The Best Phytonutrients for Your Brain and Immune System

An easy way to add more nutrients to your diet with Dr. Susan Blum.

On today’s podcast episode, Dr. Susan Blum takes us behind the scenes of her functional beverage formulations, and shares some of the most powerful nutrients for brain function, heart health, and the immune system. We also talk about strategies for rotating ingredients and increasing the density and quality of nutrients you consume.

In This Episode

Intro … 00:00:45
Creating Organic Beverages … 00:02:04
The Quality of Ingredients … 00:12:35
The Role of Antioxidants … 00:21:35
Juices for FODMAP Issues … 00:25:01
Food Variety and Risk Tolerance … 00:31:56
Juice Blend Research Findings … 00:34:12
Types of Dietary Fat … 00:39:05
Cronometer Diet Tracking Tool … 00:41:34
Cholesterol and Personalized Diet … 00:44:45
Episode Wrap-Up … 00:49:52

The Best Phytonutrients for Your Brain and Immune System - Podcast304a SusanBlum

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Hey everyone. Today I had back on the podcast, Dr. Susan Blum. She was on the podcast a few years ago, and I wanted to have her back on to discuss this line of vegetable, fruit, herb, and spice drinks that she’s made. Essentially you can think of it as a functional medicine provider’s formulated version of a greens drink or a reds drink that not only has the vegetables and fruits, but also certain herbs, botanicals, and spices added to it. So this is something that I’ve personally used and liked quite a bit, and I’ve actually converted over from the post-workout red drink that I would do and the greens drink I would do on occasion to using her versions, because the quality is better and the formulation is better. So this is something that I think can benefit all of our audience, because it’ll make it easier for you to get a wider swath of fruits, vegetables, and perhaps most namely, spices and botanicals into your diet easily, much more easily than making this on your own or making any of these on your own. So with that, we will now go to the conversation with Susan Blum.

➕ Full Podcast Transcript

Intro:

Welcome to Dr. Ruscio radio, providing practical and science-based solutions to feeling your best. To stay up to date on the latest topics as well as all of our prior episodes, make sure to subscribe in your podcast player. For weekly updates visit DrRuscio.com. The following discussion is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease. Please do not apply any of this information without first speaking with your doctor. Now let’s head to the show.

DrMichaelRuscio:

Hey everyone. Today I had back on the podcast, Dr. Susan Blum. She was on the podcast a few years ago, and I wanted to have her back on to discuss this line of vegetable, fruit, herb, and spice drinks that she’s made. Essentially you can think of it as a functional medicine provider’s formulated version of a greens drink or a reds drink that not only has the vegetables and fruits, but also certain herbs, botanicals, and spices added to it. So this is something that I’ve personally used and liked quite a bit, and I’ve actually converted over from the post-workout red drink that I would do and the greens drink I would do on occasion to using her versions, because the quality is better and the formulation is better. So this is something that I think can benefit all of our audience, because it’ll make it easier for you to get a wider swath of fruits, vegetables, and perhaps most namely, spices and botanicals into your diet easily, much more easily than making this on your own or making any of these on your own. So with that, we will now go to the conversation with Susan Blum.

Creating Organic Beverages

DrMR:

Hey everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Dr. Ruscio radio. This is Dr. Ruscio back again with Dr. Susan Blum, and we are going to be talking about a light and refreshing topic today. You said off air, Susan, it was kind of funny, that this will be much nicer than going into the nitty-gritty about thyroid disease. And we’re going to be talking about this passion project of yours, putting together a way for people to get healthier greens and reds juices, if I’m just going to try and give it a quick summary. Tell us a little bit about your project, and let me quickly say thank you. You sent me a cooler full of samples and these were really good. I’ve been someone who does a morning greens drink, and oftentimes I’ll do more of a reddish color drink that’s a little bit fruit rich, after a workout. So this fit into that really nicely.

DrSusanBlum:

Well, good. I’m glad you liked it. So I’m a functional medicine doctor. I have a brick and mortar place in New York, and we have a big teaching kitchen because we teach cooking classes. You know, food is medicine; it has always been. I know you feel this way too. Food is medicine is so central to what we do, and teaching people the importance of how to make their food choice, but it’s also the why and the how. So I always believed in having a kitchen where we could teach people the how, to eat what they will serve them, and we’ll optimize their health. When I opened Blum Center, we had this teaching kitchen and we started out with only cooking classes, but then all the patients kept saying, “Dr. Blum can’t you make the food? It would be so much easier.”

DrSB:

Not everyone wants to cook, they just want the food. So Organic Pharmer came out of my kitchen at Blum Center, because we started making food that was gluten, dairy, soy, corn, egg-free; all those things we do that are for the detox programs that we do in functional medicine. Clean food that fit all of the food plans that I was putting everybody on. So that’s really how the whole idea of starting to produce food started. And then it grew so much that I couldn’t do it in the kitchen at Blum Center. And my landlord said, “Dr. Blum there’s this retail space across the parking lot. Just move there and do that.” That’s how we started Organic Pharmer. And when we started it, we decided to develop what we actually think of more as botanical beverages.

DrSB:

So it started out as food, and then we moved into beverage. The reason why was because I really had this idea about creating botanical beverages that would start with function. We have this whole idea about functional medicine, and it’s about improving the body’s function. And so in thinking about immunity, for example, if you want to create a beverage that’s going to really help support the immune system, what herbs could we use that are safe and that you could do infusions that anybody could drink and would have no side effects? Really safe choices for very simple herbal infusions. So we had this little team in the kitchen, and it was like a chemistry lab creating these botanical infusions and then building these beverages out from the botanicals. Then we were looking at different colors, like you said. We needed green, and then we also wanted to do more antioxidant red, and so it started out as botanicals with the functional herbs, and then we layered in those other elements. Those improve the function, like the polyphenols and antioxidants, which you and I can dig into little more about those things. I’ve had an amazing mixologist chef, and she just created really yummy, delicious concoctions out of my desire to create these functional beverages.

DrMR:

And that was one of the things that struck me about the sample pack that you sent me. It wasn’t just greens, but it was greens with various botanical herbs, and I guess you could also say some spices. I’ll never forget Mathieu Lalonde analysis from the Ancestral Health Symposium, going back to 2012. He said that herbs and spices had some of the highest nutrient density out of all of the foods that he had analyzed. That really struck me about how important it is to get more of these compounds into our diet. And that’s one of the things I really appreciated. As an example, one of your reds here has elderberry infused into it.

DrSB:

Right. The elderberry is in Immunition. We have cool names too, I think. We had a lot of fun with that. Immunition is a red; it’s a very deep red because it also has cinnamon and cloves. We started with elderberry, which is amazing as we know from COVID. Everybody has their list of immune supplements and herbs that we’re using to support our immune system. Elderberry is an amazing tool in our toolkit for the immune system. We put elderberry into this in 2013, but what’s layered onto Immunition is cinnamon and cloves. I’ve done a lot of digging into and research on polyphenols, and I’ve read a lot about it just for my own work and treating oxidative stress and all sorts of health issues.

DrSB:

Polyphenols are in this category of amazing phytonutrients, plant-based antioxidants that have been really well studied in preventing cognitive decline and reversing heart disease. And microbiome, oh my goodness. Polyphenols change the expression of good bacteria in your gut. And so polyphenols are like the buzz. They’re such an important antioxidant and nutrient for you to eat every day. It’s all those colors; it’s EGCG in green tea, and it’s resveratrol in wine. Everybody knows these names, but do you know what the number one most powerful polyphenol is? It’s clove. If you Google the 10 most powerful polyphenols, clove always comes up as either one, two, or three. I don’t want to guarantee it’s one anymore, but it’s always been one when I always looked, so I’m buffering that a little bit, but cloves.

DrSB:

You pointed out that it’s an herb, so who thinks about clove? So that Immunition has a really complex flavor. We took elderberry infusion and we layered on top of that clove, cinnamon, carrot, tart cherry; it’s so polyphenol dense. And so it’s a really amazing antioxidants. And how do you support your immune system? You support your immune system with antioxidants, because they put out the free radicals as they’re generated in the body. If you have a virus, or your immune system is busy fighting anything, you’re generating a lot of those sparks or free radicals. I tell people that it’s like, the soldiers in your army are fighting, and they need to lock and reload and lock and reload. They waste a lot of their oxidative power to fight everything, and they need antioxidants to be reloaded. And so you have to feed your immune system antioxidants; it’s critical for the health of the immune system.

DrSB:

So I love that product, Immunition. We then took a munition and we said, “Okay, so what about protein? How can we offer protein shakes as well?” Because everyone is throwing in their protein powders. So we created a line of three different protein drinks that have protein powder in it, and we took Immunition and we added Epic vanilla. It’s an organic protein powder, and I’m pretty sure it’s a rice protein base. We created sort of a secondary product with the same base, and it’s called Defense+.

DrSB:

So it’s Immunition with protein powder, and that’s also in our lines. So we have the juices with the botanicals, although we call them functional beverages, and then we also created a line that has protein in it, which was a tough thing to figure out. Most people don’t like the mouth feel of protein powder, especially if you make it in advance, but we figured out how to do it. I don’t know if you’ve tasted any of the protein beverages?

DrMR:

I had all of them.

DrSB:

Did you? So the favorite is the Trainer, because it’s Chocolate-Maca with almond butter. Did you taste that one, the brown one?

