TYLER (KYTX) - Finding out you have a friend with cancer is devastating. That diagnosis really got to a Tyler woman, so much so, it sent her in search of answers... does what we eat really affect our risk of getting cancer? In Fit City, a Tyler family now follows a vegan diet after her research.
Melinda Coker's friend with cancer led her on a journey of discovery. She wasn't planning on writing this book-- "Diet and Cancer: Is There a Connection?" Melinda was actually going to write a marketing book, but she started realizing she had to do something about this for herself, her family and those she loves.
"I did all kinds of research, spent a couple of years wrote my book and found to me, I found a real strong connection," says Melinda Coker, Health Coach and Consultant.
Immediately, Melinda and her husband, Dr. Rick Coker started eating a plant based diet.
"There are a lot of people who are 65 and dying. All you have to do is look at the newspaper. That's way too young. They have a lot of life to give," says Dr. Rick Coker.
So, for the last 7 years the Cokers have made meals with vegetables, fruits and starches like -- potatoes, rice, beans, pasta and grains.
"We don't eat anything that comes from an animal or is derived from an animal. That includes eggs and cheese and meats and all of those things," says Dr. Rick Coker.
In her book, Melinda says while she may not be not a doctor, she is an advocate for learning everything she can about preventing disease.
"A lot of the connection is population studies. Countries where people eat starches, they don't get cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and they are not overweight," says Melinda Coker. "Populations in the western countries that eat the way we eat, that's where those chronic diseases start, cancer, heart disease, diabetes."
The Cokers spend a lot of time in the kitchen now and a lot less time at restaurants, staying true to their plant based way of life.
"That's a choice you have to make. We don't have too many, healthy vegan restaurants. Most foods, even if you get plain things, are full of olive oil. I know people think that's healthy, but I don't and salt. You eat at home more, you know what's in it," says Melinda Coker.
Melinda eventually ended up writing a healthy cookbook with her husband as the taste-tester.
"In my cookbook, I wanted to make sure we liked it. It was good. It was enjoyable," says Melinda Coker. "I don't feel embarrassed when we have people over here because the food tastes good, not like they're suffering. That's what most people say. The food was great," says Dr. Rick Coker.
But there are some who challenge that vegans don't get enough of the required nutrients, like calcium and protein.
"Vegetables are really high in protein. You eat broccoli, mushrooms and asparagus and things like that," says Dr. Rick Coker.
Many health professionals agree you can meet your nutritional needs with a well planned, plant based diet. Together, the Cokers hope their healthy choices will prevent diseases that have taken those they love.
"It's not every cancer and you can't eliminate everything, but if you can up your chances… why not?" Melinda asks.
Another side benefit Melinda had from eating plant based, lower fat foods is she lost 20 pounds the first year, but that's not why she decided to write the book or change her lifestyle.
If you are interested in learning more about Melinda Coker and her research, click here.
She also wrote a cookbook, "Coco's Healthy Cooking." Click here for more on the cookbook.