Vegetables Repair, Restore, and Heal the Body
The more vegetables eaten as a percentage of total calories, the more the protection against heart disease and strokes. Hundreds of studies document this effect, and I focus on a few here that show
this strong relationship. One such study followed a random sample of more than sixty-five thousand
people in England and found that vegetables had the strongest protective effect, with each daily portion reducing overall risk of death by 16 percent. Salad contributed to a 13 percent risk reduction per portion, and each portion of fresh fruit was associated with a smaller, but still significant, 4 percent reduction. “We all know that eating fruit and vegetables is healthy, but the size of the effect is staggering,” wrote Dr. Oyinlola Orebody, lead author of the study. 11 The clear message here is that the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to die prematurely at any age.
Vegetables have a larger effect than fruit, but fruit still makes a substantial difference. Other studies have repeatedly shown the same thing: The higher the percentage of vegetables in the diet (and to a lesser degree, fruit), the lower the risk of death and the more life span is enhanced. Three relevant meta analyses reviewed the protection available against heart attacks, strokes, cancers, and overall life span with this dietary emphasis. 12 Collectively, these meta-analyses reviewed a large number of other studies, which contain hundreds of thousands of individual cases and almost a hundred thousand deaths, to conclusively document the inverse association between cardiovascular death and vegetable consumption. However, they also showed that consumption of a large amount of these foods is required for substantive benefits. Three servings a day of fruits and vegetables is inadequate, but five or more servings a day can powerfully reduce the high prevalence of cardiovascular illness in the modern world. Obviously, as portions of fruits, vegetables, beans, mushrooms, whole grains, nuts, and seeds increase in a person’s diet, portions of animal products decrease accordingly.
It is the combination of increased plants and decreased animal products that synergistically offers the highest degree of protection. Predictable reversal of disease requires nutritional excellence, so when you are going for reversal, you have to go almost all the way to see consistent benefits. You will see what this looks like in the coming chapters. Animal Products as a Percentage of Total Calories and as a Factor in Disease Promotion Assume for a minute that all plant foods you eat are unrefined, whole foods. Then we can use the scientific data to devise a relationship between the percentage of plant food versus animal food you eat and your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Higher amounts of animal products equate to higher risk. You can use your personal food preferences and aversion to risk to choose a preferred level. Although I may think it is foolish to take a risk with the one body we are given, I nevertheless recognize that this is a personal choice. Keep in mind that you need to keep animal product intake to levels below 5 percent of total calories to assure the reversal of disease. Percent Animal Product + Percent Plant Product = 100% of Calories RISK LEVEL PERCENT ANIMAL PRODUCT PERCENT PLANT PRODUCT Disease reversal 0–5 95– 100 Disease prevention 6– 15 94– 85 Moderate risk 16– 25 84– 75 High risk 26+ 74 or less The information in the chart and graph (next page) reflects my decades of clinical experience in this field and my review of hundreds of studies that demonstrate this relationship.
Most of the supportive studies are referenced in this book. Of course, not all unrefined plant foods are created equal or are of equal benefit, and not all animal products are of equal detriment. For example, green vegetables have features that reduce inflammation andaccelerate disease reversal. 13 And certain animal products, such as commercial beef and processed meats, are more disease-promoting in our diets than others, such as frogs, salamanders, sardines, snakes, and wild salmon.
This is a graphic representation of the continuum of gradually increasing risk with a higher percentage of calories from animal food in the diet, even within each stratification. Wild fish would be a good choice if you want to use a small amount of animal products in your diet; however, the issue of contamination and mercury in fish is still a concern. Fish and nonfat dairy are generally lower in calories per ounce than other animal products. But because of the contamination factor in fish and the promotion of IGF-1 from egg whites and dairy, I still recommend that all animal products be limited to these low levels in the diet. (See Chapter 10 for further discussion of fish and seafood.) I still believe that if you suffer from serious cardiovascular disease, you will need to eat a completely vegan diet or something close to it to maximize the metabolic benefits of this eating style. However, most healthy people with reasonably favorable genetics and without life-threatening, vulnerable plaque can achieve excellent cardiovascular health throughout life and still be able to eat a small amount of animal products in their diet. Five percent of animal products for a 2,000-calorie diet is about 8 to 10 ounces a week, and 10 percent of calories is about 16 to 18 ounces per week.
So you can keep your intake within the lowest range by not exceeding about one small 2-to 3-ounce
serving three or four days a week.