Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
14 Apr

Dear Mark: Vegetable Powders, Pro/Prebiotic Timing, RS Questions, and Routine Eating

vegetablepowdersFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, we’ve got four questions and four answers. First, I explain the merits and drawbacks of vegetable powders in the event of low produce availability. Next, I discuss whether there’s a perfect time to take your probiotics and prebiotics, or whether it doesn’t matter at all. After that, I answer a quick barrage of resistant starch-related questions, followed by a query regarding a monotonous eating regimen that by all accounts appears to be working very well. Is there a hidden danger in eating similar meals all the time?

Let’s go:

I’ve searched the site, but I didn’t see anything regarding vegetable powders. I work offshore, and the supply of fresh vegetables can be slim. Is there a vegetable powder that you would recommend taking? Are there negative side effects to taking these?

Thanks,

John F.

Vegetable powders are a serviceable hold over for situations where fresh produce is scarce.

There is some nutrient loss during dehydration, usually among the vitamins. Minerals and polyphenols are fairly stable, the latter less so if high heat is used (since they’re often there to protect the plant from oxidative insults, like heat). But even slightly-degraded vegetable-based micronutrition is superior to none of it.

They do help people who need the extra dose of micronutrients, though:

Obese people and heavy smokers tend to be under a lot of oxidative stress, so they have a greater need for plant micronutrients, particularly the phytonutrients which often act as antioxidants that counter the stress (or boost our own antioxidant defenses). You’re neither obese nor a heavy smoker (to my knowledge), but you are deprived of plant nutrients.

There are dozens of options out there. I don’t know enough about individual products to elevate any single product over the others. Sure, there may be some proprietary methods that “preserve the maximum antioxidant capacity,” but I suspect they’re all pretty good, as most of the ones I’ve seen use relatively low heat to dehydrate the veggies.

I’ve heard good things about the Amazing Grass line of powders. They include herbs, probiotics, and prebiotics along with the fruits and vegetables.

This looks cool, too: vegetable powders that you buy individually and mix yourself. Want a couple ounces of dried beets? You got it! How about leek flakes? They can do that.

I can’t think of any negative side effects, beyond a false sense of security. When a company claims that a single scoop of their product equals 10 servings of vegetables, but a quick review of the nutrition facts fails to show vitamin, fiber, and mineral levels that even approach 10 servings’ worth, the claim is false and you shouldn’t assume that you’ve just eaten an entire head of broccoli (or whatever vegetable is advertised). These powders are a holdover (when you can’t get any real stuff) or a supplement (when you want to add more to your regular diet). They aren’t magic.

Definitely consider vegetable powders if that’s your only option.

Hello Mark,

Looked everywhere and can’t find it. Can you tell me the proper timing to take probiotics and prebiotics supplements?

Craig

Certain prebiotics, like resistant starch, can serve as a vehicle for probiotics. The latter catch a ride on the former, pass through your stomach and small intestine without being digested, and make down into the colon – where you want them to go. It’s a neat little probiotic delivery mechanism, so if you do supplement with RS, you’ll want to take probiotics with it.

For anything else, I don’t think it matters what hour of the day you take them. Historically, prebiotics would have come in the form of food, which humans have evolved to eat throughout the day. Historically, probiotics were either consumed in the form of fermented (sometimes unwittingly fermented) foods, food with a few milligrams of soil-based organisms (dirt) along for the ride, dirt under our fingernails, or water with resident microorganisms. In other words, I find it unlikely that we’ve adapted to take pro/prebiotics at any particular time of day.

Thank you for the very informative resistant starch articles. I am very interested in this, as I cannot tolerate prebiotics due to FODMAP issues. However, I have a few questions please. What about konjac as a source of RS? I have seen a product called Slendier Organic Konjac Spaghetti in Ocado in the UK. This is pre-cooked, so how would that affect things with regards to the RS? I understand that parboiled rice has RS, but what about after it has been cooked? Do we have to then cool it? What about cooked & cooled tapioca pearls for RS? Is tapioca flour the same as tapioca starch? Sorry about all the questions & thank you for all your help & information.

Christine

Don’t apologize for the questions. It’s what I’m here for!

Konjac is not a source of resistant starch, actually. It’s mostly glucomannan, a prebiotic soluble fiber that can encourage the growth of butyrate-producing gut bacteria in human subjects on a low fiber diet. So in that respect, it’s similar to resistant starch. It can also favorably affect some blood markers, like total cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides, and fasting blood glucose. Pre-cooking it does not affect the prebiotic fiber content.

