490: Alluring Alcohol

Laser Provision

Everyone has probably heard about the alleged health benefits of alcoholic beverages. Before you run out to the package store, however, you may want to read this Provision. It’s true that some people may benefit from the consumption of no more than one alcoholic drink every day or every other day with their evening meal. But we still have to pay attention to our weight, fitness, and stress levels. Plus there are some people who should never drink at all. And the alleged health benefits are far from being fully understood. Read on to sort out the known and the unknown.

LifeTrek Provision

After writing a Provision on the health benefits of consuming small amounts of dark, organic, fair-trade, shade-grown, non-alkalized, and additive-free chocolate with no hydrogenated fats Click, I became a very popular guy. I heard from people, who I didn’t even know were reading Provisions, about how much they learned and how glad they were to be able to include chocolate in their diets. I had the same response to my Provision on extra virgin coconut oil Click. People are always so responsive to permission-giving messages!

The danger, as I mentioned in those Provisions, is that chocolate and coconut (to mention only two) are in the category of addictive foods. Many people are hard pressed to stop at small amounts. They are also energy-dense foods, which means they pack a lot of calories or kilojoules in a small package. It’s easy to gain weight on chocolate and coconut, which overshadows any health benefits those foods may offer. As I make plain in those Provisions and in the description of our Optimal Wellness Prototype Click, such foods should be avoided completely if they lead to weight gain.

Today we turn to an even more dangerous food, or in this case a beverage: alcohol. It’s not even on the radar screen when it comes to our Optimal Wellness Prototype Click, because of the health risks associated with its consumption. Remember the mantra: drink no calories Click. Not only are alcoholic beverages energy-dense (almost double that of fat-based drinks such as dairy and soy, and almost triple that of sugar-based drinks such as juice, soda, and sports drinks), they are also legendary for their ability to impair judgment, responsibility, inhibitions, communication, and coordination.

They do that in part thanks to their ability to pass directly through the Gastro-Intestinal (GI) and Blood-Brain (BB) barriers, without first being digested in the GI tract. We have spoken about this problem before, since many people • perhaps even most people • are genetically susceptible to the same thing happening with the lectins in legumes and grains Click. Although beans and grains are not known for making people tipsy, they too cause health problems (most notably autoimmune disorders) when their macro and micro-nutrients start floating around in the rest of the body without being fully digested. Something there is that doesn’t like a leaky gut.

Alcohol (specifically ethyl alcohol) leaks through the GI and BB barriers almost instantly, as anyone knows who has ever tried a strong shot of distilled spirits. The body is so unable to defend itself against alcohol, that it begins entering the circulatory system while still in our mouths. It’s dangerous yet alluring stuff that can easily lead to intoxication, unconsciousness, and even death. For those at risk of drinking more than one drink in a day, it’s best to avoid alcohol altogether.

So why talk about alcohol at all in our discussion on Optimal Wellness? For at least two reasons. One is that most people drink alcoholic beverages. In Europe and North America, for example, it is estimated that between 50%-75% of the people drink alcoholic beverages at least once a month. To not write about alcohol is to not address a very common habit. Another reason to write about alcohol is that we constantly read headlines and news stories touting the alleged health benefits of alcohol. Consider the following excerpted headlines and reports just from the past few months:

Drink Up, Men: Moderate drinking linked to better heart health, study says

More good news for drinkers: A Harvard study has linked moderate alcohol consumption to a 40 percent reduction in the rate of heart attacks in men. The study was published on October 23, 2006 in the Archives of Internal Medicine. It found that healthy men who consumed an average of one-half to two drinks per day were 40 to 60 percent less likely to have heart attacks than their tee-totaling or heavier-drinking colleagues. The type of alcoholic beverage consumed didn’t matter; the amount consumed was more important in predicting risk of heart attacks. (The Harvard Crimson)

Cheers! Health Benefits of Beer

It’s not what you drink; its how much you drink that determines the benefits of alcohol. More evidence has appeared that proves that regardless of your drink of choice, you can reap some health advantages•if you drink moderately. (eDiets.com)

Light to Moderate Alcohol Consumption Improves Lifespan and Heart Health

If you enjoy an evening cocktail or a glass of wine with dinner you’ve probably been toasting the research findings that light to moderate alcohol consumption contributes to a longer life and a decreased risk of coronary heart disease and heart failure. In an article published in the July 24, 2006 Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers found that light to moderate alcohol consumption (1-7 drinks per week) significantly reduces the risks of death, heart attack, angina, and heart failure. Exactly how alcohol produces these benefits remains a mystery. (NYU Medical Center)

Then there are those related stories which find special health benefits in certain kinds of alcoholic beverages. For example:

Another Study, Another Reason to Drink Red Wine

Scientists have found another clue to explain why red wine may be good for you, identifying substances in vin rouge that appear to be associated with increased longevity in parts of France. Researchers have long been fascinated by the ‘French paradox’ • the fact that French people tend to have relatively few heart attacks despite a rich diet • and many studies have suggested that a glass or two of red wine every day is beneficial.

Recently, attention focused on a substance called resveratrol, which research showed could help laboratory mice live longer when taken in high doses. But resveratrol occurs in relatively low levels in wine, meaning people would have to drink hundreds of glasses a day to enjoy any possible benefits. In the latest research, Roger Corder of Queen Mary’s School of Medicine in London and colleagues analyzed various components of red wine. They found that substances called procyanidins appeared to have the most potent beneficial effect on the cells that enable arteries to power the heart.

Moreover, the researchers discovered that levels of procyanidins were highest in red wines produced in southwestern France, where French men tend to live the longest, according to a report in November 30, 2006 issue of the journal Nature. The winemakers of that region tend to use more traditional techniques in which Tannat grapes are soaked with their seeds longer, boosting the procyanidins. The research suggests that one or two glasses a day of cabernet sauvignon or other Madiran wines made with similar grapes and methods would be enough to get the health benefits, Corder said.

Procyanidins are also found in dark chocolate, apples and cranberries. (Washington Post)

Stories like those can make people put down their newspapers and head directly out to the liquor store! It’s another one of those permission-giving responses. These stories can also make people head out to buy supplements containing resveratrol, procyanidins, or other co-factors. Before you reach for your car keys and wallet, however, consider the inherent problem with all studies of alcohol consumption: there’s no way to rule out other variables. Was alcohol, resveratrol, procyanidins, or something else • like diet and lifestyle — the cause, the effect, or an epiphenomenon of the study? There’s no way to know for sure.

Especially when it comes to most younger people. However alcohol works, it appears to work better with age. A review of the literature suggests that almost no one under the age of 45 needs to drink alcohol at all from the standpoint of Optimal Wellness. The risks far outweigh the benefits, since most younger people are generally at low risk of heart disease or chronic, age-related conditions. Controlling weight, fitness, and stress levels are everyone’s first line of defense.

For those over the age of 45, on the other hand, or for those at higher risk of heart disease, consuming one alcoholic drink every day or every other day with the evening meal may be health promoting. To quote a University of Florida news release:

Alcohol Benefits

Older adults who enjoy a few alcoholic beverages each week can potentially reduce their risk of heart disease or death by about 25 percent. That’s the finding of a University of Florida study that shows moderate alcohol consumption (7 or fewer drinks per week) can cut the risk of a heart attack or death thanks to cellular or genetic interactions in the body.

“According to the results of our study,” concludes lead researcher Dr. Cinzia Maraldi, “light to moderate alcohol intake seems to have a protective effect on cardiovascular disease. If there are no medical conditions that preclude from alcohol intake and in the context of adequate treatment of cardiovascular risk factors, I would suggest light to moderate alcohol consumption seems to prevent cardiovascular disease.”

In fact, research shows those protective effects go away when seniors have more than seven drinks per week. (University of Florida News)

To determine your risk of heart disease in the next 10 years, visit the American Heart Association’s website and use their Cardiovascular Disease Risk Calculator Click. If your risk is higher than 4%, you may want to lower your risk by following the LifeTrek Optimal Wellness Prototype Click and by talking with your doctor about other interventions, including the consumption of one alcoholic drink every day or every other day with the evening meal.

One reason your doctor may advise against the consumption of alcoholic beverages, or any other yeast-containing foods, is if you have an autoimmune disease such as Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Type 1 Diabetes, Psoriasis, Thyroid Diseases (Graves’ and others), Lupus, HIV/AIDS, Scleroderma, Celiac Disease / Gluten Sensitivity, or Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. People suffering from such conditions at any age should avoid all alcoholic beverages since they are all produced by the fermentation of sugar (primarily fruit or grain) by yeast. When yeasts multiply they put out toxins that also penetrate right through the GI and BB barriers, causing serious health problems.

Another reason your doctor may advise against the consumption of alcoholic beverages is because of their tendency to promote depression, anxiety, and other debilitating conditions. If you are prone to such conditions, or if you notice such side effects, you may want to avoid the moderate consumption of alcohol.

When these and other reasons to abstain do not present themselves, the relative costs and benefits of consuming alcoholic beverage seem to tip in favor of moderate consumption for people over the age of 45, since that is the point at which the risk of cardiovascular disease begins to rise. Drinking 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits every day or every other day with the evening meal may be a heart-healthy practice, as we age.

As with all foods, organic is better than conventional even when it comes to alcohol. Artificial pesticides and fertilizers do not disappear through fermentation any more than they do through lactation or other beverage-producing processes.

That said, I would bring this back to where we began: when it comes to optimal wellness, no oneneeds to be drinking alcoholic beverages. The Prototype Click is quite healthy without them. Clean, filtered, water is always the beverage of choice, at any age. Maintaining healthy weight, fitness, and stress levels is always the first line of defense, at any age. But for those older adults at higher risk of heart disease who have no medical or personal reason to avoid alcohol, the moderate consumption of alcohol can apparently provide an extra edge on the trek of life.

Coaching Inquiries: Do you drink alcoholic beverages? How much and how often do you indulge? Are you under or over the age of 45? Do you suffer from any autoimmune or autoimmune-like diseases? What is your risk of heart disease? How could you get on the path to optimal wellness? Who could join you on the journey?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..


Thanks for sharing the highlights of Amy’s journey with us through your recent Provision Click. Her story rings very true with our experience. My husband came out of seminary with a “let’s set the world on fire” approach; he went after it with all the passion and energy that a committed soul can muster. However, between some negative political experiences, at the national level, and the sheer pace of an active pastorate, he found himself suffering from physical exhaustion and emotional stress culminating in an anxiety depression disorder.

We have since moved on, but the continuing issues of work-life balance are always present, requiring minute by minute decisions to preserve one’s well-being. The LifeTrek coaches and the wonderful challenges of the weekly Provisions have been a source of great support to us. I am thankful you have been there and I am glad to learn of Amy’s presence on the team. I really appreciated her premier “words of wisdom” in The Provision. Signed, A LifeTrek Junkie.


Great article Amy Haas; thanks


Welcome Amy • best of the best to you!! 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #493: Marvelous Menus

Laser Provision

Throughout our series on Optimal Wellness, people have written to ask about menu planning and recipes. This Provision begins to answers those questions with a sample two-week, menu plan and the seventh recipe in our series. The holidays may not seem like a good time to get started on healthy eating, but I think it’s a great time. With the support of family and friends, we can turn our attention to the things that matter. Here’s to great celebrations both now and in the future!

LifeTrek Provision

According to one long-time reader of LifeTrek Provisions, last week’s edition officially qualifies me as the Grinch who stole Christmas. All that talk about global politics, conflicts, climate change, industrial agriculture, and overpopulation was enough to take the peace and good will out of the season.

While others thanked me for the message, I want to officially apologize if I dampened anyone’s holiday spirit. That was not my intent. I was simply trying to point out, perhaps too graphically, a rather hopeful truth: our lifestyles make a difference. There is a connection between how we live as individuals and how we fare as a planet, between what we consume on the micro level and what we consume on the macro level. To paraphrase a famous poster: I was encouraging people to “Think globally, Eat locally”.

It may be hard to believe that modifying our eating patterns on an individual level can help to resolve our predicaments on a planetary level. Global politics, conflicts, climate change, industrial agriculture, and overpopulation seem so enormous, so intractable, and so • well • global, that how could a simple decision like, “What am I going to eat for dinner?” impact the course of history and the forces of nature. But that was exactly my point. Our decisions as individuals, whether conscious or unconscious, add up to make an enormous impact.

At a time when many celebrate the meaning and significance of one solitary birth, more than 2,000 years ago, we should neither be disheartened by the problems of the world nor dismissive of the individual capacity to make a resounding difference. Especially when it comes to the movement of energy. You may be familiar with the term “The Butterfly Effect,” the presupposition of which is not unlike one of the basic mantras of appreciative inquiry: the first question is fateful. Small changes in initial conditions can generate enormous variations in the long term behavior of a system.

In and of itself, a butterfly flapping its wings may seem insignificant and irrelevant. But those wings, at least theoretically, can set in motion a cascade of events that can trigger (or prevent) a tornado from forming elsewhere in the world. Ironically, considering the comments from those who thought I was spoiling the season, “The Butterfly Effect” was popularized in perhaps the most famous and most endearing holiday movie of all time, the 1946 production of “It’s A Wonderful Life” starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey, was contemplating suicide because of a big financial loss. To save him from this tragic turn, a guardian angel played by Henry Travers arranged for George to see what life would be like if he had never been born. The outcomes reverberated exponentially. It even stopped snowing on that particular day.

All kinds of people lived, died, or otherwise had things turned topsy-turvy just because George Bailey wasn’t there to do what he had done. The family, the town, the nation, even the course of world history was so impacted by the lack of one person’s life that George was left sobbing, saying, over and over again, “I want to live. I want to live. I want to live.” So, too, when it comes to each of us. Our lives make a difference. Our way in the world may seem small and trivial, like the flapping of butterfly wings, it may even seem boring and depressing, like the small-town life of George Bailey, but every choice we make, every word we speak, and every action we take have unimaginable power and consequences.

Especially when they stimulate and are set in relationship to the choices, words, and actions of others. It may seem like a small thing, for example, to join the Community Supported Agriculture movement, to shop at a Farmer’s Market, or to grow and raise our own food, but those small things can change the world. Since one fifth of the USA’s petroleum consumption goes to producing and transporting food, and since the USA consumes more petroleum than any other country in the world, every shift in the direction of local food sources is a shift in the right direction.

As one thing leads to another, there’s no telling exactly what the spin off will be. I, for one, remain hopeful that the spin off will include positive global impacts on the many problems and challenges facing our world today. I am not arguing against other actions, especially global action, which are also important. I am simply acknowledging and celebrating the importance of this one local action, which each and every one of us can take to a greater or lesser extent. Think globally, eat locally: it really can make a difference. So what do we eat? Many of you have asked for sample menus over the course of this series of Provisions. Menu planning starts with the Optimal Wellness Prototype. It’s a great guide when it comes to the “omnivore’s dilemma.” You can’t get any better than planning your meals around organic, locally-grown fresh fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, seeds, nuts, wild fish, pasture-fed meat as well as free-range poultry and eggs. There’s no need to eat grains, legumes, dairy products, feedlot animals, or processed foods.

Such foods diminish health and contribute to obesity. One way they may do that, according to recent research, is that they may promote the growth of digestive bacteria that extract more calories from food Click. In addition to all their other drawbacks, the problems they create with gut flora make them especially dangerous foods for optimal wellness. So here’s what we eat at our house. Our least-local meal of the day is breakfast, which is usually our Healthy Fruit Chewy. The mix of ingredients in this smoothie makes it a near-perfect way to start the day. A tall, 18-ounce glass (530 ml) glass has 328 calories including 12 grams of fat, 17 grams of protein, and 38 grams of carbohydrate including 15 grams of fiber. That makes the energy ratio 34% fat, 21% protein, and 45% high-fiber carbohydrates. Those percentages aren’t far from the Optimal Wellness Prototype itself for an entire day.

