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.

Getting Started

After 37+ combined years of living a plant-based lifestyle and helping others do it too, we’ve learned that the #1 reason many people aren’t successful with a whole foods plant-based diet, is that they don’t have the expertise, time, and energy to do everything themselves.

LeafSide meals solve this with 3 compelling advantages versus doing it yourself:

  1. No Work — We’ve removed all the hours of reading about nutrition, shopping, ingredient micro-management, cutting, washing, and cleaning — so you get the amazing health benefits of eating whole plant-based superfoods, without any real effort.
  2. Complete Nutrition — We stay abreast of the latest and most credible nutrition science per the Daily Dozen food guidelines from Dr. Michael Greger’s global bestseller, How Not To Die. Any one LeafSide meal eaten on its own gives you at least 9 Daily Dozen servings. With just two LeafSide meals, one savory and one sweet, you’ll eat all 18 recommended Daily Dozen servings, of the best foods known to science.
  3. No Compromise — We’ve gotten so used to trade-offs in food, we expect convenient foods to be unhealthy, and healthy food to take a lot of time or cost a lot. No more! With LeafSide meals, you get complete, 100% whole foods plant-based meals with organic ingredients, ready in minutes with almost no effort, and easily stored and moved to wherever and whenever you’re hungry.

We’re long-time DIY/cooks ourselves, and there are still many times when we’re short on time or energy to make something healthy to eat, e.g. after an intense workout, or during or after a long workday.  Traveling is another context where a shelf-stable LeafSide savory-bowl or stir-bowl comes in very handy.

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Because LeafSide meal packs only use dried ingredients, and because we use the drying technique that best preserves the nutrients of fruits and vegetables: freeze-drying. We never use any kind of preservatives. A meal pack’s expiration is thus set by the soonest expiring ingredients, and typically those are nuts, with 6 months as the lower limit (some nuts last longer).

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Freeze-drying food has a long history, possibly more than a thousand years old, as peoples living near mountains would leave produce out in favorable locations, where the combination of cold temperatures and high altitudes (lower pressure) would enable the water in foods to freeze, then sublimate, i.e. the water in the food changes from ice to evaporated gas, without passing through the liquid form. The low-water-content food left behind would be much lighter, still resemble the original food (especially with the original colors and thus nutrients), and last much longer.

Modern freeze-drying starts with the frozen produce (just like in supermarket freezers), then puts it in a large vacuum chamber, where the frozen water inside the food sublimates under controlled conditions. The resulting freeze-dried foods are lightweight, retain the original colors and tastes, don’t spoil for years, and most importantly, retain the macronutrients, micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), and phytonutrients remarkably well. Studies have shown that freeze-dried foods often retain over 90% of the original fresh food’s nutrition, much more than other drying techniques (air-drying, heat-drying) which usually damage micronutrients and phytonutrients — as easily seen by the large changes in the food’s colors.

Like frozen food, freeze-dried foods are first harvested at peak ripeness to have better taste and nutrients. But typical store-bought “fresh” fruits and vegetables are harvested early, artificially ripened, and lose up to half of their nutrient value sitting in the fridge.

Freeze-dried food has long been consumed by people in demanding contexts like mountaineering and space flights, where lightweight and high nutrition food is absolutely essential. But you don’t need to be an astronaut to benefit from its convenience and super nutrition!

A broad review of freeze-dried foods vs other drying methods, in preserving antioxidants and phytonutrients: A Review on the Effect of Drying on Antioxidant Potential of Fruits and Vegetables (2016)

Typical studies on fresh vs frozen nutrition include: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889157517300418 and https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2621.1999.tb15943.x

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Due to the low moisture content of our meals, and the use of 100% plant-based ingredients, they remain stable for at least 3-6 months if stored in a dry, cool place. We currently list a “best by” date with a 3 month time limit, and after we’ve finished independent laboratory testing we’ll likely extend this by up to an additional 3 months.

Our meals contain no extra preservatives or additives! Many of our ingredients are shelf-stable due to a special freeze-drying process that removes the moisture content from the whole plant-based foods. This helps maximize the nutrient content and keep the ingredients safe to consume without adding any unnatural preservatives or extra ingredients to our products.

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We’re currently based in Tempe, Arizona, and that’s where our meal packs are made. All ingredients — organic and conventional — are from USA vendors, and in particular, all organic ingredients are USDA certified organic.

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Yes!  Each pack contains a full meal portion ranging from 450 to 800 kCal (“calories”).

Because our meals are made from real whole plant-based foods, they have lots of nutrition and fiber, and will keep you feeling full and ready for demanding work or play, for up to 5 hours. 

Our meals pack a lot of food, so many LeafSiders just set their smoothie or stir-bowl down at their desk and “graze” slowly on the food, for over an hour or more, enjoying the steady and sustained energy they feel.  Or they share a meal with family members. 

It’s also easy to “extend” a single meal into something that feeds multiple people, e.g. some LeafSiders have used the Tex-Mex as a chili to pour on top of sweet potatoes; or they use a soup with sprouted bread or tortilla chips; or they add frozen fruit to a smoothie to serve two; or they gather a few leftover veggies from the fridge and toss those into a smoothie or soup, etc. etc.

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It’s entirely up to you.  We’ve designed our meals so that by pairing any sweet meal with any savory meal you’ll automatically complete all the food serving requirements of the Daily Dozen, from the global bestselling book How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease by Dr. Michael Greger.

However, this doesn’t mean you’re required to eat two LeafSide meal packs every day. Typically our customers lead busy lives and they use LeafSide meals whenever they don’t have time or desire to prepare something, like in the morning before commuting; for lunch during crunch time; or for an easy, satisfying dinner ready in minutes.

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Smoothies are the only type of LeafSide meal needing a blender.  Fortunately you don’t need an expensive blender, though it should be high-powered (800+ Watts motor) so that ingredients like whole flaxseeds are cracked open for good digestion; and the blender container should be at least 32 oz (4 cups, about 1 quart or 1 liter)  in size, so that there’s enough space to blend well.

The blender we use and highly recommend is the Nutribullet Pro, aka 900 (900 Watt), available from Walmart.com or Amazon for usually $75 to $99 — a price that’s usually cheaper than directly from the Nutribullet website.  It’s easy to use, has sufficient power, and is very quick and easy to clean, saving you time and effort:

One more important reason we recommend the Nutribullet Pro blender is that the personal sized 32 oz “colossal mugs” are the perfect size for making our smoothies and taking them to go. Also, you can affordably buy extra mugs for everyone (at home or office) to have their own, and you can get them for only $10 each at Walmart.com.

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Yes, all LeafSide meals have been designed with expert chefs to be made by just adding (hot) water.  The amounts and temperature of water needed are specified on the back-label instructions of each pack, typically 2 to 2.5 cups of water.

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Yes! Although we designed all the meals to taste good with just water, some LeafSiders like to add plant-based milks like almond, rice, oat, hemp, or coconut milk (particularly to the smoothies). Those will give the meals a richer and creamier flavor, along with adding extra calories one may want and need, e.g. after a workout.

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Our soups and stir-bowls (savory and sweet-bowls) have been designed to be placed into a small pot or bowl (minimum volume 1 quart, or 1 liter, or 4.5 cups), and then have hot water added.  For best results, stir the contents thoroughly, then cover them for the time shown on the package instructions, for complete re-hydration. That’s all there is to it; after 7-10 minutes you can eat a delicious and nourishing meal!

Don’t have such a pot/bowl handy? We’ve tried and like using this small, lightweight bowl+lid available on Amazon:

It’s a good item, but not perfect: the lid isn’t quite tight enough that you can fill it with hot water, close it, and safely put it in a bag as you head out the door. But for stationary soup or stir-bowl making at your counter, desk, hotel room, etc. it works well.

If you also want total portability, eating tasty WFPB meals anytime and anywhere during the day, another solution is to put a soup or stir-bowl pack in a real thermos (with a tight screw-on or locking lid) with the required amount of hot water, then seal and shake — it’s safe and ready for travels.

Hot water is usually available on planes and trains, in hotels, etc.  For home or office, the easiest way we’ve found to get hot water quickly is with an inexpensive electric kettle (see below), although using a microwave to heat water beforehand also works.

 

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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).

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 90 to 95% organic (certain ingredients are still difficult to find in organic form), and we’re in the process of moving to 100% certified organic for all recipe ingredients.  For current details, our product pages show which ingredients are currently organic vs conventional.

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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.

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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, 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 (e.g. 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.

So we designed our meals to be as calorie/nutrient-dense as possible: Currently if you pair any two meals this comes out to roughly 1300-1500 calories.  That still leaves most people plenty of extra room for a 3rd meal each day, or snacks, if still desired.

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.”

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It depends mostly on you and your particular situation, because the Daily Dozen’s guideline of 18 servings across 10 food groups is a recommended daily minimum.

Many people will need to eat more: e.g. if you’re physically active, or have more lean muscle mass, or male, or have a higher metabolic rate, etc. you’ll need more food to maintain or gain weight.  On the other hand, if you want to lose weight, the Daily Dozen’s 18 servings of nutrient-dense food could suit you well, providing the variety, nutrition, and feelings of fullness and satiety you need to stick to the program.  Be sure to consult with a plant-based dietitian (RD or RDN degree) or clinician (PA, NP, MD) to get proper individualized advice.

With LeafSide you have the option to easily complete the Daily Dozen’s minimum recommended servings, by eating one sweet meal and one savory meal, which provides roughly 1300-1500 calories.  For most people that leaves room for a 3rd meal, or healthy snacks like fruits.  If you want a lot more calories, you can easily get more by eating nutrient-dense and calorie-dense whole foods like sprouted-grain bread and other whole grains products; hummus or a bean salad; nut or seed butters; fruits; sweet potatoes, and so on.

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With the possible exception of people suffering from advanced heart disease, whose doctors have ordered a low-fat diet for medical reasons like reversing artherosclerosis, 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, 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.  Whereas 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.

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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 with all the 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, that eating the same amount of fructose as table sugar.

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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 we currently add a minimal amount of sea salt, along with 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 aim to follow Dr. Greger’s rule, that a meal should have its mg of sodium number, be less than the kCal number.

With our savory meals, 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 2-3 weeks after fully switching), there needs to be just enough salt (and many other flavors) in a LeafSide meal to discourage people manually adding more salt.

However, for those customers wanting a “no SOS” or “SOS free” compliant meal, we offer the option of “no added salt” of the recipe where miso powder is used instead of added sea salt.  Please contact us or write a note in your order if you want your savory meals SOS free.

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The short answers: we add the least amount of salt that still tastes good, use miso to lower salt’s risks, aim to meet the sodium vs calories number rule-of-thumb, and offer salt-free versions of our savory meals.

We conducted focus groups for each 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 typical eaters, while still keeping the overall meal’s sodium mg 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.

Note that If you are completing the Daily Dozen using two LeafSide meals (a savory and sweet), the total amount of consumed sodium would be less than 900 mg across the two meals (from roughly 1100 to 1500 calories depending on which combination you choose), since the sweet meals (smoothies and sweet-bowls) have no added salt at all (nor any added sugar, nor oil).

If you have further concerns about added salt and prefer SOS-free savory meals, please note our other FAQ entry about that option (there is no extra charge), and be sure to let us know (via chat or in your Order Notes) that you want the SOS-free option, thanks.

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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.
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