Tag Archives: China Study

Why Reading Food Labels Isn’t Enough

Friends and relatives often question “can you eat x or y” on your vegan diet? Many people can barely comprehend not eating meat and fish, let alone dairy products, eggs, and honey–of all things.

Fewer people understand what a vegan diet has to do with avoiding processed foods–such as white rice, white pasta, white bread, and sugar–or even vegetable oils.

These measures are the guidelines of a whole-foods plant-based vegan diet, such as that endorsed by Rip Esselstyn’s Engine 2 Diet, and displayed in Del Sroufe’s Forks Over Knives cookbook, containing healthy vegan recipes by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Julieanna Hever, and others.

Bottom line is, while many processed foods may be technically vegan or “accidentally vegan” as PETA refers to products with no animal-based ingredients, they are unlikely to be “accidentally healthy”.

And while you may relax your standards on a rare occasion–when dining out or visiting friends–you’ll surely feel better long-term by keeping tempting vegan junk foods out of your grocery cart, and out of your house.

When analyzing packaged foods, I often refer to nutritionist/dietitian Jeff Novick’s rules and guidelines for  telling the difference between a health food vs what’s really healthy for you:

Rule #1-Never believe anything on the front of the package…ever!

Rule #2-Always read the Nutrition Facts Label and the Ingredients List.

Novick gives guidelines for fat, sodium, white sugars and refined sugars, and refined carbohydrates–4 things commonly abused in the United States.


Daily fat requirement–in order to avoid essential fatty acid deficiency–is only 3 to 5%, while the typical American intake is 35%!

Calculate fat % by dividing calories from fat by the # of calories


Daily sodium requirement is 500mg/day; aim for no more than 1 calorie: 1mg of sodium


Novick says that–since the Nutrition Facts panel lists “total sugars” only–you cannot determine natural sugars (such as in fruit) versus added sugars. Therefore, refer to the ingredients listing in order to avoid all added sugars (at least, he says, sugars should not be among the first 3 to 5 ingredients)


The “Nutrition Facts” panel does not tell the reader anything interesting about carbohydrates, Novick says. Therefore, refer to the ingredients list, and SEEK OUT the desirable terms “whole” or “sprouted” and AVOID the words “wheat”,” white”, “durum”, “semolina”, “bleached”, “unbleached”, “artichoke” and “enriched flour”.


Aim for products that carry >3g of fiber per 100 calories

To apply Novick’s technique, let’s take a package of Nabisco Newtons Fruit Thins stashed in a typical SAD household. The box touts “8g of whole grain per serving”, “made with real fruit”, “blueberry brown sugar”, and “natural flavor”.

Sounds so wholesome, someone might even mistake them for a “health food”! OK, I admit it: I finished off the bag, without thinking…

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How to Stop Worrying about Cancer (and Other “Stuff”)

If you’re here, you’ve probably got some worries–about diet, at least. Perhaps you’ve also got bigger worries that have prevented you from thinking about what you eat.

Many people considering a whole foods plant based diet have done so out of concern for their own health or that of a loved one.

My own worries about getting cancer (statistics show almost 40-50% of Americans will) were greatly relieved by taking major action: quitting all animal products and adopting a whole foods plant based lifestyle.

While it may seem difficult to eat healthfully yourself, there is often more stress and worry involved if you’re taking care of others. Particularly when healthy food is automatically equated with bad taste.

Fact is, many people think their diet is already healthy enough and–though they may not admit it–accept the chances they may suffer from cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other preventable diseases rather than give up their favorite foods.

Recently, when worried by my decision to return to the U.S. after over 20 years in Japan, a friend suggested I read the Dale Carnegie classic, “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” I had read the book twice 25 years ago–once as a student and again as a graduate assistant for Dale Carnegie Training–but you wouldn’t have known it.

There is a saying that “To know something and not to do it, is not to know.” Similarly, having read and forgotten something is the same as not having read it. Continue reading

Awaken Your Inner Vegan!

Part 2 of a guest post by Jim Dunlop, a loyal reader, frequent commentator, and self-declared “flexitarian”. I hope Jim’s story inspires you–wherever you are–to begin taking steps to improve your diet and health today.

Once I finally realized that meals didn’t need to be centered around meat, I started examining the health benefits of a vegetarian diet. William certainly expressed his firm convictions gained from Dr. Campbell’s “The China Study”, and the results are compelling. I also found the Meatless Monday website a very practical resource. It explains the movement’s historical significance–having been part of a massive WWI consumption reduction campaign by Herbert Hoover–and how mainstream medical professionals agree on the benefits of going meatless. The website stated “Going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic, preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. It can also help reduce your carbon footprint and save precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel.”

“That’s awesome!” I said to myself. “If going meatless only one day a week can have those kinds of benefits, then how much MORE could I benefit my health if I went meatless TWO days a week… What about THREE? Four? Okay… Let’s not get TOO carried away here…” And yet, it was then I had a second epiphany — another “aha!” moment… If we eat three meals a day, many of us already eat one-third of our meals meatless.  I’ve never been one to eat much meat at breakfasts, and I know many devout carnivores who don’t, either… Cereal, oatmeal, toast, eggs, fruit, are all commonly eaten breakfast foods without an once of meat anywhere in sight! Well, if we are already eating ONE meal meatless, all we have to do is extend that same kind of thinking to two more meals, and the next thing you know, you have a meatless DAY. Repeat this the next day, and before you know it, you have a meatless WEEK. It’s all just one small step at a time.

Fast-forward to year-end holidays, Continue reading

Awakening The Vegan Within

When I encourage others to adopt a whole foods plant-based diet, my job is infinitely easier when they are receptive and eager to learn, with a high “teachability-index”, that combination of willingness to learn and willingness to accept change.

Although Jim Dunlop is still in progress toward a 1oo% plant-based diet, I’m happy to play some small part in his journey, and I’m honored to run Jim’s personal story here:

Waking up every morning shivering in my cold, uninsulated house, it’s almost comforting to think back and recollect the summer that just passed when it all began. The sweltering heat in Yamanashi, Japan felt especially brutal with everyone taking special measures to conserve energy after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that took out one of Japan’s nuclear power stations, thus causing shortages on much of the main island of Honshu.

I’ve never been anything but a carnivore. Really. Growing up with traditional Czech parents transplanted to southern Alberta, Canada (where beef producers are about as proud as Texans), I don’t think I ever had a single meal that didn’t somehow involve meat, or dairy for that matter. In fact, if you try Googling: “Czech +vegetarian” your computer will start audibly laughing at you.  So after I moved out on my own, went to college, got married, and eventually moved to Japan — another land of meat-a-plenty, I never even thought about it. I simply just kept cooking and eating what I’ve been used to my whole life.

Imagine my bewilderment then, waking up one day late July, having lost any and all desire to eat meat. It’s almost as if my body just told my brain, “Brain, you know what? We’ve had enough. How about something different for a change? We demand new dishes!” Continue reading

No Added Oils Healthiest for Vegans and Omnivores Alike

Although you may just be considering a vegan diet for the first time, you probably already know that the fewer animal products you eat, the better–with a 100% plant-based diet being best for health, as well as ethically and environmentally.

However, given all you’ve heard about the Mediterranean Diet, “healthy fats”, and “good cholesterol” you may be surprised to learn that a diet containing NO (zero!) added oils is both optimum AND possible to achieve.

While it is true that a Mediterranean diet is superior to a Standard American Diet, this is mainly because the Meditterean diet contains less animal protein and more fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.

A big reason for the confusion over dietary fat is that “healthy” is a relative term, and even foods that exclude animal products can be health-promoting OR health-degrading.

Olive oil is healthier in comparison to animal fats such as butter, but unfortunately cannot be considered health-promoting. In fact, olive oil (even extra virgin) has virtually no nutrients, except fat. Excess dietary fat from any source contributes to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Many people have become obese on the Meditteranean diet consuming too much fat, mostly in the form of olive oil.

According to Dr. John McDougall, the oil extraction processes remove the “naturally-designed and balanced environment of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and ten thousand other chemicals” of the whole food (olives, corn, soybeans, etc.) to such a degree that “Free-oils are not food—at best these are medications, causing some desirable effects, and at worst; they are serious toxins causing disease.”

Rather than using olive oil (or other processed oils), choose instead to eat the whole food, such as olives. One tablespoon olive oil has 126 calories vs 154 calories in one cup of olives. Olive oil may contain traces of the benefits of olives–such as polyphenols–but has none of the fiber, mineral or vitamins contained in whole olives.

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Why Engine 2 Diet Is “The Whole Shebang”

While some visitors to this site come searching for first-hand vegan diet advice and easy and delicious vegan recipes, others wind up here simply curious about how vegans can live without consuming any animal products, including dairy or eggs.

A vegan diet is widely described as a “strict vegetarian diet”, and apparently even vegetarians see it as too difficult to follow. On the other hand, many long-term vegans cannot identify with the challenges of those trying to go vegan.

All the hyperbole over a vegan diet can be overwhelming to someone just considering beginning one. To ease the journey, I recommend the term “plant-based diet”–focusing on the vast number and variety of plant foods available, instead of what you perceive you’ll be giving up.

When I first read “The China Study” and decided I was ready to take author Colin Campbell’s One-Month Challenge (“You’ve eaten cheeseburgers your whole life; a month without them won’t kill you.”), I wondered why the publisher didn’t commission a China Study diet plan and recipe book to aid the transition to a plant-based diet.

Well, Rip Esselstyn’s “The Engine 2 Diet” is about as close as you can come. Continue reading

Sushi Lost And Rediscovered

Sushi was one of the hardest foods to give up after I resolved to adopt a vegan diet. After all, my passion for sushi was one of the things that brought me to live in Japan in the first place. And while Japan is infamous for exclusive sushi shops that charge $500 per person, even low-end sushi (such as kaiten, or “conveyor belt” style) is fresh and inexpensive compared to other countries, making it hard to resist.

For some time after I had bid sayonara to meat, eggs and dairy, I continued the Japanese institution of going out for sushi with friends and family. At first, I ate varieties consisting of mostly vegetables such as natto (fermented soybeans) and green onions, cucumber, takuon (pickled radish), kampyo (dried gourd), as well as inarizushi (fried bean curd filled with sushi rice and black sesame seeds). Continue reading

Drag Your Loved Ones to “Forks Over Knives”

Fast Tube by Casper

Fortunately, now there’s hope even for those not willing to read The China Study, provided they’ll go to watch the movie instead.

Written by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, The China Study is THE book that triggered me and many others to begin a vegan diet. Legendary South African golfer Gary Player (the oldest player to make the cut at The Masters in 1998) is the one who recommended The China Study to me, explaining that giving up eating animal products in his early 70s had changed his life and made him feel 20 years younger.

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Uncheese Cookbook Improves With Age

Jo Stepaniak’s “Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook” was among the first cookbooks I bought after deciding to adopt a vegan diet 3 years ago. For those not familiar with the term “uncheese”,  Stepaniak uses it to describe rich-tasting spreads, dips, sauces and blocks produced with dairy-free whole foods (primarily beans, nuts, or grains).

Cheese lovers be forewarned: you may be in for some disappointment if you’re expecting tofu to taste like Feta cheese or chickpeas like Havarti. The book’s introduction even acknowledges that “uncheeses are not going to be like dairy cheeses, so please adjust your expectations accordingly. ”

Unfortunately I skipped Stepaniak’s well-intentioned introduction and plowed in to the recipes, attempting  Tofu Ricotta, Chick Cheez, Swizz Cheez, Buffalo Mostarella, Brie, Betta Feta, White Bean Boursin, Monterey Jack and Port Wine uncheeses.  And while all were tasty (my favorite is the sharp Chick Cheez spread–made from Garbanzo Beans) they left me somewhat disillusioned and wondering whether I could actually live without real cheese.

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Ultimate Vegan Cookbook

nomicon_pageI’ve blogged numerous times about how The China Study was the single biggest motivating factor in my adopting a vegan diet. However, at least equally important is “Veganomicon,” the book that has sustained me through the transition and has become a fixture in my kitchen.

Veganomicon, which bills itself (rightly so) as the Ultimate Vegan Cookbook, is the product of Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, who also wrote “Vegan with a Vengeance” and “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World”. The pair also created the PostPunkKitchen (theppk.com) vegan recipe website, where you can find some teaser recipes from the Veganomicon book.

My partner and I have tried about 40 of the dishes in Veganomicon, some several times, and our copy of Veganomicon (covered with numerous post-it notes and splatters of various sauces) is never far from our sides or minds. Continue reading