Back in September 2018, I was in Orlando, Florida, visiting my friend from college, Daniel. After a quick medical check from a doctor because I wasn’t feeling well, she looked at me totally shocked. Pale and notably concerned, she said I was at hypertensive levels, and my blood pressure was through the roof at worrying levels. I think it by blood pressure was 168/110, and her advice was to take it slow, start a journal with my blood pressure readings every other day, and finally, when we noticed that it hadn’t gone down after a week, they admitted me to hospital.
The first comment I got from the cardiologist was that this is a very common thing in this country, and they asked about my family history. At that moment, I remembered that my father, grandfather, and uncles, were all on blood pressure medication, and the cardiologist went on to conclude that this was a genetic thing that had to be treated with medication for the rest of my life due to its chronic nature. “Try not to drink, don’t smoke, don’t eat too much salt, and take these pills every day for the rest of your life”.
What? Just like that? I couldn’t believe it. So, I spent the whole two nights I was hospitalized reading absolutely everything I could about blood pressure and learning how it was handled around the world.
On the medicine side, and all the websites related to it, everything was about medication. Diuretics, beta-blockers, antagonists-this and inhibitors-that. They would all do the same thing: widen your blood vessels temporarily, which lowers your blood pressure. Those types of medication weren’t treating the root cause, but merely the symptoms.
On the other side, I found so much confusing information about “alternative medicine” that didn’t have any scientific evidence, such as naturopathy and a bunch of homeopathic preparations. As an engineer and a very logical person myself, I wasn’t sold on this because it just didn’t make sense to me and didn’t have anything to back its claims up, besides the anecdotal evidence of a few cases.
At this point, I started to think that maybe I’d be doomed to the pills and hope for the best, maybe eat less sodium as some websites advised, avoid alcohol, and live a life of misery.
However, I never lost hope and kept reading, until I came across something that was about to change the game forever: I found about this M.D. called Michael Greger, and his website NutritionFacts.org. After reading article after article and learning that their mission was to gather and validate all the latest science about all the food we eat, and help people make the healthiest choices without taking any funds from any corporation and being a non-profit, it definitely caught my attention.
They said that a “whole-foods plant-based” diet, free of oil, salt and sugar, had the power to reverse the most common 15 diseases in America, high blood pressure included, and they also claimed that it was helping people with diabetes, heart diseases, and even different types of cancers. Was any of this true? It seemed too good to be true that just by changing the way you eat; your health could change and your body would start healing. If it were true, why didn’t other doctors already know about this?
For over a month, I kept taking the pills and watching my salt intake, but came to realize that even with the pills, my blood pressure still wasn’t within the normal limits. I did some more research and found that all the pills I was taking just lower your blood pressure, but don’t necessarily normalize it. I even learned that a small proportion of people taking the pills were still suffering strokes and heart attacks, not to mention the side effects that almost 100% of consumers have to go through.
Later on, I watched a documentary called “What the Health”, where I was able to learn the one thing nobody else was telling me: doctors don’t receive any nutritional training during medical school; just a couple hours in the form of seminars, and that’s it. They know nothing about nutrition, and their nutritional advice should be taken with a pinch of salt, no pun intended.
So, perhaps the “white coat Gods” we consider to be the top authority when it comes to our health, weren’t actually that at all? Because pharma and medicine are multibillion-dollar industries that need sick people to thrive, including doctors. The thing that totally changed my mind in this documentary, was the fact that big associations like the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society, were totally recommending to eat red meat and bacon on their websites (which they changed later, but I was able to verify through Google Cache and Archive.org which shows you older versions of websites). On the other hand, the World Health Organization had already listed red meat as carcinogenic.
To make things worse, they revealed how those associations were being funded by industries that would be in total conflict of interest with the WHO recommendations, like the cattle industry, or the yogurt industry that funded the National Breast Cancer Association. They were recommending yogurt in their recipes, when there was clear evidence that yoghurt increases your risk of breast cancer, or prostate if you’re a male.
Even with its flaws, this documentary made me research more, and I found other documentaries focused on the ways of eating, like “Cowspiracy”, “Forks over Knives”, “Food, Inc”, and “Vegucated”.
I finally decided to give it a try and see what would happen. I had nothing to lose, but potentially a lot to gain. NutritionFacts.org advises you to eat a diet based on whole foods and plants, not a vegan diet, which can be based on just French fries and beers while still being called ‘vegan’. I was not becoming a vegan, or anything, but just letting food that science had proven to be health-promoting into my body and limiting the ones that were not. I’d call it an “evidence-based” way of eating, which happens to be similar to a vegan diet in some respects. However, it doesn’t part from the philosophy of being against animal cruelty, just from giving your body what happens to be good for it.
The first thoughts that came to my mind after deciding to try the WFPB way of eating, was: what am I going to eat? I can’t eat grass all day, aren’t we omnivores? What about my protein? And no cheese or anything good again? This seems too extreme and restrictive.
However, after having decided to give it a try for at least a month, and always having a soft spot for delicious food, I started looking for ways to make the food taste great while staying compliant. I made a lot of veggies burgers as a first step, because I love burgers so much, and this helped me familiarize myself with the herbs and spices I liked the most. I wasn’t eating a boring salad, but a nice burger every day. I also purchased a powerful blender and started making smoothies, and later got an air fryer, which was a magnificent addition to my kitchen.
All the sudden, vegetables weren’t boring anymore. Add to that the vast amount of dips and sauces I started to make to top my veggies and burgers, and all the curries for my rice and pasta. I even learned how to make delicious ice cream just using frozen fruits, and this sealed the deal. Within 3 weeks, my food was more delicious than when I didn’t eat this way, and more importantly, I started to feel different. I had more energy and focus, increased productivity, and even brighter skin. My blood pressure readings started to improve a bit, and it felt good to see a change. However, on week 6 the unexpected came: a 112/77 reading, which meant normal blood pressure. I was sure there was a mistake and took new readings twice and got the same results. I went ahead and took it with another device, and the reading was perfect again. This was probably it, and I wouldn’t go back to my old ways of eating ever again.
The next day, I kept taking readings just to make sure it was constant, and they were good. I had reversed my hypertension by changing my way of eating, and immediately knew my mission was to fight against all the false beliefs we had been made to believe our whole lives. I wanted to start helping others who are looking to reverse and prevent diseases and have a fit lifestyle, without compromising the delicious experience that we all enjoy from eating our food, but always making it tasty.
I learned that I didn’t have to be 100% compliant and could have a couple of treats on special occasions, as long as stuck to my new lifestyle. It’s not about perfection, but constancy. Even though I rarely eat any kind of animal products anymore, I will occasionally have a slice of pizza with mozzarella cheese, while I wait for perfect plant-based (and healthy) cheeses to come into existence. There are no written rules and we’re all on our own journey, so make sure you enjoy it!