Friday, October 27, 2017

The #WFPB Nutrition Paradigm Shift Is Under Way in the Bronx

On Friday October 27th, I attended the first annual Montefiore Preventive Cardiology Conference, which was an amazing experience.

Many of the heavyweights in the field were there, and it was a truly amazing experience. While the material was meaty, since the conference offers educational credits for medical professionals, it was accessible to the general public as well, and people had come from all over the country. There was even a delegation from the Brooklyn Borough President's office, as well as from the Mayor's office, in this week when it had just been announced that Brooklyn was launching Meatless Mondays in 15 public schools.

The speakers included the following:
  • Opening remarks by Dr. Robert Ostfeld, cardiologist at Montefiore, who was the conference organizer.
  • He was followed by Dr. Paul M. Ridker, Director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at the Brigham and Women's Hospital, who spoke on the issue of inflammation in cardiovascular disease. The bottom line is that cholesterol levels and inflammation are equally important in cardiovascular disease (CVD).
  • Next came Dr. Neal Barnard (he of PCRM fame), who spoke on the role of nutrition in the prevention and treatment of diabetes. The bottom line is that the ADA approach (low carb), does not work nearly as well as a Whole Foods Plant-Based diet without added sugar, oil or salt, and that this is now fully scientifically proven. It is notable that fruit is healthy for diabetics because the sugar in the context of fruit is not a problem, it's the refined sugar we add to food that is the problem. Carbs are also essential, and sugar in and of itself does not cause diabetes, fat does. So, the avoidance of added oils and fats is critical. Most importantly, once a patient starts on the diet, the changes can happen so fast that medical supervision is critical since otherwise people can become hypoglycemic if their medications are not adjusted in a timely fashion. Not in all cases, but for probably two thirds of diabetics it seems realistically possible to get off of medicine and insulin altogether within weeks or months.
    Dr. Barnard's graphical illustrations of the diabetes mechanism were extremely helpful.
    Barnard also brought up a fascinating report on Geico, where he was involved in lowering health care costs with a Whole Foods Plant Based diet, for a company that is self-insured for health. This type of development could point the way towards a better solution for our healthcare crisis. Whole Foods operates along similar lines.
  • Next was Dr. Kim Williams of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and former president of the American College of Cardiology, who spoke on "Describing My Evolution Toward Advocating for a Lifestyle Oriented Approach for the Prevention and Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease. A very engaging speech - you can get a little taste here.
  • Next up was Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr. and it is always a delight to hear him state his core position, that heart disease is a toothless paper tiger that does not even exist, not to mention how amazing it is that this has become a multi-billion dollar medical specialty in the Western world, without anybody wondering why large parts of the world do not even have this problem. In short, coronary heart disease is entirely preventable and in most cases (except when it is totally critical) reversible with diet and exercise.
  • Finally, Dr. Robert Ostfeld spoke specifically on the challenges of the Bronx, the borough that steadily always comes in at #62 of 62 counties in NY in the Robert Woods Johnson survey of health outcomes for the state. With his customary sense of humor he described the challenges of working in a poor community and focusing on teaching people to make the transition to a WFPB diet on a budget.
  • Next, there was a panel discussion, which also included Dr. Michelle McMacken, Assistant Professor of Medicine at NYU School of Medicine and Director of the Adult Weight Management Program at Bellevue Hospital.
One of the more hilarious moments of the day (and there were many) was in the presentation by Dr. Kim Williams about a study where the relationship of dietary intake to premature death from heart disease was analyzed. At first it seemed the study indicated that red meat was worse than eggs, until it became clear that consumption of eggs causes cancer, and the patients in the study died from cancer before they died from heart disease. Conclusion: eggs are the incredible, edible carcinogen.

Another salient point that came out during the day was the difference between a "vegan" diet, defined in the negative (no animal products), but not observing the whole foods paradigm, which often produces worse health outcomes than a meat-based diet. This confirms again that "vegan" is not a useful category from a nutritional standpoint, for a whole foods plant-based diet, without added Sugar, Oil and Salt is really the issue. Potato chips, Coca Cola and chocolate may make a "vegan" diet, they do not add up to a healthy lifestyle.

Overall, it is increasingly clear that the Whole Foods, Plant-Based nutritional model is slowly becoming main stream and in fact that the adoption is picking up speed as evidenced by the developments in Brooklyn, which now are getting the support from the mayor's office, as well as the adoption in hospitals, such as the Montefiore health system, which includes five hospitals. Both AMA and the American College of Cardiology now recommend that hospitals offer plant-based menu options at every meal.

Throughout the day the food was excellent and a worthwhile demonstration of the variations that are possible within the #WFPB paradigm. The sky is the limit. Literally - as was also emphasized by various speakers - #WFPB is more bulky but you lose weight automatically and end up returning to a homeostatic, healthy weight. Overeating is never a problem because the diet is rich in fiber and nutritionally abundant as long as people eat enough different foods. There is no such thing as a protein deficiency if people eat a reasonably varied plant-based diet, and likewise the notion of supplements is completely moot, with the sole exception of B12. It was not discussed in detail, but there was mention of the fact that supplements from bottles can indeed easily be counter productive - everything is more easily absorbed from food, and the plant based diet will provide abundant nutrients.

Another simple way of looking at the problem is this: your body produces all the cholesterol it really needs, you need no dietary cholesterol ever. Plant-based nutrition has zero cholesterol and all animal-based nutrition has cholesterol, hence you should not eat it. 

As to added sugar, oil and salt: 
  • sugar is harmless in fruit, but adding refined sugar in any form is bad news
  • added oil is always bad, it damages the endothelium immediately, preventing your bloodvessels from dilating normally with exercise. You'll get about 10% of your calories from naturally occurring oil if you include small amounts of nuts, avocado or coconut in your diet, but, generally speaking, all plants contain small amounts of oil naturally, so it is easy to go over.
  • as to salt, 2,000 micro grams per day is all you need which is easy to meet if you eat all plants, and sometimes you can even add a sprinkle, but generally you want to use herbs and spices for seasoning, not salt. All vegetables and grains contain sodium naturally.
Meanwhile, it is clear that different doctors have slightly different attitudes in practice, but they all focus on helping patients with at least a half-day of intensive nutrition counseling that includes the significant other, in order to help people get on track about their diet and stay on track. In Dr. Ostfeld's program at the Montefiore Cardiac Wellness program, this is typically a half-day program on a Saturday, that includes food so people leave inspired about the many options that exist within the plant-based paradigm.

Ostfeld tends to be rather mild and focuses on not letting the perfect get in the way of the merely good: progress is progress. The other side of that coin is that, as reported above, a sloppy and only nominally "vegan" diet is really counter productive, and in practice is often the reason why would-be vegans fail. Esselstyn typically does not allow his patients any wiggle room for that reason, for he knows that once you are on the right track, you will feel so much better, you will not want to get off it. One thing sums up the difference perhaps. Esselstyn recommends 6 fist-sized green leafies per day, typically cooked kale with balsamic vinegar, which taken together is great for nitrous oxide production. Ostfeld, more modestly, ask for four. Personally I find that cooked kale, drizzled with balsamic vinegar is an absolute delight, and I miss it when I don't have it.

Post Script:
In other news, the movie Code Blue is being announced, which is going to be a next chapter in the adoption of the Plant-based nutritional program in clinical practice. It reminds us of the fact that 86% of our healthcare spending is on treating the degenerative chronic diseases, which by and large are the result of bad diet and conversely are preventable and most often reversible with a Whole Foods Plant-Based diet. If we can eliminate 75% of the 86%, we will have largely solved the healthcare crisis. In this conference only heart disease and diabetes were being discussed at length, though the more general application was mentioned. The movie Code Blue is going to add MS to the discussion. The implications are truly staggering.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Health and Well-being Comes First

Health means more than physical health, it must first mean spiritual and psychological health and well-being, the example of which is perhaps best seen in Victor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning, about spiritual health and how it helped him survive the Nazi death camps. Cindy Lora-Renard, in her book A Course in Health and Well-being, frames the issue in a modern way, with practical advice on how to put inner health, inner peace central in your life.

During my visit at Plantstock in August of 2017, I listened to many of the personal stories of people who were finding health through the Whole Foods Plant-Based nutritional paradigm, and two in particular really drove the message home to me of how much this transition is part of a spiritual growth process for many.

Health and Well-being is First Spiritual

Eric Adams, the Brooklyn Borough President, spoke about this dimension explicitly. He was well aware of the fundamental change in his life of going from abusing food, almost like a drug, to enjoying the empowerment of taking control of your health with the Whole Foods Plant-Based lifestyle.

Another presenter who stood out for me was Tim Kaufman from Atlanta, who blew me away by his realization that as a trial lawyer all of his life his business had been to catch people in a lie, but that his unhealthy relationship with food had made his own life a lie. His description of his turnaround was truly a cathartic moment.

I have encountered many who at some point in their spiritual journeys actively pursued a change in their relationship to food as part of that journey. There is something about becoming conscious about all of your relationships, with people as well as things, including food. Around us, the awareness of the health problems resulting from the Standard American Diet is growing to the point that the fast food industry, and really the whole food industry is fast finding itself in the place of the tobacco industry. Particularly the recent book by Dr. Neal Barnard, The Cheese Trap, makes it very clear how junk food is not just psychologically addictive, but in some cases - cheese obviously - may be physically addictive as well. No wonder people abuse food as a pacifier.

Before anything else, psychological and spiritual well-being means an equanimity with the physical, for we know it is not the be-all and end-all of who we are, but certainly the body is our vehicle in this world and being reasonable about the upkeep makes sense. In the end the old saying holds:

Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

Or, just be normal, but being normal in this case includes stopping self-destructive behaviors. One thing I know from experience now and that is that, since I consciously committed myself to the Whole Foods Plant-Based paradigm, this has opened up a whole new level of enjoyment of food. This does not mean in any sense that you would never get sick, but still it produces a tremendous new level of empowerment to feel how you can take responsibility for your own health.

Particularly important is the message from the work of T. Colin Caldwell, which says that never mind the genetic predispositions (or other challenges) you may have, it always holds that, all else being equal, the Whole Foods, Plant-Based nutritional approach produces superior results. In short, you can take responsibility by doing your part, and if you do have to deal with disease of any sort, you will deal with it that much better if you've taken care of your body as best you can.

Let food be thy medicine

Hippocrates said that. The whole Whole Foods Plant-Based revolution falls in line with this notion. The truth is that 75% of healthcare spending is in fact sick-care, related to the growing list of chronic, degenerative diseases that all result from the Western diet. The economic incentives in our system are to provide ever more sick care, for that's where the money is. On the ground, people are feeling sicker and sicker as they get more sick care, until they finally realize that they can take charge, and growing numbers of people are dumping hands full of medications almost as soon as they get on a #WFPB diet. In fact, for diabetics the results are often so dramatic that they need regular medical attention to adjust their insulin doses, and often their insulin needs can be drastically reduced, or even eliminated altogether within weeks or months. In cardiology the results tend to be equally dramatic.
Here are some interesting videos:

Here is a brief list of some of the best literature in this area. It is rapidly growing.
  • Ivan Illich, Limits to Medicine: Medical Nemesis: the expropriation of health. The updated edition of his 1975 paper. This remains one of the seminal papers on the health threat posed by our modern Western medical model.
    The results cited by T. Colin Campbell (above) merely confirm it: with growing "healthcare" expenditure from 5 to 18% of GDP we have fallen to 37th on the global list of health outcomes. As we now understand, the fact that doctors do not learn anything about nutrition has something to do with this outcome. The currently proposed solutions to our healthcare crisis are counterproductive for making dysfunctional care cheaper makes the dysfunction worse, not better.
    Illich's frame of reference may seem "too Roman Catholic" for some, but once you adjust to that, and put his findings in your own words, you know that he has nailed the problem better than almost anybody has to this day.
  • E. Richard Brown, Rockefeller Medicine Men: Medicine and Capitalism in America, which is the perfect corollary to Ivan Illich's points.
  • Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. MD, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-based Cure.
  • Neal Barnard and Bryanna Clark Grogan, Dr. Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes: The Scientifically Proven Program for Reversing Diabetes without Drugs.
  • Dr. Joel Fuhrman, The End of Diabetes.
I could go on, but this is a blog post, not a book. The gist of it is that we are in a dysfunctional medical model, which is perfectly characterized by Illich with the words "expropriation of health." Recently, we seem to be regaining an understanding of the role of nutrition in health, as per the work of Campbell, Esselstyn, Barnard, Fuhrman, McDougall, Greger, Ornish and many other leaders in this field. 

The gist of it is the new sense of liberation that goes with the realization that the Whole Foods Plant-Based nutritional paradigm empowers us to take responsibility for our health in a major way. And, while it is definitely a transition that takes some effort, once you are used to it, it turns out it all is simplicity itself, you just eat mostly whole foods plant based nutrition, cooked or raw, and watch your SOS: No added Sugar, Oil or Salt. Staying within that paradigm, you can eat as much as you want since this diet burns more calories than it gives you, and you will automatically arrive at a homeostatic weight and a BMI below 25.

In short if the majority of the leading causes of death can be prevented or reversed with diet, the implication also is that the 3rd leading cause of death, iatrogernic illness, can also be massively reduced with the Whole Foods Plant-Based diet, because prevention over pills is the sound version of the old saw that an apple a day keeps the doctor away... we just need to add some kale, whole grains, and legumes to the list - an apple alone won't do.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Our first #WFPB/Suppers meeting at St. Helena

Today was our first #WFPB Suppers meeting at St Helena's

The idea of The Suppers Program is a communal meal preparation and meal, usually at someone's home, in which there is room for people's personal dietary needs, whatever they are. Our meeting in particular was focused mostly on learning more about the Whole Foods Plant-Based lifestyle. But some of us were selective because of their specific needs and none of that is a problem.

We had a group of 8 people, from eleven to seventy years of age and lots of fun was had by all.

The feedback was generally good and several people want to do it again, and the date will be announced soon on our Meetup site for this program.

The program was rich, for we wanted to emulate a whole day of living with a Whole Foods Plant-Based diet. Lots of people learned new things and folks were excited to discover different ways of preparing food they thought they knew and did not like but suddenly they liked it.

Note: Berries with breakfast are particularly emphasized, and 4-6 "fist sized" portions of green leafy vegetables during the day. It can be cooked kale, collard greens, swiss chard, spinach etc. or salads, but leafy greens are particularly beneficial for epithelial health. Dr. Robert Ostfeld tends to recommend "at least four" portions per day, but Dr. Esselstyn would recommend six.

Recipes: A Day of #WFPB food

For reference the recipes are provided here in order.


Note: We had Bob's Red Mill Steel Cut Oats.
We cooked some steel-cut oats, and added some finely shredded apple (with a mandolin), some blueberries, some cinnamon, and some raisins. Let it simmer a few more minutes till the apple gets soft and the raisins absorb some of the cooking liquid as well.
We served it topped with extra cinnamon and balsamic vinegar.

A side of cooked kale, dressed with balsamic vinegar.

Notice that the cooking water from kale or any vegetable can be used as is for e.g. cooking grains, or to create a more elaborate vegetable bouillon.


  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Green leaf lettuce
  • Some spinach leaves
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers in three colors (red, yellow, green)
  • some Chia seeds, some ground flax seed (good for those Omega-3's)
  • some cooked Quinoa (cooked in some home made vegetable bouillon, made of cooking water from kale with some Marmite or some Braggs Liquid Aminos
  • Jane Esselstyn's 3/2/1 dressing: 3 measures of balsamic vinegar, 2 measures of dijon mustard, and 1 measure of maple syrup.
  • some olives, some capers, some artichoke hearts in water.

Take Out: Collard Green Roti's

Take a boiled leaf of Collard Green and put a bit of hummus along the stem, add in some rice, add some vegetables, which can be boiled, or sometimes raw.
Today we used some grated carrots, some chopped scallions, some cilantro and parsley, a bit of kimchi. For our rice we used Lundberg's Sprouted Brown Basmati. Roll it up, and I prefer to roll it in a half sheet of paper towel and put it in a sandwhich bag, so I come prepared to every meal.
We also used some nutritional yeast for seasoning.

Oil-free hummus is easy to make. Leave out the tahini, use a little liquid from the can of chick peas, the juice of one lemon, 2 garlic cloves minced, and add a splash of Braggs liquid aminos. Obviously, you can make hummus with various spices, parsley, cilantro, jalapeno, pimento... as you wish the number of variations is endless. A Nutribullet or similar food processor makes it all easy as pie.


Note: We fudged it a little bit, but the meal plan for the dinner was Rice (Lundberg Sprouted Brown Basmati), with Lentil Stew, and Side dishes of cooked spinach, and Citrus Berry Salsa. In this case, we did not quite make the spinach.

Suppers Breakfast Challenge Lentil Stew
See the full recipe on the link above.

Suppers Citrus Berry Salsa
Again, see the full recipe at that link.

We forgot to make the spinach with the dinner, but it should be noted that generally the #WFPB recommendation is to have green leafy vegetables 4-6 times a day, so normally you would always have a salad with every meal or some green leafy vegetable as a side dish.

In all, with the massive amount of food we had, the bill was only $11.50 per person, good for an $3.50 refund and there were plenty of leftovers.

Interestingly, two of us go to Dr. Robert Ostfeld, the cardiologist at Montefiore who teaches this diet, but one other person had already heard about the diet from a friend in New Jersey, who in turn got it from their cardiologist.

WE had a visit from a journalism student from NYU, and we eagerly await her report as well.

Summary of #WFPB Principles:

The Whole Foods, Plant-Based lifestyle is a new nutritional paradigm, as defined by T. Colin Campbell in his book Whole, and based on the research that was published in The China Study. The principles are simplicity itself:
  • Eat only plant-based, whole foods (cooked or raw is fine)
  • Do not worry about proteins (protein deficiency does not exist if you follow this program). You need only 5-10% of calories from protein, and even plant-based many get closer to 15%. Overall, circa 10% of calories should come from protein and 10% from fat.
  • Do not use added oils or sugar, go light on salt or even oily fruit (avocado, nuts, coconut). Serious heart patient may have to avoid all oily fruits. 
  • The only supplement you ever need is B12, which nobody gets in sufficient quantity, usually one every other day is all you will need. All other supplements are good only for expensive urine, unless specifically medically indicated. The #WFPB lifestyle provides an abundance of nutrients, anti-oxidants, vitamins, and aside from B12, supplementation is moot.
  • Dieting does not exist in #WFPB. Dieting means tinkering within a dysfunctional nutritional paradigm. #WFPB provides whole nutrition automatically, so eat to your heart's content and you will revert to your optimal weight by default. Start eating garbage and the weight will come back. Of course there are exceptions like food allergies, or simply preferences, but within the paradigm there is no dieting, such as portion control, etc.
  • It is recommended you get some berries every day (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries) preferably with breakfast, work some chia seeds and or fresh-milled flax seed into salads, etc. for Omega-3s and 4-6 fist-sized portions of green leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach, swiss chard, etc. for epithelial health.
Bonus: here is the account of an FDNY firefighter on a plant-based diet:

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Chang-Li Power Breakfast with Natto

My regular #WFPB style breakfast is steel-cut oats with fruits, but every once in a while, I have a hankering for something that puts hair on your chest, and one of my faves is rice pilaf with natto.

