deficiency is recognized.

They’re usually reversible on administration of B-12. But there’s no entirely consistent and reliable set of symptoms. And there are cases of permanent damage in adults from B-12 deficiency.

If you suspect a problem, then get a skilled diagnosis from a medical practitioner. Unfortunately, the symptoms above can be caused by other problems too, not just B-12 deficiency.

How Can You Test For B-12 Deficiency?
Measuring B-12 levels in the blood is not accurate. That’s because the B-12 analogues in sea vegetables, green powders, and other foods can give a falsely high reading of B-12 in your blood.

What’s more, even if you have “normal” B-12 levels, damage to your nerves and an elevation of homocysteine levels can still occur.

Damage to your nerves and brain can occur long before anemia manifests. So waiting to see if anemia shows up is waiting too long.

For these reasons, the best tests measure the amount of homocysteine and MMA (methylmalonic acid) in your blood. These substances increase when B-12 is deficient. If either of these levels (or both) are elevated, you have presumptive evidence of a B-12 deficiency. It should be treated immediately with oral B-12 supplementation.

If you do get your B-12 level checked, the value should be at least 350 mcg/dl.[5]

How Much B-12 Do You Need To Take Daily To Avoid Problems?
Little of the B-12 you swallow is actually absorbed. So we recommend a daily intake of…

  1. 5 mcg daily from fortified food like cereal, rice milk, and soy milk. Read the food label to determine how much B-12 is present in each serving.
  2. 100 mcg from a daily supplement, preferably chewed to increase absorption. We recommend, which contains 30 mcg of Vitamin B12… that’s 500% the US RDA.
  3. 2000 mcg from a weekly supplement to keep your B-12 level in the safe range.[6]

Vitamin B-12 can be absorbed orally, even if intrinsic factor is deficient, if enough B-12 is taken.[7]

Where B-12 is Not Found.
The soil particles on unwashed vegetables or vegetables do not supply adequate B-12 to prevent deficiency. This is true even if they’re left sitting at room temperature.[8]

Foods commonly reported as “good B-12 sources” are usually tested with methods that measure B-12 analogues. Those methods give no accurate measure of the true B-12 content, nor whether it might actually be dangerous from its analogue content.

These foods include tempeh, tofu, amesake rice, barley miso, miso, natto, rice miso, shoyu, tamari, and umeboshi prunes. These foods don’t contain B-12 on a consistent enough basis to fulfill your daily requirements. [9]

Seaweeds, especially nori, have so many B-12 analogues, that they may actually cause B-12 deficiency by blocking the action of active B-12.[10]

Only dulse may be a reliable B-12 source. But to meet your B-12 requirements from dulse alone, you’d have to eat large amounts of it daily. And the amount of iodine from that much dulse would likely become toxic to your thyroid gland.[11]

Merchandisers of blue-green algae[12] (from Klamath Lake, OR), chlorella[13] and spirulina[14] all claim B-12 is present in their products. However, the tests they use all measure analogues. So the amount of active B-12 in their products is unknown and the presence of analogues in these products might actually precipitate B-12 deficiency.

If a merchandiser states that their product is a good source of B-12, they should offer “gold standard” proof. Namely, they should show that their product lowers levels of homocysteine or MMA in the blood. All other test methods are suspect.

Where B-12 is Found in Vegan Diets.
Vitamin B-12 is commonly added to commercial rice milk, soy milk, and cereal. It is also added to many meat analogues made from wheat gluten or soybeans. However, meat analogues tend to be high in salt, fat, and artificial ingredients; so we do not recommend them.

Read the labels to see how much B-12 is in each serving.

Brewer’s and nutritional yeast do not naturally contain B-12. But one brand, Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula, also known as Red Star Yeast T6635+, fortifies their product with 5 mcg per tablespoon.

In Lesson 9.4, we provide suggestions for including nutritional yeast in your everyday meals. However, we have two cautions against relying upon Red Star nutritional yeast as your sole B-12 source:

  1. It’s often sold from bins in natural food stores, run by humans. Humans not infrequently make mistakes and the wrong yeast can be ordered from a list of many yeast products, or a non-fortified type be placed in the bin labeled as a fortified product.
  2. B-12 deteriorates in sunlight, so even the advertised amounts may not be present in the product one buys.

If you buy B-12 fortified nutritional yeast, be sure to keep it in your refrigerator or freezer, and keep it out of the sunlight.

Note: Yeast products, like nutritional yeast, will not cause the growth of candida or any other type of yeast in your body. Besides being a totally different kind of yeast from candida, nutritional yeasts are processed so that no living yeast organisms are present.

Is There A Vegan Alternative To B-12 Fortified Foods and Supplements?
The short answer is “No.”

As mentioned earlier, our ancestors could get B12 by drinking from streams. Or by working in gardens and then eating without washing their hands thoroughly. Since we no longer do these things, “natural” plant-based sources of Vitamin B-12 have dropped out of modern life.

And the modern world, with its oxidizing air pollution, chlorinated drinking water, thinning ozone layer, etc, places metabolic demands on our bodies that the ancients and their diets never faced.

If you’re vegan, eating B-12 fortified foods or supplements is not optional. It’s absolutely necessary.

If you’re a purist who doesn’t eat commercial rice milk, soy milk, or cereal — and you also shun supplements — then have your B-12, MMA, and homocysteine levels checked annually. If the values become abnormal, begin B-12 supplementation immediately.

However, don’t even consider this option if you’re pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or nursing an infant.

Recommendations: Food Sources and Supplements.
Both vegans and vegetarians should obtain sufficient B-12 from fortified food or supplements. Again, we recommend, which contains 30 mcg of Vitamin B12… that’s 500% the US RDA.

It is not wise to rely upon any sea vegetables such as algae, nori, or spirulina or upon brewer’s yeast, tempeh, or “living” vitamin supplements that use plants as a sole source of B12.

Nor is it wise to rely solely on one type of fortified food, such as Red Star Nutritional Yeast.

Recommendation for Vegan Infants.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that infants of vegan mothers be supplemented with B12 from birth. That’s because their stores at birth and their mother’s milk supply may be low.[15]
Exceptions to these Recommendations.
People with digestive or malabsorption diseases — such as pernicious anemia — B12 metabolism defects, kidney failure, or cyanide metabolism defects should consult an accredited health professional.[16]

[1] Dong A, Scott SC. Serum vitamin B12 and blood cell values in vegetarians. Ann Nutr Metab 1982;26(4):209-16. 30.
Okuda K, Yashima K, Kitazaki T, Takara I. Intestinal absorption and concurrent chemical changes of methylcobalamin. J Lab Clin Med. 1973 Apr;81(4):557-67.

[2] Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2000.

[3] Ashkenazi S, Weitz R, Varsano I, Mimouni M. Vitamin B12 deficiency due to a strictly vegetarian diet in adolescence. Clinical Pediatrics 1987;26(Dec):662-663.
Brants HA, Lowik MR, Westenbrink S, Hulshof KF, Kistemaker C. Adequacy of a vegetarian diet at old age (Dutch Nutrition Surveillance System). J Am Coll Nutr 1990 Aug;9(4):292-302. Dwyer JT, Dietz WH Jr, Andrews EM, Suskind RM. Nutritional status of vegetarian children. Am J Clin Nutr 1982 Feb;35(2):204-16.

[4] Gambon RC, Lentze MJ, Rossi E. Megaloblastic anaemia in one of monozygous twins breast-fed by their vegetarian mother. Eur J Pediatr 1986 Dec;145(6):570-1.
Drogari E, Liakopoulou-Tsitsipi T, Xypolyta-Zachariadi A, Papadellis F, Kattamis C. Transient methylmalonic aciduria in four breast fed neonates of strict vegetarian mothers in Greece. Journal of inherited metabolic disease. 1996 19S:A84. Abstract.

[5] Lindenbaum J, Rosenberg IH, Wilson PW, Stabler SP, Allen RH. Prevalence of cobalamin deficiency in the Framingham elderly population. Am J Clin Nutr. 1994 Jul;60(1):2-11.

[6] Tucker KL, Rich S, Rosenberg I, Jacques P, Dallal G, Wilson PW, Selhub J. Plasma vitamin B-12 concentrations relate to intake source in the Framingham Offspring study. Am J Clin Nutr 2000 Feb;71(2):514-22.

[7] Norberg B. Turn of tide for oral vitamin B12 treatment. J Intern Med 1999 Sep;246(3):237-8. Lederle FA. Oral cobalamin for pernicious anemia. Medicine’s best kept secret? JAMA 1991 Jan 2;265(1):94-5.
Kuzminski AM, Del Giacco EJ, Allen RH, Stabler SP, Lindenbaum J. Effective treatment of cobalamin deficiency with oral cobalamin. Blood 1998 Aug 15;92(4):1191-8. Delpre G, Stark P, Niv Y. Sublingual therapy for cobalamin deficiency as an alternative to oral and parenteral cobalamin supplementation. Lancet 1999 Aug 28;354(9180):740-1.

[8] Dong & Scott29 (1982, USA) examined 83 subjects from an American Natural Hygiene Society conference. They tended to follow natural hygiene diets consisting of whole raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, with a minimal intake of grains and legumes. They considered this to be a natural primate diet and believed their bodies received B12 through small intestinal bacteria which live only in the intestines of those who follow whole raw food diets. Table 8.5.1 shows the results among subjects who did not supplement with B12. Macrocytosis among the vegetarians was minimal. One 63-year-old vegan with a sB12 of 117 (MCV = 86 fl) had a nerve related disorder. For males who did not take B12 supplements, there was a correlation between length of time as a vegetarian and lower sB12. Among subjects who had taken B12 or multivitamins, all had sB12 levels above 200 pg/ml. Dong & Scott concluded that there is no indication that natural hygiene vegetarian diets contribute to higher sB12 levels than other vegetarian diets.

[9] van den Berg H, Dagnelie PC, van Staveren WA. Vitamin B12 and Seaweed. Lancet Jan 30, 1988.
Areekul S, Churdchu K, Pungpapong V.
Serum folate, vitamin B12 and vitamin B12 binding protein in vegetarians. J Med Assoc Thai 1988 May;71(5):253-7.

[10] Specker BL, Miller D, Norman EJ, Greene H, Hayes KC. Increased urinary methylmalonic acid excretion in breast-fed infants of vegetarian mothers and identification of an acceptable dietary source of vitamin B-12. Am J Clin Nutr 1988 Jan;47(1):89-92.

[11] van den Berg H, Dagnelie PC, van Staveren WA. Vitamin B12 and Seaweed. Lancet Jan 30, 1988.

[12] Schneider Z, Stroinski A. Comprehensive B12. New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1987.

[13] Pratt R, Johnson E. Deficiency of vitamin B12 in Chlorella. J Pharm Sci. 1968 Jun;57(6):1040-1.

[14] Herbert V, Drivas G. Spirulina and Vitamin B12. JAMA 1982;248(23):3096-7.,
Watanabe F, Katsura H, Takenaka S, Fujita T, Abe K, Tamura Y, Nakatsuka T, Nakano Y. Pseudovitamin B(12) is the predominant cobamide of an algal health food, spirulina tablets. J Agric Food Chem. 1999 Nov;47(11):4736-41.

[15]  Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2000.

[16] What Every Vegan Should Know about Vitamin B12,

How Juicing Frees The Minerals From Vegetables, And Frees You From Feeling Tired After Meals

By Trevor Justice and Vesanto Melina, RD
An excerpt from Lesson 17 of The Mastery Program
At the bottom of this post, you’ll discover the pros and cons of juicing vs. smoothies. But let’s start with the benefits of juicing…
To help prevent cancers and other chronic diseases, updated national food guides such as the American “ChooseMyPlate” now recommend approximately 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.[3, 4]
This includes 5 servings of vegetables (about 2½ to 3 cups) and 4 servings of fruits (about 2 cups), with special emphasis on dark-green and orange vegetables and legumes.[3, 4]
If 5 servings of vegetables daily seems daunting, then read on to discover the wonderful benefits of juicing…
Note that cruciferous vegetables such as kale, cauliflower, and broccoli are known to be particularly potent cancer-fighters.[1, 2] There is no evidence that the popular white potato, despite being a root vegetable, protects against cancer.[1] Also, it is wise to choose organic foods.[5]

Benefit #1: Get More Vegetables Into Your Diet.

Juicing is a great way to get these extra vegetables into your diet. After all, it’s much easier to down a pint of vegetable juice than to thoroughly chew an enormous salad. (That’s an awful lot of chewing!)
If you eat out often, it can be hard to eat 5 or more servings of vegetables per day. The vegetable portion at most restaurants is barely a single serving.
Suppose you currently eat a conventional “side salad” with both lunch and dinner, and a side dish of steamed vegetables. You can roughly double your daily intake of vegetables by adding a pint of fresh vegetable juice.
For example, 16 ounces of juice might include most of the vitamins and protective phytochemicals from six stalks of celery, two carrots, two leaves of chard, and two leaves of kale.
The end result: you get six servings of vegetables instead of three.
In lesson 28 of The Mastery Program – “12 Ways to Enjoy Greens Without Drenching Them In Oil” – you’ll learn some other ways to sneak more vegetables into your diet.
For example, you can serve dips and patés with celery, carrot, sweet pepper, and cucumber sticks instead of bread, bagels, crackers, or pita bread.
Likewise, you can make wraps using collard greens, chard, Napa Cabbage, lettuce, or bok choy leaves instead of flat breads like tortillas or pita bread.

