It’s terribly tragic when someone suffers major deterioration over something that is easily prevented, such as Vitamin B12 deficiency. I’m sure there are tens of thousands of people in this country being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, or other form of dementia, when what they are really suffering with is a severe Vitamin B12 deficiency.
Well, magnesium deficiency falls into that category too because magnesium is cheap, safe, and widely available, yet, the lack of it is doing a lot of harm.
Magnesium is extremely versatile. On the one hand, it is the second-most abundant mineral in bone, after calcium, and it puts the finishing touches on making your bones hard, strong and dense. The same goes for your teeth. But, besides its structural role in bones, magnesium is involved in a vast array of biochemical reactions. It serves as a “co-factor” in these reactions, and the includes hormonal activation for thyroid, parathyroid, and more.
It includes the proper activation of insulin, such that magnesium deficiency leads to diabetes. You know that there is an epidemic of diabetes among the elderly. To what extent is it due to magnesium deficiency? It’s significant, for sure.
Magnesium is involved in maintaining normal blood pressure. It has a relaxing effect on smooth muscle, and that helps to keep your blood pressure low. It can even be used therapeutically. If a person has high blood pressure, and they load up on magnesium, they can drop their systolic pressure 5 to 10 points. That’s what I’ve found.
Magnesium has a relaxing effect overall, such that taking it at night may help with sleep.
Magnesium has been shown to fight heart disease, and since it’s also known to fight diabetes, that’s 2 out of the 3 major killers.
So, where do you get magnesium? You get it from unrefined plant foods, particularly green vegetables, but also legumes, nuts, and whole grains. Magnesium is at the center of the chlorophyll molecule, so when you see the green color of spinach and other leafy greens, you are looking at the magnesium. Of course, magnesium is white, but chlorophyll is like a prism that absorbs the red and blue spectra of light, so that all you see is the green.
There is little magnesium in animal foods. Of course, milk has some, since babies need it, but I hope you know that you shouldn’t be drinking milk. Cow’s milk is for calves, goat milk is for “kids” (goat kids, not human kids) etc. There is some magnesium in the white of an egg, but you’d have to eat a heck of a lot of them to amount to anything, and who wants to stuff oneself on egg whites? What fun is that?
So really, plant foods are where it’s at for magnesium. And, it is possible to get all you need from food alone if you really hone in on the kale and other greens. And I do eat those foods and often. However, I do take a magnesium supplement, in addition, because it’s cheap and safe, and I would rather err on the side of more than less. With magnesium, the only thing that can happen if you take too much is that you might get some loose stools. It’s the whole mechanism behind “Milk of Magnesia” for constipation. I take Klaire Lab’s MAG COMPLETE because it has several highly absorbable forms of magnesium, and it avoids the magnesium oxide that other companies use, which is poorly absorbed. Each capsule provides 120 mgs magnesium, and I typically take 2 a day in divided doses.
You might find it interesting that I don’t take any supplemental calcium at all, and I have my reasons, which I’ll explain next time.
It is probably true that brazil nuts are the most widely eaten wild food in the world. Yes, commercial brazil nuts grow wild in the Amazon without human intervention. The brazil nut tree is the tallest tree in the Amazon rain forest. The nuts grow in pods that are so heavy, that if one falls from the tree and hits you in the head, it could kill you.
Brazil nuts have very high nutrient content, including protein, healthy fats, and vitamins and minerals. And what they are most noted for is their very high selenium content- the highest of any food in the world. In fact, their selenium content is so high, there is concern about selenium toxicity from them. However, I have yet to come across a clinical report of anyone suffering from “selenosis” from eating too many brazil nuts. And that’s surprising because surely you would think that someone might have loved the taste of brazil nuts so much that he hate a half a pound a day for months or years and got sick. But, I have not come across such a thing.
And brazil nuts have been tested as a selenium “supplement” and in some cases, feeding a person just one single brazil nut a day has resulted in a significant rise in their blood selenium level.
So, if one brazil nut could do that, how come there are no reports of disaster from eating too many of them? I am going to speculate about it. Besides being the highest food in selenium, brazil nuts may also be the highest food in phytic acid, which is a form of phosphoric acid which binds minerals. Generally, phytic acid is considered a bad thing since it binds minerals and makes them unavailable. But naturally, if this happens in relation to preventing selenium overload, then it’s a good thing.
But, foods are complex, and it’s possible that the body has a mechanism to limit selenium absorption in the context of a whole food like brazil nuts. We know that absorption is not just a passive process like diffusion, but rather, an active one in which carriers are involved, and it may be that the body has a way to let the excess of selenium in brazil nuts pass through the system. But, as I said, I am just speculating. But, there does seem to be a general consensus that one should not eat more than 3 brazil nuts a day, and I think that is sound advice.
