LeafSide FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

We’re here to help you be more successful with a whole-foods plant-based lifestyle, and your questions are what drive us to improve and create amazing products.

Have a question not listed here? Feel free to ask us at [email protected] and we’ll be sure to reply ASAP.

Nutrition & Health Basics

We add extra information to the typical food/nutrition label because 1) it’s important to convey that LeafSide products are whole-foods plant-based, not processed; 2) the current standard food labels can be extremely misleading: their original intent was to force transparency from processed food manufacturers, but the label information is well behind nutrition science’s state-of-the-art, and relying on them exclusively deepens confusion not just about LeafSide meals, but about nutrition generally (a much larger concern).

First, when you go food shopping, you don’t see nutrition facts labels on fruits, vegetables, and other produce because they are whole, unprocessed foods, without chemical treatments and additives, and thus exempt. Because those label-exempt whole ingredients are all we use in LeafSide meals, it would suffice legally for us to just list the ingredients, but we show the macro- and micronutrients to customers for the sake of familiarity. Nevertheless, we’d want folks to understand that all LeafSide meals are:

  • 100% whole plant foods, with dried whole foods being considered unprocessed — especially freeze-dried ingredients that generally preserve over 90% of measured nutrients, including macronutrients, micronutrients, and critical phytonutrients. Per Dr. Greger’s definition of “processed” foods and his green/yellow/red classification, nothing bad was added and nothing good removed, from our ingredients.
  • Free of any added sugar or oil. The sweet meals (smoothies, sweet-bowls) are SOS-free, i.e. no added sugar, oil, or salt. Savory meals use a small amount of salt, for a baseline good taste that discourages the common habit of adding more salt. Alternatively you can request SOS-free versions of any LeafSide savory meal.
  • Free of any animal or processed saturated fats, which are strongly associated with worsening cholesterol (thus raising heart disease risk), and lipotoxicity (increasing type 2 diabetes risk), while also bringing unwanted toxins like pesticides, growth hormones, glycotoxins, etc.  By contrast, plant fats in their whole form are generally clean, and loaded with supporting antioxidants, phytonutrients, and fiber.  Even with the whole plant foods containing the most saturated fat (e.g. coconut flakes), the fiber and other nutrients counteract the bad effects of saturated fats. But this kind of “package deal” of foods is not at all conveyed on current food label standards.

Second, the other broad reason we modify current nutrition labels, is that they otherwise promote an outdated way of thinking about nutrition, over-emphasizing the macronutrients (carbs, proteins, fats) and some select micronutrients, while completely ignoring the growing tidal wave of evidence in nutrition science, that we need far more nutrients to be healthy and thrive:

A label that would enable proper comparison across the whole spectrum of known nutrients, would simply not fit on any normal sized package.  As just one example, consider grape juice vs soda: the nutrition labels seems similar, but the actual contents and effects on our bodies are radically different!  Grape juice, of course, is a processed food (we lost the skin, pulp, and fiber), and already a few steps removed from its whole food form — yet still brings many, many phytonutrients to us.

So, while we work on better ways to convey the true, full nutrition value of whole plant foods, we also want to promote better mental models about nutrition.

In the US and developed world, the top causes of death and chronic illness are tied to lifestyle diseases: heart disease, cancers, lung diseases, diabetes, and brain diseases are linked to lifestyle choices of smoking, exercise, sleep/stress, and most importantly, our habitual food choices.  If the bad news is that illness arises from habits (by some estimates, lifestyle factors make up 90% of health risks), the good news is that we all have the power to choose and make new habits.

