Nutrition: It can make or break your health

Nine years ago, I stopped eating meat. I read a book that totally grossed me out and to be honest, the texture and look of meats had never really done it for me anyway. I went on to read more about being vegan and learned about some of the horrible inhumane practices in the meat and dairy industries, and my continued learning has only confirmed my desire to not eat meat.

Since my decision to cut out meat nine years ago, I’ve bounced back and forth between a strict vegan, a less-strict vegetarian, and a pescatarian. I have yo-yo’ed weight a lot during this time. When you cut out meat/poultry/etc. which tends to be the staple of every meal, it’s easy to consume more dairy and carbs – especially when fake meats also gross you out. Cheese is the obvious “veggie-friendly” option in the absence of meat. And then there’s pasta, pizza, breads – you name it, I made it a staple. And my waistline grew.

Over the years, I’ve received lots of questions about my diet and found I had to spend more time learning about nutrition to be able to give educated responses when people questioned how I got enough protein and other nutrients and vitamins. It turns out that you can get just about everything you need from plant-based foods, but you might need a B12 supplement (Young Living has an awesome one called Super B) or a D supplement if you live farther from the Equator or spend a lot of time indoors.

Reading about nutrition and learning what I’ve learned over the years has made me realize how much of an absence there is in our educational system and society about nutrition. And the food pyramid we learned in school back in the 80s and 90s didn’t exactly help us out here, either.

FullSizeRenderA while back, I read one of the best books I think I’ve ever read on the topic of nutrition: The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II. This book is touted as outlining “the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted” and has page. after. page. of great information. Plus, the back of the book is stacked with 35 pages of research cited.

Now I’m a big fan of the research citations, especially after I earned my Master’s degree and had to learn how to find academic articles and properly cite everything I referenced. I get super frustrated when I read something online that seems science-y and either doesn’t cite sources, cites sources that aren’t credible, or cites sources vaguely. People can only make educated decisions based on facts and science, and the myths to sell products – even natural ones – don’t help anyone out. So enough on that rant. I think you get the point…

So this book helped me see the important role whole food, plant-based nutrition has on our health and lives. And I was so pumped about it! But life happened, and I got lazy, and I got away from the principles I learned over time. Work would get hectic and then I’d be so tired at the end of the day that I’d order a pizza or takeout. Day after day, I’d think “What’s one night of bad eating?” but then a day became a week, and that became a month, then a year… I can go on with the excuses – you’re familiar with them, too, I’m sure.

So I rediscovered this book earlier this week as I was doing some cleaning. Lucky for me, I’m big on using highlighters when I read, so I was able to revisit some of my key takeaways from the last read. Let me share some excerpts from the Introduction:

Dietary change can enable diabetic patients to go off of their medication. Heart disease can be reversed with diet alone. Breast cancer is related to levels of female hormones in the blood, which are determined by the food we eat. Consuming dairy foods can increase the risk of prostate cancer. Antioxidants, found in fruits and vegetables, are linked to better mental performance in old age. Kidney stones can be prevented by a healthy diet. Type 1 diabetes, one of the most devastating diseases that can befall a child, is convincingly linked to infant feeding practices. These findings demonstrate that a good diet is the most powerful weapon we have against disease and sickness.” (p.3)

We spend far more, per capita, on health care than any other society in the world, and yet two thirds of Americans are overweight, and over 15 million Americans have diabetes, a number that has been rising rapidly.” (p.3)

Holy schnikes! If that doesn’t get you thinking about what you’re eating and the way we approach “healthcare” …I don’t know what will.

The China Study goes on to review the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and healthy eating in chapter 11:

“…you can:

  • live longer
  • look and feel younger
  • have more energy
  • lose weight
  • lower your blood cholesterol
  • prevent and even reverse heart disease
  • lower your risk of prostate, breast and other cancers
  • preserve your eyesight in your later years
  • prevent and treat diabetes
  • avoid surgery in many instances
  • vastly decrase the need for pharmaceutical drugs
  • keep your bones strong
  • avoid impotence
  • avoid stroke
  • prevent kidney stones
  • keep your baby from getting Type 1 diabetes
  • alleviate constipation
  • lower your blood pressure
  • avoid Alzheimer’s
  • beat arthritis
  • and more…” (pp.225-226)

Pretty amazing, right? The above excerpt is followed by eight principles of food and health that outline the importance of nutrition and the need to eat whole, plant-based foods. The various benefits we receive from good nutrition link to other benefits impacting our overall health; our health as a whole is interconnected. One principle even outlines how our genes don’t solely determine disease; nutrition plans a role in which of our genes gets expressed. Nutrition helps us combat some of the chemicals in our environment, too.

Have I convinced you of the value of nutrition yet? Now think how amazing your health will be when you pair that good eating with some physical activity, proper rest, and start eliminating toxic, chemical-filled products in your home. That sounds like a pretty good recipe for feeling awesome to me!

Eat your fruits and veggies, friends 🙂

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