Benefit #2:Breaks the Cell Walls and Frees the Minerals.

Phytate (phytic acid) is a substance in plants that binds with minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc).
Phytate is the storage form of phosphorus in plants, and the phytate-mineral complex is a structural material in plants. These phytate-mineral complexes can be broken down and the minerals released when cell walls are broken.[6, 7]
This process of breaking plant cell walls occurs when foods are juiced, blended, chopped or chewed. Enzymes called phytases split the phytate-mineral complexes, releasing minerals, which are then available to us for absorption.
Soaking foods (such as seeds or nuts) also supports this enzyme action and leads to the release of the minerals present.[6, 7]
You can unbind the minerals by breaking the cell walls with your teeth — if you chew your food well. However, as is the case with many people, unless you chew your raw plant foods extremely well, many cells are not broken and the mineral-releasing action of phytases is limited.
Juicing is a great way to break the cell walls. So is blending. Cooking has a lesser effect, varying greatly with the time and cooking method. Fermenting foods (as in making kimchi or miso) and leavening foods (as in bread making) also break down phytate and release minerals.
Even when you are enjoying a glass of juice, it’s still important to “chew” your juice, and not just guzzle it down. That’s because the enzymes in your saliva help pre-digest the juice.

Benefit #3: Vegetable Juice Doesn’t Need Oil or Fat.

Dressing your veggies with salad dressings, or even dipping them in hummus or guacamole dramatically increases the percentage of fat in your diet. Pure juices taste refreshing, and can be enjoyed without adding oil or salt.

Benefit #4: Easier To Digest.

A juicer does much of the work your digestive system normally does. It separates the nutrients from the indigestible fiber and releases bound minerals, for increased absorption. This reduces the work required by your digestive system, and can keep you from feeling tired after meals.

Don’t You Need Fiber?

People who eat the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) are rightfully obsessed with fiber. After all, animal products and white flour products have zero fiber!
If white flour products, white rice, and dairy foods, or soy cheese are the staples of your diet, then your diet could be deficient in fiber too. But if whole grains, beans, seeds, salads, and whole fruit are the staples of your diet, you’re already getting plenty of fiber.

Benefit #5: Heightened Absorption of Carotenoids and other Protective Antioxidants.

A Finnish study assessed the antioxidant intakes and status of 20 women and 1 man who had been following an entirely raw vegan “living food” diet for an average of five years.
These findings were compared with antioxidant intakes and status of non-vegetarians with similar caloric intakes, gender, age, social status, and residence.
The vegans had significantly higher blood concentrations of the protective antioxidants beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E. They also had higher erythrocyte superoxide dismutase activity in the blood (an indicator of the antioxidant selenium).
Those on the “living foods” diets consumed wheatgrass juice and carrot juice on a daily basis. Wheatgrass juice and carrot juice are high in the carotenoids lycopene and beta-carotene.
The vegans also consumed twice as much fruit. Their intakes of antioxidant vitamins were approximately double that of the nonvegetarians.[8]
A California study compared the effect on serum carotenoids (the protective antioxidants alpha carotene and lutein) in women who consumed either carrot juice or raw carrots and cooked carrots.
In those consuming juices, serum levels of alpha carotene were triple and serum levels of lutein were double those consuming raw and cooked carrots. The women in this study had been diagnosed with breast cancer within the last four years and were hoping to reduce their risk of recurrence.[9, 10]

Why Limit Sweet Fruits And Vegetables in Juices?

Apples, carrots, and beets are popular ingredients at juice bars. But when you extract and drink their juices without the fiber, you get a rush of sugar along with the nutrients. That can create blood sugar spikes, with the subsequent release of insulin and crash in blood sugar.
The fiber in these sugary foods has a very important function. It helps slow down the absorption of sugar into your blood.
So we recommend using just enough of these sweet fruits and vegetables to offset the bitterness of mineral-rich leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and chard. We discourage juices made up predominantly of sweet fruits.
If you want to drink your fruit, make a smoothie instead of a juice. Then you’ll still get the fiber and protect yourself from sugar rushes.
Note that low sugar fruits like grapefruits are not an issue. You could safely mix one part fresh orange juice with one part fresh grapefruit juice.
Recommended Formulas For Juice:
1. Use celery or cucumber as the “main” ingredient for your juice; they are both high in water, and low in sugar.
2. Add a leafy green like kale, spinach, chard, or collard greens. These generate less juice than celery and cucumbers. But the juice they do generate will be ultra-rich in vitamins and minerals. The bitterness of these greens is an acquired taste. So if you’re new, start with just one leaf. If you’re not yet accustomed to their bitter taste, you may also start with Romaine lettuce.
3. Add just enough apples, carrots, or beets to offset the bitterness of the leafy greens. If you’re new, you might start with a 50/50 ratio (half greens, half sweet fruits or vegetables). Once you get started, gradually increase the ratio in favor of the greens.
4. Do not include buckwheat greens in your juices. Sprouted buckwheat is fine to eat. However, once the sprouts grow for more than about a day, especially in light, and start to become green, they develop a toxic component called fagopyrin. People, especially those with light skin, can develop sensitivity to light, skin irritation, and itching when juice made from buckwheat greens is produced on a regular basis.[11, 12]
5. Alfalfa sprouts contain a substance called l-canavanine, which can take the place of the amino acid L-arginine in proteins, making the proteins non-functional. While it is fine to consume small amounts of alfalfa sprouts (our bodies can handle a little), it is not advisable to consume large amounts (such as 2 cups a day) or to use similar quantities in juicing. Those with lupus should not consume alfalfa sprouts at all.[12-17]

Why Is Fresh Better?

You’ve seen how an apple turns brown once you slice it, right? In the same way, fresh juice will oxidize quickly. We recommend drinking it within 20 minutes.
Packaged juices contain lower amounts of vitamins and protective antioxidants. Not only are they days or weeks old, they’re almost always pasteurized (i.e. heated) for purposes of food safety.
This destroys significant amounts of the heat-sensitive vitamins that were present in the original raw juice. However, commercial pasteurized juices and smoothies are a better choice than soda pop, any day!

Don’t Have Time To Juice Every Day?

Note: this is personal advice from Trevor (not Vesanto)… I don’t have time either. That’s why I bought two airtight stainless steel thermoses. When I make juice, I make enough to fill three 16 ounce containers. After filling the two thermoses and putting them in the fridge, I drink what’s left. Here’s the model I own: 16 oz. Thermos.
I fill each one to the very top. Then as I tighten the lid, I make sure a small amount of juice comes dripping over the sides. That’s how I know there’s no air left in the thermos, and minimal effects of oxidizing.
There are slight losses of vitamins, antioxidants, and protective phytochemicals in this process though. Even in a spill proof container that is airtight, some losses occur. So drink your juice soon after making it whenever you can.

Types of Juicers[18, 19]

Centrifugal Juicer: This type of juicer masticates or chops the fruit or vegetable and spins it in a stainless steel or plastic basket at a high speed, separating the juice from the pulp. Centrifugal juicers are least expensive, however they wear out quickly and produce low quality juice; are loud; and are often difficult to clean. However, any juicer is better than no juicer!
Centrifugal Juicer with Pulp Ejector: This type of juicer operates the same as the centrifugal and additionally ejects the pulp through a side opening.
Blender plus a juice bag. A blender plus a juice bag can be used to make juices. A blender or food processor purees or liquefies the produce but does not separate the juice from the pulp. A juice bag (a mesh bag) can then be used to extract the juice from the pulp. Use a blender to masticate the fruit or vegetable then pour the liquid into the bag and squeeze over a container to catch the juice.
Masticating Juicer: These juicers masticate, or grind, the fruit or vegetable into a paste and then squeeze the juice through a fine screen at the bottom. The most popular example is the Champion line of juicer. This multipurpose unit also can form nut butters and frozen fruit-based vegan ice cream.
Twin Screw Press: This more expensive but popular line of juicers presses out the juice between twin screws without significant temperature increase. The Green Star line of juicers has more parts to clean than some others, but the latest Elite model has been simplified. These multipurpose units also can form nut butters and frozen fruit-based vegan ice cream.
Which Juicer Do We Recommend?
The Champion Juicer — which runs between $219 and $295 — was once the most popular model. However, the gears spin very fast, heating both the gears and the juice. The heat created takes a toll on some of the heat-sensitive vitamins in the juice.
For this reason, Tribest’s Green Life juicer was an instant hit when it was introduced to the market in the late 90’s. We (Trevor and Vesanto) both use Green Star juicers.
Today’s updated model, Tribest’s line of “Green Star” juicers have two gears that spin at a low speed, and do not create heat. They run around $400 and up. You can use a “Green Star” to juice fruit, greens, or even wheatgrass. (Although, the wheatgrass juice produced is a little foamy.)

What Are The Pros & Cons Of Juicing Versus Smoothies?

High speed blenders such as Vitamixes do a great job with blending; however they do tend to incorporate air. To minimize the amount of air, turn the blender to its lowest setting and then increase the setting slowly until the top of the liquid just starts to circulate (usually around speed 4 or 5 on a Vitamix).
Some slower blenders, such as Oster blenders, have less tendency to incorporate air. Other blenders, such as Blendtec blenders, may have more tendency to incorporate air. Some people like the frothy smoothies they get from this machine.
One possible disadvantage of swallowing the incorporated air is a little belching or intestinal gas. However people continually swallow air when they eat or drink. Many people do not notice these normal effects. (It is normal to pass gas an average of 15 times a day).
However, for others, results such as belching or farting are excessive and unwelcome. Intestinal gas also can result from the fiber consumed in a smoothie, which can be in the range of 8 grams of fiber per cup of fruit. Greens have less fiber; kale has 2.4 grams per cup; spinach 0.7 grams per cup.
The incorporation of air does mean that air can contact and oxidize some of the vitamins. There is some vitamin loss with blending vegetables and fruits to make a smoothie. However the losses are relatively small and plenty of extremely valuable nutrition remains.
People who say most of the nutrition is lost (in blending) are expressing a personal bias. There is no data to back up such statements. These people also may be inconsistent in selling dehydrated food which obviously receives much more exposure to air over hours.[19]
It is true that you will get somewhat greater vitamin retention by using a twin gear juicer such as a Green Star. At the same time, if you compare juicing and blending, you will have higher mineral losses with juice since some minerals are discarded with the pulp, along with plenty of fiber.
A British study assessed the effects of drinking 200 ml (5/6 cup) of fruit and vegetable-based smoothies for puree-based drinks daily for six weeks. The smoothies contained carrot, pumpkin, apple, and grape.
The control group received barley water-citrus “drinks”. Those consuming the smoothies on a regular basis had improved (higher) plasma levels of the protective antioxidants alpha and beta-carotene and vitamin C, and showed beneficial effects on vasodilation (enlargement of blood vessels), plasma oxidative stability and antioxidant status.[20]
Bottom line. Comparing juicing and blending, the vitamin and phytochemical retention are slightly higher in juices (though plenty is retained in blending) whereas the mineral and fiber retention is higher in blended soups and smoothies.
On a practical note, if you find it far easier to blend vegetables and fruits to make smoothies on a regular basis, you will get much valuable vitamin and phytochemical intake by using smoothies because you actually do it.
1. National Cancer Institute. Cancer Trend Progress Report. Fruit and Vegetable Consumption.
2. World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research expert report. Food, nutrition, physical activity, and the prevention of cancer: a global perspective. Washington DC. AICR. 2007
3. U.S Department of Agriculture. How Many Vegetables Are Needed Daily?
4. U.S Department of Agriculture. How Much Fruit Is Needed Daily?
5. National Cancer Institute. Cancer Trend Progress Report. Pesticides.
6. Davis, B et al. Becoming Raw. The Book Publishing Company, 2010.
7. Davis, B et al. Becoming Vegan: Express Edition. The Book Publishing Company, 2013.
8. Rauma AL et al. Antioxidant status in long-term adherents to a strict uncooked vegan diet. Am J Clin Nutr. 1995 Dec;62(6):1221-27.
9. McEligot AJ et al. Comparison of serum carotenoid responses between women consuming vegetable juice and women consuming raw or cooked vegetables. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 1999;8:227-31.
10. Reboul E et al. . Bioaccessibility of carotenoids and vitamin E from their main dietary sources. J Agric Food Chem. 2006;54:8749-55.
11. Arbour G. Are buckwheat greens toxic? Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients. June 2004.
12. Davis, B et al. Becoming Raw. The Book Publishing Company, 2010.
13. Akaogi J et al. Role of non-protein amino acid L-canavanine in autoimmunity. Autoimmun Rev. 2006;5:429-35.
14. Malinow MRet al. Pancytopenia during ingestion of alfalfa seeds. Lancet. 1981;1:615.
15. Roberts JLet al. Exacerbation of SLE associated with alfalfa ingestion. N Engl J Med. 1983;308(22):1361.
16. Alcocer-Varela J, Alarcon-Segovia D. Reply. Arthritis Rheum. 1985;28:1200.
17. Petri Met al. BALES: the Baltimore Lupus Environmental Study. Arthritis Rheum. 2001;44:S331.
18. Soria C et al. Raw Food Revolution Diet. The Book Publishing Company, 2008.
19. Juicer Comparison Charts, one and two.
20. George TW et al. Effects of chronic consumption of fruit and vegetable puree-based drinks on vasodilation, plasma oxidative stability and antioxidant status. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2012 Oct;25(5):477-87

How Vegans Can Absorb More Protein From Beans, Grains, Nuts and Seeds

By Vesanto Melina, RD,

Absorbing more protein from plant foods is the final topic in this blog post. To discover that information, be sure to read all the way to the bottom, past the first set of endnotes.

