Can Weed Really Shrink Your Brain?

weedbrain itunes

A few weeks ago, I talked on this podcast episode about whether THC can cause damage to the grey matter in your brain.

But, frankly, I spent very little time addressing the matter on that particular show, so in today’s episode, I’m revisiting the topic of THC, brain damage, liver damage, myths about marijuana, CBD, smart drugs, nootropics and more with Dr. Andrew Hill, Lead Neuroscientist at truBrain, and one smart cookie.

During our discussion, you’ll discover:

-Why left-handed people are more sensitive to chemical stimulants…

-The truth behind the evidence that THC can shrink the brain…

-The important differences between THC and CBD…

-How Dr. Hill can “reset” tolerance to marijuana using neurofeedback in his clinic…

-If there is a deleterious effect of THC on the liver or other organs…

-How to map your brain and change your brain using neurofeedback…

-Little known smart drug ingredients such as oxiracetam and centrophenoxine…

-And much more, including a killer giveaway at the end of the show!

Resources & studies cited in this episode:

Decreased grey matter but increased connectivity (not controlled for SES):
More recent and much larger study that failed to find grey matter volume changes:
And a summary of another study that found decreased volume, and the two studies that refute this:

Peak Brain Institute

Pocket Neurobics

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) Training

TruBrain drinks and capsules (use code BEN to save 50%)

Previous episode with Dr. Andrew Hill on smart drugs vs. nootropics

Water soluble CBD

Do you have questions, comments or feedback for myself or Dr. Andrew Hill? Leave your thoughts below and one of us will reply.

The Ultimate Bone Broth FAQ: Everything You’ve Always Wanted To Know About Bone Broth.

bone broths company

Last week, I posed a question on the BenGreenfieldFitness Facebook page:

BONE BROTH:: Is it still a mystery for you? Or perhaps you can make broth like a ninja, but you don’t know exactly what…

Posted by Ben Greenfield Fitness on Thursday, October 22, 2015

After reading the dozens of comments and questions that came through about this flavorful “lifeblood” that I personally drink almost every day, I sat down and created this FAQ for you.

So go ahead and heat up a cup of bone broth, add a pinch of sea salt, sip it just like coffee out of your favorite mug, and enjoy reading.


Q: Why Bone Broth?

Here’s the deal: regular old meat that you can from, say, a steak can be pretty good stuff.

But that meat contains lots and lots of methionine, which is an amino acid found in steak, eggs, dairy, and other animal foods, and excess methionine has been shown to reduce longevity in animal trial. However, restricting methionine in an effort to live longer may not be necessary if you eat enough of another amino acid called glycine, which is the primary amino acid found in the gelatin of bone broth. As a matter of fact, adding glycine to a meat-based, methionine-rich diet has even been shown to mimic the life extension normally seen with methionine restriction.

In other words, red meat and meat in general may be a lifespan-reducing food, but only if consumed in the absence of marrow, bones, broth, and other “ancestral” parts we eat so little of these days.

Regular meat lacks significant amounts of not just glycine, but another amino acids called proline. Glycine and proline are crucial for a repairing and healing the lining of your gut and for supporting digestion, muscle repair, muscle growth, the nervous system, and the immune system. This chicken broth study at the University of Nebraska even showed that the glycine and proline produced from chicken stock can significantly reduce inflammation in your respiratory system and your digestive system.

But the benefits of bone broth don’t stop with glycine and proline. Bone broth is also a good source of the minerals calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium, and (particularly in bone broth made with vinegar), these minerals are in extremely absorbable form. Bone broth also contains glucosamine and chondroitin, compounds that are typically sold as nutritional supplements in spendy pill form for management of inflammation, arthritis, and joint pain, but that you can also get for far cheaper in broth. Broth also contains hyaluronic acid, which has been shown to improve quality of life and reduced pain in patients with osteoarthritis.

The bones themselves that are left over after you make broth contain a protein called collagen, and the breakdown of this collagen then produces gelatin (click here to listen to a podcast in which I thoroughly explain the differences between collagen and gelatin). Gelatin can help to heal a leaky gut, serve as a source of soothing calories for people with gut inflammation or autoimmune disorders, and may also help reduce joint pain, reduce inflammation, prevent bone loss, and build healthy skin, hair, and nails.

Finally, the glycine in gelatin is excellent for sleep, so you can curl up with a nice warm mug of bone broth before bed.


Q. How Do I Make Bone Broth?

Let’s start here: don’t buy bone broth from the grocery store. 

Broth (often labeled as “stock”) from the grocery store is prepared using harsh, high temperatures and accelerated cooking techniques, resulting in a watery, non-nutrient-dense, non-gelatin-rich broth. Once you add in unnatural additives like MSG and other flavors, it just turns into an unhealthy, chemical soup.

But whether you use chicken bones, beef bones or fish bones, bone broth isn’t hard to make. One of my favorite organizations and websites, the “Weston A. Price Foundation” has this excellent resource on bone broth, which includes the following three recipes for chicken, beef or fish:

Chicken Stock

1 whole free-range chicken or 2 to 3 pounds of bony chicken parts, such as necks, backs, breastbones and wings*
gizzards from one chicken (optional)
2-4 chicken feet (optional)
4 quarts cold filtered water
2 tablespoons vinegar (Adding an acid like lemon juice or vinegar will help to extract minerals from the bones.  Use a mild-flavored vinegar, like apple cider or rice wine, as white vinegar may taste too harsh in a mellow broth) 
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 bunch parsley

*Note: Farm-raised, free-range chickens give the best results. Many commercialy-raised chickens will not produce stock that gels.

If you are using a whole chicken, cut off the wings and remove the neck, fat glands and the gizzards from the cavity. Cut chicken parts into several pieces. (If you are using a whole chicken, remove the neck and wings and cut them into several pieces.) Place chicken or chicken pieces in a large stainless steel pot with water, vinegar and all vegetables except parsley. Let stand 30 minutes to 1 hour. Bring to a boil, and remove scum that rises to the top. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 6 to 8 hours. The longer you cook the stock, the richer and more flavorful it will be. About 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add parsley. This will impart additional mineral ions to the broth.

Remove whole chicken or pieces with a slotted spoon. If you are using a whole chicken, let cool and remove chicken meat from the carcass. Reserve for other uses, such as chicken salads, enchiladas, sandwiches or curries. Strain the stock into a large bowl and reserve in your refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and congeals. Skim off this fat and reserve the stock in covered containers in your refrigerator or freezer.

Beef Stock

about 4 pounds beef marrow and knuckle bones
1 calves foot, cut into pieces (optional)
3 pounds meaty rib or neck bones
4 or more quarts cold filtered water
1/2 cup vinegar
3 onions, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
several sprigs of fresh thyme, tied together
1 teaspoon dried green peppercorns, crushed
l bunch parsley

Place the knuckle and marrow bones and optional calves foot in a very large pot with vinegar and cover with water. Let stand for one hour. Meanwhile, place the meaty bones in a roasting pan and brown at 350 degrees in the oven. When well browned, add to the pot along with the vegetables. Pour the fat out of the roasting pan, add cold water to the pan, set over a high flame and bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon to loosen up coagulated juices. Add this liquid to the pot. Add additional water, if necessary, to cover the bones; but the liquid should come no higher than within one inch of the rim of the pot, as the volume expands slightly during cooking. Bring to a boil. A large amount of scum will come to the top, and it is important to remove this with a spoon. After you have skimmed, reduce heat and add the thyme and crushed peppercorns.

Simmer stock for at least 12 and as long as 72 hours. Just before finishing, add the parsley and simmer another 10 minutes. You will now have a pot of rather repulsive-looking brown liquid containing globs of gelatinous and fatty material. It doesn’t even smell particularly good. But don’t despair. After straining you will have a delicious and nourishing clear broth that forms the basis for many other recipes.

Remove bones with tongs or a slotted spoon. Strain the stock into a large bowl. Let cool in the refrigerator and remove the congealed fat that rises to the top. Transfer to smaller containers and to the freezer for long-term storage.

Fish Stock

3 or 4 whole carcasses, including heads, of non-oily fish such as sole, turbot, rockfish or snapper
2 tablespoons butter
2 onions, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
several sprigs fresh thyme
several sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth
1/4 cup vinegar
about 3 quarts cold filtered water

Ideally, fish stock is made from the bones of sole or turbot. In Europe, you can buy these fish on the bone. The fish monger skins and filets the fish for you, giving you the filets for your evening meal and the bones for making the stock and final sauce. Unfortunately, in America sole arrives at the fish market preboned. But snapper, rock fish and other non-oily fish work equally well; and a good fish merchant will save the carcasses for you if you ask him. As he normally throws these carcasses away, he shouldn’t charge you for them. Be sure to take the heads as well as the body—these are especially rich in iodine and fat-soluble vitamins. Classic cooking texts advise against using oily fish such as salmon for making broth, probably because highly unsaturated fish oils become rancid during the long cooking process.

Melt butter in a large stainless steel pot. Add the vegetables and cook very gently, about 1/2 hour, until they are soft. Add wine and bring to a boil. Add the fish carcasses and cover with cold, filtered water. Add vinegar. Bring to a boil and skim off the scum and impurities as they rise to the top. Tie herbs together and add to the pot. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for at least 4 hours or as long as 24 hours. Remove carcasses with tongs or a slotted spoon and strain the liquid into pint-sized storage containers for refrigerator or freezer. Chill well in the refrigerator and remove any congealed fat before transferring to the freezer for long-term storage.

Even if you don’t have a slow-cooker you can still reproduce any of these recipes on a stovetop, with a large pot on low heat.


Q. How Many Calories Are In Bone Broth?

This definitely depends on your water-to-bones ratio. A super-complicated and annoying way to get an extremely accurate calculation would be to weigh the bones before you boil them, then weigh the bones again after the broth is done. The difference in weight would be how much of the marrow, fat and cartilage has melted into the broth. Then you would need to use an online calorie calculator to figure out how many calories that particular mass of fat is, and that would be how many calories are in the entire batch of broth (since water has no calories).

Oomph. Probably not worth it compared to getting a ballpark approximation.

There are nutrient profiles of various broths on the Nutrition Data website (originally derived from the USDA database), and although these almost certainly were not prepared with vinegar over the course of 24-48 hours as a traditional bone broth would be…

…it appears that around an ounce of bone broth, including fats and gelatin, comes out to around 35-40 calories. 


Q. Where Do I Get Bones?

Butchers almost always have bones. You probably have a butcher near your house.

But local farms have bones too (you can ask around at a farmers market). If you know someone who hunts, they likely have access to bones they may not be using. The meat department of many stores also have bones.

However, if you want to ensure a good, organic, clean bones source (which is very important, especially if you’ve seen the latest scary news on lead, bones and bone broth), stick to local organic farms that have pastured chicken or 100% grass-fed beef or simply order your bones online from a website such as U.S. Wellness Meats.

You can use bones from just about any animal, including beef, veal,  lamb, bison or buffalo, venison, chicken, duck, goose, turkey, or pork. Ideally, you should use a wide variety of bones, including marrow bones, oxtail bones, soup bones, and even larger bones like knuckle bones or feet (e.g. chicken feet), which contain more cartilage and more collagen. Knuckle, patella, femur, and feet bones are the bones that contain the highest concentration of white and red stem-cell marrow, as well as high levels of collagen.

And yes, you can re-use bones to make multiple batches of broth until the bones go soft (at which point, if you’d like, you can also eat the soft bony material that is left over). Just be sure to use fresh vegetables, herbs, and spices each time you make a new batch.

Finally, as “gross” as some people think this is, I take the incredibly tasty and nourishing pile of soft bones that are left over after a long bone broth simmer, I sprinkle them with sea salt and black pepper, then I saute them in a cast-iron pan with olive oil or butter and eat them with cheese, yogurt or roasted vegetables. Yes, it may sound strange, but this is one of my favorite meals each week after we make bone broth.


Q. What Do You Do With All The Fat On Top Of The Broth?


If you are 100% sure your bones are from a clean, organic source you can just keep the bits of fat in the broth and consume the fat when you drink your broth hot or make recipes from the broth.

Skimming off most of the fat is only that important if A) you’re using bones from animals that are conventionally raised (toxins tend to store mostly in fat); B) you’re trying to reduce the number of calories in your broth; or C) you just don’t like chewing on clumps of fat.

If you want to remove the fat, it’s quite easy. After you’re done cooking, remove your broth from the heat, and strain it. Then let your broth sit in the fridge for a couple hours, at which point the fat will rise to the top and harden. You can then scrape off the fat with a spoon or spatula.

Don’t confuse the fat with the gelatin. The gelatin is the Jell-O like, jiggling substance. That gelatin will return to an edible liquid state as soon as you heat your broth. In contrast, the fat is generally comprised of big clumps of white-ish chewy stuff. I personally eat both the big globs of gelatinous goodness and the fatty material too. I eat the soft leftover bones too.

If your broth doesn’t contain jiggly gelatin, then you need to read this article from the Healthy Home Economist, which gives five reasons broth doesn’t gel. Usually, it comes down to not using enough bones, adding too much water, or not cooking the broth for long enough (yet another reason to avoid the average broth from the grocery store). Generally, to get an adequately long cooking time, you should cook chicken bones a minimum of eight hours and up to 24 hours and beef bones a minimum of twelve hours and up to 48 hours.


Q. How Do I Use My Broth? 


Whenever any recipe, whether a risotto, a casserole, a soup, etc. calls for broth or stock, you just use your broth. My #1 recommended cookbook for a plethora of mouthwatering broth recipe is “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon.

But you don’t have to get all Chef Bouardi with fancy recipes. For example, during the day I also like to simply heat a cup of broth on the stove, add a sprinkling of black pepper and turmeric, and drink a mug of it the same way as I would drink coffee or tea. Occasionally, if I’m feeling too lazy to heat food or cook but I need a quick source of minerals, amino acids, or gelatin, I’ll just snag a glass jar of broth out of the fridge and drink it cold.


Q. How Do I Store Broth?

You can keep broth in the fridge for no longer than 3-4 days, but it can keep in the freezer for up to a year. As I discuss in my essential kitchen tools article, we always store in some kind of BPA-free plastic or in glass mason jars. Be sure to let the broth cool down before transferring to glass, and if you’re freezing, leave some space at the top, since the frozen broth will expand.

Here’s a tip: for easily adding small amounts of broth to recipes, you can store some it in an ice cube tray in the freezer. One cube is about an ounce, so this means that a recipe which calls for 1/4 cup of broth would require two cubes, 1/2 a cup would be four cubes, etc.


Q. Can I Just Order Bone Broth Online?

I get it. Making your own bone broth can be a bit of a chore.

But as you learned above, getting it from the grocery store is a very bad idea.

So why not order online? The primary problem with ordering bone broth online from a place like, say, Amazon, is that you run into all the BPA-packaging, MSG, non-organic, fast cook time issues, etc. that you get from grocery store bone broth. Some sources, such as The Brothery, will ship good, organic bone broth to you in frozen form, but that can be a bit iffy if you happen to be traveling when your bone broth arrives and it sits in the sun for a couple days, if you want to consume your bone broth as soon as it arrives, or if you don’t want to store your bone broth in the freezer.

One solution I’ve had my eyes on lately is the Bone Broths Company. Every batch of Bone Broths Company’s beef bone broth is made with bones from 100% grass fed, pasture grazed cattle that are antibiotic and hormone free. They also use all organic vegetables, sea salt and herbs.

But as you now know, this isn’t super unique. You can do this yourself or you can order organic bone broths from other sources too.

However, the unique part about this stuff from Bone Broths Company is the packaging. They use a new, modern packaging technology called “hot fill asceptic packaging”. This packaging process uses $6 million worth of modern packaging equipment. This makes the broth shelf-stable, but also allows complete retention of all the nutrition of frozen broth without requiring the broth be frozen or refrigerated. The packaging process also does not add any preservatives, extra sodium or chemicals to the broth to make it shelf stable, and you can tell by looking at the ingredients label that there are no preservatives, just:

“filtered water, grass-fed beef bones from organically raised cows, organic onions, organic carrots, organic celery, organic parsley, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, black peppercorn, bay, thyme and rosemary”.

The broth is then sealed in BPA-free pouches to preserve maximum nutrition and freshness. Bone Broths Company makes their broth the traditional way – slow simmered over low heat for 24+ hours – to give the bone marrow, collagen and amino acids time to soak into the broth. To top things off, their bone broth is fresh and never frozen.

This stuff is made using bones from animals that were humanely raised on open pastures with clean diets free of antibiotics, hormones and grains. Bone Broths Company only uses organic vegetables and herbs and their water is filtered, ensuring the final product is as pure, flavorful, packed full of vitamins, minerals and gelatin, and free of gluten, dairy, soy, salt, preservatives, MSG, added flavorings and added colorings. All of the products are also made in a kitchen free of gluten, dairy and soy.

So not only is Bone Broths Company’s broth incredibly good for you, it’s incredibly tasty and incredibly portable. They worked with a team of classically trained chefs to make sure their bone broth is extremely flavorful and full of nutrients and healthy amino acids. It doesn’t get much better than that, and now, with their unique, BPA-free packaging that doesn’t need freezing or refrigeration, you can have your bone broth anytime, anyplace – on a bike ride, on an airplane, during a road trip, while camping, you name it.

To get 20% off and an exclusive deal on bone broth that only BenGreenfieldFitness readers get, you can click here to visit the Bone Broths Company portable bone broth. Enjoy! 


I do believe I covered just about everything here! But if you have more questions, comments or feedback about bone broth, or your own bone broth tips or recipes to add, simply leave your thoughts below.

278 Pounds Of Fat Magically Disappears In Just One Year…On A High-Carb, Low-Fat, Sugar-Laden Diet?

pod cast high carb itunes

Meet Denise Minger.


Wait, no. That’s not Denise. 

This is Denise.


The woman above Denise is a woman from a dietary study who lost 123 pounds in just shy of a year. She’s not to be confused with the woman above her, who obliterated 278 pounds in a bit over a year.

All on a 90-95% carbohydrate based, high-sugar, high-starch, low-fat diet.

And that’s just a peek into the contents of today’s podcast. But back to Denise.

Denise blogs at, where she just released the controversial article “IN DEFENSE OF LOW FAT: A CALL FOR SOME EVOLUTION OF THOUGHT.” That particular article is exactly what we’re going to be digging into this podcast…

…but Denise is no stranger to Last year, I published the article “How To Figure Out What Diet Is Right For You“, which contains many anecdotes from Denise’s book “Death By Food Pyramid“.

As a self-described health blogger, Denise typically spends about five hours a day reading and writing about nutrition. In both her writings and lectures she has a reputation for aggressively challenging today’s leading voices of conventional wisdom, and is perhaps most famous for her thorough refutation of “The China Study” book. Denise is considered to be a major thorn in the side of both mainstream nutritionists and other health figures who adhere to standard dietary dogma.

During my discussion with Denise, you’ll discover:

-Why Denise doesn’t drink coffee and eats lots of sushi and sashimi…

-How in the process of redeeming fat, we traded one form of oversimplified blame for another…

-What carbosis is, and why you need to be very careful mixing carbohydrates with fats…

-Why our current definition of low fat is very flawed, and the more appropriate definition of what low fat actually is…

-The low fat history you’ve probably never heard…

-The shocking evidence that sugar and white rice can actually cure diabetes and melt fat off the body…

-How decreasing “healthy” saturated fat and increasing intake of vegetable oils has been shown in baffling research to actually benefit conditions such as multiple sclerosis…

-Why it’s a myth that a low-fat, high-carb vegetable diet is what eventually killed researcher Nathan Pritikin….

-Why Denise has changed her mind about some issues she had with the documentary “Forks Over Knives”, and why she apologizes to vegans and vegetarians…

-And much more!

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about high carb vs. high fat, and Denise’s new take on a high carb, low fat diet? Your own thoughts to share? Leave it all below and either Denise or I will reply!

The Zen Of Chinese Adaptogenic Herbs: An Interview With The Inventor Of World’s Most Potent Adaptogens.


My guest on today’s podcast is Roger Drummer.

Roger is kinda like Raiden from Mortal Kombat (pictured above) – you know, the guy that wears the conical, straw Chinese harvester and can generate magical orbs of electricity from his hands.

Except, in this case, Roger plays with adaptogenic herbs. He’s a Chinese herbal adaptogen formulator, a Certified Nutritionist and NCCAOM Diplomate of Chinese Herbology, holds a U.S. patent for developing a process to grow biologically active, anthocyanin-enriched medicinal mushrooms, and is in my opinion, one of the best-kept secrets in natural medicine and health enhancement. Roger even formulates personalized tonic herbs for thousands of clients, including many notable celebrities (which I ask him about in this podcast episode), and has trained in Shiatsu, Jin Shin Do, Reiki and Kriya Yoga, along with being a former triathlete, runner, cycling enthusiast, husband and father of three girls.

I’ve personally known Roger for over five years, and it’s been about three years since I’ve had him on a podcast (see “Chinese Medicine & Why Sugars Don’t Add Up Right on Food Labels.“), so I figured that it was high time I had him back, especially since he just released a sugar-free version of my favorite adaptogenic herb complex: Tian Chi.

So what is an adaptogen?

Adaptogens are a unique category of herbs that facilitate your body’s “adaptation” to stress. They help your body maintain, build or fix its own natural healthy processes, even if you’re exposed to a wide range of external and internal stressors.

This means, that, for example, adaptogens can help increase cortisol if cortisol is low, or decrease cortisol if cortisol is high. They can also be used for anything from cognitive performance to enhanced endurance at altitude.

Roger is actually the inventor of the exact Chinese adaptogenic blend that holds a special place in my refrigerator: the one I mentioned above called Tian Chi . Here’s the label:

Tian Chi is a tiny packet that contains an herbal tonic blend of the most renowned adaptogens in the Orient. 

Every herb used in TianChi is far more pure and potent than typical old, ineffective and often dangerous or nasty-ingredient laced herbs on the market. Very few products contain 100% whole herb extracts. On average the herbal extracts are at least 10:1 yields, meaning it takes 10 pounds of raw herb to produce 1 pound of pure extract. Most manufacturers start with pure yield and cut them to concentrations of 4:1 or 5:1 by adding filler. This produces a cheaper, but less effective extract. Imagine buying a 5:1 extract that originally was 45:1!

In stark contrast, the herbal extracts used in TianChi yield 12:1 or greater, and there is even one herb in TianChi that is a 45:1 yield. In other words, you would have to take 9x as much herb from any other source to equal the potency in TianChi. And you would be getting mostly filler, harmful ingredients, and very few results.

All of the herbs in TianChi are Non-GMO, Kosher Certified and non-irradiated. They are extracted in purified water and test free of heavy metals. And the creator uses only wild crafted herbs – herbs found in their natural state, free from pesticides and exposure to pollution.

You will feel this stuff instantly, guaranteed.

Below is a complete list of the pure and potent herbs you’ll find inside each pack of TianChi, with a guarantee of extreme freshness.

-Schizandra – the “Five flavor berry” is known as a beauty enhancing herb, one of the main herbs pictured with Lady Maku the Goddess of Beauty. It helps restores proper water metabolism to the cells, detoxifies the liver and lungs, and is an important herb for building lung energy. It tonifies the reproductive system, builds sexual fluids and moistens the skin. Schizandra has been successfully used in China to treat hepatitis. It contains over 20 lignans that bind to carcinogenic substances and safely removes them from the body. A mild adaptogen and powerful anti-oxidant, schizandra is the Chinese equivalent to milk thistle.

-Reishi Mushroom – Reishi is known as the “Mushroom of Immortality,” and “Herb of Good Fortune”. It is the most highly revered herb in China for its ability to brighten the mind and spirit. Historically used for boosting immunity, liver detoxing, blood purifying and building, and is known as a potent stress reliever.

-Ashwagandha– Ashwagandha is known as Indian ginseng and one of the most famous of all Ayurvedic herbs. It is a premier adaptogen and has a profound effect on regulating the HPA Axis (hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal axis) which is the basis of stress response. Although many herbs have been crowded into this category I still maintain that the “Gang of Four”, ashwagandha, rhodiola, reishi and eleuthero, are truly substances that can effectively regulate stress response.

-Rhodiola – Rhodiola is known as the “Rose of Heaven” and “Plateau Ginseng.” It is one of the premier adaptogens in the entire world and one of my personal favorites. Regarded as life-prolonging and wisdom enhancing, it can reduce stress response, is blood purifying and is said to balance both creative and cognitive functions of the brain. One of the best herbs for blood oxygenation, it is useful for all endurance sports. Used to treat depression and chronic fatigue and protects against radiation. It is a favorite herb for cosmonauts and mountain climbers. Rhodiola is a “Three Treasure” tonic, it builds Jing, Chi and Shen.

-Ecklonia Cava – Ecklonia Cava is a seaweed extract that is the most potent plant based antioxidant known. Because it is partially fat-soluble it crosses the blood brain barrier and is particularly useful in controlling inflammation in the brain. Ecklonia Cava lasts for 12 hours in the body, much more than any other antioxidant.

-Eleuthero – This is the herb that launched all of the studies on adaptogenic herbs. Commonly used as an adaptogen in regulating stress response and strengthening adrenal function. It’s famous as a physical endurance and mental enhancing herb used by cosmonauts for its blood oxygen enriching properties. Eleuthero is a great herb for anyone who’s involved in sports or work that demands strength and endurance. It’s more Chi building than Jing, even though I use it primarily for its effect on the kidney-adrenal energy. Eleuthero is seldom sold as a bulk herb as it’s not very nutrient dense. It takes over 40 lbs of good root to make one pound of powdered extract.

-Epimedium – Fepimediumamous as “goat sex tea”, epimedium is known throughout the world as herbal aphrodisiac. Lost in its reputation is that it’s also a great herb for increasing circulation in the brain and improving general immunity. Epimedium adds a spark of Yang or fire to the adrenals and has been shown to increase fertility. It is a Jing tonic.

-Cistanches – Its Chinese neucommia barkame is “Duzhong” having been named after a doctor who took it and achieved great intellectual success. Eucommia is a premier Jing tonic as it contains a perfect balance of Yin and Yang energy. Its main use is in bone strengthening formulas and can be used for increasing fertility and regulating blood pressure.

-Gotu Kola – Gotu Kola is one of the most important rejuvenating herbs in Ayurvedic medicine. It’s used to help revitalize the brain and nerve cells. Gotu Kola is historically used to increase intelligence, memory, longevity and decrease senility. It has been known to support normal immune function and adrenal energy. It is also a powerful blood purifier and is commonly used in Ayurveda to treat chronic skin diseases. Gotu Kola is commonly used by monks and yogis in the Himalayas as an aid to meditation; similar to how Reishi is used in China by the Taoist monks.

-Albizzia Flower – This flower is known as the herb for “forgetting cares and sorrows” and “collective happiness flower”. It is an ultimate Shen tonic and is often used improving memory, circulation, and has mood elevating properties.

-Astragalus – Astragalus is one of the greatest Chi tonics in all of Chinese Herbology. It’s often used as a ginseng replacement in younger people. Recently it has gain great popularity as an immune building herb. It’s used to help strengthen digestion and lung function, for recovery from illness and as an energy building herb. It is said to build Upright Chi, meaning when the lungs are strong and the breath is deep, it promotes good posture and holds the organs in place. Astragalus is an excellent herb for maintaining the Protective Chi circulating on the surface of the skin helping to ward off seasonal illness. If the cold wind seems to bother your neck it’s often a sign you’re Protective Chi is weak.

-Green Tea – One green tea of the most powerful plant-based antioxidants, green tea builds immunity, increases circulation and is a best known for it’s anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have shown it to be valuable for memory enhancement. Most of green tea’s antioxidant polyphenols are from a class called catechins of which EGCG seems to dominate. It has been described as natures most potent anticancer agent.

-Polygonum (Ho Shou Wu) – translates as “Ho’s black hair” one of the main kidney restoratives in Chinese herbology. Legend has it that Ho, an aging lonely hermit living on the edge of town saw a vine intertwined on his walk through the forest. The vines resembled a couple embracing and so he harvested the root, cooked it and consumed the tea. His hair turned back to black from snow white (hence the name) and he actually married and had a son. They both lived to over 100 years old and the herb has since been called Ho’s black hair.

-Lycium (Goji) – LyciGojium is a restorative for the liver and kidneys, popular these days as Goji, and one of the 5 most famous herbs in China. Reputed to be the main food of Li Chen Yuang for the first 125 years of his life (he added some ginseng root for the next half of his life). Li died at a banquet in his honor after consuming a heavy dinner (he was a Taoist hermit who lived on herbs and vegetables) causing a national uproar and disgrace for the public official who hosted the event.

-Other herbs: Anemarrhena, Licorice, Polygala, Clubmoss, Cocoa Bean Extract, Stevia Leaf, Acerola Cherry, and Raspberry.

During my discussion with Roger, you’ll discover:

-The delicate process via which wildcrafted herbs are actually extracted in China, and exactly how they find their way to the USA…

-The important difference between wild and cultivated herbs…

-Roger’s top herb recommendation for regulating cortisol levels and eliminating adrenal fatigue issues…

-The truth about whether resveratrol really does have an anti-aging effect…

-How D-Ribose rebuilds your energy stores and ATP levels, and exactly how much you need…

-Why so many smart drugs and nootropic compounds use the substance “choline” in their formulations, the form of choline that contains the highest concentrations of actual choline…

-Why Roger isn’t a fan of using regular stevia mixed with adaptogenic herb extracts, and instead uses a specialized form of stevia root…

-The main differences between Tian Chi and Inner Peace…


Resources from this episode:

Tian Chi Chinese Adaptogenic Herb Complex

Inner Peace Chinese Adaptogenic Herb Complex

-My previous podcast with Roger “Chinese Medicine & Why Sugars Don’t Add Up Right on Food Labels.

Roger’s Herbworks website

Do you have questions, comments or feedback for me or Roger about Chinese adaptogenic herbs, Tian Chi, or anything else we discuss in this podcast. Leave your thoughts below and one of us will reply!

How To Eat Algae (The Ultimate Guide To Fueling With Spirulina And Chlorella).

how to eat algae

Every morning I put about 30 tiny chorella tablets on top of my morning smoothie.

Then, later in the day, I often swallow another 30-50 tiny spirulina tablets pre-workout.

Regardless of whether you think that us land-dwelling creatures at some point evolved from ocean-dwelling life (a belief espoused by my previous podcast guest Jack Kruse to encourage people spend time in the cold and to eat more seafood), it can’t be denied that fish, turtles, and millions of other large and small inhabitants of water rely on one extremely dense nutrition source for sustenance of life…

…algae – particularly from spirulina and chlorella sources.

Algae Tab

One tab of algae about the size of the one pictured above gives you the same nutrition as eating salads all day long.

Those fish are pretty darn smart, huh?

But algae isn’t just something that our ocean dwelling neighbors can eat and thrive upon.

Algae has been used by tens of millions of people in Asia for over 50 years, and even Olympic athletes and NASA astronauts have relied on algae for decades as a way to pack a lot of nutrients into a very small volume of food, probably since algae contains 1,000 times more nutrition than anything else in the world (or if you’d like to think about it this way, one gram of algae – about the equivalent in a tiny tablet – contains the nutritional equivalent of 1,000 grams of fruits and vegetables).

Yet, for some strange reason, although it meets all FDA requirements and has been sold in the USA for four decades, algae remains virtually unknown to mainstream America.

Seriously – ask yourself – when was the last time you thought of extremely nutrient dense foods like steak, nut butter, blueberries, kale and then pictured algae along in there with those other oft-mentioned foods?

Fact is, you’re missing out on a big nutritional hack if you’re not eating some form of algae. So today, I’m going to tell you exactly how to find and use algae in your diet, and no, it does not involve sticking your head into fish tank and gulping down slimy green plants.

OK here we go…


What Is Algae And Why Is It Good For Me?

There are two basic forms of algae that you can easily get your hands on at health food stores, on the internet, or in supplements: chlorella and spirulina.

Chlorella is a single-celled freshwater micro-algae that contains the highest known quality of chlorophyll found in a nature. Chlorophyll has a chemical structure very similar to hemoglobin, and because of these properties, it can carry oxygen around in the blood and increase your red blood cell count. There is even recent research that shows that a combination of chlorophyll in your bloodstream and exposure to sunlight can allow you to produce ATP without actually eating any calories.

Compared to other commercial sources of chlorophyll like wheat grass, barley, and alfalfa (all popular ingredients in “greens” supplements), chlorella has five times more chlorophyll than wheat grass, twelve times more than barley and nearly ten times more than alfalfa. Because of it’s extreme photosynthetic efficiency from the high levels of chlorophyll, chlorella is a very attractive potential food and energy source (it is also high in protein and other essential nutrients, and when dried, is about 45% protein, 20%fat, 20% carbohydrate, 5% fiber, and 10% minerals and vitamins).

Interestingly, chlorella also seems to be programmed for ultimate survival and replication, with a very unique ability to nearly quadruple in quantity every 20 hours, which is something that no other plant or substance on earth can do. This unique ability exists because chlorella is 3% RNA and 0.3% DNA by weight (which means that it contains some of the highest RNA/DNA nucleic acid components of any other food on the planet).

What this means for you is that in your own body, these nucleic acids (RNA and DNA) are responsible for cellular renewal, growth and repair – and these same nucleic acids significantly decline with age – which means that not having enough nucleic acid on board leads to aging, a weakened immune system and an inability to recovery quickly.

Chlorella, by virtue of its superior RNA and DNA content, could assist in slowing this aging process and preventing the onset of many chronic, degenerative illnesses associated with getting older (and these same hyperspeed repair mechanisms help you to recovery from workouts with lightning speed).

But that’s not the whole story on chlorella.

The indigestible cellulose of chlorella’s cell wall can attract and bind with heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium and help to remove them from your body. These natural detoxification properties mean that chlorella is a good way to reverse the damage from environmental pollutants and toxins found in many foods. In addition to leaching metals, chlorella can assist with the removal of hydrocarbon pesticides, herbicides and insecticides, and can also have protective effect on the liver, your body’s valuable toxin filter.

Now let’s look at chlorella’s close cousin: spirulina.

Spirulina is also a microalgae, but it’s actually higher than chlorella in protein content, at about 60% protein, with all the essential amino acids. Although spirulina’s slightly reduced amounts of methionine, cysteine and lysine make it (or chlorella) not quite as complete a protein source as meat, eggs or milk, algae is still highly superior to any other plant protein, like legumes or grains.

Spirulina is also about 7% lipid, and high in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), along with other essential fatty acids, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). For a vegan or vegetarian who doesn’t eat fish, or has a hard time getting enough fats or proteins, this is really good news – an ocean chock full of what you need to keep your brain and nervous system from deteriorating.

And spirulina is a rich source of vitamins, including vitamin B (but not B12, so you’ll still need another source of that), vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, and minerals like like potassium, calcium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, sodium and zinc.

Compared to any other plant, spirulina also has the highest concentration of antioxidants in the world, the highest concentration of beta carotene in the world, is a great source of fuel for the good bacteria in your gut, and has the second highest concentration of omega 3 fatty acids (second only to mother’s milk). On top of that, it has over 40 vitamins and minerals despite having only one calorie per serving.

A small amount of spirulina not only increases physical energy and mental focus, but the nutrient density can replace the need for taking large amounts of other supplements, and both spirulina and chlorella algae sources are safe for children. Spirulina’s high concentration of antioxidants and essential fatty acids contribute to heart and brain health, normalize blood pressure, correct anemia, normalize healthy cholesterol levels, and even reduce cancer risk. Most importantly, spirulina can do this without caffeine, sugar, chemicals or a prescription.

Spirulina contains over forty vitamins and minerals and has over 60% protein, the highest concentration of protein by weight in the world and over three times that of steak. Spirulina is also hailed as the answer to world hunger by The United Nations, and endorsed by NASA, who says that spirulina has approximately one thousand times more nutrition than other fruit or vegetable.

The protein in spirulina contains eighteen of the twenty amino acids, including all eight essential amino acids your body can’t produce, making it a complete protein. The aminos are unstructured, which means they are quickly and easily absorbed. Spirulina also boasts more beta carotene than carrots, more iron than spinach; more antioxidants than blueberries, more chlorophyll than liquid chlorophyll and has a nutritional profile that is almost identical to breastmilk, nature’s other perfect food.

So even though chlorella is high in protein, spirulina is even higher in protein, and also an excellent dietary source for muscle recovery and repair, amino acids and fatty acids (especially if you’re vegetarian or vegan and don’t eat meats or have a hard time getting enough fats – which is why I think it’s crazy that algae isn’t discussed in articles like this: Can A Vegan Diet Fuel A High Performance Athlete?). 


A History Of Algae

Despite it’s enormous nutrient density, algae is no overnight success. Although it was among the first plant life on earth, algae didn’t really attract much attention until 1890, when Dutch microbiologist Martinus Beijerinck began to study chlorella algae and grow it in his lab.

A few years later, German scientists discovered that algae has an extremely high concentration of edible protein, a discovery that later led to Otto Heinrich Warburg winning the Nobel Prize for his work on photosynthesis in chlorella. The German discovery also ultimately proved to be somewhat lifesaving, when World War I left them without food or livestock and the German Government used chlorella algae to feed their starving nation.

After the war, algae seemed to be forgotten as a food source, and interest in it didn’t resurface again until World War II, when the Hiroshima bomb destroyed Japan’s food supply and the US Government sent chlorella algae along with other food supplies to help them avoid starvation. The chlorella was a desperately needed source of protein, and to everyone’s surprise, it also seemed to alleviate some of the effects of radiation poisoning. The US Government took note of this, and in the late 1940’s began extensive research on algae. Algae’s ability to assist with remediation of radiation poisoning has since been confirmed and used at other radiation disasters including Chernobyl.

By the early 1950’s, algae’s nutritional profile began to draw significant attention in the USA. Even NASA threw their support behind algae and announced their intention to grow it in space. Algae’s nutritional pedigree was further solidified when The Carnegie Institute declared it was the answer to America’s growing nutrition crisis and recommended algae be put into production immediately for mass consumption. The only problem was that algae had never been produced for mass consumption, so The Carnegie Institute funded the world’s first pilot plant to do it. However, the algae proved too complicated to grow and the pilot plant was shut down after just one year.

But the algae story doesn’t end there. The Rockefeller Foundation stepped in and offered financial support to the Japanese so they could learn how to grow algae for mass consumption. The Japanese accepted the challenge and, although it took them ten years, by the early 1960’s algae production in Japan was a vibrant industry and well on its way to becoming a multi-billion dollar industry.

Spirulina and chlorella algae are now firmly entrenched in Japan’s food supply. Algae’s nutritional profile and agricultural efficiency, on an acre-per-acre basis, provides two hundred times more protein than cattle while using one tenth of the water, making it an eco-friendly and sustainable food crop.

Algae is still relatively unheard of in the USA, but over the last fifty years, it has grown into a substantial industry in Asia, where tens of millions of folks take algae every day instead of vitamins. Asian athletes use it to improve their performance, and entire Asian countries use it as a source of protein and to increase their energy, focus, vitality, remove toxins, speed recovery and prevent hangovers.

Algae is not only an important crop in Asia, but it has now quickly become one of the most studied food sources in the world. There are over 100,000 scientific reports documenting algae’s hundreds of benefits and nutritional properties.



So What Algae Is Best?

Now wait a minute.

Even if you’re drooling over the benefits of algae, you can’t just go rushing to your local bargain supplements outlet or bulk foods website to grab just any old algae source.

When it comes to algae, if you’re serious about what you put into your body, the source matters.

So here are 8 very important considerations for you if you don’t want to waste money on a bunch of completely ineffective algae – you should read and follow these 8 tips if you don’t want to do more harm than good to your body in the process of introducing algae into your diet.

1. Get certified, organic non-genetically modified (non GMO) algae. Purity is important with this stuff, and you don’t want to be eating genetic mutants that have been dosed repeatedly in herbicides and pesticides. There is a wide variance in the quality of spirulina and chlorella algae. Not all algae is grown using the same level of quality control.

2. Don’t get algae from spirulina and chlorella companies that put “fillers” in their algae. This means you would need 10-20 times the algae necessary to actually get a positive effect – and that amount with completely flip your stomach. Just get 100% pure spirulina and chlorella. Similarly, do not get chlorella or spirulina in any kind of gel cap, especially if you are vegetarian or vegan, since most of those gel caps are made from fish oil. In most cases, you have no idea what other fillers are in those gelatin capsules.

3. Just like beef, there are different grades of spirulina and chlorella. The lower quality grades have fewer nutrients, lower concentration of protein and less potency, and once again, you would need 10-20 times the normal amount of an inferior grade of algae to get any good effect.

4. The country of origin where spirulina and chlorella are grown is very important. For example, many suppliers of spirulina in China have been found to falsify their paper work and claims about being organic (in fact, there are a lot of products that come out of China that are falsely certified). Yet a company that just wants to make sales will usually go with the cheapest suppliers – and often that means they are buying the algae from China. This is very dangerous because you really don’t know what you are getting, and you could be harming your health more than helping your health if you buy cheaper spirulina or chlorella that was grown in China – and may in fact contain not only a high concentration of contaminants, but also a lower grade of algae.

5. Similarly, due to the ongoing radiation problems from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, be careful with any spirulina or chlorella that was grown in Japan. Spirulina and chlorella are grown hydroponically (in water), so any radiation could potentially be in the Japanese water in small amounts.

6. Be careful with your source, because extraction techniques vary when it comes to algae. One technique that can be used to “crack” the exterior shell of chlorella (so that the nutrients can be absorbed by your body) is via passing the chlorella through a sound chamber and using sound wave vibrations for extraction. This is a relatively new technique and preserves all the nutrition in the chlorella. This is in contrast to all the Japanese and most other growers of chlorella in Asia, who use a 50 year old technique in which they tumble the chlorella with glass beads to crack it. This method is dangerous – primarily because the chlorella can be contaminated by the lead in the glass and also because the process produces high amounts of heat, which damages the nutritional quality of the chlorella.

7. Do not use spirulina or chlorella that has been exposed to heat drying. This is very important because heat damages the active enzymes in the algae, and prevents it from being a truly “raw” food. A process called air drying involves shooting the algae into the air and allowing it to fall into piles of powder, which are then packed into the small “pellets” or “bits”, and this process is considered low heat and much safer.

8. Pay attention to the algae preservation methods. For example, algae can easily and safely be stored in vacuum packed, non-transparent bags or containers, which have a stable shelf life of over two years. These type of containers can also be specially coated to protect the algae from UV rays. This is important because algae has the highest concentration of chlorophyll on the planet (which is what makes it green) but chlorophyll is very light sensitive. As soon as light starts to hit the algae, the nutrients in the chlorophyll start to lose their potency. So if your spirulina or chlorella is coming in a transparent container or bag, that is not a good thing.



How To Use Algae During Exercise

So now we get to the million dollar question: can you actually get any benefits by eatiing algae during exercise, such as marathons, triathlons, obstacle races, tennis matches, hunting, or any other form of physical activity?

I asked Catharine Arnston, the Founder and CEO of ENERGYbits, about the feedback she’s gotten from athletes who have experimented with using algae during competition. She supplied me with the following fun facts.

1) Algae is a slow-release form of energy. Algae sources such as spirulina provide steady energy compared to fructose or maltodextrin-based carbohydrate gels, which can provide a short burst of energy followed by a crash. Research shows endurance athletes can perform just fine using fuel sources that provide steady energy, and I also wrote about this topic in my article on fat-based energy gels.

2) Algae does not create stomach distress. Sugar and caffeine can tend to irritate the stomach when an athlete uses them during a race or workout. This is because the blood flow normally used for digestion is supplying oxygen and nutrients to the athlete’s muscles. High calorie compounds low in nutrient density can enter the gastrointestinal tract undigested where bacteria can ferment the undigested matter and where blood flow must be diverted for digestion. This can lead to fermentation, gas, cramps and an urge to empty the bowels. Algae does not contain ingredients that irritate the stomach and all the nutrients in spirulina are quickly absorbed, so algae does not contribute to indigestion or GI distress during exercise.

3) Algae has an extremely high concentration of protein (64%). Most other energy products designed for exercise (such as gels) either contain no protein or less protein (see chart below). In contrast, protein from algae is exclusively in the form of unstructured amino acids. It contains eighteen of the twenty amino acids, including the eight essential aminos your body cannot produce, making it a complete protein. Since spirulina does not have a cellulose wall, these amino acids are absorbed quickly and enter the bloodstream instantly. The high concentration of B vitamins in spirulina also help convert the amino acids to glucose, along with assisting in muscle repair and recovery post-workout.

energy bits comparison

4) Algae contains all nine B Vitamins. A lack of B Vitamins can potentially to poor athletic performance and a decreased ability to build or repair muscle. If other energy products contain B Vitamins, they tend to be in lower amounts and are usually artificially produced and not easily absorbed.

5) Algae contains the highest concentration of iron in the world – up to 48 times more iron than raw spinach and 28 times more iron than beef liver. Insufficient amounts of iron reduce oxygen uptake and can lead to anemia-like symptoms and less oxygen, which can lower athletic performance. Most other energy products such as gels or sports drinks do not contain iron.

6) Algae provide naturally occurring nitric oxide, a vasodilator that opens blood vessels and facilitates blood flow to improve athletic performance. As the blood flow increases, more oxygen is delivered to the athlete’s muscles and brain, fatigue is reduced and focus is enhanced. Other energy products such as gels and sports drinks do not contain this type of natural nitric oxide.

7) Algae can increase mental focus and decrease cognitive fatigue due to many factors, including nitric oxide as well as a high concentration of Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) such as Omega-3. Fish has long been referred to as a helpful brain food due to its high concentration of Omega-3, but a little known fact is that fish don’t create Omega-3: they get it from eating algae. The brain in particular is almost 60% fat and requires EFA’s to perform optimally.. Virtually no other energy gels or sports drinks contain such high amount of EFA’s.

8) Algae is alkaline, and an alkaline diet can improve an athlete’s performance. When athletes perform, they release high amounts of free radicals and hydrogen ions from lactic acid, which can cause a net acidic effect. The acidity strips the negative charge from the outside of the hemoglobin, causing it the hemoglobin to clump. This clumping not only reduces the hemoglobin’s ability to carry iron or oxygen, but also prevents the hemoglobin from fitting into the body’s 19 billion+ microscopic capillaries. The net result is an athlete’s muscles and brain are deprived of vital oxygen, so performance potentially decreases and muscle fatigue increases. Alkaline compounds can help restore the pH balance to an athlete’s blood so that this clumping does not occur. The high concentration of iron in spirulina can further improve performance by increasing the amount of oxygen in the hemoglobin.

9) Algae has the highest known concentration of antioxidants and an ORAC value 100 times higher than cherries. Antioxidants are necessary to fight free radicals, which can cause long term damage to cells and DNA, both of which contribute to decreased energy and rapid aging. Although antioxidants have not conclusively been found to drastically improve a professional athlete’s performance, many weekend warriors have seen some benefits. Algae contains a higher concentration of antioxidants than most other energy products, all in a form that is naturally occurring, such as beta carotene.

10) Algae is an eco-friendly, sustainable crop. Algae releases oxygen and removes carbon dioxide from the air as it is growing, and requires very little land or water to grow, making it one of the most eco-friendly, efficient crops in the world. It produces two hundred times more protein per acre than beef while using only one tenth of the water. And since it is a crop that is grown in fresh water tanks, algae is a more sustainable, eco-friendly source of Omega-3 fatty acids than fish oil. It preserves ocean wildlife and doesn’t damage the delicate ocean eco-system in the same way as overfishing, making it an ethical sports nutrition compound too.

In my discussion with her, Catharine also noted that athletes add in too many bars, gels, sports drinks or chews, primarily because they don’t believe that algae can provide them with enough energy (because most athletes still believe that calories are the only substance that can provide energy). But most athletes find they are able to rely on 1/2 to 1/4 of their normal calorie intake when consuming a small handful of spirulina each hour, primarily due to factors such as fatty acids, nitric oxide, B-vitamins, amino acids and chlorophyll – rather than simply sugar.

She recommends you swallow spirulina algae bits with water because most people do not like the green taste or the chewy consistency (the chewiness is due to the high concentration of protein and Essential Fatty Acids). On the other hand, chlorella algae bits (more of a recovery algae) are not chewy and many athletes like to eat them by the handful like nuts. Some people also like to grind them up and add them to a smoothie, or toss them into a salad, yogurt or spoonful of peanut butter.

For basic algae usage during exercise, Catharine recommends taking 30-50 algae bits (preferably ENERGYbits, which are the spirulina form) 15-30 minutes before any workout, run or race and then 15- 30 more ENERGYbits every hour, or whenever you feel fatigued. You can also take 30-50 RECOVERYbits (the chlorella form) before a race or big workout if you want the chlorella to start buffering lactic acid while you are racing, although most athletes take RECOVERYbits post race. 30-50 tablets may sound like a huge amount, but remember that each tablet is very tiny, and a handful is actually quite easy to swallow (here are a few videos that show you how).



Finally, I’ve been asked before if any of this stuff can be toxic.

Fact is, toxicological studies of the effects of algae (primarily spirulina) consumption on humans and animals, including feeding as much as 800mg/kg, and replacing up to 60% of protein intake with algae sources, have shown no toxic effects, and in contrast, algae intake has actually been found to prevent damage caused by toxins that affect the heart, liver, kidneys, neurons, eyes, ovaries, DNA, and testicles. Dozens of human clinical studies have shown no harmful effects of algae supplementation.

But a word of warning: no matter which source of algae you choose, if you get chewable spirulina or chlorella tablets, they will turn your mouth temporarily green. But you can easily rinse with water if you want to get your adorable, kissable face back.

It’s pretty amazing what a tiny handful of little green tablets can do (and remember, these algae tablets are just one calorie per serving).

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about how to use algae? Leave your thoughts below. You can also click here and use code BEN to save 10% on any of the algae products I personally use, including spirulina ENERGYbits and chlorella RECOVERYbits.

Plant-Based Medicine 101: How To Use Wild Plants For Cognitive Enhancement, Physical Performance, Immunity And More!

plant-based medicine

Wild plants growing right in your own backyard can be used to enhance digestion, increase cognitive performance and improve endurance.

You just have to know how to use them.

And in today’s podcast with Guido Masé, you’re going to learn exactly how.

Guido is author of the book “The Wild Medicine Solution: Healing With Aromatic, Bitter And Tonic Plants“, a clinical herbalist, herbal educator, and garden steward specializing in holistic Western herbalism. A described his plant-based medicine approach as “eclectic” and “drawing upon many influences”. He spent his childhood in Italy, in the central Alps and in a Renaissance town called Ferrara. Then, after traveling the United States, he settled into Vermont where he has been living since 1996.

He is a founding co-director of the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism, an herbal medicine clinic and school. He serves as chief herbalist for the Urban Moonshine Natural Products Company, where he oversees research for an all-organic whole-plant tincture line and participates in product education and quality control.

Guido is also a trail runner and marathoner, and in this episode, you’ll discover:

-How Guido became a “wild plant” expert…

-What is it that has changed in domesticated plants that make them so much more inferior than wild plants…

-The important differences between aromatic, bitter and tonic plants…

-How many plants you actually need to produce a tincture…

-Why alcohol is such a great medium to mix wild plant extracts into…

-How you can use “bitters” to enhance your digestive process (and how they’re far different than digestive enzymes)…

-Why you should include plants like endives, radicchio, frisee, dandelion and mustard greens on your salad or with your meals…

-How to use wild plant extracts to support long bike rides, run or feats of endurance performance…

-How to use pine, mint, lavender and lemon balm to enhance cognitive performance…

-How you can easily make your own tonics and tinctures from common wild plants growing right in your own backyard…

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

-Guido’s book: The Wild Medicine Solution: Healing With Aromatic, Bitter And Tonic Plants

-Guido’s blog:

-The Urban Moonshine products

TianChi Chinese Adaptogenic Herb

Do you have questions, comments or feedback for Guido or me about plant-based medicine, how to find and use wild plants, “Urban Moonshine” or anything else we discuss in this episode? Leave your thoughts below!

How A Steady Diet Of Standard Education Is Choking The Creativity, Health & Fitness Out Of Our Kids And What You Can Do About It.


I was homeschooled my entire life, K-12. So I was intrigued by a recent article in Outside Online that begins like this:

“In early September, in a clapboard house situated on 43 acres just outside a small town in northern Vermont, two boys awaken. They are brothers; the older is 12, the younger 9, and they rise to a day that has barely emerged from the clutches of dark. It is not yet autumn, but already the air has begun to change, the soft nights of late summer lengthening and chilling into the season to come. Outside the boys’ bedroom window, the leaves on the maples are just starting to turn.

School is back in session and has been for two weeks or more, but the boys are unhurried. They dress slowly, quietly. Faded and frayed thrift-store camo pants. Flannel shirts. Rubber barn boots. Around their waists, leather belts with knife sheaths. In each sheath, a fixed-blade knife.

By 6:30, with the first rays of sun burning through the ground-level fog, the boys are outside. At some point in the next hour, a yellow school bus will rumble past the end of the driveway that connects the farm to the town road. The bus will be full of children the boys’ age, their foreheads pressed against the glass, gazing at the unfurling landscape, the fields and hills and forests of the small working-class community they call home.

The boys will pay the bus no heed. This could be because they will be seated at the kitchen table, eating breakfast with their parents. Or it might be because they are already deep in the woods below the house, where a prolific brook trout stream sluices through a stand of balsam fir; there is an old stone bridge abutment at the stream’s edge, and the boys enjoy standing atop it, dangling fresh-dug worms into the water. Perhaps they won’t notice the bus because they are already immersed in some other project: tillering a longbow of black locust, or starting a fire over which to cook the quartet of brookies they’ve caught. They heat a flat rock at the fire’s edge, and the hot stone turns the fishes’ flesh milky white and flaky.

Or maybe the boys will pay the bus no heed because its passing is meaningless to them. Maybe they have never ridden in a school bus, and maybe this is because they’ve never been to school. Perhaps they have not passed even a single day of their short childhoods inside the four walls of a classroom, their gazes shifting between window and clock, window and clock, counting the restless hours and interminable minutes until release.

Maybe the boys are actually my sons, and maybe their names are Fin and Rye, and maybe, if my wife, Penny, and I get our way, they will never go to school.

Hey, a father can dream, can’t he?”

Today, I have that dreaming father on the podcast, and you’re going to learn everything you need to know about unschooling, alternative education models, sustainable homestead living, and much more. Even if you don’t live “in the sticks”, you’re going to pick up plenty of advice about how to raise your own children or help those around you raise their children to become independent, free-thinking resilient kids who know how to thrive in unpredictable situations.

My guest is Ben Hewitt, author of Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting Off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World, and in this interview, you’ll discover:

-How Ben and his family live like royalty on a thrifty budget, and how you can too…

-How to find mentors and internships for your children…

-How Ben’s children learned how to read with no “formal” education…

-The difference between unschooling and homeschooling…

-How to unschool even if you don’t live on a farm or a homestead, especially if you’re in an urban environment…

-How to ensure that your children don’t become isolated loners or socially awkward…

-Potential alternatives to unschooling for people who aren’t confident doing it or don’t have the time…

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

-Book: Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting Off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World

-Book: The Nourishing Homestead: One Back-to-the-Land Family’s Plan for Cultivating Soil, Skills, and Spirit

-Book: Deschooling Society

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about unschooling? Leave your thoughts below and either Ben or I will reply!

How To Biohack Your Green Smoothie (And Can High Speed Blenders Really Damage Your Food?)

B all four

Last week, I released the podcast episode with Dr. Richard Aiken entitled “How Blenders Can Destroy Food, Why I Eat 20-25 Servings Of Vegetables Each Day, The Vegan-Paleo Debate & Much More

During the show, Dr. Aiken explained the potentially damaging effects of high-speed blending on food and referenced a recent experiment he performed on bananas.

Today, Dr. Aiken was kind enough to send me the complete results of that experiment, published in their full, scientifically nerdy details below. Enjoy, and leave your questions, comments and feedback below!


How High Speed Blenders Affect Your Food

There has been some concern as to the effect of high-speed mechanical blending on the nutrient value of fruits and vegetables.  The main concern is that rupture of the cell walls and organelles within the plant cell releases nutrients, but also  vigorously exposes them to atmospheric oxygen with potentially damaging or nutrient deactivating oxidation reactions.

Before jumping into the experiment that I conducted to determine whether this oxidation actually takes place, it’s important to understand exactly how most popular high-speed mechanical blenders work.

There are two primary physical processes that work to mechanically break down the cell wall of plants:

1) shear forces

2) cavitation

Shear forces are created by the high-speed impact of the food with the blender blades.  This includes direct cutting by the blade itself as well as shearing by application of high kinetic energy of the particulate matter moving through surrounding medium and striking other particles and the container.

Cavitation is caused by the Bernoulli effect – the same principle behind air flight – planes and helicopters and why boats can sail faster against the wind than with the wind.  The speed of the blades in fluid cause a decrease in pressure above the blades equal to the vapor pressure of the fluid, similar to boiling. Bubbles form on the blades (assuming a fluid component), are flung away and implode, causing very powerful shockwaves that further break down even the smallest of remaining particles.


The Importance Of Polyphenoloxidases (PPO)

The enzymes in the class Polyphenoloxidases (PPO) appear to reside in the plastids of all plants and are released when the plastid cell membrane is disrupted. PPO is thought to play an important role in the resistance of plants to microbial and viral infections and to adverse climatic conditions.

Phenolic compounds are responsible for the color of many plants and impart taste and flavor.  They are important antioxidants. In the presence of oxygen from air, the enzyme PPO catalyzes the first steps in the biochemical conversion of phenolics to produce quinones, which undergo further polymerization to yield dark, insoluble polymers referred to as melanin.

This is the same melanin that determines darkness of human skin and hair. In plants, melanin forms barriers and has antimicrobial properties that prevent the spread of infection in plant tissues. Note that enzymatic browning is considered desirable for the color and taste of tea, coffee and chocolate.

There are many phenolic (or polyphenolic) compounds in fruits and vegetables. Epidemiological studies and associated meta-analyses strongly suggest that long term consumption of diets rich in plant polyphenols offer protection against development of cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis and neurodegenerative diseases [1].

Polyphenols can be divided into many different subcategories, such as anthocyans  and flavonoids. Flavonoids are formed in plants from the aromatic amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine. Tyrosine also synthesizes DOPA (3,4-dihydroxyphenethylamine) that forms dopamine.

Many plants synthesize dopamine to varying degrees. The highest concentrations have been observed in bananas, levels of 40 to 50 parts per million by weight.

Acidity, temperature, and chemicals can all affect PPO activity. When it comes to acidity, the optimum pH for PPO activity has been shown to be 7 (dopamine substrate). However, the enzyme displays high activity between pH 6.5–7.5 and the activity rapidly decreases at more acidic pH values [2].

Temperature also affects PPO. Heating at 60 degrees for 30 minutes reduces the enzymatic activity by 50%; heating at 90 degrees C completely destroys the enzyme.  The optimum temperature for maximum activity is 30 degrees C (86 degrees F).

Finally, some chemicals affect PPO. It has been shown that complete inhibition of PPO activity is found with as low as 0.8 mM ascorbic acid [3].  Ascorbic acid, also known as vitamin C, acts as an antioxidant because it reduces the initial quinone formed by the enzyme to the original diphenol.

Citric acid also can inhibit PPO activity, although not as strongly as ascorbic acid [4]. Citric acid exists in much greater than trace amounts in a variety of fruits and vegetables, most notably citrus fruits.  Lemons and limes have particularly high concentrations of the acid; it can constitute as much as 8% of the dry weight of these fruits. The concentrations of citric acid in citrus fruits range from 0.005 mol/L for oranges and grapefruits to 0.30 mol/L in lemons and limes [5].


The Banana Blending Experiment

Organic bananas (PLU-94011) at ripening stage 5 (yellow peel with green tip) were used for this study. Dopamine has been reported as the major natural occurring substrate in banana pulp and the fastest and most important reactant in the production of melanin (darkening) [6]. PPO activity was determined by visualization of browning on a scale 0 – 5, where 5 is darkest noted and 0 is no noted darkening.

Direct blending high-speed one minute

The first trial involved blending three bananas directly in a Vitamix blender, first at slower speeds, then when mixed, at high speeds for 60 seconds. A significant vortex formed.

The results are shown below.

Note this picture was taken within 15 seconds of the end of the blending.  Already a browning is seen.  I will assign a darkness scale of 4 to this, where 5 is the darkest of any of the trials at prolonged time scales.

B first high speed

Blending with water shield low-speed short time

The next trial used two bananas with a water shield (room temperature).  It was attempted to keep the bananas under water during the blending and the vortex was mechanically disturbed. The mixture was blended for about 30 seconds on an intermediate to low setting.

The result, just after blending, is shown below on the left, compared to the first trial, now after about 15 minutes.

B first and second

I shall assign a darkening scale of 2 to this mixture.

After about a half hour, the two trials have the following appearance.

B first and second later

The first trial remains at a score of 4 while the second trial has darkened to a 3.

High-speed blending at cold temperature and with lime juice

The juice of a single lime was added to ice cold water. Lime was chosen as the pH of lime juice is quite low (2.0 – 2.4) and the ascorbic acid content is  high. Bananas were then introduced. The mixture was then blended at high speed for about 60 seconds.  The result, appearing on the far left in the picture below indicates a “0” on the darkness scale.

B all three

The first trial is in the middle and has reached a score of “5”, while trial 2 is a “4” after about an hour and a half.

Further high-speed blending with ice water and lime

The last trial was the same as the third except the mixture was further subjected to an additional 90 seconds of high speed blending (for a total of 150 seconds).  This trial appears second from the left in the picture below.  The third trial has now begun to separate after about a half hour but there is negligible browning.

B all four

Taste and flavor

Trial #1’s taste was bland; also a scum formed on the top of the glass.  Trial #2 tasted much better initially but lost taste with time.

Trials #3 and #4 were far superior – strong banana taste but the citrus was evident and tangy.  This remained the case after several hours.

The browning (oxidation) results are summarized on the table below:

Elapsed time after blending, minutes 0 30 90
Trial type                 Darkening score
1. high-speed blending, 60 sec 4 4 5
2. low-speed blending under water, 20 sec 2 3 4
3. high-speed cold water blending with lime, 60 sec 0 0 1
4. prolonged high-speed blending with lime, 150 sec 0 0 1


Conclusions & Practical Takeaways

There is a significant amount of oxidation that occurs while blending bananas.  The oxidation reaction is slowed somewhat by blending at slower speeds, but even then significant oxidation occurs. Reduction of the temperature, an increase in acidity and particularly the chemical influence of ascorbic acid apparently stops the catalysis of DOPA (dopamine) by PPO and therefore its oxidation.

Although this experiment was specifically performed on a fruit with the major phenolic component dopamine, the results could probably be extended to other phenolic-containing plants.

So I recommend that to minimize oxidation and damage to plant nutrients that prior to blending your plants (such as you might do when making a green smoothie), that A) you pre-blend and use as your blending “liquid” a cold water solution containing a fruit with a high ascorbic acid content and low pH (e.g. a lemon, orange or lime) B) you then blend your plants in this solution at a high speed and C) don’t worry much about the time spent blending if you use this approach (e.g. not much difference between 60s and 150s in terms of oxidation).


Final Note From Ben

So, based on this information, am I going to change the way I make my morning big-ass green smoothie (recipe here)?

You betcha.

And it’s quite simple. What I’ll do as the very first step prior to tossing my smoothie materials into my blender is to use that same blender to blend about 4oz of cold water mixed with the juice of 1 lemon or 1 lime. That’s it. Then I’ll go about making my smoothie as usual, and simply use that cold water + lemon/lime blend as my liquid medium for making my smoothie.

And a big thanks to Dr. Richard Aiken for sacrificing his bananas to make us all healthier. Leave your questions and comments below, and let me know if you too plan on altering your smoothie preparation process.



[1] Pandey, K. B., and Rizvi, S. I., (November 2009), Plant polyphenols as dietary antioxidants in human health and disease, Oxid Med Cell Longev 2(5), 270–278.

[2] Chaisakdanugull, C., and Theerakulkait, C. (2009) Partial purification and characterization of banana[Musa (AAA Group) ‘Gros Michel’] polyphenol oxidase, International J of Food Science and Technology 44, 840-846

[3] U ̈ mit U ̈ nal, M. (2007). Properties of polyphenol oxidase from Anamur banana (Musa cavendishii). Food Chemistry, 100, 909–913.

[4] Purification and characterization of polyphenol oxidase from banana (Musa sapientum L.) pulp.

  1. P. Yang, S. Fujita, M. Ashrafuzzaman, N. Nakamura, N. Hayashi

J Agric Food Chem. 2000 July; 48(7): 2732–2735.

[5] Penniston KL, Nakada SY, Holmes RP, Assimos DG; Nakada; Holmes; Assimos (2008). “Quantitative Assessment of Citric Acid in Lemon Juice, Lime Juice, and Commercially-Available Fruit Juice Products” . Journal of Endourology 22 (3): 567–570.

[6] Palmer, J. K. Banana polyphenol oxidase: Preparation and properties. Plant Physiol. 1963, 38, 508-513.

How Blenders Can Destroy Food, Why I Eat 20-25 Servings Of Vegetables Each Day, The Vegan-Paleo Debate & Much More.

Dr. Richard Aiken

Every morning I start my day with what I call my “big-ass smoothie”. In a moment, you’re going to find out what this has to do with my guest in today’s podcast, Richard Aiken, who is pictured above on his horse Teeko, which he used to race in Western “Ride & Tie” races, an endurance race up and down mountains for two people and a horse.