The proof of the importance of plant-based whole foods is from four large and growing bodies of scientific knowledge:

  1. Clinical (intervention) trials: For heart disease, the only diet clinically and repeatedly shown to stop and reverse advanced heart disease is a whole-foods plant-based diet.  Similar studies are emerging for reversing diabetes, cancers, and other chronic diseases with plant-based diets.
  2. The longest-lived people on Earth, in the so-called “Blue Zones” all eat predominantly plant-based diets, especially rich in legumes and beans.
  3. Large population observational cohort studies that distinguish between omnivorous, vegetarian, and vegan diets show lower all-cause mortality for plant-based diets. Such studies include the Adventist Health Study 2, and the EPIC-Oxford study.  Other large longitudinal studies (tracking large numbers of people over time) such as The China Study find strong correlations between the amount of meat consumption, and disease rates.
  4. Growing knowledge of our biochemistry and digestive systems increasingly confirms the importance of nutrients available mostly or only from plants.  Only plant foods have tens of thousands of phytonutrients (providing antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, anti-cancer molecules, etc.), and dietary fiber, which literally scrubs our innards and feeds our microbiome, which in turn releases vital nutrients to us (“To eat is human; to digest is divine.” — Mark Twain). 

If you’re interested to learn more of the nutrition science for yourself, start with Dr. Greger’s global bestseller How Not To Die.  Here’s a brief video summary: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-not-to-die-an-animated-summary/

A brief selection of references from the scientific literature includes:

Fiber is what gives plants their structure, and where many nutrients are bound, to be released in our bodies for our benefit by the bacteria living symbiotically in our intestines and digestive systems.  Examining fossilized remains of early human excrement shows that our ancestors consumed over 80-100 grams of fiber daily, eating very plant-rich diets. But today in developed countries, 97% of the population is deficient in this absolutely vital nutrient. The minimum recommended daily allowance is 31.5 grams per day, and most people get only 15 grams per day.

Whole plant-based foods are naturally very rich in fiber; we are meant to have a high level of fiber in our diet to support normal health. There is a whole host of new research indicating there are links between fiber deficiency and modern disease.

A recent observational study about healthy aging and disease found that “of all the factors examined — including a person’s total carbohydrate intake, total fiber intake, glycemic index, glycemic load, and sugar intake — it was, surprisingly, fiber that made the biggest difference to what the researchers termed ‘successful aging.’”

However, it’s important to emphasize that fiber by itself is not what delivers the health benefits; and that such reductionist thinking (hoping for one magic nutrient) has caused no end of confusion and failures.  Rather, it’s consuming whole plant foods that are rich in fiber and many other nutrients, that boost our health.

One of the most active areas of nutrition research is investigating how our digestive microbiome affects our health. We have over one trillion bacteria in our digestive system, and most of the healthy bacteria require fiber for optimal function. Fiber deficiency is therefore linked to an imbalance of “good” versus “bad” bacteria in this vitally important bodily system.

Yes! Per the USDA standard, all the certified organic ingredients we use are non-GMO.  For the remaining few conventional ingredients we’re using, they are also all non-GMO.

As fans of the scientific method, we’re aware that there’s a long-running debate about the safety and benefits (or lack thereof) of GMO food.  So when it comes to very complex biological systems like food and our bodies, we go with the precautionary principle: unsafe until demonstrated otherwise.

Also, being skeptics by default and growing up through the Human Genome Project, we can’t help but notice that practically all the fantastic claims and promises of genetic engineering have NOT been delivered on, while the main actual, real-world application of GMOs is to make plants better survive repeated use of pesticides like glyphosate — we’ll take a pass on that.

Most of our meals are nominally gluten-free, meaning they have no specific ingredients with gluten, but it’s possible that trace amounts are present. We are not a gluten-free kitchen, so our meals are not certified as such. In particular, two of our meals do use organic whole grain wheat ingredients: the Madras Curry (uses organic freekeh), and Tex Mex (organic bulgur) savory-bowls.  You can see all of our meals here: https://www.goleafside.com/meals/ Simply click on each meal to see a description, the ingredients, and the basic nutritional information.

If you have been clinically diagnosed with celiac disease by a licensed medical professional (using blood tests and a biopsy), we advise not using our meals.

Otherwise and in general, if you suspect you have non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), consider working with a licensed lifestyle medicine professional (RD or MD) who can carefully review your current actual diet, while following an evidence-based protocol to properly diagnose the situation. A careful and thorough diagnosis can save you a lot of needless worry, avoid incorrect dietary restrictions (and missed social events), and avoid wasted money on unhealthy foods. Certified gluten-free products can easily cost 3× more, while still being highly processed and loaded with added sugar, saturated animal fats, and salt.

