Jonny Bowden, PhD

Do You Really Need To Eat Organic Food?

Someone just asked this question in the PEERtrainer community:

"I'm considering signing up for the PNR program. It sounds great. I'm wondering though if it is realistically possible to commit to the program without fully getting on board with the organic everything component. I like the idea of going completely organic, but it is not something I can commit to fully right now.

When faced with the choice, I'd prefer to buy locally-produced foods that aren't organic, than buy organic produce that is transported from growers far away from my home. Also, I'm super crunched for time and do my grocery shopping at night after putting my kids to sleep. I can't shop at farmers markets and specialty foods stores on a regular basis because their limited shopping hours don't correspond with when I can go shopping. I do my best with what's available at the grocery stores in my area - but that doesn't include bison or organic chicken or beef because they often aren't available.

Can I still benefit from the PNR program and Cheat System?"

The answer to this question is yes you can benefit and most importantly, there is not an "organic everything" component to the program.

But there are some incentives built into the Cheat System to guide you to certain organic foods when possible. And we wanted to share some of our thinking and experience on this issue with you.

The first thing to note is that this, like many food issues, is the subject of vigorous debate. Dr. Fuhrman for example, does not think that organic food is necessary. From his perspective, when you give your body enough greens and nutrient dense foods, your body has the ability to detoxify itself. That includes the ability to get rid of whatever extra pesticides you ingest from non-organic foods.

Other people we have met vigorously disagree with this point of view. We have a colleague in common with Dr. Fuhrman, a gentleman who founded a very large health insurance company. This person strongly believes in eating organic food. He even has built a very large organic garden at his country house just outside of New York City, and he worked for years to get it "certified organic."

From his perspective, organic foods are a critical piece of the health puzzle. This is someone who spent years looking at actuarial tables trying to figure out the levers that could be pulled to make people healthier..and his company more profitable! (He views PEERtrainer as one of those levers, and this is why you see us have a health focus as opposed to simply focusing on weight loss. Our whole concept of "Point Of No Return" is part of our effort to help get people to long term equilibrium.)

At PEERtrainer, we are always very aware of these kinds of debates, and especially aware of the fact that this stuff confuses people to no end.

In this area we have developed a view that incorporates both these points of view. If you do go "full Fuhrman" then you probably will do fine without organic food. The thing is, very few people end up doing his approach 100%. One of the reasons we developed the Cheat System, was that we saw a need for people to have an approach that was more nutrient focused than conventional diets. But we also saw that people had a really hard time with the very aggressive approaches, unless they had some serious health problems.

(And if you are in a serious situation, Fuhrman's online member center is an unreal resource for a variety of reasons. Highly recommended.)

The high nutrient focus of the Cheat System is likely to help your body be cleaner than it otherwise would. But it also makes sense to avoid as much "junk" as possible. There is no escaping the fact that since the advent of modern chemistry there are now all sorts of "creative substances" that we breathe in, drink, ingest and absorb. We have even altered foods that were perfectly fine (like wheat and corn) that have now become toxic to many. 

A more toxic environment is the simple reality of things. And some toxins pack more of a punch than others. Pesticides are something can have particularly nasty side effects, especially for people who are not at the weight they want to be or whose energy is not where it needs to be.

From our perspective, we would agree heartily with the person who asked the question above. It makes sense to eat organic, but the practicality is the big issue. What we have decided to do at PEERtrainer is to identify some of the areas that it makes sense to focus on. Meat and berries are two areas in particular that we address in the Cheat System.

Jonny Bowden is someone that we think has a very practical approach to this issue. He has a PhD in nutrition, and has extensively researched most issues surrounding food. We asked him to summarize his views on the question "Do You Really Need To Eat Organic Food?"

Here is what he said:

"The research on organic food vs "conventional" food is all over the map, with some studies saying the nutritional content is the same, others saying its higher in organic food. What makes it even harder to figure out is that there are powerful interests on both sides that fudge the evidence, fund studies to support their point of view, and cherry pick what evidence there is to make their case.

What does seem really clear is that nutritional composition aside, the real advantage of organic food is what it doesn't have- heavy loads of pesticides and chemicals. But the truth is organic is expensive. So I'm of the opinion that you choose your battles.

Anything that's on the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list of most contaminated fruits and vegetables I'd buy organic, including for example strawberries and blueberries. I'm not as concerned about fruits that have huge thick skins like bananas and melons and pineapples.