DrMR:

I had a little bit too much of that, I think.

DrSB:

So that one’s really calorie dense. That’s a fan favorite, for sure. So that’s really how it all started. At one point we also did a lot of food, but we sort of pivoted because of COVID, and we’re really focused more on a smaller line of food and really focusing in on the beverages,

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The Quality of Ingredients

DrMR:

Something I’ve been progressively trying to do better and better with, as I’m sure most people listening to us are, is figuring out how can I make everything that I eat the highest quality and the most nutrient dense. Even in the morning, I’m almost fasting, it’s not really that much. It’s just some greens powder, and I add a little bit of coconut milk and some protein. But even with that I’m not eating a ton, because now that I’ve progressively gotten myself to better health, I don’t overeat. So I less relative than I did before, but it’s making me realize that what I do eat should very much so be as nutrient dense as possible. And that’s why I’m trying to get beyond, “Well, this is just something off the shelf from Whole Foods. It’s probably okay.” And it probably is okay, but maybe that’s another question I should pose. Beyond the typical greens you’ll get from Whole Foods, what are you doing above and beyond? I mean, certainly in looking at the ingredients, there’s more thought in your ingredients, but I guess what I’m wondering beyond that is, is there anything else with the processing, with the storage, with the sourcing?

DrSB:

I think people were scared of me because I made such a fuss about organically sourced ingredients, because it’s very easy to let things slip. “Oh we couldn’t get it, and we had to substitute it this week.” I’m like, “Listen, we have to stay at the highest integrity space. If you can’t get the ingredients, you just can’t make a batch that week. That’s just it.” And now thankfully we’re freezing everything. And by the way, with freezing everything there’s no deterioration of the ORAC value, which is the oxidation reduction capacity. There’s no deterioration of the power of the nutrient density when you freeze it. So we don’t have to worry about not being able to get organic kale that week, which can happen when you’re buying from different farmers and stuff. Sometimes they’re out of something.

DrSB:

So from the beginning, we were 100% organic in every ingredient. Part of the problem with green beverages from other companies is that you’re not getting everything organic or all organic ingredients. And so this is about quality. This is what you just sort of brought up, let’s talk about quality. You really have to make sure every single ingredient’s organic, otherwise you’re getting some glyphosate, organophosphate, or other herbicides or pesticides with your food or drink. What happens then is you’re going to use up all those antioxidants just to take care of the toxin load that you just brought in. That’s one of the ways we get low in antioxidants, because environmental toxins put a big demand on our system.

DrMR:

This is something that is an issue. I was just on the phone today with Joe Mather from the Clinic. He was venting his frustration that even though he’s been using Kratom as something to help with relaxation, introspection, and what have you, apparently in Neil Nathan’s micro-toxicity study group, they were circulating a few papers that have found high contaminant levels in most of the commercially available Kratom. So, these things don’t happen only to a couple of things every once in a while, they are important to be mindful of.

DrSB:

It’s really important to be mindful of. We all have to acknowledge, especially if you’re eating a lot of plants and even in organic stuff, you’re not going to be zero. There are farms next door, there’s soil contamination from the atmosphere, pollution, lead in the soil, and lead in our greens. That’s why we worry about lead in bone broth, because the cows are eating grass and the lead is in the soil from the air. Because we can’t live in a bubble, which sort of brings me back to that, what I would say to you in terms of quality is to do the best you can to read the ingredients and make sure it’s 100% organic.

DrSB:

Part of the passion project for me was that I told my team, “We stay at the highest integrity space and we do not give an inch.” We stay there because there’s just no compromise on that for me. But in addition to that, we create the most nutrient-dense product that we can. The different products that you might have, like the green drink off the shelf at Whole Foods, if you put a whole bunch of things like that on a shelf, how are they different to what we’re producing at Organic Pharmer? I mean, we’re obviously food-based, and it’s fresh flash-frozen right after we juice it, so it’s intact.

DrSB:

And so it keeps its nutrient density. So we’re choosing the layered ingredients. The other elements that enhance the function and balance the flavor that got added into it all have their own specific nutrient density power. It’s not just about antioxidants, take the Omega Red for example. How are we going to give people, especially vegans, a little bit of Omega-3? Because everything’s vegan, and sometimes they’re low in Omega-3s because they don’t eat a lot of fish or any fish. I was trying to really be broad-based nutrition. How do we cross over into not just being about a green drink. And you were saying yourself, you do red sometimes.

