The Root Cause of Many Diseases is Insulin Resistance

I listened to a great podcast featuring Dr. Ben Bikman, a renowned metabolic research scientist and author of the book “Why We Get Sick”. He reveals the groundbreaking evidence linking many major diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease, to a common root cause—insulin resistance—and talks about an easy, effective plan to reverse and prevent it. 

Here are the highlights from this 2 hour podcast:

  • Insulin resistance is driving sickness and obesity. Now, even young people are developing insulin resistance. These kids will become sick, overweight, vitamin D deficient, lose muscle mass, and develop hypertension and diabetes in their teens. This will also lead to increased risk for dementia and heart disease as they get older.
  • Dr. Bikman states that the loss of moral foundation and loss of connection increases isolation and does not allow our youth to develop to their full potential. He believes we are getting fatter, sicker and losing the critical social connection.
  • We have a glucose-centric paradigm where blood sugar is the primary metabolic marker. However, the underlying changes in glucose is down to insulin and why is this overlooked? Glucose and A1C can be normal for years so doctors don’t suspect any problems. While glucose levels are normal, insulin could be increasing steadily. So, the fasting insulin biomarker is the earliest sign of metabolic disruption. Insulin may be elevated 10-20 years before glucose starts going up so this needs to be measured.
  • People with Type 2 diabetes with insulin therapy get fatter and die faster; 2X higher from cancer, 3X higher from heart disease, and 2X from Alzheimer’s. These diseases are problems of hyper insulin NOT hyperglycemia.
  • The problem is that there are no firm standards for insulin. Anything under 15 mIU/mL may be considered normal but that’s way too high. Fasting insulin of 6 or lower is optimal as this means you are insulin sensitive. Fasting insulin of 7-15 mIU/mL is a warning sign as this is indicating the path to insulin resistance.
  • However, insulin is not the only marker for insulin resistance. A triglyceride/HDL ratio of 1.5  or lower is a good sign that you are insulin sensitive even if your insulin crept up into the teens.
  • When it comes to weight gain, you need both of these:
    • Insulin must be elevated – this signals growth of the fat cell
    • Calories – you need enough calories to provide sufficient energy to fuel fat cells

  • Dr. Bikman did a lab experiment to prove this out. He grew fat cells in petri dishes and noticed that in the presence of insulin, they grew rapidly. When insulin is added to the medium containing fat cells, the cells are being told by insulin to store the energy and start growing. The hormone insulin is the conductor to the orchestra of cells and tells them to store energy and stimulate appetite.
  • Also, insulin slows metabolic rate. That’s why Type 1 diabetics with no insulin will have 20-30X the metabolic rate of non-diabetics. Type 1 diabetics may choose to eat what they want and skip the insulin injection – so they can remain skinny. This wreaks havoc on their system (called diabulimia) and can be life-threatening.
  • Type 2 diabetics on insulin therapy find they gain weight because their metabolic rate slows due to the added insulin.
  • Genetics matter! A study done with Caucasians and Asians eating a similar diet found that the fasting insulin for Asians is double that of Caucasians. Also the fat cells in Asians are larger than Caucasians. Typically, for Caucasians, they get fat via hyperplasia (the body creates more new fat cells) but for Asians, the number of fat cells are pre-set so existing ones just get bigger.  More important than the mass of fat cells is the SIZE of each individual fat cell.  That’s why there’s an even bigger epidemic of diabetes in Asia.
  • When fat cells get too big, they cannot grow anymore. They can swell to 10-20X their size and start suffocating. This suffocation tells the fat cell to become insulin resistant to inhibit further growth.
  • Fat cells also become hypoxic (inadequate level of oxygen to tissues and cells). And it secretes pro-inflammatory cytokines which promotes new capillaries and stimulates new fat cells. A vicious cycle leading to obesity and sickness…


Now for the solution:

  • Cutting calories and exercising more is NOT the solution! If you cut calories but you are keeping insulin high, HUNGER will always win. Any weight loss strategy built on these principles will not be sustainable – guaranteed!
  • You need to control carbs and eat mostly low-starch fruit and vegetables. It’s important to prioritize protein and DON’T FEAR fat.
  • As your insulin levels come down, your metabolic rate will go up and fat burning will go up. Your brain has sufficient free fatty acids and ketones to fuel the brain. And your brain relies more on ketones than glucose for energy if both are available equally.
  • Lower insulin is the first step to weight loss. When you get to a weight loss plateau – then you need to control the energy coming in. Rather than counting calories, opt for structured fasting.
  • 4 steps to lower insulin to enable the body to use its own energy for fuel: control carbs, eat adequate protein, don’t fear fat and do fasting. This will also generate less hunger because your brain is relying on fat burning and not screaming for food.
  • The studies done on the danger of excess protein and it eliciting an insulin response are dependent on the underlying glycemia and the glucose coming in with the amino acids. So even adequate protein intake will not prevent an insulin response if carbs are included.
  • The beauty of protein is that it is calorically inert. Protein is not a fuel and should not be counted as a caloric load as our bodies don’t rely on amino acids for energy. Our bodies don’t use protein for energy – it’s used as a building block. We use glucose and fat for energy.
  • There is the protein leverage hypothesis developed by scientists that states that humans will only eat until we’ve had enough and then stop (~1g/protein per pound of lean body weight). While the study done on rodents supported this hypothesis, there is not enough human evidence to support this approach. The original intention of this research was to look at longevity but there are flaws in the model when extrapolated to humans. As protein consumption goes up, you start to see problems with fertility.
  • The recommendation is to use protein as a focus (not in excess) AND don’t fear fat.
  • There is such a fear of fat in current society. In nature, protein comes with fat – and there is no exception to this! But in our fear of fat, we eat chicken breasts; our chicken consumption was ~0% in 1909 and now it’s the primary source of meat. Chickens back in the day were raised for their eggs, not for their meat.
  • Don’t fear the fat that comes with the protein. When we eat fat with protein, we digest protein better. Bile acids that are released with the fat intake accelerate protein digestion. So, for example, if a whey protein shake gives you a tummy-ache, try adding a fat source to facilitate protein digestion. You can get your fat from animal sources or vegetarian ones (avocado, nuts, olive oil). If you’re eating chicken breasts, add fat like olive oil to combine them.
  • Anthropologically, humans may have a higher demand for fat – early humans sought the fattiest sources of meat.
  • Be an advocate of whole food! If it comes in a bag or box with a bar code, be careful. Rather than counting calories, control the amount you consume.
  • Dr. Bikman talked about the 5th step to lowering insulin resistance. It’s muscle! Lower skeletal muscle mass is associated with diabetes. Muscle is THE metabolic powerhouse because it’s the majority of our tissue mass. Muscle is a sink for glucose and has a great ability to absorb enormous amount of glucose.
  • 80% of the post prandial glucose removal from blood is going into muscle. So, if we can increase muscle and move that muscle, we can keep blood glucose steady more consistently.
  • Muscle wasting = insulin resistance. A study has shown that 7-10 days of bed rest significantly increases insulin resistance due to muscle wasting.
  • In type 2 diabetics, muscle is broken down because of insulin resistance. The body releases amino acids and muscle wasting happens.
  • Bigger muscle = greater insulin sensitivity. So make sure to incorporate strength training into your exercise regimen. Big muscles will absorb more glucose from your system and help with insulin sensitivity.

