Having just completed the Plant Based Nutrition certification program through the T. Colin Campbell program at Cornell, I find the timing to be extraordinary to talk about all of this plant-based eating that is becoming so widely encouraged. But why?
Dr. Campbell is best known for his extensive diet/disease research and bestselling book, The China Study. The book details how in many affluent societies, there is an alarming rise in the rate of cancer, heart disease, and other chronic diseases. The China Study presents extensive scientific evidence that diet and nutrition can prevent, control and even reverse a wide range of such diseases. In 1983, T. Colin Campbell was one of the lead scientists of the China–Cornell–Oxford Project, a collaboration among Cornell University, the University of Oxford, and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine. This was the most comprehensive study ever undertaken to explore the relationship between nutrition and disease, widely known as “The China Study”. This study, combined with lab research findings, showed the risks of a diet high in animal protein, and the benefits of a whole-foods, plant-based (WFPB) diet.
Let me next piggyback on this amazing research with The Blue Zones. It is also a study on the regions in the world where people, thanks to their healthy routines, grow older than any other people elsewhere. Five places have been identified by this research. Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece, and Loma Linda, California. It’s unique in the fact that the five places identified also identify some common traits. What are those commonalities? A plant-based diet that incorporates beans is essential. There are five pillars to every Blue Zone diet: whole grains, greens, tuberous (sweet potatoes or potatoes), nuts and beans. Although their lifestyles differ slightly, they mostly eat a plant-based diet, exercise regularly, drink moderate amounts of alcohol, get enough sleep and have good spiritual, family and social networks.
Why are plants so healthy for our diets?
Plants are high in fiber. Eating a plant-based diet improves the health of your gut so you are better able to absorb the nutrients from food that support your immune system and reduce inflammation. Fiber can lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar and it’s great for good bowel management. Plants contain all the essential vitamins and minerals our bodies need as well as carbohydrates, fats and proteins. The only exception to this is vitamin B12.
How can we eat more plants and less meat, in our Standard American Diets?
One easy place to start is making Monday, “meatless Monday”. (See the healthy, fast, easy recipe below). Just being more mindful and eating a little less of the animal product group will be improvement. Allowing your palate to expand to more easy stir fry’s can set your week up right.
Slow, small changes often yield the biggest benefits. Try adding in a smoothie with some veggies and fruits. This is also a great way for kids to get more plants without even knowing.
The key to success is no dieting. It is making and finding lifestyle choices that work for you and your family. Deprivation leads to desire and desire leads to binging. It’s a vicious dieting mentality that never ends well. So, I remind my clients to eat the cake, the doughnut. It’s ok. If we are living by an 80/20 lifestyle with food (20% being the fun/no-low nutrient value foods), it’s ok to the have the doughnut. It is already worked into the 20%.
Check out the awesome recipe below for your new Meatless Monday idea and also the Smoothie recipe to start incorporating more veggies. Remember, this is not all or nothing. Plant-based does not mean vegetarian and no meat. It simply means you make conscious decisions to eat as many plants as possible and still enjoy periodic animal products. You can do this for your health!
Easy Kitchen Sink Stir Fry
Take any veggies you like, need to use… chop, and place all in a warm skillet with 2T oil (avocado or coconut works best for high heat but I use olive oil often on medium heat). My “go to veggies” for my favorite stir fry:
-Broccoli, carrots, onions, celery, mushrooms, red pepper, zucchini.
Sautée all until desired tenderness.
Serve over steamed rice (I make fast brown minute rice while veggies are cooking) and toss with a few drizzles of “coconut amino”, aka the healthier version of traditional soy sauce, which can also be used.
Easy Glowing Smoothie
Handful of spinach
2 celery stalks
1/4 lemon, peel removed
Add all in a blender with 2C water. Blend and serve. More/less water can be added for desired consistency. *any frozen fruit can be used to make this “thicker”.