9 Steps to Perfect Health – #2: Nourish Your Body

February 3, 2011 in Food & Nutrition, Perfect Health | 67 comments

In step #1, we talked about what not to eat. In this article, we’ll talk about what to eat.

Most of the calories we get from food come from protein, carbohydrates and fat. These are referred to as macronutrients. We also get other important nutrients from food, such as vitamins and minerals. These don’t constitute a significant source of calories, so they’re called micronutrients.

For the last 50 years we’ve been told to follow a diet low in this or that macronutrient. From the 1950s up until the present day the American Heart Association and other similarly misguided and pharmaceutically-financed “consumer organizations” have advocated a low-fat diet. More recently, low-carbohydrate diets are all the rage.

Not all macronutrients are created equal

The problem with these approaches is that they ignore the fact that not all macronutrients are created equal. There’s a tremendous variation in how different fats and carbohydrates affect the body, and thus in their suitability for human consumption. Grouping them all together in a single category is shortsighted – to say the least.

What many advocates of low-fat or low-carbohydrate diets conveniently ignore is that there are entire groups of people around the world, both past and present, that defy their ideas of what constitutes a healthy diet.

For example, the low-fat crowd will tell you that eating too much fat – especially of the saturated variety – will make you fat and give you a heart attack. Tell that to the traditional Inuit, who get about 90% of calories from fat, and were almost entirely free of obesity and modern degenerative disease. The same is true for the Masai tribe in Africa, who get about 60-70% of calories from fat (almost entirely from meat, milk or blood.) And then there’s the modern French, who have the lowest rate of heart disease of any industrialized country in the world – despite the highest intake of saturated fat.

The low-carb crowd is very much aware of these statistics, which are often used in defense of low-carb diets as the best choice. Tell that to the Kitavans in Melanesia, who get about 70% of calories from carbohydrate and, like the Inuit and Masai, are almost entirely free of obesity, heart disease and other chronic, degenerative diseases that are so common in industrialized societies. We see a similar absence of modern diseases in the Kuna indians in Panama and the Okinawans of Japan, two other healthy indigenous populations that get about 65% of calories from carbohydrate.

These rather inconvenient exceptions to the low-fat and low-carb dogma vigorously promoted by advocates of both approaches show us that humans can in fact thrive on a wide range of macronutrient ratios, ranging from extremely high fat (Inuit, Masai) to very high carb (Kitavans, Kuna & Okinawans). They also hint at the idea that perhaps not all carbohydrates are the same in terms of their effects on human health.

Human fuel: food that nourishes the body

We need to shift away from the idea of macronutrients – as Dr. Kurt Harris of PaleoNu recently suggested – and move towards the idea of nourishment or fuel. This means we classify foods not based on their macronutrient ratios, but on their ability to provide the energy and nutrition the body needs to function optimally.

Gasoline and diesel are both fuel that cars can run on. If you put gasoline in a diesel engine, or vice versa, the engine may run but it won’t run well – or for very long. In a similar way, the human body can run on the entire range of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. But it runs much better on the ones it was designed to run on, and if you put too much of the others in, the body will eventually break down.

With this classification in mind, let’s look primarily at how the different types of fat and carbohydrate (our primary sources of energy) affect us, and which of them we should choose as our preferred “human fuel”.

Know your fats

We’ll begin with long-chain, saturated fats (LCSFA): myristic, palmitic and stearic acid. These fats are found mostly in the milk and meat of ruminant animals like cattle and sheep. They form the core structural fats in the body, comprising 75-80% of fatty acids in most cells, and they’re the primary storage form of energy for humans. In other words, when the body stores excess energy from food for later use, it stores it primarily as long-chain saturated fat.

Unlike polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) and carbohydrates like glucose and fructose, saturated fats have no known toxicity – even at very high doses – presuming insulin levels are in a normal range. Long-chain saturated fats are more easily burned as energy than PUFA. The process of converting saturated fat into energy the body can use leaves no toxic byproducts. In fact, it leaves nothing but carbon dioxide and water.

This means that, assuming you are metabolically healthy, you can eat as much saturated fat as you’d like without adverse consequences. I’m sure this will come as a surprise to many of you, since we’ve been collectively brainwashed for 50 years to believe that saturated fat makes us fat and causes heart disease. If you still believe this is true, watch these two videos and read all of the articles in my special report on cholesterol, fat and heart disease.

Verdict: eat as much as you’d like. The majority of the fats you consume should be LCSFA.

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) are another type of saturated fat. They’re found in coconut and in mother’s milk, and they have unusual properties. They’re metabolized differently than long-chain saturated fats; they don’t require bile acids for digestion and they pass directly to the liver via the portal vein. This makes MCTs a great source of easily digestible energy. They’re so easy to digest, in fact, that they’re used in the liquid hospital formulas fed to patients that have had sections of their intestine removed and aren’t able to digest solid food.

In addition to being a good energy source, MCTs have therapeutic properties. They’re high in lauric acid, a fat found in mother’s milk that has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and antioxidant properties.

Verdict: eat as much as you’d like. Coconut oil is an especially good cooking fat, because it is not vulnerable to the oxidative damage that occurs with high-heat cooking using other fats.

Monounsaturated fat (MFA), or oleic acid, is found primarily in beef, olive oil, avocados, lard and certain nuts like macadamias. Like saturated fats, MFA form the core structural fats of the body and are non-toxic even at high doses. Interestingly, monounsaturated fats seem to be the only fats that typically fat-phobic groups like the AHA and fat-friendly groups like Atkins and other low-carbers can agree are completely healthy.

Verdict: eat as much as you’d like. But be aware that certain foods that are high in monounsaturated fats, like nuts and avocados, can contain significant amounts of the dreaded omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, which we’ll discuss below. Exercise caution.

These three fats – long-chain saturated, medium chain triglycerides and monounsaturated – should form the bulk of your fat intake. In addition to their lack of toxicity, eating these fats will:

  • Reduce your risk of heart disease by raising your HDL, lowering your triglycerides and reducing levels of small, dense LDL (a type of LDL associated with a higher risk of heart disease). If you don’t believe me, read this.
  • Increase muscle mass. Muscle is composed of equal weights of fat and protein.
  • Stabilize your energy and mood. Fat provides a steadier supply of energy throughout the day than carbohydrate, which can cause fluctuations in blood sugar.

Polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) can be subdivided into omega-6 and omega-3. PUFA are fragile and vulnerable to oxidative damage, a process that creates free radicals in the body and raises our risk for everything from heart disease to cancer. As I pointed out in Step #1: Don’t Eat Toxins, both anthropological and modern research suggest that for optimal health we should consume roughly the same amount of omega-6 and omega-3 fat (1:1 ratio), and that our total intake of PUFA should be no more than 4% of calories.

But Americans’ omega-6:omega-3 ratio today ranges from 10:1 to 20:1, with a ratio as high as 25:1 in some individuals! This means some people are eating as much as 25 times the recommended amount of omega-6 fat. And it is this excess consumption of omega-6 PUFA – not cholesterol and saturated fat – that is responsible for the modern epidemics of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, autoimmune disease and more.

Omega-6 PUFA (linoleic acid, or LA) is found in small or moderate amounts of a wide variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, cereal grains and meat. But it is found in very large amounts in industrial processed and refined oils, like soybean, cottonseed, corn, safflower and sunflower. These oils are ubiquitous in the modern diet, present in everything from salad dressing to chips and crackers to restaurant food. LA is also relatively high in most nuts and in all poultry, especially in dark meat with skin.

Linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid. This means it is required for proper function but cannot be produced in the body, and thus must be obtained from the diet. However, the amount of omega-6 that is needed is exceedingly small: less than 0.5 percent of calories when supplied by most animal fats and less than 0.12 percent of calories when supplied by liver. When consumed in excess amounts – as is almost always the case in industrialized countries like the U.S. – omega-6 contributes to all of the diseases mentioned above.

Omega-3 PUFA can be further subdivided into short-chain (alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA) and long-chain (EPA & DHA). ALA is found in plant foods like walnut and flax, whereas EPA & DHA is found in seafood and to a lesser extent the meat and fat of ruminant animals.

While ALA is considered essential, the long-chain EPA & DHA are responsible for the benefits we get from eating omega-3 fats, and they form the denominator of the omega-6:omega-3 ratio. A common misconception is that we can meet our omega-3 needs by taking flax oil or eating plant foods containing ALA. It’s true that the body can convert some ALA to EPA & DHA. But that conversion is extremely inefficient in most people. On average, less than 0.5% of ALA gets converted into the long-chain EPA & DHA, and that number is even worse in people that are chronically ill or have nutrient deficiencies (common in vegans and vegetarians).

This means that it is probably EPA & DHA that are essential, in the sense that they are crucial for proper function but cannot be produced in adequate amounts in the body, and thus must be obtained from the diet. Of the two, evidence suggests that DHA plays the more important role.

Verdict: for optimal health, eat no more than 4% of calories (about 9g/d for a 2,000 calorie diet) of polyunsaturated fat, with an equal amount of omega-6 and omega-3. Make sure the omega-3 you eat is long-chain EPA & DHA (from seafood and animal sources) rather than short-chain ALA from plant sources like flax. It is very difficult to limit omega-6 to 4.5g/day. See this article for tips.

There are two types of trans-fats: natural (NTF), and artificial (ATF). The primary natural trans-fat, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is found in small amounts (about 2%) in the meat, fat and dairy fat of ruminant animals. CLA does not have the harmful effects of ATFs, and may have anti-cancer properties and other benefits.

Artificial trans-fats have been linked with a variety of diseases. I think most people are aware of this, so I’m not going to belabor the point. We’ve still got carbs to talk about.

Verdict: avoid artificial trans-fats like the plague. Natural trans-fats like CLA are harmless and probably even beneficial, but as long as you’re eating long-chain saturated fats, you’ll get CLA. You don’t have to go out of your way to find it.

Long-chain saturated fat, monounsaturated fat and medium chain triglycerides should form the bulk of your fat intake. Long-chain omega-3 fats (EPA & DHA) should be consumed regularly, while omega-6 LA should be dramatically reduced. Click on the fat pyramid below for a graphic representation.

Know your carbs

Carbohydrates are broken down into either indigestible fiber, glucose or fructose. Let’s discuss the suitability of each of these as human fuel.

Glucose is a simple sugar (monosaccharide) found mostly in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, starchy tubers and grains. It has three main uses in the body:

  • It forms structural molecules call glycoproteins;
  • Like fat, it is a source of energy for cells (especially in the brain); and,
  • it’s a precursor to compounds that play an important role in the immune system.

Glucose preceded fatty acids as a fuel source for living organisms by a very long time, and it is the building block of foods that have the longest evolutionary history of use by mammals like us. The fact that glucose can be produced in the body from protein is often used as an argument that we don’t need to eat it in the diet. But I agree with Dr. Harris’s interpretation that, rather than viewing this as evidence that that glucose isn’t important, we should view it as evidence that glucose is so metabolically essential that we evolved a mechanism to produce it even in its absence in the diet.

One of the few differences between our digestive tract and that of a true carnivore, like a lion, is that we produce an enzyme called amylase. Amylase allows us to digest starch – a long-chain polymer of glucose molecules we can’t absorb – into single molecules of glucose that easily pass through the gut wall into the bloodstream.

Presuming we are metabolically healthy, the glucose and starch we eat is digested and rapidly cleared by the liver and muscle cells. It is only when the metabolism is damaged – usually by years of eating toxins like refined cereal grains, industrial seed oils and fructose – that excess glucose is not properly cleared and leads to insulin resistance and diabetes.

Verdict: the range of glucose that is tolerated varies widely across populations and individuals. Assuming no metabolic problems and an active lifestyle, glucose may be consumed relatively freely. However, many people today do have some form of metabolic dysfunction, and live a sedentary lifestyle. If you fall into this category, glucose should probably be limited to 400 calories (about 100g) of glucose per day.

Fructose is another simple sugar found primarily in fruits and vegetables. While it has the same chemical formula and caloric content as glucose, it has an entirely different effect on the body.

As I pointed out in Step #1: Don’t Eat Toxins, fructose is toxic at high doses. It damages proteins in a process called fructation, which disrupts metabolic function and causes inflammation and oxidative damage. To prevent this, fructose is shunted directly to the liver for conversion into glucose or innocuous fats. But this process damages the liver over time, leading to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (which one in three Americans now suffer from) and metabolic syndrome.

Another issue is that excess fructose is not well absorbed in the gut, which in turn leads to its rapid fermentation by bacteria in the colon or abnormal overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. Small-bowel bacterial overgrowth, or SIBO, is now believed to be the major cause of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a common functional bowel disorder that is the second-leading cause of people missing work behind only the common cold.