Five steps to weight loss, reversing pre-diabetes and insulin resistance:

  1. Control carbs
  2. Eat adequate protein
  3. Don’t fear fat – combine with protein
  4. Do structured fasting
  5. Grow those muscles 


To listen to the podcast:

Buyer Beware! 4 Food Marketing Tricks to Avoid

In the Lord of the Rings, the gangly, sneaking character Gollum is constantly calling the hobbits he travels with, “tricksy.” He’s suspicious of them trying to trick him into a trap or lead him away from his dear “precious” ring.

They didn’t have supermarkets and Amazon Fresh in Middle Earth, but if they did, Gollum may have called the food industries that supply our grocery stores “tricksy” just as he did Frodo and Sam.

There are a number of popular health myths, predominantly pushed forward by food industry marketing, that drive us towards making choices at the supermarket that may not be as healthy as we think. It can be difficult, however, to sift out the wheat from the chaff when it comes to healthy choices and food marketing. Today, we’ve highlighted some common food myths and marketing tactics used by food industries that may be stalling your health, and ways to avoid them!

1. “Antioxidant Rich” Dark Chocolate & Red Wine

Two indulgent favorites—dark chocolate and red wine—have been touted as having health benefits in recent years. They’re known for being rich in antioxidants; perhaps you’ve heard that a glass of red wine or dark chocolate each night is good for your heart health.

Both of these statements are rooted in research. Red wine has been seen to increase antioxidant status and reduce oxidative stress. Dark chocolate, similarly, is believed to have health benefits due to its antioxidant levels.

There is a catch, however. One you may have heard ad nauseam: moderation. Both red wine and dark chocolate can have high levels of sugar, which creates adverse health effects. Dark chocolate’s benefits in particular can be elusive due to the many ways dark chocolate is labeled. Some dark chocolate doesn’t list the percentage of cocoa actually in the candy.

Generally speaking, you want a dark chocolate bar with 70% or more cocoa in it. This should be explicitly labeled on the bar. These will be lower in sugar and higher in antioxidants. If dark chocolate is how you satiate your sweet tooth, aim to keep it at a small square, about an ounce and a half or so per day (not the whole bar!). Dark chocolate is also high in saturated fat, so it should not be eaten in high quantities.

Here is chocolate I love to indulge in.

Here is an extreme dark option.

Moreover, in red wine studies, participants generally are drinking 1-1.5 glasses of red wine per night. The research, however, is mixed. Generally speaking, alcohol intake isn’t good for your health, and consuming a glass of wine each night can disrupt sleep and increase your sugar intake. The beneficial effects of red wine are mixed, and become less beneficial as you age.

Limit yourself to a glass of red wine and a square of dark chocolate several times a week to extract the highest health benefits from these foods.  But if you’re like me and can’t stop until half a bottle of wine and the chocolate bar are gone, skip it!  The benefits are NOT an excuse for over-indulgence.


2. “Healthy,” “Real,” and “All Natural” Sugars

A great sugar war began a few years ago, with some types of sugar boasted as health alternatives, while others were demonized and determined to be the reason for poor health in the US. Though some forms of sugar require less processing and can be considered healthier by that metric, all sugars have the same effect on the body at the end of the day—increasing glucose levels in the blood.

You may see marketing on granola bars, gummies, and even cookie labels: “Made with Real Sugar!” That in itself isn’t the marketing trick. Instead, it’s the idea that some sugars are exceedingly more healthy than others. When it comes to sugar, it’s best to look at the quantity of sugar first, then the quality.

For example, let’s say one gummy option has 8 grams of sugar in a serving, and the source of that sugar is high fructose corn syrup. Another gummy option has 20 grams per serving, but that source is honey or white sugar. In this case, you’re better off with the first lower sugar option. To boost your health, it’s more important to decrease your sugar intake overall than opt for “real sugar.”

You can read more about genuinely healthier sweetener options—which have a decreased effect on your blood sugar levels—in a previous blog linked here.

3. Whole Grain vs. Whole Wheat vs. Multigrain—Who comes out on top?

The bread aisle can be a confusing place—options, colors, and shapes of bread abound. When you’re trying to eat healthily, you might head to the wheatier section. Once you’re there, you’re going to want to opt for foods labeled as whole grain.

Whole grain means what it says: all three parts of the grain are kept within the bread making process—the bran, germ, and endosperm. Consuming the entire grain in your bread and carb choices leads to the heart health, diabetes, and weight management benefits of whole grain.

Options listed as whole wheat and multigrain likely will not have the entire grain in the product. In this way, they benefit from looking and sounding like whole grain bread, but they do not provide the health benefits of a piece of whole grain toast or whole grain pasta! And many have a LOT of other ingredients like sugar, gluten and soybean oil.

An easy check to see if a bread or pasta is whole grain is the Whole Grain Council’s 100% stamp pictured below.

4. Labels that Say: Reduced Fat / Less Sodium

Our last hack is the marketing of less. Reduced fat! Low salt! These seem like healthier options—less fat and sodium is good, right?

Lower sodium and saturated fat is generally a good thing in our diet; however, the salad dressings, packaged meat, crackers, and other foods marketing themselves with less fat and sodium typically aren’t showing the whole picture.

We tend to love fat in foods because it gives it flavor. When fat is removed from a salad dressing, for instance, the manufacturers add sugar to the dressing to make sure it’s just as tasty as the full-fat option. You’ve avoided the high fat content, but now your blood sugar will rise—just from your salad dressing.

At the grocery store, you’ll also typically see two versions of the same can of soup: one without any labels about sodium, and one that says less sodium or low sodium. It’s important to compare the two. Sometimes, there’s only a marginal reduction in sodium—as little as 25%. When we’re looking at the extremely high levels of sodium in soups, a quarter reduction does make a difference, sure, but it’s a much less significant difference than you would have thought based on the marketing.

