The Healing Power Of A Plant-Based Diet, Part 1 – Diabetes and Heart Disease

The Gift of Life from Flickr via Wylio
© 2007 Melissa Johnson, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

“…The idea that whole foods, plant-based diets can protect against and even treat a wide variety of chronic diseases can no longer be denied…now there are hundreds of detailed, comprehensive, well-done research studies that point in the same direction….” T. Colin Campbell, The China Study

 

So, exactly what diseases can a vegan diet heal, reverse, or improve?

We need to be really specific about how we define ‘vegan and ‘plant-based’ here. As we discussed in last week’s post, a junk-food vegan diet is not an optimal healing diet, so, for the rest of this post, when I say ‘vegan’ or ‘plant-based,’ please know that I mean a whole-foods vegan diet – the diet I mostly coach on my programs. As well as no animal products this also means no refined carbohydrates and no processed crap; just good old veggies, fruits, nuts, legumes, beans, whole grains, seeds, and minimal oil.

There are not many diseases that a plant-based diet won’t have a beneficial effect on. In my experience and studies, it is ALWAYS a good idea. As there are so many other elements at play (such as how active a person is, their emotional state, how toxic their environment is/has been, and even their spiritual state (apol’s for the ‘woo’) there are no guarantees that a plant-based diet will cure terminal cancer. However, fuelling your body with clean, whole, nutritious food while you are ill can only have a positive impact, even if it just extends the timescale of a terminal prognosis, or eases digestion and regulates metabolism and weight, thereby making life more comfortable.

If you are not already plant-based then always get the ok from your medical practitioner before changing your diet to treat, or help treat (along with conventional medicine) your illness. This diet can have positive effects very quickly.  If you have a chronic disease and are on specific medications, you may need to reduce them, as regular doses may start to be too much. This is why it is important to do this with the knowledge (and supervision with regard to any medication) of a doctor.

Also:  Prevention prevention prevention! Don’t wait till you’re good and crook to change your ways. The animals and the planet need you to go vegan asap, so jump right in! You can think of your ‘reward’ as getting the best protection there is from most illness. What better upside could there be?

Anyhow, let’s kick this off with a couple of biggies:

 

Diabetes Type 2

Firstly, this disease is easily PREVENTED with a plant-based diet.

Secondly, there is a small possiblity that you have genes that make you more susceptible to diabetes than others, BUT, on a whole-foods plant-based diet, these genes need never play out.

If you already have diabetes type 2? The good news is it can be reversed with a plant-based diet. You can become symptom and medication free. Seeing as how I’m not a doctor, I’m gonna let someone that is, talk and explain the specifics:

If you want Dr Barnard’s book on reversing diabetes, you can find it here.

This disease is unnecessary, it is a lifestyle disease – no-one has to get it. There is no need to suffer.

Some doctors know about this way of reversing diabetes, some don’t (most doctors don’t know much at all about nutrition, it simply doesn’t play a big part in their training). Some doctors may have read about reversing diabetes with a whole food vegan diet, but don’t believe their patients will agree to trying it. However, doctors that have given their patients the option of following a plant-based diet to reverse their diabetes have proved this wrong; most people are only too glad to help themselves.

A little info on diabetes type 1 (I focussed on type 2 here as it is more prolific). Diabetes type 1 can likely be prevented with a plant-based diet if you are vegan from birth, as there is very strong evidence to suggest it is caused by too high a consumption of dairy in childhood. Though a diabetes type 1 patient will always have to take some level of insulin, the amount can often be greatly reduced, and all the usual diabetes type 1 complications can be minimised by adopting a plant-based diet.

 

Heart disease

It has been known for at least the last thirty years, that a whole food plant-based diet prevents and reverses heart disease. Another lifestyle disease just like diabetes, it has been described by Dr Caldwell B Esselstyn (the author of ‘Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease’) as a ‘toothless paper tiger’ i.e. a disease that need not happen.