Most people without metabolic dysfunction can handle small amounts of fructose (as found in a few servings of fruit per day) without problems. But on the scale that fructose is consumed in the U.S. – including 64 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup per person each year on average – fructose wreaks havoc on the body. It should therefore be limited as a source of carbohydrate.

Verdict: 3-4 servings a day of fruit is fine for people without metabolic problems. Those with fatty liver, insulin resistance or other issues should further limit fructose intake, and everyone should avoid high-fructose corn syrup and other concentrated sources like agave syrup.

Fiber is plant matter that is indigestible to humans. But although we can’t digest it, some of the 100 trillion bacteria that live in our gut can. In fact, up to 10% of the body’s caloric needs can be met by the conversion of glucose into short-chain fats like butyrate, propionate and acetate by intestinal bacteria. These short-chain fats are the primary energy source for intestinal cells in the colon, and butyrate in particular has been associated with several benefits. These are outlined in The Perfect Health Diet, by Paul & Shou-Ching Jaminet. Butyrate:

  • Prevents obesity.
  • Heals the intestine.
  • Improves gut barrier integrity.
  • Relieves constipation.
  • Improves cardiovascular markers.
  • Reduces inflammation.
  • Stabilizes blood sugar.

The evidence clearly suggests that vegetable fiber is beneficial. However, just as not all fats are created equal, not all fiber is created equal. Grain fiber – which the AHA and other so-called “heart healthy” organizations have been promoting for decades – is toxic for two reasons: it contains toxic proteins like gluten, and it is prone to injure the intestinal wall.

We’ve been bullied into believing that grain fiber prevents heart disease and provides numerous health benefits. But this claim has only been tested in a single clinical trial, and the results were less than spectacular. The Diet and Reinfarction Trial, published in 1989, included 2,033 British men who had suffered a heart attack, and compared a high-fiber group with a control group. The high-fiber group ate whole grains and doubled their grain fiber intake from 9 to 17 grams per day.

How did that work out for them? Not too well. Deaths in the high fiber group were 22% higher over the two year study. 9.9% of the control group died vs. 12.1% of the high fiber group.

There are other reasons to limit all types of fiber. Fiber isn’t essential. Human breast milk doesn’t have any, and traditional people like the Masai – who are free of modern, degenerative disease – eat almost no fiber at all (subsisting on a diet of meat, blood and milk). And while fiber can feed the good bacteria in our gut and increase the production of beneficial short-chain fats like butyrate, it can also feed pathogenic and opportunistic bacteria in the gut.

Verdict: vegetable (but not grain) fiber is beneficial in moderate amounts – about one-half pound of vegetables per day. But think about vegetables and fiber as accompaniments or flavorful condiments to fat and protein, which should form the bulk of calories consumed, rather than the other way around.

Assuming a healthy metabolism (which isn’t necessarily a safe assumption these days), glucose and starch can be eaten relatively freely, which fructose should be limited to 2-3 servings of fruit per day. Vegetable fiber is beneficial but should also be limited, to about one-half pound of vegetables per day. See the carb pyramid below for a graphic representation.

Pyramid containing carbs we should eat

Know your protein

What about protein? As it turns out, eating the right type of protein is easy if you simply follow Step #1 (don’t eat toxins) and base your diet on the healthy fats I listed above.

Protein is mostly found in animal products, seafood, nuts, legumes and grains. Legumes and grains have toxic compounds that can damage the gut. These toxins can be partially and in some cases completely neutralized by traditional preparation methods like soaking, sprouting and fermenting. But the vast majority of people in modern industrial societies don’t do this and aren’t willing to do it, so I generally recommend that people avoid them altogether.

As I explained above, nuts are often high in omega-6 LA, which we get far too much of as it is. So nuts should not constitute a significant source of protein. Walnuts are especially high. Just 100g of walnuts a day amounts to a whopping 266g of omega-6 per week. Keeping in mind that we want a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, you’d have to eat 34 pounds of salmon a week to achieve a balance. Good luck with that.

Poultry, especially dark meat with the skin on, can also be very high in omega-6 and should also be limited. For example, chicken skin has about 14 times more omega-6 than even grain-finished beef, and 10 times more than grain-finished pork.

That leaves the meat and milk (including butter, cream and cheese) of ruminant animals (beef & lamb), pork, and seafood as the most suitable sources of protein. Animal protein is easy to absorb, is not toxic and is rich in beneficial long-chain saturated fats and natural trans-fats like CLA. Seafood is similarly easy to absorb, and is the primary dietary source of long-chain omega-3 fats DHA & EPA, as well as micronutrients like vitamin D and selenium.

We don’t need a pyramid for protein; you can simply follow the fat pyramid and you’ll naturally get the right type and amount of protein.


Andrew February 3, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Paul Jaminet promotes white rice as a safe carb. Do you agree, Chris?

Chris Kresser February 3, 2011 at 2:41 pm

In short, yes. But as this article is already quite long, I felt it would be too much to go into that here.

Martin February 3, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Can you give a little more information about what “limiting” dark meat in poultry might mean. Right now my usual breakfast is chicken sausage from Whole Foods that is primarily, if not entirely, dark meat. 6 oz cooked each morning. I don’t eat it any other time, but this has become a convenient breakfast. Too much?

EXCELLENT posting, btw. Very much looking forward to the rest.

Chris Kresser February 3, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Martin & Jack:

Chicken thigh without skin supplies nearly six times as much omega-6 as grain-finished pork, and 9.5 times as much as fatty grain-finished beef. For more on this see Don Matesz’s recent article: http://donmatesz.blogspot.com/2011/01/practically-primal-guide-to_21.html

Jack Kronk February 3, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Yah I was wondering about the dark meat chicken as well. I didn’t know that it was very high in O6. I don’t really eat much of it, but if I do eat chicken, that’s exactly the kind I like.

Oh and I like your breakdown of the macronutrients. Well done Chris.

-Jack K

Danny February 3, 2011 at 3:12 pm

butter, cream, eggs and even animal fat have a significant amount of omega 6 , so if you are eating a high fat diet It’s become impossible to reach the ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega 6 without megadosing with fish oil.

steph February 3, 2011 at 3:41 pm

What about eggs, some are labelled omega 3 but I think they are from chickens fed flax seeds? I love eggs and they are a big part of my low carb, dairy and grain-free diet. great post, very clear, thanks.

Chris Kresser February 3, 2011 at 4:03 pm

That’s not true of grass-fed dairy and animal fat and the n-6 content of pastured eggs is also minimal. How do you think our ancestors managed a 1:1 ratio? They sure as heck weren’t taking fish oil.

