Why Doctors Need to Talk About Plant-Based Diets
Dr. Angie Eakin, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Despite the fact that 75 percent of today’s doctor office visits are tied to lifestyle risk factors, like diet and exercise, prevention remains a developing field. By stalling, we’re paying the price for: lifestyle disease.. And more chillingly, it takes seven out of 10 lives. This is why I practice preventive medicine, which is often broken into two camps: treatment, which is what we turn to when we recognize a health problem, and prevention, a group of actions we take to reduce the risk of developing a problem in the first place. It’s clear that to make health care work we need to address both the symptoms and root cause of chronic diseases — obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even certain forms of cancer.
We all know that a healthy diet matters. Most of us eat three times a day — or more! What we eat gives us energy and the building blocks to grow and repair our bodies. If we’re missing certain types of building blocks, like amino acids and carbohydrates, our bodies will struggle to function. Our muscles need protein to recover and our brain needs glucose to run at optimal speed.
Similarly, if we get too much of something, like saturated fat, sugar, and cholesterol, our bodies can become overwhelmed. Our blood pressure rises, our metabolism slows down, and our arteries become clogged. Habitually overconsuming low-nutrient foods leads to chronic health problems, which afflict about half of all adults.. One out of four adults has two or more chronic health conditions, that by getting back to the healthy basics — fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes — our bodies create an optimal ratio of macro- and micro-nutrients that enable us to thrive.
When people shift to a plant-based diet rich in high-fiber foods, they’re simultaneously readying their bodies to combat pathogens and carcinogens, effectively taking a first-line approach to disease prevention. Being naturally low in fat and high in antioxidants and other anti-cancer compounds, plant foods offer the best bang for your buck when you’re looking to gain a health advantage.
Fiber, plentiful in plants and entirely absent in animal products, helps move food through your colon quickly and helps eliminate cancer-causing toxins from your body. Cholesterol is present in animal foods in the opposite pattern: plants have none, while animal products contain alarmingly high amounts. To avoid artery blockages, ideal intake of cholesterol is zero. It comes as no surprise that vegetarians have a significantly reduced risk for cancer and heart disease when compared to meat-eaters.
Eating plant-based foods has a measurable, positive impact on our risk for disease. For example, women who consume three to six milligrams of beta-carotene a day — the equivalent of half a sweet potato or six baby carrots — reduce their risk of breast cancer by about 19 percent, and increasing intake of leafy greens to two servings a day can reduce the early onset of cognitive decline by 11 years. Even small changes make a difference. lose weight, lower their blood pressure, and stabilize their blood sugar. . Studies show that doctors who spend an extra 5.5 minutes with at-risk patients to talk about nutrition help them lose five pounds, lower saturated fat intake, and lower LDL cholesterol levels. These seemingly small differences can be enough to eliminate the need for statins, insulin, or beta-blockers.
It’s not the physicians themselves standing in their own way of counseling patients on nutrition. Physicians agree that it is important: 94 percent feel that nutrition should be part of primary care visits, but only 14 percent feel qualified to offer it. one that’s filled with plant-based foods — to create an over-the-counter solution most pressing health problems.create a contemporary prescription — one that’s filled with plant-based foods — to create an over-the-counter solution for America’s most pressing health problems.