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