Percentage of Fat in the Diet

Here’s something I’ve been mentioning in my talks lately. A 2000 study measured the percentage of calories as fat in the diet as well as cholesterol levels in a subset of EPIC-Oxford vegan and non-vegan men. Here is what they found:

Meat Eaters Vegans
% fat 34 30
blood cholesterol (mg/dl) 191 158
% saturated fat 12% 5%
calories 2,461 1,931
fiber (g) 18 28
cholesterol (mg) 327 21*
total fat (g) 93 64
*Cholesterol intake by vegans likely due to using foods that contained small amounts of animal products in calculating the nutrient composition of foods. In other words, using bread made with animal products versus vegan bread in the nutrient calculations. Also possible that some vegan participants were not 100% vegan.

Vegans ate 30% of their calories as fat compared to 34% for meat-eaters. Not a huge difference and many people would be horrified at such a high fat intake on behalf of the vegans. Yet, their cholesterol levels were well below what is commonly considered the danger zone.

What accounts for this? The vegans’ much lower intake of saturated fat probably explains a lot. But the vegans’ 20% fewer calories also probably accounts for much of their lower cholesterol levels. Addendum 1/27/12: Additionally, higher fiber intake and zero or near-zero cholesterol intake all likely contribute to the vegans’ lower cholesterol levels. Clarification 1/30/12: People who exercise a lot can eat more calories without cholesterol levels increasing as long as they are not eating so much that they gain body fat (thanks, Ginny).

Some people might point out that ideal cholesterol levels are actually less than 150 mg/dl, so 158 mg/dl is too high. While many clinical trials in people with heart disease (and normally on cholesterol-lowering medication) show a benefit to getting levels below 150 mg/dl, I have not seen evidence that this is ideal, or even desirable in people without diagnosed heart disease or normally high cholesterol. Instead, the observational studies I’ve seen measuring cholesterol levels and mortality have not shown a benefit from cholesterol levels less than 160 mg/dl.

I would not completely rule out the idea that studies have not shown reduced mortality in people with cholesterol levels less than 160 mg/dl because they have not included enough people with cholesterol levels that low and who do not have such low levels due to undiagnosed disease. But “not completely ruling out something” is a far cry from saying there is good evidence that it is true.

The reason I think this is particularly important is anecdotal evidence that people on long-term, low-fat diets can find them hard to stick with. I know there are some exceptions – people who find them easy to stick with, but I sense that there are more who find it difficult. When people crave meat, they tend to think they are craving the protein. But meat is also about 50% fat on average and it would not surprise me if such people are often craving fat as much or more than protein. Eating a diet closer to 30% fat might prevent such cravings.

Yes, lots of qualifiers above that I’m not 100% certain of everything I’m saying. But I think there is enough evidence that I should share it with readers rather than just keeping it to myself until “further studies” are done.

Reference

Allen NE, Appleby PN, Davey GK, Key TJ. Hormones and diet: low insulin-like growth factor-I but normal bioavailable androgens in vegan men. Br J Cancer. 2000 Jul;83(1):95-7. Link

55 Responses to “Percentage of Fat in the Diet”

  1. Mattheworbit Says:

    Thanks Jack, for yet another great article. Fat is an important nutrient!

    I’ve been vegan 4-5 years (I’m 23), and I only recently realised that I’m really not getting enough protein – after actually sitting down and working out what I eat with the protein page on veganhealth.org.

    It explains why I used to be so hungry during the day – for the last few years, I would eat as little as possible (mostly just fruit), so that I got into the routine of it. Even the littlest snacks during the day would make me hungrier and hungrier, and I’d get shaky in the afternoon after exercise. I felt quite “bright” on mostly fruit during the day, however, just a little sketchy.

    Now I’m ensuring that my protein intake is at the level recommended above (or as close as possible) and I’m finding I feel so much better! and I’m not hungry/shaky! And at dinner time, I don’t eat crazy amounts then binge on sweets, repeat, etc. I guess I’ve learned that it’s really important to make sure you’re getting enough protein. When you’re an omni, it seems egg/dairy/meat is in everything, so it’s a lot easier to get. I know a lot of people say we don’t need as much protein as what the recommendations are, but personally, as I said – I feel a lot better for having it. And a snack during the day doesn’t make me crash fiercely in the late afternoon anymore!

  2. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Mattheworbit,

    Very interesting. Thanks a lot for posting it!

  3. Joy Says:

    How is there any cholesterol in the vegan diets? Cholesterol only comes from animal products. True vegans do not consume any animal products, which would mean no cholesterol.

  4. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Joy,

    The cholesterol I’m talking about in the article is blood cholesterol levels, not cholesterol amounts in foods.

  5. Diana Cullum-Dugan Says:

    Jack, nice blog. It’s helpful to have those parameters of cholesterol and % fat and sat fat. I love that a vegan diet isn’t a low-fat diet. Liberal use of healthy fats = a healthy body. And that vegans are healthier largely due to their choice of intake, not because they limit healthy macronutrients. Thanks again for the enlightenment.

  6. Cindy Marsch Says:

    How about the fiber in those diets? That’s an important missing piece of the information!

  7. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Cindy,

    I awoke during the night realizing that I should have mentioned fiber, cholesterol intake, and total fat as also playing a part in lower blood cholesterol levels. I plan to add that to the article. Leaving these facts out doesn’t change my main point that you can have low cholesterol with a 30% fat diet.

  8. Jeannie Says:

    You did a great job addressing some of the rigidity I’ve noticed in the no-fat/low-fat dietary doctrines. Many people find the idea of a vegan diet tough enough; making it low-fat forever would cause many to not even consider the idea.

    Also, thank you for distinguishing evidence from assumptions on the issue of ideal blood cholesterol metrics.

  9. Josh Latham Says:

    Interesting where the recommendation of 30% came from…

    “They specified a 15–30% range in total fat intakes because the Chinese and Japanese, with negligible CHD, diabetes and obesity in the 1970s, were consuming on average 14% fat, but this was totally unrealistic for the US and Northern European populations where intakes were well over 40%. So to choose a 30% figure was radical and a response to the need to reduce saturated fat intakes by simply reducing total fat. ”

    More on that can be found here: http://www.drmcdougall.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=6527&p=45151&hilit=30%25+hardly+realistic+jeff#p45151

  10. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Josh,

    You inspired me to do a search at PubMed for percentage of calories as fat and mortality. I had to laugh when the only study I found showed that a higher percentage of fat was related to lower mortality (not higher):

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3988448

    I have only read the abstract, but plan to get the paper.

    There must be others that have examined the association between % of fat as calories and mortality; I realize some have examined the link with heart disease, but I’m more interested in total mortality.

  11. LaDiva Dietitian Says:

    Jack Darling,

    Thanks so much for posting this. Will tweet and FB. This whole fat thing is why LaDiva uses almost no fat of any kind in cooking. Not only do I want to keep my girlish figure, but my girlish cholesterol level.
    OOXX

  12. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Thanks, LaDiva!

    But I’m a bit confused – the point of the article was that you can eat up to 30% fat and still have low cholesterol levels on a vegan diet (assuming your intake of other things are similar to those in the vegan group described).

  13. Marsha Says:

    Hi Jack,

    Have you seen any credible research on coconut oil? Even though it contains saturated fat, do you think it would greatly impact our cholesterol levels? Coconut oil is all the hype these days and would like some clarification on using this food in my diet.

    Thanks!

  14. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Marsha,

    There is a smattering of research and I can’t say I have reviewed it all with great care. My sense is that coconut is fine, maybe even desirable for cholesterol levels, but the role of coconut oil seems to be more mixed. A small amount probably won’t hurt you, but tablespoons a day might increase your cholesterol levels.

