Dr. Neal Barnard is someone who’s been an influence in the Cockrell home since the mid-1990s with his “Food for Life” book. It had recipes in it that could work for my father-in-law, who was diabetic. The book also was the inspiration for my husband and I to try our first round of vegetarianism, more so for Jim than me. Back then, we were seen by others as wild-eyed radicals with the notion of not eating meat. So of course, our limited “experiment” eventually fell flat.
Fast forward to this year, and Jim and I are now marking or ninth month of plant-based living. In the process, I have found that sugar and caffeine can have a serious effect on how my inflammatory markers behave. Go figure. I knock off sugar-laden treats and eliminate coffee or even tea, and all inflammatory aches go away in 24 hours.
Of course, I will blame everything BUT sugar and caffeine for any issue, because these are things I love. They couldn’t possibly hurt me, right?
Well … Barnard’s “Foods that Fight Pain” book, which I downloaded earlier this year, made a strong case against caffeine, and refined sugar, and repeated that in “Power Foods for the Brain.” But much like “Food for Life” I chose to think I could cheat around and do MOST but not all of what he recommended, and by the first sign of cold weather this fall I was ready to break out the coffeemaker and get going with my favorite dark roasted blend.
My coffee indulgence went OK the first few times. I limited coffee consumption to the weekend. Then I had it two days in a row, Saturday and Sunday. While I was at it, I decided to finish off the last of our vegan ice cream treats from the store. Loaded with sugar. But hey, they were tiny, so that would be OK, right?
Then one day I woke up and my right hand was in a fist I couldn’t open. FULL-ON RA flare, for real. All that had changed in my diet was caffeine and sugar. I upped my intake of greens, and didn’t have any more sugary treats or coffee. I felt fine after that.
Once again, Neal was right. I’m not saying coffee or sugar is bad for everyone, but they have definitely turned against me. I think they always worked against me in subtle ways, and I never noticed until I cleaned up the rest of my diet.
Neal Barnard is still practicing what he preaches, and his argument now is fine-tuned to what a plant-based diet could mean for those seeking to avoid Alzheimer’s … which really should be everyone. Given his track record, I think he’s right and it’s probably time for me to pay closer attention to him.
My point in this post is this: Take the time to listen to the video below. It’s about 30 minutes, but it may change your life and the way you think about food and how it is marketed to you.