So, should you make a point of eating 1 to 3 brazil nuts a day? I think it depends on several factors, including whether you like brazil nuts. I like them a lot, but I’ll qualify that by saying that I like them when they are fresh. One way you can tell is by biting one in half and looking at the color of the flesh inside. The whiter it is, the better. And if it’s brown, spit it out because that one is rancid.
Many people today take selenium supplements or they get selenium in their multivitamin supplement. And there are other foods that are high in selenium, such as fish and seafood. So, not everyone needs the high selenium fix that comes from eating brazil nuts.
It wasn’t always the case, but brazil nuts have become relatively expensive. They used to be cheaper than cultivated nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, but these days, brazil nuts are more expensive than those two. However, there are more expensive nuts than brazils, such as macadamias and pecans.
But, in any case, brazil nuts are a nutritional powerhouse, and I find it strangely empowering the thought of eating a wild food. So, I will continue eating brazil nuts while respecting the recommended limits. But, keep in mind that I am a nut aficionado. I am simply nuts about nuts.
Excessive bulges of fat on the side of the waist are not normal or healthy, but it is normal and healthy to have some fat there. If you look at Michaelangelo’s David, who is supposed to be the ideal specimen, the perfect man, he has got them. And they actually serve a purpose. It’s a way to store calories- in case of a famine or crisis. It insulates the anterior iliac spine of the pelvic bone to some extent, which is a pretty sharp bone. And the fat pad sweeps around to your back some to helps protect your kidneys from trauma.
That fat is different, and even a thin man is likely to have fat there. Women have it too, but it’s less noticeable because women have more subcutaneous fat everywhere- so it blends in better. But on a man, he can be ruggedly lean and sinewy, yet still have that stubborn love handle, and it stands out more if he is otherwise very lean.
If you want to try to reduce it, fine, but don’t get carried away. Don’t set your sights too high. It’s very unlikely that you are going to be able to get rid of it completely, and it might require emaciation like a Holocaust victim to do it.
I have been supervising therapeutic fasting for most of my adult life, and I can tell you that even after several weeks of complete fasting, it’s still there to some extent. You would think that not eating for several weeks would get rid of it, but it doesn’t. It lessens it, but it doesn’t get rid of it completely.
Does doing specific abdominal exercises get rid of it, such as sit-ups and side-bends? It might help a little but not much. I don’t have any enthusiasm for doing that. I think it would be better to develop good habits of body mechanics and usage so that you don’t slump down habitually. You need to maintain good length in your abdomen- when you are sitting, standing, and moving, such as walking. That lessens the appearance of love handles. Allowing yourself to collapse, even when you’re resting, is bad. And it may directly inhibit metabolism in that area and increase fat deposition.
I wish I had the means of posting an image here because I would be glad to show you the condition that I am in in that respect. Do I have love handles? I do a little, but no more than Michaelangelo’s David. And I actually have a pretty decent “six-pack” without doing any abdominal exercises at all, and I don’t. I don’t do sit-ups or anything like that. I don’t think my abdominal fat is excessive, and I think the condition of my abdomen is fine- for a 68 year old man (which I am) or a man of any age.
So, if you have the idea that it would be more aesthetic to have no fat at all on the sides of your abdomen, maybe you can get rid of it, but it will probably take extreme measures, and Dr. Cinque does not recommend it. If you get it down to where I and Michaelangelo’s David are with it, that is fine. That is plenty good enough, and it is neither necessary nor practical to try to make it less than that.
The new carnivores- all they eat are meat, fish, and eggs. Not a speck of plant food. Some even refrain from using spices since they are plant-derived. So, their only seasoning is salt. And they make a big deal about salt- what kind and where to buy it, probably because they use so much of it. The eggs they have to eat because it’s the only animal source of carotenoids. These, of course, are plant pigments that are vital to health. The most crucial ones are the yellow lutein and zeaxanthin which protect the retina of the eye from ultraviolet light. They get it into egg yolks because of the greens eaten by the chicken.
Why, in the year 2019, after all the research showing so many numerous health benefits from fruits and vegetables, would people do this, avoid all plant produce? They have a litany of reasons. Some are philosophical- the idea that Man is a carnivore by Nature and Evolution or perhaps God. But, are they unaware that there are plenty of carnivores who also eat plants? I have some living in my backyard. (raccoons) So, even if you think Man is a carnivore, why not also eat some plants? Why do they think that Man is an exclusive carnivore when the closest relative to humans are the bonobos and chimpanzees who eat a lot of plants?
Well, they have their reasons. They’re concerned about the phytic acid and oxalic acid in plants interfering with mineral absorption. But, where is the evidence that people are suffering from this, that it’s causing disease and death? The evidence shows that people who eat unrefined plants live longer. Staying alive is the idea, isn’t it? They also make a big deal out of the digestive inhibitors in plants and the outright toxins. It’s true, for instance, that there are enough hemagluttens in red kidney beans that if you ate them raw, they could kill you. But properly cooked, there is no evidence of any harm from them. Whenever I go to the salad bar, I always take a scoop of red kidney beans, and I’m here to tell the tale.
