Thursday, October 20, 2011

How To Improve America's Productivity By Changing Our Eating Habits - Which Plant-Based Diet Is Right For You? What's The Difference Between A Vegetarian, Vegan, Flexitarian And Pescatarian Diet?

Heart Attack Grill serves a triple bypass burger

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Shocking Statistics
With the unemployment rate still hovering around the double digit mark and most of our jobs moving offshore, we might wonder what we can do to turn that around. We can't do much about the wage disparity between American workers and those in third world countries but we can do something about our productivity.
A new Gallup study about the health of American workers and their productivity was released and the numbers were shocking!
* Only 1 in 7 workers had a normal weight and no chronic health problems.
* Said a different way, 86% of American workers are overweight or suffer a chronic health problem.
* This causes 450 MILLION missed days of work per year.
* And resulted in $153 BILLION in lost productivity.
I wonder how we are going to become a thriving nation again with statistics like that?

Is it because of our Diet?
Have you been to the Heart Attack Grill? Seriously, a new restaurant in Las Vegas specializes in food that is bad for you and features a menu item called the "quadruple bypass burger". They even have a hospital theme where the owner is "Dr. Jon", the servers are dressed as nurses and the patrons are given hospital gowns (I'm not making this up!). An ambulance is parked out front which I'm sure is convenient for those ordering their 8,000 calorie meal. Oh, did I mention, patrons over 350 pounds eat for free!
Yes, it's clear that our diet has led to these numbers. That and the pervasive attitude that it's fun to eat food that is bad for you.

What's the Best Diet?
Many people want to turn this around. Usually it's when they suffer a heart attack or get the bad news that they have diabetes. But the good news is that, in many cases, health can improve and it's as easy as picking up a fork! (By the way, if you haven't seen Forks Over Knives yet, it's a must see). But selecting a new diet can be difficult and many people need a regimen that appeals to them and one that they can stick to. 

Different Plant Based Diets
Is there a perfect diet? I don't think so. We are all built differently, place different demands on our bodies, live in different geographies, etc. So a diet that works well for one person may not work for another. Also, a diet that appeals to one person may not appeal to someone else. One person may have life changing results by eliminating all animal products from their diet and another feel better by eating a mostly plant-based diet and occasionally eating fresh eggs or having a piece of fish. Many people may start out by eliminating red meat from their diet and a year later they may have eliminated pork and chicken too. You just have to do what works best for you.

What are Plant-Based Diets?
A “plant-based diet” can vary from those who eat mostly fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts and seeds with small amounts of fish, meat, eggs or dairy to those who avoid animal protein completely. By the way, just because you are a vegetarian or vegan, doesn't mean you have a healthy diet. Like all diets, you have to plan your diet to make sure you are getting all the nutrients. Here are some examples of "healthful" plant-based diets:

Vegetarian Diet:
A vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat, poultry or seafood or any products that come from those foods (like gelatin or rennet). Besides fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts and seeds, lacto-ovo vegetarians eat cheese and eggs. A lacto-vegetarian eats dairy products but no eggs. An ovo-vegetarian eats eggs but no dairy products.
A “healthful” vegetarian diet includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. If dairy is consumed, it should be reduced fat, organic, free of rBGH (Bovine Growth Hormone), and used in moderate quantities. Dairy products are a source of high quality protein and contain vitamin B12 (nutrients missing in plant food). However, its consumption poses some health concerns and scientific evidence questions its health benefits. 

* Dairy products have little or no benefit for bones. 
* Cholesterol and saturated fat in dairy can contribute to heart disease.
* Breast, prostate and other cancers have been linked to the consumption of dairy products.
* Many people are lactose intolerant because they lack the enzyme that digests milk. 
Eggs contain vitamin B12, and are a source of high quality protein. If eggs are consumed, they should be pasture raised and eaten in moderation due to their high content of cholesterol. According to Egg testing by Mother Earth news,  pasture raised eggs have 1/3 less cholesterol, 1/4 less saturated fat, 2/3 more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E, 7 times more beta carotene and 4 to 6 times more vitamin D!

Vegan Diet:

A vegan diet is a plant-based diet that excludes all animal products, even milk, eggs and honey. 
A “healthful” vegan diet includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Certain critical vitamins cannot be adequately obtained from plants. Vegans must supplement or eat fortified foods to get adequate amounts of:
Vitamin B12
Vitamin D
DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acid
In addition to the enormous health benefits of this eating a vegan diet, most vegans are primarily motivated by compassion and the desire not to harm or kill animals for their food or subject any animal to the cruelty of factory farming. Many vegans also wish to avoid the devastating effects of animal agriculture on the environment. 
* Over 10 billion factory farmed animals, who live unnaturally and are treated inhumanely) are slaughtered for food in the US each year.
* Animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation.
* Factory farming pollutes our rivers and streams with massive amounts of antibiotics, hormones, pesticides and other toxic chemicals which end up in our drinking water.
* One third of the earth's entire land surface, more than half the water and over 1/3 of the petroleum is depleted by factory farming.
* 800 million more people could be fed if most of the grain in the U.S. wasn't used for animal agriculture.

