What’s the safest way to shed excess pounds, avoid high cholesterol and heart disease, and even cut your risk for certain types of cancer? “With a vegetarian diet,” says author Neal Barnard, M.D. “It’s the most powerful prescription for health I can suggest.”
Although the average vegetarian is slimmer and healthier than the average meat-eater, says Dr. Barnard, there is still a good deal of skepticism that an entirely vegetarian diet can provide complete nutrition. After all, in 1928 presidential candidate Herbert Hoover rallied supporters by promising “a chicken in every pot.” The dream realized, Americans are more out of shape than ever, with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other diet-driven illnesses claiming many thousands of lives each year. So what if we traded those chickens for spaghetti marinara, veggie burgers, lentil soup, or even a bean burrito? Would we turn the tide on many chronic illnesses? Physicians and dietitians say yes.
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I entered adulthood with an image of myself as someone who does not “do” sports. I figured there was a human divide and I was on the side with those who discussed books and foreign films, sipped frothy drinks, and had pale skin in the summer. In my mid-20s, after a few years at the computer, my body started to protest my lifestyle. Headaches and neck pain were frequent, and I sensed my metabolism slowing. I should mention that I wasn’t really inactive, but I was passive. I never grasped the idea that physical fitness was something I could take charge of for myself. As I got older, busier, and less active, I began to envision layers of fat overtaking me in the coming years, and yet I felt helpless to do anything about it.
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You stressed? Come on. Just because you’re swamped at work, your car broke down on the freeway yesterday, and you’ve barely had time to breathe-much less make it to the gym-that doesn’t mean you’re stressed, does it? Sure, you admit you’re a little frazzled, maybe even cranky. But the last straw came this morning when you discovered you couldn’t zip up your favorite jeans.
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