    Here are some studies in case they are of any interest:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12514271
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15649284
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4025191
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15563444
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19437058

  15. Jan C. Steven Says:

    Dear Jack, Thank you for this and all your articles. I know this isn’t about having a little extra body fat – at least not directly. But there is surely something to be said for having a small reserve for times of ill health when one cannot eat or drink. Me, I eat a very healthy vegan diet with a wee bit of oil and am grateful for my “reserve” of a few pounds. Best! Always! / jan

  16. Elaine Vigneault Says:

    Jack, I’m surprised by how often you assume cravings have a biological basis. If people craved foods they needed, then most Americans would crave fruits and vegetables.

    I won’t disagree that some/many people find high fat vegan diets easy to stick with. But to assume that when new (or sometimes old) vegans crave meat has anything to do with nutritional needs ignores tons of research in the areas of psychology and sociology.

    I think your personal experiences having trouble sticking to a low fat diet have clouded your judgment in this area.

  17. Elaine Says:

    I’ve monitored my own cholesterol levels through my lifetime and indeed it’s easy to have low blood cholesterol whilst eating a high fat vegan diet. Like you said, it appears to be strongly correlated to exercise, fiber, and low saturated fat intake. (personally, mine seems to be most strongly correlated to exercise). Mine is always below 150 regardless.

    But I’ve also monitored my waistline and that measurement is not as easy to keep down on a high fat vegan diet.

    It’s worth remembering that most of the proponents of low fat vegan diets are recommending those diets for people who already have heart and other health problems; they are not necessarily recommending those diets for everyone. Their research and focus is on sick people, not well people. They promote a diet that makes those kinds of sick people well.

    Someone who is raised as a vegan or someone who goes vegan in their teens may have different dietary needs than someone who has abused their body for decades by eating a diet high in cholesterol and other saturated fat, high in sugar and sodium, and low in fiber. Doesn’t that seem likely?

  18. Jack Norris RD Says:

    > If people craved foods they needed, then most Americans would crave fruits and vegetables.

    Cravings are more about immediate needs, not long-term health. But, since you mentioned it, I have found that if I go a day or so without eating many fresh fruits or vegetables, I *do* start to crave them. :)

    > I think your personal experiences having trouble sticking to a low fat diet have clouded your judgment in this area.

    I don’t think I’ve tried sticking with a low fat diet separate from a raw foods diet. I had a hard time being a raw foodist, and if memory serves, that diet was probably on the low-fat side, but I think my problems with it stemmed from a lack of protein more than fat.

  19. Jack Norris RD Says:

    > Someone who is raised as a vegan or someone who goes vegan in their teens may have different dietary needs than someone who has abused their body for decades by eating a diet high in cholesterol and other saturated fat, high in sugar and sodium, and low in fiber. Doesn’t that seem likely?

    My sense is that a diet that does not have oils or avocados (or has minimal amounts) probably makes it easier to eat less calories and, thus, could benefit people with metabolic syndrome. I think there is a balance between not eating so much fat that it starts to increase calories beyond needs and so little that you end up craving it and breaking your preferred diet with a big, fatty meal.

  20. Elaine Says:

    “Dieting or restrained eating generally increase the likelihood of food craving while fasting makes craving, like hunger, diminish. Attempted restriction or deprivation of a particular food is associated with an increase in craving for the unavailable food. This relationship suggests a variety of underlying cognitive, conditioning and emotional processes, of which ironic cognitive processes, conditioned cue reactivity and dysphoric mood are prominent. Food cravings may also be self-attributions, accounting for why a highly-palatable but self-restricted food is (over-)consumed. Overall, the popularised account of cravings as elicited by specific nutritional need is having to give way to a more subtle and complex appreciation of human eating behaviour.”

    source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17466108

  21. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Elaine,

    I appreciate what you’re saying and I have a few more thoughts (to the contrary, of course).

