Ruth Heidrich had believed herself to be a healthy individual. She was 47 years old and had been a daily runner for the past 14 years. She had run 3 marathons and ate what she considered to be a relatively healthy diet.
Ruth was a military logistician at the time of her diagnosis and was being groomed for a top-level position within the Pentagon, but she was unaware that she had an insidious cancer that was growing inside her right breast. When it became the size of a golf ball Ruth went in to have it surgically removed. Ruth was convinced that it couldn’t be cancer because she felt very healthy at that time.
The tumor was tested and Ruth was told that it was indeed cancerous. She was also told that the cancer had spread to her bones, one lung, and possibly into the liver.
While recovering from the surgery Ruth saw a newspaper advertisement asking for volunteers to participate in a breast cancer/diet research study. She called to schedule an appointment with the lead researcher, Dr. John McDougall. At that meeting Ruth was shown the results of the breast cancer/diet research study thus far and says that it convinced her that Dr. McDougall was on the right track. Ruth immediately made the decision to begin eating a low-fat vegan diet. She also decided that she would not be having the chemotherapy and radiation protocols that were being recommended by her doctors.
Ruth says that the dietary changes very easy to implement. She was already eating brown rice, whole wheat bread, and oatmeal and that all she needed to do was to add in more vegetables to replace the chicken, fish, and low-fat dairy that had been a part of her previous diet. Ruth says that her body responded immediately as the next morning she was no longer suffering from the constipation that had plagued her for a long time.
Ruth was soon seeing many benefits on the improved diet, these included increased energy and endurance, as well as much better sleep. More importantly, she could see that the cancer was regressing as the hot spots on her bone scans began to fade, the bone pain that she had been experiencing had ceased, and her liver enzymes were normalizing. She was also pleasantly surprised to discover that her arthritis was disappearing as well and she was able to stop taking the Naprosyn that had been prescribed to treat it. Her previously achy joints were no longer arthritic and did not bother her while running.
Soon thereafter Ruth watched an Iron-man Triathlon on television. This was back in 1982 when the race consisted of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike, and a 26.2-mile marathon. She immediately said to herself, “I’ve have got to do that!” She thought this would be an excellent way to show people that you could participate in one of the toughest races in the world while eating a vegan diet. She immediately began training for it by adding biking and swimming to her daily running routine.
Since her diagnosis in 1982, Ruth has completed 6 Iron-man races and over 67 marathons. She has over 800 racing trophies and has been declared “One of the Ten Fittest Women in North America.” Prior to healing, Ruth had been working on a PhD. in Psychology but she realized that she was far more interested in diet and exercise, therefore she changed her field of study and earned a PhD. in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology instead.
Ruth had also been concerned about a family history of osteoporosis, so she began tracking her bone density scans from the time she started the new diet and found that from the age of 47 to age 64, her bone density had actually increased with each test, so she was obviously getting enough calcium on the low-fat vegan diet.
The John McDougall Plant-based Diet
The diet that Dr McDougall prescribes for his participants is low-fat/low-protein/high-plant starch. The meal plan looks like this:
- This diet eliminates all animal proteins such as meat, fish, eggs, and all dairy products because they are toxic to the body, therefore all of the proteins must come from plant sources
- It also doesn’t have any added fats or oils such as coconut, olive, avocado, flaxseed, butter, etc.
- The diet is based upon the consumption of whole grains, these include: wheat berries, bulgur wheat, corn, barley, buckwheat, brown rice, wild rice, oats, farro, spelt, millet, rye, triticale, and quinoa.
- It includes legumes such as beans, peas and lentils
- A variety of starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, taro, carrots, yams, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, turnips, yams
- A large variety of non-starchy vegetables such as bok choy, broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, collard greens, eggplant, green beans, kale, leeks, onion, peppers, radish, scallions, mustard greens, Swiss chard, tomatoes, summer squash, etc
- Fruits are limited to 3 servings a day. This is because the sugar in fruit (fructose) can cause triglycerides and cholesterol to rise in some individuals.
- This diet also limits foods that are naturally high in fats such as avocados, olives, nuts and seeds
The diet also eliminates all of the following
- all soda, processed foods, fast foods, and refined flours (and all of the products that are made from them).
- all refined sugars, dried fruits and fruit juices (because of their sugar content)
- all soy-based foods.
Ruth wrote two books, A Race for Life: A Diet and Exercise Program for Superfitness and Reversing the Aging Process and Lifelong Running: Overcome the 11 Myths About Running and Live a Healthier Life, that explore the theory of how a diet and exercise program can transform a person from being a cancer patient to becoming a world-class athlete.