Are your grandparents still alive? Can you pick up the phone and call them? Do it! They will be thrilled to hear from you! I wish I could, I especially adored my three grandmothers. What did your grandparents eat as children for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Ask them about their grandparents. Ask them to tell you about food specific to their native region. Ask them everything you can about your ancestors’ diet and eating patterns. Other than encouraging wonderfully warm, cozy, family connections, there is another reason for this line of inquiry.

We are a country of immigrants!

As of 2015, we had about 6.6 million Native Americans living in the US (2%) of our total population. That means that 98% of us are not from here, we are immigrants. For hundreds of years we have had influxes of immigrants from every corner of the world. I believe that this diversity, our democratic melting pot, is one reason we are such a great nation. My family is mostly English, German and Hungarian. My grandparents ate whole foods, never boxed, prepackaged, or processed. They ate when they grew and what they made from scratch. There were not many restaurants either. Food was simpler, fresh, and wholesome. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we go back in time to the olden days! I’m suggesting we learn from the evidence around traditional high fiber diets vs. a highly processed, industrially produced animal-based diet.

Have you heard of migration studies?

Medical researchers study the health of people who have migrated to developed western countries from other countries. For example, when people have been eating a plant-based, high fiber diet, for centuries in their home country, then move to the US and eat fast food, large amounts of sugar, cheese, meat, and processed foods, their health plummets. Bottom line: Migrant studies indicate that people take on the diet, diseases, and cancers, of their new country. Diet and environment lead to chronic illnesses. Genetics play a much smaller role.

What is the evidence comparing overall health of various cultures?

  • In the 1930s, Western trained doctors were in Uganda and noticed heart disease was almost nonexistent. They compared same age autopsies reports with 632 people from St. Louis. In the St. Louis group, 136 people died of heart attacks. In the Ugandan group? There was only one heart attack!
  • Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US with the state of Connecticut having the highest rates. However, in Uganda, it is unheard of and some doctors have never seen it! The reason is high fiber from a whole food, plant based diet.
  • While India is a huge diverse country, about 20% of the population lives below the poverty line. India also has much lower cancer rates than other more developed countries. Why? Research indicates perhaps spices like turmeric but also their largely plant based diet. Only about 7% of Indians eat meat daily.
  • Asian women are five times less likely to develop breast cancer than women from North America are. Researchers have learned that green tea, soy (especial eaten as youngsters) and mushrooms of all things lower cancer risk 90%!
  • Before the Japanese started to eat food that is more Western in the 1950s, their diet only contained about 5% animal-based foods. During that time, death rates from colon, prostate, breast, and ovarian cancers were ten times lower than the US.

Colonoscopies do not lie!

A recent study reveals that when African Americans from Pittsburgh PA and rural South Africans switched their diets for just two weeks, their “before and after” colonoscopies indicated big changes in intestinal bacteria! The South Africans’ traditional diet was plant-based, while the participants from Pittsburgh diets’ were highly processed and animal-based. The rural South Africans, who switched to a cheese and meat diet, had changes to their intestines indicating a high risk for colon cancer! The participants from Pittsburgh had the opposite. They ate a plant-based diet and had a reduction of their risk for colon cancer. Whoa what? In just 2 weeks! About 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with colon cancer per year. This is easily preventable when people follow an animal free diet. Learn more about how to transition here. Take the risk of feeling fabulous!

Go back to your roots now and veganize it!

Do a little research. Ask, what did your grandparents eat? Then find out what their ancestors ate. Many cultures and communities ate more plants that we might think. When we “veganize” meals, that simply means to replace or substitute animal-based foods with plant-based foods. German dishes include all sorts of potato latkes, root vegetable soups, hearty salads, dumplings, and strudel. Irish and British vegan recipes abound! Mexican food is often beans, rice, and vegetables with lots of hot peppers. Make Tuesday Tacos with roasted vegetables instead of fish, and non-dairy cheese instead of salty, fatty animal-based cheese. Asian stir-fries and bowls are delicious with tofu or tempeh instead of tortured chickens. Likewise, Lasagna, everyone’s classic standby, is a snap with spinach, olives, mushrooms, and crumbled tofu instead of ricotta. First learn, “what did your grandparents eat”, then get creative and celebrate your families’ unique culture and history. Include everyone at the table. Celebrating our diversity and ethnic backgrounds is what makes America great! Happy Eating!