Sunday, September 10, 2017

#WFPB and the KISS Principle with the Esselstyns

One of the most helpful things of attending this year's Plantstock conference was a presentation by mother and daughter Esselstyn, Anne Crile Esselstyn now a spry 82 years old, and daughter Jane, who is an RN. Together, they made comic duo that grabbed your attention, and presented a stand-up comedy routine that was still quite serious and drove across one big point: Keep It Simple, Stupid, or as it is known in polite company: the KISS principle.

Eating leafy greens 6 times a day sounds like not feasible, until you learn from mother Esselstyn how to become an expert stripper, as she has taught all her children and grand-children: an expert kale stripper, that is.

Obviously, you wast the kale and then, in one fell swoop, you strip the leaves from the stems into some kind of a colander. You boil it for 5-7 minutes, to your desired level of tenderness, and you can serve a "fist-size" plate of boiled kale at any time of the day. You can season it with balsamic vinegar, or even with one of the delectable infused balsamics from Bema and Pa's which were omnipresent at Plantstock. My favorite of the moment is the habanero-infused variety.

Another simple idea is to make a sort of a roti with collard green leaves, you can pack it with rice, some green beans, okra, or other veggie, some mushrooms, some kimchi, roll it up, and that's an easy meal you can carry with you anywhere.

In general:
  • Breakfast is oatmeal (a lot of people seem to prefer steel-cut, as do I), with whatever fruit tickles your fancy.
  • Lunch is a giant, meal salad with lots of greens and peppers, tomatoes and whatever else tickles your fancy, add some chia seeds, some ground flax seeds (make it fresh, flax meal loses a lot of its nutritional value quickly), wheat germ, etc. Oil free dressings are easy, Jane's go-to is 3/2/1: 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons of mustard, and one tablespoon of maple syrup - and obviously, you can add your favorite herbs and spices to that. Plus you add a good amount of some cooked whole grain, be it quinoa, or kamut, or teff, millet, or whatever is your own favorite.
  • Dinner is the time you let your imagination run wild.
  • In between, for snacks, you can eat fruit or your little plates of leafy greens with balsamic.
This is really how simple it is. So, even though the Esselstyn clan has produced many wonderful cookbooks that can give us all inspiration, it is important to realize, that the basics are as simple as this. A child can do it. On a lot of levels, that is the most important thing to realize, for otherwise the changeover can seem daunting. Once you commit to the changeover get rid of all the junk food in your pantry, in particular any oil. Endothelial health is extremely important and all added oil produces a paralysis of the arteries, as reported here by Dr. Michael Greger on NutritionFacts: Olive Oil and Artery Function. Or, as Dr. Ostfeld at Montefiore likes to say, added oils are like having Mike Tyson for a sparring match with your arteries for a punching bag.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

About Omega-3 and Omega-6: It's the #WFPB Paradigm, stupid...

The correct balance of Omega-3 to Omega-6 is hard to get, nutritionally, except if you are following the #WFPB program. This is just another way of realizing that #WFPB, or also the "plant strong" and "plant perfect" diets, as Rip Esselstyn likes to call them are not "diets" per se, but more variations within a new nutritional paradigm.

The point was driven home to me rather forcefully again the other day, when I ended up facilitating an exchange between T. Colin Campbell and a biochemist friend. The said biochemist is a researcher who knows a lot about different nutrients, and often from first hand research. He is also a great critical thinker. Among other things, he made me aware of the ignominious start of the Harvard nutrition program under Frederick Stare, one of the seriously compromised researchers in the health field, who essentially was a paid promoter for the Standard American Diet, which we now know is making people sick. Nevertheless, on this occasion he was limited by the paradigm he spoke from, i.e. the Standard American Diet, and various diets that are variations on it.

The standard advice to vegans is to get some vegan EPA/DHA supplements, but it turns out that if you eat a reasonably balanced Whole Foods Plant-Based diet, you end up with Omega-3 and 6 in the proper balance almost automatically. Understanding this underscores again the fact that #WFPB is a nutritionally complete paradigm, with almost the sole exception being some B12, and maybe some D3 in winter.

Here it is in the words of Colin Campbell (in private correspondence):

When one consumes a truly whole food plant based diet, without added oil (it is the added oil not the high fat plant foods), the ratio will be around a very healthy 1:1, to 3:1 (omega 6 to omega 3). The problem with people speaking about this ratio out of context is that they are grossly omitting the myriad effects of other dietary component and, worse, the underlying biochemistry. 


In short, don't mess with success. If you're doing #WFPB, things take care of themselves nutritionally, it is within the SAD and its dietary variants where one is constantly at risk of not getting sufficient intake of one nutrient or another.

The Paradigm Shift

I remember growing up, when my parents became vegetarians, my mother was always concerned about:  but how are you going to get your proteins. And her cooking pattern for two decades largely was potatos, vegetables, and something in the place of meat. That last piece would be the protein source. There was zero knowledge or awareness that vegetables and grains have proteins, let alone enough proteins, but the truth is that spinach is 51% protein, and the lowly potato or brown rice each have about 9% protein. Plus, of course, we know now, since the China Study, that we want to beware against over consuming protein. The ideal range is 5-10% and not the more typical 15-25% which we see in SAD. More importantly, we want our proteins from plant sources, not animal sources.

What really is scary about this paradigm shift, is how long it has remained a secret, or, in the words of T. Colin Campbell:
The research in "The China Study" was handsomely funded by NIH (a very competitive process, 70 grant years of funding), was published in the very best nutrition and cancer journals and I have since presented this material to well over 150 medical schools and their conferences (over 700 total invited presentations since the book was published).
It is now forty years since Campbell began publishing papers, followed by the first edition of the book in 2005. Still, this information is not well known, although that is rapidly changing.

What is hard to fathom for many is that suddenly maximizing protein intake is no longer a virtue and, if you maximize anything, it is fiber. The other thing that is hard to understand is the no-added oil precept. We hear too much about supposedly healthy oils, that may be healthier compared to the worst, but the body still does not need them. As Dr. Ostfeld from Montefiore Hospital likes to put it, added oils are like inviting Mike Tyson to practice on your veins. For six hours after an oily meal, your veins loose their oompf. Along with that, adding oils the balance of Omega-3 to Omega-6 is upset, and you don't want that.

Sources of Omega-3 fatty acid for vegans

You can find ample articles online that document good sources of Omega-3 and/or how to achieve a balanced Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio. Most of it is geared to the wrong paradigm for veganism, and not to the #WFPB diet, or plant strong or plant-perfect. Often times articles point to supplements, but if you follow what Colin Campbell says above, you need not worry. Good sources of Omega-3 for vegans are Chia seeds, Flax seeds, and various vegetables. One that is especially good is Verdolaga, a.k.a. Purslane.
Purslane from Wikipedia

I recently discovered that Verdolaga grows between corn, and it was available at our Parkchester Green  Market, along with some of the sweetest corn I've tasted in years.

Simple recipe, based on the one listed on Gracelinks above: 

Potato salad with Purslane

  • essentially follow their (Gracelinks') steps, except:
  • If you can't get fresh dill, use dried, and reconstitute it with some lime juice and lemon juice. That will do the job very quickly.
  • if you do the above, you barely need and dressing for this salad other than the lime/lemon juice. But if you need more dressing, obviously you make it oil-free. 
  • That's really all, and itś finger-licking good. 
For the Potato salad, I used the leaves, with the stems I made a sauce, with onions, garlic pimentos, some turmeric, and a cup of vegetable bouillon and a bit of arrowroot to thicken it. Et voilà, that made a great sauce over a plate of long beans over rice.

You can also add the leaves to salad, and the next project will be to cook a split pea soup with the remainder of the purslane. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

And Another Brilliant #WFPB Supper at Packsun

It was a quiet affair, just Fr. David (St. Helena's) and myself with the owner of the restaurant (Khokon), plus one other Bangladeshi visitor who wanted to sample what we were having.

Muhammed (Khokon) Rahman

Cucumber Salad

Super simple, but effective:
  • Cucumber, diced
  • Cilantro
  • Peppers
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Chilis
  • Lemon juice

Okra in Lentil Sauce and Eggplant over GABA Brown Basmati Rice

Two dishes, first a lentil sauce:
Lentil Sauce with Okra
  • Onions
  • Garlic 
  • Turmeric
  • Chilis
  • Lentils
  • Okra(added last, so as not to overcook it)
 Along with this a Eggplant sauté (yes, oil-free - sautéed in water)
Eggplant Sautée with Peppers and Onions

  • Eggplant
  • Peppers
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Cilantro
It all really ends up being incredibly simple once you have a sense for the condiments. 
You set up every vegetable dish with onions (some thinly sliced chilis if you want), and then add garlic when the onions get soft. As needed, you can add some water or vegetable broth, but some veggies will produce enough water by themselves when you cook them.
Besides knowing the right level of spiciness (the chilis), what matters is to know where the condiments add the most flavor and where they don't fit at all. Cilantro, turmeric etc. are strong flavors, so you need to know what you are doing.

To Khokon it all comes natural. He is the philosopher in the kitchen.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Plantstock 2017 - The #WFPB Mecca in Upstate NY

After changing to a #WFPB (Whole Foods Plant-Based) lifestyle 2.5 years ago, I have recently begun to read much more and seek other sources of information, because I realized that there is a profound change in the works in my own life, but also in the world.

Caldwell, Rip, and Anne Esselstyn at Plantstock 2017

Attending Plantstock 2017 seemed like the thing to do, and boy am I glad I did. The roster of speakers was quite impressive, and covered a wide area of expertise and life experience. Below I'll just recap the stories as best as I can, to bring out the points that seem the most relevant for now. The bottom line is, as I've shared in previous posts, #WFPB is not a diet, but a new nutritional paradigm that is very much based on a solid body of research, starting with The China Study, which was just re-issued in an updated 2017 edition. The theoretical foundation of the China Study, combined with the clinical work of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and many others, plus a cascade of newer research have create a broad-based new approach to health, nutrition and medicine, which is actually closer to the Hippocratic ideal than most of modern medicine manages to be. Hippocrates is thought to have said "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food," regardless if he did say it or not, he also formulated the principle of "do no harm," which is in the Hippocratic oath that doctors take, and apparently promptly forget. In the US, with the most expensive (and unaffordable!) healthcare system in the world, iatrogenic illness continues to be a leading cause of death, if not THE leading cause of death.

The biggest thing about the #WFPB lifestyle is that you can no longer get around it after hearing numerous doctors say that the greatest improvement in health outcomes is the simple dietary change to #WFPB, which far surpasses any medications in its effectiveness (which is not to say medications have a role to play, sometimes). At Plantstock, we heard a mixture of research reports and clinical experience, both personal testimonials of lay people, and experience from doctors. The enthusiasm knew no bounds, for these are life-changing experiences, and people can't shut up about them!

I keep attempting to simplify the definition of the #WFPB concept, and I think you could say it this way:
  • Maximize fiber, not protein, this automatically leads you to plant-based nutrition, and away from animal protein, which has been shown to be a carcinogenic in the high dosages that are common under the Standard American diet (SAD).
  • Use Whole Foods as much as possible, and avoid added oils, or sugar, and limit salt. Small amounts of oil or sugar as it naturally occurs in vegetables, fruit (e.g. avocado) and nuts.
  • Get a healthy level of exercise.
The point is, we over-consume protein, and we don't get enough fiber. #WFPB fixes that in one fell swoop, and people can eliminate all supplements except B12, and most medications, as 75% of health care spending is on treatments for chronic, degenerative diseases, which respond well to the #WFPB diet, and in many cases, patients are getting off of all or most of their medications within the first year, and sometimes immediately. Instead of worrying about drug interactions and side effects, you should worry about your next cup of spinach.

One clarification about terminology is in order. The term vegan is not meaningful in the sense that it is more a marketing concept than a well-defined nutritional practice. "Vegan" includes people who are motivated by animal welfare, environmental concerns, weight loss, or nutritional wholeness. Famous are the stories of malnourished vegans, who merely eliminate animal proteins, and mabye even honey, but do not follow #WFPB, and therefore tend to lack complete nutrition. If you go vegan and continue to eat donuts, you will fail. The Whole Foods Plant-Based paradigm is defined in all its glory in the books The China Study, and Whole by T. Colin Cambpell, Ph.D. which include an account of the foundational research. Within #WFPB there is the "Plant Strong" plan which Rip Esselstyn promotes, which is for otherwise healthy people who want to get healthier. For severe heart patients, the original Esselstyn diet, as defined by Caldwell Esselstyn is sometimes referred to as the "Plant Perfect" diet in which you avoid not only added oil, but also fruits such as avocado and coconuts which have a lot of oil, as well as most nuts. Other vegetables still contain whatever little bit of oil the body really needs.

Here is a recap of the accounts that stood out for me most, in no particular order:
  • Dr. Saray Stancic of Ramsey, NJ. Dr. Stancic is a Lifestyle Medicine Physician, focused on #WFPB, and the way she arrived at her new practice was because she was once diagnosed with MS, and ended up dependent on twelve medications she could not tolerate, and then she discovered #WFPB and within one year she was off of all medications, and decided to change her specialty to Lifestyle Medicine. She is also involved with a new documentary we will soon hear more about Code Blue.
  • Eric L. Adams, Brooklyn Borough President, his was a story of a personal experience, followed by public action. He was at one point diagnosed with life-threatening diabetes, but refused medication, and consulted Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn instead. Inside of three months, his A1C had gone from the high teens to 5.7, and his cardiologist asked him for Dr. Esselstyn's phone number, as he was about to go in for surgery to get stents, but was clearly interested in an alternative. Since then, Brooklyn has committed $13 million for #WFPB education in schools, and has funded the building of a greenhouse in a housing project. Eric's speech was remarkable in that he explicitly raised the spiritual dimension of the process. There is such a thing as wanting to be well!
  • Of course there were Rip Esselstyn, the organizer, his father, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, his wife Anne Crile-Esselstyn, and their daughter (Rip's sister) Jane Esselstyn.
    Rip's presentation about his new book, The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet: Eat Plants, Lose Weight, Save Your Health was dynamic and inspiring. The program is a mini course in #WFPB, in which you can make the switch quickly and completely in one week, or use it to get yourself back on track whenever you feel you need new inspiration and simple dishes you can prepare quickly.
    Caldwell Esselstyn was of course inspiring, and you always learn a new nuance about his path to the discovery of #WFPB, which was all about stopping to treat symptoms and starting to treat the cause, since his working experience showed him how heart patients were never really healed, but continued to deteriorate, and he wanted to make a change.
    Jane Esselstyn, RN was an inspiration by explaining in graphic terms how the major mechanisms work, based on her experience as a sex-educator in the schools. Her presentation was unforgettable, because it made complicated stuff, such as the mechanisms of diabetes, simple to understand. Her explanation of why ED is merely an early manifestation of CVD (Cardiovascular Disease) simply because the arteries to the penis are smaller and more easily compromised by a diet full of animal protein.
    The mother and daughter combo was priceless in the way they explained the simple principles of the diet, along the lines of the KISS principle, such as oats for breakfast, a big salad for lunch, and more variation for dinner. One of the most practical suggestions was how to eat simple cooked kale (5 mins) with some balsamic vinegar. At the conference they served it with delicious infused balsamic vinegars from Bema and Pas.
    In short the Esselstyn family is really involved in all aspects of the #WFPB revolution, and they are an inspiration for us all.
  • Then there was Dr. Neal Barnard, of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, speaking about his new book, The Cheese Trap, which was super informative and motivating, because once you understand just how bad cheese is and why it is addictive, that is enough to get rid of it for good. He also revealed himself as a rock musician with his group CarbonWorks. There seems to be no limit to this man's range.
  • There was Milan Ross, whose introduction to #WFPB hailed from his joining Whole Foods in 2012. He was sent to a #WFPB immersion program by Whole Foods, and it changed the direction of his life. He lost 200 lbs, and became free of medications, including for high blood pressure and cholesterol. He now has his own line of vegan food products. his upcoming book is titled The Change. That says it all.
  • There was Dr. Melanie Joy speaking on the unconscious paradigm of carnism, the eating of animal protein, which would help anyone to understand why veganism can be threatening, because it upsets the apple-cart.
  • John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods was interviewed by Rip Esselstyn about his new book, The Whole Foods Diet, and also shared some of his experiences in building Whole Foods, including their innovative approach to health care, in which they offer their employees a #WFPB immersion program if they need it, and are self-insured for medical costs. Of course the new acquisition by Amazon came up, and his own decision process, in which he ascertained that it would enhance and not diminish the Whole Foods company culture. Based on what I know about Amazon, they could learn from Whole Foods.
  • Dr. Irminne Van Dyken, MD is a general and trauma surgeon in Hawaii. With her husband she created the Out of the Doldrums youtube channel. She spoke about the effects of #WFPB on intestinal fauna, and the most amazing thing is to learn just how fast change takes place.
  • Then there was James Wilks, Mixed Martial Arts champion and budding film maker. His story was amazing. For him it began when he had a knee injury and became interested in nutritional approaches to aid his recovery. He devoured scientific articles, and stumbled across some archaeological research showing that the gladiators in Rome ate a primarily plant-based diet. He experienced powerful help in his recovery from #WFPB. We will certainly hear more about him. He is not one so shut up about it!
  • Tim Kaufman, a former trial lawyer from Atlanta, now living in Costa Rica, shared an amazing story about personal recovery, from a time when he weighed 430 lbs and in December 2016 was at death's door with an enlarged heart. Up to the day of the conference he lost 137 lbs in eight months, and he promises to be there next year and weigh 190 lbs. Rest assured this man will not shut up. Check out his blog, Fat man rants. In his moment of recognition of his predicament as a completely self-inflicted wound, he realized that he had spent his professional life as a trial lawyer trying to catch people in a lie, but he had been living a lie himself.
  • Josh Lajaunie a self-professed "coon-ass" from Louisina swamp land, who extricated himself from a family tradition of meat eating and chronic illness, and embraced a plant based lifestyle as he became a running champion who was recently featured on the cover of Runner's World Magazine. An almost incredible story, his entire immediate family is now on #WFPB and collectively lost 1008 lbs since they started, the point being as always that #WFPB is rich in fiber so you can eat however much you like and you will automatically return to a homeostatic, optimal weight.
  • Adam Sud's story was a searing account of obesity and a cascade of illness ending in drug addiction, which was finally reversed with a #WFPB diet, and he is now a health coach for Whole Foods. Mind blowing stuff.
  • Dr. Avram Cooperman is a specialist on Pancreatic Cancer, associated with Mount Sinai hospital in NY, and he is working on a book. His talk focused specifically on the impact of #WFPB on cancer prevention, and was very, very powerful and informative. He is clearly in command of his subject. I cannot wait for his book.
  • Susan Benigas runs the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, and her talk was very informative. You now have a way to find medical professionals who understand #WFPB, which makes all the difference in the world, since most doctors are woefully uneducated in nutrition. She also runs the Plantrician project.
  • Alexis Fox presented jointly with Susan Benigas, she runs a company called Lighter, which enables on-line buying for #WFPB meal plans.She also made mention of the environmental degradation of animal husbandry which was part of her path to taking an interest in these issues. The truth remains that going vegan is the largest single thing anyone can do to stop environmental degradation and climate change.
  • Dr. Elizabeth Winings spoke of the relationship between autism and nutrition, and once again this was a completely surprising discovery that diet can make a lot of difference. 
  • And perhaps the greatest surprise of the show was Saudi Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed, who follows a #WFPB diet himself and as an investor is actively involved in areas related to meat alternatives, as well as renewable energy and energy efficiency. He is another person we are bound to hear more about. Abolishing the livestock industry is just one of his personal goals.
Hopefully, the above is helpful. One thing is for sure. #WFPB is emerging as a paradigm shift that is now being propelled by such powerful stories of personal change that it cannot help to take the world by storm. To some, this just looks like a ripple, but as an economist, I know that change happens at the margin, and the growth of this movement is furthermore unstoppable for the simple reason of its solid foundation of unassailable scientific evidence, and growing support from the organizations that include the AMA, and ACC (American College of Cardiologists), various politicians and others from all walks of life.

I mentioned above how Eric Adams was the only speaker to explicitly address the spiritual dimension of the process, but I would emphasize that in all of the personal testimonials there was a strong element of a personal crisis and a catharsis in learning about and adapting #WFPB from what were in many cases near death situations. I will be writing more about this.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The #WFPB Nutritional Paradigm

#WFPB, the Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet as developed on the basis of The China Study, and the clinical work of cardiologist Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr is a completely new paradigm of nutrition and health. The best known introduction these days is the documentary Forks over Knives.

