Kichadi East Indian comfort food


By Cathy Fisher | Posted on August 14, 2013
KichadiKichadi is an East Indian comfort food that features rice and lentils (or split peas), and a variety of spices and vegetables. The combination of herbs and spices will fill your kitchen with a wonderful fragrance, and reward your tongue with spiciness that isn’t overly hot. This hearty dish is not short on ingredients, so please see the chef’s notes below for time-saving variations.

Serves 6


• 3½ cups water
• ¾ cup dry brown basmati rice
• ¾ cup dry red lentils (see notes)
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon ground coriander
• ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
• ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
• ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom seed
• 1/8 teaspoon ground clove
• 1 medium yellow onion, chopped (10 ounces, 2 cups)
• ½ tablespoon minced garlic (2 large cloves)
• 1 teaspoon freshly minced ginger
• 3 cups water
• 1 medium Yukon gold potato, diced into small cubes (8 ounces, about 1-¼ cups)
• 1 medium yam, diced into small cubes (8 ounces, about 1-½ cups)
• 2 large ribs celery, diced (about 1 cup)
• 1-¼ cup green peas (thaw first if frozen)
• 4 cups roughly chopped curly kale (about 3 large leaves)
• 2 tablespoons walnuts to grate on top (optional)


1. In a large soup pot, stir together the water, rice, lentils, and spices (cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, turmeric, cardamom, clove). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 45 minutes. While the rice and lentils are cooking, chop and prepare the remaining ingredients.

2. About 15 minutes before the rice and lentils are done cooking, place a large skillet or saucepan on high heat with 2 tablespoons of water. Once the water starts sizzling, add the chopped onion and sauté for 3 minutes (adding water as needed to prevent sticking). Add the garlic and ginger, and sauté for another 2 minutes, taking care not to burn the garlic, adding water as needed.

3. Add to the onions, garlic and ginger: 3 cups water, potato, yams, and celery, and return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook covered for 7 minutes. Stir in the peas and kale and cook an additional 3 minutes (still covered). (The potatoes should now be tender.)

4. Add the onion-potato mixture to the pot of rice and lentils and stir well. Serve immediately as is or with a dusting of grated walnuts on top.

Chef’s Notes:

Red lentils in their dry form come in a range of colors, from gold to orange to rosy red. They can be found in most healthy groceries as well as Middle Eastern markets labeled as masoor (red lentils).

If you don’t want to bother with the individual dried herbs and spices (cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, turmeric, cardamom, clove), you may replace them with 2 to 3 teaspoons of your favorite curry powder.

If you’re not in the chopping mood, you can also make a meal of just the lentils, rice, and herbs and spices after cooking them together in step 1.

To add a little more heat, add a half to one teaspoon more red pepper flakes.


Foods To Avoid



Meats, poultry, fish, eggs (both whites and yolks), and all dairy products (regular and non-fat), including milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, cream, sour cream, and butter.

Added oils, such as margarine, salad dressings, mayonnaise, and cooking oils.

Fried foods, such as potato chips, French fries, onion rings, tempura, and donuts.Avoid sodas, juices that are mostly sugar( apple juice 90% sugar) and all refined sugar.



MEAL SUGGESTIONS BREAKFAST—Often breakfast can be similar to the one you are accustomed to with a few simple modifications.

Hot cereals: oatmeal, cream of wheat, creamy rice cereal,  or Irish oatmeal with cinnamon, raisins and/or applesauce (no milk)

High-fiber cold cereals: wheat or oat bran cereals with non-fat soy or rice milk and berries, peaches, or bananas

Melons, such as cantaloupe and honeydew, or any other fruit

Whole grain toast topped with cinnamon or jam (no butter or margarine)

Bagels (no cream cheese) topped with apple butter or hummus

Oven-roasted “home fries” plain or smothered with roasted mushrooms, peppers, and onions

LUNCH—Whether you dine in or out at lunchtime, there are lots of healthy and delicious options to choose from. Here are some ideas to get you started.


Garden salad with lemon juice, fat-free dressing, or soy or teriyaki sauce

Legume-based salads: three-bean, chickpea, lentil, or black bean and corn salads

Grain-based salads: noodle, couscous, bulgur, or rice salads


Vegetable-based soups: potato-leek, carrot-ginger, mixed vegetable, or mushroom-barley.

