Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The China Study in review...I'm giving up MEAT!

So I finished reading The China Study a few days ago, and have been completely struggling for words to give it justice on this little blog here. I have read several life-changing books in my day--books I would recommend to ANYONE--The Read-Aloud Handbook, The Total Money Makeover, lots of parenting books, fitness books, fiction books, and of course religious books. But the most life-changing NUTRITION book I've EVER read--The China Study--has already (in less than a week) caused me to COMPLETELY change the way I view food. My menu plan for this week is completely different than what I've normally planned as "healthy" meals for my family.

Why did I love this book so much? Not because it was a fun read per actually felt like a textbook at times...quite boring. But it made sense of the nutritional confusion we're fed from so many sources. One day a low-carb diet is the ONLY way to be healthy, the next day we're given another diet that allows you to re-introduce carbs into your diet, which leads you to eating a typical American diet anyway. With all these fad diets, why are two thirds of adults STILL obese? And why are so many children being diagnosed with Type II diabetes?

Dr. Colin Campbell (a professor who spent 40 years in nutritional research) along with his son, Thomas Campbell give dozens and dozens of SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN reasons why diets high in animal protein are linked to "diseases of affluence" (cancer, diabetes, and heart disease). "There is enough evidence now that doctors should be discussing the option of pursuing dietary change as a potential path to cancer prevention and treatment," he writes. "There is enough evidence now that local breast cancer alliances, and prostate cancer institutions, should be discussing the possibility of providing information to Americans everywhere on how a whole foods, plant-based diet may be an incredibly effective anti-cancer medicine."

The book includes a section called The Good Nutrition Guide emphasizing 8 principles of good nutrition and health:

  • Nutrition represents the combined activities of countless food substances. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
  • Vitamin supplements are not a panacea for good health.
  • There are no nutrients in animal-based foods that are not better provided by plants.
  • Genes do not determine diseases on their own. Genes function only by being activated, or expressed, and nutrition plays a critical role in determining which genes, good and bad, are expressed.
  • Nutrition can substantially control the adverse effects of noxious chemicals.
  • The same nutrition that prevents disease in its early stages (before diagnosis) can also halt or reverse disease in its later stages (after diagnosis).
  • Nutrition that is truly beneficial for one chronic disease will support health across the board.
  • Good nutrition creates health in all areas of our existence. All parts are interconnected.

One part of the book--the last section--really angered me. Campbell shows how government, science, medicine, corporations, and the media have concentrated on profits instead of health. Together they have created confusing information about nutrition and have stifled and attempted to destroy viewpoints that challenge the "status quo".

Campbell relates how he personally was almost expelled from a committee of scientists because he dared to suggest a link between diet and cancer. He writes, "In the world of nutrition and health, scientists are not free to pursue their research wherever it leads. Coming to the 'wrong conclusions,' even through first-rate science, can damage your career."

There's SO MUCH MORE I want to say, but what is my point? First, I think ALL OF YOU SHOULD READ THE CHINA STUDY to decide for yourselves what changes you will make. For me, I won't say that I will NEVER eat meat or drink milk again, but it's going to be VERY limited. I will not go hungry on this "diet." I will eat all the fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, etc. that I want. Our meals just won't be based around the meat. I want to be in control of my health, and for the first time, I feel like I have real, solid direction on how to prevent my family from contracting the diseases so prevalent in our society. We will still have treats...they'll just be limited, like they already (sort of) are.

I'm going to be doing A LOT of experimenting with Vegan recipes. We'll probably have to try lots of stuff to find dishes we like, but I'm not a huge meat-eater anyway, so I think it will be fun! My husband is totally supportive, he rolls his eyes thinking it's just another weird phase, but I feel VERY strongly about what I read.

On another note, I've already received opposition! Sometimes to me, that's a good sign that I'm on the right track! When I read something I'm passionate and excited about, I have a hard time not talking about it to anyone who will listen. I have to be reminded that telling people they need to stop eating meat, and drinking milk is going against something we've ALL belived our whole lives to be HEALTHY. Everyone needs to read it and decide for themselves. My cute sister called me yesterday, no less than 3 times, to make sure I'm not going to be TOO extreme with this. She doesn't want my kids to be the weird ones who never get any snacks, so they go to friends' houses, and scour the pantries for a treat. I don't want that either! My response was that ALL I'm doing is adding MORE fruits and vegetables to our diet, and cutting back on milk, eggs, and meat. They will still get cake on their birthdays.

I'll let you know how it's going. If you have any AWESOME meatless recipes, send them my way! What's your take? Am I crazy? Is eating a whole food, plant-based diet something you would EVER consider? Will you read the book? Discuss.


Bonnie Wayne said...

So out of my curiosity - what about fish and eggs and poultry? Are they distinguished, or ALL lumped into a "meat" category?

In the Spanish language its so much more clear, because when they say "meat" - its only from an animal, when they say "poultry" - obviously from a bird, and "fish" of course is a different category. In our culture, we tend to lump "meat" as EVERYTHING not from a plant. Just curious :)

Also my other question would be about the indigenous peoples, because they can tell alot as well. Eskimos have 70% of their diet from blubber and have on of the lowest rates on the planet of BP, cholesterol, heart disease, etc. Is that addressed at all?

