Nuts, PUFA and Vitamin E


Last December I did a 3 part series on PUFA (polyunsaturated fats).

  1. The Common Enemy in Nutrition
  2. The Problem with PUFA
  3. Quantifying PUFA, Expert Opinion and My Conclusion

My very brief summary of those posts were that ALL nutritional camps seems to agree that excess PUFA is bad for health. Finding across the board consensus in nutrition is rare. Excess PUFA can cause a host of health problems, which are listed on the second post. The most interesting one to me is reduced metabolism. The third post is where I make the case that one doesn’t just need to lower PUFA going forward, but because our fat tissues are likely to store high levels of PUFA from modern living and they can reside there for years, we need to drastically lower our PUFA levels. At least initially.

My personal strategy to remove excess PUFA out of my body were to:

  1. Minimize or eliminate vegetable oil use. Easy at home. Tougher when eating out. Favor high temperature saturated fats, such as coconut oil.
  2. Eat more seafood, dairy and red meat. Reduce pork and chicken.
  3. Stop eating nuts.

I may have been wrong about nuts. Yes nuts have have high levels of PUFA, but they also are a rich source of Vitamin E. And it turns out Vitamin E plays a protective role against PUFA. From the article Vitamin E: Estrogen antagonist, energy promoter, and anti-inflammatory by Ray Peat.

One possibly crucial protective effect of vitamin E against the polyunsaturated fatty acids that hasn’t been explored is the direct destruction of linolenic and linoleic acid. It is known that bacterial vitamin E is involved in the saturation of unsaturated fatty acids, and it is also known that intestinal bacteria turn linoleic and linolenic acids into the fully saturated stearic acid.

The article also explains how our Vitamin E needs rise and fall based off our intake of PUFA. More PUFA, more Vitamin E. Less PUFA, less Vitamin E. If this is accurate then simply adding up the amount of linolenic acid in our food without accounting for Vitamin E will overstate the PUFA risks in nuts. By how much? I have no clue.

Another factor is heat and light destroys Vitamin E, putting processed seed oils at a further disadvantage to nuts. One exception might be cold-pressed high oleic sunflower oil.


Natural PUFA vs Processed PUFA

Almonds are rich in both Vitamin E and PUFA. One ounce of almonds has 3377 mg of linoleic acid and 7.3 mg of Vitamin E. I suspect this means almonds aren’t good, but less bad. There are some good comments on the 2011 post Ray Peat – Epilepsy by Matt Stone regarding PUFA and Vitamin E.

Jannis said:

Eating nuts because of the vitamin E is like drinking snake poison together with the antidote.

(making the point there are better ways to get Vitamin E)

AS said:

It seems to me, that the existence of the naturally occurring Vitamin E, along with the naturally occurring PUFA, in a natural whole food, is *a* key. That perhaps the two occurring naturally together (among other nutrients, etc.) in a natural whole food means something. That perhaps PUFA, in the context of whole foods, acts very differently in the human body, than unnatural sources of PUFA does.

Matt Stone stepped in and summarized:

I think Ray Peat would say…
Vegetable oils with no vitamin E or supplementation…. WORST
Vegetable oils with vitamin E and aspirin supplementation…. BAD
Whole food PUFA consumption… BETTER
Low total PUFA consumption… BEST

What Matt didn’t include in his comment, is the combination of Whole food PUFA consumption plus a Vitamin E supplement. My guess is this might fall somewhere between BETTER and BEST. But that is just a guess based off the fact nuts still have a high amount of PUFA.

Earlier this year, there were reports of higher risks of prostate cancer who took high doses of Vitamin E daily (400 mg). The rates of cancer were higher when the men had very low or very high levels of selenium. That doesn’t concern me, as the goal for most days would be to consume minimal PUFA and just take Vitamin E as insurance for the days you can’t avoid PUFA.

And there is also the possibility – as Jannis alluded to –  that it is more than just Vitamin E that exists in natural sources of PUFA that provides protective benefit.

Bring on the Almonds?

I love almonds, but I haven’t bought any in over a year. Raw or soaked almonds suppress my appetite more than ANY other food. Also my approach to nutrition is to be expansive. The neurotic restrictive diets aren’t for me. If I can add back almonds, take a Vitamin E supplement, maintain a high metabolism and lose a few pounds, then that is something I want to do. And if I don’t even need the Vitamin E supplement, even better.

