Food Over Medicine: The Conversation That Could Save Your Life. A Candid Interview with Dr. Pamela Popper, a Delicious Salad Recipe, Review and Giveaway

Big Green Salad

Food Over Medicine is a book made up entirely of a conversation between Dr. Pamela A. Popper, PhD, ND (Executive Director of The Wellness Forum) and Glen Merzer (Co-Author of Mad Cowboy, No More Bull, Unprocessed and Better Than Vegan) about how the food we eat may be the biggest way we can impact our health in a positive way. It reads easily and is thoroughly engaging from start to finish. The subtitle of the book “The Conversation That Could Save Your Life” is as serious as a heart attack. If you have health issues, I’m pleading with you to read this book. I was moved and touched deeply, it never fails to amaze me that people can completely change their health simply by changing what they put into their mouths. So many of Pam’s patients have had health recoveries similar or more profound than my own.

One of her biggest success stories, is that of Chef Del Sroufe, who was 475 pounds and a very unhealthy vegan when they first met. He’s now lost more than 225 pounds, is the author of  “Forks Over Knives- The Cookbook” and “Better Than Vegan.” He is a partner in The Wellness Forum and is also the Executive Chef on staff at the facility. This book includes 25 of his delicious recipes. I’ve photographed some of them for you to view here.

pamela popper

Now for the best bit: Pamela Popper agreed to an interview for this post. Listen up, it’s good stuff.

Vanilla Ice Cream

Somer McCowan: So, I’ve had my Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Ulcerative Colitis) in remission since I adopted a plant based diet over 18 months ago. However, I feel like it’s dormant, like a bear in hibernation and that if I were to re-introduce animal foods into my diet, that the disease would reappear in full force. Why do animal foods trigger auto-immune diseases like mine?

Dr. Pamela Popper: You are correct – your condition is in remission and it will remain so as long as you are compliant on the right diet.  However, it is not necessary to adhere to a vegan diet in order to keep it in remission. In fact, our protocol for stopping the progression of IBD and reversing it allows people to consume organic animal foods or wild-caught fish 2-3 times per week*, and it works for those who are compliant.  The important issues are absolutely no dairy, no high gluten foods (barley, rye, oats, wheat), very low fat, low sugar, and to be mindful of foods that seem to trigger gassiness and diarrhea, which vary from person to person and sometimes are more related to portion size rather than food type. For example, an IBD patient may find that more than ½ cup of beans in one serving causes issues; those of us without IBD don’t have to worry about this.

Animal foods are only part of the cause of autoimmune diseases, including IBD.  People who develop autoimmune diseases are genetically predisposed, diet contributes, and there is usually a “precipitating event”, which can include vaccinations, infections, viruses, allergies, asthma, hormonal changes, including pregnancy, or long periods of sustained stress.  Women are much more likely to develop most autoimmune diseases than men.

(Important Note: Both Dr. Pamela Popper and Glen Merzer follow a strictly plant based diet themselves, meaning, neither of them consume animal products of any kind.)

BBQ Tofu

Somer McCowan: What other health conditions/diseases can be reversed or “put into remission” through plant based eating?

Dr. Pamela Popper: Any condition that is chronic or degenerative can be stopped or reversed for most people with a well-structured plant-based diet.  The exception is sometimes cancer, in which the results vary a lot based on the type of cancer, stage, age of the person, co-morbidity, and other factors.

Even conditions that are not chronic and degenerative can be made better with better diet. For example, an injured person (car or skiing accident, for example) will heal faster while eating a plant-based diet than someone who consumes a diet rich in fat, animal protein and junk foods.

Somer McCowan: Do your clients ever say to you: “It’s too hard to be on a low-fat, whole foods/plant-based diet” i.e.: that they would prefer to live their previous lifestyle while staying sick and continuing to take prescription medications?

Dr. Pamela Popper: Our clients who think that this is hard are not following our directions; we make conversion to this diet very easy, helping people to avoid trial and error and preventing them from making mistakes like the ones I made when I made the conversion on my own many years ago.

However, there are two types of people we cannot help.  We can’t do much for people who just won’t listen – they trust Western medicine and do not believe that diet is part of their problem.  And we cannot help people who do not want to get well and there are some.  There are many reasons, including the fact that some people are so used to being sick that they don’t know how not to be sick, or illness is the way they get attention.  The right type of therapy can help these people to want to get better, and to get over the fear of getting better.

