“Forks Over Knives”

The other day, my yoga teacher invited several of her students to share in a potluck lunch and to watch a documentary called, “Forks Over Knives.”  The setting was beautiful, the company delightful and invigorating, and the documentary educational.  The movie

examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods. The major storyline in the film traces the personal journeys of a pair of pioneering ….. researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.

Dr. Campbell, a nutritional Biochemist at Cornell University had embarked on a research project in the late 1960’s to help bring high quality meat protein to the undernourished of the third world.  In the Philippines, he made a life altering discovery:  Children who lived on a meat based diet were more likely to develop cancer than children who lived on a plant based diet.

Dr. Esselstyn, a surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, on his part, started to observe that many of the diseases he routinely treated were rarely found in countries where animal-based diets were not the norm.

Their separate but mutual discoveries brought them together and they have conducted many studies since.  One of the most comprehensive was conducted in China.  the 20-year China-Cornell-Oxford Project, led by Dr. Campbell, found that most degenerative disease can be reversed by changing one’s diet.  Remove the meat, the sugars, the dairy and you remove the tendency towards many cancers, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

Through media, we have learned that we are at pandemic levels with cancers, diabetes, obesity and heart disease in our country.  Yet over the years, we have been taught that meat is the best source of protein and milk is the best source of calcium.  This belief system is so ingrained in us that many people are unwilling to change their diets.  Not only that, but many nutritionists still insist that meat and dairy are primary sources of protein and calcium.  Add to this the fact that fast food restaurants still dominate in our very busy world and empty calories (ie snacks, sugar filled cereals, and soda pop) continue to be a mainstay in most people’s daily lives, the truth of the matter becomes that we are all willingly poisoning ourselves.

the film [Forks Over Knives] advocates a whole foods, plant-based (vegan) diet as a means of combating a number of diseases. It suggests that “most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods.

When my husband was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer (and by the time they “uncovered” what was ailing him, it had already spread to his liver), we were told to go home and try and make him as confortable as possible.  But our friends rallied and we learned of a clinic in Chicago, The Block Center on Integrative Cancer Care.  I believe that going there and completely changing our diet had a lot to do with the fact that my husband came back from death’s door to live another year, most of that year with good quality of life.  Had we foregone the chemotherapy, would he still be alive today?  Clearly, there is no way of answering that question.  His cancer was at a very advanced stage when found and he was at an age where the first two oncologists we saw basically gave the thumbs down.  Our choices were very limited by that point.

BUT there is no question in my mind that a whole foods, plant based diet is healthier than a fast-food, meat/sugar/dairy based diet is and there is no question in my mind that the chronic diseases that are so prevalent in our society are caused by the foods we choose to eat.  Unfortunately, the lower income citizens of our country have much less choice as to what is available for them to eat, and by turn, we see much chronic illness and obesity in that population.

Our country has a lot of work to do to turn this situation around.  It may take years, but we have to start somewhere.

With regard to sugar, which is found in most processed foods,  many of the symptoms related to withdrawal from other “drugs” are similarly experienced by individuals who remove sugar from their diet.  it takes two weeks for withdrawal of sugar from the system.  An individual can experience agitation, ill-temper, lethargy, headaches, a sense of depression.  But these really are just withdrawal symptoms.  If one recognizes this, one can control those symptoms and know that they will go away with a little time.  No need to get pills from your doctor!

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2013



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  1. Mark Fickler says:

    Every one has an agenda. Certainly eating real food (whether vegan or not) will be superior to the Standard American Diet (SAD) but it is not true that meat and good fats are bad for you. Humans are omnivores by design and our digestive system are optimized for meat and plant based foods. However we are not designed to consume grains. If you are looking for the source of many of the modern day diseases, I’d pay more attention to wheat and other grains than trying to implicate meat and fat. Read a book by Gary Taubes called Why We Get Fat or another by Lierre Keith called The Vegetarian Myth for some good information and food and health.

    • yvonne says:

      Of course the story is much more complex than one book or one blog entry. I personally believe that the same ills that are brought on by eating wheat are the ones brought on by eating meat. The pesticide sprays, the additives, the hormone growth injections, etc.probably are all the real culprits. (I love the acronym for Standard American Diet, by the way!) Agro business Also I am not sure where you read in my blog that good fats are bad for you. It probably is more important to recognize that all things in moderation are preferable to only one kind of diet but if one were to choose one diet, a plant based diet would probably be healthier than a meat based diet. And I look at that as meaning that 90% of what you ingest is either one or the other.
      Thank you for your input.

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