Veganism is usually defined in the negative, as in: no animal protein, and some vegans do not even eat honey, because it is animal based. Motivations for veganism are sometimes environmental, or based on concerns over animal welfare, and sometimes vaguely based on health concerns. Yet, if you look around in restaurants and on food labels, "vegan" is a meaningless term, because it lacks any positive assertive nutritional concept behind it.
Perhaps the most famous proponent of veganism is Israeli activist Gary Yourovsky:
Gary Yourofsky at City College of NY

The #WFPB Paradigm

#WFPB (the Whole Foods Plant-Based diet) on the other hand is a completely new paradigm for nutrition and health. The fundamental tenets could be defined as follows:
  • Focus on the quality, not the quantity of protein intake.
  • Healthy protein sources are plant-based, unhealthy protein sources are animal based, be it meat, fish, fowl or dairy.
  • By substituting plant-based proteins for animal proteins, you also lower your overall calories from protein to a healthy 5-15% and increase your fiber intake, which is often unhealthy under an omnivore diet.
  • Use whole foods, and do not use added oils or sugar.
  • "Dieting" does not exist in #WFPB, because whole foods, plant-based nutrition speeds up the metabolism and people automatically achieve a homeostatic, healthy weight.
  • Nutritional supplements are meaningless for #WFPB is Nutritionally complete: the only possible exceptions are some moderate supplementation of B12 and maybe vitamin D.
The fundamental research for the #WFPB lifestyle is The China Study, which was just published in a new, updated 2017 edition, by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. and his son Tom Campbell, MD. The clinical work that matches up to the China Study came primarily from Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., M.D., a cardiologist from the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, which was first published in his book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. many other doctors work in the same vein. Here in the Bronx, we have Robert Ostfeld, M.D. a cardiologist at Montefiore Hospital, who runs the Montefiore Cardiac Wellness program.

T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. on #WFPB

Nutritionally complete: the Omega-3, B12,D-vitamin

The key concept is that for all practical purposes #WFPB is nutritionally complete, if you eat a reasonably balanced range of plant-based foods.


A lot is often made of the difficulty to get a favorable Omega-3 to Omega-6 balance in vegan nutriton, this is a fallacy. Here are some of the sources of Omega-3 for vegans:
flaxseed, chia seed, hemp seed, mustard seed, seaweed, beans, winter squash to broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts, leafy greens, cabbage, berries, wild rice, various herbs and spices, mangoes, honeydew melon.

B12 vitamin

The only vitamin vegans generally need to supplement is B12. and that's all.

D vitamin

Supplementation of D vitamin is another issue, but that is more generic to the whole population, not just vegans. Here is a great article on vegan sources of vitamin D (note that vitamin D3 is the easiest to absorb form), and if you do not get enough sun, you may need a little vitamin D supplementation.

Beware of vegan marketing hype

Nutritional advice for vegans is usually useless if you follow #WFPB, for if your intake is reasonably varied. There are great vegan sources of iron, from raisins, to prunes, olives, avocado and dried apricots, to asparagus, endives, peas, acorn squash, dandelion greens, Kale, turnip greens, to lentils, chick peas, quinoa, wheat germ, brown rice, and sprouted beans or seeds, and lastly morel mushrooms, brewer's yeast, spirulina, and blackstrap molasses.

But by and large the whole notion that supplements are useful are part of the SAD legacy. In the context of the SAD paradigm, supplements may seem helpful, but this type of research is really silly and misleading, because it focuses on how single nutrients (or medications) improve health outcomes, without questioning the overall train wreck that is the Standard American Diet. Under #WFPB the notion of dietary supplements is silly. The body can generally not absorb them very well, so other than expensive urine, the benefits are limited. It is absurd to ask for small improvements amidst a perfectly preventable disaster. 

The health care angle

As a nation, we are spending 75% of our healthcare dollars on treating degenerative illnesses that can generally be reversed with better nutrition, specifically #WFPB. We spend more on healthcare than any other nation, but without results, for our health statistics remain bad. Here is a brilliant presentation by T. Colin Campbell that sums it all up.

These days the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) practically has become the standard bearer for the role of nutrition in medicine. And things are picking up speed at a remarkable rate. Here is some of the latest:
This list is evidence of the impressive progress PCRM is making, and they are only just getting started. They truly stand on the shoulders of giants, for it is the work of T. Colin Campbell and his associates in The China Study which is the foundation of all the further research in this area. There is also an excellent documentary on the health issue, What the Health.

Eat your heart out, dieters

The upshot is that the #WFPB lifestyle is actually easier and cheaper than the alternative - meat is surprisingly expensive. Going to a #WFPB will cost you some money in the change over. You may want some different kitchen appliances, and your pantry needs restocking, but you can do that gradually over time, though some folks need to do it all at once, lest they fool themselves and hang on to old, bad habits, such as added oils or sugar.
But since plant-based nutrition speeds up your metabolism, there is no dieting under this concept. Eat to your heart's content, as long as it is reasonably varied, and your body will automatically return to a homeostatic, optimal weight, without even having to think about it.
In short, indulge, you are eating your way to health, as long as you stay within the #WFPB paradigm.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

GABA Brown Rice update

The healthiest rice you can eat is GABA brown rice, aka sprouted brown rice, or also GBR (GABA Brown Rice, or Germinated Brown Rice).

KOSHIHIKARI Sprouted Brown Rice
GABA Brown Rice was traditionally developed in Japan for its easier digestion, but modern research has shown it to have superior nutritional value. One of the specific parameters that improves with germination is the presence of an amino acid, gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, which increases tenfold during germination. It is regular brown rice which is soaked long enough to start the germination process.  Other nutrients that are high in GABA brown rice are ferulic acid, Lysine, magnesium, potassium, zinc, Vitamin E, and many B (especially niacin, and thiamin) vitamins. The sprouting process also provides increased dietary fiber. (Sources:, and

Until now, GBR has not been available in our neighborhood, and I recently bought some of this Koshihikari GBR to familiarize myself with store bought GABA brown rice. I previously reported on making GABA brown rice at home, with a sophisticated rice cooker. Obviously, that is a good method, for it is completely automated, but there are some advantages to store-bought GABA Brown Rice.

Packaged GABA brown rice has increased shelf life compared to regular brown rice. Regular brown rice has about a three month shelf life, and longer if you keep it in the freezer. I cannot find good information on exactly what the shelf life of sprouted rice might be, as compared to basic brown rice, other than  "longer," but no doubt that information will show up one of these days.

Friday, July 28, 2017

New Medical Math - Risk Assessment for Low Risk Patients

For one thing, the #WFPB diet is a low risk life style in respect of various cancers, and in particular the risk of colorectal cancer is much reduced because o f the high fiber content of the diet, not to mention copious antioxidants, so much so that the calculation of risks for your next colonoscopy changes.

Note what Dr. John McDougall has to say on the topic:

I do recommend conservative screening for colorectal cancer, because almost all of my patients have been following the Western diet for their entire life (until we met). I have recommended checking the stool for blood, beginning around age 60 years (testing every other year, at most, until age 75) and/or one sigmoid examination at around age 60 years. I have strongly recommended against colonoscopy for screening. Note that the recommendations I have been making for decades are almost the exact ones announced this year (2016) by The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care.

John McDougall, MD, July 2016 Newsletter
 There is really nothing to add to that, clearly, if you are following a #WFPB diet and are past age 60 or so, the standard recommendation of a colonoscopy every five years, is an $3,000 waste of money and an unnecessary incremental medical risk. Note that WebMD calls it a fairly safe exam, noting that On average just 2 serious complications occur for every 1,000 procedures. In short, you have a 1 in 500 chance of serious complications now, but if you are on a #WFPB diet, your risk of colon cancer is much reduced, so that is why McDougall recommends the low risk light screenings. An analysis for blood in the stool is about an $40 issue, and a sigmoidoscopy about an $200 procedure.

Dr. McDougall's video, Cancer Screening is a Scam, is a classic.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Another Vegan supper at Packsun

On 7/25 we had yet another vegan supper at Packsun, small and pleasant.

Owner Khokon is an inspiring kitchen artist. I love how quickly he assimilated the no-oil vegan cooking style. It is becoming an integral part of his repertoire. He nicely asked us how hot we wanted it on a scale from 1-10 and we chose 7.

This time we had a salad with cucumber, blackeyed peas, garlic, spices including some kardamom, salt, pepper and chili, and lemon juice. Simple, brilliant and refreshing.

Our main dish was some fresh okra, cooked with onions, garlic, chili.

Next to the okra there was a vegetable stew based on onions, garlic, chili, with potatoes, cauliflower, water squash, with cumin, turmeric, and kardamom.

All of that, combined with basmati rice managed to be simultaneously light tasting, but filling.

The conversation was lovely. One of the people who stopped in was a diabetic following the typical ADA diet, but who was getting interested in the idea of a #WFPB diet. Undoubtedly, a growing number of diabetics are able to get off meds, and at least substantially reduce insulin needs with a #WFPB diet. Food for thought. Here is some inspiration on the topic from Dr. John McDougall:

It is only to be hoped that the Bronx #not62 campaign will start to promote the whole foods plant-based lifestyle more, for it could make a huge difference in health outcomes in our borough.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Vegan at Little Caesar's? Forget it!

There is a website, called Eat This! No That! that rates restaurants for its vegan options. They claim to rate vegan options. It reports that Crazy Bread and Crazy Sauce at Little Caesar's would be a vegan meal, but I beg to differ. It would not even be technically vegan, for there is parmegian cheese on the bread.

There are of course two ways of looking at "vegan." One is in the negative, which is, in Dr. Esselstyn's words: Don't eat anything that had a father and a mother, or has a face, or, more prosaically, don't eat meat, poultry, fish, or dairy. However, that does not cover it. The real issue is what you do eat, more than what you don't eat. What drives the vegan revolution is the no-oil WFPB diet: Whole Foods Plant-Based nutrition, i.e. nutritionally complete and balanced nutrition. Generally speaking it means whole grains, legumes, fruit, mushrooms etc., and no heavily processed foods, as well as no added oil or sugar.

Little Caesar's Crazy Combo (Crazy Bread plus Crazyu Sauce) scores a zero on a #WFPB scale from 1 - 10. Don't even bother. I got my sample from the Little Caesar's at Parkchesterstation. The $4.43 would have been better spent at the fruit vendors who are around in Hugh Grant circle.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Cardiac Wellness Program at Montefiore

Patients come in and cry over the progress they are making with a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet; nobody ever cries tears of joy over a Lipitor prescription.
                                                   Robert J. Ostfeld, MD. MSc.
I just spent my Saturday morning with Dr. Robert Ostfeld, Director of the Cardiac Wellness Program at Montefiore and Lauren Graf, nutritionist to the program. This was a half-day workshop intended for cardiology patients and their significant others, which they teach numerous times during the year. The purpose evidently is to help people adopt their new no-oil Whole Foods Plant-Based (WFPB) lifestyle, and helping the process by involving their household. The general tenet of the program is that, the whole foods plant- based diet of Dr. Esselstyn and T. Coin Campbell, Ph.D. is the way to go and except for in severe cases, a small amount of oil in the form of oil-rich fruit, e.g. nuts, avocado, etc., is healthy, but that it is mostly the added oils that cause harm, so you want to avoid added oils in all forms.

There were perhaps 30-40 people in attendance, and the workshop was both practical, and deeply informative, showing the scientific foundations of the dietary approach/ life style that is being taught in this program, as much as hands-on dietary recommendations. There was a nice lunch catered by Tastee Vegan. Check out their site. They have catered among others for Mike Tyson, who is vegan now too! The meal was an absolutely delicious sampling of vegan dishes, with lots of inspiration for stuff you could try at home.

Good for what ails you

Being that Dr. Ostfeld is a cardiologist, that is his primary focus, but the WFPB lifestyle is about more than that - it is about the whole new nutritional paradigm of eating Whole Foods, and stopping the fallacy that you can make it up with supplements: Whole foods are in, expensive urine is out. Even supplements of vitamin B12 and vitamin D are needed only sporadically and in small amonts, not necessarily every day.
Good for what ails you is the motto here, and besides the massive improvements in heart health that Dr. Ostfeld routinely sees with the WFPB diet, he produced a chart with a list of other health outcomes that are positively impacted by the adoption of a WFPB diet, which - with a little tongue in cheek - he calls the kale scan.
The Kale Scan
Just in case you have trouble reading the slide, here is the list:
  • ALS
  • Dementia
  • Stroke
  • Depression
  • Skin Appearance (acne is a nutritional deficiency)
  • Ear infections
  • Periodontal Disease
  • Acid Reflux
  • Laryngeal Cancer
  • Lung Disease
  • Breast Cancer
  • Heart Disease
  • Obesity
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Inflammation
  • Colon Cancer and Constipation
  • Lower Back Pain
  • Sexual Function (ED is the canary in the coal mine for CVD - Cardio Vascular Disease)
  • Osteoporosis
  • Athletic Performance
  • Arthritis
 The bottom line is that all or most degenerative diseases that make up 75% of our healthcare spending are preventable and often reversible with a Whole Foods Plant-Based diet.
  • This is obviously an area where half-measures are not much help, although Dr. Ostfeld is willing to work with people in steps.
  • Added oils of any kind will collapse your veins for upto six hours after the intake, which in practice means you should avoid them at all cost, and all oils and fats are equally bad for heart health.
  • At the supermarket, read the label, not the claims on the front of the box. 
  • Avoid most sweeteners, including sugar, with the possible exception of Stevia, or some blackstrap molasses.
  • Juice is not generally a good idea - getting the sugar without the pulp is a bad idea, while on the other hand eating whole fruits is not a risk factor with Type 2 Diabetes, but instead can be a help.
 Last, not least, there were many useful discussions about foods to buy and not to buy, and mention of a cookware line that is very suitable for the WFPB lifestyle, called 360 Cookware.

What's next: 

 On Friday October 27th, 2017, there will be an all-day conference, the Montefiore Preventative Cardiology Conference (you can register at the link), that is open to the public. Speakers will include:

  • Robert J. Ostfeld, MD, MSc, Host
  • Paul M. Ridker MD, MPH - Beyond LDL Cholesterol: Does Inflammation Matter?
  • Neal D. Barnard, MD - Nutrition in the prevention and Treatment of Diabetes
  • Kim A. Williams, MD - Personal evolution towards lifestyle changes for prevention and treatment of CVD (CardioVascular Disease)
  • Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. MD - Nutritional Reversal of Coronary Artery Disease: Fact or Fiction?
  • Robert j. Ostfeld, MD: The Impact of Lifestyle Change in Cardiovascular Risk Factors and the Bronx
This is a training for Cardiologists and other doctors, but it is open to members of the public. If you're not a patient of Dr. Robert Ostfeld, send your doctor! It is high time they find out.
The Bronx's #not62 program to improve health outcomes in the Bronx has not (as yet) been very successful, yet this program at Montefiore deserves to be a center piece in the strategy.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Online Resouces for a Whole Foods Plant-Based Lifestyle

There is a plethora of viable online information available today to make it easy for anyone to successfully ease into a Whole Foods Plant-Based lifestyle. I call it a lifestyle and not a diet, for as long as you shift to the new paradigm of eating only whole foods and everything plant-based, you can pretty much eat what you like and any sense of "dieting" is gone. One reason I never tried any diet seriously was because I don't like dieting, but my cooking/eating style has evolved over the years and with the arrival of the plant-based diet, cooking has become more enjoyable than ever. For whatever it is worth, all my life cooking was essentially my favorite hobby, so for me to say that has to mean something.
I went from vegetarian as a kid to omnivore in my twenties, including a macrobiotic period, an Italian period, a Japanese period, various garbage periods, and eventually drifting back towards mostly vegetarian, and vegan since May of 2015, and realistically that was primarily based on the Esselstyn information, so I like to call it "no-oil WFPB," or "oil-free WFPB."

The salient facts

  • 75% of our healthcare spending is on treating degenerative diseases, such as CardioVascularDisease (CVD) - including Erectile Dysfunction (ED),  Type 2 Diabetes, High Cholesterol, High Blood Pressure, Prostate cancer, Colon cancer, macular degeneration, cataracts, arthritis, osteoporosis. See a.o. this blog on
  • A diet based on animal proteins is 10-20 times more resource intensive than a diet based on plant-based proteins. See this infographic on the True Environmental Cost of Eating Meat. On the whole, the environmental impact of animal husbandry is greater (18% of greenhouse gas emissions) than that of the entire transportation industry (13% of greenhouse gas emissions).
  • In short, by switching to a WFPB diet, you are becoming healthier yourself, you are making a huge contribution to the environment, and you are helping to feed the world: four billion people could be fed from what is now "feed grain," for cattle.

Online support for the WFPB diet

Here are some of the online resources that can help you.

We want to be very conscious of the fact that WFPB is gaining traction in the medical community and presently both the AMA and the American College of Cardiology are urging hospitals to offer vegan meal options at all times. The AMA is urging to take cured meats off the menu as they are carcinogenic, and additionally, it is also urging the government to focus SNAP benefits on healthy food choices.

Vegan Videos

There are videos, there are many powerful documentaries that have helped lots of people, some are found on Youtube, some have their own sites:
  1.  The Mad Cowboy. Howard Lyman, former cattle rancher turned vegan, is at the center of this absolutely classic documentary which followed on from Lyman's appearance on Oprah, and the lawsuit by the Texas Cattlemen that tried to stop Lyman's message that beef was not as healthy as they say it is. Howard's book and the documentary "Mad Cowboy"followed.
  2. Forks over Knives. The most important documentary on the work of T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn about the new nutritional paradigm of the Whole Foods Plant-Based diet, based on the results of the China Study, and Esselstyn's clinical work. The message is: 75% of our healthcare dollars go to the treatment of degenerative diseases that can usually be prevented and often reversed by switching to a Whole Foods Plant-Based diet.
  3. Cowspriracy puts it all together from an environmental angle as well. Very powerful.
  4. What the Health. The follow-on project from the makers of Cowspiracy, which explores the connection to how medicine and bad diet go hand in hand.
  5. Talk by Howard Lyman, has the whole story of the lawsuit, and lots of useful information.
  6. Meat the Truth, another useful documentary that puts together the environmental angle.
  7. Dairy is Dangerous, by Dr. Neal Barnard. Powerful story by Dr. Neal Barnard, president of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, (PCRM). His latest book, The Cheese Trap is also highly recommended.
  8. The Perils of Dairy, Another excellent production on the perils of dairy by Dr. John McDougall.
  9. Best Speech You Will Ever Hear by Gary Yourovsky. An incredibly powerful presentation on the benefits of the Whole Foods Plant-Based diet from Israeli activist Gary Yourovsky. He is now retired from 'activism,' but his contributions stand the test of time.
  10. Animal Protein Causes Cancer. This is a very powerful recap of the main findings of T. Colin Campbell on how animal protein causes cancer, and plant protein turns it off. No more needs to be said.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Molecular Hydrogen Story and Nature's Perfect Antioxidant

This is a simple recap of what I know today about nature's perfect anti-oxidant, the humble H2 molecule.

The discovery of it for me, in this role, happened very recently, although I was pointed in the direction since 1998. At that time, I had worked for a while with Water Electrolysis Machines, or water ionizers, as they were then commonly known. In 1997 there had been a scientific publication that pointed to the fact that Electrolyzed Reduced Water (ERW) had anti-oxidant properties, which would explain the apparent health benefits people experienced from the water.
The 1997 research by Prof. Sanetaka Shirahata, did look in the wrong direction however. He thought there was stabilized atomic hydrogen in the water, which seemed improbable.

More recently it has been established that the antioxidant properties of ERW are due to H2, and moreover, the typical water ionizer is not the most efficient way to make that. So new generations of machines are now hitting the market, and even more simply, there is one company that markets a tablet to create your own H2 Rich Water (HRW), and it is quite powerful, the company is called Drink HRW. This may be the simplest solution yet.

Besides the tablets, there are a plethora of machines on the market, and you can find a whole section on Amazon on Hydrogen Rich Water with loads of different machines.

The Science of H2 and Health

As to the science of H2, we now have the Molecular Hydrogen Foundation, whose founder, biochemist Tyler LeBaron, has pursued his studies of the topic with a stint at Nagoya University in Japan, which is a center of H2 research. There is copious material on the site, and it can only be highly recommended, since a lot of the commercially available documentation is often still tainted by the nonsense of "alkaline water," which has refused to die out, even though that particular mythological explanation of the health benefits of HRW was seriously undermined starting by the 1997 research paper of Prof. Sanetaka Shirahata, published at the time in BBRC. Prof. Shirahata remained allied with Nihon-Trim a manufacturer of water electrolysis equipment. His line of inquiry, which led him to postulate atomic H as the operative factor in the anti-oxidant properties of ERW, became obsolete when the role of H2 became clear and moreover when it became evident that the existing water electrolysis equipment was inefficient in producing it, leading to the development of dedicated HIMs (Hydrogen Induction Machines).

H2 reduces oxidative stress as a selective antioxidant and by maintaining homeostatic levels of glutathione, superoxide dismutase, catalase, etc. (from the home page of the Molecular Hydrogen Foundation)

Nano-particles of Platinum in ERW

It appears that Shirahata et al. are still pursuing deeper ERW research, and in fact they are starting to legitimize what has been suspected for a long time, namely that nano-particles of platinum from the electrodes in ERW machines are partially responsible for the observed antioxidant effectiveness.
However, this is largely a non-issue, and may even be dubious. Tyler LeBaron made the following comment on the Facebook group on Hydrogen Water:
The study was done by Nihon-Trim who owns about 60% of the market share of ionized water in Japan, followed closely by Panasonic. They are, however, transitioning away from "alkaline" idea and now focus on the H2. They don't talk about microclustering nonsense....

Anyways, the study is very predictable. It is well known that platinum nano particles (PtNps) can be eluted by force-detachment upon electrode degradation. And these platinum nano particles have antioxidant activity all by themselves. This is clearly stated in the article.

It's like adding vitamin C to hydrogen water, and then comparing it directly to hydrogen water only. Of course the one with the hydrogen and the vitamin C will have more antioxidant activity than hydrogen only.

