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Top 3 Foods that Turn the Good Genes ON!

by Sean Croxton

NOTE: If you haven’t read yesterday’s blog, this one won’t make much sense to you. Check it out HERE!

“Finding substances that can turn ON the highly protective transcription factor NRF2 holds the key to preventing a host of diseases.”

A few months ago, I stood in an aisle at Borders and stumbled across that line in the book Forever Young by Dr. Nicholas Perricone.

After reading it, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I took out my iPhone and started taking pictures of the passage and texted them to my friends and critics. I posted the quote to Facebook. I thought:

“FINALLY, somebody gets it!”

I had just spent the previous months taking a bit of a beating for my Protandim endorsement. However, regardless of the hate mail and “unsubscribes” from my YouTube channel and email list, I knew I was helping people.

I also learned a lesson I would never forget, that it’s better to educate your people on how something works BEFORE selling it to them. On top of that, I may want to NOT follow a series of anti-genetic modification videos with a bunch of hype over a supplement that alters gene expression. Kinda easy to confuse the two.


Being the Just Eat Real Food guy, the endorsement of a supplement appears antithetical to the overall message of sticking to Nature, no matter how natural the product may be. We should be able to get everything we need from food, right?

Absolutely. But to hit the switch and turn ON your disease-protective NRF2 transcription factor (as this supplement is scientifically-proven again and again to do), you’re going to have to consume a very specific set of foods on a regular basis.

The Big 3 NRF2 switch-flippers we will be exploring today are teas, cinnamon, and turmeric. You can probably find all three in your kitchen cabinet. Personally, I’m not a tea guy. But cinnamon and turmeric never go missing from my ever-growing spice collection.

Here’s why YOU should add them to your diet.

Teas (black, green, & white)
It is no secret that teas provide anticancer and antioxidant benefits. Much of tea’s health-promoting value can be attributed to the polyphenol EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate).

EGCG inhibits the activation of the disease- and age-accelerating transcription factor NF-kB, thus putting the brakes on the production of inflammatory cytokines (bad guys).

When NFkB is left ON, it turns OFF the cell’s ability to self-destruct when it encounters an error, such as DNA damage. Our bodies are always making cancerous cells, even right now as you read this. Programmed cell death, otherwise known as apoptosis, allows our cells to recognize cancer-causing errors and literally self-destruct instead of replicating. This, of course, is a vital function for cancer prevention.

You want to keep your apoptosis turned ON!

While shutting down NFkB, EGCG turns ON protective NRF2, which sends a message to our genes to upregulate the production of over a dozen anti-inflammatory proteins as well as antioxidant enzymes that fight free radical damage on a scale head and shoulders above direct dietary antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E.

If you have ORAC tunnel vision, that last sentence may have bothered you a bit. This is where the disconnect occurs and the knee-jerk squabbling begins. No, I’m not saying that antioxidants from food are not beneficial. Not even!

Dr. Perricone brilliantly summarizes the difference between indirect antioxidant enzymes and direct dietary antioxidants by stating the following:

“When this natural cell-protective mechanism (the activation of NRF2) is achieved with phytonutrients, the response is far superior to the protective action of antioxidants alone, because such antioxidants as vitamin C and CoQ10 are consumed when neutralizing free radicals.”

What the doc is saying is that dietary antioxidants are great, but they neutralize disease-promoting free radicals at a rate of one-to-one. One antioxidant molecule kills one free radical. And then it’s done. The problem lies in the fact that cells produce on average about 300 sextillion free radicals every day. That’s the number 3 with 23 zeros behind it!

You’d have to eat 375 oranges a day to neutralize that many free radicals!

By activating NRF2 via phytonutrients and Michael acceptor pharmacophores (MAPs) like EGCG, the genes are instructed to produce antioxidant enzymes that can destroy free radicals at a rate of up to one million per second! And they are not used up. They keep fighting the good fight by protecting your cells and extinguishing inflammation.

