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April 18, 2012


The Good Luck Duck

Thank you for this break-down of the role of fats. Years ago, I got concerned when I read that we don't convert plant-source omega-3's very well, so I relented and started taking fish oil instead of my old, faithful flaxseed. I never knew that the omega-6's in my diet were blocking conversion.

And, those nuts!! Thanks for the chart; we truly had no idea.


Emily H

Can you share what your daily calorie requirements are to maintain your weight?


I had exactly the same experience! I was eating a "healthy" vegetarian diet based on research, and exercising 5Xs/wk, but as I approached 60 my cholesterol kept going up and while not overweight, I felt dumpy. It wasn't until I started reading your posts and decided 16 months ago to try the no added fat diet (giving up my much loved dark chocolate, avocados, nuts, and salad dressing) that my body was transformed, dropping my cholesterol and triglycerides significantly and losing 8 pounds. I feel great and love the new way I eat, not missing any of it (except the dark chocolate :) Unfortunately, there is so much written about the "healthy" Mediterranean diet and the benefits of olive oil that it's hard to talk to friends and family about this truly healthy way of eating.
Thank you so much for keeping us posted about the latest research; you've changed my life in very positive ways!

Anna SKinner

Do you have any pointers to places to read about the impact of this diet on children and in pregnancy? We avoid refined oils but do have avocado, nuts, tahini and nut butters in our children's diet (and in smaller quantities in the adults' diet too). It makes sense to me to avoid the harbingers of poor health in childhood but I'm not sure I could get enough calories in without some dense foods like nuts or avocado.

The Healthy Librarian

@Anna: Kids need more fat--nuts, avocados & nut butters are fine. Dr. Esselstyn says avocados & walnuts are fine for those without heart disease. It's really important for babies, kids, & us to absolutely get B12 (& I mean taking a supplement, not just what's in fortified foods. For adults: 1000 mcg/day(, vitamin D, if you aren't out in the sun, & DHA (an omega-3) just for insurance. I also by fortified soy or almond milks---with all the added vitamins & mineral.
Look at Jack Norris' website--a vegan dietitian with info on proper nutrition for kids--also Dr. Joel Fuhrman has a book on the subject--but I think it hasn't been updated for years.

Here're some book suggestions & more guidance re pregnancy & kids from a reply I'd written to someone else.:

Check out this newest book --written by a registered dietitian and recommended by Ginny Messina, also a vegan RD--who isthe vegan resource for the American Dietetics assn.) Haven't seen it myself, though. Also, look at Julianne Hever's book --another RD. Excellent resource. Absolutely take a B-12 supplement!! Can't overdue it. Baby needs it. I take 1000 mcg a day on advice from B-12 expert at the Cleveland Clinic--Dr Donald Jacobsen--but talk to your doc-a must for vegans!! Also, in addition to eating plant sources of omega-3 like chia, flax, & greens---take a DHA supplement---algal if you're strictly plant-based, or from fish oil if you don't care. But DHA is the baby brain builder. Of course, eating all the good high nutrient frutis & veggies, whole grain foods, beans & legumes, too. Use fortified non-dairy milk for yourself, like EdenSoy Extra to get the calcium---also, lots of highly digestible calcium in the dark leafy greens. Lots of beans & other plant sources for protein.


Thanks for the eye-opening information. I have always made sure that I have enough fat in my salads (in my dressing) or kale-based meals (nuts or bread with vegan spread) in order to maximize my body's ability to absorb all of the fat-soluble nutrients in my food. I recall learning that doing so is supposed to increase such absorption up to 10-fold.

In cutting out all nuts and oils, how much do you believe you are sacrificing on the nutrition side of the equation, and is it possible that there is a balance that should be struck between the omega-6 detriment and nutrient-absorbing benefit when considering whether to go "extreme" with respect to completely cutting out all nuts, seeds and oils?

Chell Atchley

What do you recommend for a good DHA supplement? And how much? I have concerns with fish oil due to the toxins present (Dr. Michael Greger strongly suggests to avoid all fish). Thanks so much!


Jack Norris' website has some stuff about B12 - is sublingual a must? Should we chew a B12 tablet? Which type of B12 is best? What is your opinion? I'm getting so confused.


Just found your post from 2010 on B12. SO it's: methylcobalamin, 1000mcg, sublingual is best, on an empty stomach. Thanks!

