Diet and Nutrition

Paul L. Reller L.Ac. / Last Updated: August 03, 2017

To help in this complex subject of healthy diet, since it is a very complex subject, let me urge you to buy a Paul Pritchford book on nutritional healing, called Healing with Whole Foods, and access the website of the Linus Pauling institute. Let me also urge you to seek professional guidance when necessary from a practitioner of Complementary Medicine, and finally, let me give you a few bits of information that may help. Of course, a small webpage article is insufficient to fully educate on the vast subject of nutritional health, and this is why we study this subject for years in medical school. Keep in mind that your medical doctor has received zero formal training in nutrient medicine. The Licensed Acupuncturist and Naturopathic doctor may have received much formal training. To instruct and entertain a little, here is a small list of some foods and why they are valuable:
  • Ginger, Comfrey and Perilla: comfrey is extremely high in allantoin in both leaf and root. This simple herb food can be grown in a small garden, or the leaf & root are available, usually in a dried form or capsule, but unfortunately still unpopular in a fresh form. The young leaves are very tasty in a salad or with braised greens, and the root is tasty in soup stocks or other root dishes. Mature leaves should be avoided. Allantoin is a powerful antioxidant & anti-inflammatory immunostimulant, so comfrey is often found in topical herbal creams for skin healing. It is also a very good sunscreen and antidandruff agent topically. Allantoin is also useful to control excess stomach acid and treat indigestion. Other foods with a sufficient amount of allantoin include beets, turnip, rapini, soy, rice and tea (real tea, or camellia sinensis). Similar foods traditionally benefiting digestion and health include the wild mints, such as Perilla (Zi su ye), and gingers. Perilla leaf contains valuable aromatics as well as linalool, ursolic acid, rosmarinic acid, anthocyanins, and flavonoids such as luteolin, and Perilla seeds contain valuable essential oils, such as alpha-linolenic acid. In Japanese cuisine, Perilla leaf is called red shiso, used in sushi, and added to umeboshi (pickled plums). Ginger comes in many forms, wild and cultivated, but the common Zingiber officianale contains essential oils, 1,8-cineole (anti-inflammatory, allergenic, antirheumatic, candidicide), pinene and terpinene, capsaicin, curcumin, kaempferol, limonene, myricetin, quercetin, and many ginger sterols unique to this species. Many of these valuable chemicals are found in the leaves, like comfrey, and can be grown and picked as young leaves, finely chopped, and used in soups, grain dishes such as couscous, in stir-fry, or salads.
  • Pumpkin seed: high in arginine and essential fatty acids of benefit, as well as plant steroid hormones, beta-carotene, copper, cystine, iron, lysine, magnesium, zinc, selenium, potassium, urease, tryptophan & tyrosine. The amino acids are often deficient in chronic health problems and essential fatty acids are essential to regulate inflammatory process. This food is available as an oil, or as a seed snack, or you can fix pumpkin and save and wash the seeds, lightly toasting them with a bit of soy sauce and oil. They taste great. Pumpkin seed has been found to be very beneficial to control benign prostate hypertrophy, a disease of deficiency in hormones & minerals as well as poor inflammatory regulation. Pumpkin seed would also benefit the woman with menopausal problems or fibroids. In fact, it would benefit all of us as we age. Pumpkin seed oil is also available and may be used in dressings, as a butter substitute on toast, in baking, or as a light finishing oil on whole grains and cooked vegetables.
  • Avocado: rich in the useful and often deficient Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), as well as essential fatty acids, amino acids (alinine, arginine, etc.), beta-carotene, biotin, calcium, copper, cystine, complex carbohydrates, iron, isoleucine, fiber, dopamine, serotonin, tryptophan, lecithin, magnesium, methionine, niacin, plant hormones, vitamin D, zinc. A few weeks of eating one avocado a day will do wonders to fulfill many nutritional deficiencies that you may be experiencing. Vitamin B6 is often a deficient nutrient, and is a group of chemicals that is very important in our metabolism. All of the vitamins are a group of chemicals, and not just a single chemical. Often, it takes a healthy liver metabolism and other nutrients to transform our vitamins into active metabolites. Just taking a pill will not always do the trick. B6 pyroxidine helps with pain relief, spasms, PMS, acne, depression, atherosclerosis, infertility, diabetes, neuropathy, kidney stones, anxiety and insomnia. Other sources of B6 include whole wheat, barley, barleygrass powder, soy, lentil, steel cut whole oats, & corn.
  • Walnuts: like avocado, walnuts are rich in essential fatty acids, amino acids and serotonin. Other serotonin rich foods include nettle, banana, and plum, although these common fruits have small amounts. Nettle can be purchased as a dried herb supplement, or if you are adventurous, stinging nettle is a common forest herb that can be harvested fresh using gloves. The stinging part goes away when the plant is cooked, and it tastes quite good as a vegetable or tea. It also prevents getting poison oak rash. Walnuts should be purchased in the shell to insure that the nut isn't rancid, which breaks down all of the useful chemicals and creates a lot of unhealthy oxidants. Toasted walnut oil is also a good source, but get a high quality in a metal container, as this oil goes rancid easily. Walnut is also high in plant hormones, biotin, inositol, calcium, citric acid, copper, beta-carotene, iron, lecithin, potassium, protein, quercetin etc. Studies in recent years showed that the risk of diabetes and heart disease was dramatically reduced in the population that ate a sufficient amount of fresh walnuts per week. Eating cold-processed toasted walnut oil is also a very healthful addition to the diet.
  • Shallots: speaking of quercetin, a very valuable nutrient, tasty shallots are very high in this beneficial substance, as is evening primrose oil and steel cut whole oats. Quercetin helps with allergies, pain, viral infection, cancer, PMS, aging, asthma, autoimmune disorder, diabetes, prostate hypertrophy, candidiasis, poor liver function, birth defects, and neurological disorders. It is also a strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and MAO-A-inhibitor in depression. Other plants rich in quercetin include okra, garlic, beet, tea, escarole, endive, cilantro, parsley, buckwheat, sour cherry, black currant, rose hips, cranberry, ginger, spinach, valerian and milk thistle.
  • Melons: cantelopes, melons & muskmelons are all very high in linoleic acid, essential fatty acid of much merit. Linoleic acid is anti-inflammatory, liver protective, cholesterol reducing, cancer preventative, immunomodulator, and helps with eczema, prostatitis, skin disorders, allergic symptoms, arthritis, acne and heart disease. Other foods rich in linoleic acid include walnuts, avocado, safflower oil, hemp seed, pumpkin seed, cumin, coriander and evening primrose oil.
  • Sage, basil, cumin, coriander & caraway seed: these common cooking herbs are rich in beta-sitosterol, an important plant hormone that stimulates human hormone production of androgens, progesterone and estrogen while also being regulatory of estrogen excess. Beta-sitosterol is antioxidant, antiviral, anti-candida, antitumor, and helps with high blood sugars, blood lipids, and leukemia.
  • Lentils: often overlooked as an unglamorous staple seed, Lens culinaris does have a sexy food name, and is packed with essential nutrients that may be lacking in a modern diet, including choline, inositol, kaempferol, linolenic acid, magnesium, methionine, niacin, Vitamin K, zinc, riboflavin, tocopherol, tryptophan, tyrosine, alanine, arginine, beta-carotene, biotin, copper, and cystine. Not a bad menu of helpful nutrients, so no wonder lentils became a staple of the Ayurvedic diet.
