The Benefits of a Whole-Foods Plant-Based Diet for Your Health and Planet Earth | Dr. Maria Jose Hummel

The Benefits of a Whole-Foods Plant-Based Diet for Your Health and Planet Earth | Dr. Maria Jose Hummel

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Get ready to dive deep into the intersection of nutrition, accessibility, and environmentalism with this inspiring episode. Corinna Bellizzi speaks with Dr. Maria Jose Hummel, a nutritionist, health educator, and author. Dr. Hummel shares her journey and insights into helping people transition to a whole-foods, plant-based diet. Discover the profound impact dietary changes can have on reversing chronic conditions and promoting overall health. This conversation is packed with practical advice, research-backed insights, and motivational stories that will empower you to take charge of your health while contributing to a more sustainable world. Tune in and be inspired by the power of plants and the potential of mindful eating.


Key takeaways from this episode:

  • How a plant-based diet can dramatically improve your health markers, including cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Why protein is not a concern for plant-based eaters, and how to get all the essential amino acids from plant sources.
  • The surprising truth about fiber and its role in gut health and weight management.
  • How to navigate common challenges like gas and bloating when transitioning to a plant-based diet.
  • The hidden dangers of sodium in processed foods and how to enjoy delicious food without overdoing it.
  • Easy tips for getting enough vitamin D, even without dairy, including the surprising benefit of sunlight exposure.


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The Benefits of a Whole-Foods Plant-Based Diet for Your Health and Planet Earth | Dr. Maria Jose Hummel

Welcome to another interview episode of Nutrition Without Compromise. We're going to explore the intersection between what we eat, what we have access to, and environmentalism as I introduce you to an incredible woman from my local community, Dr. Maria Jose Hummel. She is a nutritionist, health educator, author, and international speaker who holds multiple degrees, including a Master of Science in Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut, a master's in public health from San Jose State University, a certification in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center of Nutrition Studies at Cornell, and a lifestyle medicine certification from an American College of Lifestyle Medicine. 

She holds a doctorate in natural medicine from the International Institute of Original Medicine. Dr. Hummel is currently the program coordinator for CommunityRx, Salud en tu Plato, a 10-day nutrition immersion and education program that has helped people improve their health and reverse diet-related chronic conditions for some time. It continues to be in force today. Remember, the information that we share here is intended for educational and informational purposes only. We do not aim to treat, diagnose, or cure any conditions. If you have a specific ailment that you seek to treat, please consult with your health care professional. With that out of the way, I'm bringing her right up. Dr. Maria Jose Hummel. Welcome to the show. 

Corinna, It’s nice to see you. 

Whole-Foods Plant-Based Program

It’s nice to see you again as well. We got a chance to interface at a local community event, also at an event where you presented before we all met Dr. Michael Greger about his new work, How Not to Age. It’s not my first time chatting with you, but every time I feel like I learn something new. I wanted to talk for a moment about what inspired you to develop this program, specifically here on the Central Coast of California, to help people transition to whole foods plant-based and what you see from it.

As a nutritionist, I worked for many years working one-on-one with people. I was able to see transformations by changing people's diets. I know that the condition of health in our society has only gotten worse lately because of the food and all kinds of different reasons. There are a lot of chronic diseases in our society. Much of it can be improved with lifestyle and particularly with diet. We know also from research and personal experience that a person can experience an improvement in their health quite quickly. We do this 10-day program because we know that in 10 days sometimes you can see improvement. 

In some people, you can see a lot of improvement and in some people, you can see a little bit of improvement. It varies from person to person. The reason why we started doing this program, we were inspired by other people who have done this kind of nutrition intervention with great results. We wanted to bring it to the people in our community in an affordable way, basically free. We work on donations. If people don't have money to pay, they can do it for free. We were inspired to bring this information to as many people as we can in our local communities.

 What are the first things that the people who participate in this program do when they transition to being mostly plant-based, if not completely plant-based, during a 10-day period? What do you see? 

We do biometric testing before the program. Right before they start the 10 days, we measure their fasting glucose, and their lipid panel, which for us includes total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and HDL cholesterol. The most important ones are triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and also total cholesterol. We also measure their blood pressure. We measure their height and weight and calculate their BMI. We then give them the 10-day intervention. We cannot go and police their diet. We don't have the means or the funding to give them the food or to go check that they're eating what we suggest they eat. 

