Though it doesn’t happen as often as it used to, I still encounter at least a couple of people every week who still believe that we need to eat animal protein to be strong/fit/muscular/etc. It’s not just frustrating for the obvious reasons, but also because the very foods most feel we need to eat are the very same foods that are killing us. In the past couple of weeks, I have heard at least 4 quotes about how 90-95% of the illnesses we treat in our country are a result of lifestyle choices and NOT genetics. Deepak Chopra said it when Rita and I saw him, and since, I have heard 2 doctors say it and yesterday read the same thing in this article. It’s time to stop blaming health care providers and our health care system for the trouble we have created for ourselves. YES, I do know that there are certain (5-10% of all) cancers and diseases like Alzheimer’s that we are genetically predisposed to get and we may not (or may) have control over them, but type 2 diabetes, most cancers and most cases of heart disease are all preventable. You have at least 3 opportunities every single day to use food to dig your own grave, or instead to use it as a totally awesome “medication.”
Why Everyone Should Eat More Plants
There is a misconception that eating a plant-based diet is unnatural, the purview of activist radicals and the socially marginalized. Instead, I submit that it is beyond a doubt the most natural, healthy, and advisable thing you can possibly do to optimize your wellness and become bulletproof to Western disease.
What’s truly outrageous is just how sick we’ve become. We live in the most prosperous nation on Earth, and yet overall we’ve never been more unhealthy. Chronic illness is killing us and bankrupting our economy. One out of every three deaths in the US is caused by heart disease, America’s #1 killer. A close second is cancer, killing one out of every four in the U.S. alone. 70% of Americans are obese or overweight. And by 2030, 50% of Americans will be diabetic or pre-diabetic. Total insanity.
How did we get here? Of course the answer is complex, but the biggest contributor is what we eat. Currently, 94% of the calories consumed by the typical American eating the standard American diet are empty, lacking any true nourishment whatsoever, with only 6% of calories coming from fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and seeds.
Natural has become unnatural. Unnatural has become natural. We’re completely upside down when it comes to food and health. And it’s time for a change.
To right the ship, we must begin by confronting the reality that we’re actually addicted to foods that are killing us. Atop the list are processed foods—soda, snacks, desserts and other packaged items laden with preservatives, saturated fat, sugar, fructose corn syrup, sodium, and other unnatural chemicals. Of course, we all know these foods are bad for us. And yet so many are powerless when it comes to giving them up.
Because many of these foods are specifically devised to activate the pleasure centers in our brain, enslaving us to habitual poor dietary choices—the very essence of addiction. When combined with our national preference for excessive meat and dairy intake, blood cholesterol escalates, clogging our arteries; our cells become cancerous; and our immune systems spiral out of control in response, creating a state of chronic inflammation. This confluence of factors creates a persistent condition in which our bodies become disease incubators, sentencing us to an almost certain future of chronic illness.
Even more outrageous? Standard operating procedure for treating these common chronic conditions—everything from high cholesterol to erectile dysfunction—is to prescribe medications that treat symptoms rather than address the root cause of the issue. Counsel and guidance to improve diet and exercise have been supplanted by Lipitor, Crestor, Viagra and countless other pharmaceuticals designed to quell the symptoms of every conceivable malady.
Taken as a whole, the aforementioned four conditions (hearth disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes) account for approximately 75% of our current health care costs, to the tune of countless billions of dollars annually. This is simply not sustainable.
And yet the great irony is that so many chronic diseases (exempting certain cancers of course)—in fact 90% of all Western disease—need never exist in the first place.
It’s time to reverse the trend. But how?
Simple. Eat more plants. You might be surprised to learn that a plant-based diet is the only nutritional protocol known to man that has been shown to prevent—and in many cases, actually reverse, these four and many other chronic illnesses that unnecessarily plague us.
In the most simplistic terms, if America flipped the Standard American Diet so that we began getting 94% of our calories from fresh, whole plant-based foods (rather than current levels of 6%), most of our diseases would simply vanish. And our health care crisis would essentially repair itself.
I know it may sound daunting. I can’t imagine life without pizza! How can l possibly live without eggs?
Personally, I cannot emphasize enough how adopting a 100% PlantPower diet revolutionized my life. But I also realize not everyone is ready to jump in with both feet on Day One. I get it. I sympathize.
