Rhonda Patrick talked recently on the Tim Ferriss podcast about her diet. She described a number of her main meals:
- Scrambled egg topped with tomatillo salsa (for flavour)
- Satueed Kale + Garlic topped with olive oil, salt and mustard powder
- Avocado oil, for cooking the eggs and kale in
- Nut & Berry Cereal – including walnut, pecan and macademia nuts + blueberries
- Hydrolyzed collagen powder – from
- Coconut milk
- Occasionally she adds almond butter, yogurt or VSL #3
Lunch #1 – Smoothie:
- 8 large kale leaves
- 4-6 rainbow chard leaves with stems
- 3 cups (~710 ml) of baby spinach
- 2 medium to large carrots
- 1 tomato
- 1 large avocado
- 1 banana
- 1 apple
- 1 cup (~710ml) of blueberries (fresh or frozen)
- 1 tall shot glass of flaxseed (optional)
- 3 cups (~710 ml) of unsweetened flax milk
N.B. Rhonda drinks about 1/2 of the above in a single serving.
- Kale (8 leaves)
- Chard (two rainbow chard leaves and stems)
- Spinach (2 cups)
- Celery (2)
- Parsley (8 pieces)
- Carrot (1 large)
- Tomato (1)
- Apple (1)
- Lemon (1)
- Frozen organic blueberries (1-2 cups)
- Avocado (1)
- Hydrolyzed collagen powder (1/4 cup)
- Water (2 cups of water)
- Avocado topped with lemon juice and Wild Alaskan Salmon Roe
- Side of sauerkraut
- Cooked vegetables, including sautéed spinach
- For protein, often baked wild alaskan salad or occasionally grass-fed fillet steak
- Large salad full of greens
- Again, for protein, often baked wild alaskan salad or occasionally grass-fed fillet steak
- Chicken bone soup, with vegetables and spices
Rhonda’s Motivations for Diet Choices
Breakfast #1 – Scrambled Eggs with Kale & Garlic + 1/2 Grapefruit
She eats these for the choline they provide. Choline can be converted by the body into acetylcholine, which is an essential neurotransmitter.
Sauteed Kale & Garlic
One reason Rhonda chooses Kale is due to its high concentration of lutein and zeaxanthin. These cartenoids help protect the eyes from damaging blue light. They also beneficial to the brain, improving neural processing and neural efficiency.
Rhonda primarily eats her eggs with tomatillo salsa to make them less boring (lol). It’s also high in tomatidine, which has been shown to boost muscle mass in mice by reducing the activity of a gene called ATF4, known for inhibiting muscle protein synthesis.
The grapefruit provides ferulic acid, a molecule that inhibits the proinflammatory cytokine TNF-alpha and E2 series prostaglandins (which can also be inflammatory). Ferulic acid has also been shown to be anti-carcinogenic. The grapefruit is also a source of naringenin has a variety of potential benefits.
Rhonda stays away from cooking oils that are high in polyunsaturated fat, because it is easily oxydized, and consuming oxydized fat is very harmful. Avocado oil is high in monounsaturated, and low in polyunsaturated fat. It has a very high smoke point, meaning that it withstand some heat.
She adds mustard powder the kale and other cruciferous vegetables she cooks. This helps convert the glucosinolate in the plants, into isothiocynates. This compound (isothiocynates) has benefits in humans, but interestingly, is toxic to bugs and insects. The plants use it to help prevent being eaten.
Breakfast #2 – Nut & Berry Cereal
Another breakfast Rhonda has is a nut and berry cereal. For the base she combines chopped nuts and a mix of berries with some coconut milk. In addition to the base, she may add hydrolysed collagen powder, flaxseed, raw cacao nibs, almond butter and occasionally VSL#3 (her probiotic supplement of choice).
The cereal contains a wide array of chopped nuts including walnuts, pecan and macadamia nuts.
This provides magnesium, calcium, zinc and omega-3 fatty ALA (although not a substitute for marine omega-3s).
Amongst the berries Rhonda adds are blueberries. These are rich in Pterostilbene which is similar to Resveratrol but is 4x more bioavailable. In mice it has been shown to improve brain function, prevent heart disease, and to ward off some types of cancer. They are also rich in anthocyanins, a molecule that has been shown to lower DNA damage. DNA damage has been shown to cause cancer and lead to depletion of stem cell pools + it also plays a role in the aging process.
Rhonda also adds some pomegranate into the cereal. One of the compounds in pomegranate is transformed by gut microbes into a molecule called urolithin A, which causes mitophagy a process important for the renewal of mitochondria. Urolithin A has shown some impressive things in research on other organisms, including improving muscle function and endurance by up to 42% in mice and increasing lifespan by more than 45% in worms.
Hydrolyzed collagen powder
Rhonda eats hydrolyzed collagen for the proline which accelerates wound healing and for glycine which is an important inhibitory neurotransmitter. Great Lakes collagen powder is her brand of choice.
Coconut milk is rich in medium chain triglycerides. She doesn’t consume dairy milk because it contains salivary protein which binds to Anthocyanin and polyphenols, limiting their bioavailability.
These provide extra alpha lipoic acid and fibre.
Raw Cacao Nibs
These have a number of polyphenols including EGCG which activate many antioxidant genes and has been shown to kill cancer cells.
To add some flavour and protein
Rhonda adds VSL#3 to replenish her gut microbiome. She opts for the sachet option (as opposed to pills), which contain 450 billion active probiotic cells per serving.