One of these antioxidant enzymes is glutathione, the chief cellular antioxidant and protector. You can’t eat glutathione. Stomach acid will kill it in a hurry. Instead, you have to coax your cells and genes to produce more of it via foods you consume and the way they influence your gene expression. That is the essence of nutrigenomics.

We’ll discuss glutathione in detail tomorrow.

Nothing beats a little apple pie with cinnamon. Yum!

You may think that this tasty dish will send your blood sugar through the roof. However, studies show that just a dash of cinnamon will keep blood sugar levels stable by way of improving insulin sensitivity.

And it doesn’t stop there. Cinnamon reduces fever similar to aspirin or Tylenol, without the negative side effects. (Perricone, 40). It is also antimicrobial, fights infections, and supports the immune system.

It’s awesome! Why aren’t you using more of it?

The key flavor compound in cinnamon is cinnamic aldehyde, which is also classified as a MAP.

You know what that means!

As we discussed in yesterday’s Hittin’ Switches blog, MAPs trick NRF2 into action by producing minimal amounts of oxidative stress. Sensing danger, NRF2 sends the message for the genes to turn ON the antioxidant/anti-inflammatory hoses to put the free radical fire out.

Now you have an excuse to make cinnamon rolls on an 80/20 Day!

Gluten-free, of course. :)

Turmeric (curcumin)
This blog is getting LONG! My bad.

According to Dr. Perricone, “the single most promising food-derived compound to combat cancer, based on the current body of scientific evidence, is the curcuminoids found in turmeric.”

The curcuminoids are what give turmeric its yellow pigment. Their anti-cancer properties come from their mild oxidizing effect and activation of NRF2. They also turn OFF the aforementioned NF-kB.

Turmeric is very common in Indian cuisine, which is why curry is typically yellow. If you’ve ever wondered why Indian people age so well with such beautiful skin, it’s the curcuminoids. The deactivation of NF-kB and AP-1 (mentioned yesterday) keeps wrinkles from being born in the deep layers of the skin. Furthermore, the activation of NRF2 gives the skin a radiant appearance with decreased poor size, and reduction in fine lines and wrinkles. (Perricone, 44)

Probably why I’ve never had more guys ask me what I’ve been doing with my skin since I’ve been on this supplement! One YouTube commenter asked me recently if I had Botox done. Ha!

I like to sometimes sprinkle turmeric on my eggs and always use it when cooking chicken. Tastes so good!


Darn! I’m running out of time. Blogging hours are from 1-3pm. Gotta stick to my schedule. I intended to discuss cocoa, but you guys know the deal already. It activates the good guys and turns OFF the bad guys. Be sure to consume the 70% – 85% cocoa. Go with the non-Dutch kind since Dutching reduces the amount of flavonols in cocoa. (Perricone, 59) If you’d like me to blog about cocoa, leave a comment below. I’ll see what I can do.

NRF2 Insurance
I’m not looking to turn this blog into a sales pitch. All I’ll say is that most people take a multivitamin as a form of nutrient insurance; just to be sure they get most of what they need.

This supplement is my NRF2-activation insurance. Consisting of turmeric, ashwaganda, green tea extract, bacopa, and milk thistle, it is scientifically proven by 15 peer-reviewed studies (look em up on Pubmed) to hit the switch on NRF2 and upregulate the production of disease-fighting enzymes. We’ll discuss glutathione, likely the most important enzyme, tomorrow!

I’m out! Keep hittin’ switches!




57 thoughts on “Top 3 Foods that Turn the Good Genes ON!

  1. abbey

    Hi, any links to articles you may have looked at for the specific foods that are linked to nutrigenomics? :)

  2. Brooke Lorren

    You write well enough that your posts don’t seem too long ;-). Think I’ll add a little cinnamon to this peach pudding recipe that I found in a 1909 cookbook today. Maybe I’ll pick up some turmeric while I’m out shopping… I’ll have to learn to start cooking with it. Thanks for the blog!