Anyways, back to my smoothie.

The smoothie begins with a huge bunch of greens. I prefer kale, but spinach, bok choy, mustard greens, etc. also do the trick, and lately I’ve been making a concerted effort to go out into the forest near my house and pick at least one or two “wild” plants to throw in too (such as plantain, nettle, wild mint, etc.)

Next, I add some kind of herb. Cleansing herbs like parsley, cilantro or thyme are nice. Rather than opting for the old, dried, powdered versions you buy from the grocery store, I buy them fresh or pick them fresh from my garden.

Next is half an avocado (or occasionally a whole avocado if it’s a high calorie day) along 2 teaspoons organic cacao powder, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, a teaspoon of sea salt (I use this fancy Aztecan stuff), and 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil.

Then, before blending, I add just enough full fat coconut milk to make all my plants blend. I prefer an extremely thick smoothie that I have to eat with a spoon (so that the digestive enzymes in my mouth can work on pre-digesting before the food even makes it to my gut). Like my mom always said, “Chew your liquids and drink your solids.”

Then, I blend everything above for about 60 seconds-ish. I’ve always had a hunch that it may not be that great to pulverize things like protein powder, collagen, etc., and I also don’t want to pulverize the chunky chunks of goodness I’m about to toss in. So after blending, to my green goodness, I add 20-30g of a “clean” protein powder, 1 large handful of unroasted, non-vegetable-oil coated walnuts or almonds, 1 small handful organic dark cacao nibs and 1 large handful organic unsweetened coconut flakes.

I then use a spatula to ensure the entire contents of this relatively expensive smoothie make it into my giant morning breakfast mug, although I have been known to simply eat it straight out of the blender container when in a hurry. Depending on how exact my measurements are, my big-ass smoothie weighs in in at anywhere from 700-1000 calories.

Throughout the remainder of the day after the smoothie, I consume a giant salad at lunch, and heaps of vegetables for dinner. So I’d estimate that I probably consume 20-25 “servings” of vegetables each day, typically accompanied by boatloads of oils and fats such as olives, olive oil, coconut milk, coconut oil, avocados, fatty fish, bone broth, and organ meats.

OK, so why am I telling you all this?

Here’s why: I just read a book called The New Ancestral Diet, and it’s reinvented the way I think about all these plants I’ve been eating.

The New Ancestral DietPrint is described like this:

“We as primates have struggled mightily during the past 85 million years to find and eat enough food for survival. Fortunately, every one of your ancestors was successful so that you might succeed in that same endeavor. However, today that survival is in jeopardy. Recently and suddenly, from an evolutionary standpoint, the problem of subsistence in “civilized” countries has inverted: we have plenty of food but are not making selections that lead to long-term survival.

Our plant-based ancestral diets for which we have become genetically adapted have become animal-based. For thousands of millennia, primate nutrition happened while seeking a wide variety fruits and vegetables sufficiently energy-dense to supply our needed daily calories. Today we still seek energy-dense foods, but in the form of high fat animal products or sweet processed foods. Nutrient-dense foods, formerly our staples, are tolerated as side-dishes.

Taste, the most primitive of our senses, over the eons existed for our survival (as all the other senses), that is, to deselect plants sufficiently bitter as likely toxic or non-digestible. With the expansion of our brain capacity, taste was joined by higher brain regions’ appreciation of flavor. The result is a demand for flavorful energy-dense foods. Every meal experience must “taste good”. Dietary patterns based on such flavorful energy-dense foods has lead to chronic inflammatory states with high morbidly and mortality in the Western world.

This book suggests a return to our true ancestral dietary patterns, supplemented by what is known from the latest scientific research concerning nutritional health. It is clear that we have evolved to be quite versatile eaters and while we can eat a variety of foods, a whole-food varied plant-based diet is best for our long-term health and happiness.”

In the book, author Richard Aiken, a medical doctor and PhD in chemical engineering, describes how plants wage a chemical warfare against our body, why we should be careful with pulverizing and blending the hell out of our vegetables, why epidemiological data is very strong for a whole-food, primarily plant-based diet, and much more.

He holds a PhD in chemical engineering from Princeton University and an MD from the University of Utah. He has lectured throughout the United States and Europe, is the author of numerous peer reviewed scientific articles on nutrition and chemistry, and is a board certified psychiatrist with a clinical practice in Springfield, Missouri.

During today’s podcast interview with Richard, you’ll discover:

-How endurance runners can keep up with horses during races in the mountains…

-Richard’s journey from getting a PhD in chemical engineering from Princeton, to starting a space exploration company to singing opera to attending medical school…

-How human beings progressed from insectivore to fruitarian to herbivore…

-Why the advent of cooking tubers may have been more important than the advent of cooking meat…

-The amazing recent research on chlorophyll, sunlight and the potential ability for humans to photosynthesize…

-Why you should go out of your way to eat things that don’t taste good…

-Whether blenders can damage plant matter and if so, what the alternatives are…

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

Denise Minger’s refutation of The China Study

The Hillbilly Vegan Facebook page

Richard’s website MoodForLife

The New Ancestral Diet book

-The recent research on chlorophyll, sunlight and the potential ability for humans to photosynthesize

Do you have questions, comments or feedback for Dr. Aiken or me about this episode? Leave your thoughts below!

How Gluten-Free Beer Works & How To Get Rid Of The Gluten In Beer Without Making Beer Taste Like Crap.

Omission Beer


I drank crap loads of the stuff in college. And in this case, I literally do mean crap loads because the morning after a night of partaking in frothy, hoppy brew, I could easily decommission any bathroom in sight.

Of course, I always chalked the gas, bloating and other digestive distress that ensued from beer consumption to lack of sleep, a hard night of partying, and possibly the enormous post-midnight pizzas or burritos that I inevitably consumed  after the drinking was done.

But then, post-college, the problems with beer continued, even in the absence of beer-induced debauchery. 

For example, I found that even a normal, sane pint of beer consumed at a backyard barbecue could easily set off heartburn, or a bit of gas, or indigestion, or simply a post-drinking fuzzy head or urge to nap. Sure, a quality microbrew tasted oh-so-good, but still seemed to still set off some kind of gastric or nervous system dysfunction.

So for years, and until quite recently, I simply quit beer. 

And this was frustrating, because, as you learned in the recent podcast in which I discussed “The Effects Of Beer On Hydration“, a cold brew after a hot summer’s workout ranks right up there with burgers, sweet potato fries and watermelon on my summer cravings list.

What exactly is it about beer that can leave you feeling less than stellar, especially in the brain or gut department? You’re about to discover the answer, and you’re also going to learn how gluten-free beer works and why you may want to consider trying gluten-free beer, even if you don’t have full-blown celiac disease or gluten intolerance.


The Problem With Beer

Let’s start here: in the podcast “8 Scary Beers You Should Stop Drinking Now“, I introduce you to all the hidden assailants in the average cheapo brew, from Pabst Blue Ribbon to Bud Light. In that podcast, you learn about everything from BPA to high fructose corn syrup to GMO ingredients to a host of other hormonal disruptors and potential carcinogens in beer.

So let’s now operate on the assumption that you’ve committed to drinking high quality microbrews made from holistic ingredients without any of the frankenfuel ingredients I discussed in that episode. In other words, you’re turned into a full-fledged beer snob, or at least you like to think that you make the healthy choices when it comes to beer.

But there’s still one glaring and damaging component of beer that even the good stuff contains…


Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you probably know by now that gluten can be found in many common cereal grains, such as barley and wheat. Even in small quantities, glutens from barley and wheat (specifically the glycoproteins “hordein” and “gliadin”, which do indeed sound like tiny little fart-inducing demons) can trigger serious gut inflammation in those who suffer from celiac disease, and in people who don’t suffer from celiac disease but are gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive, these same proteins can cause brief bouts of everything from constipation to bloating to brain fog to sleepiness.

Now of course, if you are a savvy, modern, somewhat nutritionally informed beer enthusiast who has read articles like this recent one in the New York Times entitled “The Myth Of Big Bad Gluten“, then you would probably argue the levels of gluten in beer are really only a concern for those with diagnosed celiac disease, and that for the rest of us, gluten intolerance is either all “in our head”, it’s simply following the latest food craze, or that any gut discomfort is not induced not by gluten, but by other issues such as leaky gut syndrome, the consumption of fermented foods that often accompany gluten, or simply excess carbohydrates.

And while I’ll admit that the gluten-free craze is absolutely blown out of proportion, especially with the gluten-free label getting slapped onto everything from water to licorice, if you think that gluten intolerance is really only an issue for those who have celiac disease, you’d be wrong.

For example, Dr. William Davis, author of the book “Wheat Belly” and a previous podcast guest, had this to say in response to the recent New York Times article suggesting that gluten intolerance is all in our heads:

“There are plenty of other components of wheat and grains for which we have no adaptations. What about tolerance to those phytates in the other 90% of people who continue to have iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium absorption blocked? What about tolerance for the people who are susceptible to the mind and emotional effects of the gliadin protein that cause paranoia in schizophrenics, mania in people with bipolar illness, behavioral outbursts and abbreviated attention spans in kids with ADHD and autistic spectrum disorder, or 24-hour-a-day food obsessions in people with bulimia and binge eating disorder? What about adaptation to the central nervous system damage inflicted by the gliadin protein that is responsible for deterioration of the cerebellum resulting in cerebellar ataxia, or peripheral neuropathy (50% of unexplained peripheral neuropathies have now been associated with wheat gliadin), or temporal lobe calcification that results in “absence” seizures, or the recently described “gluten encephalathy,” i..e, dementia from wheat? How about majority of people who, regardless of number of AMY1 genes, still experience high blood sugars from wheat and grain consumption? How about the direct gastrointestinal toxicity of wheat germ agglutinin and the endocrine disruptive and inflammatory effects it exerts when absorbed in microgram quantities? What about adaptation to common wheat and grain allergies manifested as skin rashes, asthma, and gastrointestinal distress?”


Allow me to translate that for you. Basically, what Dr. Davis is saying is that even if gluten doesn’t cause you to blow diarrhea out your butt in the bathroom, and even if it has absolutely no effects on your gut whatsoever, it can still wreak havoc on your nervous system, your brain and your ability to absorb precious vitamins, nutrients and minerals from your food.

Yeah, but how much gluten is actually in beer? Isn’t it only present in trace amounts?

It is certainly true that beers brewed from cereals such as millet, rice, sorghum, buckwheat and corn, all of which do not contain gluten or contain very trace amounts of gluten, do not trigger an autoimmune response in celiacs. In most countries, this technically classifies these type of beers as gluten-free beers.

However, I’m not sure if you’ve partaken of these forms of beer made with non-traditional ingredients, but in my quest to discover some kind of beer that agrees with my tummy and my nervous system I certainly have. I distinctly remember sitting one day outdoors at a pub in the sunshine ordering lunch when my eyes settled upon a seemingly brilliant new addition to the menu: gluten-free beer. Eureka!

I ordered up a bottle, rolled up my sleeves and took a swig. To my dismay, I discovered that, similar to gluten-free bread, gluten-free pasta and gluten-free baked goods, beer not made from traditional ingredients like wheat and barley tastes like…

…liquid cardboard.

And, again similar to other gluten-free foods, the gluten-free beers that actually do taste decent taste that way because they’ve had a bunch of post-fermentation sugars added such as honey and maltodextrin.

No, thank you. 

Of course, when it comes to the more traditional beers made with wheat and barley, the glycoprotein hordein found in barley and the glycoprotein gliadin found in wheat are types of gluten that can absolutely trigger nasty symptoms in sufferers of Celiac disease or in people who are insensitive to gluten.

And while many brewers will even argue that the hordein in barley, and even some of the gluten in wheat, is converted into non-harmful amino acids during the fermentation process, I certainly haven’t found that my gastrointestinal tract or post-beer bathroom experience or fuzzy post-drinking head agrees with that statement. This is likely because the barley hordeins in a barely-based beer may not actually be detected, but smaller pieces of these proteins, known as peptides, can remain and be toxic for celiacs.

Then there are “hybrids” like Corona. According to tests done by the Argentine Coeliac Association (ACELA) and the Swedish National Food Agency, Corona contains less than 20 ppm, making it legally gluten-free (FYI, around the world standards of “gluten free” vary – for example, in the European Union a beer with less than 20 parts per million gluten (20ppm) is “gluten free”, while in Australia only beers with no detectable gluten can be described as gluten free). This is because Corona, like most pale lagers, contains rice or corn in addition to the malted barley. But because it still has barely, it still has the gluten – just less of it. So  if you’re sensitive to gluten or you have Celiac disease, then these type of beers are no good.

Finally, in August of 2013, the U.S. FDA released updated regulations on gluten-free labeling. The FDA maintained the widely accepted global gluten-free standard (set by the CODEX Alimentarius commission in 1978) of less than 20ppm of gluten. But unfortunately, at the time of the ruling, they did not rule on fermented products like beer, and so as a result the “TTB”, which is the organization that governs malt beverage labels and generally follows the FDA, did not adopt any new labeling regulations. Basically this means that even a gluten-free beer may not only taste like crap, but may not even be gluten-free at all.

So for years, I have simply avoided beer. 

But recently, I have once again begun partaking of the occasional frosty brew. My refrigerator is actually now full of gluten-free beer. In the same way that I delved into a healthy alternative to wine in my article “Dark & Dirty Secrets Of The Wine Industry, Four Ways To Make Wine Healthier, and What Kind Of Wine Fit People Should Drink“, I’ve now discovered that there actually is a way to drink gluten-free beer that doesn’t taste like…well, the term I’m about to use below.


How To Get Rid Of The Gluten In Beer Without Making Beer Taste Like Crap

Yeah, the title of this section kind of sums it up: how do you actually get rid of the gluten in beer without making beer taste like crap, horse piss, cardboard or any of the other affectionate terms often used to describe the taste of gluten-free beer?

To make a gluten-free beer that tastes good, you cannot, as I mentioned earlier, start with bland, tasteless ingredients like tapioca, rice and corn. Instead, you have to begin with the basic ingredients used in the process of creating any great craft beers: malted barley, hops, water, and yeast.

But here’s where things get different. Once the beers are ready for the fermentation tanks, you add a special brewing enzyme that can break apart and detoxify the gluten protein chains. The form of brewing enzyme used by “Omission” the gluten-free brand of beer I’ve been drinking is called Brewer’s Clarex.

Yes, I agree: Brewer’s Clarex sounds like a horrible chemical that you wouldn’t want anywhere near your frosty brew.

But the fact is, it’s just a fancy scientific title given to a natural protease enzyme that I first mentioned back in podcast episode #319, in which I discussed brand new research about a potent gluten-digesting enzyme isolated from a mold called Aspergillus niger. Turns out that this enzyme is sold commercially under the Brewer’s Clarex name by DSM Food Technologies.Brewer’s Clarex is sometimes generically abbreviated “AN-PEP” which is an acronym for “Aspergillis niger prolyl-endoprotease”. OK, now you understand why they call it Clarex? Aspergillis niger prolyl-endoprotease sounds frighteningly complex and unmarketable in comparison.

Anyways, the target of this enzyme’s action is an amino acid called proline.

Why proline? There are several forms of gluten depending on the source grain, including beit wheat, barley, and rye. Some folks also lump oats into the gluten containing grain category. However, no matter which type of gluten-containing grain, each one is extraordinarily rich in proline, and the proline amino acid can be found repeating often and throughout gluten molecules. The way that Brewer’s Clarex works is by breaking one of the two bonds surrounding proline. The end result of cleaving the protein chain is a boatload of small peptide fragments that each have a proline on one end.

Stick with me here.

Imagine a protein as a string of white beads in which each bead is one amino acid. But on that string of white beads, each time a proline appears it shows as a blue bead instead of a white bead. So what you’d see is a very long beaded chain with a blue bead occurring for every small handful of white beads. When treated with Brewer’s Clarex, the single long beaded chain would now be a bunch of much smaller white bead chains that each have a blue bead on the end. So the chain breaks where ever there’s a blue bead.

Brewer’s Clarex was initially developed to combat “beer haze”, which, it turns out, is a result of gluten proteins reacting with other beer constituents to form a precipitate which eventually gets big enough to form what is called a haze particle. That makes foggy, nasty-looking beer. Since the gluten molecule has been rendered into tiny pieces as a result of Brewer’s Clarex action on proline, the other active beer ingredients can no longer bind to proline to make these haze particles.

But beyond disrupting haze locations on the protein to help make beer clear, the fact that Brewer’s Clarex digests gluten into small fragments is of obvious importance for people with gluten sensitivity. Along their length, gluten proteins contain sections of certain specific amino acid sequences that trigger immune reactions in celiacs and anybody else with gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance.

These toxic peptide sequences in a gluten molecule are referred to as epitopes, and they are the very specific sections of gluten that trigger reactions to gluten. In fact, most of what makes up gluten are inert sequences of amino acids (non-epitopes) that periodically border one of these toxic epitope sequences. But since these epitopes contain proline, they are broken apart by Brewer’s Clarex into smaller pieces, which (chemically speaking) don’t resemble their origins and which behave differently when consumed by a human. Research has shown that epitopes lose their toxicity as a result of being broken apart into fragments.

OK, so going back to our beaded chain concept: let’s imagine an epitope involves red beads and is defined as a repeating, alternating structure of three red and three blue beads bound together (yep, that’s a total of beads) In this case, Brewer’s Clarex would break apart the alternating red and blue sequences at the blue binding points and the six bead structure would no longer exist. So the epitope is gone. Vamoose. Bub-bye. Essentially, the parts do not equal the sum, and the toxicity disappears.

Boom. I shall now remove the propellor hat.

So, has this special enyzmatic treatment been proven to actually work? 

In 2013, Mass Spectrometry research was conducted by an independent lab which validated that the Omission Lager and Pale Ale are totally devoid of any known barley “toxic epitopes”, which are the specific peptide sequences and reactive sites in gluten molecules that cause deleterious reactions in the human small intestine. No epitopes, no nasty epitope poopies. Jackpot.

The beers were also tested using the R5 Competitive ELISA and were found to lack any measurable gluten content.

R5 Competitive ELISA?

Yeah, that’s what I was wondering too.

R5 Competitive ELISA is an internationally validated form of testing for gluten-based peptides that was recognized in 2013 by AACCI and the American Society of Brewing Chemists for testing fermented foods and beverages to determine whether they conform to the required threshold of less than 20mg gluten/kg (that’s the same as 20ppm) in total gluten for gluten-free products. While it is not a routine protocol to test beers with this protocol, Omission beers have also been tested using the A1 Competitive ELISA, the G12 Competitive, and a G12 LFD, all variations of this ELISA test.

None of these three tests were able to quantify any gluten in the beers.


After the special enzymatic treatment, the Omission beers are then packaged in a closed environment to eliminate any cross contamination risk. This is because the beers are brewed at breweries that also brew traditional gluten-containing craft beers. So Omission has to take precautions in the brewing and packaging facilities to ensure that you get a consistent product that meets the 20ppm or lower gluten-free standards. Samples from every batch of beer are tested internally for gluten content before packaging, and then the packaged samples are sent to an external lab for testing before being released from the brewery.

In addition, the Omission beers are the first beers to be packaged after the packaging lines have been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, and during the packaging process the facility is locked down to prevent any cross contamination. 

So they’re going through some pretty calculated steps here to ensure you don’t mess up your nervous system or decommission any bathrooms.



And that, my friends, is why the only beer I’m now drinking is Omission gluten-free beer.

This stuff is brewed by Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland, Oregon and by the Redhook Brewery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and really is the first craft beer brand in the United States focused exclusively on brewing great tasting craft beers with traditional beer ingredients specially crafted to remove gluten.

You aren’t going to find Omission beer on tap, but you can use the website to hunt down a bottle near you. The reason they don’t package Omission in kegs is to avoid any cross-contamination risks and the possibility of you being accidentally served a pint of beer other than the Omission that you ordered.

But you can always grab a frosty pint glass to accompany your bottle, and then simply close your eyes, take a sip, and pretend it came straight from the tap.

Here’s how they describe their beers (and yes, I’m a crappy beer-describer, so I’m using their exact description rather than my own, which would be something along the lines of “brown, cold, tastes good”).

Lager: Omission Lager is a refreshing and crisp beer, brewed in the traditional lager style. Perfect for a variety of beer drinking occasions, Omission Lager’s aromatic hop profile offers a unique, easy-drinking beer for those looking for a lighter and approachable beer style. 

HOPS: Sterling, Mount Hood, and Hallertau
IBU: 20
ABV: 4.6%

Pale Ale: Bold and hoppy, Omission Pale Ale is a hop-forward American Pale Ale, brewed to showcase the Cascade hop profile. Amber in color, Omission Pale Ale’s floral aroma is complimented by caramel malt body, making for a delicious craft beer.

MALTS: Pale, Caramel, Honey, Dark Munich
HOPS: Cascade
IBU: 33
ABV: 5.8%

IPA: Omission IPA is a bright, hop forward Northwest Style IPA produced in the spirit of the original IPAs shipped from the UK to India in the late 1800’s. The heavy-handed use of Cascade and Summit hops give it notable pine, citrus, and grapefruit aromas and flavors. The bitterness is what you would expect of a NW IPA but this beer is balanced and smooth due to the perfect level of malt sweetness. The finish is crisp, clean, and refreshing – it’s a true IPA lover’s IPA.

MALTS: Pale and Caramel 10°L
HOPS: Summit, and Cascade
IBU: 65
ABV: 6.7%

Is your mouth watering yet?

It likely is, unless you’re my wife, who still hates beer, even with our refrigerator full of Omission. Ah well. More for me.

Finally, in case you were about to ask the big GMO question, Omission beers are not brewed with any genetically modified ingredients. Just malted barley, hops, water and yeast. That’s it. Oh yeah, and it’s in glass, so no BPA-in-your-can issues either.

Bon appetit. Drink up, guilt-free. No beer farts, no beer brain fog, no post beer sleepiness. Check it out at

So, do you have questions, comments or feedback about gluten-free beer? Do you have your own favorite brands of gluten-free beer to add? Have you tried Omission beer? Leave your thoughts below!

How to Make Your Own Smart Drugs, Natural Nootropic Stacks, My Brain-Enhancing Compounds of Choice & Much More!.


The word “nootropic” or “smart drug” (yeah, there’s a slight difference between the two, as I discuss in this podcast) is quickly becoming a household name, especially due to all the recent media hype and interviews that have disclosed how popular smart drugs are among Silicon Valley CEOs and college students.

That, along with the smart drug movies “Limitless” and “Lucy“.

Although you can easily purchase synthesized smart drug and nootropic supplements from a variety of online retailers, I also think it’s a bit intriguing to consider the possibility of creating your own perfect blend of smart drugs customized to you.

But unless you’re a redneck living in a trailer park and you’re comfortable blowing up your home (or you’re willing to go to the extent that I do in my How To Make Your Own Smart Drugs video) it may not be quite safe to try to synthesize piracetam blends or any of the other commonplace smart drugs in your kitchen. However, when it comes to natural nootropic herbs, it’s a different story, and you can certainly take steps to blend up some of the naturally occurring nootropics that offer similar benefits.

In addition, with what you’re about to learn, you can also stack a variety of different smart drug and nootropic supplements together to achieve some pretty cool results. Happy blendin’.


Synthetic vs. Natural Nootropics

There are numerous synthetic smart drugs that are utilized nowadays by people from all walks of life, from CEO’s to soccer moms. For example, Piracetam was one of the first lab created compounds specifically designed to enhance cognitive performance, and although it is a synthesized chemical (with chemical name 2-oxo-1-pyrrolidine acetamide) it is generally regarded as being safe. The vast majority of people can take this supplement without needing to worry about suffering from any major side effects. However, there are also many notable natural and herbal nootropics (listed below), and some of them offer benefits that are similar to the synthetic, lab created options, which is good news if you want to completely steer clear of chemicals.

Or you can have the best of both worlds. The reality is that you can mix and match a blend of herbal, natural or synthetic nootropics to help yourself with a long list of goals, ranging from memory improvement to a reduction in anxiety. And if you don’t have the time or you’re not comfortable making your own smart drug stack out of synthesized or natural supplements in bulk powder form, you can still easily find enough alternatives in this article to reap the rewards associated with nootropics and smart drugs.

Finally, like I mentioned earlier, if you’re still confused about the difference between a smart drug and a nootropic, listen to this.


Notable Natural and Herbal Nootropics

Before you can begin putting together the perfect stack to fit your needs, you should be aware of which natural options are available. It is also important to learn about the scientific research that verifies their cognitive enhancing properties. So I’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular choices that you see popping up as ingredients or featured components of most popular smart drugs stacks these days:

1. Huperzine-A

Many people classify Huperzine-A as a natural nootropic because it is derived from the Chinese club moss plant. There is some laboratory manipulation that takes places during the creation of this nootropic, but it appears to be extremely beneficial because the final result is a highly purified substance. Medical studies have concluded that Huperzine-A has minimal to no side effects and no toxicity, which makes it generally regarded as safe for human consumption. Research has also determined that this supplement can provide significant memory improvements in Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia patients. There are also generous amounts in the adaptogenic herb complex TianChi.

2. Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa Monnieri is an extract from the Brahmi plant. According to WebMD, Bacopa is used for a wide variety of purposes, including as a supplemental Alzheimer’s treatment and way to reduce anxiety. Evidence suggests that this natural nootropic is effective at improving memory and hand-eye coordination. There have also been some studies that link Bacopa with a reduction in anxiety, insomnia and concentration issues. In one study, 300 mg was given daily to participants for 12 weeks and there were reported improvements in thinking ability and memory.

3. Lion’s Mane

This edible mushroom can be found in gourmet food stores, and it is also available in a supplement version. Just like many other mushrooms, Lion’s Mane is believed to offer benefits that go beyond nutrition. In fact, there have been several studies conducted in an attempt to discover Lion’s Mane’s full potential, and the results are very promising. For example, 750 mg daily gave test subjects a significant boost in their cognitive functionality. A small clinical study showcased the possibility that this nootropic can offer reduced anxiety and depression. I also discuss the potent Lion’s Mane dual extracted mushroom tea in my podcast with foursigmafoods.

4. Ginkgo Biloba

Leaves from the Ginkgo Biloba tree have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. The Mayo Clinic did an analysis of each of the medical purposes that this nootropic is used for, and they determined that there is a good amount of scientific evidence to suggest that Ginkgo Biloba is useful for improving cognitive performance and reducing anxiety.

5. Artichoke Extract

This supplement is made from the leaves of artichokes. There is a lot of evidence that strongly suggests artichoke extract supplements offer neural antioxidant properties. Additionally, several nootropic user reviews have mentioned enhanced memory in relation to taking this product. Tim Ferriss talked about this one a bit in my most recent podcast with him, particularly referencing it’s presence in “CILTEP“.

6. Tryptophan

You are probably most familiar with this essential amino acid because it is in turkey and people (erroneously) believe that it makes them sleepy. However, tryptophan is also available in pill format, and it is most commonly taken as a non-prescription aid for depression. Tryptophan works by increasing the amount of serotonin in your brain. When used for this purpose, it is typically taken three to four times per day for a total of eight to 12 grams. Additionally, there has been at least one study that links this natural nootropic to a reduction in memory deficits.

7. L-Theanine

Theanine is found naturally in green tea, and it is an amino acid. When taken as a supplement, L-Theanine is believed to offer a reduction in anxiety symptoms. Studies also suggest that drinking green tea or taking L-Theanine in a pill format can help reduce neurodegeneration. Many nootropic enthusiasts stack caffeine and L-Theanine because of reported benefits such as enhanced attention and cognition without the issues that often accompany large quantities of caffeine. One example of a combo like this is the “pink powder packet” delta-E.

8. CBD

Due to their properties that help protect nerve cells, especially brain cells, cannabinoids, specifically the cannabidiols derived from CBD that I first introduced in my article “A 100% Legal Way To Get All The Benefits Of Weed Without Actually Smoking Weed”, plays a key role in slowing and preventing the damage to the human brain found in Alzheimer ’s disease, as well as other forms of dementia, depression and neurodegeneration.

Components of CBD can inhibit the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, a substance that plays a key role in inducing β amyloid plaques that form in the brain to cause Alzheimer’s and dementia. And finally, if you do happen to smoke weed and you’re concerned about the potential memory-damaging effects of THC, then it’s important to know that CBD can counteract these effects, especially when taken in conjunction with marijuana.

This list is by no means complete, but it offers a good overview of the natural options that are generally considered “go-to” ingredients in most modern smart drug and nootropic compounds. When you consider all of the cognitive benefits that have been scientifically linked to each of the previously listed nootropics, it becomes easy to see how you can potentially build your own stack without necessarily spending money on pills and packaging (note that most synthetic nootropics are generally regarded as safe, so choosing to stick with natural options may simply be a personal preference or N=1 experiment, and is not something I’m influenced to recommend because of any serious safety concerns I’ve seen in research).


Two Natural Nootropic Stacks

The purpose of stacking compounds is to “stack” together a variety of ingredients to get the best possible synergistic combination of each supplement’s purported benefits.

For example, one of the most popular stacks of smart drugs is a blend of Piracetam, Aniracetam and Oxiracetam, all of which you can purchase in bulk powder form here. This is also known as the “PAO” stack, and the approximate ratios for suggested doses are a 2:1:1 ratio of 1500 mg Piracetam with 750mg Aniracetam and 750mg Oxiracetam. These synthesized compounds are well-known to help improve multiple cognitive functions, and by taking them together you can enhance the overall cognitive boost compared to taking just one. I discuss stacks like this in detail in the podcast episode “What Are The Best Brain Supplements And Smart Drugs To Shut Down Brain Inflammation And Make You Smarter?” with Steven Fowkes.

But if you want to steer clear of lab derived compounds, you can take the same approach with nootropics instead of smart drugs by simply stacking with natural and herbal supplements instead of chemicals. In fact, one of the most popular “beginner” stacks utilizes two natural nootropics: caffeine and L-Theanine. Let’s take a closer look at this stack, along with another natural nootropic option that can offer a nice blend of cognitive benefits.

1. L-Theanine & Caffeine Stack

L-Theanine and caffeine have been shown during medical testing to boost concentration and energy while also reducing anxiety symptoms. Caffeine can be very potent in high quantities, but it also often leads to headaches and jitteriness. Many people find that adding L-Theanine to a caffeine mix reduces or completely removes these negative side effects.

For these purposes, a good ratio is four parts L-Theanine to one part caffeine. For example, one of the most common dosage amounts is 400 mg of L-Theanine stacked with 100 mg of caffeine. However, you may want to start off with a lower dose to test things out, such as 50 mg of caffeine and 200 mg of L-Theanine, and then work your way up from there. The company Natural Stacks makes a stack of caffeine and L-Theanine in a good ratio, and call it “Smart Caffeine”. That or the pink powder “deltaE” are two good, done-for-you options in this category, unless you opt to buy bulk from a company like Peak Nootropics and make your own.

2. Ginkgo Biloba, Bacopa Monnieri & Lion’s Mane Stack

If you are looking for a natural stack that is reported to boost focus, memory and learning, then you can turn to the combination of Lion’s Mane, Bacopa Monnieri and Ginkgo Biloba to help you achieve the desired results. The studies I listed earlier point out that these supplements offer a nice mixture of nootropic effects, including better cognitive performance and relief from some of the symptoms associated with anxiety and depression.

Reviews about this stack indicate that it can boost alertness for approximately six hours at a time. However, it is important to be aware of the fact that users have reported a delay of up to 12 weeks before this stack reaches its full potential. In other words, this is not a natural nootropic stack that is likely to provide you with “instant results”.

As with any other stack, you need to be cognizant of your stacking choices. After all, putting together the same dosage of each component that you would take individually is not typically a wise choice due to the way that each supplement blends together. For this stack, most folks use the following daily combination, and you can find most of this stuff in bulk on Amazon.

After 12 weeks, if you are not experiencing positive results, you may need to adjust the dosages in your stack. Start with small increments such as increasing each dose of the Bacopa Monnieri to 150 mg. This is a game of patience, as these increases could take an additional 12 weeks to achieve optimal results.


Three Stacks That Come In Pre-Packaged Formats

It is not always necessary to purchase each component of your stack separately. Instead, you can turn to combination pills that take out all of the guesswork. One of the biggest perks associated with these natural smart drugs is the fact that you will not need to portion out the specific dosage of each supplement in your stack. It can also be more cost-effective to take advantage of this format.


When it comes to natural stacking, CILTEP is by far one of the most frequently utilized and discussed options. Originally created in 2012 by a nootropic and neurochemistry enthusiast, this blend’s popularity quickly soared after users, including Tim Ferriss, began reporting positive results. All of the ingredients in the CILTEP pill are natural, so people who wish to steer clear of synthesized products can easily do so. The main base ingredients for this particular supplement is artichoke extracts and forskolin.