Loren Cordain, a leading expert on the Paleolithic diet, looks to keep the energy ratio in the following ranges on a daily basis: 28-47% fat, 19-35% protein, and 22-40% high-fiber carbohydrates. For athletes, he bumps up the percentage of high-fiber carbohydrates to accommodate their increased glycogen requirements. Since the Optimal Wellness Prototype recommends at least 7 hours of exercise per week, the energy mix in my Healthy Fruit Chewy is just about right. Especially since the micronutrients in the shake meet so many requirements for optimum wellness. The fruit provides digestive enzymes and antioxidant flavonoids. At certain times of the year , we are able to get the fruit from local sources.

The protein includes every essential amino acid and no cholesterol. The fats are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids as well as lauric fatty acid. The bananas and molasses add potassium, the probiotic powder introduce gut-friendly bacteria, while the cinnamon and ginger support both heart and digestive health. When we’re in the mood for something different (which doesn’t happen very often) we may eat soft-boiled, poached, or scrambled eggs together with baked root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, rutabagas, and onions. Chop up the root vegetables, coat them lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with a touch of sea salt (if desired), and bake them in a single layer on a flat sheet at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until done (20-40 minutes). Leftover salmon, chicken breast, or turkey breast also go well with the baked root vegetables.

Before breakfast, when I first wake up and before I complete my morning exercise routine, I always have a pot (32 ounces) of freshly-brewed green tea. I prefer 100% organic green tea blended with jasmine blossoms. I also have a banana, an orange, and / or a few prunes. Lunch is typically our dairy-free Splendid Salad. There’s no end to the combinations of fancy fixings’ to put on top, just don’t go overboard on quantity. Avoid store-bought dressings unless they are 100% organic and gluten-free. Those can be hard to find. We prefer to use either balsamic vinegar alone, mixed with olive oil, or blended together with lemon juice, agave nectar, and fresh herbs out of our garden. For more than half the year, we are able to locally source most of the salad’s basic ingredients through our CSA and Farmer’s Market. On days when we don’t eat salad, our lunches may include organic, gluten-free crackers topped with humus, Baba Ghannouj, or freshly ground almond butter. The toppings can be easily homemade.

Add a can of no-salt-added sardines, or up to 6 ounces of leftover meat from the night before, along with a piece of fruit and / or some carrots for a well-rounded lunch. On other days we enjoy a bowl of organic, no-salt-added, gluten-free, and dairy-free soup such as Health Valley lentil, black bean, or split pea. In addition to drinking several quarts or liters of pure, filtered, refrigerated water, snacks throughout the day include fresh fruits, chopped vegetables, raw nuts such as walnuts (2 ounces), or a few small cubes of organic, fair-trade, shade-grown dark chocolate. We don’t worry about the quantity of fruits and vegetables that we eat; in fact, our goal is to eat as much as possible rather than to limit our consumption. We find these foods to be self-regulating. We also enjoy caffeine-free Rooibos tea. The evening meal typically revolves around 6 ounces of wild salmon, pasture-fed buffalo, or skinless, free-range poultry. To that we add a green vegetable such as broccoli, broccolini, spinach, steamed greens, kale, bok choy, and Swiss chard.

Although we avoid white potatoes, we like to include other root vegetables such as turnips, rutabagas, carrots, beets, sunchokes (or Jerusalem artichokes), parsnips, sweet potatoes, onions, and garlic Recipe. On occasion we may substitute mushrooms (such as Portobello or oyster), spaghetti squash, tempeh, or lentils and brown rice for the meat. We may also occasionally substitute a mix of brown and wild rice for the root vegetables. Most of the evening meal can be obtained from local sources throughout much of the year. It truly is amazing as to how many sources are available, when you start looking. One source leads to another, and soon you are part of the network. That’s a good place to be.

Variety comes not only from the selected foods but also from how foods are cooked. Buffalo that is grilled and buffalo that is part of a crock-pot stew may come from the same animal, but the taste sensation is totally different. Avoid blackening food on the grill. My favorite commercial seasoning, for both vegetables and meat, is “Vegit All Purpose Seasoning“. The best way to cook fish, meat, and vegetables is to steam them rather than to fry them in oil (when oil is used, stay with extra virgin olive or coconut oils ). One of my favorite gadgets, the “Black & Decker Flavor Scenter Steamer Plus” , makes steaming a snap. It can steam two foods at once while the timing guide, including settings for both fresh and frozen vegetables, makes it easy to avoid both overcooking and undercooking. Cooking with steam adds no calories, avoids excessive heat, and keeps food tender. For stovetop cooking, I prefer stainless steel pots and pans. For desert we may have fresh fruit, frozen fruit sorbet, or another chunk of dark chocolate.

That’s a nice way to end the day. Eating no grains, dairy products, feedlot animals, or processed foods obviously means we are not eating such popular items as pizza, spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, ravioli, fettuccini, dinner rolls, ice cream, cheesecake, chips, cookies, cakes, crackers, cereals, commercial meat, or fast food. That may seem extreme, but we hardly miss them. Once they are gone from the diet, the cravings they create dissipate along with such negative health impacts as digestive , sinus, joint, and cardiovascular problems. Put that together with an easier to control Body Mass Index and it’s easy to never look back. I will continue to post recipes on our website for those who are interested. To get a sense of how this works on a daily basis, here is a sample two-week menu plan. There are, of course, infinite variations on what can be eaten when.

Occasion Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
Wake-up Snack Green Tea Fresh Fruit Dried Prunes Green Tea Fresh Fruit Dried Prunes Green Tea Fresh Fruit Dried Prunes Green Tea Fresh Fruit Dried Prunes Green Tea Fresh Fruit Dried Prunes Green Tea Fresh Fruit Dried Prunes Green Tea Fresh Fruit Dried Prunes
Breakfast Fruit Chewy Fruit Chewy Fruit Chewy Fruit Chewy Fruit Chewy Fruit Chewy Eggs Root Medley
Morning Snack (select from) Water Fresh Fruit Nuts, Seeds, Raisins, Dark Chocolate Water Fresh Fruit Nuts, Seeds, Raisins, Dark Chocolate Water Fresh Fruit Nuts, Seeds, Raisins, Dark Chocolate Water Fresh Fruit Nuts, Seeds, Raisins, Dark Chocolate Water Fresh Fruit Nuts, Seeds, Raisins, Dark Chocolate Water Fresh Fruit Nuts, Seeds, Raisins, Dark Chocolate Water Fresh Fruit Nuts, Seeds, Raisins, Dark Chocolate
Lunch Splendid Salad G-F Crackers Fresh Veggies Baba Ghannouj Fresh Fruit Sardines Splendid Salad G-F Crackers Fresh Veggies Hummus Fresh Fruit Chicken Splendid Salad Splendid Salad G-F Crackers Fresh Veggies Almond Butter Fresh Fruit Salmon
Afternoon Snack (select from) Water Fresh Veggies Nuts, Seeds, Dried Fruit Rooibos Tea Water Fresh Fruit Nuts, Seeds, Dried Fruit Rooibos Tea Water Fresh Veggies Nuts, Seeds, Dried Fruit Rooibos Tea Water Fresh Fruit Nuts, Seeds, Dried Fruit Rooibos Tea Water Fresh Veggies Nuts, Seeds, Dried Fruit Rooibos Tea Water Fresh Veggies Nuts, Seeds, Dried Fruit Rooibos Tea Water Fresh Fruit Nuts, Seeds, Dried Fruit Rooibos Tea
Dinner Week One Bison Stew Apple Sauce Fruit Sorbet Salmon Broccoli Root Medley Fresh Fruit Cup Chicken Breast Steamed Greens Root Medley Dark Chocolate Large Mushrooms Artichokes Side Salad G-F Crackers Salmon Steamed Cabbage Brown Rice Fruit Sorbet Spaghetti Squash Marinara Sauce Steamed Kale Dark Chocolate Turkey Breast Cauliflower Cucumber Salad Fresh Fruit Cup
Dinner Week Two Grilled Bison Brussels sprouts Sweet Potato Fruit Sorbet Other Wild Fish Broccolini Apple Salad Dark Chocolate Baked Chicken Asparagus Root Medley Fresh Fruit Cup Leftover Chicken Splendid Salad G-F Crackers Baba Ghannouj Lentils & Rice Bok Choy Root Medley Dark Chocolate Scallops Carrot Salad Artichokes Fruit Sorbet Lentils & Rice Steamed Greens Fresh Berries Dark Chocolate

Coaching Inquiries: What is your menu plan for the next two weeks? Does it maximize the consumption of organic, locally-grown fresh fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, seeds, nuts, wild fish, pasture-fed meat as well as free-range poultry and eggs? Does it minimize the consumption of grains, legumes, dairy products, or processed food? How could you incorporate more healthy foods into your diet? What shifts would you have to make in order to become more focused on health? To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session. LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week) Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob..


Thank you, thank you, thank you for your recent Provision, Planetary Predicaments. We so urgently need to teach and encourage people to change their ways to a more sustainable lifestyle. I am very passionate about this. Thank you, also, for bringing Jane Goodall’s book to the top on your list of books. Now, how can we incorporate this into coaching? I wonder how many coaches are on the same page as you are when it comes to these issues? (Ed. Note: Judging from the response to the recent presentation by Lynne Twist, a global activist and fundraiser, at the International Coach Federation’s annual conference, I would say the coaching community is headed in the right direction.)


I learned a long time ago that whenever anyone tries to frighten you, they’re trying to manipulate you. I’m 58 years old and I’ve heard so much bad science and listened to so many politicians twist data for their own purposes over the years that it takes an awful lot to scare me these days.

Please don’t slip into that all-too-common habit of “progressive” thinkers to look around and conclude that things are getting worse. They’re not. While Al Gore burns up hundreds of gallons of jet fuel and gasoline flying around in private jets and being chauffeured in limousines to promote his movie on how we should cut back on our use of fossil fuels, civilized societies and people of goodwill continue their slow, invincible march forward. When I help gut a house for a poor family that was victimized by Hurricane Katrina, I’m convinced that I and my fellow workers are doing a lot more than Al Gore to make the world a better place.

Anyone can be a cynic and crawl into a cave. It takes courage to be an optimist and to believe that most people are trying hard to do what’s right. If you want to see optimism, quit going to lectures by “experts” and get down here to New Orleans and watch ordinary people rebuilding their lives. (Ed. Note: I’m sorry to have frightened you. That was not my intent. I applaud both your work in New Orleans and your optimism. As today’s Provision indicates, I believe in the power of local action to change the world.) 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #492: Planetary Predicaments

Laser Provision

If you were looking for a light, entertaining read then stop here and go no further. This Provision looks at wellness from a planetary perspective, and there are many indications that we are not doing any better on that level than on the level of individual health and wellness. Global politics, conflicts, climate changes, and agricultures are all conspiring to erode the quality of life on planet earth. This Provision documents that erosion and offers one small step in the right direction: co-producing (rather than just consuming) our food.

LifeTrek Provision

On Wednesday, December 13, 2006, I attended a briefing on the situation in Iraq and the Middle East by someone who should know what’s going on: Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Chief of Staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002-2005 and who served, prior to that, for more than 30 years in the U.S. Army. Here is my interpretation of his scary and sobering remarks:

  • The USA will withdraw its forces from Iraq into defensible bases from which it can commence more tactical training and support of indigenous forces.
  • The situation in Iraq will continue to deteriorate until it spills over into other countries and becomes a wider, regional conflict.
  • The likelihood of another catastrophe that disastrously impacts US sovereignty and/or strategic interests, such as 9/11, is high.
  • The above factors will lead to an escalation of the Middle East conflict, requiring 2-3 million US armed forces throughout the entire region.
  • The armed forces of the USA are in no way prepared for this escalation. They lack the necessary personnel, infrastructure, and budget.
  • The USA will seek to bring back the draft and to levy more taxes in order to accommodate the burdens of war.
  • The balance of power is shifting in the world to those who control the world’s debt.
  • The USA, the world’s largest debtor nation, may soon find itself at the mercy of countries, like Russia, who are flush in petrol-dollars.

“Now what in the world,” I can hear you asking, “does this have to do with Optimal Wellness?” The answer is hidden in the code words, “strategic interests.” Although there are many such interests, none are more important than the need for fossil fuels. Without oil and gas, the world grinds to a halt. The most powerful military machine in the world, that of the USA, can do little without oil and gas. The planes don’t fly, the boats don’t move, and the troops don’t roll.

Beyond the military itself, no country in the world uses a greater percentage of the world’s petroleum resources than the USA. Our entire lifestyle depends upon the steady, secure, and affordable procurement of those vital assets. Fortunately or unfortunately, the USA does not control sufficient reserves to meet our ever expanding requirements. As a result, we must use economic, political, and/or military means to keep the pipelines open and the oil flowing. The more oil we require, the more stress we experience when the price of oil goes up or the supply of oil goes down. With enough stress, there’s no telling how the system will respond.

The more we can reduce our consumption of oil, the more we can stave off or even avoid Mr. Wilkerson’s dire assessments and predictions. The more we can also stave off or even avoid the march of global warming and climate change. I recently saw the DVD movie starring Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth Click. I recommend it highly. The assessments and predictions are no less scary and sobering than those of Mr. Wilkerson. The vast majority of scientists agree that global warming is real and that it is the result of human activities. As a result, to quote statistics from the movie:

  • The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years.
  • Malaria has spread to higher altitudes in places like the Colombian Andes, 7,000 feet above sea level.
  • The flow of ice from glaciers in Greenland has more than doubled over the past decade.
  • At least 279 species of plants and animals are already responding to global warming, moving closer to the poles.

If the warming continues, we can expect catastrophic consequences.

  • Deaths from global warming will double in just 25 years • to 300,000 people a year.
  • Global sea levels could rise by more than 20 feet with the loss of shelf ice in Greenland and Antarctica, devastating coastal areas worldwide.
  • Heat waves will be more frequent and more intense.
  • Droughts and wildfires will occur more often.
  • The Arctic Ocean could be ice free in summer by 2050.
  • More than a million species worldwide could be driven to extinction by 2050.

All this, global politics, global conflicts, and global warming, is within our power to change and to mitigate by reducing our consumption of oil. To do that, many people think of the obvious: for example, driving less often, driving more fuel efficient vehicles, saving electricity, insulating buildings, and setting back thermostats. Such obvious strategies are good things to do, but they are not enough to turn things around, in and of themselves. We need a collective strategy that touches on every area of life and work.

Part of that collective strategy involves reducing the use of fossil fuels in our food supply. Many people are surprised to learn that conventional fertilizer and other farm chemicals come from oil. That accounts for why we have been able to dramatically expand our food supply.  Were it not for fossil fuels • calories stored from ages past • the planet literally could not feed even the current human population of 6.5 billion people, let alone the billions yet to come. We use those fuels to develop, fertilize, pesticize, cultivate, package, transport, store, and deliver the vast majority of our food supply. If we are what we eat, and all that goes into what we eat, then most of us on this planet are nothing more than oil. To share one more list of scary and sobering statistics, found in recent books by Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and Jane Goodall (Harvest for Hope):

  • Nearly one fifth of the USA’s petroleum consumption goes to producing and transporting our food.
  • To grow a single steer to slaughter weight in an industrial feedlot takes approximately one barrel of oil (turning that steer into just what we need: another fossil-fuel machine • only this time it’s a machine that can suffer).
  • It takes between 7 to 10 calories of fossil fuel energy to deliver one calorie of food energy to an American plate. Talk about unsustainable!
  • It takes three times more fossil fuels to grow conventional foods than organic ones, as long as the compost is local (after that, the energy requirements of conventional and organic foods are about the same to package, process, store, and deliver).
  • From farm to plate, food in the USA travels an estimated 1,500 to 2,500 miles (25% further than in 1980).
  • Worldwide, conventional farming uses about three million tons of chemicals, most of which are derived from fossil fuels, each and every year. In addition to the fossil fuel concern, these chemicals have many other far-reaching and long-lasting environmental impacts.

So what’s a person to do? Fortunately, the best strategy for individual wellness is also the best strategy to resolve our planetary predicaments: strive to eat as much local, organic food as possible. Become a co-producer and not just a consumer of food. Foods that are both organic and low-mileage save our health as well as an enormous amount of fossil fuels. Who knows, if enough of us were to accept the challenge of becoming “locavores” • people who eat primarily local foods • we might even prevent another World War and global warming along the way.