  • Barley: while Hordeum vulgare is not an inviting name, barley has proven to be a valuable addition to the diet, daily consumption of barley was proven to greatly reduce the risk of dementias. Barley supplies tocopherols, beta-carotene, betaine, biotin, boron, calcium, choline, chromium, copper, coumarin, cystine, esculetin, lignin, magnesium, methionine, niacin, oryzanol, piperidine, potassium, riboflavin, scopoletin, stigmasterol, thiamin, tryptophan, tyrosine, Vitamin K, and zinc in either the seed or barleygrass (powder), which should be used more in smoothies, but it tends to clump, and needs to be thoroughly blended first. Betaine and methionine provide the ability to reduce high homocysteine in the liver, a profound marker for cardiovascular risk. Traditionally eaten in soups, salads, and risotto, or as a flour in pancakes, pearl barley is a valuable Chinese herb as well, and much studied. In 2015, the Huffington Post offered this page of links to great recipes:
  • Oats: the grain Avena sativa is now a common staple in our diet, yet what have we done to destroy its nutritional content? Processing oats with heat and compressing them into quick cooking flakes is just a strategy to fool the public into believing that these now depleted simple carbohydrates deliver the same nutrition as complete whole oats, which are traditionally cut with steel blades into pieces that cook into a nutritious porridge easily, required just 10 minutes to cook in the morning, especially if they are soaked overnight. Now, MacDonalds is heavily promoting oatmeal with the claim that this company, a threat to public health, is going healthy. A simple fact check by the New York Times (reported in the Feb. 23, 2011 edition) found that the MacDonald oatmeal contained more processed sugar than a Snickers candy bar, along with 11 chemicals that are potentially injurious to your health. This is a far cry from real plain steel cut oats, but many Americans will be easily fooled. Steel cut oats contain the natural array of whole nutritional chemicals that quick cooking oatmeal and oat cereal do not. The chemicals in oats, as well as barley, have been the subject of many recent research studies proving that inclusion of these grains into the daily diet has amazing potential to prevent common health problems, including cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, chronic inflammatory diseases, etc.
    • Whole steel cut oats contain bran, which is a good source of plant lignans, the precursors to human lignans enterolactone and enterodiol, which are proven to help prevent breast, prostate and colon cancers, and exert significant antioxidant activity. Here are just some of the other nutrient chemicals in whole oats and their medical, or biological, activities, found at the U.S. Department of Agriculture website of Dr. David Duke:
      1. Benzaldehyde: allergenic, anticancer, antitumor, antispasmodic, candidicide, immunostimulant, tyrosinase inhibitor.
      2. Beta-ionone: allergenic, antitumor, cancer-preventive, fungicide, hypocholesterolemic.
      3. Caffeic acid: allergenic, antiatherogenic, anticancer, antiherpetic, antihepatotoxic (liver toxicity), antiinflammatory, antioxidant, antispasmodic, antiviral, anxiolytic, cholagogue (stimulating normal bile flow), COX-2 inhibitor, cytotoxic, immunostimulant, DNA-protective, lipoxygenase inhibitor, metal chelator, collagen-sparing.
      4. Ferulic acid: antiaggregate (inhibiting atherosclerosis and thrombi), antiarrhythmic (inhbiting cardiac arrhythmias), anticancer of the colon and skin, antioxidant, antithrombic, arteriodilator, candidicide, cholagogue, hepatoprotective, metal chelator.
      5. Limonene: antiasthmatic, anticancer, antiinflammatory, antimetastatic (stomach cancer), antispasmodic, antitumor, antiviral, fungistat, NO-genic (stims nitric oxide vasodilation), myorelaxant (muscle relaxant), lipolytic (helps break down fats).
      6. Quercetin: allergenic, antiasthmatic, antiatherosclerotic, anticarcinomic (breast cancer), anticataract, antiherpetic, antihypertensive, antileukotriene (decreasing the chronic inflammatory dysfunctions), antithrombic, antipsoriac, antiprotanoid, antitumor, candidicide, copper chelator, COX-2 inhibitor, estrogenic, cytotoxic, immune stabilizer, insulogenic, MAO-A-inhibitor (anti-depressant), PGE2 inhibitor (antiinflammatory), TNF-alpha inhibitor, VEGF-inhibitor (growth factor implicated in breast cancer).
      7. Betaine: the family of molecules known as betaines are organic osmolytes with a cation, or positive charge, a type of zwitterion, first recognized as a valuable nutrient in beets. These betaines are found to improve the homocysteine metabolism in the liver, offering significant metabolic and cardiovascular benefits. Methionine and cystine, which freely convert to homocysteine and reconvert, as part of the glutathione metabolism, are also found in whole oats.
      8. These are but a few of the many wonderful sources of beneficial nutrients often lacking in the modern diet. To explore more of these nutrient sources, purchase the nutritional guide books of Paul Pritchford or the good doctors Bach, or go the internet and search the Dr. Duke database at
  • Congees: still a popular and traditional Chinese breakfast, but also a traditional realm of dietary healing arts in the country villages. Congee is a slow-cooked porridge of various whole grains, usually cooked in a special cooker similar to a crock-pot, slowly cooked overnight in a stock made of bone broth, where the fine bones of chicken, ducks and geese are broken in the stock to provide nutrition from the marrow, a sweet pungent flavor that is a superfood. Congee can be cooked with rice, millet, or other grain, and often pickled vegetables, herbs, shredded lotus root and gingko nuts are added. A sweet version often uses jujubes (dates) and natural rock sugar. This breakfast is still a popular fast food in China, with congee restaurants on many street corners, delivering a bowl of this prepared porridge with various complements and fried breads. In traditional healing, village women would study the array of combinations of grains, beans and herbs that achieve various healing protocols, often providing an amazing cure for difficult diseases. To see a short list of such medicinal congees, refer to this Lotus Center website:
  • Kimchi and Sourkrauts: while pickled and sour foods have been a health staple throughout the world forever, with humans long ago recognizing their amazing health properties, in the modern diet in the United States and Europe they went out of favor, as sweet and salty dishes dominated. In Korea, kimchi is still wildly popular, though, and many companies in the United States have started making delicious sourkrauts and other pickled foods again. In traditional preparation, kimchi is allowed to ferment underground in sealed jars for months, maintaining the perfect temperature and environment. Perhaps the earliest written reference to these pickled vegetables is found in the Chinese classic Xin Nan Shan, poem of the Shi Jing. While the hot and spicy kimchi is most well-known, the red chili pepper was introduced to Korea by the Japanese, from the Europeans, who obtained these plants from the Americas. Hot and spicy foods are popular in colder climates as well as the mediteranean. The Koreans now consume an average of 40 pounds of kimchi per person per year, and tout this as the reason they are so healthy and robust. Sourkraut, from Choucroute garnie, a traditional dish of Alsace, on the French and German border, took root in many European cultures, and dishes such as Sauerbraten, or sour roast beef, resembles the early pickled dishes in China. Here, the beef is marinated for days in vinegar, herbs and spices, and served with plentiful cabbage.
  • Kelp and seaweeds: kelp is actually an edible brown algae, one of the most important species on the planet, and is loaded with potassium, iodine, magnesium and a balanced array of essential minerals. Kelp and various seaweeds can be cooked for soup stock and then finely sliced in simple easy soups, often included in Asia with noodles and tofu. They can also be used to make stock and then sliced thinly to create wonderful salads. Kelp powders are tasty and can be added to foods as well.