So, what these people are doing is citing real things but blowing them way out of proportion.
But, another motivating factor for them is fear of carbohydrate. There is a female medical doctor who has a Youtube video entitled “Fruit is Evil.” And in front of the camera, she pokes her finger and does a blood sugar test. And her level was 99.
Now, think about it. She had a level of 99 mg per decaliter of glucose in her blood, but, where did it come from since she is not eating any carbohydrate? The answer is that her body is making it. Her body converts certain amino acids and the glycerol portion of fatty acids into glucose, and it made all that sugar for her. Why is it doing that if sugar is so terrible?
So, if you force your body to break down protein to make sugar, it can, but it leaves nitrogen behind as a waste product, which has to be eliminated by the kidneys, making more work for them. So, why not just eat some carbohydrate and spare your body and your kidneys that work? Makes sense to me.
Another issue for these people is the idea that there are a lot of plant allergens. It’s true of course that there are people who are allergic to wheat, allergic to peanuts, etc. and it can be very serious, even deadly. So, they figure that if they just avoid plant foods completely, that it wipes out any chance of having an allergic reaction. But, the fact is that allergies to animal foods are just as common and maybe more common. Egg allergies, milk allergies, and fish and seafood allergies are very common.
I have a 4-volume series of books called Women, Food, and Sex in History by Soledad De Montalvo, who was a Swiss chef. The oldest known civilization, she claims, was the Sumerians, going back to 5000 BC. And they were great agriculturists, producing a plethora of fruits and vegetables. They also raised a lot of meat, and a wider variety of meats than Americans eat today- and by a longshot. But, the point is that if eating fruits and vegetables was harmful; if the phytic acid and the oxalic acid and the fiber and the digestive inhibitors and lectins were going to do them in, it would have done them in by now.
I’m not opposed to referring the argument back to Nature, as one doctor put it. So, let’s start at the beginning of human life. What’s the first food newborns get? Mother’s milk. What’s in it? A heck of a lot of sugar. Human milk is the sweetest milk of them all. Leastways, it’s sweeter than that of any other mammal you can name. It also has quite a lot of fat, about as much as cow’s milk. But, what it has much less of than any other milk is protein. It has only 1% protein by weight. Yet, babies, on an exclusive diet of breast milk, can double their birth weight in 6 months. And obviously, they are not just putting on fat. They are building muscle, bones, organs, etc. So, they are getting enough protein even during that period of exceptionally rapid growth. So, if babies can grow and develop on a single food with merely 1% protein by weight, why should human adults (who are not growing at all) need large amounts of protein?
The fact is that most of the food you eat, that is, the calories you consume, are for fuel, for generating energy and heat. The burning of protein makes no sense at all, and it’s because you can’t burn the nitrogenous part of it. Really, you should just eat enough protein for anabolic, enzymatic, hormonal, and immunological purposes and not use it as log on the fire. And some of these carnivore people realize that excess protein is bad, and so they encourage more fat consumption. For instance, they want you buttering your steak, and they make ample use of lard. But, in addition to everything else, the whole diet sounds gross. How do you not get tired of that diet?
But, I look at it as a form of extreme extremism. People get an idea in their head to do something; they find ways to rationalize it; and it becomes like a religion to them. And even though they may become adept at spouting scientific lingo to justify it, that’s really just a smokescreen; it’s really more of a religion.
Me, I am going to continue eating plants. What do I do about oxalic acid? Well, I don’t make a whole salad out of beet greens or spinach, but I do eat those foods. And otherwise I don’t worry about it, and I haven’t been harmed, and I have been a vegetarian for 50 years. What do I do about phytic acid? Well, I don’t eat wheat at every meal. I don’t avoid wheat completely, but I tread lightly on it. The food highest in phytic acid is the brazil nut, and they are also extremely high in selenium. I have searched to see if there are any clinical cases reported of selenium poisoning from over-eating on brazil nuts, but I haven’t found any. But still, I wouldn’t eat more than 3 or 4 in a day. But, that’s about s much attention as I give to phytic acid. Digestive problems from beans? They don’t bother me. I eat them almost every day. Tree nuts? I eat them every single day, and if I don’t eat them on a given day, it’s probably because I fasted that day. Is the phytic acid hurting me? I don’t think so. I’ve only lost about ¼ inch in height at age 68, and that is outstanding. My dentist says I’m doing great with my teeth. And I really do think my bones must be strong because muscularly, I am as strong as I was 20 years ago. I haven’t lost any strength. And muscles and bones fare together. Osteopenia goes along with sarcopenia, the age-related loss of muscle.
