Forks Over Knives all started with one guy who heard something that made a lot of sense.
Author: Shari Dalal
In 2001, Brian Wendel attended a conference on nutrition. There, a plant-based expert made a compelling enough argument that a Staten Island boy raised on pizza and roast beef decided to go all in on plant foods. He had no idea it would forever alter the course of his life.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. About 697,000 people in the United States died from heart disease in 2020—that’s 1 in every 5 deaths. Chronic lower respiratory diseases (including asthma) deaths were 142,342.
These are alarming statistics and are largely related to food intake.
Brian Wendel founded Forks Over Knives after learning the benefits of a Whole Foods plant-based diet from a conference he attended. The popularity of Forks Over Knives gained momentum leading to The Forks Over Knives film in 2011. The film showcased the effects of dietary outcomes.
Fast food and quick meals from supermarkets came into mainstream America in the 1950s. With this cheap food convenience, Americans relied on food choices outside the kitchen due to the increasing demands of a fast-paced society. These food choices, known as the Standard American Diet or the SAD diet, were replete with refined sugars, additives, oil, and trans fats. The SAD diet leads to detrimental health effects such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory disease.
To verify the relationship between health and diet, Lee Fulkerson sought the help of plant-based doctors Matt Lederman and Alona Pulde. Fulkerson consumed the SAD Diet, and his bloodwork showed this. Cholesterol was 241, LDL 157, and CRP, which is an inflammatory marker for heart disease, was 6.0. After 13 weeks on a Whole Foods plant-based diet, blood work numbers dramatically reduced to cholesterol 154, LDL 80, CRP 2.8, blood pressure decreased, and he lost 20 pounds.
Two doctors, Colin Campbell and Caldwell Esselstyn, educated the public on the repercussions of the SAD diet. Colin Campbell’s focus was animal nutrition and protein at Cornell University. He found that death results when protein is not present in the diet. The public’s belief was that protein could only be received through the consumption of animal-based foods. The belief was that one food, like eggs, gives protein, but in reality, a variety of plant foods provide a multitude of health benefits working in tandem. Also, during this time, the dairy industry influenced the public to think that milk is “nature’s perfect food,” providing more nutrition than mother’s milk. The ad “got milk” was prevalent, further ingraining the view that dairy is a must staple in the diet.
Mac Danzig, a boxer, also once thought that protein came from animal-based foods. While he had already removed dairy, after he removed animal protein, he noticed greater energy and faster recovery post-workout.
Studies showed that an increase in dairy consumption increased osteoporosis due to acidosis, which is increased acid in the body. The body, in response to these increased acid levels, removes calcium from bones to neutralize the acid. The USDA, in response, recommended low-fat dairy, thereby increasing protein content. The effects of low-fat dairy still result in osteoporosis. The USDA also dictates what foods school children consume. Because the USDA is largely financed by the dairy industry, school lunches are abundant in dairy.
To see if diet truly made a difference in health outcomes, Campbell conducted a large research study on the effects of diet on health in China spanning more than a decade. He found that diet is directly responsible for health outcomes, with processed foods contributing to coronary heart disease. Caldwell Esselstyn read Campbell’s study, and the two met. Campbell advised Esselstyn to remove dairy from his patients’ diet. This change proved beneficial for his patients, and all patients lived through the 12-year study.
In his research, Caldwell found that low nitric oxide is directly related to coronary heart disease. Nitric oxide dilates blood vessels. Through the consumption of the SAD diet, nitric oxide levels are reduced, thereby constricting blood vessels and resulting in plaque blockage.
Not only does processed food increase the incidence of coronary heart disease, but it also plays a critical role in the production of cancer. Processed foods turn on cancer genes, while whole food plant-based foods turn them off.
I also learned that a whole food plant-based diet enhances health. My family and I moved to CA from PA for new beginnings. As a child, I had many health problems, which worsened after the move. At the time, my parents were busy running a frozen yogurt shop they had just opened. As a consequence, go-to lunches were from fast food chains, and frozen yogurt was laden with all kinds of candies. Asthma worsened, followed by increased reliance on medication. Understanding why these health afflictions were present was a conundrum. This lifestyle permeated into my adult years, leading to obesity. I made the change to exercise and eat better as a vegetarian. Health problems still persisted, and I made the change to a whole food plant-based diet. As a result, I felt better and even became more creative in the kitchen.
Eating a Whole Foods plant-based diet is even easier with Forks Over Knives recipes, books, magazines, food products, meal plans on the app, and courses to learn making whole food plant-based meals.
The adage “Live to eat, don’t eat to live” and “let food be thy medicine” by Hippocrates are wise words to live by and will prove beneficial in your health journey.
- https://youtu.be/mZGs0XsS_lI. (Forks Over Knives film)
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