Get Organized, Eat Better

Two of the most com­mon New Year’s res­o­lu­tions are to lose weight and to get orga­nized. The good news is that it’s eas­i­er to do both if you do them togeth­er. If you have reg­u­lar meals of healthy food, you’ll be less like­ly to fill up on junk.

To do my meal plan­ning and make up my shop­ping lists, I use the sys­tem that Pam Young and Peg­gy Jones intro­duced in their book The Side­tracked Sis­ters Catch Up on the Kitchen. Pam and Peg­gy have writ­ten a series of very fun­ny books packed with prac­ti­cal advice to enable the con­gen­i­tal­ly dis­or­ga­nized to get con­trol of their homes and their lives. Their meal plan­ning sys­tem involves index cards, one card for each menu.

Each of my menu cards rep­re­sents an entire meal. It includes the names of the dish­es, along with where I can find the recipe, and a list of all the ingre­di­ents. I also include spe­cial instruc­tions, such as if I have to start soak­ing beans the day before. When I plan my meals, I try to include a vari­ety of tastes and tex­tures. If a main dish requires bak­ing, I’ll include a dessert that has to be baked at the same tem­per­a­ture. I even indi­cate whether the recipe is sea­son­al. For exam­ple, I’ll have recipes for aspara­gus in the spring, and pump­kin in the fall.

To do my meal plan­ning, I just select some of my cards. The cards tell me all the ingre­di­ents I’ll need. While I’m mak­ing one day’s meal, I’ll check the fol­low­ing day’s card, to see if I have to soak any beans or do any oth­er kind of advanced prepa­ra­tion.

Of course, that’s not the only way to switch to a healthy low-fat, plant-based diet. Karen Bar­row achieved it with­out com­pli­cat­ed recipes.

Just cook the food ahead on the day that you have off and you can have your whole thing stream­lined and orga­nized for the whole week. Just have your boiled pota­toes, have your cooked grains. We make these things we call “veg­gie tubs” where we put a mix­ture of raw veg­eta­bles in indi­vid­ual lit­tle con­tain­ers so that they’re grab and go. You can make it as stream­lined as you want it to be…. Just make a deci­sion that you’re going to try it for a giv­en amount of time, and if you do that your tastes will change, and you’ll have the results you want, and you’ll have them quick­ly.

Update: Try the mobile cook­book app from John and Mary McDougall!

What People Can Achieve by Eating a Low-Fat, Plant-Based Diet

If you have any chron­ic health prob­lem, I don’t care what it is, con­sid­er mak­ing a change in your diet. Often, a sim­ple exclu­sion diet pro­to­col can help you cure dev­as­tat­ing dis­eases like type 2 dia­betes or rheuma­toid arthri­tis. It can also make you heart-attack-proof and reduce your risk of can­cer. A change to a low-fat, plant-based diet is sim­ple and cheap and has no side effects. If you have any seri­ous health prob­lem, talk to a reg­is­tered dietit­ian (look for the “RD” after their name) as well as your doc­tor before mak­ing a change in diet.

Lose Weight

The secret to effort­less weight loss is to go ape and eat plants. Switch to a high-fiber, low-fat diet based on unre­fined starch­es and lots of veg­eta­bles. Eat as much of these foods as you can hold, and you’ll be less tempt­ed to snack on high-calo­rie junk food.

Stop Multiple Sclerosis

Dr. Roy Swank showed that you can stop the pro­gres­sion of mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis just by tak­ing the ani­mal prod­ucts and fat out of the diet. Dr. John McDougall is car­ry­ing on this research.

Become Heart-Attack-Proof

Dr. Cald­well Essel­styn took a bunch of patients with advanced coro­nary artery dis­ease and made them “heart-attack-proof” just by teach­ing them to eat the right kinds of food.

Cure Type 2 Diabetes

Dr. Neal Barnard proved that a low-fat, plant-based diet is bet­ter than the Amer­i­can Dia­betes Association’s stan­dard dietary rec­om­men­da­tions for con­trol­ling type 2 dia­betes. Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s patients with type 2 dia­betes become “undi­a­bet­ic” with­in a mat­ter of weeks if they eat that way.

Dramatically Reduce Your Risk of Cancer

T. Col­in Camp­bell, PhD, a world-famous nutri­tion­al bio­chemist and nutri­tion­al epi­demi­ol­o­gist, has shown that the more ani­mal-based foods peo­ple eat, the high­er their risk of can­cer. In ani­mal mod­els, sci­en­tists could turn the devel­op­ment of tumors on and off just by increas­ing or decreas­ing the amount of ani­mal pro­tein in the diet.

Fight Arthritis

Arthri­tis is not an inevitable con­se­quence of age. It is com­par­a­tive­ly rare in soci­eties where peo­ple eat a low-fat, plant-based diet. About 70% of peo­ple with the most com­mon form of inflam­ma­to­ry arthri­tis, rheuma­toid arthri­tis, can expect dra­mat­ic ben­e­fits, and often a cure, in less than 4 weeks of diet change. The diet must be fol­lowed strictly—medications are reduced and stopped as improve­ments occur.

Prevent Osteoporosis

Osteo­poro­sis is reversible, if you eat a plant-based diet, get rea­son­able expo­sure to sun­shine, and get some exer­cise. Believe it or not, dairy prod­ucts actu­al­ly make osteo­poro­sis worse.

Relieve Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Inflam­ma­to­ry bow­el dis­eases occur almost exclu­sive­ly in parts of the world where the diet is high in meat and dairy foods, and are rare in coun­tries where peo­ple still con­sume starch-based, almost entire­ly veg­e­tar­i­an meals.

Avoid Surgery for Gallstones

Gall­stones are usu­al­ly made of cho­les­terol, and they result when peo­ple over­load their sys­tem with fat­ty, high-cho­les­terol foods.

Prevent Varicose Veins, Hemorrhoids, Hiatal Hernia, Uterine Prolapse

All of those dis­or­ders result from con­sti­pa­tion. When peo­ple strain to move their bow­els, the abnor­mal­ly high pres­sure in the bel­ly can dam­age the valves in the veins and push var­i­ous organs out of their nor­mal posi­tions.

Appendicitis and Diverticulosis

The high-pro­tein, low-fiber West­ern diet is the cause of appen­dici­tis and diver­tic­u­lo­sis.

The List Goes On and On

Many oth­er dis­eases have been shown to be the result of the rich, fat­ty, low-fiber stan­dard Amer­i­can diet. I should also have list­ed acne, bad breath, body odor, and erec­tile dys­func­tion, along with kid­ney and liv­er dis­ease. The sad thing is that many peo­ple unwit­ting­ly sub­ject them­selves to these dis­eases in their attempt to avoid “pro­tein defi­cien­cy,” even though pro­tein defi­cien­cy isn’t a real prob­lem in human beings. After all, where do goril­las get their pro­tein?

The Boxing Day Tsunami: Did Our Taste for Shrimp Doom People to Drown?

Har­vest­ing food from the sea has always tak­en a seri­ous toll in human life. As Sir Wal­ter Scott once wrote: “It’s no fish ye’re buy­ing, it’s men’s lives.” The same prin­ci­ple may have applied to the Box­ing Day Tsuna­mi of 2004. The dev­as­ta­tion of the coastal man­grove forests by the com­mer­cial shrimp farm­ing indus­try stripped coastal com­mu­ni­ties of an impor­tant buffer against the pow­er of the sea.

A study pub­lished in Sci­ence in 2005 showed that where the man­grove forests still exist­ed, they did pro­vide valu­able pro­tec­tion against the Box­ing Day Tsuna­mi.

Here’s what hap­pens when there’s noth­ing stand­ing between you and the pow­er of the ocean:

One way to help pro­tect the man­groves, and the ecosys­tems and com­mu­ni­ties they sup­port, is to stop eat­ing shrimp. For more infor­ma­tion, vis­it the Man­grove Action Project ( and their Shrimp Less, Think More blog (

In case you were won­der­ing, goril­las don’t fish. If goril­las don’t need to eat seafood in order to grow big and strong, nei­ther do you. Nor do human beings need to eat seafood in order to grow a large and use­ful brain.

How Gorillas Celebrate Christmas–With Brussels Sprouts!

Just Make Sure You Stay Upwind of Them

At Christ­mas­time last year, the Chess­ing­ton World of Adven­tures, in Sur­rey, Eng­land, gave their goril­las some Brus­sels sprouts. The goril­las loved them, but the after­ef­fects hor­ri­fied the zoo vis­i­tors.

Goril­la keep­er Michael Rozzi said: “We feed the goril­las Brus­sels sprouts dur­ing the win­ter because they are packed with vit­a­min C and have great nutri­tion­al ben­e­fits. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, an embar­rass­ing side effect is that it can cause bouts of flat­u­lence in humans and ani­mals alike. How­ev­er, I don’t think any of us were pre­pared for a smell that strong.” The goril­las didn’t seem to care, nor did any of the goril­las ask any­one to pull their fin­ger. The zoo keep­ers solved the prob­lem by giv­ing the goril­las their Brus­sels sprouts after clos­ing time. On Christ­mas Day, when the zoo was closed to the pub­lic, the goril­las got to eat Brus­sels sprouts all day long. It was a solu­tion that worked for every­one.

I eat a lot of Brus­sels sprouts in the win­ter, and I eat oth­er mem­bers of the cab­bage fam­i­ly and lots of beans year-round, but I nev­er have a gas prob­lem. I’m grate­ful for that, but it means I can’t use myself as a sub­ject to test pos­si­ble reme­dies. Some peo­ple rec­om­mend Bean-o, and oth­ers rec­om­mend spices and herbs such as cumin, fen­nel, car­away, dill, pep­per­mint, chamomile, sage, and thyme.

Many peo­ple who think that they hate Brus­sels sprouts real­ly only hate over­cooked Brus­sels sprouts. Over­cook­ing releas­es a stinky sul­fur com­pound called sin­i­grin. Try cook­ing your sprouts for only 6 to 7 min­utes, and see if that makes a dif­fer­ence. The sin­i­grin will stay put, until you digest the sprouts.

Sin­i­grin may stink, but it’s prob­a­bly good for you. It evi­dent­ly caus­es can­cer cells in the colon to com­mit sui­cide, which could help to explain why pop­u­la­tions that eat a lot of cab­bage and oth­er mem­bers of the Bras­si­ca fam­i­ly, includ­ing Brus­sels sprouts, have a low risk of colon can­cer.

Fresh Leaves All Winter, From an Unheated Greenhouse, in Maine!?!?

They’re on the Same Line of Lat­i­tude as the South of France

Goril­las can eat leaves all year round because they live in the trop­ics. What about those of us who live in the North? The only leaves I see around here today are pine nee­dles, which don’t seem edi­ble.

We could eat pro­duce that has been shipped from Flori­da or Cal­i­for­nia, but think of all the fos­sil fuel that would get burned up. Is there anoth­er alter­na­tive? Evi­dent­ly, there is. Eliot Cole­man has writ­ten books about how to grow tasty leaves all year round, in an unheat­ed green­house, in Maine. After he real­ized the shock­ing fact that his home in Maine is on the same line of lat­i­tude as the South of France, he start­ed using the same tech­niques that the Euro­peans have long used for extend­ing their grow­ing sea­son. He now har­vests sal­ad greens all year round.

For the real­ly hard-core, here’s a green­house from Cana­da that works with­out sup­ple­men­tal heat in tem­per­a­tures of -30 degrees Fahren­heit. It’s insu­lat­ed with soap bub­bles.

Why People Didn’t Need Doctors in Shangri-La

It Wasn’t Just the Apri­cots

In his nov­el Lost Hori­zon (, the British writer James Hilton wrote about a fic­tion­al val­ley named Shangri-La, which was locat­ed some­where high in the Himalayas. There’s some­thing mag­i­cal about this val­ley. Peo­ple who enter it regain their health, and they age very slow­ly while in the val­ley. So they live seem­ing­ly for­ev­er.

Of course, there was nev­er real­ly any such place as Shangri-La, but I was remind­ed of it when I read this pas­sage from Stud­ies in Defi­cien­cy Dis­ease, by Sir Robert McCar­ri­son, Oxford Med­ical Pub­li­ca­tions, Hen­ry Frowde and Hod­der & Stoughton, Lon­don, 1921 (

My own expe­ri­ence pro­vides an exam­ple of a race, unsur­passed in per­fec­tion of physique and in free­dom from dis­ease in gen­er­al, whose sole food con­sists to this day of grains, veg­eta­bles, and fruits, with a cer­tain amount of milk and but­ter, and meat only on feast days. I refer to the peo­ple of the State of Hun­za, sit­u­at­ed in the extreme north­ern­most point of India. So lim­it­ed is the land avail­able for cul­ti­va­tion that they can keep lit­tle live­stock oth­er than goats, which browse on the hills, while the food sup­ply is so restrict­ed that the peo­ple, as a rule, do not keep dogs. They have, in addi­tion to grains — wheat, bar­ley, and maize — an abun­dant crop of apri­cots. These they dry in the sun and use very large­ly in their food.

Amongst these peo­ple the span of life is extra­or­di­nar­i­ly long; and such ser­vice as I was able to ren­der them dur­ing some sev­en years spent in their midst was con­fined chiefly to the treat­ment of acci­den­tal lesions, the removal of senile cataract, plas­tic oper­a­tions for gran­u­lar eye­lids, or the treat­ment of mal­adies whol­ly uncon­nect­ed with food sup­ply. Appen­dici­tis, so com­mon in Europe, was unknown. When the severe nature of the win­ter in that part of the Himalayas is con­sid­ered, and the fact that their hous­ing accom­mo­da­tion and con­ser­van­cy arrange­ments are of the most prim­i­tive, it becomes obvi­ous that the enforced restric­tion to the unso­phis­ti­cat­ed food­stuffs of nature is com­pat­i­ble with long life, con­tin­ued vigour, and per­fect physique.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, if the aver­age Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist got hold of this sto­ry, he or she would prob­a­bly focus on the apri­cots. We’d soon see apri­cot extracts, prob­a­bly in pill form, show­ing up on the shelves of stores that sell vit­a­mins and herbal prod­ucts. Every­one would prob­a­bly miss the main point of this sto­ry, which is that the Hun­za peo­ple were healthy because their diet was based heav­i­ly on an assort­ment of unre­fined plant foods, includ­ing plen­ty of fruits and veg­eta­bles as well as grains.

Why Gorillas Are So Gentle

The Upside and Down­side of Liv­ing on Leaves

All of the great apes are plant-eaters. Even chim­panzees, which occa­sion­al­ly hunt and kill small ani­mals and eat them, still eat less meat than near­ly any human soci­ety. Yet the var­i­ous great ape species fit into dif­fer­ent eco­log­i­cal nich­es, so they focus on dif­fer­ent kinds of plant foods. Chim­panzees are main­ly fruit eaters. Although goril­las will eat fruit and nuts when­ev­er they’re avail­able, they main­ly eat leaves.

The fact that goril­las main­ly eat leaves explains a lot about their behav­ior and social struc­ture. Leaves don’t run away, so there’s no need to chase them. Leaves are so abun­dant in the gorilla’s habi­tat, and so low in calo­ries, that it’s point­less to fight over them. A tree full of ripe fruit or nuts is anoth­er mat­ter, entire­ly. In gen­er­al, I’d expect ani­mals that main­ly eat leaves to be nicer than ani­mals that main­ly eat fruit, because they have less to fight over.

Goril­las face the same kinds of chal­lenges as any ani­mal that spe­cial­izes in eat­ing leaves. Here are a few of those chal­lenges, as explained by Fiona Sun­quist (The strange, dan­ger­ous world of folivory. Inter­na­tion­al Wildlife; Jan­u­ary-Feb­ru­ary, 1991; pages 4–10):
The demands of liv­ing on low-ener­gy and often poi­so­nous food means that most foli­vores live close to the lim­it of their ener­gy sup­ply.
  • They must con­serve ener­gy wher­ev­er pos­si­ble, and this often trans­lates into being very slow.
  • It is no coin­ci­dence that the sloth, the world’s slow­est mam­mal, is a foli­vore.
  • Besides being slow, foli­vores also spend much of their time rest­ing.

All this sug­gests that if you want to be a marathon run­ner, you’ll want to eat some­thing besides leaves–ideally some­thing starchy. If you sim­ply want to be thin­ner, you might want to try eat­ing more leaves.

Where Should Danes Get Their Protein?

Even though Den­mark was neu­tral dur­ing World War I, the dis­rup­tion of inter­na­tion­al trade as a result of the war meant that the Dan­ish pop­u­la­tion faced the prospect of mass star­va­tion. That’s because the Danes had been import­ing about half of their grain sup­ply, much of which was being used to feed farm ani­mals. To keep the Dan­ish pop­u­la­tion from starv­ing, the Dan­ish gov­ern­ment assigned a physi­cian and nutri­tion­ist named Mikkel Hind­hede, who was the man­ag­er of the Dan­ish Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ry for Nutri­tion Research, in Copen­hagen, to design a sys­tem of rationing.

Hind­hede decid­ed that the Danes should stop feed­ing grain to farm ani­mals, or using it to make alco­hol, but should eat what grain they had them­selves. Hind­hede told peo­ple not to wor­ry about get­ting enough pro­tein, or enough fat. As Hind­hede report­ed to the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion, “No atten­tion was paid to the pro­tein min­i­mum. It was held that this min­i­mum was so low for man that it could not be reached, pro­vid­ed suf­fi­cient calo­ries were fur­nished. While fat was regard­ed as a very valu­able addi­tion to the dietary, it was not con­sid­ered as being nec­es­sary.”

Under Hindhede’s food rationing sys­tem, the pop­u­la­tion ate pota­toes and bar­ley, veg­eta­bles, a lit­tle bit of milk and very lit­tle but­ter. Con­sump­tion of meat was prac­ti­cal­ly elim­i­nat­ed, as was con­sump­tion of alco­hol. This diet was “not to Mr. Sørenson’s lik­ing,” as the Danes say, but it was good for Mr. Sørenson’s health.

Under this rationing sys­tem, the death rate from Octo­ber 1917 to Octo­ber 1918 in Den­mark plum­met­ed to its low­est ever. (After that, of course, the Great Pan­dem­ic of influen­za caused huge spikes in mor­tal­i­ty all over the world, includ­ing in Den­mark.) Hind­hede remarked that it’s hard to fig­ure out how much of the decrease in death rate was due to the elim­i­na­tion of meat from the diet, and how much to the elim­i­na­tion of alco­hol.

Hind­hede argues that if a sim­i­lar sys­tem of rationing had been put in place in Cen­tral Europe, no one would have starved. Iron­i­cal­ly, if such a sys­tem had been in place world­wide, it would have pre­vent­ed the Great Pan­dem­ic. We know now that influen­za pan­demics are a result of rais­ing pigs and poul­try for food. The moral of the sto­ry is this: you can improve your own health dra­mat­i­cal­ly if you stop eat­ing ani­mal-based foods; but even if you eat right, you can still get sick and die of dis­eases that you catch from oth­er peo­ple who grew poul­try and pigs.

Pho­to by @boetter