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October 12, 2011


Who Doesn't Like Kale Salad?

by Rev. A. J. Iovine

A few days ago, I made a promise to explain my somewhat new eating lifestyle that I was going to embark upon following my post-cancer treatment. However, since I started following the eating and exercise portion of the plan involved in a health study already, I thought it would be best to describe it here for the members of Saint Matthew’s.

I have never been too comfortable with the term “vegetarian” because the term can be broken down into so many different categories that when one attempts to explain that you’re a vegetarian, it literally takes twenty minutes to show what category of vegetarianism you fall into. Effectually, a vegetarian would have to include a * after the word ‘vegetarian’ in order to allow for a proper definition of what form of vegetarianism they are following. And since I really hated that Major League Baseball put a star after the 61 homeruns that the Yankees’ Roger Maris hit when he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record (they felt that since Maris played in more games, he didn’t actually “break” Ruth’s record that was set in a smaller number of games), I really didn’t like it if we had to do the same to vegetarians everywhere, though we do.

Last September, I stopped eating meat and was considered a “vegetarian” with the addition of the * after the word. While not eating animal flesh, I did consume eggs (when added to recipes) and dairy through cheese and yogurt. The vegetarian community considers one who eats dairy and eggs “lacto-ovo vegetarians.” There are other vegetarians who do not eat eggs but will have a milkshake and they are considered “lacto-vegetarians.” There are other vegetarians who don’t eat meat because their friends don’t eat meat, but these are mostly teenagers whose diets are filled with French fries, potato chips, macaroni and cheese, and every kind of sugary breakfast cereal topped with skim milk. I don’t know if there is an actual name for this form of vegetarianism, but I read the term ‘junk food vegetarian’ somewhere and it fits ever so nicely.

Of course, there are those who refrain from eating anything that comes from an animal, and they have their own category: vegans. But what I have also found is that there are many different types of vegans as well, and thus, they need a * after their title as well.

See, one can be a vegan for health reasons – these people will stay away from eating all animal products, yet if they wanted, they would wear a pair leather shoes or own a leather couch. But one could also be a vegan for political reasons — a person can support animal rights and will not eat or wear anything that comes from an animal. And then there are those who are what I call ‘temporary vegans/’ They really don’t have a strong reason as to why they are not eating meat, but since the idea of being a vegan sounds cool, they will follow, for the most part. That is until Thanksgiving when they would eat turkey and gravy (because have you tried that Tofurkey? It tastes horrible!) or when they are going home from work and don’t want to cook they may pick up General Tso’s Chicken at the local Chinese food restaurant. What really got to me — those vegans who are vegan for political reasons don’t like the other vegans because they believe protecting animals is the only reason to be vegan. And these vegan people can be very annoying.

What is annoying to me is that there are too many sub-categories of vegetarianism and veganism where idealism and definitions waffle too much. That is why I just started to tell people that I wasn’t a ‘vegetarian*,’ but I didn’t eat meat. This way, others can understand the easy concept that I didn’t eat meat, but they didn’t need to know what sub-category of non-meat eater I was because trying to explain that I didn’t drink milk, but ate cheese took too long. Of course, after I told people that I didn’t eat meat, they asked: “Do you eat chicken? What about fish?”

And the reason they asked these questions — there are other sub-categories of vegetarians (not vegans) who eat fish and chicken once in a while. I can’t remember what these are called, maybe KFC vegetarians or ‘Chicken of Sea’ veggies. See why there is a need for a star system in explaining vegetarianism?

During the second round of my cancer battle, I learned of a health study that was investigating what cancer patients were eating post-treatment. The study followed patients to see what kinds and quantities of food they consumed after their cancer was in remission. Overall, the study was looking at whether a vegetarian diet was a more healthful diet for post-cancer patients. My oncologist suggested I keep an eye on this study since I was a vegetarian and, in fact, she urged me to read “The China Study,” a book by Dr. T. Colin Campbell. I bought it as an e-book but learned very quickly that e-book readers are not conducive to books that have a lot of charts. E-books make the charts look really bad. Thus I had to spend more money to purchase a soft copy edition through Amazon. [And while I’m on this topic, please consider using Goodsearch for internet searches and Goodshop to make internet purchases – you can help Saint Matthew’s; more on this in another post.]