Any thoughts on Zinc? Dr Fuhrman recommends this as a supplement.


Very interesting. What are your current cholesterol levels? Karen

Anna SKinner

Thanks for your advice. We do fortified foods and have Dr Fuhrman's book and also the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine book about diet for children. I don't give the kids a B12 supplement because they get 400% of the recommended amount in Nutritional Yeast on a daily basis and that's where I get mine from and my blood levels have not been low. We do vegan DHA when I remember and I take vit D since last year when I got a stress fracture running in the winter and measured my levels and found them pretty poor despite lots of outside time. For omega 3s I try to get an ounce of walnuts and a tablespoon of chia into everyone every day, but with the avocado and nut butters I got a bit worried about our omega 6 intake. Got to be better than the average processed food diet though, so we'll just keep at it!


I've read the NY Times articles on "Is Veganism for Everyone?" Nina Planck's,"A Choice With Definite Risks," is especially misleading. It is rife with nutritional misinformation for adults and children. Ginny Messina has written a very effective response.
This piece is certainly not top-tier journalism! Take a look.

The Healthy Librarian

@Penny: Thanks for the excellent link to Ginny Messina's rebuttal to Nina Planck. I totally missed that whole piece in the NYT's. The experts that the NYT's picked were the furthest thing from nutrition or medical experts--although I value Rip Esselstyn's opinion.


Might Leland, above, be misreading your take on nuts, seeds, and oils? It doesn't seem to me that you forgo them entirely, or urge that-- but that you use a limited amount of mostly chia seeds and walnuts (for example, in your recent chia/soymilk salad dressings). That's about what we do at our house, too. However, I'd love to see you address Leland's general question on balance between fat for absorption of micronutrients and overconsumption of omega 6 fats. Dr Greger strongly pushes the fats-with-greens-for-absorption idea, and some of us are reading him, too(!) Dr. Esselstyn endorses walnuts for people w/o heart disease; on the other hand, at least males over sixty with experience of standard western diet (two of us in this household) can be presumed to have significant cardiovascular disease.

The Healthy Librarian


I actually get plenty of fat from naturally occurring fat in the foods I eat--even oats have fat. I also get fat from chia, soy milk, flax, & a couple of walnuts.

Turns out we actually need less fat than you'd expect to absorb the fat soluble vitamins--and the fat doesn't have to be eaten at the exact same time as the vitamin-A or D rich foods. (although I do take my D with my biggest meal)
How much dietary fat do we need to absorb vitamin A from carotene-rich yellow and green leafy vegetables?

"In summary, only a small amount of dietary fat (just 2.4 grams/meal--or 21 grams eaten throughout the day) is needed for optimal utilization of plant provitamin A carotenoids.

Data from the present study indicate that is is possible to improve the total-body vitamin A pool size and restore low liver vitamin A concentrations to normal concentrations by eating sufficient amounts of carotene-rich yellow and green leafy vegetables and minimal amounts of fat."

--Judy D. Ribaya-Mercado, Jeffrey B. Blumberg et al, "Carotene-rich plant foods ingested with minimal dietary fat enhance the total-body vitamin A pool size in Filipino schoolchildren as assessed by stable-isotope-dilution methodology," American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2007;85:1041-9

Read the whole post:

"Tufts University/Jean Mayer USDA Research Center: How Much Fat Do You Need to Absorb the Vitamins in Your Vegetables? Less Than You Think"

old lady

Thanks for the is so hard to get everything right...good fats, bad fats, omega3, omega6. The brain/body needs fat! My brain is swirling! I am not a regular meat eater...but do salmon, sardine, tuna weekly.
Well, I do incorporate nuts/oil olive in my diet, I know, gasp! I only use it sparely, probably about 1 tbsp a day if that...then there are the nuts, sunflower seeds/raw almonds/sometimes cashews. Probably 1/4 cup each day. My skin & hair respond to what I take into my body.

This is information is good and worthwhile to know, what you put into your body. Gotta find that balance of what works for your body. With this program, all my levels cholesterol, hdl, and ldl, and BMI are under the danger range.


Great to hear about balance (thanks "old lady"!)... I'm really glad I got to read this post and get more info on fats. I'm also a little amazed to see 3 Tbsp of oil listed for a day's food intake (if I understood), which just underscores how helpful it is to see these details and not just talk in generalities.

