The nuts wars

I’m more comfortable going forward with WFPB (whole food plant based) eating now that I’ve discussed this “nuts thing” with people. I realize I just need to use some common sense cautions regarding the pronouncements of Greger (and others as well), and not consider their writings as having been handed down from heaven on Mt. Sinai. Greger isn’t perfect either. He has a lot of interesting things to say, but his conclusions aren’t always on target. I need to be careful about that.

I found out that among vegans my questions about nuts is an ongoing, endless debate, which some refer to as “the nuts wars” – and I found myself caught up in it. But it was good. We had some lively conversations about this in the Forks over Knives (WFPB) group on Facebook. And I had some interesting side messages as well.

It does seem that people like Esselstyn, McDougall, and Ornish (with whom I started my vegan + no oil + no nuts journey 6 years ago) are also skeptical of the nutritional importance of nuts, though I notice that Ornish currently allows for 1 walnut per day.

While Jeff Nelson, the Vegsource guy with the interesting “Nuts won’t save your life” video doesn’t spend time on the question of calories, Greger himself does seem to claim that the calories in the recommended walnuts simply don’t count. I think it’s fair to say that is probably not true. And I am discontinuing nuts as a regular part of my diet.

I never would have even dreamed of adding nuts into my daily diet in the first place except for the fact that Greger goes on and on about (1) how important they are nutritionally, and (2) how reassuring he is that the nuts won’t adversely affect weight loss. If not for the first point I wouldn’t have bothered with them at all. And it was the second point that clinched me into wanting to try them. Because I do need to lose more weight as part of being healthy.

Anyway, I am now finished with my last regular serving of nuts – with the calories scrupulously counted and logged – and I will not make nuts a regular daily item from now on. If I do, say, buy a snack bag of 30 g of almonds or something, I’ll make sure the calories  get properly logged.

The reason this all came up is I just didn’t want to feel like I was missing something important, nutritionally. Greger makes it sound so important. The consensus from most vegan whole food doctors and scientists, however, really seems to be that I am not missing anything. I’m “staying the course” and will look at all advice with open eyes and some skepticism going forward.

My plan is easy. I’m sticking with “generic” whole food, plant based, vegan , no oils, no daily nuts, logging calories (they do count), avoiding as much sugar as possible, avoiding as much salt as possible, greatly limiting healthy but high calorie foods, such as avocados and nuts, and, of course, getting more exercise.

And onward!

“Nuts won’t save your life” – some common sense rethinking about healthy eating

I am feeling a bit devastated. I’ll explain why below.

But first, let me start out by saying I’m doing really well since recommitting to WFPB (whole food plant based) eating. Over the last 90 days I’ve lost 20 lb. I’ve lost 59 lb in all by eating WFPB over the last few years. My blood tests are amazing. My total cholesterol is down to 124 and my bad cholesterol, LDL, is down to 67. My HbA1c blood sugar is almost down to normal. My blood pressure is 116/67. I’m feeling great. I have more energy. Even my skin is clearer! I am “staying the course” and sticking with WFPB eating. I’m convinced it’s the healthiest diet, and the most suitable for me. My doctor is also impressed and says, “Just keep doing whatever you’re doing.” I’m even doing daily exercise!

A few months ago I bought the best book I ever read on health and nutrition, “How Not to Die” by Dr Michael Greger. It is so gripping and convincing I gifted the book to friends and relatives and have been talking it up all over the place. And reading the book jump-started me back on WFPB eating 90 days ago. It is that inspiring.

Over the last two weeks my weight loss has stalled. That’s not a big thing in and of itself. That’s not the cause of feeling devastated. I’ve had stalls before, even over the last 90 days. But the reason for this stall has led me to seriously rethink some premises in Greger’s book.

In particular, it has me rethinking nuts – part of Dr. Greger’s “Daily Dozen” in “How Not to Die.” He stresses how important they are to ensure you are absorbing the nutrients from your salads. He even claims they won’t hurt weight loss. I am thinking now that is just not true.

Right now I’m doing an experiment to see how much the nuts really do affect my weight by counting them very strictly, even when they’re in salads, despite the videos and claims of Dr. Greger saying they don’t count.

Because of Dr. Greger’s claims that the calories in nuts do not affect weight loss when added to green salads with no other healthy fats, I’ve not been logging the nut calories in my salads. I’ve not been counting them towards my daily 1800 calorie net calorie count. Yes, I know that seems strange (calories count whether you count them or not), but Dr. Greger quotes all sorts of research studies showing why that’s possible. But is he right?

The true total calories of my regular salads (cukes, tomatoes, legumes, 1 tablespoon of walnuts, 1 teaspoon of flaxseed and my own homemade dressing made with soy milk, dijon mustard, and balsamic vinegar) jumps to an actual 245 calories per salad instead of the 99 calories I had been “guesstimating” by deliberately not counting the nuts, and failing to add in the calories for my homemade healthy dressing, which I started making after dropping commercially bought low-cal or zero-cal dressings.

Here is what shook me today. Take a look at this video somebody in a HNTD group introduced me to: “Nuts won’t save your life.”

It’s 48 minutes long, but gripping. All the details about Dr. Greger and HNTD start at about 13:30 minutes. I watched the video today from beginning to end. The presenter, Jeff Nelson, seems incredibly knowledgeable and convincing. What do people know of him?

The reason I’m feeling somewhat devastated is because he really does a job on Dr. Greger’s claims, all in a very pointed, scientific way. Dr. Greger really needs to respond. It’s perfectly fine for Dr. Greger to acknowledge mistakes and update his book and site if it needs to be changed. But he needs to respond.

If the video presenter is right though, what does this mean about the rest of what Dr. Greger reports in his book? The video claims that all this macro-management of nutrients (Greger’s initial point about adding walnuts) is meaningless. That the Daily Dozen is essentially meaningless. That all that matters is being vegan, with no oils or added fats and basically that’s it. If you want to cut back on sugar and salt fine, but all the other stuff is basically like adhering to a cult.

In other words, what Ornish and Esselstyn and McDougall and Chef AJ, etc., all have been saying for years is sufficient for healthy eating. There is no health advantage to adding the nuts. And it probably hurts weight loss. And they might not be good if you have heart disease.

If the video is correct, then what’s the point of “How Not to Die”?

Well, the book did inspire me to get back on WFPB. And I mentioned all the positive outcomes so far. That’s all great of course. But is the rest of the book just mumbo jumbo?

I’m sticking with WFPB eating. I’m convinced it’s the healthiest way of eating and it is doing me good.

But for now I’m a HNTD skeptic. I’m testing the calories of the nuts, because they are tasty. But I may give them up. And WFPB eating can be easy with fewer rather than more rules and lists and worries.

It might be best to just keep it simple: vegan, whole foods, no oils, exercise, and also limit the very high fat otherwise healthy foods like avocados and nuts, without any daily check lists or going crazy about worrying about macronutrients and so forth.

What do people think?