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The Physicians Committee

Chicken and the Other Foodborne Illnesses

December 23, 2013   Dr. Neal Barnard   animal products


Ninety-seven percent of raw chicken in U.S. supermarkets is contaminated with bacteria that could make you sick, according to a new Consumer Reports study. That’s important to remember. But it’s a bit like saying 97 percent of cigarettes could give you bad breath. Compared to the numerous other negative health impacts of eating chicken, food poisoning might actually be the least of your worries.Physicians Committee Five Worst Contaminants in Chicken Inforgraphic Foodborne illnesses are a serious threat to public health—taking the lives of about 3,000 Americans annually—and the poultry industry has no excuse for selling bacteria-laden meat. But contaminated or not, chicken is not safe to eat—it never has been. Many people are surprised to learn that chicken is one of the top sources of saturated fat and the second leading source of cholesterol in the American diet. In these respects, it ranks right up there with burgers, bacon, and beef. Diets high in saturated fat and cholesterol lead to blocked arteries, stroke, and heart attack. Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the United States and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is responsible for one out of every four deaths. A passion for poultry also puts Americans at higher risk of obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Chicken is the leading source of HCAs—heterocyclic amines—which are cancer-causing chemicals that form as meat—especially chicken—is cooked. It’s time we started recognizing these diet-related conditions as the other foodborne illnesses… and tracing them back to chicken.

Carrots Not Cookies for Santa

December 19, 2013   Dr. Neal Barnard   other


The days of Santa’s belly shaking like a bowl full of jelly are over, now that he’s gone vegetarian. To help Santa stay slim chimney after chimney, it’s time to revamp the old-fashioned “cookies and milk” into something more healthful. So if you are prepping a snack for Santa with your children, you may want to make your ingredients list and check it twice.

Developing good eating habits early in life can help children skip diabetes, obesity, and even heart disease later on. The Nutrition Rainbow Just one Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie has 250 calories and 6 grams of saturated fat. If you leave even four cookies out for Santa, you’re giving him over 128 percent of his maximum saturated fat intake. (And since we all know that sometimes one of Santa’s “helpers” gets the cookies, you’re not doing him or her any favors either.) This is the perfect opportunity to start a new tradition. Gather the family and make some Super Raspberry Protein Brownies or a Masala Chai Apple Crisp. Share the Nutrition Rainbow and illustrate why certain foods are better for you than others. Explain that Santa’s got a long journey ahead of him, and you want to help him feel his best. For a simpler, quicker treat, try leaving a plate of hummus and carrots. Santa will appreciate the vitamin C boost for his immune system—and he can even share the carrots with Rudolph.

During the holiday season and beyond, take the time to cook with your children. Teach them about nutrition to set them up for a lifetime of health. They may not have “future good health and habits” on any of their birthday or holiday wish lists, but they’ll sure thank you for it in the years to come!

The Best Memory Trick? Going Vegan!

December 3, 2013   Dr. Neal Barnard   vegan


There’s a new World Memory Champion on the block. Last night, Jonas Von Essen, a 23-year-old from Sweden, achieved the highest score in the history of the World Memory Championship. Essen has wowed audiences with his ability to memorize the order of an entire deck of playing cards in about 30 seconds. Following his unprecedented victory, the winner had just one thing on his mind: finding a vegan cupcake.Vegan Cards It’s no surprise that a memory champion would be eating plant-based foods, especially if he wants to keep his brain sharp long-term. Studies have shown that a healthful diet can impact your memory. In fact, foods high in vitamin E—such as almonds, walnuts, and even broccoli—can reduce dementia risk by as much as 70 percent. If you’re looking for a sweet treat that will also help your brain, try a handful of blueberries. Fit for a champion, blueberries are rich in brain-boosting anthocyanins. Add them to your oatmeal—or whip up a batch of our Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes. There may be only one World Memory Champion, but we can all strengthen our brain with a diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes

Serves 2 to 4

Blueberry Buckwheat PancakesThese whole-grain pancakes drizzled with pure maple syrup make for a delicious and hearty breakfast. Blueberries and aluminum-free baking powder add a delicious and healthful touch.

*Note: Aluminum’s role in the brain remains controversial. However, because aluminum has been found in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients, it pays to err on the side of caution. Avoid uncoated aluminum cookware and read labels when buying baking powder, antacids, and processed foods.

1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons flaxseed meal
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder*
Pinch of sea salt
1 cup rice milk
1 cup fresh blueberries
1-2 teaspoons safflower oil, to brush the skillet
warmed maple syrup, for drizzling

In a medium bowl, combine the buckwheat flour, whole-wheat pastry flour, flaxseed meal, baking powder, and salt. Whisk briefly to blend. Slowly stir in the rice milk and stir just until the lumps disappear. Gently fold in the blueberries. Heat a cast-iron griddle or skillet over medium heat, then lightly brush with a little of the safflower oil. Add enough batter to form a 4-inch pancake and cook until the edges look dry and bubbly, about 2 to 3 minutes. Gently flip the pancake and cook on the other side until golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. Serve hot, with warmed maple syrup.

Per pancake: 82 calories, 2 g protein, 16 g carbohydrate, 3 g sugar, 1 g total fat, 13% calories from fat, 2 g fiber, 112 mg sodium
Recipe by natural foods chef Christine Waltermyer, C.H.H.C.

Breakfast Smoothie

Serves 2 (Makes about 3 cups)

1 very ripe banana (with plenty of brown speckles)
2 cups frozen fruit (such as berries, mangoes, strawberries, banana, orange, and pineapple)
1 cup nondairy milk (almond milk or soy milk)

Combine all the ingredients in a blender. Start your blender on the lowest setting and slowly crank it up as the smoothie starts to puree. If you start with your blender at high, you’ll end up with smoothie splattered all over the top of your blender and probably will have to stop your blender several times to get the smoothie ingredients to rest back on the blades. Once you’re up to optimal speed, blend for about 2 minutes to get everything smooth.

Per smoothie or 1 1/2 cup serving:
190 calories, 2 g protein, 46 g carbohydrate, 35 g sugar, 2 g total fat, 9% calories from fat, 5 g fiber, 79 mg sodium
Recipe by Jason Wyrick; Power Foods for the Brain by Neal Barnard, M.D.

Jay Z Pledges to Go Vegan

December 2, 2013   Dr. Neal Barnard   vegan


Jay Z's pledge to adopt a vegan diet is trending worldwide. And if it seems like everyone is adopting a vegan diet, it’s because they are.  More people are finding it surprisingly easy to follow a plant-based diet. Former president Bill Clinton, former vice president Al Gore, and actress Michelle Pfeiffer continue to ditch meat in favor of nutrient-packed, plant-based foods. Hollywood’s A-list, including actresses Anne Hathaway and Natalie Portman, country singer Carrie Underwood, and tennis champ Serena Williams all tout the health benefits of a vegan diet.

The science is simple: The more plant-based meals we eat, the healthier we’ll be in the long run. The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics finds people who follow vegetarian diets have a lower body mass index, lower risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of overall cancer. From a nutritional standpoint, plant-based meals outweigh their meat-heavy counterparts.  A black bean burger has similar protein as a hamburger, but the black bean burger has half the fat and calories, contains zero cholesterol, and packs four times as much fiber.

As plant-based diets continue to surge in popularity, it won’t be long before we see a decline in obesity, diabetes, and heart disease – and that is something Hollywood, scientists, politicians, and hip-hop stars can all advocate for.

You’re in Good Company with a Vegan Thanksgiving

November 27, 2013   Dr. Neal Barnard   vegan


Meat consumption on the decline

With meat consumption falling by about 10 percent in the past eight years, it’s more popular than ever to plan a healthful plant-based Thanksgiving. Celebrities like Mayim Bialik and Ellen DeGeneres are sharing their plans for a vegan meal.  Last year, Turtle Island Foods celebrated the sale of their 3 millionth Tofurky. With skyrocketing diabetes and obesity rates, everyone knows it’s time for a change. So the surge in plant-based popularity isn’t a surprise. And more people are realizing that turkey is not a healthful food. Among other concerns, a single serving of turkey can have up to 80 mg of cholesterol, whereas a vegan diet is naturally cholesterol-free. Plant-based cookbooks like Forks Over Knives and Isa Does It are topping the Amazon Best Seller lists. The Physicians Committee has also prepared several Thanksgiving, Holiday, and Hanukkah menu plans. Even the New York Times is encouraging readers to have a heart-healthy holiday by highlighting over 600 vegetarian and vegan dishes in the 2013 Thanksgiving recipe database. Good health is definitely something to be thankful for, and a delicious plant-based Thanksgiving is the best early holiday gift you can give your loved ones this year.


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