Spoon with pink himalayan salt on pink background

The Benefits of Pink Himalayan Salt

Himalayan salt has seen a sharp rise in popularity since the early 2000s, though its benefits have been prized by different cultures for centuries. 

Mined from ancient sea beds at the base of the Himalayan mountains, this pink-hued rock salt is more than just an eye-catching flavor enhancer. It contains essential nutrients that balance and maintain our fluids, and cellular functions and support vital physiological functions such as conducting nerve impulses and muscle contraction. And because of its trace mineral composition, Himalayan salt has been associated with more potential health benefits than processed table salts.

In this article, we’ll take a closer at the benefits of Himalayan salt and how its unique mineral composition may add to our overall health and well-being.

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What is Himalayan Salt?

Himalayan salt is a type of unrefined rock salt that comes from the northern Punjab region of Pakistan. It is mined from ancient seabeds that were submerged by lava eruptions over 200 million years ago. 

The pink hue of Himalayan salt is linked to its composition of trace minerals, specifically iron and magnesium. 

While salt mining has taken place in this region since the era of Alexander the Great in 320 BC, production really ramped up during British rule in the late 1800’s. For hundreds of years, Pakistan exported its salt to India, the hub of an international market for this special salt. Today, Pakistan has full control of its salt production. 

How is Himalayan Salt Produced?

Hailing from the Salt Range mountains in Pakistan, Himalayan salt is still extracted by hand to this day. 

Most of the Himalayan salt you see available at your local market is sourced from the Khewra Salt Mine, one of the oldest and largest mines of its kind. 

Mining-of-Himalayan-Salt

There are 17 levels to this mine, and it employs hundreds of people to extract the salt rocks using rudimentary tools like pickaxes, hand drills, and gunpowder. The mine produces around 1000 tons of salt per day, leaving a large portion underground and intact for structural support. This particular region is said to contain over 6.7 billion tons of salt.

Once the salt rocks have been extracted, they are minimally processed as opposed to standard table salt, which can be treated with bleach and anti-caking agents before reaching consumers. 

However, some of these salt mines in the region are not suitable for food use without a purification process. 

In addition to food flavoring, Himalayan salt is sold in the form of popular salt lamps, serving dishes, baking stones, and decorative statues. 

Health Benefits of  Himalayan Salt

The minerals in salt, specifically sodium and chloride, are “essential.” In nutritional jargon, “essential” has a very specific meaning–we need to get it in our diet in order to survive.

Himalayan salt is composed of around 98% sodium and chloride. 

Proper salt intake in our daily diets is essential to

  • Maintaining a balance of fluids within and around cells
  • Maintaining a healthy blood pressure
  • Supporting muscle contraction
  • Supporting nerve impulses and signaling 

Mineral Composition of Himalayan Salt

One of the main differences between Himalayan salt and other salts on the market is its higher composition of trace minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium, and potassium. By some estimates, Himalayan salt contains as many as 84 trace minerals. 

While Himalayan salt contains more trace minerals than table salt, some argue that it would require an intake of approximately >30 mg/day or 6 teaspoons/day to make any significant contribution to nutrition. This amount exceeds typical nutrition guidelines of 1-2 teaspoons of salt per day.

But if you’re on a low-carb diet regimen like keto or carnivore, you’ll likely need to be consuming far more salt than usual. In this case, the trace minerals in Himalayan salt can make a positive impact. 

In the chart below, you can find a quantitative breakdown of the minerals typically found in Himalayan salt: 

CompoundsQuantity 
Sodium38.26%
Chloride59.09%
Potassium.35%
Calcium0.405%
Magnesium0.016%
Iron38.9 ppm
Zinc2.38 ppm
Copper0.56 ppm

Why Trace Minerals in Himalayan Salt Matter

Salt is essential to the human body and is classified as an electrolyte. When ingested, the minerals in Himalayan salt dissolve in the body’s fluids and create electrically charged ions.

Electrolytes work together to accomplish a variety of different physiological tasks.  

  • Maintain normal cellular homeostasis 
  • Maintain the correct balance of fluids in the body
  • Conduct the electricity critical for nerve impulses and muscle contractions–including in the heart muscle.
  • Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Maintains bone health and prevents osteoporosis 
  • Involved in intracellular signaling and hormonal secretion

Iron

  • Supports gene regulation
  • Maintains binding and transportation of oxygen
  • Regulates cell growth and differentiation
  • Builds red blood cells, collagen, connective tissues, and neurotransmitters
  • Aids in iron absorption
  • Protects against free-radical damage to proteins and membrane lipids
  • Antioxidant that reduces inflammation in the body
  • Supports growth and repair of body tissues
  • Supports mobilization of vitamin A and healthy eye function

Health Benefits of Himalayan Salt: The Bottom Line

Himalayan salt is a type of rock salt with vibrant pink hues that set it apart from other common salts. Mined from the depths of Pakistan’s Salt Range mountains, Himalayan pink salt comes from the dried remains of an ancient seabed dating back more than 200 million years. 

Unlike table salt, Himalayan salt contains a wide range of trace minerals that are kept intact during its hand extraction and minimal processing. 

These trace minerals and nutrients play essential roles in several vital physiological functions, such as maintaining normal cellular homeostasis, balance of bodily fluids, and the conduction of nerve impulses and muscle contractions.

Not only does Himalayan salt add flavor to our favorite rib-eye steak, but Himalayan salt can help our nutrient absorption and maintain our overall sense of balance and wellness.

Sea salt and pink salt in the linen sacks on the wooden background

Himalayan Salt vs. Sea Salt: Based on Mineral Content and Purity

In the modern world, salt is seemingly abundant, with many novel types of salt to choose between, including pink Himalayan salt vs. sea salt.

Yet salt is more than a trendy flavor enhancer. Salt keeps us healthy. Your body needs the essential minerals in salt to maintain critical physiological functions such as nerve impulses, fluid balance, and muscle contractions. In fact, most people cannot survive without consuming salt for more than a few days! 

It’s no surprise then that salt has been a coveted and often scarce commodity for millennia, with salt extraction being one of the oldest “chemical” industries. The Roman Empire even paid their soldiers with salt. 

So, while Himalayan and sea salt may seem like mere seasonings, they have distinct nutritional profiles that set them apart. 

In this article, we’ll embark on a comparative journey, pitting Himalayan salt against Celtic sea salt, examining their origins, mineral content, and potential health benefits. We’ll also explore emerging research into the potential for the microplastics accumulating in our environment to find their way into our salts, and how plastic contamination may affect our health.

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What is Pink Himalayan Salt?

Khewra Salt Mine - February, 14, 2021: North of Pind Dadan Khan, Jhelum District, Pakistan. Second largest in the world, famous for its production of pink salt and is a major tourist attraction.

Khewra Salt Mine. North of Pind Dadan Khan, Jhelum District, Pakistan. It is the second largest in the world, famous for its production of pink salt and is a major tourist attraction.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Khewra_Himalayan_Pink_Salt_Mine_interior_view.jpg

Himalayan salt is a type of unrefined rock salt that comes from the foothills of the Himalayas. The salt, which can be pink or black in color, is mostly mined at the Khewra Salt Mine in the northern Punjab region of Pakistan. 

Himalayan salt was formed over 200 million years ago when dried ancient sea beds were submerged by lava eruptions. 

This ancient sea was pre-human, and these ancient salt vaults have been covered by snow, ice, and rock. This would lead you to believe that they have been protected from essentially all natural and industrial pollutants and impurities. But as we’ll discuss below, unfortunately, this isn’t necessarily the case. 

The first records of mining in this area in Pakistan began around 1200 AD. However, local legend traces the discovery to the army of Alexander the Great in 320 BC. 

Himalayan salt is minimally processed and extracted by hand, making it a more natural product than table salt, which requires huge industrial processes, including pumping brine into evaporation vats. 

The distinct pink coloration of Himalayan salt is derived from the abundance of trace minerals, specifically iron. 

In northern India, Himalayan salt has been used in folk medicine traditions as an emergency gastrointestinal curative.

What is Sea Salt?

Sea salt is derived from evaporated seawater and can vary greatly in flavor, color, and nutrient content. Modern sea salt production comes mainly from the Mediterranean Sea but can also be harvested from the Dead Sea and Atlantic Ocean. 

In the case of popular Celtic sea salt, it is harvested off the coast of Brittany in northwest France. There it is processed using methods that are hundreds of years old, including air and sun drying in clay ponds. Then, it is gathered by hand with wooden tools to preserve its living enzyme content.

celtic sea salt drying ponds

Celtic sea salt beds

Source: Lovesalt.com

Similar to Himalayan salt, there is minimal processing involved in sea salt, allowing it to retain its trace mineral composition. However, the mineral content of sea salt is less predictable and may vary dramatically depending on the location of origin and processing methods. 

Unlike sea salt, table salt is by far the most processed derivative and contains no trace minerals. Table salt is bleached and mixed with an aluminum anticaking agent.

Why We Need Salt

Salt is an essential nutrient for human physiological function. We need it to produce hydrochloric acid in our stomach, which is needed to digest protein, kill harmful pathogens, and assimilate minerals. 

Additionally, our bodies use the sodium and chloride in salt to support adrenal and immune functions and to regulate the sodium-potassium balance in the body, which powers our muscles and allows us to mobilize energy.

Many health organizations recommend about 1-2 tsp of salt per day, depending on the individual, to maintain these functions.

While carnivore dieters, keto dieters, and people practicing intermittent fasting generally need to consume 2-5 times as much salt.

So, when considering Himalayan salt vs. sea salt, which should we choose to power these vital functions? 

Both pink Himalayan salt and sea salt are mostly composed of sodium chloride and contain trace minerals such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium. However, much has been made about the presence of microplastics as key difference setting these salts apart. 

While Himalayan salt is supposedly protected from environmental contaminants like plastic pollution due to the process of land mining, sea salt is exposed to the rise of ocean pollutants, including the ubiquity of plastic. 

One study found that 90% of all sea salt tested contained microplastics.

But does this make them more contaminated than Himalayan salt? Let’s explore

Toxins and Microplastics in Himalayan Salt vs. Sea Salt

According to research, about 3 billion tons of plastics are manufactured every year. And about 8 million tons of plastic will eventually make their way into a marine environment.

Microplastics, or plastic particles that are smaller than 5 mm in diameter, make up about 92% of the 5.25 trillion plastic particles on the ocean surface. Microplastics take about 500 years to degrade and break down. 

When microplastics get into our bodies, they can act as endocrine disruptors, affecting the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, adrenal, and reproductive organs and creating an overarching threat to human health.

While smaller microplastics can harm secondary organs and tissues, larger microplastics harm the gut microbiome.

Our bodies respond to microplastics as harmful toxins, triggering a natural inflammatory response. 

But with consistent exposure to microplastics, our inflammatory response doesn’t turn off, leading to chronic inflammatory conditions like cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s

Ingestion of these microplastics affects all levels of the food chain and can bioaccumulate as we consume other animals–especially seafood, causing microplastics to build up in our bodies over time. 

Sea salts from nearly every region of the world contain some microplastics.

Country of OriginNumber of Brands TestedParticle Per Kilogram
Croatia, Mediterranean (Fine sea salt)513500–19800
Chinese, Taipei40-1300
China5550-681
Thailand280-600
USA1300
Spain (fine)780-280
Spain (coarse)260-65
Mediterranean 2266
Sicilian Sea1220
Brazil1200
Mexico1173
Italy (fine)622-594
India856-103
Turkey518-84
Australia30-80
Portugal30-10
France60-2
Japan10-1
Malaysia10-1

Microplastics in Himalayan Salt? 

Though it’s not surprising to find microplastics in sea salt, we were surprised to find that pink and black Himalayan salt are contaminated with microplastics, and at higher levels than many sea salts.

OriginNumber of Brands TestedParticles per kilogram
Himalayan Rock Salt (unspecified color)1367
Himalayan Pink Salt1174
Himalayan Black Salt1157

Himalayan Salt vs. Sea Salt Mineral Composition 

Though microplastics are a concern, they aren’t the only parameter to consider when assessing Himalayan salt vs. sea salt. 

Research suggests that Himalayan salt may contain substantially higher nutrient levels than sea salt, including iron, copper, and zinc, while containing over 80 trace minerals compared to sea salt’s 34 trace minerals.

Below, we’ve included a side-by-side comparison of the minerals in one kilogram of each type of salt.

Compounds Himalayan SaltCeltic Sea Salt
Sodium38.26%33.1%
Chloride 59.09%54.4%
Potassium.35%0.215%
Calcium0.405%0.161%
Magnesium0.016%0.481%
Iron38.9 ppm< 9.86 ppm
Zinc2.38 ppm< 1.97 ppm
Copper0.56 ppm< 2.47 ppm

Himalayan Salt vs Sea Salt: The Bottom Line

Humans depend on the electrolytes in salt to maintain numerous critical physiological functions in the body. Salt is an essential nutrient that helps balance bodily fluids, supports our adrenal glands, and facilitates our muscular function and nerve impulses. 

While pink Himalayan salt and sea salt are both popular choices, there are a few critical differences to consider. 

While sea salt comes from evaporated seawater and can vary in terms of mineral composition, Himalayan salt is derived from a single ancient sea bed. For this reason, its mineral content is more uniform, and it is generally higher in various trace minerals when compared to sea salt. 

However, emerging research revealing the prevalence of microplastics in various sea and terrestrial salts suggests that it may be wise to ignore the pink Himalayan salt hype and choose low-toxin sea salts, especially Celtic sea salt from France and sea salts from Japan and Portugal.

selection of animal based foods

A Guide to Animal Based Diets

Most people have heard of Low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets like Paleo and keto. They’ve been around for decades. More recently, low-carb pioneers like Dr. Robert Kiltz, Dr. Ken Berry, and Dr. Shawn Baker are leading an evolution from standard low-carb dieting into a meatier, Animal-based diet paradigm.

The meatiest animal-based diet is simply called “carnivore.” Jettisoning all plant products, carnivore eaters get all their calories and nutrients from only meat and animal products. The term Animal-based was popularized by Dr. Paul Saladino, known as the Carnivore MD, who rose to fame with his book The Carnivore Code. 

After a number of years consuming an all-meat diet, Dr. Saladino moved to Costa Rica and added fresh fruit to his carnivore approach. He dubbed this approach “animal-based” because it was no longer strictly carnivore, yet the majority of calories and nutrients still come from meat and animal products. 

In this article, we’ll explore different types of animal-based diets, explain the rationale behind going animal-based, and detail the various benefits undergirding this radical dietary approach. 

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What is the Animal Based Diet? 

First of all, there isn’t one animal-based diet. Hence, the word “based.” So, let’s take a look at a few of the most popular versions. 

Carnivore Diet

The carnivore diet is the epitome of animal-based diets. It eliminates all non-animal products, including vegetables, sweeteners, grains, plant-derived oils, fruits, seeds, nuts, and spices, along with all processed and artificial foods. 

Yet even among strictly carnivore animal-based diets, there are variations. For example, the carnivore elimination, or “Lion Diet” calls for only red meat, water, and salt

The standard carnivore diet allows for all animal-derived foods, including eggs and full-fat dairy dairy. For brave carnivores, nose-to-tail carnivore eating includes a variety of nutrient-dense organ meats

Dr. Kiltz’s BEBBIIS Plan

The B.E.B.B.I.I.S. (pronounced “babies”) plan is an animal-based diet developed by fertility doctor Robert Kiltz.

BEBBIIS stands for Bacon, Eggs, Butter, Beef, Ice cream (Kiltz’s homemade keto ice cream), Intermittent feasting, and Salt.  

But the diet doesn’t restrict meat to beef and bacon. Those are more of a rule of thumb. It also welcomes lamb, salmon, pork, bison, and chicken, as well as organ meats and cheese. 

The BEBBIIS was developed from over a decade of experimentation and research in Dr. Kiltz’s clinical practice as a natural way to dramatically improve fertility.

Meat and Fruit Diet

The meat and fruit diet takes the carnivore diet and adds some fresh, low-toxin fruits. It is viewed as an ancestral diet since early humans had limited access to some fruits.

However, the large, ultra-sweet Frankenfruits that we’re familiar with today didn’t exist for our ancestors. The fruit that our ancestors did have access to was smaller, more fibrous, and only occasionally available. 

In short, the types and quantities of meat and fruit you consume can result in very different effects. This way of eating is best suited for hard-training athletes who are actually trying to avoid ketosis and replenish glycogen stores. 

A variation on the meat and fruit diet includes honey, making it even sweeter. 

As we touched on above, the term animal-based was coined by Dr. Paul Saladino to bridge his transition from standard carnivore to a diet that includes tropical fruits. It seems to work well for Saladino, who is extremely lean and surfs for 2-3 hours a day. For the rest of us mere mortals, eating lots of fruit along with lots of fatty meat isn’t the best idea. 

The preponderance of research tells us that high-sugar diets are a root cause of metabolic disorders and chronic inflammation, which is why a true carnivore is so effective at combating these diseases. 

Meat and Greens Diet

The meat and greens diet entails fatty meat, greens, water, and salt, and that’s it. 

While some people add grass-fed butter, others use only animal fats like tallow for cooking

After 30-90 days on this approach, meat and green dieters often experiment with adding other animal-based foods like full-fat dairy, eggs, pork, poultry, and seafood

As with all other animal-based diets, meat and greens dieters eliminate all industrial foods, including toxic seed “vegetable” oils, grains, and sugars

It’s worth noting that greens are high in oxalic acid, a naturally occurring plant toxin. Oxalates contribute to intestinal and digestive problems and can interfere with the absorption of vital nutrients like zinc and calcium. 

Evolutionary Foundations of an Animal-Based Diet

ancient cave paintings of animals

Animal-based diets are founded on a growing body of research suggesting that early humans practiced an essentially all-meat dietary pattern. 

Researchers, including Miki Ben-Dor and Amber O’Hearn, tell us that early humans were hyper-carnivorous apex predators for nearly two million years until only around 10,000 years ago when agriculture took over.

Figure-1-Human-brain-Dr.-Miki-Ben-Dor-1536x689-2-1440x646

Source:  Dr Miki Ben Dor

This timeline corresponds with the extinction of giant animals known as mega-fauna that once roamed the earth. These giant animals provided an incredible abundance of fatty, nutrient-dense meat, making the expenditure of calories in gathering and processing other foods caloric waste in comparison.

It wasn’t until the extinction of megafauna due to hunting that humans gradually introduced plant foods into their diets.

Research tells us that meat eating was the cornerstone of evolution, providing the fat and specific nutrients that fueled the rapid growth of our brains, and ultimately set us apart from our primate ancestors. 

illustration of various megafauna

Source: Lifegate Daily

The collapse of megafauna and the transition to grain-based agriculture is widely viewed as the greatest health crisis to befall humanity. Our bodies and brains shrunk, and we became susceptible to more diseases. 

Benefits of an Animal-Based Diet

Animal based diets realign our physiology with the nutrient-dense foods that we evolved to thrive on. So it’s no surprise that this way of eating confers various benefits. Let’s explore. 

Reduces Inflammation and Combats Autoimmune Diseases

Animal-based diets eliminate all processed foods that constitute the cornerstone of the extremely unhealthy Standard American Diet. Sugars, vegetable oils, and grains promote chronic inflammation–the root cause of the so-called “diseases of civilization,” including

  • heart disease
  • hypertension
  • type 2 diabetes 
  • epithelial cell cancers
  • Dementia
  • Autoimmune diseases such as bowel disorders, osteoporosis, and infertility among others

graph showing increased incidence of diseases of civilization

Source: Jordan, Philipp. (2011). Analysis, design and evaluation of an interactive system to support early stage dementia patients and their families. 

percent of calories per food group chart

Superior Nutrient Density

Animal-based diets are centered on foods that provide more macro and micronutrients per weight than plants. 

This is true concerning the variety of nutrients, total amount of nutrients, and bioavailability (how easily our body can absorb them). This phenomenon is known as “meat efficiency.”

Nutrient Dense Foods list

Despite the “balanced diet” dogma, plants, as it turns out, are completely non-essential. While animal products like meat, eggs, and full-fat dairy are nutritionally optimal. Animal-based foods provide so much more than the fat and protein that most people think of. 

Eliminates or Reduces Exposure to Plant Toxins

Animal-based diets either totally or significantly eliminate exposure to thousands of naturally occurring plant toxins and antinutrients

Compounds like phytic acid, prevent the absorption of critical vitamins and minerals. 

Phytic-Acid-Reduced-Absorption-of-Zinc

Chronic exposure to plant toxins such as oxalates, histamines, phytohormones, salicylates, trypsin inhibitors, and antinutrients like lectins can cause numerous allergies, leaky gut, autoimmune diseases, and chronic inflammation

common plant toxins and their effects on humans

Alleviates Digestive Problems

Animal-based diets eliminate most FODMAPS plant foods, and plant-derived lectins, oxalates, and phytates. All of these degrade the intestinal lining, causing intestinal permeability, AKA leaky gut.

On the other hand, many animal products are high in vitamin A and vitamin D, which support beneficial gut bacteria and protect against inflammatory bowel disease and leaky gut.

Vitamin D deficiency can also compromise the barrier, which may be why it’s associated with inflammatory bowel disease and leaky gut.

Eating an animal-based diet high in fat-soluble vitamins from fatty cuts of steak and organ meats can quickly reverse such deficiencies. 

Source: Nutrition Research

Animal-based foods like eggs and beef are high in glutamine. This amino acid regulates the tight junctions between intestines, preventing toxins from entering the bloodstream.