That’s not as difficult as it sounds. Up until last week, my wife and I were still eating local produce from the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm to which we belong. In addition, our local farmer’s market is still in operation (although with a more limited selection, due to the onset of winter). Smart locavores, like the squirrels outside my window, have already stored their foods for the winter. Local meats, for example, are easy to freeze. Like anything else in life, it’s a matter of becoming aware and taking action.

Here are a few internet resources to help you get started:

  • LocalHarvest.org. This is a great resource for people in the USA who want to locate nearby CSA farms, farmers’ markets, grocery stores, restaurants, and other establishments that support local agriculture. Once you find one resource in your area, they will help you find others. Just ask! It’s a fast-growing community. In 2006, there were 4,385 farmers’ markets on record with the National Farmers Market Directory; that’s 2.5 times the number in 1994.
  • 100MileDiet.org. This site, which includes a free email newsletter, was started by a couple in Vancouver, British Columbia who decided in the spring of 2005 to eat only food grown within 100 miles of their apartment for a period of one year. That proved to be quite a challenge even as it launched their personal claim to fame (and is, of course, leading to a book). For starters, they recommend trying to eat a 100-mile meal, a 100-mile day, or a 100-mile week. Every little bit helps.
  • FoodRoutes.org. Similar to Local Harvest, Food Routes is a “national nonprofit organization that provides communications tools, technical support, networking and information resources to organizations nationwide that are working to rebuild local, community-based food systems.” I love their simple challenge: spend $10 per week on locally produced food. Now that we can do.
  • EatLocalChallenge.com. This site is “a group blog written by authors who are interested in the benefits of eating food grown and produced in their local foodshed.” It’s a vibrant site with lots of great material and resources. I especially enjoyed the report on a recent Michael Pollan speech Click. Quotable quote: “Americans ship sugar cookies to the Danes and the Danes ship sugar cookies to Americans. Wouldn’t it be cheaper if we just swapped recipes?”
  • SlowFood.com. Although slow food does not limit itself to local food sources, it’s emphasis on enjoying the flavors and savors of regional cooking has that effect. They also make a clear statement that slow-food people are co-producers, rather than just consumers, of the foods we eat. The more we know about and participate in how our food is produced, the better choices we will make both on our own behalf and on behalf of the planet. It costs $60 per year to join the movement and to subscribe to the magazine in the service of local foods and food traditions.

Michael Pollan writes, “The industrial revolution of the food chain, dating to the close of World War II, has actually changed the fundamental rules of the game. Industrial agriculture has supplanted a complete reliance on the sun for our calories with something new under the sun: a food chain that draws much of its energy from fossil fuels instead. (Of course, even that energy originally came from the sun, but unlike sunlight is finite and irreplaceable.) The result of this innovation has been a vast increase in the amount of food energy available to our species; this has been a boon to humanity (allowing us to multiple our numbers), but not an unalloyed one. We’ve discovered that an abundance of food does not render the omnivore’s dilemma obsolete. To the contrary, abundance seems only to deepen it, giving us all sorts of new problems and things to worry about.”

One of the new things that we have to worry about thanks, in part, to the abundant but unhealthy food generated by industrial agriculture is another planetary predicament: the planet cannot sustainably support the current human population, let alone the anticipated increases in decades ahead. It took 650 years for the human population of the planet to double from 250 million to 500 million (950-1600). It took 202 years for the population to double again to 1 billion (1600-1802). We reached the 2 billion mark 46 years after that (in 1928), the 4 billion mark 51 years after that (in 1974), and, it is projected, the 8 billion mark 54 years after that (in 2028). For a species that all goes back to a single pair of hominid ancestors, that’s a truly prodigious amount of growth.

But it’s really no different than any other species, and the end game may be very much the same. High school biology teachers have long used fruit flies to demonstrate the path of overpopulation. Fruit fly eggs hatch in about 30 hours. After feeding for 5 to 6 days, the resulting maggots crawl away to dryer areas to pupate. One day later the adult flies emerge from the pupa to start the cycle all over again. Every week one female fruit fly can produce 500 offspring.

What a perfect timetable to fit into one term of education! Put two fruit flies in a closed environment, like a bottle, and after an initial lag they will multiply like crazy until the environment becomes overpopulated. Eventually, such overpopulation leads to a mass extinction. They all die.

When it comes to human beings, spaceship earth is our bottle and it’s only in recent decades that the size of our population has started to push up against the limits of the bottle. That’s why the rate of doubling has started to slow down (48 years, 51 years, and 54 years respectively). But it will have to come way down, and eventually reverse course, or the human population will crash like those colonies of fruit flies in a closed environment.

So what’s a person to do? We can exercise the power of choice. Just as we can choose to eat healthy, organic, local foods without overeating, so can we choose to reproduce ourselves without overpopulation. Replacement-size families would enable the planet to gradually recalibrate without the pain and suffering associated with a mass extinction. That has already happened in many countries. It needs to happen everywhere in order for the planet to heal and to support a high quality of human life for one and all. As co-producers on the planet, it’s not too late and it’s not beyond us to make that happen.

Coaching Inquiries: What choices have you made when it comes to eating and family size? Are you aware of where your food comes from? How could you find out? How could you discover the locavores in your own community? What would have to change about your lifestyle in order for you to experience and to enjoy the benefits of local foods? Who could become your partners on the journey?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob..


I want to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year. I enjoy reading your Provisions.


I often read and refer to your articles when offering constructive suggestions for individual subjects being discussed with coaching clients. I am a member of ICF and IAC who appreciates your experience and knowledge. I would appreciate your permission to include information from your Provisions in my resource files that can be referred to or shared with them. I will definitely include your contact information and copyright information. (Ed. Note: Permission granted. Thanks for asking and thanks for including the attribution.)


Will you share what it costs to take the supplements you’ve described? I took Dr. Weill’s packaged supplements for a while, but it didn’t include some of what you take; and I included prostate, joint and heart-specific supplements. My cost was about $135 per month. I think the quality has dropped significantly and have discontinued them, but I do believe supplements help. (Ed. Note: My cost is a little less, but I am able to order my products directly from PureCaps.com. The cost would be significantly more if you were paying retail prices. As I indicated in the Provision, quality supplements are expensive. If money is an issue, skip the supplements and stay with fresh, local, colorful, and organic plants and animals.)


I looked at your list of daily stuff at PureCaps.com, but could not find lactobacillus acidophilus powder or phytosterols. What brand(s) are you using and do they have an internet source? Also, are you drinking the whole pitcher of smoothie each day or do you share it with your wife? (Ed. Note: I use the PureCaps.com brand. I mix the ProBiotic 123 Dairy-Free powder in my morning fruit smoothie and I take the CholestePure phytosterols twice a day with meals. The fruit smoothie recipe on my website serves 2-3. I share it with my wife every morning.)


Is LifeTrek Coaching a mentoring service? I work as a children’s counselor and case manager, but I want to do life coaching full time, soon. I have limited funds to contribute to a new business. Any tips on how to get started in a new area to me? (Ed. Note: Yes, LifeTrek offers mentor coaching for those interested in becoming a coach or in developing their abilities as a coach. Learn more by visiting our website and submitting a contact form .) 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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Provision #491: Supportive Supplements

Laser Provision

Today I dare to go where angels fear to tread: into the largely unregulated world of nutritional supplements. With so many exotic products and so many sensational claims, it’s hard to know what to believe and what to do. Unfortunately, many people take supplements as replacements for healthy nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle routines. That’s a formula for disaster. It’s better to take no supplements at all than to do that. If you have the resources and if you understand their role, however, some supplements may be worth taking. Read on to learn which ones.

LifeTrek Provision

I hesitate to write this Provision for many reasons. The primary one being that following our Optimal Wellness Prototype should give people all the nutrition we need without any support from supplements. The Prototype includes, after all, the diet that fueled the evolution of human beings and that our bodies are still best suited to eat. If all our foods were fresh, colorful, whole, organic, and, in the case of meat, pasture-fed or wild with plenty of healthy-fats and minimal unhealthy fats, there would be nothing more to say than to “eat, drink, and be merry.”

Unfortunately, that does not describe most of our foods, even for those of us who have dedicated ourselves to the cause. At organic grocery stores, for example, most foods are at least five days old, if not longer. At regular grocery stores, the shelf life is even longer. Processed foods are even worse. You have to wonder what we are eating when the expiration date on the package is more than two years away. One thing is certain: no hunter-gatherer ever had that option. Because the nutrient value of our industrial food supply is compromised, many people choose to support their diets with nutritional supplements • spending almost $5 billion per year in the United States alone. That’s a lot of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, herbs, amino acids, hormones, and other exotic stuff. Since supplements are largely unregulated, and since they can therefore easily waste people’s money, injure them, or both, a few words of caution and buying tips may be in order. Because of the lack of regulation, it’s hard to recommend any particular brand of supplements. Consumer Reports recently evaluated 18 brands from discount and dollar stores. Nearly half of the tested brands failed to contain their labeled level of at least one nutrient, and two of the vitamins failed to dissolve properly. That means your body won’t absorb the nutrients. Big name and major store brands fared better in the Consumer Reports tests. For people on a budget who want to take a multivitamin, that’s the way to go. Some brands, including a number that are sold at major retail stores, have been verified by the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), a public standards-setting authority for prescription and over-the-counter medicines, dietary supplements, and other healthcare products manufactured and sold in the United States. A “verified” supplement has all the listed ingredients in the declared amounts, does not contain harmful ingredients, will break down and release ingredients in the body, and has been made under good manufacturing processes. Visit the USP website for a list of verified supplements. For even more money, there are premium brands that exceed the requirements of the USP. One such brand, for example, is Pure Encapsulations. They self-regulate the quality of their suppliers to pharmaceutical grade, introduce no hidden fillers, coatings, binders, shellacs, artificial colors, fragrance, excipients, wheat, yeast, gluten, corn, sugar, starch, preservatives, or hydrogenated oils during the manufacturing process, and have independent laboratories test each and every batch of finished product. If you have the resources, a premium product is the way to go. So what supplements are worth taking? That’s another reason I hesitate to write this Provision. Although nutritional supplements, or nutraceuticals, represent an almost $5 billion per year industry in the United States alone, medical drugs, or pharmaceuticals, represent an almost $250 billion per year industry. That difference means there is far less pharmaceutical-grade testing done on nutritional supplements. In most cases, although increasing numbers of studies are coming on line, we simply do not have sufficient data to make conclusive recommendations. That’s why many people say, “Don’t waste your money.” And if money is an object, I would agree. Stay with the Optimal Wellness Prototype Click and leave the supplements alone. If you have the money to spend, however, and if you want to take supplements on the basis of anecdotal evidence and of what studies have been conducted, then I would start with a robust multiple vitamin and mineral supplement. The supplement should maximize your intake of the B vitamins, vitamin D, antioxidants, calcium, and magnesium while minimizing your intake of vitamin A acetate or palmitate (retinol), vitamin E, iron, and zinc. That can be a hard formula to find. The one I take, manufactured by Pure Encapsulations, is called Polyphenol Nutrients. Here is what you get in six capsules a day, taken with meals:

mixed carotenoids  (vitamin A precursors) providing: 7,500 IU
   beta-carotene 4,284 mcg.
   alpha-carotene 135 mcg.
   zeaxanthin 27 mcg.
   lutein 21 mcg.
   cryptoxanthin 33 mcg.
lutein 6 mg.
zeaxanthin 1 mg.
thiamine HCl (vitamin B1) 50 mg.
riboflavin (vitamin B2) 25 mg.
riboflavin 5• phosphate (activated vitamin B2) 12.5 mg.
niacin (vitamin B3) 25 mg.
niacinamide (vitamin B3) 50 mg.
pantothenic acid (calcium pantothenate) (vitamin B5) 50 mg.
pyridoxine HCl (vitamin B6) 12.5 mg.
pyridoxal 5• phosphate (activated vitamin B6) 12.5 mg.
biotin (vitamin B7) 800 mcg.
folic acid (vitamin B9) 800 mcg.
methylcobalamin (vitamin B12) 500 mcg.
ascorbic acid (vitamin C) 500 mg.
ascorbyl palmitate (vitamin C) 120 mg.
vitamin D3 400 IU
d-alpha tocopherol succinate (vitamin E) 100 IU
calcium (citrate) 300 mg.
magnesium (citrate) 150 mg.
zinc (picolinate) 15 mg.
selenium (selenomethionine) 200 mcg.
iodine (potassium iodide) 200 mcg.
copper (glycinate) 2 mg.
manganese (aspartate) 10 mg.
chromium (polynicotinate) 100 mcg.
molybdenum (aspartate) 100 mcg.
potassium (aspartate) 99 mg.
boron (glycinate) 2 mg.
vanadium (aspartate) 100 mcg.
n-acetyl-l-cysteine (free-form) 100 mg.
choline (bitartrate) 100 mg.
inositol 125 mg.
alpha lipoic acid (thioctic acid) 100 mg.
quercetin 50 mg.
blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) extract (fruit) (standardized to contain 1.5% anthocyanins) 100 mg.
olive (Olea europaea l.) extract (fruit) providing: 50 mg.
   total polyphenols (min.) 35% 17.5 mg.
   hydroxytyrosol 1% 0.5 mg.
pomegranate (Punica granatum l.) extract (fruit) (standardized to contain 5% ellagic acid) 100 mg.
grape (Vitis vinifera) extract (seed) (standardized to contain 92% oligomeric proanthocyanidins) 50 mg.
green tea (Camellia sinensis) extract (leaf) providing: 100 mg.
   total tea catechins 65% 65 mg.
   epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) 23% 23 mg.
   caffeine 7% 7 mg.


Note that this formula includes no vitamin A as retinol or iron. That is good advice for everyone, apart from a doctor’s recommendation. Vitamin A is produced naturally by the body from the mixed carotenoids. Since too much vitamin A has been linked to bone loss, it’s best to avoid retinol altogether. Supplemental iron can cause even more problems, since it can accumulate in the body to toxic levels. Consult with your doctor to determine whether or not you need an iron supplement.

I also like the low levels of natural (d-alpha) vitamin E (100 International Units or IU) and zinc (15 mg.) in this formula. Whereas vitamin E was once thought of as health-protective, an analysis of 19 trials showed that the risk of dying rose steadily as supplemental vitamin E levels rose from 100 IU to 2,000 IU per day. Too much zinc can also cause problems, particularly with copper absorption, so it’s best to go low on this one (15 mg. or less).

The B vitamins in this formula are robust, corresponding to therapeutic levels for homocysteine, fetal development, and anemia. The folic acid occurs at the recommended level (800 mcg) for pregnant women. The antioxidants include both synthesized carotenoids and natural ingredients such as blueberry, olive, pomegranate, grape seed, and green tea extracts. That’s great. The selenium level, an antioxidant cofactor, is ideal. The calcium and magnesium both occur in the recommended 2:1 ratio and in the optimum citrate form. 

Although this formula is robust and in many ways complete, there are a number of areas where you may want to consider additional supplementation. These include:

— Vitamin D3. The Harvard Health Letter calls this one of the “top 10 health stories of 2006.” “Finally, a vitamin that makes the grade.” Vitamin D3 is naturally synthesized by the human body from sunlight. That worked great when we all lived near the equator and wore minimal clothes. In such bright, sunny conditions, our bodies naturally produce up to 20,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day. Unfortunately, most people are no longer able to make enough vitamin D from the sun, which can lead to a variety of cancers and bone loss. I take an extra 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day, for a total of 1,400 IU per day.

— Calcium & Magnesium. Calcium and magnesium, especially in the preferred citrate form, is bulky and contributes to why this formula requires six capsules per day. Even though it provides 300 mg. and 150 mg. of calcium and magnesium respectively, many aging adults will seek additional supplementation to protect against bone loss and heart disease. Do not exceed a total of 1,200 mg. and 600 mg. for the two minerals. If the magnesium leads to loose stools, reduce the level. I take an extra 600 mg. of calcium citrate and 300 mg. of magnesium citrate per day, for a total of 900 mg. and 450 mg. respectively.

— Fish Oil. The Optimal Wellness Prototype meets the body’s need for heart-protective, long-chain, Omega-3 fatty acids by encouraging the consumption of wild fish and pasture-fed meat from lean animals such as buffalo and deer. Unfortunately, many of us do not eat enough of these foods to keep our ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids in the ideal range of 2:1 or less. Indeed, North American diets typically have ratios of 20:1 or more. This contributes to many of our modern, chronic diseases.

One way to change that is to take ultra-pure, microfiltered, supplemental fish oil. I blend one to two teaspoons of liquid fish oil into my morning fruit smoothie and I take a fish oil capsule with my evening meal, for a total of 1,800 mg. of EPA and 1,000 mg. DHA (two types of Omega-3 fatty acids) per day. Note: fish oil is not the same thing as cod liver oil; the latter should be avoided since it provides too much vitamin A as retinol.

— Digestive Enzymes. Digestive enzymes are the key to all nutrition since they enable the body to break down and assimilate the components of food in the digestion process. Digestive enzymes are secreted by glands in the mouth, stomach, pancreas, and small intestines. To support the digestive process, it is also possible to take supplemental digestive enzymes. I prefer to stay with vegetarian formulas, including enzymes such as bromelain (from pineapple), papain (from papaya), amylase, protease and lipase (from fungi), and rutin (from the fava tree).

— Probiotics. On a related note, probiotics are friendly bacteria that occur naturally in the digestive tract. Among other important functions, probiotics help the body to control the growth of yeast and other toxins. The big debate is whether or not probiotic supplements survive the stomach acid in order to get where they need to be: the intestines. Many probiotics, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, require refrigeration to maintain culture viability. I like to add a couple scoops (1 gram) of probiotic powder to my morning fruit smoothie, providing 4.5 billion Colony Forming Units (CFU), especially since the fruit sugars in the smoothie can promote the growth of yeast in the intestines.

— Alpha Lipoic Acid & CoQ10. You may have noticed the inclusion of 100 mg. of alpha lipoic (or thioctic) acid in this formula. Alpha lipoic acid and CoEnzyme Q10 are both cofactors of aerobic metabolism. I like to think of them as energizers, “improving the function of heart muscles cells and boosting capacity for aerobic exercise” (to quote Dr. Andrew Weil in Healthy Aging). Although some studies dispute their effectiveness as energizers, the studies do not indicate any harmful effects. I take an additional 400 mg. of alpha lipoic acid and 100 mg. of hydrosoluble CoQ10 (as a gel capsule) on a daily basis.

— Glucosamine Sulfate. Runners know all about the pounding of high-impact exercise. In 1998, I developed knee problems that were eliminated within 30 days of taking glucosamine sulfate, an amino sugar that supports the production of glycosaminoglycans: a major component of joint cartilage. I have taken glucosamine sulfate on a daily basis ever since and my knee problems have not recurred. Many with osteoarthritis also experience a relief of symptoms soon after beginning the regular consumption of glucosamine sulfate. Be sure to take no less than 1,500 mg. and no more than 2,000 mg. per day.

— Phytosterols. Doctors know that it’s important to keep blood-cholesterol levels as low as possible. Cholesterol-lowering drugs have therefore become a major pharmaceutical product line, generating unhappy side effects in some people. Fortunately, there is an alternative. Phytosterols are compounds derived from vegetable oils that lower cholesterol naturally (about 15%) without side effects. That’s why these compounds are now being added to foods such as margarines (e.g. Benecol), spreads, salad dressings,  and even orange juice. Supplements can provide phytosterols without the calories. I take two 500 mg. capsules per day, in divided doses with meals, providing beta-sitosterol, campesterol, stigmaterosl, brassicasterol, and sitostanol.

— Saw Palmetto. Years ago I attended a seminar on prostate health taught by board-certified urologist. He recommended the herb saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) for men with a benignly enlarged prostate and to support prostate health. Based on that recommendation, and on further research, I take 320 mg. of saw palmetto per day between meals. This is another supplement where current studies dispute the benefits but do not indicate any harm.

— Aspirin. Taking a low-dose of aspirin on a daily basis (81-162 mg.) reduces the risk of both cardiovascular disease and colon polyps. If you are at risk for either of these conditions, and if you are at low risk for gastrointestinal bleeding, you may want to talk with your doctor about low-dose aspirin therapy. I take 81 mg. per day with my evening meal.

Those are all the supplements that I take and why. I am constantly reading and researching in this area of interest, especially as new studies and findings are released, so my patterns tend to evolve and change over time. I do not, however, anticipate ever adding the regular consumption of hormones to my regimen of supporting supplements. Hormones are powerful chemicals with far-reaching effects and potentially dangerous side effects. Anabolic steroids, banned by the rules of the governing bodies of many sports, are listed as Schedule III in the USA’s Controlled Substances Act. Even popular hormones such as DHEA and melatonin should not be taken regularly without medical supervision.

Never take a supplement of unknown origin or content. Bottles that list ingredients without listing specific quantities of each ingredient should be discarded. Exotic supplements that you know nothing about should also be discarded, regardless and partly because of any sensational claims they may make on the label. Like a hot stock tip, the more sensational the claim the more suspect the recommendation. Supplements are not panaceas; they are just part of good nutrition.

Most vitamins and minerals are best taken with food, in order to improve digestion. When the body is digesting food, there are more digestive juices present and less chance of stomach upset. Fat soluble vitamins (primarily A, D, E, and K) require the presence of at least a little fat in the stomach to be assimilated. I prefer to take my vitamins immediately after eating, so the food has already begun to stimulate the digestion process. The labels on supplements will usually indicate whether a supplement is to be taken with meals or between meals.

I want to end this Provision where I began: following our Optimal Wellness Prototype  should give people all the nutrition we need without any support from supplements. Indeed, supplements are no excuse for a poor diet, a lack of exercise, or unmanageable stress. Such things are real killers, both figuratively and literally, whether we take supportive supplements or not.

Supportive supplements are just that • they are supplementary to and not replacements for everything we know about human wellness and well-being. If money is tight, or if you just don’t want to take supplements, then don’t. Stay focused on healthy nutrition, fitness, and stress. When we do this we prosper; when we ignore this we suffer. That really is the bottom line for us all.

Coaching Inquiries: Do you take nutritional supplements? Do you know what you take in those supplements and why? How do your supplements compare to the ingredients and levels discussed in this Provision? Do you want to make any adjustments? Have you talked with your doctor about the supplements you take? Who else could become your partner in excellent nutrition and optimal wellness?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob..


I was so excited to read the introduction of Amy Haas to the readers of LifeTrek Provisions Click. Since I knew Amy when she worked at First Congregational Church, I could hardly believe that I was renewing a long lost friendship. It’s been so many years but I still remember her well. As I close in on 80 years of age, it seems I am still learning how to budget or balance my time. I will be eagerly reading her weekly Pathways. Good luck on your coaching.


I am interested in becoming a life coach. How would one go about becoming linked with your association and starting a life coaching business? I currently hold a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in counseling psychology. (Ed. Note: Becoming a coach typically involves training, mentoring, and practicing. Visit the website of the International Coach Federation Click to find out about training programs. You can contact us or others, through the ICF, for mentoring and practicing. Good luck and welcome!)


According to Pat Sullivan, author of “Piece by Piece,” nuts are generally hard to digest so he sells “sprouted” nuts that he claims provide more enzymes. I’ve bought some online Click; they don’t look sprouted but maybe are more moist/soft from soaking in the salt water. I am wondering what your research says about sprouted nuts. (Ed. Note: When it comes to enzymes, the key factor is raw. Raw nuts and sprouted nuts are both healthy nutritional options.) 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #488: Comforting Chocolate

Laser Provision

After my recent Provisions warning about the dangers of legumes, grains, and dairy products, one might assume there are no wonderful treats to eat. Well don’t go there! Chocolate that is dark, organic, fair-trade, shade-grown, non-alkalized, and additive-free offers plenty of health benefits. If you have trouble controlling your consumption of chocolate, which should be limited to less than 200 calories per day, then this Provision is for you. It explains the secret as well as the mystery of the cacao.

LifeTrek Provision

I am writing on this on the occasion of my wife’s 50th birthday, so it is fitting to celebrate chocolate in our current series on Optimal Wellness . What would a birthday be without chocolate! Or, as one reader remarked after viewing our Optimal Wellness Prototype, “After taking everything else away, thank goodness we still get to eat chocolate!” That isn’t, of course, exactly true. We haven’t completely taken away legumes and grains. We have rather identified the worst offenders while leaving others on the table for occasional, limited consumption. Last night, for example, my wife and I had brown rice and lentils along with steamed kale for dinner • delicious!

Chocolate is really no different than brown rice and lentils • it can be enjoyed in limited amounts. We include chocolate in the Optimal Wellness Prototype for two reasons: it has health benefits and it tastes great. Many people experience chocolate as a comfort food, as well they should. It stimulates the release of feel-good hormones throughout the body. That, combined with the glycemic index of commercial chocolate, is why many people go overboard when it comes to this treat. But there are ways to avoid that fate.

The key is to eat organic, non-alkalized, dark chocolate with a minimum of additives. Although commonly referred to as beans, chocolate actually comes from the seeds of the cacao plant, which grows naturally in the shade of tropical rainforests. There are three main varieties of cacao beans used to make chocolate. The most common and hardy, Forastero cacao beans, comprise 95% of the world production of cacao. The second, Criollo (bean of the Maya), is the most prized, rare, and expensive. These beans are less bitter and require less roasting periods. The third, Trinitario cacao beans, are a natural hybrid of Criollo and Forastero that originated in Trinidad.

Like other tropical nuts and seeds (e.g., coconut, palm, and sheanut), cacao seeds are relatively high in saturated fats. Cacao butter does not, however, have the highest content. That honor belongs to coconut oil (87%), followed by the oils derived from palm kernel (82%) , cacao (60%), palm (49%), sheanut (47%), peanut (17%), soybean (14%), sesame (14%), olive (13%), corn (13%), walnut (9%), canola (7%), flax (3%), and hemp (2%). The primary saturated fat in cacao, stearic acid, does not raise blood cholesterol levels.

Nevertheless, current research suggests the sparing consumption of all saturated fats. To make that happen, we need to eat chocolate in moderation. And for that to happen, we need to eat dark chocolate with a minimum of added sugar and other ingredients. That eliminates or minimizes the problem of food cravings and overeating.

There really is no comparison between commercial brands of dark chocolate and organic, fair-trade brands of dark chocolate. Remembering that ingredients are listed in declining quantity order of, consider the following ingredient list from Hershey’s Special Dark (a best selling brand in the USA): “sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter, cocoa processed with alkali, milk fat, lactose, soy lecithin, PGPR (emulsifier), vanilla, artificial flavor, milk.” Now consider the following ingredient list from Dagoba’s Conacado 73% bar: “organic cacao mass, organic evaporated cane juice, organic cacao butter.”

That’s a big difference. The best selling brand is primarily sugar with a variety of additives for mouth feel and taste. These additives include dairy products, unnamed flavors, and hard-to-pronounce chemicals that go by their acronyms (“PGPR” stands for “polyglycerol polyricinoleate” which is produced through the esterification of condensed castor oil fatty acids with polyglycerol). It’s no wonder that such “chocolate,” if we can even call it that, provokes glycemic spikes, food cravings, and overeating. It’s also no wonder that Hershey’s does not post the ingredient list on their website.

Organic, non-alkalized, dark-chocolate is an entirely different matter. “Cacao mass” is nothing but ground, roasted cacao beans. It is a creamy paste that is also known as “chocolate liquor,” “cacao liquor,” or “cocoa liquor.” This is the stuff that gives chocolate its health benefits, and this is the stuff should always be listed as the first ingredient in any chocolate we consume. Those health benefits derive from the antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients in the cacao beans themselves.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, dark chocolate ranks at the top of the chart when it comes to antioxidant activity. Here is a sampling of their list, in declining quantity order, as to the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity of different foods: Dark Chocolate (13,120), Prunes (5,770), Raisins (2,830), Blueberries (2,400), Blackberries (2,036), Kale (1,770), Strawberries (1,540), Spinach (1,260), Raspberries (1,220), Brussels Sprouts (980), Plums (949), Alfalfa Sprouts (930), Broccoli Florets (890), Oranges (750), Red Grapes (739), Red Bell Pepper (710), and Cherries (670). The antioxidants in chocolate have been shown to reduce blood pressure and glucose sensitivity.

Beyond their antioxidant activity, cacao beans are rich in vitamins (especially B1, B2, and D) and minerals (especially magnesium and iron). They also contain the compound phenylethylamine (PEA), which is associated with euphoria and reduced depression. The caffeine in chocolate, known as theobromine, is minimal (1.4 ounces or 40 grams of cacao has about as much caffeine as one cup of decaffeinated coffee). Raw cacao has the best nutritional profile of all.

For all these reasons, including pure pleasure, I eat dark chocolate on a regular basis. I include raw, organic, fair-trade cacao powder (= ground cacao beans with most of the fat removed) in my morning fruit smoothie. A tablespoon of the powder adds little in the way of calories and much in the way of health benefits.

On most days, I also eat 1-2 tablespoons of raw cacao nibs (= crushed cacao beans, including all the natural fiber) mixed with a little organic Agave Nectar (a natural low-glycemic sweetener that looks and tastes like honey). There’s no way to find darker chocolate than eating the beans themselves! By minimizing the sugar content, I find that I can enjoy a daily dose of chocolate without provoking food cravings or overeating.

Raw, organic, fair-trade cacao powder and nibs can be purchased from Nature’s First and Navitas Naturals. I find the latter to be less expensive, so that’s what I go with. When I decide to eat a dark-chocolate bar, instead of or in addition to the nibs, I stay with organic, fair-trade brands such as DagobaDivineEqual ExchangeEndangered SpeciesGreen & Black’s, and Yachana Gourmet.

Fair-trade is important because the vast majority of commercial chocolate on the market today is produced in Africa by adults and children that are virtually slaves to their employers. Human rights abuses are rampant. Fair-trade is a movement to change that and it goes far beyond cacao. Fair-trade is a worldwide effort to build dignified trading relationships between consumers in developed countries and producers in developing countries. This involves changing the way that conventional international trade works, so that:

  • producers receive a guaranteed price for their goods, and the security of long-term trading contracts;
  • producers benefit from guaranteed minimum health and safety conditions;
  • producers, their workplaces, and the environment are not exploited; and
  • education and training opportunities for producers, especially women and children, are actively fostered.

Similar to eliminating or minimizing the consumption of conventional meat, poultry, and fish because the conditions of their raising and slaughtering make them toxic to human health and wellness, it is also important to eliminate or minimize the consumption of conventional cacao, coffee, tea, and other products imported from developing countries. In the end, we are all connected. The health of one depends upon the health of all.

Cacao may not have been a staple in the diets of our Paleolithic ancestors, especially since cacao is native to Central and South America rather than to Africa, but it does come from the same tropical zone and, in limited quantities as with extra-virgin coconut, it can be a healthy addition to our diets. As long as you keep your total consumption of cacao to less than 250 calories per day, I see no reason to leave this treat behind.

Coaching Inquiries: What’s your relationship to chocolate? Do you overeat conventional chocolate? Or do you savor the taste of dark, fair-trade, organic alternatives? How could you become part of the growing movement that takes seriously both economic and ecologic justice? Who could become your partner in a quest for health that benefits one and all?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob..


I can’t thank you enough for your life-changing series on nutrition. I have adopted the Paleo diet and now have lost almost 21 pounds since you started the series. I feel amazing! Now, tell me about what you do for Thanksgiving. (Ed. Note: Local, free-range, turkey • of course! Although we have also done wild salmon on occasion. On the side: fruit salad with shredded virgin coconut, steamed greens, and sweet potatoes. For desert: non-dairy pumpkin pie in a gluten-free crust with nibs of cacao on top. Enjoy! Congratulations on your weight loss and wellness.)


Optional Oils” was a great Provision. I’m glad I made a point to take the time to read this one. When asked by people what kind of diet I follow that keeps me in such good shape, I quickly respond with, “The high fat diet.” They usually look at me in amazement. Everyone always thinks “low carb” or “low fat.” I pride myself in eating copious amounts of fat, preferably with every meal. My favorites are sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, hemp seeds, hemp protein powder, eggs, sardines, oysters, salmon, and organic cottage cheese. I also love Goji berries and raw cacao nibs? Have you ever had either of those? (Ed. Note: Yes! See today’s Provision for information on the nibs. Other than the cottage cheese, the rest of your foods are on my list.)


I think your take on oils is exactly right, although proponents of the Mediterranean diet would speak highly of olive oil as beneficial and ideally constituting about 30-35% of daily calories. Still, I think this is a matter of degree, rather than a fundamental difference. A very good and concise discussion of fats.

Thanks, also, for including my comments on dairy in your replies. I will be very interested to see your recommendations for children, since I have some concerns about the applicability of an unmodified ancestral diet to children with their growth needs. On the other hand, we are seeing morbid obesity at younger ages, as well as Type II diabetes (I never saw one case in my first 15 years of practice with children). I think this is directly attributable to the standard 21st Century USA diet. (Ed. Note: Agreed. Our current diets clearly are not serving us well.


I recently read a book that you also may have read and I feel has really opened my eyes to the importance of making the right choices that will help our environment. The nutrition information that you present is very important and we try to live by that as much as possible. The book I am referring to is Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating by Jane Goodall.

I would love to see you include information about how the mega companies have robbed our land of its natural resources and our over consumption has done the same. I may sound like a “tree hugger”, but I feel very strongly about it. I have become a conservationist and feel that we all need to be more mindful about our choices of how we store our food, plastics, chemicals, pesticides, clothing, free trade coffee/tea, organic (what is and what is not and how big organic companies are taking over little organic companies and thus are no longer truly organic), etc. I am very passionate about this and my family has had to put up with a lot of transformations in the last year.

So, maybe after you finish the food Provisions and move into nutrition for children, then you could address changing our lifestyles so that we can still have access to natural resources 30 years from now. It is critical to spread the message of how we can help with sustainable agriculture. I am amazed at how many miles our food has to travel to get to our plates. I would love it if you could show the value in eating locally and what that does for the environment and the local economy. There was recently a challenge I read about that encouraged people to eat foods that were within 100 miles of their homes. I understand that for some areas of the country this would be very difficult. How about the importance of composting? People do not realize that they could compost right in their homes and offices. (Ed. Note: I know the book and its message, which you summarize, is regularly included in Provisions; I will spend more time on these issues in an upcoming Provision.)


How do you eat enough vegetables to get enough complex carbohydrates in your diet without eating grains, legumes or potatoes? You and Dr. Weil seem to disagree on legumes and whole grains, and he claims to be current on food research. (Ed. Note: We have not totally eliminated grains, legumes, or potatoes; we have eliminated some and minimized others. Even so, we do not find it hard to get plenty of complex carbohydrates by eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Volume is everything. That’s the nice thing about these foods; there are no restrictions as to how much one can eat.)


I am in Malaysia and I just discovered LifeTrek Coaching. I much appreciate your series on kindness. Sometimes I can feel lost, but astrology and aroma therapy help. Maybe too many things that matter happen to me. I look forward to learning more from you. 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #487: Optional Oils

Laser Provision

Oils are to nuts and seeds what flours are to grains and legumes: they are a highly-processed and less-nutritious version of the original. No one needs to consume oils in order to be healthy and well; we can get all the fat we need from a diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, seeds, nuts, wild fish, pasture-fed meat as well as free-range poultry and eggs. If you want to use oil, however, I recommend the sparing use of extra virgin olive and red palm oils. Surprised? Read on to learn more.

LifeTrek Provision

I want to begin by acknowledging the pain that some of you, our loyal readers, are feeling in the wake of our recent Provisions. After lifting your spirits with my Provision on how to be happy, I’m afraid my recent identification of nutritional concerns regarding legumes, grains, and dairy products have left more than a few of you a little despondent. “How can anyone eat this way!” has been the gist of many replies.

The short answer is, “It’s not so hard!” My wife and I eat very well on a diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, seeds, nuts, wild fish, pasture-fed meat, as well as free-range poultry and eggs. On occasion, we also eat brown rice, tempeh, lentils, chick peas, and • in my case • red wine. Our favorite desert is fruit sorbet. That makes for a rich and varied diet that is both satisfying and slimming. By meeting our bodies’ needs for essential nutrients, this diet does a good job at keeping us healthy (judged by all the usual indicators such blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, homocysteine, C-reactive protein, bone density, weight, body fat, fitness, energy level, and life satisfaction).

That said, I acknowledge the challenge of eating this way in public situations. I have been traveling a lot lately, and that means making a few adjustments and accommodations. It’s helpful, for example, to pack raw food bars (e.g., Organic Food BarsLara BarsRaw Revolution Bars, andPure Bars), nuts, raisins, and prunes. They are the keys to making this diet work on the go, and they even pass through airport security! When public choices are limited or nonexistent, these foods are healthful and convenient alternatives.

Other adjustments and accommodations include the consumption of salt and sugar, added by restaurants during food preparation (we never use any at home). When traveling, we often allow taste to be our guide. If it tastes too salty or sweet, we eat a small portion and leave the rest. We also make occasional exceptions on wild vs. farm-raised fish as well as conventional vs. free-range poultry. We seldom make exceptions on pasture-fed meat, because of the antinutrients in conventional meat. And we do not find it hard to avoid the bread basket or dairy products.

I hope that helps to bring our dietary recommendations down to earth. Although it may take forethought and shifts, they are not impossible to live with and to enjoy. In a few weeks, after we are done reviewing our basic food recommendations, I intend to include a sample week’s menu that will illustrate what it looks like to eat and live this way. I also intend to do a Provision for children. The food choices are not as strange as you might think.

I also want to acknowledge that there is no one-size-fits-all diet for human beings. Although our common genetic inheritance optimizes our ability to digest and thrive on a diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, seeds, nuts, wild fish, pasture-fed meat, as well as free-range poultry and eggs, our individual genetic differences lead to a wide variety of food sensitivities, intolerances, and allergies. What may be tolerated, or even work well, for one person may not be tolerated by another.

That’s why we need to take responsibility for discovering and designing the things that work well for us. If you get nothing else out of our current series on Optimal Wellness, and nothing else out of LifeTrek Provisions in general, I hope you will take away the challenge and charge to be courageous and creative in carving out a life that works for you and for our planet. There is no way to replicate anyone else’s experience. You are unique, and it’s up to you to figure out how that uniqueness is going to express itself in the world.

When it comes to nutrition, many people fail to connect the dots between their diets and their conditions. Even people who pride themselves on being “architects of their own destiny” may not put two and two together between their arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, or auto-immune disorders, for example, and the foods they eat.

If we put bad gas or petrol in the car, we know the car will not run well and may be permanently damaged. That’s why scientists research and develop their high-performance formulas. We do not always make the same connection, however, and we do not always do the R&D, when it comes to the foods we eat.

The reason for highlighting our ancestral diet, the one on which we are most likely to thrive, is to suggest a starting place when it comes to food elimination and inclusion. If you are not in perfect health, and perhaps even if you are, you would do well to eat only fresh fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, seeds, nuts, wild fish, pasture-fed meat as well as free-range poultry and eggs for a period of 30 days. See if you feel better or notice any positive differences. If so, stay with it. If not, make adjustments. Keep playing with the mix until you get it right; don’t act as though food is food. To paraphrase Hippocrates, food is good medicine for both prevention and cure.

That’s especially true when it comes to fats, one of four macronutrients (the others being carbohydrates, protein, and alcohol). The idea that all fat is created equal does not reflect what we know about human nutrition. I have already written extensively about this in the Provisions on Perfect Protein and Naturally Nuts. That’s because fat is an intrinsic part of protein, nuts, and seeds. It even occurs, although to a lesser extent, in fruits and vegetables.

Human beings cannot live without the consumption of fat, but we do not need to consume that fat in the form of extracted oils. Oils are to nuts and seeds what flours are to grains and legumes: they are a highly-processed and less-nutritious version of the original. Especially when you consider how they are processed.

As everyone hopefully knows by now, the most dangerous form of processing is called hydrogenation. This process, invented during the 19th century but commercialized during the 20th century, bubbles hydrogen through liquid vegetable oils under high heat in the presence of metal catalysts for six to eight hours. The process leads to a chemical reaction that changes the form, substance, and properties of the original oil. Instead of the naturally-occurring cis– fatty acids, for example, the process generates unnatural trans– fatty acids which are hazardous to human health.

These oils are not optional for anyone. They are to be scrupulously avoided, in any quantity. They often occur in processed foods, fast foods, margarines, and shortenings. Because of the danger associated with eating these oils, there is increasing public and governmental pressure to eliminate hydrogenated oils from all foods. There is also the requirement to list trans– fatty acids on food labels, if there are more than .5 grams per serving. Be careful about such labeling, however, since it’s possible for a food manufacturer to fly under the labeling radar screen by reducing the serving size. If the ingredient list contains the word “hydrogenated,” the food should not be eaten.

Animal fats can also be processed for human consumption, as lard or dairy. These fats, which are primarily long-chain saturated as well as polyunsaturated fats, are only slightly less hazardous to human health than hydrogenated vegetable oils. The problem is not only the fat itself, it is also the quantity and concentration of the fat once it is processed into lard or dairy products. Butter, for example, is 62% saturated and 29% polyunsaturated fat while lard is 39% saturated and 45% polyunsaturated fat. That’s a lot of unhealthy, artery-clogging, fat! These foods, too, should be eliminated or at least minimized in the human diet.

Responding to such well-known health concerns, many people have switched to a variety of liquid and solid vegetable oils. Unfortunately, most of the oils sold in grocery stores, including canola, corn, peanut, safflower, soybean, sunflower, sesame, and vegetable blends, come from genetically-modified seeds and legumes that have been heat-processed in large batches. Such processing renders the fats tasteless, contaminated, chemically changed, and de-vitalized. They lack the healthy phospholipids, phytosterols, vitamins, minerals, and other compounds of the original. They are not worth eating, from the vantage point of health and wellness.

Fortunately, a diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, seeds, nuts, wild fish, pasture-fed meat as well as free-range poultry and eggs does not require much or any oil in the way of food preparation. If we’re no longer eating bread or baking grains, for example, then the issue of butter and shortening simply does not arise. I find that virtually all my cooking can be done with filtered water, balsamic vinegar, wheat-free tamari, miso, and lemon juice • even with stainless steel cookware. The idea that one needs to use oil in order to prevent things from sticking is a myth; for most foods, one needs only to cook on low heat with added moisture.

That said, if and when you want to use oils, I recommend two organic, “virgin” oils with radically different chemistries: extra virgin olive oil (e.g., for salad dressings, marinades, and lower-heat cooking) and virgin red palm oil from West African palms (e.g., for baking or higher-heat cooking).

All oils contain about 14 grams of fat and 120 calories in a single tablespoon (15 ml), so use them sparingly. A tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, which comes from the first, cold pressing of the olives, has 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans– fat, 2 grams of polyunsaturated fat, and 10 grams of monounsaturated fat. A tablespoon of virgin red West African palm oil, which comes from the palm fruit rather than from the palm kernel, has 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans– fat, and high quantities of nutrients such as carotenes and tocotrienols.

A good source for both oils, along with information on manufacturing methods and health benefits, is TropicalTraditions.com. Be sure to purchase smaller quantities more frequently, rather than larger quantities less frequently, in order to maintain freshness. Do not use any brands that are not certified as organic and virgin.

Neither oil should be used excessively, and neither oil need be used at all, in order to optimize health and wellness. It’s far better to simply eat the olives and fruits themselves. But if you want to use oil, you can use these two in limited quantities without concern.

You may have anticipated the mention of extra virgin olive oil, the mainstay of the Mediterranean diet, but you may have been surprised to read about virgin red palm oil. Indeed, you may not have known there even was such a thing. That’s because most commercial palm oil comes from the fruit pits of tropical palm trees, extracted under high heat and highly refined, and is, on occasion, even hydrogenated. Such oil is bad for human health.

Virgin, unrefined palm oil extracted gently from the fruit itself of the West African palm tree (Elaeis guineensis), on the other hand, is much lower in saturated fat and contains rich supplies of vital nutrients such as the precursors of Vitamins A and E (those carotenes and tocotrienols). That’s why the oil is orange in color, like a carrot (so colorful, in fact, that it can easily stain skin and clothing • so watch out!).

Unfortunately, neither olive nor palm oils provide significant quantities of heart-healthy, Omega-3 fatty acids. Those should be consumed in near equal quantities to the more common Omega-6 fatty acids, found in commercial vegetable oils, to promote health and wellness.

As we have mentioned before, the best way to consume Omega-3 fatty acids is through whole foods rather than extracted oils. Indeed, some healthy whole foods that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as flax seeds, generate health risks, such as prostate cancer, when consumed as extracted oils.

Good dietary sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include wild fatty fish (e.g., salmon, sardines, and sable), pasture-fed game meat (e.g., buffalo or bison and venison), freshly-ground flax seeds, ground hemp seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, free-range eggs, and dark-green leaves (e.g., kale, collard, or mustard greens).

Ultra-pure, microfiltered fish oil is another good source of Omega-3 fatty acids. A tablespoon (15 ml) of this oil includes 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans– fat, 6 grams of polyunsaturated fat, and 3 grams of monounsaturated fat. The polyunsaturated fat in fish oil includes about 4 grams of long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA & DHA) • the best kind to get • and must be kept refrigerated to avoid rancidity. I recommend it highly.

I include a mix of ground seeds and oils in my morning fruit smoothie; this practice makes for a satisfying liquid meal that gets me all the way through lunch (and often longer) without hunger pangs or discomfort. Since the body requires fat to be healthy and well, it’s good to start the day with fats the body can draw on for energy and well being. The secret is not to go on a low-fat diet; the secret is to go on a healthy-fat diet and that’s what you get when you stay with fresh fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, seeds, nuts, wild fish, pasture-fed meat as well as free-range poultry and eggs.

Coaching Inquiries: How much and what kinds of oil do you use? What percentage of your daily calories comes from extracted oils? What would it take to eliminate them entirely or at least to minimize them in your diet? What steps could you take to experiment with other ways of preparing food, that do not include oils? How could food become your medicine, and medicine your food? Who could you talk with to learn more about functional foods and orthomolecular nutrition?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.


Your last Provision was an excellent presentation of the case against dairy products in the human diet. Certainly, the point that there are allergic and enzymatic problems in some individuals is a good one, although seafood and peanut allergies are more likely to be life-threatening. Your points about contaminants and additives in our dairy industry are also important considerations. If one chooses to incorporate dairy into the diet, this has to be strongly considered.

However, making a genetic and historic case against dairy use is difficult. Humans have thrived since adapting our diet away from that of other mammals. Agriculture (“subsistence intensification”) and animal husbandry allowed us to finish our colonization of the world, greatly expand our population, and extend our lifespan. Dairy, in most temperate climate cultures, was as much a part of that technical revolution as bread and rice, to which we adapted over a few centuries to millennia.

I also worry about depriving children of dairy products • the introduction of this as a dietary staple in Vietnam, for example, has been associated with a much healthier generation of children (along with other changes, like not being at war). Children require about 1,300 mgs of calcium per day, after age nine, 3 cups of milk are recommended by NIH. I think this is medically sound (rather than from lobbying by National Dairy Association), since calcium from dairy is the most easily absorbed of nearly any dietary source.

Your recommendations are excellent for many, but should be extrapolated to children or post-menopausal women only with the greatest caution. I think tolerance for dairy is quite individual, and is worse for some than others, although the points about intolerance, contaminants, and dietary additives in cattle are spot on. Thanks, as always, for a well-thought-out and provocative Provision.

