NYS Certified Nutritionist

A Time to Give Thanks for Our Health

While today there is much turmoil and conflict, both in this country and around the world, Americans are about to enter the holiday season…a time for reflection, gathering with loved-ones, and giving thanks. Much of the emphasis, at this time of year, is on food…foods reflecting our national, and family cultures. We have an awareness we live in a land of abundance, but for some, in this country and abroad, there is scarcity of life-giving food.

In first world cultures, like ours, we have an alarming number of people suffering from “diseases of affluence,” according to Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Emeritus Professor at Cornell University. Obesity, caused by eating more calories than we need, and exercising inadequately, leads to Heart Disease [the leading cause of death in the US], and Type II Diabetes.

With exquisite timing, I just learned that Dr. Kim Williams, immediate past president of the American College of Cardiology, recently wrote that plant-based diets, “…have been shown to reduce the risk for Type II Diabetes, … and lower rates of stroke, hypertension [high blood pressure], obesity, heart attacks, and cardiac death.” He went on to write a plant-based diet reduces the risk of certain cancers, and a variety of inflammatory conditions. “We’ve got the science. The bigger challenge is overcoming the inertia, culture, habit, and widespread marketing of unhealthy foods.”

Dr. Williams concluded, “… evaluating the impact of plant-based nutrition, it clearly represents the single most important yet underutilized opportunity to reverse the pending obesity and diabetes-induced epidemic of morbidity and mortality [disease and death].”

With his admonition in mind, the Canadian Diabetes Association has recommended plant-based diets…”a regimen that encourages whole, plant-based foods and discourages meats, dairy products, and eggs, as well as all refined and processed foods.” This statement is revolutionary, and life-preserving.

With all this sage advice in the back of our minds, my holiday invitation to all is to observe the holidays with the words of nutrition writer Michael Pollan in mind. “Eat real food…not too much…mostly plants.”

Easing into this new approach to eating can begin with holiday meals that focus on a wide variety of delicious vegetable dishes, while shrinking the size of the animal protein portions. This would be the ideal way to honor the gift of life and improve our health, at this meaningful time of year.

Dateline: Town of Colonie, Albany County, New York’s Capital Region