Leaky gut Syndrome concept. Comparison of healthy organ and inflamed tissue cells. Diseases of gastrointestinal tract. Toxins and viruses. Cartoon flat vector illustration isolated on white background

Supports Mental Health

Numerous studies have found that people who regularly consume meat and animal products are much less likely to suffer mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. 

In 2021 two gold-standard meta-analyses examining numerous studies with data from nearly 600,000 people revealed that vegetarians had significantly higher depression and anxiety scores than meat eaters.

graph comparing meat eating with vegetarianism for

Longevity? 

Animal-based diets may promote longevity.

Studies have found that total meat consumption correlates with greater life expectancy, independent of total caloric intake, economic status, obesity, and the advantages of living in urban environments.

Though the link between meat and longevity is only associative, it does make it fairly clear that meat is not the dietary public enemy that it has been made out to be. Let’s dig a little deeper into this topic. 

series of graphs linking meat eating to longevity

But Isn’t Meat Unhealthy? Nope!

Red meat has been unfairly maligned since the 1960s when saturated fat was erroneously associated (but not causally linked) to heart disease. Now, higher-quality modern studies are setting the record straight. 

graph of saturated fat vs heart disease

A 2010 meta-analysis of the effects of eating red meat found that “Although intake of processed meat has been associated with increased risk of CHD (coronary heart disease), intake of unprocessed red meat is not, which indicates that the saturated fat content of meat is unlikely to be responsible for this association.”

title from article on saturated fats

Then in 2020, a bellwether meta-analysis (gold standard of dietary research) published in the prestigious Journal of the American College of Cardiology concluded, “Whole-fat dairy, unprocessed meat, and dark chocolate are SFA-rich foods with a complex matrix (of nutrients) are not associated with increased risk of CVD (cardiovascular disease). The totality of available evidence does not support further limiting the intake of such foods.”

You can learn more about the true dietary cause of heart disease here. Here’s a hint–it has a lot to do with sugar and seed oils

Foods to Eat on an Animal-Based Diet

Carnivore diet concept. Raw ingredients for zero carb diet - meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, beef bones for bone broth and copy space in center on gray stone background. Top view or flat lay.

Going animal-based is a fantastic way to supercharge your nutrient intake while simplifying your shopping list. Core animal-based foods include: 

Fatty Ruminant Meats

Ruminant meats, including beef, bison, and lamb. Focus on fatty cuts like ribeye, NY strip, short ribs, 80/20 ground beef, and lamb chops. 

These are the most nutritionally complete foods on earth, providing an abundance of healthy fats, complete proteins, a complex of B vitamins, selenium, and vitalizing minerals like zinc, iron, and copper. 

Meats from Monogastric Animals

Meat from animals with only one stomach, such as pigs and fowl, are also a great source of nutrients, but usually at lower concentrations than their ruminant counterparts. 

Fatty Fish and Seafood

Fatty fish such as Atlantic mackerel, anchovies, king salmon, and arctic char provide an abundance of B vitamins and healthy fats, especially Omega-3 fatty acids. 

Seafoods like salmon roe, oysters, mussels, shrimp, and crab are fantastic sources of minerals like zinc and potassium. They also make great vehicles for butter! 

Animal fats

Butter, ghee, tallow, and lard are animal-based cooking oils. If you’re on a low-carb animal-based diet, you will need to get 70% of your calories from fat, making these animal fats a central component of your daily meal plan

Eggs

Eggs are one of the most complete foods on earth, providing a near-perfect blend of fats, protein, and vitamins. 

Organ meats

Many people who practice animal-based add organ superfoods like beef liver, bone marrow, and bone broth, while the more adventurous explore cooking with pancreas, spleen, and brain.

Full-fat dairy and Cheese

Though dairy didn’t emerge until the rise of pastoralists around 10,000 years ago, full-fat dairy is rich in nutrients.

Grass-fed butter and ghee, cheeses, heavy/whipping cream, and even keto-friendly yogurt (boosted with heavy cream) can have a place on an animal-based diet. 

Salt

Salt is an essential nutrient that is critical to numerous physiological processes in your body. An important part of any diet, salt becomes even more crucial when you cut out processed foods–the main source of dietary salt for most people. 

Foods to Limit or Avoid on Animal Based Diet

As touched on above, some animal-based diets are more restrictive than others. But all animal-based diets will have far fewer plant foods than standard diets. 

No Refined Sugar, Flour, or Seed Oils

All versions of an animal-based diet totally eliminate refined sugar, grain flour, and seed “vegetable” oils. 

These industrial foods are key factors in our modern epidemic of inflammatory diseases.

Together, these three foods constitute nearly 70% percent of the calories on a standard American diet. 

Eliminating these inflammatory foods is essential to enjoying the benefits of an animal-based diet. 

What About Vegetables, Fruits, Nuts, Seeds? 

Fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds all contain fiber, plant toxins, and antinutrients. For these reasons, an animal-based diet either eliminates or significantly reduces the variety and amount of these foods. 

More liberal animal-based dieters focus on well-cooked and low-toxin “roots and fruits” like unblemished sweet potatoes and raspberries. Consuming few plant foods is most aligned with the ancient eating practices that humans evolved to thrive on.  

The Bottom Line on Animal Based Diets

Animal-based diets are based on three simple guidelines that can yield various profound benefits.  

  1. Center your meals around fatty animal products, mostly ruminant meats, supplemented with eggs, pork, poultry, fish, animal fats, and full-fat dairy
  2. Completely eliminate all processed foods, added sugars, grains, and vegetable oils
  3. Eliminate or selectively and sparingly consume low-toxin plant foods

Consuming an animal-based diet realigns eating habits with the ancestral dietary patterns that humans evolved to thrive on over nearly two million years.

An animal based diet that returns us to a congruence between the nutrient-dense animal foods that our metabolism is built for

  • reduces inflammation
  • supports mental clarity and mental health
  • heals the gut
  • supplies our bodies with a hyper-abundance of nutrients in the perfect proportions and bioavailable formats for our needs
Tryptophan level measuring. Infographics illustration. 3D rendering

Top Tryptophan Foods and Health Benefits

Tryptophan is most well known for its purported role in Thanksgiving turkey naps. But the effects of tryptophan foods are far more complex. Tryptophan is an amino acid that factors in regulating mood, sleep, and even cognitive function. In addition to turkey, tryptophan is found in high concentrations in most whole animal products, such as beef, lamb, pork, poultry, and dairy.

In this article, we’ll explore what exactly tryptophan is, its significance in our bodies, and most importantly, the foods that are abundant in this essential amino acid. 

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What is Tryptophan?

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid. Amino acids are molecules that combine to form proteins–the building blocks of life.

“Essential” in nutritional jargon means that your body can’t create it independently, so you need to get it from food. 

Tryptophan is found mostly in animal products and in smaller concentrations in nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes. 

Of all the various amino acids, tryptophan has the lowest concentration in your body, yet you need it for many crucial functions. 

Tryptophan (l-tryptophan, Trp, W) amino acid molecule. Skeletal formula.

Why Do You Need Tryptophan? 

When you consume tryptophan foods, your body converts a portion of it into a compound called 5-HTP.

 Your body then uses 5-HTP in the creation of the neurotransmitter called serotonin and the hormone melatonin.7 Both serotonin and melatonin from tryptophan are important factors in mood stabilization and healthy sleep patterns.

Additionally, your body converts some tryptophan into a molecule called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD). NAD does many important jobs. It helps our cells produce energy, repairs cellular damage, and factors in the creation of DNA. All of these processes help increase energy, protect against disease, and may even slow down aging.

Considering the foundational role of Tryptophan in serotonin, melatonin, and NAd, it’s no surprise that research has shown that tryptophan provides numerous benefits, including:

  • Mood regulation
  • Reduced depression
  • Improved learning
  • Improved memory 
  • Improved visual cognition
  • Regulation of aggressive behavior
  • Reducing seasonal affective disorder
  • Reducing premenstrual discomfort
  • Supports quitting smoking by reducing anxiety

Tryptophan Foods for Sleep

Research shows that diet has a strong influence on sleep and that tryptophan foods can improve sleep quality.

The link between tryptophan and sleep is the hormone melatonin. Your body creates melatonin exclusively from tryptophan.

Side Effects of Tryptophan Supplements & Why You Should Only Get It From Food! 

The tryptophan we get from whole tryptophan-rich foods has no adverse side effects. But the same can’t be said for tryptophan supplements. 

Tryptophan supplements have numerous unpleasant and even dangerous side effects, including

  • Heartburn
  • Gas pain and belching
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Appetite loss
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Drowsiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Physical weakness

Tryptophan supplements, when taken with SSRIs and other antidepressants, can cause overly high levels of serotonin.  

With these warnings in place, let’s turn to a list of side-effect-free tryptophan foods. 

Foods Highest In Tryptophan

Tryptophan rich foods with structural chemical formula of essential amino acid tryptophan. Natural food sources of tryptophan include high protein foods like eggs, dairy products, meat, nuts, seeds.

The foods highest in tryptophan are among the most nutrient-dense whole foods on earth. 

In addition to tryptophan, these foods will provide your body with all nine essential amino acids and healthy fats, along with critical B vitamins and vital minerals that are only found in animal products

Tryptophan in Turkey

Tryptophan gained fame by way of Thanksgiving turkey. For decades, the tryptophan in turkey has been associated with after-feast naps and pleasant drowsiness. 

There may be some scientific truth to this common experience, but it’s not just due to the tryptophan in turkey. 

Indeed, roast turkey does contain high levels of tryptophan, with 495mg (177% RDI) per 6 oz serving. 

In addition to turkey, thanksgiving meals are loaded with carb-rich potatoes and pies. High-carb foods trigger your body to produce a hormone called insulin. 

Interestingly, tryptophan removes all other amino acids from the bloodstream but tryptophan. In the absence of high insulin levels, tryptophan competes with other amino acids for transport into the brain. Indeed, studies show that high insulin slightly increases insulin in the brain.

However, high carb intake can lead to blood sugar spikes and troughs that can cause drowsiness. So, the Thanksgiving tryptophan haze is likely a combination of these two factors. 

Ruminants and Pork

Ruminant animals have the most complete nutrient profile of any food group.  For example, in addition to over 200% of tryptophan, a 6 oz cut of ribeye steak provides over 200% of B12, over 100%, over 100% of zinc and selenium, and over 50% of at least three other essential B vitamins. 

ribeye steak with nutritional facts

Let’s look at a list of the top tryptophan meats from ruminant animals (beef, lamb, bison), and pork. 

Type of MeatAmount of Tryptophan Per 6 oz. Serving% RDI
Lamb Shoulder706mg252%
Elk 705mg252%
Pork Tenderloin639mg228%
Skirt Steak636mg 227%
Ribeye Steak614mg219%
Ground Pork554mg198%
Pork Chop (w/fat)537mg192%

Dairy and Eggs

Dairy and eggs are another nutrient-dense whole food that is loaded with complete proteins, including an abundance of tryptophan. 

