Diseases of the dinner table continue to drag Oklahoma down. We're a national leader for heart disease, high-blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, stroke, cancer and diabetes.
Being one of the country's most unhealthy states is costly in sickness, medical and insurance costs, a lower quality-of-life, and early death. However, one Texas town is working to turn the tide on chronic disease.
Marshall, Texas has a population of 25,000. It's cattle country, with a food culture, like the rest of the south, centered on meat, sugar, processed and fatty fried foods. Like Oklahoma, it's known as America's "stroke belt." But to sit at dinner with Marshall's Mayor Ed Smith and his wife, Amanda, you'll hear a different tale.
"If somebody wants to get control of their health, and turn things around, your body will heal itself very quickly," said Mayor Ed Smith.
Six years ago, Mayor Smith was 40 pounds heavier and diagnosed with prostate cancer. Knowing they needed to make a change, the Smiths Began eating a plant-based, whole foods diet of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains. Amazingly, his prostate cancer disappeared.
"Most of these chronic diseases we have in the United States, for the most part, and even a lot of our cancers are driven by what we're eating." Mayor Smith said.
Buoyed by his success, the mayor and his wife offered to share what they had learned.
"We've had so many people come up to us that we've not even met that tell us their success stories, that is so rewarding," said Amanda Smith.
In fact, once a month, crowding in a room at the fire house, they share home-cooked healthy foods, exchange recipes and tell their success stories.
"I was 60 pounds heavier, so because of a plant-based diet, this is where I am today," said Bill Dinsmore of Shreveport, Louisiana.
Sharon Clark of Nacogdoches, Texas also saw success.
"I wasn't even conscious at first that I was losing weight 'til people started saying 'are you on a diet?' and I'm thinking, 'no, I've changed my lifestyle is what I've done, I've gotten healthy," she said.
Marshall's Fire Chief Reggie Cooper was 50 pounds heavier and taking medicine every day for Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. Then he too switched to a plant-based diet.
"In 28 days, what I couldn't do in five years, I was able to get off all the medications," Cooper said. "I haven't been on medication since."
All because in a world where arterial-stents and open-heart surgeries are considered "normal," a man in Texas draws headlines for eating his vegetables.
"The end result is it's been a success in people's lives that we've seen," Mayor Smith said. "We've seen phenomenal changes in people's health."
Click here for a list of vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants and grocery stores in Oklahoma City.
Click here for more information on Marshall, Texas and it's get healthy campaign.