Each CILTEP pill also contains vitamin B6, L-phenylalanine and acetyl-L-carnitine. The creators recommend two to three capsules at the beginning of each day. It has been suggested that skipping one to two days per week will offer better results. Although CILTEP itself has not undergone medical testing, the individual ingredients have all been proven to be beneficial for the human body and brain. Therefore, it is not surprising that CILTEP has found a big audience. In fact, one of the biggest proponents of this natural nootropic blend is Martin Jacobson, who reportedly utilized CILTEP while becoming the 2014 World Series of Poker Champion.

I interview CILTEP creator Roy Krebs in this podcast episode.

2. Alpha Brain

This combination product is touted as containing all earth-grown ingredients, which earns it a spot on the natural stack list. Just like CILTEP, Alpha Brain (created by the company Onnit) combines all of the components for you into a single pill for easier usage. According to a clinical trial that was conducted by the Boston Center for Memory, this product has demonstrated a notable increase in cognitive performance for healthy individuals.

Alpha Brain contains Alpha GPC, AC-11, Bacopa Monniera and Huperzine-A. Medical testing has shown that Alpha GPC has the potential to boost the memory and learning capacity of users. AC-11 is derived from a rainforest herb, and studies have found that it may be able to help people in a variety of ways such as slowing the growth of cell cancers due to its reported DNA repairing antioxidant properties.

Reviews of Alpha Brain suggest taking two to three capsules per day. It has also been pointed out that this supplement appears to work best if you keep taking it daily for at least two weeks. Most people indicated that the effects associated with Alpha Brain become more pronounced over time, so you need to let this nootropic blend build up in your system for a while before you judge its overall effectiveness.

3. TianChi

The list of herbs and ingredients in TianChi are way to long to list here, but you can read them in full detail here. I also snapped this photo below of the box in my refrigerator:


I think “Huperzine” supplements have been flying off the shelves since Tim Ferriss mentioned them in his popular “Four Hour Body” book. Huperzine is an “acetylcholinesterase inhibitor”, which means you get more of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine rushing around in your brain. You call these type of compounds “cholinomimetics“.

Acetylcholine is a very important neurotransmitter that is found in many nootropics, and the foundation of several smart drugs is to simply halt breakdown of acetylcholine, or maximize production of acetylcholine (also known as aceytlcholine agonists).

Studies have shown that Huperzine supplementation has neuroprotective effects and enhances cognitive function in animals and humans, but what most people don’t know is that there are natural herbal sources of Huperzine. For example, in Chinese herbal medicine, an herb called “Club Moss” is used slow progression of Alzheimer’s. Guess what the active ingredient in Club Moss is? That’s right – Huperzine, and it’s one of the primary active ingredients, along with over 30 other ingredients, in TianChi.

Every herb used in TianChi is far more pure and potent than typical old, ineffective and often dangerous or nasty-ingredient laced nootropic herbs on the market. Very few products contain 100% whole herb extracts. On average the herbal extracts are at least 10:1 yields, meaning it takes 10 pounds of raw herb to produce 1 pound of pure extract. Most manufacturers start with pure yield and cut them to concentrations of 4:1 or 5:1 by adding filler. This produces a cheaper, but less effective extract. Imagine buying a 5:1 extract that originally was 45:1.

In contrast, the herbal extracts used in TianChi yield 12:1 or greater, and there is even one herb in TianChi that is a 45:1 yield. In other words, you would have to take 9x as much herb from any other source to equal the potency in TianChi. And you would be getting mostly filler, harmful ingredients, and very few results. All of the herbs in TianChi are Non-GMO, Kosher Certified and non-irradiated. They are extracted in purified water and test free of heavy metals, and the creator, a Chinese herbolist based out of Oregon state, use only wild crafted herbs, which are herbs found in their natural state, free from pesticides and exposure to pollution.

I interview TianChi creator and Chinese herbologist Roger Drummer in this podcast episode. The stuff has trace amounts of fructose in it, so I recommend taking it on an empty stomach in the mid-morning. Strangely enough, I’ve found it’s effects to be even more enhanced with consuming with a beet juice or beet powder, probably due to the vasodilation effect of the beets.


Tips For Making Your Own Stack

Natural and synthetic stacks that have been used frequently by other people are a good way to get started because you can rely on a lot of data to determine which option is best for you. However, you can also make your own perfect smart drug stack by studying the research associated with each natural supplement and experimenting with multiple blends. For example, during my podcast episode with Roy Krebs, the creator of CILTEP, he describes how took a close look at the various components he chose and made sure to select nootropics that were likely to blend well together.

You will also want to carefully consider what your exact needs are. After all, if you want to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression but do not necessarily care about enhancing your cognitive performance, you may wish to stick with a single nootropic that affects dopamine product, such as tryptophan or dopamine brain food. Or you could add Bacopa Monnieri to either of these if you also wanted to improve your memory. Then, for longer term cognitive performance that lasts the whole day, you could add Piracetam, and if you begin experiencing headaches, which is often due to choline depletion during the use of a racetam, you could add Alpha-GPC to this stack.

As you can see, the sky’s the limit, and you can chose based on your specific needs exactly how you are going to stack a nootropic combo, a smart drug combo, or both.


Choosing the Best Options for Your Lifestyle

You can easily purchase bulk synthetic, natural and herbal nootropics online. The powder option will save you money in most cases, but it can be more difficult to work with because each dose will need to be weighed out.

The stacks that are blended into one pill could be built by acquiring each individual ingredient. This will give you more control over exactly how much of each component you take, but it will also be a much more labor-intensive and time-consuming process. In my opinion, the convenience and time-saving factor of taking a single pill or packet generally outweighs the potential benefits of perfecting a stack. However, if you are committed to making your own smart drugs, it probably makes the most sense to invest in each ingredient so that you can stack according to your own specific needs.

If you go this DIY route, you’ll primarily need:

A) bulk nootropics and smart drug ingredients;

B) a digital kitchen scale and / or digital spoon scale;

C) capsules and an encapsulation machine

Be aware that even natural, herbal products can cause some side effects. Most of the issues that are experienced with natural nootropics are mild and not very common. Synthetic smart drug supplements usually have more noticeable side effects, but many of these side effects can be alleviated by putting the right stacks together. This is, for example, the primary reason that people add choline to a racetam stack.

Finally don’t forget that some nootropics minimize the effect of the other pills that they are stacked with. A good example is that L-Theanine can remove the negative aspects of caffeine, but it may also give you a reduction in the overall anticipated energy boost as a result. This is yet another compelling reason to study the effects that each component has on the human body and experiment with multiple supplements to find your perfect smart drug stack.



Ultimately, the burning question I get most often is:

What do YOU use Ben?”

To be honest, I fluctuate. I’ve used everything you just read about, from CILTEP to Alpha Brain to TianChi to mushroom extracts, and also made my own blends of L-theanine and caffeine and blends of piracetam, aniracetam and Alpha-GPC.

Currently, when I travel, which is quite often, I tend to take something that is easily portable, and it’s usually capsules of CILTEP or Alpha-Brain. I do not rely regularly on these, but I do use prior to speaking on stage or heavy bouts of writing.

And when I’m at home, I tend to stick to a big cup of mold-free black coffee early in the morning, TianChi in the mid-morning on any very cognitively demanding or sleep deprived days, and mushroom blends like FourSigma Lion’s Mane in the afternoon. In the evening, it’s usually cannabidiol via NatureCBD for relaxation, and occasionally when I’m playing music, at a party, or writing THC/CBD combinations either vaporized or in edible form. To maintain my sensitivity and avoid building up any tolerances, I switch to decaf coffee 1 week out of every 3 weeks, and also completely cut out any smart drugs, nootropics or cannabis-based products 1 week out of every 3 weeks.

And finally, just prior to releasing this article, I experimented twice with the following stack: 3 capsules of Alpha-Brain and 2 capsules of NatureCBD. Both times I used this stack I was short on sleep (operation on about 5 hours of sleep) and both times I was as productive as a madman from about 5am to 1pm. I then fell asleep both times for about 1 hour, then woke up in a pile of my own drool, feeling incredibly refreshed and like a new man. So at this point, although I can’ t say I’d recommend this stack unless you have the option of a nap, it is probably the most powerful blend I’ve experienced yet.


So that’s it! I hope that was helpful. If you enjoyed this article, you may want to check out two chapters that formed important elements of the mental section my Beyond Training book:

How To Fix Your Brain, Part 1

How To Fix Your Brain, Part 2

And be sure to leave your questions, comments, feedback, preferred smart drug stacks, tips and other thoughts below!

What I Eat: 19 Of My Go-To Foods For Stocking A Healthy Pantry.


My buddy Mark Sisson recently published his top 50 essential healthy pantry foods for establishing a shelf-stable pantry that will stand the test of time, dozens of recipes, and course, a zombie apocalypse. From cricket bars to kombu, here’s his list.

Darn it, Mark.


OK, granted – despite looking like a Greek god, Mark is a touch older than me (twice as old?), but nonetheless, I’ve obviously got some catching up to do, because when I venture into my pantry it’s difficult to hunt down 50 different items.

However, I recently spoke at Nourish Vermont’s Traditional Food And Health Gathering about “Fueling The Ancestral Athlete”, and during that talk, I was at least able to identify 19 foods that do indeed appear as staples in my diet.

So enjoy these 19 discoveries…and stay tuned, because…

…at the end of this post, I’m going to give you a link to another article that I wrote which shows you how to use these foods to make quick and easy recipes, and also, because I know that quality ingredients and products like this aren’t always affordable (especially if you’ve ever shopped at markets like Whole Foods AKA “Whole Paycheck”), I’ll show you exactly how to stock your pantry with all these things (and more) at 25%-50% off retail prices you’d pay at a normal grocery store or fancy market.


bone broth1. Bone Broth

Nearly every traditional society boiled bones of meat-giving animals to make a nutritive broth. Bone broth is an extraordinarily inexpensive food, especially for its nutritive value. Beyond its culinary uses and economic benefits, bone broth is remarkably healthful, deeply flavorful, incredibly versatile and can provide a handy base for soups, sauces, gravies, as well as providing a cooking medium for grains and vegetables.

As the bones from bone broth cook in water, minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and other trace minerals and nutrients leach from the bones into the water. The minerals in broth are easily absorbed by your body. Bone broth even contains glucosamine and chondroiton, which may help mitigate the deleterious effects of arthritis and joint pain. Bone broths are also rich in gelatin, which is an inexpensive source of supplementary protein that helps to support the connective tissue in your body, and also helps the skin, fingernails and hair to grow well and strong.

You can knock yourself out with just about everything else you need to know about bone broth in this bone broth podcast episode I recorded with chef Lance Roll.

My top tip for bone broth: I drink a cup of bone broth (I drink it hot or cold, and don’t really care which) as a nourishing, nutrient-dense low-calorie substitute for a meal when I’m in a hurry or watching my calories. It can also be used a healthy substitute for a sports drink, as I discuss with my podcast guest here


eggs2. Free Range Eggs

Free-range eggs are eggs produced from birds that are permitted outdoors for at least part of the day. The term “free-range” may be used differently depending on the country and the relevant laws. Eggs from hens that are only indoors might also be labelled Cage-free, Barn, Barn-roaming or Aviary. I’d personally prefer to eat eggs from chickens who have only eaten organically and who have been allowed to roam as much as possible.

Egg protein is classified as a complete protein. For a protein source to be considered complete, it has to have all the nine essential amino acids present. The amino acid content of eggs is well studied and their value as an excellent source of protein is pretty widely known. Beyond the nine essential amino acids, there are other kinds of proteins in eggs that are considerably beneficial. Ovalbumin, for example, is one type most abundant in the egg white (interestingly, it has been used as a treatment for heavy metal poisoning).

There is also a wide range of B vitamins and adequate amounts of vitamins A, D and E found in eggs. One of exceptional abundance is the B-complex vitamin choline. This nutrient plays important roles in maintaining cell membranes, transmitting nerve signals, and protecting your liver from fat accumulation. Some of the B vitamins, such as niacin, are mostly found in the egg white. The fat soluble A, D and E vitamins and most of the beneficial cholesterols are all in the yolk. There are also about 109 milligrams of omega-3 essential fatty acids for every 100 grams of eggs (essential because they’re crucial to normal physiology but the human body doesn’t produce them)

The advantage of raising poultry in a free range organic way is that the eggs produced have more of these benefits. For example, a free range chicken with access to clean pasture is likely to lay eggs with better nutritional quality. Free range eggs have been found to have higher A and E vitamin content, and double the amount of omega-3 fatty acids compared to eggs from conventionally raised poultry.

My top tip for eggs: for an impressive, citrusy surprise, cut an orange in half, remove the flesh, then cook the egg inside the orange peel “bowl” by baking, broiling or grilling until the egg is bubbling. Serve with sea salt, black pepper and olive oil.


sweet potatoes3. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes, despite their name, are only distantly related to white potatoes. In the United States, this vegetable is known for its starchy and sweet-tasting flavor, although its shoots and leaves are eaten as greens in other parts of the world. Americans’ consumption of sweet potatoes used to be significant. However, in the mid-twentieth century, this habit waned because the sweet potato got associated with “hard times” and a “poverty food” as it was used as one of the go-to crops during war and famine. Though sweet potatoes are also viewed rather negatively due to their carb content, this vegetable is actually one of the healthiest ones out there, and a big staple in my diet.

Sweet potatoes contain anthocyanins, pigments responsible for the array of colors in crops. Sweet potatoes, specifically the variety with purple flesh, have been studied extensively and it has been found that the purple pigments have hepatoprotective properties that reduce inflammation and induce antioxidant enzymes in liver. The purple anthocyanins also act as scavengers of free radicals in the body and guard against acetaminophen toxicity as well.

The purple pigments have been found to alleviate brain inflammation in rats, and this may prove instrumental in the creation of therapeutic approaches to inflammatory brain diseases. Rats on a controlled high-cholesterol diet and fed purple sweet potato flakes showed increased glutathione levels in the liver, leading researchers to conclude that purple anthocyanins minimize oxidative damage to the liver caused by a high-cholesterol diet.

The purple variety of sweet potatoes aren’t the only ones packed with goodness. Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are touted for the potent vitamin A content as well, with one cup of this tuberous vegetable capable of providing more than four times the RDA for Vitamin A. In fact, orange sweet potatoes have been used to address the vitamin A and serum retinol deficiency in young children in Africa.

Also, type 2 diabetes patients fed the extract of white-skinned sweet potatoes showed increased levels of the anti-diabetic protein hormone adiponectin in their blood. So ironically, despite their carbohydrate content, eating sweet potatoes may be beneficial for managing type 2 diabetes as well.

My top tip for sweet potatoes: Boil ’em. According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, this method of cooking sweet potatoes influences it glycemic index (GI). Boiled sweet potatoes had the lowest GI, while baked, fried, or roasted ones had comparitively high glycemic indeces. Boiling aids in the removal of oxalates as well. When boiling sweet potatoes, fill the cooking pot with water enough to cover the thoroughly washed sweet potatoes and boil until the tubers are tender. Adding healthy fats to your boiled sweet potatoes boosts vitamin A bioavailability and uptake as well, so for a mashed sweet potatoes recipe, you can add a tablespoon of olive oil for every cup of this boiled vegetable.


avocado4. Avocadoes

The avocado is quite known for its high fat content. This is perhaps the reason many weight-conscious and fat-phobic individuals steer clear of this fruit. And sure, avocado does have considerable amounts of fat, but these fats do some pretty cool things. For example, monounsaturated fats, which the avocado has in great abundance at as high as 30 grams per fruit, are actually hailed for their ability to lower the levels of triglycerides. People such as diabetics who have high triglyceride levels in the body may see their triglyceride levels fall by as much as 20% by eating a serving or two of avocado daily.

Avocado is a potent source of folate as well, with one avocado providing as much as 28% of the daily recommended intake. Aside from ensuring optimum brain function and health of the nerve endings, folate is also hailed as very important for pregnant women, since the vitamin helps prevent abnormalities to the brain and spine of a developing fetus.

Potassium is another nutrient that’s abundant in avocado. Functioning as an electrolyte in the body, potassium is essential for optimal muscle contraction, and properly balanced potassium in the body helps prevent high blood pressure as well as osteoporosis, especially in elderly women.

Avocado has shown potential for preventing or alleviating depression as well. In a study conducted by the University of Oxford’s Department of Psychiatry, it was found that patients suffering from depression showed improvements after being fed a diet high in tryptophan, a type of amino acid. Avocado is certainly rich in tryptophan, much like organic cottage cheese, bananas, and seafood like wild salmon, trout, tilapia or flounder.

Research has shown that nutrients are mostly abundant in the dark green portion of the avocado meat near the skin, so to maximize your intake of the fruit’s healthful goodness, first slice the avocado lengthwise with a fruit knife and then separate the halves to take out the seed. Slice each of the halves afterwards and peel the skin like you would a banana.

Also, it’s always best to immediately use all the avocados that you slice and peel. If this is not possible, squeeze some lemon juice onto the avocado and put it in an airtight food container or zipper storage bag before putting in the refrigerator to minimize discoloration.

My top tip for avocado: make a fast, go-to avocado bowl snack by chopping an avocado in half, filling the pit with olive oil, sprinkling with sea salt, and…eating.


nori5. Nori

Nori is a type of seaweed that is most popular for it’s use in making sushi. Made from porphyra and/or enteromorpha species of algae, this seaweed variety grow in shallow and cold water. Nori often comes in thin sheet form and has a black-purple color which turns a deep green when toasted.  Though nori’s popularity in the United States is only fairly recently, this seaweed has been eaten for centuries in Asia, specifically in China and Japan.

This unassuming seaweed packs a big nutritional punch. Nori appears to be the only vegetable that has been studied and confirmed to contain Cobalamin, a type of vitamin B12, in the form that’s actually bioavailable to humans. In a study conducted by the Sapporo Medical University in Japan, nori made from the Porphyra tenera algae has been found to contain biologically active Cobalamin. In a subsequent study done by Kochi Women’s University, the research was expanded to include green and purple nori from the enteromorpha and porphyra species, respectively, and it was established that the Cobalamin in nori can indeed be absorbed by humans. It is crucial to note that animal products like meat and eggs are the traditional sources of bioavailable Cobalamin, so these findings prove especially beneficial for vegans and vegetarians.

In the same study, it was also found that nori has the lowest dietary iodine among all seaweed products. This makes nori a more suitable choice for those who need to watch excessive intake of this mineral, such as individuals who have thyroid conditions.

Nori made from the porphyra species of algae contain porphyran, a type of sulfated carbohydrate that appears to have cancer-preventive properties. In a Korean study on gastric cancer cells, porphyran was found to induce cancer cell death, as well as inhibit the spread of malignant cells.

The porphyran in nori has been found in another Japanese study to have anti-allergenic properties as well. This capacity of porphyran to inhibit contact hypersensitivity in laboratory rats may prove useful in finding therapeutic approaches for allergies later on, or for downregulating autoimmune issues in folks with lots of food allergies.

Nori can be added to soups to provide a salty and tangy taste. You can toast nori to bring out its flavor before sprinkling it on soup or other dishes. To toast, turn a gas burner to low or find another source of fire/heat, and holding the nori with tongs, pass the sheet back and forth atop the flame for about 30 seconds or until it becomes crispy.

My top tip for nori: Fold a nori sheet in half, then gently unfold, and brush the inside half sheet lightly with olive oil or avocado oil using a pastry brush. Sprinkle some salt on the inside half. Fold, press, and cut into bite size strips. Place in a baking sheet, making sure the strips are arranged with intervals so as to avoid sticking. Put the baking sheet inside the oven preheated to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and toast the strips for 15 minutes or until crisp. Take out and place the crispy strips in a cooling rack and repeat the process for the remaining nori sheets. To store, place in an airtight glass jar


brazil-nut6. Brazil Nuts

Amazon’s dense forest contains several unique plant species such as Brazil nuts and acai berry, plants that can be found tough to find anywhere else on the planet earth. Native Amazonians cherished the delicious Brazil nuts for ages, because the nuts provided them with much-needed protein, fats, and other essential nutrients. Some of the common names in local dialects are castanha-do-pará, castania, para-nut, cream-nut, and Castaña-de-Brazil (chestnuts of Brazil).

100g of Brazil nuts provide about 656 calories. But their high caloric content chiefly comes from their high levels of fats, and much of this fat content is monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) like palmitoleic acid (16:1) and oleic acid (18:1), which helps raise HDL levels in the blood. Research studies suggest that Mediterranean diet that is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids offers protection from coronary artery disease and strokes by favoring healthy blood lipid profile.

The nuts are also a very good source of vitamin E, and contain about 7.87 mg per 100 g (about 52% of RDA). Vitamin E is a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant required for maintaining the integrity of cell membrane of mucosa and skin by protecting it from free radical damage.

Brazil nuts also have exceptionally high levels of selenium, with 100g of nuts providing about 1917 µg or 3485% recommended daily intake of selenium, rating them as the highest natural source of this mineral. Selenium is an important cofactor for anti-oxidant enzyme, glutathione-peroxidase. Just 1-2 nuts a day provides enough of this trace element. Adequate selenium in the diet help prevent coronary artery disease, liver cirrhosis, and cancers.

Additionally, these creamy nuts are an excellent source of B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamin (51% of RDA per 100 g), riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), and folates. Altogether, these vitamins work as co-factors for enzymes during cellular substrate metabolism inside the body.

In addition to selenium, Brazil nuts have very high levels of other minerals such as copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc. Copper helps prevent anemia and bone weakness (osteoporosis). Manganese is an important co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.

Brazil nuts can be available raw (unshelled or shelled), roasted, and salted in most stores. Since the nuts are high in polyunsaturated fats, they may turn rancid and deteriorate rather early if they get exposed to air, humidity, and sunlight. So I recommend you purchase unshelled nuts, keep them in the freezer or refrigerator, and shell them as and when required to enjoy their edible meaty kernel. Buy whole, brown color nuts that feature full, compact, and heavy in hand. Avoid shriveled and damaged Brazil nuts, as they may be affected by fungal mold.

My top tip for Brazil nuts: At the very, very end of making a smoothie, I toss in 3-5 brazil nuts and blend for about 5-10 seconds with the other smoothie ingredients to get a chunky, nutty flavor.


oyster-426796_6407. Oysters

Oysters are unusual and delicious mollusks that provide your body with a number of unique nutrients and minerals. The nutrients in oysters can help with weight loss attempts, boost metabolic activity, increase tissue repair and growth, balance healthy cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure, improve your immune functions, aid in wound healing, and promote healthy growth. Furthermore, they are considered a powerful aphrodisiac, can improve blood circulation, and increase bone strength to reduce osteoporosis.

Edible oysters have been a part of the human diet for at least 700 years, but have likely been eaten in raw or cooked forms for much longer. The edible components are the meat inside the oyster, and once the shells have been cracked, you can cook this meat in a variety of ways, but they can also be eaten raw, and is often preferred in that way.

The impressive health benefits of oysters come from their vast stockpiles of minerals, vitamins, and organic compounds. In fact, some minerals, such as zinc, are in their highest content in oysters. Oysters also include very high levels of protein, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, copper, manganese, and selenium, along with high levels of niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin C, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium. Finally, oysters are a huge source of beneficial cholesterol, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and water. These elements of oysters make them an extremely healthy food that can seriously boost your body’s overall function and health.

As an aphrodisiac, oysters can help increase sexual performance and libido, primarily in men. Like I mentioned, the zinc content of oysters is unbelievable, and oysters contains more than 1500% of the daily requirements of this essential mineral in a single serving. Zinc has also been closely linked to sexual dysfunction in men, while impotence and erectile dysfunction are closely associated with zinc deficiency. Therefore, eating oysters can give men their sexual edge back and increase feelings of masculinity.

Oysters represent one of the most nutrient packed foods, with very low calories versus the volume of serving size. This means that people trying to lose weight can keep their body packed with the nutrients it needs, without adding too much weight on their frame. Compared to an equal serving size of chicken, oysters have nearly half the calories (pretty cool, considering chicken breasts are often turned to for low-calorie, protein-rich meals). A single serving of oysters provides nearly 1/3 of the daily requirements for protein.

Oysters can positively impact heart health in a variety of ways, primarily via the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids versus omega-6 fatty acids. This ca help reduce the content of oxidized cholesterol in the blood stream and inhibit cholesterol from binding to blood vessel and artery walls. In this way, oysters can reduce the chances of plaque accumulation and a variety of health complications, including cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, the high potassium and magnesium content of oysters can help to lower blood pressure and relax the blood vessels, thereby increasing circulation and oxygenation of the blood and reducing strain on the cardiovascular system. Finally, the vitamin E in oysters increases the strength and flexibility of cellular membranes, which is a third level of protection against heart disease.

Oysters are also a very impressive source of iron, with more than 90% of our daily requirements in each serving. Iron is a key component in the formation of red blood cells in the body, and is the primary defense against anemia, also known as iron deficiency, which can lead to fatigue, cognitive malfunction, stomach disorders, and general muscle weakness.

The mineral content is also quite impressive in oysters, and this can be a major contributor to the strength of your bones. The high levels of calcium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, copper, and selenium all contribute in their own way to increasing bone mineral density and durability, thereby protecting you from developing conditions like osteoporosis.

Boosting the immune system is yet another health benefit of eating oysters. The vitamin C and vitamin E content in oysters, as well as various other minerals that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, helps you defend your body form free radicals that are byproducts of cellular metabolism which can attack healthy cells and mutate DNA into cancerous cells. These free radicals can also cause heart disease, premature aging, and general body disrepair wherever they lodge themselves, but the antioxidants and various vitamins in oysters can help control free radicals and boost immunity.

My top tip for oysters: Since oysters do absorb much of the nutrients from the areas where they grow, it is possible that some oysters contain pollutants and certain toxins, so only eat oysters from a trusted source. These smoked ones are really quite good and importantly, BPA-free.


fermented soy8. Fermented Soy

Every region’s traditional cuisine has its own set of fermented food. Miso, tempeh, tamari and natto are examples of the various ways Asians have traditionally fermented soybeans, allowing a food that can traditionally wreak some health havoc to instead be a dense source of nutrients. Fermented soy sources are quite diverse in flavor, form, texture and culinary properties. This is due to the particular methods or stages of fermentation each of these products undergo.

Miso and tamari are used as sauce or as flavoring in the preparation of other dishes. Tamari is actually a byproduct in the manufacture of miso, and is the liquid that accumulates as the miso continues to mature. There are various types of miso, depending on which types of soybeans or grains are used, and tamari is derived from miso made almost exclusively from soy.

Then there’s tempeh and natto. To make tempeh, the soybeans are ground and formed into large patties. But for natto, the individual soybeans are used, albeit in a quite soggy and sticky form that resembles snot, and natto also has a very pungent odor that makes this dish an “acquired taste”.(but hey, I still like it with some mustard and nori and sushi rice!).  Tempeh is actually of Indonesian origin, while natto as well as miso and tamari are part of Japanese cuisine.

Like most beans and legumes, soy is an excellent non-meat source of protein. The bacteria introduced during soy fermentation helps break down these proteins into constituent amino acids. This results in easier absorption during digestion. Here is a list of the total proteins per 100 grams for each of these four types of fermented soy food:

Miso – 11.69g

Tempeh – 18.50g

Tamari – 10.50g

Natto – 17.70g

Leucine and glutamic acid are two amino acids that are consistently abundant in all four forms of fermented soy. Leucine helps build muscles while glutamic acid is used by your body for neurotransmission, especially in the cognitive areas of the brain. Tempeh and natto are notable for having high amounts of proline and serine amino acids. Proline is crucial in the production of collagen for connective tissues and skin, and serine is a structural component of various parts of the nervous system.

Proteins aren’t the only compounds broken down by fermentation. Soy’s oligosaccharides, known to cause gas and indigestion, are also reduced via fermentation. Another thing that is lowered is phytic acid, a phytochemical that tends to be higher in grains but also contained in some legumes like soy. It can block some absorption of minerals and nutrients, but fortunately fermentation eliminates most of the phytic acid in soy, enabling you to absorb the iron, calcium and other minerals found in these soy products.

Miso soup is the most popular Japanese dish for the miso form of soy. The other necessary ingredient for a good miso soup is dashi or fish soup stock. Typically you only need 1.5 tablespoons of miso paste to flavor 13-14oz of soup. The paste and soup stock form the essential base, and then additional vegetables or spices added really depend on your preference. Usually dried seaweed, mushrooms and tofu are included.

But since tofu isn’t usually fermented, tempeh can work as a substitute for tofu. Take note, there are differences in texture, as the latter is made by curdling soymilk. Tofu is soft and spongy while tempeh is firm and chewy, which usually makes tempeh more appropriate for frying. Traditionally, before it’s fried, sliced tempeh pieces are soaked in brine.

If you care to have some soy with your soy, you can use tamari as a dipping sauce for your fried tempeh. Tamari is almost like soy sauce, only a little thicker and less salty. Another advantage tamari has over conventional soy sauce is that no wheat is included in the fermentation process. So it’s safe for people sensitive to gluten.

The slimy fermented soy product natto is usually eaten as is, after you take it out of the packaging. Typically, it is topped on a hot bowl of steamed rice. In Japanese cuisine, natto is also sometimes used in other dishes. It can be added in miso soup, prepared as sushi (natto sushi), or used as one of several ingredients in okonomiyaki, a type of Japanese pancake.

And in case you’re still totally freaking out about even going near any form of soy at all, you should read this truth about soy.

My top tip for fermented soy: serve a few heaping tablespoons of natto over sushi rice, wrap in a nori wrap with your favorite kind of mustard (I prefer Dijon).


coconut oil9. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a type of edible oil made from either the meat or kernel of matured coconuts. Long included in the diets of populations living in the tropical regions of the world, coconut oil has extensively been introduced in other cultures as a home remedy for a manifold of health maladies.

Coconut oil has been for decades incorrectly viewed as an unhealthy type of edible fat. But a growing body of research continues to establish the goodness that coconut oil offers to human health. For instance, it shows potential as a dietary therapy for abdominal obesity in women and men if included in a high-fat, low-carbohydrate, and low-protein diet. It appears that the fatty acids, specifically the medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut oil, helps curb appetite and subsequent food intake as well. MCTs have also been found to improve energy expenditure and to help the body become more efficient at burning fat.

The MCTs in coconut oil encourage the increase of ketone body levels as well. Ketone bodies have been noted as a promising substitute energy substrate for the brain. It is crucial to note that the brain utilizes some amounts of glucose as “food” to function normally. But especially in individuals with neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), the brain’s glucose metabolizing function is impaired, starving the organ of nourishment and subsequently resulting in typical AD symptoms like memory loss. Increasing ketone bodies by implementing an MCT-rich, low-carbohydrate, and low-protein diet has shown potential for treating cognitive disorders, as evidenced by studies published in 2004 and 2008.

Coconut oil appears to have heart-protective properties as well. Coconut oil’s phytosterols, polyphenols, and vitamin A and vitamin E have been found to be responsible for potent anti-oxidant activity by preventing the oxidation of LDL.

As a broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent, coconut oil can be used as a topical beauty product. For instance, coconut oil can be applied directly onto the armpits to serve as a deodorant. It can be used as an all-around moisturizer to prevent skin chafing or to manage the skin condition called xerosis as well.

Coconut oil can be utilized as a mouthwash to treat halitosis and gingivitis, or just to improve or maintain overall oral health, too. It has been proven useful for preventing hair damage and so can be used as a pre-wash or post-wash hair grooming product as well.

My top tip for coconut oil: need a quick, satiating bedtime snack that doesn’t spike glucose and insulin levels? Just put a tablespoon of coconut oil onto a spoon, top it with a touch of almond or nut butter and lick this “fat bomb” off the spoon.


coconut milk10. Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is the thick white liquid extracted from mature coconut meat. Known for its characteristic creamy texture and sweet taste, coconut milk has gained popularity as a wholesome, appetite-satiating drink among health enthusiasts and athletes alike.

Coconut milk and other products from coconut (like coconut oilhave long been villified for their high saturated fat content. While indeed true, it’s crucial to note, as I mentioned earlier in the section on coconut oil, that the type of fats present in majority in coconut milk and other coconut products are medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), and not long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). Unlike the latter, MCTs have a simpler molecular structure, making them more soluble in water and easier to transport from the small intestines to the liver for conversion to ketones, which your muscles (and diaphragm, liver, heart and more) then utilize for energy. Because this is the case, your body’s energy expenditure is improved, and because the MCTs get pretty much used up, very little is left to deposit in fat tissues.

Just like coconut oil, coconut milk consumption may be beneficial for individuals with cognitive disorders as well, since providing the brain with an alternative energy substrate in the form of ketones has shown preventive and therapeutic effects.

One problem is that the majority of coconut milk brands are packaged in cans. These cans are lined with the synthetic compound bisphenol A (BPA) to prevent corrosion. BPA then leaches into the packaged food. The more acidic or fatty the packaged food (the latter being the case with coconut milk) the higher the levels of leached BPA.

It’s scary that 93% of US adults have been found to have measurable levels of BPA in the urine, since BPA has been associated with the development and subsequent worsening of hormone-dependent cancers such as breast cancer and prostate cancer.