Legume-based soups: black bean, vegetarian chili, spinach lentil, minestrone, or split pea.

Instant or prepared soups (as long as they are low-fat and free of animal products).


CLT: cucumber, lettuce, and tomato sandwich with Dijon mustard

Hummus sandwich tucked into whole wheat pita with grated carrots, sprouts, and cucumbers

Sandwich made with fat-free meat alternatives such as barbeque seitan or veggie pepperoni slices with your favorite sandwich veggies

Black bean dip, peppers, tomatoes, and lettuce wrapped in a whole-wheat tortilla

Italian eggplant sub: baked eggplant slices, pizza sauce, and mushrooms on a multi-grain sub roll

Black bean and sweet potato burrito with corn and tomatoes

DINNER—Emphasize vegetables and grains in all your meals. The evening meal is a good place to try new items. You might start with a bean, rice or other grain, or potato dish and add a couple of vegetables.


Grains: Use generous amounts of grains.


brown rice

boxed rice dishes (e.g., pilaf, curried rice, etc.)


Potatoes: Enjoy them baked or mashed and topped with steamed vegetables, salsa, ketchup, Dijon mustard, black pepper, or black beans.

Breads: Whole-grain is preferred. Avoid sweet breads that contain oil, eggs, or milk.


Try any vegetables you like.

Greens (broccoli, spinach, kale, Swiss chard) topped with lemon


Corn (note: corn is technically a grain, but works as a vegetable)


Pinto beans, vegetarian refried beans, baked beans, black beans, garbanzos, kidney beans

Main Dishes:

Pasta marinara: Choose commercial brands that are free of cheese and are low in fat.

Beans and rice: Try black beans with salsa, vegetarian baked beans, or fat-free refried beans.

Soft tacos: Prepare this dish with whole-wheat flour tortilla, beans, lettuce, tomato, and salsa.

Chili: Vegetarian boxed versions are fine.

Veggie lasagna: Made with low-fat tofu to replace the ricotta, layered with grilled veggies.

Rice pilaf, Spanish rice, or packaged rice dinners: Try packaged rice dishes and omit butter.

Steamed rice and stir-fried vegetables: This meal can be seasoned with soy sauce. Be sure to use a non-stick pan.

Fat-free vegetarian burgers: Make your own lentil burgers or try soy-based commercial brands.

Fajitas: Lightly sauté sliced bell peppers, onions, and eggplant in a non-stick pan, with fajita seasonings.


Fresh fruit

Fat-free chocolate or fruit sorbet


Baked apples


Bagels (plain or flavored; no cheese, butter, or margarine)

Fruit, carrots, or celery sticks

Vegetarian soup cups (split pea, lentil, etc.)

Toast with jam (no butter or margarine)

Baked tortilla chips with salsa or bean dip



Explore new recipes, new books, new products.

Fat-free meat substitutes can ease the transition.

Be strict with yourself. This is easier than teasing yourself with small amounts of the foods you are trying to leave behind.

Focus on the short term. Three weeks is a short time.

Frozen vegetables are fine.

Canned beans and vegetables are okay for convenience.

Use a non-stick pan.

“Sauté” vegetables in water or vegetable broth.

Steam vegetables.

When you can’t avoid oil, use a cooking spray instead of poured oils.

Use non-fat, non-dairy coffee creamers.

Read package labels to check grams of fat per serving. It is best to choose products that have less than 2 grams of fat per serving.

Dining Out: Look for ethnic restaurants, especially Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Mexican, and Italian, as they normally have many vegetarian dishes.

Japanese: vegetable sushi

Chinese: lots of rice with smaller amounts of vegetable dish; request oil-free and sauce on the side

Mexican: bean burrito, hold the cheese, sour cream, and guacamole; Spanish rice. Ask the waiter to bring out warm corn tortillas to dip in the salsa and to take away the fried chips.

Italian: pasta e fagioli (soup); pasta marinara. Ask that oil be kept at an absolute minimum.

Thai: vegetarian selections with lots of rice; avoid coconut milk

Indian: rice dishes or breads (beware of curries—very fatty)

Middle Eastern: couscous; baba ganouj and hummus with lots of pita bread

American: vegetable plate; salad bar; baked potato; baked beans; spaghetti; fruit plate. For salads, ask for no dressing, or try lemon or lime juice or soy or teriyaki sauce. Ask that fatty toppings, such as cheese, bacon, eggs, olives, and avocados, be left off.