The 6:3 ratio in ruminant meat ranges from 1.2:1 in grass-fed meat to 4.84:1 in grain-finished meat. http://donmatesz.blogspot.com/2011/01/practically-primal-guide-to_21.html

According to this study, the 6:3 ratio of cheese from cows raised on alpine grass is 1.1. That is right in line with evolutionary ratios. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14676141

It’s a similar story with eggs. Pastured eggs have significantly higher omega-3 content than commercial eggs. But even a commercial egg has only 500 mg of omega-6 LA, so we’re not talking about a large amount. You could eat 2 eggs a day and still be well below your 4.5g/d allowance (assuming 2,000 calories.)

The evidence doesn’t support your claim.

Gary February 3, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Danny is wrong about omega 6 in meat, et. al. Read the Don Matesz article that Chris linked to in the comments. Omega 6 is very low in butter, cream, eggs and beef and lamb.

Mike February 3, 2011 at 4:12 pm


I will definitely avoid the skin-on chicken thighs from now on. I had bought them as a cheap cut, but was not aware of the extent of the omega 6 issue!

L February 3, 2011 at 4:25 pm

I would definitely appreciate more thoughts on rice.

It was a staple of meals before I left home for college and now work.

Jesse February 3, 2011 at 4:44 pm


The study you claimed to show negative health effects of grain fiber does not actually support that claim. The association between fiber and mortality was not statistically significant.

A quote from the discussion:

“There was no evidence of any benefit [from increased fiber]; mortality was somewhat higher in the fibre advice group, but this was presumably fortuitous since the difference was not statistically significant. No cohort studies have shown unfavourable relation between cereal fiber and IHD or total mortality, whereas several have suggested favourable associations. [Though the associations may be non-causal, etc.]”

So the most we can say is that grain fiber does not seem to protect against heart disease and total mortality.

I thought I should point this out.

Raj (HBFSER) February 3, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Another great post. Thank you.

But can you tell me where you got this from? – “Muscle is composed of equal weights of fat and protein.”

From what I know, lean muscle contains approximately 70 to 75% water, 20 to 22 % protein, essentially no carbohydrate and has 4 to 8% lipid. I’d be curious to know where you got that information from.

Thanks much!

Jay February 3, 2011 at 8:33 pm

Great post as always.
Question: what about us athletes that are trying to get in a relatively high amount of quality protein each day for muscle growth and recovery. It appears that unless one has access to grass fed beef and milk from grass fed cows it will be hard to get enough of it without getting too much omega 6. Protein powder is an option but I prefer to get my protein from natural sources if possible. Also, what about egg consumption. I eat 4-6 eggs a day for the protein and cholesterol which I understand to be one of the main building blocks of testosterone in the body. Like many, I strive for 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight each day (190 grams for me). Can you offer any suggestions? Thank you for the great site.

Jay February 3, 2011 at 10:02 pm

One more thing. I notice there are those such as Dr. Loren Cordain who specifically advise against the ingestion of coconut oil because of it’s saturated fat content, yet yourself and others recommend it for the same reason. Dr. Cordain’s site says “Two nuts that you should not include in your diet are coconuts and peanuts. Coconuts, far and away, contain the most saturated fat of any nut. Further they only have minuscule amounts of cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fatty acids, and they are devoid of omega 3 fatty acids.

“In fatty foods the most common saturated fatty acids are lauric acid (12:0), myristic acid (14:0), palmitic acid (16:0) and stearic acid (18:0). Excessive consumption of 12:0, 14:0 and 16:0 elevate blood concentrations of total and LDL cholesterol and increase your risk for heart disease”.

Maybe the operative word here is “Excessive”, however, he advises against any use of it. I’ve read the Paleo Diet book and I know his work very well. Do you think this is just a professional difference of opinion or to your knowledge has he since modified his stance on the subject. Can you shed some light on the reasons for the difference in opinion. Thank a bunch.

Dana February 4, 2011 at 1:00 am

“Gasoline and diesel are both fuel that cars can run on. If you put gasoline in a diesel engine, or vice versa, the engine may run but it won’t run well – or for very long.”

This is true.

I think of the great macronutrient debate in terms just a little to the side of the ones you’ve presented here. My brother used to own a Toyota Corolla that had apparently been run on high octane for a significant period of time. By the time he bought it used, it acted up on any lower octane than the highest one available at gas stations. (I think it’s called 89?) Good thing the gas tank was small, because that got pricey.

Most people in this country have been putting too high octane gas in their tanks, and now lower octane makes them knock, even though low octane would have worked fine in their engines had they been using it from the beginning. So now they are stuck with high octane, not because high octane is necessary for a Toyota Corolla but because it’s necessary for a Toyota Corolla that’s been run too long on high octane.

There’s a difference between prescribing a diet for the maintenance of health from birth onward, and prescribing a diet to balance out physical damage from years of bad diet. It might help if people who try to suss out what constitutes a “good diet” would clarify which attempt they are undertaking: maintenance diet for already-healthy people, or medicinal diet for the chronically ill.

Because if you think a Kitavan diet would work for a type 2 diabetic whose beta cells are almost all burned out, you dreamin’, bro. :P

Dana February 4, 2011 at 1:02 am

And I realize my octane analogy is not perfect, upon further examination; our chronic diseases seem to come from the wrong kinds of fats and carbs rather than too much fat or too much carb. And I’m still oversimplifying because I think other factors also come into play, such as inadequate sleep and too many stimulants. But there you go, that’s as close as I’ll get with the engine analogy.

Jack Kronk February 4, 2011 at 9:11 am

Jay,Dr. Loren Cordain is operating from the faulty theory that saturated fats are unhealthy to eat. Once you understand that the basis for that notion is incorrect, you can toss it out the window. Eating butter, beef, ghee, cream, coconut oil is all very good for you. As Chris mentions in the article, eating LCSFA should be a major staple and building block of your diet, and the MCSFA found in coconut oil are very good too, for reasons noted.


Chris Kresser February 4, 2011 at 9:13 am

Dana: I stated clearly in the article that my recommendations were made assuming a healthy metabolism. A type 2 diabetic clearly does not have a healthy metabolism.

Jay: I’ll answer your question in more detail in a podcast, but in the meantime check out this article. Saturated fat decreases risk of heart disease in 3 ways: it increases HDL, decreases triglycerides and decreases small, dense LDL.

