What Are We Eating? Challenging the Health Benefits of Traditional Foods

I recently watched a documentary titled What the Health? which challenged the validity of reported health benefits associated with animal products in the American diet.

I wasn't aware of the extent to which animal products are affecting our health or how the consumption of animal protein has been directly linked to major degenerative diseases.  I have watched several documentaries on alternative ways of eating over the years, also backed by medical research and industry professionals but unlike other movies, this particular documentary made me question my own beliefs about dietary health.  

One subject that I found particularly disturbing was the fact that animal products (that were proven unhealthful and directly linked to degenerative disease by certain medical professionals) were being promoted as healthy by the very institutions that are supposed to educate and help people suffering from specific diseases including the The American Diabetes Association, The Susan B. Komen Foundation and The American Heart Association.    

Trusted Institutions and their affiliated sponsors.

Trusted Institutions and their affiliated sponsors.

I have worked in the culinary industry and written about food over the years, I even wrote and published a cookbook; I thought I had a handle on how to feed my family, but now I'm not so sure.  After watching the movie, my husband and I decided to follow a Vegan diet for two weeks to see if it made a difference.  It did.  Although the food was apart from our usual fare, we both noticed feeling more balanced.  We experienced an overall sense of satisfaction after meals, and our usual cravings were non-existent.  There has been research to support the health benefits associated with a plant-based diet including the monumental China–Cornell–Oxford Project a twenty year study conducted by the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, Cornell University, and the University of Oxford.  The study once described by The New York Times as "the Grand Prix of epidemiology" found that countries with diets rich in animal foods were more likely to have higher death rates from degenerative diseases including Heart Disease, Diabetes and Cancer as opposed to countries that consumed a more plant based diet.   

I'm not sure if following a Vegan diet is the most healthful choice (I love meat and cheese), but eating more plant-based foods and less animal protein seems reasonable.  It is also worth noting the fact that certain foods touted as healthy by the media (meat and dairy industries) is questionable, and the research is mounting in support of plant-based foods.  Despite spending more per person on health care than any other country, Americans are getting sicker and dying younger than our international peers — a problem persisting across all ages and both genders, according to a report conducted by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine. "The tragedy is not that the United States is losing a contest with other countries,” the report states, “but that Americans are dying and suffering from illness and injury at rates that are demonstrably unnecessary” Holly Henry CBS News 3 WTKR.

Meanwhile I'm on my third week following a Vegan diet and my husband, a traditional meat and vegetable type of eater, is actually embracing the idea of Vegan food on our weekly menu board.  If you are interested in trying more plant-based foods, there are websites dedicated to sharing their recipes with anyone who is willing to try them!  This list of the Top Ten Vegan Recipe Websites posted by TDIV is a start.  I like to begin with a classic recipe and revise it to work with plant-based ingredients.  I usually find inspiration in my large and growing collection of old cookbooks!  Try this recipe (below) inspired by the 1960 Favorite Recipes of America cookbook for Gourmet Chicken Salad.   


Un-chicken Salad

Un-chicken Salad

I used to buy this salad back when I was in college. It was terribly expensive, but well worth it! Try my version (pictured here), it will save you money and it's delicious!  


-2 tablespoons dijon mustard

-1 tablespoon vegetable mayonnaise (I use the Just Mayo brand)

-1/8 cup celery, diced

-1/8 cup carrots, diced

-1/8 cup onion, diced

-salt and pepper to taste


Place all of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl and toss lightly to coat. Serve chilled, over chopped greens. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container.


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