Before I started on the whole foods, plant-based way of eating, I was taking a statin for cholesterol, Flomax for prostate issues and I had high blood pressure. Now I take no medications at all and my most recent medical stats (taken this week) are a total cholesterol level of 94, LDL (bad cholesterol) of 57, triglycerides at 52 and blood pressure of 118/76. All those numbers achieved without medication. Also, this week, I got into size 34 pants (down from a start size of 54) for the first time. This idea, revolutionary as it seems, of getting 95% of my calories from whole, unprocessed, plant-based foods seems to be working for me.
So, why doesn't everybody do it? As Dr. Greger is fond of saying, if there were a pill that could get those kind of results, then it would be a blockbuster. But there is not a pill that would get me those kind of results. I know because I was taking pills a couple years ago and never saw cholesterol levels that low or blood pressure readings that good either. Not even close. Even with taking a statin drug. And even with blood pressure medication, I believe that results like 118/76 are unusual.
So, why do people take pills instead of changing how they eat? I think it comes down to the fact that it's easier to pop a pill. In our culture, we want the easy way out. Why? Because we're all so busy these days. Young moms and dads have kids to get off to school, diapers to change, jobs to go to, social groups to participate in, house cleaning to take care of, laundry and lawns to do, and on and on and on. Even retired people are too busy these days. Nobody I know sits on the front porch and rocks their retirement away anymore. It's go go go go go. I know because I'm retired and some days it feels like my calendar is busier than it was when I was working.
So, we want convenience foods. Pizza is great for that. One phone call and somebody will deliver it all cooked and to our door. And who doesn't like pizza? Fast food is good for that when there's little time during the day for lunch or it's so easy to stop on the way home and pick up a bucket of chicken for the evening meal. And when people do cook at home, what do they make? It's usually something fast and easy out of a box. There's no cutting, slicing or dicing involved. There's no complicated recipes. There's no cooking for the sake of cooking.
And we think this is good. We think it's good because we're able to focus our selves on our busy lives as opposed to spending a lot of time in the kitchen. But what is it costing us to pop so many pills instead of changing our lifestyles?
Well, to start with, there are the side effects from the pills themselves. If you're like I used to be, you ignored the side effects. You listened to that long list on TV or that came in the pill container and figured it was just a bunch of legalese that the lawyers were making them say for the very small number of people that might suffer a side effect. And the medical profession and the pharmaceutical companies with their coldly calculating formulas had us all convinced anyway that the benefits of the pills far outweighed the risks.
And maybe that's so for people on the standard American diet. If you are determined to never change your diet or your exercise program, then a pill or two or three or five or ten or twenty will keep you alive longer and healthier than you would have been without the pills. But I would venture to say that the pills are absolutely no match for what can be done by changing our diets to a whole foods, plant-based way of eating and increasing our exercise levels.
I've seen the results. I know lots of other people who have also seen the results. They are real. The side effects, I believe are lost weight, better health, more energy and longer lifespans. And there's another side effect too. And that is more money. Less is being spent on doctor visits, pharmaceuticals, supplements, lost wages due to health, etc. And if everybody did it, then there would be lower health insurance premiums and lower taxes (due to lower Medicare and Medicaid expenses, which are two of the biggest contributors to the national debt). Think how many cruises or family vacations you might be able to buy just from the savings alone.
So, yes, it's easier to pop a pill. But maybe it's time for the world to slow down and learn to cook and learn to enjoy real food for a change. Our health might actually depend on it. I know mine has.