    One, I think that occum’s razor dictates that if someone says they went back to eating meat because they were craving it, and upon eating it, their cravings disappeared, we should take them at their word unless there is significant evidence that they are wrong. Clearly, there is something about meat that causes them to think this and assuming it’s just in their head is, in my opinion, a mistake. It’s not like if you asked them to stop eating lamb and only eat pigs and chickens they’d start having terrible cravings for lamb.

    Two, whether or not it’s a “nutritional” craving doesn’t really matter. There is a physical process going on that makes meat (or possibly fat or protein) satisfying, even if they are not suffering from a severe fatty acid or protein deficiency.

    Three, yes, my personal experience with being a raw foodist does make me think that some cravings are less in people’s heads and more a nutritional deficiency. I lost a lot of weight, muscle mass, and strength and I thought about food constantly – high protein foods. I could eat a huge meal of raw foods – 5 bananas, half a dozen dates, plus more fruit. I’d feel terribly full but as soon as it wore off, about 20 minutes later, I’d be back to craving things like refried beans. I can guarantee that if someone told me tomorrow that I could eat all the soy meats I want, but I could never have refried beans again, I would not start craving refried beans like I did back then. I was craving protein – it’s that simple. And if I have plenty of other protein sources, then whether I get it from beans, soy meats, or whatever, it doesn’t really matter.

  22. Elaine Says:

    “It’s not like if you asked them to stop eating lamb and only eat pigs and chickens they’d start having terrible cravings for lamb.”

    Actually, it’s exactly like that. The study I cited explained that. As soon as people exclude a group of food that they enjoy eating, they start craving that food more intensely redardless of actual nutritional needs. That paper gave one example of people who were given nutritionally adequate liquid foods for a period of time who strongly craved solid foods. It was the mouthfeel they wanted, pure and simple. There was NO physical need for the food that they craved. NONE. This type of craving is the most common type of craving. This is well documented.

    Your personal experiences may or may not provide a counterexample to that, but if so your experiences are not representative of the majority. You will grant, at the very least I hope, that you’re in many ways dissimilar to the majority of Americans?

    When people say they “feel better” eating animals than when not eating animals it’s possible that they have a nutritional deficiency, but unlikely. Consider the fact that vegetarians and vegans tend to have fewer nutritional deficiencies than nonvegetarians. Consider that they tend to be healthier overall. And given all the studies done on marketing, psychology, and sociology, the conclusion that so-called “ex-vegetarians” were missing important macronutrients like protein or fat is unlikely. It’s more likely that those people were:
    a) never really vegetarian or vegan in the first place
    b) mistaken about their nutritional needs and simply felt more comfortable eating animals than bucking the system by going veg

    It does not matter one iota that their explanation is simple. In fact, that’s a good reason to question it. Human behavior is incredibly complex and there’s absolutely no good reason to give preference to a simple explanation when there’s lots of evidence that a more complicated explanation is true.

    Now, I could understand a psychological reason to respond to people who say those things as though they “know their bodies” and can detect within themselves nutritional deficiencies by having “healthy” cravings for things they “need.” It can be less offensive to take someone at their word, or simply to let them do all the talking. But that’s a different matter altogether. That’s about persuasion and education rather than about the reality of what’s going on when people crave fatty foods.

  23. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Elaine,

    We’re probably going to have to agree to disagree. I assume you saw Mattheworbit’s comment above (the first one on this blog post)?

    Jack

  24. Marsha Says:

    Hi Jack!

    I just wanted to share my experience with raw foods, as it is similar to yours! I ate a diet comprised of only raw foods for a little over 5 years. During the last year of this “adventure”, I started getting IMMENSE cravings for protein foods. I would wake up at 7am and eat cups of cashews, or wake up in the middle of the night wanting to gulp down gallons of soy milk. My raw food diet was not low-fat a majority of the time, but when I did try to eat mostly fruits, my cravings intensified. I also had major cravings for salt to the point that I would eat small handfuls of it and use un-Godly amounts on all my foods, including fruit!

