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The Healthiest Way to Eat

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Do you ever find yourself wondering what is the healthiest way to eat? I’ve pondered this question many times over the years.

At least until a few years ago. That’s when I read the book The China Study, which has become a sort of a manifesto for vegans today. In fact, many people who talk about vegan diets use this book as a resource.


Source: William J. Clinton Foundation


People are beginning to take notice. Consider for example President Bill Clinton. President Clinton spoke recently with journalist Willow Bay and told her that he is experimenting with a vegan diet. Although it sounds like he’s not completely sold on the concept, he told Bay, “I’m trying to be one of those experimenters.” He continued, “Since 1986, several hundred people who have tried essentially a plant-based diet, not ingesting any cholesterol from any source, have seen their bodies start to heal themselves — break up the arterial blockage, break up the calcium deposits around the heart. Eighty-two percent of the people who have done this have had this result, so I want to see if I can be one of them.”

The China Study was written by health researcher Dr. T. Colin Campbell about his research in rural China. His book makes connections between our diets and the diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer that plague so many people today. Campbell says, “I propose to do nothing less than redefine what we think of as good nutrition” and tells his readers, “You need to know the truth about food, and why eating the right way can save your life.”

In fact, The China Study goes straight for the jugular of the Standard American Diet: protein. So many people believe that protein is the holy grail of health. In fact, the most common response I hear after telling people I’m vegan is, “Where do you get your protein?” It can be maddening, especially after you read what Dr. Campbell says that he uncovered in his studies: “Children who ate the highest protein diets were the ones most likely to get liver cancer.” And it’s not just any protein that causes the problems; it’s animal-based proteins that are most problematic. Americans consume on average 70 grams of protein a day compared to the Chinese who consume only 7.1 grams per day.

Neal Barnard, MD, President of the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, said, “Everyone in the field of nutrition science stands on the shoulders of T. Colin Campbell, who is one of the giants in the field. This is one of the most important books about nutrition ever written — reading it may save your life.”

So what is the healthiest way to eat? A lot of trends may come and go, but I don’t think anyone can go wrong with a diet consisting of plenty of whole, plant-based foods. I have yet to read any studies indicating problems with broccoli, unless it’s not carefully washed.

And I have some good news for President Clinton. Eating a vegan diet can include a lot of exciting and flavorful foods. Welcome to the cholesterol-free club!

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About Marly McMillen

  • Irene Athena

    Wow, the ex-prez does look pretty good there.

  • Interesting article and I’d like to find out more. I’m sure we all eat a lot of stuff that is absolutely damaging to our bodies.

    Re: cholesterol: I think olive oil contains cholesterol. Is that OK for you, or are all types of it bad?

  • Irene – Maybe it must be that good vegan food he’s eating!

    Richard – it’s so easy to get into bad habits with our diets and I agree with you that we all end up eating stuff we shouldn’t. Each day is a new opportunity to eat healthy. There are lots of great resources for vegan recipes. I have some on my site too. My goal is to show that vegan food can be delicious! Check out the “Namely Food” category on my site at http://www.namelymarly.com

    Regarding olive oil and cholesterol. I did a little research and everything I’ve read indicates that olive oil does not contain cholesterol. Most cholesterol comes from animals – meat, eggs, dairy, etc. In fact, olive oil has been shown to help reduce levels of the “bad” cholesterol and increase the “good” cholesterol. Hope that helps!

    Wishing you both the very best! Marly

  • John Wilson

    It’s amazing to me that people ignore the obvious influence of diet and continue to consume bad foods. I suppose it’s the combined effect of Societal Norms (peer pressure) and blatantly manipulative advertising.

    Personally, I moved to vegetarian diet many years ago with occasional forays into pure vegan. More recently I improved that to gluten-free, which has made a big improvement in my health by eliminating joint pain, which started plaguing me 2 years ago when my knee suddenly became so painful, , without any warning, that I couldn’t walk. XRays showed perfect joints and the best that doctors could offer was palliatives like Celebrex and Ibuprofin or to replace the meniscus. But after watching some old-timers stagger up the hills with scars all over their legs from their knee operations I became desperate for a dietary solution and tried gluten-free.

    I supplemented the gluten-free diet with anti-oxidants like walnuts and blue berries.

    After one week gluten-free the knee pain was noticeably improved and every week it got better and better. After 3 months it is almost completely gone except for the occasional twinge (perhaps my quinhoa had a touch of wheat!).

    Not only that, but I never feel hungry (I eat for fuel and pleasure), I never get the bloated feeling that used to occasionally alarm me, I sleep better and I don’t fall asleep involuntarily. Also, my bowel movements have become very regular (no diarhea, ever) and I emit almost no gas.

    Of course, I know that this means I have Celiacs Disease, a low-level congenital intestinal problem, that didn’t really manifest itself prominently until the knee pain. All other symptoms were disregarded as unimportant.

    Part of the problem is that doctors don’t diagnose Celiacs. There’s some kind of test, but they never call fot it, so I had to find it myself.

    Of course, gluten-free means I eat NO bread, NO pasta, and (sob!) NO beer. But I snack freely on walnuts, cranerries, fresh snap peas, etc. I never eat processed foods (only buy produce, no cans, no boxes, no packages) and the few times I eat at a restaurant I have a simple salad.

    Peer pressure isn’t that hard to deal with when I tell people I’m gluten-free. Mostly they’re curious, especially during lunch break on a hike when I eat a few dates and nuts while others eat sandwiches.

    Celiac sufferers ignore the disease at their peril because they have radically higher probability of intestinal cancer.

  • John – thanks for sharing this great information. My aunt has celiac so I’ve been kind of curious about it ever since. That’s so interesting that it helped alleviate joint pain. I try to go light on gluten, but not 100%. Maybe someday. Let me know if you have a site or other resources.

  • Richard

    Marley, thanks for clearing that up: I knew that olive oil helped boost “good” cholesterol, so I assumed it actually contained cholesterol!

  • Amy

    It is a pretty interesting book. I think everyone should read it even if they don’t decide to become a vegan or a vegetarian. Dr. Campbell has some very good insights.

  • Nick

    Bill Clinton has heart problems.

  • Nick

    Vegans waste away because of nutritional deficiencies.

  • Julie

    The China Study does not talk about the absorption of protein and iron that lyou cannot get from a Vegan diet. I felt so tired following the China study vegan diet. I had to go back to eating meat. I wish they would have addressed this issue in the book. It is so confusing to find the right way to eat.

  • BigRonnieC

    I’ve been to rural China. No thanks!