Originally from Fargo, North Dakota, Neal Barnard comes from a long line of cattle ranchers who grew up on a steady diet of meat and potatoes. Hegot his medical degree in psychiatry from George Washington University where he is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine. College is also where he became interested in vegan diets. In 1985, Barnard founded the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in an effort to improve preventative medicine. The PCRM now has over 150,000 members including more than 10,000 doctors. He also founded and is president of the Barnard Medical Center. The center offers primary care with a focus on diet and preventative medicine. Barnard has written more than a dozen books on health and diet. He is the star of 4 PBS specials about diet and health and he also appeared in the documentary Forks Over Knives. Barnard has hundreds of thousands of followers on Facebook.
Neal Barnard’s Diet
Barnard has long been a proponent of a vegan diet, which means eating foods that come from plants, and avoiding animal products, including meat, dairy, and eggs. He says meat, cheese and fish contain a lot of bad stuff including saturated fat and toxic metals which damage the brain and body. He favors organic produce, but says you should at least strive to avoid ‘the dirty dozen.’ Barnard has written several books on the importance of diet as a cure for just about anything that ails you, from obesity to diabetes to cancer to general pain-relief. For weight loss, Barnard says vegan is the way to go for several reasons: you don’t need to weigh or measure your portions; because it is high in fiber, you won’t feel hungry; and you’ll also lose fat while maintaining muscle and bone mass. Barnard’s ‘Power Plate’ for a healthy brain contains 1/4 vegetables, 1/4 whole grains, 1/4 legumes and 1/4 fruit. He says carbs have been wrongly blamed for our health problems, and that it is saturated fat in animal products, cheese in particular, that is the real culprit. He also says it’s important to drink clean, pure water, and buy bottled if necessary.
- Low Fat 20% 20%
- Low-Medium Protein 30% 30%
- High Carb 70% 70%
Carbs Are Not Evil
Barnard says carbohydrates are not at fault for the diabetes and obesity epidemics. He says it is due to saturated fat which comes from animal products like meat and cheese.
No Calorie Counting
Barnard says that one of the advantages of eating a plant-based diet is that you don’t have to count calories, and you’re allowed to eat as much as you like.
Get At the Root
Barnard says a plant-based diet tackles the root cause of type 2 diabetes by raising metabolism and burning more calories, thus reducing the accumulation of fat in cells. This in turn lowers insulin resistance and blood sugar levels.
A K.I.S.S. Plan
Barnard says what to eat is very simple: fill your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes, and take a B12 supplement. That’s it.
Barnard recommends having your tap water checked for safety. He says a reverse osmosis filter can remove aluminum, but that if you have copper pipes, it is better not to drink or cook with tap water, but to use spring water instead.
Feed Your Brain
Barnard says following a vegan diet offers the nutrition your brain needs and craves, protecting it from toxins, improving function and reducing anxiety and depression.
Go Light On the Oil
Although olive oil is considered to be a healthy fat, Barnard still cautions those who are looking to lose weight not to go crazy with the olive oil drizzle. He recommends eating whole olives instead, which contain fiber and thus are more filling.
If you’re planning to eat out, Barnard recommends that you think ahead and pick a restaurant that offers plenty of vegan options, such as Italian, Asian and Mexican (minus the cheese). But even if your options are limited, he says you can usually find something that fits the bill, such as a salad, a grilled veggie sandwich, or a bean burrito.
You Can Cheat
When one of Barnard’s study participants said Twizzlers candy qualified as ‘vegan’ and thus she should be allowed to have it on her diet. Barnard agreed, and although he wasn’t happy about her eating junk food, she still lost weight.
What to Eat
Nuts & seeds (in moderation)
Low glycemic index foods
Bragg’s liquid aminos
Herbs & spices
What to Avoid
Hydrogenated & trans fats
Vegetable oils (limited)
Caffeine (depends on individual)
Anything that gives cravings: chocolate, cheese, etc.
Barnard On Diet
‘Diet is the leading cause of death and disability in the United States.’
Barnard On The Vegan Diet & Weight Loss
‘The participants in our study experienced remarkable weight loss after shifting to a 100% plant-based eating plan. They lost 1 pound per week. Two years after the study ended, the women had not regained the weight.’
