CONFUSION. Too many diets, too little clarity

A reader asked me to take a look at the Low GI Diet recently; saying that she had gained some useful information from their website “even though they still recommend three portions of dairy a day, a moderate amount of meat/fish, and ‘healthy’ oils, nuts and seeds.”

Personally, I am not interested in learning about any diet that recommends three portions of dairy per day. That fact alone would make me suspect of almost anything else they had to say. When I first started studying about the incredible importance of what we eat, I was looking at everything I could find — and there were hundreds of theories out there. But gradually I moved in the direction of simplicity, clarity and practicality. I was also seeking a hefty dose of credibility, authenticity and legitimacy.

Dr. T. Colin Campbell of Cornell, author of The China Study

I found all of the above with the independent work of Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn — of Cornell and The Cleveland Clinic respectively. Dr. Campbell stated his case for the optimal diet very simply, “The closer we get to a diet of whole plant foods, the better off we will be.”

Then Dr. Esselstyn proved that heart disease is completely reversible in nearly 100% of the cases — with an intervention that consisted of nothing more than a shift to a diet of whole plant foods — with no meat, dairy or eggs EVER.

As for practicality. Before deciding that the Campbell-Esselstyn approach was “right for me,” I was searching for the absolute “optimal” diet for humans. And it very well could be a diet consisting of 100% whole plants — eaten raw. But, I don’t know that for sure, but I know that it wouldn’t be very practical for most of us. So I finally concluded that any diet that could reverse heart disease nearly 100% of the time was good enough for me.

J. Morris Hicks introduces Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn at the Stonington Harbor Yacht Club

Our 4Leaf Program was built on the foundation of knowledge that we gained from Campbell, Esselstyn and four more M.D.’s who had experience reversing disease using only food as a medicine — the same way Hippocrates did thousands of years ago.

So we focus on the positive: maximizing the percent of calories from whole plants, still in nature’s package. This approach builds in some flexibility that makes the concept even more practical for most people. We’ve found that very few people find the “all or nothing” approach very practical for them.

As for optimal.  My inclination is to always embrace simplicity as much as possible. Dr. Esselstyn likes to talk about the diet-style of the Tarahumara peoples in northern Mexico. They enjoy great health, incredible longevity, and an almost total absence of all of our chronic diseases in the “developed” world. What do they eat? Corn, beans and squash. The fact is that there has not been enough scientific study to tell us exactly what we should be eating; but in the meantime, the superior health of the Tarahumara should give us a pretty good idea of something very close to optimal.

More study is needed. The debate will go on forever, even after we have more scientific proof. The Low GI people are still recommending three portions of dairy per day even though science has proven that it is one of the most deadly substances we can put in our body. So if Steve Jobs was a vegan, why did he die so young of pancreatic cancer? Responding to my blog about the early death of Steve Jobs, Dr. Campbell offered the following:

Jim, About 25 years ago, we reported on the effects of dietary fat on experimental pancreatic cancer in laboratory rats and published our results in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, who featured our results on the cover of their journal. Finally, the associations of animal protein and fat with pancreatic cancer are beginning to make news and your help in publicizing this observation is gratifying.

You may recall my long time interest in doing a professional study of the effects of a whole food plant based diet, not only to determine how comprehensive it is but also to learn something about why some individuals doing all the wrong things fail to get the expected diseases and why other individuals doing all the right things (presumably) still get one of these diseases. I have found it very difficult to get people to understand this need. Keep up the great reporting! Colin

The Tarahumara are famous for their long-distance running, their superb health and their longevity.

The Bottom Line. When in doubt, keep it simple. How much simpler could it be than the corn, beans and squash of the Tarahumara? As for simplicity, when one considers the “big picture” regarding the dietary choices of humans — and not just the health of humans — there is no doubt in my mind that we’re currently eating the wrong food in the Western world.

Our Western diet requires too much land, too much water, too much energy; it is grossly unsustainable, it is destroying our environment and it requires that we continue the despicable practice of eating other animals — well on our way to 100 billion per year.

I had my “blinding flash of the obvious” in 2003; have you had yours yet? Want to see more information on “sustainability?” See the drop-down list of categories near the top of the right column; this is the 29th post that includes that topic.

The following five books and one DVD can be purchased on Amazon for a grand total of less than $60—and will enable you to understand the overwhelming challenges we face—along with the single most-powerful solution of all.

Six-Pack from Hicks—for health, hope & harmony on planet Earth

  1. Healthy Eating, Healthy WorldThe “big picture” about food (our book)
  2. A life changer for millions, including James Cameron. Forks Over Knives DVD 
  3. An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell; the primary book that influenced Bill Clinton to adopt a whole food, plant-based diet.
  4. What have we done to our planet? Full Planet, Empty Plates by Lester Brown
  5. A horrifying wake-up call for leaders. TEN BILLION by Dr. Stephen Emmott
  6. Food choices are the primary cause of our environmental problems, yet our world leaders, scientists & experts are Comfortably Unawareby Richard Oppenlander.

Why should we be eating mostly plants? The “big picture” in 4 minutes.

Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Survey. It takes 2 or 3 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

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.

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

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

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, visit our 4Leaf page and also enjoy some great recipes from Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

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

—J. Morris Hicks, board member since 2012; click banner for more info:

Nutrition Certificate

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. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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