Lose Weight, Boost Energy, Improve Health
Many people struggle with their weight. They try everything under the sun, or so they think. They swear they eat healthy and exercise regularly, joining a gym, hiring a personal trainer … all to no avail. For years, we’ve been focused on getting lots of protein and “healthy fat,” many adopting the Paleo Diet or Zone Diet touting low-carbs. The science that has been swept under the rug that has been clinically known for decades is quite the opposite of what we’ve been told by these gurus. The answer is simple and is one that could put a lot of people out of business — not only the gurus pushing their books, but big business. The impact on “Big Pharma” and the agriculture industry as we know it could be huge.
The USDA is behind the food pyramid, which was introduced in 1992, but the USDA is also behind the agriculture industry. Is it any wonder they recommend eating meat and dairy? Never mind study after study shows that eating animal products worsens health promoting cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and more. The “Food Guide Pyramid” of 1992 was updated to My Pyramid in 2005, and replaced with My Plate in 2011, which is what’s taught (briefly) in medical school (if at all) and what most dietitians use, regardless of the studies in nutrition science.
Research supports a high-carb, low fat vegan diet for health and weight loss.
Diets rich in animal protein, such as the Paleo Diet and the Atkins Diet, are not the answer to being fit and healthy, nor do they support the lifestyle of someone concerned with the environment or animal rights. These diets are making people sick, making the planet sick and supporting the slaughter of billions of innocent animals who do not want to die. Following a vegan diet is not extreme or a fad, it’s what’s necessary for good health — health of people, animals and the planet. Let’s face it, the only difference between companion animals and farm animals (brutally slaughtered for food, their fur and skin) is our perception. It is seriously time to change our perception, not only for animal rights, but for the environment and our health.
Believe it or not, a good nutrient ratio (give or take a few) is 80-10-10. That means 80% (complex) carbohydrates, 10% healthy non-saturated fats, and 10% plant-based protein.
Let’s talk carbs.
Carbohydrates are not the enemy — they are not the reason for weight gain. Most epidemiologic studies show an inverse relationship between carbohydrate intake and body mass index (BMI). Many overweight individuals (BMI over 25) either have or are at risk of getting metabolic syndrome and are at risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary vascular disease. Weight gain and features of the syndrome have been shown to be reversed by dietary intervention—adopting a 80-10-10 vegan diet.
When we talk about the intake of carbohydrates, we’re talking about complex carbs, not simple carbs like sugar. Complex carbs are favorable for health and are rich in soluble and insoluble fiber and include whole grain. Whole grain contains a number of substances with potentially favorable health benefits, such as antioxidants, phytoestrogens, and fiber, and is associated with improved metabolic function, and lower risk of obesity, central adiposity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. While many people fear “phytoestrogens,” they are actually beneficial in terms of helping to balance hormones, including during peri-menopause and menopause. There are some conditions where phytoestrogens may need to be avoided.
Let’s talk grains.
Whole grain intake is generally associated with BMI. However, refined grain intake is not. In studies, adults eating a high-carbohydrate diet are more likely to have a healthy BMI value (below 25). A BMI of 25-29.9 is considered overweight; a BMI of 30 or greater is considered obese.
Let’s talk fats.
When it comes right down to biochemistry, the fat you eat is the fat you wear. Fat does not turn into anything else in the body except fat. It gets stored in the tummy, hips, thighs, and buttocks the same way it entered the body — from lips to hips as the old saying goes. This is true for all fats, including “healthy” oils like coconut oil, olive oil, etc. Fat: it is what it is. If you want to drop weight, give up the oils and fat.
Research shows that a low-fat dietary strategy with emphasis on fiber-rich complex carbohydrates is beneficial for health and weight control, as well as cholesterol management. Consuming a low-carbohydrate diet (approximately <47% energy) is associated with greater likelihood of being overweight or obese among healthy, free living adults.
Let’s talk weight loss.
We have all been conditioned to believe that a high protein, low-carb diet is the solution for weight loss. While this plan brings about weight loss in the short-term (during the first 6 months or so), it is not successful for managing long-term weight goals (1 year and beyond). Diets low in whole grain, fiber, fruit and vegetables, and high in trans-fat are associated with increased risk of overweight and obesity.
Overweight and obesity develops when there is a positive caloric imbalance, and is impacted by genes and the environment. We can help reduce genetic and environmental triggers by the types of foods we choose to eat. We can all talk ourselves into something or out of something. If you convince yourself that you “just can’t” give up the cheese, then guess what? You just can’t. And you won’t. For those who swear they eat perfectly and exercise perfectly but can’t seem to drop “the weight,” you may need to reexamine your habits a bit deeper. Eating yogurt (dairy) for breakfast, a salad with cheese (dairy) and grilled salmon (extremely fatty and toxic) for lunch, getting in a hard-core workout for three hours, grabbing a “health bar” on the go as a snack that’s full of sugar and fat, stressing about work, kids, and life in general, having a cocktail or 2 or 3 to unwind, and getting 5 hours of sleep at night is not exactly the script for good health and weight loss.
Overall diet quality, together with physical activity and stress management, is related to weight maintenance. This doesn’t mean going to the gym for several hours every day, it simply means being active and not sedentary. Too much gym-type power exercise (as opposed to natural physical movement like taking a walk, riding a bike, etc) contributes to more stress on the body that can actually be detrimental to one’s health in the long run.
Let’s talk stats and studies.
Epidemiologic evidence, reinforced by clinical and laboratory studies, shows that a Western diet is the major underlying cause of death and disability, including from cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Eating a purely plant-based diet that is low in fat (</=10% of calories), high in carbohydrates (~ 80% of calories), and moderate in sodium intake has been shown to significantly reduce weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, blood glucose, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.
Many people suffer from noninfectious chronic diseases such as atherosclerotic vascular disease, epithelial cell cancers, type 2 diabetes, and autoimmune disorders including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The common denominator of all these issues in the Western world is the rich Western diet with its emphasis on animal-source foods (meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products including yogurt, sour cream, cheese, etc) as well as fat- and sugar-laden processed foods.
A 7-day study showed tremendous results. It was an energy-unrestricted low-fat, starch-based vegan diet:
- No animal-derived ingredients whatsoever (no meat, fish, eggs, or dairy products)
- No isolated vegetable oils (avoid olive, corn, safflower, flaxseed, coconut and rapeseed oils)
- Base meals around common starches—wheat flour products, corn, rice, oats, barley, quinoa, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, peas, and lentils, as well as fresh fruits and non-starchy green, orange, and yellow vegetables. (note: if you have celiac disease or are intolerant to gluten, some of these food items will need to be avoided)
- Focus on less than 2000 mg of sodium per day (we prefer Himalayan pink salt)
- 81% complex carbs; 7% healthy, plant-based fats; 12% plant-based protein (our 80-10-10 is a there-about goal)
After following this plan for just 7 days, participants lost a median of 3 pounds and had significant improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. Prospective cohort studies have shown that low-carbohydrate diets increase all-cause mortality and the risk of cardiovascular events.
Participants of the study with type 2 diabetes who adhered to a high-complex-carbohydrate, high-fiber, low-fat diet experienced a significant reduction in fasting glucose; 24 out of 31 patients were able to discontinue oral hypoglycemic agents; 13 of 18 patients were able to discontinue their use of insulin. Serum cholesterol was reduced by 25-27%. At a 2-3 year follow-up, the results were maintained by those who adhered to this nutritional health plan. The main factor between patients who remained on medication and those who remained off medication was the percent of calories derived from fat. Did we mention stay away from FAT? Eating fat makes you fat.
Although the majority of the population is resistant to adopting a low-fat, high complex-carb vegan diet, it is the answer behind improving health and losing weight. This nutritional plan is the answer for many issues facing the world today. While many people believe that adhering to such a diet is cost prohibitive, one must take into consideration the effect it has on health and the environment, the reduction in costs for visits to the doctor, medications, not to mention the higher quality of life and quantity (longevity). No one wants to live each day with symptoms of fatigue, sluggishness, and the typical complaints that are associated with noninfectious chronic diseases. If eating a different diet would prevent and possibly reverse these health issues, why are people so reluctant to making the necessary changes? The first thing you have to do is change your perception. And if you love animals, give thoughtful consideration as to where your food comes and who it was — what they were forced to go through in order to land on your plate.
Food for thought.
The gurus, doctors, and promoters of diets advocating animal proteins and low-carbs all have one thing in common — they’re all overweight! This includes Loren Cordain, author of The Paleo Diet, Sally Fallon, author of Eat Fat Lose Fat, William Davis, MD, author of Wheat Belly, Barry Sears, MD, author/founder of The Zone Diet, and Richard Atkins, MD, renowned for his Atkins Diet, who died overweight with heart disease. Physicians who promote and eat a low-fat vegan diet are all lean: Neal Barnard, MD, Pam Popper, PhD, ND, John McDougall, MD, Caldwell Esselstyn, MD. It’s these doctors who are advocating change in the medical industry and making it happen because the evidence that a low-fat vegan diet is the most beneficial for health is irrefutable.
- Carbohydrate Quantity and Quality in Relation to Body Mass Index. Gaesser, Glenn A. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 107, Issue 10, 1768 – 1780.
- A comparison of low-carbohydrate vs. high-carbohydrate diets: energy restriction, nutrient quality and correlation to body mass index. Bowman SA, et al. J Am Coll Nutr. 2002 Jun;21(3):268-74.
- Long-term effects of ad libitum low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets on body weight and serum lipids in overweight subjects with metabolic syndrome. Poppitt SD, et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Jan;75(1):11-20.
- Carbohydrate Intake and Overweight and Obesity among Healthy Adults. Merchant, Anwar T., et al. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 July ; 109 (7): 1165–1172. Doi:10.1016/j.jada.2009.04.002.
- Hill JO, Wyatt HR, Reed GW, Peters JC. Obesity and the environment: Where do we go from here? Science. 2003; 299:853–855. [PubMed: 12574618]
- Effects of 7 days on an ad libitum low-fat vegan diet: the McDougall Program cohort. McDougall, J. et al. Nutrition Journal 2014, 13:99
- Long-term use of a high-complex-carbohydrate, high-fiber, low-fat diet and exercise in the treatment of NIDDM patients. Barnard RJ, et al. Diabetes Care. 1983 May-Jun;6(3):268-73.