“Everything in moderation” is a common refrain among nutritionists, doctors, foodies and parents. They, along with most of America, believe excluding entire food groups is extreme. And there’s evidence to support this view because we can find positive attributes in almost any food we eat.
And yet this widely-accepted prescription has led us to an extreme place: one in three adults over age 18 are diabetic or pre-diabetic. 41% of Americans will get cancer. One in two of us will have a heart attack. Today, half of all American adults suffer from at least one or more chronic health condition.
Eating everything, even in moderation, is not working for us. The new moderation is a plant-based diet. Sugar, meat and dairy are extreme foods.
Sugar causes diabetes and obesity.
When we eat too much sugar in the form of simple carbohydrates we become diabetic and overweight. Simple carbohydrates include flour, pasta, most bread, sweet foods and drinks. When we eat these foods, our insulin spikes which, over time, leads to insulin insensitivity, which is diabetes. And even when it doesn’t lead to diabetes, sugar is a form of energy that gets stored as fat when we eat too much of it. Fat cells are more likely to become cancerous.
Meat & dairy cause heart disease and cancer.
The more meat and dairy one eats, the greater one’s likelihood of developing heart disease. Researchers used to think cholesterol and saturated fat in meat caused heart disease, but today many believe our gut bacteria creates a compound called TMAO in the process of digesting all sorts of meat. TMAO is now believed to contribute to heart disease.
And cancer? Animal protein provides the fuel cancer cells need to grow. When we eat animal proteins, our bodies produce a hormone called IGF-1, which in adults, accelerates aging, increases inflammation, and speeds cancer cell growth. Animal protein is in eggs, beef, chicken and even fish. Couple ubiquitous carcinogens with meat’s role in accelerating cancer growth, and we should not be surprised to see extremely high cancer rates.
Dairy is not good for your bones.
Milk and cheese consumption has been repeatedly tied to autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, and the idea that calcium from dairy is good for our bones is belied by the fact that the countries with the highest milk and dairy consumption have the highest rates of osteoporosis and hip fractures. While we do need calcium in our diet, we should get it from leafy greens instead of from milk and dairy.
Infants and toddlers shouldn’t be drinking cow’s milk either. We’ve known since the early 1990’s that early exposure to cow’s milk dramatically increases the likelihood of children developing type 1 diabetes.
A plant-based diet makes the most sense.
Americans are a meat-and-potato loving people, as evidenced by our epidemic rates of cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Meanwhile, the tiny fraction of Americans who eat a plant-based diet and avoid simple carbohydrates are able to prevent and, in many cases, even reverse all of these diseases. Doctors like Dean Ornish and Caldwell Essylstyn have both been doing so for over 20 years. Whatever you may think of PETA, they are generally correct when it comes to diet:
William Castelli, M.D., director of the Framingham Heart Study, the longest-running clinical study in medical history, says of the heart disease epidemic, “If Americans adopted a vegetarian diet, the whole thing would disappear.” Castelli told PBS that Americans have been “brainwashed to eat meat.”
Don’t believe the myths about plant-based diets.
Some common myths are:
- Meat and dairy are the best forms of protein. This isn’t true; yes, they are more “complete” proteins, but complete may not be what our bodies want. The most complete source of protein, for example, is human flesh, but that doesn’t mean we should eat it. We can get all the protein we need from a diverse plant-based diet.
- If you eat only vegetables, you’ll need to take supplements. The only two supplements one might take are vitamin D and vitamin B12. But vitamin D can be acquired from sun exposure and tiny amounts of B12 are needed, since the body stores this for up to 3 years. The opposite is true: meat eaters must take many more supplements to compensate for the many vitamins and minerals missing from their diet.
- We need animal protein to be strong. This is also not true. The world’s strongest man, Patrick Baboumian, is vegan.
So yes, eat in moderation. That means avoiding foods that have extreme effects on your body. Treat meats, dairies, and sugar like candy: they taste great every once in a while, but eating these regularly will make us sick.