Friday, June 17, 2011

Micronutrient Comparison: High fat vs. High carb; Plus: Ancient Greek Diet and Diseases

A reader emailed me asking, in his words:

"I would love to hear what your current diet includes, how you get enough vitamins/minerals on a relatively low protein/fat diet and if you have any good resources on what a traditional western diet would include."

So I thought I would do a little post on this topic.

My Current Diet

My current diet includes, ranked from highest to lowest volume:

1.  Starches:   brown rice, oatmeal, sorghum, whole corn tortillas, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, yucca root, kabocha squash, occasional white rice

2. Vegetables:  various greens, onions, carrots, radishes, celery, tomatoes, etc.

3.  Fruits:  Apples, oranges, berries, grapes, etc.

4.  Animal products:  mostly fish and shellfish (almost daily) > eggs > poultry ( a few times in the past month) > red meat (once in the past two weeks); total of 3-6 ounces daily (one egg substituting for one ounce)

5. Some soy products:  tofu and soy milk (total of a few times a week)

6. Very small amounts of olive oil and flax oil (1-3 tsp. daily)

Where Are Those Vitamins and Minerals?

Now, on to the question, how can anyone get adequate vitamins and minerals on a low protein/low fat diet?

Let's take a look at two menus I created, each about 2400 kcal, for a moderately physically active male of about 150-160 pounds, one low in animal products and fat, the other high in animal products and fat.

Here's the one low in animal products and fat, about 64/14/21 carb/pro/fat percent energy, with the micronutrient analysis; take note of the quantities of rice, potatoes, and sweet potatoes; this is the way I eat:

The menu has 100 g protein, more than enough to sustain muscular growth for anyone weighing up to 100 kg.  It exceeds all of FitDay's standard requirements for micronutrients except calcium where it reaches 86% of the 1000 mg standard.  In fact this also exceeds the requirements of most people; research has shown that the actual average requirement for calcium is only about 740 mg per day [1, 2 full text], so this menu exceeds the requirement.

Just a brief note on quantity:  In my experience, when people try low-fat diets, they don't consume anywhere near enough food to satisfy energy requirements.  They feel hungry, and they erroneously conclude that eating carbs makes them hungry, when in reality, they are hungry because they aren't eating enough quality starch.  Asians eat an average of 1/2 to 1 pound of rice (precooked weight) daily [full text], plus other grains, potatoes and other starches, with people eating lesser amounts of animal products eating the higher amount of rice.

To create the high fat menu, I took the above menu and removed all the starchy foods (brown rice, oatmeal, and potatoes), leaving in one sweet potato (the starch with the highest nutrient density), getting the carbs down to 100 g, then added bison and increased the meat and fish portions so that the total menu would supply protein equivalent to the above low-fat menu.  I kept the same non-starchy, high nutrient density vegetables and fruits as in the low-fat menu so as to minimize difference.  Then I added approximately equal portions of olive oil and butter to get the kcalorie count up to 2400, same as the other menu.  The macronutrient ratio came to 15/16/68 carb/pro/fat % energy (about the opposite carb/fat ratio to the low-fat menu).  Here's the menu and micronutrient analysis:

This menu has 200 mg less calcium than the low-fat menu, failing to meet even the new standard of ~740 mg, and fails to supply the RDA for magnesium, potassium, zinc, thiamin, and pantothenic acid.  The following table compares the two menus relative to the RDA for the listed micronutrients.  Red numbers indicate values that fall below the RDA:

Low-Meat, Low-Fat
High-Meat, High-Fat %RDA
Highest Level
LM or HM
Vitamin A
Vitamin B6
Vitamin B12
Vitamin C
Vitamin D
Vitamin E
Pantothenic Acid

1.  Despite retaining the high-nutrient density vegetables and fruits, the high-meat, high-fat, low-carb menu fails to provide the RDA for six of nineteen nutrients (32%).  This occurred while including 100 g nutrient-dense sources of carbohydrate daily.  If I cut the carbs further, the menu would get even weaker in micronutrients. Could this explain why Atkins Nutraceuticals exists?

2.  The low-meat, low-fat menu supplies the higher amount for 13 of 19 nutrients, the high-meat, high-fat menu supplies the higher amount for only 4 of 19 nutrients, and the two menus have approximately equal amounts for two nutrients.

So, I get my nutrients by eating nutrient-dense plant foods.  Even though I included some of the most nutrient-dense of plant foods in the high-fat menu, it didn't match the nutrient-density of the low-fat menu.  So I can turn the question around now and ask, how does one get adequate vitamins and minerals eating a low-carbohydrate, high-meat, high-fat diet?

Traditional Western Foods

Try reading about ancient Greek diet:

"Cereals formed the staple diet......The cereals were often served accompanied by what was generically referred to as ὄψον opson, "relish".[26] The word initially meant anything prepared on the fire, and, by extension, anything which accompanied bread.[27] In the classical period it came to refer to fruit and vegetables: cabbage, onions, lentils, sweet peas, chickpeas, broad beans, garden peas, grass peas, etc.[28] They were eaten as a soup, boiled or mashed (ἔτνος etnos), seasoned with olive oil, vinegar, herbs or γάρον gáron, a fish sauce similar to Vietnamese nước mắm. According to Aristophanes,[29] mashed beans were a favourite dish of Heracles, always represented as a glutton in comedies. Poor families ate oak acorns (βάλανοι balanoi).[30] Raw or preserved olives were a common appetizer.[31]

Among the ancient Greeks, the wealthy ate substantial animal products but the peasants did not. Before you follow their example, you might want to know something.  This dietary division of the classes gave ancient Greek philosophers and physicians the opportunity to observe a distinct division of health between the classes. In describing the mode of life of the citizens of The Republic, Socrates says:

"They will feed on barley-meal and flour of wheat, baking and kneading them, making noble cakes and loaves; these they will serve up on a mat of reeds or on clean leaves, themselves reclining the while upon beds strewn with yew or myrtle. And they and their children will feast, drinking of the wine which they have made, wearing garlands on their heads, and hymning the praises of the gods, in happy converse with one another. And they will take care that their families do not exceed their means; having an eye to poverty or war......of course they must have a relish-salt, and olives, and cheese, and they will boil roots and herbs such as country people prepare; for a dessert we shall give them figs, and peas, and beans; and they will roast myrtle-berries and acorns at the fire, drinking in moderation. And with such a diet they may be expected to live in peace and health to a good old age, and bequeath a similar life to their children after them."[2, 3]

Glaucon protests that this substantially plant-based diet seems fit only for pigs, that the people should have "sauces and sweets in the modern style." Socrates retorts that doing so will create a "State at fever heat" and goes on:

"Now will the city have to fill and swell with a multitude of callings which are not required by any natural want; such as the whole tribe of hunters and actors, of whom one large class have to do with forms and colours; another will be the votaries of music--poets and their attendant train of rhapsodists, players, dancers, contractors; also makers of divers kinds of articles, including women's dresses. And we shall want more servants. Will not tutors be also in request, and nurses wet and dry, tirewomen and barbers, as well as confectioners and cooks; and swineherds, too, who were not needed and therefore had no place in the former edition of our State, but are needed now?  They must not be forgotten: and there will be animals of many other kinds, if people eat them."[3]

To which Glaucon says: "Certainly."

And Socrates says:

"And living in this way we shall have much greater need of physicians than before?"

To which Glaucon says:  "Much greater."  

In other words, Plato or Socrates had already observed, more than 2000 years ago, that the rich people eating their rich diet had affluent diseases and early mortality, and the peasants eating a frugal diet could expect "health to a good old age."  

I referred to this, among other ancient writings, when I wrote "the currently popular concept of paleo diet—animal-based, relatively high in protein and fat and relatively low in carbohydrate—conflicts with empirical nutrition knowledge accumulated over the course of 5 thousand years in both Asian and Western medicine"[4].  The knowledge that humans thrive on low-fat plant-based nutrition and get sick on high-fat animal-based nutrition is not some 20th century aberration in the West; we find it expressed by the very founders of Western civilization. 

I just find it uncanny that modern mainstream Western nutrition research seems to be reaching the same general conclusions about optimal human nutrition as Plato/Socrates, traditional Chinese medicine, and traditional Ayurvedic medicine, despite coming at the question from different angles in different ages and in different populations.

The irony:  Armed with their so-called 'scientific' method, which they haughtily consider superior to any previous method of discovery, a team of modern scientists climbs the mountain of Truth and when they get to the top, they find the best ancient philosophers and physicians from East and West have been sitting there for millennia. 



Anonymous said...

Interesting read Don, but why should it be a high carb or a high fat diet? Why cant it be fat and protein and carbs... ya know... like FOOD?

We all know plant foods are essential. We also know that animal foods are essential. Why not just remove the isolated sources of fat (oils etc) and carbs (grains etc) and protein (chicken breast etc)and eat nutrient dense foods that contain all three macros?

Check out this post on the exact same topic. I posted this yesterday and proved that eating real food (without counting calories or taking supplements) will help meet RDA of all micros very comfortably even though the total calorie consumption is only 1400!

I understand high fat and VLC is unnecessary but I'd also argue that high carb and LF is unnecessary.

John said...

I know a lot of folks who don’t eat eggs (they’re allergic, for health reasons, or concerns about animal cruelty). Here’s an awesome site that gives tips on cooking and baking without eggs:

Melissa said...

I'd like to see it without the soymilk. Soymilk is a fortified food. When I am paleo low-fat oysterovegan I have A LOT of trouble getting RDA of calcium without a fortified food. I have to eat more nuts or more greens.

