An Introduction to a Whole-Foods, Plant Based Diet…Why Should You Try It?
By Dr. Raymond A. Berdugo – Family Medicine, Certified in Plant-Based Nutrition
If we think about it, we already know that what we put into our bodies will determine our health. We also know that it can also determine our disease. It is expressed in this popular saying “You are what you eat.” It turns out that this knowledge is not new. In fact, the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, more than 2000 years ago (around 300 B.C.E.), is quoted as saying (in translation) “Let food be thy medicine & medicine be thy food”. Indeed, many ancient cultures realized the medicinal powers of our daily nourishment and looking at our food choices was a huge part of our overall health and wellness.
It seems we have lost sight of this with today’s Standard American Diet and we, as a nation, are getting sicker every year. It turns out that 7 out of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States of America arise from our dietary habits. These include the top two killers in the USA, which are Heart Disease and Cancer. Another large one is one of our current epidemics; Diabetes Mellitus Type 2. The good news? Since we know the cause, we already have the cure!
First, let’s talk about how we are, as a nation, “overfed” and yet “malnourished.” The Standard American Diet causes us to consume excess calories without receiving adequate nutrition. How does this happen? Let’s take two extremes: Oil and Spinach.
Oil: A simple 1 single tablespoon of oil contains about 100 calories with some slight variation depending on the source of the oil. Olive oil, largely touted to be “healthy” for us has 119 calories all coming from fat. This breaks down to 13.5 grams of fat and only trace amount of iron (0.5% of daily value) and potassium (0.1% of daily value). All oils will follow this same trend of having perhaps some trace amounts of vitamins or some ‘good fat’, but largely oil amounts to calories without any nutritional value (also known as “empty calories”).
Spinach: On the other hand, we can take 4 whole cups of baby spinach leaves (about the size traditionally considered for a ‘family’) and that only amounts to 28 calories, has 3.4 grams of protein, 4.4 grams of carbohydrates (half of which are fiber), and only 0.5grams of fat. In addition, it has a whopping 225% of our daily value of Vitamin A, 56.2% of daily Vitamin C, 11.9% of calcium, 18.1% of iron and much more. Thus, we have an incredibly healthy food in a large amount that has little to no calories.
From this example, we can easily see how foods that are high in calories, but devoid of nutrients, can lead to being “overfed” and “malnourished” at the same time.
Eating without regard to nutritional value is what leads to Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity. These, in turn, lead to a whole host of problems including high blood pressure (Hypertension), Diabetes Mellitus Type 2 (Insulin Resistance), high cholesterol (Dyslipidemia, Hyperlipidemia), Mood disorders, Reproductive disorders, Liver disease as well as Osteoporosis, Auto-immune diseases, worsening pains of Fibromyalgia, Dementia and Cancers of all types.
Great news, there’s hope! Whenever we face a problem, we should not only try to help the symptoms, but work at fixing the root cause. A good analogy is a sink that is overflowing with water because someone left the faucet on. While it is important to empty the sink itself, the more important thing is to turn off the faucet.
Our bodies are amazing at healing. We do not need special detoxification supplements to allow our body to begin to heal. Your body is already in the process of healing RIGHT NOW. We just have to help turn off the faucet. The answer? A diet with more PLANTS.
Everyone can benefit from a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet for disease prevention. Those who are suffering from these chronic ailments can benefit even more as many of these chronic diseases can be halted from progressing, and most can be reversed. It turns out that studies over the last one hundred years continuously show that the more plants in our diet, the healthier we are and the longer we live.
Yes, Plants are that powerful.
To quote the American Dietetic Association:
“It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or ‘vegan diets’, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.
“Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”
Easy steps for improving the health of your diet:
Make a huge list of PLANTS you like to eat!
Fruits of all kinds
Vegetables of all kinds
Beans (legumes) of all kinds
Roots / Tubers (potatoes and yams)
Whole Grains (example: brown rice, quinoa)
Spices (not salt, but pepper, curry, cinnamon, ginger, etc)
Nuts & Seeds
Some Daily Goals for better nutritional health:
Fruit: 5 servings of fruit in a day, the easy way!
–eat one fruit with each major meal, and as snacks in between
example: banana with breakfast, apple for snack, orange for lunch, apple for snack and grapes with dinner
-If you are not eating any fruit daily, start with one fruit per day as a goal and increase each week or two so it becomes a habit to have lots of fruit in the diet
-tip: you do not have to worry about the natural sugars in fruit as long as you are eating the fruit and not making fruit juices
5 servings in a day at least, but truly unlimited:
-2-3 cups of salad with every lunch
-2-3 cups of steamed veggies with every dinner
1-2 servings in a day
Brown rice, quinoa or other whole grain, 1-2 servings
Nuts & Seeds:
¼ cup in a day
Resources and where to learn more:
These resources are for informational purposes only. They do not necessarily represent an endorsement of their content, recommendations, or guidelines by Kaiser Permanente.
“Eat to Live” by Dr. Joel Fuhrman
“The China Study” by Dr. T. Colin Campbell
“Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn
Recommended Documentaries (on Netflix):
Forks over Knives
Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead