Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Vegan Diet - My 28-Day Challenge

I've been talking about this on Facebook recently and am getting lots of questions, some concerns, and a ton of comments both for and against a totally vegan diet.

Instead of trying to keep up with multiple conversation threads on Facebook, and sending out individual emails answering the same questions over and over, I realized I should be posting to my blog so everyone who wants to, can follow along and see how things go.  Not to mention it will be a great way for me to really document this little journey and what I discover from it.

So, on Day Two, here goes!

The #1 Question - Why?

First, let me say I've been surprised to find that the subject of whether or not to eat animals is very nearly as emotional an issue as abortion or gay marriage! My own viewpoint has always been that animals are here on the earth for use (in healthy moderation) by mankind and, while I do totally object to any inhumane method of raising and butchering livestock (yes, I've read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, and it's horrifying), I have no moral issues about eating animals.  A line I still won't cross, though, is eating lamb or veal because I have an emotional objection to eating baby animals, and I consider the way veal is typically raised to be very cruel.

The reason I'm taking this challenge is for my own health. 

I'm 5'6" (purt near anyway), 136 lbs. and I have high cholesterol.

I know!  I was shocked, too, when my doctor told me a few years ago.  I always assumed that if I managed to keep my weight down and exercised regularly there was no way cholesterol would be a problem for me.  Wrong.  As it turns out cholesterol is manufactured by our own bodies, and how much our bodies create varies widely from person to person, and is hereditary.  Apparently, like my mom's, my body is highly proficient at mass-producing cholesterol.  So, for someone like me, it is important NOT to consume additional cholesterol because that's when the numbers shoot up to the danger levels.

Guess what?  Plant-based foods have NO cholesterol.  At all.  Ever.  Anywhere.


At the same time that I was considering how to change my diet to reduce my cholesterol, one of my moms mentioned on Facebook that she was reading "The China Study," by T. Colin Champbell, PhD, and that she was learning a lot about the adverse health effects of the average American diet.  I decided to get the book and see if I could learn anything useful. That very same week I happened to catch a portion of The Dr. Oz Show. One of his guests that day was Rocco, a cowboy who had been on the verge of literally eating himself to death.  A month ago Dr. Oz challenged Rocco with a 28-day vegan diet.  Now Rocco was back to report how he'd done and to find out the results of a post-28-day diet round of blood work. 

Not surprisingly, his cholesterol was greatly improved and, according to Dr. Oz, would continue to improve if Rocco stuck to his new healthy way of eating.

Shortly after watching the show I cracked open "The China Study" and, just be an amazing coincidence turned directly to page 231 and read:

"By definition, for a food chemical to be an essential nutrient, it must meet two requirements:

* the chemical is necessary for healthy human functioning
* the chemical must be something our bodies cannot make on their own, and therefore must be obtained from an outside source

One example of a chemical that is not essential is cholesterol, a component of animal-based food that is nonexistent in plant-based food.  While cholesterol is essential for health, our bodies can make all that we required; so we do not need to consume any in food."

And, for some us us, it's adverse to our health to consume cholesterol in food.

So that's the why of my new diet.  At the end of the 28 days I'll have my cholesterol checked again and see if there's improvement, and how much improvement. 

"I could never give up meat!"   I'm getting this comment a lot.  I don't think I'll have too much problem with that.  Mike and I have already been veering away from a diet heavy in meat, and for a few years now I've been tending toward mostly chicken, ground turkey, and the occasional steak.  I seldom eat bacon or sausage, and I'm really not a huge fan of fish.  I love tuna fish but a tuna sandwich always gives me a stomach-ache (I don't know why).  Several years ago when I was first diagnosed with high cholesterol I decided to give almost totally give up mayonnaise and butter.  I say almost because I do eat both occasionally, but I'm quite used to not putting butter on cooked vegetables, or mayonnaise on a sandwich.  I LOVE ice cream but, like tuna, I usually get a stomache-ache if I eat it (is that my body trying to tell me something)?

I think what I'm going to miss the most is MILK.  All my life I have had a glass of milk with dinner.  Soy milk just doesn't cut it.  Last night I ended up having a half a glass of soy milk and a glass of water with dinner.  I really, really missed that milk - oh, and so did my cat, Scout, since she usually helps herself to a bit straight out of my glass. 

I guess we're both going to have to adjust!

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