“My survival alone was a miracle.” Diagnosed in 2002 with a life threatening head and neck cancer, Liam Ryan’s doctors told him he should have never survived.…
American vegan chef and author of over 10 cookbooks, Beverly Lynn Bennett is known as The Vegan Chef. She hosts the Vegan Chef website, is a regular columnist for VegNews Magazine and is a former instructor for the Cancer Project, a program of the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine. Beverly acquired her culinary arts degree from the University of Akron.
Born in Ohio in 1967, Beverly became a vegetarian in 1987, and earned a culinary arts degree from the University of Akron in 1988. After receiving her degree, she worked at various vegetarian and vegan restaurants before moving to Eugene, Oregon in 2002. In this vegan-friendly city, she has devoted her career to creating a daily assortment of fresh, organic vegan dishes and desserts and writing about vegan cooking tips, advice and information.
What does vegan mean and what impacted you to make this decision?
If you eat a vegan diet, you eat foods that only come from plant-based sources, such as whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and products made from them. A vegan avoids eating all animal-based foods and their byproducts like meat, fish and seafood, chicken, eggs, all dairy products, gelatin, and even honey. As I often say in my books, “If it comes from or was once a plant, then it’s vegan, but if it once had a face, fins, wings, or feet then it’s not.” –it’s really that simple.
For me (and many other vegans), being vegan is more of a lifestyle choice and mindset than just a way of eating. So, I don’t use or wear anything that comes from or was once an animal, and that includes clothing, accessories, furnishings, and beauty and household products. I come from a long line of farmers and gardeners, and they showed me how easy it is to grow your own food, and so I’ve always loved picking and eating fresh fruits and veggies. Also as a child, while visiting a farm, I witnessed firsthand several incidences of animal cruelty and a lack of respect for their lives, and these images have stayed with me and definitely influenced my decision to become a vegan.
The more that I educate myself on issues relating to animal abuse and welfare, the environment, as well as the health benefits of a plant-based diet, the more that I’m convinced that going vegan has been one of the most positive, life-altering decisions that I have ever made!
How does a vegan diet lower the risk of cancer? Are there studies?
First of all, I’m a trained chef and baker, and making good vegan food and telling others how to do it is my thing, but I’m not a medical professional. However, I am a curious person who does try to self-educate myself on many subjects, and I have read numerous books and articles that confirm that a vegan diet can lower your risk of chronic inflammation, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and many other ailments and diseases.
Yes, there have been several studies done in the U.S. and in other countries, as well as research papers published about the dietary and health benefits of following a vegan diet. As a result, more and more doctors and nutritionists are now recommending a vegan diet to their patients to help prevent many ailments and diseases, including cancer, as plant-based foods contain many health-benefiting phytochemicals and antioxidants and they’re low in fat and high in fiber.
Also, from what I’ve read, avoiding or reducing the amount of animal-based protein sources in your diet can reduce levels of IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1), which is a hormone that encourages the growth of cancer cells. That being said, I encourage everyone to take charge of their own health and to do their own research.
To learn more about the health benefits of a vegan plant-based diet, I suggest checking out the work of: PCRM and Dr. Neal Barnard, The Cornell-Oxford China Study and Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. Joel Kahn, Dr. Michael Klaper, and Dr. John McDougall.
Is it hard to stay on a vegan diet?
No, it’s really easy to follow a vegan plant-based diet. Personally, I love fruits, veggies, beans, whole grains, and nuts and seeds – and there are so many yummy things that you can make from them! A good way to start is by making one of your meals vegan once or twice a week, then work your way up from there, and hopefully you’ll find that you love eating vegan as much as I do.
Gravitate toward eating a wide variety of whole, plant-based foods, preferably organic, in a rainbow of colors and textures, whether they are fresh, frozen, canned, dried, or dehydrated. Eating this way, you’ll easily get plenty of the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and so forth that your body needs to function properly.
Also, try to limit your consumption of convenience foods that contain overly processed or refined ingredients, as this is a common trap that many people fall into when transitioning to a vegan diet. While these types of food products may be fine to help you replace the animal-based foods that you may have been used to eating, they are also often high in fat, calories, sodium, and preservatives. Having said that, when it comes to eating vegan, some moderation rather than deprivation may make the transition easier, and if you feel like a sweet treat or salty snack or other indulgence –then go ahead and enjoy.
What message would you give to our readers who are thinking about going on a vegan diet?
I truly believe that eating a vegan plant-based diet is the best thing that you can do for your body, the animals we share this planet with, and even the environment. So, if you’re not already eating vegan, I strongly urge you to give it a try! You’ll probably find it surprisingly affordable to eat whole, unprocessed foods, even if you’re like me and eat mostly organic. It’s really easy to start doing so, and as I said, just start by making one plant-based meal and work from there. Plus, fruits, veggies, nuts, beans, grains, and such, are not only good for meeting your body’s nutritional needs, but they also make for some tasty meals and sweet treats! Give it a try, what can it hurt? It’s my hope that you’ll love eating and living this way as much as I do. I truly wish that everyone would go vegan…what a wonderful world that would be!
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