Since approximately 38% of Americans will get cancer in their lifetime, odds are someone close to you is in the 38%, if you yourself aren’t a member of the growing club. There’s also the heart disease club (15 million strong), the high blood pressure club (1 in 3 Americans), and the diabetes club (100 million members, including those who don’t yet know they’re headed that way).
In 2018 three bad cancer diagnoses struck those in my immediate circles. My father-in-law had multiple strokes, including the fatal one. My mom and sister have been on blood pressure medication for a while now. Well, we’re all going to die of something, but the something we’re going to die of varies, depending on where we live in the world and our diet. For Americans, statistically speaking, I’ve already named your eventual killer. The interesting thing about those killers is that their incidence is directly correlated with diet. Generally speaking, the more western the diet, the more your killer will take the form of cancer or cardiovascular disease.
So I was surprised and excited to hear that my sister and her husband had seen a documentary on Netflix called Forks Over Knives and were going to try “going vegan” for a month or more. After watching the documentary myself last night, I realize “going vegan” is not an exact description of the food revamp, but it’s pretty close. Basically, the doctors and biochemists and nutritionists profiled in the show have become convinced of the overwhelming benefits of a “plant-based, whole-food diet.” Meaning, basically, a “vegan” diet because it’s free of animal products, but more specifically, it’s also free of oils(!) and processed foods.
Unless you’re a lobbyist for Big Food, I doubt anyone would find problems with their food recommendations. Of course fruits and vegetables and whole grains are better for you—the question is, can you stand to eat that way for the rest of your life, even if it makes that life shorter and unhealthier? I love whole-fat dairy myself: whole milk, sour cream, butter, and eggs. But the documentary has some pretty interesting and—unfortunately—compelling data on the benefits of purging your diet of animal products. The most intriguing was the data on Norwegians during WWII. When the Nazis arrived in Norway and commandeered all the Norwegian livestock, leaving the citizens to make-do on a plant-based diet, cardiovascular-disease incidents plummeted. After the war and the return of a “normal” diet, the disease rates also quickly returned to their corresponding “normal.”
There was even an interesting segment on high-performance athletes who stick to the same plant-based diet. Since I have a competitive swimmer in the house, I’ve always thought I have to keep up the meat-based protein levels. However, since the boy also likes black beans and sweet potatoes, I’m thinking we could safely veg out a little more. The Forks Over Knives website has some good-looking recipes I’d like to try, including this one for Black Bean and Sweet Potato Quesadillas.
After watching the show, my husband turned to me and said he would be willing to try going plant-based/whole-food, but, moderate that I am, I think that, if you aren’t diagnosed with something awful yet, will a daily egg, cup of milk, 1/2 Tbsp of butter, and Tbsp of olive oil be that bad? Probably not. Would pastured meat 2-3 times per week finish you off? Maybe, but it’d take a long while.
Whatever your health state of affairs, veering plant-based/whole-food can only help matters. And if doing it for your health doesn’t excite you sufficiently, maybe being ahead of the trend curve will? I’m betting you’ve heard about the global diet recommended by the international EAT-Lancet Commission. The commission espoused a diet worldwide of eating a certain (low) amount of meat, so that the planet can support and sustain us all. How low an amount? Well, for Americans, “84% less red meat but six times more beans and lentils .” The global diet allows for dairy, but its overall moderate consumption of animal products makes it look like one I could get on board with.
If your cholesterol and blood pressure have been creeping up with the years, consider shifting toward plants in 2019 and blooming where you’re planted.