if not, you may want to read the following article. Reprinted without permission from Daily Camera. emphasis added by me
Switching to a vegan diet
By Pam LeBlanc, Cox Newspapers
AUSTIN, Texas -- We have seen the enemy, and it's laden with fat, cholesterol and calories.
Nutrition researcher Dr. Neal Barnard says by picking the right foods, we can fend off cravings. Even better, he says a low-fat, plant-based diet can lower cholesterol levels and make our bodies more disease-proof.
"Changing our diet is more powerful than most of us have imagined," says Barnard, who favors a vegan diet. "If we do it in the right way, we can reach our goal of knocking off weight, getting our cholesterol down, really getting healthy and living again."
The 52-year-old founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which promotes preventive medicine and good nutrition, has written seven books, including "Turn Off the Fat Genes" and "Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings."
Barnard, who lives in Washington, D.C., says he is frustrated by doctors today who find it easier to write a prescription for cholesterol-lowering drugs than to tell a patient to change his or her diet, even though studies show that a vegan diet can halt -- and even reverse -- diabetes and heart disease.
"There's always a role for medical care, but the most powerful tool for good health is the food we put on our plate every day."
According to Barnard, that food should come from just four food groups -- vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains. It should omit dairy and meat.
His advice for breaking cravings? Space meals evenly throughout the day. Change your schedule -- so you're out taking a walk instead of lurking near the refrigerator when cravings hit, for example. Keep healthy snacks on hand. Remember that alcohol dissolves willpower. Get proper exercise and rest.
And be smart about the foods that you do eat. Certain foods -- chocolate, for example -- have mild opiate effects that can become addictive. Resist them by choosing instead foods such as oatmeal and beans that hold your blood sugar steady during the day and reduce hunger for hours.
"We don't have to have our kids be part of a generation that's headed to be the most unhealthy generation we've ever had," he says. "We don't have to have husbands, wives or parents resign themselves to illness."
What does Dr. Barnard eat?
Q: Can the typical American stick to a plant-based diet long term? Is life worth living if it doesn't include cheeseburgers?
Dr. Neal Barnard: People can do it and they will do it. Frankly, we have no choice. Two-thirds of us are overweight; one-third of the adult population is obese. If you're overweight and facing the risk of heart attack, are your kids following suit? Do you really want to feed them foods that will give them prostate cancer, colon cancer and diabetes? We treat this as if it's some kind of joke. It's not.
Q: Can we really reverse heart disease through this diet?
A: Yes, according to studies, and results start to show in only a month or two. The same is true for diabetes. "It's absolutely astounding. We've had to ratchet back medications (for some people)."
Q: How long does it take to retrain our taste buds when we switch to a plant-based diet?
A: Two or three weeks, Barnard says. "You feel better, you lose weight, have more energy. When a person goes on a vegan diet and later on they try to have some meat or chicken, it's disgusting to them."
Q: What if we just eat a little meat and cheese? Moderation is good, isn't it?
A: "Not really. Moderation only applies for healthy things. If a mother says, 'All things in moderation,' she doesn't mean a little cocaine or a few cigarettes are OK. To the extent you're adding meat or cheese, you're adding cholesterol and the problems it causes. The bigger problem is it rekindles the taste for having it again."
Q: I thought fish was good for me. Why shouldn't I eat it?
A: "Fish have omega-3 fatty acids, but they have a similar amount of saturated fat, and that raises cholesterol. Plus, fish are the most contaminated food we eat. Mercury from the ocean floor concentrates in them."
Q: Why should I get 40 grams of fiber a day?
A: "Fiber is what fills us up in a healthy way. You can get filled up by a big hunk of meat or cheese, but the healthy way to do it is with fiber. It makes you less hungry all morning long and less likely to fall prey to the doughnut tray. It keeps your digestive tract clean and carries toxins away; it keeps people regular. And it's in food naturally."
Q: Why not just skip breakfast?
A: "People who eat breakfast are less tempted by other foods later in the day. Their blood sugars stay more even. If you skip breakfast and get to lunch and are extra hungry, you're more likely to overdo it and eat things you will regret."
Q: Can I get enough protein in a plant-based diet?
A: "Yes. There is plenty of protein in beans, grains, vegetables and fruits. Add to that a multivitamin that will cover you for B12 and you are set."
Q: But I'm an athlete. . .
A: "Racehorses and bulls get their protein from plants, and we can, too. Meat gives you protein, but also a huge chunk of saturated fat and cholesterol." Still feel like you need extra protein? Add more soy protein (tofu) or beans. "You definitely don't need meat or eggs."
Q: Why change my diet when I can just take a cholesterol-lowering drug?
A: "A cholesterol-lowering drug will lower cholesterol, but it doesn't do anything for your thighs, your cancer risk or diabetes." And, for some, it has side effects, including muscle pain. "In those few cases where diet change is not enough, drugs should be used as an alternative or complementary treatment."
Seven tips for healthy eating
Dr. Neal Barnard says by eating the right foods we can resist unhealthy food habits:
Plan breakfast to block cravings and snacking later in the day. Think oatmeal (regular, not instant) and cantaloupe, not white toast.
Choose foods -- such as sweet potatoes, green vegetables, lentils and peas -- that hold blood sugar steady for hours.
Boost your appetite-taming hormone leptin by eating a low-fat diet, not over-restricting calorie intake and exercising.
Break craving cycles, whether they are daily, monthly or yearly, caused by hormones, winter darkness or a hectic schedule.
Get plenty of rest and exercise.
Enlist support from friends, family and co-workers.
Remember the other benefits of a plant-based diet: cutting cancer risk, losing weight, decreasing blood pressure, getting more energy, living longer, developing new tastes, etc.