Melissa said...

BTW the Spartan diet blog has been saying this stuff for ages:

I can design a moderate-fat paleo diet that fits all the RDAS without crap like soymilk. It's all in what you select.

Theo said...


Since when are you anti animal protein as well as fat? I have read all of your posts on fat but as far as I can tell I haven't seen you present any mechanistic explanations as to why meat would be bad for you. Please explain.

Melissa said...

For anyone who is doing paleo low-fat with minimal animal products, here is my diet when I'm fasting, no fortified foods at all

each meal follows a formula:
- a starch
- a protein from shrimp/oysters/mussels/etc.
- a bowl of berries
- some greens with a fat from macadamia nuts/tahini/almonds

and coconut water after workouts. The reason the vitamins aren't 100% is because there is no dietary D, which you can get from the sun.

Primal E said...


Your high fat diet contains over 1400 calories in the form of butter and olive oil. They're nutritionally empty. How is that in any way realistic?

The only meat source you add is 6oz of bison, which is very lean. Why does the protein content of the two diets have to be equal? A primal diet is high fat, high protein diet.If you replaced that ridiculous amount of olive oil with some fatty ground beef the result would be much different.

As to your Greek quotes, Glaucon is asking for "sauces and sweets." As in sugar, not meat.


Spencer King said...

Intresting to see you are including grains again, I assumed you would stick to "paleo/primal" sources of CHO. Do you do any WAPF style soaking/fermenting? Do you have any reasons to include them again other to break up the monotony of eating only tubers? Do you think the dangers of grains has been over exaggerated by the paleo community?

Don said...


What I posted isn't food?


The soymilk in this menu was not fortified, it supplied only 93 mg of calcium. Soy naturally contains calcium as do many other plant foods, but the main source in this menu was kale.

Why exactly is soy milk "crap'?

And again, it wasn't fortified. You don't know what you don't know.


When eating this way I don't need meat to get protein or any other nutrient. Eating starches provides most of my protein, at a lower cost and a better overall micronutrient profile than meat. So, its simply unnecessary in this context to eat more than a few ounces of meat daily.

Primal E,

100 g isn't high enough protein for you? Fine. But eating fatty ground beef isn't going to raise the protein: fat ratio. Whether fat is in the food or outside of it, it doesn't carry significant fat-soluble nutrients and can't carry water-soluble nutrients like B-complex or minerals. Sauces aren't necessarily sweet. It is clear from the context that Glaucon was asking that the diet have more meat as well as sweets, and Socrates rejected that, he clearly prescribed a diet in which dairy was the only prominent animal product.


Yes I soak brown rice and oatmeal or other whole grains, always did in previous times.

Yes, grains have greater amounts of some micronutrients than tubers, and I like them, and I think their supposed 'dangers' are far overstated. Cordain wrote "Cereal grains, humanity's double-edged sword" which some people may take as an indictment of all grains, but almost all the data he refers to pertains only to wheat and other gluten-rich grains. Same with the book "Dangerous Grains," mistitled because it gives the impression that all grains are bad.

Again, if cereal grains are all so bad, why do grain-based (and soy milk using) Asian populations have such good health and longevity compared to Americans, and how was Socrates able to conclude that the peasants eating grain-based diets were healthier than the wealthy people eating less grains and more meats and sweets?

Michael said...


I appreciate your TCM-inspired approach. Low carb has generally failed for me, and I don't do function well with high protein consumption. Two questions - How do you soak your brown rice, e.g. time soaked, any whey added?

Second, are you concerned with phytoestrogens in say, tofu? Do you consume tempeh?


Don said...


I forgot...Can you really live on just 1400 kcal? My 100 lb wife eats more than that.

From your blog:

"The hypothetical client is a female"

You can say whatever you want about "her" because you are creating her out of thin air.

So of course since she's following your recommendations, she doesn't obsess, she's perfectly satisfied with your prescription, she doesn't want anything else, she magically eats only exactly 200 g of sweet potatoes every time, she loses weight, and she "swears that she feels like a million bucks and that her energy level is through the roof."

Amazingly, one of your commenters congratulated you on the success with your "client." Apparently didn't notice that this "client" doesn't even exist.

Anyway, I need 2400+ calories daily. To go from your baseline 1400 kcalories I would have to add another 1000 kcalories. That would have to come from protein, fat, or cabohydrate.

I could double what you had in your menu and get 261 g of protein daily. I've done that and it had adverse effects, besides being unnecessary and very expensive to eat 2 pounds of meat daily.

I have taken your approach of eating a pound and more of meat and fish daily and only eaten the "paleo" foods and limiting added fats--I wrote a whole book about it, including nutrition analyses-- and I didn't get fabulous results.

