The End of an Era, Turning Seventy and Following the Doctor's Advice

I just looked at my stats and noticed that today alone I had 1,848 hits to my blog site. It's gratifying to see that so many people are coming to read my blog posts even though I haven't written anything new in a while. And while I never like to say never, I am finding myself coming to the end of an era regarding blogging about whole food, plant-based eating. I'm not saying that I'll never write again about plant-based eating, but I'm finding fewer and fewer inspirations. And that's resulting in my writing less and less material. But even if I don't write any more posts, I'll leave my blogsite up because according to the statistics, people are finding it and reading it even when there's no new material.

I was inspired this morning to write on a couple subjects though. So here goes:

I'm just a few months shy of turning seventy now. And I was thinking about that this morning while walking the nature trail. I was thinking how in the last three years, my aches and pains have gone away. My need for drugs of any kind, prescription or otherwise, has gone away. My blood work numbers all come back in an ideal range. And I feel healthier than I've ever felt in my entire life. And I feel more energetic. My eyesight is excellent. I still wear glasses, but I'm not suffering from cataracts or night blindness or macular degeneration or any other age-related eye diseases. My dental hygienist has moved me from the every three month dental cleanings that I was on three years ago to now every six months. All in all, I actually feel younger these days.

That's not how I imagined turning seventy would be. And I'm quite sure that it's not the experience of almost everybody who is on the standard American diet. I live in a community where a lot of people do watch their health, but they still experience problems. They exercise and meditate and do yoga, and they eat healthier than much of the population. Following the Mediterranean diet or the DASH diet or even a low carb diet is healthier than those who just eat what they want. And yet, local doctors are making a killing in treating so many age-related diseases. That says to me, that while those diets are healthier than just eating whatever you want, they still aren't healthy enough.

By eating whole food, plant-based (WFPB), I don't mean giving up all meat, dairy and processed foods. Instead, I mean eating so many vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and nuts and seeds that's there's little to no room left in your diet for meat, dairy or processed foods. In other words, I think that it is vital to focus on what to eat as opposed to what not to eat. You may recall my blog posting, Three Reasons for Not Including Olive Oil or Any Other Oils in a WFPB diet, which by the way has been my number one read blog of all time, I said that one thing oils do is they rob us of our ability to eat something more nutritious with those same calories. The same goes for animal products and processed foods. In addition to the bad things about them, they also rob us of being able to eat something more nutritious for the same number of calories.

So, I like to think about what to eat as opposed to what not to eat. I want to get as much bang for the buck as I can out of the calories that I take in each day. And that's where Dr. Greger's "daily dozen" is such a great resource. He tells us what foods we should be eating every day, and I find that when I follow that "daily dozen," I don't have room left for meat, dairy or processed foods. I do take Dr. Esselstyn's advice and add more servings of greens every day to my diet than Dr. Greger suggests.

To me, it's vital that I eat greens and beans at every meal. That's absolutely without question. In the morning, I have Ezekial toast, which is a sprouted grain "flourless" bread, covered with a hummus spread that I make from a Forks Over Knives recipe. That hummus, made with garbanzo beans, gives me my beans at breakfast. And I always put a thick bed of greens in my bowl before pouring in the oatmeal. That gives me my greens for breakfast. Getting greens and beans at every meal is an absolute must for me. Lunch might be a tempeh with greens, onion and tomato sandwich or it might be a bowl of bean soup that includes kale and grains and rice as well. Soups are a great way to get a lot of veggies, beans, greens and whole grains into the diet.

I also think nuts and seeds are tremendously important. I figure that nuts and seeds contain all the nutrients needed to grow trees and strong plants. To do that, there must be a heck of a lot of nutritional value packed in to each one. Yes, they can be high in calories, but they are filling (satiating), and thus eating nuts and seeds can slow down or stop me from eating other foods. And I can't think of much that's more nutritious than nuts and seeds.

The important thing, in my mind is to think about getting the most nutritional value you can out of the foods you eat. And do that so much that you don't have room left for other foods of less nutritional value. That's how I'm able to come up on seventy years of age feeling almost as good as I did in my twenties and thirties. Unlike many others my age, I am not hanging around the doctor's office these days.

And speaking of doctors, that brings me to the third thing I wanted to address in this blog posting this morning. One of the hardest sells for WFPB eating has been the argument that people make when they say, "I'll follow what my doctor advises" or "My doctor has not recommended plant-based eating to me." It's frustrating because, while I'm not a doctor, I know that this really is the right way to eat. And I know that doctors get little to no training on nutrition in medical school. And I also know that the business of medicine is not what I once thought it was --- to get people truly healthy. It seems to me that it's become more about pushing pills than it has been about finding the underlying causes of the diseases we face.

So, it frustrates me when I hear somebody say they won't do a whole foods, plant-based diet because their doctor hasn't told them they need to do it. I believe their health is on the line, and while that reasoning can seem sound, I actually think it's faulty. But here's the rub. I believe the same is true of us in the whole foods, plant-based movement. We can sometimes turn our doctors into gods that we follow, and that can hurt us too. We really need to be smart ourselves and not totally put our health into the hands of any one person. That's one reason that I like the program given by the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies at Cornell University. A large segment of that program is devoted to evaluating health claims that are made as new research is conducted.

Of course, not everybody has the resources or the temperament to do that course of studies. But everybody can learn about what the latest research is showing from Dr. Greger at his Nutrition Facts website. And in that regard, I urge all of my readers to watch the video on that site titled Should Vegans Take DHA to Preserve Brain Function? I believe strongly that taking DHA supplements is just as important if not more important than is taking a B-12 supplement every day. I've written about this many times before. The importance of DHA, which is an omega-3 fatty acid, cannot be understated when it comes to the health of our brains (i.e, the potential avoidance of Alzheimer disease or dementia) and our eyesight. But it's not currently on the radar screen of most of our WFPB doctors, although I believe it eventually will be on their radar screens. Most of our WFPB doctors say to get omega-3s from the short-chain ALA foods like chia seeds and flaxseeds. However, most research studies have shown that, particularly in older people, there is not efficient conversion of ALA short-chain omega-3s into DHA long-chain omega-3s. As Dr. Greger points out, our brains shrink as we age, and quite significantly actually. But DHA supplementation can stop or reverse that shrinkage. I have also had more than one eye doctor, including one who spoke on the "vegan cruise" Holistic Holiday at Sea this past Spring, tell me that DHA is absolutely essential to eye health.

So, my message is, let's not be like the people who say, "I won't do that because my doctor hasn't told me to do it." We need to evaluate what our doctors tell us, just as those out in the general public following the SAD diet should be evaluating what their doctors are telling them too. And based on my own evaluations, I have determined that it is risk mitigating to take a vegan DHA supplement every day. And Dr. Greger's recent video talking about the research behind that is now supporting that belief as well. Over time, I do believe that our other WFPB doctors will catch up on this, but in the mean time, I'm going to take the path of least risk to my health.

And with that, I'll close. I know this has been a long post, but when the muse hits, I need to write it. When or if I blog again, I don't know. But regardless, I'm leaving my blog site up for people to continue to come to it. People seem to keep finding it. And that's a gratifying thing.