Plant Based Cookbook: Good for Your Heart

Plant-Based Cookbook

Plant-Based Cookbook: Good for Your Heart

Most Americans eat poorly, fail to exercise and know little about wellness, REAL or otherwise. Hardly any remain in top form into their middle and later years. As a result, Americans are overweight and spend more per capita on medical care for lifestyle-related diseases (particularly heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers) than any other people.

It’s not a pretty picture. Sure, America’s young athletes, the crème de la crème of the nation’s most gifted physical savants, do quite well in Olympic and other world competitions. However, the typical American is not number one in fitness or health, nor does he or she stand among the contenders in world healthy population rankings. If you review common well-being indicators, you will not find Americans at the head of the pack.

How come the presidential candidates are not promising to boost the nation’s health status? Enough palaver about “the shining city on the hill” or “American exceptionalism” or (Romney) how “God wants us to be the world’s leader!” Wouldn’t it be lovely if just one of the presidential aspirants came out promising to support healthier cultures and I pledge that my administration will lead the way?

America has had a wellness movement for several decades. Large and small corporations, universities, medical centers and other institutions have sponsored wellness programs. Countless conferences, books, websites and the like have been devoted to varied promotions of wellness concepts.

Yet, the public remains largely unaffected; obesity levels continue to rise, along with the nation’s medical expenditures. Can anything be done that will make a difference in the health of most people? Could something develop that would, in turn, render a wellness mindset and way of life more appealing and more sustainable?

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Plant-Based Cookbook: Good for Your Heart in 2020

Yes. Help just might be on the way. Something interesting is happening on the diet scene. Let me introduce the leading figure in a fast growing trend to better dining, physician Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., a long-time leader in preventive and restorative cardio-vascular medicine.

In his youth, Dr. Esselstyn was a world-class athlete, winning a gold medal in rowing at the 1956 Olympic games. As an Army surgeon in Vietnam in 1968, he was awarded the Bronze Star for valor.

Based at the Cleveland Clinic, his scientific publications number over 150. Highlights of the pioneering research he has conducted are described in his bestseller, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, and the film (and book) Forks Over Knives.

Plant-Based Cookbook

Dr. Esselstyn and other researchers believe the evidence is clear that a plant-based diet will prevent and even reverse the presence of existing heart disease. Two important side effects observed in the research reported are weight loss and increased vitality.

Plant-Based Cookbook: Good for Your Heart

Dr. Esselstyne and others promoting plant-based dining are leading a movement that has the potential of complementing broader wellness lifestyle efforts. If this happens, the beneficial consequences for the nation’s health could be significant. From my perspective, all this is more than theory, since I have infiltrated the ranks of these plant-focused revolutionaries.

Yes, thanks to the initiatives of my dear wife Carol, I have studied and followed a plant-based diet. This way of eating is much more disciplined, focused and restrictive than my usual pretty sensible food pattern that was basically aligned with U.S. Dietary Guidelines.

I did not until recently, see any reason to change my diet pattern, which complemented a lifelong vigorous exercise routine. Prior to the recent change, I ate small portions of lean meats and lots of seafood, along with plentiful fruits and vegetables and only a moderate amount of sweets and fats.

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Plant-Based Cookbook: Good for Your Heart

I avoided the deadly stuff, such as products identified as worst foods by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

While I’m fond and respectful of animals and supportive of living lightly on earth, I have not carried such good intentions to the level of role model actual practice. Sure, I was all for environmental sensitivity, but not to the point of becoming an actual vegetarian, let alone this new plant-based vegan regimen.

I enjoyed the taste of fish and a few lean meat dishes, now and then. But, until I got involved in this plant-based situation, I’ve been more talk, less action. I put aside thinking too much about unpleasant realities, particularly the nature of modern mass harvesting of sea life, the cruelty of slaughterhouse practices, and the chemicals in play that support production speed and shelf life of animal products.

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My dietary habits took the dramatic new turn I’ve been describing one day while I was in Burlington, Vermont for the national triathlon championships, staying at the home of my dear friend Judd Allen, eating feasts of barbecued chicken breasts one night and all-you-can-eat whole lobsters the next.

Carol, who stayed home, was watching a television program about the transformation of the appearance and health of former president Bill Clinton. Mr. Clinton, if you have not noticed, is today a lean mean machine, fit and free of the heart problems that plagued him during most of his pudgy, out-of-control years in office. (That last sentence was a reference only to his diet.)

