A reader’s question gets to the heart of “4Leaf for Life.”


What does a “health-promoting” vegan diet mean?

Groundhog DaySince this is such a common misunderstanding, I decided to respond to the question in one of  my last few blogs of my 737 daily streak which ends on 2-11-13. The following message from William arrived at just past midnight on February 2—Groundhog Day here in the states.

I replied to his message but it didn’t get delivered, so hopefully, he’ll revisit my site soon. Here is William’s message:

Hello J. Morris, I was led to your blog after reading an article elsewhere on Steve Jobs. I would like to know what you mean by “health promoting” vegan diet? Please explain.

I am a Virtual Vegan–that is, I still have an older car which has leather seats. I eat mainly raw, very little processed, little or no tinned, withdrawing currently from all seeds only sprouted. Regards, William

4-Leaf For LifeAs I said in the title, with his question, William got right to the main issue that led to the creation of the 4Leaf for Life concept. The words vegan and vegetarian do not necessarily mean healthful eating. They only define what one is avoiding, they’re perceived to be extreme, many people think they’re weird—and 95% of our population has decided NOT to be one.

A Marketing Opportunity. If we want to change the world by moving people toward a diet-style of mostly plants, we’d better figure out a more attractive way to package our product. We decided that the world needs a POSITIVE way to define a healthful diet. We also wanted it to be flexible, simple and easy—with no calorie counting, etc.

My response. Hi William, Thanks for your question; it sounds like you’re eating a very healthy diet. As far as my site and our book are concerned, I rarely use the word vegan to describe a near optimal diet. Also, my work is all about diet and health—I pay no attention to the leather coats, shoes, car seats, etc. I figure that they’re by-products of the meat industry and would be outrageously expensive if there were no meat industry. When the meat industry goes away, so will my leather purchases.

The "4Leaf level" means getting over 80% of my total calories from whole plants.

The “4Leaf level” means getting over 80% of my total calories from whole plants.

The near-optimal diet that I talk about is called 4Leaf. At the 4Leaf level, you’d be deriving over 80% of your daily calories from whole plants—and it’s not necessarily vegan as you might occasionally have a cookie that contains a trace of egg and milk in it. Dr. Campbell and I both had a brownie the other night as we exited Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, NY.

The main point is that “vegan” does not describe what people ARE eating. It only describes what they’re avoiding—all animal products. After all, you could eat nothing but potato chips and Diet Coke and call yourself a vegan—but you’d be dead in less than 90 days.

AS for “health-promoting,” we have lots of scientific and clinical proof that whole, plant-based foods are health-promoting. So 4Leaf for Life is based on maximizing the whole plant calories in your diet. And we call that diet-style a near-optimal way of eating. It’s not perfect, but it is health-promoting and it is capable of reversing many chronic diseases. The good news is that it’s also simple, flexible, positive—and it’s not got a weird name that most people don’t seem to like.

In 4Leaf, we recommend zero animal products, but the focus is on maximizing whole plants.

In 4Leaf, we recommend zero animal products, but the focus is on maximizing whole plants.

As for animal products, I never buy them, I never order them in restaurants and I never plan to eat any. But in some situations, I do. Therefore I am not a vegan. But as a 4Leaf-er, I figure that my diet is in the top 1% when it comes to healthy eating in the USA.

Further, it has been my observation that many (if not most) vegetarians and vegans do not eat a very healthy diet. That’s because their normal daily routine does not include nearly enough whole plant-based foods—still in nature’s package. Want to find out how well you’re eating on our 4Leaf for Life scale? Take the 4Leaf Survey. From the sound of your description, I bet you score high in the 4Leaf range on our scale.

Steve Jobs thought differentlyYou mentioned Steve Jobs in your question. As you probably read in my blog about him (see link below), there’s a lot we simply don’t know about what Steve ate. Apparently, he experimented with vegan, fruitarian and other variations of a mostly plant-based diet.

But did he derive most of his calories from whole, plant-based foods for most of his life? I doubt it—but we’ll probably never know for sure. A clue: I have heard from a friend of mine who worked for Steve—that he loved ice-cream (not the soy kind).

Thanks again for your question, William. I hope this helps.

Be well, J. Morris (Jim) Hicks

Consecutive daily blogs

Consecutive daily blogs

My daily streak will end on February 11 with my 737th consecutive daily blog. But don’t worry—hpjmh.com will NOT be going dark. My plan is that it will be around for a very long time—hopefully long after I am gone. In the meantime, I will continue blogging, updating and adding pages that will focus on my mission of promoting health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com

Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Diagnostic Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to jmorrishicks@me.com

International. We’re now reaching people in over 100 countries. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter or get daily blog notices by “following” us in the top of the right-hand column. For occasional updates, join our periodic mailing list.

To order more of my favorite books—visit our online BookStore now

J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page or some great recipes at Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

Got a question? Let me hear from you at jmorrishicks@me.com. Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.

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Blogging daily at hpjmh.com…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. Leveraging his expertise in making complex things simple, he is now seeking corporate clients who are interested in slashing their cost of health care. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from eCornell and the T. Colin Campbell Foundation, where he also sits on the board of directors.
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4 Responses to A reader’s question gets to the heart of “4Leaf for Life.”

  1. CJ says:

    Great post, Jim. I thought this article was just sad:
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/02/06/alzheimers-dementia-epidemic-numbers-to-triple/1881151/
    I didn’t see one word about diet.

  2. Linda says:

    Also, if I were ordering dinner in a restaurant and I told the waiter to ask the chef to prepare something “4-Leaf” for me, neither the waiter nor the chef would have any idea what I was talking about. If I ask for a vegan meal, the chef knows not to use any animal products. When I pick and choose various vegetable options from the menu, the waiters always say, “Oh, you’re vegan, you could’ve just said so.”

  3. Linda says:

    Actually, Jim and anyone else who is curious, the leather goods business one of the primary reasons that beef and pork prices stay low. More affordable means more accessible to more people and we’re all in favor of as many people as possible eschewing meat. Plus, for me anyway, it’s hypocritical and expedient to rationalize wearing flesh when I would never eat it.

  4. Susan Sasek says:

    Boy-your remark about Steve Jobs at the end hits home. My dear friend who was taken by breast cancer ate a perfect diet according to her oncologist. All the recommended servings of all groups, she exercised, she did everything she was supposed to. She was in great shape and thin when she was diagnosed, so her doctor was afraid she would lose too much weight and offered the idea of ice cream as some of her required dairy servings. UGH! The cancer grew visibly while being fed this perfect casein/sugar mixture. If only someone had told us at the time. So glad to know know and to have great resources like you blog to point people to. Thanks for your tireless services this past 737 days.

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