As a chiropractor, I’m naturally tuned into the structural and movement aspects of wellness, but as a wellness coach, my mission is to bring a holistic approach to health, and that includes matters of diet and nutrition.
Some of my patients are surprised when I first interview them and we start talking about their eating habits. They get used to it pretty quickly.
That’s why I’m so excited about the speakers I have lined up for this season of our Thursday night Fundamental Foods and Friends Dinners, and particularly this month’s speaker.
In fact, I don’t want to steal any of her thunder, and I really want to encourage you to attend it, so this week’s “Wellness Wednesday” will be relatively short, but I do want to set up the conversation. If you live outside the Naples area, please be sure to join us on Facebook Live, and take notes. I believe you’re going to walk away equipped with some powerful new ways of thinking about the way you eat.
So, to queue it up, I can tell you that my guest is Francie Bussing from Plant Based Radiance here in Naples. We are so blessed to have a holistic wellness expert like her here in Naples, and the fact that she is taking time out of her busy schedule to visit with us is a high honor.
NOTE: Now, if you’re a hard-core carnivore, don’t tune out on me yet. I get it. You like to eat meat. I do, too. But there are pros and cons to eating meat that you need to consider.
What’s The Side Dish?
Most Americans think of meat as an entre and vegetables as a side at most meals. That’s backward. The overwhelming majority of nutrients our bodies need come from vegetables. Interestingly, much of the treatment for kidney disease (and other major diseases) involves re-balancing the nutrients that are naturally balanced in a vegetable-based diet: sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and iron. People who emphasize meat over vegetables often suffer from hypertension, which is caused not by excess sodium, but a shortage of potassium to balance out the sodium.
I realize that there are dozens of diets on the market, and they are not all terrible. But no matter what diet you follow, meat should not be the largest category in your diet. The Mediterranean Diet, the South Beach Diet, and even the Ketogenic Diet do not emphasize meat. Protein, yes. Fat, yes. Meat, not so much. Even the USDA’s various food pyramids, which I think are completely wrong, do not put meat in the largest category. Their error is overemphasizing grains and carbohydrates, but that’s a topic for another time.
Meat On The Side
The best recommendation I’ve heard about it lately is that you should treat meat as a condiment. Add a little wild salmon or free-range chicken to the top of a salad. Mix a half-cup of ground turkey with a sweet potato. Many doctors recommend one 5- to 8- ounce serving of red meat per week. That’s about the size of a deck of cards. Some diets suggest a little more, some a little less, but it’s nowhere near the half-pound monster burgers many restaurants serve.
Excess protein, especially meat protein, elevates the nitrogen content in your blood, which can put pressure on your kidneys and leave you dehydrated. It can also trigger the release of chemicals that accelerate aging into the blood system. Certain methods of grilling meat can cause chemical reactions in the meat that are linked to a variety of diseases.
Some of your favorite processed meats, including hot dogs, pepperoni, ham, salami, and some sausages are now classified as carcinogens on the same level as tobacco and asbestos. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if I can steer you away from a life of expensive and destructive cancer treatments, I’m happy to take the heat for it. As much as I enjoyed pepperoni on my pizza, I now urge my patients to avoid pizza and processed meats altogether. Fifteen minutes of enjoyment is not a good exchange for decades of disease in your later years.
No Cold Turkey…So To Speak
Having said that, I don’t advocate for a meat-free life. I think veganism is out of balance as much as a meat-heavy diet is out of balance the other way. I would say “moderation,” but I hesitate to do so, because the Standard American Diet (SAD) has pushed our view of meat so far out of perspective that one man’s “moderation” is another man’s “crazy.” Vegans have health concerns that come from the shortage of nutrients you can only get from animal-based products, like Vitamin B-12 and some amino acids that are necessary for wellness.
Like I said earlier, if your meal consists of meat with a side of vegetables, you’ve got it backward. I know that’s a life-altering punch in the gut for many people (including some of my patients), but the results are unquestionable. People who eat an excess of meat have the highest risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and cancer. I want you to avoid that course and live longer, healthier, and more robustly.
Meat and Longevity
Do you want to live a long, healthy life? Or would you prefer to do what most people do, and spend their golden years in a wheelchair or hospital bed?
One of the biggest breakthroughs in my practice was when I learned about the Blue Zones research conducted by Dan Buttoner and the National Geographic Society. If you’re not familiar with it, a team of researchers identified places around the world where unusually large numbers of people lived to be over 100 years old. They tracked their lifestyles and habits and found nine attributes that were common to all of the communities they surveyed.
Three of the nine attributes had to do with diet:
- Wine At Five: Drink a glass of wine every evening.
- 80% Rule: Eat only until you are 80% full instead of eating until you are stuffed.
- Plant Slant: Emphasize plants and beans over other food groups.
I’m going to let Francie take the lead on sharing the benefits with you, so I really hope you’ll join us. For now, I’ll mention that the Blue Zones research shed light on the power of a vegetable-based diet to promote longevity and wellness.
What about protein? Fava beans, lentils, and black beans are the primary source of protein for much of the world, along with wild fish, sardines, and small servings of animal products. Many of the Blue Zones are found in coastal areas where fishing is a primary industry. So all my meat-eaters are going to have to do better than that to fight for your right to eat bologna. Remember, you can have meat once a week or so, just not more than a deck of cards.
Benefits of a Plant Slant
So now, hopefully, we’ve gotten some of the objections out of the way and we’ll all be ready to open up our minds to a vegetable-based diet.
I think you’ll find you have:
- More energy
- Clearer thinking
- Lower risk of heart disease and cancer
- Better kidney function
- Less joint pain
- Easier restroom stools
- Less trouble losing weight
- Better moods
- Slower aging
- Greater longevity
- Reduced need for medication
And that’s not to mention all the other benefits my vegan friends (yes, I have several) list, like reduced impact on the planet, and less exposure to chemicals and antibiotics typically found in meat products.
I Do It, Too
It’s worth mentioning that I don’t advocate for lifestyles I don’t embrace myself. I did a Facebook Live from my kitchen in January where I showed what I was having for dinner. That’s not something I do all the time, but I had a friend over who thought it was important to share. I live this way myself; I walk to work to make sure I get 10,000 steps in every day and I can personally attest to how different I feel in my 50s than I did in my 40s. It’s these kinds of changes that drive greater health, stamina, and clarity.
We want to invite you to join us on this path to wellness, but first, we want to invite you again to join us live on Thursday night at 6:15, whether in person or on Facebook Live. If you live in Naples, no excuses: I want you to join us in person so you can enjoy the richness of the food Francie is going to demonstrate live. You won’t regret it. RSVP here.
“At the end of your FEELINGS is NOTHING. At the end of your PRINCIPLES is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas