We Southerners aren’t exactly known for our health-conscious cuisine. Our fried-chicken-with-mashed-potatoes-and-gravy habit has been making headlines since First Lady of Butter Paula Deen recently announced that she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) reached out to Deen offering to help her control her diabetes, beginning with the organization’s 21-Day Vegan Kickstart program. PCRM cited studies that have found that low-fat vegan cuisine controls blood glucose more effectively than a standard diabetes diet and may be more effective than diabetes drugs (and it doesn’t come with risky side effects as pills do). The National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention both agree that one of the most effective ways to treat diabetes (or prevent it in the first place) is to load up on vegetables, beans, and whole grains and eat less meat.
Being overweight increases one’s risk of developing diabetes, so vegetarians, who are far less likely than meat-eaters to be overweight, are also less likely to develop the disease. Additionally, research strongly indicates that eating large amounts of dietary fiber (found only in plant foods) dramatically reduces the risk of developing diabetes. Furthermore, there are two kinds of iron in human diets: heme iron (found in animal products) and nonheme iron (found in plant foods). A study by Harvard researchers found that consuming heme iron increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes but consuming nonheme iron does not.
Considering the overwhelming evidence of the benefits for diabetics of going vegan, hopefully Deen will see the light. I became a reformed Southern cuisine aficionado myself, deciding to stop destroying my health and heading for an early grave. (Not to mention the fact that I care about animals and don’t want to give my money to factory farms that torture them.)
With just a few simple swaps, it’s easy to make grandma-approved meals that won’t cause animals or our bodies to suffer. And they taste good too. (One recent meal I cooked for a cousin garnered this response: “This is good, but are you sure there’s no meat in it? It tastes like there is.”) Check out PETA’s favorite products for a full list, but some of my personal favorites are Daiya “cheeses,” Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders, Rice Dream original rice milk, and Boca “ground beef” crumbles. And for what to do with it all, here are just a few down-home, lip-smackin’ recipes:
• Chocolate Bread Pudding With Rum Sauce (a favorite in my home state of Kentucky)