How hard do you think it would be to convince a Texas firefighter to go for a Portobello mushroom burger over a big, fat, juicy hamburger? One man's arguments were apparently so compelling he convinced a whole firehouse to transition to a veggie diet, for their health.
Author Rip Esselstyn is now taking his message beyond the firehouse, with a new book, "My Beef with Meat."
Esselstyn tells KIRO Radio's Seattle Kitchen show that he has all kinds of problems with meat, from what it can do to your heart to what it can do to the environment.
"But my biggest beef and the reason why I wrote the book is because of the huge disconnect that exists - that's as wide as the Grand Canyon - between what people think is healthy and what we actually know to be healthy."
Esselstyn tells Seattle Kitchen's Katie O that there are a lot of things people just don't understand about the meats they're eating.
"Most people don't know that chicken has the exact same amount of cholesterol as red meat, 70 mg per 3 ounces. Most people don't know that your leanest piece of chicken breast is still 20 percent saturated fat," says Esselstyn. "And then most people don't know that most fish has more cholesterol than either red meat or chicken."
He says there is data to back up that a plant-strong diet - he prefers the name plant-strong to other v-words, can help not only improve health, but reverse damage already done.
"There's really something to the fact that when you put in only constructive foods into your mouth, and into your body, the body has the miraculous ability to really heal itself."
Esselstyn explains eating plant strong involves eating whole foods, plant-based products that are minimally processed. While it seems like it might be hard to convert meat eaters to such a new way of eating, he says once you learn the logic behind it, it's a great motivator.
"Once you have the knowledge, all of a sudden it helps make these fruits, these vegetables that you never were drawn to before much more appealing, much more palatable. And then before you know it, you're craving these things and you're not missing the old foods that you thought you loved but were not loving you back."
And it's not all boring veggies. Esselstyn says if it tasted bad, there's no way he could have brought a bunch of firefighters to plant-strong diets.
"The only reason I was able to get a bunch of Texas male firefighters to do this is because it tasted fantastic, it filled them up, and it made them feel great. We did all the things that we love but we just 'plant-strongified' it. So instead of doing beef burgers, we would do Portobello mushroom burgers. We'd marinate them, do them on the grill. We'd barbecue them. Then you put them on a whole grain bun with sweet potato fries and all the fixings, and that's really what hamburger night is all about."
The book also includes some of the firefighters' plant-strong recipes if you're interested in trying them for yourself. "My Beef with Meat" is available for sale now.