Bottom line, you can't prove anything about the long-term sustainability and health consequences of a dietary approach by applying them to hypothetical clients that exist only in your imagination. I deal with real people every day, dozens of patients every week, and have experience prescribing your type of diet to those people and from that experience I have concluded that a majority will not feel satisfied with it, will not do it without binging (it will make them crave sweets and coffee), can't afford it over the long term, and after a while on it don't feel like a million bucks. Some don't even lose fat despite assiduously avoiding grains and etc. Theory is one thing, practice another.

Brave Friend said...

Another masterpiece, Don.

Also, thanks to your insights, I have just discovered quinoa. It is not really a grain but rather a seed, extremely versatile, with full amino profile. Love the taste. You should incorporate it.

Don said...


I soak whole grains overnight, no whey added. The purpose is to initiate the sprouting process. Last I checked, grains don't need whey to sprout, just water and darkness. But WAPF worships the milk gods.

Don't use tempeh, I find it hard to digest without more cooking than I want to invest. Some things are better with the outer indigestible layer removed...I think soy is one. People will scream "eat whole foods" but I don't see them eating the rinds of oranges or peels of bananas, analogous to the fibrous part of soy.

Not concerned with the supposed 'evil' effects of phytoestrogens. They are ubiquitous in plants, especially seeds, including nuts. Okinawan men eat soy regularly have higher testosterone levels at advanced ages compared to U.S. men.

Moreover, they have one-seventh the prostate cancer risk of U.S. men, and we have some good reasons to believe that phytoestrogens play a role in this, protecting the prostate. Nothing kills male performance like prostate cancer.

Kalman et al have shown that 12 weeks of soy protein supplementation has no negative effect on testosterone levels.

The phytoestrogens probably play a role in protecting Japanese women from breast and ovarian cancer as well. Japanese women have about 1/10th the rate of the U.S. for these cancers.

There's just a whole boatload of myths floating around about soy, most promoted by WAPF. The more I look at it, the more it looks like xenophobia than science; people just afraid of anything 'foreign.'

Don said...

Brave Friend,

I like quinoa, just don't use it often. I only wrote down what I habitually eat.

Thanks for the kudos.

Michael said...

Don, thanks for the responses. WAPF definitely worships the milk gods. LOL

Jay said...

If the soy milk, fluid on Fitday isn't fortified, how come it has vitamin B12 at 50% RDA?

Melissa said...

So soy milk is ok now? I suggest you sub in miso instead. The negative effects if phytoestrogens and goitrogens in unfermented soy is well documented. the soy milk in fit day IS fortified. Homemade soy milk has no B12

Don said...


B12? Sorry, I thought you were talking about calcium. So there's a little B12 in that soy milk, so what? All B12 comes from bacteria, whether that added to fortified foods or not. Fish and eggs provide most of the B12 in this menu. Please show me the data documenting the negative effects of phytoestrogens and goitrogens in unfermented soy consumed in moderate amounts in a diet sufficient in iodide. Like, are Japanese all walking around with hypothyroid goiters? How about this from the journal Thyroid:

"Thus, collectively the findings provide little evidence that in euthyroid, iodine-replete individuals, soy foods, or isoflavones adversely affect thyroid function. In contrast, some evidence suggests that soy foods, by inhibiting absorption, may increase the dose of thyroid hormone required by hypothyroid patients. However, hypothyroid adults need not avoid soy foods. In addition, there remains a theoretical concern based on in vitro and animal data that in individuals with compromised thyroid function and/or whose iodine intake is marginal soy foods may increase risk of developing clinical hypothyroidism. Therefore, it is important for soy food consumers to make sure their intake of iodine is adequate."

Well, I would say so...shouldn't everyone make sure their iodine intake is adequate?

How about this:

"These results indicate that in this group of healthy iodine-replete subjects, soy isoflavones do not adversely affect thyroid function."

I'll let you do the digging on pubmed.

Shel said...

that amount of starch would leave me with euphoric highs and crushing lows.

...your new paradigm definitely doesn't work for this cat! there's nothing left for me here.

good fortune to you though, Don! i hope you find your answers.

Don said...

Check that soy milk on FitDay, the only nutrient over 100% of RDA is B12. That's the only nutrient it is fortified with. Otherwise it is just soy.

Miso is NOT a good substitute for soy milk in this menu. The soy milk was for protein, and the other non-B12 nutrients it supplies. To get 8 g protein from miso you would have to consume a huge amount of sodium. Miso is a condiment/seasoning, not a food.

If you don't like soy, substitute half a cup of other legumes (cooked measure) to add the same amount of protein and carbohydrate to the diet.

Don said...


I thought you said you feast on yams etc with raw vegetables and raw meat only once daily. I didn't see you mention any free fats, so what provides your calories? In this context if you don't eat much fat, and you don't eat much starch, and you only eat meat once daily, then what do you eat?