What’s the story with complete and incomplete proteins?

In the early 1970’s Frances Moore Lappé wrote about a need to combine “incomplete proteins” in the same meal. Many people got the impression that it was helpful to classify foods as either “complete proteins” (better) or “incomplete proteins” (worse).

Ten years later, Ms. Lappé retracted her statement. Since the 1970’s, our understanding of human protein needs has come a long way.

Some misconceptions about protein arose due to studies on animals. As it turns out, baby rats — who double their weight in four days and grow fur all over their bodies — have very different amino acid requirements from humans, who have no desire to do either.

For example, baby rats do OK on cow’s milk, but will die on a diet of human milk. In animal studies, rats were given a single plant protein source — such as wheat protein — plus enough vitamins, minerals, and calories. The rats didn’t do well at all on a single source of protein.

Rats require as much as 50% more of certain amino acids than humans do. Our early reliance on such studies has led many people, including scientists, to undervalue plant protein quality.[1-4]

But unless you were living in severe poverty with limited food choices, you would not live on a single food (such as wheat or rice) as your protein source. Humans require a variety of foods for optimal health.

Essential Amino Acids

Adults require eight essential amino acids in specific amounts. They’re called “essential” because you must get them from food. (Infants require nine essential amino acids, with histidine as the additional amino acid.)

In the tables below, the phrase “amino acid scoring pattern” describes the amount of each essential amino acid humans need – per gram of protein. For example, according to the 2007 report of the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization, adults require 45 mg per gram of protein and 6 mg of tryptophan per gram of protein.

In early studies, foods were deemed “incomplete proteins” when their amino acid patterns did not match the amino acid pattern required by humans.However, with the exception of gelatin (an animal product), plant and animal proteins provide every one of the essential amino acids.

Table 1: Amino acid scoring patterns from the 1973 and 1985 FAO/WHO/UNU reports. On the left is the list of amino acids, on the right is a score representing the mg per gram of protein.[3a]

Amino Acids 1973 Report[1a] 1985 Report[2a]
(2–5 y)b
(10–12 y)
(under 75)
Histidine 40 19 19 16
Isoleucine 28 28 13
Leucine 70 66 44 19
Lysine 55 58 44 19
SAA 35 25 22 17
TAA 60 63 22 19
Threonine 40 34 28 9
Tryptophan 10 11 (9) 5
Valine 50 35 25 13
Total 360 339 241 127
To be used for young and older children and adults recognizing it might underestimate the quality for adults.
Calculated with safe protein intakes, (g/kg/d). i.e. children (2—5 years), 1—10, children (10—12 years), 0—99 adults, 0—75.
Requirement as mg/kg/d divided by the safe or average protein requirement as indicated.

Table 2: Amino acid scoring patterns from the 2007 FAO/WHO/UNU reports. On the left is the list of amino acids, on the right is a score representing the mg per gram of protein.[5a]

Amino Acids 2007 Report[4a]
Infants Preschool
(1–2 y)
(3–10 y)
(under 66)
Histidine 20 18 16 15
Isoleucine 32 31 30 30
Leucine 66 63 61 59
Lysine 57 52 48 45
SAA 27 25 23 22
TAA 52 46 41 38
Threonine 31 27 25 23
Tryptophan 8 7 7 6
Valine 43 41 40 39
Total 336 310 291 277
Calculated with average protein requirement values (g/kg/d). i.e. infacts 1 to 12 months, preschool children 1 to 2 years, children and adolescents 3 to 10, adults up to age 66.
Requirement as mg/kg/d divided by the safe or average protein requirement as indicated.

Diets of just one thing (“mono diets”) are a bad idea, even for a food that has a high rating in terms of amino acid pattern. Your dietary needs are too complex to be met by any one food. However, if you ate enough of any one protein source, plant or animal, you’d get every amino acid you needed.

What is the “ideal” reference pattern for human requirements?

The answer to this question is the subject of controversial debate among nutritional scientists. The answer varies at different stages of life — infancy, adulthood — as shown in the table below.[1-7]

This chart gives amounts (in milligrams) of each of the 9 amino acid acids per gram of protein. All plant foods contain every one of these essential amino acids.

Why are there no lists of amino acid scores in current scientific literature?

The ideal “human scoring pattern” is still the subject of much debate, making it difficult to choose a reference. (Examples of scoring patterns that have been used are shown in the table above.)

Today, the standard method for evaluating protein quality is the “protein digestibility corrected amino acid score” or “PDCAAS”. However, this method is controversial and evolving.

The PDCAAS depends on two factors: digestibility and amino acid content. Gram for gram, it compares the amino acids in a food (corrected for digestibility) with human protein requirements.

Before furthering this point, we want to make clear that we don’t recommend eating beef, and we recognize that vegans don’t eat eggs. However, the best way to understand the common concerns about plant proteins is to compare them with animal proteins.

The PDCAAS scores for egg and cow’s milk is 100, for beef is 92, and for soy is 91, and for wheat is 42.[1-7]

Note that these are estimates; human digestibility is estimated rather than measured exactly. So you may see slightly different numbers depending (for example) on how these foods are prepared.

Beef, egg, and soy have patterns close to estimated requirements from the 1985 report of preschool children suffering from malnutrition (shown in the table above) and of the 2007 adult requirements.

Does this mean we should eat eggs or beef daily?

Getting all — or even most — of your protein from beef or egg would put your cholesterol intake through the roof. Also, it would put you at risk for a great many chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease and several types of cancer.

As a further example, since soy foods are highly nutritious, two men chose to center their diets on massive amounts of soy. The first man had twelve servings of soy per day. The second consumed twenty, which was the majority of his calories. This led to serious health problems.

That sort of dietary imbalance deprives you of essential nutrients and phytochemicals that would otherwise come from other highly nutritious, protein-rich foods.

It is no longer certain how closely amino acid patterns in food match the requirements of healthy children (who are unavailable for research purposes), or even of adults (because it is a matter of some debate).

The patterns of soy protein isolate and egg white meet an adult amino acid pattern so closely they are given a score of 100%. Soy and beef are a match of approximately 91-95%. In other words, if you eat about 5-10% more of the particular lacking amino acid, you meet your protein requirements.

In practical terms, this means raising your recommended protein intake to 0.9 grams of protein per kg body weight, as suggested in Lesson 14.1.

Other foods have lower scores. Researchers see different scores for various plant foods depending on the rodent or estimated human amino acid pattern that was used as a reference. However, by using a mix of plant foods, they can easily match the overall amino acid pattern to requirements.[1-7]

For vegetarians, eggs and dairy products are good sources of protein, in terms of their amino acid contribution.

Now we know that every plant food contains every one of the essential amino acids. But when one or two are in short supply, can you meet your amino acid requirements by eating more of that same food?

From a health perspective it does not make sense for you to eat a single food, such as soy or egg, to meet your protein needs. Using any one food as your sole protein source would bring you health risks and would be unwise. You need a mix of foods for optimal nutrition. Each food you eat will provide a slightly different pattern of amino acids.[9-11]

Food exceptions include human breast milk and infant formula. Nature and formula companies have specially fashioned these to meet infant requirements.

Do complimentary foods need to be eaten in the same meal?

Suppose you eat whole wheat toast for breakfast, brown rice with vegetables for lunch, and black bean soup for dinner.

Both whole wheat toast and brown rice are low in lysine but relatively high in methionine. Black beans are low in methionine but relatively high in lysine.

In other words, while each meal would have all of the essential amino acids, each meal would beslightly short in one amino acid. That’s relative to the estimated reference pattern in Table 1, above.

Does it matter how far apart, or how close together, these meals are eaten?

No, because your body can pool and retain amino acids over the course of a 24 hour period. Thus, your body can draw on all the amino acids it needs from the “pool” for its protein building and maintenance requirements.

You should note that every vegetable will contribute its unique pattern of amino acids, further adding to the mix.[12-14]

It doesn’t matter which foods you eat at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Humans worldwide do well on a variety of different meal patterns.

The protein you derive from various food groups is shown in the table below.

The minimum servings listed in Column 1 will meet the recommended protein intake for someone weighing 120 lbs (including a safety margin). But you can easily eat more than the minimum servings.

Legumes (beans, lentils, soy products, and peanuts) are significant protein providers. So are nuts and seeds. So it’s wise to include them at each meal, or at two meals and one snack.

For example, spread 4 Tbsp nut butter on two slices of whole grain bread, and you’ll get four servings of protein (2 servings from the nut butter and 2 servings from the bread). Between meals, you can snack on a handful of nuts or raw peas in the pod.[15-17]

You can also whip up a salad dressing containing ½ cup silken tofu or ¼ cup tahini, consume it with lunch and dinner, and you’ll get another serving of protein.

Note: Tofu and tempeh can be twice as high in protein as shown in the chart below, per half cup. Check labels.

Protein From Each Food Group

Food group
(minimum servings per day)
Examples of a single serving Approximate protein contribution per serving, grams Total protein from minimum servings, grams
(3 or more servings)
½ cup cooked beans, peas, lentils, tofu, or tempeh
1 cup raw peas or sprouted lentils or peas
¼ cup peanuts
2 Tbsp peanut butter
1 cup soy milk
1 ounce vegetarian meat alternative
9.6 g 28.8g
(3 or more servings)
½ cup cooked cereal, rice, pasta, quinoa, or other grain or grain product
1 ounce (1 slice) bread
½ cup raw corn or sprouted quinoa, buckwheat, or other grain
1 ounce ready-to-eat cereal
3.3 g 9.9 g
(5 or more servings)
½ cup raw or cooked vegetables
1 cup raw leafy vegetables
½ cup vegetable juice
1.3 g 6.5 g
Nuts and seeds
(1 or more servings)
¼ cup nuts and seeds
2 Tbsp nut or seed butter
5.5 g 5.5 g
(4 or more servings)
1 medium fruit
½ cup fruit or fruit juice
¼ cup dried fruit
0.85 g 3.4 g

Vegans are often slim; is this due to less muscle mass or protein intake?

Vegans typically have less body fat (and are slimmer) than lacto-ovo vegetarians and omnivores. Is this good news or bad news?

Let’s begin with two large studies which found that the average vegan’s body size is healthier, rather than underweight… the EPIC-Oxford study in the UK and the Adventist Health Study-2.

These studies compared the BMI (Body Mass Index) of vegans with other dietary groups, including health-conscious meat eaters, fish eaters, and lacto-ovo vegetarians. “Meat eaters” were defined as those who consumed meat more than once per week.[18-20]

The Body Mass Index is a weight-to-height ratio; anything from 18.5 to 24.9 is considered healthy. Anything below that is considered “underweight”.

In the first study – the EPIC-Oxford study – vegans had the lowest Body Mass Index, ranging from 21.98 to 23.6.

Health-conscious meat eaters had a Body Mass Index at the top end of the healthy range. Of course, the British population tends to be slimmer than North Americans.

In the second study – the Adventist Health Study-2 – vegans were the only dietary group whose average Body Mass Index was in the healthy range.

Despite these studies, there may be a higher proportion of vegans who are underweight, compared to the general population. However, data is currently very limited.

A small American study reported that 36% of its vegan participants (9 out of 25) had a Body Mass Index of less than 19. In this report, a larger proportion of vegans fell near or below the BMI cutoff for underweight (vs. the general population).

The Oxford Vegetarian Study analyzed approximately 11,000 vegetarians and vegans. More than 20% had a Body Mass Index of 18 to 20. (Again, the healthy range is considered to be 18.5 to 24.9.)

In fact, more of these participants had a Body Mass Index under 18 (underweight) than a Body Mass Index over 28 (overweight).[19]

The Giessen (raw food) study in Germany reported high rates for raw vegans being underweight. 25% of raw vegan women and 14.7% of raw vegan men who participated in the study were underweight. On the positive side, only 5% of the women and 6% of the men in this study were overweight or obese.[22]

Further research is warranted to understand the rates of underweight people in vegan populations and the resulting health consequences.

Generally, vegans with low body weight and muscle mass are making one of the mistakes described in lesson 14:11; they’re eating fruitarian diets, eating too few calories, or eating mostly flour products and processed foods.

If you’re a vegan who wants to build muscle mass, you should eat considerably more than 0.9 g protein per kg of body weight per day. Aim for 1.3 to 1.9 g/kg/day.

It’s entirely possible for you to build muscle with a vegan diet. However, if you are currently underweight, it may take a change in habits. You may need to eat more protein and more calories.

(Editor’s note: see Lesson 19: of our Mastery Program, written by vegan bodybuilder Robert Cheeke. It’s called “Nutrition for Vegan and Vegetarian Athletes”.)

Vegan athletes who restrict calories – or don’t eat enough legumes, tofu, tempeh, or other meat alternatives – are at risk for low protein intakes. On a raw diet, the equivalent is eating too few nuts, seeds, peas, sprouted lentils and sprouted mung beans.

You don’t need to combine specific plant proteins at each meal. However, it is important to consume good sources of protein at each meal. It can be helpful to add vegan protein powders such as hemp, rice, pea, pumpkin seed, or soy protein to smoothies.[23, 24]

Research has established that plant protein is suitable for building and retaining muscle. In fact, a study of men who did resistance training found a soy-rich diet to be just as effective as a beef-rich diet for improving muscle strength and power.

For purposes of that study, either soy or beef was added to a vegetarian diet. In both cases, the men’s daily protein intake averaged 1.1 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight over twelve weeks.

Their program included resistance training, done at a gym three days per week.[21, 22] Muscle mass increased equally and significantly in both the beef group and the soy group.

Researchers found no added benefit from components, such as creatine, that are present in meat but not in soy. They concluded that either soy or beef protein, combined with the right exercise, can delay muscle loss and increase muscle quantity, tone, and strength.[21, 23, 24]

Is the protein from plant sources the same to the body as animal protein, or less available?

The amount of fiber in a plant’s cell walls affects the “bioavailability” of its protein (i.e. how much of its protein you can absorb).

The proteins in most whole plant foods tend to be less bioavailable, in the range of 75% to 92%. As explained earlier in this lesson, vegans can offset this by consuming a little extra protein than the standard recommendation of 0.8 g protein/kg/day.

However, you can make plant foods more bioavailable with the food prep techniques you’ll discover in a moment.

Some believe that you adapt and absorb more from plants once you eliminate animal foods from your diet. However, there’s little research to document that.

Some plants have the same bioavailability of protein as animal products, which have no fiber. However, these are typically refined plant foods from which fiber has been removed, as shown in the following table.

Digestibility of protein in various foods.

Plant foods Digestibility %
White (refined) flour or bread 96
Soy protein isolate 95
Peanut butter 95
Tofu 93
Whole wheat flour or bread 92
Oatmeal 86
Lentils 84
Black, garbanzo, kidney,
and pinto beans
Animal products Digestibility %
Eggs 97
Milk, cheese 95
Beef, fish 94
Table data: [26-29]

At a glance, you might wonder if white bread (96% bioavailable) is a better source of protein than whole wheat bread (92% bioavailable). Or you might wonder if soy protein isolate (95% bioavailable) is a better choice than tofu or cooked beans. Yet the choice isn’t so simple.

Sure, processing plant foods increases the digestibility of their protein by removing fiber and other materials in cell walls. But it also strips these foods of valuable vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.[26-29]

Overall, the protein in the standard American diet (centered on animal products and refined carbohydrates) and Chinese diet (centered on white rice) has been rated as 96% digestible. The protein in Brazilian and Indian diets of rice and beans has been rated 78% digestible.[28, 29]

Soaking and Sprouting Plant Proteins Makes Them More Bioavailable

The following food preparation techniques will help you absorb more protein. In fact, using these techniques can begin the digestive process.

For example, cooking beans and lentils — or sprouting buckwheat and peas — starts the breakdown of their proteins, resulting in increased absorption by your body.[31-34] When legumes and grains are soaked or sprouted, their proteins split into shorter chains of constituent amino acids. This essentially begins the digestion process.[31-32]

Soaking and sprouting nuts, seeds, and legumes also increases protein bioavailability. This is true whether you eat them raw or cook them after soaking.

For example, when you soak raw, dried, whole peas for 6 hours, their digestibility increases by 8%. If you soak them for 18 hours, it can increases by as much as 31%.

In other words, soaking and cooking peas increases the protein digestibility by 25% to 30%. Soaking and then pressure cooking results in an increase of 30% to 33%. That’s twice the protein digestibility of the exact same peas, when cooked without pre-soaking!

Scientists believe that soaking legumes activates plant enzymes, and this begins protein breakdown. So, when you soak legumes, you bring about the destruction of phytates and of trypsin inhibitors that can limit digestion.[31], [35-37]

Allowing raw peas to sprout for 48 hours increases their protein digestibility by 25% to 28%. As a further benefit, studies have found that sprouting beans for six days removes most (70% to 100%) of the oligosaccharides that sometimes cause flatulence.[37-40]

Sprouting can further improve protein quality by slightly increasing the amount of essential amino acids, such as lysine.[40, 41]

Blending fibrous vegetables (like kale) might make the amino acid lysine more available, but any claim beyond that is conjecture.


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  8. [8] Millward DJ et al. Amino acid scoring patterns for protein quality assessment. Brit J. Nutr. 2012;(108)S31-S43.
  9. [9] Craig WJ et al. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009;109 (7)1266-82.
  10. [10] Davis B et al. Becoming Vegan: Comprehensive Edition. The Book Publishing Co. 2014.
  11. [11] Mangels AR, Messina V, Messina M. The Dietitians Guide to Vegetarian Diets. Jones and Bartlett Learning Ltd. 2011.
  12. [12] Craig WJ et al. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009;109 (7)1266-82.
  13. [13] Davis B et al. Becoming Vegan: Comprehensive Edition. The Book Publishing Co. 2014.
  14. [14] Mangels AR, Messina V, Messina M. The Dietitians Guide to Vegetarian Diets. Jones and Bartlett Learning Ltd. 2011.
  15. [15] Davis B et al. Becoming Vegan: Comprehensive Edition. The Book Publishing Co. 2014.
  16. [16] Davis B et al. Becoming Vegan: Express Edition. The Book Publishing Co. 2013.
  17. [17] Mangels AR, Messina V, Messina M. The Dietitians Guide to Vegetarian Diets. Jones and Bartlett Learning Ltd. 2011.
  18. [18] Mangels R, et al. The Dietitian’s Guide to Vegetarian Diets: Issues and Applications. Third Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. Sudbury MA. 2010.
  19. [19] Spencer EA, et al. Diet and body mass index in 38000 EPIC-Oxford meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003;27(6):728–34.
  20. [20] Tonstad S, et al. Type of Vegetarian Diet, Body Weight and Prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2009;32(5):791–6.
  21. [21] Davis B et al. Becoming Raw. The Book Publishing Co. 2010.
  22. [22] Davis B et al. Becoming Vegan: Comprehensive Edition. The Book Publishing Co. 2014.
  23. [23] Davis B et al. Becoming Vegan: Express Edition. The Book Publishing Co. 2013.
  24. [24] Haub MD et al. Beef and soy-based food supplements differentially affect serum lipoprotein-lipid profiles because of changes in carbohydrate intake and novel nutrient intake ratios in older men who resistive-train. Metabolism. 2005;54(6):769-74.
  25. [25] Haub MD et al. Effect of protein source on resistive-training-induced changes in body composition and muscle size in older men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;76(3):511-7.
  26. [26] Davis B et al. Becoming Vegan: Comprehensive Edition. The Book Publishing Co. 2014.
  27. [27] Davis B et al. Becoming Vegan: Express Edition. The Book Publishing Co. 2013.
  28. [28] Mangels AR, Messina V, Messina M. The Dietitians Guide to Vegetarian Diets. Jones and Bartlett Learning Ltd. 2011.
  29. [29] Millward DJ, Layman DK, Tome D et al. Protein quality assessment: impact of expanding understanding of protein and amino acid needs for optimal health. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;87(5):1576S-1581S.
  30. [30] World Health Organization/Food and Agriculture Organization/United Nations University. Expert Consultation. Protein and amino acid requirements in human nutrition. WHO Technical Report Series – 935. (World Health Organization/Food and Agriculture Organization). 2007.
  31. [31] Bishnoi S et al. Protein digestibility of vegetables and field peas (Pisum sativum). Varietal differences and effect of domestic processing and cooking methods. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 1994;46:71-6.
  32. [32] Hernot DC et al. In vitro digestion characteristics of unprocessed and processed whole grains and their components. J Agric Food Chem. 2008;56:10721-6.
  33. [33] Oste RE. Digestibility of processed food protein. Adv Exp Med Biol. 1991;289:371-88.
  34. [34] Zia-ur-Rehman et al. The effects of hydrothermal processing on antinutrients, protein and starch digestibility of food legumes. Int. J. Food Science Technol. 2005;40:695–700.
  35. [35] Frias J et al. Evolution of trypsin inhibitor activity during germination of lentils. J. Agric Food Chem. 1995.43:2231-2234.
  36. [36] Ibrahim SS, et al. Effect of soaking, germination, cooking and fermentation on antinutritional factors in cowpeas. Nahrung. 2002;46:92-5.
  37. [37] Sathe SK et al. Effects of germination on proteins, raffinose, oligosaccharides, and antinutritional factors in the Great Northern beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.). J Food Sci. 1983;48:1796-1800.
  38. [38] Chang KC et al. Effect of germination on oligosaccharides and nonstarch polysaccharidesin navy and pinto beans. J Food Science. 1989; 54(6):1615.
  39. [39] Oboh HA et al. Effect of soaking, cooking and germination on the oligosaccharide content of selected Nigerian legume seeds. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2000;55(2):97-110.
  40. [40] Chavan JK et al. Nutritional improvement of cereals by sprouting. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 1989;28:401-37.
  41. [41] Chavan JK et al. Nutritional improvement of cereals by fermentation. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 1989;28:349-400.

Why A Food’s Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Are Only Half The Story

By Vesanto Melina, MS, Registered Dietitian,


Glycemic index (GI) is a measure of the effect of 50 grams of carbohydrates from a specific food on blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates that are quickly digested release their sugars into the bloodstream rapidly have a high GI.

Glycemic load (GL) is calculated by multiplying the GI by the grams of carbohydrate in a serving of the food and dividing the total by 100. A low GL is between 0 and 10, a moderate GL is between 11 and 19, and a high GL is above 19.

Limitations of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load

Although watermelon has a GI of 72, a “serving” of watermelon (meaning a half cup of the red section that is eaten) provides only 6 grams of carbohydrate and therefore has a GL of 4, which is low.

Note that this calculation is done using the weight of carbohydrates in a serving, not the weight of the serving. Of course people are quite likely to eat more than this at a time, but the GL will still be low.

The important point is that the total amount of carbohydrate in a food is just as important as its GI in determining its impact on blood sugar.

GI has sometimes been used to judge the healthfulness of foods. Unfortunately, it conveys nothing about a food’s total nutritional content, or any harmful contaminants, or products of oxidation that may be present.

Foods that contain little, if any, carbohydrate have a very low GI and a negligible Glycemic Load (GL).

For example, meat – even processed meat like Spam, or deep-fried pork – has a small impact on blood sugar (a low GI). However, it has the potential to significantly increase insulin resistance and to have adverse effects on blood glucose control over the long term.[1-2]

Unhealthy choices of carbohydrate-rich foods can result from over-reliance on their GI. The GI of potato chips is lower than that of baked potatoes because all that added fat does slows down the increase in blood sugar.

Other unhealthful snacks, such as candy bars, cupcakes, and ice cream, can also fall within the low-GI range. In contrast, plenty of nutritious, higher carbohydrate whole foods, such as some fruits, starchy vegetables (sweet potatoes), and whole grains, have a relatively high GI (like watermelon) or GL (like brown rice).

Generally foods aren’t eaten alone, but in combinations. The combination can have a profound effect on the meal’s overall glycemic impact.

For example, baked potatoes have a high GI and GL. However, when eaten with the skin and accompanied by legumes or vegetables – such as vegetarian chili, lentil loaf, or kale salad – a potato’s sugars are absorbed more gradually and the potato’s GI is blunted.

In addition, the body benefits from the many other nutrients, including vitamin C, that baked potatoes contain.

Although relying on a food’s GI and GL to make food choices has limitations, these indicators are helpful when appropriately used. For instance, compare the GI and GL of similar foods or foods of the same category:

Food Glycemic Index Glycemic Load
Rolled Oats 55 13
Instant Oatmeal 79 21
Cornflakes 81 20
Barley, cooked 28 12
Millet, cooked 71 26
“Original” Rice Milk 86 23
“Original” Soy Milk 34 5

Vegetarian GI and GL

Relative to the diets of nonvegetarians, vegetarian and vegan diets typically have a low GI and a low to moderate GL. This factor may contribute to the reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes in vegetarians, compared with non-vegetarians.

Foods Missing from GI Lists

Some foods are generally not included in GI lists because they lack carbohydrates (e.g. meat, poultry, and fish) or they don’t contain enough carbohydrates to make the GI test practical.

