Preventing and Reversing Disease with Plant-Based Diets

Hot in the news this week is a new study suggesting that consuming probiotics can slightly reduce blood pressure, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. So, now everyone is running out and eating yogurt, hoping for a miracle cure. There are no pills, procedures, or superfoods that prevent or cure chronic disease. These pills and procedures are band aids being placed on top of a core problem that many prefer to cover up and “fix”… Yet, research is building on the ability to prevent and now reverse cardiovascular disease, its risk factors, type 2 diabetes, and more, with a whole food, plant-based diet. Overall diet and lifestyle need to be the focus of health and medicine today in order to shift away from the downward spiral of the current healthcare crisis…

Some of the research:
—>Kaiser Permanente Thrive’s Permanente Journal Review: “Research shows that plant- based diets are cost-effective, low-risk interventions that may lower body mass index, blood pressure, HbA1C [blood glucose control over time], and cholesterol levels. They may also reduce the number of medications needed to treat chronic diseases and lower ischemic heart disease mortality rates. Physicians should consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients, especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity.” (link)
—>The CHIP Program, a 6-year study emphasizing a whole food, plant-based diet, can lead to rapid and meaningful reductions in chronic disease risk factors. (link)
—>Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. showing that 99.4% of 198 people with cardiovascular disease on a plant-based diet for 3.7 years avoided major cardiac events (2014). (link)
—>Dean Ornish, MD regression of coronary atherosclerosis with intensive lifestyle changes – 10% fat whole foods vegetarian diet, aerobic exercise, stress management training, smoking cessation, group psycho- social support – for 5 years (1998). (link)
—>”An 18-week dietary intervention using a low-fat plant-based diet in a corporate setting improves body weight, plasma lipids, and, in individuals with diabetes, glycemic control.” (link)
—> “Vegetarian diets confer protection against cardiovascular diseases, cardiometabolic risk factors, some cancers and total mortality. Compared to lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets, vegan diets seem to offer additional protection for obesity, hypertension, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular mortality.” (link)
—>Adventist Health Study-2 “Vegetarian dietary patterns were associated with lower body mass index, lower prevalence and incidence of diabetes mellitus, lower prevalence of the metabolic syndrome and its component factors, lower prevalence of hypertension, lower all-cause mortality, and in some instances, lower risk of cancer.” (link)
—>”The dietary portfolio approach of combining a range of cholesterol-lowering plant foods may benefit cardiovascular disease risk both by reducing serum lipids and also blood pressure.” (link)
—>5 Ways to Avoid Cardiovascular Disease Without Medication (link)

*Image via Vegan Street


Thirsty: How Livestock Production is Drinking Up Our Diminishing Water Supply

To save time, I zest and juice a bunch of lemons at a time to use throughout the week (I use a lot of it) and keep it in a container in the fridge. This week, I squeezed about 8 large-sized lemons and yielded approximately half of the juice I typically receive. As I am squeezing them with all my might, I am looking out my kitchen window and seeing the dehydrated, pale yellow-colored plants and leaves on the hill in my backyard. California is in a serious drought. We had virtually no rain this year (I remember one storm). It is terrifying to witness the impacts of climate change. But the worst part is that of all the fresh water we do have, we are wasting the vast majority of it on livestock production.

Here are some horrifying facts on fresh water usage from Comfortably Unaware’s Dr. Richard Oppenlander:
—>50% of all the water used in the U.S. is given to the animals people eat.
—>70 billion animals are raised and killed each year for food. A few billion of these animals need up to 40 or more gallons of water per day…which is over 100 times what we, individually, consume daily.
—>The average water footprint per calorie of beef is TWENTY times larger than for grains.
—>Legumes (or “pulses”: lentils, beans, peas) require FORTY-FIVE times less water to produce versus beef and they are excellent sources of protein.
—>To produce 1 pound of meat, it takes:

  • 1,800-2,500 gallons of water per pound of beef
  • 731 gallons per pound of sheep
  • 127 gallons per pound of goat
  • 468 gallons per pound of chicken
  • 880 gallons per gallon of milk
  • 60-120 gallons to produce 1 egg
  • 11.6 gallons to slaughter and process 1 chicken

*The image below is from Farmscape (see link below) and the data is a few years old, but the ratios of comparison say it all, which is why I used it. The most recent data from Dr. Oppenlander is as above.

CA approves fines for water usage because of drought
The Vegetarian Resource Group‘s Save Our Water
Food Tank: The Food Think Tank‘s Meat’s Large Water Footprint
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Livestock Water Use
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Livestock Longshadow
Farmscape water use
Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret
Food Choice and Sustainability by Dr. Oppenlander
Dr. Oppenlander: Your Role in Global Depletion (video)

Healthy Travel Tips

Traveling this summer? Or any other time? One of the toughest parts of being thrown off your regularly scheduled programming is the uncertainty of the ability to locate and enjoy healthful foods you are accustomed to enjoying. As someone who loves routine and knowing where her next serving of kale and hummus can be procured, I empathize with the trepidation of traveling. However, after practicing consistently for several years as a whole food, plant-based eater, I have a few tips to offer fellow travelers. Please share any of your favorite tips in the comments below so we can come up with a super list of ideal methods and options for us all!

1. Research and plan ahead. Careful plotting for how long you’ll need to be stocked up from door to door, as well as investigating where you’ll be able to find food while away, makes the process less worrisome. Most of what you can bring along will depend on how you are traveling … by car or by plane.

2. Pack enough food to get through the first leg of the trip to avoid having to eat airport/airline food or truck stop/fast food along the way. When traveling with others, bring along enough food for yourself and your dependent traveling companions. For airports, dried food and packed whole foods are options, but water will have to be purchased after going through airport security; unfortunately, the prices are brutally ramped up, but maintaining hydration throughout the flight is ideal. A more cost-effective and eco-friendly option is to take an empty stainless steel or BPA-free plastic water bottle to the airport, and fill it up once you’re cleared into the terminal. Of course, driving is far easier because you can pack however much food you can squeeze into your car, and you can easily use coolers to keep foods longer. Plan ahead and pack up plenty of food to ensure you have lots of healthy options along the road.

3. Scout out your travel destination. Try a healthy food-finding app and website like HappyCow to locate veg-friendly dining and markets just about anywhere.  Stock up at markets on some items for meals and snacks can supplement what you brought along, when possible. If staying with friends or family members, ask ahead if you can store some food in the fridge or, even, if they can have some of your preferred staples ready when you arrive. When staying at a hotel, call ahead of the trip and request a refrigerator unit in the room. Most hotels will provide one. If not, you can use the ice bucket to keep perishables cool. International travel can require even more planning. Be sure to search online ahead of time. When traveling to other countries, ask detailed questions (you may need a translation dictionary handy, if there’s a language barrier). Most restaurants want to please their guests, and will go out of their way to accommodate patrons, even if you don’t speak the same language.


Travel-Friendly Foods, Cooler-Dependent Foods:

- Salads in disposable containers with dressing in a separate container

- Fruits: whole, cut, salad, dried, dehydrated

- Baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams

- Hummus with chopped veggies and whole-grain crackers to dip

- Wraps or sandwiches made on whole-grain breads or tortillas with hummus or bean spread and veggies or nut or seed butter and whole-fruit jam or sliced fruits

- Edamame

- Veggie sushi

- Bean, rice, and veggie burritos with salsa and guacamole on the side and separate

- Whole-grain pasta with sauce

- Unopened tempeh or tofu packages

- Leftovers packed in a disposable container

- Takeout from a healthy restaurant or market, packed in a disposable container


Easy Foods With No Refrigeration Necesary:

- Dried oatmeal in separate baggies with seeds (chia, flax, hemp) and/or nuts (simply add hot water when ready to eat)

- Kale chips

- Whole-fruit and nut bars

- Baked bars, whole-food cookies, muffins, and whole-grain breads

- Whole-grain or raw crackers, breads, tortillas, bagels

- Dehydrated bean and veggie soups

- Nut butters

- Trail mix

- Jarred bean dips

- Nutritional yeast and other spices in individually wrapped baggies to bring to restaurants

- Dehydrated green juice powders (for times when you don’t know when you’ll find your next greens

- Dissolvable whole-food powders to fill up on, if no other healthy options


Top 5 Tips for Dining Out

Healthy Voyager, Carolyn Scott-Hamilton, on What Would Julieanna Do?

Vegetarian Travel with HappyCow

10 Must-Haves for Healthy Vegan Travel on VegNews

Feeding Our Children

Found this on a wall in an elementary school cafeteria. Tragically, this is everywhere. Pushing junk food begins as early as possible, brainwashing innocent children’s minds with a strong belief that eating junk food is the norm.

—>Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
—>Among kids in America aged 20 years or younger, about one-quarter of 1% (215,000 people) have diabetes.
—>Prevalence of developmental disabilities (including autism, ADHD, etc.) has increased 17.1%—that’s about 1.8 million more children with DDs in 2006–2008 compared to a decade earlier.
—>Childhood cancers have increased in the past decades.
Something has to change. We cannot continue feeding our children calorie-rich, nutrient-poor, toxin-infused pseudofoods!