7 Tips to Boost Brain Health

NEWS RELEASE May 16, 2014

International Researchers Identify Seven Dietary and Lifestyle Guidelines for Alzheimer’s Prevention



WASHINGTON—Seven dietary and lifestyle guidelines to boost brain health and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s are available as an online advance on May 16, 2014, as a special supplement in Neurobiology of Aging.

“Alzheimer’s disease isn’t a natural part of aging,” notes lead author Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the nonprofit Physicians Committee and an adjunct professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine. “By staying active and moving plant-based foods to the center of our plates, we have a fair shot at rewriting our genetic code for this heart-wrenching , and costly, disease.”

Alzheimer’s Disease International predicts Alzheimer’s rates will triple worldwide by 2050. The Alzheimer’s Association predicts long-term care costs start at $41,000 per year.

7 guidelines to reduce risk of Alzheimer's disease

The seven guidelines to reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease are:

  1. Minimize your intake of saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fat is found primarily in dairy products, meats, and certain oils (coconut and palm oils). Trans fats are found in many snack pastries and fried foods and are listed on labels as “partially hydrogenated oils.”
  2. Eat plant-based foods. Vegetables, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), fruits, and whole grains should replace meats and dairy products as primary staples of the diet.
  3. Consume 15 milligrams of vitamin E, from foods, each day.Vitamin E should come from foods, rather than supplements. Healthful food sources of vitamin E include seeds, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains. Note: The RDA for vitamin E is 15 milligrams per day.
  4. Take a B12 supplement. A reliable source of B12, such as fortified foods or a supplement providing at least the recommended daily allowance (2.4 micrograms per day for adults), should be part of your daily diet. Note: Have your blood levels of vitamin B12 checked regularly as many factors, including age, impair absorption.
  5. Avoid vitamins with iron and copper. If using multivitamins, choose those without iron and copper, and consume iron supplements only when directed by your physician.
  6. Choose aluminum-free products. While aluminum’s role in Alzheimer’s disease remains a matter of investigation, those who desire to minimize their exposure can avoid the use of cookware, antacids, baking powder, or other products that contain aluminum.
  7. Exercise for 120 minutes each week. Include aerobic exercise in your routine, equivalent to 40 minutes of brisk walking, three times per week.

Other preventive measures, such as getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night and participating in 30 to 40 minutes of mental activity most days of the week, such as completing crossword puzzles, reading the newspaper, or learning a new language, can only help boost brain health.

“We spend trillions of dollars each year on failed drug trials,” notes study author Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., Physicians Committee director of nutrition education. “Let’s take a portion of these funds and invest in educational programs to help people learn about foods that are now clinically proven to be more effective in fighting this global epidemic.”

The preliminary guidelines to reduce risk of Alzheimer’s were formed at the International Conference on Nutrition and the Brain in Washington on July 19 and 20, 2013.

The full guidelines are available at Neurobiology of Aging.

Learn how to prevent Alzheimer’s with these seven tips for brain health.

For an advance copy of the Dietary and Lifestyle Guidelines for the Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease or to interview one of the study authors, please contact Jessica Frost at or 202-527-7342.

Healthy Snacks

Healthy Snacks – 7 Quick and Easy Combos


In fact, the biggest source of artery-clogging saturated fat in the American diet is cheese. Just one ounce of cheese can have as much saturated fat as a McDonald’s Quarter-Pounder. Here are 7 satisfying, healthy snacks that will help, not hurt, your heart and waistline.

Greek Yogurt and Fruit is refreshing Healthy Snack Combos

Stir fresh or frozen fruit into a cup of nonfat Greek yogurt for a refreshing healthy snack combo.

Snacking is actually good for your health. Several small meals throughout the day is a great way to curb hunger and provide energy and nutrients. Guests at the Pritikin Center enjoy a bountiful selection of snack items twice a day.

Healthy Snacks

So how do you get your snack time fix? Consider these 7 quick and easy combos for healthy snacks.

  1. Baked Potato and Chili

    Just pour vegetarian chili or your favorite soup over your baked potato for a quick, hearty meal or snack.

  2. salsaCorn and Salsa

    Simply microwave frozen no-salt-added corn and mix in fresh salsa. Make it even more fiber-rich and heartier by adding canned low-sodium beans and diced red peppers.

  3. Tuna and Kavli

    Combine canned tuna and fresh pre-washed baby spinach. Spoon over a couple of Kavli® or Wasa® Crispbreads. The only effort involved is opening up a can of tuna.

    Easy to Prepare Healthy Crockpot Recipes

  4. Soup and Veggies

    Thicken and flavor your soup by adding veggies. For example, add to a big bowl of lentil soup a box of microwaved frozen spinach. Easy!

  5. Yogurt and Fruit

    Stir into nonfat plain yogurt fresh sliced bananas and strawberries. Easier yet, open up a can of no-sugar-added fruit like Del Monte® and mix with your yogurt.

  6. Beans and Just About Anything

    Keep a ready supply of no-salt-added canned beans like pinto and cannellini beans. Pour over salads, tortillas, pastas, baked potatoes, rice, soups, you name it.

  7. Pitas and Just About Anything

    Stuff a whole-wheat pita (good low-sodium brands are Garden City® and Toufayan Bakeries® Pitettes – no salt added)) with just about anything already in the fridge or pantry, such as fresh cucumber and other veggies, hummus, fresh turkey breast (oven roasted, deli-style, no salt), salmon (canned, rinsed, unsalted), or fat-free cheese. Use the cheeses sparingly because they tend to be fairly high in sodium.

Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death

Death in America is largely a foodborne illness. Focusing on studies published just over the last year in peer-reviewed scientific medical journals, Dr. Greger offers practical advice on how best to feed ourselves and our families to prevent, treat, and even reverse many of the top 15 killers in the United States.

July 26, 2012 |

Veg PEI Cafes


All of the cafes listed below offer soy milk.


Beanz Espresso Bar

WiFi: Free, no key
38 University Ave, Charlottetown
(902) 892-8797
M-F 6:30am-6pm, Sat 8am-6pm, Sun 9am-4pm

Located a stone’s throw from Timothy’s, Beanz also offers free WiFi and has similar prices. You have a choice of a table or a bar stool at the window. I prefer Timothy’s but many people seem to like Beanz.


Casa Mia Cafe

WiFi: Free, no key
131 Queen St, Charlottetown
(902) 367-4440
M-F 8am-6pm, Sat-Sun 9am-6pm

If you like strong coffee, check out Casa Mia. I would describe the atmosphere as European modern. In addition to coffee, they also offer a vegan-friendly lunch menu. See the Restaurants section for details.



WiFi: Free, no key
56 University Ave, Charlottetown
(902) 894-7721

Prince Edward Island got its first Starbucks at the end of 2009. I highly recommend supporting a local business like Timothy’s, but when you really want Starbucks you now have the option. It’s also really convenient to be able to go to any Starbucks knowing you’ll be able to get a vegan drink. My favorite drink at the moment is the green tea latte.


Timothy’s World Coffee

WiFi: Free, no key
54 University Ave, Charlottetown
(902) 628-8503

Arguably makes the best coffee drinks in town. They offer fair trade drip coffee every day. The atmosphere is relaxed and makes for a good place to work (free WiFi), read, or chat with friends. You can sit at a booth or a small table. My favorite drink at the moment is the soy hazelnut latte.

Veg PEI Restaurants

Casa Mia Cafe

131 Queen St, Charlottetown
(902) 367-4440
M-F 8am-6pm, Sat-Sun 9am-6pm

The Grilled Vegetable Panini (w/o pesto and cheese), Mediterranean Panini (w/o cheese), and Portabello Mushroom (w/o cheese and aioli) are vegan. I like the Grilled Vegetable Panini. In addition to food, they also offer soy milk in their coffee drinks. See the Cafes section for details.


Cedar’s Eatery

Mediterranean / Lebanese
81 University Ave, Charlottetown
(902) 892-7377

A Mediterranean restaurant in downtown Charlottetown. The falafel sandwich, hummus, fries, sweet potato fries, and yabrak (grape leaves) are all vegan.


Eat Well

Home delivery
(902) 566-2796, (902) 940-7698

Home-cooked meals delivered to your door. Lynn emails the menu each Sunday. If you want something, she’ll deliver it to you on Tuesday. She doesn’t even charge a delivery fee! At least one meal each week is vegan. Email Lynn to start receiving weekly menus.


Splendid Essence

Fully vegetarian
186 Prince St, Charlottetown
(902) 566-4991
M-Sat 11:30am-3pm, 5pm-8pm

A fully vegetarian Chinese restaurant with a limited menu. They offer Bubble Tea on Saturdays. Note that only a select few are vegan. I’m not thrilled by this place, as the food is bland, but some people seem to enjoy it.



Noodle House

31 Summer St, Charlottetown
(902) 628-6633

A Chinese restaurant that offers a few vegan dishes. I find the food here to be bland as well.


Shaddy’s Mediterranean Cuisine

Mediterranean / Lebanese
44 University Ave, Charlottetown
(902) 368-8886
M-Th 8am-9pm, F 8am-10pm, Sat-Sun 4:45pm-10pm

Another Mediterranean restaurant in Charlottetown. The falafel sandwich, hummus, baba ganoush, and fries are all vegan. The falafel sandwich with fries is excellent. They also provide a gluten-free menu.



Tai Chi Gardens

Fully vegetarian
119 Pownal St, Charlottetown
Please send phone number and hours

A fully vegetarian restaurant. Owned by the same people as Formosa Tea House. I have yet to try it.



Thai Food & Dimsum Palace

198 Kent St, Charlottetown
(902) 367-9094
M-F 11:30am-9pm, Sat-Sun-Holiday 4pm-9pm

This Thai restaurant is a unique find in Charlottetown. They do not use fish oil and provide several vegan dishes. The Pad Thai Tofu (ask for it without egg) is great, as well as the Fried Tofu Cashew Nut. Cash only. The owners are very friendly.


Zen Sushi Bar & Cafe

62 Queen St, Charlottetown
(902) 892-3306
M-Th 11:45am-2pm, 5pm-9pm; Fri 11:45am-2pm, 5pm-10pm; Sat

The avocado roll, vegetable roll, and inari are vegan. It’s inexpensive and good.

Added sugars in diet linked to heart disease deaths

Related Stories

External Links

(Note: CBC does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of external links.)

Consuming too much sugar can increase the risk of premature death from heart disease, a finding that is fuelling calls for the Canadian and U.S. governments to offer dietary limits on sugar.

For an adult consuming 2,000 calories a day, drinking the equivalent of a bottle of pop sold in vending machines would exceed the level that a new U.S. study suggests raises the risk of death from cardiovascular disease (CVD).


Excess sugar added not only to desserts but many other processed foods isn’t as benign as once thought. (Canadian Press)

“A higher percentage of calories from added sugar is associated with significantly increased risk of CVD mortality,” lead author Quanhe Yang of the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and co-authors conclude in this week’s issue of the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

The researchers analyzed national health and diet surveys between 1988 and 2010 of more than 30,000 Americans with an average age of 44. They found the fatal heart risk became elevated once added sugar intake surpassed 15 per cent of total calories.

“Too much sugar does not just make us fat; it can also make us sick,” said Laura Schmidt, a health policy specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, who wrote a commentary accompanying the study.

Previously, sugar used in processed or prepared foods, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, dairy desserts, candy, ready-to-eat cereals and yeast breads, has been linked to increased risks for non-fatal heart problems and with obesity. Naturally occurring sugars in fruit aren’t included.

Sugar is hugely important to the trillion-dollar processed food industry, said Michael Moss, a journalist in New York and author of the book, Salt Sugar Fat.

“They’re a very powerful lobby,” Moss said in an interview Tuesday.

“It’s very frustrating for consumers, especially when you go in and buy a product, look at the label and there’s a blank spot next to sugar. There is no government recommendation on how much sugar you should be capping yourself on and consuming in a day.”

The Canadian and U.S. governments don’t provide dietary limits for added sugar and there isn’t a consensus on how much is too much.

“What we really need as Canadians is more information,” said Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an obesity doctor in Ottawa. “We need food labels that don’t allow for sugar synonyms and actually list the amount of added sugar there.”

To get a sense of sugar amounts, Freedhoff suggests that consumers take the number of grams of sugar on a package and divide by four to get the number of teaspoons.

Yang’s findings add to a growing body of rigorous studies that demonstrate added sugar “is not as benign as once presumed,” Schmidt said.

