Many people throughout the world are probably asking that question — and will be for a long time. In the CNN special on Sunday night, there were totally opposite viewpoints by experts regarding the nation’s #1 killer of men and women — heart disease. It’s going to be a long time before that whole process gets sorted out; meanwhile, you are free to choose the approach that makes the most sense to you. You can choose the approach that treats the symptoms or you can choose the non-invasive, inexpensive approach that eliminates the disease completely. As for disagreement among the experts, read on….
Even among the “veggie docs,” there is a fair amount of disagreement on a few details of plant-based eating, need for supplements, use of fish oil, nutrient density, etc. But there is a lot of common ground too. And it’s that common ground on which we have focused in our book, on this blog and in our 4-Leaf Health Promotion Program.
As a “big picture guy,” I like to keep things as simple as possible. And I wish to thank Sal from New York, who posted this comment on yesterday’s blog. It inspired me to try to better explain the thinking behind our 4-Leaf Program. Sal asks…
Where did the 20% non-plant food concept come from? What is the rationale for 20%, why not 15%, 10%, 5%. Who is right, MacDougall, Fuhrman, Barnard, Hicks? It’s all confusing.
My Response. Sal, thanks for your question. First of all, it is not 20% non-plant food; it is 20% for all foods (including plant foods) — that are not WHOLE plants. Our entire 4-Leaf concept (See our 4-Leaf Page) was created to simplify and consolidate all of the confusing advice that was floating around out there. So we decided to base our program on the “common ground” on which all of the “veggie docs” seemed to agree.
Therefore, the foundation of 4-Leaf was based on the “common ground” nutritional wisdom of Campbell, Esselstyn, Ornish, Fuhrman, McDougall and Barnard. And while they may disagree among themselves on a few minor points, they all agree that we should maximize the percent of our calories from whole, plant-based foods. Best, J. Morris Hicks
So why did we choose 80% as the threshold for our 4-Leaf Level? Primarily to remove the “all or nothing” mentality from our thinking and adding a bit of flexibility to the equation. There is nothing magic about 80% or 85%; we just thought that 80% was a reasonable number and most people are already familiar with the old 80-20 rule. Since most people simply don’t like the “all or nothing” approach to anything, we were striving to create something that would seem reasonable to everyone, while still comprising a powerful, health-promoting diet-style.
By shooting for 80% or more of your calories from whole plants, you will be getting fifteen times as much of these nutritious foods than the average American, you will be eating a health-promoting diet, and your body will seek its ideal weight. As for the 20% non-plant, we have never recommended consuming ANY animal products. The 20% is for all calories that are not WHOLE plants (still in nature’s package).
So the 20 percent would include all bread, pasta, potato chips, tofu, olive oil, cookies, breath mints, sugary cereals, wine, beer and scotch — anything with calories that’s not a whole plant. So why not whole grain bread and pasta? We’re not saying that they’re harmful like meat or dairy, we’re just saying that they’re not as nutritious as the whole, unprocessed plant — with all the water, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients intact. Further, we have observed that vegetarians who load up on these type of foods never seem to achieve the results they were seeking.
So what about the guy that chooses to eat a little cheese and salmon in his 20%? He will still be eating a health-promoting diet that is far superior to that of his fellow American. He will very likely reverse whatever heart disease he has and will improve his overall well-being in countless ways. And I believe that all of the doctors mentioned above would agree with that statement. Even most vegetarians are likely to dramatically improve their diet if they follow our simple guidelines.
Even Dr. McDougall doesn’t like the “all or nothing;” saying that he has a little turkey on Thanksgiving; therefore he is not a vegetarian. As for me, I never “plan” to eat any animal products; I don’t buy any animal products and I never order any from a restaurant menu. But I did have a few bites of salmon at the sit-down luncheon at the Harvard Club in New York, where I was the guest speaker at the New York Rotary. The main thing is to maximize your calories from whole plants; and not worry too much about an occasional bite of meat or cheese.
A new friend, Hunter, in Florida likes to call our 4-Leaf Program the “80-20 diet.” Take a look at his comment dated 8-29-11 on our Comments Page. Right now, it is the first comment listed, followed by a comment by Dr. Campbell. In Hunter’s case, if I had told him that he needed to be 100% vegan, he would probably not have found that prospect very attractive for him and his wife Suzi and would have made no changes in his diet; and would have had a zero increase in whole plant calories. By going the “80-20” route, he has increased his consumption of these most-nutritious foods by at least ten fold.
The Bottom Line. Our 4-Leaf Program is supposed to be simple. Based on the “common-ground” beliefs of many experts, the 4-Leaf level of eating can be explained very succinctly:
Over 80% of your calories from whole plants — still in nature’s package. One caveat: Less than 20% of your calories from fat – regardless of the source.
Dr. Esselstyn likes to see his heart patients get below 10%. We just thought that under 20% would be a vast improvement over the average American’s fat consumption (now approaching 40% of calories) and that it would be a “reasonable” number that most people could achieve. Our original goal was the old K.I.S.S. principle. Hopefully we made it as simple as possible.
One more thing, this great video illustrates that “common ground” that I am talking about.
If you like what you see here, you may wish to join our periodic mailing list. Also, for help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4-Leaf page. From the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.
If you’d like to order our book on Amazon, visit our BookStore now.
—J. Morris Hicks…blogging daily at HealthyEatingHealthyWorld.com
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