“Bridget I think you should try a plant-based diet for your high blood pressure”
I sat staring at my doctor not quite taking it in.
You see, I had high blood pressure that was not responding to treatment – they still hadn’t got to the root of the problem and I was in a bad way physically and mentally.
For the last couple of years, I had been following a version of the diet that I created for my book – Six Pack Chick.
My ego was screaming at me ‘You have to stay on YOUR diet, what will people think?’
Could it be that I had caused my own high blood pressure? Possibly.
I saw many benefits of my low carb diet – I was on the slim side, my skin improved, I no longer had kidney infections amongst other benefits.
But like everything in life, things change. It’s no coincidence that I ended up at the doctor’s surgery, with seriously high blood pressure and feeling very unwell.
What also gave me a huge prod was that for the three days after my hypertensive crisis I had the same nightmare each night about visiting an abattoir when I was younger.
At the time it really affected me, I was vegetarian for years and started eating meat again as a teenager.
All the signs were there, I just needed to do what I love most and really research plant-based vegan diets…..
So sitting in the doctor’s surgery and not wanting to ever feel that bad again I agreed to try it out.
What is a plant-based diet?
There are a few schools of thought out there when it comes to a plant-based diet.
People generally fall into two camps – including fat and minimising fat.
I know several people who have minimised it and felt great long-term but I have included it in mine and just minimised oils.
What are the positives?
- Plant foods are much cheaper to produce and kinder to the environment.
- Compared to a high animal protein diet, it is cheaper.
- It is higher in fibre.
- It is higher in essential vitamins and minerals.
- Better sleep (I noticed this within the first week!).
- Lower blood pressure due to the decrease in sodium and the increase in potassium-rich foods.
- You are not supporting animal cruelty.
- It could reverse heart disease. Drs Dean Ornish and Caldwell Esselstyn have had great success with putting patients on a low-fat, plant-based diet with great success.
- It is showing success in preventing Type 2 diabetes. Many patients have reversed their Type 2 diabetes.
- Weight loss. Many people have successfully lost weight and kept it off long-term.
What are the negatives?
- People will constantly ask you “Are you getting enough protein?”.
- Eating out requires some planning. I am very lucky here in London, UK as there are lots of vegan restaurants and plant-based options on a menu.
- If you live in a busy household that includes animal product eaters you will have to accommodate the needs of everyone.
- You will need a B12 supplement. it is the only thing missing from a balanced plant-based diet.
- Weight loss. For some, this is positive but for others, particularly athletes it may be negative. I lost 4 kilos in the first month and wasn’t intending to lose any!
Could it work for you?
I think any change of nutrition lifestyle is easy when it comes out of a health crisis.
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that if you suffer from one of the major chronic diseases (high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes) then this could very well improve your symptoms.
If not then you need to weigh up the pros and cons and then make an informed decision.
Any lifestyle change needs to work for you long-term to improve your health, energy, sleep and happiness. Personally, I have found this way of eating to tick those boxes!
My lovely girlfriend Chiara (soon to be my wife!) switched to a plant-based diet after watching the documentary Earthlings.
I have included it on here in case you want to look at the ethical reasons behind switching to this way of eating.
It is pretty disturbing so please bear that in mind when watching it.
This is freely available on YouTube and here is the link:
Forks Over Knives
I watched this the day after my health crisis after a friend recommended that I watch it.
A lot of the information stuck in this documentary stuck with me.
Forks Over Knives examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us, can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods.
The major storyline in the film traces the personal journeys of medical researchers- Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.
Throughout the film, the cameras follow several patients who have chronic diseases to put the whole food, plant-based diet to the test….. (I won’t spoil it for you by revealing what happens to them!).
This page links to the various places you can watch the film
Eating You Alive
This is a documentary about curing chronic diseases with whole foods, plant-based diet (are you sensing a theme here?!)
It features James and Suzi Cameron and presents a good argument as to the whole food as medicine theory.
You can buy the film here if you choose and here is the trailer to whet your appetite (no pun intended).
What The Health
This film could be called Cowspiracy 2 – It is from the same award-winning creators of the film Cowspiracy (On Netflix if you are interested in watching it).
I prefer this film as it digs deeper into the collusion and corruption in U.S. government and big business that is allegedly contributing to the health crisis.
A truly investigative documentary it will leave you laughing at times and open-mouthed by the time the credits roll.
Thug Kitchen – Eat Like You Give A F*ck
With so many people in the vegan/plant-based world taking themselves too seriously and ranting at each other, these guys have created a wonderful and humorous book.
If you don’t like swearing then it isn’t for you but the recipes are just so good. My favourite cookbook.
The China Study
I first read this book in 2007, quite why I didn’t sit up and take notice at the time is a mystery to me….
T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell give some pretty persuasive evidence in this giant tome of a book.
It is a compelling and life-changing read.
The Engine 2 Diet
This book is highly recommended after you have watched Forks Over Knives (above in recommended documentaries).
Rip Esselstyn is a professional athlete turned firefighter who is the son of Caldwell Esselstyn. They promote a plant-based diet and have a caring approach to wanting people to live a more healthful life.
I love humour when talking about life-changing protocols and Rip seems like a genuinely funny guy!
Eat And Run
This is a great book for runners and non-runners alike. It is so good I have read it numerous times. Scott Jurek is an incredible athlete who powers himself with plants. A wonderful tale of adversity, grit, success and living a better life.
Oh She Glows Cookbook
Angela Liddon created this book and released it in 2015. It is a great first book for those of you who want to start a plant-based diet and want to cook delicious food. I love that she doesn’t use loads of meat substitutes (often full of lots of additives and preservatives). Her recipes are colourful, interesting and will have all your friends asking “How do you make that?”.
The ‘cheesy’ quinoa wrap/tortilla in this book is one of the most delicious things EVER and so filling.
This book is highly recommended and it will inspire to cook delicious food for months!
So what now?
My wonderful friend and athlete CJ Swaby has a great free link to a little ebook he created that I would love to share with you. He is an incredible human being with a strong story behind why he went plant-based, you can access his site here
I don’t want to persuade anyone to do this, I want you to watch some documentaries, read some research and then give it a go to see if it would work for you.
Remember……everyone has individual needs, different likes and dislikes and a different health road map. All I ask is that you stay true to yourself and learn to rock your own world.
I would love to hear from you if you are interested in getting started or are a plant-based eater and have recommendations for my readers.
I shall be adding and updating this blog post as I build my list of recommendations 🙂
As of today 12th April 2017, my blood pressure is completely normal, I am back running again and feel fitter, healthier and happier than I can remember……