Science on the Myriad of Benefits of Whole Grains

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, also commonly referred to as a whole food plant-based diet, is the only diet to clinically reverse the chronic diseases, such as heart disease, certain types of cancers, diabetes, etc., brought on by the western diet. If you enjoy geeking out on the science, below is a list of 10 randomized controlled and meta-analyses of randomized controlled studies on the benefits of whole grains (oatmeal, brown rice, amaranth, quinoa, whole wheat, farro, barley, etc), a key component of a whole food plant based diet. Go have some oatmeal!

  1. A meta-analysis of 15 randomized controlled trials found that consuming whole grains can significantly reduce fasting insulin levels, an important risk factor for type 2 diabetes. (Reynolds et al., 2020)
  2. A randomized controlled trial involving overweight and obese adults found that those who consumed whole grains had a significant reduction in body weight and BMI compared to those who consumed refined grains. (Katcher et al., 2008)
  3. A systematic review and meta-analysis of 45 randomized controlled trials found that whole grain consumption was associated with significant reductions in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. (Mellen et al., 2008)
  4. A randomized controlled trial involving postmenopausal women found that consuming whole grains was associated with improvements in insulin sensitivity and blood pressure. (Jonnalagadda et al., 2011)
  5. A meta-analysis of 11 randomized controlled trials found that whole grain consumption was associated with lower levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation that is associated with chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. (Liu et al., 2015)
  6. A randomized controlled trial involving overweight and obese adults found that those who consumed whole grains had a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure compared to those who consumed refined grains. (Pol et al., 2013)
  7. A systematic review and meta-analysis of 11 randomized controlled trials found that whole grain consumption was associated with improvements in endothelial function, a measure of blood vessel health that is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. (Kelly et al., 2010)
  8. A randomized controlled trial involving overweight and obese adults found that those who consumed whole grains had a significant reduction in markers of systemic inflammation compared to those who consumed refined grains. (Karl et al., 2014)
  9. A systematic review and meta-analysis of 25 randomized controlled trials found that whole grain consumption was associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease, including stroke and heart attack. (Aune et al., 2016)
  10. A randomized controlled trial involving overweight and obese adults found that those who consumed whole grains had a significant reduction in fasting glucose levels compared to those who consumed refined grains. (Reynolds et al., 2019)

15 of the Best Whole Food Plant Based Cookbooks

One of the obstacles to succeeding on a whole food plant based diet is the mistaken thought that you cannot have yummy without old school staples like butter and eggs. Well, there are lots of great cookbooks to draw on for that occasional indulgence that are still healthy and won’t fill you with toxins, animal hormones, saturated fat, excess protein, and all of the baggage of consuming animal products. Plus for the planet, too! Here is a great list to explore:

  1. “The China Study Cookbook” by LeAnne Campbell – A cookbook featuring over 120 whole food plant-based recipes based on the research from “The China Study.”
  2. “Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook” by Del Sroufe – A cookbook featuring over 300 whole food plant-based recipes inspired by the documentary “Forks Over Knives.”
  3. “Oh She Glows” by Angela Liddon – A cookbook featuring over 100 plant-based recipes that are both healthy and indulgent.
  4. “Thug Kitchen” by Thug Kitchen LLC – A cookbook featuring over 100 vegan recipes with a humorous and irreverent tone.
  5. Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking” by Dana Shultz – A cookbook featuring over 100 plant-based recipes that can be made in 30 minutes or less.
  6. “Isa Does It” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz – A cookbook featuring over 150 plant-based recipes that are simple and easy to prepare.
  7. “The Happy Herbivore Cookbook” by Lindsay S. Nixon – A cookbook featuring over 175 low-fat, whole food plant-based recipes that are easy to prepare.
  8. “Veganomicon” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero – A cookbook featuring over 250 vegan recipes that are both flavorful and nutritious.
  9. “The Plant-Based Diet for Beginners” by Gabriel Miller – A beginner-friendly cookbook featuring over 100 plant-based recipes and helpful tips for transitioning to a plant-based diet.
  10. “Power Plates” by Gena Hamshaw – A cookbook featuring over 100 plant-based recipes that focus on whole grains, vegetables, and legumes.
  11. “The Engine 2 Diet” by Rip Esselstyn – A cookbook featuring over 130 plant-based recipes designed to improve heart health and promote weight loss.
  12. “The Happy Pear: Recipes for Happiness” by David and Stephen Flynn – A cookbook featuring over 100 plant-based recipes that are wholesome and delicious.
  13. “Chloe’s Kitchen” by Chloe Coscarelli – A cookbook featuring over 125 vegan recipes, including many comfort food favorites.
  14. “The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen” by Donna Klein – A cookbook featuring over 225 vegan recipes inspired by the Mediterranean diet.
  15. Straight Up Food: Delicious and Easy Plant-based Cooking without Salt, Oil or Sugar by Cathy Fisher – Easy peezy and quick recipes. Super clean. My go to for family meals.

Thoughts on Fasting and Dr. Pradip Jamnadas’s Lectures

When a charismatic cardiologist posts lectures on the benefits of fasting, it catches my attention. Dr. Pradip Jamnadas has done some studying between his demanding cardiology practice and understands the biology of what happens to the body when we fast. He easily explains the chemical processes that our bodies shift into when fasting to activate numerous genes that start repairing us from a biological perspective, from activating a gene to reduce inflammation to another that directly repairs damaged DNA, to another that recycles damaged cells, to setting the stage for producing stem cells and growing new brain cells. It really is fascinating and corroborated by the science. 

These mechanisms developed in our species over the course of 100000 generations from early paleolithic times. A daunting number of generations when compared to both the agricultural developments in the last few hundred years and the industrial developments in the last few generations.

However much knowledge Dr. Jamnadas demonstrates on the science of fasting, there are abundant holes in his knowledge around the practice of fasting and the optimal diet for humans to express a healthy biology that are now accepted at the core of nutritional science and diet and advocated by the voices of many doctors and researchers who have devoted their lives to studying clinical nutrition and healthy populations of the past (as there are few left now as the west encroaches on them). For one, Dr. Jamnadas places the blame on carbohydrates for modern obesity and insulin problems. His solution is to stop eating all carbohydrates, the restriction of which in study after study has been associated with an increase in all causes of mortality. This is not a solution. 

All carbohydrates are not created equally – some are grown in factories and some are grown. While processed carbohydrates and refined carbohydrates, like refined sugar and wheat, are unhealthful, and contribute to chronic lifestyle induced diseases (obesity, cancer, heart disease), whole complex carbohydrates and starches, like legumes, potatoes, oats, are the opposite: healthy and the core component in the diets of the longest lived populations on the planet. It is the western diet, high in meats, animal fats (dairy/meat), and these processed foods that are at the root cause of the insulin problem.

The framework for understanding how animal fat cripples our body’s insulin sensitivity is explained at length by many who have studied it, Dr. Neal Barnard and Dr. Michael Greger. Dietary fat blocks the uptake of glucose into the cell by blocking the insulin receptors. More insulin is needed and the system of getting energy into the muscle cells becomes dysfunctional. More insulin is produced, more fat is gained. The solution is to eat a low fat plant-based diet. Not a “low-fat” diet (around 30% total calories) as touted by the American Diabetes Association which is inadequate and not truly low-fat. But, a low-fat diet (<10% of total calories) mimicking those of the longest lived populations that do not suffer from obesity or chronic lifestyle induced diseases (heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, type 2 diabetes, etc.). And one that actually has clinical studies supporting its role in the reversal of these diseases. A simple diet centered around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and starches easily achieves this with unrestricted eating.

Dr. Jamnadas also explains that the paleo period as the time we hunted and ate meat giving us an edge evolutionarily but there are now several new scientific discoveries that have essentially negated the effect of meat on our evolution. Brain growth is now attributed to our consumption of fibrous carbohydrates. We ate starch from roots and plants. This is what provided our brains with the enormous amounts of glucose they now rely on. Meat was hunted but the gathering was where it was all at. And while fasting is miraculous, whole food plant based diets are also miraculous. It is the only diet that, much like fasting, reverses most lifestyle induced diseases. It is the only diet where you actively heal. Every other diet falls short, Mediterranean, Dash, or induces harm, Keto, Atkins, Paleo, etc…

It is also counter intuitive to recommend eating meat when Dr. Jamnadas both understands how little protein we actually need and that all food contains protein. A diet of fruits, vegetables, and starches (whole grains, legumes, potatoes, etc.) meets our protein needs without the need to have a chunk of flesh, a scoop of processed powder, or the mammary excretion of another mammal. Low protein diets are associated with longevity.

The last item to point out is the sketchy recommendation to break a fast with bone broth. Bone broth may be the latest craze but it does not make it a healthy food choice. Bones store minerals but they also store heavy metals and toxins. Chicken bone broth exceeds acceptable levels of compounds such as arsenic and lead. Yes, even that organic and supposedly uncaged bird is full of heavy metal.  If you want to hear about the benefits of fasting, Dr. Jamnadas’s lectures are fascinating because he is so passionate about the discovery of how fasting can heal. But if you want to truly reap the benefits of a true fast (with no coffee/tea/broth/salt/etc.) and to use it as a stepping stone to a whole food plant based diet, read the books or watch the lectures of those doctors who have extensive clinical practice in the realm of fasting for health like Dr. Alan Goldhammer, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, and Dr. Michael Klapper.

