Typically the standard American diet is made up of foods high in fat and lacking in color. It was not that way in the beginning. In Genesis 1:29, God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” In Genesis 2:16 we see the original diet prescribed by God: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.” This did not include any animal products. It was a vegan diet. There was no milk or cheese, or any of the things that western societies tend to eat quite a lot of. When sin entered in, God added the herbs of the field. I call it “The Amended Diet.” This is God’s intended diet for His people in the very last days.
John said, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (3 John 1:2). This is God’s will for us, though many tend to reject God’s will. There are people who are not Adventists who are very interested in what God has shown to His people. In fact, many people, including doctors, are designing their research after light that has been given to us through the writings of Ellen G. White.
A man by the name of Clive McKay, PhD., of the Department of Nutrition of Cornell University once said that in spite of the fact that writings of Mrs. White were written long before the advent of modern scientific nutrition, no better overall guide is available today. Time and time again what God has shown us through the writings of Sister White have come to pass as absolute truth.
Nathan Pritikin of the Pritikin Diet said that Ellen White laid the guidelines for health that unfortunately are not being adhered to as strictly as they should be.
“Flesh meats will depreciate the blood. Cook meat with spices, and eat it with rich cakes and pies, and you have a bad quality of blood. The system is too heavily taxed in disposing of this kind of food. The mince pies and the pickles, which should never find a place in any human stomach, will give a miserable quality of blood. And a poor quality of food, cooked in an improper manner, and insufficient in quantity, cannot make good blood. Flesh meats and rich food, and an impoverished diet, will produce the same results.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 387.
God is showing us that the blood really supplies the nutrition to the body. You are what you eat, and what you put in your body goes into your blood and feeds all the tissues in your body. If you are not eating a proper, healthy diet, you are impoverishing your body and making it unhealthy.
“The controlling power of appetite will prove the ruin of thousands, when, if they had conquered on this point, they would have had moral power to gain the victory over every other temptation of Satan. But those who are slaves to appetite will fail in perfecting Christian character. The continual transgression of man for six thousand years has brought sickness, pain, and death as its fruits. And as we near the close of time, Satan’s temptation to indulge appetite will be more powerful and more difficult to overcome.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 491, 492.
Since the 1970s, our food supply in this country has become more and more processed and refined and, although often tastier to the human palate, it has become less and less nutritious. We are seeing more and more lifestyle diseases because of this development.
A doctor at Loma Linda, Dr. Lamont Murdoch, taught us that it was faulty genetics that loads the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger. The point he was trying to make was that we are all genetically predisposed to different lifestyle diseases, but being afflicted by one or more of them is not a certainty. By following God’s plan there are things we can do that could help prevent us from getting type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure even though they may run in our family. We can change a lot by how we live. The world recognizes this possibility. Not only is research being conducted toward that end, but researchers are looking at Seventh-day Adventists, wondering why we live as long as we do. We are one of the people-groups in the world that produce the most centurions, people that live to be a hundred years or older.
In The National Geographic, November 2005, “The Secrets of Long Life,” there was an article that explored three people groups: Okinowans, Sicilians, and Seventh-day Adventists. Most people would conclude that Sicilians and Okinowans probably have something genetic that makes them live so long. But what do you do with Seventh-day Adventists who are in almost every country of the world, including every ethnicity, every socio-economic class; we have genetics that go far and wide.
The National Geographic article explored some things that were common with these three people-groups. There were four things that stood out.
- All three groups believed strongly in some kind of faith.
- All three practiced meditation and religious principles.
- Most of them lived active lifestyles, which was very important.
- They all eat very simple and nearly vegetarian diets.
When we put these together, we start to see four of the eight natural doctors practiced. Putting these things together synergistically, builds a power of health. The more of these natural doctors we obey, the healthier and better off we are.
I have discovered the quickest way to get to the heart of what’s wrong with your health is to ask the Lord for wisdom and insight, and honesty in your heart, and then go through the eight natural doctors one at a time. How’s your diet, your exercise, are you drinking plenty of water, are you getting sunshine and practicing temperance in your life? Are you getting fresh air? Are you resting, especially resting in Christ? And what about your faith in God? These are all important and as we put these eight natural doctors together into our lives, we see miraculous healing.
The Standard American Diet is a sad diet, high in refined foods, high in fat content (40-50%), high in simple carbohydrates, and low in fiber.
Since the 1970s, our diets have really changed in the United States. The Standard American Diet (SAD) leads to:
- coronary artery disease
- some forms of cancer such as colon cancer, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, etc.
- new diseases, which include fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and other assorted ailments that are besetting mankind today that were basically never heard of 20 years ago.
Obesity in the United States has jumped from 23.9% in 2005 to currently 36.4% according to cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). That means that more than one in three Americans in the United States is obese. It’s incredible. Diabetes follows the same pattern, along with hypertension and coronary artery disease. These are all lifestyle diseases. There is an epidemic of obesity and lifestyle diseases and it is on the rise. In a recent study that was done by pathologists, we are now seeing in our children the obesity rate going up and they are beginning to have the same kind of arteriosclerosis as adults.
We did a surveillance study, a study where we look at people over a period of time and watch what they are doing, and then go back and review the results at the end of that study. We surveyed people who had diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, obesity and constipation. These are all similar in nature because they are caused by the food we eat which harden our arteries, slow the digestive track down, and change the chemistry in the body in such a way that affects our bones, and it leaves us constipated. We watched this group of people with these kinds of ailments for a couple of years. They were given standard treatments, i.e., going to their doctor, receiving laxatives, getting diabetic medications, heart pills, cholesterol pills, etc. After a two-year period none of these people got better.
In the alternative, we could do something about these diseases if we followed God’s plan and made changes. I see people getting off their medications all the time when they follow God’s plans completely. The tendency in western medicine is to prescribe more medicine which is not working and then we begin to see side effects and interactions from the medications. We then treat other symptoms with a new medication and so we are treating effects of medication with medication. It’s not working very well.
Many who are very health-minded just want to take a supplement. One of the problems we are finding is that 10, 15, 20 years down the road, these things cause damage to our body. For example, vitamin A can actually damage your bones. Vitamin E increases the risk of dying from all causes. Folic acid can cause heart disease. Beta-carotene increases the risk of cancer.
Almost all people over 30 years old are overweight and a large portion of Americans—over 30%—are obese. Being overweight leads to the increased risk of lifestyle diseases. In our country it begins at birth. We have found as we give babies baby formula that we see:
- sixty-times increased risk of pneumonia,
- 2 to 4 times the risk of sudden infant death syndrome,
- 10-fold increase in hospitalization in the first year of life,
- lower IQ scores by an average of 10 points,
- increase in behavior and speech difficulties are increased, and
- increased risk of infections, eczema, asthma, and type 1 diabetes.
We also know that leukemia is strongly related to the feeding of dairy products to our young people. A notice from Pediatric Allergy and Immunology stated in May 2015: “Compared with infants born to lean mothers, the researchers found that specific immune cells—monocytes and dendritic cells—among the infants born to obese mothers showed much lower responses to bacterial antigens.” That means they have less capacity to fight infection. It goes on in this same article and tells us, “Maternal obesity raises the risk of a number of health conditions for offspring that can persist well into adulthood, including heart disease and asthma. Now, a new study reveals why this may be; maternal obesity weakens an infant’s immune system, at the same time of birth, increasing their susceptibility to illness.”
Time magazine recognized this development in 1998 in an issue entitled, “Our Supersized Kids.” They are examining the lifestyle reasons why our kids may be obese. The obesity rate in the United States last year, among children under 18, was 17%. They examined these lifestyle issues and concluded, it’s not just genetics, but diet.
- 32% of all American children are overweight.
- 90% of these children have avoidable risk factors for heart disease.
- Food consumption in the U.S. averages over 3,800 calories per person per day.
That’s an incredible amount of calories. An adult, estimated by our government, only needs 2,350 calories a day. I would suggest to you that even that amount is too much. You probably can get by just fine on about 1,800 calories a day. When we see this kind of caloric consumption in our society, we see a lot of obesity. The skinniest state in the United States is Colorado, at 20.2% of the population considered obese. The most obese is Louisiana at 36%.
We need to understand the importance of understanding obesity and why it exists, how to avoid it and overcome it.
Society sees obesity as people who live to eat. There are some people that do, but for the most part, obese people are obese for a different reason. There are over 2 million species on earth and only 3 species have a problem with being overweight: dogs, cats, and people. The elephants and giraffes do not think about their weight. The animals in God’s creation eat exactly what they are supposed to, and they have no weight problem. That should be a clue for us. Animals eating to their full satisfaction will, over time, eat neither too much or too little for optimal health.
Physiology studies show that a person 50 years of age will eat about 50,000 pounds of food, about 1,000 pounds a year. If he ate 1% short over his lifetime of 50 years, he would be seriously malnourished. If he ate 1% too much, he would be about 50 pounds overweight. That means we’re working in a physiologic window of plus or minus 1%. These are the natural mechanisms God has built into our hard-wiring. The Bible says in Psalms 139:14, “I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” God has made this machine to work within this physiologic window of plus or minus 1%.
God gave us a diet in the beginning that consisted of what we are supposed to eat and we need to follow the recommendations to expect good health.
Physiologically, the body weighs the amount of the food in the gut with things called “stretch receptors” and “nutrient receptors.” They line the inside of the gut and weigh the amount of food in there and the nutrients that are contained in it. If we get enough food, enough volume, those stretch receptors send signals back to the brain that say, “You’ve eaten enough food. You don’t need to eat anymore.” If you’re getting enough nutrition, the same thing happens. The nutrition receptors send messages to the brain to tell us, “You’ve eaten good food. You don’t need to eat anymore.” These receptors send messages to our brain and tell us, if we’re full or not, if we need more food. They perform a gut content, weighing, and calorie analysis. For example, an apple is 5/6 fiber and water, 1/6 carbohydrates, at 300 calories per pound of apples, based on the fact that carbohydrates are 1,800 calories per pound. If you eat a half an apple which weighs about half a pound, you would put about a 150 calories in your body. Your stomach is going to weigh that out and if that is all you have eaten, your body will tell you that you are not done. You need about 350 more calories, healthy nutrients, to be satiated.
Among the 36.4% of Americans that are obese, and almost all Americans that are overweight, only 1% of those people actually have thyroid problems; so you can’t blame your thyroid for your condition.
Dr. Murdock said, “Genetics loads the gun, lifestyle pulls the trigger.” One person may have a normal amount of stretch receptors and nutrient receptors, while another person may be lacking nutrient receptors and stretch receptors. When people put 500 calories in their bodies, their brains tell them they have enough and do not need to eat any more. But those 500 calories in another person may measure the 500 calories as being only 400 calories, and it says, “I need more nutrition. I need more food.”
Remember in the 1970s our government told us that the average four ounces of red meat was bad for us and that fish and chicken was so much better. So, instead of eating four ounces of red meat, which, by the way has the same caloric density and content as does fish and chicken, we started eating about ten ounces on average of fish and chicken every day.
Our caloric intake went up two and a half times just from the amount of meat that we started using. You can trace our obesity epidemic all the way back to the 1970s when the government told us that.
There are other factors involved, like exercise, and some people do have a thyroid problem, but we need to understand that processed foods under-stretch the gut and fool the gut receptors. Processed food lacks proper nutrition and fiber while supplying the same amount of calories, squeezed down into a smaller amount of food. We think we need more food, even though we are consuming the same amount of calories. We are still hungry. So we eat two or three times more than what we were eating before, fooling our bodies with a lousy food system.
Salad, vegetables, and fruits average one to three hundred calories per pound, which means that if you eat a pound of salad, you will get about a hundred calories. However, your stomach is not going to accept a whole pound of salad. You can trick your own stomach into eating fewer calories and be full. You could eat about a quarter to half a pound of salad if you are really famished and that is only 25-50 calories at most and your stomach will be full. We can have the reverse effect when we eat the right way.
Oil contains 4,000 calories per pound. It is the densest food on the planet. As foods have more oil in it, they approach the oil content of 4,000 calories per pound. Puddings and custards for example have 3,200 calories per pound. Chips, cookies, and nuts, are in the 2,500 to 3,200 range; sugars and cheese, 1,800 calories per pound. Meats, bread, and flour, 1,200 to 1,600. Analog meats are in the 700 to 1,200 calories per pound range. Think of your stomach as a ball. We can put all lettuce in there and maybe jam in 25 calories, or we could fill it with oil and put 4,000 calories in there. It matters what you eat at each meal as to whether or not you will gain weight, lose weight, or stay the same.
Often, people who are trying to lose weight decide to go on the salad diet. They go down the salad bar line, build a plate full of wonderful vegetables, even lettuce and good things like that. Then they get to the dressings. They decide not to eat the dressing, but just take some olive oil and drizzle that on and maybe squeeze a little lemon on it and think they have a wonderfully healthy salad. Now a 25 or 50 calorie salad has jumped to 400 or 500 calories because of the olive oil.
To maintain a low body weight with average genes, you would have to eat a low calorically dense diet, that is, a diet that is high in volume but low in calories. Those persons who have the obese genes and want a low body weight are going to have to eat a diet that is low calorie dense. There are things we can do. We can modify our lifestyle, even with obese genes in the family, to live a skinny life. To do that you have to understand these principles.
The solution to this problem is dilution:
- dilution with salad,
- dilution with vegetables,
- dilution with fruit.
These are the kinds of foods you want to eat first when you sit down.
First of all, make sure you have a colorful meal. Eat your salad veggies and those low calorically dense foods first. Fill the stomach up with those, and then look at your more calorically dense foods in very small amounts. So, the solution to caloric pollution is dilution.
There is a difference between the western diet and the vegan diet: the western diet is more than 40% fat coming from mostly animal products. The vegan diet on the other hand is 10 to 20% fat with no animal products whatsoever. Our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made and actually designed to be vegetarian. The average cholesterol level in those eating the Standard American Diet is about 200 compared to 130 or even less in those eating a vegan diet. The people on the standard American diet are predisposed to diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and auto-immune disease, whereas vegans live 12% longer than the average American and live healthier lives.
While at Weimar, we took people with high cholesterol and put them on vegan diets except for one difference; we added animal protein instead of soy protein in the form of skim milk to the animal protein group, and we gave vegetable protein, mostly soy, to the other group. We were trying to find out what effect animal protein, not cholesterol, had on cholesterol levels.
After three weeks, the cholesterol lowered in the animal protein group 30 to 40 points. That is good, but it was not as good as the vegan group who lost about 70 points in the same three weeks, which is an incredible loss of cholesterol.
Thinking that one group had a genetic advantage over the group, they switched the diet. After three more weeks we found out that the cholesterol that was down 60–70 points before was now at that same 30–40 point level. What we saw was the group on the animal protein, then vegetable protein, after six weeks on a great diet, and then the last three weeks on the best diet, had a 110 point average drop. No medication was taken, just a straight vegan diet. I have seen the same result in my own practice. We put patients on God’s plan, get all animal protein out of their diet, and we see on average a 110 point drop in total cholesterol.
We are having a big political fight in our country about healthcare. We don’t need to have that fight. We can go vegan. It is estimated that we would have 3% to 7% the rate of lifestyle disease that we now have if every American went vegan. That’s incredible. We wouldn’t need the health care system we have now. We wouldn’t need the health insurance. There would be no fight.
The most common question I get asked is, “Where do you get your protein?” Elephants eat grass and leaves and do not worry about getting enough protein or eating too much or too little. There is protein in grass. The grass is green—it has chlorophyll. Proteins produce the chlorophyll through a process of photosynthesis. Grass is filled with protein and we get all of our essential amino acids from plant foods. By eating a wide variety of food you will get all the essential amino acids and proteins that you need.
The Biblical diet, which is very colorful is based on fruits, nuts, and vegetables. It is wonderfully healthy. These are just some examples of anti-oxidant-rich fruits with rich colors: strawberries, blueberries, plums. The same characteristic is shared with the rich anti-oxidant veggies with wonderful colors.
God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat” (Genesis 1:29). He said, eat of them freely.
Michael Snyder is a Family Practice physician practicing in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, where he lives with his wife and four of their six children. He graduated from Loma Linda University School of Medicine and is board certified in Family Medicine. He was a speaker at Steps to Life Camp Meeting 2015. This article is one of his presentations at that camp meeting.