DrSB:

And so, the Alpha Green is our green drink, which is amazing, just because it tastes so good. It’s not swampy or anything like that even though it’s got dandelion, parsley, and kale and all that, but that has an infusion of burdock and nettle. So that’s a lymphatic cleanser, so you’re adding another layer to the traditional green or the traditional detox. And then you come to what I was saying before about Omega Red. That’s my sort of strawberry. We made the Omega Red for the kids; children could have that because it’s strawberry-based. It’s strawberry, it’s got aronia berry and rose hips for the vitamin C, that’s the herb which children can have. And it has some flax oil in it, so they get a little Omega-3. That was our children’s drink that we made because we were trying to appeal across the lines and really make depth and breadth to the line. And it’s red, so that’s one of our reds.

DrSB:

And so really creating different kinds of nutrient density. So it’s not just one thing where you’re eating and drinking the same thing every day. You want to rotate. So you can get the greens and all that beta-Carotene and all of those cruciferous, Sulforaphane, great stuff from the kale. And then in the Omega Red, you can get a lot of vitamin C one day, vitamin C and Omega.

DrSB:

And then in Flow, which is the carrot ginger, for those of you who like spicy, that’s like carrot ginger tumeric. It’s like a carrot juice with a kick, but that has calendula and burdock to really help cleanse. That’s also lymphatics, because my vision for Flow was about joints and mobility, in addition to that cleansing thing. So with everything, we have a rotation. You can sort of rotate through them and not end up with just a green drink every day. And they all have intense nutrient density on their own for what they’re trying to accomplish.

DrSB:

And then of course the Staminator, which is like my favorite name of everything, which is Schisandra Berry, which is adrenal support. So that has Schisandra infusion, and that’s our beet-based drink. So that’s like a really deep red. Like deep, deep red.

DrMR:

And I really like it because if I’m being a bit lazy, it makes it easier for me to get some of these herbs and spices in that. Admittedly, I don’t do great at that. I’m getting better, but I just really appreciate the utility of that.

The Role of Antioxidants

DrSB:

That was just a really fun time developing all that and with a lot of taste testing. So now it’s pretty tried and true, and I think we’re just all very proud of them, and I’m glad you like them. The studies are really good, and I know I sent ahead some of the studies that I had pulled just looking at polyphenols. There’s a lot of work being done in heart disease, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, neurodegenerative diseases and oxidative stress, which is basically when the free radicals are winning as opposed to having enough antioxidants to keep putting out the fire. When the free radicals win, that’s sort of the beginning of damage to the tissues, it’s then that leads to inflammation.

DrSB:

We all know the word inflammation, but I think people don’t really understand this concept of oxidative stress. And it’s just the embers and sparks in the cells from our everyday biochemistry. If you don’t put those out with antioxidants, they will burn, and they will become embers, and then they will become a flame. And even before they become the fire of inflammation, they damage the functioning of the tissues. The most active tissues in your body that have the most mitochondria that are busy generating all those free radicals are in two main places. The two leading places are the brain and the heart.

DrSB:

And so you need enough antioxidants to prevent atherosclerosis and sticky cholesterol. You need it to maintain good cognition as you age. Whether you get it in a drink like we’re providing, I think it’s important to give people information, not just about Organic Pharmer’s juices, but even when you look at different diets, the richest diet in polyphenols is the Mediterranean diet. It’s not just about the grains either, it’s about nuts, seeds, legumes, greens and vegetables, fruit, and grains. And so all plants are very rich in polyphenols.

DrMR:

Coming back to the antioxidants for one second, since these come frozen, as you said, how long should one be targeting to leave these thawed in the fridge before they consume? A day, a couple of days, what’s the optimum window?

DrSB:

I mean, they’ll taste fine after three days, if you wanted to, but I would say for the most power of the nutrients, you’ll probably want to consume it that day or the next day. Day three is fine too, but I do believe in all honesty that moving three, four, or five days out, you’re going to have deterioration of the power of some of the nutrients. Not all of them. I mean, it’ll still be great, but it really won’t have the same nutrient density as the first day or the second day after you defrost it. But that’s why you could take them out one at a time from the freezer, because they come frozen.

Juices for FODMAP Issues

DrMR:

Exactly. And what about people who have sensitive digestion, who might be a little bit FODMAP intolerant? Let me just mention this against a backdrop for our audience. It’s important to keep in mind that we shouldn’t have to be eating around FODMAP intolerance forever. If you follow the right steps, like we lay out in Healthy Gut, Healthy You, as one example, then you should be able to see improved FODMAP tolerance and be able to consume something like this. But for those who maybe are still midway through their healing journey, are any of these lower-end FODMAP, or easier on the GI?

DrSB:

Good question. Well, we do have Happy Gut. Our Happy Gut is actually slippery elm. It has a coconut water infused probiotic. This discussion about whether probiotics are for people with SIBO or tolerant of probiotics or not, I think the majority probably are. The studies are sort of 50/50 about staying on a probiotic or not. So I think that certainly Happy Gut should be fine. It’s chia seeds, which gives some good Omega and some healthy fats. So Happy Gut’s good. I think it really depends, because it’s a juice. I’m a little stuck on this question.

