THE 9-DAY DIET
Sure, green juices are good for you and your waist. But you can’t live on them. Here, the plant-based eating plan to drop five pounds – pronto. By Nicole Catanese.
Awhole-food, plant-based diet is not vegan. Or raw. But research shows it might be the antidote to heart disease, cancer, and yes, the last five pounds – for good. And while its biggest claim to fame came when Jay Z and Beyoncé announced they’d be eating plantbased for 22 days, it’s fast becoming the diet strategy du jour.
But what exactly does “whole-food, plant-based” mean? “Whole food is just that – whole,” says Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., director of the Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Reversal programme at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Along with fellow researcher T. Colin Campbell, a professor emeritus of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University, Esselstyn has spent years touting the diet as the cure to a long list of ailments, from heart disease to diabetes and high blood pressure. It may even help autoimmune diseases and chronic pain – not to mention boost energy and produce effortless weight loss. Campbell is best known for his 2005 book, The China Study, a nearly 50-year look at the predominantly plant-based eating habits of rural Chinese. “Breast cancer, colon cancer, and heart disease were almost non-existent,” notes Campbell, whose latest book, Whole:
Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, came out last May. But back to why you’ll lose weight: “Once you start eating out of a box, bag, or can, the food is processed and may have unhealthy additions like sugar, salt, and oil,” he adds. It’s this key aspect that differentiates this diet from its cousin veganism, which also eschews all animal by-products. If you think about it, vegans and vegetarians can live on heaps of pasta, oil-drenched veggies, and Oreos. Then there’s the plant-based part. “Top of the list is green leafy vegetables,” says Esselstyn, who recommends eating a fistful (add balsamic vinegar) with every meal. That also means beans, legumes, whole grains, and every vegetable under the sun. What’s verboten? Anything that has a mother or a face: red meat, poultry, fish; as well as all dairy.
Skeptics of a plant-based diet focus more on what’s potentially lacking in nutrition, not on what it can offer. The most notable is what Campbell calls our “reverence for protein”. “It’s a very important nutrient, but almost everyone overconsumes it and gets it from animalbased foods, so they end up decreasing consumption of plant-based foods, antioxidants, and complex carbohydrates.” Meanwhile, there are plenty of protein-packed plant-based sources – beans, lentils, chia seeds, quinoa, spinach, and mushrooms. As for getting calcium without dairy? Kale, broccoli, butternut squash, carrots, and cauliflower are all natural sources.
Dietician Stephanie Middleberg, founder of Middleberg Nutrition, says, “The majority of plant-based foods are ‘cleaner’. They have only one ingredient, and are easier to digest than dairy, meat, and in some cases, fish. Eating them gets people back to the basics of good solid nutrition, which is to load up on what is seasonal and whole-food-based. Plus it allows them to be more focused when eating out.” Other pros of ditching cheese, sugar, red meat, and processed foods: Less bloat. Better digestion. More energy. A thinner you. If you also drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol, and commit to your workouts, you could drop five pounds or more in nine days, all while eating real food. So ask yourself, “What would Bey do?”