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The Physicians Committee

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!

2016’s Top 10 Vegan Moments

December 30, 2016   Dr. Neal Barnard   vegan


Plant-based diets had a successful year. In 2016, we saw vegan diets at the Olympics and French Open, prominent scientists and government officials embraced plants, and thanks to an infamous Facebook rant, “Gary” made a name for vegan cheese.  

Here are just a few of our favorite plant-based moments from 2016:

1. When the Dietary Guidelines praised vegetarian diets: In January, the government released a new set of Dietary Guidelines for Americans that are the most vegan friendly version yet. The new guidelines strengthen recommendations for Americans to limit cholesterol consumption, specifically list vegetarian and vegan diets as health-promoting, and encourage Americans to consume more fruits and vegetables.

2. When Hellmann’s couldn’t beat vegan mayo, so they joined them: It wasn’t long ago that Hellmann’s sued plant-based company Hampton Creek for producing eggless mayo. That’s why it shocked many when in February, Hellmann’s introduced its own vegan mayo spread. 2016 has seen other food industry giants join the plant-based movement: Tyson Foods, the largest meat processor in the country, invested in vegan meat company Beyond Meat; Yoplait owner General Mills invested in Kite Hill, a vegan cheese and yogurt company; and last February, Ben & Jerry’s debuted its long-awaited line of vegan ice cream flavors.

3. When “Gary” made a name for vegan cheese: Upset by vegan cheeses being called “cheese,” a Facebook user suggested in September that these products be renamed “Gary.” The now infamous rant took the Internet by storm. It wasn’t the only time vegan cheese made headlines this year: Reports show that the vegan cheese industry is expanding, and Los Angeles even hosted its first vegan grilled cheese festival.

4. When experts predicted that going vegan would significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions: In March, a new study revealed that a shift toward a plant-based diet would cut food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent. It was a star-studded issue in 2016, with celebrities like Al Gore, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and James Cameron using their platforms to raise awareness about the links between meat production and climate change.

5. When plants powered Team USA: Weightlifter Kendrick Farris the caught the nation’s attention by lifting a combined 787 pounds in Rio. How does he get his strength? From an all-vegan diet! Beach volleyball player April Ross also made headlines in Rio for winning an Olympic medal on her plant-powered diet. In 2016, other athletes who powered their performances with plants include NFL player Colin Kaepernick, the NBA’s Wilson Chandler,  and tennis star Novak Djokovic, who won his first French Open title, earned a career Grand Slam—and opened a vegan restaurant!

6. When plant-based “meats” swept the nation: At the beginning of the year, 55 percent of Americans reported that they planned to opt for more plant-based proteins in 2016. And they did. This year, we’ve seen a vegan burger bar change minds in Colorado, vegan tacos selling out in a bakery in Dallas, and a vegan hot dog stand wowing Nebraska – the country’s leading red-meat producing state. Overall, more than a third of Americans now consume meat alternatives, helping to drive the rapidly growing plant-based protein market.

7. When 100 doctors encouraged Americans to break the meat habit: In July, 100 doctors rallied in front of the White House to urge Americans to “break the meat habit” to improve their health. The doctors caught the attention of millions of people at the same time that a brand new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that eating animal protein increases the risk of early death from cardiovascular disease and cancer, while eating plant protein reduces the risk.

8. When Barnard Medical Center opened its doors: In January 2016, Barnard Medical Center—a primary care facility that emphasizes the power of plant-based nutrition to help fight chronic diseases–proudly opened its doors to patients. Throughout the past year, hundreds of patients have benefited from consultations with physicians and dietitians, support groups, and nutrition education classes.

9. When plants were the key to DJ Khaled’s success: In March, DJ Khaled took to Snapchat to rave about the tasty new foods he was trying on his vegan diet and how he quickly lost weight and gained energy. Other celebrities who sang the praises of plant-based diets in 2016 include Waka Flocka Flame, Miley Cyrus, and Stevie Wonder.

10. When the research concluded that vegan diets are healthy: In December, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics released a position paper summing up the health benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets. The paper concluded that eating plant-based is appropriate for people at all stages of life and that it can promote human health and improve the environment.


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