If Scott Coryea is a little too enthusiastic about the vegan diet, he apologizes. It’s only because it improved his life.

Vegetable ratatouille

Vegetable ratatouille

Sentara Cardiologist Gunadhar Panigrahi introduced Coryea to the vegan diet in 2012. “Dr. Panigrahi told me I was going to eventually need a heart transplant. Weight has always been a challenge for me. I’m disabled and I’m not very active. He told me losing weight would improve my heart outlook and gave me info about the vegan diet,” says Coryea.

What is it about the vegan diet that works? It takes a vegetarian diet one step further – avoiding meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products – essentially eating only plant-based foods. The diet follows heart healthy guidelines – avoiding foods rich in fat, sugar and sodium.

“Our food is highly processed, rich in fat and dense in calories,” says Dr. Panigrahi, “When we follow a diet of whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fresh fruits, nuts and seeds, the healthy food along with modest exercise will naturally shed fat and restore the body to health.”

Former president Bill Clinton made headlines several years ago when he revealed he followed a vegan diet to shed 24 pounds and improve his heart health. He was inspired by the preparation for his daughter’s wedding after undergoing a quadruple bypass in 2004 and stent surgery in 2010.

Since the vegan diet is healthier than the typical American diet, followers of the vegan diet can eat more freely – with less focus on measurements and volume. It’s a new way of thinking for lifelong yo-yo dieters used to deprivation one minute and falling off the wagon the next. Of course that doesn’t mean it’s easy to follow.

“People following a vegan diet need support,” says Dr. Panigrahi, “Learning how to cook new ingredients and finding new recipes is the first step. It takes time.”

“I was a meat and cheese lover; I survived on those. It was a radical change in my eating habits,” admits 58-yar-old Coryea, “But now I follow the rules about 90 percent of time.”

Less than a year later, Coryea has lost 41 pounds, says he has more energy and his overall health has improved.  Tests reveal the weight loss has also bought him more time until a heart transplant may be needed. His family and friends are reaping the benefits of a vegan diet, too. One son has lost 80 pounds and a church friend who saw his success began following the plan.

Dr. Panigrahi says feedback from other patients is also overwhelmingly positive. Nearly all of the patients following the diet have lost weight and many have lost substantial amounts of weight.  More importantly, patient health has improved.  Blood pressure is lower, as is cholesterol, lipid levels and insulin requirements. Several patients report significantly less arthritis pain as well.

“I call it a lifestyle change and not a diet,” says Coryea, “and it was a good change.”

 

Vegan Diet Tips from Scott Coryea:

  1. Start with a few simple dishes you like. Make them regularly, adding a new one in as you get the hang of it.
  2. Eliminate all white starches for the most part – white flour, processed foods and sugar. Replace with brown where possible – brown rice for example.
  3. I love eating a bowl of mixed fruits soaked in pomegranate juice.
  4. I make a lot of soups. A favorite is collard soup – collards mixed with onions, celery and garlic to taste.
  5. Drink seltzer water in place of high sugar carbonated beverages.

 

 

Sample Daily Menu from Dr. Panigrahi

Breakfast
Oatmeal cereal prepared with water 2 cups
Banana, peeled 1
Raisins, seedless ¼ cup
Flax seeds (Linseed) 1 ounce
Orange juice 8 ounces
Lunch
Vegetable salad 1 serving (8 ounces)
Avocado (California) ¼
Broccoli, steamed 2 cups
Kale, steamed 2 cups
Potato, bake 1
Dinner
Vegetable salad 1 serving (8 ounces)
Long grain brown rice, cooked 2 cups
Snow peas 1 cup
Green beans, steamed 2 cups
Pumpkins/squash seeds, kernels, dried 1 ounce
Evening Snack
Blackberries 1 cup

 

Dr. Gunadhar Panigrahi is an Interventional Cardiologist with Sentara Cardiology Specialists. He has studied plant-based nutrition and the health of cardiac patients for several years. Visit www.sentara.com/smg for more information or to make an appointment.