Thursday, August 5, 2010

Nutritional Rules 2

A few months ago, I mentioned that I was, on the recommendation of my doctor, taking a number of supplements. Calcium. Omega 3. Plant sterols. And Metamucil.

Yeah, that lasted about a week.

See, I had a physical in early April and found that my cholesterol was very high. So my doctor recommended a number of different supplements that are designed to lower my bad cholesterol (Metamucil and plant sterols) and raise my good cholesterol (fish oil.)

Plus, she recommended I take a calcium supplement on the grounds that almost everybody is calcium deficient.

Now I'm not very good at taking daily pills, but I figured that this was important. So I dutifully went out and bought all the different supplements ... fruit chewy calcium supplements, Metamucil pills, and plant sterols in Emergen-C packs.

I was determined to take them all.

Except that one night I gagged on the Metamucil pills and cried for half an hour because I could barely get them down. And then I checked how much fiber they had, and determined that I would just rather eat an extra serving or two of fruit and vegetables. And that was basically the end of that.

And I was still trying to drink three cups of plant sterol-infused Emergen-C a day, except that it tasted really gross and made my tea cup at work all gritty. And then I looked up plant sterols on Wikipedia and found out the potential risks associated with them. I talked to a few friends and decided that, you know what, I'm not going to take plant sterols anymore.

The calcium fruit chews were in annoying packaging that I never bothered to open.

And I couldn't figure out what Omega-3 pills were the least toxic, so I ended up just making sure I ate a lot of fish.

Meanwhile, a commenter on this blog, Daharja, had suggested that supplements were basically ... stupid. And that the best course of action would be to eat 90% vegan, and that actually "food, not too much, mostly plants," was actually a totally reasonable and healthy mantra.

So I did it.

Well, not exactly.

I cut out cheese, red meat, eggs, and butter. I ate fish religiously twice a week. I ate poultry once or twice a week. And I limited my dairy to non-fat or low-fat milk and yogurt.

But mostly, I ate plants. Carrots and broccoli. Berries galore. Hummus and guacamole. Lentils and tofu. And whole-wheat everything ... pasta, bread, buns.

And funny thing. I rarely felt deprived.

At the end of three months, I had my cholesterol checked. And, without the help of any pills, supplements, or cholesterol medications, I had been able to lower my cholesterol. By 100 points.

Yes, in three months.

So, I guess what I'm saying is, I was wrong to doubt you Pollan. You were right. And I was wrong.

In fact, I can eat food. Not too much. And mostly plants.


JAM said...

That's awesome! Gives me hope - continually striving to eat better and not quite making it but doing my best. Good for you! And glad to have you back.

Marni Wasserman said...

it takes a lot of courage and dedication to make such a radical shift in your eating habits. Good work!

Lee said...


Okay, now I feel incredibly lame for just saying "wow" because I should have said something incredibly intellectual, but I think "wow" covers how I'm feeling and what I'm thinking better.

Pollan is *so* right! And I think our grandmas were right too. And our cultures are right, no matter whether curry is the standard, or stir-fry, or sushi with rice (yum I love me avocado sushi!), or a roast with veggies. As long as it's all real food.

Eating well isn't about finding a name for what we do ("Hi - I'm Fred and I'm a vegetarian" "Hi - I'm Barney and I'm a pescavore" "Hi I'm Wilma and I'm a snoctatarian" WTF?) but just being sensible and eating real food.

Saying that, we DO live in a crappy, toxic-food-laden environment, so to change our habits and actually eat well is difficult.

I've found the easiest ways for me to keep eating well are to - plan ahead, don't shop hungry, don't let myself get hungry (!!!!! REALLY important), stick to a shopping list, not eat out so much, and keep fruit and snackies (usually an apple and some nuts) and a water bottle with me when I'm out. And I dont beat myself up when I screw up, which I do way too often.

Good luck :-) Just keep going, eating real food. Good on you!

Chile said...

Congratulations! It's so good to hear you decided to take the more natural and healthful route.

A number of years ago, I dropped my cholesterol by 29 points in just 7 days by simply cutting out the last hold-out to going completely vegan: my daily white mocha coffee.

During the same week, another gentleman in the same program I attended dropped his by 75 points - in one week - by switching from a typical American meat and taters diet to whole foods such as veggies, fruits, beans, and whole grains with no animal products (meat, eggs, or dairy).

It is truly amazing what food can do to us or for us.

P. Hentermine said...

The process is much faster than traditional bread making, meaning the wheat or gluten is not going through the fermentation process for as long.

Aydan said...

... whatever a snoctatarian is, it sounds uncomfortably like bodily fluids.

Anyway, that sounds like a delicious diet (and by "diet" I mean "what you eat" not "a certain way of eating aimed at losing weight"). When I read your description of what you've been eating, it sounded like a treat-- I understand why you don't feel deprived!

Jenn said...

Great job! Congrats!

I had a cholesterol test last fall - the doctor admonished me about my low cholesterol, said I needed to be "more physically active" and "raise" my "good" cholesterol. My total overall cholesterol was like 130.

Of course, it didn't occur to me til I was already home - I have no dietary cholesterol, being vegan. I called and left a message with her assistant to see if this information was helpful but had no response. I read a bunch of stuff on line and basically - vegans have the lowest cholesterol of all - if you need to lower it, cut out the animals and animal "food products" like you did and you'll have tremendous results.

However, I probably shouldn't mention, Belgian (style) beer & dark chocolate are usually vegan. :)

Farmer's Daughter said...

Yay! I remember that first post... I no longer take prenatal vitamins (Josh is now 5 months) and just eat a variety of foods. My cholesterol is fine as far as I know, so I've been trying to eat more eggs since they're a good source of lots of vitamins and minerals (I read that in a postpartum weight loss book... that's the only thing that stuck.)

I'm so happy for you that your diet has paid off! My grandmother is able to control her diabetes with diet and it's been great for her.