The takeaway here isn’t to completely cut out the low fat or less sodium options, but to equip you with the knowledge of these tricks so you can make empowered health choices. If you’re living with diabetes, it may be better to make your own salad dressing at home to avoid the saturated fats and increased sugar levels. If you are trying to avoid sodium, you’ll want to watch soups and deli meats like a hawk—especially the ones that say low fat or less sodium!

Do the sleuthing at the grocery store to find the hidden tricks. The more you know, the more you can make informed choices that are best for your unique health needs.

“Be Smart, Be Intelligent, and Be Informed”

How to Reduce Forever Chemicals from Your Life

It feels like every other week you need to be mindful of a new chemical with some long, hard-to-read name. A few years ago, it was benzene in sunscreens, then BPAs in your plastic water bottles, and in the past few years, a new contaminant has entered the field: PFAS.

PFAS is short for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, and there are about 9,000 chemicals within this class. They are a type of “forever chemical” that takes hundreds to thousands of years to break down. Because of their exceedingly long decomposition time, they build up in the human body and are linked to numerous health issues.

It’s estimated that a minimum of 200 million Americans have drinking water affected by PFAS. Other communities may have safer water, but PFAS are found in various cosmetic products as well. Even worse, PFAS can be released through different types of cookware. Other common products which use PFAS include firefighting foam, dental floss, water repellent clothing and stain resistant fabric, and other grease resistant or oil resistant products.

The reason they’re used so universally is the same reason they’re so harmful: they do not naturally break down. In a sense, they provide durability and keep products from breaking down under normal environmental conditions. From a chemistry standpoint, the PFAS compounds possess the carbon-fluorine bond, which is extremely strong. This is what keeps the chemical from losing its integrity, which, from a manufacturer’s perspective, can be helpful in packaging, durability, and product lifecycle.

Lost in this view is what occurs when this chemical leaches out of the product and into our skin, water, and bodies. PFAS exposure has been connected to a plethora of health issues, including but not limited to:

  • Thyroid Disease
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Breast Cancer
  • Bladder Cancer
  • Testicular Cancer
  • Preeclampsia
  • Hypertension
  • Immune Dysfunction
  • Liver Damage
  • Hormonal Disruption

PFAS are a serious health issue, and one that the current administration in the US is attempting to tackle. Six PFAS are currently being reviewed for regulation in drinking water; however, there are 9,000 of these contaminants, and the bureaucratic process can be slow.

As our government regulations work towards better protecting us against PFAS, here are some steps you can take towards reducing your PFAS exposure in three primary domains: water, cosmetics, and cookware.

1. Drinking Water

As mentioned earlier, many Americans have PFAS in their drinking water. Every time you hydrate, you’re ingesting PFAS directly and potentially incurring PFAS build up. There’s good news, however: special water filters can protect against PFAS exposure. Below, we’ve listed three recommended by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

First is the Travel Berkey, which is a large, non-plastic basin that removes 100% of PFAS. It requires a high initial investment, but it does not require that you purchase new filters—its filter life is eight years (assuming you use two gallons per day). If you have the space in your kitchen and the capacity to invest, it is generally the most convenient and longest lasting choice!

For those who prefer a handheld water pitcher, consider the Clearly Filtered Water Pitcher. This looks similar to a Brita, and has water filters that last about 50 days. Similar to the Travel Berkey, it leads to 100% PFAS removal; however, the filtration can be lengthier than other options on the market. It’s a lower initial cost, but the filters over time add up price-wise.

Finally, there’s the Epic Pure Pitcher. This option leads to 98% PFAS reduction—not the whole 100, but still close! The filters last slightly longer than Clearly Filtered as well, leading to a lower annual cost.

Additionally, the classic Brita filters are helpful against PFAS, but don’t remove them completely. EWG found that Brita filters remove about 66% of PFAS—if you aren’t able to invest in a new filter right now, Brita provides an inexpensive filter with moderate efficacy. 

2. Cosmetic Changes

A recent study found PFAS in over 50% of the makeup brands they sampled; generally, these products contained anywhere from four to 13 different types of PFAS. Brands in the study included Ulta, Mac, Cover Girl, Clinique, Smashbox, Nars, and more.

Cosmetic exposure to PFAS is worrying because the chemicals can be absorbed through the tear ducts, skin, or ingested (as with lipstick). Because of the potential health risks, politicians are working to ban PFAS via the FDA.

In the meantime, try and avoid any products advertised as “long-wear,” “waterproof,” or “water-resistant.” These products were found to have the highest levels of PFAS, which makes sense, as PFAS help keep products from breaking down. 

2. Cookware Best Practices

Popular non-stick pans and Teflon cookware have been found to include high levels of PFAS. Unfortunately, nonstick cookware wasn’t properly engineered to sustain itself at high temperatures. When used in baking and cooking, the high temperatures release various PFAS chemicals and can contribute to negative health effects.

There’s a hierarchy of best options when it comes to cookware, but generally speaking, you should avoid aluminum (connections to Alzheimer’s), copper (it breaks down overtime and can lead to copper toxicity), and nonstick cookware with its PFAS risk.

Instead, opt for glass and ceramic cookware. These two are completely nontoxic and can stand the heat! They are also less sensitive to steel wool and metal utensils. Cast iron and stainless steel are also great substitutes for any nonstick pots and pans in your kitchen.

Here’s what’s in my kitchen: PFAS might feel like they’re everywhere, but if you can remove them from these three key areas, your long-term health will thank you. Think of this as a long-term change if that’s helpful—upgrading your water filter next time it runs out, getting new non-waterproof makeup as you need it, and investing in new stainless, cast iron, glass or ceramic cookware when you can!

Powering Your Powerhouses: Fighting Mitochondrial Dysfunction

Science curricula and course requirements have changed throughout the years, but chances are you remember one core tenet:

“The mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell.”

And it’s a mighty fact! Mitochondria power the cells and provide them with energy. But did you know, on a larger scale, mitochondria also power your health and determine how you and your brain age?

In this blog, we’ll share the role that mitochondria play in your body, health, and various ways you can boost it to keep them mighty.

First: let’s review the purpose of mitochondria. Beyond the classic “powerhouse” trope.

Mitochondria exist in nearly all cells in the body—of humans and every other organism. Mitochondria were one of the original organelles (individual structures with a specific function) that evolved billions of years ago. Through continued evolution, mitochondria established their function as providing the cell with energy. They do this by breaking down the chemical bonds to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which is then used to power a variety of bodily functions like movement, temperature regulation, growth—everything!

In humans, the retinal cells, neuronal (brain) cells, and cardiac cells have the highest concentration of mitochondria. And the brain, heart, and eye are energy-hungry organs that require a lot of ATP to function optimally. However, isn’t it interesting to consider that our brains, hearts, and eyes have more pronounced changes with age? Could it have something to do with the mitochondria so highly concentrated in them?

