Going vegan in 2013
Being vegan is no longer an unconventional way of life, and that’s due in no small part to the “Forks Over Knives” book and documentary. Now comes “Forks Over Knives — The Extended Interviews,” featuring even more evidence supporting the elimination of animal-based and processed foods to maintain health.
We asked one of the film’s experts, Cornell University nutritional scientist T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., for all the dirt on this Earth- and body-friendly lifestyle.
Why is a vegan diet healthier than a nonvegan diet?
I don’t [even] use the word vegan. Vegans can eat processed food as long as it contains no animal elements. I call it a whole food, plant-based diet. In my studies, the evidence is overwhelmingly positive. In just two weeks, we have found that cholesterol levels drop; aches disappear. Many changes occur. It’s not just about preventing disease, but treating disease.
But isn’t animal protein necessary to health and survival?
People have been advised that for a long time. A whole food, plant-based diet supplies all the protein we need and at an ideal level, about 10 percent of our calorie intake. That’s enough. But animal protein takes it up to about 70 to 80 percent. Early studies found that animal protein sped up growth rate, so it was called high-quality protein. But it also speeds up growth of cancer cells. Plant protein is slower.
If you want to switch to this diet, are there some tiny tweaks you can start making right away?
Eliminate dairy. Evidence was found in 1925 that the protein in dairy, casein, pushes up cholesterol levels. Dairy protein is a more prominent problem than animal fat.
You’ve said that low-fat milk is worse than whole milk. That seems counter-intuitive.
In the 1940s and ’50s, milk fat was deemed to be the culprit and people were told to switch to low-fat. But in low-fat milk, the protein level is increased. So, people ate more dairy protein, making the problem worse.
What about soy? Is there evidence that it is linked to breast cancer?
Soy beans contain estrogen, and estrogen is linked to breast cancer. But the studies show that high levels of estrogen are the problem. The soy bean has estrogen at such low levels that they become anti-estrogenic. They are actually beneficial in preventing breast cancer.
You’ve said that some diseases immediately heal when you eliminate animal products. How does that happen?
Our body is always trying to restore health. When a whole food, plant-based diet is adopted, it quickly adjusts in the direction of health. As long as there isn’t permanent damage from disease, the right food can reverse disease.
Take baby steps
The Mondays Campaign, the organization behind Meatless Mondays, offers the following stats on why a plant-based diet even just once a week has benefits.
It limits your cancer risk: Hundreds of studies suggest that diets high in fruits and vegetables may reduce cancer risk, and both red and processed meat consumption are associated with colon cancer.
It cuts your risk for heart disease: A Harvard study found that replacing saturated fat-rich foods (for example, meat and full-fat dairy) with foods that are rich in polyunsaturated fat (for example, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds) reduces the risk of heart disease by 19 percent.
It helps fight diabetes: Research suggests that higher consumption of red and processed meat increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.
It curbs obesity: People on low-meat or vegetarian diets have lower body weights and body mass indices.
What about exercise?
Whether you’re becoming or already are a
vegan, you need a fitness plan that complements your plant-based diet. “The Vegan Athlete” boasts strength-building workouts and over 20
protein-rich recipes to keep you in tip-top shape.