Is it really practical and healthy to eat a plant-based diet?

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Answered by: Raleigh, An Expert in the Diet and Health Category
We are currently being inundated with a wave of plant based information and advice not unlike the last wave of information and advice about protein in our diets. Are we confused yet? Many people are, and rightly so.

It seems that on any given day protein is good or bad; carbohydrates are good or bad; fruits are good or bad. We get most of this information from books or the internet, but many authors seem to have an agenda that influences their positions. Some obviously are selling something that must be supported by their advice, even if it's snake oil. We, the consumers, are left to separate fact from fiction.

The guru that wandered the farthest from a plant based diet was the infamous Dr. Atkins. The empire he built on protein may still be the biggest of any, even though he was fat and died of a heart attack. As they say, "when facts dispute the theory, go with the theory."

Dr. Atkins and his work are now being attacked front-on by the trio of Drs. T. Colin Campbell, Dean Ornish, and Caldwell Esselstyn. Their position on protein range from meat-based protein being the work of the Devil to "confine it to salmon three times a week." A plant based diet is the choice of all three.

Should we believe these guys any more than those who came before? If so, why? The answer lies in The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. It is the biggest, most comprehensive study ever done on nutrition. It implies a required shift in the American lifestyle that is as far away from the average American as is China to America itself.

In all this confusion about nutrition, one warning has been the most constant. Your mother and grandmother gave it to you, and now you're giving it to your children -- eat your vegetables! Few people dispute the value of that advice, and few authors take a position against it. The problem lies in selling the notion. Most people eat some veggies, but how many eat the recommended amount? Taken a step further, how many will switch to a diet that is completely plant-based?

You may find it easier than you think. I have found that the key to making the transition is to find and use good recipes that provide enough variety to keep you interested. There is plenty of evidence that plants give us all the protein we need, so meat is not a necessity. However, it has been an integral part of our consumption for so long that the thought of giving it up completely is like the thought of hari-kari.

The experts say that it takes about 30 days to ingrain a new habit. They also say that you lose your taste for meat if you go without it long enough or restrict it. If you accept these two premises, let me suggest you take the approach presented in Dr. Dean Ornish's book, The Spectrum. His plan may be the most palatable (pun intended).

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