My father has a good heart, metaphorically speaking. Physically, though … well, that’s a different story. He’s had four bypass surgeries, and although he’s recovered from his operations remarkably well, he still eats many of the same artery-clogging foods—meat, eggs and cheese—that landed him in the hospital in the first place. I hope this will change now that more and more cardiologists are prescribing tasty vegan foods—and not pricey pills—to patients with heart disease.
This month, in honor of Father’s Day, let’s all give the men in our lives an extra push—some men can be stubborn, after all—and encourage them to eat more vegan foods.
CBC News in Canada recently profiled Dr. Shane Williams, an Ontario cardiologist who has spent the past four years encouraging his patients to focus on fruits, vegetables and other vegan foods rather than surgery, statins and blood pressure pills. Like many prominent U.S. physicians, Dr. Williams has seen the healing power of food and wants heart patients—and potential heart patients—to have an open mind about this lifesaving lifestyle change.
Unlike animal-based foods, vegan foods are cholesterol-free and generally low in saturated fat. According to Dr. William Roberts, the editor of the American Journal of Cardiology, eating vegan is the “least expensive and safest” way to prevent plaque—cholesterol, fat and other harmful substances—from building up in the arteries around the heart.
Many other respected physicians, including Dr. John McDougall, an authority on diet and heart disease; Dr. William Castelli, the director of the Framingham Heart Study; Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, star of the popular documentary Forks Over Knives; and noted nutritionist Dr. Charles Attwood, agree that going vegan is the best medicine when it comes to preventing—or reversing—heart disease.
For every 1 percent you decrease your blood cholesterol, you’ll reduce your risk of a heart attack by 3 percent. Since meat, eggs and dairy products are the only dietary sources of cholesterol, eating vegan foods is an easy way to ward off a heart attack—and the embarrassing hospital gown that goes with it.
Dr. David Jenkins, the director of the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Centre of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and a professor at the University of Toronto, recently found that people can even lower their “bad” cholesterol levels by 10 percent—and lose weight—by eating a low-carb vegan diet that’s high in vegetable protein and oils.
Study after study, including a recent one from Loma Linda University in California, has shown that vegans are less likely to suffer from heart disease and other common chronic illnesses. The Loma Linda study, which involved more than 26,000 African-Americans, suggests that black vegans and vegetarians have a significantly lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, obesity and hypertension (high blood pressure) than their meat-eating counterparts.
We would all be better off eating healthy, humane vegan meals, regardless of our race, age or gender, but I want to focus on fathers right now since it’s time to celebrate their special day. This Father’s Day, why not ask Dad to give you a gift—to try vegan foods for at least a month—so that he’ll be around for many special days to come? You can show your support and encouragement by preparing a scrumptious vegan meal for the entire family or taking them out for one.