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Health & Medical

BEYOND TRIM: Better health stems from more plants

Think it’s not easy being green? Think again

Sherry DeWalt of CGH Medical Center
Sherry DeWalt of CGH Medical Center

While I have always tried to manage my weight, stay active, and eat a healthy diet, I was experiencing rising blood pressure and cholesterol numbers as I reached my 50s. This particularly concerned me as both my parents died at an early age – my father from heart disease and my mother from complications related to breast cancer.

Then I happened to read “How Not to Die,” by Dr. Michael Greger. His book explains how a plant-based diet might help improve health and prevent disease. I went on to read “The China Study” by Dr. T. Colin Campbell and discovered the research done by Drs. Dean Ornish and Caldwell Esselstyn showing reversal of symptoms of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers after patients embarked upon a whole foods, plant-based (WFPB) dietary pattern.

My reading also led me to the science of epigenetics, the study of how our lifestyle and environment affect the expression of our genes. Epigenetics suggests that lifestyle can determine whether a gene for disease gets switched to the “on” or “off” position. A plant-based diet seems to be beneficial in keeping the genes for disease in the “off” position.

This all convinced me that it was worth a try, and I have been primarily on WFPB pattern for more than 2 years now. I must admit that I did not get there overnight, and I am still not perfectly compliant. Oddly enough, meat was not hard to give up, and I don’t miss it. It’s been much harder for forego sugar, potato chips, and dairy products.

What does the WFPB diet look like? It’s exactly what it says. It means consuming no animal products, including eggs and dairy. It means eating only plants that are as unprocessed as possible. In its strictest form, it means no sugar, oils, or salt. Believe me, it’s not as boring as it sounds. I don’t live on salads (although I love a good salad!); I use plant foods to create soups, sandwiches, casseroles, pasta dishes, etc.

Whether I will avoid heart disease and cancer remains to be seen but I have noticed improvements in my health. My blood pressure is excellent and my cholesterol numbers have stopped their upward trend. My skin is better, my arthritis symptoms have improved, and I seem to have more energy. It’s enough of a difference to keep me on this path for the foreseeable future.

If you would like to learn more, I invite you to join my “pod.” A pod is an informal gathering of people eating a plant-based meal together. My pod also will include a short educational program. Meetings will be held monthly at CGH and the meal will be prepared by the hospital chef. For more details please feel free to contact me at sherry.dewalt@cghmc.com.

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