The Plant Rx

Your resource for a plant-based diet

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Think eating a plant-based diet is crazy? How about this…

Posted by Jenn on January 24, 2013


Ian Before: 235lbs / 262 cholesterol / 145:110 blood pressure

Ian Before: 235 lbs / 262 cholesterol / 145:110 blood pressure

People have often described my diet as radical, drastic and extreme. Eating a plant-based diet to them, even if they agree it is the most healthy thing for you, is akin to asking them to undergo torture.  They have a myriad of responses to me, most of them echoing something to the effect of ” If I can’t enjoy my life then why bother”.   It’s unimaginable to me that they perceive my diet as so radical, drastic and extreme yet they don’t think that cracking open your chest while simultaneously slicing open your legs to take out vessels from your legs to graft to your heart isn’t? I’m beginning to think everyone should watch what is really involved in one of the surgeries, maybe then, they will understand the true meaning of the words radical, drastic and extreme. It is truly very hard for me to understand how anyone would choose bypass surgery over eating plants.  Then again, maybe they think it just won’t happen to them…

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Those thoughts bring us to our first success story of the year, Ian Welch from Florida.  Ian can tell you first hand the difference between the two options I described above. Ian’s story is becoming the norm rather than the exception these days due to the overwhelming consumption of the Standard American Diet (SAD).  Fortunately, Ian is alive and well and is able to share his journey with us. When I asked why him why he wants to share it, he says it’s because he wish someone had shared this knowledge with him.

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Ian tells his story:

Two years ago I could not have imagined my life today.  At the ripe old age of 40, I was diagnosed with heart disease, four major blockages that if left alone would end my life quickly.

On March 23, 2011 I had Quadruple Bypass Surgery.  I had my chest sawed open.  It was singularly the most influential event in my life and in hindsight I would not change a thing.

Ian after undergoing quadruple bypass surgery at 40 only years old.

Ian after undergoing quadruple bypass surgery at 40 only years old.

The first week out of the hospital my wife, Alicia, started us on a plant-based diet.  By December, I had lost 37 pounds and my cholesterol dropped 109 points.  Since then I have learned that eating a plant-based diet and avoiding oil can drastically improve your health.  My last carotid artery sonogram showed substantial reduction in plaque; essentially reversing 40 years of buildup in a very short period of time.  Not to mention the 20-25% weight loss.

The lightning bolt moments are as rare as a strike of electricity to the head.  They either kill you or offer you the opportunity to walk away; a second chance.  It is precisely these moments that need to be deconstructed because they happen in an instant.  These moments exist a lifetime as either regret or epiphanies.

The reality is; we have no way of knowing how we will exit this world.  For some of us, we will lead long full lives and gently succumb in our sleep at a ripe old age.  For others it will be a tragic exit, leaving loved ones to question how this could have happened.

However, the majority of us will face the challenge of fighting for our years and it comes down to a simple question.  Do you want to spend your last years in a gradual state of decline; mentally and physically?  Or do you want to challenge the odds and finish up on your feet? Your physical body has very simple needs.  It is a fact of biology.  Run your body on the core ingredients it needs, run it clean.  Don’t let your mind dictate what the body wants.  A foundation built on this simple approach will drastically move the odds of avoiding disease in your favor.

I had no plan and it ended in a hospital.  I do not want to go back to that hospital.  I share my experiences for the simple reason; I wish someone had told me sooner.  It took a life-threatening situation to become the person I am today and I like this new and improved Ian.

momdadoregon

Ian in Dec. 2011 after adopting a plant-based diet. 198 lbs / 153 Cholesterol / 105:75 blood pressure

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Ian Welch: In 2011, at the age of 40, Ian underwent quadruple bypass surgery. Ian completely transformed his life, adopting a plant-based approach to wellness. Ian is currently writing his book; “Heart Disease Saved My Life: Harness the Power of a Chronic Disease Diagnosis.” His goal is to provide others with a plan of action when faced with difficult circumstances. Ian lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida with his wife. He is an avid long distance runner & Bikram Yoga practitioner.  He maintains a blog at www.WholeFed.org.

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From Skinny Bitch to Bill Clinton: The Rise of Veganism | Psychology Today

Posted by Jenn on January 13, 2013


img_1830

Health is trending…

Check out this great article at Psychology today on how being healthy is catching on:

From Skinny Bitch to Bill Clinton: The Rise of Veganism | Psychology Today.

