'Vegan before 6' diet strategy gaining popularity

May 23, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
There are no shortage of weight loss plans, but many people might consider a hard-core vegan diet, no meat or animal products, as too extreme a solution. That could be changing though, thanks in part to the dieting strategy of an influential food critic.

There are no shortage of weight loss plans, but many people might consider a hard-core vegan diet, no meat or animal products, as too extreme a solution. That could be changing though, thanks in part to the dieting strategy of an influential food critic.

Reggie Bass doesn't just preach a strict vegan diet -- he credits it with saving his life. The 61-year-old Oakland resident says he had begun to develop the symptoms of diabetes when he decided to eliminate all animal products and processed foods from his diet.

"And I wound up losing 40 pounds; I rid myself of all the symptoms of diabetes. I was 100 percent raw vegan," said Bass.

He now sells prepared vegan meals for a living, gaining converts one pallet at a time. But he admits the life style is still lacking mass appeal.

"I would like to see people eat 100 percent raw vegan, but I don't think it's realistic at all. But I think that if people were even 80 percent raw and 20 percent," said Bass.

A diet using just about that formula is getting national attention all because of a popular food critic from the New York Times, Mark Bittman -- now, perhaps better known as the 'Vegan Before 6.'

"I don't' really proselytize, I just say here is what works for me, you need to think about this stuff," said Bittman.

Bittman had some of the same health issues as Bass. But he also had a job reviewing gourmet restaurants in the evening. His solution -- split the difference.

"I made this rule for myself which was -- okay I'm going to be a vegan, a really strict vegan until six at night, or until I eat dinner. And I'm going to eat whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, that's it until 6 p.m.," said Bittman.

He came up with daytime recipes using the kind of ingredients you can find at markets like Whole Foods -- and still ate at restaurants several nights a week.

"And after three months my cholesterol was normal again. My blood sugar was normal again and I had lost 30 pounds," said Bittman.

While many diet strategies have focused on either controlling proteins or carbohydrates, diet coach Bill Hartman believes there's something simpler going on with the daytime vegan diet.

"What we know from research is that people tend to eat a certain amount or weight or volume of food. So what he has probably done is put in some higher volume foods, what we call lower caloric density, you get a lot of food weight for not many calories," said William Hartman, Ph.D. of the Weight Management Program.

Which lessons the likelihood of binging at night. Bittman's success is even generating buzz in the vegan world, where the choice of diet is often associated with animal rights and what is good for the environment -- as well as health.

"Everyone may have their opinions, I think for most people we know the world isn't going vegan tomorrow. We know that would be the best thing for the planet, the best thing for the animals and it would be the best thing for human health, but this may be the first step in going towards that," said VegNews Magazine Associate Publisher Colleen Holland.

"I don't want to say 'Vegan Before 6' is a solution for everybody, but I think it's a model, for people to think about how can I change the proportions in my diet? Here is what this guy does -- the 'Vegan Before 6' thing. What will it work for me?" said Bittman.

Bittman has published several recipe books including, "Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating." Promoting the kind of recipes that are already a way of life in the kitchen's of vegans like Reggie Bass.


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