Parboiled rice forms resistant starch during the initial parboiling process. By the time it arrives in your pantry, it already contains RS. That doesn’t change during cooking. However, cooling cooked parboiled rice will increase the RS content and repeated cycles of cooking and cooling will further increase the RS content (PDF). Unfortunately, not into perpetuity (although that would be cool if counter to the known laws of physics).

Tapioca pearls contain very little resistant starch. A 100 gram portion contains 44 grams of starch, 40 grams of which are fully digestible (PDF). Not a good source.

Tapioca flour and starch are interchangeable as far as I can tell. Tapioca starch/flour is a good source of RS according to some research, but the reports from users tell a murkier story. Some get the vivid dreams, improved blood glucose, and better bathroom visits normally attributed to RS, while others report elevated blood glucose, indicating that they are successfully digesting the starch contained in tapioca starch. If you try tapioca, it would be a good idea to measure your blood glucose before and an hour after to see if you get a big spike (which indicates successful digestion).

Mark,

First I want to thank you for all of your expertise, well written articles, and delicious supplements. You have been an extremely valuable resource for me as I go on this journey. I recommend you to everyone who asks me about my lifestyle.

On to my question; I have been eating Primally for about 3 years, starting my senior year in college. Back then I ate whatever I could get my hands on that was within the guidelines of primal eating. Now that my life is more regimented I have a very established routine. My supplements are dialed in. Certain dishes “work” for me, meaning that they meet my macro- and micro- nutrient needs. The 2-3 dishes I make are convenient to carry to work and eat on short notice. My workouts are going great. My overall health continues to improve.

Am I exposing myself to any risk by not changing up the meals/supplements I eat regularly? I am always eating the same kind of protein, veggies, roughage, and starches. I take the same supplements week after week. Long-term, could I start seeing diminishing returns from my routine, or even health risks?

Sincerely,

Allan

I’m of the opinion that short term health is a fair barometer for long term health. Generally, if a way of eating is helping your performance in the gym, improving your overall health, and providing all the macronutrients and micronutrients you need to live well, you’re in good shape for the future. There are exceptions, like ridiculous “cleanses” that make you feel euphoric and high where you lose a ton of weight right away but end up destroying your metabolism, eating away at your lean mass, experiencing massive rebound gains, and ruining your relationship with food in the long run.

There’s also the psychological aspect, which isn’t “just” in your head but can have real world physiological ramifications. Some people do really well on a regimen. They like structure. They thrive on sameness and order. If they were to jump around and switch up their meals on a constant basis, life would be too stressful and their health would suffer. It sounds like you’re one of those people. Others? Others dig chaos. They need something new every day. They thrive on novelty. A steady regimen would be disastrous for them and ruinous for their health.

It sounds like you’ve settled into the right groove. Stick with it. Ride it as long as you can.

There’s certainly evolutionary precedent for monotony. For long stretches of time, early human diets were routine. It was only as the seasons changed and different foods became available and unavailable that diets would shift. Even then, these shifts to new food sources would stay entrenched for weeks and months until the next shift.

The only food that it might make sense to “cycle” are fruits and vegetables, simply because they contain the nutrients that don’t show up in traditional nutrition databases. Vitamins? Minerals? We’ve had those quantified for decades. But we’re still learning about new phytonutrients and the ones we do know seem to have profound effects on a number of health markers, so it’s likely advantageous to eat a variety and hedge our bets. Antioxidant supplements also fall into this category. Treating them as hormetic stressors is probably better than taking them daily, especially if you’re a generally healthy person without any major health issues. That’s actually how I take my own high-antioxidant supplement blend – intermittently, rather than daily. Another way to put it: there’s nothing wrong with eating blueberries every day, but it’s probably better to eat blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, and strawberries.

If you start to see diminishing returns, it’s okay. You can always change things up. That’s the great thing about diminishing returns; rather than a hard endpoint from which there is no return, they’re simply a helpful signal to alter course. There’s no failure, just feedback, as Art De Vany says.

For what it’s worth, I’m closer to you. I’m an adventurous but opportunistic eater, meaning I enjoy trying new things when they’re in front of me, but at home I rarely feel the need to branch out far from my go-to meals. It seems to be working for me.

That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Aren’t the Paleo and Primal diets ongoing cleanses from the SAD diet? And aren’t the LC and keto diets cleanses from the Paleo and Primal diets? Granted, there aren’t any wacky chemicals or tinctures involved, and you don’t have to administer them in strange places, but aren’t they all cleanses in the long run?

