Life is about choices, including the type of diet we eat. As a doctor, I believe the foods we eat have a huge impact on our health. I often recommend a plant-based diet to my patients. Below are the reasons I promote this diet. I hope you will find the information helpful.
Why eat a plant-based diet?
There are SO many benefits to eating a plant-based diet, but the two main ones are:
It can reverse chronic lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), coronary artery disease, obesity and high cholesterol.
For those who do not live with a chronic lifestyle disease, it can help to maintain good health.
This is because a plant-based diet removes the two main causes of lifestyle disease: high saturated fats and trans fats, which are commonly known as "bad fats."
Where are "bad fats" found?
High saturated fats are fats found in animal products such as pork, chicken, beef, fish, seafood, milk, cheese, cream and eggs.
Trans fats are found in vegetable oils where an industrial process adds hydrogen to the liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. Another name for trans fats is partially hydrogenated oils.
"Bad fats" cause chronic inflammation.
High saturated or trans fats increase the level of LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol) and fatty acids (unhealthy fat molecules) in our bodies, which leads to chronic inflammation. While short-term inflammation works to protect and heal the body, chronic inflammation (inflammation that persists for a long time) can cause or worsen many diseases.
Chronic inflammation causes disease.
When inflammation sets in the walls of your arteries and fat builds up from the excess "bad fats," plaque (which is a fatty deposit) forms in your artery walls. This plaque then makes it harder for blood to pass through and provide oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. This can lead to chronic diseases such as:
Insulin resistance can also set in due to chronic inflammation in certain types of cells, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
Then, what about getting enough protein?
Believe it or not, there is protein, and more than adequate amounts of it, in the plant kingdom. All the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals you need can be found in the plant kingdom — with one exception.
This exception is vitamin B12, but there are easy solutions! You can choose nondairy milk, soy products and breakfast cereals that are fortified with vitamin B12. Nutritional yeast is also a good source of B12, and it can be used in so many ways!
Should I talk to a doctor before going plant-based?
If you are considering making this transition, be sure to talk to your doctor for guidance, especially if you are taking medication for a chronic lifestyle disease such as diabetes or hypertension. In this case, it will be super important to closely monitor your blood sugar levels and your blood pressure, which will naturally go down as you adopt a fully plant-based diet. This in combination with your medication may put you at risk for dropping your blood sugars or blood pressure to dangerously low levels.
If you notice your blood sugars going consistently lower than 80, you will need to back oﬀ on your medications. If your blood pressure consistently goes below 90/70, you will also need to back oﬀ on your blood pressure medicine.
As your virtual primary care doctor, I can help you transition to eating plant-based and adjust your medications as needed. Just schedule a visit to get started!
So, how do I make the switch?
In my coming articles, I will share ways to make the transition to plant-based eating. And no, you don't have to do it all at once! This can be a gradual change.
To start, you can begin thinking of ways to include more whole foods into your diet such as eating whole grains like brown rice instead of white rice, or eating more fresh vegetables in salads. I also like to recommend investing in a plant-based cookbook and checking out online resources: