A Nutrition Scientist Weighs in on the Plant Paradox

Have you ever wondered whether you should be eating plants or not?

Perhaps you’ve heard someone say you should stop eating spinach, kale, or tomatoes because of anti-nutrients. Maybe you’ve found yourself wondering, “Is the plant paradox real? Should I switch to the carnivore diet?”

If so, this is the podcast for you. Today, I’m having an enlightening conversation with a leading expert in anti-nutrients, Dr. Deanna Minich. With decades of experience in academia and the food and dietary supplement industries, she’s tapping into her knowledge to help you sort through the noise about nutrition.

Not only will she shed light on anti-nutrients, we’ll unpack the confusion about plants and what you should actually be eating. Plus, Dr. Minich will tell us the one thing you can do to contribute to a balanced gut microbiome, strong immune system, and healthy inflammatory response.

At the end of this episode, you are going to feel beyond empowered to eat for your health.


00:00:57 – Meet the expert in plant anti-nutrients
00:04:44 – How do we get out of black-and-white thinking about eating?
00:06:34 – Dr. Minich researches anti-nutrients
00:10:17 – What makes something therapeutic or destructive?
00:13:29 – Introducing more plants could cause reactions to these things
00:14:55 – Organic vs. conventional foods
00:18:52 – Why dietary diversity matters
00:26:09 – Lectins, phytates, and raw foods
00:28:12 – Decoding food colors and eating the rainbow
00:36:30 – Unexpected shades of the food rainbow
00:41:13 – Tools for implementing these ideas
00:47:13 – What about soy?

Freebies From Today’s Episode

Get Dr. Deanna’s FREE Rainbow Diet E-Book

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Learn more about Dr. Deanna Minich

Learn how foods cause leaky gut in The Virgin Diet

Read my book, Sugar Impact Diet

Subscribe to my podcast

Read Whole Detox by Dr. Deanna Minich

Read The Rainbow Diet by Dr. Deanna Minich

Study: Nutrients: Is There Such a Thing as “Anti-Nutrients”? A Narrative Review of Perceived Problematic Plant Compounds

Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat

Read Eat to Beat Disease by Dr. William W. Li

Learn more about Blue Zones

Read Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson

Study: Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism: A Review of the Science of Colorful, Plant-Based Food and Practical Strategies for “Eating the Rainbow”

Study: Oncology Reports: Identification of carotenoids in ovarian tissue in women

