Updated: Sep 2
Confusion abounds when it comes to what you should eat. What is healthy? Is fat good or bad? Are carbs ok? I have spent the better part of 12 years looking at these questions and I can tell you that If you want to lost weight, lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar, clean out your arteries, improve your digestion, prevent heart disease and stroke, reduce your risk for many cancers, prevent (and possibly reverse) type 2 diabetes, improve symptoms from chronic illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis, lower your risk for Alzheimer's, have clearer skin, less hot flashes, and beat osteoarthritis, reduce your dependence on pharmaceuticals and much more then congratulations on landing here. You've come to the right place!
Yes, a whole foods, plant-based diet can do all those things and more.
What is a whole foods, plant-based diet? Whole food describes natural foods that are not heavily processed. For the most part they look pretty much like how they grew from the ground. They can be peeled, chopped, mashed, cooked but are generally not processed more than that. Plant-based means food that comes from plants and doesn’t contain animal ingredients such as meat, milk, cheese, cream, or eggs.
Consider potatoes versus potato chips:
Back to our original question. What can a whole food, plant-based diet do for you? Let's look at some of the most common benefits.
Weight Loss: In 2018, 49% of Americans attempted to lose weight. But diets don’t work, because 98% of the people who go on diets gain it all back within about 2 years and often they gain back even more weight than they lost. Diets are always based on some type of deprivation - counting calories, counting carbs, counting points, eating thimble sized portions, weighing food, and not eating to satiation - and that is why they don’t work. Plant-based diets can help you lose weight and keep it off because they are packed with fiber, which helps fill you up, without adding extra calories. A Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine study tested a plant-based diet in a group of 64 women. At the start of the study, all of the women were moderately or severely overweight. Participants followed two simple rules: They set aside all animal products and kept oils to a minimum. They lost about a pound per week, without calorie counting or exercise. After two years, they maintained the weight loss.
Hypertension: Eating a healthy plant-based diet can bring your blood pressure down. It may even reduce your need for medication. People who follow a plant-based diet typically have lower blood pressure than those who consume animal products. In fact, the authors of a 2014 meta-analysis reviewed 39 studies and found that when compared to those who eat meat, vegetarians tend to have lower blood pressure.
Why? Fruits and vegetables are rich in potassium, which helps lower blood pressure. Plant products are also generally low in fat and sodium and are free of cholesterol. Avoiding meat, dairy products, and added fats also reduces the blood’s viscosity (or “thickness”), which makes the blood easier to pump. This also brings down blood pressure.
Heart Disease: Groundbreaking studies studies by Dean Ornish, MD, Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., MD, and others have shown that a low-fat, plant-based diet, combined with regular exercise and a healthy overall lifestyle, can prevent, delay, and even reverse heart disease and other cardiovascular events. When a patient with artery blockages adopts a whole foods, low-fat, plant-based diet the plaque disappears and the arteries actually open up.
Cancer: A whole foods, plant-based diet is powerful in preventing cancer and improving survival. The vivid colors of fruits and vegetables are a message to us that they contain powerful antioxidants such as beta-carotene that fight cancer cells. Fiber which is found only in plant foods sweeps toxins and harmful excess hormones out of the digestive tract. On the other hand, red and processed meats such as hotdogs and bacon contain harmful substances which can lead to colorectal cancer. Dairy foods have been linked to prostate, breast, and ovarian cancers. Grilling meat produces heterocyclic amines - a type 1 carcinogen (the same as tobacco).
Diabetes: About 30% of Americans have diabetes and that number has tripled over the last 30 years. This dramatic increase is largely due to the global obesity epidemic. The association between obesity and diabetes is so strong that former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop coined the term "diabesity." In a 2003 study funded by the NIH, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine determined that a plant-based diet controlled blood sugar three times more effectively than a traditional diabetes diet that limited calories and carbohydrates. Within weeks on a plant-based diet, participants saw dramatic health improvements. They lost weight, insulin sensitivity improved, and HbA1c levels dropped.
Digestion: A healthful plant-based diet improves the health and diversity of your gut microbes, preventing and treating conditions like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and inflammation associated with autoimmune diseases. Fiber (found only in plant foods - meat and dairy contain NO fiber) feeds the good microbes in your intestine. Scientists are just beginning to uncover powerful data demonstrating the link between a healthy gut microbiome and prevention of disease. And fiber will aid you in regularly emptying your bowels which reduces your risk of colorectal cancer.
So if all that is true, why haven't I heard about it? The National Institutes of Health (NIH) allocates only 4% of its' budget for nutritional research and training. Why? Because the pharmaceutical industry spends more money by far than any other industry group to lobby the government for favorable support. Nearly all studies that investigate the relationship of animal foods to health are funded by the animal food industries themselves. Government is also a huge supporter of animal and dairy industries. Big pharma and big dairy run the show and let's face it there is no money to be made by prescribing more broccoli for someone!
Our medical doctors receive little to no nutritional training and the few hours of training they do receive are focused on the biochemical aspects of nutrition not what a person ought to be eating to prevent and reverse disease processes. The medical profession focuses on simply treating the symptoms of an illness through drugs and surgery rather than actually curing the illness.
So what should a person think? Are the benefits I've discussed here really possible? Don't take my word for it. You will know if a whole foods, plant-based diet can help you only if you try it. Check out this free resource to walk you through the process of trying the plant-based diet for 21 days and go here to get answers to some of your questions.
Anyone can do this for 21 days. If you do, it will change your life. Tell us about your successes with a plant-based diet in the comments below.
Esselstyn, Caldwell B. Jr, MD, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease
The Nutritional Reversal of Cardiovascular Disease - Fact or Fiction? Three Case Reports/Caldwell Esselstyn and Mladen Golubic/Exp Clin Cardiol Vol 20 Issue7 pages 1901-1908 / 2014