The former president has become a born again, plant-eating enthusiast, describing the nature and touting the benefits of his new vegan diet. (Though he does, like yours truly, occasionally depart from perfection by tasting of the forbidden non-fruits every so often.)

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Plant-Based Cookbook: Good for Your Heart

Mr. Clinton makes frequent reference to the influence of Dr. Esselstyn and his colleagues Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of the bestseller, The China Study and to Dean Ornish in California, who also has written books about a plant-based approach to heart disease avoidance and reversal.

Plant-Based Cookbook
Plant-Based Cookbook

All three were key figures that inspired Mr. Clinton’s diet reforms. The former president claims he now lives on beans, legumes, vegetables, and fruits. He abstains from all dairy products. He claims the diet has changed his metabolism and accounts for his 24-pound weight loss, which is about what he weighed in high school.

In the CNN interview with Wolf Blitzer, Mr. Clinton said his concern over a worsening heart condition led to radical changes in his eating habits. He did the research and learned that 82% of people since 1986 who followed a plant-based, no dairy, no meat of any kind diet healed themselves.

Their arterial blockage cleared and calcium deposits around their hearts broke up. As noted, this interview was fateful for me because my wife was watching. Then she did additional research on her own and, when I returned home from Burlington, I discovered my diet had changed, as well.

Previously, I had paid little attention to the names for those who followed one kind of plant-based regimen or another. I thought vegan was a Star War character-now I am fast becoming one-and I realize it has little to do with science fiction.

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Plant-Based Cookbook: Good for Your Heart

Actually, the Esselstyn approach is even more ambitious that simple vegetarianism or veganism (if that’s even a word): the Esselstyn plan also eliminates oils, dairy and takes aim at a few other things as well, such as caffeinated coffee. I still miss seafood, but less now than in the beginning of this experiment! No, I have not yet given up REAL coffee.

After reading about and practicing this approach for a few months, Carol and I had occasion last week to travel to Orlando to attend a lecture by Dr. Esselstyn at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine in Orlando.

The good doctor gave a talk, well supported with illustrations that made it easy to comprehend the technicalities of how the plant-based approach reverses heart disease and, best of all, prevents it in the first place. He is an excellent speaker and a charming, knowledgeable, and likable person.

Advocates for a plant-based diet point out that vegetables, fruits, and other plant foods are rich sources of antioxidant nutrients (like vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and other carotenoids).

Plant-Based Cookbook
Plant-Based Cookbook

According to one supportive plant-based diet website that promotes Dr. Esselstyn’s work, such foods protect the cells from damage by cancer-causing agents and even inhibit processes that lead to cancer.

Plant-Based Cookbook: Good for Your Heart

In addition, a colorful plate full of both raw and cooked fruits and vegetables contain thousands of phytochemicals (natural substances in plants, like indoles, isoflavones and polyphenols) that seem to protect against cancer in a variety of ways…A diet of whole grains, beans, soy foods, fruits and vegetables also protects the body against stroke, diabetes, hypertension, obesity and birth defects.

Soluble fiber from grains and legumes may help lower blood cholesterol. Antioxidants in plant foods may help prevent cataracts, and carotenoids specifically appear to prevent deterioration of the retina of the eye.

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Well, it’s all promising stuff. Thanks to recipes in plant-based cookbooks such as Forks Over Knives, the meals served up by Carol have been delicious. The reformed diet is not so different-we still cook, enjoy desserts (with sensible ingredients, of course), nuts, wine with dinner and so on.

I do not feel deprived in any way. I’m not going to exaggerate or get carried away, but I must confess that I am no doubt more beautiful and virtuous than ever because of this diet.

In addition, I’m younger, stronger and faster, have higher morale, superior bowel movements and no doubt more antibodies for resisting diseases and Republican presidential candidates. In addition, I’m basically tax-exempt and I’ve been getting better gas mileage.

I do not plan to ever come on like a “veggievangelist” about this plant-based habit but I might gently suggest that you consider looking into it as a possible boost to your wellness style of being and remaining weller than ever.

If, however, you are mired in worseness, give it a shot. Maybe a plant-based diet will reverse not only the lurking heart and/or other disease but enable you to transform into a REAL wellness lifestylist and keep you eternally focused on the bright side of life until you die of nothing in particular.

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Plant-Based Cookbook: Good for Your Heart in 2020

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