Doctor’s Tip: What the healthiest diet looks like
Did you know that November was world vegan month? Over the past three years the percentage of vegans in the U.S. has risen from 1 to 6 percent, which is good news for the health of these people, for the health of the planet, and for our costly and broken health care system. Another bit of good news is that in 2019-20 the curriculum at the Colorado University School of Medicine will include learning about nutrition and the power of plants to prevent, treat and reverse disease.
Last week’s column discussed the science that supports a plant-based, whole (unprocessed) food diet, with no salt, sugar or added oil as being the healthiest. What does this diet look like?
What you should avoid (basically anything with a face, a mother or that poops):
• Meat, including chicken.
• Dairy, including cow’s milk, cheese and yogurt.
• Oils, including coconut and olive (sauté with water, veggie broth, wine, vinegar; make oil-free salad dressing; substitute ground flaxseed and/or unsweetened apple sauce when a recipe calls for oil).
• Processed food including white bread, white rice, white pasta, white flour tortillas. (“The whiter your bread, the sooner you’re dead” — Joel Fuhrman, M.D.).
• Sugar (look at food labels — 4 grams of sugar is a teaspoon).
• Salt (maximum healthy intake is less than 1,500 mg. a day — you get plenty with a plant-based diet w/o adding salt).
What you should eat every day (See Dr. Greger’s daily dozen in “How Not to Die” for more details):
• Half of what you eat every day should be a variety of vegetables due to the fiber and health-promoting micronutrients veggies have — that animal products lack. “Eat the rainbow” — veggies with intense color are particularly beneficial (greens, red cabbage, red onions, carrots, tomatoes, carrots, yams, etc.). Include cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, Brussels sprouts) — some should be eaten raw.
• Eat legumes every day — beans, chick peas or lentils.
• Herbs and spices daily, including the “wonder spice” turmeric (foods with intense flavor are also particularly healthful).
• Whole grains. Check food labels and make sure the total carb:fiber ratio of the product you’re buying is 5:1 or less (multiply the fiber number by five and if the result is the same or greater than the total carb number, that product has lots of fiber and whole grains).
• Eat fruit daily, but avoid fruit juice. Intense color is important here, too — so berries are particularly healthful.
• Eat a handful of raw, unsalted nuts every day. All nuts have good and bad fats — walnuts have the best ratio of good to bad, followed by almonds, pecans and peanuts (peanuts are technically not nuts but nutritionally are similar).
• Eats seeds with your salad, which help you absorb fat soluble vitamins from your greens, and which supply some healthy fats. Eat one to two tablespoons of ground flaxseeds daily. Your body converts the nuts and seeds to omega-3 — important for brain health.
• Take a 250-450 mg. capsule of vegan, algae-derived omega-3 every day — buy from Vitamin Cottage or http://www.DrFuhrman.com (don’t take fish or krill oil).
• Because vitamin B12 is made from bacteria in dirt, and we don’t get much dirt in our diet with treated water and pre-washed produce, plant-based people should take 1,000 mcg. of B12 daily (available at City Market or Safeway).
Next week’s column will be about tips for converting to a plant-based diet.
Dr. Feinsinger, who retired from Glenwood Medical Associates after 42 years as a family physician, has a nonprofit Center For Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Nutrition. He is available for free consultations about heart attack prevention and other medical issues. Call 970-379-5718 for an appointment. For questions about his columns, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.