DrMR:

That will reduce the fiber content.

DrSB:

Because there’s no fiber, that’s what I’m sitting here thinking, because of our food. We really had a problem with our food with low FODMAP because we are all legumes. So all of our soups, for example, we have a frozen soup line as well. The soups are all beans soups, so we had a real struggle. We struggled a lot about the people who needed low FODMAP, but it was mostly because of the food. I really don’t see any problem with the juices because it’s really the fiber that causes a lot of the problem for low FODMAP people. And so, because they’re juiced, I’m really thinking about the different drinks, and they don’t really have a lot of the really bad high FODMAP stuff in it.

DrMR:

There’s not one that’s high in broccoli and garlic.

DrSB:

There’s no garlic, and no broccoli. Now there is kale; there’s kale in the Alpha Brain. For example, the Omega Red is strawberry, beet, and pomegranate.

DrMR:

There’s some FODMAPs in here, but for anyone who’s sensitive, it’s important to try things. So often at the Clinic, people are practicing a greater degree of avoidance than they need to just because they’ve heard or they’ve read that lower FODMAP can be helpful for IBS or for SIBO, which is true, but it doesn’t mean that we have to be ardent low FODMAP all the time. In fact, people get most of the gain out of just the simple reduction of the low-hanging fruit. Don’t have a lot of broccoli, cook your vegetables rather than having them raw, avoid high amounts of garlic and onion. So just another reminder to not go all the way to the extreme with some of these avoidances. You’re probably able to tolerate most of these, I would say.

DrSB:

Yeah, and actually in sitting here thinking about that, I also want to point out two things about SIBO and low FODMAP. I tend to only use low FODMAP food plans for people who are really symptomatic and they just can’t stand the gas and bloating anymore. I use a lot of herbs to reduce the bacterial overgrowth, and like you said, once people feel better, you can start expanding your food again. There’s a line of thought out there in the research that suggests that, especially while you’re doing the herbal treatment, it’s sort of good to eat foods that create some activity as you’re doing the treatment. I agree with you that not everyone needs to be super strict all the time, and to gauge it by symptoms.

DrSB:

But oh my goodness, I do have some patients that really are suffering. And so if that’s you, then I would say, mind your high FODMAP food for sure, so you don’t suffer. But I also want to say that especially for people who are just doing moderate low FODMAP, if you’re eating very restrictive on your vegetables because you’re following a low FODMAP diet, you especially need the plant-based vital nutrients. You’ll have a lot of easier time tolerating the juices than you will a salad. And so you’re better off probably trying a juice or a beverage that has function, like a really nutrient-dense beverage, so that you can get this into you. I always say it’s like mainlining; it’s like a step before an IV. It’s like a step right before doing an intravenous vitamin infusion. It’s so dense. I think that the problem is so many people get nutrient deficient because they’re avoiding vegetables because of the digestive issues. And so I think this is another alternative way to do that.

DrMR:

That’s another way to make it easier for people to get this into their diet.

DrSB:

Right, that’s the thing. We’re trying to make it easier for people to get it in.

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DrSB:

And I also want to say I’ve had people, not just low FODMAP people, but there are people who have other digestive issues and sometimes need a little bowel rest. They need a little rest from eating because the food is triggering so many symptoms. You can’t figure out what foods it is. So sometimes we do elemental diets, or we put people on fasting programs to rest the bowel. And so a really healthy beverage like this is another way to support people when they’re on some sort of bowel rest as well.

Food Variety and Risk Tolerance

DrMR:

I agree with that. There are some cases where people are very reactive, and I’ll tell them, “Just go to the health food store, try a few different juices, find one that you tolerate to have some kind of sustenance and do a modified fast on that.” The spirit behind that is sometimes people think, “Well, it’s got to either be a bone broth cleanse, the master cleanse or this.” They’re thinking too definitively in what they’ve heard or what they’ve read. And sometimes, to your point, it’s just about finding what the gut tolerates to give the system a rest, and using that as a mini reset, so to speak.

DrSB:

Right, exactly. Like you said, it’s sometimes just really hard to know what’s going to work for each person. People have to be game to just try different things, because for people with really severe digestive issues, if you have six juice beverages, maybe only one is going to work for you, but you have to try them. That happens all the time just in our functional medicine practices. We’re doing that with food all the time, trying to help people figure out by process of elimination, guiding people, trying different things and removing different things. This is just another option for something that I think could work really well for a lot of people.

