Frequently Asked Questions

These are a few of the most common questions people have when considering moving toward a plant-based diet.

Oil & why it's not as healthy as you think it is

Lets talk about oil, the biggest culprit in our industrialized food chain, since some folks still believe that sautéing in olive oil is a healthful way to cook.

Sometimes I think this widespread misunderstanding is actually fueled by lazy journalism, which seems to be the biggest source of misinformation about food for the average American.

Did you know that two tablespoons of olive oil has more than three times the saturated fat of a 4-ounce chicken breast?

Olive oil is a mono-unsaturated fat, and the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is so far off in one tablespoon, it actually negates any potential benefit. To boot, that one tablespoon also contains 120 calories and 14% saturated fat. To get any benefit of oil, you’d have to drink an entire glass full and that, my friends, is plain ridiculous.

Yes, the human body does need healthful fatty acids for brain development, mental stability, and cell regeneration, but the fatty acids must come from naturally occurring sources such as nuts, seeds, or avocados, not refined oils.

Vegetable oils, including sunflower, safflower, and yes, olive oil, are typically refined under heat and pressure. This process of partial hydrogenation is what changes the molecular structure of the oil, damages the omega-3 fats, and produces eruct acid and trans-fats during this refining process.

Sometimes we refer to these as the free radicals, and they’re absolutely devastating to our health. There have been countless epidemiological studies over the last 20 years suggesting that coronary heart disease can be prevented, arrested, and even reversed by maintaining total serum cholesterol levels below 150mg/dL.

Translation? When we hear the term processed foods, we automatically think of spam, hot dogs, or the cheese sold in individually wrapped cellophane paper. People don’t often think of oil as a processed food, but it is.

So what’s the solution?

Eat food that sustains you. Pure and simple. For a viable alternative, try sautéing your vegetables in Braggs, vegetable broth, or water instead. Your heart will thank you. Save the tablespoon of olive oil for your cold salad, and make sure it’s no more than a tablespoon of good quality, first-pressed/cold-pressed oil that is fresh. I absolutely CRINGE when I see people cooking and baking with a recipe that calls for a cup of oil! Cringe is a nice word, freak the hell out is more like it. And no, coconut oil is not any better.

There is much more robust scientific information on this topic. The most in depth answer to the questions about oil is provided in Chapter 10 of Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, where he talks about saturated fat damaging the endothelial lining of the arteries. Other credible sources that discuss this topic include The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, Dr. McDougall, Colin Campbell, and even Jeff Novick in this short video clip (below).

There is nothing more precious than human life. People who have never lost a loved one to disease do not comprehend that as readily as people who have.

It is the simple adage, hindsight is 20/20. I wish this information would have somehow been shared with me long ago.

I wrote this article for MindBodyGreen.com in January of 2013, and it got a lot of attention, questions, and critiques about this topic, so I thought I would take the opportunity to provide more robust information. The most in depth answer to this question is provided in Chapter 10 of this book by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn: http://www.heartattackproof.com… where he talks about saturated fat damaging the endothelial lining of the arteries. There is so much evidence out there, discussed by a variety of credible sources such as The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, Dr. McDougall, Colin Campbell, and even Jeff Novick in this short video clip (below).

If you don't drink milk or eat yogurt and cheese, where do you get your calcium?

This is a great question that comes up often when people are thinking about moving toward a plant-based diet. In fact, I do eat yogurt, but it’s made with almond milk instead of dairy milk. It looks, tastes, and feels just like eating dairy yogurt. In addition, there are so many vegetables, legumes, and even nuts and seeds that provide just the amount of calcium that our bodies need. For example, Almonds have 6.7 mg of calcium in each 1 oz serving. Vitamins and minerals in different types of nuts vary, even though the fat, protein, fiber, and overall calorie content of nuts can seem similar. Isn’t it interesting that one serving of nuts has over 20 different vitamins, minerals, and essential fats! You can read more about nuts and view a printable chart by clicking here.

Isn't organic milk better than regular milk?

While it’s true that organic milk doesn’t contain any added hormones or antibiotics since organic cow’s are pasture fed, it is important to understand that all milk that comes from cows still contains the animal protein called ‘casein’ which has been proven to be one of the most highly toxic chemical carcinogens of our time. Casein is the fuel that causes cancer cells to multiply rapidly. The better choice is a non-dairy alternative, such as Almond Milk, Rice Milk, or Coconut Milk for anyone over the age of 2. Babies from birth to age 2 should drink mother’s breast milk.

Why can't I just take a vitamin supplement rather than eat a vegetable that I don't like?

It’s a concept called scientific reductionism, or said more simply, the way a scientist identifies one or more nutrients and literally “reduces” them into a vitamin or pill form. Did you know that one serving of spinach provides more than 50 different vitamins and minerals? You won’t find that in any one vitamin! It’s also important to understand that so many complex functions happen in the human body during digestion, that reducing merely one, two, or even 10 specific nutrients to a pill form (a vitamin) could never replace eating that serving of one vegetable or fruit. Just look at the chart below and you can see exactly what vitamins and minerals are contained in just one serving of spinach!

If adopting a plant-based diet, how do I get enough protein?