So why is it our biggest killer? Because most people are brainwashed into thinking that our standard diet rich in animal products is healthy, when in fact it is the cause of most chronic disease. Most doctors will just come out with ambiguous suggestions like ‘eat everything in moderation’ or ‘eat lots of veg and fruit and low fat proteins.’ Advice like this is not helpful. Who can define moderation? According to Dr Esselstyn, ‘moderation kills.’ And the second piece of advice is useless as it ignores the fact that protein is in vegetables too – it makes it sound as if protein is ONLY in meat and dairy, and it does not even touch on whole grains versus refined grains.

As with diabetes, there are doctors who do have this information, but are loathe to suggest it to their patients:

‘Why don’t more cardiologists employ this simple and successfully proven method? The stock answer is “My patients won’t follow such a diet.” That is indeed hard to accept when entire cultures without heart disease have preferred this way of eating for centuries and thousands of heart patients have accepted this technique. A more honest answer would be there is much less financial reward for the caregiver. The hope is that insurance carriers will appreciate this less expensive and more reliable approach and reward lifestyle counselling which will accelerate momentum and acceptance. Dr. Esselstyn now treats invasive cardiologists who seek his counsel when they have the disease. Viewing a broader landscape for the health of America is imperative.’   – Dr Caldwell Esselstyn

As for the how and why a standard diet causes heart disease and how a plant-based diet reverses it – take it away Doc:

The fact that these diseases can be reversed is incredible, but I can’t stress enough – prevention is key.

If you suffer from either of these diseases, or are interested in avoiding them – go plant-based now. If you need any help – I can guide you through the transition, and make it easy and fun. You know where I am!

 

A Vegan Diet Isn’t Always Healthy…

Being a long-time vegan, I am thrilled that a plant-based diet has received so much media attention in recent months, and delighted that people are waking up to the health benefits the lifestyle has to offer.

The thing that bothers me, is that too many times I’ve read/heard some version of this phrase: ‘A vegan diet is the best thing you can do for your health.’

It’s true, it can be the healthiest diet on the planet, and it’s also true that just by going vegan you have done your body a blinking huge favour, but a lot more information needs to be given.

Yes, it’s very likely that just by eliminating meat, dairy and eggs you will experience better health. After all, you’ll be forgoing all non-essential cholesterol, and most forms of saturated fat. You may well lose some weight, have more energy than before, and improve a few health niggles.

However, the words that are often missed out when referring to the health promises of a vegan diet are ‘whole foods.’

Bottom line – to experience everything a vegan diet has to offer health-wise, try to swap refined carbs and sugars for whole grains. Refined products were once ‘whole,’ but they had the goodness (including the fibre) stripped out, mainly to make them white and more neutral tasting. They therefore do nothing but spike your blood, constipate, and promote heart disease and cancer.

It’s very simple to switch from white rice to brown rice, but the most ubiquitous refined products we use are white flour and white sugar, and you’d be surprised how many products contain them.

From bread (including regular sliced, bagels, veggie burger buns, baguettes, paninis, matzo), to cookies, cakes, and white pasta, there are many ways white flour is sneaking into your body.

As for sugar, not only is it in obvious places like candies and cakes, but also in ketchup, jam, canned beans, chilli sauce (most shop-bought sauces, in fact), and you’d be surprised how much it is used in restaurants – even in main dishes.

Avoiding refined products like white flour and sugar does require a certain amount of label reading at first, but after a while you get to remember which products contain them and which don’t. I think of it this way – how much refined starch goes into your body needs to be controlled by you, not huge food corporations, whose only interest is to keep you addicted to their product.

Wholewheat, whole spelt or gluten free flour can be used in place of white in baking; wholewheat or brown rice pasta are good alternatives to white pasta, and there are many quality pre-made products in health shops that contain only whole grains.

Try quinoa and buckwheat in place of brown rice sometimes.
To replace sugar? Maple syrup or brown rice syrup are a much healthier option for those times when you just have to sweeten something up a little, and they are also great for baking with.

It’s ok to adopt new habits little by little. Just as you may have given up one animal product at a time, you can sub whole grains for refined products one by one if that is easier.