Cordain seems to be backpedaling on his anti-saturated fat stance. His last paper was much more favorable towards it. I bet that in a few years he will have quietly transitioned away from warning people about it at all.

SMK February 4, 2011 at 9:16 am


Please suggest a suitable Pro and Prebitic for a 5 yr old who was not breast fed.The past 6 months tried Udo’s probiotic.Has been throgh quite a few antibiotic doses for ear infections @ ages 2 and 3.

In our search to try to cure his gut now,What do you think about the Megafoods one?

Which part of the chicken has less Omega-6 ?

Gary February 4, 2011 at 9:49 am

I am a little confused on cholesterol particle sizes, specifically comparing the small dense LDL and HDL, which are opposing as indicators of health, but it seems they would be of similar particle size and density (a smaller denser LDL comparable to a HDL?) and therefor have a similar effect on the body. A little help on this is much appreciated, thank you, you’re awesome keep up the amazing work!

Monte Diaz February 4, 2011 at 10:34 am

Humans are alive, cars are not. Thank God we are adaptive. Maybe some day we will be more regenerative as well.

Jack Kronk February 4, 2011 at 10:48 am


Here’s a silly but possibly helpful analogy I came up with:

Picture a swimming pool with a net over it with holes in the net the size of racquetballs. Now place 100 muddy baseballs on the net. The baseballs could represent small, dense LDL particles. If any balls fall through the net, it makes the water dirty (let muddy water represent cardiovascular disease). Chances are, some baseballs will ‘fall through’ the racquetball sized holes, creating a significant ‘risk’ for muddy water. Now remove 80 of the baseballs and replace them with 80 clean and fluffy beach balls (20 remaining baseballs). The ‘volume’ of LDL increased greatly (figure this to be the total LDL count). Let’s just say for arguments sake that your LDL count with the baseballs was 100 but with the beachballs it jumped up to 180. Your doctor would freak out and try to put you on statins. But would you say the risk of balls falling through the holes in the net to make the water dirty increased or decreased?

It may not be an exact truth that small, dense LDL ’causes’ heart disease. But what has been determined is that small, dense LDL is strongly associated with poor cardiovascular health and a higher risk for heart attack, indicating it as sort of a marker or a warning sign for greater risk.

It is my understanding that the lipid numbers that appear to be most favorable based on current knowledge is essentially 3 important factors:

1. High HDL
2. Low Trigs
3. Large, bouyant LDL particles (type A)


Please feel free to throw in your 2 cents if anything I’ve said here needs some tweaking. I won’t mind at all.

Jack K

Chris Kresser February 4, 2011 at 10:53 am

I think I’m going to address this question (small LDL, lipids) in my first podcast episode coming up soon.

Small LDL is a risk factor because it’s more likely to oxidize. Oxidized LDL is 8x greater risk factor than non-oxidized LDL.

Jack: I agree with your 3 numbers.

steve February 4, 2011 at 11:07 am

I was not aware of this are 2 avocados a day to many???

But be aware that certain foods that are high in monounsaturated fats, like nuts and avocados, can contain significant amounts of the dreaded omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, which we’ll discuss below.

Thanks for posting such great stuff….

Katie @ Wellness Mama February 4, 2011 at 11:19 am

Really enjoying this series Chris. You are great at breaking things down and making them easy to understand. My dad uses a similar analogy on fuel to help explain why carbs are not always the best form of fuel and why eating low fat does not logically lead to weight loss. Basically, the if there was a fuel (fat) for a car that gave 9 miles per gallon and a fuel (carb) that gave 4 miles per gallon, in the long run, you would be able to go further using the 9 mile per gallon fuel and would have to consume much more “fuel” to go the same distance with the 4 mile fuel. Of course, once we apply this to the human body, there are many other factors that come into play, but I like the analogy.

Lisa February 4, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Just wanted to send a quick and loud THANK YOU Chris for what’s turning out to be a great series.

As Katie mentioned, you do have a gift for taking complex information and explaining it so the non-technical among us can understand. I’m finding that I can forward your articles to my mom, friends, etc. as a great resource that’s completely digestible (pun intended). :)

Boston, MA

Glenn February 4, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Martin, Jack, Danny, Steph:

I believe you have been needlessly confused by Chris’ information on omega-6 oils. And Chris, please read the above posts one more time. You have people actually saying they will stop eating their favorite chicken thighs, etc. to not overdose on omega-6. Does this not seem a bit extreme? Enough is enough. Please let me explain.

Instead of being a skeptic, you have seemingly gone along with the fish-oil pushing masses and slammed omega-6 once again. I know you didn’t intend for it to come out this way, but people seem to be interpreting your message as anti-omega-6.

To all those with an open mind: think about it. Do you think anyone every had to “balance” their omega-6 and omega-3 intake in the past? If we had, we would have been having heart attacks and strokes and diabetes and cancer right and left. Pure, simple logic tells us that the balance is not the issue. There probably would be nothing wrong at all with eating 100 times as much omega-6 as omega-3 if it were from natural sources.

The problem is the industrial oils that were originally clean, wonderful omega-6 before they became heat treated and ruined for consumption. The problem is that also, health writers have continued to call these adulterated chemicals “omega-6″, even though they can no longer provide the function of omega-6 in our bodies. For proof, see the link at the end.

Its as though a restaurant took your order for “chicken breast” and brought the food out burned to a crisp. You would complain that it was ruined and the answer might be “its still chicken breast”. What do you think? Maybe, if this happened constantly, a new word should be coined for “burned chicken breast”? But the general public should certainly not buy off on accepting the burned meat as a suitable substitute for a properly cooked meal. But that is what we are seeing here. Using one term to refer to both healthy oil and tragically toxic oil.

So until we get another word for the toxic vegetable oils, and clarify this issue just by using the right word, the solution is just to stop eating the food industry’s versions of these vegetable oils. Eat nothing with “canola oil” or “safflower oil” or “corn oil” or “soy oil” on the label, unless you are buying a bottle of organic, cold-pressed salad oil and the oil is the only ingredient. Why? because these ingredients, the oils, are now either rancid or otherwise cannot move oxygen through your body’s cell walls as they should, so they are not just worthless, they are damaging.

But its not a matter of balancing you omega-6 intake by raising your fish-oil intake 3000 percent. Just stop eating the processed foods as Chris cautions. Then you will have balance. Then you will not have to worry one whit about how much of EITHER omega-3 or omega-6 you consumed, just as your great-grandparents never worried, and yet never died of cancer, heart disease, or diabetes.

So, Martin, Jack, Danny, Steph: please do your own research before you decide you have to start watching omega-6 intake, and have to stop eating your favorite cuts of chicken with the skin still attached! Just cutting out the use of commercial vegetable oils will get the polluting substances out of your body over time. The pollution is not omega-6, the healthy original oil found in all foods, it is the adulterated chemical result from the food industry that so far has no identifying name.

A side note to this is that, in case you didn’t notice it, the Don Matesz’s “recent article” link cited by Chris mentions that grain fed cattle have only 1/3 the omega-3 that grass fed cattle have. Think about how all the extra carbs (mostly grain!) one eats is also cutting into OUR desired share of omega-3. Probably no one would need to supplement with omega-3 if they just at green leafy vegetables instead of the pastas and breads they eat. Amazing.

Another note: Chris states “For example, chicken skin has about 14 times more omega-6 than even grain-finished beef, and 10 times more than grain-finished pork. ” It helps to have knowledge of physiology here. Chris is comparing skin from one animal with the meat (probably no skin involved) of another animal. It might be interesting to compare skin with skin. Skin is known to be high in omega-6. In the human being, skin is higher in omega-6 compared to omega-3 than any other organ of the body. Human skin has 1000 times as much omega-6 as omega-3. The brain has only 100 times as much omega-6 as omega-3. Muscle has 6.5 times as much omega-6 as omega-3. For more on how much your body needs the essential fatty acids, please read some at the web site that I provide a link to.

Good luck to the person who has been convinced that omega-6 is an evil substance that should be eliminated from the diet. It isn’t termed an essential oil by physiologists for no reason. For more on how to make sure you know what you are doing with respect to healthy and unhealthy oils, read a few articles on this web site: http://www.brianpeskin.com/

Best of health to all.

Jack Kronk February 4, 2011 at 2:13 pm


I hear you, but O6 is still PUFA, no? And it’s a fat that still is unstable to its double bond structure. Can we not still conclude that the oxidation risk of an overabundance of O6 combined with perhaps and insufficient intake of O3 and saturated fats would still be problemtic, even if the O6 is coming from sources like chicken and/or pork fat and/or grain fed beef fat etc etc. I would COMPELTELY agree that the most important and effective way to dramatically reduce dangerous levels of O6 would be to cut out the vegetable (seed) oils. It’s also probably a good idea to not eat a handful of roasted walnuts everyday. But it seems to me that you would still want to have a very healthy intake of O3 and sat fats if you are going to have a regular and fairly significant intake of even naturally present O6.

Also, we eat the skin of chickens on purpose, but we don’t eat the skin of cows. And I don’t know bout you, but I don’t eat human skin more than a few times a week, so that’s a moot point as far as I’m concerned.

Jack K

Vic Shayne, PhD February 4, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Good article, as per usual. I’d like to add that it is not only a mistake to focus on macronutrients — proteins, carbs and fats — but also to focus on vitamins, minerals and amino acids in terms of optimal health. This is because vitamins, minerals and amino acids are all isolates and NOT foods. While vitamins make for good marketing, they do not make for, nor constitute, what can be called “nutrition.” There are nutrients and substances in nature’s whole foods that are overlooked as important as marketers focus on selling their isolates. A few examples are carotenoids, pigments, flavors, fiber, aroma, co-vitamins, enzymes and flavonoids. None of these substances are found in vitamin pills. — Vic Shayne, nutritionresearchcenter.org

Gary February 4, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Thanks Jack! I like the analogy, makes sense.

So then it’s not all about particle size but rather oxidizing capacity?

Chris Kresser February 4, 2011 at 6:52 pm

It is about particle size, in that the small, dense particles are more likely to penetrate the gaps of the endothelial lining. But they’re also more likely to oxidize. A double whammy.

Gary February 4, 2011 at 7:06 pm

So why are high levels of HDL, which are small and dense, associated with a decrease in heart disease? wouldn’t those penetrate the gaps easier than the small dense LDL? I guess the question is what makes HDL good if they’re small and dense?

claire February 4, 2011 at 8:22 pm

I enjoyed the article as usual, and really liked Glenn’s clarifications of natural omega-6 as (not) toxic. Chris- I also had a big twinge of anxiety noting that my favorite meat on the bird is dark (not to mention crispy chicken skin), that I love love love avocados, and of course walnuts are my favorite nut. Yikes!

Still I believe that if I have eliminated sugar, industrial seed oils and processed foods; If I soak and sprout the nuts I eat, and get plenty of pastured eggs, milk and meat and wild seafood, then I can still enjoy my favorite foods despite that they contain high omega-6.

It seems to me that eating all healthy foods (in the pyramid above) in moderation is a good path, so better not to stress too much about minute calculations of omega-6 and 3 ratios.

Chris Kresser February 4, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Glenn et al: the idea that something “natural” can’t be toxic is preposterous. Water is toxic at high doses, as is just about everything we can put in our mouth and thousands of plants like castor bean and rosary pea. “Natural (i.e. unprocessed) omega-6 fat is indeed toxic at high doses, especially when long-chain omega-3 intake is insufficient.

I’m sorry that this seems to upset people, but that doesn’t make it less true. Our ancestors ate omega-6 and omega-3 in a 1:1 ratio. No, they didn’t have to calculate or think about it. They didn’t have to because they didn’t have access to foods high in omega-6 like we do today.

While I agree it’s good not to stress too much about food (as I’ve written before, and I’ll write about again in this series), eating too much omega-6 can and does lead to significant health problems. What you choose to do with that information is of course your prerogative, but please don’t mislead people by telling them that omega-6 is not potentially toxic as long as its natural.

Certainly eating the way Claire describes is going to get people most of the way there, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try to limit their n-6 intake – even from “natural” n-6.

Kurt G Harris MD February 4, 2011 at 9:30 pm

I knew “Glenn” was regurgitating Brian Peskin’s nonsense (or is he a Peskin proxy?) before I got the link at the end of his post.

You can listen to Peskin’s hucksterish interview with Jimmy Moore and decide for yourself. I have never heard a more irresponsible and dangerous bunch of nonsense in my life.

He is neither a “professor” nor a health care professional. He is an engineer.

Peskin wants you to “supplement” with his own special linoliec acid, pouring gasoline on the fire, as it were. Of course, you have to buy it from him. Legal action has been taken against him for fraud. See the links below.



Self-promoting frauds like Peskin really irritate me, confusing the hell out of people trying to figure all this stuff out.

If you are skeptical of Chris’ advice, then eat all the tasteless factory chicken you want. It’s your body, but I am pretty sure we did not evolve eating grain-fed albino fryers from Tyson.

Barbara February 5, 2011 at 1:26 am

You said that the Kitavans in Melanesia get 70% of their calories from carbs but in your video from May 31,2010 you say that high carb diet causes LDL (small, dense) go up, HDL go down and triglycerides go up. Shouldn’t they be unhealthy? I am confused.
Regarding chicken: I assume that you talk about the pastured chicken as being high in omega 6? Is it correct? What is the recommended amount to eat per week then?
Thank you.

Gary February 5, 2011 at 7:52 am

No questions, just want to say love your work! Looking forward to the podcast

Chris Kresser February 5, 2011 at 10:29 am

Barbara: as I mentioned in the article, there’s a wide range of carbohydrate tolerance which is determined by a number of factors. A high glucose intake absent metabolic dysfunction seems to be safe for most people. However, the carbohydrates that saturated fat is replaced with in modern societies like the U.S. tend to be from processed and refined wheat flour and fructose, which have an entirely different effect on the body. Also, many people (if not most) who’ve been eating a Standard American Diet have damaged metabolisms, so their carbohydrate tolerance will be compromised. In those cases I recommend limiting carbohydrate to 400 – 600 calories (100 – 150g) per day, and primarily in the form of glucose from starch instead of fructose.

Jon February 5, 2011 at 10:31 am

Wow. I had absolutely no idea how much Omega-6 was in chicken! No wonder the PaNu blog recently listed all chicken (even organic, pasture raised chicken) as worse than meat from grain fed ruminants.

Unfortunately, due to lack of freezer space and a few other factors, my family has not made the switch yet to grass fed beef/bison/etc. It was good to see from the PaNu blog that grain fed commercial beef is worse than grain fed meat, no doubt, but really not overly bad as the PUFA levels aren’t that high.

However what I didn’t get from that PaNu post, but discovered in the links on this post, were just how high and imbalanced the PUFAs are in chicken. Oh my gosh I’m just flabbergasted and, to be honest, a little frustrated (as I love chicken).

I guess sticking with the 80/20 principle, my family doesn’t need to give up chicken completely. We just need to be a little smarter about how often we have it now that I know about it.

Chris Kresser February 5, 2011 at 10:41 am

That’s right. If you’re going to eat chicken, probably best to eat pasture-raised boneless/skinless and cook in butter, coconut oil, lard or other safe saturated/monounsaturated fat. Like Indian food? Butter chicken is a great recipe. But yes, emphasize meat from ruminants and pork, rather than poultry.

Mallory February 5, 2011 at 11:12 am

ahhhh this post is awesome, and portrays exactly how i eat. i love beef cheese and eggs and seafood from the gulf!!!!! my downfall is the money i spend on cheese, but thats my own doing. i think if you stick to wha was written, the omega crap should fsall into place and maybe people should stop trying to justify ways to eat more chicken thighs….eat beef haha. you broke this down very easy to read and understand, i hope the general public gets word on this!!

WP @ The Conscious Life February 5, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Wow, thanks for the post. It definitely set me thinking. There are so many questions swimming in my mind that I hope you can bear with me.

Firstly, does that mean that what we’ve been told in the past about taking too much calories than what we can expend can lead to overweight is flawed too? If it isn’t, wouldn’t taking fats, regardless of saturated or not, without limitation will lead to unwanted weight gain?

Secondly, considering the way factory meats are being raised today (antibiotics, growth hormones, unnatural fed, poor living conditions), do you think the benefits of taking such meats will outweigh the risks involved, if one has no access or can’t afford to buy grass-fed organic meats?

Thanks so much for your thoughts. Cheers!

Chris Kresser February 5, 2011 at 7:18 pm


1. Most people that don’t restrict fat tend to eat less than those that do, because the latter eat more carbohydrates which actually stimulate appetite and promote overeating when eaten in excess. This is borne out in clinical studies.

2. While grass-fed meat is certainly far superior to conventional meat, some of the dangers/risks of eating CAFO meat have been overstated. Read Don Matesz’s excellent series on CAFO meat at his blog. This is part 3: http://donmatesz.blogspot.com/2011/01/practically-primal-guide-to_21.html Work back from there.

Vic February 5, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Just for the record, regarding a comment above. To refer anybody for any reason to quackwatch is like taking the word of J Edgar Hoover to decide who had communist ties in the 50s. The quackwatch site is nothing short of a poorly justified attack on people and companies without regard to fact or due diligence. I would imagine one day Stephen Barret will be sued for libel by some wronged individual who is moved to do so.

Barbara February 6, 2011 at 12:55 am

I have just noticed your comment recommending boneless/skinless chicken breast. I understand the skinless part but why boneless? Is it still healthy to make chicken broth? I make my broth with some skin/fat in addition to the bones. I guess I better use just “clean”bones?
Thank you.

chuck February 6, 2011 at 1:11 am

Can you recommend an affordable lab to get a complete blood test report? My doctor usually orders the usual suspects, so I’d like to just buy it myself rather than have to convince him why I want these tested!

This is what I’d ideally get measured, in order of importance:

Non-esterified fatty acids (NERA)

Omega-3, Omega-6

Vitamin D3 (25-OH)

Measured LDL Cholesterol (Pattern A/B), HLD, Trig

Ubiquinol (CoQ10)

Choline, Glutathione, CLA

Vitamin K2 (MK-4/MK-7),

Trans-Resveratrol, Fisetin

Possibly a few others… mainly regarding the Thyroid. There is SO much info on Thyroid, that it’s a bit overwhelming. I found these program, but haven’t found any reviews…


http://store.renegadehealth.com/Books-amp-DVDs/The-Complete-Thyroid-Health-Program-with-Dr-J-E-Williams-eCouse-Digital-p308.html ,

Any suggestions?

remo February 6, 2011 at 7:08 am

great post! i’m just confused about one part..you say “However, the amount of omega-6 that is needed is exceedingly small: less than 0.5 percent of calories when supplied by most animal fats and less than 0.12 percent of calories when supplied by liver”..

do you mean to say that our omega 6 needs are lower if we get them from eating liver as opposed to animal fat? Isn’t fat in liver the same as animal fat?

Chris Kresser February 6, 2011 at 8:25 am

Barbara: bones are fine.

Chuck: directlabs.com

Remo: this comes from Chris Masterjohn’s excellent research on essential fatty acids. Liver supplies a substantial amount or arachidonate in addition to B6, both of which help in the production of arachidonate from linoleate released from fat stores. This is why the requirement is lower when obtaining n-6 from liver than it is from animal fat.

Lena February 7, 2011 at 3:36 am

Regarding: “Carbohydrates are broken down into either indigestible fiber, glucose or fructose.”

How about galactose? I know that lactose is broken down into the simple sugars glucose and galactose by the enzyme lactase (which is missing or insufficient in those who are lactose intolerant). But what happens with the galactose? Does the comment I sited above mean that it is broken down to glucose too? Please clarify!

By the way, I want to thank you for the excellent work you are doing!

Ross February 8, 2011 at 8:32 am


How many avocados can I safely consume per day without without consuming excessive omega-6 ? How much fish can I include in my diet regularly while using saturated oils for cooking?

Mia February 8, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Excellent article Chris. I really like how you structure and organize the information in your new series. Very clear, easy to understand and refer back to it when needed. Love the new food pyramids. You should write a book.

I am just a bit confused about Omega 3 and Omega 6 in meat.
In the data that you provided did they measure Omega 3 in raw or cooked meat (sorry, I didn’t have time to read the actual studies yet)?

Also, since we are usually told that Omega 3 are fragile and we shouldn’t cook with oils containing it, I was wondering what happens to Omega 3 in cooked meat, don’t they get damaged, oxidized etc?

Chris Kresser February 8, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Ross: totally depends on what other sources of n-6 you’re eating. An avocado is 2.3g of n-6. Considering that in an ideal world we limit n-6 to 4.5g/d, you could have one avocado a day if you’re eating very little n-6 elsewhere in your diet. Adjust accordingly.

Jack Kronk February 8, 2011 at 3:20 pm


What is a good source to reference n-6 amounts in any given food? Is there a website that has a pretty reliable database?


Chris Kresser February 8, 2011 at 3:36 pm


PeggySu February 9, 2011 at 8:54 pm

Excellent article. I noticed that you didn’t mention sucrose which I assume is not healthy because it is metabolized to half fructose. So isn’t it almost as bad as high-fructose corn syrup?

Chris Kresser February 9, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Sucrose is 50/50, HFCS is 55/45, so HFCS is worse than sucrose in that regard. But sucrose is still concentrated sugar, and is best avoided entirely.

Jay February 10, 2011 at 4:29 am


What should guy like me do who wants to follow a low carb – high fat diet but doesn’t have access to organic and pasture raised fats including eggs, butter, ghee, cheese etc. How can I increase and safely consume fats in large amounts?

fredt February 10, 2011 at 10:47 am

“We need to shift away from the idea of macronutrients – as Dr. Kurt Harris of PaleoNu recently suggested – and move towards the idea of nourishment or fuel. This means we classify foods not based on their macronutrient ratios, but on their ability to provide the energy and nutrition the body needs to function optimally.”

Oh really.

What about those of us who are never satisfied? We need to control or intake and some system of measurement. Eating to satiety is a meaningless concept to someone who never feels satiety. I need to measure and calculate each meal not be wildly over in calories. Under is more of a problem, as when I am under, I get uncontrollably hunger.

To that end, too much carbohydrate, too much fat, too much protein each cause me different issues, as does too little of anything. Without measuring and computing I would be as fat or fatter than I once was.

Understanding the the amounts that I need was also difficult until I can across
Phil Maffetone’s two week carbohydrate intolerance test. After setting the carbohydrate, I was able to use the process to set my fat requirements, and protein requirements to control weight.

For me, I found that I needed to follow Dr. Bernstein’s concept. According to Dr. R Bernstein (diebetic) you need to hold your carb level steady (at some low level), move your protein level up or down to gain or lose weight, and eat enough fat to not be hungry.

Note that in Canada we have a Dr. S Bernstein (weight) that runs weight loss clinics. Good for weight loss, but short on education.

My diet does not contain much sugar, grains (except ground flax), lubricant (omega 666) and manufactured eatable products (anything with labels).

But what do I know.

Laura R February 11, 2011 at 7:45 am

Hi Chris, thank you very much for your article.
I’d love of you could expand a bit more on the process of detoxing some grains through soaking and sprouting. I’ve been sprouting organic lentils, alfalfa, chick peas, aduki and mung beans for years. Of course I always thought they were a very healthy and tasty thing to eat.
Would you recommend to avoid all of them, a few or would you approve of their intake in moderate quantities? (i.e. something like half a cup of sprouts per day and not every day).
Many thanks!

Daniel February 13, 2011 at 10:10 am

Hey Chris,
Great article and series, can’t wait to read the rest of it. I’ve got a quick question and would love your thoughts- we obviously know cholesterol in the diet is harmless and in fact beneficial, but I was wondering if one should place an upper limit on dietary cholesterol intake (too much of a good thing?). Seeing as how the body makes ~1000 mg per day, should that be the ceiling limit? Or can you really not get too much? Thanks!

Chris Kresser February 13, 2011 at 10:15 am

Daniel: no need to limit. The liver does that regulation better than we could hope to.

nick February 17, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Hi Chris, Is psyllium husk a good fiber to take everyday? I mix it with apple pectin. Thanks

dave March 8, 2011 at 9:19 am

Doesn’t grain finishing animals through the EFA ratios all out of whack?

John March 26, 2011 at 10:56 am

Great advice. I have been on a raw paleo diet for five months and the results have been amazing. Lots raw (or very rare) meat, raw fish (tuna, salmon, and other sashimi), lots of fresh coconut, organic raw duck eggs, limited avocado, vegetables and one fruit a day! My total cholesterol and triglycerides have been cut in half. My heart rate has dropped from 85 to 60 and my blood pressure is down to 100/60. In fact during my recent stress test, the doctor was amazed and told me that I have a heart of a 28 year old (not a 48 year old). It really is interesting that a natural organic raw diet high in saturated fat, meat and fish with no salt, sugar or additives would have such an impact. I have also lost 20 lbs. and lost two inches in my waistline! Keep up the good work and advice!

John March 27, 2011 at 1:35 pm


One more question, what do you feel about eating raw as opposed to cooked protein, especially grass-fed beef, deep ocean fish and pasture raised organic duck or chicken eggs? So far, I have seen a much more dramatic affect on my overall health and blood indicators eating a very raw diet.

Anonymous April 1, 2011 at 6:01 am

You need to update your link to Dr. Harris’ article, he revised it and the url changed.

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