Eggs in particular are a superfood loaded with nearly every nutrient needed to grow an entire animal. 

Type of FoodAmount of Tryptophan Per 6 oz. Serving% RDI
Cheddar cheese932mg333%
Parmesan821mg293%
Blue cheese532mg190%
Cottage cheese250mg89%
Eggs (2/100grams)167mg60%

Poultry

Poultry is another class of foods that are high in tryptophan. However, poultry generally has lower levels of other essential nutrients, including healthy fats and B vitamins. 

That is unless we’re considering chicken and duck liver, which are among the most vitamin B and vitamin A-dense foods on earth. 

Type of FoodAmount of Tryptophan Per 6 oz. Serving% RDI
Chicken breast687mg245%
Ground turkey612mg219%
Roast duck556mg 199%
Chicken wings512mg182%
Roast turkey495mg 177%
Chicken legs459mg164%
Chicken liver299mg107%

Tryptophan in Seafood

Seafood is another fantastic natural source of tryptophan. Keep in mind that the fattiest seafood options provide essential omega-3 fatty acids. 

Getting enough omega-3s in the context of a Western diet loaded in omega-6s from seed oils can help combat inflammation.

However, most seafood is contaminated with some level of mercury, making it imperative to choose low-mercury options. 

Type of FoodAmount of Tryptophan Per 6 oz. Serving% RDI
Sockeye salmon570mg203%
Bluefin tuna570mg203%
Coho salmon (wild)520mg186%
Snapper500mg179%
Sardines470mg 168%
Chicken legs459mg164%
Atlantic Mackerel454mg162%

Tryptophan Foods: The Bottom Line

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid found in abundance in meat, poultry, seafood, and dairy. 

This amino acid is a building block for important molecules, including 5-HTP, melatonin, and serotonin. These tryptophan-derived compounds are critical to a number of vital physiological processes, including mood regulation, healthy sleep patterns, DNA synthesis, cellular health, and protection against aging. 

Getting your tryptophan from foods is important when considering that tryptophan supplements are associated with various unpleasant and physically compromising side effects. Furthermore, whole animal foods high in tryptophan are also fantastic sources of nearly every essential nutrient your body needs to thrive.

Mix pink himalayan mineral salt to your drinking water for health.

Does Salt Break a Fast? The Truth

We associate salt with food, so when we’re eliminating all food on a fast, it’s natural to wonder, “Will salt break a fast?”

The short answer is, no, salt does not break a fast. But there’s a lot more to the story of fasting and salt than the fact that it won’t interfere with caloric restriction. 

Salt is an essential nutrient whether you’re consuming or abstaining from food. When fasting, getting enough salt becomes even more important for your health. 

In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of salt while fasting, explaining why it doesn’t break a fast, and detailing the changes the body goes through while fasting that require more salt. We’ll also offer guidelines on how much salt you should consume. 

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Will Salt Break a Fast? 

No, salt will not break a fast. 

Salt is made up of 40% sodium and 60% chloride.

Salt has no carbs, no fat, and no protein. Therefore, salt has no calories. 

Your body enters a fasted state when you restrict calories. Salt will not interfere with this process. 

What about the other minerals found in salt?

Common salt, sea salt, and Himalayan pink salt contain other electrolytes, including potassium, calcium, and magnesium. None of these minerals provide calories and will not break a fast. 

Why Your Body Needs Salt

Salt is a victim of remarkably scant nutritional science and outright misinformation. Thankfully, modern science is setting the record straight and restoring the importance of salt in our modern diets. For example, a 2011 article in Scientific American titled It’s Time to End the War on Salt, citing a gold standard meta-analysis of numerous studies involving 6,250 subjects in the American Journal of Hypertension, found “no strong evidence that cutting salt intake reduces the risk for heart attacks, strokes or death in people with normal or high blood pressure.”

We crave salt because we need salt. More specifically, our bodies need the sodium and chloride that make up a large percentage of most salts.

In nutrition, the word “essential” means that our bodies can’t make it on their own, and salt is profoundly essential. Your body needs salt in order to 

  • Maintain critical fluid balances within and around cells
  • Maintain healthy blood pressure
  • Help muscles (including our heart muscles) contract properly
  • Help nerves send signals throughout your body

What happens When You Don’t Get Enough Salt?

Not getting enough salt causes a set of potentially severe symptoms associated with low sodium levels, or hyponatremia.

Low sodium can lead to 

  • muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Shock
  • Coma
  • Death

These acute symptoms are just the most obvious signs of salt deficiency. When you consume less than 6 grams of salt per day, your body undergoes a cascade of problematic hormonal reactions: 

  • The renin-angiotensin-aldosterone (RAAS) hormone system is stimulated
  • These hormones attempt to balance your blood pressure in the short term
  • In the long term, stimulation of the RAAS can increase the risk of chronic inflammation, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, heart disease, and cognitive decline.

Why You Should Be Using (More) Salt While Fasting

Fasting with salt is a recipe for success. 

In the early stages (4-24 hours) of a fasted state, your body begins metabolizing stored carbohydrates in your muscles called glycogen. In order for this to occur your body reduces insulin. 

A reduction of insulin triggers your kidneys to release sodium. At the same time, glycogen is “packaged” with water molecules that are “flushed” when the glycogen is released. This combined flushing of fluids and sodium decreases blood sodium levels and can disrupt associated electrolyte balances. 

Ultimately, this process triggers two beneficial metabolic processes: 

  • Ketosis: our body metabolizes stored body fat into powerful energy molecules called ketones. 
  • Autophagy: A process of cellular repair and renewal that protects your body against disease, inflammation, and infection.

Though these processes are remarkably beneficial,  it’s important to support your entire physiology by replacing the sodium and rebalancing the electrolytes that are disrupted by this transition. 

Does Salt Break Autophagy? 

As we touched on above, autophagy is a process where your body cleans out broken and damaged cell parts and organelles and recycles them into new cell parts. 

The main pathway involved in this process is a protein called mTOR.5 When mTOR is stimulated by intake of proteins and carbs that increase blood sugar and insulin levels, autophagy is inhibited.

Basically, anything that stimulates mTOR puts the breaks on autophagy. Salt, made up of sodium and chloride, does not stimulate mTOR, and studies have found no evidence that sodium intake interferes with autophagy.

However, when fasting it’s important to get your salt from non-caloric, which essentially means mineral water or water with salt added to it. 

How Much Salt Do You Need When Fasting?

General guidelines for how much salt you need to consume while fasting is at least 3.75 – 5 grams of salt, which provides 1.5-2 grams of sodium per day.  

While on an extended fast and deep into ketosis, you may benefit from increasing your sodium intake by 100-200%. 

When consuming salt, it’s crucial to spread your intake evenly throughout the day. 

Here are a few other considerations to keep in mind. 

  • If you’re not accustomed to consuming more salt (most people get salt passively through processed foods), consume very small amounts at a time and pay close attention to how your body responds.
  • Pay attention to symptoms of sodium deficiency and increase salt intake accordingly.
  • If you have pre-existing health conditions, especially related to the kidneys and high blood pressure, consult with a healthcare provider knowledgeable about fasting before making any significant changes to your salt intake.
  • If you’re physically active or in an environment that causes significant sweating, you may need to increase your salt intake above our standard recommendations.
  • Though staying hydrated is critical when fasting, drinking too much water without adding salt and other electrolytes can cause sodium deficiency.

When fasting it may be appropriate to supplement with electrolytes such as “keto chow” formulated by low-carb eating expert Dr. Ken Berry. 

How To Take Salt While Fasting

One approach is to add around 1/8 tsp of Celtic Sea Salt or Himalayan pink salt with each 12 oz. glass of water, beginning in the morning. 

Does Salt Break a Fast: The Bottom Line

Salt is composed mostly of sodium and chloride, with some types of salt also providing potassium, magnesium, and calcium. None of these electrolytes and minerals contain calories. Therefore salt will not break a fast. 

Nor will salt “break” or interfere with beneficial processes associated with fasting, including autophagy or ketosis. 

Salt, or more specifically, the sodium and chloride that it provides, are essential nutrients that your body needs for the proper performance of numerous vital processes. Fasting triggers metabolic changes that require even more salt intake than the standard recommendations. 

Despite the anti-salt dogma of the last half-century, modern research tells us that salt does not negatively affect blood pressure or heart health.

While the guideline above will likely support most people in their fasting practice, prolonged fasting can affect electrolyte balance in complex ways that vary among individuals. It’s important to pay close attention to your body and to consult with experienced professionals if you have questions.

Unhealthy products. food bad for figure, skin, heart and teeth. Assortment of fast carbohydrates food with fries and cola

Top 7 Foods That Are Bad for Your Brain and Memory

Few decisions are as crucial to our overall health and well-being as what we put on our plates. The link between poor diet and physical illness is undeniable, but what about the influence of foods that are bad for your brain and memory? It turns out that our brains are just as susceptible to the quality of our diet as our waistlines. 

In fact, the way that foods influence your brain can have wide-ranging effects on various other bodily functions, including feelings of fullness and food cravings , coordination, and lung and heart health.

It’s also important to highlight that dementia rates are forecast to triple by 2050, while Alzheimer’s mortality rates already increased by 38.0% between 1990 and 2019. Nearly all of these increases have and will take place in developed countries where people consume highly processed standard Western diets loaded with the foods we explore below. 

In this article, we’ll explore the realm of nutrition and neuroscience, shedding light on the foods that can compromise our brain health and memory. 

[TOC]

1. Sugary Drinks

It’s a stretch to call sugar drinks a “food” that is bad for your brain and memory. It’s more accurate to simply call them poison. 

Sugary drinks include 

  • Soda,
  • fruit juice
  • sports drinks
  • energy drinks
  • Sweetened teas
  • Sweetened coffee drinks

Sugary drinks lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar. Research shows that increases in blood sugar are directly linked to increased risk of brain disorders, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Studies on animals show that f sugary drinks can deteriorate memory and decision-making abilities.

Other studies show that consuming sugary drinks increases the odds of developing type 2 diabetes, which significantly increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Most sugary drinks are sweetened with either high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), cane sugar, and/or beet sugar. All of these are composed of around 50% of a type of sugar called fructose. 

In a 2020 study, researchers described Alzheimer’s as a modern disease driven by changes in diet, in which high intake of fructose disrupts cerebral metabolism, causes inflammation in the brain, and interferes with neuronal function. All of which increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

graphic of human body showing effects of sugary drinks on brain and memory

Source: Spagnuolo MS, Iossa S, Cigliano L. Sweet but Bitter: Focus on Fructose Impact on Brain Function in Rodent Models. Nutrients. 2021

Studies on rodents have found that high fructose intake increases neuroinflammation and decreases numerous factors associated with healthy brain function.

chart showing effects of sugary drinks on brain and memory

Source: Spagnuolo MS, Iossa S, Cigliano L. Sweet but Bitter: Focus on Fructose Impact on Brain Function in Rodent Models. Nutrients. 2020

2. Grains

Most people know that grains are high in carbohydrates, which causes them to spike blood sugar. 

We also know that even a single meal with a high glycemic load has been found to impair memory in both children and adults.

But when considering the cognitive effects of grains, most people are unaware of the presence of naturally occurring plant toxins that negatively impact the brain and memory. 

Lectins, a sticky protein found in abundance in most grains, have been shown to degrade the intestinal mucosal lining, leading to intestinal permeability.

Mechanism-of-Lectin-Agglutinin-Binding-to-Human-tissue-Lectins-Agglutinins-have-an

Source: Lambert, Jama & Vojdani, Aristo. (2017). Clinical & Cellular Immunology Correlation of Tissue Antibodies and Food Immune Reactivity in Randomly Selected Patient Specimens. Journal of Clinical & Cellular Immunology.

Studies have shown that increased intestinal permeability is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. David Perlmutter, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, Grain Brain, has conducted decades of research linking excess carb and gluten intake from grains to chronic inflammation in the brain, resulting in anxiety, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Indeed, numerous studies link grains and inflammation via high carb intake, plant toxins, and industrial pesticide residue, and bacterial overgrowth. 

Nearly all grains are designated as FODMAPS (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols). FODMAPS cause intestinal overgrowth and are associated with inflammation of the gut mucosal lining.

Inflammation is considered a major risk factor for numerous degenerative diseases affecting the brain, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

3. Seed “Vegetable” Oils

Seed oils like soy, canola, safflower, corn, and grapeseed oil are all highly processed industrial products. They have never been a natural part of the human diet. 

Their prevalence in the modern Western diet has been linked to numerous health issues, including cancer, heart disease, depression, and all-cause mortality.

A key factor in the negative health effects of seed oils is their high levels of Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids. PUFAs easily oxidize in the body, leading to oxidative stress and inflammation in nearly every organ, including the brain. 

In a 2020 study on mice, consuming soybean oil caused weight gain and triggered a gene dysregulation linked to an increased risk of neurological disorders, including autism, Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, and depression.

In 2017, researchers from Temple University linked canola oil to worsened memory and learning ability in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease.9

Similarly, a Dutch study found that common seed oils high in Omega-6 PUFAs have been linked to cognitive decline.

Dr. Robert Peers named the effect of seed oils on the brain and memory “Seed Oil Syndrome.” Dr. Peers identified that when PUFAs are oxidized they release a highly reactive compound called aldehydes. These compounds have toxic effects on the nerves that send information throughout the brain, impeding memory and contributing to the plaques that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

4. Trans Fats

Like seed oils, trans fats are industrial fats made from seeds, and they’re high in polyunsaturated fatty acids.  

It’s true that meat and dairy contain small amounts of natural trans fats, but these are not a problem. 

The trans fats that are bad for your brain and memory come in artificial shortening, margarine, and frosting and are a common ingredient in prepackaged snacks like cakes and cookies. 

Consuming trans fats has been found to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline while impeding memory and reducing brain volume.

5. Processed Foods

Vector illustration of various unhealthy sweet and deep fried convenient fast take out food isolated on white background

Processed foods are generally made from grains, added sugar, and vegetable oils. As you can see from above, all of these “foods” are bad for your brain and memory. So when they’re mixed together into a single product, it’s no wonder that processed foods make this list. 

Common examples of processed foods include 

  • Fast food like burgers with buns, fried chicken, french fries etc.
  • Chips and pretty much any packaged snack
  • Microwave popcorn
  • Store-bought sauces
  • Sweets like candy and packaged cookies
  • Instant and microwavable products like noodles and pizza
  • Processed meats

These processed foods are low in nutrients and high in calories from seed oils and added sugar. This composition of nutrients has been shown to cause inflammation in the brain and contribute to neurodegenerative diseases.

Studies also show that these foods are the root cause of metabolic syndrome, which decreases brain tissue even in its early stages.

A large-scale observational study found that consuming a high amount of processed meat and fried food is associated with lower learning and memory scores.

A factor in the link between consuming processed foods and their negative impacts on the brain and memory is the decrease in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is important to long-term memory formation and learning.

Interestingly, one way to promote the production of BDNF is by practicing intermittent fasting

6. Aspartame and Artificial Sweeteners

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener found in many “diet” drinks. 

Aspartame is made from compounds that have been found to cross the blood-brain barrier with the potential to disrupt neurotransmitters and increase oxidative stress in the brain.

Some researchers link these factors to negative impacts on learning, memory, and emotional regulation.

A study on people consuming high amounts of aspartame for eight days found that they had higher rates of depression, were more irritable, and had lower performance on cognitive tests.

Another study looking at the effects of artificially sweetened soft drinks without specifying the type of sweetener found that these drinks increased the risk of stroke and dementia.

7. Alcoholic Beverages

Consuming alcohol regularly has been found to reduce brain volume and disrupt neurotransmitters.

It is widely known that alcohol disrupts activity in the hippocampus, a brain region that plays a central role in the formation of new autobiographical memories.7

Furthermore, chronic alcohol consumption triggers vitamin B1 deficiency, leading to brain disorders like encephalopathy, severe brain damage, memory loss, confusion, and lack of coordination.

Pregnant women and teenagers are even more susceptible to the effects of alcohol on the brain and memory. 

Drinking while pregnant can cause numerous devastating physical and brain defects in the fetus.

The growing brains of teenagers are susceptible to alcohol-related brain disorders that negatively impact behavior and learning.

brain images showing effects of alcohol

Foods That Are Bad for Your Brain and Memory: The Bottom Line

It is likely that the foods you eat have a greater impact on your brain and memory than any other factor in your life, even including your genes.

The modern Western diet is high in “foods” that have been found to have profoundly negative effects on your brain and memory. These foods include sugary drinks, grains, vegetable oils and fats, processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and alcohol. 

If you’re serious about protecting the health of your brain and memory it is critical to eliminate these foods from your diet. 

To combat and reverse the effects of these foods on your cognitive health, center your diet around ancestrally aligned whole foods like fresh meats, healthy animal fats, low-mercury seafood, and full-fat dairy, especially aged cheeses. 

You can read more about true brain foods here and learn more about combating brain fog here.

Empty plate and cutlery on orange background, view from above with copy space.

Prolonged Fasting: How to and Health Benefits

Prolonged fasting for health has been practiced throughout history and across cultures,  including ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and China. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates, considered by many to be the father of Western medicine, recommended prolonged fasting, believing that it allowed the body to enter a rebalancing and self-healing mode.

In modern times, fasting is seeing a major revival, especially with the rising popularity of intermittent fasting. This has led many people who practice intermittent fasting to wonder about the benefits of significantly increasing fasting periods to multiple days. 

In this article, we’ll explore how to safely prepare for and do a prolonged fast, as well as its various health benefits. 

What is Prolonged Fasting? 

There is some debate about what exactly constitutes a prolonged fast. Some people think of anything over 24 hours as prolonged. Others say 72 hours, while some institutional sources designate a prolonged fast as 5 days to 3 weeks.

During this period, you will not consume any calories. Most people drink only water, while some people supplement with electrolytes. This approach is also called water fasting

Metabolic and Hormonal Changes Triggered by Prolonged Fasting

This 72-hour minimum makes sense when considering that for nearly everyone, this length of fast guarantees that essentially everybody will fully initiate significant metabolic changes, including

A deep state of ketosis where your body derives its energy from metabolizing body fat into potent energy molecules called ketones

  • Autophagic cellular repair and renewal that protects against various infections and diseases 
  • Increased production of hormones HGH (Human Growth Hormone) that improve memory and increase lean muscle mass
  • Increased production of BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotropic factor that protects the brain from neurodegeneration and supports the creation of new neural networks.
  • Stem cell production significantly increases, protecting your body from cellular toxins and regulating the immune system. 

chart of metabolic changes that take place during prolonged fasting

Source: Phillips MCL. Fasting as a Therapy in Neurological Disease. Nutrients. 2019

How to Do a Prolonged Fast 

A prolonged fast is a dramatic departure from the three meals plus snacks approach to the Standard American Diet. For this reason, it is necessary to prepare properly, undertake the fast safely, and refuel responsibly after you complete it. We’ll detail each stage below. 

Before a Prolonged Fast

If you’re coming from a mainstream eating pattern, it is best to spend at least two weeks conditioning your body to enter a fasted metabolic state. This means taking a step-up approach where you graduate from mild to more intense intermittent fasting methods

Here’s an example of a step-up approach

Here’s an example of a 16/8 fasting plan

Nourish Your Body with Nutrient-Dense Whole Foods

Eliminate all processed foods for at least a week before your fast. If you’re serious about taking control of your metabolic health, you’ll want to stay away from all processed foods whether or not you’re preparing for a fast. But this week is the bare minimum. 

Processed foods are loaded with numerous ingredients that cause chronic inflammation while imbalancing blood sugar and hormones that play critical roles in your health. Be sure to eliminate all

Nourish your body with healthy fats, complete proteins, and essential vitamins and minerals by focusing your meals around fresh, animal-based foods, including: 

By focusing on these nutrient-dense animal products, you’re effectively charging your body’s nutritional batteries. Your body will draw on these nutrients to support fasting-induced metabolic changes, including ketosis and stem cell production. 

During the Fast

During your prolonged fast you will abstain from all calories. 

What to drink? 

The best beverage when fasting is natural mineral water. True mineral water contains calcium and sulfur, along with electrolytes like potassium and sodium. These minerals are not found in distilled or tap water unless they are added. 

Unsweetened coffee or black, green, or herbal tea are also permitted on most prolonged fasts. 

Salt and Electrolytes

Even when fasting, your body will need salt. Consume at least 3.5-5g of sodium a day, or roughly 1.5-2 tsp. Pink “Himalayan” and sea salt are best. 

When your body enters ketosis it dumps sodium electrolytes, so it’s important to replenish. In addition to salt, many people use a keto electrolyte like “keto chow” designed by Dr. Ken Berry. 

After the Fast 

After a prolonged fast, it is important to take precautions to avoid “refeeding syndrome–potentially fatal shifts in fluids and electrolytes.”

Proper re-feeding calls for consuming 50% of your caloric requirements for the first day. Then to gradually increase calories if your body shows no symptoms, including shakiness, sweating, confusion, and even seizures.

During this time, it’s equally important to consume only nutrient-dense whole foods and to avoid processed foods. 

Health Benefits of Prolonged Fasting

Although the health benefits of intermittent fasting are well documented, specific research on prolonged fasting is few and far between. 

That said, several studies examining prolonged fasting show positive impacts on health. At the same time, numerous other studies on fasts of various lengths show numerous benefits. Let’s explore. 

Cellular Repair and Slowed Aging

Prolonged fasts induce a process of cellular repair and renewal that may delay tissue aging.

This process, known as autophagy, recycles damaged cell parts into fresh, new cellular material. Autophagy has been linked with powerful health benefits, including reduced risk of various diseases.

diagram of process of autophagy

Reduces Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is a driver of the deadliest diseases on earth, including cancer and heart disease.

Fasting longer than 24 hours has been found to reduce markers of oxidative stress and inflammation on a cellular level.

Supports Weight Loss

One study looking at the effects of prolonged fasting on weight loss found that after 10 days, participants lost an average of 16 lbs or 9.8% of their body weight. 7

A review of various studies looking at the effects of fasting between 5-20 days found that prolonged fasting routinely results in weight loss of 2-10% of total body weight.7

Cognitive Protection and Mood Regulation

Fasting has been found to offer neurological protection, boost cognition, and regulate mood.

Prolonged fasting benefits the brain and  cognition by

  • Reducing excess body fat and increasing blood flow to the brain
  • Activating hormones that promote neuroplasticity 
  • Renewing old and damaged brain cells
  • Protecting against excess blood sugar that damages brain cells
  • Supplying brain cells with powerful ketone energy molecules
  • Reducing inflammation

Improves insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels

Prolonged fasting depletes stored carbohydrates and reduces insulin levels.

A study looking at fasts of more than 24 hours found that these longer fasts may be more effective for blood sugar control than shorter fasts.

Freedom from Food Cravings and Eating Habit Rest

Prolonged fasting can be a way to reset your relationship with food. Many people eat for emotional rather than nutritional reasons. Many others contend with addictions to various ultra-processed and high-carb foods.  

One of the ways that prolonged fasting can support a healthier relationship with food is by improving leptin sensitivity. Leptin is a hormone largely responsible for food cravings, weight gain, and loss.

Say goodbye to mindless snacking and intractable sugar addiction. Say hello to a deep awareness and appreciation of food as a nourishing medicine. 

Potential Challenges and Considerations

Though prolonged fasting is potentially beneficial for most people, it’s important to consider the challenges. 

Most people will contend with expected side effects like temporary periods of fatigue, hunger, and brain fog. 

If you have underlying health conditions, it may be wise to consult with a health professional who has experience with fasting. 

Prolonged fasting is not an appropriate dietary intervention for pregnant and breastfeeding women or for people with eating disorders. 

As with any dietary intervention, it is crucial that you closely monitor your body and mental state throughout the fasting period. 

Prolonged Fasting: The Bottom Line 

Prolonged fasting has been practiced for millennia, and incorporating it into modern life can have transformative effects. Many people practice fasting as a kind of secular spirituality, citing remarkable mental and emotional clarity, self-connection, and freedom from emotionally numbing food addictions. 

Prolonged fasting activates innate healing mechanisms within the body, including cellular renewal and neuroprotective hormones. 

If you’re interested in exploring the power of prolonged fasting, it’s important to work your way up to by eliminating processed foods, eating nutrient-dense whole foods, and practicing with shorter fasting periods.

Round shaped orange egg yolk and clear albumen liquid with shadow placed on blue background

Egg Yolk Nutrition and Benefits

Egg yolks are the radiant, nutrient-packed heart of the humble chicken egg, yet they’ve long been subjected to nutritional fearmongering. While egg whites have gained popularity during the anti-cholesterol mania since the 1960s, the record is finally being corrected by modern nutrition science: The egg yolk provides a treasure trove of essential nutrients and unique compounds that contribute to numerous health benefits. 

In this article, we’ll explore the nutrition and benefits of egg yolks, from their essential vitamins and minerals to heart-healthy fatty acids. We’ll look at the latest research in order to address some common misconceptions surrounding egg yolk nutrition.

[TOC]

Why You Should Not Worry About the Cholesterol in Egg Yolks

Many people fear egg yolks because they are high in cholesterol. The yolk of one egg provides 184.5mg of cholesterol.7

In 1968, the American Heart Association supported a now-debunked link between dietary cholesterol intake from eggs, high blood cholesterol, and increased risk for cardiovascular disease. 

This link was based on faulty epidemiological observations (not randomized control trials). At the time, the American Heart Association received significant funding from Proctor & Gamble, which used the AHA guidelines to build a market for their industrial seed oil products, including Crisco. 7

High-quality modern studies have found that eating whole eggs (including their yolk) typically leads to levels of (bad) LDL cholesterol staying the same or undergoing only a slight increase, while (good) HDL typically increases. 14 16

Numerous other studies have found that consuming 1-2 whole eggs per day does not adversely affect cholesterol levels or increase heart disease risk factors. 8  9 10 11

It’s also worth noting that the body regulates how much cholesterol is in the blood and that cholesterol is ultimately an essential and healthy compound. It acts as a building block for vitamin D, and numerous hormones. It is an essential part of bile salt–the substance that your body uses to digest and absorb essential fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and vitamin K2. [10]

Not only is cholesterol critical for numerous bodily functions, but many modern studies have also linked high cholesterol with lower risk for specific and all-cause mortality and lower cholesterol with increased risk for all-cause mortality.  [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] 9

In fact, the cholesterol in eggs in combination with their bevy of nutrients, may be a contributing factor to the finding of the above study from 2004-2008. Researchers looking at data from .5 million Chinese adults  found that people who consumed eggs daily had [5]

  • 14% lower risk of major cardiac events
  • 11% lower risk of CVD
  • 12% lower risk of ischemic heart disease
  • 18% lower risk of CVD death 

Now, let’s take a closer look at the specific concentrations of nutrients in egg yolks. 

Egg Yolk Nutrition

Egg yolk nutrition tells a story of remarkable nutrient density, including numerous had to get vitamins and minerals. This makes sense when considering that eggs need to provide all the nutrient building blocks necessary to produce a living animal. 

Nutrient Values Per 2 Egg YolksPer 34 grams%RDV
Calories109
Fat 9g
Saturated Fat3.2g
Protein5.4g
Cholesterol184.5mg
VITAMINS
Vitamin A129.5mcg14%
Thiamin (B1)0.06mg5%
Riboflavin (B2)0.18mg14%
Vitamin B5 (PA)1mg20%
Vitamin B60.12mg7%
Folate (B9)49.6mcg12%
Choline278.9mg51%
Vitamin B120.66mcg28%
Lutein & Zeaxanthin 372mcg
Vitamin E0.88mg6%
Vitamin DConventional: 1.8mcg

Enriched feed: 50mcg

9%-250%
MINERALS
Calcium43.93%
Iron, Fe.93mg5%
Phosphorus, P132.6mg11%
Zinc, Zn0.78mg7%
Copper, Cu0.03mg3%
Selenium, Se19mcg35%

Antioxidant Protection For Eye, Tissue, and Artery Health

Egg yolk is an excellent source of Lutein and zeaxanthin. 

These carotenoids act as powerful antioxidants that have been shown to protect eyes from macular degeneration and cataracts, and they protect against damage caused by ultraviolet rays in sunlight. 6 77

In addition to protecting eye health, lutein and zeaxanthin protect protein, fats, and DNA from various other oxidant stressors. At the same time, they support the recycling process of “master antioxidant” glutathione.1 

These antioxidant effects may also protect against “bad” LDL cholesterol, resulting in less plaque accumulation in arteries.1 4 5 6

Supports Intestinal Health

One 2010 study found that egg yolk proteins may increase antioxidant synthesis that specifically protects the intestines from oxidative stress.114

Healthy intestines are crucial for overall health. When the intestinal walls are damaged by chronic intake of inflammatory foods and compounds, including many plant toxins, intestinal permeability AKA leaky gut, can ensue. Once the intestinal walls are compromised, various pathogens can enter the bloodstream by which they are deposited throughout the body, leading to systemic inflammation. 6 7

Supports Brain Health

One of the most potent egg yolk benefits derives from the effects of a nutrient called choline on brain health

Egg yolks are nature’s richest source of choline, contributing 680 milligrams per 100 grams of yolk, or 116% RDV. 

Some of the brain-specific benefits of choline in egg yolks include

  • Production of important mood-boosting neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin 4 5
  • improved memory and cognitive function 4 5
  • Supports fetal brain development and reduces the risk of neural tube defects in infants when consumed during pregnancy 13

Selenium 

Egg yolks provide an abundance of an incredibly important mineral called selenium. 

Selenium is a crucial component of various enzymes and proteins called selenoproteins that factor in vital bodily functions, including [1][2][4][5 6]

  • Proper thyroid function
  • Proper immune function, including the ability to fight infection
  • Protection against oxidative stress
  • reproductive health 
  • Increases glutathione–a potent antioxidant [3]
  • Anti-cancer properties 
  • Neuroprotective properties 
  • Supports lung health

Protein in Egg Yolk

Most people don’t realize that there is an abundance of protein in the egg yolk itself, not just the whites.

The protein in egg yolk comprises all nine essential amino acids. Here’s a rundown of the quantities of each amino acid per 4 egg yolks (68 grams) :

Histidine283mg40%
Isoleucine589mg42%
Leucine951mg35%
Lysine828mg39%
Methionine257mg35%
Phenylalanine463mg53%
Threonine467mg44%
Tryptophan120mg43%
Valine645mg35%

In addition to these essential amino acids, the protein in egg yolk comprises a number of “conditionally essential”  amino acids. Our bodies can synthesize these amino acids from other proteins in food, but getting these specific amino acids from food skips this process, delivering an abundance of specialized amino acids. One such conditional amino acid that is gaining attention is tyrosine.

The tyrosine in egg yolks is used by your body to create brain-signaling molecules called neurotransmitters. These molecules include

  • Dopamine: a chemical released in the brain that produces positive feelings, drive, and motivation
  • Norepinephrine (noradrenaline): A neurotransmitter and hormone that factors in the “fight-or-flight” response to perceived threats
  • Epinephrine: AKA adrenaline, factors in fight-or-flight responses and athletic activities

Four egg yolks provide 461mg, or 53% of your RDV of tyrosine.

Tryptophan

Egg yolks are a great source of an amino acid called L-tryptophan, with 42% per only four egg yolks. 

Your body uses L-tryptophan to make various proteins, hormones, and neurotransmitters proteins, including melatonin and serotonin.7 8 9

Melatonin helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle, supporting healthy sleep patterns. Serotonin regulates appetite, sleep, mood, and pain. 6

Groups that Egg Yolks May Not be Good For?

Egg yolks are a remarkably healthy food for most people. However, consuming foods high in cholesterol may not be appropriate for people who have a genetic condition known as hypercholesterolemia. 

Hypercholesterolemia is characterized by chronically high cholesterol levels and high risk for cardiovascular disease. These issues can be exacerbated by consuming high-cholesterol foods. 32

Egg Yolk Nutrition and Benefits: The Bottom Line

Egg yolks are a nutritional powerhouse that should never be shoved aside and replaced with just the whites. 

Previously vilified for their cholesterol content, modern research tells a story of unfounded fears and various powerful health benefits. 

