“This or That” With Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr.

Our Q&A with Bill Clinton's heart doc

Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr.

If for some reason you haven’t heard by now (or read our story about the recently released documentary, Chow Down), Bill Clinton adopted a nearly vegan diet diet several months back—and lost 24 pounds as a result. The reason: to save his heart, which needed two stents earlier this year. The food guru he credits: Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., director of the Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Reversal Program at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.

Esselstyn created the diet after examining countries where heart disease was nonexistent. The main dietary difference between American diets, where heart disease is high, and the diets found in the healthier populations found of the central highlands of New Guinea, central Africa, parts of China, or Northern Mexico? Fat. Americans eat a lot more fat.

His diet plan—which not only eliminates meat and dairy, but also removes all forms of oil, nuts and avocados— has reversed heart disease in many of his patients.  Within just 10-14 days on the diet, some patients have even found anginal chest pains to completely disappear.

Esselstyn and his wife both follow the plan religiously. Of course, with that many restrictions, BWP was  curious to find out what Esselstyn eats on a regular basis. Below, his top picks between everything from brown rice and quinoa to kale and collards.

This or That With Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr

Be Well Philly: Soy milk or almond milk?
Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr: Unsweetened almond milk.

BWP: Tofu or tempeh?
CBE: The problem with tofu and all those soy products is that they are about 40% fat. If anything, I prefer a very, very light silken tofu occasionally.

BWP: Black beans or aduki beans?
CBE: Oh, they’re all great.

BWP: Brown rice or quinoa?
CBE: I really like them both.

BWP: Butternut squash or sweet potatoes?
CBE: They’re all glorious.

BWP: Stevia or Agave Syrup?
CBE: I’m not keen on either. I’d go with maple syrup or, occasionally, dates.

BWP: Alcohol: in moderation or never?
CBE: On Saturday night, red wine.

BWP: Kale or collards?
CBE: I’d have to go with kale.

BWP: White tea,  green tea or neither?
CBE: Caffeine is being further investigated, no caffeine, herbal tea.

BWP: Japanese cuisine or Mediterranean?
CBE: The one with the least oil, so, I guess, Japanese.

BWP: Carrot juice or cranberry juice or no juice?
CBE: Definitely no juice.  Juice will spike your glucose. You might as well pour the sugar bowl down your throat.

BWP: Pomegranate or Acai?
CBE: Acai, although there’s further research being done.

BWP: Spelt or whole wheat?
CBE: Spelt.

BWP: Dark chocolate or carob?
CBE: Neither.

BWP: Vitamin supplements or no supplements?
CBE: Just two: 1000 mg. of B12 and 1000 mg. of vitamin D3.

BWP: Steel cut oats or rolled oats?
CBE: Rolled oats because I can eat them without cooking them.