To Your Health explores the health benefits and fun of plant-based eating. Food is the best medicine, according to Julieanna Hever, The Plant-Based Dietician: “I want the world to know that you can be healthy and it’s so easy.”
Hever’s energy and enthusiasm is compelling as she interviews whole food, plant-based nutrition icons. She also visits a farmer’s market, meets with restaurant owners, and tours a farm animal sanctuary.
To Your Health is now available at their website. Jesse Pomeroy directs.
Walking her talk
Fascinated by food, Hever (The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition) tried every diet until she began “eating close to nature.”
Many of the doctors interviewed, including Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. (Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease), have helped patients stop and reverse heart disease, cancer, diabetes, lupus and other diseases by adopting plant-based nutrition.
The protein myth
How do vegetarians get enough protein? The human body requires about 2.5% of its calories from protein, according to Dr. Pam Popper, Naturopath and founder of The Wellness Forum. “The average person in the U.S. consumes 18% of their calories from protein.”
“Americans have been taking in too much protein,” says Dr. Joel Furman (Eat to Live). Studies demonstrate that animal protein promotes heart disease and cancer, he says. Plant-based eating gives our bodies the right amount of protein.
The protein in plant food is enough, says Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study and hailed as the father of modern nutrition. Plant proteins yield “maybe thousands of antioxidants” and other nutrients.
Strawberries contain 700 nutrients, and broccoli contains 900 nutrients, says Fuhrman. “In other words we need what nature put in real food.” “Nature’s had a few million years to fashion who we are,” Campbell notes.
Corporate food sets agenda
“The information that people get about nutrition is influenced by economic forces that run this country,” Fuhrman says. For example, The American Dietetic Association receives funding from the dairy industry.
“The food pyramid that was supplied by the meat and dairy industry free to schools. . . . It looks like it’s fact, but it’s fantasy,” says Mike Anderson, director of Eating and author of The RAVE Diet and Lifestyle. “The misinformation out there is just, just huge,” he adds.
The calcium-veg connection
Milk is the “worst thing” for our bones, Hever tells an audience. Why? Dairy is high in protein and sodium, and has an acidotic effect on the body. These properties actually leach calcium out of bones, she says.
Popper explains that with high acid-load foods, “the skeleton dissolves itself to neutralize the acidity.” She notes that “the more milk you drink the more fractures you get, the more calcium you leach.”
Hever lists the best plant sources of calcium: leafy green vegetables like kale and cabbage; broccoli; unhulled sesame seeds; tofu (when set in calcium), and blackstrap molasses.
Supplements: pro and con
Thirty years of research proves that nutrient supplements provide only short-term benefits, says Campbell. “They don’t work,” he concludes. Pricey supplements are often unnecessary, Hever suggests.
A supplement is “an isolated, concentrated nutrient” that will create imbalances, says McDougall. Some supplements can increase the risk of heart disease, cancer and death, he adds.
Hever confirms with several experts that vegetarians do need to take Vitamins D and B12. McDougall admits that Vitamin C, iron and iodine can benefit patients when needed.
Food addictions: the “pleasure trap”
Food manufacturers add chemicals to food to make us crave more and more, says Dr. Alan Goldhamer (The Health Promoting Cookbook). Oil, sugar and salt enhance our perception of pleasure. “People literally become trapped by pleasure when they artificially stimulate dopamine in the brain rather than naturally stimulate it,” he says. “The result is we become fat, sick and miserable.”
Food industry spoils
Some $14 billion in direct subsidies, and more indirect subsidies, go to the U.S. meat and dairy industries every year. This has made us “a nation of sickly, obese and diseased people,” Anderson declares.
“When you’re buying butter and cheese and milk, our tax dollar has been spent to make those products less expensive compared to fruits and vegetables,” he says.
“So that makes a pound of hamburger much cheaper than a pound of raspberries, and that’s nuts because hamburger’s one of the most resource-intensive foods on the planet. It’s very expensive to make,” Anderson notes.
“What you have in the food industry is the closest thing to socialism in this country because they are interfering,” he adds.
Four new food groups emerge
Educating ourselves is important, say plant-based nutrition proponents. It’s time to embrace four new food groups – vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes – says Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine.
“I think dieticians and physicians are on the verge of changing,” says McDougall. “Otherwise they’re going to become extinct.”
“There’s nothing in medicine, not even close, that has the same power to make people well as does nutrition,” Campbell emphasizes.
If you like To Your Health, you might enjoy: Forks Over Knives.
To Your Health / 2011 / NR / 49 min
Cast Overview: Julieanna Hever, T. Colin Campbell, Joel Fuhrman, John McDougall, Pam Popper, Neil Barnard, Caldwell Esselstyn, Mike Anderson, Brendan Brazier, Chef AJ, Kevin Boylan
Director: Jesse Pomeroy
Genres: Documentary, Health, Nutrition, Vegan