Take Control of Your Health: Eat Real Food

Here's something that will profoundly impact your health and your life: stop eating a Western diet and start eating real food.

A Western diet consists of refined foods, loads of added sugar, large quantities of food, and very few fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Populations who consume this diet invariably suffer from heart disease, cancer, stroke, Type-2 diabetes, and obesity. What about you? What kinds of foods do you regularly consume?

If fast food, packaged food, lots of meat, and loads of sugar are part of your weekly routine, it might be time for a bold change in your lifestyle.

People who stop eating a Western diet will see a dramatic improvement in their overall health — like an 80% reduction in the risk of heart disease, a nearly 90% reduction in the risk of Type 2 diabetes, and a 70% reduction in the risk of cancer.

Those are startling statistics, and I didn't just pull them from thin air. Over the course of twenty years, T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. a professor of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, has been one of the directors of The China Project. The results of this long-term study have been release in a book: The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health

The project was a “survey of death rates for twelve different kinds of cancer for more than 2,400 countries and 880 million (96%) of their citizens,” according to the book. They studied the relationship between mortality rates and the dietary, lifestyle and environmental characteristics in 65 counties in China over a twenty year period. The conclusions are astonishing, especially for those of used raised on a typically American diet.

Here are some of the conclusions from the study:

  • Diets high in animal protein (including casein in cow's milk) are strongly linked to diseases such as cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
  • The authors recommend people eat a whole-food, plant based diet, and avoid consuming beef, poultry, fish, eggs and milk as a means to reduce the risk of and/or reverse the development of chronic diseases.
  • They recommend people take in adequate amounts of sunshine in order to maintain sufficient amounts of Vitamin D.
  • If animal products are completely avoided, they recommend taking a vitamin B12 supplement.
  • The authors state that plants protect the body from disease because so many of these plants contain large amounts and a wide variety of antioxidants, which protect us against free radicals.
  • They say that the consumption of animal protein increases the acidity of blood and tissues. Our bodies pull calcium from our bones to neutralize the acid. Less calcium means weaker bones.

In the book, Dr. Campbell discusses at length certain diseases associate with diet and some of the dietary changes we can make to help prevent or reverse these diseases. Take a good look at this list — it is compelling enough to completely reconsider our fast-paced, quick food, fat and sugar infused, pre-packaged eating habits.

Autoimmune Diseases

Disease such as Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis are more prevalent among people who live at higher geographic altitudes and who consume a diet high in animal protein, particularly cow's milk. Vitamin D, which is important for the regulation of the immune system, is connected to both of these scenarios.

Brain Disease

Alzheimer's disease, dementia and other cognitive problems are linked to hypertension and high cholesterol, and the damage caused by free radicals. Proper diet can control these risk factors.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is linked to the long-term exposure of high concentrations of female hormones and high blood cholesterol levels, and these higher concentrations are linked to a diet high in animal protein. Chinese women are exposed to much lower levels of estrogen than American or British women, and the rate of breast cancer among Chinese women is about one fifth the rate for Western women.

Colorectal Cancer

The consumption of plants high in fiber, such as green leafy vegetables, beans, and whole grains, dramatically reduces the risk of colorectal cancer.

Eye Diseases

A diet that includes carotenoids, which are found in colorful vegetables, help protect against macular degeneration which can lead to blindness. A diet that includes the antioxidant lutein, which is found in spinach, can protect against the development of cataracts.

Heart Disease

Eating plant protein has a greater impact on lowering cholesterol levels than does reducing the fat or cholesterol intake alone. Regular consumption of animal-based foods leads to heart disease. The rate of coronary heart disease among American men (who eat more meat) was seventeen times higher than that of Chinese men at the time of the study.

Kidney Stones

The increased amount of calcium in the blood triggered by the acidity in animal protein may result in kidney stones. Kidney stone formation is linked to the presence of free radicals.

Metabolism and Obesity

Consuming diets high in protein and fat transfers calories to their storage form as fat rather than heat. The authors state that “diet can cause small shifts in calorie metabolism that lead to big shifts in body weight.” They suggest that a diet low in animal protein and fat not only helps prevent obesity, but also helps people reach their full growth potential.