Non-starchy vegetables, such as leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, peppers, and cucumbers, are good examples of the latter. To get 50 grams of carbohydrates from chopped broccoli, the test would require eating almost nine cups.

Factors Affecting Glycemic Index

  1. Type of monosaccharide present. Glucose has a much greater impact on blood glucose than does fructose. Agave (GI 13; GL 1) contains mainly fructose, but this doesn’t make it a more healthful choice.
  2. Type of starch present. The two principal and common starches in foods – amylose and amylopectin – are digested at very different rates. Amylopectin, which constitutes about 70 percent of the starch in foods, is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and thus has a higher GI; amylose is digested more slowly. Various strains of brown rice differ greatly in amylose and amylopectin content and thus GI can range from 50 to 87. Some varieties of brown rice (low in amylose) have higher GIs than some varieties of white rice (high in amylose).
  3. Amount and type of fiber present. Fiber generally reduces the GI of a meal, however foods rich in viscous fiber (i.e., beans and barley) reduce the meal’s overall GI to a greater extent than foods rich in nonviscous fiber, such as wheat bran. In addition, the GI of high fiber foods and generally lower than their refined counterpart. Thus a whole grain is likely to have a lower GI than the same grain, refined.
  4. Physical barrier. Beans and whole grains are surrounded by a coating of fiber that serves as a physical barrier to protect the seed. Because this barrier makes it more difficult for enzymes to digest the grain, these foods have a lower GI.
  5. Ripeness. As foods ripen, their starches turn into sugars, increasing their GI.
  6. Exposure to heat. Raw foods have a lower GI than the corresponding cooked foods. Cooking breaks down plant cell walls, increasing the rate at which its starches and sugars are absorbed by the body.
  7. Particle size. Small food particles have more surface area than the same amount of food in big pieces; this allows more rapid digestion and absorption. Thus intact whole grains have a much lower GI than ground grains, whole fruits have a lower GI than fruit sauces or juices, and mashed beans have a higher GI than whole beans.
  8. Density. Foods that contain less air have a lower GI than light and fluffy foods. Puffing grains also dramatically increases their GI. White bread has a higher GI than dense white pasta.
  9. Crystallinity. Raw starch is crystalline, with molecules that are organized in a sequence that repeats. Cooking disrupts this structure, making the starch more digestible and resulting in a higher GI. However, as the cooked starchy food cools, the starch recrystallizes to some extent, resulting in a lower GI. Thus red potatoes, cubed and boiled in their skin, have a GI of 89. Refrigerated overnight and eaten cold the next day, the same potatoes have a GI of 56.
  10. Acidity. Adding an acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar, to food reduces its GI. Even small amounts of vinegar (less than an ounce) have been shown to reduce GI by about 30 percent. Fermentation produces acid, yielding foods with a lower GI. Yogurt has a lower GI than milk, and sourdough bread has a lower GI than regular bread.


  1. [1] Davis B, Melina V. Becoming Vegan: Express Edition. Book Publishing Co, 2014.
  2. [2] Davis B, Melina V. Becoming Vegan: Comprehensive Edition – The Complete Reference to Plant Based Nutrition” Book Publishing Co, 2014.

Quick and Easy Vegan Snack Recipes and Time Saving Tips

Here are 4 of my favorite tips for saving time in the kitchen.

1) With a deyhdrator, make an enormous batch of healthy snacks (like flax crackers or kale chips) that last for months without spoiling. So you can work smarter, not harder. Here’s the one I use. See below for some yummy dehydrator recipes.

2) When planning a bean recipe, soak your beans overnight, then slash cooking time with a pressure cooker. Here’s the one I use. And here’s what a couple of our students say:

“Using my pressure cooker has been a lifesaver and I recommend it as the number one time saver in any kitchen!”
– Ellen Pierson

“I just recently started using a pressure cooker and I love it. I have the Instant Pot, its an electric pressure cooker and is so easy to use.”
– Yvonne Harding

3) When you don’t have time to cook a big meal, make a green smoothie. Throw a banana in your blender with other fruit, leafy greens, chia seeds, and water… and VOILA!

You have a nutrient-dense whole food meal in two minutes. You can even drink it “on the go”. See recipe below. This is one of several strategies that made a huge difference for our student Daniel Gray. As he explains:

“Though I enjoy cooking, it can be difficult with limited time and having to share a small kitchen with other people. I used to go without eating, or I grabbed something fast, but less complete as a meal. Your Mastery Program has taught me new ways to prepare meals that save me time and add flexibility. Making smoothies is just one example. I spend a lot less time and stress preparing meals now.”

4) To reduce trips to your grocery store or farmer’s market, store your fresh veggies in green bags like these.  (Tip: get free shipping using that link.) They’ll extend the life of your veggies by 3-10 times!

Trevor’s Green Smoothie Recipe

1 ripe banana
1 Tbsp of chia seeds, soaked in 1/4 cup water overnight
3 dried apricots or figs, rehydrated in water overnight (OR frozen fruit)
2 stalks of kale, chard, or dandelion greens
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp tahini or almond butter (optional)

Pour all ingredients into your blender, including the water you soaked your apricots, figs, and/or chia seeds in. Blend. Note that including greens, chia seeds and (optionally) nut butter helps to slow down the absorption of fruit sugar into your bloodstream.

Chipotle Kale Chips

by Chef Dina Knight

Want a healthy crunchy snack that is loaded with nutrition but still tastes like you’re eating something naughty?

Try kale chips! You can make your own with just a few minutes of work. On average they take 3½ – 4 hours to dry at a low-temperature setting. In more humid climates, they make take overnight to turn crisp.


2 Bunches Curly Green Kale, or Lacinato Kale
1 Tablespoon olive oil, cold pressed and organic
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon agave nectar (optional)
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1½ teaspoon sea salt


  1. Remove kale from stem. Wash and spin in salad spinner. Place in large mixing bowl. Drizzle with oil, add remaining ingredients.
  2. Toss and lightly massage until the oil and spices are evenly dispersed. Place onto two dehydrator trays outfitted with the grid sheets. Place in dehydrator 4-6 hours at 115°F.
  3. Allow to cool completely before placing in an airtight container. Store at room temperature for as long as they will last — because we are sure you will eat these up very quickly!

Basic Flax Crackers

by Rose Lee Calabro


4 cups whole flax seeds, soaked 4-6 hours in 3 cups water
⅓-½ cup Nama Shoyu
Juice of 2-3 lemons


  1. Pour 4 cups of flax seeds in a bowl with 3 cups of water.
  2. After four hours, add the Nama Shoyu and lemon juice.
  3. Spread the mixture as thin as possible (about ¼” thick) on dehydrator trays with teflex sheets. Keeping your hands wet will help in the spreading of the flax seeds.
  4. Dehydrate at 105 degrees for 5-6 hours.
  5. Flip crackers over and remove the teflex sheets. Continue dehydrating for 4-5 hours, or until the mixture is completely dry.
  6. For variety, add garlic, onions, carrot juice, taco seasoning, Italian seasoning, chili powder, or cumin in any combination.

Chia-Fruit Crackers

by Raederle Phoenix of


1 cup prunes, chopped
1 cup dates, chopped
1 cup dried mulberries (ideal, but optional)
1 cup other dried fruit pieces (persimmon, mango, raisins, currants, cranberries, etc)
1 cup chia seeds
2 pinches sea salt
2 pinches cayenne (optional)
1 lemon’s juice (optional, but a very tasty addition)
2-3 cups water or fresh-squeezed fruit juice (adjust as needed; needed amount will vary depending on fruit)


  1. Mince dried fruits and add them to a very large mixing bowl with chia seeds, sea salt and desired spices.
  2. Start with two cups fluid and stir mixture. At first, everything should be just barely free-floating in the water (or juice). Keep adding water (or juice) until you can stir freely without a lot of resistance.
  3. Wait five to ten minutes. The chia seeds will absorb the fluid, creating a gelatinous mixture. It should be similar to pancake batter in consistency. If it’s still fluidy, wait up to twenty minutes, but be careful not to wait too long or the chia seeds will absorb too much.
  4. Pour mixture onto teflex dehydrator sheets. Mixture should be thin enough to pour but thick enough not to run off the edges. Give it some spreading room around the edges just in case.
  5. Ideally, to get the fastest, most evenly dry crackers, without cooking the nutrition away: dehydrate at 145ºF for 1 hour, then 125ºF for the next hour, then 110ºF for four hours. While the food is still wet it is more resistant to heat, so this matches the temperature to the moisture level, keeping the actual crackers closer to 105 degrees.
  6. Flip crackers over and remove the teflex sheets. Continue dehydrating for 2-5 hours, or until the mixture is completely dry.
  7. For variety, try all your favorite fruits. You can also add cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, ginger – get creative!

Best Oils For Frying, Baking, and Dressings

By Vesanto Melina, RD

Oil can be heated up to a certain point with no significant change in chemical composition. The point at which it changes is called its “smoke point”, but this is different for each oil.

The smoke point is the temperature at which oil begins to break down and form a bluish smoke. Its flavor and nutrition are damaged.

The smoke contains acrolein that is irritating to the eyes and throat. The smoke point also marks significant changes in flavor and nutritional degradation.

“Cold pressed” oils contain heat-sensitive vitamins and phytochemicals. These oils are great for dressings. But the vitamins and phytochemicals they contain are vulnerable to heat damage. High temperatures turn them into contaminants.

That’s why these “cold pressed” and unrefined oils have lower smoke points than their refined counterparts. Refined oils have been stripped of these vitamins and phytochemicals.

When choosing an oil to use in cooking, stick with oils that are refined (to remove heat-sensitive vitamins and phytochemicals). Good choices are olive oil, or high oleic sunflower or safflower.

Saturated fats, such as coconut oil and ghee (for ovo-lacto vegetarians) are even better for frying because they’re less subject to oxidation.[3]

When you fry (or stir fry), overheating or over-using the oil leads to formation of rancid-tasting products of oxidation, molecular changes, and toxic compounds such as acrylamide (from starchy foods). These changes may not be visible, evident, or obvious. But the flavor might change.

Deep fat frying is a high temperature process, so it requires a fat with a high smoke point — in most cases it lies between 345–375 °F (175 and 190 °C ).[1],[2]

Which oils are best when served raw (for example in salad dressings)?

From a nutritional perspective, the best oil to use for salads dressing is flaxseed oil due to its particularly high content of Omega-3 fatty acids. Hempseed oil and walnut oil are less common, but also high in Omega-3 fatty acids. However, none of these should be used in cooking.[4],[5]

Smoke Point of Oils Chart
Oil Type Smoke Point
Butter 350°F / 177°C
Canola oil[*] Expeller Press 464°F / 240°C
Canola oil[*] Refined 470°F / 240°C
Coconut oil Unrefined 350°F / 177°C
Coconut oil[**] Refined 450°F / 232°C
Corn oil Unrefined 320°F / 160°C
Corn oil[*] Refined 450°F / 232°C
Cottonseed oil[*] 420°F / 216°C
Flax seed oil Unrefined 225°F / 107°C
Ghee (Indian Clarified Butter)[*] Clarified to “refine” 485°F / 252°C
Hempseed oil 330°F / 165°C
Olive oil Extra virgin 375°F / 191°C
Olive oil Virgin 420°F / 216°C
Palm oil 455°F / 235°C[1]
Peanut oil Unrefined 320°F / 160°C
Peanut oil[*] Refined 450°F / 232°C
Safflower oil Unrefined 225°F / 107°C
Safflower oil[*] Refined 510°F / 266°C
Sesame oil Unrefined 350°F / 177°C
Sesame oil[*] Semi-refined 450°F / 232°C
Soybean oil Unrefined 320°F / 160°C
Soybean oil[*] Refined 450°F / 232°C
Sunflower oil Unrefined 225°F / 107°C
Sunflower oil, high oleic Unrefined 320°F / 160°C
Sunflower oil[*] Refined 450°F / 232°C

*These oils have a smoke point high enough to be used for frying.

**These oils are the best for frying because they not only have a high enough smoke point; they’re also composed of saturated fatty acids, so they’re less subject to oxidation.[3]

Which oils are best for frying?

For frying, use any of the oils with asterisks in the Smoke Point table.

Which oils are best for baking / roasting?

You may use any of the oils with asterisks in the Smoke Point table. For high oven temperatures, choose an oil with an appropriately high smoke point.


You will find it helpful to keep in your home flaxseed oil (for salad dressings and as a source of essential omega-3 fatty acids) and refined coconut oil or olive oil (for stir fries and other heated menu items). You really don’t need any other oils.

However, some people like to use refined sesame oil for a slightly different flavor in stir fries. And some like the flavor of canola, safflower or sunflower oil in their baked goods and pancakes.[4]

An even cleaner choice is to eat a raw or high-raw diet and make whole foods like avocado, olives, nuts, seeds, and their butters, and coconut your primary sources of dietary fat.[5]

For the complete lesson on this topic — and 49 lessons like it — be sure to enroll in the Vegan Mastery Program or Vegetarian Mastery Program the next time enrollment is open to the public.


[1] Choe E, Min DB. Chemistry of deep-fat frying oils. J Food Sci. 2007 Jun;72(5):R77-86.