High urinary BPA levels in American adults have been consistently linked to peripheral arterial disease, too. Continued exposure may also lead to type 2 diabetes mellitus because of its capability to bring about insulin resistance. BPA is also associated with childhood obesity as well as early onset of menstruation in American girls.

So be sure to opt for coconut milk brands packaged in cartons or BPA free cans to minimize your exposure to BPA, or use a BPA-free canned variety. Alternatively, you can extract coconut milk from coconut flakes with the use of your trusty blender and some cheese cloth.

Also, coconut milk contains specific carbohydrates or sugars that may cause stomach upset. I’d advise individuals suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or fructose malabsorption and who follow a Low FODMAP Diet to steer clear of coconut milk consumption.

My top tip for coconut milk: I blend it with chocolate stevia, stir in unsweetened coconut flakes or shredded coconut, then freeze to make a low-sugar ice cream.


chia seeds11. Chia Seeds

Fuzzy green novelty Chia Pets may be the first thing you think of when you hear the word chia, but these tiny superfood seeds are the reason Chia Pets get their lush coating. Nowadays, chia is becoming better known as a great source of healthy omega-3 fats and fiber, and fortunately, it’s an easy food to add to your diet.

Chia seeds come from a flowering plant in the mint family that’s native to Mexico and Guatemala, and history suggests it was a very important food crop for the Aztecs. Chia remained in regular use in its native countries, but was largely unknown in North America until researcher Wayne Coates began studying chia as an alternative crop for farmers in northern Argentina nearly three decades ago.

Human trials on chia are limited, but the anecdotal evidence of chia’s positive health effects include boosting energy, stabilizing blood sugar, aiding digestion, and lowering cholesterol. The tiny seed, which comes in either white or a dark brown and black color, also has a powerful nutritional profile. It contains calcium, manganese, and phosphorus, and is a great source of healthy omega-3 fats. As an added benefit, chia seeds can be eaten whole or milled, while flax seeds have to be ground before consumption in order to access their health benefits.

Chia is being studied as a potential natural treatment for type-2 diabetes because of its ability to slow down digestion, probably due to the gelatinous coating chia seeds develops when exposed to liquids, and the ability of this gel to help prevent blood sugar spikes. Chia’s stabilizing effect on blood sugar also fights insulin resistance, which can be tied to an increase in belly fat

Just a 28-gram or one-ounce serving of chia has 11 grams of dietary fiber – about a third of the recommended daily intake for adults. Adding some chia to your diet is an easy way to make sure you’re getting a good amount of fiber, which is important for digestive health.

Chia seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, with nearly five grams in a one-ounce serving. These fats are important for brain health. With chia seeds, there’s a little better conversion of omega-3 fatty acids into the plasma or into the food than with flax seed.

A serving of chia seeds has 18% of the recommended daily intake for calcium, which puts your well on your way to maintaining bone and oral health, and preventing osteoporosis. 

Manganese isn’t a well-known nutrient, but it’s important for your health: it’s good for your bones and helps your body use other essential nutrients like biotin and thiamin. One serving of chia seeds, or 28 grams, has 30% of your recommended intake of this mineral. With 27% of your daily value for phosphorus, chia seeds also helps you maintain healthy bones and teeth. Phosphorus is also used by the body to synthesize protein for cell and tissue growth and repair.

Chia seeds also make a great source of protein for vegans and vegetarians. One 28-gram serving of these super seeds has 4.4 grams of protein, nearly 10 per cent of the daily value. Tryptophan, one amino acid found in turkey, is also found in chia seeds. While tryptophan is blamed for that strong urge to nap after a big Thanksgiving dinner, it also helps regulate appetite, sleep and improve mood.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, chia seeds have been shown to improve blood pressure in diabetics, and may also increase healthy cholesterol while improving your triglyceride to LDL cholesterol ratio…all good news for your ticker!

When you’re buying chia, both the white and black seeds are good choices, but be sure you’re getting a good quality product by avoiding red seeds (immature chia seeds), or black seeds that are smaller than regular chia seeds (these are called “weed seeds”).

You can add chia seeds to everything and anything. The seeds are relatively tasteless so they won’t significantly affect the flavor profile of your food. They can be sprinkled whole on top of salads or toast or added milled to smoothies, and you can even sprout and eat them that way too!)

My top tip for chia seeds: put 3-4 tablespoons in an 8oz glass of water, soak for 1-10 hours in the refigerator.


quinoa, amaranth and millet12. Quinoa, Amaranth & Millet

While these three grasses and grains are known for having an almost complete array of proteins, a fact that sets them apart from other more common grains, they also provide a host other nutrients and benefits.

Manganese is one mineral that these three grains all contain in relatively high amounts.The body may need only trace amounts of this mineral but it plays several important roles. As support against oxidative stress, it’s one of the substances that compose the antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD). In the area of physical growth, it’s needed in the production of connective tissues and bones. Other roles include normal nerve function and fat and carbohydrate metabolism. One cup of cooked millet can supply about 23% of the body’s daily need for this nutrient. Quinoa is even higher with a 58% daily value. The really abundant source is amaranth, providing more than a 100% per serving.

As whole grains, quinoa, amaranth and millet are naturally rich in dietary fiber. In 100 grams of either quinoa or amaranth, there are 7 grams of fiber available. Millet is a bit more variable and depends on the type. Barnyard millet seems to be highest, with 10 grams fiber for every 100 grams of millet. Whole grains, including these three, are typically considered as heart-protective because of the significant presence of soluble fiber in them. This is the kind of dietary fiber that can regulate blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol, and packs way, way less of a sugar-spiking wallop compared to something like whole wheat bread or pasta.

Sprouting is a highly recommended preparation for grains and legumes, including these three. The process of germination at the initial stages of sprouting is able to reduce the amount of antinutrients inherent in these types of grains and grasses and thus improve their nutritional profile. Sprouts have more of many vitamins compared to seeds, and minerals become more bioavailable too.

Soaking grains such as organic quinoa, amaranth or millet is a middle ground, a compromise between sprouting and cooking the grains unprepared. Soaking is less effective in making the grains more nutritious and safer but at least you don’t have to plan your meal days in advance (depending on the grain and other environmental factors, sprouting can take more than 24 hours) Then, there’s the periodic draining and rinsing involved with sprouting. Yeah, it can be a little bit of a pain.

Soaked grains are still nutritious but they don’t have all the advantages of sprouts. However, soaking mitigates (but to a lesser degree than sprouting) some inherent substances in grains that prevent the body from fully absorbing nutrients or are potentially harmful. Lectins are on example. Lectins are found everywhere in various forms: plants, animals and the human body. In plants, they’re found in significant amounts in the seeds or grains and serve the purpose of keeping them intact even when consumed by animals. The danger to the human digestive system lies in the fact that lectin can irritate the intestinal lining and hinder the natural repair mechanism of the gut mucosal cells.

The negative effects of lectins can range from irritable bowels to a full-on autoimmune response that results in brain fog and organ damage. For some individuals who are highly sensitive to grains and the lectins they contain, soaking them might not be a good enough safety measure compared to sprouting.

After soaking and rinsing, (and if desired, sprouting) properly cooking organic quinoa, amaranth or millet can further reduce the harmful substances in them. To make things more convenient, you can always use a rice cooker, but just make sure you use the appropriate water-to-grain ratio, with 2 cups water to 1 cup quinoa, 2 – 3 cups water to 1 cup amaranth and 2 cups water to 1 cup millet.

My top tip for quinoa, amaranth and millet: in South Asian cuisine, millet is often ground to flour and used to make several types of flatbread, a staple in that region. To turn soaked millet grains (quinoa and amaranth work for this too) into flour, you need to dry them. Just stick them into a dehydrator or in the oven after rinsing them from the soak. Once dry, ground the dried grains into a fine powder through a coffee grinder or food processor. From there, you can proceed to make bread, waffles, pancakes or any other relatively gluten-free but nutrient-dense and protein-packed baked or grilled goodie. 


sushi rice13. Sushi Rice

The short-grain rice used to make sushi is of course called sushi rice and sometimes also called Pearl rice, Glutinous rice or Japanese rice. It is available now in many markets, not just Asian grocers. Only sushi rice has the right balance of starches (amylose and amylopectin) to allow the rice to stick together and keep the final product intact from plate to mouth. Try to eat medium or long-grain rice with chopsticks and you’ll quickly see what I mean.

I’ll admit that brown rice, wild rice, black rice, etc. can be more nutrient dense, but sushi rice just burns very, very clean and is tolerated by most people’s guts. When first picked, all rice is brown. Then, following the removal of the outer husk and the top germ layer of the grain, rice becomes white. The grains are then polished before they are packaged and sold as white rice. Brown rice has had the husk removed but retains its germ, which is the nutrient-rich layer that white rice has had “scrubbed off”. Wild rice grains are kept in their entirety, with both the germ and the husk intact.

For sushi rice, it is best to use the instructions on the package of rice when cooking it, but generally you use equal parts rice and water. Prior to cooking, the rice should be rinsed in cold water until the water runs clear, a step now becoming less necessary as talc (used to prevent the rice from absorbing water and sticking together during storage) is slowly being replaced with another type of starch, which is fine to cook with. But you never know and the package often won’t tell you what the company used as a coating. Remember that one cup of uncooked rice will yield approximately two cups of cooked rice. Store your sushi rice at room temperature covered with a damp towel. This will keep it from drying out.

Exercise physiologist and Feed Zone Portables author Allen Lim swears by a rice very much like sushi rice as clean-burning source of fuel for athletes, and you can check out a few of his go-to recipes in my article “What To Eat Before, During & After Workouts“. In their books and videos, Allen Lim and his co-author Biju Thomas actually use “Calrose” rice. It is a medium grain, only a little longer than a true sushi rice, but plenty sticky. It’s also cheaper and widely available, and what you usually get in Japanese restaurants (the brands Nishiki and Botan are easy to find in any grocery store and make great rice cakes and onigiri, or Japanese rice balls). Take a handful of rice, put a dab of miso or umeboshi plum paste in the center and wrap with nori. Stuff ’em in your jersey pockets and train hard!

My top tip for sushi rice: I make “lazy sushi” by preparing my sushi rice per package instructions, cooling, then wrapping in a nori wrap with a few sliced avocados and sardines.


cacao nibs14. Cacao Nibs

The cacao tree produces seeds that can be dried, dehulled, roasted and minimally processed into what is essentially raw chocolate, AKA, raw cacao nibs. The nibs can be used to produce different grades of commercial chocolate, and they are often used as snacks. They are slightly bitter and may be sweetened with honey or used in baked goods. Cacao nibs and the dark grades of chocolate they produce can provide important benefits to your intestinal regularity, heart and blood vessels and blood sugar level.

For example, cacao may help to keep your bowel movements regular. A single ounce serving of raw cacao nibs contains 36 percent of the recommended daily intake of dietary fiber, or 9 grams. Adding as little as 6.6 grams of cacao fiber per day to your diet may improve your bowel habits, according to a clinical study appearing in “Nutrition and Metabolism.” Subjects in this study were given cocoa powder supplemented with high-fiber cocoa bran in a semi-skimmed milk drink twice daily for two four-week periods, separated by a three-week period in which cocoa was not consumed. The frequency of bowel movements increased and feelings of constipation decreased during the periods when cocoa powder was consumed.

Cacao nibs appear to be heart-healthy as well. One of the main health benefits of cacao is for the arteries in your heart and brain. Eating cacao foods such as chocolate several times per day may decrease your likelihood of having a stroke or heart attack, according to clinical studies published in the “Journal of the American College of Cardiology” and the “Journal of Internal Medicine.” In both studies, the frequency of stroke and heart attack in human subjects declined with an increase in chocolate intake.

Many of the health benefits, including cardiovascular benefits, of cacao nibs are believed to be due to compounds called polyphenols. The cacao polyphenols are made of 37 percent catechins, 4 percent anthocyanins and 58 percent proanthocyanidins. Cacao polyphenols may improve the health of your heart and brain arteries by serving as antioxidants and inhibiting blood platelets from forming a clot. If your blood cholesterol is somewhat elevated, cacao polyphenols may also lower your low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol, and raise your high-density lipoprotein, or “good” cholesterol levels.

The fiber and polyphenols in cacao may work together to help control your blood pressure and blood glucose levels.  Blood pressure and blood glucose have been shown to be lowered by a cocoa-fiber-rich product providing 12 grams of dietary fiber and 283 milligrams of polyphenols per day during the eight-week study period. At least part of the beneficial effect of cacao on your blood sugar level may be due to slowing of starch digestive enzymes by polyphenol procyanidins in your small intestine.

My top tip for cacao nibs: after you finish making a smoothie, sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of these on top for a satisfying, nourishing crunch.


sardines15. Sardines & Anchovies

When thinking of sardines or anchovies, you’re likely to picture small fish packed in a can or bottle. It’s said that sardines were actually the first type of fish to be canned. This happened in France during the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte. It was also during this period that the canning process was first developed as a food security solution for both the military and the general populace.

But these types of fish have long been part of the human diet, even before the advent of canning or bottling. During the time of the Roman Empire, for example, citizens enjoyed a kind of fermented fish sauce made from anchovies called garum. This is not really surprising, as fish in general are an cheap and readily attainable source of fatty-acid rich protein (as opposed to the type of protein that makes me cringe when I hear recommended by fitness professionals: “lean proteins”). A 1 ounce serving of sardines (around 2-3 small pieces) provides almost 7 grams of protein. This is actually comparable to a similar serving of beef steak. Tryptophan is one of the more abundant essential amino acids found in sardines. Your body needs this substance to synthesize serotonin, a neurotransmitter substance that regulates sleep and mood.

Compared to sardines, the same serving amount of anchovies contains even a little more protein at about 8 grams of protein. Besides also having lots of tryptophan, anchovies are also an excellent supply of glutamic acid, a non-essential amino acid. The body uses this to create what are known as glutamates, a class of neurotransmitter compounds that play a very crucial role in cognitive functions such as learning and memory.

Sardines and anchovies are commonly canned or bottled. Avoid eating versions that are contaminated with bisphenol A (BPA) which is present in many canned goods, as it is one of the compounds used to make the inner resin lining of cans. You should also avoid the added sodium and other artificial preservatives that come with canned fish products that use brine or tomato sauce.

Canned sardines and anchovies are pre-cooked and ready to eat. This makes them an easy ingredient for salads or sauces. For salads, just add and toss the fish along with the fresh vegetables and spices. Vinaigrette is probably one of the more compatible dressings you can use for such a salad dish. For sauces, you can simply ground the sardines or anchovies into a sauce while it’s simmering on the stove, or add the fish afterwards whole.

My top tip for sardines and anchovies: easy. When I need protein on my lunchtime salad, about 95% of the time I’m grabbing a can of fish and dumping it over a bed of vegetables, often using a nori wrap like a burrito to shove the veggies and fish into my gaping maw.


Turmeric16. Turmeric

Turmeric is a rhizome. That means the part of the plant we mainly consume are its rootstocks, so some big ol’ ugly roots of turmeric have a place in my pantry, along with powdered orange turmeric.

Turmeric is really a type of ginger. The roots of turmeric, however, are more elongated and the color can range from yellow to deep yellow-orange. The plant is native to the South Asian region and thrives only in tropical climates with a lot of rainfall.

Those who like curry have no doubt tasted this spice as it is a main ingredient in most curry mixes. As I mentioned in my article on CBD oil, turmeric also has significant medicinal value, as it has long been utilized in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine.

Most studies attribute the spice’s medicinal value to the active component curcumin, which is the major phytochemical compound in turmeric. This substance also gives turmeric its particular yellowish color.

Research has shown that turmeric as an anti-inflammatory can be almost as effective as pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories. But the spice has the added advantage of not producing any toxic effects like NSAID’s and other drugs. It can alleviate bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis, and researchers think that this is because curcumin can inhibit inflammatory agents in cells.

Turmeric has also been found to help reduce joint pains such as those caused by rheumatoid arthritis. This is due to turmeric’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant characteristics. Antioxidant substances can capture free radicals in the body, and inhibit cell damage, pain and inflammation, including that associated with arthritis.

The list of turmeric benefits goes on. Turmeric can also increase some detoxifying enzymes in the liver and enhance detox pathways in this organ. It can prevent cholesterol from oxidizing and as a result reduce plaque build-up in veins and arteries. It can correct the genetic defects that causes cystic fibrosis. It can inhibit the mechanism in genes that triggers the growth of cancer cells. There are studies that show curcumin combined with the phytochemical quercetin from onions can be effective against colon cancer. While in combination with phenethyl isothiocyanates, another type of plant substance abundant in cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables, curcumin can stop prostate cancer cells from growing.

But setting aside its medicinal value, turmeric is a nutritious root too. Vitamin B6, potassium, fiber, manganese, and iron are some of the nutrients you can acquire from this root.

There are actually curcumin capsules available which you can take as concentrated supplements in order to take advantage of turmeric’s  health benefits. But if you have an adventurous or curious palate, you should also turmeric powder or fresh rootstocks of the spice. Here are just a few ways to prepare turmeric:

-Chop the rootstocks just like ginger and add it to stir fry, soup or salad dishes.

-Also, just like ginger, you can run fresh turmeric through a juicer and get a concentrate. Use this juice to cook an Asian rice recipe like java rice or knock it back like a tonic drink. If the latter, mix in some raw honey and lemon juice, because it really has a strong taste.

-Make your own stock by boiling, drying and then finally grinding fresh turmeric. From there you can concoct your own curry mixes or use it in any curry-based recipe.

-Mix the ground or powdered form in virgin coconut oil to make a paste. This can then be topically applied to areas with inflammation.

One thing to keep in mind when dealing with fresh turmeric is that the juice can quickly stain surfaces and it gets quite sticky as it dries. Turmeric is in fact also used as textile dye. So quickly wash any kitchen utensils with water and detergent if you don’t want them to have yellow colored spots and smudges, and careful not to get this stuff on your clothes.

My top tip for turmeric: for a muscle anti-inflammatory and general health tonic, juice turmeric with lemon, ginger, and carrots, then add to the finished juice a splash of olive oil and sea salt. Add stevia to take some of the bite away, and add garlic too if you’re brave.


ginger17. Ginger

As I mentioned in the section on turmeric, ginger has been traditionally used for its anti-inflammatory properties. Many studies have looked into it and reveal how certain compounds found in the spice are able to do this.

For example, gingerol is the main volatile oil that gives fresh ginger its pungent aroma and spicy flavor. This substance makes ginger an effective anti-inflammatory because it can stop the formation of nitric oxide into peroxynitrite which is a harmful free radical.

Another pain-relieving action that ginger provides is to inhibit inflammatory substances internally produced by your body, specifically cytokines and chemokines made by the cells in the joints and joint cartilage. So ginger can successfully alleviate much of the pain that comes with arthritis and other types of muscle pain and soreness.

Other studies on gingerol have also identified antipyretic (fever reducing) and antibacterial qualities. One exceptional research on cancer has shown the volatile ginger oil to be able to wipe out ovarian cancer cells, and these cancer cells went into cell death when exposed to ginger extract. Tumors associated with colorectal cancer are another set of cells that ginger was able to successfully eradicate.

Ginger is also commonly known to prevent nausea, vomiting and dizziness. It is in fact often used as herbal remedy for morning sickness by pregnant women and by those who are susceptible to motion sickness. Similarly, gastrointestinal relief is an additional benefit to taking some ginger. The spice is said to stimulate the production of saliva, which facilitates easier swallowing. The digestion process is improved because the spice enhances gut motility in a process called peristalsis. So ginger doesn’t just calm down a stressed stomach and alleviate indigestion but it can also treat constipation.

To get your ginger, you can turn to conveniently prepared ginger powder or to raw ginger. The former tends to have a stronger aroma and taste because drying and heat converts the gingerol into another volatile compound called shogaol. Which of the two common forms of the spice you use depends on how you plan to use your ginger.

For medicinal purposes, fresh raw ginger will likely give you the most benefit.  The simplest preparation is turn it into tea or juice. To do this, peel the skin off the ginger root, cut thin slices, and boil in water to make ginger tea. Then run the peeled root, cut into appropriate sizes, through a juicer to make ginger juice. You can drink the juice (or ginger tea) after meals, or take the juice after a particularly grueling exercise to ease some of the joint and muscle pain.

Here are other ways to prepare ginger:

Ginger herbal tincture – Soak ½ cup of chopped fresh ginger in 1 cup of vodka for two weeks. Use a tightly sealed glass jar. After the 2-week period, strain the ginger and store the remaining tincture. Just a few drops in water will do for therapeutic relief.

Powdered ginger – After peeling the fresh root use a grater to cut it into small thin pieces. Place these on a baking sheet lined with wax paper on the bottom then cover up the pieces with more wax paper to keep it from getting contaminated. Let the grated ginger dry up on its own in a cool and clean area of the kitchen. Once dry, run the pieces through a coffee grinder.

My top tip for ginger: lazy man’s ginger tea for everything from nausea to muscle pain – just chop up a crap-load of ginger, put in a pot, bring to a boil, then let simmer for 15-20 minutes.


olive oil18. Olive Oil

Olive oil is one of the most versatile oils because of its function as food, beauty aid, as well as home remedy for a host of physical maladies. Olive oil used to mostly come from Mediterranean Europe. However, even the United States now has its own olive oil production (but you gotta be careful with some hoaxes behind that).

Olive oil has long been known as a potent antioxidant, and that’s not just because of its high vitamin E content. As it turns out, olive oil’s polyphenols protect against oxidative damage, and olive oil appears to be effective at guarding against stroke and heart disease as well. A diet rich in olive oil has been found to help promote healthier blood pressure in men. Olive oil also protects the heart from metabolic changes brought about by obesity, according to one animal study.

Olive oil may be a suitable cancer-preventive food as well. In one Belgian study, it was found that those with moderate to significant intake of olive oil had lesser odds of developing bladder cancer, compared to those whose source of dietary fats were primarily comprised of animal products.

Olive oil has been proven effective at managing weight too. In a study published on the Journal of Women’s Health, overweight breast cancer survivors were made to follow a standard lower-fat diet and then also a diet rich in olive oil. Results showed greater and more sustainable weight loss in the olive oil-rich diet compared to the traditional lower-fat diet, signifying a promising weight management potential from consuming this fat.

Olive oil, much like coconut oil, appears to also have a profound effect on cognition. In a French study, elderly subjects who were given moderate to significant amounts of olive oil, and during the entire course of the research showed improved visual memory as well as verbal fluency. Further studies have to be conducted, though it’s great to know that olive oil may just be a healthy preventive and possibly therapeutic alternative to addressing the cognitive deficit and decline characteristic of Alzheimer’s.

As one of the most versatile oils out there, it comes as no surprise how olive oil can have so many uses. It is of course a popular ingredient in salad dressings. Homemade pizzas can be made healthier by substituting the usual oil you use to grease the pizza pan with olive oil instead. You can also add olive oil to smoothies or vegetable juices for a healthy fat addition to your drink.

Olive oil as a beauty aid has manifold applications as well. You can dab a few drops directly to your skin for a chemical-free moisturizer. You can concoct your own lip gloss by combining organic beeswax with olive oil as well. Olive oil can treat gingivitis and halitosis or be used as an agent for maintaining oral health by using olive oil daily for oil pulling. It can also be used as a base or carrier oil for any essential oils you use for therapeutic massages.

My top tip for olive oil: when I’m traveling and don’t want to use the nasty hotel lotion, I call down to the hotel restaurant and have them deliver olive oil to my room (make sure it’s extra virgin). I then smear it on my face as a moisturizer during the rest of my travels.


stevia19. Stevia

The stevia plant is a shrub, and there are actually more than 200 species of it. The particular one that’s frequently utilized as a sweetener is Stevia rebaudiana. Not surprisingly, some common names for this species of stevia are sweetleaf and sugarleaf.

Stevia leaves have been used as both food and medicine by indigenous peoples in South America for around more than a millennia. The Western world first encountered it in the 16th century through Spanish physician Pedro Jaime Esteve (the genus Stevia was in fact derived from the Latinized form of his surname).

Setting aside the phytonutrients that naturally come from any food or root taken from a plant, the one very apparent quality of stevia is that it has all the sugary goodness you may desire, but none of the health risks of elevated blood sugar.

The fresh whole leaves of this plant are 10 to 15 times sweeter than ordinary table sugar. This is also true for herbal powdered stevia, which is the most commercially available form. If that isn’t enough sweetness for you, the refined and concentrated extracts can actually be up to 300 times sweeter. But despite it’s exceptional sweetness, stevia has very little effect on blood glucose levels. So this plant is probably the best news any diabetic or anyone on a low-carbohydrate diet can receive.

Steviol glycosides are the sugar compounds found in stevia leaves. The two major types identified are stevioside and rebaudioside A. Studies on these compounds have shown that it is the latter type that is sweeter and exhibits less of this plant’s characteristic bitter aftertaste (the aftertaste is comparable to that of licorice and because of genetics, tends to be more noticed by some people, usually people who don’t like the taste of stevia for this reason).

Studies have also revealed that stevia adds zero calories, but doesn’t cause digestive problems like other artificial sweeteners such as sugar alcohols. The metabolic byproduct steviol passes through your system completely undigested, without leaving any toxic residues in the kidneys or liver.

If you’re gifted with a green thumb, you can simply purchase stevia seeds and start growing them in the garden. You can then cut leaves as needed and put them in teas and other beverages for flavoring. With a thriving stevia shrub in your yard, you can go further and harvest more leaves to make your own supply of stevia herbal powder. You can either sun-dry them for around 12 hours or use a small home dehydrator. Then the dried leaves can be ground either with mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder.

There is also a way to make home-made liquid stevia extract. Allow a portion of fresh crushed leaves to soak in water or in pure USP grain alcohol for 24 hours. Afterwards, simply filter the leaves out of the liquid and use that resulting syrup as a sweetener. The alcohol method is able to extract more of the glycosides, but to remove the alcoholic taste the liquid extract will have to be slowly heated (do not boil) until most of the alcohol evaporates.

Stevia can basically be used as a substitute for most recipes that use sugar. Just be aware of the extreme sweetness of stevia. A single tablespoon of powdered stevia is more or less equivalent to a cup of ordinary table sugar. Another thing to note is that this sweetener doesn’t caramelize, so it won’t work for recipes that call for such an effect.

My top tip for stevia: I make my kids lemonade by adding a squeeze of half a fresh lemon, a pinch of sea salt and a touch of stevia to a glass of ice water. They dig this (and so do I) on a hot summer day.


More Tips On How To Use All This Stuff

Now I realize that this list is by no means “comprehensive”, but if you were to go out and at least get the 19 items listed above into your pantry, and then supplement those foods with some healthy, organic meat and some fresh plant matter, herbs and vegetables, you’ll have a cooking and meal prep arsenal that is more rock solid than 99% of the population in this country, guaranteed.

If you want to see how I actually craft many of these foods and ingredients into actual meals, you should take a look at my article 40 Easy Meals For Busy Athletes: How To Fuel Your Body With The Thousands Of Calories Necessary For Endurance and Extreme Exercise Without Completely Destroying Your Metabolism, or go delve into the BenGreenfieldFitness Inner Circle, in which my wife and I share many more family recipes and go-to meals (and also check out the free cookbook I’m giving you at the end of this article).


How To Get Healthy Pantry Items Cheap

OK, now let’s jump into the part where you save boatloads of money on all this stuff, and many other natural, healthy products (yes, if you really don’t want to step outside your house, Amazon Prime works for some of the fresh stuff like sweet potatoes and avocadoes, but for the packaged stuff, even Amazon is far less comprehensive and affordable than what I’m about to show to you).

It’s called “Thrive Market“.

Growing up with a single mom and seeing how hard she worked to make healthy choices, my friend Gunnar Lovelace vowed to find a way to make wholesome food affordable. So when when his mother remarried a man who ran a health food buying club from an organic farm in Ojai, California, he saw a way forward: a modern, online version of a health-food co-op. And this is where the idea for Thrive Market was born.

Thrive Market is a socially conscious (more details on that in a moment) online marketplace that gives you access to over 4000 organic, non-toxic and natural products ranging from food, to supplements, to home cleaning and laundry supplies, to bath and beauty products, all at 25%-50% off the regular retail prices you’d find elsewhere.

As my friend and Paleo author Robb Wolf  says…

… “if Costco and Wholefoods got all liquored up at a rave and had a kid, it would look a lot like Thrive Market.

Or as Chris Kresser says…

….”think Whole Foods products at Costco prices, with the convenience of Amazon“.

Shopping at Thrive is not only cheaper than fancy upscale markets like Whole Foods, but it often matches or even beats prices at discount online retailers like Amazon and Vitacost. Check out this comparison chart:

comparison chart

So not only are the Thrive Market products cheaper, but if you’re stuck in an urban oasis, working in a big city, or don’t have access to fresh food from a garden or farmer’s market, you don’t need to spend gas, time and money to hunt down quality ingredients.


How Thrive Works

Here’s how Thrive works: you sign up for a membership that is less than $5/month ($59.95 annually) and you can then can shop the thousands of products offered at Thrive, place an order, and receive that order right to your front door. Orders larger than $49 receive completely free shipping. Currently that free shipping applies only to the continental US, but Thrive is now working on adding international orders too.

If you’re not sure if this type of online healthy food ordering platform is for you, no problem. Thrive offers a one-month trial membership for those interested in experiencing the ease of healthy shopping before making a monthly commitment.

But the beauty of Thrive doesn’t stop there, especially if you’re a socially conscious, sustainably-minded, dirt-worshipping healthy hippie.

First, every paid membership to Thrive is matched with a free membership for a low income American family. That means your neighbor down the street who you know needs healthy food but simply can’t afford it now has an outlet to be able to conveniently get it. Getting low income families access to discounted healthy food and natural products is going to be a huge game-changer for reversing chronic disease and obesity in our country and beyond.

Second, Thrive Market is a 100% environmentally responsible and sustainable business. All their packaging, boxes, and inserts are made from recycled paper and are recyclable. They are also committed to supporting other sustainable businesses by working with eco-friendly vendors and suppliers who share their values. They are 100% carbon neutral through I have even spoken on the phone with Gunnar in detail about Thrive, and gone so far as to invest my own money in the company because what he’s doing is so darn impressive.

Third, the CDC estimates that over 90 percent of chronic disease is caused by diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors. This means that eating fresh, organic, nutrient-dense food and using green, non-toxic cleaning and personal care products is absolutely crucial for maintaining your health, maximizing your physical and mental performance, and extending your lifespan.


How To Get A $1000 Healthy Pantry Shopping Spree

So here’s the deal: from June 15 to June 21 (that’s this Monday through Sunday), Thrive Market is generously giving away a Grand Prize of $1000 of cold, hard cash to spend at Thrive, along with twenty place prizes of a 1 year membership ($59.95 value) to Thrive. All you need to do is click here anytime between now and June 21 at midnight to check out Thrive and get in on the giveaways.

The giveaway ends at 11:59 pm PST on June 21, so don’t miss out!

And if you really are keen on this whole “stocking a healthy pantry” thing, you’re going to find that you save more in your first, single purchase than the cost of an entire year’s membership to Thrive.

In the meantime, thanks for reading, leave your questions, comments and feedback below, and click here to check out Thrive Market as a convenient, trustworthy one-stop shop to stock your healthy pantry.

Dark & Dirty Secrets Of The Wine Industry, Four Ways To Make Wine Healthier, and What Kind Of Wine Fit People Should Drink.


I’m a big wine guy.

I’ve actually discussed this habit before on podcasts, but nearly seven days a week I finish up my afternoon or early evening workout with a glass of red wine.


Three main reasons, really.

First, I love the taste of wine, but I’m also well aware that alcoholic drinks and the fructose and other sugars therein can make you fat if you consume them in a fed state, so I instead consume my daily glass of wine in a “fasted” state post-workout (vs., say, having a big glass of wine during dinner or after stuffing my face with dinner). In this post-workout situation, the fructose sugars in the wine simply help to replenish my liver glycogen stores (muscles do not contain the enzyme to store fructose as glycogen, but the liver does), and the glucose and sucrose sugars are far less likely to spend significant amounts of time in my blood stream. You can read up more on sugar content of wine here. Finding out how much sugar you’re consuming is hard to tell, since most countries don’t indicate sugar content on the label, but here’s a basic breakdown of wine types and how much sugar they contain:

Dry: 4 grams per liter.
Medium dry: 4-12 grams of sugar per liter – or about 0.5 to 2 grams per glass.
Sweet: More than 45 grams of sugar per liter – or about 6 grams per glass or more.

Second, wine is actually only “heart healthy” if combined with physical activity. In a study called In Vino Veritas (In Wine, Truth), researchers introduced wine into people’s lives and tracked the effects on their bodies. By itself, drinking wine did not significantly affect cholesterol, blood glucose, triglycerides, or levels of inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein. But among those who worked out twice per week and also drank wine, there was significant improvement in health variables after a year of wine consumption, no matter whether it was red or white.

