Preventing Disease on a Plant-based Diet

Perhaps you’ve been told that you have a gene for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or multiple sclerosis? Maybe you have grandparents, parents or even a sibling that has been diagnosed with, or has died from, one of these diseases?  You are resigned to the fact that this is also your fate and that you are doomed. You believe that there is not much you can do about – so why even try?

Tragically, too many people live out their lives without ever having an opportunity to learn vital information that can literally save their lives.  Just because something “runs” in the family, or because you “have a gene”  for a specific disease or disorder, doesn’t mean that you have to end up fat, sick and dying. This is not your fate!  You can do something about it.

Think of genetics as being the loaded gun.  That loaded gun need never go off unless the trigger is pulled.  What pulls the trigger?  The diet you choose and the lifestyle you live determines if and when that trigger goes off.

A relatively new science called epigenetics teaches us that we can control the way our genes are expressed.  We now have the knowledge that we can put into play that silences disease-promoting genes and keeps them quiet.

You’ve heard it said before, let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.  Food plays a critical role in how our genes behave or misbehave.  Nutrients found in foods literally talk to the epigenome allowing specific genes to be translated into specific messages that promote health or disease. These genes are either silenced, or expressed, based on what we choose to eat, think or how we behave on a daily basis. When it comes to diet, it turns out that foods rich in compounds known as phytonutrients (plant nutrients) turn off unwanted gene expression by silencing specific genes associated with disease.

A whopping 62% of the American diet is a combination of processed foods, oils, salt and sweets with another 25.5% coming from meat, eggs, dairy and fish.  Only 12.5% of the diet comes from unrefined plant food and whole grains.  Our dangerously low intake of unrefined plant food guarantees us a weakened immune system unable to protect us throughout our lives. It puts us at high risk for chronic disease, decreases our quality of life, and shortens our life span.  Animal products and processed foods lack the phytonutrients our bodies need to send protective information to our genes. Animal and processed foods lack fiber, vitamin C, E, folate, carotenes, lutein, lycopene, lignans, bioflavionoids and phytochemicals. It is the large amount of micronutrient-deficient foods that most Americans eat that creates most of the chronic diseases that afflict us.  When our diet is heavy in processed and animal foods we tend not to eat the amount of plant foods needed to provide us with the important disease fighting phytonutrients necessary to turn off disease producing genes. 1

Check your diet below – do you eat enough of these whole, unprocessed foods to send the right message to your genes?

  • Vegetables: green, yellow, orange, purple, white
  • Leafy greens: Kale, collards, arugula, spinach, beet and mustard greens
  • Cruciferous: Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy
  • Fruit
  • Beans and Legumes
  • Whole, unprocessed, intact grains
  • Small amounts of raw nuts and seeds

Unrefined plant food should be at least 90% of your diet for optimal health.

It is great news that we can do something to change our genetic destiny.  It is within our power to silence the disease producing genes and eat and live in a way that produces optimal health and longevity.

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1 Joel Fuhrman, MD. GroupStart, Chapter 1, pg. 6-7.

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