Tag Archives: plant based diet

Veg Diet = Lower Blood Pressure

Blood Pressure takingYet another study has reconfirmed what we already knew: that a plant-based diet promotes a lower blood pressure than a meat-centered one. The connection between a veg diet and blood pressure is a very strong one. The doctors conducting the study, just published in Internal Medicine, conclude that “controlled trials suggest a robust relationship between consumption of vegetarian diets and lower blood pressure.”

The importance of this finding can hardly be overstated when we stop to consider that about one third of all Americans have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is not harmless because it contributes to a person’s risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disorders and other health problems.

Medical researchers think that several factors acting independently account for their results. Vegetarian diets are typically higher in potassium which promotes lower blood pressure, and lower in saturated fats which can actually make the blood “thicker” and therefore harder for the heart to pump. Plant foods also contain substances called phytonutrients, that are neither vitamins or minerals, which can also have a blood pressure lowering effect. Just as important, vegetarian diets, and vegan diets in particular, are also associated with lower rates of obesity which is strongly associated with hypertension or high blood pressure.

Unfortunately, for many people, the only treatment offered has been medication, but that means financial costs and possible side effects. Plant foods are a better choice for most people than pills. Confirming the efficacy of the veg-diet approach, the authors of this study state “Our analysis found that vegetarian diets lower blood pressure very effectively, and the evidence for this is now quite conclusive.” Lead researcher Dr. Y. Yokoyama says “I would encourage physicians to prescribe plant-based diets as a matter of routine, and to rely on medications only when diet changes do not do the job” Nutrition author and award-winning journalist Jean Carper sums it up well when she says that “Food is the breakthrough drug of the twenty-first century.”

New Year’s Resolutions

Girl with bag of fresh foodIf you’re like most people, you’ve made a number of New Year’s resolutions.  Surveys routinely show that eating better tops most people’s lists. Now as you well know, following through on those resolutions can be very challenging. But fortunately Vegetarians of Washington is here to help! Here are a few of our field-tested and time-honored tips for making sustainable changes towards a healthy vegetarian diet.

You’ve probably been eating meat and other animal products most of your life, so don’t try to change your diet all at once. Try making one night a week veggie night and then expand from there. Remember that even small changes can make a big difference when it comes to improving your health, protecting the environment and all the animals who share the planet with us.

At Vegetarians of Washington we love great tasting food and will accept nothing less. Food is there to be enjoyed. So whenever you give up eating any dish, make sure you substitute an even better-tasting one in its place. You don’t want to feel deprived. This is where a good cookbook is absolutely vital.  Allow yourself to experience the pleasure of vegetarian food and enjoy the adventure.

Use the power of love!  Don’t fall in love with any food or dish that doesn’t love you back. Only love to eat foods that can love you back, by nourishing your body, your community, the world and all the other creatures that share it with you.

Look at following the vegetarian way of eating as an expression of your freedom. Some people try to say that vegetarians are not free to eat anything they want. Actually, you are free, and in your freedom you’re making a wise and delicious choice, rather than just follow habit or the customary Standard American Diet (SAD).

Don’t be afraid! Some people worry that if they are even one milligram short of magnesium their arms will fall off. Just relax. Not only is a vegetarian diet safe (and delicious), but it is a lot safer than the diet you left behind. There’s a reason vegetarians, on average, live longer and healthier lives.

Keep it simple. Don’t count milligrams and ounces, and don’t count servings. Just remember to enjoy several helpings  from each main food group—fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes—every day, and wash them down with plenty of water. Take a good one-a-day type multivitamin/mineral supplement (make sure it includes vitamins D and B12) every day for nutritional insurance, and enjoy life.

Be diplomatic when interacting with others. Remember that food is a very personal space. Food is what grandma gave you when you came home on a cold winter’s afternoon. Food is what you had at your Sweet 16th birthday party, and food is what you have at anniversary and holiday celebrations. Many people are struggling with food issues. If they allow you to enter into their personal space, please remember to do so gently. Most people are looking for help, not a hard time, when it comes to eating better. Sometimes new vegetarians get very enthusiastic, but few people want to be hit over the head with the tofu. Most people respond to a “proceed at your own pace and do the best you can” approach. 

For more tips on changing your diet, see our latest book, Say No to Meat, for information on how to make changes to your diet, handle dating, families and parties and also on shopping, eating out, cooking at home and all the rest.  It even includes some simple recipes to get you started.  With a little effort, and support from us, this is one resolution you will be able to carry through, and as you notice the many benefits, you’ll have no trouble sticking with your new diet for many years to come.

Interview with a Cardiologist

Dr. Arun Kalyanasundaram (Dr. K) is an interventional cardiologist with practices at Highline Medical Center and Swedish Medical Center.  He moved to Seattle in 2011. He strongly believes in a holistic approach to cardiology – with a particular emphasis on preventive cardiology primarily through diet and lifestyle. He will be speaking and answering questions at our next Monthly Dining Event on October 17th.  We asked him to tell us more about himself and his approach to cardiology.

Tell us something about yourself. Where are you from originally, how long have you been a doctor, and cardiologist, and what brings you to the Northwest?

I have been a doctor now for about 13 years. I am originally from India. I obtained my MPH at the University of Maryland, and then did my residency and fellowship at Geisinger and Cleveland clinics respectively. I chose to move to the Pacific Northwest because it is unique in terms of scenic beauty, cultural diversity and just an overall great place to raise a family.  
How long have you been a vegetarian? What got you interested in it to begin with?

In India, a significant portion of people are vegetarians. I have been a vegetarian life-long. Over the last 3-4 years, I embraced an all plant-based diet primarily for health reasons.
Have you discovered any other reasons and advantages for being veg along the way?

Absolutely!  Being a vegetarian offers clear health advantages – reducing the chance of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, to name a few. The effects on the human body are almost all positive – truly astounding. There are few things in life that are good for our health, good for the planet and all its beings, with virtually no side effects. 

Do you recommend that your cardiology patients follow a particular diet?

I am convinced that patients with heart disease, especially coronary artery disease, should be on a stringent plant-based diet. I am greatly inspired by the work done by Drs Esselstyn, Ornish, and Barnard to name a few. I have studied their work extensively and my ‘template’ for the diet is based off Dr. Esselstyn’s seminal work.

What reaction do your patients typically have to the suggestion of changing their diet?

Most patients are quite receptive to the idea. Often times, a heart attack serves as a ‘wake-up call’. Several patients of mine have completely transformed their lives. I often use the analogy of a house on fire – opening a clogged vessel in the setting of a heart attack is akin to what the fire brigade does i.e. put out the fire. But then I insist that the onus is on the patient to ensure that the fuel supply feeding the fire is turned off i.e. they make the appropriate lifestyle change.

What advantages to their heart health have you typically observed when a patient switches to a veg diet?
I have some patients who have had decreased angina and improved exercise tolerance. I have also seen significantly improved risk factor profiles i.e. lowered blood pressure, lower cholesterol, better control of diabetes, weight loss and a general sense of well-being.

What other health benefits have your patients experienced as a result of changing their diets?

There have been published studies that have shown that a vegetarian diet can prevent and reverse diabetes, reduce the risk of vascular disease and even some kinds of cancers. Personally, I have had patients with improved glycemic control and some that have been able to get away from their diabetic medications. 
What is it about a veg diet that you wish the public/patients would understand better?
 1) Vegetarian food does not have to be boring or tasteless. 2) It is perfectly possible to have a balanced and nutritious all-plant based diet for any population – specifically it is possible to get enough protein on a plant-based diet.

Are you optimistic for the increasing popularity of veg diets in both the medical and lay community in the future?

Totally. If you look at the vegetarian movement, it has certainly become mainstream – both in terms of the number of people that are vegetarians and the availability of vegetarian food readily. Obesity, rising healthcare costs, and increasing human population make a plant-based diet the way of the future.

It’s Official: Bill Clinton Goes Vegan

Ending a few months of speculation and uncertainty, former president Bill Clinton announced that he’s a vegan on CNN. This is a story of transformation and turnaround if there ever was one. When he first began his presidency, Bill was known for his love of beef steaks, chicken enchiladas, and the somewhat less presidential McDonald’s hamburger. Word is he wasn’t picky and would go after most meat items often with a certain amount of enthusiasm. In short, he loved meat. The problem is these foods didn’t love him back.

In 2004, less than four years after leaving office, the 58-year-old Clinton felt what he described as a tightness in his chest as he returned home from New Orleans, where he was promoting his memoir, “My Life.” Days later, he underwent quadruple bypass surgery to restore blood flow to his heart. “I was lucky I did not die of a heart attack” Clinton said.

The problem is that bypasses tend to clog pretty quickly if the patient doesn’t mend their ways. Last year, the former president went to Haiti to support the relief efforts but he felt weak. When he returned home, he learned he needed another heart procedure: two stents to open one of the veins from his bypass surgery, which had become, in Clinton’s words, “pretty bent and ugly.”

Enter his new nutritional advisors: Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, both famous for showing how plant based diets can reverse heart disease. The results couldn’t be better. The former president lost 20 pounds so far and says “All my blood tests are good, and my vital signs are good, and I feel good, and I also have, believe it or not, more energy”. The good news, of course, is that you don’t have to have Clinton’s presidential clout and connections to get the same results.

While Clinton may be the first former president to go vegan he’s certainly not the first significant White House worker to take up the plant based way. We may mention with, bipartisan spirit, that chief Bush speech writer and author of the influential animal rights book, Dominion, Matthew Scully has long been recognized as an enthusiastic vegan. Let’s hope the trend continues!

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