And third, I’ll readily admit that post-workout with an empty stomach, I’m a complete cheap date. That single glass of wine serves to spin a few dials in my brain, chill me out, and serve as a relaxing way to end a day’s hard work.

So yeah, I drink wine and I drink my fair share. But before you rush out to buy that fancy Bordeaux or the cheapo box of Franzia, you should know a few very important things about wine, including some dark and dirty secrets of the wine industry, four ways to ensure the healthy habit of regular wine consumption doesn’t elevate your body fat or destroy your metabolism, and the kind of wine fit and healthy people should be drinking.

Let’s jump right in, shall we?


Why You Should Choose Your Wine Carefully

You may have seen last month’s headlines including “California Winemakers Sued Over High Levels of Arsenic in Wines” and “Bad News for Those of You Who, Like Us, Drank Cheap Wine Each and Every Night of Your 20s”.

Basically, a class action lawsuit that was filed in California against some of the country’s top winemakers over the high levels of arsenic in wine. The lawsuit claims that some of the most popular wines have “up to four and five times the maximum amount of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows for drinking water.”

The fact is, there are basically no federal requirements to tell you what’s really in the wine you’re drinking, and one big reason for this is that the wine lobby is constantly fighting government action to require alcohol companies to label what’s in their wine. But in this recent arsenic wine scandal, a Denver laboratory called BeverageGrades started running tests to uncover the calorie counts in bottles of wine.

While the tests were simply setup to investigate calorie count, the actual results of the tests on 1,300 bottles of wine were a bit shocking.  Nearly a quarter of the bottles had levels of arsenic higher than the EPA’s maximum for drinking water. The lower the price of the wine, the higher the levels of arsenic were. For example, Trader Joe’s famous Two-Buck Chuck wine had three times the EPA’s limit, and that affordable box of Franzia Blush wine had five times the limit. The lawsuit alleges that the contaminated wines are cheaper because their producers don’t implement the proper methods and processes to reduce inorganic arsenic.

Since arsenic is highly toxic even at a parts per billion level, this is pretty disturbing. Some of the wines contained levels of arsenic up to 500% or more than what is what is considered the maximum acceptable safe daily intake limit. Put differently, this means that just a glass or two of an arsenic-contaminated wine a day over time could result in dangerous arsenic toxicity.

Curious if you’re drinking any of these arsenic contaminated beverages? Here’s a list of the wines that are included in the lawsuit:

Acronym GR8RW Red Blend 2011
Almaden Heritage White Zinfandel
Almaden Heritage Moscato
Almaden Heritage White Zinfandel
Almaden Heritage Chardonnay
Almaden Mountain Burgundy
Almaden Mountain Rhine
Almaden Mountain Chablis
Arrow Creek Coastal Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
Bandit Pinot Grigio
Bandit Chardonnay
Bandit Cabernet Sauvignon
Bay Bridge Chardonnay
Beringer White Merlot 2011
Beringer White Zinfandel 2011
Beringer Red Moscato
Beringer Refreshingly Sweet Moscato
Charles Shaw White Zinfandel 2012
Colores del Sol Malbec 2010
Glen Ellen by Concannon’s Glen Ellen Reserve Pinot Grigio 2012
Concannon Selected Vineyards Pinot Noir 2011
Glen Ellen by Concannon’s Glen Ellen Reserve Merlot 2010
Cook Spumante
Corbett Canyon Pinot Grigio
Corbett Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon
Cupcake Malbec 2011
Fetzer Moscato 2010
Fetzer Pinot Grigio 2011
Fisheye Pinot Grigio 2012
Flipflop Pinot Grigio 2012
Flipflop Moscato
Flipflop Cabernet Sauvignon
Foxhorn White Zinfandel
Franzia Vintner Select White Grenache
Franzia Vintner Select White Zinfandel
Franzia Vintner Select White Merlot
Franzia Vintner Select Burgundy
Hawkstone Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
HRM Rex Goliath’s Moscato
Korbel Sweet Rose Sparkling Wine
Korbel Extra Dry Sparkling Wine
Menage a Trois Pinot Grigio 2011
Menage a Trois Moscato 2010
Menage a Trois White Blend 2011
Menage a Trois Chardonnay 2011
Menage a Trois Rose 2011
Menage a Trois Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Menage a Trois California Red Wine 2011
Mogen David Concord
Mogen David Blackberry Wine
Oak Leaf White Zinfandel
Pomelo Sauvignon Blanc 2011
R Collection by Raymond’s Chardonnay 2012
Richards Wild Irish Rose Red Wine
Seaglass Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Simply Naked Moscato 2011
Smoking Loon Viognier 2011
Sutter Home Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Sutter Home Gewurztraminer 2011
Sutter Home Pink Moscato
Sutter Home Pinot Grigio 2011
Sutter Home Moscato
Sutter Home Chenin Blanc 2011
Sutter Home Sweet Red 2010
Sutter Home Riesling 2011
Sutter Home White Merlot 2011
Sutter Home Merlot 2011
Sutter Home White Zinfandel 2011
Sutter Home White Zinfandel 2012
Sutter Home Zinfandel 2010
Trapiche Malbec 2012
Tribuno Sweet Vermouth
Vendange Merlot
Vendange White Zinfandel
Wine Cube Moscato
Wine Cube Pink Moscato 2011
Wine Cube Pinot Grigio 2011
Wine Cube Pinot Grigio
Wine Cube Chardonnay 2011
Wine Cube Chardonnay
Wine Cube Red Sangria
Wine Cube Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Wine Cube Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2011

If any of these look familiar as staples in your pantry or cellar, I’d go ahead and gift them to someone you don’t like.

But the problems with wine don’t stop with arsenic.

For example, the article “Why You Shouldn’t Drink Cheap Wine” was written in response to an article on Slate arguing in favor of not being one of those “expensive wine snobs”. Here’s a very interesting anecdote from the Cheap Wine article:

“…I too am disgusted by the salesperson who steers you towards a $30 bottle when a $10 bottle of Cabernet would suffice, and I am still slightly intimidated by the salesperson who suggests three wines that are all in the $20 plus price range when I really just want a glass of wine not an education. But I refuse to fill my store with wines based on price alone.

Wine is an agricultural product and just like carrots, milk, or meat, it costs money to grow grapes, especially if you are interested in growing your grapes organically or even sustainably. To paraphrase Michael Pollan; if you are concerned about the environment, or the workers health, or your own, you should be drinking wine made by winemakers, not corporations.

When you see a $4 bottle of wine at Trader Joe’s or Costco, think about it for a minute. Is it really possible to grow grapes, ferment them, bottle them – often in glass bottles with corks – ship them to various parts of the world, and then have them retail for $4? Yes, if you are spraying your vines with chemicals, yes, if you are underpaying your vineyard workers, and yes, if you are unconcerned about the end product and only concerned about your bottom line.

Wine is a luxury item, as much as I hate to remind you of that fact, and as such I think you should be interested in buying the best possible luxury item. We buy organic cotton t-shirts, organic chocolate bars, locally grown apples and meat with a verifiable chain of production, not to mention Heritage Turkeys and glass baby bottles, so why should you buy crap mass produced wine? So, yes you are often shown bottles of wine that are almost $15 when you are shopping at Vine, and yes, I don’t blame you if you cannot stomach spending more than $8 per bottle , if I am invited to your house for dinner I will in no way judge you. Instead, I will either bring my own wine to share with you, or abstain from drinking any of yours.”

The article “The False Promise Of Cheap Wine” expounds on the chemicals, underpaid vineyard workers and lack of sustainability in commercial wine production:

“…there are many other low-end bargain brands, including Gallo’s Barefoot, which at around $7 a bottle has become America’s biggest wine brand. Typically, any wine like this is sourced from industrially farmed, inland vineyards that grow grapes worth just a few hundred dollars per ton, a price that’s barely breakeven for most farmers. It is no surprise that many San Joaquin vineyards have come under corporate control, just as the only way for much of the Midwest’s corn industry to survive has been consolidation under companies like Cargill and ADM.

Whether that sort of farming is sustainable is a matter of debate, although the occasional hint appears about the unintended costs of growing cheap wine grapes, not the least of which is a potentially diminishing San Joaquin water supply. Seeing a similar trend, the Australian government encouraged growers to pull out their crops rather than continue draining water supplies to make cheap wines that, it’s now widely accepted, cost Australia much of its reputation as a producer of fine wine.

At best, the result from vineyards that produce 10 or 15 tons per acre of grapes is neutral wine that requires significant manufacturing (wood chips, Mega Purple and so on) to approximate flavors that wine drinkers claim to like. And that, ultimately, is what the “Drink Cheap Wine” brigade is advocating: industrial wine that is the equivalent of a Big Mac or Velveeta. When you reach for the $1.99 (or $2.99, or $3.99) shelf, that’s what you’re getting.

If the farming can be done sustainably, there is nothing wrong with cheap wine. But ultimately the wine industry has hurt itself by portraying cheap wine as fancier than it is. It has created the illusion that $5 wine is fancy enough that you don’t need to spend a cent more.”

So from extremely toxic levels of arsenic, to an irresponsible lack of sustainability, to underpaid vineyard workers, to drained water supplies, it’s looking like crap, cheap, mass-produced wine is not going to do your body or the environment any favors.

Now I’ll fully admit that this is all recent news to me, and up until this point in my life, all I’ve really paid attention to when drinking wine is whether or not the wine is organic. But even organic wine can have issues not just limited to those listed above, but also headaches from the sulfites in wine, boatloads of sugars, high pH levels that increase the possibility of contamination by unwanted organisms, a less than stellar taste, and the plastic polyethylenes present in the organic boxed wine I’ve been chugging until recently.

So what’s a wino to do?

Below are my four top tactics for ensuring that your wine is actually healthy, including how to reduce sulfites in wine, a method to make just about any wine taste better, why I’m OK with boxed wine, a trick to limit the portion size of wine you drink, and the exact brand of wine I’m now drinking,


Four Ways To Make Your Wine Tastier And Healthier

(Infographic by Cafepoint)

#1. Purify Your Wine To Get Rid of Sulphites

Purifying your wine is especially good idea if you get headaches from the sulphites in wine, and this trick can be a lifesaver if wine consumption results in headaches, migraines, or brain fog for you, especially the day after. If you pay attention to #4 below, you probably won’t need to use the purification method, but nonetheless, it’s a good strategy to have on hand.

Purification is necessary because preservatives have been used in the production of wine for many decades, for three primary purposes:

1. To control undesirable microbial growth;

2. To inhibit browning enzymes;

3. To serve as an anti-oxidant (grape juice behaves like any other fruit in that when it is exposed to air, it begins to deteriorate due to oxidation).

So to preserve the fresh fruity flavor of the grape (and hence the wine), winemakers add preservatives immediately after the grape skin is broken in the making of the wine, and these preservatives are continuously used throughout the winemaking process until the final bottling. The most commonly used  preservative is added either as a sulphur salt such as potassium metabisulphate (which releases sulphur dioxide gas) or sulphur dioxide gas itself, which unfortunately is well known as an undesirable pollutant.

Exposure to sulphur dioxide gas is very unpleasant even at quite low concentrations, and typical reactions to exposure to sulphur dioxide are headaches, shortness of breath, sneezing, watery eyes, weezing, sinus congestion and dizziness. Asthmatics are particularly susceptible to sulphur dioxide, and the level of free sulphur dioxide in most wines at bottling is definitely high enough to trigger a reaction.

Unfortunately, the use of preservatives (particularly sulphites) has been a concern for food consumers for many years and many producers have removed them from their products. But it is nearly impossible to produce high quality wine without their use.

Enter purification. A few years ago when I was competing in a triathlon in Thailand, one of my Australian friends introduced me to Pure Wine, which is available mostly in Australia, but something you could get shipped anywhere. After you add five drops of Pure Wine to a glass of wine, the level is sulphites is dramatically reduced, but the wine stays nice and fresh for up to 24 hours after opening. Pure Wine basically produces a blast of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) that eliminates the active wine preservative of sulphur dioxide gas, without sacrificing the taste and quality of the wine.

And by the way, I do indeed realize that there are sulphites in other things too, such as broccoli, prunes and other vegetables, but as this article from Lifehacker points out, it’s really a combination of the sulphites, the sugar, and another addition called “amines” in wine that make sulphites in wine such a particularly big problem for many folks compared to sulphites in vegetables.

#2. Beat the Sh*t Out Of Your Wine To Improve The Flavor

Let’s say you use some of the tips in this article to get healthy wine, but you just want more freaking flavor. Then read on. Full credit for this trick goes to Tim Ferriss, who introduced this method in the article “Age Your Wine 5 Years In 20 Seconds”. Tim learned it from Nathan Myhrvold, former CTO of Microsoft, French chef, and creator of the iconic cooking encyclopedia, Modernist Cuisine.

You may be familiar with decanting wine, and beating your wine is essentially based on a similar concept, specifically the idea that exposing your wine to more air than the wine gets exposed to in the bottle with improve the flavor of the wine. But decanting can take hours and hours.

Pour 1–2 glasses of the wine into a large mixing bowl, a wine glass, or a carafe. Leave plenty of room at the top. The first time you do this, take a sip so you can see what the wine tastes like before. Then, lower an immersion blender or a latte frother into the bowl and blend the wine for 20-30 seconds. Tip the bowl, glass or carafe or move the blender in circles to enhance the foaming effect.

This aeration exposes more of a liquid surface area to air, and increases the number of flavorful molecules that reach your palate and your smell receptors. If you do this correctly, your wine should now have a nice heady froth on it, just like Guinness beer. The froth will disappear in about 1-2 minutes.

If you have kids, they’ll love this trick. These days, I actually have my twin boys pour and froth my wine for me. Yet another useful reason to keep children around.

#3: Use A Small Glass

I have to admit that the video below, which comes from my article “5 Powerful Calorie Control Tricks To Help You Eat Less Food” makes me feel a little old. When I watch it, I realize that I’ve been podcasting, producing videos and writing articles for nearly eight years, and the video is certainly dated. Notice the cool, green-screen background effect. But it’s still chock full of good advice.

In the video, I show you how the size of the bowl, plate, or spoon that you use can significantly influence how much food and how many calories you consume. In the study “Ice cream illusions bowls, spoons, and self-served portion sizes”, 85 nutrition experts who were attending an ice cream social were randomly given either a smaller (17 oz) or a larger (34 oz) bowl and either a smaller (2 oz) or larger (3 oz) ice cream scoop. After serving themselves, they completed a brief survey as their ice cream was weighed.

Even when nutrition experts were given a larger bowl, they served themselves 31% more without being aware of it. In addition, their servings increased by over 14% when they were given a larger serving spoon.

In another study from University of Pennsylvania, psychologists conducted an experiment in an upscale apartment building in which they left out a bowl of the chocolate candies with a small scoop.The next day they refilled the bowl with M&M’s, but used a much larger scoop – and when the scoop size was increased, people took 66 percent more M&M’s!

And then there’s the infamous bottomless bowl of soup study. In this study, using special self-refilling soup bowls, researchers examined whether visual cues related to portion size can influence intake volume without altering either estimated intake or satiation. Participants who were unknowingly eating from magical, self-refilling bowls ate way more soup than those eating from normal soup bowls. However, despite consuming 73% more, they did not believe they had consumed more, nor did they perceive themselves as more sated than those eating from normal bowls. The takeaway message is of course to use smaller plates, bowls and utensils, even if somebody laughs at you for eating your soup with a teaspoon.

As a matter of fact, my wife often gives me a hard time when I grab a small plate for dinner and awkwardly try to place just the right amount of food on my tiny plate. Of course, for the same reason, I typically grab a very, very large bowl for vegetables and salad, and – you guessed it – a reasonably sized glass for my wine (although for special few-and-far-between occasions I will still employ my fancy, fish-bowl size wine glass).

#4: Drink Biohacked Wine

This is something I’ve never written about before, but is a very recent development in my wine chugging career: biohacked wine.

There are actually steps that a winemaker can take to make wine “fit”.

The first wine biohack is elevation.

When grapes are grown at a high elevation, specifically at 2000 feet or higher elevation, the grapes get a deeper exposure to the sun, while still at cooler temperatures, which helps elevate the resveratrol and polyphenols in the grapes.

The second wine biohack is extended fermentation.

To further concentrate these antioxidants, a winemaker can do an extended fermentation of 10-15 days, versus the standard 1-2 days fermentation that most wine companies use. With this one-two combo of high elevation and long fermentation, a wine can be concentrated to have up to 10x higher levels of resveratrol and polyphenols.

The third wine biohack is to appropriately adjust the pH of the wine.

The acid-alkaline balance, or pH of the wine, dictates the taste, texture, body and color of the wine. If the pH isn’t balanced, the taste of the wine can be just a bit skunky, but rather than adjusting pH, many wine companies simply add sugar to sweeten and balance out an improper pH. We make sure our pH levels are at optimal levels. For example, the optimum pH for a Cabernet (red) is 3.4. The optimal pH for a Chardonnay (white) is 3.2. If this pH can be achieved during the winemaking process, the end result is a great tasting wine that doesn’t need additional sugar added. A winemaker can do this via a process called malolactic, secondary fermentation, which not only lowers pH, but also helps keep bugs out of the wine. Lower pH levels in wine also reduce the possibility of contamination by unwanted organisms, and give the wine greater stability to retain flavor and color.

Next comes filtration.

A proper filtration process can significantly reduce the sulfites in wine, especially if the starting grape is a pesticide-free grape. Most wines have sulfites that range at around 50 parts per million (ppm). But if a wine is cold stabilized and chilled to drop out impurities prior to filtration, then filtered with extremely tight filters like diatomaceous earth and micron pads, sulfites can be cut significantly, down to as low as 35ppm. With lower sugar and lower sulfites, the risk of blood sugar swings and headaches goes way down when this kind of filtration process is used.

The final biohack is to reduce both calorie and carbohydrate levels without lowering alcohol content.

A typical cabernet ranges from 130-170 calories per 5oz glass, and a typical chardonnay ranges from 130-200 calories. But by avoiding the addition of residual sugars to the completed wine, then using a Brix scale, which is a special scale for measuring the amount of sugar in a solution at a given temperature, the sugar content of the wine can be significantly decreased. For example, a cabernet without added residual sugars is just 95 calories and 12.55g of carbohydrates, and a chardonnay just 90 calories and 5.9g of carbohydrates.

In summary, by using grapes raised at elevation, lowering sulfite levels, using optimum pH levels, using a malolactic, secondary fermentation along with tighter filtration, and avoiding the addition of any residual sugars, the end result is a clean, tasty wine with lower sugar, lower sulfites, lower impurities, superior taste, and just as much alcohol.

That’s the exact wine that I’m now drinking and endorsing. It’s called “FitVineWine”, and it satisfies all of the criteria above, from pesticide-free grapes grown at a high altitude, to superior filtration, to a secondary fermentation, to lower residual sugars.

CabernetDoubleThe good folks over at FitVineWine sent me one bottle of Cabernet and one bottle of Chardonnay to try, and both absolutely explode with flavor (even without the latte frothing trick).

The Cabernet is described as:

Classic Cabernet nose of cassis, lavender, black licorice and a hint of new oak. Rich but soft tannins wrap around flavors of cedar, boysenberry and coffee, chocolate with a hint of leather. Beautifully balanced in a light style.

And the Chardonnay:

Aromas of pears and lemon custard, citrus swirls and a hint of vanilla. A full bodied dry wine with a long crisp finish. Pairs well with fruit and cheese, seafood and pasta in creamy sauces or roast chicken with a little jerk seasoning.

Better yet, my wife has been able to drink FitVine with none of her normal post-wine headaches, I dig the fact that I can get just as much alcohol with far fewer sugars, and you click here to get a bottle of red or a bottle of white at with 10% discount code BEN10 (assuming you’re 21 years of age or older).



So that’s it!

Since it was only a week ago that I told you how to use weed to get healthy, I figured why not dive right in and get you all equipped to throw some wine into the mix, too! I hope you enjoyed this article, and I also hope that you’ll think twice before pouring a typical cheapo bottle of non-organic wine into a giant glass.

If you want more, then you’ll be pleased to know that when it comes to alcohol, hangovers and striking the ideal balance between healthy living and booze consumption, I’ve covered this topic before in other articles including:

Why You Get A Hangover, And How To Get Rid Of A Hangover As Fast As Possible With The Best Natural Hangover Cures

Three Semi-Healthy Drinks to Have If You’re Partying and Want To Do As Little Damage As Possible to Your Body

How To Fix Your Gut

The 30 Days No Alcohol Experiment: (What Happens When You Quit Alcohol Cold Turkey) – Part 1

The 30 Days No Alcohol Experiment: (What Happens When You Quit Alcohol Cold Turkey) – Part 2

What kind of wine do you drink? Would you try FitVineWine? Do you have other tricks that you use to make your wine healthier or tastier? If you have questions, comments or feedback about wine, then leave your thoughts below!

2014-11-08 06.10.15

A 100% Legal Way To Get All The Health Benefits Of Smoking Weed Without Actually Smoking Weed.


Allow me to begin by clarifying a very important thing: I am not a pothead, a stoner, or a recreational drug enthusiast.

Never was.

Growing up, I was originally a fantasy-fiction writing, World Of Warcraft dominating geek in my early years, and later in high school and college was a clean-living, well-shaven jock athlete with a substance abuse problem that consisted primarily of copious amounts of creatine, caffeine and canned protein shakes.

Until recently, unless you count smoking a very small number of joints at a few random parties in college, about the closest I’ve come to what might be considered “fringe” substance use has been via occasional use of nootropics and herbal extracts like packets of concentrated Chinese herbs, smart drugs like piracetam, anirecatam and alpha-GPC combinations (see my white powder on a kitchen scale video here) and vaporizing nighttime sleep extracts of melatonin and L-theanine (yet another creepy video here).

Of course, if you’re a regular podcast listener or you read my recent article on the “The Effect Of Weed On Exercise: Is Marijuana A Performance-Enhancing Drug?“, then you already know that subsequent to the legalization of weed in my home state of Washington, I’ve been experimenting with edible tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for exercise performance, and also experimenting with vaporizing indica-rich strains of marijuana for creativity, relaxation and sleep.

So there: now I’m a bonified druggie. But let’s move on, because in this article, we’re going to delve into a 100% legal derivative of the cannabis plant family that has some pretty massive payoffs for balancing your endocrine system, relieving anxiety, modulating chronic stress, shutting down inflammation and chronic pain, decreasing blood sugar, decreasing appetite and lowering abdominal obesity.

In other words, you’re going to learn about a form of cannabis you can get anywhere, order via mail, and use 100% legally in all 50 states and most countries in the world, with none of the psycho-active, paranoia inducing effects of regular weed, and all of the benefits.


Weed 101

So let’s say you didn’t grow up in the 60’s, never had stoner parents, have lived a relatively clean life, or simply smoke joints without ever thinking too hard about what’s happening chemically. Here’s a bit of “Weed 101”.  

When people talk about marijuana or use marijuana, they’re usually referring to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). What’s THC? It’s the part of the hemp plant (AKA the cannabis plant) that induces a euphoric state. Or an annoying state, mildly schizophrenic state, depending on your perspective. We can at least say beyond a shadow of a doubt that it makes Family Guy episodes way, way more funny.

And of course, THC is what most recreational weed users are looking for, which is probably why botanists have figured out since the 1960’s how to increase the amount of THC from around 3% to 5% in the 1960s to as much as 28% in our current decade. So yes, it’s true that we’re not smoking the weed our parents smoked, and one draw on a typical joint these days would probably knock your mom on her ass.

As you learned a little about in my article on the effects of THC on exercise performance, THC fits into a site called the CB1 receptor in the cerebral cortex of your brain, and this is what causes you to experience a cerebral high, and if you fill in too many of those CB1 receptors, a very, very long time sitting on your couch.

512px-Cannabidiol.svgAnd then there’s cannabidiol (CBD), pictured right, which is one of at least 85 active cannabinoids identified in cannabis, but is a major part of the cannabis plant, accounting for up to 40% of the plant’s total cannabinoid extract. Due mostly to its safety and legality, CBD has long been researched for a much wider scope of medical applications than tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). We’ll get into the most relevant of those medical applications later.

But first more Weed 101 – specifically, how the CBD is actually separated from the THC. And to understand this, you need to put on your straw hat and for the next 60 seconds become a hemp field farmer.

See, hemp fields are simply fields of cannabis plants that grow under conditions in which the male plants have been allowed to fertilize the female plants. When you separate the male and female plants, the females can’t be pollinated, so they produce lots of THC (in what is known as “resinous THC form”) as a result. But when the female is allowed to get pollinated, she barely produces any THC. In fact, the happily sexed up female produces less than 1% THC.

So to gain a higher production of THC in a field of cannabis plants, you simply take away the male plants so the females can’t be pollinated, and to lower THC production, you keep the male and female plants together. Plants used for CBD oil or CBD capsules or hemp oil or hemp protein or your hippie neighbor’s tie-dyed hemp headwear meet the international standards of less than 1% THC. And this CBD is totally legal and available for you to order by mail just about anywhere in the world.


The Wonderful World Of CBD Chemistry


Back it up!

Why on earth would you want to dump a bunch of CBD into your body with none of the fun, psychoactive properties of THC? Don’t worry, we’ll get to that. There are some very, very good reasons.

But first, it’s important for you to understand what’s going on inside your body when you consume this CBD stuff from those happily mating male and female plants.

You already learned that THC attaches mostly to CB1 receptors. On the other hand, most people will tell you that CBD fits into a different receptor, the (…drumroll please…) CB2 receptor, thus magically minimizing the effects from the CB1 receptor and providing all the medical benefits without the psychoactive high from THC.

Sigh. I wish it were that easy.

CBD actually has a very low affinity for both CB1 and CB2 receptors but acts as an indirect antagonist of their agonists. Woo-boy. Head spinning? All this means is the following: all the things that would normally activate the CB1 or the CB2 receptors are turned off or turned down by CBD.

For example, CBD can increase CB1 receptor density so that there’s just too many CB1 receptors for THC to bind to, thus taking the edge off the potential psychoactivity of weed, while still retaining all the opioid-like painkilling effects. In case you are concerned about this meaning you have to buy more weed or take more hits if you’re using CBD oil, you should also know that CBD can extend the duration of the effects of THC by inhibiting the cytochrome P-450 enzymes that would cause you to more rapidly metabolize THC.

So your plasma concentrations of THC increase when you’re using CBD, resulting in a greater amount of THC available to receptors and increasing the effect of THC in a dose-dependent manner (which means the more CBD you use, the more THC becomes available). But along with this increase, CBD also acts as an antagonist at the a cannabinoid receptor called GPR55 in the caudate nucleus and putamen sections of your brain, reducing paranoia-like effects or heart-beat racing from weed.

Yes, I know. Eyes glazing over.

Blah, blah, insert Ben Greenfield geek-speak drone sounds here. Place propellor hat on head. Tuck in shirt and gently put pocket protector in its place.

Wake up!

Here’s what I’m getting at: the magic of CBD is not really based on its action on CB1 or CB2 receptors, unless you’re using CBD to specifically elongate the effects of THC or to take any unpleasant psychoactive edge off THC. Which works just fine, by the way.

As a matter of fact, if CBD did indeed attach to CB1 and CB2 receptors it would have the same addictive potential of THC. But since its mechanism of action is not dependent on receptors associated with addiction, CBD is not addictive or habit-forming in any way. So while the receptor explanation is conveniently simple, it’s not quite accurate.

Instead, CBD acts as an agonist on an entirely different receptor called the 5-HT1A receptor, and this is how CBD actually works as an antidepressant with anti-anxiety and neuroprotective effects. It also serves as what is called an “allosteric modulator” of your opioid receptors, which is how it works to remove pain and reduce the effects of chronic inflammation. Other positive medical effects of CBD (there’s over 60 of them, if you care to read up on them here) are due to increased intracellular calcium release and agonism of another receptor called the PPAR-γ receptor.

So let’s put this into real world context.

As you may know or as you may have forgotten (ha!) short term memory problems are really common with THC. That’s why the extremely funny, laugh-snorting joke you told last night is impossible to remember the next morning. Don’t worry, it probably wasn’t as funny as you thought it was last night. But a 2010 study found that CBD eliminates any memory loss problem from weed. In the study, researchers used plants bred for high CBD and low THC plants, and attributed this attenuation of memory loss to CBD’s role as a CB1 antagonist.

Here’s another interesting fact for you: CBD has really strong anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, due primarily to its effects on your adenosine receptors and cytochrome P-450 and 2C enzymes. When this was first discovered, the US government insisted that cannabis had no medical benefits, but at the same time, they took out patent 6,630,507, which gave them rights to the antioxidant properties of cannabis (which they ironically still claim don’t exist). Incidentally, that patent was not extended to actual oil or capsule extracts of cannabis, so the good ol’ US gummint missed out on some pretty good business opportunities, if you ask me.

It’s also nearly impossible to overdose on CBD. Kind of like water, dark chocolate, and steamed kale, it has an unusually low level of toxicity. In the last 6,000 years, CBD hasn’t killed anyone via overdose, which is particularly impressive when you compare it to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, advil and tylenol, which can wreak havoc on your gut lining, liver and kidneys. Or aspirin (salicylic acid) which kills over 1,000 people every year. Or alcohol, which kills over 110,000 people a year. No one’s ever died from CBD.

As a matter of fact, leading up to this article, I’ve used very high amounts of CBD (100+mg) with no ill effect, aside from extreme feelings of relaxation, calm and the impression that if my home caught on fire I probably wouldn’t care (OK, so maybe that’s an ill effect).



A Very Brief History of CBD

Now of course, you could stop reading here and scroll down to fill yourself in on all the benefits of CBD oil, and the specific conditions for which it can come in handy. But I actually find the history of cannabis quite fascinating, especially given America’s persistent widespread disapproval and/or fear of its use. It’s not like this stuff just popped up like Red Bull energy drinks, ecstasy, lunesta, or adderall. Instead I’d kinda clump cannabis right in with organic vegetables and essential oils.

About 2,700 years ago, in Persia, a spiritual teacher named Zoroaster penned a sacred text of about 10,000 plants. As you can read about in this more incredibly detailed history of cannabis, Zoraster interestingly included hemp at the tippy-top of his compendium. Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, also recommended cannabis extracts.

Cannabis also has links to Christianity – specifically through the Ethiopian Coptic Church, which is held to have been established by St. Mark (the guy in the New Testament of The Bible) in AD 45. The Copts claim that the use of marijuana as a sacrament descended from a Jewish sect called the Essenes (the folks who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls). According to the Coptic Church, cannabis played an important role in early Christian and Judaic rituals, specifically as a sacrament burned in tabernacles, to commemorate important occasions such as communication with God on Mount Sinai by Moses, and the transfiguration of Christ.

Tell that to your Sunday School teacher.

Later, Queen Victoria’s physician and one of the world’s leading doctors of that era, Sir Russell Reynolds, prescribed medicinal cannabis for the Queen’s menstrual cramps, for which CBD still works fantastically for today. When writing about medical marijuana in the first edition of the British medical journal The Lancet, Reynolds proclaimed that cannabis is “one of the most valuable medicines we possess.” Another widely hailed physician at the time, Sir William Osler, used CBD for migraines with excellent results.

The father of French psycho-pharmacology, Dr. Jean-Jacques Moreau de Tours, used the cannabis plant to treat depression, another condition still widely treated with cannabis in the modern era. Later, during the Revolutionary War, soldiers were paid with cannabis, and presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson encouraged farmers to grow more hemp to produce more rope and paper, as well as clothing and ship sails (which dates back to the Egyptians using hemp sails on their Nile boats 3,000-4,000 years ago). During WWII, American farmers were also asked to grow as much hemp as possible. Last time I checked, the US government isn’t politely asking farmers to grow hemp anymore, although corn and grain subsidies are booming.

Anything that can be made of plastic can also be made from hemp, which can reduce exposure to phytoestrogens and other chemicals in plastic and other synthetic compounds. Hemp plant fibers are long and tough, and can be woven into a soft cloth that wears well and has fewer of the herbicides and pesticides associated with other modern cloths like cotton. Even copies of the Declaration of Independence used to be written on cannabis paper, since it doesn’t yellow with age like other papers do.

As you’ve probably already heard, the hemp plant itself is is a highly useful plant, and every part of it has been used to make a wide variety of products, including biofuel and medicine. Biofuel made from hemp seeds is far less expensive and more effective than ethanol derived from corn. If there weren’t so many federal restrictions, growing hemp would highly benefit any agricultural state, but unfortunately most states must pay an absurdly high premium to import hemp seeds. And of course, as you’re probably aware, both THC and CBD seem to be immersed in a constant struggle of medical legality that I simply don’t have the time to address in this post.

Nonetheless, when it comes to CBD oil and cannabidiol, people seem be getting more aware of the fact that you don’t need to be a pothead to get all the medical, relaxing, hormone and metabolism-balancing properties of weed. Not that the image below is based on hard scientific epidemiological data, but a quick glance at a Google trends profile of searches for “CBD Oil” speaks volumes, doesn’t it?



