Northern Nephrology & Hypertension Logo

Craig G. Hurwitz, M.D.

Plant Based Nutrition

   

 

by Harvey I. Hurwitz, M.D.

    Whole, unrefined plant based nutrition can have a dramatic effect on your health. This simple statement is supported by the life’s work of three outstanding nutritional researchers in the United States-Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, T. Colin Campbell, PhD, and Dr. Dean Ornish.  Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn has intensively followed and treated a group of patients with significant coronary artery disease at the Cleveland Clinics. A surgeon, clinician, and researcher at the Cleveland Clinics he devoted himself to understanding the effects of nutrition on the development of coronary artery disease. T Colin Campbell, PhD is a giant in basic nutritional research. He is professor emeritus of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University and is the prime author of The China Study.1 This book is primarily a summary of his understanding of nutrition based on his many years of nutritional research and his vast knowledge of the nutritional literature. His career has focused on nutrition and cancer. Dr. Dean Ornish, a professor and cardiologist, was instrumental in demonstrating to our nation for the first time that nutrition and lifestyle change could reverse coronary artery disease. What these men had in common was their conclusion that plant based nutrition is a powerful option in our striving for health.

On 5/12/2012 T. Colin Campbell PhD spoke on “Resolving the Health Care Crisis.”2 He spoke on the major role of nutrition, particularly the whole-foods, plant based nutrition in the prevention and treatment of disease, including cancer. He showed a surprising slide about plant versus animal food.

 
PLANTS
ANIMALS
Antioxidants
only in plants
none
Complex Carbohydrates
only in plants
none
Vitamins
only in plants
none
Fat
9-11%
15-20%
Protein
9-11%
15-20%

 

Even as a physician I was shocked that antioxidants and vitamins, key elements to health, are only found in plants. Complex carbohydrates are the healthy carbohydrates as opposed to the simple sugars. Processed foods are high in what he calls the “3 devils”, oil or fat, sugar, and salt.

Nutrition is a symphony
Antioxidants are the new stars in nutrition. Their importance is justified. There are actually thousands of antioxidants. In our metabolism of food we produce extra, charged particles called free radicals which are felt to play a role in aging and chronic illnesses, for example heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other degenerative diseases. We utilize antioxidants to “mop up” or neutralize these free radicals.                                                                               
Why are antioxidants found almost exclusively in plants? Only plants employ photosynthesis to capture the energy of the sun. To protect itself against the multitude of free radicals that are a byproduct of photosynthesis, the plant puts up a chemical shield of antioxidants.
Incredibly, the dazzling, rainbow colors seen in many fruits and vegetables result from the antioxidants. When we focus on whole foods and eat this rainbow of colors as well as colorless antioxidants, we are using the plant’s protective shield to our advantage.
A leaf of spinach has a vast number of chemicals. These chemicals and their interactions with each other is what contribute to good nutrition. Dr. Campbell makes the very important point that when we look at nutrition we should look at it like a symphony. While there are many different players, these players are part of an orchestra and interact with each other. It is for this reason that an individual nutrient taken as a pill is not a substitute for that nutrient as it exists in whole food. For example, vitamin E, an antioxidant found in many plants, has been shown to be ineffective when given alone in pill form.


 

Plant Based Nutrition (PBN):

  1. Introduction

  2. Coronary Artery Disease and PBN

  3. Cancer and PBN

  4. References & Websites