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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise

Vegetarian Books

Each issue the VIP birds endeavor to soar to the highest literary peak to peck out the most unique, informative, and accomplished book that contributes to vegetarian enlightenment.

This month we review a book that guides readers toward achieving optimum health and reversing the ravages of chronic diseases.

Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole:
Your Guide to Optimum Health

By Alona Pulde, M.D. and Matthew Lederman, M. D.

Exsalus Health & Wellness Center, 2009
Paperback $19.95

Doctors Alona Pulde and Matthew Lederman are making a difference. These practitioners of a new kind of medicine are achieving results in the battle against chronic diseases as they pioneer in the specialty of lifestyle medicine that emphasizes diet change and exercise instead of medications.

Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole Lederman almost quit the medical profession when he realized he was not improving the health of his patients, or for that matter, curing the ailments that afflicted him.

Pulde also recognized the flaws in practicing medicine that did not focus on the whole person. Her training combined the study of both Western and Chinese medicine. As a team the couple embarked on a new venture-to practice lifestyle medicine at their Exsalus Health & Wellness Center in Los Angeles.

Their philosophy, derived from extensive research and a successful practice with their patients, is embodied in their book, Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole: Your Guide to Optimum Health.

In the first six chapters of the book the authors explain the "why" of their work by saying, "We believe that it is so much more empowering for you to know why you are doing something versus just taking our word for it."

The doctors are quite specific in enumerating the health outcomes of their program.

  1. First, is the reversal of debilitating chronic diseases
  2. Second, is weight loss
  3. Third, is the ability to discontinue medications
  4. Next, is improvement in vigor, vitality, and overall well-being
  5. Finally, you can save thousands of dollars per year in food and health care costs

One key statement made by Pulde and Lederman is the essence of their program: "The more plant-based your diet is, the healthier you will be." The crux of their recommendation is to begin by increasing the amount of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in the diet. They stress a gradual approach by adding whole foods as processed items are eliminated.

Alona Pulde The physicians are careful to address many of the issues and challenges to a plant-based diet. In a chapter on protein they show there is no lack of protein in this program. They write, "Plant proteins are NOT inferior to animal proteins AND they provide us with all of the essential amino acids." They caution that too much animal protein contributes to many debilitating diseases.

Both soy and dairy products are not looked on favorably by the doctors. They say that processed soy products are definitely not health foods. Dairy items, they label as "liquid meat," have no place in the Exsalus program.

Lederman and Pulde advocate the elimination of all added oils to the diet. Surprising to many is their recommendation to avoid olive oil touted as a beneficial item in the Mediterranean diet. Pulde tells of her own family following the Mediterranean diet, but that program did not protect her father who died from a heart attack at age 55.

Matthew Lederman "Oil, no matter where it comes from, is NEVER a health food." More information on their attitude toward olive oil can be found in But, Isn't Olive Oil Healthy?

The authors encourage their patients to access all the nutrients they need through whole foods rather than supplements. The exceptions to this advice would be to take Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D supplements. Both may be necessary if a person follows a plant-based diet and does not receive enough sun exposure.

Recognizing that many people fail when they proceed on their diets, the doctors emphasize the importance planning plays in carrying out the program. They offer details on how best to carry the diet forward with what they label as 3-Phase Eating.

  • Course 1 should be a large bowl of raw or cooked vegetables (or fruit in the morning.
  • Course 2 a whole foods main dish
  • Course 3 is a side dish that may be processed

"Remember that you want to make the majority of the meal consist of Course 1 (your 'weight loss medicine and multivitamin') and Course 2 your 'filler') and supplement those two with Course 3 (your 'flavor')," they write.

The Appendix presents an Optimum Health Continuum, Food Continuum & 3-Phase Eating, Calorie Density Tables, Identifying Challenges and Planning Ahead, Meal Plan Sheets, Food Diary, Pantry Essentials, Some Alternatives to Baking/Cooking Without Oil as well as more than 20 pages of recipes.

Although the volume has a thorough Table of Contents, readers may become frustrated when they want to refer back to specifics because the book is not indexed.

Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole could come with a money-back guarantee that anyone following this lifestyle program will definitely achieve much better health. Doctors Pulde and Lederman don't make this guarantee, but they could. They do provide testimonials from patients who have achieved positive results. For anyone grappling with diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, or obesity, this book is must reading.

Click here for past book reviews

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