[2] Paul S, Mittal GS. Regulating the use of degraded oil/fat in deep-fat/oil food frying. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 1997 Nov;37(7):635-62.

[3] Fats and Oils, Udo Erasmus. 1986.

[4][+] Melina V, Davis B. The New Becoming Vegetarian” by, The Book Publishing Company, 2003. Pages 155-176.

[5][+] Davis B, Melina V. Becoming Raw. The Book Publishing Company, 2010. Pages 70-71.

How to Reduce Your Grocery Bill by Emphasizing Foods That Are Inexpensive Per Calorie

You have a certain amount of money to spend, and you’ve got a certain amount of calories you’re going to eat. These can only be varied just so much.[1]
Most people will eat 1200 to 2500 calories per day.[2] The cost will vary depending on your country, city, time of year, whether or not you buy Certified Organic, and where you shop (for example: Costco vs. Whole Foods Market).
But here in the United States, according to the Official USDA Food Plans, the average individual spends $6 to $12 on food per day.[3]

Reduce Grocery Bills by Eating Foods That Are Inexpensive Per Calorie

If you’re on a tight budget, it is very helpful to choose mostly foods that are inexpensive per calorie. Say you have a budget of $8 per day. You might spend $6 or $7 per day on foods that provide a lot of calories per cost.
With your remaining $1 to $2, choose foods that provide a lot of nutrition per calorie and choose foods you’ve never tried or have not eaten in several months. This is important from a nutritional perspective, to ensure you get a wide variety of antioxidants, enzymes, trace minerals, vitamins and beneficial bacteria.

Address Cravings

After taking this measure, you can also bring food costs down by addressing your cravings and needless snacking, assuming that you ever eat for comfort – which most people do, myself included. Addressing these cravings and comfort-food-snacks can be extremely beneficial for both your health and your finances, but it is substantially more challenging than emphasizing foods that have a low cost per calorie.

Inexpensive, Organic, Travel-Friendly Food – Is It Possible?

The short answer is “Yes!”
This subject has been of particular interest to me because I’ve lived on very tight budgets, and traveled while doing so. Creating a cost-per-calorie chart was a valuable experience for me, as I buy all of my food organic, and eat a raw, vegetarian diet. When these four factors were combined, choosing foods carefully became of vital importance to me.
I astonished my friends and family by being able to travel so often, eat organic, stay raw, and have time for art, gardening and board games besides. “Where do you find the time?” people would ask me. And more often, “How can you afford it?”
And thus, I finally wrote a book on the topic, called Living Big & Traveling Far on $8,000 a Year. In my book I include several charts to fully illustrate nutrition received per dollar as well as a very detailed cost per calorie chart. Below, you’ll find part of the cost per calorie chart as well as one of the recipes from the book.
The chart excerpt below shows the costs of foods per 2,000 calories. While the prices I have listed won’t be the exact same prices as what you find at your store, the following chart provides a general understanding of how prices and calories tend to relate to one another.
For example, seeds are generally the least expensive per calorie. This is partly because they are so high in calories per volume. One cup of nuts or seeds will range between 400 and 1,100 calories, and you’ll find 3 to 5 cups of seeds in a pound.
If the pound of seeds only costs you $3, that’s going to be a lot of calories for $3.
Seeds can be stored for a long time, whereas fruits and vegetables have to sell before they wilt. This is another reason that seeds tend to cost less than fruits and vegetables.
Since you can buy a hundred calories of seeds (about a handful) for less than a hundred calories of greens (about a head or bunch), that means you can meet your caloric needs less expensively with rice, grains, beans, seeds and nuts. However, if you compare a hundred calories of almonds (a handful) versus a hundred calories of greens (a bunch), you’ll find that vegetables are far superior in nutrition.
In contrast, vegetables are the most expensive per calorie.
A pound of greens ranges from 50 to 300 calories. And, a pound of greens costs as much as $6. This is one big reason I suggest gathering your wild greens from your lawn or garden. Free dandelions are a great deal. Remember, while the “cost per calorie” of vegetables is exorbitant (as illustrated below), the cost per nutrition of greens is just as good as seeds, and often it is actually better.
The following chart is based on the hypothetical situation of “living off of” a single food for a whole day – eating 2,000 calories of that one food. So if you ate nothing but carrots, it’d cost $10.81 a day to get 2,000 calories each day.
The purpose of this chart is to show you prices in a way you’ve probably never seen them before. I never saw them this way until I made the chart myself! This chart is not suggesting actually binging on 2,000 calories of a single food. That’s a really bad idea for your health, so please don’t try that!
Seeds tend to be least expensive, and vegetables tend to be most expensive, when measuring per calorie. Fruits mostly gravitate toward the middle of this chart, averaging $13 to $30 for 2,000 calories.
It is revealing to see that goji berries at $15 a pound are less expensive per calorie than apples, watermelon, olives and frozen blueberries.
Even more revealing is that bell peppers cost $118.29 for 2,000 calories. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t eat bell peppers; rather, that bell peppers are not a good source of calories. They are, however, an incredible source of nutrition. Half a bell pepper provides a full day supply of vitamin C. If you have a garden, it is quite worth while to grow your own.
Note: All prices on this chart are for organic produce.
Food Name Cost Per Pound Cost Per 2,000 Calories Notes
Regular Rolled Oats $1.49 $1.69 Cheapest food around! However, for raw foodies: These are not technically raw.
Flax Seeds $4.00 $3.31 Buy whole. Store frozen. Grind in a coffee grinder or Vitamix.
Lentils $2.69 $3.36 Home-sprouted lentils are one of the best deals on microgreens.
Bananas $0.73 $3.62 You can freeze peeled, ripe bananas for smoothies.
Sunflower Seeds $6.00 $4.54 This “buttery” seed is a low-cost alternative to almonds.
Coconut Oil $9.10 $4.66 Mostly saturated fat with a high smoke point, making this a healthy choice for cooking.
Ginger Oat Cookies $1.16 $4.90 This travel-friendly, healthy recipe costs $1.16 per serving. Recipe below this chart.
Brown Rice $4.29 $5.12 Roughly 2½ cups per pound.
Potato $1.15 $6.69 Technically, as a root, potatoes are the cheapest veggie.
Flax Oil $16.00 $8.00 Flax oil, while often considered “expensive” is still less expensive that most fruits and vegetables. This healthy salad topping is a great source of omega-3.
Almonds $13.00 $9.98 Always choose organic, and look for “bee-friendly” almond operations, as large-scale almond growing has been linked to bee-population decline.
Carrots $1.00 $10.81 The primary reason to put carrots in your vegetable juice: they’re cheap, yet pack the nutrition of a vegetable!
Frozen Corn $2.60 $13.07 Contains roughly 3⅓ cups per pound. Choose organic to avoid GMO corn.
Hemp Seeds $15.83 $13.29 Lika chia and flaxseed, hemp seeds are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Tofu $2.65 $12.59 Choose organic to avoid GMO soy.
Sweet Potato $2.50 $12.85 Look for sweet potatoes that are purple on the inside for higher antioxidant value and more flavor.
Carob $6.47 $12.88 Seek raw carob for the sweetest, freshest flavor. Roasted carob is comparatively quite bitter.
Medjool Dates $9.00 $14.35 Quick treat: put 1 cacao bean and 1 almond in a date and sprinkle with raw carob powder. Or, use coconut shreds, pecans and cinnamon powder. You can even use a sliver of fresh ginger and two almonds per date.
Cacao Powder $13.97 $14.39 Raw cacao powder is now available at most health food stores. Or purchase online.
Mission Figs, dried $8.78 $15.58 In my meal plan, Collecting Calcium, I show that figs are one of few fruits higher in calcium than phosphorous, which is essential for building healthy bones. These are a great alternative to raisins and dates if you want a sweet snack that won’t drain your bones.
Maca $11.97 $16.26 Maca powder is made from a dried root, making maca powder a vegetable.
Mango $5.00 $16.26 Wegmans often sells a three-pack of organic mangoes for $5.
Pomegranate $2.00 $18.18 These fruits are highly rich in antioxidants, amino acids and enzymes. If you can’t eat a whole one at once, you can freeze the rest for later.
Goji Berries $14.97 $18.27 Also known as “wolf berries.”
Nutmeg $25.00 $21.03 This powdered seed is delicious in stir-fries, pies, smoothies and nut-milks.
Apples $3.00 $25.53 Notice that organic apples cost more than organic goji berries these days!
Olives $10.60 $32.32 These are easy to add to your diet for diversity. Just mince one olive over a salad, or put one in your home-made salad dressing, or mince it over sprouted bread.
Cauliflower $4.00 $38.10 Minced up the stalk and freeze. Then fry up the stalk with onions next time you want to make a stir-fry or onion-based soup.
Broccoli $3.00 $38.96 There are roughly 6.6 cups of broccoli per head.
Collards $3.00 $41.67 These leafy greens keep well in the fridge and work well blanched or raw as a wrap for brown rice, steamed veggies, or rich salads with nutty dressings.
Ginger Root, raw $8.00 $44.20 Try a little ginger in your smoothie or juice for an extra immune-system boost.
Kelp Powder $5.09 $52.47 Add to soups and smoothies for added nutrition.
Frozen Blueberries $6.40 $55.41 Thaw on the counter or in the fridge and then use to garnish muesli, ginger cookies and salads.
Lemon $4.00 $66.67 Essential for keeping leftovers fresh, especially avocados and apples.
Romaine Lettuce $2.60 $67.53 Keeps well in your refrigerator and goes with virtually everything. Use in place of bread.
Onion $7.96 $90.45 Keep minced onion on-hand in a sealed glass container in your fridge or freezer.
Spring Mix $5.00 $105.26 These baby greens wilt fast, so be sure to make a big salad the same day that you get them.
Bell Pepper $8.28 $118.29 For a better pepper deal, grow your own in pots, auqaponics system or hydroponics system.

Note: This chart is an excerpt. The chart in the book is longer, and contains additional items such as tahini, home-made kombucha, olive oil, and the recipes from the book itself, just like you see Ginger Oat Cookies in this excerpt of the chart. The chart in the book also shows the calories per pound.

How can you use this information to reduce your grocery costs?

Here are four ways you can use this article to start reducing your grocery costs this very week:
1. Play around with the ingredients that are least expensive, and get to know them. Below you’ll find one example of a delicious, easy-to-make, travel-friendly, inexpensive recipe.
2. Be careful to never waste the more expensive items.
I can’t tell you how many moldy bell peppers I’ve seen in kitchens in my life. Have a plan for when you’re going to eat your fruits and vegetables, and how you’re going to prepare them.
If needed, set aside a shelf in your fridge for food that “needs eating,” or put up a wipe board to list items that should be consumed within two days.
3. Fully utilize all parts of your vegetables. Remember, vegetables are not only the most expensive per calorie, they’re also the most nutritious.
To make full use of them, find ways to use cauliflower stems, broccoli stems, chard stems, wilting greens and so forth.
Often these items are great stir-fried with coconut oil, garlic, onion, raisins and curry powder. You can also juice stems and wilted greens with green apple, lemon and carrot.
4. Start sprouting. Seeds are the cheapest food source on the market, and when you sprout them you increase their digestibility dramatically – nutrients that were “bound up” become available. Add sprouts to smoothies, salads, sandwiches, and wraps. You can even garnish soups and stir-fries with fresh sprouts.

Ginger Oat Cookies

Appliances Used: Food Processor
Preparation Time: 11 minutes
Servings: 5
Excellent for travel.
Can be stored at room temperature.
This is one of the most cost-effective, travel-friendly, delicious and easy-to-make recipes I ever came up with. It is also one of my most-loved recipes for its flavor.
  • 4 cups rolled oats ($1.18)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh ginger root, peeled or washed (50¢)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh turmeric root, peeled or washed (optional) (45¢)
  • 2 cups raisins (or any dried fruit you like) ($2.90)
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional powder of choice (such as spirulina or probiotics) (optional) (62¢)
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt (1¢)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional) (6¢)
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice (optional) (5¢)
  • ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg (optional) (3¢)
1. Blend rolled oats into a fine powder. Then add ginger and turmeric and blend thoroughly.
2. Add all other ingredients and blend until entirely combined.
3. Shape into balls or cookie shapes if desired.
4. Use wax paper to separate cookies, or roll in oat powder or sunflower seeds. Or, just mash the entire mixture as one lump into a glasslock container.
5. This recipe will last at least a year in your freezer, months in your refrigerator, and five to ten days at room temperature. If dehydrated (at 105ºF overnight), these will last months at room temperature.
Substitutions to bring cost even lower: Reduce raisins to 1½ cups and ginger to 1 tablespoon (and leave the rest of the recipe the same). It will be less potently flavored and less sweet, but the recipe will still work. (This will reduce the cost of the recipe by $1.74.)