(Ed. Note: Whether or not we agree on the relative value and bioavailability of dairy as a source of calcium, we certainly agree on the importance of consuming sufficient calcium from dietary or supplemental sources. I, for one, take 600 mgs of supplemental calcium citrate per day in addition to what I get from my diet.)


Your Provisions have become one of our (me and my husband) Sunday night rituals. As two very health conscious individuals we have, over the years, been “fine tuning” our diets. Your series on nutrition has been extremely helpful in raising points for discussion as well as helping us to progress even further on our nutrition ‘trek.’ 

However, we have faced some challenges with our 2- and 5-year-olds’ diets. For example, they both love cereal for breakfast (specifically the natural, whole grain cereals from Trader Joe’s), and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (on wheat or whole grain bread). I’m wondering if you have any advice (or if any of your subscribers have advice) on how to make the transitions easier on the little ones. At school they are often served those “Trojan foods” but I find it hard to ‘speak up’ because I fear my children will think there is something wrong with them if I demand that they not be served certain snacks that are offered at school or friends’ houses.

(Ed. Note: The children piece is difficult; things are changing (like the removal of soda machines from schools) but not changing enough (or fast enough). If I were in your shoes, I would be packing lunches and talking with your children as to the principles that are guiding your decisions. With their cooperation, you can change the world. I will write more about this before our series is complete.)


Although I have been on a wellness journey for a long time now, I can’t begin to tell you how depressing it is to read the information you have been sharing! It’s overwhelming. I generally am able to absorb, and adjust pretty well, and am always looking forward to learning something new, and I don’t mind change. But the recommended changes seem extreme. It appears that your research is quite extensive, however, aren’t there some schools of thought that are more “moderate” (Dr. Weil)? 

When I quit smoking, I attended “Smokenders” • a behavior modification course over 6 or 8 weeks. Each week, they gave us a new rule to follow (can’t smoke in the bedroom one week, the kitchen the following week, the car, with coffee, etc., etc.) This worked well for me (I wanted to change, but couldn’t do it all at once). It occurred to me that perhaps if you could recommend small changes (baby steps) with the food ideas, you might help rather than overwhelm your loyal following. It’s been great that you’ve taken some ‘breaks’ from the series (I was relieved!)

(Ed. Note: I hope the beginning of today’s Provision begins to speak to this concern. The diet is not extremely impossible. Still, baby steps would be good and I intend to break it down that way before we are through.)


I read your wellness section each week and agree with what you say. But I think you need an executive summary at the end of each section. I like to send your material on to others, and they just won’t read all the copy. A short summary would let them, and me, get the gist as well as your solution. When you want us to make a change, please give us a short “to do ” list. I think this would be helpful and thanks for listening. 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #486: Devilish Dairy

Laser Provision

“Ice cream,” they say, “is to die for.” Unfortunately, that expression is more true than people know. Dairy products may taste good, but they cause far more problems than they solve. Don’t believe the propaganda as to how milk “does a body good.” That may help the National Dairy Council sell milk, but it will not help you become healthy and well. It goes against the grain of what we know about evolutionary and orthomolecular nutrition. Not even children need to drink milk. Read on to find out why, and what to eat instead.

LifeTrek Provision

As we have already seen, legumes and grains are “Trojan foods” that seem innocent enough on the surface but that actually challenge our bodies with a variety of hostile invaders. Today we turn our attention to another such food: devilish dairy.

Dairy really is a devilish food group. How can something that tastes so good be so bad? As an avid ice cream eater, I know that my Uncle Ernie, who died recently at the ripe old age of 92, would disagree with this Provision. He always attributed his longevity to a lifelong habit of eating a bowl of ice cream every night before going to bed. Unfortunately, his experience is more the exception than the rule. It doesn’t work out that way for most people, since there are plenty of problems with dairy products and plenty of reasons to go on a dairy-free diet.

For one thing, when you stop and think about it, dairy is a very weird food. What other animal drinks milk after weaning, let alone milk from another animal? By definition, colostrum and milk are secreted by the mammary glands of females to feed infant mammals. To continue to drink milk after weaning is unheard of except in humans. And that proclivity is a relatively late addition, from an evolutionary point of view, dating back less than 8,000 years ago.

Many people in the Western world, where dairy products constitute more than 10% of total energy in the diet, are surprised to learn that dairy has been an insignificant part of the human diet in many times and in many places for most of human history. It was certainly not part of the ancient Paleolithic diet (just imagine trying to catch and milk a wild animal!), and it was a small part of the diet for a significant majority of the world’s population up until about 30 years ago.

Since that time, demand has been skyrocketing. That’s the way it is with devilish dairy: one taste of its rich, creamy, sweetness and most people are hooked for good. Unfortunately, most people who get hooked on dairy are not as lucky as my uncle. Most people suffer numerous ill effects. Here are some of the problems posed by any significant and regular consumption of dairy products:

Long-Chain Saturated Fats. As you will read more about next week, not all fats are created equal. Some fats are healthy fats, while others are unhealthy. The most unhealthy of all are the long-chain saturated fats commonly found in dairy products and feedlot animals. These are the fats that make dairy products taste so rich, creamy, and good. They are also the sticky fats that lead to hardening of the arteries and other cardiovascular diseases. In most cases, these diseases are not built into our genes; in most cases, they are the direct result of eating too many long-chain saturated fats and other antinutrients. The more we can reduce our consumption of these fats, the better health we will enjoy.

And don’t be fooled by talk of low-fat dairy products. 2% milk is still 2% fat, and, depending upon how much you drink on a daily basis, that’s still a lot of long-chain saturated fats. These fats are about as bad for human health as the artificially-produced trans-fatty acids found in shortening, margarine, and most processed food products. These fats are to be eliminated or minimized as much as possible. Only no-fat dairy products are free of long-chain saturated fats, but there are many reasons to avoid no-fat dairy products as well.

Contamination. If ever there was a case of “we are what we eat eats,” it applies to dairy. Remember, mother’s milk is concentrated nutrition to meet the needs of newborns. That concentration of nutrients also concentrates contaminants. Whatever the cow eats, both good and bad, gets concentrated in the milk. If the cow eats genetically-modified organisms, then those are concentrated in the milk. If the cow eats pesticides, then those are concentrated in the milk. So, too, with medications. If the cow receives antibiotics or growth hormones, then those are concentrated in the milk.

Unfortunately, conventional cows routinely eat and receive all of the above. From the point of view of production, the additives have been phenomenally successful. Fifty years ago, the average cow produced 2,000 pounds of milk per year. Today, the top producers give 50,000 pounds! That represents an engineering marvel. Drugs, antibiotics, hormones, forced feeding plans, and specialized breeding have all combined to transform cows into prodigious calorie producers. But the residual contaminants in the milk produced, which carry through to every other dairy product, produce a wide range of human health problems. Only organic dairy products are relatively free of such contaminants, but there are many reasons to avoid no-fat, organic dairy products as well.

Calcium Loss. I have written before about the acid-base balance and the way the body maintains a slightly alkaline, but more-or-less neutral, pH . When we eat foods that tip our system in an acidic direction, our bodies takes calcium and other minerals out of our bones and vital organs in order to buffer the acid load. The opposite happens when we eat foods that tip our system in an alkaline (or base) direction. Eating too many foods that produce an acid load can cause such problems as osteoporosis, age-related muscle wasting, kidney stones, high blood pressure, and exercise-induced asthma.

Animal protein, including dairy, along with cereal grains are net acid-producing foods, whereas fresh fruits, vegetables, tubers, roots, and nuts are net base-producing. That’s one reason why high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets are bad for long-term health. They do not balance the acid load of animal protein with the alkaline load of plant protein. The more animal protein and dairy we eat, the more plant protein we need to eat in order to avoid the loss of calcium and other vital minerals. Contrary to those who think that diary is a good source of calcium, the acid load of dairy products means that they make us lose more calcium than they add. That’s one reason to avoid them altogether, and to get your calcium instead from green leafy vegetables, nuts, canned fish like salmon and sardines (with their soft bones), and supplemental calcium citrate. This is as true for children as for adults.

Digestive Problems. Dairy products contain unique proteins (casein and whey) as well as carbohydrates (primarily lactose) that many people are not well suited to eat. We did not evolve eating these proteins and carbohydrates, and they still do not sit well with many people. The problem is often a lack of the necessary enzymes to digest these nutrients properly. 95 percent of Asian Americans, 74 percent of Native Americans, 70 percent of African Americans, 53 percent of Mexican Americans and 15 percent of European Americans are lactose intolerant. Perhaps that’s why my uncle of German ancestry was able to get away with his nightly bowl of ice cream.

On the protein side, research indicates that the proteins in cow’s milk stimulates the production of antibodies which, in turn, destroy the insulin-producing pancreatic cells. This means that the more milk we drink and the more dairy products we consume, the more likely we are to develop problems with diabetes. As in the case of lactose intolerance, more people are genetically inclined to have such problems than not. That’s because we all go back to a time over millions of years when milk and milk products, after weaning, played absolutely no part in our diets. It’s no surprise, then, that such products would cause digestive problems and surface food allergies for many people.

Disease Factors. We have already mentioned many of the disease factors that stem from dairy products: the long-chain saturated fats contribute to atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease; the contaminants spill over into our systems; the acid load contributes to calcium loss; while the proteins and sugars trigger digestive problems, diabetes, and cancer. But there is more.

Milk is among the most common of food allergies, generating a self-destructive immune-system response. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against giving whole cow’s milk to children under one year of age. They know that their systems are not able to cope with the allergens and other antinutrients. Many do not realize, however, that nursing mothers who drink lots of cow’s milk pass the same problematic antibodies on to their babies through breast milk. So too with synthetic hormones, such as recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), and antibiotics. These also pass on deleteriously through breast milk to newborns and infants.

It would seem that our tender, young bodies are trying to tell us something when it comes to dairy products: our bodies are not well designed to consume these Trojan foods. They are best eliminated or minimized from the diets of young, old, and everyone in between. In our house, we have chosen to eliminate dairy products; it is only when we go out that I will, on occasion, indulge. Such a practice works with (rather than against) my genetic inheritance to promote health and wellness. It’s a practice that evolutionary and orthomolecular nutrition studies recommend to one and all.

Coaching Inquiries: How much milk and dairy products do you consume on a regular basis? Are they no-fat, low-fat, or full-fat? Are they conventional or organic? Are they combined with alkaline-producing foods, or consumed on their own? How could you reduce or eliminate your consumption of milk and other dairy products? What changes would you have to make? Who could assist you to become a dairy-free zone on the road to wellness?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob..


Your last Provision, “How To Be Happy, is one of the most beautiful and succinct compilations of wisdom I have seen. This needs more prominence than a weekly Provision, that will be only one of 52 in another year. I don’t know if you need these on cards, posters, PDA memos, or as a creed on your web-site menu. But these certainly deserve to be seen as how to live out the philosophy and wisdom of LifeTrek, as well as a guide for all of us who want to live useful and satisfying lives. Thanks for the great Provision.


Thanks for the great Provision and wonderful mental road map on “How to be Happy!” I have made copies and am giving one to each of my managers at my staff meeting in a few minutes. Interesting how God provides just what you need when you need it.


You are a blessing upon the planet • your voice needs to be more widely read, and all that jazz • Society is built upon the divide of which you speak; the power structure thrives specifically on us/them “thinking.” The very rich need the very poor to be their version of wealthy happiness. Oh, the irony! I could go on, but spinning more time-wheels isn’t the road to being happy! Thanks.


Your last Provision reminded me of a quote from the US author Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804 – 1864) “Happiness is as a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”


I just wanted to say how pleased I was to see that your Provisions archive has a search function. Now I can look up past favorites just by entering a key term. This is a great service! Worth way more than I’m paying too! Thanks for all your good work.


Thank you all for the timely Provisions this week. I am in the process of removing myself from a toxic marriage and all the Provisions have tied the revelations from my recovery process together and have given me enlightenment as well as hope. As usual, your weekly Provisions hit a note with me that are part of my current situation.  



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #485: Gordian Grains

Laser Provision

Grains pose a tough dilemma: we can’t feed the planet without them, but we can’t keep people healthy with them. Not even whole grains are good for us, although they are certainly better for us than refined grains. Three grains in particular, processed grains, glutenous grains, and corn (or maize), are worth minimizing or eliminating. Does that surprise you? If so, then read on for the details. It’s a case statement you won’t want to miss.

LifeTrek Provision

Last week’s Provision, Sullied Soy, prompted an onslaught of reader replies. All were appreciative, but they were also confused, concerned, and/or curious. They were confused, because they thought soy was a healthy alternative to meat, concerned, because they have been eating beans all their lives, and curious, because they wanted to know what I do for meals and snacks. Here is a summary of my various replies:

  • Human beings are genetically best suited to eat the foods we have been eating the longest. That includes fruits, vegetables, wild fish, grass-fed game meat, free-range poultry, eggs, seeds, and nuts. Anything else is a late addition.
  • Soy is a very late addition. It was not used as a food product in east Asia (or anywhere else) until about 2,000 years ago, with the discovery of fermentation techniques (making, for example, soy sauce, tempeh, natto, and miso). It’s primary function was to fix nitrogen in the soil, so that other crops could be successfully grown on a rotating basis.
  • Meat from confined animal feeding operations just happened. Before World War II, meat came from widely dispersed farms and fish came from the sea. Cows and other ruminant animals were grass-fed, since their gastrointestinal tracts are not designed to eat corn and other grains. Today, it’s a race to slaughter animals and farm-raised fish before they die from the conditions of their diet and mass confinement.
  • So what’s worse? To eat soy and other legumes, which include a wide variety of slow-release antinutrients, or to eat commercially available meat, which is riddled with suffering, toxins, antibiotics, hormones, and unhealthy fat? They are both undesirable, but for most people the latter is worse than the former (especially in the short run). That’s why research has demonstrated health benefits when people replace conventional meat with soy and other legumes.
  • If you’re going to eat soy and other legumes, it’s important to prepare them right. That includes washing, rinsing, soaking, sprouting, fermenting, and sour leavening. These processes reduce the antinutrients that block mineral absorption, inhibit protein digestion, and irritate the lining of the digestive tract. Unfortunately, most people are neither aware of nor have time for such labor-intensive practices.
  • If that’s how you’ve been eating your beans and legumes, then you may have no changes to make. Otherwise, it may be time to change how you prepare or how much you consume of these foods. It’s never too late to start eating healthy and to reap the benefits.
  • In my own case, I rely increasingly on a network of local farmers and ranchers for my food. That gives me access to grass-fed buffalo and free-range poultry. I eat wild fish (usually salmon) a couple times a week. My morning fruit smoothie includes egg-white powder (rather than soy or whey powder). Egg-white powder is the gold standard when it comes to the amino-acid profile of protein powders. I purchase my powder in bulk from www.OrganicEggProducts.com.

I hope that clarifies the situation when it comes to soy and other legumes. Unfortunately, it gets even more confusing and even more difficult when it comes to grains. It’s one thing to give up soy; it’s an entirely different thing to give up wheat or corn. The former is pretty easy to spot; the latter are in just about everything and people absolutely depend upon them for survival. Some 10,000 years ago, the domestication and production of grains developed the beginnings of modern civilization. Unfortunately, they also developed the beginnings of the diseases of civilization, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune disorders.

That’s why grains represent such a Gordian knot. On the one hand, we can’t live without them and their abundant calories. On the other hand, we can’t live with them and their antinutrients. The Gordian knot got its name from Gordius, the king of ancient Phrygia, who purportedly tied a knot that was so intricate as to be impossible to untie. An oracle declared that whoever should untie the knot would rule over Asia. Undeterred by its complexity, Alexander the Great averted the ill omen of his being unable to loosen the knot by cutting it with his sword.

We need that magic when it comes to grains. One can only hope that scientists will solve the conundrum of how to make grains more healthy. Until then, the best we can do is to avoid the more problematic grains as best we can. To that end, I want to comment on processed grains, glutenous grains, and corn. All three are best eliminated from or at least minimized in the human diet, whenever possible.

Processed Grains. The more highly processed the grain, the more likely it is to have a high glycemic index and to contribute to metabolic syndrome (which includes impaired glucose tolerance, high insulin levels, elevated triglycerides, low HDL “good” cholesterol, and high blood pressure). Any carbohydrate which metabolizes quickly from the digestive tract into the blood stream poses such health hazards, and that’s especially true for processed grains. White flour, for example, has a higher glycemic index than white sugar — it’s that bad.

Having heard about these problems, many people have switched from refined to whole grains (going, for example, from white bread to whole wheat bread). They do not realize, however, that flour is flour when it comes to the glycemic index. Although processed whole grains do have more nutrients and fiber than processed refined grains, they do not have a significantly lower glycemic profile. Whereas a slice of white bread, for example, has a glycemic index of 100, a slice of whole wheat bread has a glycemic index of 95. Both are unacceptably high when it comes to health and wellness.

The reasons aren’t hard to understand. By the time you grind and mill the grain down into a fine powder, there’s nothing left to slow down its absorption into the blood stream. When you mix that powder together with sugar and fat in order to make a donut, the addictiveness of the food, and therefore the glycemic load, rise exponentially. It is best to eliminate all flour and processed grain products of any kind. These include bread, rolls, biscuits, pancakes, waffles, crackers, cookies, cakes, pies, pastries, bagels, donuts, cereals, noodles, pasta, and chips. These also include “instant” or “quick” varieties of grains (such as “instant oatmeal”).

Glutenous Grains. As the climate of the planet stabilized and as people started living further and further away from the equator, grains became increasingly important for many reasons: they had abundant calories, they had a relatively short lifecycle, they could be stored throughout the winter, and they tasted good. Chief among all the grains was wheat, which included a protein that had not been a significant part of the human diet during our entire 2-million-year pre-history. That protein, gluten, is hard if not impossible for many people to digest. For what some estimate to be as high as 50% of the entire human population, gluten is an antinutrient worth avoiding.

In addition to wheat, gluten is found in barley, rye, and to a lesser extent oats. Related proteins are found in triticale, spelt, and kamut. All are to be avoided. In its most extreme form, gluten intolerance takes the form of Celiac disease, a disorder of such severity that even the slightest amount of gluten (such as the amount contained in a shake of soy sauce or a single cheese puff) triggers an extreme reaction. That reaction includes diarrhea, bloating, acute abdominal pain, fatty stools, and destruction of the intestinal lining. Left undiagnosed and untreated, Celiac disease is life threatening, leading to weight loss, anemia, depression, fatigue, and a host of autoimmune disorders.

Many people have problems with gluten without knowing it, because symptoms can be mild, discounted, or even nonexistent. Many people associate gas and fatigue with normal aging, for example, whereas they may be the by-products of gluten intolerance. My wife, who was recently diagnosed with Celiac disease, notices an immediate energy drain if she consumes even a small amount of gluten. Knowing this enables her to make better choices.

Going on a gluten-free diet has many advantages. In addition to eliminating a hard protein to digest, it also eliminates many high-glycemic, processed foods. Instead of stressing the body, a gluten-free diet will make it easier for the body to be healthy and well.

Corn. The three grains that feed and power the world, in declining order of total calories, are corn, wheat, and rice. Together they account for about 75% of all the calories that come from grains, and corn (or maize) has been steadily working its way up to the top of the food chain. It became the largest crop, for the first time, in 1994 and it has been increasing ever since. This is due to the many uses of corn, heavily subsidized by the US and other governments, including to make ethanol, to feed livestock, and to sweeten processed foods (as corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup).

Industrial corn has little to do with the sweet corn that occasionally graces the dinner table. Industrial corn is a commodity that has been genetically engineered to maximize yield and minimize disease. It is a breed apart, and yet it touches virtually every aspect of life. Corn has been so successful as a commodity, that one could ask whether we control the corn crop or whether the corn crop control us. Viewed from outer space, the vast fields of corn leave little doubt as to what is in charge. To quote Thoreau, we have “become the tools of our tools.”

When it comes to late additions to the human diet, little is more recent than high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Invented by Japanese researchers in the late 1960s, HFCS quickly took the world by storm. As a cheaper alternative to sugar with a long shelf life, HFCS is now the primary sweetener in many processed foods and most soft drinks. Since HFCS is lower on the glycemic index, one might herald such a development. But fructose (as opposed to the glucose in sugar) is metabolized almost exclusively in the liver. As a result, fructose is more likely to result in the creation of fats that increase the risk for heart disease. HFCS may also make it harder to control our appetites.

Corn may have no gluten, but many people are allergic to it all the same. It is also one of the most genetically modified of foods for pest control. Unfortunately, like wheat, corn is often hidden in the most unlikely of places. Who knew, for example, that HFCS is the stuff that makes Sushi rice sticky! One must become a careful reader of labels to avoid king corn.

In addition to the problems already cited, grains • like the soy and legumes we talked about last week • contain lectins, phytates, alkylresorcinols, alpha-amylase inhibitors, protease inhibitors, and other antinutrients. They also yield a net acid load in the body, after digestion, which contributes to calcium loss through the urine. That’s why they are best eaten in small amounts, if at all.

The best grain, if there is such a thing, is whole-grain, brown rice. White rice, like white flour, is a nutrient-poor, high-glycemic food that is best eliminated completely from the diet. Whole-grain, brown rice, on the other hand, can be eaten on occasion in limited quantities. This is more a social accommodation than a nutritional recommendation. The Gordian knot of grains remains to be cut. Until then, for those who have other options, it is best to avoid all grains and to stay with fruits, vegetables, wild fish, pasture-fed game meat, free-range poultry, eggs, seeds, and nuts.

Coaching Inquiries: What part do grains play in your diet? Have you noticed any signs of gluten sensitivity? Are there times when you have trouble controlling your appetite? What would it take to reduce or eliminate your consumption of grains? Is there one grain, in particular, that you would like to start with? Who could join you in going against the grain?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.


Thank you for all the information on healthy eating. I have eliminated dairy products from my diet and have included flaxseed, twice a day. I am starting to notice a reduction of joint inflammation. I will keep trying to apply many of your suggestions in our daily eating habits.


I enjoy my morning soy protein drink. What’s a better alternative? (Ed. Note: Egg white protein powder.)


I appreciate your current Provisions. Our diet is largely raw • soups and salads which we just love, with occasional fish or bison, and/or occasional soba noodles with sea vegetables. Of course we go totally off that from time to time but not for long • we don’t care for the same flavors and textures that we once loved and we certainly don’t care for how we FEEL after eating certain things.


I was at Trader Joe’s today trying to figure out what foods to buy for the week (found myself staying away from soy products). I’m constantly looking to gain muscle and it’s tough to find a protein snack or supplement (lately I’ve been drinking protein shakes and nutrition bars post-workout) that doesn’t contain non-fermented Soy or non-organic soy. I’ll have to continue to navigate to find the healthiest products! I appreciate all your work and for the continued education!


I’ve been a regular reader of Provisions for some years now, and have always particularly looked forward to your Wellness Provisions. I am following the current series on the effects of food on health and wellness with interest. I’m surprised however about the Provision on soy foods. Especially since one of the sources I follow on your recommendation, Doctor Weil, still seems to recommend it. In one of his Q&A entries, “Rethinking soy?“, he explicitly refutes the fact that non-fermented soy should be avoided.

I don’t know if Doctor Weil is a victim of the food manufacturing lobby, or if new research has surfaced since he wrote this Q&A less than two years ago. Could you shed some light on this contradiction? (Ed. Note: Dr. Weil is a pesceterian: he eats fish but no land animals. So he does have a personal interest in minimizing the harmful effects of both legumes and grain. At least he acknowledges the problems exist. I, along with others, think they are significant.)


As a medical doctor, I have been fascinated by how rapidly genetic change occurs in our species. From ancestral Adam (Y chromosome side), about 60,000 years ago, we have evolved all the colors, nationalities, “races”, “Gallic noses”, congenital diseases, like cystic fibrosis (mainly whites), Tay-Sachs (mainly Jews), or sickle cell anemia (mainly Afro-Americans), etc. There were only about 2000-10,000 of us 74,000 years ago, after a die-out following the Toba volcanic eruption. So, all our species’ genetic differences (race, eye color, straight hair, etc.) have developed over a breathtakingly short time, compared to, say, a shark, which is largely unchanged over several million years.

We have talked about evolution glibly as a slow process, extending over many millennia. Waiting for DNA mutations certainly is. However, there are several other genetic mechanisms that create changes within a very few generations (gene recombination, natural selection, ecologic selection (white skin in Scandinavia to better absorb Vitamin D, for example), gene flow (e.g., more ADD-types, aggressiveness, and comfort with change in those who chose to move to America from elsewhere), and genetic drift (what Darwin actually observed in his finches, after only a few generations).

The most recent evidence is that we have cultivated grains for about 13,000 years, or twice what was thought a few years ago. Therefore, we have had about 650 generations to adapt to a diet largely of grain and farmed meat. This is fully 1/4 the time required for the much more complex changes of racial differentiation and spreading over the entire planet. By now, we may have adapted to the products of agriculture. (Ed. Note: Our DNA is only .2 percent different from those ancestors of 60,000 years ago. I, and others, remain persuaded that their diets have something to teach us.)


The following article by Michael Pollan, “The Vegetable-Industrial Complex,” about the contamination of spinach with E.coli. 0157:H7 really speaks to what you have been writing about in Provisions.


I received an interesting article from my local organic delivery service. It adds data for your possible upcoming discussion on the sustainability of healthy diets for the majority of people. I’m appreciating your series on your Wellness Prototype; it is well-thought out and provokes deeper reflection on my part.


I just read your Provision about Sullied Soy • this stuff is so difficult to figure out! Have you read the book The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II? It makes a compelling case for eliminating virtually all animal protein in lieu of plant-based foods, which of course could include soy and wheat. One of the studies outlined in the book shows how cancer was literally stopped and reversed when mice were switched from a largely animal-protein diet to a largely plant-based diet. (Ed. Note: I have not read The China Study. They may well have been contrasting the health impacts of commercial animal protein to plant-based food. If so, I agree with them. But for health and wellness, plenty of wild fish, pasture-fed game meat, and free-range poultry is the way to go.) 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #484: Sullied Soy

Laser Provision

After a brief recap of my experience at yesterday’s Baltimore Marathon, this Provision debunks a popular misconception: that soybeans and other legumes are health food. They can actually cause more problems than they solve, particularly for infants, children, and genetically susceptible individuals. All of us have to cope with their allergens, antinutrients, and hormones; that’s why I view them more as a treat to be enjoyed on occasion than as a staple to be eaten daily. Read on to get the details.

LifeTrek Provision

Although it will be more than a month before we make our transition to the output side of the Optimal Wellness Prototype, I would be remiss to not share with you the fun I had yesterday in Baltimore, Maryland, leading the 4:45 pace team to another successful finish. For the past five years, I have participated in the pace-team program, and every year we have a blast. I say “we” because for the past three years, I have headed up the same foursome to a perfect 4:45:00 finish.

We consistently win (or tie-for) the “perfect-pacer” award, given to the team(s) that come closest to their designated finish time. It’s important to do that, because large numbers of people sign up to run with the team they want to finish with. For the teams faster than four hours, many people are trying to qualify for the Boston marathon and they need to stay on pace in order to push themselves to a personal best. For the teams slower than four hours, many people are trying to finish their first marathon and they need the consistency as well as the coaching that pace teams provide in order to calm their nerves and to strengthen their muscles.

This year our team did it’s best job ever of staying on pace, mile by mile. We were seldom more than a few seconds off for 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometers). We stayed together as a team, encouraged each other on the run, and had more people stay with us until the very end than ever before. The people who came up during and after the race, thanking us for our leadership, strategy, camaraderie, and even our bad jokes, were impactful to say the least. It makes you want to stay fit enough to go back, year after year.

I hope you can feel that energy because I know many people who struggle to find the motivation to shape up and to stay in shape. It doesn’t have to be as dramatic as pacing marathons, but I wish everyone could find activities that they love so much that they have no trouble doing them on a regular basis. Exercise is not a punishment; it’s a gift that keeps on giving. When we enjoy the experience itself, exercise bolsters happiness and relieves stress. Beyond the experience itself, the health benefits of exercise are legion. It lowers the risk of virtually every disease, both chronic and infectious.

What activities do you love enough to do on a regular basis? Can you do them vigorously enough to get your heart rate up, for at least 20 minutes a day? What about Walking? Skipping? Jumping? Dancing? Cycling? Swimming? Gardening? Mowing? Circuit training? Skating? Roller blading? Kayaking? Canoeing? Tennis? Golf? The possibilities are limitless. Find something you love to do, find people to do it with, then go for the gold. There’s no better prescription for health and wellness.

That said, it’s time to tackle one of many myths that are perpetuated by the food-manufacturing industry: the health benefits of soy. This is but one claim that has been foist upon us to the point where it is now taken for granted. Ask people whether soy is a healthy alternative to meat, and research has shown that the vast majority answer, “Yes.” That’s a pretty significant development since, at least in the USA and in many western countries, soy was almost unheard of in our diets just a generation or two ago. I know I did not grow up eating soy. The food-marketers have done their job well.

Soy is not alone, by any means, when it comes to conventional wisdom being manipulated by food-marketing. Whole grains are good for you, right? Dairy products build bones and prevent osteoporosis, right? There’s no trans-fats in many margarines and snacks, right? This morning, staying at the home of someone in Baltimore, I noticed a tub of margarine on the counter, “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.” The label clearly said “0 Trans Fats,” and yet the ingredients included partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. There’s no way for partially hydrogenated vegetable oil to have “0 Trans Fats,” so what’s up with that?

It has to do with the food-manufacturing lobby. If a food has less than 0.5 grams of Trans Fats per serving, they successfully lobbied the government to allow downward rounding. Since less than 0.5 rounds down to 0, they can claim “0 Trans Fats.” There’s only one problem with that: 0.49 does not equal 0. And no one should be eating any Trans Fats at all; they are that dangerous to human health. Eat more than one serving (often scaled down to beat the .5 limitation), which is easy to do (especially in snacks) and people can easily end up consuming many grams of Trans Fats per day.

No wonder it’s hard to know what’s going on in order to be healthy. The same is true for soy. According to a recent article by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (Nutrition Action Health Letter, October 2006), early enthusiasm for the alleged health benefits of soy have turned out to be unsupported. To quote:

  • In August 2005, an expert U.S. government panel found unclear or insufficient evidence that soy can prevent heart disease, relieve menopausal symptoms, or prevent osteoporosis. That led the National Institutes of Health to suspend funding for new soy studies.
  • In the Fall of 2005, the soy industry withdrew its petition asking the FDA to allow claims that soy protein helps prevent cancer.
  • In February 2006, the American Heart Association concluded that soy doesn’t cut bad cholesterol as much as experts thought.

That stands in stark contrast to the many health claims of soy, including the following claim, approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1999, which appears on many soy-containing foods, “Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 25 grams of soy protein a day may reduce the risk of heart disease.” The way things are going, that approval may end up being withdrawn before too long.

All this probably comes as no surprise to anyone who read last week’s Provision on Trojan Foods. Legumes in general, and soy in particular, contain lectins, trypsin inhibitors, lignins, phytates, allergens, and other antinutrients that make them hard to digest. If they are not prepared properly, or if they are consumed excessively, these foods not only fail to provide health benefits; they actually cause health risks.

The reason I call them Trojan Foods, is that the health risks • for all but the most allergic • sneak into our systems, causing incremental damage which builds up slowly over time. By the time we find ourselves suffering from a chronic disease, we may not even be aware that our diets are contributing to our problems. We may just figure, “We’ll that’s the way it goes. It’s a genetic problem that I’m stuck with for the rest of my life, until it disables or kills me.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can clean up our diets and, in the process, we can save our lives. If that gives me a chance to run another marathon on another day, then I, for one, am going to take the chance.

