Several years ago, after a rather unsettling visit with my doctor, I made a personal resolution to improve my health. I always thought I was healthy; after all, my college education was paid for by an athletic scholarship. I had a mid-life crisis and decided to quit my job and attend culinary school because cooking had always been my passion. What I didn’t realize is that my health was slipping away. As confirmed by my doctor, I had hypertension, my cholesterol was out of control, and my blood sugars were approaching pre-diabetes levels. Based on my Body Mass Index, I was almost obese, how could that be? I was an athlete!
Surveys and studies show that around 40 percent of us make New Year’s resolutions, and of those who make a resolution, roughly 20 percent are successful at keeping their resolutions [1, 2]. According to Statistic Brain , 34 percent of New Year’s resolutions are related to health and fitness, with an additional 12.3 percent related to self-improvement.
Following my doctor visit, I began to learn how I could control my health issues without medication. I became a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, and I started learning how to cook and eat healthier. I have not forgotten about the great food I learned to cook in Italy and France, I just learned out how to make it healthier. Within three months, my weight was in the healthy range again, my blood pressure was better than normal, my cholesterol was lower than it had ever been, and there were no longer concerns with my blood sugar. My success has stayed with me, and I owe it all to a diet that is based on whole plant foods.
The New Year has arrived, but I believe it is important to understand that a resolution can be made at any time of year, and at any point in your life. I hope you are keeping the resolutions you have already made, but it isn’t too late to make a resolution to improve your health and the health of those for whom you care and love. If you are interested in making a commitment to yourself regarding health, I would like to offer the following information for consideration.
If you have not yet heard the term “Plant-Based, Whole Food Nutrition”, make a simple resolution to learn and understand how nutrition can affect your overall health. Studies show that moving toward a plant-based, whole food diet has many health benefits, including improved cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, cardiovascular health, hypertension, and reducing the risk of certain cancers. The American Cancer Society has a list of known cancer causing agents on their website, and if you are not already aware, the consumption of processed meats (bacon, deli meats, etc.) is considered a Group 1 Carcinogen alongside things like tobacco smoke, asbestos, and plutonium, meaning they are known to cause cancer.
Eating plant-based whole foods is about your health more than anything else. I would like to point out that there is a big difference between being “Vegan” and eating a plant-based whole food diet. In my opinion, the term vegan is not related to nutrition and does not equate to eating healthy. Items such as French fries, potato chips, and the crescent rolls you get in the tube at the grocery store are vegan, but by no means are they healthy.
Including whole foods that are plant-based does not mean eating salad for every meal, but it does mean reducing or eliminating meats and processed foods. People often tell me they eat chicken instead of beef because it is healthier, but is it really? According to the USDA Nutrient Database Standard Reference, a 3.5 ounce chicken breast contains 85 mg cholesterol while a 3.5 ounce sirloin steak contains 88 mg cholesterol. What most people don’t know is that our bodies make all of the cholesterol we need, so there is no need to consume cholesterol in your diet.
Many people that are considering a whole food diet are concerned about protein. Marketing campaigns created by so-called “healthy food” companies have created the idea that Americans need more protein, when in reality many Americans eat too much protein . There can be plenty of protein in a diet that does not include animal products; it only requires a simple understanding of the food you eat. The average American needs around 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, which is roughly 64 grams of protein for a 175 pound male, and 47 grams for a 130 pound female.
There are countless articles on how to keep your resolutions by writing them down, making them specific and realistic, measuring your success on a regular basis, and so on. I am not going to reiterate those articles, but I will ask that you take time for yourself and make a commitment to your health. Whether you start today or sometime this year, I suggest resolving to eat more whole foods while eliminating processed foods as much as possible. Start simple by replacing the bacon and eggs or fast food breakfasts with oatmeal and fresh fruit. Try eliminating animal products two days each week for the next month, then progress to even more meat-free days. Take the time to learn the health benefits of nutrition, you will be amazed at how it can change your life and your health. Trust me, I know from experience!