DrMR:

Yeah, and you’re better off taking the risk and experimenting, and you’ll likely hit a few snags, but at least you’ll end up with more stuff that you can eat because you’ve gone through the experimentation. That’s a far better perspective than always being afraid of trying stuff and staying in this really tight dietary box.

DrSB:

Right, I agree with that. When you eat the same thing every day, you’re really limiting your nutrients. I love Deanna Minich who just talks about the rainbow. We have to become rainbow people. And so you have to switch it up and try every different color. I guarantee there’ll be something in all those colors that everybody can find that they could eat well.

Juice Blend Research Findings

DrMR:

And coming back to your point from a moment ago about research, for our audience and for the people who might be a bit more evidence-based and/or skeptical out there, there are trials that have shown various interventions, whether it be a juice or a powder with added greens or reds or a blend, improve things like circulation and hypertension, just to name two models that have been studied. So there is evidence here to support the benefit of getting more of this into your diet.

DrSB:

Yeah, and a lot of studies looking at plant foods, antioxidant biomarkers, risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality. That’s just one study that’s staring at me on my desktop amongst others. Plant-based dietary patterns, plant foods and age-related cognitive decline. They looked at levels of antioxidants or oxidative stress in the blood and correlated it with the food, their diets, and this whole idea of cognitive decline, mortality, and cardiovascular disease. And so there’s a lot of studies out, and that’s just a few. I mean, it was just easy for me to find them. There are really plenty. And there’s a lot on the Mediterranean diet, which is just a polyphenol-rich diet.

DrMR:

If it’s hard for people to get some of these things into your diet, kind of like I’m doing, just take the partially easy way out. I mean, don’t stop the constant process of trying to make food a key part of your life, and invest in slow cooking, food sourcing. All those things, yes, you want to keep doing those. But it’s nice to have other ways of getting these things in if you don’t have tons of time to invest in this. And so here’s another avenue for people to more easily get in a wide swath of greens and reds and herbs and spices.

DrSB:

Right, and it’s just even to learn about the importance of cross training this way. It’s like cross training, with the different colors and the whole rainbow thing. But also, and I know you do this and I do this, I teach people how to make green drinks at home too. I do that at home right now. It’s my favorite recipe at the moment and it’s very easy. For those people, we wanted to create something, but most people just want to buy. It’s like the patients who came in and said, “Don’t teach me how to do it. Can’t I buy it from you? Can’t you make it?”

DrSB:

And so, yes, we made it. So we could always provide it, but in addition, we also do cooking classes and teach people how. I think it’s just so important to get all of these nutrients into you every day, especially as we’re getting older. And so, in addition to sharing about Organic Pharmer, I also want to make a plug for just doing it even on your own. And look at you, you’re doing your green powder and your reds powder. You have to do something; you have to make sure you’re getting all those colors in somehow.

DrMR:

Just to share an anecdote, I recently got my mother on a greens powder, and she noticed that she hasn’t gotten sick. She’ll get a cold every few months. Now, I look at that in the context of things being different now, and there’s much less travel. Although that being said, my niece and nephew are back in school and bumping up against other kids. So my mom’s not living in a bubble. And she said, “Boy, I really noticed that when I use this, I’m getting sick less often.” So there’s just one anecdote I’ll throw out there.

DrSB:

Yeah, totally. It’s a reminder that there’s a whole spectrum of how to do it. You just choose the simplest, if that’s what you need. There’s a whole spectrum. We tried today to offer you the story of quality and how you can up your game. You can always up your game. It’s like the game is on. We created Organic Pharmer as sort of the highest quality, nutrient dense. You got to get it in somehow, and there’s all different ways. You can continue to improve the quality in the game. But a lot of our patients and our family members are just starting from nothing. It sort of reminds me of that whole idea about exercise. Just going from sedentary to walking is a huge benefit in fitness and cardiovascular health.

Types of Dietary Fat

DrSB:

Whatever you can do, you do, and you always strive for better. You always strive to get more and more and more because the more you get in, the better. I’ll give them my mother anecdote. It’s not such a good anecdote though, because this is just about healthy fat. I would say that I never really got on the big bandwagon for the big Bulletproof coffee in the morning, with all the butter and the coconut oil and stuff, because I was always worried about cholesterol. So my mother goes back to Florida, she’s living alone, my father passed away. She started eating coconut products every day. She ended up having a heart attack two years later, and we couldn’t figure out like what changed. And it turned out she was just living on coconut products.

DrSB:

Somehow that popped into my head right now just in terms of healthy fat. Going back to cross training, we have to be very careful about not just doing the same thing every day. Don’t go overboard on something. Of course it was coconut ice cream, so there was a lot of sugar in that too. So it wasn’t just coconut. And I’m fine with a little bit of coconut. At Organic Pharmer we do have a nut milk. We have a coconut milk, and we have an almond milk as well.