Things Parents Can Do To Protect Their Kids:
—>Always pack healthful lunches, snacks, and other meals when they will be away from home…especially at school or camp.
—>Inspire and educate your friends, fellow parents, kids’ sports team coaches and parents, teachers, and schools, with information, healthy food options, recipes, and by refusing to support junk food pushing.
—>Role model healthy eating with your children.
—>Teach your children how to shop for, prepare, grow, and enjoy delicious healthful food. Get them involved as much as possible and talk about why certain foods are healthy and others are not.
—>Stay informed and get vocal whenever possible. Vote with your dollar at the store and at restaurants

Redefining Normal 
Michele Simon’s Whitewashed
CDC Children and Diabetes
CDC on Developmental Disabilities Prevalence
Ways the Dairy Council “Educates” Healthcare Professionals and Kids
Corporate Sponsorship Expose by Dietitians for Professional Integrity
Corporate Sponsors of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Corporate Sponsors for American Academy of Pediatrics
PCRM’s Vegetarian Kid Nutrition
VRG’s Feeding Vegan Kids
Plant-Powered Kitchen for Delicious, Healthy Recipes

Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

The benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet are infinite. This new infographic from Hero Health Room provides some samples of why:

Here is my TEDxConejo talk describing why a plant-based diet is the most perfect diet:

And an elongated version of the talk and here is the written transcript:

This U.S. News interview I did last year that talks about the benefits of eating plant-based and what a day-in-the-life looks like and this is the written transcript with a sample meal plan and recipe links:

Cancer and Lifestyle

Cancer is one of the most horrific, terrifying, and destructive diseases, stealing the lives of nearly 600K Americans a year. It is the number 2 cause of death and it impacts all of us, as we either know someone who has suffered from it or have done so personally. I have witnessed many loved ones fight for their life and many who have lost the battle over the years and it is a powerful, poorly understood nemesis. Unfortunately, scientists and physicians do not fully have a grasp on prevention or treatment of the multitude of cancers, as there are many different types, with different personalities, and varying responses to treatment modalities, despite the vast resources, time, and money focused on advancing the technology. What we know about diet and lifestyle’s effect on cancer is also minimal, but there are some associations that are pretty well-established. I say we do all that is in our power to incorporate those recommendations to prevent cancer to the best of our ability and do our best with what we do know.

Here is what we know:

  • Obesity is the second largest risk factor for cancer, coming in after smoking.
  • Consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables consistently helps reduce risk for cancer.
  • Soy products may reduce risk for certain cancers.
  • Certain animal products, including red and processed meats, meats cooked at high temperatures, and dairy products promote cancer growth.
  • Alcohol increases risk for cancer.
  • Environmental toxins increase risk for cancer, especially in concentrated doses.


Here is what we can do about it to minimize risk:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight by eating a nutrient-dense, calorie-poor diet and exercising regularly.
  • Make at least half of your plate/diet/day be filled with colorful fruits and vegetables. Eat a minimum of 7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
  • Eat a whole food, plant-based diet to get a continuous flow of cancer-fighting phytochemicals and fiber running through your GI tract and promoting immune health.
  • Avoid meats, fish, dairy, and eggs to decrease toxin load.
  • Limit alcohol intake to no more than one serving a day for women and 2 servings a day for men.
  • Clean up your environment as best as possible by reducing use of chemicals in your home, in your laundry, on your body, and with the tools, equipment, and cookware you use to cook and prepare food in.
  • Practice stress reduction and mindfulness.
  • Quit smoking.



Obesity, Cancer, and a Vegan Diet

Obesity is the largest risk factor for cancer after smoking, according to a new report. And one out of every three people in the world is currently overweight or obese. This is a major global health threat. BUT, the good news is that another brand new study confirms that a VEGAN diet reduces risk for obesity (and other chronic diseases), a fact that has already been well-established.


Why and How to Ditch Dairy

 Facts on Dairy:

  1. We do not need it for calcium, vitamin D, protein, etc. There are much healthier foods that contain adequate doses of these nutrients but without the steroids, hormones, chemicals, medications, saturated fat, cholesterol, and unthinkable animal suffering that goes into dairy’s production.
  2. The dairy industry is perhaps one of the most pervasive powerful, and creative forces to be reckoned with as they inundate the USDA’s dietary guideline decisions, are marketed to children directly, provide education to healthcare professionals directly and indirectly, fund massive research for intended, untruthful results, and have clever, compelling ad campaigns everywhere that makes us believe milk is a power food and critical to our health. It is absolutely not.
  3. Find calcium in plant milks, leafy green vegetables (kale is better absorbed than dairy…see study below), broccoli, unhulled sesame seeds, tahini, calcium-set tofu, oranges, beans, dried figs, fortified juice, and blackstrap molasses.
  4. Vitamin D is best derived from the sun but can be found in fortified plant milks and many people require supplements, regardless of type of diet, intake and sun exposure (see below).
  5. Find protein in legumes, nuts, seeds, quinoa, whole grains, leafy green veggies….all plant foods (see yesterday’s post).
  6. Ditch dairy by replacing it with plant versions, commit to a 3- to 4-week period to completely stop consuming it. That will get rid of the addictive nature of it.




