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  • Writer's pictureMeg

Food as Medicine

Updated: Jun 2, 2022

“The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will prevent disease with nutrition” – Thomas Edison

After deciding I could no longer consume meat and dairy products for reasons of personal health, I confess I had no idea what to feed myself. I initially felt hungry and noticed the strange absence of heaviness in my stomach after eating. After my first year of cooking for myself at university, with aspiration to be a good cook but still confined within the meat-and-four-veg paradigm, I had to do a lot of reading about what to stock my pantry with and the tips and tricks of the trade. I had to get in the kitchen and learn how to nourish my body. To my pleasant surprise, I ate larger portions, indulged myself regularly with my favourite Shiraz or a few too many rows of dark chocolate and the weight I had gained during my first year of university still seemed to be falling off me. I worried that my rapid weight loss was an indication that what I was doing wasn’t healthy. But I listened to my body, which told me I no longer felt sluggish, I had more energy, my skin cleared – even glowed, and my mood lifted. The recipes I tried were simple to make and once my taste buds and stomach adjusted – there was no comprising on flavour or fullness anymore. I had a new passion for cooking and for entertaining my friends and family. If you are currently contemplating or transitioning to a veganism, the documentary Vegucated follows three New Yorkers on their transition over six weeks, which is honest, relatable and I suspect, comforting, for those starting their journey (see resources).

I’ve stated my anecdotal evidence in favour of a vegan diet but what about scientific evidence?

There are several books on this topic. The China Study was one of the first but recently a book called How Not to Die by Dr Michael Greger was launched. I’m yet to read this book but last night I watched his lecture called Food as Medicine on his website, which was extraordinarily informative. The lecture packs a punch similar to that of Forks over Knives, as he describes the numerous, peer-reviewed scientific journals recently published on the ‘most dreaded diseases’ and their strong relationships with consumption of animal-based products. To use his analogy, the corporate greed of food industries (meat, dairy, sugar) today is comparable to the tobacco industry 50 years ago. Likewise, the health benefits associated with adopting a vegan diet are comparable to that of quitting smoking. So strong is the case for this, that participating in initiatives such as Meat Free Monday has been found to have comparable health benefits to the restoration which occurs in the human body when a smoker abstains from smoking for just one day.

Dr Greger’s Daily Dozen lists twelve plant-based whole-foods with a rough guide to the daily portions recommended (without calorie counting or food weighing) of each, for optimum health.

The Daily Dozen includes:

  1. Beans such as chickpeas, lentils and soy bean-based products such as tofu

  2. Berries such as blueberries, cherries and grapes

  3. Other dried or fresh fruits, such as avocado (yep, technically fruit), bananas, dates and citruses

  4. Cruciferous vegetables, which is to say, vegetables of the hard-core green variety such as kale, broccoli and cabbage

  5. Other greens such as spinach, roquette and Swiss chard (silver beet in my family!)

  6. Other vegetables such as capsicum, zucchini and eggplant, to name but my favourites

  7. Flaxseed, for its blood pressure lowering properties

  8. Nuts, just all of them – they’re the best

  9. Spices, again just all of them, but especially turmeric for its anti-inflammatory properties

  10. Whole-grains, plenty of them, including ancient grains like barley, oats, wheat and quinoa as well as foods derived from them including pasta and breads (the less refined, the better)

  11. Water, which of course is the elixir of life, and

  12. Exercise, for good measure (the more vigorous, the shorter the duration required)

The Daily Dozen is also available as an app, I’ve only started using this app this week, but I love the challenge of it and I think it will be really benefit my current low iron status, by prompting me to get my greens in everyday!

In addition to the spontaneous health benefits associated with avoiding animal-based products, reputable research is now indicating particular plant-based foods having particular medicinal properties, as shown in the info-graphic below:

How not to die

Having discussed the research on disease and diet over the last three posts, I hope you have a greater understanding of veganism relating to so much more than just a love of animals or other clichéd mainstream media portrayals. This understanding of health makes it both comedic and heartbreaking when significant others try to subtlety (or not so subtlety) tell me I’m killing myself by self-prescribing this diet, especially when they do so whilst ingesting barbecued meat, greasy eggs and bacon or a bowl of ice-cream. Or suggest that I would somehow be doing my future children a disservice by raising them on a diet proven, over and over again, to be associated with a substantially higher quality of life and greatest longevity.

My next post will discuss the the role of macro- (carbohydrate, protein and fat) and micro- (vitamins and minerals) nutrients in a vegan diet and how to get a rich plant-based source of any nutrient you’ve been told you need from an animal products. As well as my never-ending battle with iron deficiency.

Thanks for reading,

Meg x

Resources and References


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