Put another way, it’s important to distinguish between refined, ultra-processed, high glycemic-index, and nutrient-poor wheat products, versus minimally processed, fiber-rich, low glycemic-index, high-nutrient whole grains.  The vast majority of Americans eat far too much of the former, which include:

  • Bread, bagels, and tortillas from white/refined flour
  • Cakes, cookies, crackers, donuts, and pretzels from white/refined flour
  • Pizza from white/refined wheat flour
  • Pastas from white/refined wheat
  • Ready-to-eat cereals from white/refined wheat

We all recognize the above foods, which are ubiquitous in developed countries.  By contrast, few recognize, and regularly eat, minimally processed wheat products like wheatberries, or cracked whole wheat (bulgur, freekeh), or other whole grain wheat foods. Furthermore, practically all the above ultra-processed wheat products come with added processed sugar, processed (saturated) fats, and lots of salt — unhealthy additives that are very cheap, increase shelf life, and above all, are now provably addictive (esp. sugar, fat) on top of the addictive properties of refined flour itself.

Small wonder that when people reduce or eliminate such refined wheat products, they often feel better (better energy, better sleep, better mood) — but it’s easy to mistake correlation for causality, i.e. in dropping processed foods, much more (and worse) than gluten was cut from entering the body.

One more wrinkle to NCGS that’s worth mentioning: Anecdotally, many people who suspect gluten sensitivity (e.g. brain fog, poor sleep, depression, or an upset stomach after eating white flour bread or typical baked goods) experience fewer or no issues after eliminating processed food from their diets, and/or eating organic wheat products. These outcomes suggest one possible cause is the heavy use of pesticides (e.g. glyphosate) in conventional wheat foods.  It has become a common practice to use pesticides (with glyphosate as a primary chemical) on conventional crops like wheat, soy, corn, etc. shortly before and/or after harvesting (as a desiccant for faster drying, or with conventional wheat, to kill the crop for early harvesting), which can greatly increase the presence of those chemicals in conventional, non-organic consumer food products.

To learn more about allergies, gluten, glyphosate and the effects it has on the human body, we recommend listening to this Rich Roll podcast interview with Dr. Zach Bush: https://www.richroll.com/podcast/zach-bush-353/ as well as his second return interview here: https://www.richroll.com/podcast/zach-bush-414/ 

First, because many people switching to a WFPB diet initially have a hard time getting enough calories, e.g. they may start by eating lots of salad, and not get enough calories, and wonder why they’re often hungry/tired.  It takes time to research and understand what fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and other ingredients deliver the most nutrition, so we solve that problem for them. 

Second, because LeafSide’s core value is healthy convenience: Thus we deliver a truly complete, organic foods meal (not a snack) that’s ready in minutes.  Most other “meal” services will charge you more while only giving you a third of the calories (like 150 to 250 kCal) and nutrition (e.g. only a handful of ingredients, instead of our 20-30) — and that’s simply not enough for a real meal.

Finally, remember that calories are often not equal: 500 calories of donuts and soda has an entirely different effect on your body compared to 500 calories of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, etc. Most people eating a complete WFPB diet find they don’t really need to count or worry about calories, as the ample fiber in the diet naturally regulates feelings of hunger and satiety.  When eating whole plant foods, the body’s natural wisdom takes over to reach a healthy state — as the old (pre-soda, pre-candy-bar) Zen saying goes, “When you’re hungry, eat; when you’re tired, sleep. Fools will laugh, but the wise shall understand.”

With the possible exception of people suffering from advanced heart disease, whose doctors have ordered a low-fat diet for medical reasons like reversing atherosclerosis, the human body needs significant amounts of dietary fat to function properly — the main issue is what kind of fats, from what sources.

As researchers have noted, between the long-lived populations of the “Blue Zones” there is a wide range of fat intakes, from the 10-12% fat of Okinawan diets, to around 30% for some Mediterranean groups like Icaria, or Sardinia. What these long-lived peoples have in common is that the sources of fat are minimally processed, and from plants: nuts, seeds, avocados, or whole olives more than olive oil.  Even when oil is used, it’s minimally processed, e,g. made directly from mechanical pressing without further chemical treatments.

