I’ve debated sending out a newsletter at this time. Like all of you, I’ve seen life basically turn itself inside out. And I receive many newsletters every day. Most are full of helpful suggestions for staying calm and healthy in these dreadful times. Was any valuable insight or information missing?
There are some things to be learned from this global disaster, and there is something we can all do that will help now and perhaps years from now, when the next virus decides to find a new host.
The types of viruses that have caused many of the worst pandemics originate in other species and adapt to infect humans when circumstances make that possible. This is true about HIV, Ebola, SARS, MERS, Avian Influenza (Bird Flu), Swine Flu, and now, the novel Coronavirus, Covid-19. If we all left wildlife in the wild, and stopped treating animals as if they are parts on an assembly line (or disassembly line), many of these killer diseases would never have had the opportunity to infect humans.
Here are some videos to watch to learn more.
And here is something else: Most of the people getting the sickest from this virus, are the ones who have “underlying conditions.” You all know what that means: They are folks with diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, folks who smoke and have underlying lung disease, they are on immunosuppressant medication for autoimmune disease, or they have cancer. As a whole plant food health coach, I have been on a mission to help people reverse these chronic diseases with diet and lifestyle changes. We know that 90% of type 2 diabetes, 80% of cardiovascular disease and 40-70% of cancers are all due to diet and lifestyle. Face it, our health care system was already on a collision course with reality as more and more people were living longer and in worse physical condition than ever before. The money was always on drugs and procedures and never on fruits and vegetables, despite mountains of evidence that health and longevity come from eating plants, not from taking pills made in a plant.
Do you need a review of the literature? You’ve certainly got time, right? Lose yourself in NutritionFacts.org, for a few hours. Watch Dr. Michael Greger’s year-end video, “How Not to Die,” or read his book, by the same name.
Our obsession with eating animals (with a little help from our love of sugar and processed food, addictive substances like alcohol and nicotine, and our distaste for physical activity), not only brought us the myriad of preventable, chronic diseases that make us most susceptible to this virus and dire complications, but also create the filthy, revolting conditions, on factory farms and live animal markets, that allow these viruses to jump from species to species.
If something good comes of this latest crisis, it will be that Veganism as a global movement will be more important than ever. People will be investing even more than they are already, in clean meat, and meat and dairy alternatives; and factory farms will close, as folks realize the future of a sustainable food supply for the planet is going to rely on eating plants, not cows, chickens and pigs. If you want to learn more about a sustainable food supply, check here:
What can we do now? It’s really quite simple: Eat the Rainbow!
The best way to prevent chronic disease, boost your immune system, reach a healthy weight, get off medications, and make yourself less susceptible to deadly viruses, like Covid-19, is to focus your attention on whole plant foods. Don’t worry so much about the macronutrients: fats, carbohydrates and protein. It really is the micronutrients, the vitamins, minerals and especially the greater than 100,000 phytochemicals that do most of the work to keep us healthy.
Plants make these bioactive chemicals to keep themselves safe from viruses, bacteria, even hungry insects; these, often colorful, chemicals also help with attracting pollinators and seed dispersal. The plant doesn’t want to end up oxidized and rotten (basically compost), before it has the ability to reproduce! And these phytonutrients, the antioxidants, and plant sterols and stanols, and fiber, help us as well.
Why do you think we don’t make our own antioxidants? We need them, as oxidation is going on constantly in all of our cells, leading to oxidative stress (one of the main causes of disease). We make all the cholesterol we need to produce cell membranes as well as steroid hormones, and need none from our diets. Plants create products of oxidation from photosynthesis, and they need to protect themselves, from the free radicals that are produced by the very natural chemical process that makes plants, well…plants. Dr. T. Colin Campbell has a great theory for why we don’t make our own antioxidants: We evolved eating plants. For example, we need vitamin C, and we don’t make it. We will die without it, actually, from a disease called Scurvy. Vitamin C is only found in plants. We have always relied on plants for the important health promoting phytochemicals. Your carnivorous cat needs Vitamin C, too, but she can make it herself, and enjoys catnip for fun and not vital nutrients.
Colorful plants are the foods you want to eat; And some white and brown plants/fungi, as well. Here are just some of the bioactive compounds in foods and their beneficial effects. Remember this is not a complete list, either (but you’ll get a taste). If you want to learn more, I recommend: The Vegiterranean Diet, by Julieanna Hever, R.D. and Becoming Raw, by Brenda Davis, R.D., for excellent and expansive tables of the many different classes of phytochemicals and their benefits to human health.
Here is a sample. Can you think of at least 5 plant foods that would fit into each category? Are you able to incorporate them into your daily diet?
Red foods contain anthocyanins, lycopene, and carotenoids that reduce your risk of cancer, enhance your immune function, are anti-inflammatory and antioxidants. TIP: There is more lycopene in cooked tomatoes than raw, but there are more antioxidants in raw red peppers than cooked!
Orange/yellow foods contain carotenoids, flavonoids and bioflavonoids that act as antioxidants, and enhance your immunity and vision. TIP: There are more carotenoids available in cooked carrots, than raw, and you absolutely cannot get the same benefits from taking these phytonutrients in pill form.
Green foods are rich in lutein, zeaxanthin, glucosinolates, and chlorophyll. These also decrease the risk of cancer, enhance the immune system, help with vision and eye health. TIP: Funny thing about glucosinolates: they are the precursor for a very important phytonutrient called sulforaphane (which is critical for the phase II detoxification enzymes in your liver). Sulforaphane has to be created by exposing the precursor, glucosinolate to the enzyme, myrosinase. This enzyme is destroyed by cooking, however, although the precursor is still available. If you are planning to cook your cruciferous vegetable, you should cut it up and allow it to sit for 40 minutes before cooking to allow the sulforaphane to develop. If you don’t have time to do this, or if you are heating up frozen broccoli, you will have to add something with the active enzyme, either by eating the cooked veggie with some raw cruciferous vegetable, such as purple cabbage or arugula, or add a pinch of mustard powder to your cooked crucifer to start the chemical reaction. Mustard is also part of the cruciferous vegetable family and even the ground spice, contains active myrosinase. Broccoli sprouts have many more times the sulforaphane than broccoli, and sprouting from organic seeds is easy and fun.
Blue/Purple (indigo) foods contain anthocyanins and flavonols that are antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and anti-mutagenic. TIP: Yes, there are anthocyanins and resveratrol in red wine from the grapes, but the alcohol is a carcinogen, and definitely increases the risk of breast cancer in women. It would be much better to eat blueberries daily, and the frozen wild blueberries have even more antioxidant than the larger cultivated blueberries.
White foods like cauliflower and garlic, mushrooms and white tea, are rich in glucosinolates, thiosulfinates and catechins, that are antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and reduce the risk of cancer. TIP: Mushrooms have to be cooked to be safe. They have a toxin in them called Agaritine, which is destroyed by cooking.
Brown foods, like whole grains and legumes, are not to be left out of a healthy diet. Not only do they have important protein and vitamins, they contain both fermentable and non-fermentable fiber that feeds your symbiotic gut microbes. We would be nowhere without these trillions of organisms. You can watch or read more about what your microbiota do for you here:
If you want the healthiest, most varied microbiome possible, you must eat a variety of whole plant foods and have as much fiber as you can. Animal based foods have absolutely no fiber.
We know from examining Paleolithic human feces, that they were consuming about 100 grams of fiber every day. Our Institute of Medicine recommends at least 14 grams/1000 kcals/day. That’s only about 25 grams and not enough!
Since we are still talking about antioxidants and health promoting phytochemicals
You know what really have the most antioxidants in them? Spices! And herbs, too. So, buy them and use them. Even a very small amount adds a huge amount of nutritional value to your meal. The highest antioxidant common spice is clove, and you really only need a pinch. The highest antioxidant herb is probably marjoram, but oregano and even mint are also quite high!
The highest antioxidant unusual spice is something called AMLA or Indian Gooseberry, and it’s available on line, as a powder or frozen as a berry. It’s quite bitter, but goes easily in smoothies and on your morning oat groats or oatmeal. Turmeric is another spice that should be in your cupboard, if not in your freezer (and definitely in your mouth!). I buy the fresh root and just keep it frozen for smoothies. It’s known for its anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumoral, and antioxidant properties. You won’t see your turmeric turning brown, the way a cut-up apple will! My last tip is on Cinnamon. There are at least two types of cinnamon you can buy: Ceylon cinnamon and Cassia cinnamon. If you are going to be eating cinnamon daily, you want to be using only Ceylon cinnamon, as Cassia has a toxin, called Coumarin, that is not good for us.
I actually didn’t decide to write this update to tell you all about phytonutrients, so if you didn’t care to read about them, no worries. I wanted to tell you about things you can do from the safety of your own home (when you can pull yourself away from the cute cat and dog videos; like Pluto the dog @plutoliving of FB)
Take a tour of a National Park: https://artsandculture.withgoogle.com/en-us/national-parks-service/welcome
Tour a museum or library: https://artsandculture.google.com/project/street-view
Rick Steves has an amazing on-line library of videos: https://classroom.ricksteves.com/
Hey, ever wanted to visit Monet’s Giverny? You can right now: http://fondation-monet.com/visite-virtuelle/#/chambre_blanche/
And here are more gardens to visit virtually: https://www.housebeautiful.com/lifestyle/gardening/g31746949/gardens-you-can-virtually-tour/
Take a course from Harvard: https://www.extension.harvard.edu/open-learning-initiative
Or any number of Ivy League Universities: https://qz.com/1821327/450-free-ivy-league-university-courses-you-can-take-online/
Including the most popular course, The Science of Wellbeing, from Yale:
Watch a movie: https://mobilitytoday.com/best-free-movie-sites/mobile/
Watch a livestream from the Monterey Bay Aquarium: https://mymodernmet.com/animal-live-stream-monterey-bay-aquarium/
The Jellies are my favorite!
Listen to a free home concert: https://mymodernmet.com/together-at-home-coronavirus-concerts/
Watch Opera and symphony orchestra concerts from your couch: https://www.thrillist.com/news/nation/virtual-operas-symphonies-streaming
Listen to a podcast, or a book on tape: https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/arts-and-culture/g31785485/best-podcasts-2020/
And I heard that Audible was offering free books for children as long as schools are closed: https://stories.audible.com/start-listen
Do yoga or meditation or other fitness activities from home:
And finally, Jeff Novick, R.D. is offering his amazing class on fast whole plant food cooking, for free during this time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHr_SjymfBE
Don’t be afraid to cry, or embarrassed to laugh, if it makes you feel better; And don’t despair. Humans got us into this mess, and humans will ultimately have to get us out of it. Hopefully, we will have learned some important lessons: Leave wildlife in the wild and stop the mass incarceration and slaughter of wild and domesticated animals. Be kind to yourself and people around you. And, we are all in this together.
I hope many of you will turn more fully to a plant based diet, with the goal of preventing disease, and staying as healthy as possible throughout your life. Some of you might even be thinking about creating a new generation of humans, that start out on the right path from even before conception! If you are interested in how a whole plant food health coach might assist you in creating a healthier life for you and your family, please contact me. I’m about to launch with my colleague, Jeanne Schumacher, a new on-line coaching program, called The Pregnancy Advantage™. We will help you prepare, emotionally and physically for pregnancy, so you can have the healthiest, smartest children possible; And that really is what the world needs now, right?
If you haven’t already downloaded my free e-Book, Why Eat Plants, you can do so on my website, www.anewviewoffood.com. Please forward this to anyone you think might benefit. It really is never too late to change your health destiny.
With Love and Hope,