Health Ministries 


Don’t fall for the latest low-carb diet fad, the keto diet. We told you not to fall for it back when the Atkins diet was all the rage, and we’re telling you the same thing now.  An excessively low-carbohydrate diet which focuses on consuming more protein (Atkins) or fat (Keto), and cuts out important plant-based foods such as whole grains, beans, fruit and root vegetables, has not been shown to be healthy and could have some very dangerous side effects. On the other hand, a whole food plant-based diet has been shown to be healthy over the whole lifespan, to prevent and treat a wide variety of diseases, and to be very effective at causing weight loss, resulting in just as much weight loss as the keto diet. Why take chances?

The keto diet is very low carb, high fat and protein that is very heavily made up of animal foods. Proponents claim that by not consuming carbs, and creating a state of ketosis, your body will burn fat for energy and you’ll lose some weight as a result.  Many people do initially lose weight on a keto diet, which is why it is so popular, but this is a risky way to do so.

Ketones are waste products caused by using fat for energy resulting in ketosis, an elevated level of ketones in the blood. Ketones are not meant to be the main source of energy in the human body.  Under normal conditions one might find 2% of energy needs met by them, say after a night’s sleep and before breakfast. They are present in small amounts in the blood of healthy individuals during fasting or prolonged exercise.

Ordinarily ketones in the blood are eliminated in urine by the kidneys. In small amounts, they serve to indicate that the body is breaking down fat, but high levels of ketones are abnormal. On the keto diet, the levels of ketones created are more than the kidneys usually have to handle.  Scientists are worried that this will cause damage to the kidneys. The keto diet works by creating an abnormal situation in the body. By contrast, a plant-based diet makes our blood and body more normal.


Low-carb diets like the keto do appear to lead to some short-term weight loss, but they’re not significantly more effective than any other commercial or self-help diet. They don’t appear to improve athletic performance. In a recent study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, Weiss and his colleagues found that participants performed worse on high-intensity cycling and running tasks after four days on a ketogenic diet, compared to those who’d spent four days on a high-carb diet. Weiss says that the body is in a more acidic state when it’s in ketosis, which may limit its ability to perform at peak levels.

The list of worries and risks for those on the keto diet is long:

The American Heart Association (AHA), American College of Cardiology, and the Obesity Society have concluded that there is not enough evidence to suggest that low carbohydrate diets such as the ketogenic diet provide health benefits to the heart.

Stomach pain

The lack of fiber in this diet makes it more likely you’ll experience gastrointestinal distress such as constipation.

Other potential risks include kidney stones, several vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and decreased bone mineral density which could lead to osteoporosis.

It’s also common for people starting the diet to experience flu-like symptoms, such as headaches and fatigue. This side effect is so common that there’s a name for it: the keto flu. This is due to the body reacting to the abnormal state of ketosis.  As the body adjusts to this new state, the symptoms improve, but that doesn’t mean that it’s healthy.

Experts say the plan may be particularly risky for some groups of people:

  • People who have had their gallbladder removed. The gallbladder holds bile, which is necessary in fat digestion. Without this organ, you can have problems on a high-fat diet.
  • Multiple Sclerosis sufferers. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society raises questions about the long-term safety of the diet for MS, and cautions about the possible side effects, like fatigue and constipation.
  • People with type I diabetes. On the keto diet, Type I diabetics could find their blood sugar affected to dangerous levels.

This diet is tough to follow. Less than half the people who try it can stick with it. In fact, in a review of 11 studies involving adults on the keto diet, which was published in January 2015 in the Journal of Clinical Neurology, researchers calculated only a 45 percent compliance rate among participants.

The hype around this diet is tempered by the fact that researchers just don’t know about the long-term safety of following a high-fat, high-protein diet (especially one high in saturated fat). What studies there are either were very short-term, or have been done on rats and mice rather than actual human beings.

Metal shopping cart with grocery items. Isolated over white background.

We’ll come right to it: the plant-based diet remains the healthiest diet. It is effective for steady and sustained weight loss over a long period. In a recent University of South Carolina study, those placed on a vegan diet lost more weight than any other diet tested.

Not only does the vegan diet work for weight loss, it also prevents and treats other diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and prostate cancer. The plant-based diet normalizes physiology and biochemistry, and lab values are moved to normal values. This shows that it is a healthy diet that our bodies are designed to thrive on.

The science behind a plant-based diet is very strong and it’s been tested in people over entire lifetimes and even over several generations. Don’t fall for the hype of the latest fad diet.





                                                     Stomach pain

We’ve all heard about the growing problem of opiate addiction in the United States. While there are several causes of this epidemic, one of them is addiction of patients being treated for chronic pain. It turns out that a plant-based, or vegan, diet can help prevent and even treat several diseases that result in chronic pain. Let’s look at a few examples.

Diabetics can develop diabetic peripheral neuropathy which causes pain in the leg that is often severe. It turns out that a plant-based diet can cut the risk of developing diabetes in the first place by more than 75%. For those already with neuropathy, a vegan diet can eliminate pain in over 70% of patients and the results are maintained long term.

The chest pain from angina can require strong pain medication to control. One medical study showed that a plant-based diet was able to result in a pain free status after 12 weeks. And of course, a plant-based diet cuts the risk of heart disease by half in the first place.

Over 1 million Americans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. The first way to avoid arthritic pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis is not to get the disease in the first place. Those following vegetarian diet were shown to have only half the risk of rheumatoid arthritis of non vegetarians. For those who already have rheumatoid arthritis, a plant-based diet was shown to significantly reduce pain and stiffness.

Another example is the pain from gall stones. Almost 1 million Americans suffer from gall stones. While a plant-based diet can’t reduce the pain from gall stones, it can reduce the chance of getting them by 50%.

Fibromyalgia is a painful condition that affects 10 million Americans. Here, as in several other diseases, a plant-based diet can be a very effective treatment. Medical studies show that a plant-based diet reduces pain in fibromyalgia patients by 70%. These are a substantial results in an otherwise hard-to-treat disease.

While it will take more than a plant-based diet to solve the opiate addiction crisis, it does have a very important part to play by preventing several painful diseases and by reducing pain for those patients who already have it, thus reducing the need for pain medications.





Persian Barley Bean Soup



This filling soup has a wonderful texture, thanks to the variety of grains and legumes it contains, and a fresh taste, thanks to the parsley, cilantro and mint.

Serves 6 to 8. 

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons salt or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ cup rice
  • ½ cup pearl barley
  • ½ cup brown lentils
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 (14½-ounce) can garbanzo beans
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed

Garnish (optional)

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons dried mint
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Heat the oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat, add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, cumin, coriander and turmeric and sauté for an additional minute. Add the rice, barley and lentils and stir to completely coat with the oil and the spices. Add the water, cover, and simmer over medium heat until the grains and lentils are cooked, about 30 minutes. Add the garbanzo beans, parsley, cilantro and spinach and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the garnish by heating the oil in a small skillet over medium heat and quickly sautéing the garlic, dried mint and salt for about one minute. Pour the soup into bowls and garnish with the mint/garlic sauce.


Article and Recipe are from the May 2019 "Vegetarians of Washington" Newsletter


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