Your thoughts?

The Mindful Way to Study and The Ray Peat Survival Guide


I read two more books on my Kindle app. One was good, one wasn’t.

The Mindful Way to Study

The Mindful Way to Study is a book I wish I would have had when I was a student. It tailors the message of mindfulness with the goals and challenges of being a student. I’ve read other books on Mindfulness, but I had never considered how much it could benefit when it comes to studying. The definition of Mindfulness from the Wikipedia:

the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment

The book goes into how we collectively use terms to define studying as a battle. Hitting the books is the first one that comes to mind. We focus on the results and not the learning. This makes us anxious and stressful. Part 2 is the part I found most interesting. Each chapter walks us through a different stressful obstacle a student can face and how to approach it using mindfulness.

Like I said earlier, I wish I would have been exposed to these ideas when I was younger. I would have been a better student and enjoyed the process of learning much more. The only thing I think could make this book better would be to have a chapter written for parents. If it is an overbearing parent that is the cause of result driven stress, convincing them to support their child as they practice mindfulness would be highly beneficial. My guess is most parents have not been exposed to these ideas and still view studying as they did when they were school. Aligning their goals would greatly increase the chance that the techniques taught in this book will work.

Check out the book if you are a student that is looking for a way to embrace learning and reduce the common forms of stress associated with studying. I also think parents of students should give this a read.

The Mindful Way To Study
The Mindful Way To Study by Jake J. Gibbs and Roddy O. Gibbs

The Ray Peat Survival Guide

The second book was The Ray Peat Survival Guide. I bought it for three reasons.

  1. I was looking for a book that would clarify some of Ray Peat‘s writings. His articles on nutrition can be overwhelming. I understand a lot more than I did a year ago, but I’m always eager to learn more and improve my understanding.
  2. I liked another book Joey Lott wrote, so I figured he would do a good job explaining a complex topic.
  3. As much as Ray Peat is worshiped by some on the internet, there is an absence of well written summaries of his research. Danny Roddy shutdown his website and went all newsletter. Foolish move. Functional Alps is just a useless dumping ground of abstracts with no analysis. I’ve stumbled on other sites, most used writing more complex than Peat himself, so I found them of no use.

The book was a disappointment and maybe it is my fault for buying it. I just ignored the word “Survival” in the title. Instead of being a book to explain complex ideas in easy to understand language, it assumed you knew the principles of the diet and why you did them. The book was primarily about not being super strict with the diet. Since reducing stress is a key component of the Peat diet, it is wise not to get stressed about following the diet perfectly. If that is a message you need to hear, get the book. If you want a deeper understanding the reasons for Peat’s recommendations, the Ray Peat Survival Guide isn’t going to help you.

By Joey Lott The Ray Peat Survival Guide: Understanding, Using, and Realistically Applying the Dietary Ideas of D [Paperback]
By Joey Lott The Ray Peat Survival Guide: Understanding, Using, and Realistically Applying the Dietary Ideas of D [Paperback] by

Disclosure: I received a Kindle copy of The Mindful Way to Study with a request to review it, which did not influence this post. I paid for the Ray Peat Survival Guide.

Weight Gain on a Ray Peat Diet


I wanted to bring up a topic that I see mentioned frequently on forums and comments that relate to the Ray Peat diet. Seems a lot of people experience weight gain. Last month I received this comment from Greatgiantsteppah:

I have tried this diet for a couple of months now and have gained a lot of weight (mostly Subcutaneous fat) around the stomach and my abs are a goner. My diet has consisted mostly of fruit, carrots and milk and then some beef.

These comments are common. For those not familiar with the Ray Peat diet, read my post The Peat-atarian Diet For Those of Us With Average IQs.

The diet ideas of Ray Peat are not about fat loss or achieving an ideal weight. The goal is to increase metabolism and support the thyroid. That often means increasing calories and carbohydrates. Getting healthy hormonally is more paramount than weight management. Some people gain weight. I did.

My Story

In early 2012 I noticed that my weight kept dropping. I went from a healthy lean 195 down to a ripped but gaunt 183. My height is 6 foot 2.5 inches (189 cm). I was eating a super clean hybrid of WAPF, Paleo and the Perfect Health Diet . I needed to gain weight, but I wanted to do it in a nutrient dense manner. My research led to the conclusion that ice cream was the optimal food. Ice cream also happens to be a superfood on the Ray Peat diet. Read that post if the idea that ice cream can be super healthy puzzles you. I had trouble with it until I really dug into the numbers.

It worked. Eating ice cream stopped my weight loss. Once I stabilized my weight, I decided to use ice cream to gain muscle. And it worked. I gained 10 pounds of muscle before the end of the year. Throughout the summer of 2012, I was preaching the gospel of ice cream to anyone that would listen.

The problem came later. I overshot my target weight and kept gaining. For the first time in my life, I had developed a sugar craving. Then I went a month without coffee and my appetite signals got all messed up. Today I am 10-15 pounds heavier than my target weight. The good news is I have more muscle and am no longer gaunt. My metabolism seems to be high, but so is my appetite.


Photo by Atomische * Tom Giebel

Losing Weight on a Ray Peat diet

Remember the point of the Ray Peat diet is not about having ripped abs, but having a healthy metabolism. If you are still recovering from thyroid or metabolism issues, you may want to solve that before pursuing an ideal weight. I am not a nutritionist, nor do I have any clients. I’m just trying to figure this riddle out myself.

The standard advice I see in forums devoted to Ray Peat when it comes to fat loss is to reduce your dairy fat content and cut back on the coconut oil. So you might go from whole milk to 2% milk fat. I suspect this standard advice is geared towards the individuals who still need to boost metabolism, as it would ensure they were still getting ample carbs and sugars to support thyroid. The reduction in fat would reduce calories without restricting carbs.

I suspect that standard advice is not ideal for those of us with healthy metabolisms. I could be wrong on this, but my guess is those of us with healthy metabolisms just need to correct our appetite signals. I doubt reducing dairy fat is going to do that. Some ideas that come to mind are:

  1. Replace highly palatable foods by consuming the components separately. Have a piece of fruit and a glass of milk instead of ice cream. You get the sugar and the dairy fat without the high flavor signals.
  2. Replace the sacred orange juice with oranges. An orange has 1/2 the calories of an 8 oz glass of orange juice. I don’t eat oranges myself, but I like to rotate in new fruit every week.
  3. No more Mexican colas or other sugar drinks. Not because they are bad, but because of their effect on appetite.
  4. Reduce milk quantity. For me, I’ve decided to consume milk every 2nd or 3rd week. I’m still dialing it in, so I don’t have an exact ratio yet, but I’m only buying whole milk.

Your Thoughts?

To be clear, I am in no way endorsing the Ray Peat diet. Some parts make sense to me and some don’t. I am a student of what makes different diets work. This one is more complicated than most. I successfully used ice cream to fix my rapid weight loss, now I am going to see if I can curb my appetite signals using slight tweaks of the Ray Peat diet.

If you have any tips or ideas, drop a comment.

Peat-atarians and Fear of Hormetic Stress


Last year my interest in nutrition lead me to look into the ideas of Dr. Ray Peat. I outlined what I learned in the post The Peat-atarian Diet For Those Of Us With Average IQs. There is a lot I like about the diet and I can see where some individuals, especially overweight females with thyroid issues, could really benefit from the diet.

However, there is one area where I believe they are dead wrong. In their obsession with reducing all forms of stress, they go too far. From my readings and more importantly, my personal experience, lack of stress builds fragility. The key is finding ways to episodically, not chronically, expose your body to safe stressors. This teaches your body resilience. This is called hormesis.


Although it was Art De Vany that first taught me about hormesis, my go to source on hormesis is the site Getting Stronger. Their tagline is Train yourself to thrive on stress. Their side box description reads:

Getting Stronger is a blog about the philosophy of Hormetism, based on the application of progressive, intermittent stress to overcome challenges and grow stronger physically, mentally and emotionally.

A simple example of hormesis would be lifting a heavy weight. The body responds to this stress by creating stronger muscles. Exposure to the stress of sun radiation can trigger the body to develop a protective tan. Exposing our bodies to hormetic stress is beneficial as it teaches our body how to respond successfully to future unknown stressors.

Peat-atarians have developed a brilliant approach for addressing the problem of too many PUFAs in modern society, but have failed to see that the same modern world has made us too soft. By living in perfectly controlled temperatures and never missing a meal, we’ve made ourselves less resilient. Hormetic stress teaches us how to positively respond to chronic stress.

Photo by Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha

My Experience with Hormesis

Now before the followers of Peat dumps a bunch a links to medical studies in the comments, let me remind them I that I am not a PubMed Warrior. I’ve seen enough nutritional debates to know that there are brilliant people on both sides of every argument. Studies can only, at best, measure what they deem as important and quantifiable. And as far as I can tell those metrics do not exist for stress. And more importantly our response to that stress.

How we respond to stress is more important than stress itself. Using hormesis trains our body to respond to stress better. And by the way, fearing hormetic stress is a stressful response to the anticipation of a stressor. Instead of pouring through PubMed looking for evidence to back up my opinion, I will tell you about my experiences with hormesis.

# 1 Intermittent Fasting

Peat-atarians are against fasting. I am strongly in favor of Intermittent Fasting (IF). Instead of diving into yet another discussion of the benefits of fasting, I’ll keep this focused on stress. Before discovering IF, I was a slave to hunger. Every 3 or so waking hours, I had to eat. IF taught me how to be patient with food. I learned how to cook, because I could now chose to eat later rather than immediately. By taking control of my hunger, I was able to prepare my own foods, which meant my intake of PUFA, wheat and soy plummeted. These are the same toxins that Peat-atarians agree are the most stressful to the body.

Andrew Kim, who Peat fans love, posted a confusing anti-Intermittent Fasting opinion. (post was removed from blog)

Briefly, the so-called intermittent fasting does not provide any additional benefit to what complete fasting does . . . it is a poor man’s derivative of it.  People who are drawn to it I think should train their bodies to eat moderately (i.e., small meals) rather than resorting to eating massive amounts of food in one shot, and then compensating by starving themselves for 16-24 hours and repeating the process day after day (though a complete fast can fix eating disorders like this).

Fasting, to me, is the ultimate reset button.

Let me try and follow the logic here. Fasting is the ultimate reset. IF does not provide additional benefit. If something were already the ultimate, I wouldn’t expect additional benefit. That doesn’t seem logically possible. Even though Andrew is a smart guy, his labeling of IF as “starving themselves for 16-24 hours and repeating the process day after day” is an extreme view. Brad Pilon, who has probably done more research on IF than anyone, says 1-2 fasts approaching 24 hours a week are perfectly healthy and beneficial.

Andrew states he thinks people should train their bodies to eat multiple small meals. So did Dr. Barry Sears, which was a principle of his Zone Diet. It worked awesome in the beginning, but eventually I found myself constantly hungry throughout the day (see My Experience With the Zone Diet). Being hungry lead me to make poor food choices.

I do agree that everyday long fasts are unnecessary. Fasts should be spontaneous and random. To sum up, practicing IF has reduced my stress levels by making hunger a comfortable feeling and giving me the patience to pursue cooking. And cooking has opened up a world of social connections that I did not have prior to IF. IF has reduced my stress levels.

#2 Cold Temperature Exposure

Peat fan Danny Roddy loves to write lines condescending to Paleo. In his guest post The Peat Whisperer Whispers Paleo on 180DegreeHealth, he lists a few Paleo characteristics that will lead to “The Race to Torpor”. The Wikipedia defines torpor as:

…a state of decreased physiological activity in an animal, usually by a reduced body temperature and rate of metabolism.

One of the items on Danny’s list, besides IF, was cold thermogenesis.

Needless to say, I am a fan of cold temperature exposure. I began cold exposure over 4 years ago. My body temperature is still the same and my metabolism has increased. Teaching my body how to deal with the hormetic stress of cold temperatures has been a great benefit to me. After living in the perfect weather of San Diego for 7 years, I arrived in Seattle very soft to cold temperatures. Being cold was highly stressful to me. I hated the feeling of being cold. Because I can’t control the stressor (the weather), my only recourse was to change my response to the stressor.