(I should add here that complex carbohydrates are a massive part of a healthy vegan diet – please don’t ever fall for the low-carb nonsense. I’ll talk about this in another post).

It is so important to not misrepresent a vegan diet, saying it is the healthiest way to live without being more specific about how this is achieved.

Fries, coke and white bread can all be vegan – but good luck trying to thrive on that!

With a varied diet made up of whole grains, veggies, beans, nuts, seeds, fruit and legumes, with sugar kept to a minimum, you’ll soon start to reap the benefits other vegans have been shouting about.

 

Will I Die Of Something Horrid If I Don’t Eat Everything Organic?

How do you like them apples? from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 Jennifer, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

No.

I mean, probably not.

I mean, you might, but it may not be because your veg wasn’t organic. You know what I mean, don’t you?

Er…This is what I mean:

Bottom line – of cooourrrsse it is better to buy everything organic if you can. Fewer chemicals on your food is always a good thing.

BUT,…

….if you’re like me, and haven’t (ahem..yet) won the jackpot, and your current budget is not organic friendly, what can you do? Are you doomed to pesticide laden purgatory and herbicide ridden Hades (heh)?

Not in the least.

Here’s what you need to know if you want to minimise the nasties, and not piss off your pocket-book!

 

  • First of all – if you are vegan (and I’m assuming you are trying to be, or at least interested in the subject if you’re reading this), do not even worry if you can’t budget for anything organic. Really. Why am I saying this? Because the most chemical laden foods are animal products. By eating these you are taking on the chemical load of the animal. Crops grown for livestock feed are the most heavily sprayed. The chemicals from these pesticides are fat-soluble and accumulate in the fat of the animal. Add this to the fact that lots of livestock are fed ground-up bits of other animals, and you’ll see how the problem is compounded. Meat and milk have much higher chemical levels than plant-food, so by ditching them you’ve already avoided the most pesticide laden food on the planet! Well done!
  • Familiarise yourself with the clean fifteen (fruit and veg that contain the least pesticide residues, that are ok to buy non-organic) and the dirty dozen (fruit and veg to prioritise buying organic if you can).
  • If you need to be super canny with the budget and can’t always afford to buy a dirty dozen item organic, maybe buy it organic every other time. Maybe see if the dish you are planning to make that would ordinarily contain something from the dirty dozen list could be made with another from the clean fifteen list. For example, I often make an Ethiopian soup that calls for a pound of potatoes (Booooooo, dirty). I realised the soup flavours would go just as well with sweet potatoes (yaaaay, clean!), and so now always make it that way. Sometimes, admittedly, that just won’t do. The recipe calls for an apple – you need a frickin’ apple. In that case, apply my next tips!
  • Scrub, scrub, scrub your non-organic fruit and veg. You can buy an inexpensive little brush (like this one) specifically for this purpose.
  • H2O. Drink it. If you are drinking enough water, your body is continuously being flushed out, so any toxins or chemicals that may be on your food have the best chance of being eliminated expediently. Or, should I say, exPEEdiently. Hee.
  • If you read my post about flax seeds, you will remember that one of their many benefits is that they bind to, and transport toxins and heavy metals out of the body. Add 5 teaspoons ground flaxseeds to one meal per day (breakfast is often easier, as they go well on cereal or porridge).
  • If you eat meat and dairy, or know you might have to buy non-organic fruit and veg on the dirty dozen list (or any others that may have been sprayed) here’s what to do: Try to eat plenty of soluble fibres (fruit, beans, oats, legumes, nuts), that soak up toxins in a sponge-like fashion as they pass through your body and prohibit them from entering the blood stream. Insoluble fibre foods are important too (found in veg, whole grains and seeds) as they ‘sweep up’ the colon as they pass through. As we’ve learnt, animal foods contains the most residues and precisely NO fibre, so it’s ultra important, if you’re a meat/dairy eater, to ensure you are getting plenty.

 

This last tip does rather beg the question ‘if I buy non-organic beans, does the fibre in them cancel out the pesticide residue?’ Hah! I don’t know. You just gotta do the best you can.

