Whole Food Plant Based Diet


For some time, I’ve been puzzled about what constitutes a healthy diet. Surely I can’t be the only one? We’re fed so much conflicting and fluctuating advice that it’s difficult to know what to believe…and that’s without even delving into the plethora of commercial weight-losing fad diets out there! I think we can all appreciate that we are what we eat…but what should we eat?

I decided to do a little research, just because I thought someone out there must have the answer! After ploughing through a few books most of which were okayish to good I came across a book that was life changing! Incidentally, it had been on my reading list for a few years but after reading the summary, I decided  I wasn’t ready to apply the changes it recommended…

The book is “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell. Campbell is professor emeritus of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University. He has been at the forefront of nutrition research for over 40 years and has authored over 300 research papers. He was program director of the China Study which was the culmination of a 20 year partnership between Cornell University, Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine. The China Study is considered the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted! In addition, he has served on numerous panels and boards tasked with allocating research grants and providing government with nutritional guidelines.

Although medicine has progressed over the last century, we’re still woefully inadequate at dealing with diseases of affluence such as cancer, diabetes and coronary heart disease. The main reason we’re struggling is that the answer lies not in medical breakthroughs but in our diet. It is possible to free ourselves from these diseases but the system has done a great job of burying the evidence. By the ‘system’ I mean: the pharmaceutical industry, food industry, medical industry, academia and government.  These industries are profoundly connected and intertwined but unfortunately they prioritise their own financial profit rather than our health. The players with the most money wield the greatest influence. Sadly, for us, the truth doesn’t financially benefit the ‘system’! Campbell writes about this in depth in both “The China Study” and “Whole”.

In “Whole”, Campbell briefly explains how a whole food, plant-based diet could help decrease global warming, preserve fresh water supplies, decrease human poverty and of course, stop the animal cruelty in modern livestock farms. It turns out that a lot of our problems are linked but our reductionist view has prevented us from seeing the whole picture.

In “The China Study”, Campbell amasses and impressive, both in depth and breadth, amount of evidence in favour of the health benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet. There is now overwhelming scientific evidence that this diet can help us:

  • Live longer
  • Look and feel younger
  • Have more energy
  • Lose weight
  • Lower our blood cholesterol
  • Prevent and even reverse heart disease
  • Lower our risk of prostate, breast and other cancers
  • Preserve our eyesight in our later years
  • Prevent and treat diabetes
  • Avoid surgery in many instances
  • Vastly decrease the need for pharmaceutical drugs
  • Keep our bones strong
  • Avoid impotence
  • Avoid stroke
  • Prevent kidney stones
  • Keep our baby from getting Type 1 diabetes
  • Alleviate constipation
  • Lower our blood pressure
  • Avoid Alzheimer’s
  • Beat arthritis
  • And more…

Campbell’s 8 principles of food and health are:

  1. Nutrition represents the combined activities of countless food substances. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
  2. Vitamin supplements are not a panacea for good health.
  3. There are virtually no nutrients in animal-based foods that are not better provided by plants.
  4. Genes do not determine disease on their own. Genes function only by being activated, or expressed, and nutrition plays a critical role in determining which genes, good and bad, are expressed.
  5. Nutrition can substantially control the adverse effects of noxious chemicals.
  6. The same nutrition that prevents disease in its early stages (before diagnosis) can also halt or reverse disease in its later stages (after diagnosis).
  7. Nutrition that is truly beneficial for one chronic disease will support health across the board.
  8. Good nutrition creates health in all areas of existence. All parts are connected.

His advice is to “consume plant-based foods in forms as close to their natural state as possible (whole foods). Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, raw nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, and whole grains. Avoid heavily processed foods and animal products. Stay away from added salt, oil and sugar. Aim to get 80 percent of your calories from carbohydrates, 10 percent from fat, and 10 percent from protein.”

I know this advice may contradict certain beliefs that we hold but the evidence against animal protein and dairy is pretty damning. I can only suggest that you read “The China Study” to familiarise yourself with the mountain of evidence. Whether we act on it or not is another question but at least it will be an informed decision! Exactly how we act on it is something I hope to tackle in another post.

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