Is CBD Addictive, Unsafe or Illegal?

So if CBD oil is so freaking magical, there must be a downside right? Addictive potential, perhaps? Toxicity and lack of proven safety? Illegal? Although I touched on the absence of CB1 and CB2 receptor binding earlier in this article, let’s delve into the addictive or unsafe potential of CBD just a bit more.

First, there is zero evidence anywhere that CBD is addictive. This is because CBD does not act on any receptors in the brain that would produce addiction. You already learned about the science behind that whole receptor thing.

There, that was easy, huh?

But if you want more details then click here to read some of the writings of Dr. Tod Mikuriya, former national administrator of the US government’s marijuana research programs, was quite outspoken on the subject of addiction. The late Dr. Mikuriya stated that no other single drug or substance has as many therapeutic benefits as cannabis, and he never discovered any evidence of cannabis addiction.

Now don’t get me wrong – some will indeed claim that cannabis is addictive. For example, the Boggs Act of 1951 established mandatory sentences for drug users and also claimed that cannabis was addictive. But since then, testimony given by Dr. Harris Isbell, Director of Research at the Public Health Service hospital in Lexington, Kentucky exposed this as false, explaining how cannabidiols from marijuana are not physically addictive.

But Dr. Isbell’s research was mostly ignored, and instead overshadowed by the argument that the plant inevitably is the stepping stone to heroin addiction, and the calling for harsh penalties against offenders of the marijuana laws. But the concept of marijuana as a “gateway drug” remains completely unproven.

In over 6,000 years of usage in Oriental Medicine, there have been no cases of addiction reported (although Emperor Fu Hsi referred to cannabis as a popular remedy as early as 2,900 BC).

In the early 1900s, as part of the Prohibition movement, cannabis was claimed by many to be addictive. But this was not based on research, and ironically the recommended treatment for cannabis “addiction” in most cases was the use of heroin.

An actual long term study, Ganja in Jamaica: A Medical Anthropological Study of Chronic Marijuana Use, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1975, showed zero concerns with addiction, even after patients who had used cannabis for decades had stopped. The 1980 study Cannabis in Costa Rica: A Study in Chronic Marijuana Use backed this up. Most interestingly, studies like this are not finding any addictive potential even in the presence of THC along with the CBD!

In the early 1990’s, rehabilitation facilities did indeed experience a significant surge of patients who were “addicted” to cannabis. But a survey done at that time noted that nearly all of them had come from the court system, where judges gave convicted criminals the choice between entering into treatment for addiction or entering prison, which was probably a pretty simple choice for most.

Later in the 1990’s, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) funded research that had the goal of proving that cannabis is addictive. But instead of identifying any biochemical pathway that could cause addiction, any research defined addiction by the presence or absence of some degree of withdrawal, with no specific parameters for withdrawal actually defined. In other words, if you’re thirsty, this NIDA-funded research could argue that this means you are addicted to water.

As a matter of fact, here’s what this article reported about NIDA.

The ugly truth is that the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the agency that oversees 85 percent of the world’s research on controlled substances, is on record stating that its institutional policy is to reject any and all medical marijuana research. “As the National Institute on Drug Abuse, our focus is primarily on the negative consequences of marijuana use,” a NIDA spokesperson told The New York Times in 2010. “We generally do not fund research focused on the potential beneficial medical effects of marijuana.”


And how about the safety of cannabis?

Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Medical School, spent the majority of his professional life studying cannabis, from the 1960’s to 2000’s. The result was “Marijuana: The Forbidden Medicine“. As you can see, Dr. Grinspoon didn’t find one single case of death, stating that

“There are no deaths from cannabis use. Anywhere. You can’t find one.”

There are dozens of other doctors and similar studies, too many to list here – but you can certainly delve in at ProjectCBD website. On September 6, 1988 Francis Young, an administrative DEA judge, took medical testimony for over two weeks, and at the end of it, he said,

“Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.”

Once again, even when talking about the THC combined with the CBD, and not the isolated, non-psychoactive CBD component, marijuana is shown to be both non-addictive and safe.

But when it comes to pain management, one of the primary uses for CBD oil, deaths from drug overdoses and drug poisoning continue to rise. Deaths from opioid analgesics – one of the most universally prescribed pain management drugs – increased from 4,030 in 1999 to 15,597 in 2009 and 16,651 in 2010. In 2010, 60 percent of all drug overdose deaths (22,134) involved pharmaceutical drugs, and opioid analgesics showed up in about 3 of every 4 of those pharmaceutical overdose deaths. That confirms the predominant role that research has shown opioid analgesics to play in drug-related mortality. Opioids are nasty, brutal drugs with side effects nearly as bad as the conditions they’re taken for, and although deaths from opiods are common, they’re still one of the most turned to bandaids in modern medicine.

CBD in proper dosages gives nearly the same pain reduction compared to opioid prescription drugs such as morphine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone are examples, and when combined with these drugs, allows you to use far less of the actual prescription, thus reducing the toxic load on your liver and kidneys. And of course, as you already know, these benefits come without the proven addictive or unsafe nature of opioid drugs.

Considering the complete non-addictiveness and safety of cannabis, Dr. James Hudson, PhD, Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia Department of Pathology and Lab Medicine, has said that pharmaceutical companies have an enormous incentive to chemically recreate the natural compounds in marijuana and somehow sell a drug from it. You probably already know this, but pharmaceutical companies can’t patent a natural compound, but if they can make a synthetic compound that mimics ingredient from cannabis, they can formulate that as a drug and potentially make a lot more money off of it.

To get an idea of the medical benefits of CBD (again, I need to emphasize to you that this is not medical marijuana or anything illegal, just the completely natural form of CBD that you can buy anywhere and have mailed to you), just take a look at video of CBD oil helping with a form of childhood epilepsy called Dravet syndrome. The first use of CBD for Dravet’s syndrome was given to a patient who was having 300 seizures a week. I first talked about this video last year Is Weed Healthy? The Controversial Truth About The Science Of Marijuana

Do you see that? The form of epilepsy in that video usually kills the child.

Here’s a nearly identical video of a patient with multiple sclerosis (MS) who was given CBD…

…and cerebral palsy. When you watch the video below, it becomes even more ironic that the government once created a prohibition of cannabis, declaring that it “has no medical usage”.

You get the idea, and now you probably also have a pretty good idea of why pharmaceutical companies would want to patent some chemical-ized version of this. So I’d suspect that we’re not too far away from an enormously overpriced cannabis-like chemical produced in a pharmaceutical factory. But in the meantime, you can get the identical effects, 100% legally, from entirely natural sources of CBD. Let’s take a look at what some of those most relevant effects would be.

As for the legality, here’s the skinny for my home country of the USA (original source here):

“The drug Schedules list “Tetrahydrocannabinols” and “marijuana” both as Schedule I drugs under the Controlled Substances Act, however cannabidiol is unlikely to be considered as a Schedule I drug on the basis of being covered by the listing of “Marijuana” or by the listing of “Tetrahydrocannabinols” under Schedule I of the CSA.

  • “Marijuana” has a DEA Drug Code of 7360 (distinct from cannabidiol’s Drug Code of 7372) and is defined by the CSA as “all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin.” Exempted from regulation under the definition are “the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.”
  • A DEA Interpretive Rule published in 2001 states that the “definition of marijuana was intended to include those parts of marijuana which contain THC and to exclude those parts which do not. … The legislative history is absolutely clear that Congress meant to outlaw all plants popularly known as marijuana to the extent those plants possessed THC”. Cannabidiol isolated by extraction from marijuana sources does not contain THC, and synthetically produced cannabidiol does not contain THC either. It therefore stands to reason that cannabidiol is not covered under the prohibition on marijuana.
  • “Tetrahydrocannabinols” listed under Schedule I of the CSA are unlikely to include cannabidiol. Tetrahydrocannabinols are defined as follows:

Unless specifically excepted or unless listed in another schedule, any material, compound, mixture, or preparation, which contains any quantity of the following hallucinogenic substances, or which contains any of its salts, isomers, and salts of isomers whenever the existence of such salts, isomers, and salts of isomers is possible within the specific chemical designation (for purposes of this paragraph only, the term “isomer” includes the optical, position and geometric isomers):

  • (31) Tetrahydrocannabinols (DEA Drug Code: 7370)
    • Meaning tetrahydrocannabinols naturally contained in a plant of the genus Cannabis (cannabis plant), as well as synthetic equivalents of the substances contained in the cannabis plant, or in the resinous extractives of such plant, and/or synthetic substances, derivatives, and their isomers with similar chemical structure and pharmacological activity to those substances contained in the plant, such as the following:

Furthermore, cannabidiol was not placed into Schedule I when The Controlled Substances Act was amended in July 2012 with the US Congress‘ passing of the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 (SDAPA) (which came into effect on January 4, 2013) to ban various cannabinoids, cathinones, and phenethylamines. The part adding to Schedule I various “cannabimimetic agents” which include molecules more closely resembling so-called “classically” structured cannabinoids reads as follows: Since cannabidiol is chemically not a tetrahydrocannabinol (nor indeed a “cannabinol” of any kind) and cannabidiol has a DEA Drug Code of 7372 (distinct from Tetrahydrocannabinols’ designated Drug Code of 7370), it stands to reason that cannabidiol is not considered one of the drugs placed into Schedule I under the listing of “Tetrahydrocannabinols” in the CSA.

(d)(1) Unless specifically exempted or unless listed in another schedule, any material, compound, mixture, or preparation which contains any quantity of cannabimimetic agents, or which contains their salts, isomers, and salts of isomers whenever the existence of such salts, isomers, and salts of isomers is possible within the specific chemical designation.

(2) In paragraph (1):
(A) The term “cannabimimetic agents” means any substance that is a cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1 receptor) agonist as demonstrated by binding studies and functional assays within any of the following structural classes:
(i) 2-(3-hydroxycyclohexyl)phenol with substitution at the 5-position of the phenolic ring by alkyl or alkenyl, whether or not substituted on the cyclohexyl ring to any extent.

Cannabidiol, while being a more “classically structured” cannabinoid (not like the much more recently discovered cannabinoid receport agonists with indole rings such as many of the JWH- and AM- named series), was not on the list of specifically newly banned cannabinoids (even among those with a more so-called “classic structure”) and it does not fall into the category of unlisted cannabinoids which are caught by the definition above for several reasons. Primarily, CBD is not a CB1 agonist; it is a CB1 antagonist. Also, unlike CP 47,497‘s homologues and similar synthetic “classical structured cannabinoids” which the above definition was written carefully to include, the cannabidiol molecule has a cyclohexene ring where the amended law requires a cyclohexane ring, and further cannabidiol does not have the required 3-hydroxyl moiety bonded to its cyclohexenyl functional group where the law requires a hydroxyl moiety bonded to the 3- position of a cyclohexyl functional group.”

OK, yes I’ll admit. That part hurts my head. But in a nutshell it simply means that cannabidiol, aka CBD, is a far different chemical than cannabinol or THC, and because of that, can’t fall into the class of being a controlled drug.

Of course, it’s extremely important to draw a distinction between cannabidiol from medical marijuana vs. cannabidiol from industrial hemp. The first form of cannabidiol is extracted from medical marijuana plants grown to be high in CBD and low in THC. It’s often sold under the title “Charlotte’s Web” and is a Schedule I controlled substance. It is only sold to licensed dispensaries and prescribed by doctors for particular conditions in places where marijuana is regulated, such as the USA. Marijuana-based CBD oil like this is only legal in states such as Colorado and Washington that have enacted medical marijuana laws.

While medical marijuana is grown to be high in CBD for the treatment of specific ailments, the THC content can vary dramatically, sometimes getting as high as the CBD content. The other problem with medical marijuana (besides the possibility of getting a strain that is high in THC) is that it’s not currently legal everywhere. In the United States, you must be living in certain states and obtain a prescription from a doctor to receive medical marijuana.

On the other hand cannabidiol oil that comes from industrial hemp plants are a different story. The FDA considers hemp oil (and it’s derivative CBD) to be a dietary supplement (not a medication), since it is made from industrial hemp plants. If you live in the US, this means you don’t need a prescription and can legally purchase and consume hemp-based cannabidiol in any state. The water soluble CBD I use called “BioCBD” contains less than 0.001% THC, which is far below the legal threshold of 0.3% set by the DEA. Because of this unusually low amount of THC, this also means that a CBD source like BioCBD will not cause a positive drug test.

Unfortunately, outside of the United States the legal status can be confusing. Since regulations can vary for each country, I’d recommend that if you want bulletproof confidence that you are completely within the bounds of legality, you reach out to your specific country’s customs department. Ask if you can import dietary supplements from the USA. If you are allowed to do this, then you can order CBD from hemp-based products.

Now…how about if you’re an athlete concerned about CBD use being considered “doping”?

No search of CBD Oil or Cannabidiol turns up any results on the World Anti Doping Association’s (WADA) prohibited substances list, and the article “Why should Cannabis be Considered Doping in Sports?” explains why:

“The WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency, 2013) establishes a 15 ng/mL urinary 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC (THCCOOH) threshold; urine analyses involves THCCOOH-glucuronide conjugates cleavage, which significantly increases free THCCOOH concentrations and detection time. Urinary THCCOOH concentrations above the 15 ng/mL threshold are considered Adverse Analytical Findings and may be interpreted as a violation of anti-doping rules (World Anti-Doping Agency, 2009). Studies showed that even occasional and single cannabis smoking might yield a THCCOOH positive result (≥15 ng/mL) for up to 5 days (Huestis et al., 1996). Thus, consuming cannabis even weeks before a match may imply a considerable risk of being detected in a doping test. In light of this considerable risk, some users started using a new preparation of herbal smoking blends named “Spice.” Such substances are highly potent cannabinoid analogs, with unknown and potentially harmful toxicological properties that may cause prolonged intoxication. These substances mimic or worsen cannabis’ toxic effects provoking cognitive and motor impairment (UNODC, 2011).

The non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) is anxiolytic in humans following a single dose (Zuardi et al., 1993; Bergamaschi et al., 2011); decreased anxiety and fear memories extinction after oral CBD intake may enhance sports performance with no “violation” of the Code, as no THCCOOH is detected in urine. One way to protect athletes’ health and to promote health, fairness, and equality in sports is to include any illicit drugs, their constituents and analogs in the anti-doping program. The sports may assist to create educational program for youth and athletes as an alternative to keep them away from drugs and to preserve the intrinsic value about the “spirit of sport.””

The US Anti Doping Association (USADA), is a bit more cautionary, and in the following statement sums up the fact that you should probably make sure you get any CBD you use from a “clean” source:

“Athletes need to be aware that while some papers show that the likelihood of testing positive from a hemp product (at least in workplace testing) is very low (1), there are at least two peer-reviewed articles that show it is possible to sometimes detect THC in the urine of people who have consumed hemp products (2,3). Athletes who choose to consume hemp products may be at risk for a positive anti-doping test, even though many of these products claim not to contain THC. Thus, the risk of testing positive from hemp is low, but nonetheless it may be possible. Because athletes are strictly liable for what is in their systems, irrespective of how it got there, it is very important to be aware of this possibility.”

And then there’s the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). To confirm a positive test for marijuana in NCAA testing, the level of THC in your urine would have to exceed 15 nanograms per milliliter. This is impossible to attain with a CBD oil derived from a hemp plant, and the only forms of cannabis that appear on the NCAA banned drugs list are marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and synthetic cannabinoids such as spice, K2, JWH-018, and JWH-073.

Finally, if you want to be 100% informed on legality of CBD or any other substance both in and out of competition, you simply cannot beat the Global Drug Reference Online (GlobalDRO) search engine, which allows you to search for any substance, in any sport, in any country, from any nation of purchase.


The Effects Of CBD On Hormones

Anyways, now we’re about to get to the good stuff, specifically things that I figured health-minded readers like you would actually find helpful, such as hormone balancing, de-stressing, enhanced sleep, fat loss, etc. But if you want to simply stop reading now, and take a side-track to go peruse the more than 20,000 articles published in peer reviewed journals that show the medical efficacy of CBD for a variety of other conditions in addition to what I’ve listed here, then knock yourself out.

Let’s begin with your endocrine system and hormones. Here are the studies:

Your endocrine system consists of glands throughout your body which regulate everything from energy levels to metabolism to sex drive. One major function of this system is to produce excitation in response to stress, which is of course necessary for survival, but when it gets out of hand it can be a source of excess stress. One big effect of cannabidiol in the endocrine system seems to be to protect against excess stress by reducing susceptibility to stress-induced activation in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. CBD significantly decreases plasma cortisol levels, and this is actually why I started using CBD in the first place – to reduce my cortisol.

But CBD has other effects on your endocrine system, particularly your appetite. You may simply think that marijuana produces the munchies and therefore makes you fat, and although this makes logical sense, science has shown that it’s not the case that marijuana makes you fat, especially when CBD is present.

Here’s how it works…

Your pancreas secretes the hormones glucagon and insulin to regulate blood sugar by signaling your liver to break down fat into sugar (glucagon) or to store sugar as fat (insulin). These hormones work as a pair to maintain homeostasis, and they stimulate the release of each other through a complex feedback mechanism. While THC primarily increases glucagon and blood sugar, CBD lowers insulin levels, and it is this CBD action that helps to explain why marijuana users tend to eat more calories but do not gain any extra weight, have less obesity and have lower rates of type II diabetes than non-users, and is also why some diabetics find that marijuana makes it easier to manage their blood sugar.

Type II diabetics (whose pancreas still functions) tend to have very high levels of insulin, but the liver is unable to use that insulin, so blood sugar stays high, and the pancreas eventually damages itself by trying to continually produce more and more insulin, eventually leading to organ failure if the diabetes is unmanaged. By lowering pancreatic insulin release, CBD may alleviate or prevent the progression of type II diabetes and blood sugar disorders. Cannabinoid antagonists such as CBD have been shown to reduce obesity, and not only do rodents given these antagonists eat less, but they also lose more weight than their reduced feeding can account for.

So the summary of the biggest effects of CBD on the endocrine system? Lower cortisol and better blood sugar control. Let’s move on.


The Effects Of CBD On Anxiety & Stress

You’ve already seen the data on the big cortisol-lowering effects of CBD. But when it comes to anxiety and paranoia in general, a THC-rich strain of marijuana will actually increase not decrease stress unless there is enough CBD present to balance out the stress-increasing effect of weed.

Studies in humans, including many of those cited below, have demonstrated that CBD dosage reduces anxiety (once again, compared to the increased levels of anxiety that THC produces), and that when you combine CBD with THC, it takes the anxiety edge off THC. This is due to the action of CBD on 5HT1A and TRPV1 receptors, both of which are involved in mitigating the anxiolytic, panic and fear responses to stress.

Here are the studies that have specifically investigated CBD’s role as an anti-anxiolytic:

When it comes to stress, which is of course significantly related to anxiety, the host of studies are just as impressive:

This is just a small sample of the research showing the role that CBD plays in reducing stress and reducing anxiety. I’ve found that as little as 10mg CBD vastly lowers my anxiety at the end of the day, and have dosed with as high as 100mg CBD to be as calm as a baby during trans-Atlantic plane flights, nights sleeping in hotel rooms, and other situations where I have difficulty sleeping or tend to be stressed out. The stuff works like a charm, and saves me from having to hunt down an unhealthy, addictive alternative like valium or diazepam.


The Effects Of CBD On Inflammation

You can pretty much consider inflammation to be the freaking bane of our modern, fast-paced, industrialized lifestyles. Of the ten leading causes of mortality in the United States, chronic, low-level inflammation contributes to the pathogenesis of at least seven, specifically heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and nephritis.

But from joint pain to irritable bowel syndrome to diabetic retinopathy, CBD has been shown to modulate both acute and chronic inflammatory issues via several different mechanisms, and from the research I’ve seen and cited below, it’s even more powerful than many of the commonly recommend natural remedies for inflammation, such as curcumin, fish oil, resveratrol, anti-oxidants, protelytic enzymes, Vitamin C, etc.

For example, cytokines are the signaling proteins synthesized and secreted by immune cells upon stimulation. They are the modulating factors that balance initiation and resolution of inflammation. One of the mechanisms of immune control by CBD during inflammation is stopping cytokine production by immune cells and lowering cytokine production by the T-helper cells Th1 and Th2 (which are interestingly the same cells in which overactivity can contribute to autoimmune issues and food intolerances). The inflammatory compound interleukin-6 (IL-6) can also be decreased in the presence of CBD.

In one interesting study, researchers decided to test the effect of CBD on four cell signaling or mediating molecules associated with intestinal inflammation and oxidative damage to the gut. Their findings were as follows:

  1. Inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) – CBD reduced the overexpression of iNOS in response to colitis. iNOS overexpression is well correlated with disease activity with colitis, and inhibitors of iNOS lead to improvement in experimental models of IBD. iNOS results in high-output production of NO, which results in oxidative damage to the intestine via reactive oxygen species (ROS).
  2. Interleukin-1β – levels significantly increased with experimental colitis. CBD was shown to decrease levels. IL-1β is shown to have potent pro-inflammatory activity and thus heightens the inflammatory response that leads to intestinal injury. IL-1β amplifies the production of inflammatory leukocytes (immune system cells), resulting in an increase of inflammation.
  3. Interleukin-10 – levels significantly decreased with experimental colitis. CBD was shown to restore levels. IL-10 has anti-inflammatory activity by inhibiting the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Restoration of IL-10 activity is critical to intestinal health.

The reduction of iNOS and reactive oxygen species by CBD, along with the reduction of lipid peroxidation, shows the important therapeutic action of CBD in reduction of colonic inflammation by indirect reduction of oxidative damage. In addition, the dysregulation of the interleukins IL-1B and IL-10 is a well-known disruption caused by irritable bowel disease (IBD). The restoration of these interleukins to normal behavior by CBD, although the specific pathway is unknown, is another important therapeutic action that CBD has on reduction of colonic inflammation.

Many of the folks I coach and do consults with have always struggled with a “sensitive gut”, irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, gas, constipation and other signs of gut inflammation, and being able to use CBD to reduce gut inflammation could be a game-changer for these people. But from the joints to neural tissue, CBD has a variety of other natural anti-inflammatory effects. Here are just a smattering of the studies done on cannabidiols and inflammation.

Interestingly, the connection between CBD and inflammation can be highlighted using professional sports as an example. From MMA fighters to NBA basketball players, cannabis use is widespread among hard charging professional and a growing number of recreational athletes, specifically for shutting down the extreme amounts of joint inflammation and pain from constantly pounding the mat or the court and for helping the body relax and sleep at night after a day of stress combined with hard and heavy training. Many NFL athletes are now experimenting with cannabis extracts to manage post-head injury symptoms and to reduce the chronic mid and post-career aches and pains.

I’m sure that if these same athletes realized they could get all the same anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety and sleep effects from CBD, without having to worry about THC testing by their athlete’s federation, they’d likely leap at the chance.


The Effects Of CBD On Metabolism & Body Fat

Bet you never thought you’d hear somebody recommending a weed derivative to lose weight, but it’s true. Earlier in this article, you learned how CBD can help to stabilize insulin levels, regulate appetite, and decrease cortisol – all of which can have a profound effect on your body fat levels.

As I mentioned earlier, cannabidiol is known to counteract some of the effects of THC like the “munchies.” Just as THC can significantly increase your appetite, CBD can suppress your appetite, which is ideal if you’re watching your figure. Here is a great two minute video that sums up how marijuana can help obesity and body fat:

In the video, you learn about one study in which researchers found that pot smokers had lower levels of obesity than people who do not smoke pot, and another study that found that a brain chemical with a structure similar to one of the active compounds found in cannabis might actually help people lose weight. The findings are just the latest addition to a growing body of evidence that marijuana may be useful in countering issues related to obesity.

The researchers leading many of the studies on marijuana extracts and obesity are affiliated with the UK’s GW Pharmaceuticals, which makes me cringe that pharmaceutical companies are going to make some kind of very expensive CBD-based weight loss drug.  But regardless of motive, in these studies, the researchers found that the two compounds, THCV and cannabidiol, boosted metabolism, and reduced levels of liver fat, and blood cholesterol. These same compounds also made mice more sensitive to insulin, protected the cells that produce insulin, and increasing metabolic rate – all while suppressing the appetite. Nice.


The Effects Of CBD On Sleep

In the United States, approximately 70 million people suffer from insomnia, insufficient sleep or another sleep disorder. CBD extracts have been mistakenly described as sedating, but I haven’t found that to be the case with my own use and neither has research. Although it’s true that if you take a bunch of CBD (I’ve found 30g+ of a good, absorbable CBD will do it for me) you will fall asleep like a baby, in modest doses, CBD is mildly alerting, and simply provides a calm, relaxed focus.

Cannabidiol actually activates the same adenosine receptors as caffeine, which is technically a stimulant. But patients with sleep issues report that ingesting a CBD-rich tincture or extract a few hours before bedtime has a balancing effect that facilitates a good night’s sleep, and I’ve certainly found this to be the case.

Here are the studies on CBD and sleep.

In sum: smaller doses of CBD provide you with a calm and relaxed focus that comes in handy during everything from writing to music to parties to workouts – very similar to what you would experience with THC, but without the psychoactive or paranoia properties. And if you combine these smaller doses of CBD with common natural sleep-inducing compounds like melatonin, magnesium, or lemon balm, then you can get yourself into an even more relaxed state. But larger doses of CBD (which are going to range based on the actual absorption of whichever CBD blend you are using) can be used all by themselves to enhance sleep or combat insomnia.

Speaking of dosage, in most clinical trials, you’ll see CBD dosing ranges from 10-800 mg of CBD a day (although to treat schizophrenia, I’ve seen doses as high as 1,300mg). But as with everything from whey protein to creatine to magnesium, everyone is different and you’ll likely need to experiment with a dosage range that works for you. The CBD capsules I personally use contain 10mg in one capsule, but based on the absorption (an important variable which you’re going to learn about next), I need to use far less CBD, about 1/10 the amount, compared to other CBD tinctures, extracts and capsules I’ve tried.

Why Most CBD Isn’t Absorbed & What You Can Do About It

OK, so there must be a catch here, because at this point you’re probably under the impression that I think CBD is some kind of cure-all magical tonic that ranks right up there with Belgian chocolate, Bordeaux wine and kale smoothies.

But problem is, CBD oil, capsules, powders, etc. are not easily absorbed by your body. They can spoil and become contaminated. They smell bad. They often taste bad too. And they’re not water soluble.

The water soluble thing is a biggie.

Your body is composed of over 60% water, and this means that you’re going to either A) need to take way, way more of a non water-soluble CBD product if you actually want to feel the effects or B) smoke or vape your CBD, which is logistically annoying and not something your kid or your pet can do (and yes, both kids and pets can enormously benefit from CBD usage).

This is why most CBD hemp oil products have an extremely poor bioavailability and most people simply don’t experience or feel any of the effects of the CBD they take.

So how can you make CBD absorbable?

Enter turmeric, the same flavorful spice that I mix with black pepper on my salads every single day of the year.

Turmeric comes from the rhizome in the turmeric plant, and the rhizome can grow up to 3 inches in length. The rhizome is then harvested and dried before being ground into a yellow powder, the very concentrated form of which is also known as curcumin (yes, the same curcumin that is currently the darling of the “natural anti-inflammatory” industry).

Kind of like cannabis, humans have been cultivating turmeric for a long time – over 4,000 years. The Ayurvedic medicinal herb was originally used as a medicinal herb in Southeast Asia, where turmeric also carries significant religious significance. Turmeric was a highly sought after commodity in the ancient spice trades that swept across China and Africa, all before the end of the 9th century.

India is the main cultivator of all the world’s turmeric crops and consumes 80% of the world’s supply. Due to the high content of the main bioactive component in turmeric (curcumin) Indian turmeric is considered to be the best in the world for medicinal purposes. The Indian city of Erode, located in the South Indian State of Tamil Nadu, is the trading hub for turmeric in the Eastern hemisphere. Erode is so well known for its turmeric production that it is referred to as “Yellow City,” and “Turmeric City” (similar to the way that my living room couch is covered in yellow stains from my frequent turmeric sprinkling on most of the dinners I eat).

And here’s why turmeric plays such an important role in CBD absorption…

…when the cannabionids and terpenoids in CBD are mixed with the the isolated curcuminoids of a high-curcumin containing turmeric plant, the bioavailability of the CBD absolutely explodes. This means that if you’ve used CBD oil before in the absence of a curcuminoid blend from turmeric, you probably only felt about 1/5 to 1/10 of the actual effects of the CBD, since CBD by itself is very poorly absorbed.

For you aspiring Bulletproof Coffee drinkers out there, this is a similar concept to the idea that you simply never get to feel several of the bioactive, wakefulness and focus-enhancing terpenoids in coffee until you have actually introduced fats and triglycerides into the coffee to help these terpenes cross your blood-brain barrier – hence the butter and coconut oil blended with the coffee.

Using an extraction process called “hybrid-nanoengineering”, which basically involves a combination of CBD with turmeric herbal extracts, it is actually possible to get a completely bioavailable and absorbable form of CBD. The way that hybrid-nanoengineering works is that the cannabinoids and terpenoids are extracted from the cannabis herbs and then blended in a lab with curcuminoids to create CBD particles that are on the nano paricle size level. Nano particles (1/100 the width of a human hair) are easier for your body to absorb and transport to where they are needed within your body. This means that a hybrid-nanoengineered CBD is over 10x more bioavailable in the body than any other oil based CBD, CBD tincture or CBD capsule, and it means that just 10mg of a nano particle CBD is the equivalent of taking at least 100mg of oil based CBD.

The result of hybrid-nanoengineering with turmeric is a raw oil that is high in CBD, virtually free of THC (less than 0.001%,) and complete with a full spectrum of other cannabinoids and terpenes, which work synergistically to make CBD even more effective. The oil is then encapsulated, and…


…you’ve got an extremely absorbable CBD capsule, along with all the benefits of curcumin. Here’s a video that demonstrates the absorption difference between water soluble CBD that’s been hybrid-nanoengineered, compared to regular, non-water soluble CBD.



Whew. Congratulations, you made it.

You now know:

  • CBD is the 100% legal and non-psychoactive form of marijuana, and can actually combat unpleasant effects of smoking weed, such as paranoia or over-excitability…
  • CBD acts on completely different receptors and enzymes than THC, resulting in significant effects on anxiety, depression and stress…
  • CBD is completely safe and non-addictive…
  • Pharmaceutical companies can’t patent CBD unless they turn it into a synthetic chemical first…
  • There are shocking demonstrations of the potency of CBD for several serious neurological conditions such as epilepsy, MS and cerebral palsy…
  • CBD can also be used to balance hormones, reduce anxiety, lower inflammation and chronic pain, combat metabolic syndrome, and reduce obesity…
  • It is very difficult for your body to absorb CBD, unless the CBD has been blended with curcuminoids and made bioavailable in a nanoparticle size… …
  • You can legally purchase hemp-based CBD anywhere in America and in most countries of the world…

After spending the past year researching everything you’ve just read about and experimenting extensively with CBD oil, I am now (full disclosure folks) an investor and adviser to the only company in the world that has patented the nanoengineering of blending curcuminoids with the cannabidiols and terpenoids in CBD.

I would never endorse anything that I don’t use and benefit from myself, and I can honestly say that this is the most absorbable form of CBD I’ve ever used, it allows me to get all the benefits of smoking weed without actually smoking weed, and it is exact stuff that I personally purchase for myself and that now lives in a special place in my pantry.

In addition to my morning and evening multivitamin and fish oil, I’ve now added two of these CBD capsules to my early evening protocol, specifically to lower inflammation from exercise, to lower my stress and anxiety, to help me to have more creative focus for writing, and to cause me to fall asleep much, much faster at night. Since I travel frequently, I can – unlike weed – take this CBD through any airport, anywhere in the country, and also unlike weed, CBD is not banned by any governing bodies of sport like USADA, WADA or the NCAA.

Three other things…

The hemp used to make this CBD oil is extracted from a special variety of sustainably raised, organic hemp that is specifically bred to contain naturally high concentrations of CBD, while still containing all of the natural cannabinoids, terpenoids, and other compounds of the original plant. The resulting oil then is strictly tested for cleanliness, and has zero pesticides or heavy metals.

The starch “filler” is from non-GMO brown rice grown in the fields in India, which is also where the organic turmeric comes from. The hypromellose vegan capsules contain no soy, no nuts, no sugar, no yeast, no gluten, no dairy, no chemicals, no artificial flavors, no artificial coloring, and are lab tested to be free from toxins and other solvents.

And just to enhance the peaceful, calm, focus that NatureCBD gives you, I’ve also added to this unique custom formulation two big de-stressing and focus enhancing agents…

1. Ashwagandha

This is an exotic Indian herb with remarkable stress-relieving properties comparable to those of powerful drugs used to treat depression and anxiety. 