I'd also buy organic coffee since coffee is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world. Finally, it's important to make a distinction between grass-fed meat and organic meat. "Organic" meat just means the factory farmed cows were fed organic grain-- a step up from sprayed grain, true- but the point is that cows aren't meant to eat grain.  

Grass-fed cows eat their normal, omega-3 rich diet of pasture/ grass. While many grass-fed farms are also organic, some don't quite meet the government standards for organic, but I'd still go with grass-fed over anything else. Nearly all grass-fed farmers are very conscientious and use only as little chemicals as possible if they use any at all."


We hope this reasoning and approach makes sense. You don't need to feel restricted or paranoid or any of that. Just know that there are certain choices and distinctions you can make. We think that a little less meat for the money is probably a good thing. You will get increased nutrients, decreased chemicals. Maybe shift a few of the calories over to the left side of things. Which is going to help get your body in balance faster.

We know that we throw a lot at you at PEERtrainer. Our view is that if you give yourself enough time, you'll be able to make some amazing changes. And if you haven't yet, please download a copy of the Cheat System and also definitely do the Point Of No Return Program if you have not yet. It is a special journey, that gives you a unique view on things.

And please keep the questions coming!


Review: The 150 Healthiest Foods On Earth by Jonny Bowden, PhD

At PEERtrainer we recommend that you build a "health bookshelf" over time. The reason is that if you are at all engaged in improving your diet and health over time, you will have questions. We advise that you learn to draw as many of your own conclusions as you can.

The reason for this suggestion is that there is a lot of conflicting advice out there. From our perspective, many "experts" have a great deal of helpful information about their core area of expertise, but are often closed to the ideas of others. They often cling closely to the "rightness" of their position and simply lose perspective.

Jonny Bowden, who holds a PhD in nutrition, is one of those experts who does not fall into this category. We keep writing about him, because we keep using his books as references. If you see something that interests you that is written by him, from our perspective it will be a good fit for your library.

The 150 Healthiest Foods On Earth is one book that we refer to often. At the most basic level, it is helpful to have a guide of all the "healthy" stuff in one place. If you spend any time going through the book, you are going to get some great ideas that may trigger you to act.

We are big believers in the concept of "what you focus on is what you will get." This book is well designed, easy to read, with plenty of pictures. You are not going to get tired reading it.

Incorporates The Input Of Other Experts

Bowden does a great job of including the input of a wide variety of other nutritional experts in his book. This is also a remarkable trait of his, because so many "experts" out there are very isolated and insular and think their view is the only relevant one.

For example, on his entry on Pineapple, Bowden cites Dr. Andrew Weil when he states that the fruit "is effective in treating bruises, sprains, and strains by reducing swelling, tenderness and pain."

Shows You The Specific Health Benefits Of Certain Foods

Our favorite is his entry on Arugula, where Bowden reminds us that ancient Egyptians and Romans considered Arugula to be an aphrodisiac. Based on clinical trials conducted at PEERtrainer headquarters, we have concluded that they might be on to something.

He also does a very good job of revealing lesser known nutrition facts of certain foods. For example, Shrimp are high in Vitamin D and Selenium. But they are also loaded with a substance called "astaxanthin" which is a powerful antioxidant. It is a red-orange pigment related to beta-carotene and lutein, but is more powerful in many ways.

It is important to note that researchers are just starting to crack the puzzle of what is in certain foods to promote health. Books like this one help you get a grasp on what is currently known.




An Awesome Healthy Eating Guide For Pregnancy

At PEERtrainer, over the years we have built a pretty big library of health, nutrition, and fitness books sent to us by authors and publicists. We have also purchased many on our own. 

If we like a book, we will promote it and if we don't like it we don't. Sometimes we don't get to all the books. One that we just started to look at but have had it for a while is Jonny Bowden's "The 100 Healthiest Foods To Eat During Pregnancy."

Every time we go back to one of his books to look something up, our appreciation of his work and his approach deepens. There are a lot of people out there who publish "healthy eating" books. 

What makes Jonny Bowden's books so special is that they are so easy to read, written with a sense of humor and designed incredibly well. You don't have to dig through anything with his books. Basically anything he has written will do well on your own healthy living bookshelf.