DEXA scan

Click Here To Read Transcript

ATHE_Transcript_Ep 585_Dr. Deanna Minich
JJ Virgin: [00:00:00] I’m JJ Virgin, PhD dropout, sorry mom, turned four time New York Times best selling author. Yes, I’m a certified nutrition specialist, fitness hall of famer, and I speak at health conferences and trainings around the globe, but I’m driven by my insatiable curiosity and love of science to keep asking questions, digging for answers, and sharing the information I uncover with as many people as I can, and that’s why I created the Well Beyond 40 To synthesize and simplify the science of health into actionable strategies to help you thrive.
In each episode, we’ll talk about what’s working in the world of wellness, from personalized nutrition and healing your metabolism to healthy aging and prescriptive fitness. Join me on the journey to better health so you can love how you look and feel right now and have the energy to play full out.
If you have wondered whether you should be eating [00:01:00] plants or not, both with the carnivore diet and plant paradox and hearing about the anti nutrients and then kind of scratching your head going, what should I do? This is the podcast for you. To me, the person who’s really the leading expert on anti nutrients and plants.
Dr. Deanna Minich I’ve known Deanna for years. I have so much respect for her. She is such an amazing scientist. She is also an educator, a lecturer, author. And I was so fortunate I just was at an event, the Integrative Healthcare Symposium, and she did the talk about anti nutrients. And I was like, this is what I desperately want to bring back to you, the listener, to help you unpack this and make sense of this.
You know, I always say if you go to the bookstore and look at all the diet books, you’d be like, what the heck do I eat, man? So we will be unpacking today all about anti nutrients and plants and what you should be eating and how to create diet diversity. Deanna. She is a certified [00:02:00] functional medicine practitioner, and of course, I already told you she was a scientist, educator, author, and she has been in the biz here now for over 20 years, both in the academic side and the supplement side of things.
She’s written six consumer books and over 50 scientific publications. She teaches for the Institute for Functional Medicine, the University of Western States, and the Institute for Brain Potential. And this is what I love. She’s very critically open minded and practical. So we are going to be talking about anti nutrients, how to create diet diversity, and also some of the information from her rainbow diet.
We’ve put a bunch of great stuff. There’s so much information. that you will have to look into from this that you can go to jjvirgin.com/colors where we’re going to put her rainbow diet ebook and then links to the two articles that really address anti nutrients and plants so you understand how to create diet diversity.
Should you eat plants? If you are, what should you be looking for so that it [00:03:00] will really help you make sense of this? And of course, upgrade your health because of it. All right. I will be right back with Dr. Deanna Minich. So nothing drives me crazier than when something comes out that scares people from eating real food.
And I think that as a human being, what if an alien landed on our country, in our world, and they went to the bookstore and they went, Okay, I’m supposed to only eat plants. Nope, I’m not supposed to eat any plants. Oh, the problem is carbohydrates. I should just eat mainly fat. They just get themselves crazy.
And I think that’s probably what so many people do is they go, what the heck do I do? And I also have this theory that Authors write books for themselves, like the thing that worked for them, and then they become religious about it. And diets aren’t religion, they’re science. And to me, they’re tools. And I can’t think of a more powerful tool than the tool of changing what’s at the end of your fork.
And also incorporating more vegetables. So when I was like [00:04:00] looking at this whole issue of where now people are becoming afraid of plants are now scary predators. You Deanna are like, to me, the person at the forefront of reason and science. And you have this beautiful position where you are a teacher and author, a practitioner and a scientist, and you’ve really dug into this and you can give us this blended opinion, not like.
Everything’s good. Everything’s bad so that people can dig in and go, all right, should I eat broccoli? Is it going to kill me? What do I do? Chia seeds, holy smokes. So thank you so much for taking the time out and let’s like bring some sanity into the world today.
Dr. Deanna Minich: Oh, my pleasure. I’m very welcoming of this conversation.
And it’s really the conversation that I want to have at more of a macro level with people in the field. How do we get out of righteousness with eating? How do we get out of the yes or no way of thinking, the right or wrong, all or nothing? It just feels like now is the time. I mean, we’re in the 21st century where we now have the science catching up with nutrition [00:05:00] so that we can start to personalize approaches.
It doesn’t have to be. One way or the highway is how I see it.
JJ Virgin: It’s like oxalates may be bad for someone, not for everybody. Same with histamines. So let’s start with plants, unpacking them and some of the discussion out there right now about anti nutrients.
Dr. Deanna Minich: I would say that this started for me some years ago, maybe five to seven years ago, I was at a conference and I was listening to one of the presenters talk about.
Plants, and how plants might be connected to immuno reactivity, to autoimmune diseases, and perhaps we shouldn’t be eating certain plants, which was really a disconnect for me because for so long I have been talking about the rainbow diet. I’ve been talking about eating the colors, and it seemed to be the one thing in science that was irrefutable, to have more fruits and vegetables.
Which seemed to be associated with a lowered risk of chronic diseases across the board. So hearing this, reading popular books on this topic, [00:06:00] which started to grow in momentum. And then there was the emergence of the carnivore diet. And I really had to think about this, like, perhaps I’m missing something, you know, just to be real and like, just look at it neutrally.
JJ Virgin: I love that you do that too, because that’s the really key important thing is someone wants them to be, you know, be critically open minded.
Dr. Deanna Minich: I want to be in authenticity and integrity with what I’m saying out there about nutrition. And I know that the sands of nutrition change, they move. It’s like a pendulum, it swings.
So. Back in 2020, together with a graduate student, we started to look at the science of these proclaimed anti nutrients. And in fact, in the title of the article, we had questioned, is there such a thing as anti nutrients? So if we look at the science of anti nutrients, what are they classically? If you just look them up on Google.
There are some different definitions, but essentially an anti nutrient refers to different compounds, typically they’re perceived as being in plants, even [00:07:00] though they also occur in animals, but typically in plants that may block the absorption and or activity of nutrients. Hence, anti nutrients. We’re going against the nutrients in the body.
So, some of the ones that come across a little bit stronger would be things like lectins. So, there’s a lot of noise about lectins and whether or not they cause immunoreactivity, they cause gut permeability. So, they don’t necessarily block nutrients, but they may incur different changes in our gut physiology that may lead to changes down the line in nutrients.