Fruit Crisp

Somer McCowan: Why do you think traditional Doctors tell their patients that diet has nothing to do with disease?

Dr. Pamela Popper: It is so unfortunate, but doctors are not given much education about nutrition in medical school – most of the time only a few classroom hours.  They are not told that diet is a major contributing factor to developing degenerative diseases, or that diet can cure them.  Furthermore, they are not taught to cure anyone using other means either.  Medical training consists of teaching docs how to mitigate symptoms with drugs and procedures, and how to use diagnostic tests, most of which are useless and harmful, to detect disease at earlier stages.

Somer McCowan: How quickly can people expect to see improved health once they commit and fully make the switch to a low-fat, whole foods plant-based diet?

Dr. Pamela Popper: Improvement begins almost immediately.  Overweight people who are compliant will lose 2-3 pounds per week until they reach their ideal weight; and the changes in health status take place so quickly for type 2 diabetics and hypertensive patients that they have to be monitored carefully since their medication needs drop really quickly.  It can take some time to completely resolve some issues, and some people have developed health issues as a result of taking medications for their diseases that have to be addressed, but the progress is quick enough that they are encouraged to stick with the diet.

Somer McCowan: What would you say to those who are hesitant to change their diet plan, but are living with some form of disease or illness?

Dr. Pamela Popper: Try it! If you decide after a few weeks or months that you miss being a diabetic you can always eat your way back into your prior condition!

Lentil Cakes

Somer McCowan: Can you explain the difference between a vegan diet and a low fat, whole foods plant based diet?

Dr. Pamela Popper: A vegan diet means absolutely no animal foods, and the interpretation of this diet for some even excludes honey.  It’s important to note that simply adopting a vegan diet does not mean that one is eating a health-promoting diet.  There are lots of people who don’t eat animal foods but eat a lot of vegan junk food, highly processed foods, and fat.  Most of these people are not much better off from a health perspective than the meat eaters.

A whole foods plant-based diet may or may not be vegan, but focuses on eating whole foods and some minimally processed foods.  It is low in fat, high in fiber, and the primary food groups are fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.

Somer McCowan: What do you eat in the course of a normal day?

Dr. Pamela Popper: One of the things I love about this diet is that I can eat whatever I want and not worry about portion control or calorie counting.  I’m really active, so I eat a lot of food.  So I’ll tell you what I had today:

Breakfast – 2 pieces of Ezekial bread toast with fat free hummus and my breakfast smoothie** (plant milk, Wellness Forum smoothie mix, brewer’s yeast, ground flax, food-grade green tea, a banana and frozen berries)

Lunch – mixed greens with Southwest pasta salad (whole wheat pasta with black beans, red peppers, cilantro, corn, tomatoes, and creamy tofu dressing)

Mid-afternoon – blackberries and apples

Dinner – BIG salad with lots of veggies and rice and steamed veggies (all given to me by friends with gardens – YUM!!)

I have a sweet tooth that flares at night and it’s about that time now so after I sign off I’m going to have some fresh peaches which I bought from a farmer last weekend.  LOVE this way of eating!

Sweet Mustard Dressing

Chef Del’s Big Green Salad with Sweet and Spicy Mustard Dressing

Recipe used with permission. -Serves 4

For the Salad:

  • 8 ounces mixed greens
  • 1 cup garbanzo beans
  • 1 cup red cabbage, grated
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • Sweet and Spicy Mustard Dressing, recipe follows

Divide the mixed greens between four dinner plates. Arrange the remaining ingredients on top of the greens and serve with Sweet and Spicy Mustard Dressing on the side.

For the Dressing:

  • 1 package silken tofu
  • 1/2 cup prepared mustard
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth and creamy.

My husband and I can’t get enough of this tasty salad or the incredible dressing, I want to put it on everything!


Buy Food Over Medicine here. Get the Kindle Edition for just $3.99 here.

Buy it on the Publisher’s Site, BenBella Books here

For a chance to win a copy of this amazing cookbook, Click on the link below to enter the Giveaway! This contest is open to entrants in the USA and Canada onlyYou must also follow this blog by email or RSS feed to qualify. You have until Friday the 9th of August to enter!  I will notify the winner by email on Monday the 12th of August. GO!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

* excerpt from Food Over Medicine “we will help more people convert to a healthy diet if we espouse a more moderate message, if we don’t scare away people by insisting they abstain from animal foods entirely.

**Dr. Pamela Popper agreed to share her breakfast smoothie recipe with me, you can find it here. For those wishing to order ingredients from The Wellness Forum to make this smoothie, please call 614 841-7700.




  1. I’m a vegan and been plant based for a while. But I do binge regularly. When I’m not I’ve noticed my energy levels higher and also been experiencing weird pain in my feet and hands which feel better when I eat right

  2. Since starting plant based, I don’t feel my heart struggling to pump or have bathroom issues. I plan to live a quality life well into my 90’s (maybe to 100)! There’s no turning back. I’m still a work in progress, though. This book could definitely help!

  3. I have had IBS since junior high. My mom would drag me to doctors who said there was nothing wrong. Since adopting a plant based diet, the IBS is simply gone, even when I am under stress at work or home. I found the dairy was a big contributory. I never cared for meat as a kid, but was forced to sit at the table until I finished my meat. It seemed the once red meat was eliminated, in addition to dairy, the IBS was eliminated. In between the diet changes, I was diagnosed with autoimmune disease called ITP. It’s low platelets. I asked my doctor what foods I could eat to reverse this disease and he said nothing. I joined a support group and found that many of the folks who eliminated meat and dairy saw a rise in their platelets. So far, my platelets are still low, but are higher than before. I don’t need medication or a transfusion. Pretty much just watch and see what happens.

  4. By eating a more plant-based diet, I am able to fuel my 40+ mile/week training. I have more energy and feel lighter while I am running, plus I am able to recover better.

  5. I sure wish I could get my parents to read this book – heck, just reading this interview would be help! You and I have talked many times about how puzzling it is that many of us choose medication (not to mention suffering) over making changes in our diets. We really need the medical community to at least offer dietary options to their patients so that they have another choice. Thanks for the interview and giveaway. Adding this book to my list!

  6. What the other say, is true! I feel better eating vegan 5 x/ week & have more energy! My chronic pain is the same though, but I feel better, have more energy & don’t feel bloated in my stormach after dinner. This sounds like a wonderful salad & the dressing is how I often make my dressings! MMMMMM!

  7. By eating a plant based whole foods diet – my blood pressure is normal now and my cholesterol dropped to a normal level – after both had been climbing steadily for the last few years. Yay!

  8. Thank you so much for reviewing this book and for interviewing Dr. Pamela Popper, Somer! I might get this book for my mom.
    I started practicing macrobiotics over eight years ago. I eat a vegan, whole foods diet as much as possible. I still get derailed sometimes, but just get back on. One of the things I notice since changing my diet is how even my emotions are. I just am not on that same roller coaster anymore. I can think more clearly and can focus more. I also notice that I am more compassionate, even with myself. 🙂 The photos make those dishes look so yummy!

  9. This sounds like an awesome book. I have just recently gone to a whole foods plant based diet….. 6 months now. There have been many many benefits of eating this way. I have much more energy, I sleep better, have no bathroom issues, and I don’t feel sick after every meal (which was a problem before eating this way). I am hoping this plan will help me to lose weight. I have been incredibly hungry for the last 8 months and am just now getting a handle on my appetite. Pretty sure that I ruined my metabolism with several years of high protein, low carb dieting and then a 30 day unsupervised juice fast. Love your posts on Facebook and just signed up for your blog. Thanks for all you do.

    1. Gosh, you sound like me! I’ve been paleo and 1/2 paleo fearing dropping my meat and fat, but still feeling so sick and heavy all the time. My heart has had massive heartbeats a few weeks ago that really scared me, and now that I have reduced my protein to 10% and fat to 10% I feel soooooo much better. Interestingly, when I have a cuppaccino my heart beats harder again, but when it’s a black coffee it’s regular. Milk and dairy is next to go. This is amazing!

  10. My desire to be fit and healthy, able to participate in any physical activity that I wish, keeps me on track. Before, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired! No more sitting on the sidelines!

  11. I’ve was vegetarian for many years and went all plant based in 2010. I find I’m eating healthier as my knowledge increases. I am like a sponge, sopping up all the information I come across. I can’t help but notice that last winter everyone at work got the rotating cold while I remained healthy.

    1. Snap… I am a student teacher and was warned that I’d get every ailment going due to working with so many children but while my colleagues are indeed plagued with all kinds of ills I haven’t had so much as a sniffle.

  12. I have several autoimmune diseases. Changing to a gluten free and vegan diet has completely changed my life in a very good way.