Recent science is suggesting as much. Mitochondrial dysfunction occurs naturally with age—as many parts of our body become less efficient as we get older, so too the mitochondria. However, mitochondrial dysfunction can also occur for other reasons, such as long-term antibiotic use, chemical or toxin exposure, poor nutrition, or ongoing infections.

But what’s really at the heart of mitochondrial dysfunction? What’s happening at the subcellular level when the powerhouses power down?

When ATP production from mitochondria is slowed or disrupted, there is an increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS) as a result. ROS are a byproduct of the mitochondrial processes, but an accumulation of ROS is harmful and damaging to the mitochondria as well as other cell components, creating a negative feedback loop which continually worsens mitochondrial function.

The symptoms of mitochondrial dysfunction include fatigue, cognitive alterations, sensory issues, lacking coordination, depression, anxiety, delusions, and increased irritability. It’s a wide variety of neurological and mental health symptoms.

So, what can you do to boost your powerhouses’ power? Here are four ways to amp up mitochondrial fitness:

1. Exercise

Exercise alerts your body that you need energy. And a lot of it. When we keep our bodies active and regularly exercising, it tells your systems that more mitochondria are needed.

Your muscles respond by producing additional mitochondria and the enzymes that support them. This helps your body produce more ATP to meet the needs of muscles, and of other organs across the body. Continued exercise (aerobic AND resistance training) is especially helpful for mitochondrial function in older populations, so aim for a few hours exercising in a way that suits your body each week. Twenty minutes per day is a good baseline to start with—and you can work in 20 minutes of resistance training every other day along with the aerobic exercise.

2. Dietary Changes

One of the main causes of mitochondrial dysfunction is poor diet. Though this can be common, the good news is it’s easily changeable. For starters, you’ll want to increase your intake of foods including various mitochondrial nutrients. These include:

  • B-vitamins
  • L-carnitine
  • Polyphenols
  • Alpha-lipoic acid

And many more. To naturally weave these vitamins and minerals into your diet, consider foods like…

  • Liver
  • Wild-caught seafood
  • Eggs
  • Avocado
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli

Essentially, natural, fresh foods that haven’t been processed. Organic and wild caught are better options when you can opt for those as well.

3. Heat & Cold Exposure

Let’s start with heat. The simplest form of heat exposure is getting some sunlight every day. Of course, you want to be mindful to avoid sunburns and excessive exposure. However, the vitamin D from the sun is necessary for mitochondrial health. Increased vitamin D levels improve mitochondrial function and are thought to support mitochondrial biogenesis in muscles!

If you have access to a sauna or steam room, this can also aid mitochondrial function. Heat can be a trigger for stress which requires cells to adapt to the environment. A byproduct of this is a positive adaptive response that boosts the function of mitochondria in cardiac and skeletal muscle. Aim for a few minutes in the sauna or steam room next time you’re at the gym!

Lastly, cold. When we’re cold, our body works to keep us warm by shivering, which in turn, releases heat through small muscle contractions. The mitochondria fueling those contractions are activated, and this signals mitochondrial biogenesis in skeletal muscle and brown fat. Try a cold shower for one minute several times per week to wake you and your mitochondria into action.

4. Stress Management & Sleep

Unsurprisingly, you also need to be mindful of your stress levels. A regular relaxation practice—whether yours includes yoga, tai chi, meditation, or breathwork—has been shown to promote genes linked to healthy mitochondrial function.

Moreover, sleep is important. Think about it: mitochondria are all about energy creation and usage. Sleep is a time to essentially reset the body, to heal, to decrease the energy usage of some systems while promoting others. Specifically, the brain removes various metabolic waste products during sleep that are harmful to mitochondria. So aim to get 7-9 hours per night (the optimal time needed varies by person) to make sure that your trash takeout mechanism is working properly.

5. Mitophagy

Were you aware that a process called mitophagy cleans up defective mitochondria and promotes repair to improve performance? This recycling and cleansing mechanism has also been shown to provide numerous health benefits. One way to facilitate the mitophagy process is through intermittent fasting several days a week. How to do it: Compress your ‘eating window’ from the typical 12-16 hours down to 8 hours. You can have brunch at 11am and finish dinner before 7pm—this will give your body more non-eating hours for the mitophagy process.

6. Supplements

If you’re like me and need more active support beyond the tips mentioned above, you can take some mitochondrial support supplements. This is a bit pricey but what I include in my daily regimen.

Here is another one you may want to try.

Health happens at all levels—even the sub-cellular! Try these tips to boost mitochondrial function and check to see how your ene

7 Hypertension Fighters in Your Kitchen

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects nearly half of Americans across the country. As we recounted in a recent blog, hypertension is often called the “silent killer,” with many people going unaware of their heightened blood pressure levels until it’s too late—resulting in a stroke, heart disease, and heart attacks.

Hypertension, however, isn’t as simple as eating too much salt or fat. Recent studies have shown that a variety of factors contribute to hypertension, including stress, diet, lack of exercise, and more.

Your diet does have a large effect on your blood pressure, and what you don’t eat is just as important as what you do eat! Below we’ve listed 7 foods you should add to your shopping list that will help decrease your blood pressure and cut hypertension:

Olive Oil

Individuals who regularly consumed olive oil as opposed to vegetable oils and butter were found to have decreased their blood pressure at the end of a 3-month study at the University of Massachusetts.

Similarly, another study following Spanish university students found that the men who consumed more olive oil had significantly lower blood pressure.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you should start gulping olive oil. But swap out regular vegetable oil with olive oil. Ideally, extra virgin olive oil! 


Beets are high in something called dietary nitrates, a unique type of compound found in certain vegetables that has a variety of health-promoting properties. In particular, researchers believe that nitrates may be responsible for the blood-pressure-decreasing effects of beets!

Two studies highlight the power of beets when it comes to hypertension.

First, a study from the British Heart Foundation followed 68 patients with high blood pressure; half received about a cup of beet juice daily. Those who received daily beetroot juice saw their blood pressure reduce significantly, while also enjoying other health benefits. Another study found that people who had a diet higher in nitrate-containing veggies had a much lower risk of developing hypertension.

When adding beets to your diet, stick to the whole food instead of the juice, especially if you are struggling to manage blood sugar. Adding a half-cup of roasted beets to a salad is a tasty way to go. Considering that beets have a moderately high sugar content for a vegetable, be mindful of how much you consume.