The least healthy fat is saturated fat, where the balance of evidence continues to show strong associations with heart disease risk.  But even there, the source of saturated fats matter: it’s animal or processed saturated fats that are strongly associated with worsening cholesterol (thus raising heart disease risk), and lipotoxicity (increasing type 2 diabetes risk), while also bringing unwanted toxins like pesticides, growth hormones, glycotoxins, etc. which are stored in animals’ fat cells.

By comparison, plant fats in their whole form are generally clean, and loaded with supporting antioxidants, phytonutrients, and fiber. Even with the whole plant foods containing more saturated fat (e.g. whole coconut flakes), the fiber and other nutrients counteract the typical bad effects of saturated fats. But this kind of “package deal” of foods is not at all conveyed on current food label standards.

Unfortunately this term and number on nutrition labels is confusing, and only recently did the FDA revise the label to separately specify “Added Sugar,” i.e. the chemically processed and separated white sugar/fructose crystals of table/refined sugar. LeafSide never uses any kind of added sugar, thus that number is and always will be ZERO on all our products.

The fructose/sugar in LeafSide meals is only in the form of whole plant foods like berries, mangos, bananas, etc. and thus come packaged with nature’s good stuff: phytonutrients, antioxidants, and above all, fiber.  This “package deal” nature of real food is still being understood, but it’s already clear that eating whole fruit is good for us, and totally different in effects on the body, than eating the same amount of fructose as table sugar.


Because words like “sugar” and “fructose” are often used loosely and ambiguously even by health professionals, it’s no wonder that many people have notions like “all sugars are bad for you” and throw whole foods sugars into the same category as ultra-processed white sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.

But there’s abundant science to show that, while ultra-processed sugars do immediate damage to our bodies, at the same time there are no such adverse effects with whole plant foods like fruit — and in fact, in carefully controlled studies it seems there’s no daily upper limit to fruit consumption, and consuming more brings greater health benefits:

The short answer is, YES! All meals are either SOS-free by default, or have that option.

All LeafSide products come with zero added oil or sugar; zip, nada, zero  We have had that constraint — of no added sugar and no processed (nutrient-stripped) ingredients — from the beginning of our product development.

All of LeafSide’s sweet meals (smoothies and sweet-bowls) are SOS-free: no added sugar, oil, salt.

For our savory dishes (soups and savory-bowls) there are two options: the first is low-salt & miso, using a minimal amount of sea salt and miso powder, which has been shown to remarkably offset the negative effects of sodium in salt, even when the effective amount of sodium in miso is the same.  We also follow Dr. Greger’s low sodium rule, that a meal should have its milligrams of sodium (mg) number, be less than its calories (kCal) number, e.g. here’s our popular Tex-Mex savory bowl with a sodium number lower than its calories number — a rule which holds for all our meals.

Why: With our savory meals, minimizing and cutting the salt is a balancing act of what tastes good, and health concerns from current nutrition science.  Most of the population regularly eats far too much salt/sodium (as that is the cheapest way to increase flavor and increase the addictive aspect of food) and their taste buds are used to high salt.  Until someone’s taste buds have adjusted to the more subtle, fuller flavors of whole-foods plant-based eating (it only takes 3-4 weeks after fully switching to 100% WFPB), there needs to be just enough salt (and many other flavors) in a LeafSide meal to discourage people from adding more salt.

However, for those customers already eating 100% WFPB and SOS-free, who want a “no SOS” or “SOS-free” compliant meal, we offer SOS-free versions of all savory meals, i.e. without any added salt or miso.  Note: all SOS-free savory meals contain 100 mg (or less) of sodium that is naturally occurring in the ingredients. Please contact us or write a note in your order if you want your savory meals SOS free.  (And if you’re wondering about whether to choose the regular or SOS-free version, please read the other FAQ on sodium, thanks.)

