I hear this question almost every day. People are avoiding sugar, flour and processed foods. They are eating meat, fruit and vegetables and exercising regularly but …their weight is not where it needs to be. The blood pressure or blood sugar level is too high. They lack energy.
What can you do to go to the next level? Enjoy a plant based diet
Eating Plant Based Foods have been shown to have the following benefits:
1. Less obesity
2. Less heart disease
3. Lower blood pressure
4. Live longer
5. Less arthritis
6. Less bone loss
7. Lower cholesterol
8. Less food allergies
9. Less exposure to environmental toxins (which accumulate in animal fat)
10. Lower rates of cancer
11. Less diabetes (a low fat vegan diet can even reverse it)
12. Less kidney stones
13. Less gallstones
14. Less asthma
15. Less PMS and menstrual problems
16. Improved athletic performance and stamina
Daniel and Plant Based Eating
In the Old Testament Daniel had the opportunity to live like a king but Daniel asked asks to eat just vegetables for 10 days to see if he and is friends looked better or not. Results of this study: at the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished! (from Daniel 1)
Veggies worked for Olympian Carl Lewis as well
Olympian Carl Lewis achieved his peak athletic performance after eliminating all animal products from his diet http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOTETXwfIaY
Plant Based Eating Plan - One step beyond my usual recommendations
I have typically recommended eating meat, fruit and vegetables with limited grains as a healthy diet. Compared to the typical American diet, this is a dramatic improvement. I regularly see weight drop, blood pressure and blood sugar decline. Just eliminating sugar, high fructose corn syrup, processed foods and most flour goes a long way toward improving health. If you are in great health doing this, you may not need to do anything else.
However, if you find yourself struggling with any chronic disease, desire to lose weight, lower blood pressure or blood sugar, you may want to do what Daniel did & Carl Lewis did: try a Plant Based Eating Plan.
Advantages of a Plant Based Diet
For some reason, when people start talking about plant based diets they start calling people names. Those who eat eggs and dairy are called ovo-lacto-vegetarians. Those who eat no animal products are called vegans. It may be just me, but I think that referring to yourself by how you eat is a bit strange. To say you are omnivore, vegetarian or vegan sounds like a religious or political affiliation. I do not think these labels are helpful. I prefer to describe it as following a plant based diet.
Generally speaking, as animal products decrease the health benefits increase. Similarly, as sugar, fat/oil decreases we see additional benefits. This is particularly important in reversing heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
A plant based diet which avoids adding vegetable oil and chooses from lower glycemic index unprocessed vegetables, fruits and grains is the healthiest of all.
Metabolic Advantages of a Plant Based Diet
In the February 12, 2004 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Yale researchers found that insulin resistance was associated with tiny amounts of fat that interfered with insulin’s ability to work. The fat called intramyocellular lipid “gums up” the delicate process in which insulin allows our cells to use glucose. When our body tries to compensate by making more insulin our appetite increases, fat is deposited around our waistline, blood pressure goes up and we accelerate aging.
In his book “Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes,” Dr. Barnard shows how avoiding animal products, vegetable oil and sugar dramatically lowers your intracellular fats or lipids.
The low fat, low sugar plant based approach turns on the genes for burning fat, increases our mitochondria and improves insulin sensitivity – all of which paves the way to slow aging, obtain an ideal body weight and lower the risk of virtually all chronic diseases we see in the USA.
Health Concerns about Plant Based Nutrition
Protein: Most people think you have to eat meat to get protein. This is not correct. A balanced diet with vegetarian foods provides plenty of protein. Anyone using a normal range of vegetables and grains will get plenty of protein. In fact, excessive protein is linked to health problems such as bone loss and kidney stones. A short video on the topic may help: Click HERE
Calcium & Iron: We do not need milk and meat to get these. The dark green leafy vegetables and beans are rich in calcium. Iron is found in whole grains, beans, and fruits.
B12: Vitamin B12 is a genuine issue for vegans. This is one vitamin that we do need to supplement.
Is it safe during Pregnancy? Infants, and Children
The American Dietetic Association has found vegan diets adequate for fulfilling nutritional needs during pregnancy, but pregnant women and nursing mothers should supplement their diets with vitamins B12 and D. Most doctors recommend adding iron and folic acid as well.
In fact a plant based diet reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia during pregnancy. Pre-eclampsia is a serious condition during pregnancy in which blood pressure rises and the blood vessels become leaky. Pre-eclampsia threatens the safety of both mother and child. Plant based eating also results in purer breast milk with much less environmental toxins.
Children also have high nutritional needs, but these are met within a vegetarian diet.
But what is wrong with eating some animal products?
There is nothing wrong with eating animal products in itself. However, most of us it eat far more than is optimal for our health. Additionally, our animals are raised in very unhealthy conditions; I recommend you watch The Meatrix http://www.themeatrix.com/ http://www.themeatrix1.com/
Dare to Daniel
You can read differences of opinion on optimal eating ad infinitum; however, you not know if plant based nutrition is for you unless you actually try it. Let me suggest you do what I just did, try a “Daniel Diet” - a low sugar, low fat plant based eating plan for at least 10 days.
Avoid all animal products – meats, dairy and eggs
Use minimal vegetable oils and nuts and of course avoid margarine
Choose from lower glycemic index foods -whole grain pasta, brown rice, sprouted grain breads, fruits, vegetables.
Give yourself 10 days and see how you feel. I just did and I am definitely seeing more energy and I have lost about 6 lbs. … eating all I want. Most say you will see even more improvement over 3 months.
You can always enjoy some animal products once you are enjoying ideal health but you might find it easier to completely avoid them. Moderation in an extreme society like ours is challenging.
Do not fear Complex Starches
Not all carbohydrate foods are created equal, in fact they behave quite differently in our bodies. Many people mistakenly believe all starches are“bad.”
What is the Glycemic Index?
Choosing low GI foods that have less insulin elevating effects is important to long-term health.
White flour has a glycemic index of 70 – this is high
Pasta is actually a low GI food coming in at 43-48 (do not overcook– this raises the GI)
Rice is 50 (brown is best)
Beans and lentils are low GI
Most fruit is fairly low (exceptions are watermelon and pineapple)
Yams and sweet potatoes are low while baking potato is high GI
Oatmeal and bran are lower GI breakfast foods – avoid most cold cereals
For more information see http://www.glycemicindex.com/
Resources for a low fat plant based diet
The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter's 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan that lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds (MY TOP RECOMMENDATION)
Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell Esselstyn
The McDougall Plan, by John McDougall, M.D.
Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes by Neal Barnard, M.D.
The China Study by T. Colin Campbell
Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease, by Dean Ornish, M.D.
http://www.drmcdougall.com/: the cookbooks are very useful. DVD’s help as well