What is the most important decision you have ever made? Would you believe you make that decision every single day? What? Yes – it’s the food you choose to eat. Let’s look at some numbers if you don’t believe this to be true. Let’s look at a very big population of people in North America. For example, 7 out of 10 U.S. deaths are a result of chronic disease like heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. And 1,600 people die of cancer everyday in the U.S.
These deaths are preventable, treatable, reversible diseases that are caused by food and can actually be solved by food. This may be a totally new and radical idea. If you choose to explore the evidence further and come to embrace it – it has the power to change your life for the better!
This food solution starts with what you put on your plate. A plate of vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fruit can power you toward improved health. This ‘rainbow’ on your plate contains a symphony of nutrients that provide you with all the essential elements needed to energize you throughout the day.
So what does an average whole plant-based day of meals look like? Breakfast might be oatmeal with a splash of unsweetened almond milk and a mixture of fresh or de-frosted from frozen berries. Then lunch could be a bowl of tomato basil soup with a whole wheat pita pocket stuffed with no-tuna chickpea spread (chickpeas, red pepper, onion, celery, relish, tofu mayo and seasonings) topped with tomatoes, baby spinach and broccoli sprouts. Then dinner might be asian corn soup, stir-fried vegetables on a bed of whole grain brown rice with fresh raspberries and cantaloupe chunks for dessert. A bit peckish in between meals? Enjoy a delicious piece of fruit – perhaps some seedless green grapes, a banana or a succulent orange.
Not only is this a delicious and satisfying way to lose excess weight – it is also affordable and with a little practice becomes easy to prepare! So let’s talk about the ‘devil in the details” of eating this way. You may have already noticed the lack of animal products on this whole plant-based plate. Choosing to eat animal-free will cut down the fat-clogging artery problems you are battling for sure. For example, cheese is 70% fat and animal meats are in the same ball park. This fat translates into the dreaded issue of combatting cholesterol.
For example, even “choosing lean cuts of meat is not enough; the cholesterol is mainly in the lean portion. Many people are surprised to learn that chicken contains as much cholesterol as beef, 25 mg per ounce.9 Every 4-ounce serving of beef or chicken contains 100 mg of cholesterol. Most shellfish are also very high in cholesterol.
All animal products should be avoided for this reason. No foods from plants contain cholesterol, since plants do not have a liver to produce it. Every 100 mg of cholesterol in your daily diet adds roughly five points to your cholesterol level, although this varies from person to person. In practical terms, 100 mg of cholesterol is contained in 4 ounces of beef or chicken, half an egg, or three cups of milk.” (reference: http://www.pcrm.org/health/health-topics/cholester…)
Then what is next? It is just as important to look at how we prepare our whole plant-based plate. One the hidden culprits that doesn’t remain so hidden in our arteries is oil. While many oils are indeed derived from plants – olive oil comes from olives – it is a highly concentrated, refined, processed product. All the fibre, proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, and most vitamins are removed when corn kernals, canola seeds, or olives are pressed to make oil. That leave only trace nutrients like vitamin k. So along with being low in nutrient density it comes with an even bigger whammy, in that is highly calorie dense!
Here is an example of this: think about the calories in potatoes, compared to the calories in potato chips. One medium sized potato, or about 11-12 potato chips, provides 110 calories. Which portion of food will provide more proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals to help you feel full and satisfied after you’ve eaten it?
Which choice will you make? “Keeping total fat intake low is an important way to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of other chronic diseases. Animal products, including meat and dairy products, as well as fried food and vegetable oils are all loaded with fat. The food industry reports the fat content by weight, which allows the water content to throw off the measurements and make these products look more healthful than they actually are.
The most important piece of information to look for is the percentage of calories from fat. In the leanest cuts of beef, about 30 percent of the calories come from fat. Skinless chicken is nearly as high at 23 percent. Even without the skin, chicken is never truly a low-fat food. Most cheeses contain 60 to 80 percent of calories from fat, and ice creams often contain 45 to 65 percent. Butter, margarine, and oils of all types typically contain 95 to 100 percent of calories from fat. Grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits have less than 10 percent of their calories coming from fat.
Animal products also contain saturated fat, which causes the liver to produce more cholesterol. Unsaturated fats do not have this effect. Saturated fats are easy to spot because they are solid at room temperature, whereas unsaturated fats are liquid. Beef, chicken, and most other animal products contain substantial amounts of saturated fat. This is another good reason to avoid these foods. A few vegetable oils are also high in saturated fats.
These are known as tropical oils: palm oil, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil. Many packaged foods contain hydrogenated oils. These are both high in saturated fat and chemically hardened to make them solid at room temperature to increase their shelf life. While liquid vegetable oils are much better than animal fats and tropical oils, all fats and oils are natural mixtures of saturated and unsaturated fats. Therefore, none of them will do your coronary arteries any good.” (reference: http://www.pcrm.org/health/health-topics/cholester…)
How does somebody cook without oil?
Very simply. You can use stick-free or no oil cookware or just plain stainless steel. Then use water, vegetable broth, juice, wine or beer to saute vegetables. Just keep a measuring cup beside your stove and use tablespoons at a time as needed as you cook. The secret is not to ‘flood your food’ with water and instead add in very small increments to prevent sticking/burning.
Often it is helpful and even delicious to start by cooking your onions first – on a high, dry heat. Onions are full of moisture and they naturally begin to sweat. The brown buds that begin to appear as you cook adds flavour and depth to any dish as you add other ingredients.
If you are roasting vegetables – just spritz with a little water instead. Then roast as usual.
For baking substitute the oil with: apple sauce or even sweet potato. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or use silicone bake ware for the non-stick benefits (also makes for easy clean-up).
So if you still have lingering thoughts about going oil-free, check this out: https://shop.forksmart.org/
This is the video recording of the 2017 Fork Smart Summit featuring Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. Jr MD of the Cleveland Clinic and his cook book author wife, Ann Crile Esselstyn.