By Renee Taylor
As a Certified Plant-Based Nutrition Educator and Health Coach, Laurie Courage spends her days encouraging her clients to lead healthier lives by going green. Based in Port Washington, New York, Courage started teaching over 20 years ago when she saw how ill her own friends and family were becoming as they aged. Courage did not want to suffer the same crippling fate as those who had cancer, and other ailments.
“I looked at my friends and family who were 10, 15, 20 years older than I was, and they were dying, and not only were they dying, they were dying for the last 10 years of their life,” said Courage. “I realized that I needed a change in my life, and I didn’t want to be one of those people who died slowly.”
When Courage was in her 40s she began experience various health conditions that seemed to appear out of nowhere. Desperate for answers, she was soon in her doctor’s office. Her doctor then informed her that she should prepare herself to start taking medications for the rest of her life. Courage really did not approve of this response.
Later than evening Courage took a book off her shelf written by Medical Researcher T. Colin Campbell, and proceeded to read all 417 pages within one evening.
The book was titled “ The China Study,” and it examined the link between the consumption of animal products (including dairy) and chronic illnesses such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and bowel cancer. Courage went vegan the following day.
“Three weeks later when I went back to the doctor my blood work was not only totally normal, but it was better than his,” said Courage.
Laurie Garabedian, an osteopathic and family medicine doctor at Norwood Hospital in Massachusetts, has been practicing for two years. She found inspiration to go plant-based after reading Campbell’s book.
“I was introduced to the China Study which was the first thing that got the wheels turning in my head about plant-based diets,” said Garabedian. “I did a huge literature review from there and changed my lifestyle on the spot.”
Garabedian said that she routinely recommends a plant-based diet to her patients as a way to prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, many cancers, hypertension, and to lower cholesterol.
“I was inspired to change my diet during my second year of residency when I found myself admitting patients to the hospital over and over again for the same diseases,” said Garabedian. “It seemed like there had to be a better way than stabilizing their diseases and then sending them home, only to have them come back with the same problem again.”
Garabedian prefers the term “plant-based” over “vegan.” She said she encourages her patients to seek out whole foods, and that there’s a difference. “Vegan implies the exclusion of animal based foods, but does not necessary mean that the foods eaten are whole plant foods, which is the diet that most of the studies are done on,” said Garabedian.
Garabedian also acknowledged that being vegan is more than about food, admitting to still owning leather products. She has now been plant-based for four years, and said she has since seen great success with her patients making the change to a whole-foods plant-based diet.
“There was a 79-year-old male with new onset type II diabetes who had a history of hypertension, coronary artery disease. He had a heart attack and he was obese,” said Garabedian. “He came to me with a hemoglobin A1C of 6.7 percent. Within three months of a plant-based diet he completely reversed his diabetes and now has an A1C of 5.4 percent.”
Garabedian said that she was able to take her patient off of three of his regular medications, and although still on a few medications, the patient has seen an overall great improvement in his health.
Courage also decided to make a whole-foods plant-based diet a permanent part of her life. She explained the difference between life expectancy and healthy life expectancy. A study conducted in 2018 by the data organization Geonames, showed the current life expectancy in the United States is 79 years old, and ranking 53rd out of 229 locations ranked worldwide.
“The healthy life expectancy in the United States is 68,” Courage said, “and what that means is that you are going to spend the last 12 years of your life in a waiting room, or with a plastic bag filled with medication.” Courage added, “My inspiration was that I didn’t want it to happen to me, and I didn’t want it to happen to anyone else as I watched it happen to many I cared about.”
The map above visualizes the data by location, rank, and life expectancy in 2018.
Courage does not see any benefits in consuming meat and dairy, describing them as simply, “a source of calories.”
“Dairy is the food for a baby cow, and it different than breast milk. It’s meant for a cow growing to 1,000 pounds in six months,” said Courage. “I don’t think any of us really want to do that.”
Courage went on to recommend that people start with removing dairy from their diets as it contains growth hormones, pesticides, causes your body to age, and promotes cancer growth.
“Dairy is the No. 1 source of saturated fat in the American diet which is closely linked to a lot of our chronic diseases, like obesity, and heart disease,” said Courage. “Meat also has many of the same characteristics as well.”
Courage then cautioned against consuming red meat, and processed meat; as they’ve been listed as a type 1 carcinogen in The World Health Organization chart.
“It’s starting to be well known that this is something people should consume less of in their diet, and consume more fruits, vegetables, beets, and legumes,” said Courage.
Courage disagrees with the USDA’s current food pyramid and would replace the meat and dairy section entirely with whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and water.
She went on to describe being plant-based as a very satisfying, nutritious way to eat. Courage also explained how not everyone who is vegan is eating healthy. She described some as “junk food vegans,” who eat a lot of meat substitutes. When asked how she felt about meat substitutes, Courage stated that they are certainly better than consuming meat, but she would not recommend to make them the focus of every meal.
“Meat substitutes are okay to have once in a while but should not be the center of all your meals if you’re going vegan for health,” said Courage. “You should really stick to whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruits the majority of the time.”
Courage then explained how people should be more concerned with their fiber content, rather than protein. She does not agree with the mass hysteria over protein. She then went on to state that plant-based diets contain plenty of it in its natural form.
“Too much protein actually gives the same risk factors as smoking cigarettes,” said Courage. “Don’t ask me where you get your protein from, my question is where do you get your fiber.”
Courage says that whey shakes at the gym are not helping and are actually causing more of problem when it comes to our overall health. She explained how most Americans only consume 10 percent of their fiber a day, while a plant-based diet will give you 70 percent.
“Fiber helps you lose weight, keeps you regular, gets rid of your arthritis, and makes you a much healthier,” said Courage. “Usually many diseases are caused by fiber deficiencies and have nothing to do with protein.”
Courage then explained how fortunate she has been to work with several people facing health crisis who wanted to make a positive change within their lives. She told the story about a client who had lung cancer that came back a second time.
“The doctor was treating her with all the typical western forms of medicine including chemo therapy, and radiation,” said Courage. The doctor then told her that he was sorry, the cancer is growing too fast, it’s time to put your affairs in order.”
Courage then said the sickly woman came to her very distraught as she had just sent her son off to college and feared she would never see him graduate. Courage proceeded on helping her client transition on to a whole foods plant-based diet.
“Fast forward three years later, and I was invited to the college graduation, and her lungs are free and clear,” said Courage.
To listen to more of the telephone interview, click the video below.
Visit Courage’s Website: Encouraging Greens