DrSB:

But coming back to taking care of our parents, I had to really go in and fix that for her, and really realize what she was doing. Sometimes we can run away into the wrong direction without meaning to. So I think it’s really important to let someone look over what you’re doing, either you or me, or a good functional nutritionist, or a good health coach. Look over what you’re doing or really make sure you’re choosing from trusted places. But I think that the kind of fat in the diet is really, really important. Whereas at Organic Pharmer, we use flax and we use a lot of seeds. I really like seeds a lot more. I really like to focus on seeds too and a lot of polyunsaturated fats. A little plug to just be mindful about coconut if you have high cholesterol. My mother had high cholesterol, so it’s not like she didn’t, but everybody’s cholesterol goes up after 50. So we all have to be very careful about too much coconut products.

Cronometer Diet Tracking Tool

DrMR:

Overindulgence in healthy fats can be a problem. I think for some people, just constitutionally, myself included, I might be more prone to overeat healthy fats than healthy carbs. For me, the external accountability was punching everything in the Cronometer and saying, “Holy smokes. I really didn’t realize how much I was eating of ‘XYZ’ until I mapped it all out.” So yeah, you make an excellent point that sometimes we think we’re doing something different than we actually are. Have someone else look at what you’re doing, just so you don’t fall.

DrSB:

My mother’s story probably was a little bit of a side thing. But I liked the Cronometer. I don’t know if your listeners know about it. You must talk about that, right?

DrMR:

I should mention it for our audience, I’ve mentioned it in passing. It’s kind of like MyFitnessPal where you can punch in your macros, and it does a micronutrient analysis for you, which is also kind of nice.

DrSB:

Right. It’s hard to do it all the time, but if you’re not sure it’s Cronometer.com, and it’s for free. We use it too, but not in an ongoing way, because it would make me crazy to do it all the time. We did a whole office experiment and did a ketogenic diet together for a while. It was like two winters ago, and we did it for six weeks. I have to try it before I can really put people on this food plan. I used the Cronometer as an online tool to plug in everything I was eating, because I was trying to get myself to 70% fat. Boy, that was hard, and really carb-restricted. I think it was like 15% carbs. I managed to do it, but it wasn’t easy.

DrSB:

I think that for people looking to keep track or take a look at what they’re doing, it’s a really great tool. Even to just say, “I had this salad for lunch and I put a whole lot avocado in it. I put like all these seeds and nuts.” By the time you added it up and you see what that recipe is in the Cronometer, you’re eating like an 800 calorie lunch that’s a salad. And so I think it really helps people just even see what they’re doing.

DrMR:

It is helpful to be mindful of that. It’s the same thing even with exercise. We had Mike Nelson on the podcast recently, and he had discussed how imbalances in your routine may lead to maladaptation of the different chambers of the heart. That can be something that can be antithetical to energy levels and make you more prone to exercise intolerance. I tend to always go hard, hard, hard, and he had to pull me back, put a heart rate monitor on me and say, “Okay, for your cardio for the next six to eight weeks, you’re going to match your heart rate out of like 135 beats per minute.” And that did help. So yeah, just to the theme of having someone else give what you’re doing a look, definitely we’re biased.

Cholesterol and Personalized Diet

DrSB:

We’re biased, we’re biased because we see it. Actually, that’s really the point of bringing up the coconut. I monitor my patients, and I’m really into preventive cardiology. It’s like one of my favorite things to do, to look at the cholesterol, the particles, the lack of proteins, see the risk, send people for calcium scores and really try to make sure that there’s nothing brewing under that proverbial iceberg, where we only see what’s at the top. I’ve been watching people’s cholesterol go using coconut oil for all their cooking now, and coconut yogurt and all. Then I take it out and the cholesterol goes back down.

DrSB:

Now, I understand that people who are pro-coconut might say, “But it’s good cholesterol!” And I’ll tell you, “No, it’s not.” With people that have high lipoprotein(a), or high lipoproteins, too much LDL is still too much LDL for them. And so, you have to be careful. You need someone to follow it. It doesn’t have to be you or me, it could be your regular conventional primary care doctor. Keep him on and get your cholesterol checked every year. That will help you know how you’re doing with your food plan, because the food is going to affect your cholesterol. My husband brought it down 50 points. So your food has the biggest influence on your cholesterol.

DrMR:

There are some people who will overeat healthy fat, and/or for their metabolism, they won’t look the right way from a cardiovascular lipid assessment profile on a low-carb diet. Then they do better on a moderate or higher-carb diet. I think the first person that I heard makes this claim was Peter Attia, maybe seven or eight years ago. This is in theme with something that I think you and I, Susan, had talked about on the podcast last time, a couple years back, which is this dietary individuality. Let’s say you have a few buddies who are CrossFit and keto, and so everything you hear and read is about CrossFit and keto. It doesn’t mean that’s going to be the best for you. It’s an option on the table, and some people will do well, but we don’t want to pigeonhole everyone into that same diet.

DrSB:

Exactly, I’m glad you said that. That’s exactly the message. Everyone is going to be different. There’s genetics you can measure, so I sometimes measure the APOE gene in people. People that have the APOE3 is the common one. People with APOE3 can eat whatever diet suits you for other reasons, but people with APOE4 are high-risk cardiovascular, high-risk Alzheimer’s, the sort of Type-III diabetes type of Alzheimer’s category as we call it. People with APOE4 really need to eat a low-fat diet. They are the ones who have high cholesterol, and it’ll get higher, especially with too much saturated fat, and they need more fiber. What happens when you allow yourself to eat more healthy carbs? You get a lot more fiber into your diet. And APOE2 people, they’re the ones that high fat is really good for them. I’m actually APOE2. I definitely sit down and eat a half an avocado in a seating. But that’s the era of personalized medicine, which is what you and I are doing. And everybody has to do what’s right for them. Sometimes you do need guidance for that, and it’s really important that you get it.

RuscioResources:

Hi everyone. This is Dr. Ruscio. In case you need help, I wanted to quickly make you aware of what resources are available to you. If you go to drruscio.com/resources you will see a few links you can click through for more. There is the clinic which I’m immensely proud of, the fact that we deliver cost-effective, simple but highly efficacious functional medicine. There’s also my book, Healthy Gut, Healthy You, which has been proven to allow those who have been unable to improve their health, even after seeing numerous doctors, to be able to help them finally feel better. There’s our store where there’s a number of products like our Elemental Heal line, our probiotic line and other gut supportive and health supportive supplements. We now offer health coaching, so if you’ve read the book or listen to a podcast like this one or are reading about a product and you need some help with how or when to use or how to integrate with diet, we now offer health coaching to help you along your way. Finally, if you’re a clinician, there is our clinicians newsletter. The Future of Functional Medicine Review. I’m very proud to say that we’ve now had doctors who’ve read that newsletter, found challenging cases in their practices, applied what we taught in the newsletter, and have been able to help these patients who were otherwise considered challenging cases. Everything for these resources can be accessed through drruscio.com/resources. Alrighty. Back to the show.

Episode Wrap-Up

DrMR:

And you’re seeing patients still? I know you’ve gone over to telehealth, tell people about the clinic, if you will, and then also remind us about Organic Pharmer and where can people can plug in for that.

DrSB:

You got it. So I’m Susan Blum, and I’m the founder and director of Blum Center for Health, and we are in New York, in Westchester County, New York, about a half hour north of Manhattan. I live an hour north of the city; the office is a half hour north. We have a whole team of doctors, health coaches, nutrition. We’re a 100% functional integrative medicine. So you can find me at blumcenterforhealth.com. I also do online programs, and I have two books. I wrote The Immune System Recovery Plan in 2013 or 2014. My more recent book is about arthritis, but I do a lot of inflammation and autoimmunity. And I have online courses that I offer as well for groups. I take people through the books online, and that has its own website, blumhealthmd.com.

DrSB:

You don’t have to memorize that; if you Google it you’ll find me. So the other leg in my stool is this passion project on Organic Pharmers. So you can go to organicpharmer.com you can read all about us, we ship around the country, and it all comes completely frozen. It’s just delicious and really, really good for you. And so I invite everyone to try it, and that’s it. I think that’s pretty much all about me.

DrMR:

Awesome. Well, thank you, Susan. It’s always interesting picking your brain. I love what you’re doing with this line. Like I said, I’ve used them, and I really liked them. I especially appreciate that freezing piece, because that’s something that I think is a low-hanging fruit. At least before I was getting some of my juices and they’d come thawed. They wouldn’t be frozen, and then they’d sit in the fridge for a number of days. So I had a feeling you were going to say that, but thank you for really quantifying the importance of the ORAC impact on that.

DrSB:

Absolutely, then you can drink it whenever you want. You don’t have to drink it all the same day if you don’t want to.

DrMR:

Well, thank you. I will enjoy benefiting from all of your hard work.

DrSB:

Thank you so much for having us on. This was totally fun, and listen, be well. With COVID, we’re all really doing our best to take care of everyone with what’s going on out there. It’s important that we keep sharing information as best we can to help people.

DrMR:

And keeping people as healthy as possible, obviously, because of the metabolic implications for COVID are pretty important. So for all of us out there who are doing all the right things, keep doing all the right things, because you yield even more return on those things given the current climate. So yeah, great stuff.

DrSB:

Great stuff. Thank you.

DrMR:

Thank you, Susan.

Outro:

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