Egg yolks are a robust source of essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Nutrients like choline, selenium, L-tryptophan, and lutein and zeaxanthin support numerous physiological functions, from regulating mood and sleep, to improving memory and brain health, to protecting your eyes from age-related degradation. 

Contrary to popular belief, for most people, the cholesterol in egg yolks doesn’t significantly impact blood cholesterol levels. In fact, research shows that egg yolk can actually support heart health. 

Moreover, egg yolks are versatile and delicious, making them a convenient, natural “multi-vitamin” that can be added to various meals. Bon appetite!

Cultured meat served on light grey lab table, flat lay

Is Lab-Grown Meat Bad? A Look at the Impacts and Natural Alternatives

Lab-grown, or “cultured” meat is emerging as a new trend in the realm of food technology. This quickly growing sect of food science eliminates the need to raise as many farm animals for food and claims to be more sustainable for the environment. But is this truth or marketing? Simply put, is lab-grown meat bad or good for our environment and our bodies? 

Food security and climate change are two of the biggest issues we face as a human race. So, what does this new food technology mean for the human diet and our physiological health and environmental habitats? 

In this article, we’ll examine the history and science behind lab-grown meat and how it compares to both conventional and regeneratively farmed meats, both from a human health perspective and from a global point of view. 

[TOC]

What is Lab-Grown Meat?

Lab-grown meat, also known as “cultivated” and “cultured” meat, is a type of cellular agriculture produced by growing animal cells in a laboratory setting using the process of in vitro.

In vitro is Latin for “within the glass.” It simply means experimenting with microorganisms, cells, or biological molecules outside their normal biological context.

In 2013, the first cultured beef patty was created at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Less than a decade later, in 2020, the world’s first commercial sale of cell-cultured meat occurred at a restaurant called 1880 in Singapore. 

The US is the second country to allow the sales of lab-grown meat, led by two California-based companies given the green light by the USDA in 2023. 

This may seem like a relatively quick turnaround from lab to table, but this technology is built on decades of research in stem cell biology, tissue engineering, fermentation, and chemical engineering.

The process of lab-grown meat begins with collecting stem cells from animals. These cells are then grown in bioreactors, or cultivators, and fed an “oxygen-rich cell culture” that includes amino acids, glucose, and vitamins as well as supplemental growth factors, hormones, and other proteins.

How cultured lab grown meat is made

Source: Shutterstock

In the European Union, the use of hormone growth promoters in conventional meat production is prohibited, which calls into question the viability of this technology. 

In essence, cultured meat is a highly processed product that uses biopharmaceutical techniques to grow animal muscle and fat. Food scientists have taken away the elements that feed and nurture most animals, including human beings– sunlight, soil, water, and grasses. 

Impact of Lab-Grown Meat & the Environment

The arguments for lab-grown meat usually insist that it is better for the environment because it requires less land and water while producing less greenhouse gas emissions. However, this myth is quickly busted when taking a closer look at the production methods of cultivated meat. 

While it’s too early to quantify, the long-term emissions from cultivated meat are still significant. The reasons for this include:

  • bioreactors used to house and maintain animal cells
  • energy needed to purify growth media, requiring similar biotechnology to pharmaceutical production

In a controversial study, a team of scientists at UC Davis set out to quantify the estimated climate impact of cultured meat versus animal agriculture in an analysis known as life-cycle assessment. This assessment covered energy use, water, and materials needed for production. They divided their outcomes into two theoretical scenarios. 

One scenario assumed that the mode of production of cultivated meat would resemble the biopharmaceutical industry, specifically as it pertains to the intense purification processes in the removal of contaminants and the energy and materials needed to maintain these levels of purity. The researchers estimated that the climate impact of highly purified meat cultivation would result in carbon dioxide emissions between 250 to 1,000 kilograms. 

The other scenario assumed that cultivated meat production would instead rely on typical food-grade standards and not require ultra-high-purity ingredients. This food-grade scenario would result in the equivalent of 10 to 75 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions.

Compare these emissions to standard feedlot beef at 15 kg of emissions per kilogram of beef. 

Beef raised with regenerative agricultural practices can actually sequester carbon–literally getting it out of the air and into the earth where it grows the grass that feeds cows that feed us. More on this below. 

It’s also worth putting the emissions of beef production in perspective: Beef production in America accounts for only 2% of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s a small fraction considering the unrivaled nutrient density it provides millions of people. 

The reality of greenhouse gas emissions and meat production

  • 28% of greenhouse gas emissions are from the production of electricity
  • 28% of are from transportation
  • 22% are from industry
  • 9% are from all agriculture, including plant and animal production
  • 3.9% of total us greenhouse gas emissions come from animal agriculture
  • 2% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from beef production

of-greenhouse-gas-emissions

Can we do a better job of producing beef in a cleaner way? Certainly. Many smaller farms are taking the lead. But the reality is that even if nothing changed in how we produce beef, lab-grown meat is very likely not an improvement for the environment and potentially much worse. 

Lab-Grown Meat and Human Health

Another key issue with lab-grown meat that scientists are raising questions about is its potential impact on human health. 

Cultured meat goes through a process of high-level cell multiplication. As in cancer cells, some dysregulation is likely to occur in this process. The effects of these irregularities on human health and metabolism are not known. Yet we have a lot of research on the effects of fresh red meat on human health–in short, it’s remarkably healthy. Don’t take our word for it; follow the science here

Another factor in question is the nutrient composition of cultured meat. It is still unclear whether lab-grown meat can supply the same levels of micronutrients and iron to the body. Moreover, the use of antibiotics is a big question for the industry as it can lead to antibiotic resistance in humans. 

We are seeing a science in its very early stages. Yet, as you read this article there are currently billions of dollars being invested in cultivated meat labs. The question will be how they will choose to industrialize the process and shift to large-scale production. 

Additionally, food scientists have not been able to replicate the composition of real muscle which is made up of organized fibers, blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissues. They are still a far cry from a cowboy cut ribeye.

It’s also important to highlight that meat, as far as human dietary needs are concerned, actually means fat and muscle. 

Our primary micronutrient requirement is fat. Protein is important but supplemental. Our national shift away from animal fats and towards industrial seed oils has been a nutritional disaster, driving rates of all-cause mortality, inflammation, cancer, heart disease, and stroke.

Making the Case for Grass-Fed Meat

Fat Beef cows grazing on native grasses in a field on a farm practicing regenerative agriculture in Australia

One of the arguments for lab-grown meat is that it could be more sustainable in feeding the growing global population. 

While feedlot farming focuses on a grain-fed diet and keeping animals in an enclosed area for most of their lives, grass-fed farming is based on regenerative farming practices like restoring soil microbial diversity, no-till planting, and adaptive multi-paddock grazing. 

Grassland farming systems promote biodiversity and make the land more resilient to flooding and drought. Returning cattle and other ruminant animals to the land for their entire lives can also boost the nutrient content and flavor of livestock and plants. At the same time, the increased grasses can trap more atmospheric carbon dioxide. 

One study found that a 3,200-acre farm in Georgia stored enough carbon in its grasses to offset not only the entire methane emissions produced by its grass-fed cattle but also most of its total farm emissions.

New research is emerging on the nutritional benefits of grass-fed farming over feedlots, including higher essential fatty acids such as omega-3.

If the private and public institutions with the greatest influence on our food systems are serious about reducing carbon while producing nutrient-dense foods, then investing in regenerative agriculture appears far more deserving of those billions of dollars than pharmaceutical “food” factories. 

If growing meat is such a complex issue then why don’t we all just go plant-based? Because humans evolved as fatty-meat-eating machines. Our bodies and brains depend on meat for optimal health and well-being. We’re not designed to eat loads of plants. 

It’s also worth noting this eyebrow-raising 2016 study from Carnegie Mellon University, revealing that if Americans followed the mainstream dietary recommendations for a ‘healthy’ mix of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and seafood.

  • energy use would go up by 38%
  • water use by 10%
  • greenhouse gas emissions by 6%

That 2% of greenhouse gasses is doing a lot of nutritional lifting on a population level. Eating more beef and less of these other recommended foods is actually protecting against increased greenhouse gas emissions. 

The Importance of Meat in the Human Human Diet

Humans and our pre-human ancestors have been consuming meat for 2 million years. In fact, for nearly 2 million years until only around 10,000 years ago, humans were considered “hyper-carnivorous” apex predators that ate a diet primarily of the meat of large land animals.

graphic showing human evolution by hunting animals

Source:  Dr Miki Ben Dor

Our divergence of the hominin line from other apes in Africa is in large part due to a gradual climate change, which dried the grasslands and made plants less readily available, thereby leading to a dietary shift towards fat and protein

This ancestral dietary shift impacted major physiological and metabolic adaptations in early humans that resulted in larger brains in proportion to their body size and a reduced gut and G.I. tract. 

In a 2023 study in Animal Frontiers, researchers noted, “This process required a shift from a diet high in bulky plants of low digestibility (requiring voluminous fermentation chambers such as a rumen or cecum, or an extensive colon), to a higher-quality diet where foods are more energy dense and require less digestive processing. In temperate grass and woodland environments, this equates to an animal-derived protein-rich and fat-rich diet.”

Our substantial intake of meat as early humans is the foundation of our extraordinary human brain, our unique digestive tract among primates, and our fat-based metabolic abilities. 

The deviation of the standard American diet away from our ancestral diet of animal-based whole foods is a major factor in chronic inflammatory illnesses today. 

In contrast, a meat-based high-fat, nutrient-dense approach eliminates the grains, sugars, and seed oils that drive inflammation. Doing so reduces this risk of autoimmune disease and type 2 diabetes while improving cognitive function, mood disorders, and fertility.

The Bottom Line: Why Lab Grown-Meat is Bad

As humans, we continue to push the limits of discovery, and lab-grown meat is marketed as a way to spare animal lives while protecting the environment. However, when examining the energy-intensive processes involved in lab-grown meat and the complexity of creating animal muscle (let alone the fat we really need), these fantasies appear to be extremely expensive, nutritionally limited, and ultimately unlikely. 

Considering that modern regenerative meat farmers have demonstrated that meat production can be humane, nutritious, and carbon-sequestering, it makes far more sense to turn our attention and our dollars toward supporting and scaling these practices. 

Grass-fed and regeneratively farmed meat has the capacity to restore ecosystem balance and make our environments more resilient to natural disasters. Not to mention the increased health and nutritional value of its output versus lab-produced muscle.

Man with pink cloud instead of head. Dreaming mind surreal abstract brain concept on blue background

The True Brain Fog Diet Based on Science

Brain fog is tough to define, but we all know what it feels like. Those times when it’s harder than usual to accomplish even simple cognitive tasks. When we forget obvious details like appointment times and the names of people we’ve met before. When we generally have a hard time focusing and expressing ourselves. The brain fog diet is aimed at eliminating the dietary causes of brain fog and supporting mental clarity and cognitive power through food choices. 