    Wenchypoo wrote on April 14th, 2014
    • I get your point but I think the reference was to short term extreme eating (or usually just drinking) patterns which aren’t designed to be sustainable long term, and to the fact that they make you feel great initially but wouldn’t continue to do so. Just a thought.

      Pip wrote on April 14th, 2014
    • I’m thinking that eating properly for our own body would be both nourishing and cleansing, that’s the way the body is designed….. keep the good, use what we need and the toss the garbage.

      2Rae wrote on April 14th, 2014
      • As Pip pointed out, with the cleanses he probably ment those ‘miracle-5-day-snake-oil-cleanses’ that cure all illnesses, help your libido, make you loose a ton of weight and whatnot. These are usually bullshit. While they give you certain acute benefits, as Mark pointed out, they have devastating effects on the metabolism of your body, and your bodies homestasis in general.

        An eating pattern that you can stick to in the long run – be it primal, low carb, keto, or any other, and that involves as little as processed foods is the way to go. The ‘cleansing’ effect in this case would be a more optimal functioning of your body, a body that is hormonally in homeostasis and works as it was intended to work due to your genetics and environment.

        Sebastijan Veselic wrote on April 14th, 2014
  2. I struggle getting antioxidants into my regular routine. A person can only eat so many vegetables.

    NOLA Paleo (new orleans) wrote on April 14th, 2014
    • Even more with butter!

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on April 14th, 2014
      • Everything is better with butter!!!!

        2Rae wrote on April 14th, 2014
        • OMG! I love butter! Wheeeeeee!

          k-del wrote on April 15th, 2014
    • If you’re at the point where you feel that you’re maxing out on veggie intake, you are probably getting enough anti-oxidants. Just mix it up a little so you’r getting some of those bright colors in the fruit and vegetable spectrum – red, orange, purple – as well as the green stuff.

      Mantonat wrote on April 14th, 2014
    • one can drink more than eat. make smoothies. my favourite: beet+ carrot+ apple+ice cabbage+butter+a little honey(optional)+green tea (with lemon) blended smooth and fluid. feel free to swap the ingredients and keep drinking all day.

      einstein wrote on April 14th, 2014
    • Teas are loaded with antioxidants! If I had to guess, that is probably where I get most of mine from. :)

      Sarah wrote on April 16th, 2014
  3. I eat a lot of fresh fruit and veggies and also use a powdered green drink several times a week. I like the Amazing Grass chocolate-flavored one. If not exactly yummy, it isn’t nearly as off-putting as some of the green drinks I’ve tried. I usually whisk a heaping tablespoon of Great Lakes gelatin into my green drink as well. Benefits include increased energy and improved bowel function.

    Shary wrote on April 14th, 2014
    • just wondering, is the Amazing Grass blend considered paleo because of wheat grass, barley grass, etc?

      Sam wrote on April 14th, 2014
      • Yes, because you’re ingesting the vegetation portion, not the grain.

        Shary wrote on April 14th, 2014
  4. Allan: Adding twists on “go to” meals in terms of spices or different pairings is fun! For example, I love eggs and for the longest time I only ate them hard boiled or in an omelette. Lately poached eggs and soft boiled are two new ways for me to eat eggs (thanks Ruhlman and your new book “Egg”). Toss in home made mayo, spiced differently or with a different oil and variants on old dishes become new. Play with your food.

    Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on April 14th, 2014
    • I usually eat eggs with a little meat and lots of veggies. I think in the last five years I have not made the same combination twice. But then, you can put me in the “I love chaos” category.

      Sharon wrote on April 14th, 2014
    • I make a version of fried eggs – I just use lower heat and more butter so that the the yolks don’t get exposed to high heat. I put the lid on the pan so that the tops of the eggs steam a little. I also recently found a woman in our neighborhood who raises chickens and sells the extra eggs she doesn’t use herself. The eggs are smaller than typical grocery store eggs, but the yolks are still pretty big so a greater yolk to white ratio.

      Another thumbs up for Ruhlman’s “Egg” book! He’s also been saying good things about paleo on his blog lately and featuring guest writers from the paleo blog/recipe world. I’m also a fan of his Salumi and Charcuterie books and have tried a few of the less challenging cured meat recipes.

      Mantonat wrote on April 14th, 2014
      • I think part of Ruhlman’s acceptace of paleo is that it’s actually quite similar to old-school fine dining. Fresh, local foods of high quality, minimally processed, and with all the fat they should come with. Plus, we aren’t afraid of organ meats or gristle.