So I’m here to say, relax. Don’t be afraid. Ease into it. And let go of the idea of perfection. Let it go.
This is not about deprivation. Instead, it’s about a willingness to release old ideas you’ve harbored your whole life about what a healthy diet entails. It’s about being open to the adventure of experimentation, exploring and rediscovering whole foods in their natural state. It’s about developing an enhanced connection to and relationship with your body, learning to pay greater attention to the nexus between the foods you eat and how you feel and function. And ultimately, it’s about developing a more acute intuition about what truly serves you, so you can reprogram yourself to make better choices that are in your best long-term interest physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
With each successive step along the path, you’ll begin to notice changes. As your energy levels improve, your preferences will shift from empty calories to foods that actually nourish you. The more whole, plant-foods you incorporate into your routine, the more likely those unhealthy cravings will subside. And before you know it, that hankering for cheese might just vanish altogether.
Against all odds—and despite being a self-avowed junk-food junkie for most of my life—it happened for me. And I’m here to tell you that it can happen for you, too.
At the end of the day, there is only one rule: eat more plants. Because baby steps move mountains.
I’ll leave you with this: Embracing a plant-based lifestyle didn’t just repair my health. It was the key that unlocked my heart and allowed me to discover, embrace and unleash a better and more authentic version of myself on the world.
I wish only the same experience for you. Because we need more of who you really are.
Repeating the recipe for the garlicky kale salad (just like the one on the Whole Foods bar) because several people have asked me for it recently. It requires a few ingredients that you may not have handy, but if you like the salad, you’ll be using them plenty!
1 head of curly kale (the curlier the better)–look for a nice crisp head
3 cloves fresh garlic
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons Braggs Amino Acids
3 tablespoons tahini
5 tablespoons nutritional yeast (available at your local Whole Foods or health food store)
a small amount of water to thin paste to a dressing
Wash kale (I use a salad spinner to wash and spin out the water). Tear into bite size pieces and place into a very large bowl.
Place garlic in food processor and chop finely. Than begin to add all the ingredients except the water. Process until pasty. Add drops of water, a few at a time, and continue to blend until it turns to a creamy dressing consistency. Add to kale and mix really well making sure the dressing covers all the kale evenly. Refrigerate and enjoy. This makes about 4-6 servings.
Kale is probably one of the healthiest foods on the planet. It only has 33 calories in a cup, when raw, but recognize that the tahini will add a good amount of calories, though the rest of the ingredients don’t add many at all. Super high in vitamins, minerals and all the beautiful benefits that the dark leafy greens provide us, it is especially high in vitamin K. If you are on medication to thin your blood, you might need to check with your physician before eating too much of this yummy salad. I make it regularly as I admit I am addicted….
Wishing you all a happy and smooth hump day!
This morning’s news is warning pregnant women about the possible link between taking acetaminophen (the key ingredient in over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol and Excedrin) and having a child that subsequently develops ADHD. If you read or listen to any news, you have probably already heard this today, so I won’t repeat the details, but suffice to say that the study, which involved 64,000 Danish mothers and their children, underscores that the safest route when taking any medication is to take it as rarely as possible and at the lowest dose recommended. This is not to say fevers should be left untreated. Definitely follow the advice of your physician when it comes to treating fevers. Headaches may respond better to hydration and a nap or meditation. Minor aches and pains may just need to be rested or soaked in a tub. Simple solutions with no negative side effects are always safest.
This message should be echoed to all, not just women, and not just pregnant women. Unless a medication is lifesaving (and many are) they are usually not designed to be taken on a daily basis. I recently heard a physician say that Ambien should not be taken longer than 3-4 weeks max. If you are still having sleeping issues after 4 weeks, you should seek the advice of a sleep specialist. The side effects of Ambien and other sleeping pills can be devastating! (Anyone see the movie Side Effects?) Besides the crazy effects we hear of like sleep walking, eating and driving, what about the side effects we can’t see? We have only one body–one liver–one brain—one heart. Think before you reach for those meds that are really supposed to be taken when needed, not routinely.
Do your homework before you put anything inside that temple of yours and have a beautiful and vibrant Tuesday.
Earlier this weekend, I talked about how our kids are always watching (and consequently learning) from us. As soon as I signed off and left for work, I started thinking about my mom. I grew up to her, yes, watching soap operas (in particular General Hospital) but more import to her watching, and working out along with, the first of the television exercise gurus, the immortal Jack LaLanne. Well, usually it was her and our beautiful, loyal, German Sheppard, King.
Thanks, Mom, for teaching me by watching you.
Congrats to Kyle and Nicole for completing their first half mararthon, yesterday morning.
The circle of life.
Kids may not always listen to what we TELL them to do, but you can be sure they are always WATCHING what we are doing. One thing Derek and Kyle always knew about me what that working out was not an option. From their youngest years, they were filling in the blank with FITNESS INSTRUCTROR, when school forms asked their mother’s profession. Also, from their earliest years, they never heard me complain about work, or working out.
So, today it makes me happy that Derek and Jolene have found an AWESOME (super awesome) gym in their neighborhood that they are joining. This facility appears to have everything…and then some more. I am also very excited that Kyle and Nicole are resting up today as they participate in their first half-marathon, in Disney, tomorrow morning. That’s such a big deal! The feeling at the finish line has to be amazing….
Their participation in fitness may or may not have ANYTHING to do with mine. I get it. I read the 4 Agreements! Still, I feel good about the behavior I modeled… at least when it comes to physical fitness…
Remember, that even when you don’t know it, your kids are watching and learning from YOU.
Friday. Not just TGIF, but also the day we turn pessimism into optimism. Let’s get busy turning frowns upside down and then passing it on. Did you know just smiling at someone might be all they need to change their brain waves and consequently their day? We are each a field of infinite possibilities. Have a beautiful Friday and remember, what you put your attention on grows….grow flowers, not weeds!
Several years ago, I learned about telomeres. They are compounds at the end of our DNA carrying chromosomes. They function like the little plastic tips at the end of shoelaces and their job is to keep chromosomes from unraveling (just like the shoelaces) and hence slow the aging process.
According to Dr. Dean Ornish, clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and recent findings reported in The Lancet Oncology, embracing a few healthy lifestyle choices, some which many of us are already doing, we can slow down and in some cases reverse aging at a cellular level.
At the top of the list, BEING SOCIAL. Spending time talking with others is paramount to our health and apparently much more important to our anti-aging than we can imagine. Participating in a group such as a book club, a softball team, a billiards league just to name a few, or a spontaneous lunch with friends, will all work.
GOING FOR A RUN, a walk or any form of daily aerobic exercise will satisfy this key component in the anti-aging recipe.
Practice YOGA AND MEDITATION DAILY. As we all know by know, chronic stress places a huge role in accelerating the aging process. Look, life is stressful. I have recently become aware of how many people feel they cannot control their levels of worry, fear, hurt, frustration, and more. I believe we have TONS more control over these emotions than some of us think. Those emotions are all a choice. Clearly not everyone has an hour a day or the desire to practice yoga, but even a few postures followed by some quiet meditation time will work miracles. Not in a day or a week, but over the course of time. Just close your eyes and focus on your breathing or your heart or a simple mantra like OM. Giving yourself the permission to JUST BE is, in my opinion, something that should be taught in elementary school and practiced through life. I particularly love that the following quote is on my calendar today as it best sums up what I am trying to express. It’s more insight from the Dalai Lama and it goes like this:
“I believe each human being has the potential to change, to transform one’s own attitude, not matter how difficult the situation. We are human beings, and we have this marvelous brain and marvelous heart, so there is potential to develop a proper mental attitude through which we can have a happy, more peaceful life.”
The 4th and final anti-aging habit is to EAT A WHOLE-FOOD, PLANT BASED DIET. Filling your plate with fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, soy and non-dairy fat is proven to be a big longevity booster.
Today is not just Vegan Feast Thursday, but also the day we turn stale, to fresh. Why not consider a fresh approach on life? A fresh plate of colorful fruits and veggies over a burger, a fresh approach on exercise, a re-freshing meditation experience or a fresh conversation with your loved ones.
If we choose to live in the present, than today is the very best day ever. Reread the quote and know that you really do, to a very great extent, control your own health and happiness. Namaste!