Prescription Nutrition 1 of 4: Green Revolution

This series of four CuriosityStream videos, featuring our darling Dr Michael Greger, provides such as good overview of the health benefits of plant foods, as well as insights into how delicious plant foods can be as central features in our daily meals, that I thought it would be useful to show each video along with a transcript – just so that any useful links can be easier for you to copy and look up at your leisure. Part 1 looks at the power of green veggies.

Prescription Nutrition: 1. Green Revolution – The Video

Prescription Nutrition: 1. Green Revolution – The Transcript

People featured in the video are the narrator Craig SechlerDr Michael Greger, Chef Rich Landau, and Tracye McQuirter MPH. (The person speaking is shown in brackets before the text.) 

(Craig Sechler) The most important thing is to eat real food that grows from the ground.

(Tracye McQuirter) We’ve known for decades that plant-based foods are healthier.

(Dr Michael Greger) The reason people don’t eat more vegetables is that they just don’t realise how powerful they are.

(Chef Rich Landau) Every vegetable in real cooking is about taking a vegetable like a Brussels sprout or a maitake mushroom and making them so incredibly delicious that you realise that cooking is all about flavour.

(Craig Sechler) Food is an intrinsic part of human existence. We come together around food, celebrate around food, and build traditions around food. Despite its fundamental role, our diet is one of the most worrisome aspects of modern life, but after decades of research, there’s hope that we may finally know how to change that.

(Dr Michael Greger) The leading causes of death and disability are largely chronic diseases now; but 80% is completely down to lifestyle – what we expose ourselves to, what we put in our mouths (both cigarettes and food), whether we’re exercising. These are critical components and good news. It means we have tremendous power over our health destiny and longevity. The vast majority of premature death and disability is preventable with a healthy enough diet and other lifestyle behaviours. Medicine is excellent. We’ve got antibiotics. We can put you in a cast. We can take you to emergency surgery.We can slow down your diabetic blindness and kidney failure and amputations with drugs – with insulin injections. But none of these are actually treating the cause of the disease.

(Craig Sechler) Today, mounting evidence points to a plant-based diet – meaning food that grows from the ground – as the best way to prevent, treat and reverse chronic illness. Dr Michael Greger is an author and world-renowned public health expert who’s been highlighting the life-changing power of plants. He and his team review thousands of medical studies each year, and distil them into practical advice for his website nutritionfacts.org.  One of the most comprehensive studies of health and eating habits was the 2005 China Study by Dr T Colin Campbell. A landmark report, it found significantly lower rates of chronic illness throughout rural China where people largely survived on plant-based diets.

(Dr Michael Greger) There are populations around the world which don’t suffer from our epidemics of heart disease and type 2 diabetes and obesity. So if you take someone living in Japan, for example, which has the longest life expectancy, and they move to the US and start eating and living like the US, they get US diseases. And, similarly, if someone moves to Japan from the US, and start eating and living like the Japanese, the rates of these chronic diseases plummet, because these are lifestyle diseases.

(Craig Sechler) Evidence goes as far back as the 1920’s when researchers uncovered a surprising correlation between plant-based diets and blood pressure levels in East Africa.

(Dr Michael Greger)  They took blood pressure from a thousand people living in rural Kenya. They eat a plant-based diet centred around fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, wild greens, and their blood pressures actually go down as they get older, whereas our blood pressures in the Western world go up. The same thing in rural China. 70 year olds with the same average blood pressure as 16 year olds. We’re talking 100/70 their entire lives – ideal blood pressure. Vastly difference diets from East Africa, but what they have in common is that they eat plant-based day-to-day, with meat only eaten on special occasions. In the Western world, the only population getting it down that low (110/70) were those eating strictly plant-based diets.

(Craig Sechler) A reevaluation of the modern diet is underway. Health experts, food advocates, restaurateurs and the average consumer are taking a closer look at what we put in our bodies. Yet even with increasing scientific information available, our dependence on highly processed foods and animal products is a hard habit to break.

(Tracye McQuirter) The only reason that people are not eating more plant-based foods is that the food industry has done a fantastic job with marketing and advertising. 70% of the food industry marketing is for processed foods, refined foods and junk foods. Those are the foods that Americans eat the most. The food industry is the largest industry in the country. Food is very intimate. Food is very emotional. Food is very personal. Food is very social.