Raw Food Vegan Diet:
Raw food vegans, as other vegans, exclude all animal food. They typically eat a diet composed of at least 75% raw food made up primarily of raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouted grains and beans. Foods are considered raw if they have not been heated above 105 to 118 degrees F. Raw food vegans typically select this diet to address a severe health issue, like cancer, heart disease or diabetes, or to achieve remarkable health. 
A  “healthful” raw food vegan diet includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, sprouted whole grains and beans, and raw nuts and seeds. Certain critical vitamins cannot be adequately obtained from plants. Since raw food vegans avoid fortified foods, they must supplement to get adequate amounts of:
Vitamin B12
Vitamin D
DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acid
Eating food in it's raw state provides more phytochemicals, prevents the loss of heat sensitive vitamins and essential fatty acids and gives you the benefit of live food rich with enzymes.As beneficial as it is to eat lots of raw food, I do not think a 100% raw food diet is optimal unless you are doing it for a short time as a cleanse or you are trying to maintain a pristine environment for your body to fight a serious disease. There are some key benefits to including some cooked foods in a raw food diet regimen. For one, it's easier to consume beans and grains that are a great source of protein, fiber and low fat calories. It makes it a bit easier to socialize with your friends and family (a 100% raw foodist can become isolated) and in the winter, you may crave some warmer food.

Flexitarian Diet:

        Flexitarians, or Semi-Vegetarians are people who mostly eat a vegetarian diet but occasionally eat meat, poultry or fish. For example, many people avoid red meat, eat mostly vegetarian meals but include chicken or salmon in their diet a few times a week. More and more people are drawn to this diet because of data showing the many health benefits of eating less meat. Allowing for the occasional chicken breast or grilled salmon steak makes it easier for those who have trouble sticking to a veggie diet all of the time. 
A “healthful” flexitarian diet includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Dairy should be minimized but if consumed, should be organic and free of rBGH. Eggs, if consumed, should be pasture raised and eaten in moderation due to their high content of cholesterol. If fish is part of the diet, it should be wild, line caught, sustainable and low in mercury. When meat is consumed, it should be lean, range fed and hormone free. Red meat should be avoided or eaten sparingly. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends limiting the consumption of red meats and avoiding processed meats completely. 
Cultivate Research, a market research company for the vegetarian food industry predicts “The semi-vegetarian segment has the potential to grow to one-third of the U.S. adult population.” Ironically, this demand for vegetarian food is probably what’s driving more meat-free entrees in restaurants and products in mainstream grocery stores and not the demand from committed vegetarians, the 3% of the adult U.S. population who never eats meat, poultry or seafood. According to a 2005 survey by Cultivate Research, 13% of adults are semi-vegetarians or individuals who eat meat with fewer than half their meals. 

Pescatarian Diet:
A pescatarian is someone who avoids all meat with the exception of fish. Some pescatarians consume eggs and dairy. 
Given the benefits of a healthful vegan diet coupled with the high concentration of long chain omega 3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA), vitamin D and vitamin B12, critical nutrients missing from a strict vegan diet, a pescatarian diet can be extremely beneficial - especially if dairy and eggs are minimized or avoided.
 A “healthful” pescatarian diet includes fish, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Fish should be wild, line caught, sustainable and low in mercury and chosen for its high content of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids. For example, it only takes 2.6 ounces of cooked Pacific oysters or 1.9 ounces of wild Atlantic salmon to get 1 gram of (EPA and DHA) omega-3 but it would take almost a pound of catfish or haddock! 
Omega-3 is critical for cardiovascular health, strengthening the immune system, lowering the risk of stroke, cancer and inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. Recent studies link depression, ADHD and hyperactivity with low levels of this critical fatty acid. Omega-3s are especially important for pregnant and nursing women, and young children as DHA is needed in very high concentrations for the development of the brain.
 For adequate omega 3, fish eaters are encouraged to consume two 6-ounce servings of per week of the lowest mercury seafood with the highest amounts of omega-3 such as: Pacific oysters, anchovies, Pacific herring, Atlantic chub, wild salmon, Atlantic sardines and American Shad. The Monterrey bay aquarium publishes a Super Green List that tells you what fish have low levels of contaminants, provide at least 250 mg of omega-3 and are are caught or raised in the most environmentally friendly ways. 

Bottom Line
Whatever diet you decide on, one thing is for sure. You should pass on the "triple bypass burger"!


mélanie Ménard said...

I considere myself as a pescatarian who sometime eat eggs and rarely dairy. I have two young children 2 and 3 ½ and i feed them the same as me. Sometime i am worried they wont receive every thing they need...due to the education that i receive and the COmments from the grands parents. Frequently i second guess myself!!What do you think of vegetarian/vegan for kids??? thank you so much

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

Speaking strictly as a nutritionist, the pescatarian diet you are presently serving your children with the occasional egg and very limited dairy, provides them with almost everything they need. (I assume the fish is low mercury and high in omega-3, and the rest of the diet is full of whole grain, lots of veggies and fruits, beans etc.). They will also need some non-dairy milk fortified with vitamin D.
Vegetarian and vegan diets for children (or anyone else) requires careful planning and supplementation. The most critical for your young children would be DHA omega-3 fatty acid that they are presently getting from fish. DHA is needed for proper brain development and is very important at their age. Of course they would also need vitamin B12 and vitamin D supplementation as these vitamins are not found naturally in the plant kingdom.