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Plant-based Diets: Don’t Knock It Until You’ve Tried It

By Nick Jacobs

I’ve always questioned the challenge that people who have chosen to eat a plant-based diet face from carnivores and other skeptics. One of my granddaughters recently decided to become a vegetarian. Maybe she was influenced by her friend who, at age 11, declared herself a vegetarian, but no matter: she has been sometimes endlessly questioned by numerous relatives as to how she will be able to physically sustain herself as a person surviving on a plant-based diet.

After being a vegan myself for the past 12 years, let me assure you this article is not about converting anyone to a lifestyle they don’t choose. God tried that in the Garden of Eden with the apple—and look how that worked out! 

In a recent newsletter from the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine promoting a presentation by Dr. Deanna Minnich, a summary of her topic was provided in which she elaborates on her presentation entitled “Eating the Rainbow.” In it, she references scientific information regarding the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables - all types, colors, shapes, and sizes of both: a virtual rainbow of healthy eating. 

In her presentation, Dr. Minnich elaborates on both the psychological and the physiological benefits of following this type of diet, ranging from the myriad vitamins and minerals contained therein to the phytonutrients that can lead to improved cell structure and function—ultimately resulting in significantly improved health outcomes. 

So, let’s take a deeper dive into this concept through the works of Dr. Dean Ornish, author Dan Buettner, and Dr. Mimi Guarneri, who are acknowledged experts on this topic. First, it’s not just about food. I’ve had numerous physicians claim that diet may represent only about 10 percent of potential ammunition needed to meet the challenges presented to us by our genetics. Let’s face it, something like familial hypercholesterolemia is a challenge diagnosis no matter one’s diet. 

Regardless, as Drs. Ornish and Guarneri have researched, proven, and taught us, it is a combination of diet, exercise, stress management and social support that ultimately provides us with the right tools needed collectively to live a long, healthy, and hopefully, happy life. But even with that magic mix of ingredients, when genetics or genetic alterations created by exposure to toxins take over, even those efforts can prove to be moot.

Conversely, we know definitively that controlling one’s weight, reducing consumption of sugar and other inflammatory disease contributors, getting minimal exercise even a few days a week, and working to reduce stress can reverse Type-2 diabetes, and in some cases, as proven by Drs. Ornish and Guarneri, can even reverse the ill-effects of heart disease. 

In the international geographic areas researched by Dan Buettner for his books and articles on the Blue Zones—locations where he says, “people forget to die”—he found that plant-based diets are often the core of their daily food intake. Think about it: How many highly successful animals eat only plants, fruits and vegetables? Just look in a barn full of cattle or watch the energy manifested by a herd of baby goats.

Enough protein can be garnered from legumes, wheat, barley, soy, and other plants to not only sustain human beings but also to allow them to physically flourish and thrive.

Remember, we are living in a country that is built on an economy based on capitalism, and we are inundated daily with the purchased messages of those corporations and industries that profit from creating more and more consumers of their goods. When you stop to read a label on any of our processed foods, it should make you take at least a few steps backwards to examine the benefits or lack thereof from filling our bodies with myriad, often untested, combinations of chemicals, dyes and additives that may make the food look better, crunch louder, or grab onto those pleasure zones in our brains that love sweet or salty flavors. As the computer scientists say, “Garbage in, garbage out.” 

Simply stated, it cannot hurt you to eat more vegetables and fruits. Scouts honor. But we all must choose for ourselves. As the author, Sam Walter Foss, in his poem “The Calf Path,” says, “Ah, many things this tale might teach—But I am not ordained to preach.”

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