So, I think these carnivorous people are “nuts” and what I’m really curious to test is their stamina. I bet they don’t have a lot of it. I wouldn't be surprised if I could show up a carnivore half my age. Seriously.
There is a Jeff Nelson who is very active in the vegan community. He is not a doctor, but he is closely associated with some of the leading vegan doctors. He recently did some videos to disparage nuts and nut studies and doctors who recommend nuts. I must say that he is amazingly sure of himself.
The gist of his argument is that since nut studies are generally funded by the nut industry, they aren’t reliable, and they aren’t even scientific, that it’s just marketing. And, the irony is that I get the impression that he has been involved in marketing his whole life.
Certainly, it is wise to be cautious in situations like this, whether it’s pharmaceutical companies funding research on drugs, or the nut industry funding research on nuts. However, it’s a mistake to take the skepticism too far.
If nut companies don’t fund the research on nuts, who is going to do it? Research is expensive. And even if you think the government should do it, remember that government is all about “politics.” So, that would provide no guarantee of objectivity either. And since all studies need to be scrutinized carefully regardless of who funded them, (can you think of any exceptions?) the fact that the California Walnut Commission funded a study on the health effects of walnuts, troubles me a lot less than it does Jeff Nelson.
Then, he makes another argument that has some truth in it, but also some spin. He tries to claim that the alleged health benefits reported from eating nuts are due to other things, such as: a healthier diet, in general, which nut-eaters are more likely to eat. Plus, there is the idea that if nuts are added to the diet in place of other foods- bad foods- that the health benefits may come from not eating the bad foods or eating less of them. And yes, that’s true, but it applies to everything. Take, for instance, the foods that Jeff champions, which are starches: starchy vegetables, grains, and legumes. You could make the same argument, that studies that claim to show benefits from those foods are really due to the generally healthier lifestyle or to the avoidance of bad foods that those foods replaced. It would work the same way. But, when has Jeff Nelson ever disputed the studies claiming that whole grains and legumes have health benefits?
Now, I will be forthcoming and tell you that I am VERY much in favor of nuts, and I eat them EVERY day. And I have been doing that since I was 18 years old, and I am now 68, so 50 years. Whatever days I didn’t eat nuts over that half century were probably days that I fasted because I really do mean it that I eat nuts every day.
And the result from that half century of nut eating is that I weigh the same now as I did when I was 18: 135 pounds.
I also want to say that, in general, I think the published research on nuts is impressive. And I am referring to the totality of it. I am not going to start getting into individual studies because there are so many of them. In fact, there are so many of them, it’s hard for me to believe that they are all funded by the nut industry. I just did a search for “nuts and health” on PubMed, and it brought up 2,177 studies. And I’m sure that if I used other search terms, such as “nuts and heart disease” that it would bring up additional studies, and so on. And many of these studies do say that they “adjust for covariates.”
Another thing that Jeff Nelson brought up was the demon of saturated fat, and the fact that nuts do have some. They have much less proportionately than human breast milk, which is the exclusive diet of an infant for many months, or, in some cases, a whole year or longer. So, why is there so much saturated fat in breast milk? Because babies need it- and so does every person who is alive. While it is true that the body can make its own saturated fat, that does not automatically mean that dietary saturated fat is bad.
Then, Jeff made a ridiculous comparison between nuts and vegetables, claiming that the latter are far more nutritious because equal caloric portions favor the vegetables, for instance, when you compare walnuts to broccoli. But, you have to be practical about it because broccoli is so low in calories that you’d have to eat a ton of it to match the calories in a small handful of walnuts. So, a more fair comparison would be to compare a typical serving of broccoli to a typical serving of walnuts.
And keep in mind that I am not against broccoli. I’m all for it. I know it is one of the best vegetables out there. What I am against is biased and highly prejudicial thinking from a zealot who thinks he knows more than he does.
I am very much in favor of nuts, but only if they are eaten raw and unsalted. The exception is chestnuts which have to be roasted since they are highly starchy. Also, peanuts, which are a legume, need to be roasted because they are a legume and contains lectins, hemagluttins, trypsin inhibitors, etc., as all legumes do when raw. But, tree nuts do not require cooking and are only hurt by it. And when you eat nuts raw, salting doesn’t even apply. I have never heard of anyone salting a raw nut. Have you?
Another issue that applies to nuts in a big way is the freshness of them. Because they are high in oil, they can become rancid. Almonds hold up quite well, probably because of the tough skin which “hermetically” seals them. But pecans, for instance, go rancid easily, and here in Texas where I live, it’s common for people to store their pecans in the freezer.
But, If you do those things: eat them raw, unsalted, and make sure they aren’t rancid, nuts are very good foods. And when eating a plant-based diet, including nuts in it makes it far more satisfying and sustainable. So, would I include nuts even if the person was known to have heart disease? Yes, I would.