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Archive for January, 2012

The Vegan Diet—One Year Later

Discussion and Results

 

Lobbyists in Washington are working very hard, on behalf of certain industries (dairy, cattle, fast foods, etc.) to keep things as they are and maintain a policy of praying at the altar of the all-mighty dollar. Your health and well-being isn’t even a tertiary consideration among lobbyists or industry executives.

—RVL

 

Introduction

In this Blog I will present information on what a Vegan diet is all about, its benefits, and my personal experience and results of following this diet for one year.

One January 7, 2011 I launched a nutritionally sound, true Vegan Diet (no beef, chicken, fish, or dairy). One of the things that led me to this diet is medical problems I’ve encountered in my life. It was my firm belief that the Vegan diet would improve my health.

Before immediately getting to the results, I’ll tell you that I’ve been engaged in a 20+ year battle with Type II Diabetes. Also, in June 2012 I will be an 8 year survivor of kidney cancer.  I’ll report below in Connections my background with diabetes and, in a final section, report my overall results.

First, I will refresh everyone’s memory as to what a Vegan diet is—and its benefits. Secondly, I will discuss my background in Connections. I will then provide details on what did and did not result from my Vegan diet. Being objective, I can clearly report that the Vegan diet has both plusses and minuses.

 

 

What is a true Vegan Diet?

 

So, what is the Vegan Diet in a Nutshell?

 

FOODS TO AVOID

 

Meats

Poultry

Fish

ALL Dairy Products

     Eggs (Yolks and Whites)

     Milk, Yogurt, Cheese, Cream, Sour Cream, and Butter

     Oil, Mayo, Margarine, Cooking Oils

    Fried Foods (French Fries, Onion Rings, Potato Chips, Avocadoes, Olives, and Peanut Butter

 

All High Glycemic Foods (Rated over 70) i.e., no White Bread or White Potatoes

Keep Rated Glycemic Foods, 55 or less on the Glycemic Index

 

 

WHAT TO EAT

 

Grains

 

One should eat Whole Grain Pasta; Brown Rice; Bran Cereal; Oatmeal; Pumpernickel or Rye Bread; Couscous; Bulgur Wheat; Millet; and Barley.

 

Eight servings per day are recommended.

 

 

Legumes

Beans (black, pinto, or kidney beans; Chickpeas; Baked beans; Soy beans, Peas, Split peas, Lentils, Fat-free soy products; Fat-free unsweetened soy milk; Fat-free veggie burgers; Textured vegetable protein; and Fat-free Tofu.

 

 Three suggested servings per day

 

 

Vegetables

Sweet potatoes; Broccoli; Cauliflower; Spinach; Kale; Collards; Squash; Green beans; Bok Choy; Artichokes; Choose those with a low GI.

 

Four suggested servings per day.

 

 

Fruits

Apples, bananas, grapes, pears, peaches, oranges, kiwifruit, berries, etc. Choose those with a low GI.

 

Three suggested servings per day.

 

 

 

Risk Factors

 

The old stereotype of the person vulnerable to developing diabetes for many years was the notion that only young people developed Type I diabetes (called juvenile onset diabetes) and older, middle-aged and overweight individuals who led sedentary lives usually developed Type II (adult onset diabetes), sometimes thought to be a less serious form of the disease than Type I. Today we know that both Type I and Type II Diabetes can strike anyone and both types are serious. You can have an 11 year old with Type II Diabetes and an adult who is first diagnosed Type I at 42

In the following section I will describe what the benefits are from eating a true Vegan diet.  

57 Health Benefits of Going Vegan

Vegans are frequently misunderstood as fringe eaters with an unnatural passion for animal rights. While many vegans do feel passionately about animals, its time for others to see that a vegan diet and lifestyle go way beyond animal rights. Following a healthy, balanced vegan diet ensures a host of health benefits as well as prevention of some of the major diseases striking people in North America. Read the following to find out  the health benefits of going vegan.

Nutrition

All of the following nutritional benefits come from a vegan diet full of foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, and soy products.

  1. Reduced saturated fats. Dairy products and meats contain a large amount of  saturated fats. By reducing the amount of saturated fats from your diet, you’ll improve your health tremendously, especially when it comes to cardiovascular health.
  2. Carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates provide energy for your body. When you don’t have enough carbohydrates, your body will burn muscle tissue.
  3. Fiber. A  diet high in fiber (as vegan eating usually is) leads to healthier bowel movements. High fiber diets help fight against colon cancer.
  4. Magnesium.  Aiding in the absorption of calcium, magnesium is an often overlooked vitamin in importance to a healthy diet. Nuts, seeds, and dark leafy greens are an excellent source of magnesium.
  5. Potassium.    Potassium balances water and acidity in your body and stimulates the  kidneys to eliminate toxins. Diets high in potassium have shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
  6. Folate. This B vitamin is an important part of a healthy diet. Folate helps with cell repair, generating red and white blood cells, and metabolizing amino acids.
  7. Antioxidants. For protection against cell damage, antioxidants are one of the best ways to help your body. Many researchers also believe that antioxidants help protect your body against forming some types of cancer.
  8. Vitamin C. Besides boosting your immune system, Vitamin C also helps keep your gums healthy and helps your bruises heal faster. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant.
  9. Vitamin E.  This powerful vitamin has benefits for your heart, skin, eyes, brain, and may even help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. A diet high in grains, nuts, and dark leafy greens is full of Vitamin E.
  10. Phytochemicals.  Plant-based foods provide phytochemicals, which help to prevent and heal the body from cancer, boost protective enzymes, and work with antioxidants in the body.
  11. Protein. That protein is good for your body is no surprise. It may be a surprise to learn that most Americans eat too much protein and in forms such as red meat that are not healthy ways of getting protein. Beans, nuts, peas, lentils, and soy products are all great ways to get the right amount of protein in a vegan diet.

Disease Prevention

Eating a healthy vegan diet has shown to prevent a number of diseases. Find out from the list below what you could potentially avoid just by switching to a healthy, balanced vegan way of eating.

  1. Cardiovascular disease. Eating nuts and whole grains, while eliminating dairy products and meat, will improve your cardiovascular health. A British study indicates that a vegan diet reduces the risk for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Vegan diets go far in preventing heart attack and stroke.
  2. Cholesterol. Eliminating any food that comes from an animal and you will eliminate all dietary cholesterol from your diet. Your heart will thank you for that.
  3. Blood pressure. A diet rich in whole grains is beneficial to your health in many ways, including lowering high blood pressure.
  4. Type 2 diabetes.  Not only is a vegan diet a weapon against Type 2 diabetes, it is also “easier to follow than the standard diet recommended by the American Diabetic Association.”
  5. Prostate cancer. A major study showed that men in the early stages of prostate cancer who switched to a vegan diet either stopped the progress of the cancer or may have even reversed the illness.
  6. Colon cancer. Eating a diet consisting of whole grains, along with  fresh fruits and vegetables, can greatly reduce your chances of colon cancer.
  7. Breast cancer. Countries where women eat very little meat and animal products have a much lower rate of breast cancer than do the women in countries that consume more animal products.
  8. Macular degeneration. Diets with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes, can help prevent the onset of  age-related macular degeneration.
  9. Cataracts. Much the same way macular degeneration is headed off by a vegan diet, cataracts are also thought to be prevented through the intake of the same fruits and vegetables. Produce high in antioxidants are also believed to help prevent cataracts.
  10. Arthritis. Eliminating dairy consumption has long been connected with alleviating arthritis symptoms, but a new study indicates that a combination of gluten-free and vegan diet is very promising for improving the health of those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
  11. Osteoporosis. Bone health depends on a balance of neither too much nor too little protein, adequate calcium intake, high potassium, and low sodium. With a healthy vegan diet, all four of these points set a perfect scenario for preventing osteoporosis.

Physical Benefits

In addition to good nutrition and disease prevention, eating vegan also provides many physical benefits. Find out how a vegan diet makes your body stronger, more attractive, and more energetic.

  1. Body Mass Index. Several population studies show that a diet without meat leads to lower  BMIs–usually an indicator of a healthy weight and lack of fat on the body.
  2. Weight loss. A healthy weight loss is a typical result of a smart vegan diet. Eating vegan eliminates most of the unhealthy foods that tend to cause weight issues.
  3. Energy. When following a healthy vegan diet, you will find your energy is much higher. T he blog post in Happy Healthy Long Life describes how NFL tight-end Tony Gonzalez started eating vegan and gained energy–while playing football.
  4. Healthy skin. The nuts and vitamins A and E from vegetables play a big role in healthy skin, so vegans will usually have good skin health. Many people who switch to a vegan diet will notice a remarkable reduction in blemishes as well.
  5. Longer life. Several studies indicate that those following a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle live an average of three to six years longer than those who do not.
  6. Body odor. Eliminating dairy and red meat from the diet significantly reduces body odor. Going vegan means smelling better.
  7. Bad breath. Vegans frequently experience a reduction in bad breath. Imagine waking up in the morning and not having morning breath.
  8. Hair. Many who follow vegan diets report that their hair becomes stronger, has more body, and looks healthier.
  9. Nails. Healthy vegan diets are also responsible for much stronger, healthier nails. Nail health is said to be an indicator of overall health.
  10. PMS. When switching to a vegan diet, many women tell how PMS symptoms become much less intense or disappear altogether. The elimination of dairy is thought to help with those suffering with PMS.
  11. Migraines. Migraine sufferers who go on vegan diets frequently discover relief from their migraines.
  12. Allergies. Reduction in dairy, meat, and eggs is often tied to alleviation of allergy symptoms. Many vegans report much fewer runny noses and congestion problems.

Too Much in the American Diet

The typical American diet not only consists of too much food, it also relies on too much of unnecessary food products or toxins. The following list explains how a vegan diet can eliminate these problems.

  1. Animal proteins. The average American eats twice as much protein as necessary for a healthy diet and much of that is from red meat. Getting protein from beans and grains is much healthier and reduces the risk for osteoporosis (see above).
  2. Cow’s milk dairy. The human body is not designed to digest cow milk and cow milk dairy products, yet the idea of milk being healthy is pushed through advertising. As many as 75% of people in the world may be lactose intolerant and many people suffer from undiagnosed milk allergies or sensitivities. By eliminating cow’s milk from your diet, you are improving your overall health.
  3. Eggs. Many nutritionists believe that the number of eggs in the American diet is too high. While sometimes disputed, it has been shown that eggs can raise cholesterol levels.
  4. Mercury. Most of the fish and shellfish consumed have mercury in it. While some fish have less than others, it is almost impossible not to be putting mercury in your body when you eat fish.
  5. Sugar. Most people have heard that Americans consume way too much sugar. Relying on other sweeteners that are not synthetic, processed, or derived from animal products is a healthier way to eat. Many vegans do not eat processed sugar due to the fact that most of the cane sugar is refined through activated charcoal, most of which comes from animal bones.

 

Other Benefits

In addition to the health benefits above, following a vegan lifestyle and diet also provides these benefits as well. From helping the environment to avoiding serious bacterial infections, learn other benefits to eating the vegan way below.

  1. Animals. Many people begin a vegan diet out of concern for animals. Whether opposed to the conditions of animals intended for food or eating animals in general, going vegan will help your conscience rest easily.
  2. Environment. Growing plants takes much fewer resources than growing animals. By eating vegan, you can help reduce the toll on the environment.
  3. E. coli. E. coli comes from eating contaminated red meat and is the leading cause of bloody diarrhea. Young children, those with compromised immune systems, and elderly people can become extremely ill or die from E. coli. Eating vegan means completely avoiding the risk of E. coli infection.
  4. Salmonella. Another gastrointestinal illness from animal products, salmonella food poisoning is closely related to E. coli. The most frequent way people contract salmonella food poisoning is through contact with raw eggs or raw chicken meat from chickens infected with salmonella. Again, going vegan means eliminating this risk altogether.
  5. Mad cow disease. It’s safe to say that most people would want to avoid contracting a fatal, non-treatable disease. One way to ensure you don’t get Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is by not eating animals infected with mad cow disease. While the incidence of mad cow disease is not reportedly so high inNorth America, it does exist.
  6. Global food supply. Feeding grain to animals meant as food sources reduces the amount of food that is available to underdeveloped nations. Many people will go hungry while that same food they could be eating is given to animals raised for slaughter. Eating vegan ensures that you have removed yourself from the participation of this imbalance.
  7. Hormone consumption. Eating animals that have been given hormones to speed growth (a common practice in the meat industry) means those hormones go into your body. Not only can this disrupt the natural balance of your hormones, but some of the hormones given to animals have shown to cause tumor growth in humans.
  8. Antibiotics. Antibiotics are frequently given to feed animals, which can lead to bacterial resistance. Many of the antibiotics used to treat human infections are also used in feed animals.

Healthy Eating

A vegan diet can be a much healthier way to eat. Find out how to combine the vegan diet with other ways of eating for an even more healthy way to go, or discover ways to keep your vegan diet healthy but more convenient with the resources below.

  1. Raw. A raw diet lends itself to veganism by the very nature of its design. Find out how to combine live and vegan diets with Raw Inspirations.
  2. Organic. Eating organic and vegan is super easy to do. Search for websites that will explain how to eat vegan and organic.
  3. Fat-free. Vegan eating is typically pretty low in fats anyway, but the FatFree Vegan Kitchen shows you how to make some delicious vegan food that is always fat free.
  4. Gluten-free. Due to allergies, Celiac’s Disease, or whatever your reason you avoid gluten, find out how to combine the best of gluten-free with vegan cooking in the Glutin-Free Vegan blog.
  5. Eating out. Eating out isn’t usually associated with eating healthy, but a vegan diet ensures there will be a lot less of the bad things in the food you choose.
  6. Lunch. Maintaining a vegan diet means you are likely to take your lunch more often than most people. Vegan Lunch Box offers recipes, tools, and ideas for carrying great vegan lunches every day.
  7. Dinner. Coming up with new dinner ideas are challenging for everyone–regardless of what type of diet you follow. Check out this amazing selection of vegan dinner recipes accompanied with mouth-watering photos of each preparation on Dinner with Dilip.
  8. Dessert. While not all the recipes on My Sweet Vegan are for dessert, you will find a large selection of sweet vegan recipes with the most delicious-looking photos.
  9. Wine. Pairing vegan food with wine may be challenging for those who rely on the old standard of “white with fish and red with meat.” You can combine with a vegan diet with no difficulty. You might want to avoid the sweet wines however.
  10. Fun. These ladies know how to kick it with vegan cooking. Post Punk Kitchen offers some great recipes with a ton of fun infused in them. Be sure to go through the archives for more yummy food ideas.

 

Connections

I have a family history of diabetes.  My father had diabetes (he died at 57 in 1963) and my older brother (age 74) still has diabetes. In terms of pre-diabetes, I was 37 years old when a test for glucose tolerance first revealed there was something wrong with my body’s ability to control blood glucose, i.e., blood sugar. This news gave me ample warning that one day I might develop diabetes. Nevertheless, I was slow to react to the news. I didn’t do anything in response to it like suddenly engage in daily exercise, or convert immediately to a more healthy diet. Instead, I continued on my “Fat-food Buffet of Life” with my own special, “See Food diet” i.e., whenever I saw food— I ate it. Eleven years later in 1991 at the age of 48, I paid the ultimate price—I was officially diagnosed with Type II diabetes.

 

I cleaned up my act for six weeks then fell back upon old habits. In the early to mid-1990s I struggled with seriously coming to grips with my own “up and down” approach to diet and exercise. I had all the excuses, and was lying to myself regarding my efforts to fight this disease. I was constantly struggling with inconsistency in both proper diet and exercise. And such inconsistency led to improvement one month, only to be followed by less successful control the next. As a result, in 1999, I finally had to go on medication (oral hypoglycemics) to get my blood sugar under better control. And, indeed, the medications actually did a very good job in helping me to maintain better blood sugar control. In August 2002 I did have to go on insulin—a real pain in the ass, but absolutely necessary to maintain good blood sugar control.

By this time I was actively engaged in utilizing the American Diabetes Association’s standard diet which emphasized a low-fat, more complex carbohydrate diet. That was a step in the right direction (along with the medications) as it brought my HA1c down from a range of 8.5 to 9 to a better level, 7.5. However, animal protein was still part of the menu (generally, lean cuts of meat, as well as fish and chicken). And, in many recipes it still called for dairy products like eggs, cheese, yogurt and milk (my preference 1%).

In 2006, I started a low carbohydrate diet and would eat in restaurants a lot less often. I started to lose weight 8-12 lbs and was feeling I was really on the right track. My HA1c was bouncing up and down between 7.0 and 7.3. Nevertheless, up until August of 2009, I was still a couch-potato. I started a program of walking 30 minutes a day 5-6 times a week. Where I live there is a beautiful park so it was very pleasant to use the park as my walking course. In January 2010, I began to expand my exercise horizons. That is, I became a member of USA Track & Field and became actively involved in the Master’s Senior Olympics. I still continued, despite the low-carb diet, to use recipes that called for animal protein and fat along with additional fat consumption via the dairy products that I loved so much.

At the end of 2010 I was getting in good physical condition, but I was still eating a less than optimal diet that included meats, chicken, fish, and dairy products. I bought and read a book on reversing diabetes from a vegan diet. At the beginning of 2011—I became a Vegan. It was new to me, but it is a very ancient approach where plant protein sources are the mainstay of eating, not animal sources of protein. Instead of using the old food pyramid—the Vegan diet utilizes just four food groups: grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits.

A Vegan diet is a stricter form of Vegetarianism, as the latter is a matter of degree to which certain foods are included or excluded regarding animal protein and various dairy products. Typical might be the ovo-vegetarian where all meat, fish, and fowl are excluded, however, milk, cheese, and eggs might still be included in the diet.

The name of the book I read in late 2010 was, “Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes.” This book will provide one with all the detail one needs (including the valuable research on which the book’s recommendations is based) in order to get started with a Vegan diet. And, as always, see your physician before embarking on any serious changes to your diet or activity level.

I want to add that it is also important for the general public as well (not just diabetics) to consider making dietary changes to the Western diet and way of eating. The health of the nation may well depend heavily upon making changes to the way we approach eating food.

Lobbyists in Washington are working very hard, on behalf of certain industries (dairy, cattle, fast foods, etc.) to keep things as they are and maintain a policy of praying at the altar of the all-mighty dollar. Your health and well-being isn’t even a tertiary consideration among lobbyists or industry executives.

For hundreds of years diabetes was thought to be a very mysterious disease whose causes were unknown. Doctors, other health professionals, and those affected by the disease (including close family members) saw the havoc diabetes had on the lives of millions of people; but understanding how this disease comes about and how the human body works was quite another matter. However, in the last 10-15 years our knowledge on the causes of diabetes is beginning to form a picture. As said before, research is the major key to unlocking the mystery of diabetes. While not all pieces of the puzzle are known at the biochemical, cellular, and genetic levels, research continues to unravel the complexity of this disease.

 

 

Results of the Vegan Diet One Year Later

 

During my first year experience with the Vegan Diet, I went from 268 lbs (I’m 6’-3”) down to 250 lbs—a net loss of 18 lbs. My weight fluctuated up and down during the year as expected, but overall the direction was primarily down. The primary reason for the weight loss was severe restriction of the saturated and overall fat content in my Vegan diet, and a corresponding increase of lean body mass through exercise (4 days a week) in my track and field USA Master’s program.

 What I’d prefer to do with the rest of the Blog is, as they say, cut to the chase.

 

For me, I lost about 1+1/2 lbs a week for the first four months, or approximately 22 lbs. overall. Then my weight seemed to stabilize for most of the rest of the year, losing a few more lbs then gaining them back.

There were two criteria I used to evaluate whether my health was improving and whether this journey into becoming a Vegan was reversing my diabetes: My Lipid Profile and the HA1c.