Then there are oxalates, which are in more of a classic anti nutrient sense, seen as blocking things like minerals. Then there are tannins, which are much along the same lines, as well as phytates. So those are the heavy hitters, and that’s what’s been talked about. And then as a result, what we see are these statements that are very extreme, like, don’t eat spinach, [00:08:00] don’t eat kale, because it has goitrogens, another.
Class of compounds, which seem to have both sides of the spectrum. They have beneficial properties. They may also have other properties depending on how we consume them. So I think we have to be real. Like we don’t consume goitrogens. We consume cruciferous vegetables. We don’t consume oxalates in isolation.
We consume vegetables, legumes, whole grains that may contain oxalates and thousands of other compounds. So, I think what has happened in nutrition is, if we can just get psychological for a minute because I’ve seen this over the decades, is that typically there’s an offender out there in food that becomes the shiny object and then it becomes the thing that we magnify in that food and then we just completely discount it and eradicate it from our eating even though it may have merit or there could be workarounds in how we actually take that food in.
JJ Virgin: That makes a ton of sense. And as I think about this, there’s so many things I want to ask you. There’s also different ways to look at how food’s [00:09:00] offending you. Like when I wrote The Virgin Diet, it was purely about. Have you gotten your gut more permeable, a leaky gut? And if so, these are the top foods that can either create or exacerbate leaky gut or will tend to pass through and start to wreak havoc.
The challenge was people took that as these foods are evil and bad and horrible. It’s like, no, they’re just not right for you. But we’re really trying to figure out is which foods are right for you. And this can shift. Throughout your life. To me, I don’t really like the moderation statement because I think there are a couple of things that are not everything in moderation.
Like I don’t think artificial sweeteners are everything in moderation. I think they’re just a rotten thing. I think glyphosate is rotten thing. So I don’t think there’s a moderation piece there. Right. You know, but then there’s these other things that are. So when you’re looking at this, then I think the bigger question would be when I look at these plants and we talk about something like tannins.
I’m seeking out plants that have these tannins. I think of our buddy, Dr. Jeff Bland, [00:10:00] and how he has found this Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat. And the whole reason this plant is so powerful is because it has grown in some of the most harshest conditions in the world. And the plant has to create all these protective agents that could be seen as anti nutrients that in reality are incredibly therapeutic.
So what makes something therapeutic or
Dr. Deanna Minich: destructive? I think you said it. It’s the milieu. And when you were talking about the gut, that’s one of the things I talked about in my talk at the Integrative Healthcare Symposium just this past weekend where I just wonder if those compounds aren’t signaling agents within our body that something’s awry.
So is it oxalates or do we actually have mineral insufficiency? Is it just a key marker to let us know, Hey, your minerals are off and to lectins. Is it the lectins that are the offender, or is it just what you said, is there something in the gut that’s off, is it permeable, is it dysbiotic, and therefore you have a response to lectins, because lectins on [00:11:00] their own, they’re proteins.
They’re proteins that key into carbohydrate type receptors. So are we not digesting protein? And if we’re not digesting lectins, we’re probably not digesting other proteins, right? So I think it goes back to what you said. We need to look at some of the root cause basics of functional medicine, which would be the gut, the microbiome.
I do think that food intolerances, sensitivities, and allergies, you know, is it the food itself or is it again, the milieu? So I think we always need to come back to that, to see these as like, A blessing in disguise. And what you said about Himalayan tartary buckwheat is a really great way to segue into this conversation as well, because there’s a language issue.
Many people don’t realize that people are calling anti nutrients. are actually beneficial compounds like the tannins, right? What are tannins? They’re polyphenols. What is Dr. Mark Hyman and other people talking about lately as it relates to the gut? Polyphenols.
JJ Virgin: And you look at something like the carnivore diet, [00:12:00] and I think back when I was on Freaky Eaters, we literally had a guy who was the early Paul Celadino.
He would only eat meat. And when I looked at his blood markers, because I had to make the case for why this was a terrible idea, right? And so his blood markers were up perfection. They were like, perfect. And he was lean and fit. And I thought the only place I’m probably going to see this is in the gut microbiome.
That’s where I’ll look, which is of course, where I saw challenges. I saw total imbalance and, you know, I also saw that he had some parasites, just some not so good stuff in there, but you would look at a lot of this stuff and go short term, it could be very healing to pull all these things out. If you had a gut that was in an uproar and a lot of IBS.
Have you read Will Lee’s, Dr. Will Lee’s Eat to Beat Disease book? You mentioned that to me.
Dr. Deanna Minich: I need to get into his work and explore that a little bit more because I think we’re speaking the same, we’re singing the same tune here.
JJ Virgin: I’ve had him do a variety of podcasts and he just goes through exactly like what all these plant compounds do as if they were drugs because [00:13:00] drugs come from plants.
So, let’s start at the top and we’re gonna link to the article that you wrote about anti nutrients as well. And I kind of love this through line that we have is, if you’re having issues with these, look for why the issue is. It’s not the plant, it’s something going on in your body. Maybe your gut’s become leaky.
Maybe you’ve got something that’s wreaking havoc when you eat oxalates. What is the issue? So I think that’s a very interesting thing. It’s not the plant causing the problem, it’s the problem in your body.
Dr. Deanna Minich: And JJ, too, I want to toss into the mix as we start to go through this that you had already mentioned with glyphosate.
I think as people eat more plants, there is the potential introduction of pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides. And we need to bring that into this conversation because that could be what people are reacting to as well. I know
JJ Virgin: when I wrote The Virgin Diet, I was doing food sensitivity testing and teaching doctors how to use it.
So I looked at all these tests. I was like, wow, the same things keep showing up. Like it just saw it. And then I saw what happened when we pulled them out and how people were healing. And then I saw the responses to gluten, which was a different test. [00:14:00] And then I just looked at what happens when we eat gluten and what happens to the gut.
But as I started to really unpack it, I kept going, is it the gluten triggering the tight junctions to release or is it the glyphosates messing up the gut? It’s both probably, but the bigger offender is going to be something like glyphosate. Same with corn. Is it the corn? Because I just went to Peru this last summer and I ate the corn there, felt fine, no problems, you know, or is it that we’ve GMO’d the corn and the soy, and I think what people don’t understand is like the issue with GMO in my mind is that you’ve just made a plant that can accept a lot of chemicals.
Dr. Deanna Minich: Very true. And what about the interaction between gluten and or other compounds and the glyphosate? Do we create these different molecules that the body hasn’t seen before? So it could be glyphosate, it could be how glyphosate interacts with those different compounds that are already potentially reactive in some people.
JJ Virgin: So we want to eat more fruits and vegetables. There also is that camp, of course, that It’s no better to eat organic than conventional. So I’d [00:15:00] love to hear your take on that. But then we have the situation with a lot of what’s going on with farming. So let’s kind of move into organic versus non organic and what should we be looking at?
Like the colors, how you talk about the colors and the diversity. So let’s start organic versus non, if that’s a good place to start.
Dr. Deanna Minich: Yeah, and I’ll be straight with you on the organic versus non organic. I think that the science is conflicting. It’s really hard to make a strong case when to have organically grown food that it has certain levels of nutrients.
I mean, there are some studies that will suggest, oh, higher phenolics, higher vitamin C. But where we see the true test is when people are fed conventionally grown food and then they are moved over into an organic way of eating. There’s one study in particular that I can think of in children. Children have smaller bodies, typically greater fat mass, so they would concentrate these lipophilic toxins more than an adult body, right?
And you can quickly see the [00:16:00] change. In their toxic load, just over a couple of days of transitioning over to an organic diet. Yeah, I’d have to look at the exact time frame, but it was fairly quick, you know. So that’s powerful. And if we look at toxins and their association with different chronic diseases, I mean, there’s a preponderance of data.
And the one that I think stands out for me is that of arsenic with type 2 diabetes. And looking at that association, Dr. Joe Pizzorno talks a lot about that relationship. So, I do think that there’s merit, even though the science may not stack up extremely strong in the way of just looking at nutrient values between organic and conventionally grown food.
I do think that the impact of some of these toxins, which tend to be more lipid soluble, lipophilic, they’re going to stay in our bodies longer. I think that anything we can do to reduce that.
JJ Virgin: If we assume that there’s not that much difference in the actual nutrient value, even if they were exactly the same in nutrient value, [00:17:00] if one could concentrate pesticides or was concentrate because there was sprayed, isn’t that
Dr. Deanna Minich: enough?
That is enough. To me, it’s enough. And that’s why I’m saying to make the case for reducing our toxic load because we’re going to reduce our risk for chronic disease. And I get concerned because some people can’t always afford it. Some people out there will say, Oh, you know, I’m not going to eat fruits and vegetables.
That’s why I’m going to do the carnivore diet because I’m just concentrating my pesticide burden and my load when I’m eating fruits and veggies. And I don’t want us to think along those lines. I think that the protective quality there is diversity. I do think that rotational diets, dietary diversity, food variety, these are protective factors for preventing the accumulation of toxic, toxic exposures.
JJ Virgin: Exercise. I, I like, you got to cross train your diet. And I will tell you, and I’d love you to cite that study because ever since you said that about, if you’re eating these eight servings, you’re better off to get the servings, different types of things. So [00:18:00] literally I came home, I’m a very good student.
Totally have been every day going, how do I incorporate diversity every single day and making it fun and tracking it. So talk about diversity and why this is so important.
Dr. Deanna Minich: It’s huge. I mean, I gave a 90 minute talk just on dietary diversity and why it’s protective. Let me just run through some benefits, and then I’d like to talk about some practical tools of how to help people to be more diverse in their eating.
I think our society at large is against this factor of diversity, and, you know, we see big bulk items that are inexpensive, and if you buy things in bulk, it’s really hard to create diversity because, you know, you want to exhaust that food supply first before you go buy something else. So, what are the benefits of dietary diversity?
First and foremost, better nutritional status. So, people who have more diverse diets tend to have better nutrient levels. There’s also reduced toxic exposures. When we look at physical health, there tends to be a better gut microbiome association, which can [00:19:00] lead to a better immune health status and less allergic disease, especially when children have more diverse diets when they’re young.
What there tends to be as they become adults is less of the allergic diseases that could crop up. We also see dietary diversity connecting into mental health. So, there is an association with less anxiety. From a cardiovascular standpoint, better blood pressure. I believe it was systolic blood pressure specifically.
And even an association with less fractures and falls. So, looking at markers of aging. You know, I love the diversity message and which is why bringing in the rainbow, but then bringing in the rainbow of colors and food in ways that also have diversity. So I can remember I was talking with somebody and they’re like, Oh yeah, I get a lot of red in my diet, a lot of red foods.
I eat tomatoes on a frequent basis. And I said, but that’s just, Red, you’re eating the rainbow, but we need diversity within each color of [00:20:00] the rainbows. So within red, I need you to have like cranberries, strawberries, apples that are red of different varieties. So one of the things that I did in order to enable people to have more diversity was I created a 50 food variety tracker.
And I actually took this idea in part from a publication. I think it was in 2018. It was on the gut microbiome. It was by Miguel Taribio Mateus. He is a PhD researcher in the UK. He and I have become great friends since. He talks a lot about the gut brain axis. And so I took his 50 food tracker, and I just modified it a little bit, and I crowdsourced it, I group tested it, and we were aiming for 50 unique foods in 7 days.
If you look at the American Gut Project, they talk about people who have greater than 30. Diverse foods. Within the week, how they have more short chain fatty acid production by the gut microbiome than people who have less than [00:21:00] 10. So what I found from even trying it out in my larger group was that people would average something around 100.
You know, when they were really conscious and they were counting, it’s not about the quantity, it was about the quality. So they could make a meal with a bunch of different spices and each spice So I remember one 31 diverse
plants. Are we
JJ Virgin: only talking plants or do other things like fish count or is it only
Dr. Deanna Minich: plants? For the purpose of this exercise, I just brought in plants because I felt like plants were the common denominator. So it could be done with animal foods as well. You know, I’m not. Dogmatic as it relates to people eating plants or animals.
The key point is, is simply diversity. But in a number of these studies, they are looking at the diversity of different plant foods, not exclusively in some cases. So I think that’s a point [00:22:00] well taken, that we want to just think about food in general. And that could also mean You go to a different grocery store, you shop at a different market, you change up your brands.
I must say I’m not very brand loyal because I often think with maybe a protein powder or even a personal care product, oftentimes I like to change it up to create more resilience, right? Because you keep having the same thing over and over again. It just feels like, what else are you taking in that product that you’re just not aware about?
JJ Virgin: I’m an exercise physiologist at heart, and our whole premise is cross train to avoid injury and to continue to progress and change things up. So I’ve always looked at diet and gone, we need to cross train our diet in terms of caloric variability, macro variability, food variability too, just like we would have thousand years ago.
Dr. Deanna Minich: Absolutely. I really liked that example, by the way, the cross training your diet. It’s a great analogy with everything else, you know, and even our relationships. [00:23:00] If we look at this as a staple throughout the blue zones and what Dr. Mark Hyman talks about with longevity, what you find with even aging is that flexibility and variability is one of the common threads.
We see that with neuronal plasticity, we see it with heart rate variability, we see it with metabolic flexibility. If I just think of the big body systems of brain, heart, and gut. The thing that unifies them all with aging is flexibility, variability. So how do we get more of that? We bring it in through what you’re saying through exercise.
And also through food and our eating habits.
JJ Virgin: I was counting up as you were saying this, I’m like 30 in one meal. I was just looking at mine going, what I think I’ve done so far this week. And I’ve got some work to do. I thought I was doing great.
Dr. Deanna Minich: Bring in spices. And I was just going to say, spices seem like a great help.
And also like if you take curry, curry typically has five to six spices. Here’s another hack with apples. Let’s just take apples as an example. And there’s a great book called Eating on the Wild [00:24:00] Side by Jo Robinson. And she did this excellent delineation of even looking at phytochemicals in different kinds of apples.
And they’re not all created equal. Right, so it just depends on location, season. So a Golden Delicious can be very different from a Pink Lady Apple or even from a Granny Smith. You know, I live in Washington State, which is the state of apples, so this always comes to mind. I see those big bags of apples.
And I say, just spend an extra minute and forget the big bag of apples and take from all the different apple varieties that we have access to in our state with a lot of these different kinds. So even within one food, there’s variety. Right? So it’s not just…
JJ Virgin: Well, think of the potatoes. Exactly. So I was in Peru this summer and it was like, I literally went to this, it was like a nine course tasting meal.
It was kind of my worst nightmare, but it was like nine courses of potatoes and corn with one Guinea pig and one armadillo. I kid you not, they serve Guinea pig in Peru. [00:25:00] Wow. But there was some chocolate to save the day, but I was like, okay, you gave me a gluten free potato sandwich, hello. But, you know, they have all these different varieties of potatoes and all these different varieties of corn.
Dr. Deanna Minich: And you probably know with Peru, one of the projects that I’m working on now is all the different kinds of maca. There are 13 different phenotypes of maca and six different colors. And usually people, when they think of like having maca, they think, Oh, it’s just brown. It’s the kind that you get from the grocery store.
You just pour it in your smoothie. And it’s not like that in Peru. There’s an acknowledgement of different altitude, different. Moisture situations, different seasons create different kinds of maca, which is one of their staple root tubers. It really is keying into the diversity of plants and that diversity is connected to the phytochemicals.
Right. And it really, again, plays back into that Himalayan tartary buckwheat. You know, the stress on the plant, where it’s grown, all of that makes for the color code and the [00:26:00] signature of the plant functionally. If you want, we can kind of break out all the different colors and what they stand for. Let’s
JJ Virgin: break out and then let’s give people like, how do we put this into application?
And then one other thing I do want to make sure we get into when we talk collectants and phytates. Most of these lectins and phytates are eliminated or brought way down purely by the way that we’re preparing the foods, right?
Dr. Deanna Minich: Yeah. Just by slow, low moist methods of cooking, you know, that heat will inactivate or break down or denature the protein.
So it’s not in its active form. And not many people are eating raw kidney beans, right? This is kind of an exception, but you know, there are some trends out there where there’s a lot of raw food consumed in large proportions. And so, Just re evaluating that because that’s not the traditional way. That foods were eaten.
Yeah. I
JJ Virgin: was asked to go to this special institute in Florida. It was a cancer treatment center and it was all raw foods, all, all vegan. And I didn’t realize they wanted me to help with some marketing. I roll in there starving cause they’re like, you’re going to [00:27:00] have lunch. You had to have a prescription to get almonds or an avocado.
It was literally all non starchy foods. That’s it. And I mean, I ate lunch. I looked like I was nine months pregnant. And then they’re like, we’re going to give you a massage. I go, I don’t think so. You’re not touching me. Oh my gosh. This is what you’re giving to your cancer patients. This
Dr. Deanna Minich: yikes. Yeah. I’m married to an acupuncturist and my husband, Mark, you know, in traditional Chinese medicine, they talk about warming the food to help with digestibility.
Right. So there is that lean stomach chi, which is depleted in so many of us. And so having foods cooked a bit more, and I think that there’s a general tone in society where people think, Oh my gosh, if I cook things, I’m going to lose nutrients, but if you have a gut that is. Depleted and permeable. You know, you need to have more digestive capacity coming in somewhere.
So by cooking your foods a little bit more, that may actually be helpful and help to reduce the amount [00:28:00] of these anti nutrients and even liberate some of the minerals that are in the fibrous matrix of these foods.
JJ Virgin: All
Dr. Deanna Minich: right, let’s talk color. All right. So we’ll get into the colors. First of all, let me ask you, what’s your favorite color? Is it blue? You’re wearing blue today. Is that kind of the color you vibe to, or what do you like? Blue
JJ Virgin: and jade green, I like teal, I like turquoise, like all of those, that spectrum.
Dr. Deanna Minich: So when we get to that color, I’ll wax a little bit on the psychology as well as the physiology because I feel like I can key into so many people just based on the colors that they like, the colors that they’re eating, and sometimes they just get a color feel from somebody.
All right, so starting with red, and by the way, this is all published in another one of my articles where I talk about the science of eating the rainbow, and what I did was I looked at the science. And where there was pattern recognition on the phytochemicals and what they were doing functionally. So what I’m going to do as we go through each color is just give you high level of what I found and all of the research and all of the studies and how I unpacked that.
That’s all in [00:29:00] the article. So we won’t get into the granularity. We will link to
JJ Virgin: all that. And you also have a rainbow diet ebook that everyone’s going to get. So yeah, yeah, yeah. It will be covered.
Dr. Deanna Minich: Okay. Go ahead. Okay. So red. Red is the color of urgency, emergency. It evokes the response in us. So, red stop sign, red stop light.
We see an ambulance, a fire truck, red universally. Even if you travel, you can start to see like, oh, it evokes something, right? It could also evoke anger. It can evoke passion. We think of Valentine’s Day in the heart, blood rushing. It’s a survival color. So, interestingly, as I looked into the science of red and a lot of those polyphenols that coincide with red colored food.