Osteoperosis

As mentioned before, when the body has to pull calcium from the bones to neutralize the affects of acidity from animal protein, the bones become weaker and at greater risk for fracture.

Here are some of the general principles that Dr. Campbell and his associates have determined as a result of their findings during this twenty year study:

  • Proper nutrition is critical to maintaining health in all areas of our lives
  • It is the combined impact of a variety of foods the leads to good nutrition.
  • Foods that are beneficial for a particular chronic disease will support good health across the board.
  • Vitamin supplements are not a substitute for proper nutrition.
  • The same diet and nutrition that can help prevent early stage disease can also help reverse later stage disease.
  • There are virtually no nutrients in animal based foods that are not better provided in plant based foods.
  • Diet and nutrition can neutralize or reverse the effects of noxious chemicals.
  • Genes alone do not determine whether or not you will get a disease. The genes must be activated or expressed, and diet and nutrition play a critical role in that activation, whether the genes are good or bad.

Converting from a traditional Western diet to a mostly vegetarian diet can feel overwhelming and boring. Let's be honest, we like meat. It's hard to resist a juicy steak, bar-be-que ribs, or the million and one ways we've learned how to cook chicken. Eating meat is part of our culture. But that may be the problem. We need to re-define our culture of eating and take control of our health.

If this article has inspired you toward healthier eating, I'd like to invite you to join me in abstaining from red meat for the next two weeks and substitute with additional vegetables and fruit. This is a start, and now that you are armed with the knowledge of how small changes can profoundly impact your health, maybe it won't be so hard!

Here are some great China Study Recipes to get you started on the path to controlling your diet and your health. If you would like to read Dr. Campbell's book, you can get it here:

The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health

Comments

  1. Barrie, this is a great overview. I like how you link the consequences of eating certain foods with disease. I would also add that eating well is good for the environment.

    I favor raw, living foods, comprised mainly of fruits, veggies, and leafy greens, with some raw nuts and seeds on occasion. When I do it right, and stay with it, I look and feel great.
    .-= Christopher Lovejoy┬┤s last blog ..Heart of Darkness 2 =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      That’s great Christopher. The statistics in this study were pretty hard to ignore. It has been a wake-up call for me, and I eat pretty well.

  2. Hi Barrie,

    Way to go promoting The China Study. I was already mostly vegan by the time I got around to reading this, I thought it would be too scientific and dry, but it is really a fascinating book, not only for the research findings, but for the stories about what goes on behind the scenes with the politics of different food and regulatory organizations.

    Another book I think is good to check out for anyone new to diet changes is Skinny Bitch. The writing style is unscientific and a bit silly, but they do back up what they say and it’s easy to read and probably more appealing to the mainstream than any book that doesn’t look “fun”.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Thank you so much for your kind comments. I have seen Skinny Bitch at the bookstore. I’m glad to know that it’s not about a New York socialite or The Real Housewives! Great recommendation. Thank you.

  3. Interesting article Barrie and this data and findings is too real to ignore. I eat a very high raw diet in Summer and a 50% raw diet in Winter. This means almost all plant based foods and many superfoods in their pure, fresh, living organic state. When I eat this way my body weight is always stable, I feel wonderfully energetic and my mood is always happy. As soon as i change my eating I notice in a myriad of ways. For me, just this subjective experience in my life is enough without the large scale studies but it’s great to have them.
    One thing I would like to point out is that some people are just built metabolically to have frequent protein. These people need to be careful when venturing onto a vegetarian or vegan based diet and they need some proper nutritional advise as otherwise their metabolism will start to complain and their energy levels will dip.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Sam,
      Thank you for sharing your experience. It is nice to hear that you can actually enjoy eating “real” food and feel better as a result. And thank you for the advice about protein intake and energy!

  4. Scott McIntyre says:

    Hi Barrie,

    I was very interested to read the study’s findings and the tips on improving overall health through diet.

    It certainly can take time and effort to do our own research into what makes a healthy nutritional diet. For many people, the understandably easy option is to rely on the mass-produced foods everyone else eats. Even by introducing a few, little changes can have surprisingly beneficial effects e.g. substituting non-dairy milk, replacing high-sugar morning cereal with fruit etc.

    ‘Food for thought’, indeed!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      That is great food for thought! Thank you. It will be hard for me to give up chicken and fish. But I can increase my fruits and veggies. I think balance is key. My intuition supports the idea that red meat can’t be that great for you. I don’t seem to need it, so I eat very little of it. This study reinforces things that seem intuitive to me.

  5. Barrie,

    I like to hear both sides. Here is a link to a critique of the China Study: http://rawfoodsos.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/minger_formal_response2.pdf

    I am not associated with the writer but I like to read and found it interesting.

    David

    Full Disclosure: I love to eat lots of meat and fat, no grains and low sugar.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Thank you for sharing that David. I read it, and it’s a very rational and professional response. I think we have to use our best judgment when figuring out all of the information thrown our way. It can be overwhelming. For me, lots of meat and fat and no grains wouldn’t work and doesn’t feel right. Sometimes our own bodies are our best source of info!

  6. Such a great message here. I agree with absolutely everything you say here! I just finished writing an article about becoming vegan (to be published tomorrow), and love that others are sharing their experience on this topic. Luv, luv, luv The China Study.

    You’ve got a new subscriber here ­čśë
    .-= Amanda┬┤s last blog ..How To Keep Track of Your Favorite Blogs =-.

  7. Courtney Carver says:

    It is all about taking accountability for your actions and understanding that what you eat dramatically impacts your health. We each have the personal choice of what we eat and have to live the result.

    Here is the Author’s response to the critique of the China Study: http://www.vegsource.com/articles2/campbell_china_response.htm

    thanks!
    Courtney

    Full Disclosure: I don’t eat anything with a mother.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      A friendly debate! I love it! Thank you for sharing that Courtney. We do have to be responsible for educating ourselves and doing what seems the best for our overall health. There are so many things that come into play — but I think nutrition and diet can have a huge impact on how we feel and our future health.

  8. Tess The Bold Life says:

    I stopped eating red mean over 25 years ago when I started running. I do eat chicken and occasionally fish and turkey. I’m still my high school weight and have been healthy all my life.
    .-= Tess The Bold Life┬┤s last blog ..Be Wisely Selfish =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Wow, you are still your high school weight! That’s fantastic. I have to blame 3 children who weighed over 9 lbs. each for messing with my high school body. But eating healthy and exercise keeps me within a not-to-embarrassing distance from that weight! Good for you Tess. I liked the name of your blog! I am going to have to visit.

  9. Clare Webster says:

    I do absolutely agree that so much of the Western diet is debilitating to every day health (as well as long term health). I realized this from personal experience: I spent a significant amount of time in Vietnam last year, and loved everything I ate there, never once getting sick. When I returned to the US and began eating sugared and preservative-filled food again, I was sick for weeks. Having stopped eating it for so long, Western-type food just did not sit well in my stomach in the slightest when I picked it up again. Needless to say it really made me think about what we eat here, and now I try to make a conscious decision about everything I eat.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Clare,
      That is an interesting story — it’s amazing how our bodies will reject food that is bad for us once we start eating better. Thank you for sharing that.

  10. This is a great article Barrie. I just discovered The China Study and can’t help but wonder why it isn’t more well known. Personally while I prefer a plant based diet, I feel better when I eat a bit more protein so I do eat small amounts of eggs and some dairy, chicken and fish. I suspect beef was much healthier when cattle roamed free and ate grass.

    It’s interesting that indigenous people who don’t eat processed foods (getting harder to find these days) don’t suffer from modern disorders such as diabetes and arthritis or even cavities. But if their nutrition is otherwise poor we westerners live longer on average than they, even with the diseases we incur through “modern” dietary habits. So as usual, I guess it comes down to keeping things in balance.
    .-= Linda Gabriel┬┤s last blog ..If You Want to Lose Weight ÔÇô Eat a Healthy Breakfast =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Linda,
      Another interesting study of longevity is the Okinawa study. There is a very large percentage of people there living into their nineties and older. The study suggests that diet (fish, home grown veggies, etc.), mindful exercise and meditation, and respect for the elderly are big contributors to the health and long lives of the inhabitants. Balance and common sense — you are right. Looking forward to seeing your new blog on diet.

