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Optimum Nutrition

By Michael Greger M.D.
January 5, 2012
File under: Greens, Healthy Eating, Supplements, Vegan

In my videos, Golden glow and Produce, not pills to increase physical attractiveness, I review new research suggesting that consuming dark green leafy vegetables will improve healthy appearance of Caucasians,* because of the deposit of carotenoids in the skin.

Taking those same phytonutrients in pill form, however doesn’t work. We should strive to get most of our nutrients from plants, not pills. The balance of scientific evidence suggests that the healthiest way to eat is a vitamin B12-fortified diet of whole plant foods.

For optimum nutrition, we should be sure to include in our daily diet not only an array of whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fruit, and as many vegetables as we can eat, but also specifically dark green leafy vegetables, berries, and white (or green) tea.

Attention should also be paid to these nutrients:

Vitamin B12

  • At least 2,500 mcg (µg) cyanocobalamin once each week, ideally as a chewable, sublingual, or liquid supplement or
  • At least 250 mcg daily of supplemental cyanocobalamin (you needn’t worry about taking too much) or
  • Servings of B12-fortified foods three times a day, each containing at least 25 percent U.S. Daily Value on its label

Tip: If experiencing deficiency symptoms, the best test is a urine MMA level (not serum B12 level)

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

  • 250 to 500 mg daily of yeast- or algae-derived DHA and/or EPA

Vitamin D (daily recommendations for the Northern Hemisphere)

Below about 30°latitude: south of Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta, Cairo

  • 15 to 30 minutes midday sun: 15 lighter skin – 30 darker skin
  • or 2,000 IU supplemental vitamin D

Between 30° latitude (as above) and 40° latitude: Portland, Chicago, Boston, Rome, Beijing

February through November

  • 15-30 minutes midday sun: 15 lighter skin – 30 darker skin
  • or 2,000 IU supplemental vitamin D

December through January

  • 2,000 IU supplemental vitamin D

Between 40° latitude (sample cities above) and 50°latitude: Edmonton, London, Berlin, Moscow

March through October

  • 15 to 30 minutes midday sun: 15 lighter skin – 30 darker skin
  • or 2,000 IU supplemental vitamin D

November through February

  • 2,000 IU supplemental vitamin D

Above approximately 50°latitude: north of Edmonton, London, Berlin, Moscow

April through September
(Shorter period above 60°latitude: Anchorage, Stockholm)

  • 15 to 30 minutes of midday sun 15 lighter skin – 30 darker skin
  • or 2,000 IU supplemental vitamin D

October through March
(Longer period above 60°latitude (Anchorage, Stockholm)

  • 2,000 IU supplemental vitamin D


  • At least 600 mg daily via calcium-rich plant foods—preferably low-oxalate dark green leafy vegetables, which includes all greens except spinach, chard, and beet greens (all very healthy foods, but not good calcium sources due to their oxalate content).


  • For those who don’t eat seaweed or use iodized salt, a 150 mcg daily supplement
  • The sea vegetable hijiki (hiziki) should not be eaten due to high arsenic levels
  • Kelp should be avoided as it tends to have too much iodine


  • All menstruating women should increase their absorption by combining foods rich in iron and vitamin C at meals and should get checked for iron-deficiency anemia every few years
  • Men should be checked for an iron overload disease before any attempt to increase intake


  • Northern Europeans may need to take a supplement or eat a daily Brazil nut

* Due to pervasive under-representation of traditionally marginalized groups in clinical research, comparable science across the skin color spectrum is not yet available.

Michael Greger, M.D., an author and internationally recognized speaker on healthy eating, has produced hundreds of nutrition videos available at Follow Dr. Greger on Twitter

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