Lunch #1 – Smoothies
Rhonda rotates between a variety of smoothie recipes (example ingredients listed above). The base to most of her smoothies are kale, chard, spinach and avocado. For smoothie #1 listed above, you can check this youtube video and for smoothie #2 above, this youtube video.
Lunch #2 – Avocado with salmon roe and sauerkraut
Avocados are high in potassium and provide all of the various forms of vitamin E (both tocopherols and tocotrienols). Which is good, because if you supplement vitamin E you only get one form of it. They are also a great source of monounsaturated fat.
Salmon roe caviar is a staple of Rhonda’s diet. She particularly likes it because the omega-3 fats are in phospholipid form which has greater bioavailability to be transported into the brain via the mfsd2a transporter. This is the form that is best taken up by the brain (including the developing fetal brain). It also has a good amount of astaxanthin which protects the omega-3’s from oxidation and does the same for neurons. Studies looking at DHA and EPA levels in red blood cells have shown a correlation between higher omega-3 status and having a to 2 cm larger brain volume. So getting omega-3 into and keeping it in the brain is definitely a brain aging priority for Rhonda.
If you’re curious how Rhonda affords to make something like salmon roe a staple of the diet – in part its due to her buying in bulk. Rhonda buys from a supplier called Vital Choice who supply in bulk (source: Rhonda talking salmon roe on Instagram).
Sauerkraut is a good source of fermentable fiber aka prebiotics that is fuel for the commensal gut bacteria so that they can produce compounds (such as short chain fatty acids) that feed more commensal bacteria and feed gut epithelial cells which are required to make the gut barrier. These compounds produced by the gut bacteria serve as signaling molecules to make specific types of immune cells, an important indirect role that fiber also has in the diet that helps it influence immune activities. The sauerkraut itself contains various probiotics (mostly the lactobacillus strains) which are beneficial lactic acid producing bacteria which have recently been suggested to possibly play a role in cancer prevention.
Dinner #1 – Cooked Vegetables & Baked Wild Alaskan Salmon
Rhonda likes a range of cooked vegetables, with a particular focus on the cruciferous family, such as:
- Collard greens
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
Cruciferous vegetables contain isothiocyanates, and so because of this, she typically eats them with mustard powder sprinkled on top to increase the amount of myrocinase available. Associative studies have shown that the top 20% of consumers of cruciferous vegetable have a 22% reduction in all-cause mortality. For more info on why adding myrocinase to isothiocynates is useful, see this post on sulforaphane – which is a super useful compound which activates the NRF-2 pathway, responsible for regulating around 200 different genes.
Folate in Green Vegetables
Cooked vegetables like sauteed spinach are very high in folate. Folate provides a precursor that makes a DNA nucleotide called thymine. Every time you repair a damaged cell or make a new cell in your liver, muscle, brain etc., you need to make new DNA which means you need folate. Folate was also very recently shown to increase the growth of stem cells, which is important because stem cell pools deplete with age and are a major cause of organ aging and dysfunction. Folate has recently been shown to play a role in protecting telomeres, the tiny caps on the ends of chromosomes that are a biomarker for age because they get shorter every year.
A recent study showed that mothers with highest folate levels had newborns with telomeres 10% longer and every 10 ng/ml increase in serum folate levels, newborns had a 5.8% increase in telomere length which actually suggests that maternal nutrition may actually play a role in determining the length of telomeres that we have to start with.
Wild Alaskan Salmon
Rhonda eats salmon 2-3 times per week, which is what the American Heart Association recommends. They recommend that adults consume 500 mg/d of EPA and DHA (~2-3 servings of fatty fish per wk or ~8 oz of fish/wk). However, the mean intake in Western society is ~135 mg/d and about ~2 servings of fish per month.
EPA is a powerful anti-inflammatory fatty acid that has been shown to lower brain inflammation. DHA is a critical component of all cell membranes that makes up 30% of the fatty acids in the brain, or about 8% of the total weight. Omega-3 fatty acids have recently been shown to positively change gene expression in several brain regions and also generally shown to stave off brain aging. But also important is just not dying. People with the highest omega-3 fatty acid intake have been associated with having a 9% reduced risk of all-cause mortality. For each 1% increment of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood there was associated a 20% decrease in risk of all-cause mortality.
Dinner #2 – Large Salad & Grass Fed Filet Steak
When Rhonda isn’t eating cooked vegetables with her dinner, she’s having a large salad full of greens. These provide her with a range of micronutrients including folate, magnesium, calcium, vitamin K1, lutein, zeaxanthin and sulfoquinovose, a prebiotic that feeds beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Rhonda eats a grass-fed filet steak a few times per month which is a good source of vitamin b12, iron, and zinc. ~16% of all menstruating women are actually iron deficient. For vegetarians it has been recommended to take in about twice the RDA for iron, since iron which is bound to phytate in plant sources is ~2-times less bioavailable
Dinner #3 – Chicken Bone Soup with Vegetables & Spices
Another protein Rhonda rotates for dinner is chicken legs from pasture-raised chicken. In addition to the protein they also provide some cartilage which is high in collagen, proline and glycine.
Occasionally Rhonda takes the chicken bones, and throws them in some water with some spices and vegetables to make a chicken bone soup. This provides all the same benefits as the hydrolyzed collagen powder. Chicken is also very high in selenium which is a cofactor needed for all glutathione-related enzymes to work and also has a modest amount of zinc, copper, and iron.