What we see is that there is a connection to anti inflammatory activity. And also, many times I see inflammation connected to the immune response. They go hand in hand. So there is this double nature of red colored foods. Many times they’re good for the immune system and they’re also good for dampening [00:30:00] inflammation.
They may also have the propensity to increase inflammation. If I think of histamines, a red response in the body from things like strawberries or things that naturally can contain more histamines where people are more sensitive to them. We almost put histamines in the anti nutrient article, but we refrain because it’s not classically an anti nutrient.
So, anyway. Red is all about immunity and inflammation. Orange coincides with carotenoids, with the beautiful orange colored compounds like beta carotene, alpha carotene, beta cryptoxanthin. There are a number of these carotenoids in nature. In fact, there are hundreds of them. They’re not all orange, but many of them are fat soluble.
And when I think of these compounds, or even in nature, when guppies or fish or birds are ready to mate, Many times there will be increased vibrancy of the color orange in their plumage or in their scales if they’re a fish, right? So it’s like, there’s something kind of sexy and eye catching [00:31:00] about orange in these warming colors.
And if we take even spinach or a green leaf in nature, many times once that chlorophyll has broken down, what you actually see underneath would be those fat soluble carotenoids. So having orange, I especially like orange. I used to not like orange in terms of wearing it, but then I really got keyed into carotenoids and ovarian health and looking at women’s health.
One of the ahas for me was when I came across a study showing that Within the ovary, there have been identified 14 different carotenoids just localized in the ovary. And that’s another thing that came out of this work on the color code was that colors seem to go to certain parts of the body to have structural or functional roles.
So, in the head of sperm, we tend to find more of these carotenoids, most likely to help with antioxidant. response and to reduce a lot of the oxidative stress that can occur. So anyway, orange is much more about [00:32:00] reproductive health. Yellow is the color I associate it with digestive compounds in food, so things that are catalytic like enzymes like bromelain or pepain or also thinking of lemon bioflavonoids.
I think of ginger and motility and the effects on the gut. I think of prebiotic fibers and things like plantains or bananas. And yellow also has kind of a shadow side, which is that a lot of the processed foods that are carbohydrate based tend to be yellow crackers and cookies and breads and cakes and bagels.
You know, you think ready to eat cereals, you know, that yellow brown spectrum, which in Chinese medicine, you know, we think of the fire element. Many times we think we need those foods to burn bright, to give us energy, but in actuality, they end up burning us out, as you talk a lot about as well. So those are the warming colors.
Then, green, blue, and purple. Green is my favorite color, I gotta say. Green is the color of the heart. Green connects to [00:33:00] leaves and seeds and nature. And green foods tend to contain things like folates, vitamin K1, which I believe is the next vitamin D. Vitamin K is pleiotropic in its effects. And it plays a role in coagulation, and there’s that heart bone connection as well.
Magnesium, chlorophyll, you know, the cruciferous vegetables, which if we think of the glucosinolates, thinking of how they can help to optimize our detoxification process. So green is good. Most people do get green. They get a lot of those vasodilators like the nitrates in green. So many times I don’t worry about green so much in people’s diets.
It’s the blue purple I think about. Which is next. So just to back up to aquamarine and teal, which is one of your color favorites there. I can’t think of any plants. So many times just to fill that color gap, what I mentioned to people is don’t forget sea plants. Don’t forget the blue sea and the green plants that grow within it.
So I use it more metaphorically in [00:34:00] talking about sea plants, which can help with iodine, mineral levels, bringing certain of those agents in, not necessarily. The phytochemicals, although there are some interesting ones that connect to appetite, like fucoidin and different long saccharides that may play a role in appetite.
So the blue purple, many people love the color purple. You know, it’s kind of a precious color. It’s a regal color. You know, if you look in nature, it doesn’t really occur with any great regularity. Sometimes we see more of a seasonal thrust of purple. For example, in the autumn, many times we start to see grapes of different varieties, and grapes are part of that blue purple spectrum.
When I think of blue purple, the color code for that would be the brain. And there is copious research looking at things like blueberries and brain health. In fact, you know, we could just talk for an hour just about the amount of data on taking in blueberries and how that might modify things like learning, memory, and our mood state.
And JJ, what [00:35:00] really, I would say, impressed me or surprised me from the literature is that what you see is that even people with healthy cognition or, you know, cognitive status that’s somewhat normal can even benefit from taking ant foods like blueberries. There was a study some years ago, it was a survey that was out by Nutrilite back in 2009, so it’s somewhat dated, but blue purple was the color that was in shortest supply.
So most people are not getting that color. And I do think about, you know, the health benefits of blue purple, those proanthocyanidins, a lot of those purplish compounds that are in the skin, and most of the beneficial phytochemicals of all those different colors I described. Many times they are in the skin, right?
So the smaller the blueberry, the smaller the grape. If we need to have a little bit of juice, I don’t know how you approach juice, especially with thinking of sugar, but there are some good studies on Concord grape juice, helping with certain aspects [00:36:00] of. Working memory, executive function. So I usually tell people, if you’re going to do some Concord grape juice, you know, small amounts with a meal, blunt that glycemic response.
And my
JJ Virgin: question would be, couldn’t we just eat the grapes instead? Yes. The fiber, we got all the skins.
Dr. Deanna Minich: And the hydrating component of grapes. You know, hydration is a big deal these days and looking at minerals. So having that whole grape will help us on many, many different aspects. People do ask me about white, black, and brown.
You know, isn’t that part of the rainbow? And I would say yes. In fact, I have a rainbow tracker where I do include brown, And I put that on the spectrum with yellow, yellow, tan, beige, and brown. And I think of the more fibrous compounds, I think of cocoa, I think of even coffee. I do put coffee in this bucket.
Coffee is phytochemically replete. And it’s not for everybody. It’s one of those things like, okay, there’s tea that’s brown. There’s coffee that’s brown. There are [00:37:00] beverages that are held by cultures with longevity that can be beneficial, might be due to the phytochemical content, or it just might be due to the ritual of having those drinks and slowing down.
JJ Virgin: And what about the white side?
Dr. Deanna Minich: The white. You know, it’s interesting because I grew up with a mom in the seventies who was kind of this health nut and she used to tell me, the whiter the bread, the quicker you’re dead, which you might like that statement because of like the sugar aspect, right?
JJ Virgin: I was raised on Wonder Bread, Pop Tarts, and Captain Crunch.
So yeah. The sixties versus the kid of the seventies.
Dr. Deanna Minich: It kind of emotionally scarred me not to have that Wonder Bread because Wonder Bread was still trending in the seventies, but my mom was
JJ Virgin: like, have you had some? It’s really. It’s not that good.
Dr. Deanna Minich: I’ll pass. No, I can imagine. I wanted the
JJ Virgin: whole grain bread.
My mom would not get me it. Oh my. I kid you not. No, I said 12 years old. I rebelled against everything and started eating all health foods, saving my allowance to go to the health food store. I drove my [00:38:00] Midwestern casserole cooking mom. Our moms
Dr. Deanna Minich: needed to talk because, you know, even when I went to Girl Scouts, when I went to camp, I had to have my own cooler.
I couldn’t have Kool Aid. Oh, you were that kid. I was that kid and it was emotionally scarring. I got to say, this is where moderation and just going with the fun of it rather than like getting too restrictive. But anyway, with white, so I kind of had to reverse engineer white in my mind. Like, where does white come in healthy ways?
And it does. You know, we think of coconut, cauliflower, sesame seeds, garlic. You know, there are many different things that can be fit into the spectrum of white. And also I think of what’s also very prevalent in nutrition discussions now is fasting. So usually when I talk about these, I take people through a group experience where we actually go through the colors.
Three days per color. This is the whole detox experience. Even my dad went through it, which is really kind of funny because my dad’s not into health and he would wear the colors every day. And when we get to white, [00:39:00] it’s more at the end of the program where we are more into less food and we’re getting into that inner reset and.
Re evaluating what we’re taking in. How does our body feel? Thinking of ourselves as not just physical, but also we have many different aspects to who we are. So what is our relationship overall with nature, with our own nature? So I take them into a different sphere as we get into white. And just to cover off on black, you know, you and I were just both in New York City.
I just always feel like when I go to New York, it’s like. I have to wear black. Why is that?
JJ Virgin: It’s so funny. I go to New York and I purposely do not bring black. I was doing camel and greens. I was like, I am not going to wear black because everyone here will be wearing black. It’s so true. It was just me and Lise Perlmutter.
We were like sisters because we’re just like not wearing black. That’s a great statement. No, I agree.
Dr. Deanna Minich: I actually wore black for a huge chunk of my life. So where do I fit black on the rainbow spectrum? So it belongs in the brain area. So with blue, purple, [00:40:00] and then we take that further where you have foods that are so deeply hued with those phytochemicals that they actually appear black, like blackberries.
Quite honestly, if I had to choose between a blueberry and a blackberry, I’d take the blackberry because you do have a different concentration of phytochemicals. You have more fiber. It’s just a more complex fruit.
JJ Virgin: Think about the blackberry. It’s got lots of little, like, exactly the skin versus the skin of the blueberry.
Dr. Deanna Minich: That’s where the fiber comes from. Exactly. What you’re after with berries is just a skin. And that’s what you get with the blackberry.
JJ Virgin: I remember we were doing a Designs for Health lecture and we were all afterwards at someone’s house and in the kitchen was Ron Rosedale, Dr. Ron Rosedale, Dr. Joe Mercola in the kitchen.
Like, you can’t make this up. Oh, if I’d had a little video camera. Arguing over juice. and Ron Rosedale was like, you take the juice. I want all the stuff that was left in the juicer. That’s all I’m gonna
Dr. Deanna Minich: eat. Yeah. Well, and I think that those paths converging gives you the best though, because the mineral [00:41:00] portion, sometimes that does come through in the juice and different phytochemicals will come out in the liquid, and then you have the matrix, the fibrous part, and you’re gonna have other phytochemicals, so, so eat the whole thing.
So I think that that covers the rainbow and you know, as far as tools, you had asked about that. I think very simply just engaging people with the colors and getting one of those servings a day would be helpful, right? And there are different ways to track that. You had mentioned about your own eating.
One thing that I think is helpful is just to take a picture. So many people can very easily, rather than writing down the foods or even, you know, my trackers, you know, making an X or a check. Many people just take a picture and then count up your colors. And at the end of the day, did you truly get the entire rainbow?
And then look over three days, did you get diversity within that?
JJ Virgin: I love that. Yeah. I’m using a tracker right now. I thought. In preparation for my 60th birthday, I was like, I’m going to train for this. So I did a DEXA. I’ve been tracking and like taking up all my weights, but I also started tracking my macros just cause I was like, [00:42:00] this is really interesting.
And you always hear the research about how we underestimate what we’re eating. And I’m like, you’re right. We do. We underestimate what we’re eating. I was like, holy smokes. So it would be great. And you said you had some kind of a tracker that actually tracked diversity. ’cause once you get used to it, then you’ve got it.
You don’t have to track. You’ve got it right for the rest of your life. But I think tracking anything, tracking your sleep, tracking your blood sugar, all these things are such amazing tools. And then you realize what these things are doing and then you’re good. You don’t have to track these things for the rest of your life.
Dr. Deanna Minich: Yeah. Test, don’t guess. And also once you know, you can’t unknow. And it’s just such good information. And people might have to reevaluate at certain points. As far as their sleep, different things will come in. Hormone changes. You’re heading towards your sixties. I’m going through perimenopause and that’s a whole other
JJ Virgin: experience.
Oh Lord. Wild ride. Here’s what I will tell you. If someone had just told me that we have this one day and all of a sudden you’re postmenopausal, it’s so bizarre to me, but you know, [00:43:00] that ride when everything starts to go sideways until that one day and you’re like bliss. Yeah,
Dr. Deanna Minich: I’m waiting for that day.
JJ Virgin: I just was talking to my buddy, Dr.
Daniel Amen yesterday, and he’s about turned 69 and he goes, you know, I was talking to some athlete and he said, If you look at every single sports endeavor, it always gets good in the fourth quarter. That’s like when the best is. Like, look at the Super Bowl this last year. That was the best last minute. I was like, that’s the greatest.
And then I was listening to an interesting interview with Stephen Kotler this morning, and he was talking about how if you have a positive attitude about aging, You have a seven year higher life expectancy. That is wild. That’s huge. Wow. So just know that you get to the other side and it’s sunshine and butterflies.
It literally is. It really is.
Dr. Deanna Minich: Jeff Bland had mentioned this to me years ago about how every decade represents something, right? So you’re going into your 60s and, you know, that has a [00:44:00] different energy than like the 50s. And I’m sure for you, you know, coming out on the other side, just feeling that transformation.
JJ Virgin: 50s have been absolutely amazing. And I’m just considering them to be a warmup. And I think it’s really up to us to start to shift the conversation. In the United States, because in other countries, it’s not like this, where honestly, I have all of these elders around me who I get the most amazing information from, and I think we just have to honor our elders and then step into being one.