To Your Health Flash Sale!

What do you get when you combine provocative, fascinating, and exclusive interviews with the most extraordinary pioneers of plant-based nutrition all in one documentary? To Your Health! In less than an hour, To Your Health features the compelling, life-changing wisdom of Drs. Neal Barnard, T. Colin Campbell, Joel Fuhrman, John McDougall, Caldwell Esselstyn, Pam Popper, Alan Goldhamer, as well as Brendan Brazier, Mike Anderson, and Chef AJ. We toured the East Coast and California to bring you the best of the best, to share a visit with rescued farm animals at Farm Sanctuary, delicious plant-based cuisine, and much, much more. This infotainment documentary is originally from 2011 and we are having a flash sale to sell off the remaining few copies we have left. Get them while supplies last and share in the exciting Journey of the Plant-Based World….

Order your copy while you can here

7 Reasons Lentils are the New Cauliflower

How to Be Vegan, by Elizabeth Castoria, is hot off the press and offers a fun, fresh take on Veganism, loaded with tips, advice, and delicious recipes. See below (after the post) to win a FREE copy of the book…

Elizabeth Castoria is the author of How to Be Vegan and the former editorial director of VegNews, where she shared the fun, ease, and variety of the vegan lifestyle with readers around the globe. She is now a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter at @ecastoria.

7 Reasons Why Lentils are the New Cauliflower   

By Elizabeth Castoria

One of the things that’s the most fun about going vegan is getting to mix up your menu routine. There are a few staple ingredients that can totally transform your plant-based eating experience, and figuring out how you like them best will make dinnertime downright dreamy. Last year, cauliflower was everywhere. From pizza crusts to steaks to mac & cheese, cauliflower suddenly started appearing all over the blogosphere in myriad mesmerizing incarnations. Why the sudden burst of cauliflower love? The answer has two parts: one, it was inevitable that people would hunger for a new “it” vegetable to topple the reign of kale, and two, cauliflower is super extra especially versatile. Whether you blend it into a luxuriant soup or slather it in buffalo sauce as though it were wings, there really aren’t limits to the number of ways cauliflower can spruce up your supper.

So, if last year was the year of cauliflower, forward-thinking plant-eaters will wonder: what’s next? What veggie could possibly join the ranks of kale and cauli as the must-buy vegan staple? For your consideration, I submit that the answer lies in lentils! Here are nine reasons why you’ll be seeing them everywhere soon!

1. Lentils are super good for you.

Protein? Fiber? Lentils have it all! Just one cup offers 18 grams of protein and 63 percent of your daily recommended fiber. Oh, and there’s a healthy dose of iron in there, too. Lentils are basically the perfect food.

2. They come in a variety of colors and textures.

Red, green, brown, black, oh my! Depending on what texture you’re looking for, there’s a lentil to suit your needs. (Not unlike the cheddar and purple varieties of cauliflower, just saying!)

3. They make amazing burgers.

Try the Savory Lentil-Mushroom Burgers from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen, the Red Lentil Cauliflower Burger with Chipotle Habanero Mayo, Onion Rings, and Roasted Peppers from Vegan Richa, or go big with the Stuffed Thanksgiving Burger from The PPK.

4. You can thicken soups and sauces with them.

Want a thick, rich soup without using the entirety of your cashew supply? Lentils to the rescue! Red lentils work particularly well in tomato-based soups and add heartiness without overwhelming the other flavors. Try the Double Red Soup from How to Be Vegan to see for yourself!

5. They’re super cheap.

Dried lentils cost way, way less than a dime a dozen. Find them in the bulk section of your local grocery store to save even more, then keep them in glass jars.

6. They’re hard to mess up.

You have to really try to do the wrong thing with lentils. I was recently making a batch to add to a salad, and when I checked on them, it became clear that I’d overcooked them. So what’s a gal to do, toss them out and start over? I did start over to make another batch for the salad, but I also kept the overcooked lentils to turn into soup. I’m basically John Legend—even when I lose, I’m winning.

7. They bulk up salads like champs.

Speaking of salads, a cup of cooked lentils will bulk up the nutrition on your daily staple. Toss with your favorite greens, dressing, and half an avocado, and you have lunch!

Elizabeth Castoria is the author of How to Be Vegan. Find out more on and follow @ecastoria on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

To win a FREE copy of How to Be Vegan, enter here: a Rafflecopter giveaway