I have not yet tried doing absolutely-no-added-oil for more than a day or two, but my current intake is less than 1 tsp/day, usu more like 1/2 tsp/day. I'm being much more careful about quantites on my walnuts and seeds, which is good, I just know I never want to go back to the fear I had of oils and fats back in my body dysmorphia days. (and I am grateful to report thus-far very good blood pressure and blood lipid results, and I have no heart disease sfaik.)

Jennifer Vajda

Three tablespoons of oil is more than I put in most entree recipes and 23 almonds, one oz, is a serving. Five ounces of nuts per week has been found in to reduce cardiovascular risks. Moderation and variety is key. The body's needs and metabolic rate change with age so what worked ten years ago will not work ten years into the future (ignoring the nasty additives for a moment).
I love your website but have come to realize that any absolutes in the food business is too many. Humans don't process things the same as each other. My personal guinea pig experiences are only helpful to individuals who genetically and environmentally are similar. I was making too broad assumptions about what worked for me possibly working for more people but sweeping assumptions are also being made by many of the physicians and government.

Some bodies may need more fat than other bodies but really three tablespoons of oil is a lot. A 1200 calorie weight loss diet with 30% of its calories from fat grams would only allow 40 grams/360 calories from fat for the whole day. One teaspoon of olive oil with lemon juice and herbs on a salad, (~5 grams/45 fat calories) and 1/2 oz chopped walnuts on cereal,(9 grams/81 calories) would leave room for the chocolate and a few grams to leave as hidden - from the small amounts in everything else vegan (I would leave more for a meat/dairy eater).

The big problem with the low grade hypothyroidism symptoms common in our nation is that with that even 1200 calories could be a weight gain diet with that as untreated problem. Untreated hypothyroidism or polycystic ovarian syndrome can make weight loss very difficult even with regular exercise and reduced intake. The changing balance of hormones during perimenopause also make abdominal weight gain more of a risk.

Thanks for sharing your wonderfully thorough and organized work.

Johannes Gutwald

Thank you for your interesting information. May I inform you about my initiative "angel sugars are multicolored" for all-natural, multicolored angel sugars such as fruit, vegetables, legumes or nuts for kids. You find more information on Kind regards Johannes Gutwald, Phd, Master of Science in Preventive Medicine, Gars am Inn and Vienna

Health Librarian

@Johannes: Took me a couple minutes to realize exactly what "angel sugars are! Great site--worthy initiative & I wish you much success spreading the word. I really like your approach to parents & grandparents---how that one little treat just keeps adding up.

I highly recommend Dr. Gutwald's site--worth exploring it.


Great article!

I was eating a plant based diet with no oils in cooking. However I was eating tons of nuts after hearing from Dr Greger how good they were for you.
I was also using tahini in dressings and eating nut butters on toast. I stated to getting chest pains. With vigorous exercise they were severe. In 3 weeks with no nuts, no oil , no tahini, no avocados my chest pains have completely disappeared. I am walking 1 hr a day on the treadmill with no problem. When I started, I got chest pains after 10 minutes. I take 1 heaping table spoon of flaxseed a day. It has far more omega 3s and much less omega 6 and less calories then and an oz of nuts. We don't need nuts or oil beyond a table spoon of flaxseed. There is enough oil in whole foods to provide 10 to 12 percent fat to our diet.

The Healthy Librarian

@Norman: Thanks for sharing your experience with nuts & tahini. It's been Dr. Esselstyn's experience as well--after personally seeing & hearing from many heart disease patients. The so-called benefits of nuts aren't all they're "cracked up to be". With all due respect to Dr. Greger--he's just citing the research from the epidemiologic studies mostly from the 7th Day Adventists, & some of the shorter running nut studies--and they looked at body weight, blood pressure, & some lipid values. These don't necessarily relate to what is going on inside someone's arteries.


Hi, I have been taking spoonfuls of EVOO because I deal with chronic constipation and it helps lubricate my BM's (From experience, I really need fats to do this). I would take flaxseed but my body has started to react to it when I take it. Is there any other oil/oil food source you'd recommend to take?

Also, I would love to do green smoothies (and especially love Kale) but I have hypothyroidism and have to avoid eating too much uncooked brassica vegetables. Do you know any alternatives for green smoothies? Thanks so much for this post and your blog. I'm currently in school to become an RD and reading research about food is so interesting to me and gets me excited about my future career!

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