We all get mentored by people ahead of us and we reach back and mentor those coming up. Then everyone’s got purpose and import and it just is fantastic. So that’s where I’m at. I’m very excited about the whole thing. I have one more thing. All right. One more thing to ask you about as I’m working on this next book.
And again, really unpacking and this whole anti nutrient talk is so important for all of this. People will come up to me and they’ll go, I’ve been on the virgin diet for 10 years. I’m like, it was a three week process. [00:45:00] It’s a three week process to swap those foods out and then you go through and you reassess to see which foods work for you and which foods don’t.
And with the whole plan that now you’re really healing your gut, which is causing the problems. And granted, I’m not a big fan of soy or gluten rather, and is it the gluten or the glyphosate? I don’t know. In Europe, I’m totally fine with it. I can eat gluten in Europe, so I have no problems. No problems at all.
In fact, we get to Italy and we’re like, yee haw, you know, don’t gain weight, don’t feel crappy, nothing. But we don’t live in Europe. When I was in Iceland, I couldn’t believe how Oh,
Dr. Deanna Minich: I agree. I love Iceland. Oh my gosh. Right? They eat a lot of fish. I love fish.
JJ Virgin: What about that skir butter yogurt thing? Oh yeah.
Oh my gosh. The skir butter yogurt blend that they put on that. I was like, I have landed in my version of heaven here.
Dr. Deanna Minich: And they even do fish oil shots in the morning. I love that.
JJ Virgin: And we stayed at the Retreat Hotel and it was literally, they had a private part of the Blue Lagoon. [00:46:00] And so we went out and did a massage where we went out there at 930 in the morning.
It was dark. It was snowing. I’m like, how is this going to work? We’re outside on yoga mats in the lagoon with wet towels over us getting massaged for an hour and a half with things over our eyes. They floated us off. We were floating in the blue lagoon and the sun had come up and it’s snowing on us. I go, this is like one of my top 10 life experiences.
And then in the blue lagoon, they had like, you know, their fresh baked whole grain bread with skier butter. And I’m like, I I’m done anyway. That is not the question I want to ask you. The question I want to ask you is. Looking at the virgin diet, really, when I was looking at food sensitivity testing, going, wow, the foods I see show up the most, dairy and eggs were always the top.
And then the second tier were corn, corn, soy, and peanuts. Cause that test didn’t show gluten. And I mean, I looked at hundreds of tests and I was talking to the lab director. He goes, yep, that’s what we see. And it made me question the elimination diet that always seemed kind of hard and clunky. And I was like, I’m not seeing these [00:47:00] foods show up.
Why wouldn’t we just focus on the big noodle movers? That’s what the program was. And then of course I had to add in sugar. Cause first I didn’t, and if you don’t add in pulling out sugar, guess what people ate, that’s all they ate. But as I get ready to reevaluate all of this and really look at soy. And from a very critically open minded place.
I think edamame is a bizarre one to me because there seems to be that there could be for women. I don’t think this is for men and I don’t think it’s for kids, but for women, potentially organic soy that’s been fermented, but you know, I don’t understand the use of edamame and some of these things that are not fermented because of this, and I just would love your take on soy.
Yes, no, maybe, what’s the story?
Dr. Deanna Minich: Maybe. So, I think you kind of said it already. That really is my position. If we look at traditional use of soy. It was done in a way that really brought out the best in soy, which was to ferment it. We’re looking at miso, we’re looking at more of the [00:48:00] fermented, you know, the natto, the things that are fermented overall in nature seem to confer greater benefits.
They even have greater things like GABA. These neuroactive compounds. So what I don’t like about soy is that it has all kinds of problems, right? So it can be genetically modified. It can have higher amounts of certain aspects like pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides. It’s just poor quality. And a lot of the things that come along with it aren’t so great.
I’m not very keen on a lot of the processed soy products, the look alike products, because I feel like they’re just a bunch of ingredients where they’re highly processed foods in disguise. So I don’t see them as healthy products. I see them as, you know, it might be a transition product away from something that Maybe less than that product, but I don’t think it’s like the tippy top.
I think you can get a lot of junk with all of this adulterated, highly processed soy. Oh
JJ Virgin: yeah, whether it’s the keto, the soy, the gluten free, all this stuff you look at. Yeah.
Dr. Deanna Minich: You and I both [00:49:00] come from the dietary supplement industry and we know a lot of the practices around soy and soy extraction and a lot of the chemicals that come along for the ride, hexane extractions, things like that.
So. I’m not a huge fan of the processed soy, but I’m a huge fan of the kind of soy that I get when I go to Taiwan or when I go to Asia where they do it right and it’s within the complex of a mixed diet. Yeah. I think here in the States, people are just overdone soy. They’ve done way too much. They’ve done way too much of the processed soy.
So that’s why it’s a maybe because it just really depends on how we do it.
JJ Virgin: So I guess it’s similar to being able to go to Europe and eat pasta. And it’s funny. I actually lived in Japan when I was in college. I went off to Japan and taught aerobics for half a year. I know the way we had soy when we were there.
I never had a soy hot dog. I didn’t have any soy ice cream. It’s like none of that stuff. It was miso soup and a little bit of tofu in little places, but it was not the main state of the diet.
Dr. Deanna Minich: And here’s the thing I also want your listeners to know is that your gut [00:50:00] microbiome will determine how you use that soy as well.
And there are certain gut microbiome profiles that will lead you into getting better secondary metabolites from soy. In other words, you’re going to metabolize it in ways that are beneficial for the body. And so if you’re constantly taking in the fermented form, that’s actually the better received form of soy for the gut, just to make it simple without getting into all of the science of it.
So, you know, if you have dysbiosis, you have a leaky gut and then you go and eat a lot of processed soy, that’s not a really great combination, right? So you really want to confer a better gut microbiome to have the best result from soy isoflavones.
JJ Virgin: Awesome. Thank you for that. That’s my take. Thank you for all the things.
We’re going to link to your articles. We are going to link to this free ebook that you have. The Rainbow Diet ebook will link to your social and your books. All your stuff. You’ve done so much stuff. You’ve been a very busy gal. Busy.
Dr. Deanna Minich: Yeah. Yeah. It’s good. [00:51:00] And it’s all diverse, you know, diversity, teaching, writing.
That’s right. That’s right. It’s nature’s principle.
JJ Virgin: I’m going to put it at jjvirgin.com/colors because it’s so perfect. For everything that you do. And again, thank you so much for being so generous with your time.
Dr. Deanna Minich: You bet. Thanks for the conversation, JJ. Take care.
JJ Virgin: Be sure to join me next time for more tools, tips, and techniques you can incorporate into everyday life to ensure you look and feel great.
And more importantly, that you’re built to last and check me out on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube. And my website, jjvirgin.com and make sure to follow my podcast so you don’t miss a single episode at subscribetojj.com. See you next time.

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