I used to have all of my students use FitDay to find out exactly what they ate in calories, protein, and fat. I had them measure their foods eating ad libitum. Most were surprised to find that they ate more of some or all nutrients than they thought.

Anonymous said...

Appreciate the response. The post that I linked to was meant to prove that a fat loss diet can be healthy and satiating. Keep in mind though that no one is ever going to continue eating a fat loss diet forever. This diet will be for someone who needs to get in shape for an event say 2-3 months from now.

Now for someone like you who needs 2800 cals a day, doubling this would be stupid now wouldnt it? And I wont insult you by assuming that you'd do that. My point is that if you can get your bases (macros and micros) covered with 1400 calories (eating per my recommendations), and if you need another 1400 cals to maintain your weight (or strength or whatever), those calories can come from carbs or fat and it wouldnt matter because, assuming you're using it all up for energy, you're not leaving any excess. You definitely don't want to up the protein 'cos protein is excess is definitely harmful than useful. So that 2800 calorie diet is a very nutritious diet, irrespective of whether it is a high carb or high fat or moderate all diet.

FYI - I deal with "real" people day in and day out too. I respect the privacy of my clients too much to write about any of them unless they particularly request me to address an issue that is specific to them. I work with people with health issues, moral challenges (cant eat meat, cant eat eggs, cant eat garlic - due to religion etc etc) that hinder them from tackling their health issues via nutrition and physical challenges (fitness, posture etc.) Well, I guess you wont know what you dont know.

Just so I am clear, I am not taking stabs at you. I appreciate your new path and the fact that you feel the need to educate people about what you've learned yourself. I respect people who challenge conventional wisdom and adore people who challenge what others challenge!

Anonymous said...

And Don... just so you know, I don't recommend a high fat diet or a high carb diet or a high protein diet. My clients eat a bunch of carbs as long as the carbs don't bother them. Same is the case with fat. And dairy. And fruit. They just eat the nutritious and benign foods and stay away from the empty foods and the foods that hurt them.

There is no such thing as an optimal diet that suits everyone is there? Its all about what works for each person. Different strokes for different folks.

Shel said...

hi Don. i don't feast on starchy tubers. i said i have a bit each day.

let me be clear; my diet is mostly non-starchy veggies, fruit and some animal. most of my calories come from non-starchy and fructose carbs.

...starch wreaks havock with my system. don't know why that is, but dem's the cards i've been dealt. eating most of my animals and plants raw is working wonders (finally something works!). fingers are crossed and i hope this works long term.

Amy said...

I've looked at your wife's blog. I see your motivation for doing this diet. She has excellent muscle tone for a woman who went to college in the 80's. If this is the diet she's been following for most of her adult life, I'd say it works.

It's interesting what counts as whole foods and what doesn't. My great-grandmother thought that the down fall of her children was that they got fridges and stopped smoking their meats. And I imagine that my great-great-great grandmothers of the 1850' might have been uncomfortable with fermenting food in a salt water solution. Back then most of the food could only be preserved by drying it out. Dried fruit for vitamin C, anyone?

But, your diet does suck for people like me who have food intolerance issues. It's hard for me to believe that the path to good health would be so restrictive. A fair amount of people have trouble with the oxalates in soy and kale. And then a fair amount of people have trouble digesting beans.

Then you have odd people like me who do better with legumes like garden peas and yellow split peas. But, if I dare ferment them for more than a simple boil and a rinse I have digestive issues. I guess my body is trying to say it doesn't like healthy foods? Even when I went vegan and didn't do any real fermenting on the six serving of legumes, I ate a day. I still had moderately high iron levels.

Thank you for a different perspective.

grok48 said...

as for the Greek passages , i just dont see the meat connection. soy milk from what i see in the store is junk. i have also read that the Asian population did not eat as much soy as we do and it was not processed.

Anonymous said...

i am nutritionally confused....

seems like your wife runs the show in the relationship though. so what is so great now that has changed? muscle tone? body composition? fasting experience?

i am pretty keen on carb cycling and keeping it seasonal personally. so i eat craploads of carbs some days and eggs avocados and bone marrow others.

i am starting to be intrigued by the idea of opposite carb cycling i.e. low fat and high carb usually with occassional days of fat bombs. any thought? theres no doubt eggs/organs/fatty meat is good, maybe just not everyday

john said...


If you like to cycle, why not do high carb on "training" days and high fat on non, a la Martin B? You work out, right?

psychic24 said...

I can't read this blog anymore. Unfortunately i think you are either an idiot or you are just trying to cause some kind of drama. I'm pretty sure we have established grains are bad, soy is bad...etc. Yet for some reason you're trying to bring them back. I don't understand your angle, so i'll just stick with you being an idiot. ENjoy writing about garbage, Don.

Anonymous said...


I agree with you; it is very unfortunate what you think.

My question is why are you so emotionally damaged? May I suggest a few starchy tubers and perhaps some meditation.