One of the most common questions actually stems from the most common misconception among both athletes and regular folks alike. It is generally assumed that the more protein athletes get, the more muscle mass they’ll have, and the better their athletic performance will be. In reality, it’s not the protein that actually builds the muscle, it’s the amount of work and resistance that the muscle does to build itself up. While it is true the muscle fiber is made up of some protein chains, as a society, we over-eat protein to the extent that our other bodily systems have to work twice as hard to sort out the good protein from the bad protein, and then eliminate the excess protein from the body. In other words, it has been scientifically proven (through the study of protein in the urine) that human beings consume far too much protein; our kidneys and gall bladder actually have to work overtime to keep the protein level in our body in balance; it is these organs that help eliminate the excess protein in our body. This is especially true because animal protein (ie: meat – both poultry and red, eggs, cheese, milk) contain too much for our bodies to handle. So just think about this for a moment; elite athletes (and regular people too) should focus more on their recovery after a hard workout if they are looking to build muscle. Why? By eating vegetables that contain the appropriate amount of protein (yes there is protein in vegetables!) vitamins and minerals, as well as fruits with antioxidents, we actually cleanse the body of the toxins naturally (from the fruit) and rebuild the muscles with plant protein (which is more than adequate). By consuming the appropriate amount of protein from plants, our bodies recover much faster after a strenuous workout; we are then able to move on to another strenuous workout sooner, and it is the harder workout that allows the muscles to build. THIS IS THE KEY. The recovery time after a very strenuous workout is minimized by consuming the appropriate plant proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Every elite athlete knows how important it is to have the energy to sustain a hard workout, and then how long it takes the body to recover before another difficult workout can be done. The sooner you recover, the sooner you can do another hard workout. Remember…it’s the resistance from the hard workout that builds the muscle, not the protein! Also, by eliminating the extra work the other bodily systems have to do (since they no longer have to rid our bodies of the excess protein from animal products) we feel less fatigue. Less fatigue means moving on to that strenuous workout even sooner. Still need more epidemiological‎ evidence? Here are a few scientific sources:

Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets.
Craig WJ, Mangels AR; American Dietetic Association.
J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Jul;109(7):1266-82.
PMID: 19562864

Young VR, Pellett PL. Plant proteins in relation to human protein and amino acid nutrition. Am J Clin Nutr. 1994;59(suppl):1203S–1212S. MEDLINE

Rand WM, Pellett PL, Young VR. Meta-analysis of nitrogen balance studies for estimating protein requirements in healthy adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77:109–127. MEDLINE

Young VR, Fajardo L, Murray E, Rand WM, Scrimshaw NS. Protein requirements of man: Comparative nitrogen balance response within the submaintenance-to-maintenance range of intakes of wheat and beef proteins. J Nutr. 1975;105:534–542. MEDLINE

FAO/WHO/UNU Expert Consultation on Protein and Amino Acid Requirements in Human Nutrition. Protein and Amino Acid Requirements in Human Nutrition: Report of a Joint FAO/WHO/UNU Expert Consultation. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2002;WHO Technical Report Series No. 935.

Messina V, Mangels R, Messina M. The Dietitian’s Guide to Vegetarian Diets: Issues and Applications. 2nd ed.. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers; 2004;.

Tipton KD, Witard OC. Protein requirements and recommendations for athletes: Relevance of ivory tower arguments for practical recommendations. Clin Sports Med. 2007;26:17–36. Full Text | Full-Text PDF (218 KB) | CrossRef

From the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition.

Plant Proteins in relation to human protein and amino acid nutrition. Vernon R Young & Peter L Pellet. Amer J Clin Nutr 1994;59(s):1230s-1212s

What about foods that indicate Natural Flavor on the package?

The answer to this question is actually quite simple: Never, ever, believe what you read on the front of a package. There are very few regulations in place in the United States about what industrial food companies can write on their package! They have some really creative marketing departments too. Take a product that has packaging that is strawberry flavored for example. It might say ‘Natural and Artificial Flavors’ however, be aware…unless it is a strawberry from the produce section, there are no real strawberries…actually, no real food for that matter. For example, a strawberry pop-tart has 12 sugars, 35 chemicals beyond the 40 that are included in the strawberry flavoring, 3 trans fats, and 18 other ingredients (meaning, processed white flower and far too much salt). It has 160 different ingredients, none of which are a whole food. So for a child’s developing digestive system, would you want them eating all these chemicals in just this one ‘foodlike’ item? Here is the list of what is included in “artificial strawberry flavoring”

amyl acetate,
amyl butyrate,
amyl valerate,
anisyl formate,
benzyl acetate,
benzyl isobutyrate,
butyric acid,
cinnamyl isobutyrate,
cinnamyl valerate,
cognac essential oil,
dipropyl ketone,
ethyl acetate,
ethyl amyl ketone,
ethyl butyrate,
ethyl cinnamate,
ethyl heptanoate,
ethyl heptylate,
ethyl lactate,
ethyl methylphenylglycidate,
ethyl nitrate,
ethyl propionate,
ethyl valerate,
hydroxyphenyl-2-butanone (10 percent solution in alcohol),
isobutyl anthranilate,
isobutyl butyrate,
lemon essential oil,
methyl anthranilate,
methyl benzoate,
methyl cinnamate,
methyl heptine carbonate,
methyl naphthyl ketone,
methyl salicylate,
mint essential oil,
neroli essential oil,
neryl isobutyrate,
orris butter,
phenethyl alcohol,
rum ether,
vanillin, and


If I buy organic produce, do I still have to wash it with soap?

This video clip illustrates the proper way to wash your produce

Local Press

This is the trailer for an audio interview with Brad Weisman of How You Show Up. Click on the image to see a 30-second trailer, or click here to listen to the full audio interview.