Though brain fog is not an official medical condition, there is ample evidence that our diets have a lot to do with these symptoms. Some of the factors that link diet to brain fog include nutrient deficiencies and inflammation caused by chronically high blood sugar and plant toxins. 

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into what causes brain fog and offer a detailed approach to an effective brain fog diet. 

[TOC]

What is Brain Fog?

Brain “fog” isn’t just one thing. It’s a collection of symptoms that impair your ability to think clearly and effectively.

These annoying and even debilitating symptoms can make it hard to concentrate, to transition between tasks, and can impair both short and long-term memory.

Brain “fog” is common among people who have autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), celiac disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, mastocytosis (that abnormal growth of immune cells), and who are showing early signs of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other neuropsychiatric disorders.

Symptoms of Brain Fog

The most common symptoms of brain fog, include

  • Difficulty focusing
  • Lapses in concentration
  • Confusion
  • Forgetfulness/Absentmindedness
  • Slow processing of information 
  • Struggling to put your thoughts into words
  • Mood swings

What Causes Brain Fog?

Researchers believe that brain fog is often caused by inflammatory molecules, including cytokines and histamine released from mast cells that cause chronic, brain-specific inflammation.

So, to formulate a true brain fog diet, we have to get clear about what dietary factors contribute to chronic inflammation. 

High Blood Sugar

The standard American diet is loaded with high-carb foods, including grains and added sugars. 

Constant consumption of high carb foods causes your blood sugar to spike and remain at high levels. Chronically high blood sugar leads to system-wide chronic inflammatory response.

Chronic inflammation in the brain imbalances important neurotransmitters like serotonin and can damage brain and nerve cells. All of which contribute to cognitive problems associated with brain fog. 

Plant Toxins That Cause Brain Fog

Many common plant foods, including legumes, grains, leafy greens, and many fruits contain plant toxins and antinutrients that can contribute to brain fog by causing allergic/inflammatory responses and by impairing the absorption of brain-specific nutrients. 

Some of the most common plant toxins and antinutrients associated with brain fog include

  • phytates (phytic acid) found mostly in legumes and grains. Binds to dietary zinc and iron, causing deficiencies that can impair cognition.
  • Lectinsin legumes, grains, and nightshade vegetables. Studies have found that lectins exacerbate inflammation associated with IBS and autoimmune conditions.
  • Oxalates can cause systemic inflammation and have even been found to build up in small blood vessels in the brain.

What is the Brain Fog Diet? 

With the factors that cause brain fog in mind, let’s turn to what constitutes a true brain food diet. 

Nutrient Dense Foods

The foods that reduce brain fog and promote mental clarity will be loaded with true brain foods that provide a full spectrum of brain-specific nutrients and free from excess carbs and plant toxins. 

News flash: these are not grains, leafy greens, and berries. All of which are high in carbs and toxins, and remarkably low in important nutrients when compared to animal-based whole foods. 

The cornerstone of the brain fog includes the following nutrient-dense foods

Fresh Ruminant Meat From Beef, Bison, and Lamb

Meats from ruminant animals are the most nutritionally complete foods on earth, making them the center of the brain fog diet. 

Red meat, especially from grass-fed animals, is high in anti-inflammatory conjugated linoleic acid

Studies have found that CLA  “exerts profound anti-inflammatory effects”. [23 

A study on 23 young men who consumed 5.6 grams of CLA daily found that it significantly reduced inflammatory markers. [24]  

Red ruminant meats are also an unsurpassable source of B vitamins, including remarkably high levels of B12

B12, B3, folic acid, and B6 have been found to prevent mental decline and prevent depression and other psychiatric disorders. [11] [12] [13] [14] [15]

Red meat is also a robust source of selenium. This compound offers antioxidant protection that has been shown to reverse cognitive damage caused by stroke. Selenium is also associated with increases in learning ability and memory in aging brains. [25] [26]

A French study from 2018 looked at the impact that giving up various food groups had on the depressive symptoms of 90,000 people. 

The researchers found that incidences of depression increased as participants gave up red meat, poultry, fish, and dairy. The people who had given up at least three of four animal-based food groups were at a 250% increased risk of depression. [21]

Brain fog isn’t depression, but many of the symptoms overlap. The same animal nutrients that prevent depression likely reduce brain fog. 

Let’s get specific and look, for example, at the abundance of brain-specific nutrients provided by a single cut of ribeye steak. 

Brain Fog Busting NutrientsAmount Per 227 grams (8 oz)
Protein65 grams
Fat24 grams
Omega 3 fatty acids64 mg
Vitamin D 14 mcg (70%)
Vitamin B123.4 mcg (142%)
Vitamin B617 mg (100%)
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)19 mg (119%)
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin.3 mg (25%)
Folate (B9)26 mcg (7%)
Riboflavin.3 mg (23%)
Choline170 mg (31%)
Iron5 mg (68%)
Selenium72 mcg (131%)
Zinc12.2 mg (111%)
Copper.3 mg (33%)

Eggs

Being called an “egghead” means you’re really smart, and that’s not a coincidence. 

Eggs are loaded with choline and lecithin. These two compounds are the building blocks for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is directly linked to better learning and memory. [30]

Eggs are also a fantastic source of the underrated vitamin K2. This essential nutrient has been found to reduce inflammation, support mood and overall brain health, and may reverse age-related cognitive decline. [20] [21] [22]

The yolks of only two eggs from pasture-raised hens provide around 120 mcg of K2, accounting for a full 100% of your recommended daily intake. 

To get the most brain-fog-busting power from your eggs, choose pasture-raised eggs, eat the yolk, and cook them in ways that preserve their nutrients. 

Brain Fog Busting NutrientsAmount Per 100 grams (2 eggs)
Protein12 grams
Fat10 grams
Vitamin D (pasture-raised eggs)63%-500% if fortified
Vitamin K 120 mcg (100%)
Vitamin B122.7 mcg (108%)
Folate 47 mcg (24%) 
Choline285 mg (71%) 
Iodine 50 mcg (34%)
Selenium23 mcg (42%)

Seafood: Fatty Fish and Shellfish

Fish, especially fatty fish like wild salmon, arctic char, sardines, mackerel, and anchovies, are excellent brain fog diet foods thanks to their combination of complete proteins and essential Omega-3 fatty acids. 

A 2022 meta-analysis of nine studies with over 1300 participants found that ingestion of omega-3 fatty acids increases learning, memory, cognitive well-being, and blood flow in the brain.6

Let’s look at some of the nutrients in wild king salmon that make it a great addition to your brain fog diet. 

Brain Fog Busting NutrientsAmount per 100 grams. 
Protein20g
Fat12g
Omega-3 fatty acids780-1800 mg (120-300%)
Vitamin B12 7.4µg (308%)
B38.4mg (53%)
B6.3mg (21%)
B51gm (21%)
Vitamin A453.0IU (15%)
B1.2mg (13%)
B2.2mg (13%)
Vitamin D 526-1200 iu (66-160%)
Vitamin E1.5mg (10%)
Selenium31.0µg (56%)
Potassium 370.0mg (10%)

In addition to fatty fish, shellfish make for remarkably brain-healthy seafood choices. 

Oysters provide more zinc than any other food. Studies have found that zinc reduces oxidative stress and inflammation associated with neurodegeneration. [16]

Mussels provide more brain-boosting B12 than any other food. 

Together, these shellfish provide a powerful complex of zinc, copper, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and selenium. All of these nutrients provide antioxidant protection against oxidative stress and inflammation, specifically in the brain. [31] [32]

Here’s a rundown of the brain fog diet nutrients provided by around six oysters. 

Brain Fog Busting NutrientsAmount Per 100 grams 
Protein7 grams
Fat2.5 grams
Vitamin D 320 iu (80%)
Vitamin B1219.5 mcg (324%)
Iron4.9 mg (62%)
Selenium63.7 mcg (91%)
Zinc90.8 mg (605%)
Copper4.5 mg (223%)

Full-fat Dairy Products and Ripened Cheeses

Numerous studies have found that cheese intake is associated with improvements in cognitive functioning and protection against age-related cognitive decline. 

So, if you can tolerate dairy, you’d be wise to make cheese part of your brain fog diet. 

A major study 2020 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, looked at data from 1,787 people between the ages of 46 and 77. The goal was to identify the dietary changes that would best prevent age-related cognitive decline. According to the data, cheese was by far the most cognitive protective food. [35]

One Dutch study found that a 30 g increase in Dutch cheese consumption was associated with a 33% lower probability of poor information processing speed. 8

A 2023 study published in the journal Nutrients found that among Japanese people over 65, regular cheese consumption is associated with better cognitive function. 9 

The many studied cognitive benefits of cheese are likely due to multiple factors, including the high vitamin k2 in many varieties, and the beneficial bioactive peptides formed in the ripening process. 

Blue cheese, in particular, has been found to provide between 2900 and 4700 different bioactive compounds [33] [34]

Indeed, a 2018 study on blue cheese found that its bioactive compounds offered protection against neurodegenerative disorders. [36]

One of the most powerful compounds in ripened cheeses is called spermidine. This compound has been shown to reduce inflammation, enhance the formation of memory cells, and stimulate autophagy– a process that removes and recycles damaged organelles and proteins in cells. This process reduces the risk of neurodegeneration, dementia, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s.”[38] [39] [40] [41] [42] [43]

Let’s take a look at some of the cognition-boosting nutrients in blue cheese. 

Brain Fog Busting NutrientsAmount Per 100 grams
Protein 13.3 g
Fat43.3 g
Omega 3 fatty acids75 mg
Vitamin B51.7 mg (35%)
Vitamin B20.4mg (36%)
Selenium8.6µg (16%)
vitamin K236 mcg (30%)
Spermidine262 nmol/g

Low Carb and Low Toxin Fruits and Veggies

The animal-based foods above are the centerpiece of any true brain fog diet. Fruits and veggies simply do not compare when it comes to providing brain-specific nutrients. 

That said, fruits and veggies can provide variety and familiarity. To avoid plant toxins and antinutrients, a rule of thumb is to focus on roots and fruits, AKA berries and tubers. 

The True Brain Fog Diet: The Bottom Line

A true brain fog diet must center on foods that reduce inflammation while providing an abundance of brain-specific nutrients. These foods all happen to be from animal sources and not from the plant foods that many mainstream nutritional institutes promote. 

In fact, a recent study on the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay), essentially a plant-based version of the Mediterranean diet, failed to do any better than a control diet of mild caloric restriction on numerous outcomes, including cognition and hippocampal volumes.8

This is only surprising if you buy into plant-based dogma and actively ignore the significant, easily accessible findings published in mainstream journals confirming the cognitive protection and enhancement associated with nutrient-dense animal products. 

In short, a diet that has the greatest chance of burning away your brain fog is centered around ruminant meats, eggs, seafood, and full-fat dairy. At the same time, it eliminates all processed foods, including grains, added sugars, and seed oils.