Garlic is not only delicious, it’s also extremely helpful for folks dealing with high blood pressure! In an Australian study, they found that individuals taking two capsules of garlic extract per day (approximately 480mg) had the largest decrease in their blood pressure as opposed to those taking the placebo. Other studies have shown garlic to rival the effects of common blood pressure medications—without the side effects. Garlic is a safe, tasty, and a simple addition to any meal! Start weaving a few cloves into your lunch and dinner to reap its blood pressure effects. If you are afraid of chasing off those around you with the odor, there are odorless options to try:

Pistachios & Other Nuts!

Nuts are a source of healthy fats that provide long, sustained energy throughout your day. Additionally, many nuts have a variety of nutrients and vitamins that support your immune system, weight management, heart health, and more. When it comes to blood pressure, nuts can be just as helpful.

A variety of studies have shown that nuts can help lower blood pressure. Pistachios were found to be the most helpful in decreasing hypertension and improving overall heart health.

For an afternoon snack, skip out on the sugary granola bar and opt for a handful of nuts. You’ll likely find yourself feeling more satiated throughout the day and notice your blood pressure decrease over time.


Flaxseeds, similar to nuts, have a variety of health benefits. They’re high in omega-3’s and fiber (among other things), and they’ve also been found to decrease blood pressure by multiple studies. In fact, in one study, the researchers found that flaxseed decreased systolic blood pressure by 10 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 7 mmHg on average. This is one of the greatest responses of blood pressure levels to dietary changes. If there’s one thing you prioritize adding to your diet, try flaxseeds! You can easily add them to salads for a nuttier flavor, or oatmeal for your breakfast.

Sesame Oil

Sesame oil has also shown strong anti-hypertensive effects. In studies in Greece and India, researchers found that consumption of sesame oil significantly decreased blood pressure within 15 to 45 days, respectively. Consider adding olive oil and sesame oil into your diet to help your hypertension! Please note that the use of olive oil is okay for low-mid temperature cooking (like stir-fry) but sesame oil is more heat sensitive and NOT suitable for cooking.  


Finally, regular intake of cinnamon has been found to decrease blood pressure in about three months. Adding cinnamon to your tea or coffee can go a long way in cutting hypertension (and increasing flavor!)

On your next shopping trip, add a few of these ingredients to your cart! Including them in your diet can help decrease your blood pressure and leave you feeling healthier in the long term. Consider adding olive oil, sesame oil, and garlic to your salad dressing. And try adding some raw beets and flaxseed into a smoothie. The options are endless, and chances are you already have many of these ingredients in your kitchen.

People take ownership of sickness and disease by saying things like MY high blood pressure MY diabetes, MY heart disease, MY depression, MY! MY! MY! Don’t own it because it doesn’t belong to you!

What’s in a Label? What You Need to Know to Make Healthy Food Choices

What’s black, white, and red all over? The nutrition label on a pack of Twizzlers!

Reading a nutrition label is a must-have skill in today’s world of ultra-processed and complex and plentiful additives. If you don’t know what you’re putting in your mouth, how do you manage your health? The label is something we see everyday, but it can be a confusing thing to understand. So in this blog, we’re going to dive into the basics of a nutrition label, and key things to watch out for.

To start, you should know that a nutrition label is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your weight, health, age, exercise routine, and more, you may need to eat more or less than 2,000 calories for optimal health. This is a good thing to discuss with your doctor—be sure to give them the specifics of your lifestyle (activity level and exercise are especially important here) when talking about this. Allow me to digress: I personally don’t ‘count’ calories because I realized that I don’t overconsume calories when sticking to a whole foods diet: little/no processed foods and trans fats, some grains, lots of veggies, some fruits, healthy fats and ample protein. It’s hard to overeat broccoli!

As you look at the label, you’ll see different percentages. Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, these are the percentages of your recommended daily fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbs, proteins, and a few vitamins and minerals. Again, however, it’s important to note that this percentage may be slightly more or less based on your necessary intake.

Now, let’s dive into the diagram from the CDC below:

Starting at point 1: the serving size. This outlines how much of the food the nutrition label accounts for. Oftentimes, this is also the “recommended” portion of the food, but we’ll discuss more on why that’s not always the best route.

For example, let’s say this nutrition label is for granola. The serving size is for ⅔ of a cup of granola, which contains 230 calories, 8 grams of fat, etc. per this label.

At point 2, we see the number of servings per container. In this example, there are 8 servings of granola, and each serving is ⅔ of a cup.

It’s helpful to know: 1) how much is in the package, and 2) what it might mean if you eat more than a single serving.

For instance, let’s say you were munching on the granola while watching some Netflix. You realized you’ve eaten half the bag. Since the bag has 8 servings, half of that is 4. To figure out how many calories are in 4 servings (half the bag), you would multiply 230 times 4, to find that you ate 920 calories.

This math can be especially helpful if you find yourself in binge eating habits—even with ‘allegedly’ healthy foods like granola. Most things in very large quantities lose positive health effects, so knowing the serving size can put that in perspective.

Next, we have point 3: this is about the total carbohydrates in a single serving of the food. It breaks this down further into the amount of fiber, sugar, and added sugars.

First: fiber. A high-fiber content in a food is a good thing. Getting ample fiber in your diet is one of the best things you can do for your health! Here we see that the granola has 4 grams of fiber, which is not too bad. However, we also see that there’s a good chunk of sugar in the granola, too. Let’s break this down.

Total sugar is, understandably, the total amount of sugar in the food. Interestingly, the CDC has not made any official recommendation for the amount of sugar to have each day. Generally, it is good to keep your sugar consumption low, especially if you struggle with diabetes or are pre-diabetic.

However, recently the CDC added a new line to the nutrition label: added sugar. This refers to sugars which have been added through processing, sweeteners, syrups, or juice concentrates. They are not naturally-occurring sugars that might be found in fruits and other whole foods.

For diabetes prevention, you want to keep your consumption of added sugars low. If you see a high amount of added sugar (more than 5-8 grams), that is a good food to avoid or limit your consumption! 

Now, let’s go back to our granola label. We see that there are 12 grams of sugar, in total; however, 10 grams of that are added sugars. For granola—a food we often think of as healthy—that’s actually a lot of sugar in just one serving. The general guidelines for ADDED sugars is a maximum of 50 grams a day—which is still 12 teaspoons of sugar! Digress #2: If you are a non-diabetic, very active and otherwise healthy, that may work but I would opt for much less added sugar. As a pre-diabetic, my goal for added sugar is ZERO, because any time I have a meal out, I know that I’ll have more than enough added sugar. So, when cooking at home, I stay away from any added sugar and use monk fruit, allulose or stevia instead. One serving of granola takes you to the maximum allotment—and that’s for only 2/3 of a cup! You can consider eating less than the recommended amount—potentially only ⅓ of a cup of granola—OR skip the granola altogether and grab some nuts and fresh fruit instead. 