  11. Another China Study critique to add to the pile, one that does a good job of laying out the raw data in a simple way (my main issue with the China Study is the henpecking of stats to achieve results, ignoring conflicting data – it bugs the scientist in me) http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/07/07/the-china-study-fact-or-fallac/

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Thank you Dee. It’s interesting to read all information and sift out what works for us. I appreciate your sharing this!

  12. Jean Sarauer says:

    Good luck to you in your no-meat challenge, Barrie! I went vegetarian a few years back now and have been transitioning to a vegan diet these past few weeks. My body functions a lot better without animal products, so I’m following what it tells me.
    .-= Jean Sarauer┬┤s last blog ..The 3 Secrets to Mass Influence Blogging =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Well, I’m just giving up red meat. I will still have some chicken and fish — but not every day. I’ll be interested to hear how your diet goes.

  13. Thank you for the great post Barrie. I keep several copies of ‘The China Study’ on hand to pass out to people that are going through a health crisis or that are interested in veganism or are just curious. The book is so well written and a good primer to introduce people to the idea of why they should not be eating animals or animal products. I was a vegetarian for most of my adult life. I was diagnosed with melanoma in 2004. I had the cancer removed but decided against any further treatment. Instead, I went vegan, mostly raw, and have never looked back. At 55, I am in peak health and feel great. But not everyone will choose this path. I have counseled friends and family about eating a plant based, whole foods diet, and they told me that it was just too hard. One of my dearest friends was ravaged with cancer, and as they chopped away at his body piece by piece, he still refused to try a vegan path. He died within a year of his diagnosis. I would also highly recommend the movie, ‘Crazy, Sexy, Cancer’. A real eye opener. Love your posts!

  14. Leah McClellan says:

    Great post, Barrie. I’m especially applauding because of your note about genes. When I think of obesity in the US, for example, and how some want to blame it on heredity, I think of two things: First, when I was a kid, obesity was extremely unusual. Where did all those obesity genes come from suddenly? Second, in a grocery checkout aisle I often see an obese woman and obese child. Ah, genetics, one might think. No, let’s look at what they’re buying.

    I haven’t eaten meat since I was a teenager. Lucky me, I grew up with parents who subscribed to Organic Gardening, had a huge garden, and only bought real food and cooked from scratch. Chemicals and processed foods just taste awful when you’re used to the real thing lol Same size as I’ve always been! No cholesterol, no BP issues, none of that at 47.

    Love to see the message spread!
    .-= Leah McClellan┬┤s last blog ..Have You Forgiven Anyone Lately =-.

  15. Hi Barrie – as a teacher it horrifies me each and every day, when i see what children bring to school by way of food. I could go on about that, but for today, I want to tell you about two siblings at the school where I teach. Within 12 months of each other, they have been dignosed with type1 diabetes. The girl now has a costly insulin pump. This ‘allows’ her to bring the same junk to school as the other chidren!!!!!!!!!!! She reads her meter, then tells us what she’s allowed to have, and you guessed it, fruit straps, meusli bars, etc, etc.
    I just don’t get it! When is the medical profession going to wake up to itself? And by the way, we now have 10 children with type1 diabetes. There were none when I went to school!

  16. Andrea DeBell - britetalk says:

    Thanks for such detailed information. I’ve known about the China Study for a while and I try to follow some of its principles. It’s always good to read a post that reminds me to follow a healthy lifestyle so that I can stay on track. ­čśÇ Loving blessings and much love!
    .-= Andrea DeBell – britetalk┬┤s last blog ..Why Did You Do That =-.

  17. Jane Rochelle says:

    Thanks for the great post, Barrie! I completely changed my diet last summer, and have made a dramatic recovery. My health has improved significantly, and I continue to feel better and better. All of this is completely dependent on my self-care, and awareness is the key. Being aware of the foods we eat, our level of exercise, relaxation, stimulation, etc. is so important. Today I’m happy to report that I’m prescription-free, and that’s an awesome feeling!!

    Good luck on your new food habits …
    Jane
    .-= Jane Rochelle┬┤s last blog ..Washing Away Weariness and Bathing In Gratitude =-.