The short answers: all our sweet meals (smoothies, sweet-bowls) are free of added salt.  For the savory meals (soups and savory-bowls),  we add the least amount of salt that still tastes good, use miso to lower salt’s risks, and we adhere to the sodium < calories number rule, from Dr. Greger and Jeff Novick RD. We also offer "salt-free" (no added salt nor miso) aka SOS-free versions of our savory meals. All SOS-free savory meals contain about 100 mg (or less) of sodium that is naturally occurring in the ingredients (except for the SOS-free Creamy Potato Leek soup, which is under 180 mg of naturally occurring sodium). Background: We conducted many tests for each savory recipe when deciding how much added salt (and thus sodium) to use.  The general concern was that healthy but bland recipes ("bland" to those accustomed to high salt levels from fast food and the Standard American Diet) would encourage the unhealthy habit of adding too much salt. So we put the absolute minimum necessary to create a good taste for more mainstream eaters, while still keeping the overall meal’s sodium milligrams number, below its calories number.

We also use miso powder, which research has shown has remarkable abilities to cancel out two of the main health risks of salt: hypertension and stomach cancer.

If you have further concerns about added salt and prefer SOS-free savory meals, please note our other FAQ entry about that option, and be sure to let us know (via chat or in your Order Notes) that you want the SOS-free option, thanks.

In general we recommend that most people new to LeafSide, and especially those new to WFPB eating, order the regular savory meals — until and unless your tastes in food are very accustomed to SOS-free foods at every meal.  One good test: a committed SOS-free eater will find practically all fast food and restaurant food intolerably salty, and easily notice the effects of excess salt in their body afterward.

No: nutrition science reveals that nature and our bodies are far more complex than we thought.

The vitamin and supplements industry relies on a reductionist view of nutrition, meaning they claim that it suffices to reduce food to macro and micronutrients, then chemically separate the beneficial ingredients from food or chemically synthesize the individual nutrients, often resulting in a processed supplement or powder form, that they can then sell to you as a panacea.

However the research overwhelmingly demonstrates that these isolated and processed compounds provide no long term benefit in the prevention of common modern diseases, and in some cases may contribute to it. Instead, the thousands of phytonutrients in whole plant foods combine in ways that are often surprising and synergistic, i.e. the combinations are much more than just the sum of their parts.

Please view the following pages for excellent summaries of current science:

  • Food Synergy discuses the importance of combining whole plant foods and their thousands of phytonutrients, and the lack of benefits of supplements.
  • Industry Response to Plants Not Pills gives a brief history of beta carotene and ineffective vitamin A supplements, and the larger lesson of whole foods over isolated supplements being suppressed by commercial pressures.
  • Reductionism and the Deficiency Mentality gives an overview of reductionist thinking’s history and hold on scientific research, and the food industry. The change from adequate nutrition to optimal nutrition, calls for new thinking, and returning to whole plant foods.
  • Even fiber doesn’t provide its health benefits by itself; it’s all the healthy nutrients that come with it that make the difference for your body.

Yes, and organic food is important, and more than a “nice-to-have” marketing feature.  

First of all, it’s more nutritious: meta analyses and reviews in the scientific literature show organic produce generally has  20-40% more phytonutrients, than conventional fruits and vegetables (though vitamins and minerals levels are similar). 

Second, it’s safer: the more organic food is grown and eaten, the less toxins we directly ingest, like glyphosate and Roundup (banned in many other countries, but not the US). Recent studies show up to 25% lower incidence of cancers for frequent organic produce eaters, and rapid reductions in pesticide levels in our bodies after less than a week of eating only organic food.

Third, it’s more just: food is never only about us consumers, but always involves many other participants:

We know that the organic standards of the US and EU are not perfect, and could use many improvements.  But they are nevertheless important steps towards truly sustainable food systems, and thus worth supporting.  We need to put our money where our mouths are!

Currently LeafSide products are about 85 to 95% organic, as certain ingredients are still difficult to find in organic form. We’re in the process of moving to 100% certified organic for all recipe ingredients.  We are especially careful to always source and use organic ingredients for any items on the Environmental Working Group’s annual Dirty Dozen list, and never use any conventional supplies of those ingredients in our recipes.*

*Exceptions arise due to supply-chain challenges preventing us from finding an acceptable organic supply; for such cases we may use conventional products that are tested and washed thoroughly prior to freeze-drying. Current exceptions include yellow and red bell peppers.