I am determined to check it out from the library!

Teandra Everett said...

I hear ya! I got the same information from this web site: + it has great vegan recipes. I agree completely

Melissa said...

Dr. Fuhrman does talk a lot about the China Study in the Eat to Live book. Eat to Live carries the same idea. Did you try that soup yet? A little gross but really good for some reason. I make it every week and save it to eat at lunch times, etc.

Marci & Marcus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marci & Marcus said...

I'm with ya Robyn but can we still have some of that yummy processed and refined meat with our pizza on Saturday???!!! Please!!!???

Evelyn and Art said...

I will consider reading the book... I'm a little leary because I LIKE MEAT!! I mean, I don't eat a ton of it or anything, but it does give me energy and it seems to fill me up quicker with smaller amounts. Anyway, just as a reminder, the word of wisdom (wiki it if you don't know what that is - an LDS doctrine!) does say to EAT meat sparingly... so it's still cool to eat it and I know that you know that. I really think this life is about living in moderation. I don't think it's good to go to extremes. It's not good to eat too much junk and quite frankly I don't think it's good to go to the other extreme either! I am interested in what the book has to offer. Meats, eggs and milk has things in it such as fat that helps your brain and nervous system. You don't want to deprive children of that. Anyway, thanks for the "food" for thought! Pun totally intended!

Judi said...

You perked my interest in the book. I'm heading to the library tomorrow for story time so I'll have to see if they have it.

I like to live by "moderation" - we have a meal plan (for dinners) that focuses on variety . . . bean day, meat day, pasta day, egg day, and pizza day! Weekends we eat leftovers and try a new recipe.

We love fruits and veggies!

Thanks for the review on the book.


Aly said...

Well, Robyn, I guess the only other thing you need to do to round out your children's "weirdness" is make the decision to homeschool and you will be all set!

While your working on that one, check out this fantastic recipe (, I just made it last week and LOVED it, as well as the kids LOVED it!! It will be a perfect recipe for your new way of life :0).

I'm feeling worried about reading know how easily I become obsessed with things like this, CRAP! Plus, Chuck didn't even like the Souper Easy Lentils, I'm not sure how much more of my new phases he can handle...although he did survive the ACV phase pretty well.

Heather and Jake said...

I must admit, I am not a very opinioned person, and am easily swayed by other people's opinions. People I trust...not total strangers. I like to read and hear about what other people do and the way they live. Abd then I slowly form my own way of thinking. Anyways, I respect your opinion on this book and I think it sounds like you're on a good path. I don't agree that one should give up meat/milk all together, but I think there should be less emphasis on it. If you want to look at a radical view of veganism/junkless life, go to this blog:

It's my sister's good friend, and she is very extreme, but firm in her beliefs. Although I don't agree with most, it's interesting and she cooks a lot of vegan stuff!

Robyn said...

Bonnie--he does actually sort of lump ALL animal products into the same category. Basically any type of "meat" is more similar to other types of "meat" than it is to fruits and vegetables. This includes fish, eggs, and poultry. Although, in the section where he says what to eat, he does say that fish is okay occasionally.

As for the Word of Wisdom, it says to eat meat sparingly, in times of WINTER and FAMINE. So yes...I do think meat is okay occasionally. I don't think SPARINGLY means as often as weekly, though.

I think the biggest idea is to have meat and animal products eaten as a very small percentage of your overall diet. If you're mostly eating fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, etc., then I don't think occasional meat/eggs/milk/etc. is terrible. But in America, we base our meals around the meat! That's what I want to change!

Melissa--I'm making the soup tomorrow! (Although I don't have any VegiZest...will vegetable boullion cubes work?)

Thanks everyone for the website looks like the one you sent, Heather, is a private blog. I'll have to ask you about it later.

Marci--yes...the pizza party is still on!

Michael said...

In your newfound quest, you should take a little advice from Lisa Simpson. First, watch her vegan conversion:

When she decided to go veg, she tried to convince everyone she knew that eating meat was wrong, and even went as far as ruining Homer's barbecue (BBBQ, as he put it) by making his roasted pig fly:

A hilarious fight ensues:

What we learn is that those who are willing to make a change will make that change when they are ready. You will have people say things like "I could never be friends with a person who doesn't eat meat" (I had a friend say that to me before he knew I was dabbling with vegetarianism).

So remember that Simpson's wisdom as you pursue your dream. Don't get down when people call you crazy, because that's just what some people do. Don't let it get you mad, just be happy that you're "the wiser" and they're "none-the-wiser."

Also, you should probably add this episode to your repertoire.

Aly said...

I was just coming back to quote the exact Word of Wisdom, but it looks like you already have that covered. Strangely enough we are once again on the same wavelengths...I have been having these conversations with Chuck over the last two months, not because I read a book like you did, only because I have been thinking about the Word of Wisdom and studying it. I take from it the same as you, it specifically says in winter or famine, that leads me to believe if there are other things available then stay away from the meat. I do feel like occassionally it is fine. I am worried about cutting out dairy...will you either post or email a sample of your daily menu? I am curious what you will be consuming once you cut those things out. Also, (I know I should just go read the book) what will your toddlers drink? I just read a study on the ill effects of soy milk.

Lyenna said...

Hmmm...I'm not sure about this one. I am a huge advocate for health, but I would say change has to be made slowly for me, or I'll never complete it. I have the type of personality that jumps into things head first, and then after about a week or two, and the enthusiasm dies down, I go right back to old habits. The whole Vegan thing kind of freaks me out actually. I'm not sure why exactly. Maybe it's the old stereotypes that I can't get out of my head. I'll definitely be reading this book, because I'm always open to learning new things. Especially if my cousin, with whom I relate to as if we were separated at birth, recommends it:) Any suggestions on alternatives to milk? I have a toddler that is COMPLETELY addicted to the point that he will not EAT anything else but cucumbers and certain types of fruit. I don't know what to do with him.

Melissa said...

I use low sodium veggie broth. I don't know what Veggie Zest is either. Can't wait to hear what you think.

Ann said...

Robyn, Thanks for the review of this book. I spent an entire semester in graduate school at BYU dissecting this book (and the studies found therein) in one of my courses. Dr. Campbell also presented at BYU during this time. Definitely one of the most well put-together books of research that I have read.

My recommendation to everyone is to read it for yourself. When you just tell someone you are going to be vegan/vegetarian they think you are weird. If you can read the book and understand the research behind the conclusions Campbell made, you see things in a different light.

BTW, as part of our research we went through several of Campbell's cited studies for ourselves. All were bonafide, published literature. It doesn't get better than that!

I haven't been able to go completely meat/animal product free, but several nights out of the week we don't eat meat for dinner and even my carnivore-loving-husband doesn't complain. You can do it! :)


P.S. We ate pizza of ALL animal products (meat, cheese, etc.) and it was delicious!

Melissa said...

Hey, there are tons of good recipes at the end of Eat to Live. I like the Chili and black bean tortillas. I actually love the TVP in the Anti-Cancer soup and Chili. It tastes like tiny pieces of chicken. At the end of the book someone asks in the Q&A section if the Dr. thinks everyone will eventually embrace this way of eating. He says they won't because terrible eating is such a part of our culture. It's really sad. Eating vegan most of the time is so healthy and good.

Diane said...

Believe it or not, I think even your dad would go along with this way of eating. Michael told me about this book several years ago and I have yet to read it. Thanks for the review. So very interesting! Let me know how this week goes! I think you're taking the right approach. Way to go!!! I love your determination and spirit!!!

Lyenna said...

For the record I think going vegetarian or vegan is VERY valid. I know what they do to our food, adding hormones, antibiotics, poor living conditions, etc. all for the bottom dollar. I definitely DON'T think you're crazy. I love that you are open to new things and trying them out for yourself. Too many of us are not as willing. I've been playing around with the idea for a long time, but have not taken the step. Did you just get the book from the library? Of course, I think they will probably all be checked out at this point. I am very interested in seeing how it works out for you and how your kids take to it. My kids hate meat anyway, and Kelcey has already mentioned to me how he would like to eat less, so we're already moving in the right direction. Baby steps:)

Robyn said...

Yep--I did get the book at the library. I just put my name on the waiting list, and got it within a few weeks. It's worth reading, for sure. And steps! :) I've found some really great websites in the past few days with recipe ideas...I'll have to post them on here.

Michael said...

Robyn, I know you're on a bit of a reading kick right now, so I thought I'd recommend some more books. Maybe in a few years, you can have them all read. Actually, they're all by Michael Pollan, a journalist who has taken on the food industry. His three books are:

"The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals"

"In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto"

"Food Rules: An Eater's Manual"

The last book, "Food Rules," is kinda like the Cliffs Notes version of the first two books. I've read the second and third books, and Anne has the first one, so eventually I'll get around to reading that one. I really agree with his take on things. He's not quite as "vegan" as Dr. Campbell, but puts food into perspective. Basically, he says to eat food. Then he defines what food actually is by defining what it is not. The second book is based on the mantra "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." His opinions branch from Campbell's and others' pertinent studies, and I think it will give you a broader perspective on things, but will also reinforce what you're already doing.

Anyway, I own them all, so I'll let you borrow them whenever you want.

Michael said...

PS, I like Pollan and Campbell because, unlike "Food, Inc.," "Supersize Me," and other anti-establishment food propaganda, they try their best to back their claims with pier-reviewed (bonafide, as Ann said) research. And I think that's what everyone needs to understand about these authors. They're not just making wild claims about things; they're backing up sound claims with sound research.

That is all.

Aubrey said...

Have you heard of/read about the paleo diet? It's basically exactly opposite of this. The new gym I have been going to is really big into it. If you are strict it's meat, fruits and vegetables, nuts and berries. I am really torn about it. The people at the gym that eat paleo say they have never felt better. I'm curious to hear from you how doing the opposite goes. I need to call you!

Rachel Corbett said...

I don't get it.