Before we dig into the specifics of Dr Rhonda Patrick’s diet, let’s look at her core diet strategies:
- Time Restricted Feeding – Rhonda aims to fit her meals into a 10 hour eating window – such that she fasts for 14 hours per day (based on promising research by Dr Satchin Panda)
- Cutting out refined sugars & grains – Rhonda avoids grains and simple carbohydrates; foods like bread, rice, pasta, chips, cake, cookies etc. Resulting in her diet being almost entirely vegetables, fruit, meat & fish. One caveat is that she does consume oats (for their beta glucan content) and quinoa up to a couple of times per week.
- Micronutrient rich smoothies – Rhonda uses these as a core method of increasing her raw vegetable intake, enriching her diet with micronutrients and pre-biotic fibre.
- Sulforaphane – Rhonda consumes sulforaphane containing broccoli sprouts multiple times per week in her smoothies – sulforaphane has a whole host of health benefits which we discuss more below.
- Nutrigenomics – Rhonda integrates data about her DNA into her diet decisions. For example, certain DNA mutations mean that some people need to supplement additional folate, others need to reduce saturated fat & replace with polyunsaturated, etc. In the section below we will discuss examples of how this data could affect your diet choices + how to get this data for yourself & take action on it.
In addition to the above core diet strategies, Rhonda orchestrates her meals such that she hits the key vitamins and minerals she needs for optimal health. Below we’ll look in greater detail at her core diet strategies, and then dig into the specifics of her breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- 1 1. Time Restricted Feeding Overview
- 2 2. Cutting Out Refined Sugars & Refined Carbohydrates
- 3 3. Micronutrient Rich Smoothies
- 4 4. Sulforaphane
- 5 5. Nutrigenomics
- 6 Rhonda’s Typical Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
- 6.1 Breakfast
- 6.2 Lunch
- 6.3 Dinner
- 7 Supplements
- 8 Closing Words
1. Time Restricted Feeding Overview
You might have heard of intermittent fasting? Time restricted feeding is the same idea, but is the scientific term used by Satchin Panda and his team at the Salk Institute – from whom Rhonda draws her research. Their studies have uncovered huge health benefits using time restricted feeding in animals, and they’re currently researching further to understand which of these benefits apply equally to humans. Satchin’s recently released book – The Circadian Code covers the subject in depth.
Time Restricted Feeding Benefits in Mice
A key study from 2012 (source) looked at feeding a high fat diet to two groups of mice. Both groups had access to the same amount (and type) of food. However the first group could access the food at any time of the day, whereas the second group only had access for 8 hours per day. The benefits for the mice with only 8 hour access were:
- Lower body fat
- Lower inflammation
- Better motor co-ordination
- Better glucose tolerance, and less leptin resistance
- Healthier liver blood tests
Time Restricted Feeding Benefits in Humans
A 2018 human study did a 5-week time restricted feeding trial in 8 men with pre-diabetes. They randomly assigned the participants either an 6-hour eating window, or a 12-hour eating window. After 5 weeks of one diet, each participant crossed over to do 5 weeks of the other. The 6-hour eating window achieved some beneficial results:
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Decreased blood pressure
- Decreased oxidative stress
Rhonda’s Time Restricted Feeding Regimen
Rhonda’s current window of time restricted feeding is 10 hours. On the face of it, this might not seem like a particularly small eating window – but Dr Satchin Panda’s research has shown that most people eat on a 15 hour window (!) For example, they might have a cup of coffee at 7am, and then have their last bite of food at 10 o’clock at night.
Rhonda notes that a 10 hour eating window starts the moment you put anything into your body that isn’t water, that even includes tea or coffee! Food and xenobiotic compounds, such as the caffeine in coffee, activate metabolic enzymes in your liver and gut, and those enzymes are on a “clock”. This is because humans are diurnal (active during the day, and asleep at night) – and our evolution has led to us having cells that are optimized towards 12 hours of day time activity.
Whilst eating within the 12 hour (day time) clock, we metabolise glucose, amino acids, fatty acids optimally. However, past that 12 hour clock, say we’re eating at night, that’s when our metabolism in general no longer works as well. For example, our insulin sensitivity increases, and our body switches to the storing of fatty acids, rather than using them for fuel.