What do I always buy organic? Soy milk, whole grains, and as many veg and fruit on the dirty dozen list as possible (but I don’t always buy every single one organic).

Lentils and dried beans I often buy in bulk from the Asian aisle in the supermarket. This can be a good idea to offset the expense of the organic grains.

So, don’t fret if your budget doesn’t allow for a 100% organic foodshop. Follow these tips, and eliminate or minimise animal products for the greatest reduction in chemical nasties.

 

Plant-Based Tips For Glowy, Radiant, Youthful Skin

Skin 3 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2014 Iwan Gabovitch, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Who on earth doesn’t want amazing skin?

The good news is plants are here to help! And they are cheap! Forget your La Prairie or Creme de la Mer expensive gloop. In order to get and maintain beautiful skin, we need lots of alkaline, anti-inflammatory, vitamin and mineral-rich foods (veg, fruit, legumes, beans) that nourish and keep the skin well hydrated; whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, wholewheat products etc) to keep the moisture inside us as long as possible; and nutritious fats (found in avocados, nuts and seeds) that keep the skin moisturised from the inside out.

Meat dairy and eggs are acid-y when in the body and only promote skin inflammation and dehydration.

Here are some of the absolute best things you can do to maintain a youthful, dewy, glowy, radiant skin. Some are well-known and scientific, and hell, I’ve thrown in a few anecdotal tips that I’ve found out for myself. YOU’RE WELCOME!

 

  • Water, water, water. Of course skin needs water to stop it from drying out. If you eat a whole-food, plant-based diet, you don’t need to go too crazy as the veg and fruit you eat will contain lots of water, so just drink when you feel thirsty – but don’t put it off. If you are not vegan, then at least a litre and a half of water (plus more if you feel thirsty) per day will keep the skin well-hydrated. You can always do the dehydration test (not hugely scientific but nevertheless a good indication): Put your hand, palm side down, flat on a table; pinch some skin from the back of your hand and hold it for a couple of seconds. Release it! If it goes back down flat right away – well done! You are well hydrated. If it takes a couple of seconds to go down, this is telling you you need to be supping more water.
  • Vitamin E – This is an anti-oxidant vitamin and, as such, great for the skin, and anti-aging. Get it from nuts, seeds, green leafy veg, and whole grains. Olives and avocados are other great sources, and as we know, avocados have the added benefit of providing the moisturising oils to the skin. Try avocado toast, avocado maki rolls or rustle up a quick guacamole.
  • Vitamin C – Yup, good old, ubiquitous (in the plant world, anyway!) vitamin C. Aside from being an antioxidant, it is needed to produce the collagen which maintains the skins structure. so chow down on those citrus fruits, berries, broccoli, and brussels sprouts!
  • Vitamin A – Get yo’ vitamin A on – in the plant-based form – beta carotene. Like vitamin C, this is a powerful antioxidant. Generally speaking, the more intense a colour the fruit or veg is, the more beta carotene it contains. Orange, yellow and red veg are great examples. Get chomping on sweet potatoes, carrots, red peppers, cantaloupe and butternut squash. Green leafy veg are good sources too. DON’T take beta carotene supplements though. This could mean you get too much. Although not seriously harmful in excess, it can turn your skin orange – really! Just get your vits from your food and you’ll be fine.
  • Zinc – This hardworking mineral doesn’t get as much press as vitamins A and E when talking about healthy skin, but it is vital for skin healing and reparation. If you have acne or psoriasis you may need to check you have adequate levels of zinc with your medical practitioner. Vegetarians and vegans may get told they can only get zinc from animal foods, but, like lots of things we get told, this is monumental BS. You can get plenty from brown rice, wholemeal bread, legumes, nuts, seeds and beans.

 

And here are a few anecdotal tips!

  • Dried rose buds. What do you do with these? You make an infusion with them, that’s what. You can get them from any Chinese herbalist, or from ebay. Put maybe 6 or 7 buds in a large mug and pour boiling water on top. Leave for a few minutes and drink. This has been used for centuries in China as a skin beautifier, and if you have it before bed you may even notice the rosy hue in your cheeks the next morning! I can’t NOT have a big cup of this before bed now! Added bonus – it is also thought to ease depression and menstrual cramps, calm nerves and aid the body in absorbing iron.
  • Coconut oil (as a topical night cream!) In my opinion, you don’t need fancy schmancy creams to have great skin. Cut the middle man and just invest in a jar of coconut oil (good coconut oil, mind; organic virgin). All the expensive-ass creams contain coconut oil anyway, so you’ll just be getting the goodness of the creams, but cheaper! Apply it liberally before bed and massage in well. Though it is oil, it doesn’t feel too greasy on the skin, and absorbs quite quickly. Rose-hip oil is also fantastic, but coconut oil works out more economical.
  • Kimchi – I noticed a while back that whenever I ate kimchi, the following day my skin was glowing. I had no idea why this could be – in particular why the effect would be so immediate. After a little research I’ve found that kimchi is chocka with vitamins A and C, which would go some way to explaining its beauty promoting qualities (see above). For it to work so quickly however, there must be something else at play too. I don’t know what that is. Maybe it’s because it aids digestion, and good digestion is reflected in your skin (bad digestion can give you skin issues). Maybe it’s that if your gut is happy with all the good bacteria from the kimchi, then your skin is happy too. All I know is that there are lots of Korean blogs touting kimchi as being amazing for the skin, so I know there is something to it. And I’ve seen it for myself!

 

Don’t waste hard-earned money on the gloop and the gunk in fancy packaging.

Combine these tips with lots of fresh air and exercise, and your skin will show you how grateful it can be!

 

What’s Wrong With Eggs? They Are Good For You And Chickens Don’t Need Them!

egg

A couple of years ago, somewhere in the southern states of America, (it could have been Chattanooga) I got talking to a lady who owned a second hand book and bric-a-brac store. We had a perfectly lovely conversation until she asked me what I was writing about (I’d mentioned I was writing a book). When I told her it was about how a standard diet negatively impacts our health, the environment and animals, and how a vegan diet was the antidote to this, she got very animated.

She got the most worked up about eggs, saying she didn’t understand how I didn’t eat them, telling me how they were the most healthy food you could eat, and she went as far as to say that eggs are ‘God’s own protein,’ whatever the feckin’ heck that meant.

Firstly, she was most decidedly not the best advertisement for her health claims regarding eggs. I don’t want to snark (ok I do, but I shan’t), let’s just say she was very evidently NOT healthy.

Secondly, I haven’t eaten eggs for 23 years, and I am still here and thriving – not a shrivelled pile of protein-deprived fatigue, convulsing on the floor. I do not believe I am missing the so-called protein of God.

I didn’t want to continue the conversation, so I just wrapped it up politely and left. I intuited that she would not have been open to receiving any actual facts on eggs, as invested as she clearly was in what were probably lifelong, myth-based beliefs, so I let it go. Although I believe in advocating when possible, it’s also important to know when to conserve your energy for better opportunities!

In case YOU have questions about eggs, or in case you get asked questions by curious friends – who you feel may be more receptive to facts than my book-store lady; here are some of the common egg myths dispelled.

 

Eggs are good for you

Uh-uh.

Yes, eggs do contain protein. But they are also very high in cholesterol, and like all animal products, they contain destructive saturated fat.  Just consider this for a hot second: Eggs have inside them the wherewithal to grow ONE cell into a baby chick in a relatively short space of time. They actually contain the most concentrated form of protein (second only to animal brains). This is excessive for humans – ‘too much of a good thing,’ if you will. We have been led to believe that the more protein the better, and some people eat egg whites believing them to be the healthiest and most protein-filled part of the egg, but this is just not a balanced form of protein for humans to be ingesting.

Because of this, consumption of eggs is very closely linked to cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

You do not need eggs for health. You can meet ALL your protein needs with plants.

 

How is the egg industry cruel? The chickens aren’t killed or anything…

Ok, so I don’t need to go into why battery hen farming is cruel – that’s obvious.

Cage-free, free-range and organic are just great labels to make you feel you are doing something good for the hens when you buy eggs. BUT, in terms of hen suffering, they mean nothing. And all across the board, baby male chicks are gassed, ground alive or suffocated, being of no profit to the egg industry.

All that farmers need in order to classify their eggs as free range, is a tiny ‘door’ hole in a barn, so they can say that chickens have access to fresh air. These barns are normally crammed with so many thousands of hens, and hens are hierarchical, so only a very few will see the fresh air. Most will live in very cramped conditions, walking around (as much as they can walk) in their own pee and poop. Many grow deformed or die and aren’t discovered for ages. They are also debeaked without anaesthetic, just like battery hens.

 

What if I have chickens in my back garden and I treat them well? Surely it’s ok to take their eggs?

This article very nicely explains the ethical stance regarding backyard chickens that are kept for eggs.

Also, the reason hens KEEP laying eggs is because their eggs KEEP getting taken away. They would only normally lay enough to fill their nest.

Laying so many eggs takes up a lot of energy, and so lots of chickens eat their own eggs to replenish the nutrients they’ve lost in this effort. Lots of backyard hens are rescues from the egg industry, so they will often do this, as they are attempting to restore a lifetimes worth of nutrient loss.

If you’re wondering whether you can eat the eggs that backyard hens don’t eat that might otherwise go to waste? Weeell, you could…but first, reread about the health dangers of eating eggs!

 

5 Plant-Based Tips for Gorgeous Guts!

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You may have heard that 70-80% of the immune system is in the gut.

Thus, we need to keep topping up the good bacteria in our guts to help fight the bad. When there is too much bad bacteria (candida) and not enough good, there are a bazillion horrid symptoms that can ensue.

It is particularly nasty because symptoms can appear one by one and gradually, so it can take a long time to realise the core of the problem. While it’s not a death sentence (though if left too long it can lead to chronic diseases – multiple sclerosis, cancer, ME, IBS, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and alcoholism have all been linked to candida overgrowth), it can take a while for the body to get rid of it.

How can we support a healthy gut in the best (and vegan) way?

Here are 5 solid, sure-fire ways:

1. Take a pro-biotic or two daily. (I take Quest acidophilus non-dairy capsules, but there are lots of brands out there that do a vegan probiotic)

2. Eat a serving of (non-pasteurised) sauerkraut or kimchi daily, or at least 4 times a week (next week, I’ll post how I make my own unbelievably simple kimchi!)

3. Garlic, garlic, garlic! You can take vegetarian garlic capsules, or try eating dishes where the garlic is still fairly raw, like in kimchi. Get your garlic any way you can, it really helps keep the gut in order. It’s a natural anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-biotic. Win-win-win.

4. Yoghurt – dairy-free of course! Soy yoghurts are widely available. Sojade is an amazing brand because their plain yoghurt is sugar free, and you can just pop in some maple syrup or some sugar free jam, stir, and you have a delish dessert. Coconut yoghurt is creamy and lush, and in the UK, Australia and New Zealand you can pick up the Coyo brand. In the US there are several brands of yummy coconut yoghurt, Whole Foods have a good selection – ideally buy one without sugar and add your own flavour.

5. Eliminate or cut WAAAAY back on sugar (and all things containing it!) and refined carbs – such as white bread, white pasta and white rice. Sugar and refined carbs FEED candida, so it’s best to reduce our intake of these as much as possible. Don’t worry, wholegrain pasta and brown rice are just as tasty (and you will soon find them even tastier than their inferior versions!).

Feel like you may have a candida overgrowth problem? While I’d normally ALWAYS say consult your healthcare practitioner, unfortunately many doctors either don’t acknowledge candida, or believe it only occurs in severely immunocompromised people, such as those with HIV, or simply just don’t know anything about it. So, if you are lucky enough to have an enlightened doctor, go see them. If not, it may be a good idea to see a reputable holistic doctor or naturopath.

Otherwise, use these 5 tips to help maintain gorgeous gut flora!