OK, you guys, and the gals who care about them, we need to talk about a disease that’s all too common – prostate cancer! The good news is that there’s something you can do to prevent it, and even help treat it if it’s a mild case in its early stages. Let’s start with prevention first.
The risk of prostate cancer in vegetarians is less than half that of non-vegetarians. While plant-based foods have been shown to decrease the risk of prostate cancer, animal-derived foods increase the risk. Intake of saturated fat and cholesterol found in animal-derived foods are independent risk factors for prostate cancer, contributing further to the higher risk that non-vegetarians have. Read more
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) hurts. Nearly 3 million Americans suffer from it. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect more than just your joints. In some people, the condition also can damage a wide variety of body organs, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels. An autoimmune disorder, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body’s tissues. There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. There are treatments, but many have significant side effects.
Following a plant-based diet can reduce your chances of getting RA. One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, comparing those who followed a vegetarian diet to those who ate meat but otherwise followed a healthy lifestyle, showed that those following a vegetarian diet reduced their risk of getting Rheumatoid Arthritis 50%. Read more
Plant foods are powerful medicine for diabetes (Type II or Adult Onset). Medical researchers have discovered that a plant based diet is very effective for both preventing and helping to reverse diabetes and pre-diabetes. In some cases it’s even more powerful than drugs.
It’s a good thing too. America needs strong medicine when it comes to pre-diabetes and diabetes. With 11 percent of people over the age of 20 having diabetes, plus 23 percent with pre-diabetes, over a third of the country either has diabetes or is on their way to getting it. As if diabetes itself wasn’t bad enough, the complications can be even worse. Diabetes raises the risk of other health problems, ranging from heart disease to kidney damage, to blindness.
But now for the good news. You can reduce your risk of getting diabetes by just taking the following medicines: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and nuts. The more you take, the more protection you can get. For instance, researchers found that those following semi-vegetarian diets, pesco vegetarian, lacto ovo-vegetarian, and vegan diets, reduced their risk of diabetes by 28%, 51%, 61% and 72% respectively. The pattern here is clear: the more plant foods you eat, the more protection you get. Vegetarians also had the best scores for the seven major risk factors for pre-diabetes.
What about if you already have diabetes? Even here plant foods are powerful medicine. In one study, conducted at George Washington University, 46% of diabetics were able to stop or significantly reduce their medications in only 6 months. Even more impressive is how the powerful plant-based diet reduced blood sugar by about 25% more than the usual treatment – the drug metformin combined with the standard American Diabetes Association diet. Washington state physician Gregory Scribner MD, an internist specializing in diabetes, tells his patients, “A switch to a healthy vegetarian diet can reverse many of the complications of diabetes, even in advanced cases, and can often prevent the disease from occurring in the first place.”
It turns out that plant-based diets can even help with some of the most difficult to treat complications, such as the painful peripheral neuropathy that diabetics can get which causes pain in the extremities. For instance, in one study, 81% of those following a low fat, high fiber, vegan diet had very significant improvements in only one month. These research studies seem to translate well into the community. For instance one man, who attended one of our free Vegetarian Solution classes a couple of years ago, decided to give a vegetarian diet a try to help his diabetes symptoms. Within a couple of months he was delighted to find his neuropathy pain had abated. He came back to our next class to learn more and to tell us about how it had helped him.
The message is clear – vegetarian, and especially vegan, diets are powerful medicines when it comes to diabetes. If you’d like to learn more, we’re here to help. We have classes coming up in January 2015, including a free Vegetarian Solution class, and a full Food for Life Diabetes series of classes, where you can learn more about how a vegetarian diet can help and enjoy delicious cooking demonstrations. Additionally, our recommended health books page can give you some suggested reading.
It’s National Kidney Month! Here’s the big news: a plant-based diet helps prevent and treat Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). This is a big deal because CKD is the 8th leading cause of death in the United States and sucks up 20% of the Medicare budget.
Vegans and vegetarians have a greatly decreased risk of kidney disease. One study showed that vegans have better kidney function than meat eaters. This only makes sense since vegetarians and vegans have much lower rates high blood pressure and diabetes, two of the leading risk factors for kidney disease. While this is news to many people and patients, the medical researchers have known this for a long time. Read more
Dr Chan Hwang scans the carotid artery of a Vegfest attendee.
Heart disease is still the number one cause of death for both men and women. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. A plant-based diet can reduce your risk of a heart attack by 40%. If you wish your doctor knew about this, we want you to know that we do too! That’s why we wrote a letter to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. They published an Expert Consensus Decision Pathway on the role of non-statin therapies for lowering LDL Cholesterol, but they “forgot” to include the plant-based diet! We told them about their omission, and we published it as an open letter, complete with references to all the latest research on the topic. Read more
Close the wet markets! Doctor Anthony Fauci says that there should be a global shut down of wet markets. Fauci is the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, and is considered by many to be the world’s top expert on infectious disease. He is a chief medical advisor on the president’s coronavirus taskforce.
Wet markets, common in China and other south Asian countries, sell live poultry, fish, reptiles, and mammals of every kind. Add the daily human contacts (including children) with the live animals, and conditions are optimal for the transfer of infectious disease agents that can make sick or even kill humans, as we explained last month. Read more
Based on preliminary U.S. data, persons with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and chronic kidney disease, have a higher risk for severe COVID-19 disease than persons without these conditions. For instance, in New York 86% of all deaths so far have been among people who had underlying illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease, new state data shows.
It’s a heart breaking problem. According to the UN 820 million people suffer from hunger. Starvation kills, and it hurts to have to go to bed malnourished and hungry. Hunger and malnutrition are some of the most serious problems facing humanity. Children are especially vulnerable. But there’s something we can do about it. Read more
Here’s a fact: According to a study in Journal of the American Medical Association, diet is the number one risk factor disease in the United States. Here’s another fact: A plant-based diet can effectively prevent and treat a number of common diseases, and even some not-so-common ones. What could be more important for doctors to learn about? Read more
When I’m giving cooking classes, people often ask me what steps they should take to eliminate animal products, so here are some tips to help you get started. You can choose your own pace of change – you can start with just one meal or you can jump right in. I encourage you to be willing to experiment and learn as you go. Enjoy the adventure!
Some initial steps to take to cut back on meat and fish:
Acquire a vegan cookbook, or find a website with interesting vegan recipes – vegetariantimes.com is a good place to start.
Find some new vegan recipes that sound appealing, and buy the ingredients.
Try replacing meat and fish with a plant-based alternative in some of your regular meals.
Look for vegan options on the menu at your favorite restaurant and try one next time you go.
Try a new restaurant – ethnic restaurants such as Mexican, Thai or Indian usually have plenty of good options to choose from.
Once you have a selection of about 10 delicious vegan meals you enjoy, you can rotate through them on a regular basis for the majority of your meals, adding new meals from time to time to increase the variety.
Steps to reduce other animal products in your diet:
Find one or more plant-based milks that you like and replace dairy milk with them.
Try some of the many plant-based yogurts and cheeses, and find some favorite brands.
If you’re a coffee drinker, find a non-dairy creamer that you like.
If you like eggs for breakfast, try a tofu scramble instead.
Explore the “natural” section of your regular grocery store if it has one, or explore a new grocery store near you that has a good selection of natural foods.
Check the ingredients of the packaged foods you commonly buy, and start to seek out vegan alternatives.
Speed of transition – How quickly to make the transition is really up to you. If you’re ready to make the change right away, you can change your diet in just a few weeks. If you have a health concern you’re hoping to alleviate, remember that while a plant-based diet is helpful for several diseases it could take a few months to see significant results. If you’re changing out of caring about the animals, you start saving them from the first bite.
On the other hand, if you feel like it’s the right thing to do, but you want to proceed at your own pace and just do the best you can, you could try one new meal or ingredient each week and assess how it goes over a year or so.
Consider other family members – If you have other family members to consider when making meals, you may want to have a family meeting to explain your wishes, and ask for their help in making your transition. Get them on your team! It will be a lot easier for you if the refrigerator and the pantry are only stocked with healthy vegan foods for you to enjoy. If, however, others sharing your kitchen are not open to change, you’ll need to work out a plan based on who’s doing the shopping, who’s doing the cooking, and how much storage space you have available. Offering to cook for others is a great way to introduce them to new recipes.
Amanda gives a cooking class
Learn to cook – It’s fun, healthier and more affordable than the alternatives. Using frozen precut vegetables and fruit, and jars of sauces for flavoring can save time and effort. If you’re not used to doing the cooking, consider choosing some individual frozen vegan meals you can easily microwave to get you started.
Whatever path you choose is up to you. Don’t feel pressured by others to go slower or faster than you can handle. Vegetarians of Washington is here to help. You may find some of our books helpful in making the change. Say No to Meat answers many questions about why and how to make the transition. In Pursuit of Great Food – A plant-based shopping guide is handy to plan what to buy and choose the best brands and freshest foods. The Veg-Feasting Cookbook provides lots of recipes for every possible meal. If you’re based in the Seattle area, come to our monthly dining events and classes to get ideas and support for your transition, and don’t miss our annual Vegfest.