Today I can walk outside without a jacket in low temperatures with no problem. At the end of a workout, I can take a cold shower with no problem. My body is resilient across a wide range of temperatures. If my apartment loses heat or my car breaks down in a cold environment, I won’t panic. Always being in a perfect temperature may be less stressful in the immediate term, but it doesn’t prepare you for the greater stress when you are forced to step outside that comfort zone. Cold Temperature Exposure has provided me the confidence that I can be comfortable across a wide range of temperatures. That confidence has spilled over to other areas in my life, which has reduced my stress levels.

#3 Negative (Eccentric) Weight Training

When it comes to exercise, I almost agree 100% with Dr. Peat. Like myself he has a low opinion of cardio and endurance type exercises. He sees the stress at the cellular level, whereas I am most concerned about the pounding of the joints, increased risk of injury and its general ineffectiveness. We also agree on the importance of rest and recovery. However, I completely disagree with him on eccentric weight training. He is against it – too much stress – whereas I am strongly in favor of it.

They key that many lifters miss when they engage in negative training is that their recovery demands are now greater. This means you need to spend more time resting and engage in fewer workouts. Negative weight training allows the person trying to build strength to do it more efficiently. Fewer workouts are needed to build the strength, provided they allow extra time for rest.

Ellington Darden Ph.D., who has trained thousands of clients and written several books, including The New High Intensity Training, has used negative lifts to help ectomorphs gain muscle. Us ectomorphs (tall, lanky) generally have the least muscular potential. Using eccentric training, we can more efficiently develop strength in fewer workouts. As far as stress goes, have you ever been around a lanky lifter at the gym? We tend to be the most neurotic. Trust me when I say that making muscular gains reduces our stress levels. Negative lifting is an effective tool to bring us closer to our potential.

What about the muscular stress? The first time I engaged in some of Darden’s exercises that focused on the negative portion of the lift, I needed a full 10 days before heading back to the gym. Within weeks, my body was ready to return in 7 days. So although negative lifts are indeed stressful, the body learns and adapts to that stress more efficiently over time, provided it receives sufficient recovery time.

Last Words

This post is getting long, so I’ll end it here. I do want to say that I like a lot of what the Peat-atarians are doing, but when it comes to stress, I think they are asking the wrong question. To me the goal shouldn’t be to eliminate stress, but to train ourselves to become more resilient in the face of stress. I cover my thoughts more in detail in the post Healthy vs Resilient.

The Peat-atarian Diet For Those Of Us With Average IQs


I read a lot of stuff regarding nutrition. It has been an active hobby of mine since 2008. Although it was the Paleo Diet that rekindled my interest in nutrition, today I consider myself more in the Weston A. Price camp. I explained why in the post The Endgame for Paleo is WAPF. I’ve been successful on both diets. Earlier this year I started reading about the dietary views of Dr. Ray Peat and his followers. Unlike Paleo or WAPF, which are easy to understand on the surface, the Peat-atarian articles are quite intense. They aren’t user friendly.

What makes the Peat Diet unique is that it approaches nutrition from a hormonal perspective. It is all about reducing chronic stress. To me the Peat Diet appears to be a modern fix to the WAPF Diet. Traditional diets worked great for traditional cultures. But we now live in a world with chronic stress and dietary toxins. Simply following a traditional diet or going caveman may not be enough or may not work as quickly as a diet designed specifically to address the hormonal stress of modern times.

If like me, you have an average IQ and you start to dive into understanding all the hormonal relationships, you’ll quickly become overwhelmed. The purpose of this post is to just hit the important differences, why they exist and who might benefit the most from experimenting with this diet.

Paleo vs Primal vs WAPF vs Peat

On the surface it may appear that The Peat Diet is a radical departure from Paleo, but it isn’t. It has more in common with Paleo and WAPF than it does with USDA recommendations.

GrainsNONOYES (treated only)NO
SoyNONOYES (fermented only)NO
Fermented FoodsYESYESYESNO
"Sugar is Good"NONONOYES
Offal + Bone BrothYESYESYESYES
NutsYESYESYES (treated only)NO
"Saturated Fat is Good"YESYESYESYES

I’ve bolded the two main differences.

#1 Sugar – Every diet under the sun seems to loathe sugar. Not Ray Peat. At a hormonal level sugar can be used to reduce stress and boost metabolism. This protocol seems to be effective with people who have stalled in their fat loss while following a strict low carbohydrate diet. Give your body some sugar, reduce the internal stress, boost metabolism and resume fat loss. Using sugar to improve your health seems like a bizarre idea at first, but a few years ago we used to think saturated fats were evil and now we love them.

My own N=1 experiment this year was consuming ice cream daily. Although I haven’t become fully convinced sugar is good. I’m no longer convinced it is bad. My health is as good in 2012 as it was in 2011, when I avoided sugar. So given equal outcomes, I’m going to eat ice cream. 🙂

#2 Avoid Omega 3 – This is a big idea to wrap your head around. PUFAs aren’t just evil, they are super evil and that includes Omega 3 fats. It took me a while to grasp this concept and the motivation behind this recommendation. The typical person today will have high levels of inflammatory fat as a result of excessive PUFA. Depending upon whom you read, it can take 4 or more years to get rid of it. The way to get rid of it quickest is to eliminate all forms of PUFA.

This recommendation leads to the mathematical conclusion that a Peat Diet will be higher in carbs and lower in fat. I saw one chart that estimated a Peat Diet was 50% carbs, 25% fat and 25% protein. When you reduce your intake of bad fats (PUFA), you’ll also be reducing all fats. When fats go down, carbs must go up. Although I suppose one could eat fistfuls of coconut oil to boost the fat level, it isn’t necessary since the carbs are boosting metabolism.

What I Like

Besides their love of ice cream, one of the things I really like about the Peat diet is how it places importance on bone broth and offal. This is the best idea in the WAPF camp. Use the entire animal and not just the muscle meat. Ray Peat’s writings explain a hormonal reason why that is important. From his article  Gelatin, stress, longevity:

When only the muscle meats are eaten, the amino acid balance entering our blood stream is the same as that produced by extreme stress, when cortisol excess causes our muscles to be broken down to provide energy and material for repair. The formation of serotonin is increased by the excess tryptophan in muscle, and serotonin stimulates the formation of more cortisol, while the tryptophan itself, along with the excess muscle-derived cysteine, suppresses the thyroid function.

I love this. Traditional cultures unknowingly knew how to properly use the entire animal to the benefit of their thyroid.


3 jars of beef bone stock

What I Dislike

The Peat Diet is against fermented foods. The reason is that the body apparently considers lactic acid stressful to process. Ray also doesn’t like negative weight lifting movements, as they produce a lot of lactic acid. I may have an average IQ, but I think the Peat-atarians are wrong on this point. First of all, anyone that has ever started a weight lifting program using negative lifts knows the body adapts quickly. The extreme soreness you experience on workout one gets less and less with subsequent workouts. This tells me that the body learns to deal with the stress rather quickly. Also, you need far fewer workouts so rest time between workouts is increased, which reduces stress.

As for fermented foods, I’m going to side with traditional cultures on this one. Having access to fresh vegetables year round is such a recent phenomenon. Fermentation is how we preserved veggies and dairy. The nutritional value and safety of foods increase when they are fermented. Even if there was a slight stress response, there are so many benefits from fermentation.

Another thing I dislike about the Peat Diet and their obsession with eliminating stress is that there doesn’t seem to be any discussion of hormetic stress. Should stress always be avoided? Or should we introduce episodic stressors and teach our bodies how to adapt in a positive manner? As someone who believes strongly in the benefits of Intermittent Fasting and Cold Weather Training, you know where I stand.

Should You Try This Diet?

There is a lot to this diet that I didn’t cover. As a person with an average IQ that is not a PubMed Warrior, it appears to me that the person most likely to benefit from this diet will be someone who has had a long history with dieting, specifically low-carb dieting. Weight loss has stalled. Most likely the person is female and possibly with a low thyroid. Ideally the person would be able to handle dairy. That is not to say others wouldn’t benefit, but that seems like the person who would get the most results.

The problem with this diet is the message is hard to understand. Hopefully this post clarified some of the differences. In a future post, I will list some quick start ideas on how to transition from Paleo/WAPF to a Peat diet. Note that I am not endorsing this diet, but I do believe it has merit and can benefit some people. I’ll eat the ice cream, but I’m not giving up my kimchi. 🙂