Nutrition Per Serving

5 Servings Total; Serving size is about 1¼ cup.
Calories: 432 Calcium: 44 mg, 4% A: 10 IU, 0%
Fat: 4.5 g Potassium: 547 mg, 12% C: 1.7 mg, 2%
Protein: 13 g Iron: 4.1 mg, 23% E: 0.3 mg, 2%
Carbs: 93 g Selenium: 0.7 µg, 1% Zinc: 0.3 mg, 4%
Water: 12 g Magnesium: 30 mg, 9% Cost per serving: $1.16
Fiber: 10 g Cost for total recipe: $5.80
Note: The above cost assumes oats are $1.49/lb, raisins are $4/lb, ginger is $8/lb, turmeric is $9/lb, spirulina is $20/lb, sea salt is $1.30/lb, cinnamon is $6.49/lb, allspice is $22/lb and nutmeg is $25/lb.
If you enjoyed this article, you’ll love Living Big & Traveling Far on $8,000 a Year. Containing hundreds of useful facts and tidbits, you’ll discover new ways to look at your expenses and income. Click here to learn more.
~ Raederle Phoenix
Author, Speaker, Wild Food Pioneer
[1] It is possible to lower your calorie intake dramatically if you go on a water fast for a period of time. However, without drastic lifestyle changes and spending-habit changes, your grocery budget and calorie intake will stay fairly constant.
[2]USDA: Calories Per Capita: Calories per capita indicates the amount of food consumed per person. The average daily per capita calorie consumption for the U.S. in 2010 was 2,534, according to a report from the University of Michigan.
Average Adult Consumption: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for the years 2005-2006 concluded that the average American adult male, age 20 years and older, consumes 2,638 calories daily; the average adult female: 1,785 calories.
[3]The $6 to $12 a day average does not include buying a $3 cup of coffee in the morning, supplements, or probiotics. When these amounts are factored in, many individuals spend as much as $22 per day on things that they eat, drink or swallow. The $6 to $12 a day average comes from the Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels, U.S. Average, July 2014.

Teaching Classes Is Easier Than You Might Think; Here’s Why…

One of our subscribers sent us this question:

“How can I judge when and if I am experienced enough to teach a class or lecture to others?”

It reminded me of this advice from motivational speaker Brian Tracy…

“People will largely accept you at your own estimation. It is yourself you have to convince.

So this post is for everyone who’s not sure they’re ready or qualified. Let’s start with the facts. You don’t need any of these to get started:

•    A business plan
•    A license
•    A certification
•    Nutrition expertise
•    Every kind of kitchen appliance and gadget under the sun

Of course those things help, but they’re completely optional. Unless you promise more, students only expect one thing: the knowledge to make healthy recipes that taste great.

That’s it! So all you need is passion for food and teaching, a large kitchen, and belief in yourself.

Unless you live in a big city – where healthy eating is the norm – you might not have any competition.

That was true for Lisa Books Williams. Her town offered cooking classes at its community center, but no vegan cooking classes. Although Lisa was overweight (267 lbs), she was passionate about vegan and raw food. So Lisa offered to teach.

The town gave it a shot. Next thing you know, she was the go-to person for vegan and raw food classes in her county. And her weight didn’t stop students from taking her classes. Here’s how Lisa explains it:

“I never claimed to be a nutrition expert…  just a joyful chef. I could’ve let my weight keep me from my ministry, but I have a message to spread.”

Why do I tell you this story?
•    You don’t need to be in perfect shape to teach
•    You don’t need to be in perfect health
•    You don’t need special knowledge about nutrition
•    Your resume won’t be scrutinized

It’s very possible that you won’t have a single competitor. You might just be the ONLY person teaching raw food classes in your area.

I Was Nobody Special When I Started Out – Just Confident In Myself

The first time I taught a class in 2004, six people wrote me a check for $45 each. That was $270 for a two hour class!

After subtracting the cost of food – about $60 – my net income was $210. And here’s the thing:

Like Lisa, I wasn’t an author. I had no certifications. I was just an experienced vegan who knew more about making healthy meals than most people.

Nobody asked to see my resume. Nobody grilled me for my qualifications. I declared myself a natural foods educator and people took me at my word.

But teaching classes is just the beginning. Once you get the ball rolling, some students will want you to coach them privately. (More about that shortly.)

And once people can find you online, you’ll have followers all over the world. They’ll buy your books and videos. They’ll pay to participate in your tele-seminars and watch your classes over their computers (via “webcast” technology).

Obviously, I took a different route, creating an online course. But look at the chefs I made friends with in 1998 – like Nomi Shannon and Elaina Love.

Back then, they were just getting established. (A lot like you are now.) Today, Nomi is best-selling author of The Raw Gourmet, which has sold over 150,000 copies!

And people from all over the world fly to Arizona to train with Elaina. Others buy books, videos, and super foods from her website.

With the marketing knowhow we’re going to teach you (me, Nomi, Elaina, Lisa, and five other top chefs), there’s no reason YOU can’t follow in their footsteps.

Healthy Eating Is A Rapidly Growing Trend

The fact is, there’s an enormous trend towards healthy eating and whole foods. Bill Clinton and George Sorrell are now vegans. And motivation guru Tony Robbins is primarily raw!

Whole Foods Markets are cropping up everywhere. Even most mainstream grocery stores now have organic produce and “Natural Food” sections!

People everywhere want to live healthier lives. But when it comes to learning a new and unfamiliar cuisine, it’s hard to learn from books alone.

People want to SEE how you chop the vegetables, when you flip the spatula or stir the grains. That’s where you come in.

You can be the person who shows them the ropes, answers their questions, and helps them turn over a new leaf.

Do you find these tips valuable?

If so, I’ve just scratched the surface here. In our programs Raw Food Riches and Cooking Class Riches, we go much deeper. To check out either of these programs, click the appropriate link below:

Raw Food Riches

Cooking Class Riches

How Vegans & Vegetarians Prevent & Heal Tooth Decay

Vitamins K2, D, and A — They Depend on Each Other

By Val Archer
An excerpt from Lesson 47 of The Vegetarian Mastery Program
This article is a prelude to the upcoming ebook Building Strong Bones and Teeth with Raw Food – for Vegans & Vegetarians by Val Archer. Register today at to receive a free copy of the book.
Vitamins A, D, and K2 are on the same team. A and D tell your cells to make a variety of proteins — especially those involved with calcium — and K2 gets those proteins to work, and not lie around idle.
Vitamins A (retinol) and D (cholecalciferol) don’t directly instruct your DNA. They’re vitamins, not hormones. Your body changes them into various metabolites, including retinoic acid and calcitriol. It’s these two that bind to cell receptors and tell your genes what to do.[1]
Take, for example, the protein osteocalcin. It fixes calcium and phosphorus into your bones and teeth. Your bone-building cells (osteoblasts) will make osteocalcin only when both vitamins A and D are present.
Your bones sport a matrix of vitamin-K2 dependent proteins, not just osteocalcin.
All Known-To-Date Health Benefits of Vitamin K2
Canadian naturopath Dr. Kate Rhéaume-Bleue is the author of the tell-all book on K2, “Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little-Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life.”
In her book, she prints this chart of, “what we know about vitamin K2 to date.” (June 2013):[1]
Her chart is published (with permission) on and
To explore the K2 connection to any specific disease listed in her chart, you need to read Dr. Kate’s book.
K2 research is so young! Expect the list of ways vitamin K2 is known to impact your body in leaps and bounds. With one class of vitamin K-dependent proteins — transmembrane Gla (TMG) proteins — no one knows what they do![2]
Why does sperm possess a K2-dependent protein? Why does the nucleus of every cell have a receptor for K2? Why is there so much K2 in your mitochondria, the little power plants in your every cell that produce energy for you? We don’t know.
Let’s look at just two wonders of K2 (see cites to original studies in Dr. Kate’s book).

Vitamin K2 Gives You Healthy Dental Arches

Have you noticed how many children need braces these days? In one documentary of a raw vegan family, I was struck by how all the children’s teeth stuck out abnormally. Their dental arches were too cramped to hold a full set of adult teeth.
How often do you see a set of “pearly whites” in a teenager — straight, healthy, adult teeth in a normal dental arch?
It’s become so common to wear braces and extract our wisdom teeth. Nobody questions why our jaws are not wide enough to fit all our teeth.
Where does it begin? In pregnancy. The mother was vitamin K2-deficient.
You recall MGP is the K2-dependent protein that keeps calcium out of your soft tissues, like arteries? MGP also maintains growing cartilage in a normal, non-calcified state.
You know that most bones start out as flexible cartilage. As a child grows from fetus to baby to adult, the cartilage is slowly replaced by bone.
The bones of your dental arch depend on how your nose grows in the womb! In the fetus, the piece of cartilage that separates the two nasal cavities and forms your nostrils, is rich in MGP.
When the MGP is inactive — because there’s no K2 in mom’s diet to activate it – you get premature calcification of this nasal cartilage. This early hardening of the nose and jaw stunts the growth of the face.
This stunted development of the lower third of the face results in narrow dental arches that can’t accommodate a full set of adult teeth.
You don’t see the problem in children. They have only twenty baby teeth. Only when the cuspids (eyeteeth or canine teeth) erupt at age twelve or thirteen, do they come out of place.
When there’s no room for the eyeteeth to erupt normally, they will protrude behind — or in front of — the other teeth. In some cases, they will get pulled out.
Dental arch deformity increases with birth order. I’m the youngest of three children and I have, by far, the worst crowded teeth.

Vitamin K2 Protects You From Senile Dementia

Vitamin K2 is essential for your nervous system. Your brain contains high concentrations of K2. Deficiency results in brain-fog and learning difficulties.
Interestingly, only in your brain, K2 protects you from free radicals. Hence its role in preventing multiple sclerosis (lesions in the myelin sheath) and Alzheimer’s. K2 actually helps synthesize the myelin sheath. As for Alzheimer’s, both heart disease and bone loss come along with it.
Vitamin K2 is not an antioxidant anywhere else in your body. That’s the job of the fourth fat-soluble vitamin — vitamin E — to sit inside your cell membranes and protect them from free radicals.
But in your brain, K2 actually prevents free radicals from developing! It doesn’t donate electrons, as vitamin E does. Somehow, in lab studies, it prevents brain cell death by blocking free radical formation.
K2 also helps brain cells to keep their glutathione, the major free radical scavenger in your brain. Once again there’s a connection here with vitamin D. Its metabolite, calcitriol, increases glutathione levels in the brain.
K2 protects your brain cells by an unknown mechanism that is independent of its known action of gamma-carboxylation. This means Vitamin K2 shields brain cells from free radicals even when you’re taking warfarin (a blood thinner).
Good news for victims of a stroke or recurring mini-strokes (TIA’s)! You can take K2 if your doctor agrees. Patients on anticoagulants like warfarin are normally advised not to take K1 (the coagulant vitamin).
Dr. Kate points out that research on vitamin K2 and brain health is in its infancy. Many of these early studies don’t differentiate between K1 and K2, or stupidly they look only at K1. Yet most (70-93%) of the vitamin K in your brain is K2.[2]
Meanwhile, writes Dr. Kate, “I wouldn’t rely on the questionable conversion of K1 to K2 to meet our brain’s need for menaquinone. … Feed your brain with K2-rich grass-fed foods, fermented dairy products, natto or supplements.”[1]
I would add to that, for vegans — and fermented plant foods such as kimchi, so long as you use a starter culture of bacteria that’s guaranteed to produce K2. Learn more about fermented plant foods in the full Lesson 47 on dental health in The Vegetarian Mastery Program.