If you struggle with blood sugar levels, understanding the amount of ADDED sugars is a must in determining whether you should eat it or put it back!

Point 4 of the label—look for the fiber and vitamin/minerals breakdown as that indicates the nutritious components of the food. The level of protein is also important—if you are an active person, you should aim for at least 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.  That means that a 165 pound adult should consume at least 60 grams of protein daily. But, if you’re active, you will need more. I started lifting weights three times a week so I upped my protein to about 1 gram/kilogram to build muscle.

Back to the granola example, we see that the granola has a decent amount of iron and fiber – which is good. BUT, it is high in sugar. Digress #3: I personally haven’t found ANY granola that will not make my blood sugar skyrocket so I generally avoid it.

Finally, point 5: the areas you generally want to look out for and avoid in high quantities.

Right below the calories, we see the total fat. First reminder: fat is not bad! For more information on the types of fats that are healthy and those you want to limit, click here for one of our recent blog posts on fats.

In particular, you’ll see that point 5 touches on the amount of saturated fats, which are a type of fat you want to limit. They aren’t inherently bad, but the research on saturated fat’s effects on health are mixed, especially when combined with carbs and sugars.  

Additionally, point 5 touches on added sugars, as well as the number of calories. A high-calorie food isn’t inherently bad; however, if a food is high in calories, high in saturated and trans fats, and has a number of added sugars, that’s a clear sign that you should avoid it!

Next time you head to the grocery store, check out the nutrition label on your foods. It can be shocking the amount of sugar in some foods you thought were “healthy.” Equipping yourself with nutrition label know-how is one of the first steps to managing your blood sugar and chronic disease, as well as improving your overall health and energy through diet!

The Truth about Fat: Less is NOT More

Diet culture has cycled through what feels like hundreds of trends:

“Go keto and lose 10 lbs in a month!”

“Only eat raw, never cooked veggies for optimal health!”

And even the wild, “Eat only Special K to fit into your old jeans again!”

One diet trend has stood the test of time, however: Aim to have a low-fat diet. The idea that all fats are bad is pervasive—many of us have been taught from a young age that fat is unhealthy and we should avoid it at all costs. And that fat makes you FAT! But is that really the case?

Today we’re breaking down the facts behind the war on fat that has been raging for decades. We’ll outline which fats to avoid and which to prioritize for optimal health.

But first… Why do people say fat is bad or unhealthy?

Some fat is unhealthy, but if we take a peek into history, we see where the full-fledged smear campaign on fat began.

Scientists began researching nutrition more intensely following World War II. In initial studies, they found a link between heart disease and foods heavy in saturated fats (red meat, for example). In the ensuing decades, this led to physicians recommending that people limit the amount of fat they ingest. When the national food guidelines were developed in the 70s and 80s (think: the precursor of the ‘My Plate’ you or your kids might have been taught in school), the takeaway message for many was to avoid fat. People weren’t well educated on the difference between saturated and unsaturated fats, so the recommendation to avoid specifically saturated fat was heard by many that “fat is bad.”

Let’s clear one thing up first: What is the difference between good fat and bad fat?

First, I encourage you to drop language like “good” and “bad” from any of your food vocabulary. Most foods can be “bad” in too high of a quantity; for example, if you eat seven mangos in a day, your blood sugar will not thank you. On the other hand, even “bad” foods in small amounts can be a net positive. For instance, allowing yourself a cupcake (or—gasp—two!) at your child’s birthday party without any guilt will likely help you feel more present and less stressed about whether or not you should eat the cupcake. Enjoy yourself and allow yourself to enjoy foods in moderation, too!


Saturated vs Unsaturated Fats

Now, when we consider fat, you should know there are two main types of fat: saturated and unsaturated fat. Saturated fats, at the molecular level, have all of their carbon atoms “saturated” with hydrogens. This basically means they form a neat linear molecule. Saturated fats, because of their structure, can easily build up and “stack” on top of one another.

Unsaturated fats have one to a few of their carbons “unsaturated” with hydrogens. This gives unsaturated fats kinks wherever the carbons aren’t fully saturated with hydrogens, which in turn makes it hard for them to build up and “stack” atop one another.

Both of these fats occur naturally, and to an extent, both should be present in your diet. Because unsaturated fats don’t build up as readily as saturated fats, these are generally healthier fats that give more benefits to your body.

Remember: fats (also called lipids) are one of the four main molecules that make up your entire body, in addition to carbohydrates, DNA, and proteins. You need fats in your diet to help your body with its daily processes, insulation, repair, energy storage, and more! Fats are a vital part of your diet. You need fat for good health.

So, what kinds of fats (and foods) should I focus on?

Fats to include: Unsaturated fats are found in fatty fish, avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and a variety of other natural, non-processed foods. These fats are the most nourishing for the body. Adequate consumption of unsaturated fats leads to improved health!

Fats to have in moderation: Saturated fats occur naturally in red meat, eggs, dairy, coconut and palm oil. The studies on saturated fats are mixed. In high levels, they are believed to contribute to heart disease. Limiting their consumption leads to better health outcomes, but you do not need to cut them out all together. They naturally occur in a variety of foods!

Fats to avoid: Trans fats in processed and fried foods are where we see the worst health effects. Avoiding highly processed foods, fast food, and fried food will help you steer clear of these genuinely unhealthy fats.

Back to our discussion about diet culture though—have you ever opted for low-fat or fat-free options at the grocery store, thinking that was the healthier choice?

Now that we’ve covered that many fats are healthy, I encourage you to think twice before choosing low-fat or fat-free options. Fat packs flavor in foods, so when fat is removed, it’s often replaced with a form of sugar… and a lot of it! Reduced fat options generally are more unhealthy than the normal fat option because of their high sugar levels, so read labels carefully when you’re grocery shopping!

All in all, there are some fats that can boost your health, while others will harm it. Prioritize unsaturated fats, avoid trans fats and processed foods, and enjoy saturated fats in moderation. End the war on fats and include healthy fats in your diet for optimal nutrition!

What to Eat for Good Kidney Health

“What, did the failed Kidney say to the donor Kidney?

I’m out; urine!”

Let’s hope this joke never becomes a reality for us…

Below your rib cage on either side of your spine are a pair of organs that look like, well, kidney beans. The namesake of the maroon-colored legumes, these organs are your kidneys.

Kidneys are crucial for your health. Put simply, they are the filtration system of the body. They filter blood of toxins, chemicals, and waste and allow it to leave your body via urine. They are the star players of the renal system, whose main function is essentially detox.