The book opened my eyes to the role that food plays in our lives. To me, even after only 50 pages, thoughts of why I was eating fried eggplant (which is ‘vegetarian’ but may not be healthy) instead of grilled eggplant went through my head. I thought about the fact I was eating too much pasta and rice, that even my vegetable intake – which was higher than at any other time in my life – was still covered in olive oils from stir frying and sometimes with cheese. The Greek yogurt I was eating, while tasty, was from cow’s milk that contains casein, a protein found in milk that, according to Dr. Campbell, was found in scientific experiments to be one of the pieces in the cancer causing ‘puzzle.’ And as I went on reading, the book showed how with changes to one’s eating and living lifestyle, problematic diseases could be severely reduced or eliminated.

Campbell is a proponent of a low fat, plant-based, whole foods way of eating. That means if it grows in the ground or in a tree, it’s OK. If it “has a mother” or comes from something that has a face, then don’t eat it. Add in the requirement that we shouldn’t eat anything fried in oil (when cooked, oil’s properties change and becomes just a vehicle for fat and calories – we’ve known this for a long time) or even use that oil on any foods, this way of eating is exceptionally healthy and good for you. Of course, this means no cheese or yogurt, but there are soy yogurts that are pretty good and non-dairy cheese that doesn’t taste like paste. Coupled with normal-sized portions of beans and grains and pastas, one can eat pretty well following Campbell’s plan.

Eating a low fat, plant-based, whole foods diet is naturally higher in carbohydrates, but these are not the bad carbs found in cookies, cakes, and corn chips. These carbs are fiber-rich, which are better for one’s health.

After reading through the book and talking with my doctors about the aforementioned study, I have joined the ranks of those following a low fat, plant-based, whole foods eating plan. For me, it is not that dramatic a change since I was not eating meat for a year. This is just a logical next step. I will not eat cookies or cakes, but I will eat grapes and carrots. Just wait for Sunday’s Coffee Hour.

My biggest reasons for joining this study are two-fold:

1. Dr. Campbell’s book had a great impact on my way of thinking about food in general. For a long time, I ate way too much meat and dairy and treated my body less like the temple God gave to me and more like a honky tonk bar ( you may have to look that one up). I have eaten fried foods like they were going out of style. My supermarket shopping was regularly in the meat and processed food aisles. I do not believe that my diet caused my cancer, but it surely didn’t help fight it.  After reading Campbell’s book and talking with my oncologist, nutritionist, and others involved in this cancer study, I can’t help but believe that my lifestyle contributed to my cancer. That has to end. My second reason:

2. Who doesn’t like kale salad?

OK. Maybe my second reason sounds like a stretch. But it is a reason. A salad filled with colorful vegetables is most definitely better for me than a fried eggplant panini. My body would probably like the micronutrients that come from the vegetables a heck of a lot more than the grease that comes from the fried eggplant, cheese, and bottled red peppers in oil. And by treating my insides with a lot more respect, God-willing this body will be able to spend more time in God’s harvest field preaching and teaching about Jesus Christ.

Eating and living this way is not guarantee that I will never get cancer again. I want to give my body the best chance possible to fight off diseases and be healthier. The best way to do so, at least according to the scientific evidence presented, is to change my lifestyle and eat a plant-based, whole foods diet.

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dr. Santiago
    Oct 12 2011

    Who in their right mind is going to eat kale salad? Maybe I put you on to something that is going to make you nuttier than usual. Don’t forget your appointment on Tuesday. DO NOT EAT!! I’m drawing blood. Go get the new iOS 5. Made my iPhone and iPad like new.

  2. Dr. Santiago
    Oct 12 2011

    Who in their right mind is going to eat kale salad? Maybe I put you on to something that is going to make you nuttier than usual. Don’t forget your appointment on Tuesday. DO NOT EAT!! I’m drawing blood. Go get the new iOS 5. Made my iPhone and iPad like new.


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