Scientific studies support ashwagandha’s ability not only to relieve stress, but also to protect brain cells against the deleterious effects of our modern lifestyles. For example, in validated models of anxiety and depression, ashwagandha has been demonstrated to be as effective as some tranquilizers and antidepressant drugs. Specifically, oral administration of ashwagandha for five days showed anxiety-relieving effects similar to those achieved by the anti-anxiety drug lorazepam (Ativan®), and antidepressant effects similar to those of the prescription antidepressant drug imipramine (Tofranil®).

Stress can cause increased peroxidation of lipids, while decreasing levels of the antioxidant enzymes catalase and glutathione peroxidase. When ashwagandha extract was administered by researchers one hour before a daily stress-inducing procedure, all of the these parameters of free radical damage normalized in a dose-dependent manner.

Premature aging associated with chronic nervous tension is also related to increased oxidative stress, For example, in a remarkable animal study, examination of the brains of sacrificed animals showed that 85% of the brain cells observed in the animals exposed to chronic stress showed signs of degeneration. It is this type of cellular degeneration that can lead to long-term cognitive difficulties. Amazingly, when ashwagandha was administered to chronically stressed animals, the number of degenerating brain cells was reduced by 80%.

In one of the most complete human clinical trials to date, researchers studied the effects of a standardized extract of ashwagandha on the negative effects of stress, including elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The results were impressive, with participants showing increased energy, reduced fatigue, better sleep, and an enhanced sense of well-being…

…along with a reduction of cortisol levels up to 26%!

Using a validated model of damaged nerve cells and impaired nerve-signaling pathways, researchers have that demonstrated that ashwagandha supports significant regeneration of the axons and dendrites of nerve cells along with the reconstruction of synapses, the junctions where nerve cells communicate with other cells. This means ashwagandha extract helps to reconstruct entire networks of your nervous system, and has huge implications for any athlete using CBD to manage head injuries or chronic pain.

Researchers have also found that ashwagandha helps support the growth of nerve cell dendrites, which allow these cells to receive communications from other cells, and that ashwagandha helps promote the growth of both normal and damaged nerve cells, suggesting that the herb may boost healthy brain cell function as well as benefit diseased nerve cells. So we’re talking a “nootropic” smart drug type effect. 

Most ashwaganda supplements have failed review by ConsumerLabs, so I opted for a 100% water-soluble bioavailable formulation of ashwaganda, using the same nanoengineering technique as the CBD… 

2. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm, AKA “Melissa Officinalis” was dedicated to the goddess Diana, and used medicinally by the Greeks some 2,000 years ago. In the Middle Ages, lemon balm was used to soothe tension, to dress wounds, and as a cure for toothache, skin eruptions, mad dog bites, crooked necks, and sickness during pregnancy, and as a medicinal plant, lemon balm has traditionally been employed against bronchial inflammation, earache, fever, flatulence, headaches, high blood pressure, influenza, mood disorders, palpitations, toothache and vomiting.

Because it provides the body with a calming effect, lemon balm is also used for nervous agitation, sleeping problems, functional gastrointestinal complaints, menstrual cramps and urinary spasms. It is thought that the volatile oils in lemon balm contain chemicals that relax muscles, particularly in the bladder, stomach, and uterus, thereby relieving cramps, gas, and nausea. Because of its calming effect without the potential to create the side effects of a sedative, lemon balm is also widely used to treat stress, anxiety and insomnia. This ability, along with lemon balm’s antiviral and anti-autoimmune characteristics have also made it useful for the treatment of thyroid issues chronic fatigue syndrome.

Recently, lemon balm produced an unexpected result: it greatly increased the ability to concentrate and perform word and picture tasks. In a study at Northumbria University in England, students were tested for weeks while using either lemon balm or a placebo. The students did significantly better on the tests after taking lemon balm and continued to post improved scores for up to six hours after taking the herb. The students taking lemon balm were noted to be calmer and less stressed during the tests.

Similar to the ashwaganda, the NatureCBD only contains lemon balm that is 100% bioavailable. Nanoengineered? Yeah, you guessed it.

So the total ingredients of NatureCBD are…

Hybrid-nanoengineered CBD – 10 mg
Curcumin 100 mg
Magnesium 100 mg
Lemon Balm 90 mg
Ashwagandha 100 mg

Pretty cool little formulation, huh?

To go along with with all my other hippie sounding stuff at Greenfield Fitness Systems, like NatureFlex, NatureColostrum and NatureCleanse, the name of this nanoengineered, turmeric blended, ashwaganda, lemon-balm blend is “NatureCBD“. Here’s a comparison of NatureCBD to other CBD products:


NatureCBD also comes with a “feel the difference” money-back guarantee.

That means I’m so confident this is going to be a game-changer for you if you’re stressed, anxious, have difficulty sleeping, need to lower inflammation, control appetite or get any of the other benefits of smoking weed without actually smoking weed, that NatureCBD has an unconditional 30-day money-back guarantee.

I get it.

Many people are (and should be!) skeptical when they hear what a new product might do for them, especially when it’s a politically charged, controversial plant extract like CBD. So with this guarantee, you have the opportunity to experience the same peace, calm, focus, relaxation and sleep benefits I’ve already enjoyed, with no worries.

If you don’t feel a difference after 30 days or you’re not happy with your results, simply notify me up to two full months after your purchase and I’ll make arrangements for you to receive a 100% refund (less shipping, if applicable). No questions asked. No annoying hoops to jump through.

Oh yeah, one other thing…

….I’m giving you a 10% discount on any NatureCBD autoship. You just sign up to get it automatically delivered to you, and you get killer savings. It’s that easy. You can click here to now to instantly save 10% on any autoship order of NatureCBD.

Do you have more questions, comments or feedback about how to use CBD oil? About the NatureCBD formulation? Do you have other questions about THC, cannabis or marijuana? Leave your thoughts below and I promise to get you an answer!

How To Get All The Health Benefits Of Weed Without Actually Using Weed.


A few months ago, I had a party at my house, and one of the guys in attendance – my friend James Sol Radina – handed me two capsules of something called “CBD”, also known as cannabidiol. This was actually right before we left to go play a giant game of laser tag in America’s largest laser tag arena, in which he and I came in first and second place. 

But this podcast, in which I interview James, along with his Indian scientists sidekick Dr. Mewa about what CBD really is, isn’t really about how to get drugs at parties that help you win at laser tag.

Instead, it’s all about the science and the practical ways to use CBD, which is the completely legal extract of the cannabis plant that many, many people are now turning to for everything from enhanced focus, to decreased stress, to lower inflammation.

So what is CBD exactly?

CBD is an abbreviation for cannabidiol, a prominent naturally-occurring cannabinoid component found in cannabis that comprises up to 40% of the plant. After THC (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol) – which is the psychoactive component of cannabis most often associated with marijuana – CBD is by far the most studied natural cannabinoid, especially when it comes to medical benefits and addressing issues such as insomnia and anxiety. According to many researchers, CBD may be the single most important cannabinoid ever discovered.

Despite popular perceptions of marijuana, cannabidiol is a cannabinoid devoid of any type of strange psychoactive effect (although it can help with cognitive performance, memory, focus, etc.). In other words, unlike THC, CBD won’t get you “high”, CBD can actually help to counteract some of the psychoactive effects of THC (taking any paranoia edge off of marijuana) and it’s 100% legal everywhere in the world, which means you can order it online, you can carry it on airplanes, and you can use it anywhere you’d like.

In today’s episode, James, Dr. Mewa and I discuss:

-The difference between THC and CBD…

-Why you would want to use CBD by itself, without any THC…

-How you can use CBD to “take the edge” off THC…

-Whether CBD is addictive, unsafe or illegal…

-The role that CBD plays in both acute and chronic inflammation…

-How you can use CBD to decrease anxiety and stress and to improve sleep…

-Why most CBD oil and CBD capsules are not actually absorbed…

-How Dr. Mewa uses “hybrid nanotechnology” to make molecules more absorbable…


Resources from this episode:

The Effects Of Weed On Exercise article

The Science Of Weed documentary





About the guests:

James Sol Radina, CEO & Chief Visionary Officer

As Chief Visionary Officer, James is the driving force behind Bio Hemp CBD’s socially responsible model of donating CBD products to those who cannot afford them, and he is the inspirational force behind the company’s beliefs and marketing strategy. After partnering with Dr. Mewa Singh, co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Bio Hemp CBD, James has built the best team in the industry. James is passionate about improving the human experience and has been a long time contributor to a number of charitable organizations. James co-founded S.P.I.N. (Spreading Philanthropy Into Networking), and then went on to co-found another endeavor, SEVEN, which focused on bringing together leaders in the Greater San Diego Area focused on personal development and philanthropy. James acted as Marketing Director and an Advisor on the Strategic Partnerships Committee for the Jeans 4 Justice Charity, a nonprofit that provides education to raise awareness for the prevention of sexual assault.

Dr. Mewa Singh, Co-Founder & Chief Scientific Officer

As Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Singh is responsible for leading all research, product development, and product testing. Perhaps most importantly, Dr. Singh is the inventor of Hybrid-Nanoengineering™, the technology and process behind nano-ized CBD* and Ayurvedic herbs. The discovery of Hybrid-Nanoengineering™ is possibly the single biggest advancement in nutraceuticals. An expert in the biotechnology and product development, Dr. Singh has spent almost 30 years successfully developing and launching products for diagnostics, vaccines, nutraceuticals and nanomedicines. He has previously served as Director of Research & Development, Chief Scientific Officer, Chief of Operations and Chief Executive Officer for companies such as Chembio Diagnostics, Medical Services International, J N International and Meda Biotech, LLC. Dr. Singh holds a Master’s of Science in Biochemistry, a Master’s of Philosophy in Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology, and a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology. Dr. Singh has worked to develop over 145 different nanomedicines for use as pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals and agrochemicals.

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about CBD or cannabidiol? Leave your thoughts below and either James, Dr. Mewa or myself will reply. You can click here to get NatureCBD.



How To Get The Most Bang For Your Buck From Recovery, Supplements, Nutrition, Mental Training & Race Prep.


On any given morning, after I’ve finished my quintessential morning routine, I preview a good 40-50 health, fitness and nutrition articles and studies (I like to use a service called “Feedly” for this), and read the nitty-gritty details on at least 10 of them.

One of the authors and blogs I follow is Alex Hutchinson at I’ll admit that Alex and I have never met, but I like his level-headed approach to fitness and our mutual background in the geeky realm of endurance performance.

So when I saw that Alex had written an article entitled “Advice To A Young Athlete”, I gave it a thorough read. In the article, Alex delves into supplements, recovery, nutrition, mental training, and race prep for a young elite cyclist who had written to him asking for performance advice. And while you may not be young, elite or a cyclist, there are still some very helpful gems in the article. In this article, I’ve give you my thoughts and commentary on a few such gems.



When it comes to supplements, Alex highlights the proven performance enhancing effects of caffeine, the lactic acid buffering and muscle-burn reducing effect of baking soda (or beta-alanine) and the endurance enhancing effects of beet juice.

I agree with Alex about the effects of each of these supplements, but with a few caveats.

For example, when it comes to caffeine, many athletes who are overtrained tend to use coffee and energy drinks to mask fatigue, and often dig themselves into an adrenal fatigue, injury or illness hole that can be very difficult to climb out of. So I recommend that when using caffeine for it’s performance enhancing effects, you use the minimum recommended dosage, which is close to 3mg/kg (for an 80kg person, that’s 240mg of caffeine, or about 2 pretty big cups of coffee). Even 3mg/kg can be a hefty dose of caffeine, so this wouldn’t be prudent to use before a daily workout, but only in times when you need significant performance enhancing effects, such as a high priority race like a marathon or triathlon.

I also recommend “deloading” from caffeine every few weeks to ensure you don’t build tolerance to caffeine and so that you don’t build so many receptors (called “adenosine receptors”) for caffeine to bind to that you wind up disrupting  your sleep. This can be accomplished by switching every four weeks from caffeinated coffee to a good, tasty decaffeinated coffee (I use organic Swiss water process decaf) for one week.

One of the most proven performance enhancing supplements on the face of the planet is creatine, and I personally use 5g of this creatine per day. Creatine was left out of Alex’s article, but in fairness, his article was targeted to an endurance athlete who will probably benefit less from creatine compared to a strength or power athlete. Nonetheless, creatine has been shown to have performance enhancing effects for endurance, and also has a cognitive boosting effect.

Finally, we live in an era in which an athlete can affordably undergo blood, saliva and stool testing to identify specific hormone, neurotransmitter, micronutrient, bacterial and enzyme excess or deficiencies. Because of this, it is possible to create a customized exercise supplementation protocol based on your specific needs. For example, common deficiencies among athletes include red blood cell magnesium, Vitamin D, ferritin, thyroid hormone and testosterone. Once you identify deficiences like this, you can then use supplementation (along with lifestyle, exercise and diet modifications) to fill in the gaps – vs. a “shotgun” approach of using  something just because a competitor or someone else on your team or in your gym is using it.

Of course, speaking of filling in the gaps, here’s what I think is the most important consideration for supplements: I was recently speaking on a “supplement panel” at PaleoFX, and highlighted the fact that you can’t out-supplement poor lifestyle, exercise and diet choices, and that for everything from muscle gain to performance to fat loss, supplementation might give you the extra edge of 1% to a maximum of perhaps 10% (that’s why it’s called a “supplement”, not a “staple”). Just remember that before you decide to cut your workout short so that you can have time to go prepare your giant creatine, beta-alanine, perfectly formulated maltodextrin and whey protein infused smoothie.



For recovery, Alex highlights the importance on not spending too much time on recovery methods such as ice baths, since you don’t want to attenuate the body’s adaptations to training. This is probably prudent if you’re the type of exerciser who is observed in studies that show things like ice baths don’t work: an exerciser who exercising 20-60 minutes 5-7 days per week and is not necessarily doing a Crossfit WOD every day, throwing down 2-3 hour runs on the weekends and working out 60-90 minutes on multiple days per week. It’s probably also worth mentioning that there are “biohacks” such as compression gear that can making ice baths more effective.

However, many of the exercise enthusiasts I know definitely fall into the camp of folks who probably need more recovery, not less, and who are probably building up such a high amount of free radical and oxidation damage to the body from exercise that they need higher doses of recovery than what might be recommended to the average lab rat or person doing “minimal” exercise doses in a study.

Anyways, in his article Alex highlights the potential recovery enhancing benefits of ice baths, compression socks, massage, and sleep. But I’d throw in a few others that I’ve found to be practically effective, including:

1. Hot-Cold Contrast

This can include sitting in a warm sauna for 20-45 minutes on a recovery day, then finishing up with a cold shower, or alternating an ice bath dip followed by a hot tub soak or dry sauna several times through, or even simply switching the shower from warm water to cold water for a few cycles. Just before writing this article, I did 5 minute hot tub soaking and breath-hold practice to 5 minutes cold pool kettlebell swings. So obviously, the sky’s the limit for your creativity on this one.

2. Electrostimulation

Using an electrostimulation (EMS) unit to drive blood flow and to contract muscles when you’re unable to move (such as a long airplane or car ride) or when a joint is injured. EMS units are now relatively affordable, and don’t necessarily require you to visit a physical therapist’s office and shell out a co-pay every time you want access to recovery technology. I discuss EMS’s efficacy in more detail in this podcast.

3. Inversion

Just like compression, inversion can help move blood out of areas of the body where blood has pooled or where inflammatory fluids from metabolism and exercise have accumulated. From yoga inversion poses to inversion tables to hanging from ropes or pull-up bars, getting your recovering appendages higher than your heart can be easy and effective, and has the added advantage of “traction” – the pulling-apart of joints that can increase synovial fluid and lubrication moving in and out of joints such as knees, hips and shoulders.

That recovery list is my no means exhaustive, but includes just a few of my favorites. You can read more about my thoughts on a variety of recovery tools in my article “26 Ways To Recover With Lightning Speed“.



When it comes to nutrition, the first piece of advice given by Alex is to increase whatever amount of vegetable and fruit you’re currently eating, with as much quantity and variety as possible. While I’m certainly fan of eating plants, I do have an issue with the “lumping” of fruits and vegetables into the same category.

In fact, fruits and vegetables are two entirely different food groups. Fruit is “nature’s dessert”, and while a great source of nutrients and fiber, is also relatively high in fructose sugar and calories compared to vegetables. For example, I personally eat what probably comes close to 20-25 servings of vegetables each day (yes, each day!), but only about one serving of fruit, max.

In addition, a diet of around 50 percent carbohydrate, 20 percent fat and 30 percent protein is recommended in the article. While this is indeed a macronutrient ratio that falls in line with conventional sports nutrition guidelines, it’s important to realize that conventional sports nutrition guidelines don’t necessarily take into account the fact that athletes and individuals who have been eating a slightly higher amount of healthy fats and lower amount of carbohydrates may actually have developed glycogen (storage carbohydrate) conservation and fat burning mechanisms that allow for lower carbohydrate intake, a concept which I delve into in great detail in my article about a high-fat diet and exercise study called “FASTER”, which I personally participated in.

Alex also recommends an advanced nutritional technique called “train low”, in which overall carb intake remains high, but certain workouts are performed with low carbohydrate stores, either by training before breakfast or by depleting carb stores with periods of low carb intake. This is actually a nutrition technique that I endorse and that I actually use nearly every day, and it’s very easy to implement: I simply save all my day’s carbohydrate intake for the very end of the day.

Up until that point eat almost zero carbohydrate, and instead opt for a high amount of healthy fat and a moderate amount of protein. Then, within 2-3 hours after my afternoon workout, I eat anywhere from 100-200g of carbohydrates from sources such as red wine, dark chocolate, sweet potato, yam, rice, etc. This is actually a technique known as carb backloading,  popularized by my friend John Kiefer, and you can read more about this approach here.

Finally, Alex cites some evidence that dehydration is a trigger that induces increases in plasma volume, which in turn boosts endurance performance, and that you may be able to take advantage of this by doing some of your training sessions in a slightly dehydrated state. While this may be a useful “biohack”, I’ve personally found that when doing a workout with a dry mouth or when feeling dehydrated, I’ve definitely experienced a dip in motivation and ability to reach a high rating of exertion, so this would be a strategy I’d reserve primarily for easier aerobic workouts, and not tough training sessions, since I suspect the cons outweigh the pros.


Mental Training

Alex give two pieces of advice in his section on mental training – 1) see a sports psychologist and 2) avoid mental fatigue before competitions. If you’re a serious competitor or athlete with a paycheck on the line, I’d definitely agree with the former.

When it comes to the latter, it is certainly true that replying to a boatload of emails or engaging in highly cognitively demanding work can detract from subsequent physical performance – but this is mostly something to worry about prior to a key “big” workout or race, and not necessarily an issue before a typical day at the gym.

There are a few other tricks you may want to bear in mind when it comes to mental training and motivation – specifically 1) affirmation; 2) visualization; and 3) box breathing.

1. Affirmation.

What you dwell on each morning helps to shape you as a person and drives your personality, motivation level and priorities the rest of day. You can use this to your advantage by forming your own daily mantra, which can chance from day to day, or be the same all year long. For example, one of my daily affirmations of late (which I actually write down using a handy tool called a “5 Minute Journal”) is…

…“Every little win counts.

This reminds me that no matter how stressed I am or how much there is to do, that every little thing I do counts just a little bit towards my productivity or towards making me better – including replying to just one email, writing just one page of a book, or squeezing in just 5 minutes of a workout.

To understand the power of having some kind of daily purpose or affirmation like this, just look at this statement from Buster Douglas, who upset fighter Mike Tyson back when Tyson was a feared world champion:

“My sole purpose in life these last six months was to beat Tyson. That’s all I thought about. He was the first thing on my mind when I would wake up in the morning and the last thing on my mind when I went to bed. When I’d fall asleep, I would dream about beating him. If there was anything else going on in the world the last six months I didn’t know about it, because my mind had just one thing on it… beating Tyson.”

That’s powerful stuff.

So just stop for a moment and ask yourself: what is your personal “Tyson”? Is it those extra 20 pounds? That triathlon you signed up for? Your blood pressure? Begin to dwell on it and use affirmations in the process, such as “Every day, I’m getting just a little lighter…” or “I love to swim, to bike and to run….” or, “I am calm in the face of stress…”

2. Visualization.

When she was 16 years old, gymnast Mary Lou Retton won the gold medal in the 1984 Olympics. But just six weeks before, she had suffered a major knee injury that required surgery. The surgery was minimally invasive, and allowed her to walk immediately and begin training again a week later, and by the time she was to go off to the Olympics, Mary had fully recovered, was stronger than ever, and attributed much of her success to her ability to visualize her gold medal

“In the weeks before the Olympics, Mary Lou often lay in her bed with her eyes closed and let her imagination romp. She would visualize herself on each piece of equipment, performing her best routines and hitting every move perfectly…Retton even went as far as to imagine receiving the gold medal, while hearing the “Star Spangle Banner” booming in the background. Her creative visualization would prove to be prophetic.”

Michael Phelps is another perfect example of visualization.

“…each night before falling asleep and each morning after waking up, Phelps would imagine himself jumping off the blocks and, in slow motion, swimming flawlessly. He would imagine the wake behind his body, the water dripping off his lips as his mouth cleared the surface, what it would feel like to rip off his cap at the end. He would lie in bed with his eyes shut and watch the entire competition, the smallest details, again and again, until he knew each second by heart. During practices, when Bowman ordered Phelps to swim at race speed, he would shout, “Put in the videotape!” and Phelps would push himself, as hard as he could. He had done this so many times in his head that, by now, it felt rote. But it worked. He got faster and faster…”

How about you? Can you see yourself at the gym conquering that weight you’ve always struggled underneath during a barbell squat? Can you see yourself hitting the perfect tennis serve during a clutch point in the match, or running on the trail and feeling as though you’re flying through the air with feet as light as a feather? Can you see each individual drop of sweat coming off your nose? If so, then you’ve tapped into the power of visualization.

3. Box Breathing.

Box breathing, which I first mentioned in my series on SEALFit training, something I sit down and do for 3-5 minutes before intimidating workouts that I know are going to crush me, before stressful tennis matches, and even with my 7 year old twin boys when they’re nervous about something like a soccer game or they simply need a few minutes to calm down.

The breathing pattern is simply a “box” of four different section of a breath. You inhale to a count of 2 (or all the way up to 8 for a more advanced method), hold for a count of 2-8, exhale to the same count and hold again for the same count.  You can start at 2 if you find 4, 6 or 8 to be difficult, or you can take it up a notch if 2 is too easy.  How do you know how long to make each section of the box? You should be uncomfortable on the exhale hold, and be forced to fill the entirely of your lung capacity on the inhale hold.

The benefits of box breathing include reduction of performance anxiety, control of the arousal response, increased brain elasticity (through enhanced blood flow and reduced stressful mental stimulation), enhanced learning and skill development, and increased capacity for focused attention and long term concentration. That’s worth a try, huh?

There are even a variety of apps that you can use to help guide you through box breathing, including the Pranayama app (this is the one I personally use) and the Box Breathing app (that’s about as generic a name as it gets).

Want even more powerful “jedi mind-tricks” you can use for workouts, races or life in general? Some of my favorite resources include the books Psychocybernetics by Dr. Maxwell Maltz, Psych by Dr. Judd Biasiatoo, and Unbeatable Mind by Navy SEAL Commander Mark Divine.


Race Prep

Alex gives a wealth of advice in the section on race prep – and whether you’re prepping for a 5K or an Ironman triathlon, these are tips that really do work, including a taper, warm-up and heat training:

1. Taper.

The article recommends to gradually drop your exercise volume starting two weeks before your big event, with about 50 percent of normal volume in the last week, while maintaining intensity. I certainly agree with this concept, but with the caveat that I’ll often taper for just 4-5 days before many races, and only do an elongated multi-week taper before a very important event, like world championships. This is because multiple multi-week tapers spread out the year before multiple events can significantly detract from your fitness (this is why making every race a “high-priority” race that you perfectly taper for isn’t a great idea).

2. Warm-Up.

A hard effort prior to a short, intense race or competition increase your VO2 max during the event, and Alex recommends, for example, a moderately hard six-minute effort finishing 10 minutes before starting a cycling race, or two 60-second efforts a little quicker than tempo pace prior to starting a running race. I’m completely on board with this recommendation, and would also emphasize that for a warm-up, I’ve also found a great deal of benefit from both visualization and Wim Hof-style yperoxygenation “fire-breathing”.

3. Heat Training.

Alex recommends heat acclimation training (such as dry sauna) to boost performance, even in cool conditions. This can certainly be a good way to increase heat tolerance and also blood plasma volume, and I get into the science of heat acclimation in my interview with Dr. Rhonda Patrick. But in addition to heat training, I’d also emphasize the importance of cold training and cold thermogenesis for increasing cardiovascular efficiency and stress resilience, and for any given week, I typically do at least a couple 10-30 minute cold water immersion sessions and 30-45 minute dry sauna sessions (the latter of which, incidentally, is most effective post-workout to boost EPO levels).



While there are plenty  more performance enhancing tips and tricks I could delve into, the takeaway message is this: by including just a few of the simple pieces of advice you’ve discovered in this article, you can experience a bigger boost in performance than you’d get by just “training hard”. And a big thanks to Alex Hutchinson and Runner’s World for the original article that inspired me to write this.

If you have questions, comments or feedback, simply leave your thoughts below.

How to Biohack Your Pasta.


It’s no secret that most pasta slowly destroys your gut, your brain and your body.

I dive deep into the nitty-gritty of why pasta is such bad news in this podcast interview with Dr. William Davis, who also wrote a very good book that addresses this topic in detail (“Wheat Belly“), which along with David Perlmutter’s “Grain Brain” is a must-read if you’re still struggling to control your cravings when you saunter past an Italian restaurant or find yourself dreaming of spaghetti with marinara, but need just a bit more biological convincing.

But perhaps you’ve already “biohacked your pasta” and switched to zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash, two ever-popular non-grain alternatives to modern, commercial wheat and gluten-laden pasta, and you’re simply looking for a new way to experience pastas and stir-fries.

There is indeed another way that ancient, traditional societies biohacked their noodles – or at least, figured out a way to have tasty soups and noodle dishes without relying upon grains, soy or other allergenic triggers. For example, in Japan (one of my favorite countries, and a place I’ve visited many times to race triathlons) the indigenous population for centuries have used noodles made of shirataki and kanten. You’re about to discover exactly what these these noodle alternative are, and how you can use them to biohack your pasta.


The first style of noodles in Japan is known as shirataki, and for centuries, Japanese monks have subsisted on these ultra low-calorie, low-carb noodles that are made out of vegetable fiber from a plant that’s very similar to a wild yam. The second style of noodles is a particular favorite of mine and one that I’ve been putting on my lunchtime salads every day. It’s called kanten, and is derived from a type of seaweed vegetable known as tengusa.

You’re probably familiar with the Okinawa region of Japan, made famous for (besides a U.S. Marines base) its extraordinarily high number of centenarians, people who live healthy, robust lives to 100 and beyond. Areas such as this are commonly called “blue zones”, and there’s actually a new book that is on my reading list called “Blue Zone Solutions” that delves into this topic.

Interestingly, researchers who have studied these Japanese centenarians believe that the health of these elderly Okinawan people partially stems from their inclusion of sea vegetables such as kanten in their diet. But when it comes to kanten noodles, you actually wouldn’t believe the complex process that it takes to transform agar-agar, the gelatin-like substance of the tengusa seaweed into a functional noodle that takes only 30 seconds of stirring in hot water to prepare for soups, stir-fries and pastas.

In order to get the texture of noodles from the agar, the seaweed needs to be put on the side of the mountain in the winter, where it freezes during the night and thaws during the day in the sunshine. Through careful maintenance by an artisan who constantly monitors meteorological conditions, especially temperature, a kanten product can be created that actually has noodle-like consistency (as opposed to being nasty, seaweed mush). This entire, painstaking process takes 3-4 weeks for just one batch, but kanten has been prepared in this traditional way for several generations.

Below is a photograph of my friend Dr. Jonathan Carp, an MD who has visited Japan dozens of times to study the Okinawans and their special pasta-producing techniques. He is actually standing with one of these amazing artisans who lives at high altitudes in the mountains of Japan and works as part of a small, family-run kanten noodle production facility.


Jonathan recently sent me a few sample packs of these kanten noodles (he calls them “Miracle Noodles”) straight from his source in Japan, along with links to several medical studies that have proven agar-agar’s value as a health food. For example, one study published in Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism concluded that the agar diet resulted in marked weight loss due to the maintenance of reduced calorie intake and to an improvement in metabolic parameters. This is probably because the stuff has zero calories. Yes, zero.

In another study, cholesterol levels, insulin resistance and fasting blood glucose levels were significantly improved with regular consumption of agar (the terms ‘agar-agar’, ‘kanten,’ and ‘agar’ are synonymous). The 6 grams of fiber in one serving of kanten helps with meal satiety, and as agar-agar fills your gastrointestinal tract, it actually makes you stop eating earlier than usual. I’ve found that both my lunchtime salads as well as any stir fries or pastas I’ve made with the kanten noodles that Jonathan sent me (worry not, recipes are coming below!) have been incredibly filling, and kept me from craving carbohydrates or foods like red wine or dark chocolate after I’ve finished eating.

Finally in Japan, agar is also used as a gelatin substitute to help ease upset stomachs, in the same way that we would use bone broth here in the United States. To get these same stomach-soothing benefits, I’ve actually been not only eating the kanten noodles, but also drinking the water that I use to do the quick 30 second soak of the noodles.

OK, at this point, you’re probably ready to try these yourself in some recipes, and although kanten noodles can be used a substitute for any spaghetti or noodle based dish, I’m going to dive into two of my favorite recipes for you.

As you read these two recipes – one more complex, and one a bit easier – please remember that you should not add boiling water to the kanten noodles. They will become a gooey mess if you do. Instead, just add the kanten noodles to warm/hot water (about the temperature of tea that you could sip) and stir for 30 seconds until noodles are soft. You should also know that my twin 7 year old boys have gone absolutely nuts over the noodles, not only because they’re easy for the kids to help prepare, but also because they’re fun to twirl around a fork or eat with chopsticks.

If you click here to go the Miracle Noodle website, and choose kanten noodles, you’ll automatically get a 15% discount. You can also experiment with the shirataki noodles from that same website, but I have yet to use those myself, so can’t really comment on the taste or texture of the shirataki…yet.


Miracle Noodle Crock Pot Chicken Stew

Crock Pot Chicken Stew

This is a more complex recipe, but is perfect for “batching” meals, entertaining a large group, or cooking for a family.


  • 2 tbsp avocado oil
  • 8 boneless chicken thighs
  • 2 cups cauliflower, chopped, steamed, and drained
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 yellow onion sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 2 cups baby kale, chopped
  • 1 4 oz. can diced green chilies
  • 2 bags kanten pasta


  1. Place sliced onions, garlic, and chicken broth into a crock pot. Set it to low or to desired cook time.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet until shimmery. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Add chicken thighs to skillet in batches of 4 and brown on both sides. (Can skip this step if short on time).
  3. Place chicken thighs in crock pot.
  4. Add remaining oil into skillet. Quickly saute and brown the cauliflower. Add to crock pot with skillet bits and the oil. Add cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper. Stir gently to coat chicken and vegetables.
  5. Allow to simmer for a few hours.
  6. An hour before serving, add cilantro, spinach, kale, and green chilies to crock pot. Stir gently.
  7. 10 minutes before serving, add kanten pasta. Stir.


Big-Ass Kanten Noodle Salad (the easier recipe)

Every day for lunch I have what I call a “big-ass salad”. The ingredients often vary, but I’ll include one of my favorite examples below. Prior to discovering the kanten noodles, I used to simply wrap my salad in seaweed nori wraps and eat my salad like a burrito, but now I put noodles on top of my salad, and eat my salad through the noodles, so it’s a bit like eating a fresh vegetable stir-fry. This sounds weird, but it actually turns out quite well for helping my lunchtime salads to leave me incredibly full, for hours and hours.

The salad tends to vary quite a bit from day to day, but here’s the specs on one that I recently posted to my Instagram account.


  • Spinach
  • Parsely
  • Tomato
  • Celery
  • Purple Heirloom Carrot
  • Garlic Stuffed Olive
  • Hemp Seeds
  • Pecorino Cheese
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Tahini Sesame Paste
  • Homemade Sourdough Croutons
  • Avocado
  • Sea Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Turmeric


Easy. Pile everything into a bowl, top with the kanten noodles (see noodle prep instructions in other recipe above), top off noodles with a little extra oil, salt and pepper if you’d like, then munch away – and never crave spaghetti or pasta again.


So what do you think? Do you plan on trying kanten pasta yourself? Do you have your own recipes to add? Leave your comments below, and either myself or Dr. Jonathan Carp will reply. Finally if you click here to go the Miracle Noodle website, choose kanten noodles, and enter coupon code ben15, you’ll automatically get a 15% discount.