Barnard On A Vegan Diet & Diabetes
‘A plant-based diet is a powerful tool for preventing, managing, and even reversing type 2 diabetes.’
Barnard On Going Vegan
‘Going vegan is easy. It’s easier than going low-carb or gluten-free.’
Barnard On Eating Out & Staying Vegan
‘Even in the fast-food world, it is possible to find vegan fare.’
Neal Barnard’s Fitness Routine
Weekly Workout Routine
Barnard wants everyone from kids to the elderly to move more. However, he also says that while it is true that we spend too much time sitting, we must also address our diet or it is unlikely that we will effectively solve the problem.
Exercise Your Will Power
Barnard says that the muscle you really need to work on is the one between your ears — your brain. Use it to make healthy food choices and you won’t have to spend nearly as much time at the gym.
Barnard says his personal exercise regimen includes showing up late to the airport. Being highly motivated to catch his plane, he races to catch it, all while lugging heavy bags. He repeats this exercise several times a week.
A Neal Barnard Travel Exercise Routine
Pressed for time? Use Dr. Barnard’s multitasking method:
1. Arrive at airport shortly before flight.
2. Carry very heavy baggage.
3. Run at breakneck speed to catch plane.
4. Repeat several times a week.
Bonus: Wear a ‘Go Vegan’ t-shirt and convert TSA officials, airport personnel and other passengers en route.
Barnard On Exercise
‘Exercise can boost the effects of a healthy diet, but it cannot make up for a poor one.’
Barnard On The Connection Between Diet & Exercise
‘Just as a car performs dramatically better when it has the fuel it was designed for, your body performs far better when you give it the food it needs.’
Barnard On The Cause Of Stalled Weight Loss
‘Genetics and exercise do play roles…but if you’re not losing weight, the problem is nearly always dietary.’
Barnard On The Obesity Epidemic
‘The reason for the obesity epidemic has virtually nothing to do with exercise. Exercise is great. I’m all for it, but this is not why we are heavy.’
Neal Barnard’s Supplements
Barnard says that if you stop eating animal products today, you’ll have about a 3-year supply of vitamin B12 in your system. But to stay healthy, you should take a supplement.
Barnard recommends the free radical-busting antioxidant vitamin E, and while you can get it from some foods, especially seeds and nuts, he does not advocate eating a lot of these because they are high in fat, so supplementation may be helpful.
While some cereals are fortified with folate and it can be found in certain greens like broccoli and spinach, Barnard recommends folate because it can help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Neal Barnard’s Lifestyle
Sleep Is Key
Barnard says that sleep, along with diet and exercise, is integral to memory, weight management, and overall health.
Barnard’s foundation promotes what he feels is being neglected by the medical community: using preventative medicine, nutrition, and ethical research (not testing on animals) to cure what ails us.
Ditch the Toxic Pots & Pans
Barnard recommends using cookware that does not have iron or copper on the cooking surface because these metals appear to promote the creation of damaging free radicals. Beverages that come in aluminum cans should be avoided as well, and not just because of the sugar content.
Barnard says that while genetics might make you more prone to diseases like Alzheimer’s, making dietary changes can potentially prevent this and many other ailments, from migraines to PMS to cancer.
Barnard On Carbs
‘If people in Asia or Africa who eat lots of carbohydrates have very little diabetes, and if the disease becomes more and more common as carbohydrates are excluded from the diet, researchers have had to conclude that a high-carbohydrate diet is not the cause of the disease.’
Barnard On The Beef Industry
‘The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined.’
Barnard On Meat Consumption
‘Between 1909 and 2007, meat intake rose from 124 lbs. to more than 200 lbs. per person per year. That’s more than 75 lbs. of extra meat for every person, every year.’
Barnard On Cravings & Drugs
‘They are not caused by weak will or gluttony. Cravings are triggered by biological properties of the foods themselves. That is, certain foods have chemical makeups that cause us to crave them in very much the same way that drugs, alcohol, and tobacco have addictive components.’
The Power of Your Plate
A Physician’s Slimming Guide
Food for Life
Eat Right, Live Longer
Foods that Cause You to Lose Weight
The Best in the World
Foods that Fight Pain
Turn off the Fat Genes
Breaking the Food Seduction
Program for Reversing Diabetes
The Cheese Trap
Power Foods for the Brain
21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart
The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook
Bragg’s liquid aminos