Also the study was only in cell cultures not in animals or humans. There is doubt that when ERW is orally consumed that: 1) we would absorb the platinum, and 2) that the concentration would be high enough , and 3) there is some early human data out of Japan that suggests that drinking water containing platinum nano particles may be toxic to the liver (which is one reason why the Japanese gov. states the water should not exceed pH 10, as the higher pH correlates with greater electrode degradation resulting in more platinum particles).

They also state in the study that the concentration would not likely be high enough for direct antioxidant activity in the body. Anyways, it is a fine study, and as mentioned, very predictable because they are basically adding another ingredient to the water.
(Tyler LeBaron, private correspondence, based on posting in Facebook group on Hydrogen Water) 
and in an additional clarification, Tyler wrote the following to me:
One comment is Shirahata mainly believed in stabilized atomic hydrogen, which he called active hydrogen, not so much hydride. It was a convoluted confusion between his stuff and Patrick Flanagans false info that merged the concepts of the two meaning the same thing.  But Shirahata believed it was atomic hydrogen stable in the water and minerals in the water. See:

In short, it is best to leave behind all the confusion about alkaline water and active hydrogen, and focus on the massive body of research about the role of molecular hydrogen as the real actor which explains the healing properties of certain waters that are naturally rich in Molecular Hydrogen (H2), such as Zamzam from Mecca, or the waters from Nordenau (Germany), Lourdes (France), Tiacote (Mexico), or Nadana (India), and now also Taean (South Korea). Now that the real issue has been identified, HRW can now be made either with tablets that are dissolved in water, or with the growing range of HIMs of all sizes and shapes.
To a lesser degree, HRW can also be derived with the various mineral sticks, starting from Dr. Hayashi's mineral stick, which is absurdly expensive. Dr. Hayashi was one of the early proponents of ERW, but switched to HRW and he developed probably the first mineral stick. His stick is over priced. Why pay $70 for something you can get for $5? The problem with all the mineral sticks is not knowing for sure for how long, or even if they produce therapeutic levels of H2 in the water. You want to watch out for the ones that promote alkalinity, there is no known benefit in highly alkaline water - stories galore, but there is no solid research that ever proved it.

The Machines

There is a continuous process machine, called H2FX, you can hook up to your faucet, and there are an endless variety of batch machines with pitchers. I am using the "Lourdes" machine, and the same company offers quite a variety of machines. There is a growing collection of HIMs available on Amazon too.

Clearly this area is exploding, and who knows what other solutions we might see coming along.

H2 is the only selective antioxidant

What makes H2 so desirable is that it is the only selective antioxidant, that targets only cytotoxic processes, and leaves healthy oxidative processes alone. No other antioxidant can do that, and therefore you can always overdose with regular antioxidant supplements. H2 does not have that effect at all, but it is the quickest way to help your immune system get back up to speed and stay healthy as long as you have regular intake, and for that, drinking water is about the easiest solution.
All in all, we should note that a WFPB (Whole Foods Plant-Based) diet makes most supplements superfluous, since you'll get loads of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins the natural way, and usually only some B12 is recommended and depending on circumstances possibly some vitamin D. HRW will easily round out the picture and remove all doubt, so you can leave most of your supplements behind. What we have here is a paradigm shift in the making.

Putting it in practice

I would filter my drinking water anyway, but just to make sure, I filter my drinking water with a resin-exchange filter before it goes into the Lourdes machine. Among other things I don't like, it takes out the fluoride, which is my biggest single concern.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Simple Salad at Neerob/Packsun

This time our planned No-oil vegan supper did not work out, but we made use of the occasion to plan for the future.

Many people said they would come, few of them came.

The party was father David from St. Helena's Parish and myself Father David sampled some of the typical Packsun fare, including a somosa, while Khokon fixed us a simple salad that would pass muster as a no-oil vegan dish, and we planned the next proper No Oil Vegan Supper for July 25th, again the 4th Tuesday of the month - that day in June being the end of Ramadan. The rules are going to be different. The RSVP will be closed the previous day, and Walk-ins will be $12, while it will stay at $10 by RSVP.

As per our commitment to publish the recipes after each supper, here is the salad:

A Simple Salad with Cucumber and Tomato

  • Cucumber, grated/shredded
  • Tomato, diced
  • fresh lemon
  • Salt, Pepper
  • Cilantro
  • Ginger, grated fine.
And that's all. Obviously it was not a full meal, but the combination of Cilantro, Ginger with salt and peper in lemon juice was a perfect improvisation for a quick dressing.

Eating at home you could combine something like this with rice and beans and a vegetable of your choice, spinach, chard, broccoli or anything.

The more you start getting it, no-oil vegan cooking can be done on a budget, just don't be stingy with the vegetables, that's where your nutrients including protein come from. Meat is expensive! Essentially all vegetables have some protein, and the beans are a rich source of protein. The variations with beans are endless, it bears to experiment. The key is to realize that varied intake is the secret, and two or three vegetables at a meal is perfectly OK.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

New Food Realities WFPB - Whole Foods Plant-Based

For most of my life, I thought I knew something about nutrition. As a child I loved to help out in the kitchen, and learn cooking. In our household cooking was a serious affair: my mother ran the place like a hotel, for my father was a psychiatrist and had his practice at home, and meals were a major social occasion, both lunch and dinner. Whether it was us kids bringing friends over, or my father's friends and professional contacts, including other doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists from all over Western Europe, authors, economists, ministers of state, and clergy. Lunch and dinner were often social events. Proper meals were being served and conversation was usually in three languages, mostly Dutch and German, but sometimes French or English. Ever since we went vegetarian when I was age two-and-a-half, my mother was always preoccupied with meal planning and nutrition. In those days, there seemed to be a lot of preoccupation with: but how do you get your protein? This being Holland, the answer was of course dairy, although there was some awareness of pulses, peas, beans and certain grains as sources of protein. But we definitely thought cheese was a health food, and eggs weren't bad either. Milk was still nature's perfect food. That was then, this is now.

As an adult, during a 20-year marriage, I was the cook. Cooking was my relaxation when I came home from work. In those years I had become omnivore, but still always had a vegetarian-leaning cooking style. I made pasta sauce completely vegetarian, using mushrooms, and my Italian (now ex-) wife within six months admitted my pasta sauce was better than her mother's. For which my mother-in-law never forgave me. During those years however, I also thought an organic filet mignon was health food, and if it wasn't organic I'd eat it too.

The last 20 years, I was slowly drifting back to a more vegetarian lifestyle, until I decided for health reasons that it was necessary to become a bit more rigorous, and after one false try maybe five years ago, I finally and completely shifted to the Esselstyn diet in May of 2015, and the results were dramatic. These days I am off of all medication and back at my fighting weight of age 22.

Vegan or Whole Foods Plant-Based (WFPB)

Vegan means strictly speaking that you're not eating animal protein: no meat, fish, fowl, dairy or eggs. Strictly speaking the term means little else.
Ever since Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn's work gained popularity (which got a big push when Clinton credited him with overcoming his heart disease), a more strict regimen has become more popular, no-oil vegan. No processed oils, and moderation in oily fruit (avocado, coconut), nuts and oil seeds. The biggie for most people is no more cheese. No, cheese is not a healthfood, as Dr. Neal Barnard of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine explains in his tell-all book about cheese, The Cheese Trap. Three months after stopping all dairy, I indulged in cheese at a reception, along with some red wine. The taste still seemed attractive at first, but the after taste was of having eaten window caulking and it felt heavy. Then I read the book and finally it all made sense. No wonder statistically cheese is totally correlated with the American obesity crisis... from 4 lbs per person per year, we are gobbling 33 lbs per person/per year today.