We kind of trust that they will take our suggestions, but we do send them a daily video to keep them motivated. At the end of the 10 days, there are technically 14 days in between before and after biometric testing. At the end, we repeat the biometric testing. The whole reason for that is so that they could see before and after. We do see amazing outcomes. As I said, it varies from person to person, but I have seen people drop their LDL cholesterol, for instance. Our average was 22% in the first year of our program, but I've seen people drop their LDL by 20%, 30%, 40%, and even 50%. 

Not only of their cardiovascular health but also the inflammatory nature that's in their cells and their body. How is it that the levels can drop so dramatically in two weeks? Why does that happen? 

It has to do with the physiology of our bodies. It has to do with the fact that our bodies are designed to eat plants as opposed to animal products. We are anatomically and physiologically designed to eat more plants. That is shown not only in clinical studies but also in epidemiological studies in the sense that people who eat more plants generally live longer. In the longevity studies, we've seen that the populations that eat more plants live longer. 

There's an immediate response in our bodies as soon as we shift to more plants or exclusively plants and the body immediately starts correcting some of the issues that are happening. For instance, insulin resistance in the lipids in our blood immediately starts to change. It’s because the composition of the lipids has a lot to do with what we eat. You can see changing meat very quickly as soon as you change your diet. We see that all the time. We know this is a thing. 

We know it happens. Even blood pressure can improve quite dramatically in two weeks. I think it has to do with the fact that our bodies are designed for this eating pattern and it does so well with it. It depends again. Some people have very quick results. Some people have been eating a certain way for decades and decades, and maybe it takes a little longer, like a couple of months, but almost inevitably we see at least one improvement in fourteen days. 

Protein Diet And Muscle Mass

What would you then say to Peter Atia or Dr. Gabrielle Lyon, both of whom are extolling the virtues of consuming 30 grams to 50 grams of protein in a single meal twice a day, especially for women as they're aging? The reason that they're touting this not necessarily benefit, but this style of eating, is because they are interested in helping women to build and maintain muscle mass with pretty dramatic concerns that if they don't get 30 grams or 50 grams of protein in 1 or 2 meals a day with at least 100 grams or 150 grams of protein consumed in a single day, they're somehow going to waste away, or that their muscles themselves won't be able to retain their fitness and strength.

Ultimately if we go fully plant-based, we're going to somehow lose our muscle mass and start to experience declining health as we age, in particular, as it relates to our bone health and our metabolic health. I know that's a lot to take in, but if people here are accustomed to listening to health podcasts, they've heard these ideas. I'd love for you to offer your perspective on that front. 

That's an amazing question. I agree with the premise that with time, especially in our society, with age, after the age of 30 or so, people start losing muscle mass, particularly because our lifestyle tends to be much more sedentary than our ancestors. Our ancestors used to have to work outside, growing food, chopping wood, whatever else, using their muscles constantly. Now, a lot of us work in front of a computer, sitting at a desk, and we're not using our muscles as much as we should. That has led to a decrease in muscle mass. That is true. It does happen. 

I think the solution to that is much more nuanced than what sometimes people hear in popular podcasts or from these doctors. We need to look at different aspects of lifestyle, particularly exercise. I think using our muscles is important because we are designed to use our muscles. We were designed for that, as opposed to sitting on a desk and being sedentary or watching TV all day. We're not designed for that.

First of all, the use of muscles throughout life is extremely important. If we're not chopping wood to cook or washing our clothes by hand like our grandmothers or great-grandmothers used to, then we need to somehow substitute that physical exercise. Maybe that means for us in our modern society, sign up for the gym or buy some weights or bands or whatever it is that you want to do, but you need some resistance. That's number one.

Protein is number two. What I want to talk about is protein. Protein, in the absence of exercise, is not going to produce muscles. Protein by itself is not going to produce muscles. You need to combine both the resistance exercise and enough resistance exercise that you're challenging your muscles so that your muscle fibers can break up a little bit and then rebuild. When you rebuild, that's when you get that increasing muscle mass and combine with enough protein because protein is necessary to build those muscles, the tissues, hormones, and many other things in the body. 

Protein in the absence of exercise is not going to produce muscles. Protein by itself is not going to produce muscles.

Having said that, first of all, we do not need animal protein. We know this from many vegan bodybuilders out there and people who are into fitness, who eat a whole food plant-based diet. It doesn't even have to require protein powders necessary, protein supplements, but it could if you want to, but it does not require animal protein.