        His Dudeness wrote on April 14th, 2014
        • I concur. Second nom nom paleo recipe has been posted on Ruhlman’s site: Carrot and Caradom soup.

          Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on April 15th, 2014
  5. Hi Allan: my case is the same as yours. Good to hear confirmation from Mark that we are doing something good.

    wildgrok wrote on April 14th, 2014
  6. The RS questions are seemingly endless and here comes another one.

    I discovered a dish, invented from a failed attempt to make a traditional Indian dish. It involves red lentils and rice (could easily use parboiled rice) that is fermented for 12 to 48 hours. These ingredients are then baked and cooled. We like the dish best cold. Does the fermenting process change the RS content in any way?

    Anybody know? Mark?

    Sharon wrote on April 14th, 2014
    • Fermenting beans should be mandatory, in my opinion. It frees up some RS and changes the structure of other fiber types to make them more gut-bug friendly. Fermenting also makes certain vitamins more available to the body and removes the so-called anti-nutrients.

      Your Indian dish sounds like a perfect RS food!

      Tim wrote on April 14th, 2014
      • Thanks Tim. Now that you say it, it makes perfect sense.

        Sharon wrote on April 15th, 2014
  7. I have appreciated the RS posts. I decided to “dip my toe in” and made some potato salad to see if there was any change. Well, that was a GOOD idea, my weight was creaping up for no apparent reason and that stopped.
    I was one of those “eat this everyday” people since that was easy and I liked what I made for lunch. However, when I found out that my wonderful low fat high carb diet (bean soup with corn in it) was making me hungry AND gain weight, that stopped and I went primal. Now I eat fat, meat, veggies and fruit now and then and go a “little nuts” for fun. Much better, but the cold potatoes will make their appearance now and then. Sleep feels better, don’t remember any dreams yet though, maybe another tweak will help that out.

    2Rae wrote on April 14th, 2014
    • I too made some potato salad after the last RS post and had vivid dreams after consuming it. I was afraid that given my weight issues any starch wasn’t safe for me but so far the potato salad has hit the spot perfectly. I won’t do it often, but am glad to have rediscovered a summertime favorite.

      Rhonda the Red wrote on April 15th, 2014
  8. I would think sprouting seeds for microgreens would be a better option than vegetable powders offshore. All you need is seeds, sprouting vessels, fresh water for rinsing and time on your hands. My favorites are radish and sunflower sprouts. I eat a whole batch as soon as its ready.

    Jack Lea Mason wrote on April 14th, 2014
  9. Irregardless of the exact RS content, on a spectrum, the HIGHEST RS you can possible get from rice is by using parboiled rice, such as Uncle Ben’s Original, cooking it, then freezing it. When ready to eat, simply thaw and use however you like. Stirfying quickly in hot oil brings out even more RS.

    Done this way, you will increase RS 20-30 times what is found in regular rice, cooked and eaten hot.

    Tim wrote on April 14th, 2014
    • Any tips on freezing rice so it doesn’t dry out? That is my main problem with eating leftover rice – even adding butter after reheating, it tastes drier than when eaten hot, right after cooking. I can’t imagine frozen rice is any better??

      Also, thanks to Mark, Richard, Tim and others for the great discussion on RS! Really appreciate it! I’ve learned a lot. My family was overjoyed when I came home with Uncle Ben’s rice. We are looking forward to planting Yukon gold’s in our garden this year, too. For now I’ve settled on BRM PS and primal flora. It’s going well!

      Sialia wrote on April 15th, 2014
    • Would normal rice (not parboiled) cooked & then frozen in a similar way, also produce more RS than just cooking and cooling it? Also, is white rice better for RS than brown rice?

      Christine wrote on April 27th, 2014
  10. Eating dirt is really helping me rock the Bristol stool scale. I eat a little homemade compost every day (about a half teaspoon), because compost is supposed to be the most biologically active dirt. Then it occurred to me that my plants also thrive when I let them “eat compost.” This suggests that the soil itself is the digestive system of plants, analogous to the animal gut. But the cool thing is: my rockin’ stools go into my humanure bucket, which goes to the compost pile where it ferments for a year, and then to my plants. So my plants and I have a great symbiotic relationship. It’s as if we “share” the same “gut”: the Earth itself. Cosmic!

    shannon wrote on April 14th, 2014
    • Type 4, FTW!

      shannon wrote on April 14th, 2014
      • Thanks for the scoop on your poop!