Often my doctor orders, among many other tests, a Lipid Panel in order to develop a profile of different types of fat in my bloodstream. This consists of obtaining measures of total cholesterol, triglycerides, low-density (LDL) and high-density (HDL) cholesterol.The health standard they use for the general population is as follows: Cholesterol should be below 239 mg/dl, Triglyceride should be below 199 mg/dl, HDL greater than 40 mg/dl in males, and greater than 45mg/dl in females, and LDL should be less than 129 mg/dl. For diabetics and heart patients one’s LDL should be less than 100, preferably down into the 70s. And, total cholesterol in diabetics should be at 200, or less.

At the beginning of 2011 my Lipid Profile was already outstanding, exceeding the above standards of the medical community. My Total Cholesterol was 139, HDL was 45, LDL was 67, and Triglycerides were 135. This Lipid Profile was not much different from my profile in 2010. However, you must understand that diet alone does not explain these numbers by themselves since exercise, insulin I take twice a day, and hypoglycemic medications all influenced the results. They are what we call in the research trade “confounding variables.” One would have to conduct a controlled experiment (isolating the effects of the independent variable (meaning diet alone) to get really definitive answers. I am just one person; there is no way to be certain here. So view all of this for what it is: just a biographical sketch of one person’s experience with the Vegan diet. So, please don’t try generalizing these results to the larger picture of the Vegan diet.

My Personal Evaluation

The Vegan diet has been a wonderful experience, and I will continue with it for the rest of my life.

I’m happy with the loss of 18 lbs. However, it must be remembered that a healthy increase in lean body mass can actually increase one’s weight as the muscles get larger, but in my case the Vegan Diet more than compensated for any off-setting increases in lean muscle weight due to my exercise regimen.

I experienced at a personal level great satisfaction with the vegan foods. I suspect the increase in fiber content of my Vegan diet produced a more satisfying, pleasant experience. Eating lots of beans, peas, lentils, and rye bread with soy butter is just one example. During the summer months there is no better food on the planet than a perfectly sweet cantaloupe that is ripe with lots of juicy flavor. The meals I made were not only satisfying but filling as well. This impacted me in the late afternoon when I typically had a need to snack. With the increased fiber my brain and body wasn’t telling me that I was hungry at say,4:00 p.m.in the late afternoon.

While I never gave a single thought to doing without beef, chicken, or fish, giving up eggs and milk seemed difficult at first. However, in less than two weeks I gave little thought to giving up my 1% milk because I discovered I really like soy and almond milk (both chocolate and vanilla). Eggs I eventually stopped missing, but I have to warn you. You must read the labels on packaged or canned foods at all times.

 

You’d be surprised how many times egg and milk by-products surreptitiously slip into a food. Even in the so-called health food section—you must keep your wits where reading labels and selecting foods is concerned. Also, just because the section is the health section, it doesn’t mean the foods are all calorie-free. One can gain weight even with a healthy diet. Portion control is still important.

I also took the opportunity during this last year to give up artificial sweeteners.

RESULTS

 

Lipid Panel

Nine months into my Vegan diet my results were as follows:

Total Cholesterol was 161

Triglycerides were 102

HDL was 49

LDL was 92

On my Vegan diet Total Cholesterol and LDL was actually higher than at the beginning of 2011. Two areas where the Vegan diet was better for me were Triglycerides at 102 versus 135 and HDL at 49 versus 45. My scientific guess here is that the marked decrease in Triglycerides was due to the strict restriction of saturated fats and other fats.

HA1c

The average HA1c for 2010 was 7.24. The average HA1c in 2011 was 7.70. It is clear that my Vegan diet while helping me to lose weight, and maintain a decent Lipid Profile—did not reverse my diabetes.

Conclusions

Thus, for me, this diet has its plusses and minuses. I lost a fair amount of weight, and maintained a very good Lipid Profile. Reducing saturated fats in a diet will tend to produce the positive nature of my results. To that extent the Vegan diet was good for me. Why it did not reverse my diabetes I do not know at this time. Diabetes is, of course, a very complex disease. The many factors generally involved include diet, genetics and family history, exercise and medication. And there are many other factors including age, type of diabetes, and how long one has had the disease.

The fact that it did not result in reversing diabetes means a lot remains to be learned about diabetes and perhaps the need for massive studies (like the famous Framingham Heart Study) or the DCCT (Diabetes Control and Complications Trial).

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