The Plant Rx

Your resource for a plant-based diet

Archive for February, 2011

Success story of the week: JL

Posted by Jenn on February 28, 2011


A Success story interview with JL!
  • What your diet was like before adopting a plant-based/ vegan diet?

I was on an eight year vegetarian journey before going vegan. I ate most vegetarian (still at fish) for four years and then for four years I ate completely vegetarian.  I ate mostly whole grains, “good fats,” veggies and lots (lots!) of cheese, milk, eggs, milk and tofu.  During these eight years I took up running and triathlon.

  • Why did you chose  to transition/switch (health, animal ethics, environmental reasons)?

I went vegan for dietary reasons.  I wasn’t feeling good (digestion) and had some recurring skin issues.  I went to a nutrition counselor to try a seasonal cleanse. By the end of the cleanse, which omitted whole wheat, dairy, caffeine, alcohol, and sugar, I realized I was an egg away from being vegan. I decided to try a vegan diet.  Several months after going vegan I noticed a shift in my thinking. I say that I became vegan for dietary reasons. I remain vegan for ethical reasons.

  • Was it hard/easy/as you expected, etc to transition?

It was surprisingly easy to begin and maintain a vegan diet!  But it’s because I surround myself with support.  I read vegan blogs religiously. I bought cookbooks.  I follow hundreds of vegans on Twitter.  I’ve never had an unanswered question and I think that it was has been key.

  • What changes have you seen as a result of switching to a plant-based diet? has it changed anything in your life? If so how? Motivated you to do things you hadn’t done in the past? Try new things?
Physically, I feel better than ever.  In addition to eating vegan, I have increased raw foods into my diet. I’m sleeping well, my energy is high and finally some of those nagging skins issues (eczema and candida-ish skin reactions) are subsiding.
But most importantly, I have fallen in love with food. I love preparing healthy, delicious vegan food.  My relationship to food has changed drastically. So much so that this January, when I would normally start my “annual” diet, I decided to simply embrace those 10 pounds that always found me by January 1. I realized that perhaps those 10 pounds were part of me and shouldn’t be banished.  I bought bigger clothes and quit weighing myself on a daily basis.  At 45, I feel free!
  • How do you feel now?

Never better. Seriously.

To read more about JL’s journey, check out her blog:  JL goes Vegan: Food & Fitness with a side of Kale

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Vanessa’s results just in & updated results grid

Posted by Jenn on February 23, 2011


Almost all of our 30 day data is in. (Only one more participant to go)

Vanessa’s lab results came back today and her results are phenomenal! Vanessa’s total cholesterol went from 255 to 206!  With that 49 point drop her total cholesterol is almost within the normal range.  Her LDL cholesterol dropped from 130 to 86. An impressive 44 point drop! Great job Vanessa.

Here is the most up-to-date 30 day results grid:


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More study results & updated results grid!

Posted by Jenn on February 22, 2011


Today Jax and Megan’s labs came in and they are keeping the streak going with some more incredible results!  

In the first 30 days of switching from a SAD to a plant-based diet Jax  has:

  • lost 9lbs
  • decreased her total cholesterol 16 points
  • increased her HDL 14 points
  • decreased her LDL from 152 to 128!  A whopping 24 points!

This 24 point decrease brings Jax’s LDL cholesterol within the normal range!

Megan, who was a pescatarian prior to our study, decreased her total cholesterol from 167 to 159, an 8 point decrease.  The rest of her values remained fairly constant.  These results were expected being that Megan was already a pescatarian.

*Remember, Megan was one of only two of our participants whose values were all within normal ranges from the study’s start.  The second, Amber,  was also mostly vegetarian (we will have Amber’s results back later this week) before the study’s start.

** Lab results will be posted on the Plant-based Study page under the participant.

Below is an updated results chart.  We still are awaiting results from 2 of our 7 participants and will fill that in as soon as we have them (Vanessa’s are expected tomorrow).  Yellow shading represents values that are considered high and outside of the ranges that are considered normal.

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Success story of the week: Alicia

Posted by Jenn on February 21, 2011


In Alicia’s words:

Hi, my name is Alicia and in 2008, when I hit my high weight of 299 lbs, my dad Rick, who I never knew, died from diabetes.  He lost both legs, went blind, and finally died of kidney failure. He was 47. Due to my weight my mom always worried about me getting diabetes which runs on both sides of the family. Then when she found out about Rick she was even more concerned, and suddenly so was I.

My cholesterol was high, my sugar was hovering right around ‘dangerously close to becoming diabetic’ and then I quickly dropped about 40 lbs since fear is an absolutely fabulous motivator, but motivation is fleeting. In July of 2009 I went veggie. I wasn’t eating very healthy stuff, boxed veggie burgers and too much pasta and deep-fried veggies. Turns out it’s just as easy to be a fat vegetarian as a fat meat-eater. I spent most of 2010 regaining 28 of the 40 lbs I had lost.

In October of 2010 I realized that although I’ve been in therapy most of my life and I’ve definitely suffered from disordered eating at both ends of the spectrum I had never once discussed food issues in therapy. I realized I was an emotional eater, my health was suffering, I was 30 years old and as much as I wanted to bury that thought of Rick dying so young, it kept popping up that I needed to do something.

Things happened pretty quickly after that. I got sick of the guilt and shame that came with binging at the Chinese buffet on all manner of deep-fried and overly sweet saucy veggie foods. I decided to discuss my disordered eating in therapy. I started back on plan on October 19th. I set a weight loss goal of 32 lbs lost in the first 4 months. By November I was eating a 99% whole foods diet and had stumbled on a blog about the deception of the terms ‘cage free eggs’ and the dairy industry’s part in raising veal.  So in November I went vegan.  Although my main motivating factor in eating a vegan diet is health, it was these few points that drove me from veggie to vegan.

It’s been amazing since I love to cook and it’s forced me to become seriously adventurous in the kitchen. Let’s be honest, no one wants to live on salad and rice packets or veggie burgers forever. I try not to eat things that come in a box with weird ingredients that I can’t pronounce. I love sweet potato spinach curry and I have come up with an amazing alfredo recipe as well (recipe is on my blog).

I’m having a good time learning to cook things in new ways.  People that I cook for are always so shocked that vegan food is delicious, this boggles my mind. I read my grocery list off to my mom once and she said “But what can you make out of that stuff?” “That stuff” she was referring to was mainly veggies, whole grains and beans. Really, this is what it has come to? As a society we have no clue what to do with real food?  Sadness.  Anyhow, I’m having a great time and eating amazing food that tastes great without making me feel miserable and guilty and worst of all, unhealthy.

I reached my first 4 month goal 3.5 weeks early, so I readjusted it from a 32 lb loss to a 37 lb loss. Read the rest of this entry »

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6 compelling reasons to AVOID dairy products

Posted by Jenn on February 20, 2011


In an article for the Huffington Post Dr. Mark Hyman gives you 6 reasons, with the scientific evidence to back it up, why you shouldn’t eat dairy products.  The following is an excerpt from that article which is also available in its entirety (as well as in a video format) at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/dairy-free-dairy-6-reason_b_558876.html


The Truth about Dairy

According to Dr. Willett, who has done many studies and reviewed the research on this topic, there are many reasons to pass up milk, including:

1. Milk doesn’t reduce fractures.(i) Contrary to popular belief, eating dairy products has never been shown to reduce fracture risk. In fact, according to the Nurses’ Health Study dairy may increase risk of fractures by 50 percent!

2. Less dairy, better bones. Countries with lowest rates of dairy and calcium consumption (like those in Africa and Asia) have the lowest rates of osteoporosis.

3. Calcium isn’t as bone-protective as we thought.(ii) Studies of calcium supplementation have shown no benefit in reducing fracture risk. Vitamin D appears to be much more important than calcium in preventing fractures.

4. Calcium may raise cancer risk. Research shows that higher intakes of both calcium and dairy products may increase a man’s risk of prostate cancer by 30 to 50 percent.(iii) Plus, dairy consumption increases the body’s level of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) — a known cancer promoter.

5. Calcium has benefits that dairy doesn’t. Calcium supplements, but not dairy products, may reduce the risk of colon cancer.(iv)

6. Not everyone can stomach dairy.(v) About 75 percent of the world’s population is genetically unable to properly digest milk and other dairy products — a problem called lactose intolerance.

Based on such findings, Dr. Willet has come to some important conclusions:

• Everybody needs calcium — but probably not as much as our government’s recommended daily allowance (RDA) and calcium from diet, including greens and beans is better utilized by the body with less risk than calcium supplements.

• Calcium probably doesn’t prevent broken bones. Few people in this country are likely to reduce their fracture risk by getting more calcium.

• Men may not want to take calcium supplements. Supplements of calcium and vitamin D may be reasonable for women.

• Dairy may be unhealthy. Advocating dairy consumption may have negative effects on health.

If all that isn’t enough to swear you off milk, there are a few other scientific findings worth noting.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently asked the UDSA to look into the scientific basis of the claims made in the “milk mustache” ads. Their panel of scientists stated the truth clearly:

• Milk doesn’t benefit sports performance.

• There’s no evidence that dairy is good for your bones or prevents osteoporosis — in fact, the animal protein it contains may help cause bone loss!

• Dairy is linked to prostate cancer. Read the rest of this entry »

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More Results… better lipid profiles and weight loss galore!

Posted by Jenn on February 18, 2011


We have more great results in with more coming on Monday too! We received Nikki’s lab work back. Her total cholesterol dropped 16 points from 225 to 209 and her LDL (bad cholesterol) dropped 15 points from 148 to 133.  She is now within 3 pts of having her LDL in the “normal” cholesterol range!  Great job Nikki!

Jax came in the office today to get all of her labs done.  We won’t have the results until Monday but she has dropped  9 lbs since the study started!  Great job Jax!

Together John and Jax (husband and wife) have lost 26 lbs in 30 days!

I have posted John, Stephanie and NIkki’s labs under the Plant-based Health Study” page.  They are located under the names of each participant after their baseline labs (pre-study).   Be sure to check back Monday to see Jax and Megan’s results!

Click here for Nikki’s page; Click here for Jax & John’s page; Click here for Stephanie’s page

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Wow! Some results are in… and they are nothing short of amazing!

Posted by Jenn on February 16, 2011


We reached our study’s midpoint on Tuesday and today John and Stephanie’s 30 day lab results came in! I will have them posted by tomorrow afternoon for you to view on their pages as well as the main study page.  In the meantime, here is a preview!

John:

Total Cholesterol before study started: 264 ; Total Cholesterol after 30 days eating a plant-based diet: 205

LDL Cholesterol before study started: 175; LDL Cholesterol after 30 days eating a plant-based diet: 115

Hemoglobin A1Cs before the study started: 6.2; Hemoglobin A1Cs after 30 days eating a plant-based diet: 5.8

John dropped his total cholesterol 59 points in 30 days.  He dropped his LDL cholesterol 60 points in 30 days.  John, prior to this study, was considered hyperlipidemic.  Now, he is only 5 points shy of having his total cholesterol within in normal ranges and his LDL cholesterol is now within the normal range.  Further, prior to the study John was considered what we would call “pre-diabetic”. He is no longer and is in back within normal ranges.  It is important to point out that had John seen a “traditional” physician rather than choosing to participate in this study, it is almost certain he would have walked out of his doctor’s office with a prescription that he would have been expected to take for the rest of his life.

Also, John has lost 17lbs in the last 30 days and his BMI has gone from 30.7 to 28.7.  In speaking with John, he tells me that he has not once strayed from the plant-based diet and hasn’t exercised any either.  Thus, all the numbers above were independent of exercise.

Visit John & Jax’s page to read about their journey so far!

Stephanie:

Total Cholesterol before study started: 213 ; Total Cholesterol after 30 days eating a plant-based diet: 181

LDL Cholesterol before study started: 143; LDL Cholesterol after 30 days eating a plant-based diet: 109

Hemoglobin A1Cs before the study started: 6.0; Hemoglobin A1Cs after 30 days eating a plant-based diet: 5.6

Stephanie dropped her total cholesterol 32 points in 30 days.  She dropped her LDL cholesterol 34 points in 30 days.  She no longer has elevated cholesterol and is now within normal ranges.  Her LDL is also within normal ranges now and no longer elevated. Further, she was borderline for being considered pre-diabetic and is now within normal ranges.  Stephanie has also lost 3lbs. Read the rest of this entry »

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30-day results here soon! The plant-based health study has reached it’s mid-point

Posted by Jenn on February 15, 2011


The participants are getting their labs and measurements taken throughout this week.  Results will be posted as we get them.  We will have the results for two of our participants, Stephanie and John, as early as tomorrow! As promised, we will be posting full copies of their medical results so that you can compare them to their pre-study values.

A word of caution when evaluating this data –  while it is well documented that after only 30 days on a plant-based diet we can see improvements in the various components of our lipid profiles (among other parameters) it is important to point out that everyone is different and it can take longer in some cases than in others.  I say this because there are other factors at play here that we did not take into account for this particular study.

For example, although I didn’t recommend eating processed foods or limiting oil use for this study, these were not off-limits to the participants.  The only requirement was they could not eat any meat or dairy products.  Consequently, it is clear how skewed consumption of these items could heavily impact the results.

Note: Some of you may be wondering why the parameters were not made more strict regarding food intake. There are a few reasons for this.  The first is that, as many of you well know, it is not easy to transition from a SAD to a plant-based one.  Even those transitioning from a vegetarian diet still the transition difficult at times.  Thus, the hope was to increase greater compliance and minimal discontinuation considering the small scale of the study.  The second was that  all things considered this is likely how the transition occurs in most cases, if not more gradual.  Lastly, I wanted to see what the impact of  diet completely free of animal protein would be independent of other factors such as processed foods, junk foods and high/moderate oil consumption.  Answering the question, even if poor eating habits are continued, if there still a substantial health benefit as long as those habits are free of animal protein.

Click here to meet our participants!

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Can a plant-based diet be unhealthy?

Posted by Jenn on February 10, 2011


Telling you that almost everything you do in life can be performed in either a good way or a bad way or can be done well or not well probably isn’t earth shattering news to you. .  Of course there are many variations in between but you get the idea.  The same is true with diets. Like any diet out there, plant-based diets can be complete, healthy and balanced or incomplete, unhealthy and unbalanced. Thus, merely consuming a diet free of meat and dairy products does not necessarily guarantee good health.  Now, before you stop reading in disgust, hear me out.

Don’t get the wrong idea , choosing not to eat animals or animal products is a great thing and does in and of itself confer health benefits.  That being said, not all products free of meat and dairy are created equal.  Let’s use soy & soy products to illustrate.  As a whole food soy beans are an excellent, high quality, complete source of plant-based protein and fiber. So are unprocessed soy products such as soymilk and tamari.  Furthermore, they are low in saturated fat, sugar and sodium.  A true super food!   Then there are processed soy foods.  Processed soy foods have become very common and are very appealing especially to the new vegan looking to shift the protein sources in their diet.  While they still may retain some of the beneficial properties of unprocessed whole soy they also have a much less desirable side.  They tend to be high in sodium, fat, sugar, and often have artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. Although exceptions do exist, calling these foods “healthy” would be more than a slight exaggeration.

Another example would be eating refined (“white”) grains rather than their whole grain counterparts such as white rice, bread and pasta.  While, it is true that these are not animal-based products, which is good, compared to their whole wheat and brown counterparts they have less fiber, less protein and a higher glycemic index.

The whole grains haven’t had their bran and germ removed by milling, making them good sources of fiber — the part of plant-based foods that your body doesn’t digest. Among many health benefits, high-fiber foods also tend to make you feel full longer.

Refined grains, such as white rice or white flour, have both the bran and germ removed from the grain. Although vitamins and minerals are added back into refined grains after the milling process, they still don’t have as many nutrients as whole grains do, and they don’t provide as much fiber naturally. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Protein Conundrum: the REAL truth about Protein

Posted by Jenn on February 7, 2011


Out of all the conflicting information that is bestowed upon the American public in regards to nutrition, the one seemingly straight forward and universally agreed upon tenet is the importance of protein.  The general consensus is that in order to maintain a healthy weight and be healthy in general, it is vital to consume enough lean protein (which in America typically equates to white meat and fish) and limit intake of carbohydrates. It is commonplace to hear people say,”I really need to eat more protein”.  Whereas it would be almost shocking to hear someone say,”I really need to eat more carbs”. One might go so far as to say American’s are obsessed with protein.

It is for this reason that protein is frequently at the top of the list of concerned family members and skeptical friends and why those who eat a plant-based diet are bombarded by questions about where they get their protein.  In fact, people not familiar with plant-based nutrition often assume that it is terribly hard to get enough protein by consuming a diet free of meat and dairy products. In the same vein, most carnivores are not aware of how much protein they are consuming on a daily basis and that they are likely consuming far too much which can be detrimental over time.

So, what is the real truth? Below, I will address and answer the common questions I am asked regarding protein consumption and a plant-based diet.


  • Where do people who consume a plant-based diet get their protein? Do plant-based protein sources provide enough protein to be healthy?

Almost every food contains protein, so it’s nearly impossible not to get enough if you’re consuming an adequate amount of calories.  Protein is found in ALL plant foods including vegetables (yes, vegetables!), grains, legumes (such as beans and lentils), soy foods, seeds and nuts. As long as your diet contains a variety of grains, legumes and vegetables protein needs are easily met.

Protein Comparison Chart

  • Is there a difference between Plant-based protein sources and Animal-based ones? I heard animal sources provide better (quality) protein, is this true?

Protein is an essential nutrient which when ingested is broken down into it’s building blocks which are called amino acids. There are 20 amino acids used by our bodies to build the various proteins our body needs.  Of these 20 our body is capable of making 11 of them on its on.  Nine of them cannot be made by the body and therefore must be obtained through our diet. Because our bodies cannot make these 9 amino acids they are termed “essential” amino acids meaning it is essential to get these through our diets.

In the past, food sources that contained all of the essential amino acids were called “high quality” or “complete” proteins.  Animal proteins contain this complete complement of essential amino acids and therefore are termed “high quality”. This is where the notion of protein from animal sources having better quality protein over that of plant sources originated. This is not true, however.  The truth is all plant proteins have some of every essential amino acid.  The difference is that some plant protein sources have this full complement of amino acids in abundance (soybeans, quinoa, spinach) like animal sources do whereas as some have all of these essential amino acids but the amounts of one or two of these amino acids may be low. For example, grains are lower in lysine and legumes are lower in methionine than those protein sources designated as “high quality”.  This is where the idea of combining or complementing of proteins came from for vegetarians and vegans.

  • Do I need to combine proteins or monitor my consumption?

In an effort to make sure that all vegetarians and vegans were getting enough of all the amino acids, in the early 1970’s in her book Diet for a Small PlanetFrances Moore Lappe popularized this idea of combining plant proteins at each meal in order to get a “complete” protein.  For example, mixing beans and grains to get enough Lysine and Methionine at each meal. This practice has since been refuted as unnecessary since it is now well-known that our livers store the various amino acids and it’s not critical to combine different protein sources at each meal. Read the rest of this entry »

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