    I slowly began to incorporate cooked foods back into my diet for various reasons. Currently, I eat a very well-rounded, mostly whole foods, vegan diet with balance of carbs, protein and fat…based on what my body “needs” at any given point. I’ve been eating this way for the past two years and no longer suffer the cravings I did when I was “raw”. However, if I go a day without sufficient protein (on accident, like traveling, or being busy/lazy, or whatever), I surely crave protein the next day and don’t feel satisfied with my meals until I have a healthy portion.

    I don’t know if I was deficient for sure, my inclination is that I was based on the intensity of my cravings. But thinking back to some of my undergraduate work, I remember that hormonal regulation plays a big role in satiety/cravings…especially when it comes to protein. For example, low levels of the hormone Ghrelin is associated with increased protein consumption, therefore promoting more long term satiety. Either way, I believe my cravings were physiological in nature, and I support your stance that cravings can be biological.

    Thanks for all your insight!!

  25. Marcus Says:

    Hi Jack,

    Again, appreciate all you do.

    I recently received this email from a place I sometimes shop at. I don’t really know much about the author, but since you read a lot of studies I was wondering what you thought of this?

    http://www.naturalgrocers.com/print/nutrition/could-it-all-be-big-fat-mistake-real-story-about-saturated-fat?utm_source=Natural%20Grocers%20by%20Vitamin%20Cottage%20List&utm_campaign=cb5d196f8d-Hotline_Weekly_2_5_122_5_2012&utm_medium=email

    Apologies for the link format. I’m specifically wondering about

    “The question is whether saturated fat is harmful or is just a bystander,” Ronald M. Krauss, M.D. says. Krauss directs atherosclerosis research at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, a major medical center. “Saturated fat may have an effect on cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, but the effect is so small that we just can’t detect it. We shouldn’t be demonizing saturated fat,” he adds.

    “More than 20 studies have shown that heart patients don’t eat more saturated fat compared with people who don’t have heart disease,” says Uffe Ravnskov, M.D., Ph.D., of Lund, Sweden. “Eight studies have shown that people with stroke have eaten less saturated fat than healthy people. And no dietary study has succeeded in lowering heart disease deaths by reducing intake of saturated fat,” he adds.

    For several decades, medical and nutritional advice boiled down to this: too much dietary saturated fat leads to higher levels of blood cholesterol and an increase in CVD risk. Many people have believed that a high-protein, low-carb diet was the worst thing a person could eat because it was presumed to contained lots of saturated fat and cholesterol. (Not all animal protein, however, is rich in saturated fat.) But over the past 10 years, numerous studies have given scientific credence to high-protein, low-carb diets – not just for losing weight, but also for improving multiple CVD risk factors.

    “As a predictor of CVD risk, total blood cholesterol has limited value. That’s because half of the people who suffer a heart attack have normal cholesterol levels,” says Ron Hunninghake, M.D., chief medical officer of the nutritionally oriented Riordan Clinic in Wichita, Kansas.

    ***
    Those quotes appear to go against everything I’ve heard, but so does a lot these days.

  26. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Marcus,

    Heart disease and fats is not my area of expertise. For what it’s worth, I was speaking to Dr. Don Hall, DrPH, CHES from Wellsource, Inc. at a conference a few months ago and he seemed to follow the literature carefully and he pointed me towards this study saying it was the most authoritative source on the matter:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20351774

  27. Jessica @Vegbooks Says:

    I love this post because it brings me back to my teen years, when I did a science fair project on vegetarians (ovo-lacto, because alas, there were few vegans then) versus omnivores. I had participants record their diets over time, and I found that the vegetarians met calorie and protein requirements while consuming, on average, less fat than their meat-eating counterparts.

    Incidentally, I also concur on your hunch about why people crave meat. When I became a vegetarian (a couple years before the science fair), I ate french fries when I craved meat and it worked every time!

