In this excerpt from Joel Fuhrman's Fasting - and Eating - for Health, he outlines a sensible plant based diet that more than adequately meets adult protein needs. Taking part in his fasting program, I studied several video tapes in which he thoroughly documented the rationale for and the health benefits of a vegan diet. Added emphasis appears in red, and my reactions are enclosed in a box: (Note 127)

For ideal nutrition, I recommend a low fat, lowered protein, low sodium diet; one that is high in raw, unrefined carbohydrates. Meals can consist entirely of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and raw nuts and seeds used judiciously. This will cut the protein content to less than 75 grams per day. A large salad of green lettuce should be consumed daily.

The biggest hurdle for me was getting used to the light feeling in my stomach and digestive track. I was so accustomed to the heavy feeling that accompanied animal based protein meals.

This ideal diet consists of at least 40 percent of calories from vegetables, including raw vegetables, steamed green vegetables, and cooked starches such as squash and potato. Fruit comprises another 25 percent of the diet, and grains, beans, nuts, and seeds another 25 percent. This diet would derive not more than 15 percent of calories from fat, 10 to 15 percent of calories from protein, and 70 to 75 percent of calories from complex carbohydrate. The fat would come from the natural foods themselves, not from extracted oils.

I compared 15 to the ridicously high 30 percent of calories from fat recommended by the American Heart Association. That reflected my addiction to fatty texture in foods. I loved to eat a batch of deep fried potatoes. If I ate them now, they would probably make me sick.

Refined food products, all sweeteners, added salt and salted products, as well as soft drinks, coffee, and caffeine drinks would be excluded from an optimal diet. Dairy products would be eliminated or consumed infrequently.

This was an ongoing struggle with my eating habits. I went in a six month cycle of totally eliminating soft drinks and coffee and then going off the wagon by picking a fountain soda to drink while I was on the road.

If we look at a sample plant food menu of approximately 2,000 calories (the caloric intake appropriate for an average adult female), we see that it contains a desirable level of protein, including generous amounts of all the essential amino acids. Even without any nuts or beans, the menu contains much more protein than the RDA.

Breakfast Oatmeal
(3 cups cooked)
(2 medium)
(1 medium)
Lunch Vegetable salad, made from lettuce, sprouts, cucumber, carrots, jicama, and lemon
(8 ounces)
(3 cups, steamed)
(1 whole, baked)
Snack Banana (1 raw)
Dinner Vegetable salad, made from lettuce, celery, red pepper,
carrots, tomato, and lemon
Sunflower seeds
Brown rice
(16 ounces)
(1 ounce)
(16 ounces, steamed)
(2 1/2 cups cooked)
Snack Grapes (2 cups)
The closer I adhered to this diet, the better I felt physically and mentally. I could gauge how well my diet was going by simply checking how I felt at the moment. Any significant deviation from a similar diet showed up immediately in my feeling tone.

This sample diet provides 2,095 kilocalories, of which 13 percent come from protein, 74 percent from carbohydrates, and 13 percent from fat. It can be seen from an analysis that there is plenty of protein in this diet, along with the other essential nutrients. The percent of sodium, rather than being too low, is actually appropriate. The ridiculously high RDA for sodium is reflective of the American norm and is much too high for optimal health.

In addition to my fat addiction, I craved salt. By experimenting, I found this need was not the same as the carving that comes after a vigorous workout that purges large quantities of salt. This craving was simply a psychological need for the taste of salt in my mouth.

On a strict vegetarian diet such as this, the only nutrient that might need to be supplemented is vitamin B12. One B12 tablet weekly is sufficient, as the body stores vitamin B12 effectively and our needs are very small. Most strict vegetarians do not need to take vitamin B12 supplements as their blood level of this nutrient is adequate, probably because of production from bacteria residing within the intestines. I advise people avoiding animal foods to either take a supplement or get a blood test yearly. . . .

With a physician prescribed modest vitamin supplement and a B12 supplemented soy milk on oatmeal, my needs for this nutrient were more than met. The supplements were probably not needed, but I continued then as a precaution.

A compromise diet plan for those desiring to move closer to good nutrition from their present eating habits, but unable to give up animal products, would contain animal foods in very limited quantities. These concentrated foods are such a significant health risk that if they must be consumed, they should be limited to not more than 3.5 to 4 ounces every other day. Even then the animal based food should be utilized in small quantities, perhaps as a condiment to flavor a vegetable dish or soup. This 3.5 ounces should include all types of animal based foods. . . .

I was aided in my conversion to veganism by Rudolph Ballentine's book Transition to Vegetarianism. (Note 128) He recommended a three phase evolutionary process that was much easier to accomplish than going cold turkey from animal based proteins.

If dramatic improvement in your health is what you have in mind, then dramatic changes must be made in your diet. These changes must be permanent. A miraculous recovery from disease, as I see with so many of my patients who adopt these changes, requires dramatic changes in eating habits.

According to recent data from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, 55 percent of American adults were overweight or obese. (Note 129) No wonder hospitals are clogged with patients waiting for surgery to treat their clogged arteries! I met a retired husband and wife who both had coronary bypass surgery in the same year.