(Craig Sechler) Chef Rich Landau has been paving the way for a veggie renaissance from his kitchen at Vedge, a renowned plant-based restaurant thriving in the heart of Centre City Philadelphia – the cheese state capital of the world.

(Chef Rich Landau) Give people great food and they’ll never look at what’s not on the plate. We’re wired to think that we need meat to enjoy our meals. That’s really not the case. It’s about flavour. It’s about what chefs and cooks do to the meat, not about the meat itself. They [shows mushrooms] are loaded with flavour and nutrition. Real cooking is about taking a vegetable like a Brussels sprouts or a maitake mushroom or a carrot, and making them so incredibly delicious that you realise that cooking is all about flavour. It’s all about the preparation. How do you put a carrot in the centre of the plate and convince people that this is worthy of being the focus of the plate? The carrot itself is absolutely delicious when cooked properly, and the texture of it is just hitting home because it’s so beautifully and perfectly cooked. So now you’ve convinced people who are used to seeing carrots only as puree in a soup or raw in a salad that this is worthy of knife and fork food.

(Craig Sechler) Statistics show that most people rarely consume the minimum amount of recommended fruits and vegetables each day. And their continued reliance on processed foods has many experts pushing for a complete rethink of the nutritional advice we’ve been given for the last half century.

(Dr Michael Greger) The reason people don’t eat more vegetables is that they don’t realise just how powerful they are. We have this sort of resonating “eat your greens”, but what’s the science behind it?

(Tracye McQuirter) We’ve known for decades that plant-based foods are healthiest. It’s pretty straightforward. Plant-based foods have fibre. Animal-based foods do not. Fibre is essential for preventing chronic disease and promoting health, and most plant-based foods are high in vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients. They’re the foods that promote health; that help clear our arteries; that help us maintain a normal blood sugar level, help prevent heart disease, help prevent obesity and getting overweight.

(Dr Michael Greger) The most important thing is to eat real food that grows from the ground. Dark green leafy vegetables are the healthiest vegetables – in fact, the healthiest food period, with a great nutrient density than anything else we can put into our mouth. Translating to about a 20% drop in stroke and heart attack risk for each daily serving of greens.

(Craig Sechler) Capitalising on the growing interest for nutritious options, many chefs have been working hard to redefine our relationship with food. Their goal: to create intensely satisfying, crave-worthy combinations that win out over less healthy processed and animal-based options.

(Chef Rich Landau) It’s all about kind of changing your perception of what you’re expecting and what you’re actually getting. How do you actually rewire their brains as to what vegetables are capable of?  Every vegetable is delicious. They’re not a side dish. They’re not torn up little bits in this chopped up little stir fry. They’re the main focus on the plate. Let’s take Swiss chard for example. Something that people see as traditionally very chewy, a little too leafy for most palates. Swiss chard, like most greens, needs to be blanched first with a little salt in it. [I do not recommend adding salt] The greens go in and they come right out. I mean ten seconds, that’s all you really need. That basically sets their colour and texture and tenderises them. The next thing you want to do is to saute very gently with garlic and olive oil in a pan with salt and pepper. [Ditto with olive oil – I don’t recommend using any oils] The trick with the greens is getting them cooked to perfection. If they’re under-cooked, they’re going to be a big chewy, chlorophyll-laden mess that you’re just going to chew like a horse a the table. And you’re just trying to get through this saying to yourself “it’s healthy…it’s healthy”! That’s not how you should be eating your greens. Greens are actually delicious.

(Craig Sechler) In addition to dark leafy greens, research has shown that a high intake of cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and broccoli, can reduce prostate cancer progression, stop the spread of metastatic cancer and prevent DNA damage. One recent study comparing smokers with a high intake of broccoli with smokers eating no broccoli at all, found 20% less damage in the broccoli-eating group.

(Dr Michael Greger) The reason broccoli is so good for us is that any of those cruciferous vegetables, whether we’re talking about cabbage, broccoli, collard greens, kale, have this class of compounds called glucosinolates. What they do is they boost your liver’s detoxifying enzyme systems. So basically, all the blood (before it goes to your body from your digestive tract) first goes through the liver. The liver’s like the body’s bouncer. It keeps out any toxins, detoxifies any carcinogens, and then lets the blood flow to the rest of the body. And so that’s why it’s so critical to eat cruciferous vegetables every single day, because it’s to boost your liver’s ability to detoxify the carcinogens and pollutants from our environment.

(Chef Rich Landau) I absolutely love broccoli. It’s probably my favourite vegetables. We blanch it first, then we char grill it. And broccoli takes on this great smoky flavour when you grill it. The florets get charred up, the stem gets these beautiful char grill marks on them. And then we float this in the shiitake dashi which is a Japanese broth, usually made with fish, but which we make with shiitake mushrooms and seaweed. And the effect is just so beautiful – very smoky, very rich and also very meaty and satisfying.

(Craig Sechler) Whilst dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables boast the biggest nutritional bang for the buck, diversifying our vegetable consumption is essential for our overall health. According to the Global Burden of Disease Study, inadequate vegetable intake is a leading dietary risk factor for chronic diseases, comparable in harm to the consumption of processed meats.

(Dr Michael Greger) We should really eat the rainbow when it comes to choosing our vegetables, because many of the anti-ageing, anti-cancer, antioxidants are the plant pigments themselves. So, for example, the beta-carotene that makes the carrots, sweet potatoes and cantaloupes orange, or the lycopene (the red pigment) in potatoes is the same kind of chemical nature of pigment compound that reflects that gorgeous colour. These antioxidant properties can be so helpful within the body.

(Craig Sechler) Eating a diverse plant-based diet raises our exposure to essential nutrients like vitamin C, found not only in citrus fruits but in vegetables like peppers and sweet potatoes. Experts say there may be more than 30,000 different phytonutrients, with a long list of health benefits that are still being discovered. And they’re not just found in the most colourful fruits and vegetables. Some of the most potent nutrients are packed in nature’s palest packages, including cauliflower, onions, garlic and mushrooms. There are over 2,000 varieties of edible mushrooms, and research has shown they are one of the most powerful foods for boosting our immune system, reducing inflammation, and preventing cancer.

(Dr Michael Greger)  Just like there are unique cancer compounds specific to the cruciferous vegetable family, there are these unique compounds in mushrooms like ergothioneine which is an antioxidant amino acid found basically only in the mushroom kingdom. Meaning, if we don’t eat mushrooms, we don’t get it into out diet. It’s found particularly in our retinal tissue and reproductive tissues. It’s basically housed in very sensitive tissues in the body because it has such a cytoprotective or cell protective effect. Eating just plain white button mushrooms can so boost our immune function that it can significantly reduce our risk of common respiratory infections like the common cold.

(Craig Sechler) For chefs like Rich Landau, the incredible variety and richness of mushrooms provides a tremendous opportunity to change people’s perceptions of often overlooked foods.

(Chef Rich Landau) I mean, they’re just incredible. They’re good for you. They’re meaty. They’re just delicious. We love really, really big cuts of mushroom like a maitake or portobello that can stand on their own in the middle of the plate. And again, it’s about that knife and for satisfaction when you’re cutting through it. We have another mushroom that we import from Italy called the nebrodini, and they are these medium-sized white mushroom with this very, very silky flesh to them. So we shave these very thin and cook them in this tomato-basil sauce and we call it Nebrodini Mushrooms As Fazzoletti. Fazzoletti are like little handkerchiefs of pasta. Little tiny squares of pasta swimming in broth or sauce, so actually using the mushrooms  as the pasta and that’s exactly how it eats, and it’s just beautiful what you can do with mushrooms in that sense, because they’re so adaptable. They can do what you want them to do, but you have to listen to what they really are and respect their qualities.

(Craig Sechler) While the rising tide of health problems might seem like an uphill battle, significant progress continues to be made as plant-based foods make their way from farms to our tables. Research, preventive medicine, and awareness all play critical roles when it comes to our health. But the decisions we make on a daily basis continue to be the biggest factor.

(Dr Michael Greger) It doesn’t matter what you eat on your birthday or special occasions or on holidays. It’s really the day-to-day stuff that adds up. On a day-to-day basis, the more we can centre our diets on whole health plant-foods – real food that grows out of the ground – the healthier we will be long-term.