Plant-Based Diets

Two Popular Esselstyn Whole-Plant Vegan Diets

three healthy veg burgers

The Forks Over Knives Movie Has Created a Health Revolution

Forks Over Knives and the Engine 2 Diet both have premises based on consuming whole plant foods for a healthier and cleaner way of eating. Forks Over Knives is an important documentary featuring Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn that explores the development of what researchers call a “diseases of affluence” and how these can be prevented and even reversed by following a plant-based diet.  The same concept is explored in the Engine 2 Diet by fireman Rip Esselstyn.

veggie skewersThe 2011 documentary by Lee Fulkerson, Forks Over Knives,  explores the theories of Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn which both tackled the difference in health between individuals who followed plant-based diets and those who consumed meat and processed foods. In the 1960s, Dr. Campbell visited countries in Asia including China and the Philippines. In his travels, he found that those who subsisted in plant-based diets were healthier and had lower risks of liver cancer compared to their meat-eating counterparts. Dr. Campbell also found that by following a whole food, plant-based diet, not only can it prevent the risks of diseases such as heart illnesses, cancer and type 2 diabetes, it can also help reverse the effects.

Dr. Esselstyn’s Research Strongly Supports the Benefits of Plant-Based Diets

Meanwhile, Dr. Esselstyn’s research led him to discover that many of the diseases in the Western world were almost non-existent in countries where the diet is mostly based on plant foods. Aside from drawing the similarities in both researches and findings, Fulkerson also followed the lives of three individuals with illnesses- one was diagnosed with breast cancer, one with life-threatening hypertension and one with heart disease. Fulkerson recorded the experiences of these patients as they told their sufferings and how they were able to recover from their illnesses as they moved towards a whole, plant-based diet, and considered food as their medicine.

Firefighter Son Rip Esselstyn and the Engine-2 Diet

In 2012, the team which created Forks Over Knives advocated the Engine 2 Diet which was created by Rip Esselstyn. Rip Esselstyn is a firefighter and a former professional athlete. Both his father and great grandfather worked on landmark research on how to prevent and reverse heart diseases through plant-based diets. Rip Esselstyn claims that through a low fat nutrient dense diet based on plant foods, one can avoid and reverse diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer, aside from cardiovascular diseases.  The Engine 2 diet also helps in weight loss, improve muscle mass, increases energy levels, and enhance cognitive functions.

vegan bowl meal

Rip is a huge fan of “Big Bowl Meals”.

Compared to previous plant-based diets, Esselstyn promotes a new idea that aside from eliminating animal products, one should also eliminate the use of vegetable oils. According to Esselstyn’s studies, the use of vegetable oils reduces the nutrients in plants and in turn, replaces it with saturated fats and calories. He also counters claims that plant-based diets increase the risk of nutrition deficiency and shows relevant data proving why this is not exactly the case. As part of the Engine 2 Diet, Esselstyn provides tips and suggest fitness programs that will complement the effects of a well-rounded plant-based diet.

First off, Esselstyn engages his audience by determining if they are a “firefighter” or a “fire cadet”. Those who identify themselves as firefighters are encouraged to immediately change their way of eating by entirely cutting off animal products, vegetable oils, and processed foods from their consumption. Fire cadets, on the other hand, are introduced to a 28-day challenge as they gradually ease into the plant-based diet. For the first week, fire cadets will eliminate highly processed foods, refined sugar, and dairy. By the second week, they will be eliminating meat, poultry, fish and eggs. By the third week, they will stop using vegetable oils. By the 28th day, they are ready to take on the firefighter diet.

As preparation for the firefighter diet, Esselstyn recommends that his cadets take some basic first steps.  He asked them to survey the current contents of their pantry. Then, throw away all processed foods and animal products. This also includes processed fruit juices. As a rule, if the nutrition label indicates that it contains 2.5 grams of fat per 100 calories, you should throw it as well. He then suggested they stock  supplies with what Esselstyn calls as “plant-strong” foods. These include vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains.

Rip Esselstyn’s Seven-Day Rescue Diet

Rip Esselstyn also has a new program he call the “7-Day Challenge”.  It serves as an introduction to this way of eating and has been wildly effective for people who have tried it to produce weight loss, dramatic reductions in cholesterol, reductions in blood sugar for diabetics and pre-diabetics, as well as rapid improvements in blood pressure in participants.  This book/program has been highly endorsed by many physicians and researchers.

rip's 7-day challenge

When undertaking these programs, it suggested that participants obtain a starting weight, cholesterol level, blood sugar measurements (fasting glucose and A1c), as well as blood pressure.  These will serve as the initial measurements and will help track progress through the program.  He notes that success was best achieved for those who explores different meal plans to see which one works best for their tastes and lifestyles.

In general, you can eat as much as you can as long as you keep it plant-based. Consume lots of vegetables, greens, fruits, and grains. As a substitute for meat, you can eat tofu, tempeh, and seitan. As a substitute for dairy, you can consume soy milk, almond milk, hemp and oat milk. When eating salads, leave it as is or add a bit of herb and spices, but not oils, including olive oil. To sweeten your desserts or your drinks, use natural sweetening ingredients such as honey, molasses, and pure maple syrups. Canned beans and legumes are also recommended, as long as they don’t contain sodium or fats.

Life-Changing Transformations with Whole Plant-Based Diets

So just how effective is this 28-day intervention diet?  Rip Esselstyn’s Engine 2 Diet is based on the program that he created for his fellow firefighters who were experiencing health conditions including high cholesterol levels. After finding out his colleagues’ conditions, he created a life-saving plan for them. As a result, everyone who took part of the program managed to lose weight of up to 20 lbs. One of his colleagues, who had a cholesterol level of 344 was able to drop it to 196.
vegan tofu wrapLike almost all plant-based diets, the Engine 2 Diet can help you manage your weight, your cholesterol levels and avoid the health risks associated with the typical American diet. The diet composed of plant strong foods is high in fiber and full of nutrients, so you will fuller for a longer time. With the lower amount of calories, you also don’t have to restrict your portions. The additional elimination of vegetable oils is also beneficial since it lowers down your calorie and saturated fat consumption.

The great thing about the Engine 2 Diet is that it has a strong online community presence. Aside from the variety of recipes and fitness regimen that you can incorporate into this new and healthier lifestyle, you can also get a lot of support from the community of Engine 2 Diet followers.

Have you tried this way of eating?  Please share your experiences below in the comment box.

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Thriving on Plants is a resource for a whole food, plant-based way of eating and living. Here we celebrate all things plant and honor the power of informed awareness and a diet focused primarily of unprocessed vegetables, fruit, legumes, and whole grains to support good health and happiness. Discover what a little more plant can do for your life!


This website is for educational and informational purposes only. Nothing presented here should be construed as a substitute for medical advice. Before beginning any type of new diet (natural or conventional), it is advisable to seek the advice of a licensed physician, nutritionist and/or healthcare professional.
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