“Proponents of sugar taxes and sugar controls have a new arrow in their quiver and it’s this linkage to deadly heart disease,” Moss said. “That’s a very powerful tool in the hands of policymakers.”

Schmidt notes that the American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams a day or six teaspoons of sugar for women (five per cent of a 2,000-calorie a day diet) and 38 grams or nine teaspoons a day for men (7.5 per cent of daily calories).

In 2005, a panel at the Institute of Medicine, which advises the Canadian and U.S. governments, recommended added sugar make up less than 25 per cent of total calories. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends less than 10 per cent.

Expert committees from the Institute of Medicine have concluded there’s no evidence of harm attributed to current sugar consumption levels, the Canadian Sugar Institute said in a statement to CBC News.

A spokeswoman for the trade group said Canadian sugar intakes are about 11 per cent of total calories. “There is no magic number because our age, gender and activity levels are all different.”

In the study, 831 people died from heart disease during the 15-year followup. The researchers took
other factors that contribute to heart problems, including smoking, inactivity and excess weight into account.

Apple a day vs. statins produces similar outcomes

Prescribing an apple a day to all adults could reduce deaths from heart disease and strokes about as well as cholesterol-lowering statins, research into the Victorian-era health slogan suggests.

In Tuesday’s online holiday issue of the British Medical Journal, researchers modelled the effect of prescribing an apple a day or a statin for people over the age of 50 in the U.K.

Portugal Fighting Waste

Victorian-era health advice to eat an apple a day seems to stand the test of time, researchers say. (Armando Franca/Associated Press)

“With similar reductions in mortality, a 150-year-old health promotion message is able to match modern medicine and is likely to have fewer side-effects,” Adam Briggs of the BHF Health Promotion Research Group at Oxford University and his co-authors concluded.

They estimated that offering a daily statin to 17.6 million adults not currently taking the drugs would reduce the annual number of vascular deaths from heart disease and stroke by 9,400. In comparison, offering a daily apple to 70 per cent of the U.K. population over age 50 (about 22 million people) would avert 8,500 deaths a year.

But prescribing statins to everyone over the age of 50 could also lead to 1,200 more cases of muscle disease and more than 12,000 cases of Type 2 diabetes.

“No side-effects were modelled for increased apple consumption; aside from the distress caused by a bruised apple, and the theoretical risk of identifying half a worm inside, apple-related adverse events are not widely recognized,” they joked.

Modelling studies include many assumptions. In this case, the researchers assumed apples weigh 100 grams and that there would be no other diet changes. Compliance could also change over time for both models, they said.

The researchers also assumed the same treatment effect for all ages, sexes and cardiovascular risk level, which they said could differ in reality.

In 2012, nearly 41 per cent of Canadians aged 12 and older said that they consumed fruit and vegetables five or more times per day, according to Statistics Canada. Canada’s Food Guide recommends that people age four and older should eat five to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

Heart disease: treatment using vegetables over drugs

Cardiologist Dr. Shane Williams holds information sessions about veganism at his clinic in Bracebridge, Ont.

Cardiologist Dr. Shane Williams holds information sessions about veganism at his clinic in Bracebridge, Ont. (

External Links

(Note: CBC does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of external links.)

Many doctors treating heart disease tend to prescribe drugs known as statins like Lipitor, but some physicians in Canada are trying a new method: a vegan diet.

Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada. It kills 47,627 Canadians every year.

Dr. Shane Williams is a community cardiologist in Bracebridge, Ont. He’s been a vegan since 2010.  Vegans don’t eat meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or honey.  They do however, eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes.

“People do not know the power of food,”  Williams told CBC News

For the past four years, the cardiologist has been slowly refocusing his patients on lifestyle changes.

“The challenge is that this takes time,” said Williams.

Starting in 2011, he started using a plant-based diet for patients who were interested and added group counselling sessions circling on veganism.

Dr. Shane Williams

Williams says cardiologists need to spend at least an hour with their heart patients talking about their food habits and discussing alternatives. (

Williams says this is making a big difference in patients who are willing to keep an open mind about their diet.

“I see it here first hand, and it is simply amazing,” he said.

Liam Cragg, 59, ofBracebridge, Ont. is one case.

In 2012, he went to the hospital because he exhibited  signs of a heart attack. Cragg followed up with his family doctor a week later who referred him to Williams. After four months on a mostly plant-based regime, Cragg noted a big difference.