For this recipe, I bought almost all ingredients at Chang-li, hence I named it after them.

- a cup of cooked Rice pilaf (GABA process if you can do it).
- some bean sprouts, some onion or scallion, a pimento, a jalapeno pepper and a clove of garlic.
- natto
- a 1/4 cup of vegetable bouillon (cooking water from kale, spinach, etc.)
- some home made gomasio (roasted sesame seeds ground, with some himalayan salt, and a bit of nutritional yeast)

Preparation is easy:
- I always cook rice/rice pilaf ahead for a few days.
- begin with frying the onions, pimento (sliced!) and jalapeno for 5 minutes dry, until they are just starting to brown, add in the garlic and let it go for another minute then add the vegetable bouillon and the bean sprouts.
- when the bean sprouts begin to soften add in the natto and seasoning (mustard and soy sauce are in the package)
- serve over rice pilaf
- season with gomasio to taste.

When you do it this way, you can use cold rice from the fridge for the heat from the veggies will provide enough heat so you can eat it instantly.

Mixture of onions, peppers, garlic and sprouts with natto

Natto in display case at Chang-Li
Here are some of the ingredients I used:

Natto, open

And here is some of the rice pilaf:
12 grain rice pilaf

Bean Sprouts
Pimentos at Neerob Bazaar
Pimentos and sprouts:

The gomasio seasoning is easy to make, just toast some sesame seeds (Chang-Li has a great selection of sesame seeds) in a frying pan till they start to pop (brown, not charred), grind them up and mix with some himalayan salt and nutritional yeast. You can save that in your fridge, it is a great all around low-sodium seasoning.

There you have it, folks... this is a beautiful power breakfast for the fall, that is sure to get your engines started.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Our Monthly #WFPB Supper for Sept 17

Well, vegans make mistakes too, so this time our monthly dinner became a bit of an improv, but it was great fun.
Besides Fr. David and myself there were two visitors from Manhattan. Through a comedy of errors we also had a dinner the night before, and the following recipe follows the best of both evenings. Khokon did the cooking on Monday, and the staff at Packsun did it on Tuesday.

We had a salad of lettuce, tomato, onions, garlic with lemon and lime juice, with salt and pepper.

And for dinner we had a simple dish of steamed cauliflower, with a sauté of green tomatoes, okra, string beans and onions and garlic, with turmeric, salt & pepper, served over a bed of sprouted brown basmati rice.

On both nights we sampled some WFPB rotis rolled in boiled Collard Green leaves instead of flour roti's (too oily!), inside oil-free spicy hummus, string beans, rice pilaf, some mushrooms roasted with rosemary, and some Kimchi. These were prepared by your tireless blogger based on what he learned at Plantstock 2017. It is a great idea for it is a form of portable #WFPB food you can take with you anywhere if you're at risk of having to eat commercial food. As I found out at Plantstock, the Brooklyn BP, Eric Adams, faithfully brings his own food to any and all occasions. Until the world catches on to what vegans do eat (at least if they follow #WFPB nutrition standards), instead of what they don't eat, it may be necessary to bring your own grub, and these vegetable rotis (or vegetable burritos if you will) are just the ticket. You can easily pack 2 or 3 in a lunch bag and you are good to go.

One important lesson is that 

All in all simple and delicious and we had a lovely conversation with two journalism students from NYU who were visiting.

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.