02/23/2011 08:29 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Oprah Goes Vegan

Recently, Oprah did a show about 378 members of her staff going vegan for a week. One week of vegan eating isn't much in a lifetime of poor eating habits, but it's something. What small improvements did a vegan diet make to the staffers' health in that short period of time?

It's my contention that anyone eating the standard American diet eats far too much protein, sugar and salt, takes in too many calories and doesn't eat enough fruits and vegetables. So, right away, the balance between protein from meat, fish and dairy and the intake of vegetables shifted for Oprah's staffers in a positive direction. Even the government now says we need more plant foods in our diets.

The standard American diet is also low in fiber. That's why Americans can't poop. The staff testimonials included several people saying they were in the bathroom a lot more than usual. Others reported weight loss and an increase in energy. We don't think about it, but digesting food uses energy. Digesting meat in particular takes a lot of energy. Why are energy drinks so popular? Because everyone feels sluggish after a nice, hearty, meat-based lunch.

Some of the diet-related changes not reported but possibly noticed include a change in skin condition, improved body odor and better breath. Just releasing a small amount of the toxins we accumulate from diet and the environment can improve skin color and tone and reduce body odors and bad breath. That's a pleasant thought.

There are also the negative things the staffers avoided for a week, like saturated fats and cholesterol. They reduced their risk of E. coli and salmonella infections. They were not taking in hormones, antibiotics or mercury from the cows, chickens and fish we consume. They also probably noticed that they didn't bloat after meals and were less likely to overeat. A high fiber diet and the fact that you actually have to chew your food leads to a feeling of satisfaction before you've consumed too much.

I hope that many of the people who participated in this experiment noticed at least some of these positive effects and wanted to continue. It's great that the people of Harpo took this on and reported their results to the audience. Let's continue the dialogue; we need to stop leaving it to the food manufacturers and the pharmaceutical companies and remember that we are responsible for our own health and well-being.