That's the first point I want to make. You could get enough protein from plants. All plants have proteins. All essential amino acids are present in plant foods. There's no deficiency of protein in a plant-based diet. I guess that's what I wanted to say. Do you need to hit the magical numbers of 30 to however many grams of protein per day? I guess it depends on what your goals are. If you're preparing for competition, maybe. Most people are not preparing for a bodybuilder or fitness competition or something like that. Maybe your goals are not that high and you can still build muscle with a whole food plant-based diet. 

I would make sure you add good protein sources. If you're eating nothing but white bread and potatoes three times a day, maybe you need to add some protein sources. You need to balance your meals, but you can do it. You can do it with plant-based proteins, particularly the ones that are a little bit more concentrated like tofu and tempeh. You can do it. It's just a matter of how you design your meals and what your goals are.

Fiber And Beans

 We understand that Dr. Michael Greger likes to support the use of beans and lots of different varieties of beans from lentils and legumes to chickpeas, white beans, kidney beans, black beans, and pinto beans. There are so many different varieties of beans, but with the added benefit of feeding your microbiome. The more that we learn about diet and nutrition as the two relate to one another, the more we realize how very important fiber is. Can you talk to me for a moment about how fiber could potentially impact these heart health markers and why consuming more plants would be helpful and help us get to our optimized health? 

That's a great topic because we underestimated the importance of fiber for decades. We thought it was dextrose. We don't even absorb it. We don't digest it. It goes out of the body. I guess it helps to prevent constipation. That's about it. That's all we thought that fiber did. Now, especially in the last couple of decades or so, we started noticing the importance of the microbiome. These friendly bacteria we're supposed to have in our gut. 

The composition of that microbiome depends very much on the amount of prebiotics that we consume in our diet, which for the most part, are fibers or what they call resistant starches and other non-digestible carbohydrates. Now we realize that fiber, maybe we don't digest it, maybe we don't absorb it, but it's food for the microbiome. Those microorganisms that live in our gut need sustenance as well. It's the fibers that help maintain a healthy microbiota because without enough fiber in the diet, then we see a different composition of the microbiota and we see a different composition that turns to more unhealthy composition. 

It's like when you don't water your lawn. When you don't water your lawn, your grass dies, but what you see is the weeds coming up. It's the same thing with our gut. If we don't feed the good bacteria, they start to die off and then we see bad bacteria start to thrive. The composition of the microbiome is directly related to the amount of these fibers and other non-digestible carbohydrates that we include in our diet. Beans are one of the most important sources of these non-digestible carbohydrates, including fiber. 

That's why so many people when they shift into a whole food plant-based diet and they start eating more legumes, if they're not used to it if they've been eating a lot of animal products like meat and potatoes their whole life, all of a sudden they start eating beans, lentils, particularly beans, and they blow up and they get gas and all these different digestive problems.

The reason is not because the beans are unhealthy, but because our gut is not super healthy yet, and therefore is not able to handle that much fiber yet. We need to maybe gradually incorporate the beans in a small amount and then gradually increase because our microbiome does adapt to higher fiber, but you have to give it time. The reason why people have these digestive issues with beans is not that beans aren't healthy, it's because our microbiome isn't healthy enough yet, but it can get healthy.

I've been told by other people who've made the transition and also experienced this now myself that the transition took 4 or 5 weeks. After about that time, I didn't experience the same bloat or gas. It seemed that the one I reacted to the most was the white bean, which I didn't expect because it's almost flavorless and you could mix it with so many different things. I suspect it's because I'd never had it in my diet. I'd use pinto beans, black beans, or lentils. These things are peppered into my diet. I don't know if I'd ever consumed a white bean. 

When I started using that, I'd made a bunch of it. I put it in a lot of stuff from salads to oatmeal to protein shakes and all this stuff. I got quite a bit of gas. Now that seems to be in the past. I am now to save on my salt as well as on my pocketbook, taking in organic garbanzo beans and different types of beans in a dry state and then reconstituting them for a couple of reasons. One thing is I'm finding I like the mouth feel better when they're a little crisper in their texture. What comes in the canned variety tends to be a little mushy from my perspective with a little bit more substance to it. A little more chew, a little more al dente, I guess. 


I'm finding it to be kind of fun to explore these different things and integrate them into my diet in new ways. My kids are enjoying them too. I'm not finding that much resistance there except when I add too many spices because I've been trying all these different Indian dishes and they're still getting used to the curries and things along those lines. I mentioned briefly salts. I understand as part of this program, you're also limiting salts. Can you explain why?

We have seen a lot of research that lowering the sodium content of our diet can improve blood pressure very quickly. The reason why is that when you consume more sodium, it helps to retain more liquids. That's the reason why. The more liquid we retain, the more than what is normal, then higher blood pressure, because there's more liquid in the container, in this case, our vessels. There's higher pressure. By lowering the sodium content of our diet, we can improve maybe not everybody, but some people respond to lower sodium. 

That's one thing that we encourage people. Honestly, most people eat too much sodium in our diet because a lot of the processed foods we eat have amounts of sodium that we don't even realize or notice. A lot of the time is because the taste of sodium is hidden in the food. The processing of the food itself takes so much flavor away from natural foods that they have to add a lot of sodium back in different forms. You get a lot more sodium than you realize. 

Unless you're reading those labels carefully, you might be getting 2 or 3 times the amount of sodium that you require. Some people respond to lower sodium. It's better for everybody to lower sodium and decrease the risk of high blood pressure because the World Health Organization has identified high blood pressure as the number one risk factor for death in the world. Lowering sodium can have amazing consequences in lowering mortality. 

I know some people would say, “I like salt and I use Himalayan salt directly on my foods.” I think it's the hidden salts and not necessarily hidden if you are a label reader, but I'll give you one. For instance, I get an organic, refried vegetarian bean in a can, like both black beans and also pinto beans that way because it's great for taco night. It saves me time and I can get it and reheat it and go. That product itself in one serving has 600 milligrams of sodium. That's quite a lot in a single serving, especially if people consume more than one serving of something.

If you're being asked to consume beans multiple times a day, you could multiply this. Some versions are low sodium or no sodium-added, and you can find them at health food stores in particular, but sometimes the mass market grocery stores don't have those low-salt or no-salt varieties. It gets harder and harder. They're snuck into our chips for sure, our baked goods of all sorts, and even bread. They are broadly available in the processed and packaged foods environment. 

Even the soda cans that you drink, if you drink soda, you're getting salt. There's more salt than you think you're absorbing already. What I would say on the flip side of that is you don't necessarily realize that all these plants that you consume do have a broad spectrum of electrolytes present in them. If you're eating plants, they have potassium, they have sodium, they have other things in them that by nature are in the plant itself.

First of all, let me say that once you take out processed foods, it is ideal for everybody to not consume processed foods or as very little as possible. Once you take out the processed foods, that's 70% to 80% of the sodium in most people's diets right there. By taking that out, you're already consuming a lower-sodium diet. If you'd like to add salt to your food, maybe it's better to add it at the end when you're serving it so that the salt is on the surface as opposed to cooking with the sodium because then it gets absorbed and you taste it less. 

You don't taste it as much because it's not touching your tongue. That can be one way, but the thing is if you stop eating sodium altogether, some people do because their doctor tells them they need to get off salt completely because you're high blood pressure and some people do and they take out all the salt. At first, maybe the food tastes very blunt and people are like, “No, I cannot do this,” but the thing about our palate is that it adapts. Within 3 or 4 weeks, your palate has already adapted to less sodium or no salt at all if you choose to go that way. 

Now you taste the real taste of food and once you go back to eating anything, particularly processed foods, they're too salty now. That's great if we get our palate used to less sodium and we taste the food as it is. As you said, these foods already have a little bit of sodium, some potassium, and some electrolytes are important. It's not like you're going to completely be devoid of sodium in your diet if you continue to consume vegetables, they have some sodium.

For my distance athlete friends out there, I will say you typically know when your electrolytes are off. There are a few sure tells, especially if you do distance training in any capacity. I know that when I was actively training for marathons and running at a minimum of 8 miles most days, I would notice I was a little low on salt. If I was in the shower and my sweat no longer tasted salty, a little bit of it would invariably end up in your mouth. 

I would take a little bit more electrolytes during those periods of extreme exercise so that my electrolytes could be balanced. The other thing is I've never consumed that much on the what I would call processed foods spectrum. I have tended to add a little bit of salt to my meals and I always feel like when I dine out, my food is over-salted. As your palate refines, you may find you enjoy salt less.

There are certain things that I love salt on. For instance, I'll take some tahini, which is a lime salt-peppered tahini on top of avocado toast. It's a treat. I think if we look at sodium as a treat and condiment like that, then we're not going to end up overdoing it. The problem is we tend to overdo it so much because we're consuming convenient foods. Convenient foods when you dine out when you eat fast food or packaged foods tend to have way more sodium in them than you need in a day. 

That's the thing. If you don't eat those processed foods if you want to add a little bit of salt, you're probably okay, particularly if you are not hypertensive. If you're someone who trains a lot, like you said, an athlete who does very extensive training, you might need a little bit of sodium and that's okay, as long as you stay within the guidelines and don't overdo it. Once we eat a lot of processed foods, it's very easy to go above the recommended guidelines. If you have high blood pressure, which a lot of people do nowadays, a lot of adults, even children, I've seen children with hypertension, which is not a thing. 

Vitamins A And D

It wasn't a thing twenty years ago. Kids as young as six years old have been shown to have atherosclerosis. It's hardening of the arteries at six years old. This is purely a result of consuming too many packaged goods or convenience foods, trans fats, and things along these lines. I would be remiss if we didn't talk about common deficiencies. If you do shift to a fully plant-based diet, we've already addressed protein.

Vitamin B12 And Supplements

That was the elephant in the room that I feel like we always need to touch on. No, you don't miss any of your essential amino acids if you do not consume animal meat. Some people will say, “I cannot give up my dairy, and my dairy is fortified with vitamin D and vitamin A.” How am I going to be sure that I get enough of these nutrients if I'm not consuming dairy? Plus maybe I love my cheese. 

Vitamin A is super easy. You get it from beta-carotene. All your greens, your vegetables, anything that's yellow, green, orange. eat a lot of that. Squash, and mangoes, they're delicious. Greens, your salad greens. eat a lot of that. You will get your vitamin A from the beta-carotene. Vitamin D, interestingly, I read an article the other day, like 2 or 3 days ago, the magazine came into my house, and they were talking about how in some other countries, not in the US yet, but in other countries, they're realizing that we overdid the get away from the sun recommendations from, particularly dermatology. 

They were like, no sun whatsoever. Now we realized, well, maybe that wasn't the greatest advice because a little bit of sun. By that, I mean, depending on your skin color, it could be 10 minutes for some people, maybe 20, depending on the shade of your skin, the lighter your skin, the less time you need to be exposed. That doesn't even have to be all of your skin. You don't have to be in a bikini out there. Just enough of your arms, maybe your face, your legs, if you want to wear shorts, for a few minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes at the most, if you're very dark-skinned. That's it. 

You're producing enough vitamin D if you do that twice a week. Not only are you getting vitamin D from the sun for a few minutes, but other benefits of sun exposure that are not necessarily the production of vitamin D. They're still investigating what the sun does when it touches the skin and it has to do with our immune system. A little bit of sun, obviously, in the winter, some people are not going to be able to do that. Depending on the latitudes and all this. Taking a vitamin D supplement is okay. 

I take vegan vitamin D supplements during the winter even though here in California we do get a little bit of sun in the winter but sometimes not enough it seems like if it's cloudy or rainy or whatever. In northern latitudes, I would recommend people get a vitamin D supplement in the winter. In the summer, it might not be necessary if you're getting enough vitamin D from the sun. 

By the way, if you are getting enough vitamin D from the sun, that means you're getting hopefully, with that, some fresh air and some other benefits of being outside. I think that's important. I think if we can get that from nature all the better because when we've done the studies, we see the advantages of getting things from nature. There are added benefits of being outdoors. Again, not overdoing it. If your skin becomes red, because you've been outside for two hours without any sunblock or hat or long sleeves or something, then you're overdoing it if your skin gets red. 

If you are getting enough vitamin D from the sun, that means you're hopefully getting some fresh air and other benefits of being outside.

You don't want to damage your skin, because then it could create genetic damage in your skin cells and then that could lead down to the path of skin cancer later on. We want to avoid damage to the skin but a little bit of sun, moderate sun exposure is helpful and prevents cancer because of what it does to our immune system. I would do that for vitamin D. For vitamin A, a lot of the greens, and the yellow and orange fruits and vegetables.

One more thing I'll share with the audience is that if you consume mushrooms and before you prepare them, you leave them on your windowsill or in the sunlight for a little bit of time, even a half hour or 20 minutes, that the vitamin D that the mushrooms themselves create will convert to vitamin D3 and be more bioavailable in your body. Much of the vitamin D that is vegan out there comes from mushroom sources. It’s one thing you can do without a lot of extra work and then you can benefit from consuming more mushrooms. 

When you do go out to expose your skin, I've always felt like there's something to the lotus position in yoga, which people commonly use in meditation because when you expose your forearms and the inside of your legs where your skin tends to be paler, you'll produce more vitamin D from the sun rays. That's an added little benefit if you want to go outside and meditate for a few minutes in the sunlight. That can bring you some of that healthy vitamin D. Again, without sunscreen because the sunscreen will block some of that ability.

Other common deficiencies that come in from a fully plant-based diet relate to vitamin B12, which is the obvious one standing out of the fray. Vitamin B12 is important for the creation of your red blood cells, it's involved in your DNA, and even in the action of certain enzymes in your system that help you break down plant source nutrients into vital components. We need to be sure we get enough vitamin B12. This tends to be a recommendation from Dr. Michael Greger and other plant-based focused doctors and nutritionists. They generally say to go ahead and take a vitamin B12 each day. What are your thoughts on this and how much should we be getting? 

First of all, I agree with that recommendation. Let me clarify to make sure that people know this. Animals don't make vitamin B12, and neither do plants. It's not the animals that are making it. It's the microorganisms that live in our colons and animals' colons too. The thing about vitamin B12 is that the microorganisms that make vitamin B12 used to be much more widely available in our environment and so in the soil, in the water, everywhere. Now we've cleaned it up. We've gotten a lot of the bad microorganisms out of our water. For a lot of people, it is chlorinated, which is good. We don't get cholera that way. That's fine. 

I was told that before we washed our hands, we were getting B12 from the dirt and stuff on our fingers. Because people are encouraged to wash their hands and use sanitary issues, we don't get B12 as much from other sources. That's why it tends to come with meat products, which grossed me out.

There are pros and cons to having these microorganisms in the environment, and maybe you don't want some of the other microorganisms, but that's okay. To give that understanding and that out of the way, it's not some kind of lack that plant-based diets have because we're lacking animal products. I want to clarify that it's not the animals making the way. Where do we get it? Honestly, I recommend people get a supplement because it's so easy. It's cheap and easily available. 

By the way, vitamin B12, for most people anyway, it takes a long time to develop a deficiency because our body is good at recycling vitamin B12, and our needs are very low. In terms of grams, micrograms, milligrams, it's very low for vitamin B12. It's easy to obtain from a supplement. You don't even have to take it every day, depending on the dosage. I recommend if possible, not always possible, but it’s possible to get the kind that you put under your tongue. 

The reason why is because people after a certain age, not only if they go on a plant-based diet, they might not be getting it in the diet, but also even if they do get it in the diet, a lot of people develop a deficiency, not because they're not getting it, but because they're not absorbing it. Vitamin B12 is the one vitamin that has the most steps required for absorbing the vitamin into your system. 

That requires particularly something called intrinsic factor that is produced in the stomach. If you have gastritis or if you're taking anti-acids, all kinds of different reasons why people are not producing enough of that and they're not absorbing the vitamin B12. To make sure, I would recommend people put it under the tongue, to get the sublingual kind, put it under the tongue. It gets absorbed into the tissues below the tongue and right into the bloodstream as opposed to having to go through the digestive system. 

That way you're making sure that you're getting that vitamin B12 not just into your digestive system, but absorbed. I would recommend everybody to do that because, after a certain age, even meat eaters might not be absorbing the vitamin B12 from their diet because of different reasons and different conditions that have to do with the stomach. A lot of people take anti-acids nowadays, so they might not be absorbing it. 

If you have like bariatric surgery, you have to take vitamin B12. That's one thing they tell you to do. I think everybody should take it. If you don't have a whole food plant-based diet, that's one way to do it, to get a supplement, easy, cheap, or make sure you get enough foods that have it. Four to five foods will be another good source of vitamin B12. Make sure you get it somehow.

I love that. Full transparency, this podcast is brought to you by Orlo Nutrition. We do have an immunity boost product that contains vitamin B12 in its most bioavailable methylcobalamin form. The source is the Icelandic Ultraspirulina that we grow at our aquaculture plant house in Iceland. Grown using pure clean water and geothermal energy. It's a fully eco-friendly supplement, two sprays in the mouth twice a day give you not only your daily need for vitamin D as well as your B12 and supportive nutrients to help you through any kind of immune confrontation that you might have over the course of the year. 

That product is available at If you guys have any interest, please check it out. Remember that you can use a coupon code NWC for Nutrition Without Compromise to get an extra 10% off your order. Again, that's NWC for an extra 10% off. If you subscribe, that'll be 25% off your order at Moving on to the last, and I call this the pièce de la résistance. They generally say it's good to supplement with each day that they like algae oil. What are your thoughts? 

I think it's great. I take it. It's good to make sure. If you do take chia, flat seeds, walnuts, soy, and some greens, they do have short-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Your body has to convert them into long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. If you're taking too many omega-six fatty acids, particularly from oils, you're not going to be able to convert as much. 

They compete for the same enzymes to break down. You compete constantly. You're not going to make as much.

For people who want to make sure they're getting it, taking a supplement will work, or else, make sure you're getting your flax and chia every single day. I try to emphasize this and I don't think people quite get the importance of doing it every day. I don't know that people understand how important that is because omega-3 fatty acids are much more rare in plants compared to omega-6. Omega-6 is almost everywhere. Both are important, both are essential, and they both have very important roles in inflammation, pro-inflammatory, and anti-inflammatory. Sometimes you think, “We don't want any anti-inflammatory.”

That's not true. You'd never heal. If you had an injury, you'd never heal without inflammation. 

Every time you cut your finger, you need a little bit of inflammation to bring in that healing process. You do need a little bit of inflammation. That's why it's essential, omega-6, but we get too much, and that's the problem. Most people get way too much, most people. If you're into health already, maybe you're not getting as much. If you're using a lot of oil, you're not going to be converting the short-chain omega-3 fatty acids into the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids as well. Taking an omega-3 algae oil is a good source. It's a great option for people who are 100% whole-food plant-based. 

I will say too that the common recommendation that you'll hear from doctors is if you're concerned about it or if you don't know, then test don't guess. You can test your omega-3 levels in an over-the-counter test where you do a simple finger prick. You can send that to OmegaQuant. They will tell you what your percentage levels are. As a part of Orlo's Tested by You Campaign, we're covering the costs of not one, but two tests over the course of a six-month period to our subscribers for the Tested by You program. 

You can go ahead and get a test before your first day of supplementation. You send it in and you get to get your baseline results. Those typically come in the mail or via email like a weeks later. Typically within about ten days. You don't need to wait to start your supplements. That's already going to be your baseline. You'll get your results about ten days later, and then after your fourth month of supplementation with your 5th and 6th-month subscription, you'll receive the second test. 

You can test where you ended up after four months of supplementation. What I will say is that most vegans and vegetarians come in at an omega-3 index of 3.5% to 4%. That's a measurement of the amount of EPA and DHA that's present in your cells. After four months of supplementation, we're having people come back that we're starting around 3.5% with 6.5%. The ideal is 8%. That's where we want to get people to. It is 8% plus of their total omega-3 index. 

That is essentially what is considered the gold standard where you see a drop in all-cause mortality. These are long-term studies like the Framingham Research Study out of New England, which has been going on for multiple generations. This is the same testing method used by many research institutions, including Harvard. OmegaQuan has been around forever. We're not affiliated with them. We use the tool and we make that available to our audience through the Tested By You program. 

Fish Oil

I wanted to point out that there was some new research that came out about fish oil because that's what people are getting for their omega-3s. Even government recommendations, most doctors say eat fish 2 or 3 times a week. Here's the thing, fish is the most contaminated food in the human diet. 

Fish is the most contaminated food in human life.

You make me get the chill. Thank you for bringing it up. Go ahead.

I wouldn't depend on it because not like a thousand years ago when people were getting fish and it was fine. Today, you're getting microplastics, you're getting all kinds of PFAS, and all kinds of forever chemicals. I would stay away from it because it's so contaminated. Number two, the fish oil, we keep getting this research that is not the best, not the best source of omega-3s. I would not use fish oil nowadays. There's a lot of good research that's showing that it's not as safe as we think.

The added benefit of getting your algae oils from Orlo is that they're in the polar lipid form, so they're better absorbed by your body. You won't have the aldehyde byproducts build up in your stomach that create that fishy burp. Sometimes people even complain that algae oils get a little fishy taste. That tends to happen because even if it's not oxidized in the capsule, there's some churning in your stomach that happens. There's a little oxygen maybe in your stomach. Maybe you swallowed some air and you get a little aldehyde byproduct. 

That sometimes prevents people from sticking with an omega-3 routine. We have not had our customers complain about that. I think it's largely because of the fact that it's in this more bioavailable form that doesn't create that burp-back issue. I'm going to get you some to try the next time we connect. Ultimately, I'm passionate about this subject too. Every time we get a research study that comes out that's negative about omega 3s, it hurts everybody in this space. 