We don't often say this, but we strongly recommend that you a) develop your own "healthy living" library and b) include Jonny Bowden's books in it.

What Makes This Book Great

We spend a lot of time looking at research that backs up some of the claims made among people who promote preventive health through nutrition and supplements. It is a confusing but very interesting area to focus on. The most important thing that we look for is where consensus emerges.

As we went through the book, we found lots of suggestions that we have either seen made elsewhere, backed up by some good new research, or that simply made a lot of sense and anyone who is pregnant would benefit.

There are also some unusual observations that are likely to make women take action that will be health promoting. For example, on page 163, Bowden makes the suggestion that pregnant women drink peppermint tea or chew fresh peppermint.

This is a suggestion that we have been planning to make, and have discovered some very interesting research on peppermint and inflammation. The bottom line is that peppermint is awesome for you, and it is very easy to access. Every single Starbucks in the country sells "Tazo Refresh Tea" which has peppermint in it. Strongly suggest you check that out next time you are in Starbucks. (Even if you are a green tea drinker, you want to mix in some peppermint tea from time to time.)

Peppermint has lots of "good stuff" in it. Bowden (who holds a PhD in nutrition) points out that Peppermint contains the B Vitamin Niacin, which is helpful in repairing skin. This is the kind of advice that is highly likely to get women to take action on. 

Breaking Out The Food Suggestions By Trimester

In addition to some health suggestions, Bowden also outlines foods that will help deal with the symptoms of pregnancy. Men and women alike are aware of the pretty significant discomfort that occurs. There are tips in the book designed to help heartburn, bladder irritation, sleep, energy as well as some solid advice on supplements.


There is also helpful advice in helping quantify the amounts of helpful nutrients in different foods. For example, Bowden points out that spinach contains seven times the amount of folate than iceberg lettuce.

Naturally occurring folate has been shown to be critical in the development of the baby, and these simple suggestions can help make some real adjustments. For example, if a pregnant woman is at a salad bar and sees iceberg lettuce and spinach, after reading this book the odds of making the choice for the higher folate option are pretty high.

The book is full of suggestions like the two we outlined here. It is likely to be helpful.

The book is paperback and you can buy either a new or used copy on Amazon. The used books are usually a very good deal. You can build your library cheaply!


Related Link:  PEERtrainer's New Healthy Eating Guide For Energy and Weight Loss. It is designed to help implement many of the ideas we present to you. People have asked us for years for a very basic guide or plan to help keep them on track. You'll see a strong correlation between the suggestions we present in what we call the "Cheat System" and many of the books and ideas we present to you.


4 Supplements That Most Health Experts Insist Will Boost Your Energy

We came to a very interesting realization recently.

Running PEERtrainer, we are constantly studying different views on nutrition and exercise. What is interesting to us, and probably very frustrating to others, is that there is so much debate and intense disagreement on what foods to eat and what the best way to exercise is.

For example, the current top health bestseller is a book called "The 4-Hour Body" by Tim Ferriss. It is a big book, over 500 pages and we are about 1/3 of the way through it. There are some very interesting (and even brilliant) new ideas in the book, some things that we think are downright stupid based on our experience with PEERtrainer, and some things that we would classify as "interesting and controversial."

One suggestion he makes in his section on weight loss is "Don't Eat Fruit." It is one of only 5 rules that he insists will lead to losing more weight. He asserts that fructose is converted to fat more efficiently than almost any other carbohydrate. What is funny is that this book was published at the same time that Weight Watchers released their new Points Plus System.

A striking new feature is that Weight Watchers now allows people to eat unlimited amounts of fruit.

Pretty hard to reconcile these two views, no?

This is a classic example of the conflicting advice that drives people nuts. (Our own view on fruit is that the truth is somewhere in the middle, and we will be coming out with something in a few days that addresses this specific issue..)

However, we have found almost an opposite phenomenon when it comes to supplements and natural health. This is an issue that we have started to dig into more and more, based largely on our own personal experience. We are in active learning mode here. Our cupboard and fridge right now is packed with small jars.

One interesting thing we are finding is that almost all the "gurus" in this space are largely in agreement, on pretty much everything. We participated in a "product launch" last month for Dr. Stengler. In that process we set out to verify what he was saying.

What we found is a group of very educated and passionate people who have been doing this most of their lives. If you look at their books, they are all saying very similar things. One of our absolute favorite guys is Jonny Bowden. He has written a ton of books and is very detailed. Most importantly he employs easy to understand metaphors to help communicate the value of each of these supplements.

We are focusing on energy here, because this is the #1 single most important issue facing members of the PEERtrainer community, based on recent surveys we have done.

The 4 Supplements That Will Boost Your Energy:

1. Coenzyme Q10 

According to Jonny Bowden, this "might be the most important nutrient you have never heard of." The science of why this is important is pretty complicated. But the basic idea here is that your body uses enzymes for metabolic processes including the conversion of food into nutrients, and the creation of energy in cells.

A coenzyme is something that boosts the action of an enzyme. Bowden's analogy is that this is "much like a spark plug is to a piston" and that CoQ10 is the "MacDaddy" of coenzymes.

Why should one take CoQ10 in supplement form?

The basic reason that Bowden and others suggest taking CoQ10 is that while the body does make this on its own, the production decreases as one ages. Additionally, successful internal production requires an extremely robust amount of vitamins, minerals and trace elements. Likely if you are not eating like Dr. Fuhrman, these amounts will be low in most people.

Further, it is tough to get additional CoQ10 from food because optimal amounts are largely found in organ meats such as liver, heart and kidney. Not something most of us eat a lot of!

For more information on CoQ10 refer to pages 123-126 of "The 150 Most Effective Ways To Boost Your Energy."

Which Brand CoQ10 do we recommend?

We really have no preference. We did a search on both popularity and high ratings on and this brand came up #1 both times. It also appears to be a relatively inexpensive supplement.

2. D-Ribose

This is another supplement that we see recommended across the board. We have seen it used to help treat people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Most interestingly we also see this used by performance athletes to help with muscle recovery.

We walked into our local Whole Foods where we live in Boulder, Co. This is an interesting town because it is home to many of the top performance athletes in the world. Cyclists, runners, Iron people live here because they can train year round, at a high altitude.

We asked the person at Whole Foods about D-Ribose, and they said that yes, it is very popular among athletes. Specifically, we were told that cyclists mix it with their water that they drink during their rides. We have started to take this daily, and have this brand in our house now, which is the one they sell at Whole Foods.

The science behind why D-Ribose works to boost energy is complex and evolving. But the bottom line is that if your body is under stress or you are experiencing fatigue, D-Ribose can probably help as part of an overall plan to boost your energy.


EGCG is an acronym of a compound found in green tea, that has been isolated and tested extensively. At PEERtrainer we have long recommended swapping coffee for green tea. Green Tea is something that we all know or have heard "is good for us."

But the details of how and why are interesting. According to Bowden, "EGCG sparks a process in the body known as thermogenesis, or heat production. You may know the process of thermogenesis by its more common term, "fat burning."

Additionally, "traditional Chinese medicine has long recommended green tea for all sorts of ailments..including headaches, body aches and pains, digestion, depression, immune enhancement, detoxification and as an energizer!"

If you are like most people, your Green Tea consumption ebbs and flows. We find that a very flavorful green tea is helpful to get back in the habit. One of our favorites so far is Mighty Leaf Organic Hojicha Green Tea.

4. L-carnitine

This is one that we need to do some more work with, yet we see it on literally every list of things to help boost your energy.

Jonny Bowden explains that L-carnitine is like the shuttle bus that transports you from a parking lot to an attraction. "Except, instead of taking guests to a party, it takes fatty acids into the part of the cell where they can be burned for energy. Carnitine is literally the transport mechanism by which fat gets escorted into little energy factories inside the cell....where all the fat burning and energy production takes place."

L-Carnitine, in addition to D-Ribose and CoQ10 are all considered tremendous supplements for heart health. A quick search on Amazon shows that this brand is the top seller. 

You can read more about L-Carnitine on pages 126-128 of "The 150 Most Effective Ways To Boost Your Energy." (Which you can get used on Amazon for about $5!)


We have heard from many of you that you appreciate that we are digging into this subject. Your feedback is critical for the content that we create. We are curious what questions you have, and most importantly what your experience in this area has been. What has helped you, what do you take on a regular basis? What brands have you developed an appreciation for?

Please feel free to reply to any of the emails we send out (we read every one of them!) Even better, please post a comment or question on the PEERtrainer Facebook Wall.




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