Nutrition for Performance and a Healthy Heart | Professor Christopher Gardner, PhD

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In today’s information-dense world, the task of discerning evidence-based, practical nutrition advice is more challenging than ever. In Episode #269 of The Proof, I welcome back Professor Christopher Gardner, a renowned authority in the field of nutrition science. In this dialogue, we delve into the complex landscape of dietary choices, assessing controversy through a scientific lens and highlighting the often-underestimated importance of context in nutrition.

“Nutrition’s never black and white. It has to go with context… In context, you’ll find that nutrition’s never very controversial.”

Christopher Gardner, PhD is a distinguished authority in nutrition science and the Rehnborg Farquhar Professor of Medicine at Stanford University. Professor Gardner directs the Stanford Prevention Research Center’s Nutrition Studies Group and is at the forefront of leading randomized controlled nutrition intervention trials. His pioneering research, ranging from the effects of various dietary choices on chronic disease risk factors to the nexus of food, health, and social issues, has been instrumental in shaping the field. This episode marks his fifth appearance on The Proof, and you’ll find his insight valuable and affirming.

“Food means something to people. They need to enjoy it, or it’s not going to last.”

In this thought-provoking discussion, we dissect various dietary patterns and their potential impacts on health. Delving into the intricacies of Professor Gardner’s extensive body of research, we examine study designs and outcomes from trials, including the SWAP-MEAT trial and DIETFITS study.

We unravel the complexities of dietary guidelines, exploring how different diets align with these guidelines and why consensus often outweighs controversy in the field of nutrition. By diving deep into the scientific evidence, this episode encourages listeners to consider their dietary choices in a new light, fostering a nuanced understanding of how food choices can influence health outcomes.

Specifically, we discuss:

  • Intro (00:00)
  • A twin study is in the works (4:06)
  • Plant-based meat vs. red meat (8:53)
  • How to make homemade kombucha (18: 40)
  • Different diets for athletic performance (the SWAP-MEAT trial) (23:02)
  • Feedback from athletes (37:21)
  • Which popular diets are truly heart-healthy? (40:35)
  • How different diets measure up to health guidelines (49:12)
  • Practical insights for doctors and patients (55:07)
  • The truth about low fat, vegan diet (59:36)
  • Controversies vs consensus in nutrition (1:02:45)
  • The food industry and medical institutions (1:10:19)
  • Low-fat & low-carb diets for weight loss (the DIETFITS study) (1:14:30)
  • Sustainable weight loss and GLP-1 agonists (1:28:25)
  • Psychological strategies to make veggies irresistible (1:36:00)
  • The “protein flip”, the academe, and a new book (1:46:09)
  • Outro (1:49:55)

From dissecting various diets and their impact on health, to the fascinating world of alternative meats and homemade kombucha, this conversation offers a unique blend of academic insight and practical guidance. Professor Gardner’s deep expertise and pragmatic approach are sure to enrich your understanding of nutrition and empower you to make healthful decisions that truly align with your lifestyle.

Professor Gardner has also shared his homemade kombucha recipe with us. You can find it in this blog post.

Connect with Professor Christopher Gardner on Twitter. Head to for more resources and studies, and the Stanford Nutrition YouTube channel for more videos. Listen to past episodes featuring Professor Gardner here.

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Enjoy, friends.


More about Christopher Gardner, PhD

Christopher Gardner, PhD: Dr Gardner is the Rehnborg Farquhar professor of medicine at Stanford, the director of Stanford Prevention Research Center’s (SPRC) Nutrition Studies Group, and the director of the SPRC postdoctoral research fellow training program. His primary research focus for the past decade has been randomized controlled nutrition intervention trials (soy, garlic, antioxidants, ginkgo, omega-3 fats, vegetarian diets, weight loss diets), testing the effects of these on chronic disease risk factors that have included blood cholesterol, weight, inflammatory markers, and the microbiome. His research interests have recently shifted to two new areas. The first is to approach helping individuals make healthful improvements in diet through motivators beyond health, linking to ongoing social movements around animal rights and welfare, climate change, and social justice, and their relationships to food. The second is to focus less on trying to improve individual behaviours around food, and more on a food systems approach that addresses the quality of food provided by universities, worksites, hospitals, schools, etc., using a community-based participatory research approach and taking advantage of the many complementary disciplines represented on the Stanford campus, such as medicine, business, education, law, and earth sciences.

Supporting studies

  • A randomized crossover trial on the effect of plant-based compared with animal-based meat on trimethylamine-N-oxide and cardiovascular disease risk factors in generally healthy adults: Study With Appetizing Plantfood-Meat Eating Alternative Trial (SWAP-MEAT) • PMID: 32780794
  • Popular Dietary Patterns: Alignment With American Heart Association 2021 Dietary Guidance: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association • PMID: 29466592
  • SWAP-MEAT Athlete (study with appetizing plant-food, meat eating alternatives trial) – investigating the impact of three different diets on recreational athletic performance: a randomized crossover trial • PMID: 36384651
  • Popular Dietary Patterns: Alignment With American Heart Association 2021 Dietary Guidance: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association • AHA Journals

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