Lisa Clark/ The Mainstream
Nursing Student Cami Mattravers feels great eating a Whole Food Plant Based diet.

The food you eat can determine how you live

Despite the incredible advances in medicine and science, lifestyle changes are essential to living a long, healthy life. “Back in 1903, Thomas Edison predicted that the ‘doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patient in the care of [the] human frame in diet and in the cause and prevention of diseases,’” says Dr. Michael Greger in his book “How Not to Die.”

More than 100 years later the majority of doctors are still not instructing their patients in disease prevention through lifestyle and nutrition. Instead, the medical system continues to treat the symptoms of preventable disease rather than the root cause of the problem.

In the 1970s, Nathan Pritikin was among the first to assert that heart disease could be treated and reversed using lifestyle changes. He opened a live-in center where patients were treated using a low-fat, plant-based diet and a gradual exercise program. Greger’s grandmother, who was sent home from the hospital to die of heart disease at age 65, was one of the first live-in patients.

In Pritikin’s biography, Pritikin: The Man Who Healed America’s Heart, Greger’s grandmother was described as one of the “death’s door people,” “Frances Greger…arrived in Santa Barbara at one of Pritikin’s early sessions in a wheelchair. Mrs. Greger had heart disease, angina, and claudication; her condition was so bad she could no longer walk without great pain in her chest and legs. Within three weeks, though, she was not only out of her wheelchair but was walking ten miles a day.”

Greger, who was a child when his grandma was sent home to die, was inspired to become a doctor when he saw first-hand that nutrition and lifestyle changes allowed his grandma to reverse her heart disease and live another 31 years.

UCC Nursing student Cami Mattravers and her husband attended the Total Health Improvement Program (THIP), an 11 week series of nutrition and lifestyle classes put on by UC-VEG. They have embraced the whole food plant-based way of eating they learned in the classes.

“Cheese was one of our favorite foods, and the most difficult to give up,” says Mattravers. “It is worth it though; we feel amazing, our energy levels are up, my husband lost over 50 pounds and our health in general has improved.”

Mattravers says that eating a plant based diet doesn’t interfere with their social life, though not everyone understands this way of eating. In addition to the health benefits she has experienced, Mattravers says that grocery shopping is simpler and purchasing whole foods is less expensive.

“Learning to eat this way was difficult in the beginning, we had to learn a new way of cooking the ingredients,” says Mattravers, “One of my favorite breakfasts is the Great Start Green Smoothie on the UC-VEG website.” (Recipe below)

Most doctors may not be promoting these lifestyle and nutrition changes yet, but that doesn’t need to stop people from educating themselves and making changed on their own that may add years to their life and life to their years.

“This was my wake-up call. I opened my eyes to the depressing fact that there are other forces at work in medicine besides science. The U.S. health care system runs on a fee-for-service model in which doctors get paid for the pills and procedures they prescribe, rewarding quantity over quality. We don’t get reimbursed for time spent counseling our patients about the benefits of healthy eating,” says Greger, “If doctors were instead paid for performance, there would be a financial incentive to treat the lifestyle causes of disease. Until the model of reimbursement changes, I don’t expect great changes in medical care or medical education.”

The “Great Start” Green Smoothie

Haven’t developed a taste for dark leafy greens? Don’t worry! You won’t notice them in this drink. This delicious, plant-based smoothie is an excellent way to add more greens and fruit to your diet. The smoothie gets most of its sweetness from the dates and the ripeness of the bananas, so decrease the amount if you don’t have much of a sweet tooth.

*Serves 3-4

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups non-dairy milk, or water (soy, almond, coconut, hemp, oat, etc.)
  • 1 cup berries (blue, rasp., straw., blackberry)
  • 1 chopped apple + whatever other fruit needs to be used (mango, pear, nectarine, apricot, peach, etc.)
  • 1 ½ ripe bananas, peeled (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 cups de-stemmed kale (can also use collards, swiss chard or spinach)
  • 2 Tbsp. seeds (flax, chia, sunflower, hemp)
  • ½ cup nuts (almonds or cashews)
  • 1/4 cup pitted dates, or to taste (for sweetener) (soaking dates that are harder/drier can be helpful for some blenders)
  • Optional: coconut oil, bee pollen, greens powder, cacao nibs, apple juice, shredded coconut, oats
  • Combine liquid in blender and add chia and/or flax seeds to soak while gathering and preparing all other ingredients. Add all other ingredients (optional: wait to add nuts and dates).
  • Blend until smooth and creamy. If not already added, pulse in remaining ingredients.
  • Enjoy right away!

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