  3. UW Sean Post author

    Thanks, Brooke!

    Writing makes me nervous. But I’m glad you like it.

    Mmmmm…peach pudding sound yum! I bet that old cookbook has some great ingredients like butter and cream. REAL FOOD!

  4. Karen

    Hey, Sean, great post and great timing! I’m working on a blog post for my gf broccoli, “rice,” and cheese dish with turmeric in it and was hoping to link to your post. :)
    I love turmeric!
    I drink kombucha every day that I make with a combination of black and green tea. Hope the tea is still able to do its job once it’s fermented! Just wanted to point out, people should consider buying organic tea, since non-organic has fluoride.
    Most days we drink homemade eggnog for breakfast: farm fresh eggs and raw milk with a little stevia. Lately I’ve been leaving the cinnamon out. Will fix that effective immediately!
    Thanks for all your hard work and for a great post!

  5. Annette

    I use turmeric and cinnamon almost daily. Nice. I find when I’m feeling run down nothing makes me feel better than some turmeric tea. Great post Sean!

  6. Kim C.

    I always add cinnamon to my smoothies. Extra yum!

    My fav dark chocolate is Alter Eco 85%, which is made “in the Swiss tradition,” so I’m assuming that it’s cool.

    I also love tea and drink it daily.

    I’m psyched that my diet is hitting switches and I didn’t even know it. Time to add some more curry to the diet, too.

    Thanks, Sean! Can’t wait for your post on the amazing benefits of Botox. lol

  7. Mike

    You convinced me to go out and get some cinnamon. Hmm, I wonder how it’d taste in my morning smoothies.

    Hey Sean – one quick suggestion:

    Why not add a general link to Amazon on your site? Then fans who want to support you can do so whenever we shop at Amazon, regardless of whether we want to buy one of the books you recommend or something completely unrelated.

    Adam Carolla does this on his site – he tells listeners of his popular podcast to hit the Amazon link on his site before shopping on Amazon.

    I actually made a recent Amazon purchase, and before doing so I added a book to my cart via your link, and then removed the book. I thought this might give you some affiliate income, but I’m not sure if it worked.

    Anyway, just something to consider, or not.

  8. Mick

    Yes, cocoa info please.
    Why does some people say it is a poison?
    Could you please say it is not a poison without doubt, I like my organic 100% cocoa very much!
    Will we get those very educating YouTube videos back?



  9. Ana

    More cocoa info please!! Pretty much known and talked about but your explanations are just amazing :)

  10. Liz

    Hey Sean,
    Really interesting insight regarding Protandim, but after I read ur blog, I looked it up on the INTERNET and saw sooo much negative publicity_I decided against it. It really gets confusing who to believe and who is out for just gain, or who sincerely wants to educate people.
    Still really enjoy ur take!

  11. UW Sean Post author

    Thanks for the idea, Mike! I always assume people will buy through my Amazon store if they wish to.

    I appreciate you trying to get me credit for your purchase. It should have worked since my link is cookied in.


  12. UW Sean Post author

    A google search is not where you want to go to learn the facts about Protandim. You have to read the research studies. A lot of the blogs about Protandim are 5 years old or older.

    The authors obviously had (have) no idea what the difference is between a direct antioxidant and an indirect antioxidant enzyme. The blog from Science Based Medicine is so bad! She couldn’t even get the number of subjects in the studies right!

    I spent 15 months looking at Protandim. If I spent the 5 minutes that most people spend looking at it, I very likely would have come to the same “scam” conclusion. You can find anything on the internet.

    Kinda hurt by that “who sincerely wants to educate people” line. :(

    I understand where you’re coming from, though. Lots of snake oil out there.