Secondary functions of the kidneys and renal system include balancing your electrolytes, blood pressure, and water balance. They also release certain hormones that help with blood cell production and blood pressure regulation.

When the kidneys begin to dysfunction or get overloaded with toxins and waste, a number of health issues can arise. Poor kidney health has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, weak bones, neuropathy, anemia, and kidney failure. Because kidneys are central to so many body systems, kidney dysfunction leads to a wide variety of health issues.

If you’re looking to boost the health of your kidneys, there are a number of things you can do in your diet and lifestyle. Below, we’ve listed six foods you can start adding to maintain healthy function of your kidneys.

1. Water-Rich Vegetables: Celery and Cucumbers

Kidney health starts with good water intake. Cucumbers and celery are two vegetables full of fiber and water that hydrate your body and renal system, allowing for your kidneys to function more effectively.

Specifically, celery has compounds that are hypothesized to help dissolve kidney stones, according to a 2019 study.

2. Antioxidant Rich Fruits: Berries

Similar to celery and cucumbers, berries are also a high-water food. In addition to their water content, they are extremely high in antioxidants—blueberries, cranberries, and black cherries especially.

Cranberries have often been connected to preventing UTIs for years. The research is still mixed on their efficacy, but adding fresh (or frozen) cranberries to your diet is a great way to boost your antioxidant intake and power your kidney health. Stay away from dried cranberries as they ALWAYS have sugar added in the drying process. Also, be careful with cranberry juice as it’s also often loaded with added sugar.

Blueberries and black cherries, on the other hand, are full of an antioxidant called resveratrol. This antioxidant has been connected to decreasing kidney disease development and improving the mitochondrial function in the kidneys. A handful of these dark berries multiple times a week can do wonders for your kidney health!

3. Beets

A less commonly consumed recommendation for kidney health is beets! If you’re a fan of The Office, you should know Dwight’s love for beets came with good reason, at least when it comes to kidney health.

Beets are full of nitric oxide (NO) which helps filter and cleanse the blood. They have been connected to improved metabolism, kidney function, and blood pressure.

If you’re unsure how to eat beets, try roasting them in the oven, having them pickled, or even chopping them up and adding them to a protein smoothie!

4. Citric Acid & Lemon Juice

You’ve likely heard of lemon water as a common recommendation for a detox, and this checks out. Lemon water—particularly the citric acid in lemon juice—can help break down kidney stones and benefit overall kidney health.

Add a spritz of lemon juice to your salads, sip some lemon juice in the mornings, or add it to your dishes at dinner to reap the benefits of lemon juice.

5. Seaweed

Seaweed, particularly its two byproducts of spirulina and chlorella, are jam packed with nutrients that boost kidney function. Research has shown that chlorella is particularly powerful in removing heavy metals from the body, which lightens the workload of the kidneys and helps cleanse them.

Make sure you buy the right brand of spirulina and chorella as they can often be contaminated.

Here are two that I trust:

BONUS: Drink more water!

Because your kidney is the filtration system of the body, adequate water intake is key to ensure the renal system can function properly. A 2014 study showed that increasing water intake improved kidney health and may slow kidney disease.

To calculate how much water you should drink daily, you can use the following simple equation:

Your weight / 2 = oz of water to drink each day.

For example:

150 lbs / 2 = 75 oz of water each day. One cup is roughly 8 fluid oz.

Kidney health and “cleansing” is necessary to your overall health and wellbeing. Aim to add in one or a few of these recommendations each week to boost your overall kidney health!

Your kidneys filter ~200 liters of fluid per day – show them some love!

3 Cancer-Fighting Foods to Consider for Optimal Health

“You are what you eat,” as the popular saying goes. That rings all the more true when you consider your health—and particularly, your cancer risk.

Your diet is one of the primary factors which can set your body up for health or disease. The nutrients (or lack thereof) that you take in; the vitamins and minerals you eat; the amount of water you consume—all of these factors contribute to a healthy body and support your immune system to fight off disease.

When considering your diet, there are plenty of foods you can eat to support your body’s ability to fight against cancer; in fact, I’ve shared a number of blog posts about them in the past. You can read about cancer-fighting and preventing foods here and here. The essence of these blogs is a focus on legumes, cruciferous vegetables, wild caught fish and free range chicken, ginger, garlic, and foods with antioxidant properties, like berries.

There are some unique foods you can also add into your diet to further support your body’s immune function—ones you may not have heard of in the past, or expected to see on a list of cancer-fighting foods. We’ve outlined them for you below:

1. Pomegranates

Similar to blueberries and blackberries, pomegranates can offer your body antioxidant support. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals in the body, which have the potential to interfere with healthy cells and steer them towards malignancy, leading to cancer.

In addition, pomegranates offer anti-inflammatory support. When the body is inflamed, the immune system’s functioning decreases, hormones can build up in the body, and your overall health is negatively impacted. Anti-inflammatory agents like pomegranates can help decrease inflammation and return the body to homeostasis and health.

SStudies have linked pomegranates to reduced growth of cancer cells. Be wary, however: pomegranate juice does not always carry this cancer inhibiting protection with it. Because pomegranate juice is loaded with sugar, it’s going to increase inflammation in the body and ultimately neutralize any potential positive effects.

Stick to the whole fruit: you can get whole pomegranates from the grocery store, or opt for frozen pomegranate kernels (so you don’t have to do all the messy cutting and scooping!) to add to a salad, smoothie, or even a bright fish dish!

2. Black Seeds & Black Seed Oil

Black seeds—also known as black cumin seed or black cumin—go by the scientific name nigella sativa. The plant which provides black seeds is also known as the fennel flower, black caraway, or kalonji, depending on which region you’re in.

Black cumin was a commonly used natural remedy in traditional medicine and it’s been in use for centuries to help with a wide variety of ailments. Modern science has been able to identify the active agent in black cumin as a compound known as thymoquinone (TQ). TQ is believed to decrease inflammation, support immune function, and prevent cancer.

Considerable research has been conducted on the use of TQ and black cumin in preventing and fighting cancer. One review outlines the efficacy of TQ and other compounds in black cumin. In particular, they point out studies which have linked black cumin to adequately fight against malignant cells in the bloodstream, kidneys, liver, breasts, prostate, and lungs.

Though there are a variety of ideas for exactly how TQ may fight against cancer, a leading theory is TQ’s ability to act as a free radical scavenger, which protects cells from the harm imbued by free radicals.