Soy foods are in a difficult category, because we have to ask not whether or not they are good for us (they’re not, especially in large and frequent amounts). We have to ask whether or not they are better for us than the alternative, which is often conventional, fatty meat mass produced by the same food industry that funded the research which led to the health claims for soy. We’re talking the lesser of two evils here, and it can be hard to choose.

Especially since most of the soy in the USA, and increasingly in the world, is of the genetically-modified variety. The four most common, genetically-modified foods are soy, corn, canola (for canola oil), and cotton (for cottonseed oil). The jury is not still out on many genetic modifications: the US FDA has banned some genetically modified foods from the marketplace, because they cause disease, disability, and/or death. Many genetic modifications have been approved, however, and only time will tell whether they do more harm than good.

One thing is clear: genetically-modified foods wreak havoc with those who are allergenically or genetically sensitive to Trojan Foods. When two or more foods are mixed together to form a new food (Genetically-Modified or GM soy), called by the same name as an old food (soy), who knows how such people will react to eating the new food? That’s especially true for legumes such as soy, with lectins that lead to gut inflammation and permeability. When partially digested G-M food proteins and remnants of resident gut bacteria spill into the bloodstream, they can do a number on health and wellness. Genetically-modified foods truly represent a public health experiment, the results of which will not be know for decades or even centuries.

Still, many people have found at least short-term health benefits by decreasing their consumption of conventional, fatty meats and increasing their consumption of soy. They may be dammed if they do and dammed if they don’t, but the lowering of cholesterol by the reduction of conventional saturated fat is no surprise. These people could have achieved the same result, however, with far fewer health risks, by substituting wild fish and local, pasture-fed, lean meats for their conventional, fatty counterparts. Those really are the protein sources our bodies are best designed to eat and digest.

The key to eating soy and other legumes is to eat them in moderation and, then, only from non-GM, organic sources. Moderation means to not eat them every day and to prepare them properly.

The best way to eat soy foods is to stay with fermented soy foods such as miso, tempeh, and natto. These foods have been predigested by bacteria, making them more digestible and deactivating potentially harmful substances. A good use of tempeh, for example, is to crumble it into lightly-steamed vegetables. This adds both healthy, lean protein and a great taste to the vegetables. We do this a couple times a month in our house.

Nonfermented soy foods include edamame, tofu, soymilk, soy burgers, soy nuts, soy sauce, tamari, soy flour, soy grits, texturized soy protein, and soy protein isolate. These foods are best kept to a minimum; eat them on occasion as treats rather than regularly as daily fare.

Never eat soy or other beans raw; there are too many health hazards, some of which are toxic (the poison ricin, for example, is made from castor beans). Washing, rinsing, and cooking beans provides a measure of protection from their toxins, but it does not eliminate them completely. Their antinutrients and allergens still make their way into our systems, doing whatever they do to our long-term health and wellness.

Do not be confused by the claim that Asian countries have eaten soy for generations, with plenty of health benefits and no sign of health risks. They have not, traditionally, eaten large quantities of soy • let alone soy supplements containing large doses of the isoflavones (phytochemicals with hormonal effects) in soy • and they have eaten more fermented than nonfermented soy foods. It is more likely the fish in their traditional diets, the lack of gluten (from wheat, rye, barley, and oats), as well as the lack of dairy that make them so healthy. As soon as they add the health-risky foods in their diets — as soon as McDonalds and other fast foods make their appearance • their health and wellness plummet.

Perhaps the most serious of concerns involving soy revolves around infant formulas, which are often made from soy as an alternative to dairy. This is another case of trying to figure out the lesser of two evils. Infants are even more susceptible than adults to the antinutrients, allergens, and hormones in soy protein. The perfect food, of course, is human breast milk. When that is not available, I would look for non-soy and non-dairy alternatives. I would also avoid feeding children a diet that is high in soy protein, for the same reasons mentioned above, amplified by their young, developmental stage in life.

In spite of their health risks, I see no reason to completely avoid all soy products along with other beans and legumes. In moderation and with proper preparation, the Optimal Wellness Prototype makes it clear that soy, beans, and other legumes can be part of a healthy diet. Vegetarians have a hard choice; these foods often provide them with essential proteins. But even vegetarians can select the fermented varieties that carry less of the risks and more of the benefits. For the rest of us, we can keep them to a minimum in favor of other, more healthful choices.

Coaching Inquiries: How much soy do you eat on a daily basis? Is it fermented or nonfermented? Is it GM or non-GM soy? How many other beans or legumes do you eat on a daily basis? How could you switch to viewing them as a treat rather than as a staple? What research would you need to do to make the change? Who would you want to talk with in the quest for wellness?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob..


I’m amazed at what I learned reading this most recent Provision on Trojan Foods. I have been following a sort of carbohydrate-and-watching-calories kind of diet, and I was feeling guilty giving up grains. Now I feel blessed. What is your thinking about fruit? Veggies? Atkins? (Ed. Note: I have been addressing these questions in my current series. I would encourage to visit the Provisions archive to read past issues.)


I have really enjoyed your series on nutrition. The point of view from which you speak really makes sense! I bought the Paleo Diet book and have since lost 15 lbs in about 4 weeks. Thanks for that. Please cover the soy issue more thoroughly and completely.


As a public health officer, I have become persuaded that a Paleo diet a good thing. It certainly makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. A big part of my current job is taking a very critical stance toward the industrial era diet. Here’s my problem: The pre-agricultural hominid diet isn’t an option for most people. Like so many good, healthy interventions that we can recommend, in the end only the most advantaged segments of society will benefit. The net result is a widening disparity between the well-off elites and everybody else. Beyond this, I have environmental concerns. The planet can’t support 6 billion people on a Paleo diet. I wish the article had addressed this. Our very enlarged human family depends on mass production of cheap foods for its survival. Yes, we need to make it easier for Americans and others to make relatively good food choices, but bringing back the Neolithic diet seems unrealistic and potentially destructive of already damaged ecosystems. 

You are in the enviable position of advocating what’s best for your select clientele, including diets unsustainable on a mass scale. Perhaps that’s how it should be, and I support that. But from a public health standpoint, taking into account the needs of the entire population, it seems that a more tempered approach is called for. (Ed. Note: You are right that the planet cannot support 7 billion people on a Paleo diet. That’s what really damages the ecosystem: overpopulation that must be fed with extensive reliance on petrochemicals. I will write more on this in future Provisions. Thanks for the thoughtful and thought-provoking reply.) 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #483: Trojan Foods

Laser Provision

It’s one thing to eat a food and to get sick soon thereafter. We learn very quickly to not do that again. It’s another thing to eat foods that slowly but surely chip away at our health and wellness. We hardly notice their debilitating effects and then, once noticed, we often fail to connect the dots back to the foods we have been eating. If you suspect that your foods may be causing health problems, beyond the most obvious of hazards, then this Provision will assist you to dig a little deeper and to clean up your diet even more.

LifeTrek Provision

You may remember the story of the giant, wooden horse, made famous in the ancient works of Homer and Virgil, which was presented by the Greeks as a gift to the city of Troy, purportedly ending a military siege that had lasted for ten years. Suspicious that it might be a trap, the gift was closely inspected by the leaders of the city. Finding nothing, they accepted the gift and brought it inside the city walls. Celebrating the end of the siege, the people of Troy fell into drunken revelry which gave the Greek soldiers, hiding inside the horse, their opportunity to come out and open up the city gates, allowing the rest of the Greek army to enter and destroy the city.

Ever since that legendary battle, no less crafty than the ruses of many a modern adversary, the Trojan Horse has become the symbol of things that look harmless but carry within them the seeds of great destruction. We need to watch out for those things, and we certainly need to avoid bringing them into our lives.

This task is never more challenging than when it comes to foods. Years ago I can remember visiting with a family in Kingston, Jamaica. For breakfast they cooked ackee, the national fruit of Jamaica, along with salt cod, pork fat, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and herbs. The dish had the look, feel, and taste of scrambled eggs, thanks to the ackee, even though there were no eggs in the dish.

“This fruit will make you very sick, you know,” my hosts informed me as we sat down to eat. “You have to know when to pick it, and what parts to eat. The rest you have to throw away. You can’t even drink the water in which the fruit is cooked.” Hearing that, I was glad they knew what they were doing • and I waited until they took the first bite.

That’s what Michael Pollan calls the omnivore’s dilemma, in his book by the same name. As creatures who can eat just about anything, and who as a species have certainly stuck just about everything in our mouths at one time or another, figuring out what is good and safe to eat takes a considerable amount of knowledge, wisdom, and experience. The knowledge has to be carefully gained and faithfully passed around, from one generation to the next, to prevent too many people from making the same tragic mistakes, over and over again.

When it comes to ackee fruit, of course, those mistakes become evident rather quickly. The “vomiting sickness of Jamaica,” as it is sometimes described, makes it easy to connect cause (eating ackee) with effect (vomiting). Poison mushrooms, which can be deadly and are often disguised as edible mushrooms, make that connection even more painfully obvious. When pain and sickness happen soon after ingesting a food, people quickly learn to steer clear of the Trojan Horse. It may look, smell, and taste good, but that is never the end of the story.

Food has to be digested in order to do us any good. In the case of poison mushrooms, they do a better job of digesting us than of us digesting them. Which serves to illustrate an important point: from a functional point of view, the inside of the gastrointestinal tract lies outside of the body. What goes into your mouth, passing through the stomach and intestines, is not part of you. The tomato in your hand is no more a part of you than the tomato in your gut; which is why the undigested part gets pushed out in your stools.

For health and safety, then, the intestinal barrier (IB) is no less important than the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The BBB is a membrane that controls the passage of substances from the blood into the central nervous system. It is a physical barrier that protects the brain from most, but not all, of the many chemicals flowing around the body. Alcohol is one notable exception that the BBB cannot stop, as the people of Troy tragically demonstrated so long ago.

In a similar way, the IB is responsible for controlling the passage of substances from the inside of the gastrointestinal tact to the rest of the body. A leaky IB can be as dangerous to health and well-being as a leaky BBB and, in fact, there are increasing indications that a leaky IB lies behind many autoimmune disorders.

Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, occur when the body loses the ability to discriminate between self-proteins and non-self proteins. In other words, the body loses the ability to tell the difference between its own molecules and the molecules of foreign invaders. As a result, the immune system makes the mistake of attacking both self and non-self at the same time. As anyone with an autoimmune disorder knows all too well, this can lead to incredible pain, disability, and even death.

What causes the body to make such a terrible mistake? That’s the question of the hour when it comes to medical research, and the answer is a complex combination of many hereditary and environmental factors. One such factor is a leaky gut. In these individuals, the IB does not work properly. Under normal circumstances, the IB keeps 98% of dietary proteins inside the gut, allowing only 2% to enter the body without being digested. The body is designed to handle that level of contamination.

When the IB becomes leaky, however, increasing amounts of undigested food proteins and molecules pass through the IB and enter the peripheral circulation of the body. Overwhelmed by the circulation of both self and non-self molecules, the immune system doesn’t know what to do. Over time, it starts to attack everything in sight.

From this vantage point, one can see the importance of avoiding foods that break down or slip through the IB. It’s just not good for undigested bits of kidney beans or birthday cake to be floating around in your elbow. Unlike ackee fruit and poison mushrooms, however, the foods that increase gut inflammation and permeability do not necessarily produce immediate or near-immediate reactions such as vomiting, pain, or death. Like the soldiers in the Trojan Horse, these foods wait for the opportunity to strike. They release their minions slowly, building up their forces, until the body is destroyed in the attack.

That’s why I call these foods Trojan Foods. They may look, smell, and taste good, and they may produce no obvious negative effects in the short run, but in the long run they are taking their toll on the body. They are best avoided altogether, or at least minimized, in order to promote optimum wellness.

By now you are probably wondering, “So what are these dangerous foods?” The answer may surprise you, because they are the staples of modern diets. Most people eat them every single day, and they get through life just fine, they would say, with the normal aches, pains, and problems. What they don’t realize, however, is that many of the “normal aches, pains, and problems” are not “normal” at all. They are induced by the foods we eat, and the longer we eat Trojan Foods the more problems we are likely to have.

There are many factors in foods that can increase gut inflammation and permeability. In addition to alcohol, which goes through the IB as easily as it goes through the BBB, one of the best known and researched factors that can cause gut inflammation and permeability (along with a variety of other problems) are glycoproteins called lectins. There are different types of lectins, some of which occur naturally in the human body and not all of which are harmful. Many lectins in food, however, are known to allow partially digested food proteins and remnants of resident gut bacteria to spill into the bloodstream. Those are the ones to watch out for.

The principal foods that contain significant amounts of hazardous lectins, in descending order, are:

  • grains, especially grains containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley, and oats) but also corn, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, and rice;
  • legumes, especially dry beans such as lima, soy, kidney, and peanut;
  • dairy products, especially from cows that are fed corn and other grains rather than grass; and
  • nightshade vegetables, such as white potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, tobacco, and peppers.

How’s that for ruining your appetite! Anyone who suffers from autoimmune diseases (e.g., lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Grave’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis), disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal problems (e.g., ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, gas, diarrhea, Crohn’s disease, colitis, Celiac Sprue disease, and chronic Candida), diabetes, or failure to thrive would do well to avoid these foods and their byproducts (e.g., sauces, spreads, oils, and vinegars) entirely.

If you are not willing or able to completely eliminate all of these foods, the next best step is to eliminate one or more of the food categories. You may not want to eliminate the nightshade vegetables and legumes, for example, but you can still eliminate the grains and the dairy products which feed on grains. That is what we do in our house, and it seems to work very well.

Especially since the lectins and other anti-nutritional factors in legumes can be largely removed and inactivated through proper preparation. Dried beans should be soaked over night, the water drained off, then rinsed and drained again before cooking. After cooking, the water should be drained off and the beans rinsed for a final time before adding to salads, soups, or other recipes. Common beans with the highest lectin content, in descending order, are lima, soy, kidney, scarlet runner, winged, horse gram, jack, and peanut. One should always be careful in the preparation and eating of these beans.

Even the most ardent of legume champions recognize their limitations. “There are several disadvantages of legumes as protein sources,” notes Dr. Weil in his book Eating Well for Optimum Health. “They may be toxic raw; most require long cooking to make them palatable and digestible, and many contain resistant carbohydrates that cause flatulence and other digestive problems. They may also carry residues of toxic agrichemicals.” Still, he recommends eating a wide variety of organic soy foods and other legumes since the benefits, he believes, outweigh the risks.

To get a sense of how true that is for you, you may want to conduct your own experiments • eliminating and reintroducing foods while keeping a log of any changes you notice. The problem, as already noted above, is that Trojan Foods do not typically produce immediate effects. They build up over time, generating small and almost imperceptible problems before creating big ones. It’s easier to just eliminate them and then to stay on the wagon.

One other reason it’s good to steer clear of all foods containing significant amounts of toxic lectins, or at least one other reason to eat only organic foods, is that genetically modified foods are modified by splicing lectins from one plant family to another. Such contamination makes it very difficult to know which foods are safe and which foods are harmful.

Fortunately, the LifeTrek Optimal Wellness Prototype makes it clear that we can live very well without grains, legumes, dairy products, or nightshade vegetables. There are plenty of other fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, grass-fed meats, wild fish, nuts, seeds, and eggs to eat. So why not stay with the foods our bodies were designed to eat, rather than to challenge our bodies with foods that make it hard to be well?

Coaching Inquiries: Do you or does anyone in your family have any of the problems mentioned in today’s Provision? Are there times when the problems are better, and times when the problems are worse? What patterns do you notice?  Do they follow your consumption of toxic lectins? How could you reduce your intake of grains, legumes, dairy products, and nightshade vegetables? Who could join you in the quest for health?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob..


I didn’t realize that white potatoes that have turned green or that have greenish sprouts were poisonous, nor dangerous enough to cause death or to put a person in a coma. Thanks for the warning! (Ed. Note: Rotten potatoes are even more dangerous, so much so that they should be discarded rather than trimmed. Perhaps that’s why rotten potatoes have such a noxious and repugnant odor. It’s nature’s way of warning us to stay away.) 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services