I will say that fish oil is different these days especially because of all the contaminants in our waters, because of the fact that it has to be so purified to eliminate toxins. The oil itself is altered. It's not the same as when you ate it from the fish. If you're eating it from the fish, you're getting a dose of microplastics too, which is scary. This is the reason that I went plant-based in a non-traditional way. I eliminated fish first because I simply knew too much about that in the world. After I eliminated fish, I eliminated dairy. After I eliminated the dairy, I eliminated the other meats.

The other thing I'd also want to mention briefly is the phenomenon called biomagnification. When you eat higher in the food chain, you're going to get more concentrated of those toxins. Of course the bigger fish, the more concentration of those toxins and chemicals and things like that. When you eat lower in the food chain, in this case, algae would be lower in the food chain. You get traces of something. It's much lower than fish oil, especially big fish, fatty fish.

Tuna, salmon, all of these things. Most of the salmon these days is farmed. Even the farmed fish has pretty dramatic problems. 

Stay away from that. It is the worst. 

Eat For The Earth

That makes me sad because it's the state of our environment. This is part of the whole work that you do with Eat For The Earth. As we sum up this conversation, I was hoping you could speak for a moment about your role at Eat for the Earth and what they, as a not-for-profit organization, are seeking to do. 

A more sustainable planet. We realize that the agricultural industry or the animal agricultural industry is one of the most destructive industries on planet Earth. Most people don't realize how destructive it is to eat animal products, whether it's fish, whether it's beef, whether it's chicken, whether it's pig or any of these industries. Ninety-nine percent of the animals are in factory farms and they're highly contaminated, the conditions the animals live in, and on and on and on, and there's no time to talk about it as much. 

What I want to say is that we are an organization that is cognizant of and knows that eating more plants will help to create a more sustainable planet for everyone and all life kind. That's number one. Number two is the effect on the environment. The global warming and the climate change, we want to help mitigate that. Eating more plants is one of the best things you can do. It's the easiest thing you can do. It's hard to stop driving a car. It costs a lot of money to buy an EV and all these other things, but you can change your diet. That's easy to do. 

Water usage, I mean, there are so many reasons to eat a plant-based diet. Health is one reason, and ethical considerations are another reason and environmental considerations. There are three, at least, good reasons to eat more plants so why not? We want to encourage people to try it. In our program, we tell people to try it for ten days. 

It doesn't seem so intimidating if you're only going to do it for ten days. Once you see the results at the end, they look so great on paper, and most people want to continue it. That's why we do what we do. We want to encourage people because sometimes we care more about our own health and the planet. That's okay, fine. Try it this way. Try it for the health benefits, and then you're going to get all the other benefits as well if you learn to eat more plants. 

One of the things I love that your executive director, Beth Love, has shared is that that's not about turning away any diet or lifestyle. We want people to eat more plants. Welcome the omnivores, welcome the organic non-GMO eaters, and welcome to all of them, because the more we focus on this shift, the more impact we can make. Even if we were to follow Dr. William Li’s perspective of looking at meat and animal products as condiments, as opposed to the main course, then we can make a dramatic shift. 

If we were to follow Jonathan Safran Foer's idea. He might not have been the first to say this. I've since heard that it might've originated somewhere else, but he says, “Let's not eat animal products before dinner, and then at least you have eliminated 2/3 of what you eat during a day from being an animal-based diet.” There are those like Paul Saladino who want everybody to eat animal-based first. 

That's a completely different discussion and we don't need to get into the carnivores or implicate food on that side of the aisle. Thank you so much for joining me. I appreciate your time, your effort, and what you're doing with Salud en tu Plato, as well as with Eat for the Earth. I admire both of the initiatives dramatically. I know that you're seeing a lot of positive health results in the communities you serve and I wish you well.

Thank you so much. It was a pleasure being here and I love it. I'm passionate about this. Thank you so much.

Thank you so much for joining me.


To find out more about Dr. Maria Jose Hummel, you’ll find the link on, which includes the video version of this episode and links to additional resources and episodes that we touched on including those with Dr. William Li and Dr. Joel Furhman. As a reminder, you can always go to and use our coupon code NWC for a bonus of 10% off at checkout. This applies not only to the subscription campaign for Tested by You and other promotions that we have running on the site but also to any day you wish to purchase. Thank you for tuning in and for enjoying this episode. I hope that you'll join me as I raise a cup of my favorite beverage and say my closing words. Here's to your health.


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