First Anecdotal Study Questions The Research

I’m living proof that a woman over 60 (I was born in 1948) who’s been vegetarian for 40 years, can get enough vitamin K2 to actually reverse both porous bones (osteopenia) and a lifetime of cavities, by eating large quantities of living greens.
By “living greens” I mean that it is “still growing” the moment you eat it. That is, you’ve just picked moments before from your garden, sprouter or window-sill pot.
At age 23, I decided never to touch fish, animal, bird or eggs again (except egg in cake & cookies). For the next twenty years, I lived on junk food and alcohol, and chain-smoked to boot.
Then in my early 40′s, I hit perimenopause with huge mineral deficiencies. I lost five teeth in five years from 1988 to 1993, either to extraction or root canal.
In 1992 I began to grow micro-greens and sprouts in my Brooklyn apartment. A year later, I read Dr. Ann’s Energy Soup* recipe in her book “Rebuild Your Health.” I blended the greens and sprouts I was growing. My teeth healed. After a lifetime of cavities and surgical interventions (fillings, root canals, extractions) it all stopped within a year!
*At the end of this post you’ll find a healthy “bone building” soup recipe you can try. Feel free to add your own home-grown microgreens for maximum results.
Since then, I’ve had only one cavity, in 2000. At the time I was still eating donuts, pizza, and chocolate, along with my Energy Soup. By 2007 the junk food had fallen away – (I’m so happy to report.)
It shows the power of blended greens! Even when you eat junk, so long as you eat blended or juiced greens every day, the leafy greens will vanquish the junk.
My bones fared just as beautifully as my teeth. I went through menopause in 1995-1996 (age 47-48). In the first five years afterward – a 5-year period when women absorb very little calcium into their bones – I broke three bones in three years from 1998-2000.
My wrist (which is several bones, not just one) fractured so badly that I had to go into surgery. The doctor pointed out my porous bones to me on the x-ray. I clearly had osteopenia (mild bone loss). I spent two months in a cast from my hand to my shoulder, my arm locked in a rigid right angle.
Twelve years later in 2013, at age 65, I went for a bone density test. I’m in every single high-risk category for osteoporosis – skinny white female over sixty years old who’s never had a child and who drank and smoked heavily until her 40′s!
Yet my bones passed top of the class for bone mineral density with absolutely no sign of osteopenia (which is the average for age 65) or osteoporosis (severe bone loss).
You really can reverse weak teeth and bones, with living greens. I’m living proof. I’ve never done weight-bearing exercise. I know I should! I take a daily walk. I also take a green powder supplement several days a week, such as freeze-dried alfalfa grass or barley grass, blue-green algae, spirulina, and chlorella… I vary it.
I ate Dr. Ann’s fermented foods for only five years from 1992 to 1997. But since 1993 I’ve had blended greens about five days a week (or sometimes green juice). I blend my greens into Energy Soup or Green Smoothies.
Energy Soup is better for bones and teeth because it has seaweed for trace minerals, and bean sprouts for extra protein and minerals like phosphorus.[3]
Do leafy greens work for me? I say yes. I’ve eaten cheese all my life. It never saved my teeth and bones. I don’t eat much cheese these days – 2-3 thin slices – and I’ll go days without it, sometimes months.
Yet the very first year I began to add Ann Wigmore’s living greens and fermented foods to my junk food diet, my teeth healed. Within a decade, on greens alone, my bones healed. Actually, I could feel I had strong bones years earlier. But 2013 is when I went for the test.
It’s interesting that my other dairy addictions, like yogurt, ice cream, and chocolate, all fell away over the years. Only cheese and cream, two possible sources of K2, stayed with me. I personally believe that if you want a food, it must have some nutrient your body wants – excluding junk food, that’s addiction!
In my heart, I’m not happy eating cheese. I don’t enjoy pushing a calf away so I can suckle on her mom. Mother cow certainly does not want me suckling on her!
I’ve seen all the cruelty it entails. Even with organic free range cows, where do the male calves go? As Joan Baez sang, “On a wagon bound for market, there’s a calf with a mournful eye.”
I’ve started to take a K2 supplement four days a week, about 600 mcg/week total. I hope this will trigger my body’s innate intelligence to let go of the cheese.
My experience with leafy greens, where I built strong bones and teeth after the age of 45, proves to me that the studies that say we humans can’t absorb more than 200 mcg a day of vitamin K1 – giving us a paltry 20 mcg a day of K2, which is far less than we need – did not use blended and juiced living greens, picked minutes before you eat them.
There’s obviously synergistic co-factors in eating lots of living greens. These secret phytochemicals help with absorption of K1, and with converting K1 to K2. No one’s researched it yet. But I and Dr. Cursio (in the 1930′s) know it to be true. The great apes and bison are on our side! They feed their bones and teeth living greens.
If you buy your greens from the store, so they’re not growing in the moment you eat them, and if you eat salads, then I can’t say it will work. The leafy greens must be alive, and they must be eaten in huge quantity that only juicing and blending give you.
Plus, your juicer and blender break down the chloroplast membranes where K1 is locked in. They release it for absorption.
Large amounts and live! That’s the secret of my slogan: Clean & Feed with Green to Heal.

Second Anecdotal Study Questions The Research

It’s fascinating. As soon as blenders hit the US domestic market in the 1930′s, a natural hygiene (raw vegan) medical doctor, Dr. Christopher Gian-Cursio, discovered that vegans need blended leafy greens for their teeth and bones.[4]
Dr. Cursio worked in upstate New York with the vegan Penepent family over several generations. He discovered in the children that, by giving them blended leafy greens, he reversed teeth and skeletal problems.
In a 1976 interview with Dr. Stanley Bass, Dr. Cursio reports:[4]
“Then I made my shift into more green stuff, blended salads early. I saw the difference. The children were better. Instead of pigeon-chested or chicken-chested, they were fine-chested. … I don’t think there’s a dental carie in the whole group.”
“We have here problems that came up in the children when I followed the strict fruit program with nuts, and minimal amounts, compared to what I use now, of green stuff.”
“These children, the skeletal development wasn’t right, the dental arches were not well-formed, teeth came in crowded because of it.”
“It was only after adding green stuff that I started to see in the pregnancies that followed, and also in the children that were grown, that came from these pregnancies, the difference.”
Pigeon-chested means they had skeletal deformity, so long as they were vegan without blended greens. When they ate blended leafy greens, their bones healed and grew normally.
The 2002 McKeown study says it’s impossible. They claim you absorb a maximum of 200 mcg a day of K1 from food, at which point blood levels plateau. So even if you eat blended salads, you don’t absorb more than 200 mcg of K1 from them. Therefore you can’t get enough K1 to convert to K2.[5]
Dr. Masterjohn uses this study to conclude: “we cannot support our skeletal system with vitamin K1 regardless of how efficiently we may be able to convert it to vitamin K2.”[2]
I disagree. I say, swamp your body with K1 and all its cofactors that accompany it in a living green leaf. Carboxylase will use it in the absence of K2. Who knows, perhaps your body doesn’t even waste energy on converting K1 to K2? Since K1 is just as good as K2 at switching carboxylase on.
Your body is intelligent. If a metabolic pathway doesn’t work, it’ll find another way to do the same thing. All biochemists know this. If you don’t eat enough unsaturated fat to fill all the positions in your cell membranes, your body will use saturated fat instead.
In 2003 Braam et al. gave K1 supplements of 1 mg/day (1,000 mcg) to women aged 50 to 60. It “retarded postmenopausal bone loss by 35-40% during the entire three-year study period.”[6]
At 10% absorption, and a 10:1 conversion rate of K1 to K2, their 1 mg of K1 gives only 10 mcg of K2/day. Not enough to activate osteocalcin. Yet it’s obvious the osteocalcin was being activated!
Granted it was a supplement, and the other research refers to food. I still say it’s proof that K1 goes a lot further than the scientists say it can.
Dr. Cursio’s multi-generational vegan patients, and myself, prove that leafy greens (K1) build strong bones and teeth. We are living proof that the body converts K1 into enough K2 (or uses K1 itself) to whip osteocalcin into action – so that it deposits calcium into bones and teeth.
When researchers claim you can’t do it, I reply: “next time study living greens.”
Animals prove to us you can do it. Most animals are thriving on a high leafy-green diet – unless you’re a polar bear, arctic fox, or tropical big cat.
I bet those lions chew on grass just like my cat Tommy!
Our nearest relatives, the chimpanzees and bonobos, are omnivorous frugivores. They prefer fruit above all other food.

Teeth: An Overview

By Trevor Justice
An excerpt from Lesson 47 of The Vegetarian Mastery Program
There are two factors that can make your teeth vulnerable. The first is eating foods or beverages that coat your teeth with acid or sugar. The second is being deficient in key nutrients.
The Impact of Acid on Your Tooth Enamel
Your tooth enamel is made of an inorganic matrix predominately filled with calcium salts.
The citric acid from acid fruits (such as oranges, grapefruits and pineapples) can dissolve these calcium salts. So can fruit juices. So can the carbonic acid from soda pop. (But surely you’re not still drinking soda pop, right?)
If not removed by brushing and flossing, these acids can decalcify your teeth, leaving a soft organic matrix that’s more vulnerable to eroding, crumbling, or being invaded by bacteria. But don’t brush your teeth immediately because the enamel may still be soft. Wait 30 minutes before brushing.
Incidentally, when you eat lots of sugary foods and don’t brush and floss consistently, you promote the growth of bacteria. That, in turn, produces acid and decalcifies your teeth.
That said, the problem isn’t eating fruit. Rather, it’s leaving acidic residue – or sticky bits of fruit – stuck to your teeth for hours without brushing or flossing.
The book, Becoming Raw, describes a study on 130 people. The subjects were more than 95% raw. Compared to the control group, whose age and sex matched the study subjects, the subjects had significantly more dental erosions (loss of tooth structure caused mainly by acid from foods such as fruit).[7] The subjects on this diet ate almost five servings of citrus fruit a day. And total fruit intake was significantly higher than in the control group.
But if you’re into raw foods, take heart. This is less of a concern with “living foods” vegan diets, which include more grains and sprouts, and minimize fruit consumption.

Dried Fruit Sticks To Your Teeth

At a raw food conference, Jameth Sheridan (founder of HealthForce) explained why eating dried fruit can give you more cavities.[8]
The vitamins and minerals in dried fruit feed plaque and bacteria just like they feed humans. So when dried fruit sticks to your teeth, it creates a breeding ground for plaque and bacteria that’s even more fertile than candy. (Of course, candy has no vitamins or minerals).
The best way to integrate dried fruit into your diet is to rehydrate it first (by soaking it in water). Once rehydrated, it’s not so sticky.
Rehydrating is a common practice in raw food recipes and smoothies. For example, when I buy dried apricots, figs, or goji berries, I soak them in a jar of water overnight, then blend them into my morning smoothie.
Bottom line: If you eat lots of acid fruit or dried fruit, we recommend flossing and brushing your teeth 30 minutes after eating. (But not right away, since your tooth enamel may still be soft.)
If that’s not possible, eating celery afterwards can help remove food debris from your teeth. At the least, swish water in your mouth after eating fruit.

Plant Sources of Vitamin D

In lesson 11 of The Vegetarian Mastery Program you’ll learn how mushrooms and algae make ergosterol, a molecule that becomes ergocalciferol (also known as vitamin D2) when irradiated by the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
When you swallow and absorb this molecule, your liver and kidney add OH groups, turning it into activated vitamin D2.
Recently, the food industry came up with a way to convert more of the ergosterol in mushrooms into ergocalciferol (vitamin D2). They expose mushrooms to UV light. Dole calls these “Mega Vitamin D mushrooms”. They’re also referred to as light-zapped mushrooms.
Vitamin D2 is also found in supplements and many fortified non-dairy milks.
The multi-vitamin we recommend is Dr. Fuhrman’s Gentle Care Formula. It supplies the required daily allowance of Vitamin D, B12, K2, all of which are extremely rare in plant foods. You can order it here:

The Energy Soup Recipe

This is the easiest, healthiest, quickest meal on earth!
To check out Val Archer’s Energy Soup recipe, click here:

Luz Zelaya’s Mineral Rich Raw Soup

This recipe is specifically designed to help you build strong bones and healthy teeth. Enjoy!

1 cucumber
2-3 lemons or limes peeled whole
2-4 cloves of garlic
1/3 of a medium size red onion
pinch of cayenne
Celtic gray sea salt to taste
1 Tblspn olive oil
1 Tblspn raw apple cider vinegar
1 avocado
1 handful of pumpkin seeds
3 cups water

Wash, and chop/peel ingredients as needed. Put garlic, onions, seeds and fluids in and blend these thoroughly first. Then add the rest and blend until smooth.


  1. [1] Rhéaume-Bleue, Kate, B.Sc., ND (2013). Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little-Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life. HarperCollins Canada. Kindle Edition. ISBN 978-1443427562.

  2. [2] Masterjohn, Chris, PhD, “On the Trail of the Elusive X-Factor: A Sixty-Two-Year-Old Mystery Finally Solved,” article in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, Spring 2007. One of the most brilliant science papers of our century (in my view). Dr. Masterjohn shows how vitamin K1 in rapidly growing, green grass is the precursor to Activator X (discovered by Dr. Weston Price in the 1930′s) while Activator X itself is vitamin K2. This paper triggered Dr. Kate to write the first book on K2, summarizing all K2 research to date.

  3. [3] Archer, Val, “Raw Food Recipes“. This gives you links to all recipes mentioned in this article, and to Ann Wigmore’s Chart for Raw & Living Foods, and Avoid Altogether Foods.

  4. [4] Bass, Dr. Stanley S., (1976).”Vegan Diet Dangers,”. Dr. Bass’s 1976 interview of natural hygiene doctor Dr. Christopher Gian-Cursio re. Dr. Cursio’s multi-generational work with the vegetarian Penepent family in upstate New York in the 1930′s (extracted from the booklet “With Three Generations of Vegetarian Hygienists”). This is the only multi-generational study of vegans I’ve found to date. I emailed numerous vegan leaders, families & organizations asking if they know of any other.

  5. [5] McKeown NM, Jacques PF, et al. Dietary and non-dietary determinants of vitamin K biochemical measures in men and women. J Nutr. 2002; 132(6):1329-1334.

  6. [6] Braam LA, Knapen MH, Geusens P, et al. Vitamin K1 supplementation retards bone loss in postmenopausal women between 50 and 60 years of age. Calcif Tissue Int. 2003 Jul; 73(1):21-6.

  7. [7] Davis, Brenda, RD and Melina, Vesanto, MS, RD. (2010) Becoming Raw. (pp. 41) The Book Publishing Co.

  8. [8] Sheridan, Jameth (2005) Jameth Sheridan’s lecture on dental health. Lecture conducted at the Living Light Expo, 2005.

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