Better Health in America

The following information is based on a lecture at Binghamton University on September 17th, 2009 by physician and nutrition expert Dr. Michael Greger. He has been published in several academic journals and is the author of two books titled, "Bird Flu: A Virus Of Our Own Hatching," and, "Carbophobia: The Scary Truth About America's Low-carb Craze."

Over the past year Dr. Greger has paid close attention to recent findings in diet and nutrition and was kind enough to share some of these important findings and insights with Binghamton students and faculty members. The theme of his talk was "Optimum Nutrition 2009," and focuses on a switch towards a more plant-based diet for Americans.



One of Greger's biggest critiques on the current eating habits of Americans is that we eat too much animal protein. Why is this a bad thing? Because an increase in animal protein intake correlates with higher cholesterol, higher blood pressure, and a greater risk of heart disease - one of the top killers in America next to cancer.

Over consumption of red meats like beef can have an especially detrimental effect on our cholesterol levels and overall health. One recent study showed that when pregnant women consumed more beef that it negatively affected the sexual development of males in the womb.

Solution: According to Dr. Greger, scientific evidence suggests that the healthiest way to eat is a vitamin-rich diet of whole plant foods. For optimum nutrition, Greger suggests that we include an array of whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fruit, and as many vegetables as you can eat, but also specifically dark greeny leafy vegetables, berries, and green (or white) tea.

One of the best reasons to switch to a plant foods diet is that most meals will be low in calories (especially when compared to meals with animal meat), but at the same time more nutritious in vitamins and minerals. We eat less, but still replenish our bodily functions and energize our bodies.

On a side note, many may worry that a switch to a more plant-based diet may result in a lack of protein, but many nuts and vegetables provide plenty so that a dieter should not have to resort to protein supplements.


Even when Americans do eat their veggies they still aren't making the best choices. Among the most popular plants consumed in the west - tomatoes, lettuce, potatoes, and spinach - none of these are particularly good at fighting cancer as other alternatives in eastern countries. Again, perhaps these eating habits shed some light on why cancer (and other medical illnesses) is growing so prevalent in the United States.

Solution: Vegetables that have shown to be better cancer fighters are cabbage, soy, ginger, and umbelliferous vegetables such as carrots, celery, cilantro, parsley and parsnip. The number one rated fighter against cancer was garlic.


It is far easier for a busy mother or college student to go to a fast food restaurant - or resort to some other convenient fatty food - than to prepare a healthy meal. This is part of a growing problem. It isn't that Americans don't understand what constitutes good eating, only that we have become complacent in continuing our bad habits.

Solution: If we want to change our diet then we need to become more aware of how we choose our meals when we choose them. It requires our conscious effort. Our diets already fluctuate subtly from week-to-week, but by shedding a greater awareness on what we eat as we eat it we can begin to take greater control over our diet, and hopefully move it in a more positive direction.

What I call "conscious eating" includes looking into the nutritional facts of what we are consuming on a day-to-day basis, making incremental changes over time, and maintaining the will to eat and live healthier.


Dr. Greger also recommends these important micronutrients (some of whose needs can be fulfilled in our food and others which may require supplements).

A. Vitamin B12 (at least 2000μg each week - ideally as a chewable, sublingual, or liquid supplement).

B. Omega-3 Fatty Acids (250mg daily of algae-derived DHA).

C. Vitamin D (most of which can be absorbed by the sun during summer months, but may require a 4,000 IU supplement during the winter).

D. Calcium (most greens are rich in calcium except spinach, chard, and beet greens, recommended 600mg daily).

E. Iodine (for those who don't eat seaweed or iodized salt, a 150μg daily supplement should be sufficient).

F. Iron (especially for menstruating women but men should check for an iron overload disease before any attempt to increase intake).

G. Selenium (Northern Europeans may need to take a supplement or eat about 20 Brazil nuts a month).


Diets do not change overnight; they take time and sustained effort. This does not mean that changing one's eating habits is an exhausting process, but that it is something that needs to be on your mind whenever you are planning to eat.

The core lesson of Dr. Greger's lecture is that by switching from a dependency on animal protein to a more plant-based diet we can simultaneously tackle a wide variety of health issues that are linked to poor eating habits. Optimally, Greger recommends we rid our diets of animal protein completely; but realistically, any change from less animal meat to more plant foods will probably have a positive affect on our health.