Action Items for a Better Planet, a Better You

Elizabeth Kucinich

I found a great article by Elizabeth Kucinich, policy director at the Center for Food Safety and wife of former congressman and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich. They are both vegan and animal rights activists.

The article We Can Reverse Climate Change by the Way We Grow Food, has information about the research and studies showing the impacts of how we grow and process food is ruining our environment.

After laying out the research, she provides some concrete steps we can all take to improve the situation and also your health

What can you do to help mitigate climate change?

  • Grow or buy local
  • Buy organic
  • Reduce food waste — 50 percent of food produced in America is wasted
  • Eliminate industrial meat, dairy and eggs from your diet and reduce overall consumption of animal products and if choosing to eat meat, seek out 100 percent grassfed products.
  • Protect local agricultural land from land grabs and wasteful development

What will this do for you?

  • Reduce your consumption of and exposure to chemicals
  • Reduce your carbon footprint
  • Increase your health — a diet rich in plant-based foods can help reverse diseases can reduce the risk of health problems such as Type II diabetes, heart disease,and high cholesterol whereas meat and dairy can increase these risks
  • Increase your food security by supporting your regional foodshed.

Reading Elizabeth’s bio, I found out she was an Executive Producer for the documentary GMO OMG. Here’s the trailer. I can’t wait to see this.

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Our Addiction to Meat is Hurting the Planet

Source: Washington Post Wonkblog

Source: Washington Post Wonkblog

A recently published UK study of different diets and food types found that people who eat vegan or vegetarian diets significantly reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) impact compared to people who eat the Standard American Diet (SAD). The daily carbon footprint for a person eating the average amount of meat in the US was just under 16 pounds of CO2 compared to around 8.5 pounds for vegetarians and 6.5 pounds for vegans.

The researchers rated the participants as heavy, medium or low meat-eaters. For their study, heavy meat-eaters ate 3.5 ounces of meat per day. The average American eats 4 ounces.

The researchers calculated the GHG footprint for different food types (see chart below). That quarter pound patty on your hamburger has a carbon footprint of 37.9 pounds of CO2. According to a 2008 EPA study of average auto emissions, that is equal to driving almost 50 miles. Was it really worth it? (See more about the impact of that quarter-pounder)

I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog talking about the health impacts of eating a vegan or whole food, plant-based diet but the environmental impacts of our addiction to meat has to be talked about and addressed before it destroys our planet. Here is an excerpt from the new movie Cowspiracy that examines the impact of factory meat production and why environmental groups don’t talk about it.

The conclusion of the research:

Analysis of observed diets shows a positive relationship between dietary GHG emissions and the amount of animal-based products in a standard 2,000 kcal diet. This work demonstrates that reducing the intake of meat and other animal based products can make a valuable contribution to climate change mitigation. Other work has demonstrated other environmental and health benefits of a reduced meat diet. National governments that are considering an update of dietary recommendations in order to define a ‘healthy, sustainable diet’ must incorporate the recommendation to lower the consumption of animal-based products.

Wise words indeed.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions By Food Type

Kale!

Sauteed KaleMy wife and I discovered how much we love kale when we lived in Vermont. We usually have it either steamed or boiled. It tastes so good however it’s cooked.

Recently we went to one of our favorite Bay Area vegan restos – Herbivore – and the served kale with the entree. I asked how it was prepared and the waiter said it was sauteed with a little bit of oil and spices.

I decided to try this with broth instead of the oil. It was great.

Cooking KaleI heated the broth in the pan with a bit of garlic powder and basil, then added the kale when the broth was hot. I sprinkled a bit more broth over the kale and covered it for about 3 minutes (you can do more or less depending on how soft you want the kale).

And voila, a great bowl of delicious, healthy greens. Bon Apetit.

 

Don’t Make a New Years Resolution to Lose Weight

2014It’s the new year, Happy 2014. Time for the weight loss ads to pummel us from the radio to Facebook. We’ll also see the promotions for exercise equipment – that many of us will buy and then sell at a garage sale a year from now.

This year, don’t make a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight, make a commitment to a lifestyle change.

That’s the path I took in 2013. After watching the movie Forks Over Knives and reading Dr. Esselstyn’s book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease my wife and I made a lifestyle change to a whole foods, plant-based diet. We didn’t necessarily make this change to lose weight, although we did, we did it to change our long-term health outcomes. To prevent the chronic diseases that have impacted others in our families.

What do you want for the new year? Everyone’s path is different. If you do have a chronic condition like high blood pressure, pre-diabetes or cardiovascular issues then look at making a lifestyle change following the advice of Drs. Esselstyn, Campbell, McDougall or Barnard; or Rip Esselstyn’s Engine 2 Program. If you would like to lose weight – and keep it off – then look to the programs offered by Drs. Ornish, or Pulde and Lederman that provide a continuum approach to diet and lifestyle.

In 2014 make a commitment to changing your life. Eat whole foods, get exercise, sleep well and use meditation or other means to reduce stress. This is my prescription for a truly Happy New Year.

Namaste

Obesity, Not Old Age, Drives Healthcare Costs

Obesity in the US 2012

Obesity in the US 2012

A recent article from The Atlantic highlighted a new report in the Journal of the American Medical Association that shattered some myths about the US Healthcare Disease Care system.

The study authors—a combination of experts from Alerion Advisors, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Rochester, and the Boston Consulting Group—take a point-by-point look at why healthcare costs so much, why our outcomes are comparatively poor, and what accounts for the growth in medical expenditures.

The number one myth is that old age accounts for the majority of healthcare spending – when in fact it is obesity.

Actually, chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, among people younger than 65 drives two-thirds of medical spending. About 85 percent of medical costs are spent on people younger than 65, though people do spend more on healthcare as they age.

“Between 2000 and 2011, increase in price (particularly of drugs, medical devices, and hospital care), not intensity of service or demographic change, produced most of the increase in health’s share of GDP,” the authors write.

The biggest-spending disease with the fastest growth rate was hyperlipidemia—high cholesterol and triglycerides—for which spending grew by 14.4 percent annually between 2000 and 2010.

All you have to do is look around and see the increase in people’s waistlines or the proliferation of fast food and junk food everywhere.

These two maps also tell the story. The map at the beginning of the post is the Obesity map for 2012 from the United Healthcare Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings website. The one below is the map from 1990. The growth in the rate of obesity is astounding.

Obesity in the US 1990

Obesity in the US 1990

We are eating ourselves sick with the Standard American Diet (SAD) full of meat, dairy and eggs cooked with fat, sugar and salt. This way of eating is impacting all of us – high healthcare costs, productivity loss from hospitalizations and increased death rates.

It’s time to change to a whole food, plant-based diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. (You knew I was going to go there sooner or later, didn’t you?)

Other findings in the study include:

  • The US does not have the best healthcare system in the world (why are there still people who would have us believe that we’re still number 1? We haven’t been for decades. We spend more than other Western countries for worse outcomes.)
  • Spending more on IT and technology is not making the system more cost-efficient (Your doctor has an iPad! – does that make them a better doctor?)
  • The rate of increase in medical costs has slowed down (thanks in part to the recession and the Affordable Care Act)

We are on a path to have this generation of Americans living shorter lives than their parents because of our diet and health habits. It’s time to change.

More Voices Against Statins

pills

It seems I wasn’t the only one concerned about the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology’s new guidelines for lowering cholesterol and suggesting the use of statins for more patients.

On November 13, the New York Times published an op-ed piece entitled “Don’t Give More Patients Statins.” The piece was written by John D. Abramson, a lecturer at Harvard Medical School and the author of “Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine,” and Rita F. Redberg, a cardiologist at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center and the editor of JAMA Internal Medicine. Continue reading

Just Another Statistic

Leading Causes of Death statistics from CDC Website

Leading Causes of Death statistics from CDC Website

Five years ago my uncle, my dad’s only sibling, died from complications after heart surgery. He had a minimally invasive procedure done with a da Vinci device. The surgeon performed his task flawlessly, but the assistant punctured one of his lungs when removing the device. Other missteps by the hospital staff further complicated his already weakened system and he never regained consciousness.

A recent article in Forbes, Stunning News On Preventable Deaths In Hospitals, describes the magnitude of this issue:

In 1999, Americans learned that 98,000 people were dying every year from preventable errors in hospitals. That came from a widely touted analysis by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) called To Err Is Human. This was the “Silent Spring” of the health care world, grabbing headlines for revealing a serious and deadly problem that required policy and action.

As it turns out, those were the good old days.

According to a new study just out from the prestigious Journal of Patient Safety, four times as many people die from preventable medical errors than we thought, as many as 440,000 a year.

Continue reading

A Man on a Mission

Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD, F.A.C.S.Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn is a man on a mission – to end the epidemic of chronic heart disease in the US and other Western countries by promoting a whole food, plant-based (WFPB), oil free diet.

Esselstyn knows how to set a goal and reach it. As part of the US Olympic rowing team in 1956, his team won the gold medal. After attending medical school he served as a physician in Vietnam, then became a surgeon at the Cleveland clinic, where he worked for 40 years. He is a man driven to succeed. Now he is facing the toughest challenge of his life – changing the eating habits of the American public in order to end heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.

In his book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, Dr. Esselstyn shows how changing the diets of his chronically ill patients reversed their heart disease. Although they were all told by their doctors there was nothing else medicine or procedures could do for them, Dr. Esselstyn’s “prescription” kept them free of heart attacks and stroke for over 25 years and gave them back their strength and health.

Prevent and Reverse Heart DiseaseDr. Esselstyn is featured in the movie Forks Over Knives. His book provides additional information about the research behind his WFPB diet, why oils aren’t heart healthy and how the USDA Dietary Recommendations promote increased disease. His scientifically proven, nutrition-based cure is similar to those advocated by others, including Doctors Colin Campbell, Dean Ornish and John McDougall. All of them have shown the power of these diets to change lives.

Couscous and African Stew

Couscous and African Stew

As powerful as Dr. Esselstyn’s message, the other half of the book is a collection of wonderful recipes from his wife, Ann. They include fabulous soups, stews, salads and main course dishes along with breakfast and dessert items. We have discovered a whole new set of favorites: Sloppy Lentil Joes, Black Bean – Oatmeal Burgers, Couscous and African Stew, and Lentil Loaf served with potatoes and mushroom gravy.

For me, this book, along with the Forks Over Knives movie, changed my life. I lost over 20 pounds, got off of my blood pressure medicine and have more energy than before.

My wife and I had the chance to meet Dr. Esselstyn and his wife at a weekend retreat. They are compassionate, warm and giving of their time and expertise. They are lively, energetic and ready for the challenge of getting as many people as possible to follow their truly heart-healthy way of living and ending coronary heart disease – which Dr. Esselstyn insists, need never exist.

Do One Thing

The Unhealthy Truth

I discovered the author of this book today and watched her TED talk (see below) about her transformation from a mother who fed her four children the Standard American Diet (SAD) to an activist for healthy, organic food and against the additives and processes – like growth hormones and GMOs –  that are destroying our health.

Her book is called – The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick – And What We Can Do About It – I can’t wait to read it.

Robyn O'BrienRobyn O’Brien‘s journey started the morning her youngest child had an allergic reaction to part of her breakfast. A former financial and food industry analyst, she researched what was happening to the food system and what had caused her daughter’s allergy.

She discovered the additives and processes that are used in the United States, but are banned in Europe, the UK and other countries. She also discovered the impacts of these unhealthy changes – the US has the highest incidence of cancer in the world and we spend the most money on healthcare – with poorer outcomes. Then looking deeper still, saw how our government is subsidizing the companies making the unhealthy products and making it more costly to grow and market organic food.

Robyn founded a nonprofit organization – The AllergyKids Foundation. It’s mission:

Restore the health of American families by addressing the needs of the 1 in 3 American children that now has allergies, autism, ADHD and asthma and the role that additives in our food supply are having on our health.  The Foundation also works closely with those fighting cancer, particularly those with specific dietary needs.

Robyn is passionate about these issues and on a mission to change the current system for the health of our families, economy and nation. Her TED talk ends with a call to Do One Thing. None of us can do everything, but we all can do one thing to make a difference.

For me, this blog is how I am doing one thing to make more people aware of the problems with the current system; the impact of the Standard American Diet on our health and the benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet.

What is the one thing you can do today to make a difference?

Meat and Potatoes, Hold the Meat

John McDougall

When John McDougall was 18 he had a paralyzing stroke. When he asked the doctors why this had happened to him, they didn’t have an answer. So he went to medical school and became a doctor to see if he could find the answers. Forty years later, we are the recipients of his life-long quest.

In his book The Starch Solution, Dr. McDougall lays out a way of eating to improve health and reduce the risk of diseases like heart disease, diabetes and stroke while eating foods you love like potatoes and whole grain bread.

His research of the people with the healthiest diets all had one thing in common – starch. Rice in Asian countries, sweet potatoes in South America, corn in Central America and the southwest US.

His recipe for a healthy diet includes vegetables; fruit; beans, legumes and unprocessed soy products (think tofu, not fake chicken nuggets); and starches.

Like many other proponents of a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet, Dr. McDougall’s plan does not include meat, fish, dairy, eggs or added oils. It also avoids white flour and sugar.

The Starch Solution

The book covers why starches help you lose weight and stay healthy and why animal products are unhealthy for you and the planet. There are also chapters that discuss how a WFPB diet provides you with all the calcium and protein you need and why you don’t need supplements (with the exception of B-12).

To help you get started, there is a 7 day meal plan and over 100 recipes to get you started.

Dr. McDougall is passionate about his work – helping people stay healthy and live life to the fullest. Read his book and you’ll become a believer in the Starch Solution.