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Texas town goes vegan, promotes healthier eating

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The residents of Marshall, TX, gather every month to share stories and exchange recipes. (Source: KWTV/CBS) The residents of Marshall, TX, gather every month to share stories and exchange recipes. (Source: KWTV/CBS)

MARSHALL, TX (KWTV/CBS) - The mayor of a town in the middle of America's "stroke belt" changed the culture of his entire community by simply eating his vegetables.

Like the rest of the South, the food culture of Marshall, TX, is based upon meat, sugar, processed and fried foods.

But to sit at dinner with Marshall Mayor Ed Smith and his wife, Amanda, you'll hear a different tale.

Six years ago, Smith was 40 pounds heavier and diagnosed with prostate cancer.

So he and his wife began eating a plant-based, whole foods diet of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains.

Then his prostate cancer disappeared.

"If somebody wants to get control of their health and turn things around, your body will heal itself very quickly," Smith said. "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."

Buoyed by his success, the Smiths offered to share what they'd learned with the town's 25,00 residents.

Once a month, crowding in a room at the fire house, they share home-cooked healthy foods, exchange recipes and talk about their weight loss.

"We've had so many people come up to us that we've not even met that tell us their success stories," Amanda Smith said. "That is so rewarding."

Marshall Fire Chief Reggie Cooper was 50 pounds heavier and taking medicine every day for Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. Then he switched to a plant-based diet.

"In 28 days - what I couldn't do in 5 years - I was able to get off all the medications," Cooper said. "I haven't been on medication since."

There are now seven restaurants in Marshall offering the same healthy foods on their menus.

The end result is it's been a success in people's lives that we've seen," Smith said. "We've seen phenomenal changes in people's health."

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