I attended an event last night to listen to Dr. Michael Greger speak about his book and the endless research he’s pored over proving that nutrition has a major impact on our health. It was a full house! Dr. Greger highlighted how our diets can either increase or decrease our risk from the leading causes of death in Canada: Cancer, Type 2 Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Heart Disease, among others. Being a holistic nutrition student, this was not shocking. It seems pretty common sense to me that what you eat has an impact on your health and well-being.
What was somewhat shocking was his main takeaway and overall recommendation: EVERYONE should be eating a plant-based, whole foods diet, while eliminating all meats, dairy and eggs. This is what came out of the multiple studies he highlighted in his presentation. This was a bit shocking to me mainly because in my nutrition program, we learn that everyone is biochemically individual and, as such, there is no one cookie-cutter diet that will suit everyone’s needs. We are all different, in our genetic makeup, dietary restrictions, cultural backgrounds… I could go on and on. So then, wouldn’t it make sense that our nutritional needs would vary? I agree that plants and whole foods should make up the bulk of the diet. I agree that meats should be eaten in moderation and should consist mainly of free range, grass-fed lean meats (not that I don’t enjoy a big juicy steak or pork chop). I agree that dairy is not suitable for everyone, and that too much of it can often be not such a good thing. But eggs? Come on. Eggs are delicious and SO nutritious. Dr. Greger seemed to also have a very all-or-nothing attitude about the whole thing. Personally, I believe in moderation, enjoying the foods that you eat, and in making small, sustainable changes.
Despite some things that I disagreed with, I must say that I admire Dr. Greger’s dedication to educating the public about nutrition and health. He is an excellent speaker and his passion was evident right from the start. He runs a non-profit website called NutritionFacts.org that puts nutrition research into layman’s terms and is chock-full of valuable information. In addition, all proceeds from the sale of his book How Not To Die go right back into the maintenance of the site. This one’s definitely on my reading list. My personal favourite is Dr. Greger’s app, the Daily Dozen. The app helps you track your intake of all plants and whole foods throughout your day. I like the simplicity and ease of use. I also really like tracking things, so there’s that. The image to the right shows a screen shot of the app, but what you can’t see is that whole grains, water and exercise are also included.
At the end of his presentation, Dr. Greger guided us through a thought experiment. He showed image after image of cigarette ads and promotions from 1920s – 1960s touting the MIRACULOUS health benefits of smoking. Yes, smoking! If you haven’t seen some of these insane ads, go to Google right now and type in smoking ads 1950s and the first image that pops up is of a DOCTOR smoking a cigarette. How did this relate to nutrition you may be wondering. He was demonstrating that up until the mid-1960s (when the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health was released) smoking was not only considered normal, it was encouraged! Politicians, celebrities, athletes and yes, even doctors, were promoting and encouraging the use of cigarettes. He was making the point that although the “Standard American Diet” of high fat, high sugar, deep-fried, processed foods is considered “normal” in today’s society, eventually the medical industry and the rest of the world will wake up to the fact that what we put into our bodies is ultimately taking a major toll on our health as a nation.
Today’s Reflection: How can I incorporate more plants and whole foods into my diet?