Wes said...

The latest nutritional revelation: the micronutrient density of 7 tablespoons of olive oil pales in comparison to 5 cups of oatmeal / brown rice! You should discuss this at the Ancestral Health Symposium! :)

Susan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan said...

Hi Don, this is my first comment on your site. I appreciate that you share your newfound wisdom with your readers, even if ii leaves some of us utterly confused. What to eat...what to eat???
My problem with the paleo diet was just an intuitive feeling that we are not meant to eat bacon, eggs, and meat three times a day all days of the week. I do think think that our ancestorrs had the access to that much meat and even in the last centuries it was simply too expensive...just a thought. Mediterranean countries only eat meat once or twice a week.
Two quick questions:
Where do the fat-soluble vitamins(A,D,K) that WAPF place such importance on fit into your diet?
2. What's your stance on dairy? Raw milk, yogurt, kefir...?
Thanks for the information you provide
Greetings from Austria

Rudolf said...


in your Hunter-gatherer Diet Guide you recommend to:

Avoid or minimize

1. Cereal grains and grain products (bread, pasta, pastries, etc.)
2. Legumes (beans and peas, including soy and peanuts)
3. Grain-like seeds (quinoa, amaranth, teff, etc.)

Are you going to update it? I love broad beans and I am happy to hear legumes are not unhealthy.

nanode said...

Your comments regarding soy in the Japanese diet make no sense. Nowhere in Japan, including Okinawa, have they traditionally drunk soy milk, and the amount of unfermented soy they ingest through tofu and "okara," or the byproduct of tofu, is minimal- and MUCH smaller than Americans drinking soy milk, eating soy burgers, etc. I heard an average of about 8g a day for men.

miro said...

Are you trying to prove high fat is inferior to low fat re. micronutrients? You can create any kind of low/high/medium carb and fat eating plans and meet all micronutrients.
500g regular ground beef, 9 eggs, 2tsp cod liver, 400g spinach, 300g cabbage, 50g gouda cheese - here you go, high protein/fat with all needed micros.
Sorry, but this blog becomes ridiculous :)

Brave Friend said...

It is funny how some are attacking Don. He is just examining facts and looking for truths just as he has always done. If his journey takes him in a new direction, he is not afraid to take it. This is something we should all envy.

I happen to agree with him on this new perspective. I have been doing paleo or lets say TRYING very hard. I could only stay 100% paleo for week at any one time and would gradually deteriorate.

I think some of you here must learn to differentiate. "All grains are bad" etc, all too general. What grains? Grown how? Made how? Eaten how? In what diet?

Sure enough, I get severe skin inflammation if I eat white bread. Yet, I feel wonderful and full of energy if I eat brown rice and my skin clears right up. Shall I condemn all grains?

Diet is a subject of infinite variables, and it takes ages to separate truth from crap. The best studies are those you do with your own body.

Keep up the good work, Don. You have helped many of us.

Greetings from Hungary :)

Brandon Berg said...

There's just a whole boatload of myths floating around about soy, most promoted by WAPF. The more I look at it, the more it looks like xenophobia than science; people just afraid of anything 'foreign.'

That's just silly. The WAPF is flat-out xenophilic. They rail against the "Standard American Diet"; they recommend foods like natto, kimchi, organ meats, and kefir, all of which are far more foreign in the eyes of the typical American than soy milk and tofu, which are practically mainstream; really, "foreign cultures are awesome" is their whole shtick.

Which is not to say that they're right about soy products, necessariy, but if you want to play psychoanalyst, the obvious thing to say is that they hate soy products because PCRM types hype them up as a nutritionally superior alternative to animal products.

MM said...

"In other words, Plato or Socrates had already observed, more than 2000 years ago, that the rich people eating their rich diet had affluent diseases and early mortality, and the peasants eating a frugal diet could expect "health to a good old age." "

This sounds a lot like what T Colin Campbell wrote in "The China Study". However, you fail to mention that there are diseases of poverty too. Campbell mentions them here, which kind of amazes me.

In his book he really downplayed them as if they weren't any big deal. However, I was never more sick than when I was eating a vegan diet. I know you aren't recommending a vegan diet, but you can't say that poor people don't have their own health problems that aren't just a serious as "western disease".

Fred Hahn said...


You are assuming that your body is actually absorbing the micronutrients from the high carb diet. It's not. Many of the foods in the high carb diet inhibit the absorption of many of the vitamins and minerals you think you're absorbing.

I suggest reading Good Calories Bad Calories and the work of Dr. Loren Cordain. If you have already, then you have missed some vital info. You're going to get fat and sick from such a diet.

VICTOR said...

I think that a high carbohydrate diet (High in clean starch, potatoes white rice) is even better for retain hydro soluble nutrients, of course, supposed that the effects of cereal fiber blocking nutrients are minimized,
anyway, extreme diets (very low in fat, very low in carbs) always are a problem for retain or assimilate some specific nutrients, both have his pros a cons, but a think that for the vast majority of the people is better an equilibrium, 25-30% fat, no more than 15% protein, the remain starch, with moderate amounts of sucrose and fructose. Why high in starch? because the primordial fuel of cell is glucose, why relatively high in fat? because apart of maintenance need of fat, the preferred fuel for low intensity muscular expenditure is fatty acids stored in the muscle tissue an this is for the majority of people most of the energy expenditure above basal rate, the body has other manners but are not the preferred an the would suggest we aren't adapted to them without some level of stress.
I suspect that finally the best average ratios for macro nutrients are those of the RDA, and the ratios that we are more adapted to in averange terms, some kind of equilibrium.

VICTOR said...

A roughly calculus of how much fat we would need
would be:
Linolenic 1,25% calories
Linoleic 2,5% calories
DHA+EPA 2,5 grams
This in a 2000 kcal diet means a minimum to sutain life in long term of 12,5 grams of poly fats
The fact that the remain kinds of fat aren´t essential doesn´t mean that body feel relaxed doing this conversions
(organic stress)
So at least for maintenance 33% of each fat
Total 12,5*3= 37,5 grams
Suppose that the person in question has a basal expenditure of 1800kcal and most of his muscle work is low in intensity, this becomes aprox 75% of 2500-1800=700, 0,75*700=58 grams of fat
TOTAL for an harmony in the body (always give it the preferred fuel for each activity i,e minimize corporal an psychological stress)
58+37,5=95,4 grams = 34% of calories of fat
Curiously, 30% of fat its said that it is the optimum for testosterone levels, and its the average recomendation of the rda.

VICTOR said...

2500 kcal not 2000 sorry

Michal said...

When it comes to healthfullness of poor mans diet, then Gregory Clark presents following data from the Middle Ages:

Every woman gave birth to ~5 children.

Rich people had ~4 surving offspring a the time of their death.

Poor people had ~1.8 surviving offspring at the time of their death.

I wouldn't call poor man's diet as healthy with such high death rate!

Such high death rate on poor man's diet also means that we, modern people are descendants of the rich minority of earlier ages. The figure may be as high as 90% of population may have ascended from just 10% of richest of the middle ages. So we are not used to poor man's diet.

So hypothetical poor man's good health at an old age may simply be a function of a strong selection - if out of 5 only 1.8 survive then these are the ones with great genetics for immune system and metabolism.

There may also be some benefits derived from stunted growth and deficit of calories, which both are good for lognevity (eg. tall people have higher cancer risk).

Flowerdew Onehundred said...

You know, the greeks weren't drinking *soy milk*. You had me up to there.

Why on earth would you want to eat such a heavily processed industrial food?

sandra said...

Hi Don,

I eat 1500-1600 calories/day and can easily design a diet that meets (or gets pretty close) to RDAs on Fitday with either high fat/low carb or high carb/low fat. I've been experimenting with this "micronutrient comparison" since trying your new recommendations because I had this question as well...

However, it would help if you could address the issue of absorption that others have raised. Perhaps you do not worry about phytoestrogens, but what about phytates in soy and grains? Don't they bind minerals or is that also a myth in your opinion?

Then there is heme vs non-heme iron? Perhaps some folks need less iron, but I have 3 growing (lean) kids... To keep fat as low as 20% of calories it seems red meat and dairy (full fat anyhow)cannot factor in to a high degree- is the RDA based on reduced absorption of non-heme iron? In any case, it is MUCH easier to get my 5 year old to eat a grass-fed burger with cheese than a plate of spinach (lol)!

Same question on Vitamin A and K- leafy greens have plenty, but do we absorb them as well when they are not animal sourced? I have read that many people (esp women) cannot convert carotenes to vitamin A at all. Do you disagree with this as well?

What about oxalic acid? How much of the calcium/iron in spinach is bioavailable?

Shannon said...

I don't even know what to think. I have never been to this blog, but I have known about the paleo diet for years. I have never really tried eating that way for very long. Recently, I tried to eat more fat and felt awful. Fatty meats and oils do not sit right with me. I kept thinking it's because I need to work up to it. Yet I can't. It just doesn't work for me. I think so much of my food issues are from worrying about it so darn much!

That said, I do have Hashimoto's and am wondering about autoimmunity and gluten/grain consumption or dairy consumption. Again, I don't know who to believe on this.

I can say for sure that oats and legumes are not good for me. They cause terrible heartburn. But I don't get the same feeling when I have sourdough bread or pasta (either gluten-filled or gluten-free pasta causes me no distress). So I am about to throw my hands up and say, "stop thinking about it so darn much!"

I still don't know the answer to autoimmunity and grains/gluten/dairy. No idea. Hopefully one day some more open-minded bloggers like yourself will have insight on it.

sls said...


It's been interesting to read your latest posts and your recent change of heart.

Looking back at some of your old posts, I was wondering how you justify the large consumption of rice you advocate in this post. Yet in your post "Practically Paleo Perspective: Rice", you advise against it, due to its nutritional inferiority?


Fred Hahn said...

Shannon - Whatever you do, don't stop thinking! Too much fat at one sitting can cause distress in people who have not quite fully fat adapted. If you eat a lot of fat and feel ill after, it MAY be that your enzymatic production for fats is not fully realized. Here's a blog from Dr. Eades explaining this:

I strongly disagree with Don's new diet. If he keeps it up long enough I know he's going to gain fat and increase his risk for many conditions caused by chronically high blood sugar levels.

Rob A said...


Chronically high blood sugar levels are not necessarily caused by eating carbohydrates. That is distinct from the post-meal insulin spike we see in response to a carbohydrate rich meal. Stephen Guyenet's recently posted on this topic:

Christopher Robbins said...

Anyone else here think Fred "Slow Burn" Hahn is an idiot? Raise their hands. (I know Anthony Colpo does)

Shannon said...


That problem with thinking is that some people (me) drive themselves crazy with "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts." I don't think that's healthy any more than some people condemn carbs, fat, gluten, dairy, nuts, grains, etc, etc, etc. I wonder about the impact of stressing over eating or not eating certain foods and whether that stress is better or worse than the actual food you're stressing over. I feel like I'm back at the beginning of this whole journey. And having an autoimmune condition (and potentially more than one as I have some skin conditions too) makes it all the more confusing.

Shannon said...

And add to the fact that I eat a diet about 50% carbs, 20% protein, and 30% fat and have a fasting insulin level below 2 (the lowest possible value) makes me even more confused. In addition, I'm obese (used to be 365; am currently 250) and low carb has never helped me lose weight. I was going to give it another shot and then I came across a post referencing a change in Don's dietary approach, so I came here to figure out why he was changing.

Thomas said...

@Fred Hahn:

To see why you may be wrong, check out Clarence Bass and his diet. Clarence has been eating a high carb, high grain diet since the beginning. He eats a minimally processed, whole foods diet. That is THE common denominator for health as far as I can tell. Carbs are not the problem and grains are likely not the problem (with exceptions) either. I'm still waiting for Clarence to get fat.

Eric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric said...

I think it's commendable that Fred Hahn comes on and posts about his "knowledge" and opinions on Don's and other higher carb "dieters". Fat and diseased from eating "higher carbs"?!?!? Fred, with all due respect, you again fail to add at the end of your statement (at the VERY least), "in people with diseased/disrupted metabolism". Maybe. As in, "maybe there are also other approaches", even in these circumstances...

According to your statement, EVERYONE eating higher carb should be fat and diseased. EVERYONE. Just like EVERYONE consuming saturated fats should suffer from CVD, not just a select few, if you are to believe the lipid hypothesis (which I KNOW you don't, so why blindly believe in the "carb hypothesis"... Otherwise, it means we are either not understanding all the various factors or, we just don't know all the factors yet.

I've been below 8% bodyfat since as far as I can remember (my first hydrostatic weighing was done at 17, and I'm now 38). During that time, I ate everything from high-carb, low-fat fruitarian/Natural Hygienist/vegan to high-fat, low-carb WAPF/paleo; if carbs are the only or main criteria in determining body fat percentage, how do you explain my personal experience???? And that of many others in the same boat.

As someone pointed out, you can check out Clarence Bass too. Or Martin Berkhan. Or the billions of Asians. Or the Kitavans. Or the Maoris. Or the Hunzas. Or, maybe you need to go re-read some of Colpo's stuff, as hard as this may be, and as someone else also suggested (NO, I'm not implying all his articles aren't, in some intances, full of holes and misunderstandings but, couldn't you at least acknowledge these are confounding observations in your argument?)

Stipetic said...

Does Fitday consider the bioavailability of micronutrients depending on their food source?

Alan said...

but Don, if your clinical success was actually as good as you claim, you wouldn't be here blogging. You'd be too busy counting the money from licensing and franchising of your method.

Pepper said...

Hi Don--

You have mentioned a number of times, though not in this post specifically, the detrimental effects of high-animal product / low carbohydrate diets on women in particular.

I am a part of a fairly large group of young paleo women in otherwise excellent health with hormonal issues, personally, PCOS. Most of us have tried everything, from iodine supplementation to no carbohydrate to losing/gaining weight, and even to higher carbohydrate, but still to little effect.

In any case, I am wondering what your observations have been in particular, if you have any specific recommendations, and how you think different macronutrient diets effect men and women. I know that I would really appreciate your (new) perspective, and I think a whole lot of other women out there would love to hear it as well.

Thank you so much