        Nocona wrote on April 14th, 2014
    • Wow, hard core.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on April 15th, 2014
      • Google “humanure” and you’ll find a free book in pdf form by a guy who has researched the agricultural use of human manure for 20 years or more.

        shannon wrote on April 15th, 2014
        • Looks like the book costs $10 now. It used to be free. “The Humanure Handbook.” I’ve been using his humanure composting methods now for five years very successfully.

          shannon wrote on April 15th, 2014
  11. John F, how about trying some dried veggies? You could home dry some plants when you are on leave, to take back on site with you. Think kale chips, oven fried parsnips, carrot, beetroot etc. They are light, but can be bulky which may be tricky for transport. You could even potentially make your own powder.

    Lyn wrote on April 14th, 2014
  12. If I didn’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, I would take plenty of dehydrated fruits and veggies with me and supplement with fruit and veg powders.

    For anyone who doesn’t like eating raw leafy greens, you have to try dehydrated kale chips. They are awesome. I wouldn’t overdo the salt on them though. All you do to make them is rip kale up and toss it with some olive oil and salt and then dehydrate them until they are crunchy. And if you dehydrate them between 105F-115F you retain a lot of the nutrition.

    You can even dehydrate carrots and make them into chips too. It just takes longer to dehydrate carrots to the point that they are crispy.

    Benjamin wrote on April 14th, 2014
  13. With reference to that last e-mail, I tend to eat a highly varied diet whipping up all sorts of new recipes in the kitchen, but I’ve spent several years overcoming eating disorders and sometimes I find that I overeat the “new” stuff because it’s simply new, exciting, and likely to disappear soon. I’d love to experiment with a more boring routine during the weekdays and leave all of my adventuring for the weekends, as I think it might help me only eat until fullness (and not beyond) during my “boring”/routine meals.

    Camille wrote on April 14th, 2014
  14. Hi Mark,
    this vegetable powders would have been gold in the time of saling boats. The crews often suffered from illness because of the lack of vitamins. Do you know a good producer of this powders or where they can be purchased online?

    Jens Butch wrote on April 14th, 2014
  15. Anyone else notice the oat and rice bran in the ingredients list of the Juice Plus+ Orchard and Garden blends?

    My girlfriend was a big proponent of Amazing Grass and got me on it. I tried it for a year and didn’t notice any difference. But my diet and lifestyle were already fairly healthy, so it’s probably a matter of diminishing returns. In the studies cited, the benefits were seen in obese individuals and smokers.

    Ben wrote on April 15th, 2014
  16. My probiotics say to take on an empty stomach. Should I be taking it with a green banana prior to a meal instead?

    Victoria Peterson wrote on April 15th, 2014
  17. in terms of dried veggies, make sure you get organic ones, after all the dried stuff is concentrated down, and with that comes all the lovely pesticide residues – also concentrated.

    raydawg wrote on April 16th, 2014
  18. I like the idea of incorporating “play” in to diet or food prep. I will give this a shot. There is definitely merit, physically and mentally, to exploring a variety of new dishes.

    I would also add that I eat zone proportions. I have a few recipes that I know are properly portioned, sufficiently nutrient dense, and palatable. This saves me time at the grocery store and removes the guesswork. I am also a weightlifter. Having a routine makes more confident at the gym. I know that any decrease in performance (missed lifts) is probably NOT due to incorrect nutrition.

    Thanks for all of the awesome replies!

    Allan wrote on April 16th, 2014
  19. “Certain prebiotics, like resistant starch, can serve as a vehicle for probiotics. The latter catch a ride on the former, pass through your stomach and small intestine without being digested, and make down into the colon – where you want them to go. It’s a neat little probiotic delivery mechanism, so if you do supplement with RS, you’ll want to take probiotics with it.”

    Although reading studies is not my forte, it would seem that the study linked shows a much more complex process for “catch a ride” then indicated here. Just eating RS with probiotics isn’t going to have the probiotics catching a ride. At least that is what I got out of the research posted.

    samc wrote on April 16th, 2014
  20. i use juice plus to help treat gum disease and help patients recover after surgery. it has clinical study support for both. and it works!

    PaleoDentist wrote on April 17th, 2014
  21. Not tried it myself but I’ve heard a lot of good things about this company in the UK: –

    http://leangreens.com/

    I think they only ship in bulk outside Europe though.

    WelshGrok wrote on April 18th, 2014
  22. I want to try moringa. It’s a tree with a bunch of edible parts. The leaves equal a vegetable, sounds more like a super-vegetable or plant food to potentially rival chocolate, and are very high in nutrients.

    Animanarchy wrote on June 12th, 2014

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