One of the Movement’s Main Debunkers of Nutrition Myths

The Jewish Veg Spotlight Shines On ...

Janice Stanger, Ph.D. 

Jewish Veg: What is the most pervasive myth in nutrition?

Janice: The myth is, if a little is good, more is better. It leads people to eat too much of certain foods. What you want to do is achieve balance. You don’t want too much of something any more than you want too little.

Jewish Veg: What’s an example of a nutrient that many people overconsume?

Janice: The nutrient that is the most overhyped is protein. Protein is an abundant nutrient. It’s abundant in all whole plant foods. However, too much animal protein can be damaging to the liver and the kidneys. People eat way more protein than they need. You can’t store these amino acids so your liver and kidneys have to break them down into what the body can use, which is glucose and fat. The liver can become damaged from having to break down all these amino acids into glucose and fat. And chronic kidney disease has become epidemic in older Americans. We’re seeing a huge increase in the number of Americans on dialysis.

Jewish Veg: What about calcium?

Janice: Calcium is also one of the most overhyped nutrients, largely because of the clout of the dairy industry. The myth is that osteoporosis is basically a calcium deficiency, and consuming lots of dairy products and calcium supplements will keep bones strong. Calcium is not what makes your bones strong. It’s not what prevents osteoporosis. Bones are made of protein, not calcium.

What calcium is important for is metabolism. Your bones are reservoirs to bring calcium into your bloodstream. You don’t need dairy products either for sufficient calcium. Cows cannot make calcium any more than they can make gold. Both calcium and gold are minerals that come from the earth. While gold is rare, calcium is common and absolutely necessary for the health of plants. Cows get the calcium in their milk and bones when they eat plants, and you can get your calcium in exactly the same way.

If you want strong bones, the most important thing is weight-bearing exercise. When you exercise your bones will be stimulated to build themselves. If you sit on the couch, your bones will become more porous over time.

Jewish Veg: OK, we’ve covered protein and calcium. It seems like the other thing we always hear about is Omega-3.

Janice: Yes, fish and fish oil hype is everywhere, news stories, ads, doctors’ offices. The Omega-3 fats in dead fish are touted as the magic bullet for just about any health concern, from cardiovascular disease to poor memory. There’s only one problem with these claims – they are not true.

Most people think they need more Omega-3s than they do. You only need a minuscule amount of Omega-3s and you can get them from plant foods. Consuming too many Omega-3s is really not a good idea. Omega 3 is a kind of fat and everyone knows that fat becomes rancid. Long-chain omegas-3s, the kind you find in fish, are the kind that become rancid very quickly. They become attacked by oxygen inside your body and then they form free radicals, which causes damages to your cells.

Jewish Veg: We’d be remiss if we didn’t address soy. It seems to us that soy needs its own advocacy organization.

Janice: Studies of real people in the real world show that soy is actually a very healthy food. Girls who eat soy seem to be enjoy protection against breast cancer later in life. There is zero evidence that whole soy foods – by that I mean edamame, tofu, tempeh and soy milks -- have adverse effects on health whatsoever.

Jewish Veg: But what about the phytoestrogens in soy?

Janice: The phytoestrogens in plants are relatively weak. In comparison, milk from animals is full of estrogen. If people want to stay away from estrogen, they should avoid dairy.

Jewish Veg: Rest assured, we’re avoiding dairy, for that and other reasons. Thanks so much Janice.

For much more information about these issues and other nutrition topics, visit Janice’s Website at

Read past Jewish Veg Spotlights here.






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