10 November 2011 ~ 5 Comments

The Whiter the Bread, the Sooner You’re Dead

When I was growing up, my mother and many of her sisters (she came from a family of 15 siblings), espoused a good diet to increase one’s health and/or to increase your lifespan (several of them published books on this topic). They had a slogan, which I’ll never forget, which is “The Whiter the Bread, the Sooner You’re Dead.” I was brought up on homemade apple sauce and whole wheat bread. Wonder bread was a big no-no in our home.

Although I’m nearly 60 years old, and despite participation in many cardio-intensive endurance sports, I still have a moderately high cholesterol (total of 246 in the summer of 2011), which is most likely is due to my “bad genes.” I take 10mg of Simivistian (sp?) daily to bring it down below 200.

In September a CNN special ran that REALLY got my attention. Featured on the show was Dr. Cardwell Esselstyn. Since then I have purchased and read three compelling books on this topic, written by him, his son and another colleague. They are The China Study (recommended by my brother Karl), The Engine 2 Diet and Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.

Essentially they preach that much of the western world is dying from “Diseases of Affluence” like cancer, diabetes and coronary heart disease (a diet which is loaded with dairy, meat, refined or packaged foods). On the other hand, those living in less developed countries are dying of “Diseases of Poverty” which includes pneumonia, pulmonary tuberculosis, rheumatic heart disease, diseases of pregnancy etc. (diseases which we have all but eliminated in the West). The diseases of affluence are almost unheard of in many of these less developed countries. Their diets, especially in rural China, where this study took place, are a stark contrast to ours. It includes raw foods, beans, veggies, whole grains with minimal meat or poultry. (See the book The China Study, p. 75-76 for more detail). This book says “Here in America, we are affluent, and we die certain deaths because of it. We eat like feasting kings and queens every day of the week, and it kills us” (p. 109). These authors claim that a vegan diet may reverse many types of heart disease and lower your cholesterol. The goal is to bring one’s total cholesterol below 150 (according to most US physicians, anything under 200 is considered OK) and LDL or bad cholesterol below 80.

Since then I have made some household changes in my diet. I have dumped nearly all dairy from my diet and have cut my meat intake to maybe once a week. I have increased my veggie intake a lot and have made an attempt to reduce my tendency to inhale sugar (ice cream and chocolate are my shortcomings). So far, I eat more often (grazing) and I even have evening snacks so I never go to bed hungry, yet I’m still maintaining a decent body weight. (Previously, while on my diary-rich diet, I would try to not eat much of anything after 8 p.m. in an effort to keep my weight down). The purpose of this radical diet change is NOT to lose weight, but rather to bring down my cholesterol, reduce any possibility of heart disease and possibly increase my VO2 Max (my ability to use oxygen during athletic events).

I plan to get my blood retested next spring to see if these plans works. Stay tuned. May 2012 Update: After about 90 days on a fairly strict vegan diet, my total cholesterol dropped 2-3 points. Disappointing — I’ll test it again later this fall perhaps.

Here is a note I posted on a recent family blog about the topic of healthy food and a vegan diet. “CONVENIENCE: We are a society of convenience and speed. We have fiber optic internet, G4 phones, 75 MPH speed limits, 8 frames-a-second cameras, ultralight bicycles that go faster, faster dual or quad-core CPUs and yes, super-convenient food. I’m not talking the typical drive up “fast food,” but packaged food at the local grocery store. As I taught & demonstrated to a scout youth group last week: a fresh orange is better than a Fruit Rollup. A whole grain sandwich with PB and honey is better than a pop tart etc. BUT real food is messy and requires preparation. We are too hurried to pause and prepare the real McCoy. Pay someone else to prepare it and stick it in box. It goes beyond vitamins as real foods have cleansing properties that, according to many sources, reduce the probility of many “Western” diseases.”

5 Responses to “The Whiter the Bread, the Sooner You’re Dead”

  1. Richard 10 November 2011 at 12:27 pm Permalink

    Below is an excerpt from an e-mail I received on this topic from my son’s mother-in-law, who is a certified nutritionist.

    Yes, I have done the veg. and vegan thing. I did feel great on it but here is some of my thoughts……..I do wonder if these diets are the natural way of our bodies because there is some nutrients that are difficult to get with out some meat and/or dairy, the biggest concern would be B-12. B-12 is very essential and yet is not provided in any plant form. (if you are getting this in your brewers yeast it is a added supplement). So this kind of tells me the plan before this world began is that we would be eating at least some meat or animal products. If you are mindful of your diet a vegetarian can obtain a balance of B-12 and some of the other hard to get nutrients that a vegan can not get through eggs, greens and dairy. And then of course you can get these through supplements but I believe that we should get as much as we can from real and whole foods because we as a people are smart but we still do not know all nutrients and their functions so the more we can get from whole foods the better we are.

    Another thought as to what our bodies were designed to do…….I believe we were, of course, meant to eat lots of veggies moderate amounts of grain with small amounts of fruit. We were also designed to eat small amounts of meat, with the smaller animals being the easiest for our body to up take the nutrition from, such as eggs then fish then poultry and moving up the scale of animal size. So beef, buffalo and elephant should be an occasional thing. (Just a side note, the larger the animal the harder your liver has to work to clean and process the meat for your use which translates into lost body energy or worse if your liver is not up to the task the toxins just go to whatever your week point is) Same with their products…… a cow’s milk was designed for a 50-60 pound baby that grows to be 1000 pounds. Goat and sheep milk on the other hand was designed for a baby closer human baby size with their full adult weight being between 150-200 pounds. Themolecules in goats milk is 44 times smaller than cows milk to accommodate these differences. The reason I bring up these facts is that when someone talks about going without dairy for health reasons I think they are on the right track if they are thinking that dairy is just cows. People who switch to goat dairy products notice major differences in their digestion and assimilation of nutrients because it mirrors human milk much closer.

    One more thought…..as a vegetarian you need to be much more aware of your intake. Don’t become a grainatain or even worse is to substitute a large percentage of your dairy or meat with soy products. A little is good but a lot is dangerous especially for men. So with that in mind your proteins need to come from nuts, beans, and greens. And/or if your doing eggs, they are a great source of a perfect protein. When you are training hard protein is a very important nutrient to keep track of and especially as a vegetarian.

    Now about your flaxseed…..flaxseed does have impart the same capabilities of fish oil but your body has to do a few extra steps to bring it to that point which is fine but you also have to know that it has some properties that in abundance is bad for your body(liver). This is not a problem as long as you keep your intake under 4 Tablespoons a day. Which by time your body does the conversion is bearly enough for your omega 3 needs. You could supplement with flaxseed oil but it is not a whole food so it would be inferior to taking the whole seed ground.

  2. David Meridith 10 November 2011 at 12:41 pm Permalink

    I have been eating some chia seeds lately, too. You might want to do some research into them.

  3. Micaela Webb 10 November 2011 at 2:46 pm Permalink

    Richard, I like your blog. Here are two good blogs I like to learn things from. Also, if you are in a reading mood, I highly recommend “In Defense of Food” and “Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan. I have both books. If you are interested, I’ll send them your way via Rosie some time.
    Here are the blogs.
    http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/
    http://www.wordofwisdomliving.com/
    We have not gone completely meatless, but we have reduced our intake by quite a bit. We have however been cutting out sugar (my phobia of diabetes) and refined carbs. I have lost 27 pounds this year and am signed up for the SLC Half Marathon. It has been amazing to see how much better I feel now, then I did as an undernourished 20-something year old.
    My girlfriend does a natural yeast/whole grain bread blog: http://thebreadgeek.blogspot.com/
    I also like this site: http://nourishedkitchen.com/soaking-grains-nuts-legumes/

  4. Alan Schietzsch 10 November 2011 at 5:59 pm Permalink

    Also worth looking at are the Paleo and Hyperlipid nutritional approaches. They consider evolutionary biology, and what humans are ‘meant/adapted’ to eat based on our biology and history.
    Bottom line is that if our bodies are used to burning fat, they’ll burn it, as sugars and carbs are not very available. The body uses up cholesterol, instead of having a surplus. Intriguing biochemistry at http://high-fat-nutrition.blogspot.com/

  5. David Meridith 15 November 2011 at 4:36 pm Permalink

    I would add to the reading list “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver.