First, Do No Harm

While reading T. Colin Campbell’s Whole and reflecting on the numerous problems that could be reduced or alleviated by widespread adoption of a whole foods plant-based lifestyle, I was reminded of the beginning of Hippocrates’ writing Epidemics that included the phrase “to abstain from doing harm”, commonly translated into “first, do no harm”.

If you are not yet ready to fully commit to a whole foods plant based lifestyle, can you take a huge step in that direction by committing to do no harm?  Not doing harm would include not eating factory farmed livestock, eggs, or dairy products.  If you choose to occasionally eat livestock, eggs, or cow’s milk, it would be from local and sustainable farms.

A Whole Foods, Plant Based Lifestyle Positively Impacts:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic diseases
  • Global warming
  • Deforestation
  • Poverty and hunger
  • Animal cruelty
  • Natural resources

For previous posts on how a whole foods, plant based diet impacts cancer, check out Spinach: It’s not just for Popeye; Cinco de Mayo; Spring Cleaning; Everyone’s Favorite Fruity Veggie; Not So Eggstraordinary and The Cancer Survivor’s Guide by Barnard and Reilly.  For discussion of prevention and reversal of chronic diseases, check out Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes: The Scientifically Proven System for Reversing Diabetes without Drugs and Foods That Fight Pain: Revolutionary New Strategies for Maximum Pain Relief.

Global warming

Eating animal based foods contributes to a greater percentage of global warming than either industry or transportation.  Reducing meat consumption would be a relatively quick way to slow global warming.  Methane is the greenhouse gas primarily associated with industrial livestock production.  Although we hear about the ill effects of carbon dioxide, a molecule of methane is 25 times more potent in trapping heat than a molecule of carbon dioxide.  In addition, methane’s atmospheric half-life is 7 years compared to about 100 years for carbon dioxide. Campbell and Jacobson



Increased production of livestock feed and of livestock over the last few decades have contributed to 80% of deforestation in the tropics.  Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN  Just considering the population of livestock grown in the US, grain consumption (which is not even their natural diet) is 5 times the grain consumption of the entire US human population. Pimentel et al  


Poverty and hunger

Depending on various factors, it is estimated that animal-based food requires 5 to 50 times more land and water resources than the same number of calories of plant-based food. Campbell and Jacobsen  Directing grains to feed meat-producing animals rather than feeding humans means that we are choosing to fill our gluttonous bellies and sicken ourselves for years to come instead of directly addressing world hunger.  Take a step toward improving poverty and hunger by not supporting factory farmed meat or dairy or the products that contain them.



Animal cruelty

Animal cruelty was not the driving force behind my conversion to a whole foods, plant based lifestyle and it is not a topic I will spend much time on.  What most of us can agree on, I believe, is that unnecessary acts of violence should be avoided.  Eliminating factory farmed livestock from your diet would be avoiding unnecessary acts of violence to animals.


Natural resources

In the US there is a feeling among many that water is not a precious resource, as there seems to be plenty for everyone.  However the great Ogallala aquifer in the Midwest is being depleted far faster than it can collect rainwater for replenishment, due to water-intensive factory farming.  Confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) impact much more than water usage and methane gas, though.  CAFOs are also responsible for widespread pollution of water sources through their waste and the use of nitrates as commercial fertilizer for animal feed.  In addition to being hugely water intensive, animal protein production requires 8 times as much fossil fuel to generate as does plant protein.



Spinach Dip 

12 oz organic silken tofu (shelf-stable like Mori Nu)

15 oz can of white beans, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 c cooked white beans)

1 envelope dry vegetable soup mix

¼ c lemon juice

16 oz frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of all liquid

½ onion, diced

Puree tofu, white beans, onion, and lemon juice until smooth.  Add the spinach now if you want a pureed dip.  Otherwise, chop the spinach and stir with the soup mix into the puree mixture.  Refrigerate and serve with vegetables, whole grain crackers, or whole grain bread.


Pepper Fake Steak 

1 -1.5 lbs seitan strips (3/4 batch of Beef-like Seitan)

1 onion, diced

1 c “beef” broth

3T soy sauce or Braggs liquid aminospepper_steak

2 bell peppers, sliced

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

2T organic cornstarch mixed into ¼ c cold water

2 tomatoes cut into eighths

4-6 c cooked brown rice

Sautee diced onion and seitan strips over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until onions are tender and translucent.  Add “beef” broth and soy sauce.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add bell peppers and garlic.  Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

Slowly stir in cornstarch water mixture, stirring constantly through 1 minute of boiling.

Add tomatoes and heat through.

Season if needed and serve over brown rice.


Beef-like Seitan (Entree)

2 c vital wheat gluten

5 T whole wheat flour

1 T seasoned salt or salt-free seasoning

2 T vegan worchestershire sauce or Braggs liquid aminos

2 c “beef” broth

Mix ingredients together and knead in stand mixer or by hand for 2-3 minutes.  Shape into a loaf and steam for 45 minutes.  Let cool, then slice and refrigerate.


Stuffed Squash

1 acorn squash per two servingsstuffed_squash

1/4 c uncooked wild rice per serving

1/4 c total of dried fruit (such as cranberries or apricots) and nuts per serving

Cook the wild rice in 2 parts liquid (water or broth) to 1 part wild rice.  I included some orange juice to sweeten the dish.  While the rice is cooking, cut the acorn squash in half and remove seeds.  Slice a little off the end of the squash so it does not tip over.

Add the dried fruit to the cooked rice.  Use additional liquid if needed to moisten the rice.  Fill each squash with the rice mixture, cover, and bake at 400′ for 30 to 45 minutes.  Once the squash is cooked, remove the cover, and sprinkle chopped nuts on the top of each squash.  Return to oven for 5 minutes.

In the picture shown here, I used pumpkin seeds, which the kids had requested, but I prefer pecans or walnuts.  While this is a nice way to present a simple dish, I recommend scooping the contents and squash out onto a plate to enable faster cooling for kids.



Barnard, Neal. Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes: The Scientifically Proven System for Reversing Diabetes without Drugs. 2007

Barnard, Neal and Raymond, Jennifer. Foods That Fight Pain: Revolutionary New Strategies for Maximum Pain Relief. 1998

Barnard ND, Reilly JK. The Cancer Survivor’s Guide. 2008

Campbell T. Colin and Jacobsen, Howard. Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition. 2013

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Deforestation Causes Global Warming news release. 04 September 2006.

Pimentel, David et al. Environmental and Economic Costs of Soil Erosion and Conservation Benefits. Science 267, no. 5201 (1995):1117-1123.

Photo Credits:


No Factory Farm