    I prefer to ask people if they can punch the names of their current supplements into a Pubmed search and find any studies. Protandim has 7 going on 30 on various disease process. Harvard. LSU. VCU. Ohio State. Journal of the American Heart Association. Skin cancer. Heart Failure. Bypass grafting.

    Send me an email if you’d like to schedule a call to learn more!

  13. JSands

    Would love to hear more on cocoa. Looks like I need to check out various recipe’s and see how I can incorporate some cinnamon or tumeric in my diet. Never thought of sprinkling it on my eggs. Could be a welcome change. :)

  14. Brooke Lorren

    You can always shop through any link that he posts up, whether you want to buy the book or you want to buy anything else they sell. After you click on the link, it will put a cookie on your computer so he gets the credit, as long as you buy the item you want within 24 hours and don’t click on anybody else’s Amazon link.

  15. Kimberly

    Yo Sean! I just got this tidbit from our fellow jerfer, Chris Kresser. Turns out that all teas have the highest level of flouride of any plant. Not good. It’s why tea-drinking countries have lots of dental florosis and osteoporosis. I DO like tea but prefer coffee…which has one of the highest levels of cancer-causing acrylides. Can’t win!

  16. Sebastian

    Yeah Cocoa sounds good if you have the time to do it.
    I ordered Protandim to give it a try, so I hope it truly has the great benefits you claim. Also, maybe some recipes or ideas about how to incorporate turmeric into my food would be good, because I’m not really keen on curries myself.

    “You’d have to eat 375 oranges a day to neutralize that many free radicals!”
    lol, sounds like you just gave a new challenge for DurianRider

    Keep up the great work Sean.
    Cheers from Sydney Australia

  17. Isabella

    Brooke – ditto your comment about Sean’s writing: it’s never a chore to read a well-written piece. I add turmeric to everything I cook that’s yellow (curry, stir-frys, etc) or red (spaghetti sauces). It gives a lovely yellow colour to whatever you add it to, and it isn’t noticeable in red! Start adding a little bit to your savoury meals, adding a little more each time until you – and the family? – get used to the taste. (and if you don’t mention that you’ve added something different, they probably won’t even notice)

  18. Isabella

    I’ve made up a big jar of equal quantities of (dried, ground) nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, oregano, rosemary, ginger, paprika, allspice & turmeric. I add this – sometimes a little, sometimes a lot – to soups, stews, salad dressing, boiled or poached eggs, steamed or raw vegies. A very easy way to get lots of things on my food at the same time!

  19. Susan Revak


    It’s ok to leave out the cinnamon in the egg/milk drink… just be sure to put in cocoa instead! :)

    We also enjoy a raw, pastured egg and raw milk (with some cocoa and vanilla) drink as our ‘pick me up’ in the afternoons.

    Foodies Unite (together and eat wonderful tasting food!) ;)

    Susan and Will

  20. Caveman Home Companion

    Here is another vote for the cocoa article. I’ll be looking up some Paleo recipes for it while I’m waiting.
    I personally don’t like the taste of turmeric so I take it as a supliment. Maybe I should check out Protandim?

  21. Laurie

    Would like more info on the tea thing. I keep seeing conflicting posts. “All teas have fluoride”, “Organic teas don’t have fluoride”, etc. I drink homebrew kombucha every day, and in warmer weather I like tulsi tea blends, so I would really like to know about this. I’ve got thyroid issues, too, which means excess fluoride is a big no-no.

  22. Eric Hughes

    I just put cinnamon and coconut oil on my toast today! Dr. Fife gave me the idea in one of his youtube videos.

    I hope that’s healthy enough for you, Sean! Haha.

  23. Kelly


    If I’m taking Protandium should I still add these “top 3″ to my meals? Or am I hittin all the switches with the supplement? This probably sounds really lazy but I want to know if I’m covered either way :)

  24. Amanda

    Great post, really interesting stuff. I’d love to get some more info on cocoa.

    Keep the good work up!