Posted in In the Media, Uncategorized, Weight Loss | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The REAL cause of Antibiotic Resistance: Overuse of Antibiotics among Animals in Factory Farms!

Posted by Jenn on September 23, 2011


The major cause for the rise in antibiotic-resistant pathogens is clear: the overuse of antibiotics among animals on factory farms. Here’s how it works. Livestock producers place animals in overcrowded, unsanitary living conditions to maximize their output and profits. Then, to prevent the inevitable spread of disease from such conditions and to spur faster growth in the animals, they routinely add antibioticsto feed.In 2009, 80 percent of antibiotics administered in the United States were given to animals; of that, 70 percent was administered to healthy animals through routine feeding.

Widespread use of antibiotics gives rise to resistant bacteria. Through contact with farm workers and contaminated waste runoff, resistant bacteria can spread to humans and other animals. For more information, you can read The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine’s new report on the subject.

The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act is an important step toward protecting humans from antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Please tell your members of Congress to reform our agricultural policy and co-sponsor this important and urgent legislation today.

The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (H.R. 965/S. 1211) is a sensible, bipartisan piece of legislation aimed at protecting human health by limiting the misuse of antibiotic drugs. Injudicious use of antibiotics, which is standard on factory farms, breeds bacteria that are resistant to commonly prescribed antibiotics. When these resistant bacteria spread to the human population, our precious, once lifesaving antibiotics are useless. Please tell your members of Congress to stop the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms today.

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Lessons Learned: From the participants in the plant-based health study

Posted by Jenn on March 12, 2011


The Plant-based Health Study ends this upcoming week on Tuesday, March 15th.  It has been a great experience for myself and the participants.  As we await the final (60 day) results from the study I asked the participants what were the top thing(s) they learned from participating in the study: switching from either a SAD or a vegetarian diet to a plant-based one.  Here’s what they had to say!

Jax

I cannot expect most doctors, manufactures, and producers of any edible products to be looking out for my best interests as far as what i put into my mouth. And you know what, I shouldn’t. It is my responsibility.  To  blame anyone other than myself would be like blaming  the man  who just hit me because it stepped into the middle of traffic because I thought they would stop for me as they were going 50mph. It is truly our own obligation to ourselves to read labels and educate ourselves. If our doctors are not properly trained and educated in nutrition as part of their training how can we possibly expect them to educate us?

And finally, eating plant-based all the time is not easy. It does take commitment. Commitment to our very lives. But even with that being said I am learning that moderation is KEY. However in America we don’t have any concept of what that really means and to me it means just this, treat animal based products like I would, say an Ice Cream Sundae.. yummy every once in a while but not an every meal occurrence or even an everyday occurrence.  See Jax’s Page.

John

This study has shown me that the SAD way of eating is a slow and sure way of cutting years off of all of our lives.  All of America has been brought up to think that the simplest way to get something to eat is to pull up to a drive thru window and grab a bag of pure poison to add to the hormone fed dinner that will be added to their bodies later in the evening.  I am not by far the healthiest person on the earth but this study has opened my eyes to a better way of eating through a mostly Plant Based Diet.  I do not know if I will stick strictly to a Plant based Diet but I do know that my hormone fed SAD eating is a thing of the past.  See John’s Page.

Amber

I have learned so much about ingredients and how everything has an effect. the smallest things can make the biggest differences. This has opened a huge window for me, not only am i staying vegan, i also would like to be gluten-free. after the major differences in how i feel and look i want to further my healthy life style. i am truly inspired. thank you Jenna!!!  See Amber’s Page.

Vanessa

Eating a plant-based diet doesn’t actually have to be that drastically different.   Sure, eating hemp seeds and tempeh and wheatgrass are great, but it’s probably best to keep things simple and stick with what you know in the beginning.  There were plenty of foods that I was already eating that fit in perfectly with a plant-based diet.  Also, don’t forget about beans, lentils, nuts, sweet potatoes, etc!  These guys filled me up and kept me full for longer.  Loads of veggies are great, but I felt a lot better when they were combined with some heartier foods. See Vanessa’s Page.

Nikki

One of the things I learned from the study was that there are so may other sources of protein that you can eat besides meat or fish or eggs. I have found that beans, legumes and tofu fill me up just as much. Also my husband who has mostly been vegan on this journey with me has seen a huge improvement in his brittle nails. His fingernails are now soft and supple and they don’t break as easily. He attributes this to the change in diet. Although I still struggle with my weight my cholesterol has come done significantly and I have learned I can control it with a plant-based diet.  See Nikki’s Page.

Megan

I can still make all of the dishes I love and make them vegan. Once they make a great vegan cheese, it will be perfect! But, it takes more time and can be expensive. One doesn’t find too many vegan options at the 99 cent store 🙂  I can still be satisfied and don’t feel ” cheated” by eating vegan. I had to get creative, and thank goodness for Mothers and Whole Foods! See Megan’s Page.

Stephanie

I learned that planning on a plant-based diet is absolutely essential.  I can pretty much “veganize” any recipe that I like.  That isn’t the hard part.  The more difficult part is when you are out to eat or tired and don’t feel like cooking, etc. It you plan ahead you can be prepared for those times and this makes eating this way a lot easier.  It takes time to get used to but you do get used to it and it isn’t as hard as you might think.  I do like the food.  I don’t miss meat at all, but I do still have cheese cravings.  Yes, Jenna, I know it’s the casomorphins! 🙂 I am planning on remaining plant-based for life as my health has improved substantially as a result. Now if that cheese craving would just go away… 🙂 See Stephanie’s Page.

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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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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 »

Posted in Foods, Protein, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

How does a plant-based diet prevent disease? A short lesson

Posted by Jenn on January 31, 2011


There is an ever-growing mountain of evidence substantiating the numerous health benefits that a plant-based diet provides.

This colorized scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of red blood cells in an artery shows a layer of endothelial cells (beige) surrounded by muscle (pink). by: Steve Gschmeissner / Photo Researchers Inc.

Peer-reviewed medical paper after peer-reviewed medical paper published in the most well-respected of journals have shown that a plant-based diet free of meat and dairy products is the single most powerful tool we have at our disposal to prevent and fight disease.

Not only can heart disease and diabetes be prevented but the disease progression can be stopped and reversed. If that wasn’t enough there is a multitude of research showing how the consumption of a plant-based diet’s can prevent cancer, dramatically reduce cancer recurrence rates, reduce cognitive impairment as we age (Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia) and reduce osteoporosis in addition to a myriad of others. This being the case, how exactly does something as seemingly simple and low-tech as one’s diet manage to do these things?

The short answer is this: via a gas called nitric oxide which is produced by our endothelial cells.  The problem with this very brief explanation is that most people have never heard of nitric oxide, much less endothelial cells. Consequently, that probably isn’t going to help most people understand how the very important the daily decision to eat a plant-based diet is able to accomplish such incredible feats.

What the heck are endothelial cells? and what the heck is Nitric Oxide (NO)? and how do they accomplish the mammoth task of keeping us healthy?

Endothelial cells are the thin single-layer of cells that line the interior surface of all blood vessels.  They are the cells that come in direct contact with blood flowing through our cardiovascular system.  A “healthy” endothelium can be best described as having like a Teflon coating on the vessels’ inner walls; this non-sticky quality enhancing the flow of blood.  An “unhealthy” endothelium, by contrast, acts like Velcro, grabbing white blood cells, platelets and cholesterol and packing them against the inner wall of the blood vessels narrowing them = causing the vessels to thicken over time, thereby inhibiting the flow of blood. This accumulation of “material” leads to the formation of  what are called atherosclerotic “plaques”.

healthy vs unhealthy endothelium

A healthy endothelium is not being covered by any plaque and therefore has the ability to release many beneficial substances into the blood stream.  An unhealthy endothelium  eventually narrows and thickens and resultantly loses flexibility.  The vessels can no longer expand as they should when the heart pumps blood through them. Pumping blood into stiff arteries containing plaque increases resistance to blood flow causing the heart to work harder. Your blood pressure must increase to pump the same volume of blood through these vessels.

That being said, what then determines the overall health of our endothelial cells that make up our endothelium? In other words what makes our endothelium non-stick or sticky?

That is where Nitric Oxide (NO) comes in. Remember, a healthy endothelium is able to release many beneficial substances into our blood stream.  (Note: we are born with a very healthy endothelium which means until we create an environment in which plaques are created, our vessels are healthy, slick and without plaque)  Nitric oxide is one of these substances.  Nitric oxide has a number of important functions.  One of its primary functions according to Dr. Louis J. Ignarro, the 1998 Nobel Prize winner in Medicine,

“…is to help keep the arteries and veins free of the plaque that causes stroke and to maintain normal blood pressure by relaxing arteries, thereby regulating the rate of blood flow and preventing coronaries (heart attacks)”.

He goes on to explain that,

“Nitric oxide is the body’s natural cardiovascular wonder drug”.

NO accomplishes this by controlling muscle tone of the blood vessels which directly impacts blood pressure control, inhibiting the aggregation of platelets and other particulate such as cholesterol and white blood cells.

Other functions worthy of note include: facilitation of proper kidney function, aiding in the transmission of messages between nerve cells, helping the immune system fight  viral, bacterial and parasitic infections as well as tumors, peristalsis, regulating inflammation, lowering of cholesterol levels and penile erection. Let’s discuss one of these functions in more detail to illustrate.

For example, erection of the penis during sexual excitation is mediated by NO release from the endothelial cells lining the blood vessels of the penis.  The NO release from the endothelial cells cause the blood to pool in the adjacent blood sinuses producing an erection.  Thus, if NO cannot be produced (or produced in sufficient amounts) as the result of a damaged endothelium, then an erection cannot occur. This is why difficulty getting or maintaining an erection is indicative of impending or active heart disease (= ample accumulation of plaque).  If you are currently experiencing impotence, it would be a very good idea to see your doctor such that he or she can discern the cause.

How a poor diet results in poor erections

Causes of endothelial damage  and resultant plaque formation:

  • Smoking – it decreases good cholesterol (HDL) and increases bad cholesterol (LDL) that damages your endothelial cells. Further, nicotine directly damages endothelial cells and the carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke damages the endothelium too.
  • A high fat, high cholesterol diet (particularly animal fat from meat and dairy products; plants do NOT have cholesterol) – LDL directly damages endothelial cells.
  • A diet low in fiber content (animal products do NOT contain any fiber) – High fiber foods absorb bile salts that your body uses in digestion.  Your liver manufactures bile from cholesterol.  Thus, high fiber foods are a natural way to reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol.
  • Diabetes – When blood sugars are beyond the normal range it causes oxidative stress to the endothelial cells resulting in damage to them.
  • Being overweight or obese – Fat cells store vitamin D and vitamin D inhibits vessel calcification (plaques eventually get harder as a result of calcification). Thus, losing weight or being at a healthy weight keeps the vitamin D in your system allowing for utilization thereby preventing plaque calcification. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Alzheimer's Disease, Cancer Prevention, Cholesterol, Dementia, Depression, Diabetes, Heart Disease, In the Media, Inflammation, Stroke, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Plant-Based Health Study has officially Kicked-off!

Posted by Jenn on January 15, 2011


Last night the participants and I had our official kick-off meeting at the Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes, CA.  We had a great time and participants are enjoying their very first day on their newly adopted plant-based diet. Make sure you click on the “Plant-based Health Study” page/tab to meet our participants and see their initial (baseline) lab results! Then, visit their individual pages to follow them throughout their journeys and give them support.

Pictures from the event:

Stephanie, Jenna, Christian, Megan and Matt

Discussing the Study over some drinks

Megan & Matt

Christian & Jenn

Vanessa, Megan , Matt and John

Stephanie and Megan

John & Jax

Stephanie & Jenn

Nikki, Vanessa, Megan, Matt and John

Jenn & Christian

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Plant-based Study starts in 10 days! Preparations are underway…

Posted by Jenn on January 5, 2011


Baselines are being determined (lipid profiles, CBC, Blood Chemistry,carotid ultrasounds, BMI) this week and the beginning of next with our kick off meeting happening at the end of next.  The first official day of the study is Saturday, January 15th.  I am posting all of our participants Bios and baseline measurements on the “Plant-based Health Study” page.  Each participant will also have their own page in which they will blog about their transition to a plant-based diet, their adjustment to it and their progression from day 1 through Day 60 (the study’s endpoint).  A mid-point assessment will be made at day  30 and a final at day 60.   The same parameters will be measured each time. Have Questions? Want to know more? Just ask us!

Click here to go to the study home page!

Jenna, Vanessa, Ana and Eddie

Stephanie, Jenna & Vanessa

Vanessa"s blood draw

Blood Draw

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Bill Clinton Adopts a Plant-based diet (Video)

Posted by Jenn on January 3, 2011


Worth the encore! A must watch.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Posted in Cholesterol, Heart Disease, In the Media | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »