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The Physicians Committee

Six Ways to Naturally Boost Energy and Weight Loss

March 6, 2017   Dr. Neal Barnard   weight loss


Are you looking for natural ways to boost energy and weight loss? Here are six tips to put into everyday practice:

  1. Fill up with Fiber. The average American consumes 15 to 16 grams of fiber a day. We should aim to eat much more, closer to 40 grams of daily fiber. It fills us up with minimal calories. Fiber-packed sources include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lentils, beans, and peas.
    Case study: Let’s say you’re traveling and need to grab a bite to eat. If you go to a local diner, you could easily ask for steamed greens and beans, like the Brussels Sprouts & Lentils dish at the Silver Diner. Compared to fish tacos, the veggie dish has twice as much fiber, nearly identical amounts of calories and protein, and no cholesterol. Studies show when we make the veggie choice every day, it’s easier to keep our blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and body weight in a healthy range.
  2. Favor Green Vegetables. Eat at least one leafy green vegetable each day. Research shows leafy green vegetables help stabilize blood sugar and reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes. Plus, they provide calcium and iron in their most healthful forms.
    Case study: To sneak in extra servings of leafy greens, opt for Swiss chard sandwich wraps, add microgreens as a topping to vegetable and rice bowls, and use broccoli or arugula as a base for “beta-carotene bowls,” a mix of steamed squash, brown rice, black beans, and your favorite cruciferous greens. If you normally pile on cheesy spreads, top this dish with a touch of tahini and nutritional yeast.
  3. Ditch Problem Foods. If cheese, meat, chocolate, and sugar call your name and derail weight-loss efforts, leave these foods aside for a few weeks. See how you feel. This timeframe is long enough to see a difference, but short enough to make it manageable.
    Case study: Try replacement foods that emulate your favorite staples. If you normally have a chocolate or candy bar, try fresh fruit with carob chips or blend steamed soymilk with cacao powder. If your afternoon snack is an apple and a hunk of cheese, try a nut-based cashew cheese blend. If it’s cheese crackers, opt for a base of cucumbers or whole-wheat pita bread and add hummus with roasted red peppers.
  4. Exercise. Exercise is not an especially strong calorie-burner. But it does burn some calories—about 100 calories for every mile you walk or run. Plus, it’s tough to eat a bowl of ice cream while you’re jogging. So lace up your sneakers. Aim for 40 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, a few times each week. This can be as simple as going for a brisk walk with a friend, running for a four-mile loop around the neighborhood, or signing up for a water aerobics class. The key is to find something that keeps your heart rate up and to stick with it.
    Case study: Instead of turning to the television after dinner, grab a family member or friend and go for a brisk walk. Your energy rebounds and your sleep is better, too. It also provides cognitive benefits. Regular exercise reverses brain shrinkage and improves memory.
  5. Sleep. Our brains need time to recharge and fully function. By incorporating adequate sleep into your wellness routine you’ll reboot the regions of the brain that need it. My rule is lights out by 10 p.m.
    Case study: We make our best decisions, including what to eat, after a good night’s rest. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
  6. Social Support. Take advantage of peer pressure by creating your own social support groups, which might be spending more time with family or volunteering at the library. Music counts, too.
    Case study: When I was in medical school 30 years ago, music was my stress-reducer. I recruited some great musicians, and we’re still making music today. It turns out that the same parts of the brain’s reward center than are turned on by alcohol, drugs, and junk food can be stimulated in a healthier way by social interactions, exercise, and music, amazingly enough.

For more tips on healthful weight loss and energy, tune in to the Energy Weight Loss Solution, which airs on PBS nationwide this month. Look up local listings at PBS.org.

And if you are hooked on cheese, tune in to the Dr. Oz Show today, Wednesday, March 8. Look up local times and listings at DoctorOz.com.

Bob Harper Inspires Cardiovascular Check-Up

February 28, 2017   Dr. Neal Barnard   heart disease


Bob Harper

Bob Harper, host of The Biggest Loser, recently suffered a heart attack. I’m happy that he is feeling better. I hope that by speaking out about his heart attack he inspires others to take steps to keep their hearts healthy. Following is my open letter to Bob.

Dear Bob:

We are thinking of you and wishing you a quick and easy recovery from your heart attack—and we are eager to help in any way we can. I know it took courage for you to tell the media yesterday that this happened. On The Biggest Loser and in your other work, you’ve educated and inspired millions of people on the benefits of exercise, and, along the way, you have also shown tremendous kindness and compassion for people whose motivation was slipping.

While you have said that family history influenced your heart attack, lifestyle choices play a role in the vast majority of heart attacks. That’s why we are eager to work with you to again educate and inspire everyone at risk.

When you began a vegan diet in 2010, animal fat and cholesterol were gone from your life, and healthy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans filled your menu. This diet, along with a healthy lifestyle, can reverse heart disease and helps prevent heart attacks. While no diet can make a person bullet-proof, getting away from animal products is as solid a decision as one can make.