Utilizing nutrient supplements efficiently

Nutrient supplements are not a good substitute for a healthy diet. Many studies have demonstrated scientifically how the nutrient availability from food sources is much higher than that from pills. Patients who lack the patience to really explore nutrient science believe that if they take an inexpensive multi-vitamin and/or multi-mineral package, that they are fully covered and do not need to take other nutrient medicines or even worry about their poor diet anymore. This is ridiculous. The general population has been fooled with marketing strategies to believe that poor quality supplement packages take the place of a healthy diet or utilization of naturopathic medicine. While it doesn't hurt to take these products, and they do benefit the general health, they absolutely do not substitute for intelligent improvements in the diet, or the intelligent prescription of specific medicinal nutrient chemicals to correct health problems. Even when taking nutrient supplements correctly, utilization of these pills is much higher when they are taken with foods that contain the same chemicals. When our digestive system fully recognizes these food molecules, processes are stimulated that greatly increase their absorption and utilization. With some nutrient supplements, if this protocol is not followed, almost all of the nutrient medicine will be excreted unused in the urine or feces.

Today, increasing progress is being made in nutritional medicine, though, with reputable companies relying on a wealth of new research to supply the specific nutritional chemicals with the correct dosage and delivery. The science of nutritional medicine is no longer simple, though, and the belief that there are just a small number of important vitamin and mineral chemicals that are easily supplied by a cheap drugstore product is wishful thinking. The FDA still lags behind the rest of the world in regulating this important field of medicine as well, with almost no attempt to insure that the products are what they say they are. The first piece of significant FDA regulation occurred in 2005 and was cynically entitled the Final rule, and only covers infrequent inspections of manufacturing companies to inspect product line quality, and seems to have been used mainly to drive small professional companies out of business. Studies have shown with random selection that commercial products do not have what they purport to have on the label in up to 80 percent of products on the shelf at groceries and drug stores. The intelligent patient will rely on professional prescription to obtain the correct nutritional medicine that will help their bodies correct specific health problems.

There are two basic reasons to take nutrient supplements. One, you might have a common nutritional deficiency. This is increasingly common in the population as our topsoils are depleted with modern corporate farming methods and chemicals, meat production is handled very poorly, with overcrowding and unnatural animal feeds and overuse of chemicals to produce increased profitability, and increasingly poor dietary habits with processed foods, fast foods, and high percentages of meat with low percentages of natural grains and vegetables in the diet are the norm. So much money is spent on marketing unhealthy foods that increase our national healthcare costs that we could see a dramatic improvement in our monthly insurance bills within a few years if this practice would just be curtailed a little. Our government is supposed to be looking out for public health, yet industrial lobbying, as well as pharmaceutical lobbying, is paying for our elected representatives to ignore the public health responsibility and promote only the healthy bottom line of these corporations. Public health should educate the population to create a greater understanding of common nutritional deficiencies and do more about them. The key to supplementing nutrients for the individual, though, is a thoughtful analysis of which nutrients may be deficient in each individual, and which nutrients are most likely to cause health problems. A number of professional ways to assess each individual profile and recommend the most important nutrients in a protocol exist today, including blood tests of circulating levels, and analysis of the individual dietary habits, as well as the signs and symptoms that may be related to important nutritional deficiencies. The subject is not simple, though, and trying to oversimplify is not a ticket for success.

The second basic reason for taking nutritional supplements is to stimulate a specific physiological process in the body that promotes correction of a health problem. This requires a high degree of nutritional knowledge, and to believe that marketing will provide the untrained person with the tools to understand and intelligently utilize this science is not reasonable. Medical doctors each have their specialty in science, but very few have any real training in nutritional science. Most medical doctors are also prescribing nutrient medicines based on marketing. The smart patient will seek out a professional and knowledgeable physician to best utilize nutrient medicine in their treatment protocol. Of course, Naturopathic doctors are highly trained in this regard, and should be more utilized. Patients today, though, may seek out a Licensed Acupuncturist, Naturopathic doctor, or a Chiropractor that has taken a great interest in this subject and continues to be research oriented and expands their knowledge over time. This type of physician may provide excellent nutritional advice and treatment along with an array of manual therapies, providing a very comprehensive treatment protocol. As with all medicine, identifying the specific physiological dysfunction and utilizing sound research to choose the right nutritional medicines to help correct it is the ticket for success.