By Dr. Carol Wentz Randaci, OMD, AP
With a healthy, plant-based diet, the human body is a self-healing machine.
As a culture, are people in the United States living longer lives than previous generations? Yes. But are those extra years statistically better when it comes to health? No.
The United States ranks 26th among OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries with an average life expectancy of 79 years, while Japan leads the world at 84 years. Almost all western European countries, along with Australia, Canada, Chile and Iceland, have longer life expectancy than the United States.
What is it about the other 25 countries and their cultures that supports health into later years? It’s mostly a diet based on whole foods and herbal medicine. There is a saying in Japanese culture hara hachi bu that means “stop eating when you are eight-tenths full.” It takes around 20 minutes for the brain to process the information coming from the stomach; if you continue to eat until you feel full, you will most likely overeat. In conjunction with not overeating, what these cultures eat creates health instead of inflammation and illness, which are hallmarks of the U.S. diet. The top foods eaten in countries with better health and longer life expectancy than the United States are green, yellow and red vegetables, fruits, tofu, seaweed, mushrooms, nuts, grains, legumes, herbal teas and botanical medicine. All these foods are low in saturated fats and sugars and rich in vitamins and minerals that reduce the risk of cancers and heart disease.
The average Japanese diet, for example, contains nearly five times the amount of cabbage varieties compared to Western dishes. When I worked for Rodale Organic Research Station in Pennsylvania, we ran experiments with all types of new (to us) cruciferous varieties from Japan that were then introduced into the American farming culture to increase and diversify brassica selections including broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprout, radishes, turnips, and all types of bok choy. They all offered health benefits. The entire cabbage family offers excellent sources of dietary fiber containing high levels of vitamins A, C, and E, as well as calcium and iron.
Tofu, which is made from soybean curds, is a main staple in healthy diets around the world. It is gluten-free, very low in calories, and an excellent source of easy-to-digest protein packed with an impressive array of nutrients. Tofu, which also lowers cholesterol and improves cardiovascular health, contains all nine essential amino acids our bodies need.
Let’s also look at mushrooms: They are superfoods, very low in calories, with no cholesterol, high fiber, protein, antioxidants, minerals, vitamin B3 and vitamin B6. They lower the risk of developing serious health conditions such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Diet is Key
According to The Global Burden of Disease Study, a comprehensive regional and global research program that assesses mortality and disability from major diseases, injuries, and risk factors from 145 countries, most U.S. deaths are related to nutrition—and they are preventable. The No. 1 cause of death, disability, and increased risk of chronic health conditions such as neuropathy or loss of mobility, is your diet. In fact, the U.S. diet has replaced lung cancer as the leading cause of chronic illness and death in the country; smoking kills one-half million Americans every year, but the U.S. diet kills hundreds of thousands more.
The American Heart Association estimates that 46 percent of U.S. adults have hypertension and, on average, someone dies of cardiovascular disease every 38 seconds. If it is so prevalent, why don’t we have better guidance with diet? Perhaps it is not a priority among medical and political establishments that get a huge amount of funding through lobbyist groups like the Meat Association, American Meat Institute, the National Meat Association, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Dairy Council and the National Chicken Council?
Most primary care physicians, who lack the data-based information about what a true healthy diet looks like, only have seven to 22 minutes to spend with each patient. How much of that time is spent on prevention through diet? Ten seconds talking about nutrition. Ten seconds! And yet the combination of dietary risks we face are linked to 41 diseases, says Dr. Christine Gerbstadt, a staff physician at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD. And some of the most common diseases are preventable: obesity or hiatal hernia; common stomach problems; varicose veins and hemorrhoids; two of the most common venous problems; colorectal cancer, a leading cause of cancer-related death; diverticulitis, the No. 1 disease of the intestines; appendicitis, the No. 1 cause of emergency abdominal surgery; gallbladder disease, the No. 1 cause of nonemergency abdominal surgery; as well as ischemic heart disease, the most common cause of death in the United States.
These health conditions are a rarity among plant-based diet populations. Is this suggesting heart disease and most chronic diseases may be a choice? Absolutely! But how could that be so? It’s because of the addictive nature of sugar, fat and other chemicals in our food, along with the pleasure people have programmed themselves to derive from eating this “junk food.” The acquired taste is outweighing the cost and discomfort of the chronic disease caused by eating them.
It is well documented that coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis, and hardening of the arteries begins in the United States by age 10. The arteries of nearly all children raised on the standard American diet already have the first stage of this disease. But it doesn’t stop there. Plaque continues to build into the 20s then 30s with the consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs. But it is possible to reverse heart disease, not just prevent further degradation. As one example, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn of the Cleveland Clinic took people with heart disease so severe the medical industry had given up on hopes of recovery and put them on a very strict plant-based diet. He found it not only stopped further damage but reversed the damage already present. As soon as patients stopped eating an artery-clogging diet, their arteries started opening up. Their bodies started dissolving some of the plaque. Even in cases of severe triple vessel heart disease, after just three weeks on a vegan diet, or whole food plant based diet, their arteries opened up without drugs, without surgery—providing evidence that the body wanted to and was ready to heal all along. The best kept secret that most doctors do not talk about is that—given the right conditions—your body can heal itself.
Dr. Carol Wentz Randaci is the director of the Vegan Culinary Institute in Sarasota, FL, a board certified Oriental Medicine Doctor and Acupuncture Physician, Energy Therapist, Naturopath and Hopeful Human. Dr. Carol has trained with alternative medicine’s finest physicians and has practiced Raja Yoga meditation under the guidance of Ram Chanrda, Babuji Maharaja for 36 years. You can reach Dr. Carol at AiZen Healing Center by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 941.284.8894.