For more of Rhonda discussing Time Restricted Feeding, see the snippet below from her interview on the Joe Rogan Experience episode #901. Also recommended are her two in depth interviews with Dr Satchin Panda (Interview 1 & Interview 2).
2. Cutting Out Refined Sugars & Refined Carbohydrates
Rhonda suggests that the one dietary change that would make the biggest improvement to someone eating the “Standard American Diet” would be to cut out all refined sugars.
When we talk about refined sugars, we’re talking about the sugar that gets added to sodas, candy, cookies, cake etc.
Regular consumption of refined sugar can lead to a plethora of negative health consequences, including:
- Weight gain
- Type 2 diabetes
- Accelerated aging + more.
One study found that the standard 20-ounce serving of soda, consumed daily, resulted in telomere aging of approximately 4.6 years (source). The below video is a snippet from a podcast with Joe Rogan (JRE #1054), discussing the effects of refined sugar on health.
3. Micronutrient Rich Smoothies
Rhonda is a huge advocate of smoothies. They’re a great way to consume large amounts of vegetables quickly and easily. No culinary skills required, simply wash them and throw them in a blender. If you kick the day off with a smoothie, even if the rest of your meals are sub-par in terms of health, you’ve at least covered your ass in terms of consuming a good amount of healthy vegetables.
The main two things you’re getting with Rhonda’s smoothies are:
- Large amounts of what are called ‘essential micronutrients’ – vitamins and minerals that your body can’t synthesize from other things. If you don’t get adequate amounts, your health suffers (see Bruce Ames’ triage theory for more info)
- Pre-biotics – these are non digestible plant fibre that provides food for “good bacteria” to live and grow. Evidence is mounting to show that maintaining healthy gut bacteria is crucial to good health. For more info on the subject of healthy gut bacteria, Rhonda recommends the The Good Gut book, by Justin & Erica Sonnenburg – who were also on a podcast of hers.
I’ve adopted this suggestion from Rhonda, and definitely recommend it. Vegetable smoothies are probably one of the easiest dietary adjustments to make that can have a huge impact on long term health.
See further down this post for the types of smoothies she makes, including ingredient list.
Rhonda is a big fan of sulforaphane, a compound derived from brassica vegetables. It activates a pathway called NRF2 which increases the expression of a host of cell protective genes. She takes sulforaphane (in the form of broccoli sprouts added to her smoothie) 2 to 3 times per week. I’ve written here about how Rhonda sprouts her own broccoli seeds, what equipment she uses to do so, and what dose (weight of sprouts) she uses to get the optimal effect.
For more information on sulforaphane, see Rhonda’s deep dive video on sulforaphane. For a less technical, but potentially more engaging description on the benefits of sulforaphane, see the below snippet from Rhonda’s podcast with Joe Rogan on JRE #901:
Rhonda is a huge proponent of nutrigenomics, the idea that patterns in our DNA illuminate how we as individuals handle certain foods in our diet.
Examples of genes that are noteworthy for diet choices include:
- MTHFR – can affect folic acid synthesis
- PPAR alpha – can affect fatty acid metabolism, particularly good to know if you’re embarking on a high fat diet
- FTO – certain variants predispose individuals to obesity in the context of a diet high in saturated fats, and low in polyunsaturated fats
Rhonda has talked previously about how she encouraged all her family to get their DNA checked, and upon learning that her mother had a mutation in MTHFR, that leads to poor synthesis of folic acid… she encouraged her mom to start supplementing methylated folate.
Possible Theory for the “Why” of Nutrigenomics
It is thought that our ancestors adapted to the food sources available in their local region. One example of this, is how certain human populations developed mutations in their DNA that lead to them still having the correct enzyme (lactase) to consume milk into adulthood. In Neolithic Scandanavians, only 5% of those sampled had a gene associated with lactase persistence in adulthood, vs 74% of the the existing Swedish population1. Suggesting that as humans moved from hunter gatherers to sedentary agriculture, we selected for genes that allow us to consume milk through adulthood. Of course we didn’t do this consciously per se, but through natural selection.
Why is this relevant? Well, firstly, many of us don’t live in the same circumstances that our ancestors did. Even if you are currently living in the same geographic location as your ancestors, it’s unlikely you’re eating the same things they did. Therefore, considering that we live in an “un-natural” food environment, it can useful to understand any dietary biases that your genetics are adapted for. That way we can adjust our diet to avoid any pitfalls we would otherwise be unaware of.
How to get your Nutrigenomics Data
To get your nutrigenomics data there are 3 simple steps:
- Purchase a DNA (SNP marker) testing kit, via providers such as 23andMe or Ancestry
- Spit in the plastic tube they provide you (yes, really), and post it back to them
- Once they have processed your data, export it into Promethease and/or Rhonda’s Genetic Tool
Once you have either report, you can start learning more about your DNA.
23andMe vs Ancestry
There are quite a large number of DNA testing services available. However, to keep things simple, the major two are 23andMe & Ancestry. 23andMe actually offers some health related data within its dashboard, but to really make the most it, you’ll still need to export the data and analyze it via third party tools.
For the purposes of our nutrigenomics exploration, both 23andMe & Ancestry provide adequate SNP data to analyze in Promethease.
Currently, Rhonda’s Genetic Tool is only optimized for 23andMe reports, but I’d imagine she is working to fully support Ancestry also.
Promethease vs Rhonda’s Genetic Tool
The simplest tool for analyzing your nutrigenomic data is Rhonda’s genetic tool. It has been configured to cover all the SNPs that she regularly talks about + more. The cost of processing your report is $10, but for Patreon subscribers of $10 or more, it’s free. As mentioned above, it is best optimized for analyzing 23andMe reports currently.
Promethease is a more comprehensive analysis tool. It utilizes the SNPedia.com database, and provides a comprehensive SNP analysis. Promethease will cover everything Rhonda’s tool analyzes + more. But the rub is that you will need to wade through its library to pick out the data points you want.
I’ve used both tools, and appreciate them in their own ways. Promethease for its comprehensiveness (for example, it also covers disease risks), and Rhonda’s tool for its razor sharp focus on important nutrigenomic markers.
Rhonda talks more below on how nutrigenomics works:
DNA Testing & Data Privacy
One very reasonable hesitation with genetic testing kits is the possibility that this data gets shared beyond the company you purchase it from. For example, health insurance companies would probably like to know if their customers have SNPs that increase the likelihood of cancer. As of August 2018, the major DNA testing services (including 23andMe & Ancestry) have created a Privacy Best Practices for Consumer Genetic Testing Services policy (document link + 23andMe’s press release on it). This provides some reassurance, but what it doesn’t do is stop the services from anonymizing customer data, and then selling it. We recently saw this with pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline purchasing a $300m stake in 23andMe, to use their data to help identify new drug targets (link).
What we don’t yet have are guidelines on how to anonymize the data thoroughly and correctly, thus we run the risk of this data being de-anonymized.
Personally, I’ve taken a risk to use DNA testing services, because I decided the pros (for now) outweigh the cons. But I think in 2018, privacy is more important to consider than ever, and wanted to touch on this topic briefly to give fair warning.
Rhonda’s Typical Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
In an excellent Tim Ferriss podcast episode (link), Rhonda went into details on the specifics of her day to day diet. Below we’ll dig into the meals she eats, and the rationale behind the ingredients.
#1 – Scrambled Egg, Satueed Kale & Garlic with Grapefruit
One of Rhonda’s go to breakfasts is scrambled eggs, sautéed kale + grapefruit. Clicking on the meal images will take you to Rhonda’s Instagram page where she explains in more detail the rationale behind the ingredients.
- Scrambled eggs
- Sauteed Kale & Garlic (topped with salt, olive oil and mustard powder)
- Avocado oil for cooking the eggs and sautéing the kale
- Tomatillo salsa (to give the eggs more flavour)
- Add an avocado filled with salmon roe (see first image above)
- Rather than scrambling eggs and sautéing kale separately, in the last image she’s opted to mix kale plus salmon into her scrambled eggs
- Scrambled eggs topped with salmon roe
#2 Mixed Nuts & Berries Bowl
As a contrast to the above cooked breakfast, Rhonda also likes to mix nuts and berries together to form a muesli like cereal. Whilst Rhonda doesn’t eat wheat, she does eat oats up to a couple times per week for their beta glucan content. Using nuts and berries as a base, she then tweaks it by adding things like pomegranate, flaxseed, cacao nibs and almond butter.