12 Fun Facts about Red Meat

by Leonardo Garcia © 2021

As evidence rolls in for the health benefits of adopting a whole food plant-based diet (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds), the case for dropping animal products (meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs) from our diets becomes compelling. Science continues to tease out the numerous mechanisms as to why the consumption of animal products is unhealthful and disease-promoting. Whether it is from saturated fat, cholesterol, TMAO, heme iron, nitrosamines, hormonal contamination, bacterial contamination, or the way each of these factors interact as a whole with our biology, the public gets mixed information due to roadblocks set up by aggressive marketing, lobbying campaigns, industry funded “science”, and, in some cases, the FDA, much in the way the tobacco industries attempted to cloud the relationship between smoking and lung cancer decades ago. Now, smoking has taken second place to poor diet in the leading cause of disease. Here are some facts about meat consumption to consider before your next meal.

  1. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) lists the consumption of red and processed meats as carcinogenic.
  2. Red meat contains many harmful compounds in addition to saturated fat that include arachidonic acid (highly inflammatory omega 6 fatty acid), methionine (promotes cancer growth), trans-fatty acids (aka “trans-fats”), endogenous hormones like IGF-1 (promotes tumor growth), exogenous hormonal growth promoters, antibiotics, man-made contaminants (fertilizers, pcbs, pesticides), and formaldehyde, among others.
  3. Red meat contains bovine pathogens such as E. Coli and bovine spongiform encephalopathy which can lead to serious and life-threatening bacterial and viral infections.
  4. Steroid hormones in meat and dairy products are complicit in the risk factors for various cancers in humans.
  5. The digestion of meat raises Trimethylamine N-Oxide (TMAO) levels in blood dramatically. High TMAO blood levels are associated with cardiovascular disease, obesity, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. It is also associated with a dysfunctional microbiota.
  6. Controlled trials by Dr. Dean Ornish at the Preventative Medicine Research Institute led to an inverse relationship between health outcomes and the consumption of animal products (red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy).
  7. Reversal of coronary heart disease was achieved by eliminating meat, dairy, fish, and oil from patients’ diets during a clinical trial at the Cleveland Clinic by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.
  8. In metabolic ward studies, interventional studies, and randomized clinical trials, an increase in saturated fat from dietary sources (meat, dairy, eggs) led to an increase in LDL cholesterol. High LDL levels are a primary indicator of coronary heart disease.
  9. There is a strong correlation between diets high in dietary cholesterol (meat, eggs, dairy) and elevated risks of stomach, colon, rectum, pancreas, lung, breast, testicular, kidney, and bladder cancers.
  10. The water footprint of producing red meat is devastating our environment. It takes approximately 1800 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef (roughly 30 gallons/1 g of protein) whereas it takes approximately 500 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of chickpeas (roughly 5 gallons/1g of protein). A pound of potatoes only takes 34 gallons.
  11. The carbon footprint of beef is 25x more than that of beans and peas combined.
  12. Methane, a greenhouse gas and powerful driver of climate change, emissions from cattle has far more impact on global warming than previously thought.

14 Tips to Lose Weight on a Plant Based Diet

Switching to a plant-based diet from a western or fatty animal-heavy diet to lose weight, unlike other diets, is a healthy choice. A healthy plant-based diet aligns perfectly with optimal health, reversing many chronic lifestyle induced diseases and maladies, and as a side benefit, weight will come off. All plant-based diets are not created equal though.

The healthiest for chronic health issues is an sos (salt oil sugar free) whole food plant based diet (wfpb). A wfpb diet consists of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, starches, legumes, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices. There is a spectrum though. Sos wfpb is the healthiest diet. Even if you include a sprinkle of salt and sugar with it, it is still healthier than anything else. Add a little oil and it’s slightly less healthy, add vegan junk food (french fries are vegan) and fake processed meats and it becomes a lot less healthy, and real dairy and eggs and it becomes dramatically unhealthy, etc…

If you are having trouble losing weight on your current plant-based diet, try this for a month:

  1. Make sure you are eating sos wfpb meals and food.
  2. Drop out all sources of concentrated fats and calories (no nuts and seeds or avocados or breads)
  3. Drink a large glass of water upon waking and more throughout the day but don’t over hydrate.
  4. Eat more and a lot of raw fruits and vegetables.
  5. Eat very high water content foods (cucumbers, carrots, kale, arugula, romaine, melons, eggplant, apples, berries, celery). They will fill you up, you can gnaw all day, and you will be sated.
  6. Have a large satiating breakfast (oatmeal, berries, bananas).
  7. Eat a lot of whole grains and potatoes.
  8. Sleep more.
  9. Stop eating a few hours before bedtime. A good cutoff is 8:00.
  10. Walk more.
  11. Do a bit of bodyweight resistance exercises (body squats, lunges, pushups, planks, etc).
  12. Drink tea (skip the milks).
  13. Have a weekly dose of B12 or if you are older than 60 consult for the correct recommendations.
  14. Do not count calories or waste your time with macros.

Your tastebuds will acclimate. I find that the tastier the food, the more my appetite grows. Keep it simple. You’ll appreciate the taste fo fruits and the subtleties of vegetables more. You’ll feel great.