Get Well Wednesday: Dr. Contessa Metcalfe And Plant-Based Diets

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(Photo by: Mark Hill/Bravo)

WHAT IS A PLANT BASED DIET?  

A whole-food, plant-based diet is centered on whole, unrefined, or minimally refined plants.  It’s a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes; and it excludes or minimizes meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products, and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A PLANT BASED DIET?

Research over the last four decades  in China and Cornell or at the Cleveland Clinic; eat to prevent chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease (while helping the planet)? Or maybe you are suffering already from an autoimmune condition, obesity, or other health problems and want to get started on a plant-based diet to reverse or improve your condition.

WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF GOOD PLANT BASED MEALS?

Google “Plant-based diet” and thousands of meal options will amaze, inspire and enlighten you.  Your palate will be tantalized by meals you see on Pinterest.  Butternut squash lasagna, Chickpea nuggets for kids, Sun Dried Tomato and Asparagus Dip, Jackfruit tacos, Avocado and bean burritos, lemon bars is made with a fluffy sweet potato filling that sets over a layer of ‘hidden’ fresh berries.

It also traces the journey of several Americans as they move from a lifetime of eating mostly animal-based and processed foods to a whole food plant-based diet, and the extraordinary medical results that follow.

IS THERE A PLACE THAT PEOPLE CAN VISIT FOR PLANT-BASED RECIPES? 

Forks Over Knives website – they have meal plans, etc.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PLANT BASED DIET AND BEING A VEGETARIAN? My husband teases me all the time -says he’s going to write a book called “The Unhealthy Vegetarian” -REFINED SUGAR IS THE DEVIL.  Leads to inflammation, etc.  Most vegetarians just don’t eat foods derived from meat sources.  Some are pescatarians (eat fish) .  However, eating processed foods, candy, sweets, sugary desserts, soda, juices, white flour pasta, etc can still be vegetarian, but these foods, although they are allowed on a vegetarian diet,  are not providing the  health benefits of a plant-based diet.

HOW IMPORTANT IS FOOD TO OUR HEALTH?

Say it with me…”FOOD IS MEDICINE” -What you put in your body is what determines HOW YOUR BODY WILL BEHAVE.  Nutrients from foods fuel us, and some can even block diseases. 

Dr. Contessa answers your questions on the next page.

How do u eat a plant based diet when u r on Coumadin? (a blood-clot prevention drug)

Avoid eating LARGE amounts of foods rich in Vitamin K which include:

• Kale

• Spinach.

• Brussels sprouts.

• Parsley.

• Collard greens.

• Mustard greens.

• Chard.

• Green tea.

Can you eat frozen fruits and veggies on a plant-based diet?

Absolutely. Fresh is best, but frozen is a fine. Keep it simple!

What would a typical day (meal) consist of?

Redesign your plate. Fill at least half of your plate with produce, grains, or beans, and downsize your meat serving. Think of a stir-fry heavy on the veggies and grains with thinly sliced strips of beef rather than a big steak with a spear of broccoli. Swap in chopped mushrooms or tofu for half of the ground meat you’d normally use in meatloaf, tacos, chili, or pasta sauce. Or try veggie-based dishes like burritos. Simply a diet based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.

A Day on a Plant-Based Diet

Breakfast:

Oatmeal with Soy Milk, Raisins, and Walnuts.

Lunch:

Chilled Soba with Tofu and Sugar Snap Peas with an apple.

Dinner:

Quinoa with Grilled Zucchini, Garbanzo Beans, and Cumin.

Citrus-Glazed Carrots.

-Another example-

Breakfast Avocado toast: 2 slices whole-grain bread, mashed avocado, red-pepper flakes, sea salt; coffee with coconut-milk creamer.

Lunch Quinoa tabbouleh with chickpeas: Cooked quinoa, chopped tomatoes, chopped cucumber, chopped parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, black olives, garbanzo beans.

Snack 1 fruit-and-nuts bar (200 or fewer calories), such as Kind Plus Cranberry Almond, which earned top scores in Consumer Reports’ snack bar tests.

Dinner Black-bean tacos: Corn tortillas, black beans, roasted cauliflower, jarred corn salsa, pico de gallo, cumin, salad greens.

Dessert Frozen banana “ice cream:” Blend a frozen banana in a blender with a touch of almond milk until it resembles soft serve, topped with chopped walnuts.

I would like to start the plant based diet, Dr. Contessa!

You are going to love it! Remember: FOOD IS MEDICINE so get ready for your life to change for the better!

Those who make plant foods the star of their diet, with meat, fish, dairy, and eggs playing a supporting role—are healthier than frequent meat eaters in categories such as colon cancer and heart disease risk, and overall mortality.

Can you build muscle on a plant-based diet?

Great question! Absolutely, because you are losing fat and accentuating the lean muscle. Your muscles need nutrients to work efficiently as well, which one does not get from processed foods. There is a misconception that the only way to build muscle is to ONLY eat protein rich foods.

This is not true. However, if this is a question about plant-based proteins, consider the following: 11 plant-based proteins include natto, spirulina, tempeh, nutritional yeast, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, amaranth, quinoa, black beans, green peas and lentils. … You can also try some of the best plant-based protein powders to supplement your protein intake, such as hemp, brown rice and peas.

Remember, you can eat everything else in MODERATION, but re-design your plate to minimize meat and maximize whole fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.

How do you know what to eat  – is there a book or website and what about frozen veggies?

Start with http://www.myplantbasedfamily.com/recipes/ and http://www.plantbasedcooking.com but there are too many to mention! Google “Plant-based diet recipes” and let the exploration begin!

Frozen are fine—KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Is is OK  to drink smoothies everyday (made with spinach and or kale and other fruits and vegetables)?

ABSOLUTELY!

What’s your opinion on the allergies people acquire after being on a plant-based diet after 5-10 years? 

Plant-based is the way humans should eat to avoid end organ damage and to prolong life. Nuts, beans, seeds, whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains. I have not seen literature supporting this question, but the only way to be sure if a food is causing an allergy (outside of allergy testing) is to eliminate it, and see if the allergy symptoms subside.

 Is this diet safe for diabetics?

Not only is it safe, it is the PREFERRED diet for a diabetic.

A strong body of research supports the idea that a plant-based diet can boost your health, decreasing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers, and helping you stay at a healthy weight. It can even lengthen your life.

Is a vegan diet different from plant-based diet? 

Both attempt to avoid animal based foods. However, vegans also avoid animal products in everyday life (clothes, accessories, leather, beeswax, etc). Furthermore, vegans can enjoy processed foods if they like (as long as they don’t originate from an animal source).

Plant based means also that they not only eat plants and fruits, they strive to eat WHOLE, RAW foods.

I have even seen the term “flexitarian” because the idea is to eat meat sparingly .

Dr. How does someone who is addicted to processed foods wean themselves off to start a plant-based diet?

Excellent question…one bite at a time ☺ . Try to incorporate one meal/ week which is whole food and plant-based. Starting today, gradually increase your intake of whole foods. Keep fresh fruit, fresh veggies in your home , car, handbag, at work- essentially everywhere so that you can stay full and eat less processed foods.

Also DRINK LOTS OF WATER.

What are the acceptable foods in plant-based diet?

Anything that came from a tree or the earth.

How do you differentiate between organic vs GMO foods?

Organic labels can even be on processed foods, and GMO means “genetically modified.” If something is in a box, then it is not on the plant-based diet. Fresh (as much as possible) whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes are the safest and best for your body.

What about eating for your blood type? I’ve been on type o diet…which is basically a Mediterranean diet. I’ve tried to eat vegan. and it made my libido low.

That is totally different. There are several meats on the Blood Type Diets.

Doctor,  what should I eliminate while on the plant-based diet? I don’t need to lose weight. How do I get my omega 3?

Here are some veggies which are rich in omega 3; Spinach, Navy Beans, Mustard Seeds, Walnuts, Winter Squash and Flaxseed. Food is medicine. Remember eating this way is a lifestyle choice, with the goal of promoting health.

I’ve been a semi-vegetarian,  in particular a pescatarian, since ”14. What are good sources of protein? Are store bought veggie products, like veggie burgers, sausage, etc. good for you? I buy MorningStar Farm brand veggie products.

Eliminate processed foods. Of course everything is fine in moderation, so if you can mostly eat vegetables and fruits and occasionally processed and seafood, you will see a tremendous health benefit from this change. Morning Star Farm brand veggie products are also an excellent choice.

What about hybrid vegetables that come from the ground or trees? Do they supply the same nutritional value as natural or non-hybrid vegetables?

Yes, There are many forms of hybrid fruits and vegetables that have the same nutritional value, thus hybrid vegetables are a good source. Many people confuse this with GMO which do not contain the same nutrients and the alkalinity needed to sustain healthy tissues.

Can I eat any seafood while on a plant based diet?

Anything is fine in moderation. Do your best to primarily eat plant based foods. The best seafood choices are those high in Omega 3’s:

• Group I: mackerel (1.8%), lake trout (1.6%), herring (1.5%), sardines (1.4%), albacore tuna (1.3%), salmon (1.1%)

• Group II: halibut (0.6%), river trout (0.5%), catfish (0.4%)

• Group III: cod (0.3%), snapper (0.2%), tuna packed in water (0.2%)

Doc, how can I enjoy collards, mustard, turnip greens, kale, cabbage without cooking?

These veggies are delicious in shakes and add excellent nutritional value rich in vitamins and minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Believe it or not,  a smoothie with kale or collards is excellent because they do not contribute to the flavor (and there is no smell) and take on the flavor of the fruits used without aftertaste.

If one chooses to stop cooking them, we just have to be aware of the way that we prepare green leafy vegetables with meat products for flavor thus, it is recommended to use alternative sources such as salt free seasoning options, onions, green peppers, vinegar and olive oil.

Raw is best. Eat a salad! If you do cook them, do not boil or overcook them. This depletes the nutrients. Lightly steam and stop before they lose their beautiful colors.

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3 thoughts on “Get Well Wednesday: Dr. Contessa Metcalfe And Plant-Based Diets

  1. I mainly eat a plant-based diet but also enjoy meat/eggs every now and again. My switch was for health reasons and to avoid Diabetes type 2 which runs in my family. I love how eating more vegetables and less animal products has helped my health and weight loss. Well worth the effort of a different way of eating.

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