- Chopped nuts – including pecan, macademia & walnut
- Mixed berries – blueberries, blackberries raspberries
- Hydrolyzed collagen powder (Rhonda uses Great Lakes brand)
- Coconut milk (unsweetened)
- Adding pomegranate in with the blueberries
- Adding Greek yogurt with a sachet of high strength probiotic (Rhonda uses Visbiome brand)
- Adding flaxseed (for omega-3 ALA + fibre content)
- Adding shredding coconut
- Adding Cacao nibs and/or almond butter
Micronutrient Rich Smoothies
Whilst lunch for many is a sandwich or cooked meal, Rhonda tends to opt for a micronutrient rich smoothies.
She has 2 “famous” smoothie recipes.
They both use these as the base ingredients (technically “smoothie 1” uses a bit more chard, spinach and carrots). Note that the ingredients list below are designed for two portions (Rhonda makes for both her and her husband), thus if you’re making them just for yourself, half the quantities or consume in 2 sittings:
- Kale (8 leaves)
- Rainbow Chard (2 leaves and stems)
- Spinach (2 cups)
- Carrot (1 large)
- Tomato (1)
- Apple (1)
- Frozen organic blueberries (1-2 cups)
- Avocado (1)
Then “smoothie 1” adds:
- Banana (1)
- Unsweetened flax milk (3 cups ~710 ml)
- 1 tall shot glass of flaxseed (optional)
Or “smoothie 2” adds:
- Lemon (1)
- Celery (2)
- Parsley (8 pieces)
- Hydrolyzed collagen powder (Rhonda uses Great Lakes brand) (1/4 cup)
- Water (2 cups of water)
Rhonda has 2 videos dedicated to her smoothie recipes, check out smoothie 1 video and smoothie 2 video for more details. The key takeaway is that by blending vegetables you can get a huge overall increase in your micronutrient intake.
Additional smoothie receipes Rhonda has discussed:
- Kale, beet, garlic, ginger, bell pepper, carrot, lemon (source)
- Raspberry, blackberry, kale, and chard (source)
- Cacao smoothie: 2 avocados, 13.6g of unsweetened cacao powder (~2 tablespoons), handful of raw pumpkin seeds, 1 cucumber, 1 cup of blueberries, and unsweetened almond milk (source)
- Kale, beet, raspberry, avocado (source)
Avocado Topped with Salmon Roe
As well as aiming to consume sufficient omega-3 fatty acids, Rhonda also aims to consume omega-3 fatty acids in “phospholipid” form. In this way, the omega-3s are more easily absorbed by the body. Wild Alaskan salmon roe is a great source of phospholipids, and thus Rhonda combined them with avocado to make a healthy (light) meal.
- Avocado, topped with lemon juice
- Wild Alaskan Salmon Roe (Rhonda has said previously she bulk buys hers from Vitalchoice)
#1 – Baked Salmon & Greens
Rhonda aims to eat salmon 2-3 times per week, which is what the American Heart Association recommends. Specifically, they suggest adults consume 500 mg per day of EPA and DHA. Which is ~2-3 servings of fatty fish per week (~8 oz). However, the average intake in Western society is only ~135 mg per day (which is about 2 servings of fish per month)
- Baked salmon
- Assorted vegetables – often kale and spinach. Last image shows her adding avocado
#2 – Chicken Legs & Vegetables
- Grilled chicken legs from pasture raised chickens, which has some cartilage – high in collagen, proline and glycine
- Green vegetables, such as salad or sauteed kale
- Kimchi – for prebiotics and isothiocynates
#3 – Chicken Bone Soup with Vegetables
Rhonda makes a chicken bone soup that intrinsically has the same benefits as the hydrolyzed collagen powder she sometimes supplements; high in proline, glycine and collagen.