Most people fail to make the transition at first, as did I when I first tried the Esselstyn approach, because the preparation of food became a challenge, but this time around I prepared myself better, got some more vegan cookbooks, and accessed all the information I could find. Meals became fun explorations of new possibilities, and presently, a year and a half later, it feels like I am entering a consolidation phase based on a whole new cooking paradigm and a new ability to improvise with flavors and textures with the excitement of the discovery that everything tastes better and more flavorful if you stop cooking with oil. And your arteries will thank you!

The truth is not in what you don't eat but in what you can and should eat, and that is a very rich and varied plant-based diet, full of veggies, legumes, fruits etc., and it becomes an entirely new journey of discovery, as this blog tries to show. In short, the first time I tried the Esselstyn diet, I made two mistakes. One was to focus on what I could not have and trying to find alternatives, and the other was not to be sufficiently clear on the methods of preparation.

One practical example was about cooking without oil, in the Esselstyn book there is talk about stir-frying with water, but I don't believe it explains it clearly. I am finding that though some pans are more suitable to this than others, in general you can dry-fry onions, garlic and chilis, and then when it starts to brown you can add a half a cup of water, or vegetable broth, or even water from steaming vegetables, and with that base you can cook spinach, or malabar spinach or almost any other vegetable dish, lentils, etc. Once you are handy with this, it is a cinch, and the bottom line is, all vegetables taste endlessly better prepared this way. Oil or butter ruins the taste. Here I was making sautéed spinach all of my life, and I thought I was pretty good at it. I knew nothing until I tried the oil-free method. Spinach prepared this way is heavenly!

And there are tons of resources, such as Forks over Knives, the Engine2 diet, and the 21-day kickstart program from PCRM, and many other places where you can go for support. Here in the Bronx there is the wonderful resource of the Cardiac Wellness Program at Montefiore Hospital, run by Dr. Robert Ostfeld, who offers a half-day course to learn the Whole Foods Plant-Based diet, in the best of the Caldwell Esselstyn tradition, and on a budget. You can even bring your significant other, so that at least you get support at home. I am now registered to go to his next workshop on July 15th. The bottom line is with the growing support options, people who are looking to make the change have an extensive support system at their finger tips. A lot of it is free, and once in a while perhaps you'll buy a book or do a workshop. And the fear that you can't afford it is not well founded, for meat and dairy are expensive both in dollars, and in the toll you pay with your health.


  • Always first: Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure and 

  • T. Colin Caldwell, The China Study: Revised and Expanded Edition: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health 

  • Dr. Neal Barnard, The Cheese Trap: How Breaking a Surprising Addiction Will Help You Lose Weight, Gain Energy, and Get Healthy

  • Not strictly no-oil vegan, but a helpful little guide: Amy Cramer and Lisa McComsey, The Vegan Cheat Sheet: Your Take-Everywhere Guide to Plant-based Eating

 A new life-style

Most surprising for some is the experience that you can eat whatever you want whenever you want once you're on this track, as long as you stay within the bounds of no-oil veganism, and use only whole foods. But there is never a sense of dieting. Eat to your heart's content, and your body will adjust, and weight management is no longer an issue.

The potential for no-oil vegan for the restaurant business

This to me is the most exciting realization that has come to me, and I've begun to discuss it with restaurant owners: Not only does no-oil vegan cooking simply taste better, but it is the most universal choice for a restaurant menu. A vegan won't touch a merely vegetarian meal, but a vegetarian will eat no-oil vegan, a vegan will eat no-oil vegan and a no-oil vegan will obviously eat no-oil vegan. So, when a party of 6 enters your restaurant and one is vega-anything, you can always accommodate them with a no-oil vegan dish. You simply cannot go wrong. This new life is getting interesting.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Power Breakfast: Natto over tomatoed brown rice.

Our Chang-Li Supermarket now carries natto. A package of three is $1.99.

Natto at Chang-Li
While Natto is definitely an acquired taste, but, with a little experimenting, I developed a nifty breakfast. Oatmeal is one of my favorite breakfasts, but sometimes I have a hankering for something heartier, more tangy and stimulating for breakfast, and with natto you can definitely do it and you can make it as spicy as you like.

First, here are the nutritional credentials of natto, from Nutritiondata. As you will see, it is low in cholesterol and sodium, but it is a good source of protein, Vitamin K, Magnesium and Copper, as well as Iron and Manganese.

It starts with a good brown rice with a tomato. I simply boil the brown rice in the rice cooker with a whole tomato in it and then I stir it up.
Then, at breakfast I chop up an onion, and crush one or two garlic cloves, and I shave some Daikon radish, and, if available, I add some beansprouts. I dry roast that all in a frying pan, adding a small amount of liquid when needed and a trace of Marmite or some Braggs Liquid Aminos.
I serve the tomato rice with the natto, and the supplied soy sauce and mustard over it, and cover it all with my vegetable mix. I top it with some roasted sesame seeds or some gomasio, and I sprinkle a crumpled sheet of nori on top. If you want, you can top it all off with some Kimchi. There's a breakfast that will put hair on your chest. If you wish, you could also include a chili pepper in your breakfast.

  • Tomatoed brown rice
  • One package of natto
  • An onion, two garlic cloves
  • Some shaved Daikon radish, and some bean sprouts (if available),
  • optionally a chili pepper
  • some veggie bouillon, marmite or Liquid Aminos with water.
  • Roast Sesame seeds.
There's a power breakfast for you if you're into hearty tastes.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Senior Symposium at Sonia Sotomayor Community Center: Health and nutrition

On Friday April 28th, we had our second annual senior symposium from Community Board #9 at Sonia Sotomayor Community Center on Rosedale Avenue in the Bronx.

Amidst all the updates from various elected officials, I helped deliver a segment on natural health measures both from a nutritional and a treatment aspect, with the star of the show being Dr. Carina Lopez, a homeopath and acupuncturist. Dr. Lopez delivered an impassioned presentation on the natural remedies that surround us, using dandelions, violets and another herb that she found growing in the lawn at the Sonia Sotomayor Community Center.

Her presentation garnered strong response with some of her accounts of helping people with serious conditions to get off of medications with purely natural remedies. The underlying theme being to work with nature and our bodies, instead of fighting it, and taking responsibility for your health and well-being.

For introduction to Dr. Lopez, I spoke about nutrition as the first place to start healing and I used the information in my previous post to emphasize again what we can all do for ourselves with a healthy, plant-based diet. The bottom line is the evidence is all stacking up in favor of the whole foods plant-based diet, and increasingly, the establishment including the USDA, is losing the battle over the misinformation about nutrition that is at the basis of our national health crisis.The problem has always been that USDA serves their clients, the agri-businesses, and not US consumers. For decades now the evolving nutrition information, has pointed to plant-based nutrition as the healthier choice. With the incredibly solid research foundation of the China Study, we are really entering a new era, and the work of PCRM increasingly steers us in that same direction. Most importantly, they are winning in court. But, there's no reason for any of us to wait for that drama to play itself out - we can all begin to make those changes.