  25. Geny

    This is awesome stuff, Sean :) Everyday, the first thing that my hubby and I take in the morning is our cinnamon-ginger tea (no packet here, I mean with cinnamon sticks and ginger root). Turmeric…pretty much use it every time I cook. And of course, protandim everyday, baby! :) I think all these things in combination of “JERF” really do keep those colds and flu and whatever else at bay. I can’t remember the last time I got a cold and flu, seriously. Your blog is educating me on those “NRF…” terms, words that I’m not used to hearing. Gotta get my learn on! Thanks for this info!

  26. Nick

    Sean, big fan of what you’re doing, and especially blog talk radio. Most people dont realize that it usually takes at least two rounds of supplementation for the effect to really take place. I always like to think that 30 days to prime the system, 45 days to really feel the benefits. Thats 45 days of Protandim. This friggin society makes everyone impatient.

  27. Carel Farage

    Sean great article but could you also blog about muscle building or anabolic gene switches for example.

  28. Alex

    Sean, if you say Protandim is a worthwhile supplement to buy, I trust you man. So I just placed my order.

    Usually I am hesitant to buy health supplements because most of them are money grabs with little heath benefits. But any foods or products you recommend I am sure are more than worthwhile.

  29. The Curvy Goddess

    I had heard of Protandim via my friend Rueben Baca. And briefly spoke to Dr. Dondee Nettles on the phone. It sounded really intriguing at the time but I had totally forgotten about it.

    Thanks for reminding me Sean. Going to buy it to try it out.

  30. Char

    Yes, please more info about cocoa! And I agree with all the others, it’s never a chore to read your work, Sean. Ignore the haters. You’re loved!

  31. UW Sean Post author

    Thanks for ordering, Sebastian. I’ll get that cocoa blog up ASAP.

    Durian Rider’s name is forbidden from my blog! :)

    I’m sure there are tons of turmeric recipes online. Take a look. Let me know if you find something yummy!

  32. UW Sean Post author

    Got it! Thanks!

    I started taking turmeric as a supplement a couple years ago when I had shoulder pain. Cleared it right up. Then I started using it on my food. I like it!

    Definitely check out Protandim.

  33. UW Sean Post author

    I’ve heard about there being fluoride in teas, too. I think Mercola has a fluoride-free tea on his website.

  34. Christian Rosenvold

    Loving the list of three foods that hit the switches. It makes it very easy to implement! And then of course all the good science that goes along with it :P
    Great post Sean! I’m glad you’re posting this frequently now.

  35. Judester

    I have to agree with Ana! It would be easy enough to do the research on my own, but I would like to hear your insights on the subject. Glad to hear I made the right choice with the non-Dutch variety!

    Thanks for all the great info…and the occasional belly laugh!

  36. Dorothy

    Will MAPs become, The little boy, that cried wolf?
    More on the maganese connection, please, I think there is more there to look at ( my new interest & telemeres)
    That how I discovered Protandim on my own. ( gave you credit when ordering)

    What about DMAE the mind beauty connection.
    Sorry that you’ll need a map to understand my line of questions but I can’t learn this stuff fast enough. Your site is wonderful.

  37. Dorothy

    One more ? How do super antioxidants (alpha lipoic acids etc… Fit in. Ashwaganda
    , is the adaptogen, Milk Thistle aids in liver tissue regeneration & synthesis of glutathione. Green tea, delivers the polyphenols one , two punch. Turmeric takes care of the inflammation. Bacopa still learning that one. My guestion as well as my point is a cup of, cinnamon bun or cocoa whatever is not going to cut it. Protandim was a blend of powerful natural food items. Not a way for you to eat more SUGAR.

  38. Jenny

    I’ve heard some conflicting things about cinnamon – or rather, about which specific type of cinnamon confers benefits on those who enjoy it regularly. Do both types – ceylon (“true”) cinnamon and cassia cinnamon – have identical amounts of health-boosting compounds?

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