- Chicken bones & chicken
- Vegetables: Kale, carrots, sweet potato, celery, onion, garlic
- Flavouring: Pepper, rosemary, black pepper, Himalayan sea salt
#4 – Grass Fed Beef
Rhonda has a grass fed fillet steak a few times per month, which is a good source of vitamin B12, Iron, and Zinc. Around 16% of all menstruating women are actually iron deficient. For the vegetarians out there… it has been recommended to take in around twice the RDA for iron, since iron which is bound to phytate in plant sources and is ~2-times less bioavailable.
- Grass fed beef – fillet steak or otherwise
- Green vegetables – such as kale or broccoli
- In the image above, Rhonda’s combined pear with cheese. Pears contain catechin and proanthocyanidins, which both activate antioxidant and anti-inflammatory genes. The pears also contain prebiotic fiber to feed the gut bacteria. The aged cheddar cheese contains vitamin K2 (which prevents calcification of arteries), fat, and some calcium.
Whilst Rhonda strives to meet all her micronutrient needs through diet, she also takes daily supplements in order to cover all bases. Part of her rationale for supplements comes from the work of one of her mentors; Bruce Ames. His “triage theory” informs us that even moderate micronutrient deficiency over time can damage our bodies. See my post on Bruce Ames’ Triage Theory for more information.
Below is a list of the core supplements that Rhonda either consumes daily, or, consumes intermittently for specific function:
Dr Rhonda Patrick’s Daily Supplements
- Multivitamin – Pure Encapsulations O.N.E – 1 capsule/daily
- Vitamin D3 – Thorne Research – D3 (1,000iu) – 2 capsules/daily
- Vitamin K2 – Thorne Research K2/D3 Drops – 1 drop/every 2-3 days
- Fish Oil – Norwegian PURE-3 DHA – 4 capsules/daily
- Omega-3 Phospholipids – Nordic Naturals Phospholipids – 4 capsules/daily
- Magnesium – Thorne Research – Magnesium Citramate – 1 capsule/daily
Additional Supplements Rhonda Uses:
- Nicotinamide Riboside – Thorne Research – NiaCel – For improved cellular mitochondrial function
- PQQ (Pyrroloquinoline Quinone) – Life Extension – PQQ 20mg – For temporary boost in cognitive function
- Curcumin Phytosome – Thorne Research – Meriva SF – As a natural anti-inflammatory, alternative to ibuprofen
- Probiotics – Visbiome Probiotic sachets – Taken intermittently to top up healthy gut bacteria
- Hyrolyzed Collagen – Great Lakes – For improved joint & skin health
Rhonda’s Preferred Nootropics:
- Choline – Alpha GPC – NOW – Alpha GPC 300mg – Taken for public speaking events or podcasts to increase mental acuity
- Lion’s Mane Mushroom – Four Sigmatic Mushroom Elixir – Taken specifically for intense periods of work
- Sulforaphane – From self-grown broccoli sprouts
- Beet Powder – Activz Organic – Rhonda has recommended to her family members with high blood pressure
- Wild Salmon Roe Caviar – from Vital Choice – Natural source of EPA & DHA phospholipids
- Methylated B Vitamins – Swanson’s B Complex – Rhonda has recommended to family members with MTHFR mutation
The above is just a high level overview of the supplements Rhonda takes. For more information, including sources, see this lengthy post on Rhonda’s supplements.
Whilst this post is long, hopefully you’ve found some of it useful for your own life. If it all seems a bit much, and you only take away one thing from the post, Rhonda has previously mentioned that cutting out refined sugars will yield the largest benefit.
In case they’re of value, here are some further posts I’ve written on Dr Rhonda Patrick related content:
- A relatively comprehensive list of supplements that Rhonda has discussed taking, some daily, some for specific use-cases (link)
- Notes on many of the key things Rhonda has discussed about pregnancy & baby health – based on her journey into motherhood (link)
- Rhonda on Cancer – Things she would DO & things she would AVOID if she had cancer (link)
- Rhonda on Curcumin – discussing the potential medicinal benefits of the plant (link)
- High frequency of lactose intolerance in a prehistoric hunter-gatherer population in northern Europe – Malmström H, et al 2010 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20353605/