  28. theveganscientist Says:

    I read this paper several years ago:,

    “Optimal low-density lipoprotein is 50 to 70 mg/dl: Lower is better and physiologically normal”

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0735109704007168

    and found it particularly interesting, because it has several components that seem to all point in the same direction and taken as a whole seems convincing enough to consider “normal is not healthy”

    The Authors do cite cholesterol levels of modern hunters & gatherers and the authors state “They do not get heart disease”

    In another section it shows a linear correlation between LDL levels and the angiographic progression of atherosclerosis and the extrapolation goes to zero around 67mg/dl. Assuming realistic HDL & Triglyceride score of 45 and 100
    This puts a total cholesterol score around 130.

    Admittedly, these patients are on statins and use statins to reduce LDL, the benefit of statins is accepted to be soley from cholesterol lowering effects.

    Interestingly enough, I have 15 years of personal cholesterol data that track changes of my diet from an omnivore to vegetarian to a “junk food” vegan to a primarily whole food vegan. Total went from 160 –> 130–>115 on the respective diets. As a Queso-vegetarian, my cholesterol was between 140-150.

    As a vegan my total cholesterol has been ~115 for several years now and didn’t change much when I from a junk food to whole food diet, but the ratio of LDL/HDL changed drastically. From ~80/35 as a junk food vegan to 63/40 as a whole food vegan. A 3 month 30g day coconut oil experiment changed this ratio to 83/50. My triglycerides are usually in the 40′s, vs 150 as a quesatarian.

  29. theveganscientist Says:

    Btw, the paper I cited above, if correct in it conclusion, solves the quandary of why people with “normal” cholesterol levels still get heart disease.

  30. Jack Norris RD Says:

    > http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0735109704007168

    Citation #4 looks interesting, but it is retrospective. I have not seen a prospective, observational study that found cholesterol levels somewhat higher than 150 mg/dl to be linked to an increase in mortality. Have you seen any? That would probably put average LDL in such studies to be around 90-100 mg/dl (very rough estimate).

  31. grumpy_vegan Says:

    IMO, you overstate the advantages of replacing SFA with PUFA:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20351774

    “Second, even under optimal replacement scenarios of SFA for PUFA, the magnitude of likely benefit warrants attention…Thus, although recommendations to replace SFA with PUFA appear appropriate, the much larger CVD burdens caused by other dietary factors (e.g., low omega-3, low fruits and vegetables, high trans fat, and high salt) [89] appear to warrant much more attention.”

    It also seems to me that your anecdotal claims of adherence difficulty are counterproductive. There is accumulating evidence that a very low fat diet may be healthier (especially in the case of CVD) than a low saturated fat diet that is high in PUFAs.

  32. Jack Norris RD Says:

    > It also seems to me that your anecdotal claims of adherence difficulty are counterproductive.

    I hope not. What I observe is that most of the vegan activists I know do not, by any means, eat only low-fat whole foods diets, and except for vitamin D problems that some of them have had, they have, for the most part, thrived. Part of their thriving on the vegan diet is likely due to simply being more committed to it, but I think there is reason to believe it’s more than that. But few of them have started out with metabolic syndrome and for someone with metabolic syndrome, I would recommend a more whole-foods diet, but with nuts and some omega-3s.

  33. David Says:

    “I could eat a huge meal of raw foods – 5 bananas, half a dozen dates, plus more fruit.”
    Maybe u did not eat enough food, though. Cause that sounds a bit like what I am eating but then again I only weight ~52kg and need about 2500kcal a day.

    A draft of what I typically eat would look like this:
    lettuce + one 3-4kg watermelon with seeds + flax
    5 bananas as a smoothie + 3-5 more bananas
    mashed potatos (+ carrots) as a soup base + celeriac
    also plus some possible snacks, lots of liquids (sometimes juice or sr-milk) and some variation

  34. Jack Norris RD Says:

    David,

    I should clarify that I do think it’s possible to eat a raw foods diet that would meet my protein needs and probably, therefore, result in not having cravings. At the time I was a raw foodist, I didn’t know enough about nutrition to understand this and all the raw foodist propaganda talked about now unnecessary protein was so it made me think that I was doing everything right and it just wasn’t working for me. But while I think I could probably do it now, I don’t know why I would want to. I will add that I found a raw foods diet rather hard on my digestion and I’m not sure if I would want to put up with that for long (or perhaps it would get better over time). Finally, I would still, of course, supplement with vitamin B12 and calcium at the very least. You might be able to get enough calcium from raw greens (not lettuces), but I find raw greens pretty distasteful.

  35. LaDiva Dietitian Says:

    I’m with you, Jack, on the digestion issue and raw greens flavor. However, I put raw greens in a smoothie and have no problems. I am not a raw foodie, but think it is great.

  36. Jack Norris RD Says:

    LaDiva,

    (Warning: TMI coming up…) Vegetable smoothies, juices, and pureed soups wreak havoc on my digestion – the worse thing I can eat.

  37. David Says:

    Yeah, I have the same problem with lots of greens (or food in general). I’d say it is a terrible idea for anyone to eat foodstuffs that gives u pain, somewhat stupid to do so.

    Now that summer seems to approach I’ll try out some wild greens (eg dandelion or grass) instead together with the usual lettuce.

    Regarding getting enough calcium:
    3 oranges + lettuce would be a pretty bone-healthy snack as it contains lots of calcium (~200mg), protein, vitamin K, phosphate, potassium, magnesium, (and boron?) . Add 2 kiwis and u have >250mg calcium. Also it’s my impression that the lettuce actually enhances the digestibility of those acid fruits.

    Oranges, tangerines and kiwi are pretty high in ca. Dandelion apparently too.
    And there ought to be more good fruit and green calcium sources out there. Guess I should look that up sometime.

    Ps.
    is there a way to sort food by nutrient contend on ur peacounter website yet?

  38. Jack Norris RD Says:

    David,

    Very interesting regarding the 3 oranges.

    > is there a way to sort food by nutrient contend on ur peacounter website yet?

    No, I hadn’t even been considering it because the only common measurement all the foods in the USDA database have is weight, which doesn’t really tell you much – you end up with huge amounts of some nutrients for 100 g of the uncooked versions or the very light foods (like spices). I noticed in the latest database release that more foods have an NLEA serving size. I’ll put that on my list of things to look into – maybe enough foods now have the NLEA serving size that it would be worth doing this.

  39. David Says:

    Hi again Jack,

    I was wondering if there has ever been any research into whether supplemental fat (eg olive oil on ur salad) is actually need for the body in order to absorb/get enough fat-soluble nutrients?

  40. Jack Norris RD Says:

    David,

    Here is one study showing that vitamin K is better absorbed with fat:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8813897

    And here is one suggesting fat increases vitamin D absorption:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20200983

    I spent about 15 minutes looking for studies for other fat-soluble vitamins and couldn’t find any, but I think they do exist.

  41. David Says:

    Thank u for taking the time to answer.

    Here is a more concrete question:
    If I eat less than 30g of fat a day from fruits and veggies and mabye nuts, seed, whole grains, Vitamin D-supplement, etc but I do ingest lots of Vitamin K (~200/300/400/more mcg mainly from plain spinach/lettuce/kale/etc) would there still be a risk of becoming K-deficient?

    What do u think?

    Usually I eat my lettuce with some seeds but then again I started eating frozen kale with banana as a smoothie (contains ~2-3g fat). My intestine may only absorb about 5% of that Vitamin K in contrast to maybe 10-15% if I added oil. Yet kale is a rich source so I asked myself if I even need all that Vitamin K.