To weave black seeds AKA black cumin AKA black seed oil into your diet, consider the following:

  • Add black cumin to stir-fried veggies
  • Sprinkle black cumin on fish or chicken
  • Replace pepper with black cumin with your eggs
  • Add black cumin to your salad mix
  • Add black cumin oil to your salad dressing (

Black cumin is available at most grocery stores, though you’ll find particular luck at health foods stores or Whole Foods. If you want pure black seed, you can find it at Mountain Rose Herbs, linked here.

3. Sea Veggies

Sea vegetables—including kelp, hijiki, nori, kombu—hold powerful anti-cancer properties as well. If you are unfamiliar with these names, the last time you had sea veggies was likely in the wrapping of your sushi roll; however, these foods offer a variety of benefits that make them a should-be staple in your pantry.

If we go one by one…

  • Kelp: Removes heavy metals from the body and decreases any radioactive particles present
  • Hijiki: Supports natural killer T-cells—immune system cells which fight malignant cancer cells
  • Nori: Includes high levels of calcium, iron, and carotenes
  • Kombu: High in calcium, magnesium, and vitamins B, C, D, and E; decreases blood pressure; also high in protein compared to the other sea vegetables!

All these sea veggies can be found at your local H-Mart or Asian food store but if all these sea veggies appear to be overwhelming, how about making simple nori cheese snacks? Easy to prepare and yummy:

If you’re looking for ways to make your nutrition plan more unique, try out one of these options this week! Black cumin adds some more spice, pomegranates add more brightness, and sea vegetables are a delicious snack or addition to a rice dish.


Essential Nutrients for Better Eye Health

When you think about food and nutrition, your mind likely goes to heart health, weight, maybe even hormonal balances. But did you know that your diet plays a major role in the health of your eyes?

The food and supplements you take can hugely impact the quality of your vision. Just like any other part of your body, your eyes require certain nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in order to function optimally. Moreover, if you struggle with macular degeneration, retinopathy, or glaucoma, adding certain vitamins to your diet can help alleviate certain symptoms and even improve eye function.

So, which foods and vitamins should you be incorporating more of? Below, we’ve listed 5 nutrients to add to your diet to keep ‘your windows to the world’ clear and sparkly.


1. Lutein & Zeaxanthin

In the center of your retina is the macula. The retina is composed of light-sensitive cells which convert light particles into neural signals that allow the brain to create the image you see.

The macula has a concentration of two antioxidants called lutein and zeaxanthin. These are known as macular pigments, and they support the health of your macula; consequently, they also support the health of your retina and quality of your vision.

If you struggle with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), studies have shown intake of lutein and zeaxanthin can reduce your risk of developing AMD and slow the development of later stage AMD.

Conveniently, these two macular pigments are often found together in foods. To add more lutein and zeaxanthin to your diet, opt for:

  • Sweet corn
  • Kale & Swiss chard (leafy greens)
  • Pistachios
  • Green peas
  • Egg yolks

If you need a lutein/zeaxanthin supplement, here’s one that’s third-party tested:


2. Essential fatty acids

A number of omega fatty acids are extremely helpful for eye health. In particular, two long-chain omega-3 fatty acids – EPA and DHA – as well as an omega-6 fatty acid (GLA) can be impactful for vision and eye health.

First, DHA and EPA have been shown to help with a number of eye diseases. Increasing EPA and DHA intake showed improvements in dry eye symptoms as well, as they are believed to help with the synthesis of tear fluid. Other connections have been made with intake of these fatty acids and reduced risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.

To increase your intake of DHA and EPA, add in:

  • Oily fish: Trout, salmon, sardines, etc.
  • Omega-3 supplements derived from fish or micro algae (see our recommendation below)

Here’s a high-dose omega 3 supplement that’s been third-party tested:

GLA, on the other hand, seems to act as an anti-inflammatory agent. Similar to DHA and EPA, it helps with symptoms of dry eye.

A great source of GLA is evening primrose oil. We’ve attached options for it below.


3. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is found in high concentration in the aqueous humor in the eyes, which coats the outer part of your eye. When you eat a diet full of vitamin C, the aqueous humor fills proportionally with vitamin C.

Though it is unclear exactly how the concentration of vitamin C protects your eyes, connections have been made between people with declining eye health and a lack of vitamin C intake. For example, patients with cataracts tend to have a decreased intake of antioxidants, including vitamin C.

To increase your vitamin C intake and nourish your eyes, try the following foods:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Bell peppers
  • Most fruits & veggies!

If you need to supplement, stick with whole-foods based vitamin C, NOT synthetic vitamin C, like this one:


4. Vitamin E

Similar to vitamin C, vitamin E is also considered an antioxidant (which our eyes love!) Specifically, vitamin E is a group of antioxidants that have functions with fatty acids, another molecule rich in the eye and retina.

Vitamin E’s status as an antioxidant and a “helper” of sorts to fatty acids makes it crucial to eye health. Vitamin E deficiency has been connected to blindness, retinal degeneration, and cataracts.

Opt for more vitamin E in your diet to increase your intake! You can do so by adding the following to your diet:

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Hazelnuts

If you need to supplement, pick one that contains a mixture of tocopherols from a natural source:


5. Vitamin A & beta-carotene

Vitamin A (retinol) serves a crucial role in vision. It is the precursor for a small molecule called retinal. An ample supply of retinal is required for phototransduction, or the process by which our eyes turn light into signals to the brain to create an image.

Without enough Vitamin A, a variety of symptoms may occur. Your eyes can become dry, you may struggle to see at night, and any existing eye conditions may worsen. So, how can you naturally add Vitamin A to your diet?

The best sources for Vitamin A are:

  • Eggs (specifically, the yolks!)
  • Cod liver oil (you can take softgels if you can’t stand the taste)
  • Liver
  • Dairy products

If you’re vegetarian, vegan, or have preferences that keep you from consuming any of the above, you can opt for vegetables full of A carotenoids. A classic example is beta carotene, found in carrots! Other veggies include:

  • Kale
  • Spinach

Caveat: Our bodies can make retinol from beta-carotene and other vegetable carotenoids. The problem is that this conversion depends on the individual and their genetic makeup. Also, the bioavailability of beta-carotene is highly variable and may not be a reliable source of vitamin A.  

So, you may want to consider a retinol supplement like the one below if you think you’re not like Bugs Bunny!

When we think about health, we don’t often think about the health of our eyes – but proper nutrition has just as many impacts on vision as other parts of our health! Whether you’re experiencing eye health complications or not, make sure you’re getting enough of these vitamins and antioxidants to support good eye health.

About our partner in eye health:

Lumata Health is an organization devoted to removing barriers inhibiting patient treatment for eye diseases. Their group offers tools and resources to patients and ensures a proper understanding, treatment, and care of eye health is taken to manage the disease. Check out their website here: