Category Archives: Plant-Based

Save Breakfast from the Dairy Industry

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Breakfast is in trouble. From McDonald’s Egg McMuffin to Taco Bell’s Waffle Taco, breakfast trends continue to veer into unhealthy territory and skyrocket in fat and cholesterol. And now, even one of the most healthful breakfast options – oatmeal – is at risk. Starting in October, the Quaker Oats man will be sporting a milk mustache.

MilkPEP, the milk promotion program sponsored by the dairy industry, has splashed its marketing campaign across the iconic Quaker Oats logo. Marketing milk is a disservice to Quaker’s customers who may not know that milk has zero health benefits. In fact, milk is associated with many health risks. In the American diet, dairy products are some of the top sources of saturated fat and cholesterol – major contributors to heart disease, America’s No. 1 killer. More than one glass of milk per day can increase the risk of breast cancer by 73 percent, and two and a half servings of dairy products can raise prostate cancer risk by 34 percent. Skim milk is not a better option – it still holds many of the dangers as whole milk, including cholesterol and sugar.  Just one cup of skim milk has more sugar than a serving of Lucky Charms!

Additionally, 65 percent of people are lactose intolerant and experience abdominal pain, gas, diarrhea, and other symptoms of gastrointestinal upset roughly 30 minutes after drinking milk. Certain populations are more likely to be lactose intolerant than others.  Data show that approximately 90 percent of Asians, 75 percent of African-Americans, more than 50 percent of Hispanics, and 79 percent of Native Americans are lactose intolerant.

Fortunately, oatmeal can be easily prepared with water or nondairy milk to create a healthful breakfast. Half a cup of Quaker old-fashioned oats has 5 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, which will help you feel full until lunchtime. Oatmeal also helps lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.  Adding heart-healthy and cholesterol-free options – like fruit or plant-based milks – will help you reap the benefits of oatmeal, rather than wash them away.

By wiping off his milk mustache—or making it a plant-milk mustache—the Quaker mascot has the opportunity to help save breakfast. Customers who want to let Quaker know that they love their oats dairy free can sign this petition. Let’s all work together to keep breakfast healthful for everyone!

2015 Will Be the Year 4 out of 5 Doctors Agree: Plants Over Pills

In January, Physicians Committee doctors and dietitians filled the National Institutes of Health to present our recommendations to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Staring down representatives from the meat and dairy industries, we made a solid case for the inclusion of plant-based diets in the guidelines. And you know what? They listened.

Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., presenting her recommendations to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., presenting her recommendations to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

During the advisory committee’s recent meeting, subcommittee members emphasized the importance of reducing meat consumption and switching to plant-based diets for both health and environmental sustainability.

While we still have to wait till Fall 2015 to learn the advisory committee’s final recommendations, doctors around the country are recognizing the importance of plants over pills. In 2013, Kaiser Permanente, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit health plans, sent out a nutritional update to physicians, urging health care providers to recommend a plant-based diet to their patients. Kim Williams, M.D., the next president of the American College of Cardiology, penned a blog for MedPage Today explaining why he went vegan and how recommending a vegan diet has helped his patients.

Individuals have also seen success in seeking out plant-based diets themselves. CNN recently profiled Benji Kurtz, a 37-year-old entrepreneur from Atlanta who lost 100 pounds—while improving his blood pressure and cholesterol levels—by researching and following a plant-based diet. Celebrities like Beyoncé and JLo have tweeted, Instagrammed, and blogged about their meatless meals, providing inspiration to their millions of fans and pushing plant-based diets into the pop culture spotlight.

Going forward, if the dietary guidelines committee resists the influence of meat and dairy lobbyists and follows the recommendations of health care professionals, then more people may see success like Mr. Kurtz or Dr. Williams’ patients. In the meantime, let’s all keep publicizing the science, sharing vegan recipes, and boosting this public shift toward support for vegan diets. Maybe 2015 will be the year that the government, doctors, and celebrities all find one thing they can agree on: Plant-based is best.

2015

Interested in viewing a webcast of the fourth meeting of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Committee? Click here.

JLo Goes Vegan: An Inside Look Into the Surging Popularity of Plant-Based Diets

Guest Blog by Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D.

Jennifer Lopez is the latest celebrity to adopt a healthful vegan diet. We’re rooting for JLo and look forward to seeing her plant-powered performances on her next tour!

Vegan diets conjennifer-lopez-vegantinue to surge in popularity and for good reason. Studies show people who adopt a plant-heavy diet are at reduced risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer. Other benefits include an increased lifespan and improvements in skin complexion, mood, and memory.

Hollywood’s A-list health champions are living proof: Anne Hathaway, Beyoncé, Jay Z, Ellen DeGeneres, and Carrie Underwood are some of Tinseltown’s biggest stars who continue to tout the health benefits of a colorful plant-based diet.

Need a case study?

Actress Michelle Pfeiffer lowered her cholesterol by 83 points, former president Bill Clinton lost 30 pounds and revamped his heart health, and actor Samuel L. Jackson lost 40 pounds after switching to a low-fat vegan diet.

Al Gore may be the next success story: The former vice president, who announced his vegan diet earlier this year, for environmental and health reasons, has lost 50 pounds.

These aren’t the only New Yorker residents who are seeing results: An elementary school in the Bronx recently adopted a plant-based menu, and within a year the students’ overall attendance improved, BMIs dropped, and test scores soared to an all-time high. The good news? The students enjoy the food: Some of the most popular menu items are spiced chickpeas, salad bars with broccoli trees, and fresh mango slices.

GEICO took a similar approach with employees in 2008 and offered plant-based options in workplace cafeterias, provided cooking demos for staff, and then made reference to a vegan diet in their famous “Happier than an Antelope” TV ad in 2012.

This growing phenomenon could explain why a recent Technomic survey finds kale-based options have increased 400 percent on restaurant menus over the past five years. Vegan options and quick grabs, which range from a simple black bean burrito bowl at Chipotle to a macrobiotic bowl with sea vegetables at Café Gratitude, dominate menus nationwide.

As our palates revert back to the healthy basics and as plant-based options continue to expand throughout K-12 schools, hospitals, workplace cafeterias, restaurants, grocery stores, U.S. airports, and on Hollywood screens, I hope to see the health of our next generation rapidly improve.

Want to test-drive a vegan diet or create your own success story? Visit 21DayKickstart.org.

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