  13. I have a background of digestive issues, eating a plant based diet has made them so much more manageable!

  14. Plant-based eating has changed my life! The one thing I have noticed is that I’m happier. I’m rarely moody and if I have a moment, it takes seconds for me to bounce back and just realize how amazing life is. I’ve also been able to raise a healthy family and my love for cooking has flourished. Plant-based eating has created a new me….

  15. Miam miam! Chef Del’s Big Green Salad with Sweet and Spicy Mustard Dressing sounds really yum! I can’t choose which lifestyle I want. I love all kinds: plant-based, gluten-free, soy-free, sugar-free, etc as long as it’s 100% vegan! Being a vegan makes me happier, healthier, open-minded and obsessed with beautiful foods! Thank you for sharing this! x

  16. I haven’t personally had a huge change in my health since becoming plant-based, since I was already a healthy young person to begin with. I do notice that I don’t seem to get sick or I don’t get as sick when my family starts passing around a cold or the flu. I am thankful that through my healthy diet, I am preventing the development of so many diseases that I now don’t have to experience!

  17. Eating a plant based diet gives me far more energy than the SAD ever did. In addition, I never have any of the reactions I had to food before the switch. Also, I am comforted in knowing that I am doing the best thing I can to prevent the disease and illness that plagues my relatives. I will never go back!

  18. My diet no longer includes any dairy or processed foods and includes very little meat – when I eat it, it is organic and if possible locally raised. We eat a LOT more vegetables than we used to. I no longer worry about my weight and I have enough energy to have almost attained my black belt in TaeKwonDo at the tender age of 49. This is a great post and interview Somer – thanks for sharing!

  19. What a wonderful interview! Thank you so much for sharing!

    I myself found some of my health issues helped by following a vegan diet, although I have a lot of ways to go still. I’m confident soon though I will find my ideal diet. I would love to read this to gain more insight!

  20. Loved this interview- as you know I too suffer from a Chronic Illness (crohns) and have been in full remission for 2 years- it is amazing the healing powers of a plant based whole foods diet!

    1. Heather, I’m just starting the bland, limiting diet to heal my gut. Can you share with me how long it took to get off medicine and how you did it? I have a number of autoimmune issues, including colitis. Appreciate any insight you can give. Judy

  21. Wow, I can’t even imagine life any other way! I stopped eating meat about 7 years ago and never ate much before. I was suffering from a lot of health problems at the time and that helped slowly heal my body. Now I feel stronger and healthier than I ever was before, and I’ve learned to explore and appreciate so many different types of cuisines and cooking styles. I’ve always loved cooking but have become a lot better at it and more creative.

  22. Hi, I just got this book and I notice that many of the recipes call for prepared mustard, is this made from mustard powder, not from a jar? What did you use for your yummy dressing?

  23. I just wanted to add something else …
    About 1.5 years ago I went to see a local herbalist/naturopath because I was experiencing the typical symptoms of IBS, hypoglycemia, heart palpitations, anxiety attacks and an overwhelming sense of fear. I was 100% paleo at the time and I was considering the possibility that the diet was ruining me. Well the local naturopath counselled me and said that the paleo diet was perfect for me and to stick with it. She also gave me a blood prick test to see what blood type I was (turned out to be 0) and was given a blood type 0 diet sheet.

    The diet sheet had rice as an allowed food. I started on the blood type 0 diet and immediately felt better. I didn’t realise at the time that since I had reduced my meat intake to make room for the rice, that was the reason I had started feeling better. Well I trusted that this new way was right for me, so I started adding fat because I was ‘able to digest it’.

    Then I went to Perfect Health Diet website and followed their diet, and hovered over to Hyperlipid and believed what that guy said that added fat was beneficial. The same went with Dr Rosedale’s diet. I was CONVINCED so much, and so blinded by these people.

    About a 4 weeks ago my heart began to beat very fast at night and I began having nightmares in the similar fashion as it had done before I went to that naturopath. I had feeling that my high fat, high protein diet was to blame. So now I’m starting over again and I’m off these highly dangerous diets and I’m feeling much like how I felt when I was in my mid 20s (I’m 48).

    Also, I was truly shocked that the naturopath had suggested that the paleo diet was good for me, because when I was in my mid 20s the naturopaths I had gone to see were very cautious about meat and saturated fat and prohibited these from all my diets.

    I am writing this in case this experience helps others avoid the madness that seems to have taken over our health.

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