“I was at least 30 pounds lighter, my waistline had shrunk by four inches and my knees didn’t ache anymore,” said Cragg.

Williams says he commonly spends 60 minutes or more with patients at their initial assessments.

“My experience is that most cardiologists tend to spend 15 to 25 minutes on a first assessment,” explains Williams, who says he’s trying to get “into the mechanics of a particular patient’s motivation for their eating habits.”

The cardiologist would like to see more doctors take an alternative approach in treating patients and specifically, honing in on their behaviour.

“What concerns me is that most doctors do not realize the power of food as an alternative to medication,” said Williams.

He is not alone about his theories about veganism and heart disease.

Herbivore vs Carnivore

Dr. William Roberts, a prominent cardiovascular pathologist and the editor of the American Journal of Cardiology, also believes that a vegan diet is the solution to heart disease in the Western world.

Roberts contends that the cause of heart disease is elevated cholesterol from not eating vegan.


Some experts argue humans are made for plant-based diets. While carnivores have sharp teeth, the majority of ours are flat, which is ideal for grinding fruits and vegetables. (

“Human beings are far more like herbivores than carnivores,” he said.

Some experts argue that the structure of our teeth, and the length of our intestinal tract, are indications that humans are more herbivore oriented. While carnivores have sharp teeth, the majority of ours are flat, which is ideal for grinding fruits and vegetables. Carnivores have short intestinal tracts, but ours are very long.

Meat consumption has been linked to higher risks of developing heart disease, cancer and diabetes and there’s a lot of evidence connecting diet and disease.

For example, in plant-based cultures like rural China, central Africa, the Papua highlanders in New Guinea and the Tarahumara Indians of northern Mexico, coronary artery disease is almost nonexistent.

When these people adopt Western, animal-based diets however, they quickly develop heart disease.

Roberts argues that the plant-based diet is both cost effective and safe.

“If we put everyone on drugs then thousands of people would suffer side effects, so of course a vegan diet is the least expensive and safest means of achieving the plaque preventing  goal,” he said.

Statins can be effective

But, statins, which are cholesterol-lowering drugs, are one of the most commonly used medications in North America and there’s some argument that they’re effective, if used properly.

A study, published in Annals of Family Medicine last week, analyzed 16,712 responses from people aged 30 to 79 years-old. Americans who filled at least two prescriptions for statins were classified as statin users.

According to the authors, many people at high risk for heart disease were not getting the statins they should be.

“A lot of people who [might have] benefited aren’t on statins, and we don’t know why that is,” said Dr. Michael Johansen, the study’s lead author.

‘Statins should be reserved for very sick people, and a healthy diet is for everyone.’– Dr. John McDougall, leading expert on diet and heart disease

He said this could be for a number of reasons, including doctors who aren’t prescribing them, patients who don’t have health insurance, or people who aren’t taking medications they’re given.

“As doctors we need to make sure patients understand the benefits, and are being compliant. We need to make sure everyone has access to these drugs from an insurance, and access to care perspective,” said Johansen.

Dr. John McDougall, an American physician and a leading authority on diet and heart disease, says statins should be the last solution.

McDougall thinks that heart disease can be prevented and treated with a diet consisting of starches, vegetables and fruits, but no animal products or added oils.

“Statins should be reserved for very sick people, and a healthy diet is for everyone,” said McDougall.

Back in Bracebridge, Williams and McDougall will be holding what they call an “immersion weekend” sometime in late summer or early fall at the clinic with McDougall participating in a Skype discussion with patients.

Food before drugs

For Williams the focus should be on prevention.


‘The best way to prevent heart disease is to be a vegetarian-fruit eater, a non-flesh eater,’ says Dr. William Roberts, leading cardiovascular health expert. (

“What we’re told by pharmaceutical companies is that only 10 per cent of the cholesterol in our bloodstream is what we consume, and the rest is made by our liver. What they don’t tell us is that the Western diet causes the liver to over produce cholesterol — a pretty significant ‘oops we forgot to tell you’ on the part of pharmaceutical companies,” said Williams.

The plaque that builds up in our arteries is made of cholesterol, but when our cholesterol is low enough there’s nothing for our body to build plaque with.

“The best way to prevent heart disease is to be a vegetarian-fruit eater, a non-flesh eater and a non-saturated fat eater,” said Roberts.