Good information is generated at Enhancing Health with Plant-Based Nutrition program
by: BARB RANDALL  Conference attendees at the Enhancing Health with Plant-Based Nutrition enjoyed a colorful vegetarian lunch. Many of the dishes were vegan and some were “live” or raw dishes. Food Editor Barb Randall said every dish was delicious. She recommends such basics as plant-based means of grains and vegetables, at left, or with quinoa, above.

I had a most enlightening experience recently. I attended a conference for health care practioners on Enhancing Health with Plant-Based Nutrition. The event was sponsored by Northwest Veg and Adventist Medical Center and covered the latest information about plant-based diets and their affect on nutrition, as well as chronic disease prevention and control. Presentations were made by some of our nation's top scientists and doctors. The speaker I was most excited to hear was Dr. Neal Barnard, founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and The Cancer Project, an organization whose food program I wrote about last fall.

Also on the agenda:

* Amy Joy Lanou, Ph.D., who spoke on 'Achieving Bone Vitality Through Plant-Based Foods. Ten million Americans over the age of 50 have osteoporosis; another 34 million have osteopenia, a condition in which bone marrow density (BMD) is lower than normal, and could be a precursor to osteoporosis.

The current strategies for treatment and prevention focus on calcium and dairy supplementation, screening for BMD changes and medications. Lanou said the paradox of this treatment is that hip fracture rates are highest in countries with high calcium and dairy product intake and that in countries with little or no milk, dairy or calcium supplements the fracture rate is 50 to 70 percent lower than in the U.S.

She also said that the evidence for health benefit appears stronger when foods are put together in a synergistic dietary pattern than for individual foods or food constitutents. And, though she said the mechanism of exactly why eating fruits and vegetables had a positive effect on BMD is not understood, there is evidence that 'positive changes to bone health are achievable through a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, with essentially no risk, but many additional health benefits.'

For bone vitality, Lanou suggests that people 1) Choose a diet high in fruits and vegetables; 2) Consume adequate, but not too much, protein, preferably from plant sources; and 3) Exercise to give bones a reason to strengthen and stay strong.

* Johanna Lampe, Ph.D., R.D., from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, talked about the Effects of a Plant-Based Diet on Cancer Susceptibility. She stressed that plants have developed the capacity to synthesize a diverse array of chemicals and that higher plants contained many thousands of phytochemicals. These phytochemiclas are responsible for repelling harmful and attracting beneficial organisms, serve as photoprotectant (like an anti-aging sunscreen) and help the plant respond to environmental changes and stress.

These phytochemicals may alter cancer risk by antioxidant activity, alter immune function, reduce inflammation, antimicrobial activity, modulate detoxification enzymes and modulate steroid hormone concentrations and hormone metabolism.

Dietary sources of phytochemicals are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fungi, herbs and spices.

And again, epidemiologic research shows that plant-based diets are associated with a decreased incidence of some cancers and overall dietary patterns, rather than specific individual compounds, are most strongly linked.

* Jack Norris, R.D. and president of Vegan Outreach. He discussed how to overcome the potential nutrient deficiencies of a plant-based diet. He recommended taking 1,000 mcg of B12 twice a week, 700 mg of calcium, 25 mcg of vitamin D2 daily and 200 to 300 mg of Omega-3 every two to three days, either through foods or as supplements.

Dr. Barnard spoke about Plant-Based Diets for Diabetes Management and in his second presentation, Emotional Eating and the Science of Addiction.

When speaking on diabetes, he reminded those present that carbohydrates are not the cause of diabetes, and though genes do play a roll in the disease, they are not 'dictators' but 'suggestors' that you might get the disease. You can fight back.

'Don't step back from the truth,' he said, as he showed how the U.S. per capita intake of meat, chicken, cheese and sugar have increased over the past 100 years and the increased prevalence of diabetes over the past 14 years.

He showed results of studies he had conducted, funded by the Diabetes Action Research and Education Foundation, showing results of a low-fat low-glycemic index vegan diet based on ADA guidelines. And he shared results of actual patients who had lost significant weight, were able to stop taking diabetes medications and experienced other physical improvements through changing their diet.

I can't possibly condense the information I absorbed over the day into 40 column inches. What I learned was life-changing, and I recognize that the delicious lunch served conference attendees sealed the deal for many of us. The food is delicious, colorful and satisfying.

If you would like to learn more about a plant-based diet visit . They have an easy to follow 21-Day Kickstart program.

And if you aren't interested in giving up meat, how about just adding to the list of vegetables you eat? One of the presenters said the typical American eats about eight different vegetables - there are literally hundreds available. Conference organizers shared the recipes of the dishes served at the lunch. I pass along this recipe because it uses familiar foods. Try it this weekend.

Bon Appetit! Eat something wonderful!

Quinoa with Corn, Scallions and Mint

Makes 8 servings

4 ears corn, shucked

1 tablespoon finely grated fresh lemon zest (from 2 lemons)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

¼ cup olive oil

1 tablespoon mild honey

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

2 cups quinoa (about 10 ounces)

4 scallions, chopped

½ cup chopped fresh mint

Put corn in a 5- to 6-quart wide pot, then add water to cover and bring to a boil, covered. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Transfer corn with tongs to a cutting board. When cooled enough to handle, cut kernels off cobs with a large heavy knife.

Meanwhile, whisk together lemon zest and juice, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper in a large bowl until combined.

Wash quinoa in 3 changes of cold water in a bowl, draining in a large sieve each time.

Cook quinoa in a 4 to 5 quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Drain in sieve, then set sieve over same pot with 1 inch of simmering water (water should not touch bottom of sieve). Cover quinoa with a folded kitchen towl, then cover sieve with a lid (don't worry if lid doesn't fit tightly) and steam until quinoa is tender, fluffy and dry, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand (still covered) 5 minutes.

Add quinoa to dressing and toss until dressing is absorbed, then stir in corn, scallions, mint and salt and pepper to taste.

Adapted from Gourmet, Aug. 2006

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-636-1281, ext. 101 or by email at [email protected] .

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