    RDA is set to be 120mcg. 15% of 120mcg would be 18mcg.
    Lets say 20mcg = x * 0,05 does that imply that x>400mcg of Vitamin K from
    plain greens would still be enough to satisfy ones daily needs?

    thx again for ur efforts but don’t trouble yourself on my account.

  42. Jack Norris RD Says:

    David,

    I think you’re probably fine on vitamin K.

  43. jackie Says:

    Jack, I’ve been wondering this for a long time, and excuse me if you’ve answered this somewhere.

    Many people put down meat-based fat and/or people’s excessive consumption of it. Are large amounts of vegan fats a “free pass” as long as omega-6′s and omega-3′s have the necessary balance?

  44. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Jackie,

    > Are large amounts of vegan fats a “free pass” as long as omega-6′s and omega-3′s have the necessary balance?

    I would not go that far. Keeping fat about 30% or less is probably a good idea, especially if we’re mainly talking about added oils. Nuts might be the exception where going higher might not cause an increase in the risk for heart disease, but that has yet to be determined.

  45. Mae Says:

    Could you possibly provide the LDL cholesterol and triglyceride numbers for those two groups? Don’t know if they’re available, but I would be interested in that – just to get the full picture. Thanks.

  46. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Mae,

    LDL and triglycerides were not listed in the paper.

  47. Konstantinos Says:

    Hi Jack,

    First of all, I would like to say that your book “Vegan for life” is great!

    I would like to ask you a question about servings for vegans and vegetarians.

    I have read both your book and the dietitians guide and i would like to ask about fat servings. For exable in your book at page 96 at the table you consider tofu with no fat servings. I think that there is the same suggestion for soymilk.

    As I understand from the vegetarian food guide, you only consider serving fats, the fats that we add (oils and margarines). Is it right?

    For exable, if I make a diet for a vegetarian with cheese, will I add extra fat at my servings or only the tsps of fat. I have the same question for semi-skimmed milk or full-fat milk.

    Thank you

    Konstantinos

  48. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Konstantinos,

    The food guide was created with the idea that there were going to be some foods higher in fat that are not listed under the “Fats” column. And it’s just a general guide. See what we say on p.87, where we point out that following the guide will leave you low in calories. That means you can eat more than what is listed in the Guide. Also see the 3rd paragraph on p. 83.

    I hope that answers your questions.

  49. Konstantinos Says:

    Jack,

    Thanks a lot for your answer and time. I think that the 3rd paragraph on p. 83 is very helpful and this is only a guide.

    But i think maybe someone could misunderstood the statement “you can meet your energy needs by boosting intakes from all the food groups (all foods group include the groups fats and nuts-seeds, which are rich in fat and energy).

    Generally, I think that the book is a very practical and scientific guide for all vegans.

  50. Liz Says:

    I have been recommended by a doctor to take steps to increase my cholesterol by eating more healthy fats because it was far below the normal range. What is your opinion on this please?

  51. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Liz,

    What was your cholesterol? And were you having symptoms of any other problems or were your lab tests abnormal for anything else?

  52. Liz Says:

    Cholesterol was 2.5 with a reference range of 3.5-5.5 – doctor described it as ‘almost non-existent’ and suggested it was problematic. Triglycerides were 0.3 on with reference range of 0.5 -2.0.
    My platelets and lymphocytes were also low and oestradiol came up as low as well.

  53. Jack Norris RD Says:

    > Cholesterol was 2.5 with a reference range of 3.5-5.5 – doctor described it as ‘almost non-existent’ and suggested it was problematic.

    That’s pretty low. Given your other issues, I’d probably follow the doctor’s advice.

  54. Liz Says:

    Thank you

  55. Theveganscientist Says:

    My total cholesterol is usually between 2.8 and 2.9, (> 5 years (N=10)) but a couple of years ago I did a 60 day experiment where I ate 2tbspoons of coconut oil every day. My total cholesterol increased to 3.6. My total/HDL ratio stayed constant at 2.8/1.

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