When you modified this diet in 2013, you invited some animal products and their “bad fat” and cholesterol back onto your plate. Many people have been pushed to do the same by a commercially driven “fat is back” movement designed to lure people to unhealthful food products.

Let’s work together to let people know that foods do matter. Healthy foods—vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans—can heal the heart, while meats, cheese, and other unhealthful foods put us at risk that all the exercise in the world cannot undo.

I wish you all the best as you get back on your feet and again bring a vital health message to people who need it.

Neal D. Barnard, M.D., F.A.C.C.


Tom Brady’s Beans Fuel Super Bowl Victory for Patriots

February 6, 2017   Dr. Neal Barnard   other


Congratulations to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, whose plant-fueled diet powered a historic Super Bowl victory for the New England Patriots last night!

Brady—the first quarterback to win five titles—is on the growing team of athletes, including Venus and Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic, who are breaking records with beans and Brussels sprouts. He eats a vegetable-heavy diet that includes plenty of brown rice, quinoa, millet, and beans. But Brady’s biggest power play may be tackling the myth that milk does the body good by ditching the dairy.

Join me in celebrating the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl victory with these Boston Baked Beans!

Boston Baked Beans

Makes about 8 1-cup servings

2 1/2 cups dry navy beans (or other small white beans)
1 onion, chopped
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 cup molasses
2 teaspoons stone-ground or Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons vinegar
1/2 teaspoon garlic granules or powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon torula yeast (optional)

Rinse beans thoroughly, then soak in 6 cups of water for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Discard the soaking water and place beans and onion in a pot with enough fresh water to cover the beans with 1 inch of liquid. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook until beans are tender, about 2 hours.

Add tomato sauce, molasses, mustard, vinegar, garlic, salt, and torula yeast, if using. Cook, loosely covered, over very low heat for 1 to 2 hours. Or, transfer to an ovenproof dish and bake covered at 350 F for 2 to 3 hours.

Slow cooker variation: Place cooked beans into a slow cooker with remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on high for 2 to 3 hours.

Per 1-cup serving: Calories: 294; Fat: 1.1 g; Saturated Fat: 0.1 g; Calories from Fat: 3.5%; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Protein: 13.2 g; Carbohydrates: 59.9 g; Sugar: 14.8 g; Fiber: 16.7 g; Sodium: 596 mg; Calcium: 157 mg; Iron: 5.1 mg; Vitamin C: 5.7 mg; Beta Carotene: 112 mcg; Vitamin E: 0.7 mg

Source: Healthy Eating for Life for Children by Amy Lanou, Ph.D.; recipe by Jennifer Raymond, M.S., R.D.

Do Your Chicken Wings Taste Like Crap? Guess What’s in Them!

February 1, 2017   Dr. Neal Barnard   animal products


Chicken feces will be an ingredient in many of the 1.33 billion chicken wings that some Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots fans will chew on this Super Bowl weekend.

A Physicians Committee study found that nearly half of the chicken products marketed by 22 national brands and sold in 15 grocery store chains in 10 major U.S. cities contained chicken feces, as proven by laboratory testing.

Poultry Slaughter Procedures, a USDA training video obtained by the Physicians Committee through the Freedom of Information Act, reveals that the chicken slaughtering process ends with carcasses soaking in feces-filled water—“fecal soup”—for up to one hour before being packaged for consumers. Cooking does not remove feces from meat.

If that isn’t reason enough to try our plant-based Super Bowl party favorites, check out the Five Worst Contaminants in Chicken Products:

Five worst contaminants in chicken infographic

Venus vs. Serena: Plant-Powered Australian Open Finals

January 26, 2017   Dr. Neal Barnard   other


Whether you’re rooting for Venus or Serena Williams to win this Saturday’s Australian Open, the real prizewinner is already plant-powered diets. Good luck to both sisters, who pump up their performance with plants!

A vegan diet actually helped Venus—who at 36 is the oldest Australian Open singles finalist—get back in the game after autoimmune disease halted her career in 2011.

“I literally couldn’t play tennis anymore, so it really changed my life,” she recently told Health. “Because it was starting to take away what I loved, I had to make some changes; I had to change my life. Thankfully, I was able to find something that helped me get back to doing what I loved.”

The Williams sisters aren’t the only sports figures fueling their games with fruits and veggies this weekend. This Saturday, vegan racecar driver Andy Lally hopes to win the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Why are so many athletes choosing plant power? The Washington Post recently interviewed athletes, including NFL player David Carter, to find out why and how they stay strong. Protein is definitely not a problem.

“The emphasis really is on having a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods throughout the day, and, because protein is found in varying amounts in plants, legumes, grains and nuts, it’s pretty easy to get to the recommended amount,” my colleague Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., who specializes in sports dietetics, told The Post. “Most athletes don’t need a different diet, they just need more calories.”

Good luck to Serena, Venus, and Andy this weekend—and to all athletes in their plant-powered pursuits!


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