Health Benefits of Eating a Plant-Based Diet ​

The word diet has become a 4-lettered word. Fads and gimmicks have become the norm, and they do not provide lasting effects. Because of this, there are many failed attempts to lose weight and nutrition is not properly addressed.

Sadly, social media and popular internet sites have contributed to the diet dilemma. I’d like to plant a few seeds of knowledge and see if this food for thought can weed out some misperceptions and take you from Rx pharmacy to PBD (plant-based diet) farmacy. Food is medicine; it is powerful and accessible medicine.

The plant based approach is not necessarily the same as another “negative” word we often hear: veganism. However, vegans do receive the largest health benefits. Following a plant-based diet means eating mostly plants and mostly in a form you can recognize like whole foods. One key healthful element of a PBD is the elimination of processed foods, especially processed meats such as hot dogs, salami, bacon, sausage, peperoni and bologna. The chemical ingredients in them do more to increase your risk of colon cancer than anything else we eat.

In fact, as much as 40 to 50 percent of colon cancer is related to poor nutrition. By eating more fiber and reducing or cutting out highly-processed, fatty meats, your risk of colon cancer will decrease. With a PBD, your immune system can become stronger, your intestinal health can increase and your blood vessels can become less reactive and clot less.

People who eat PBDs harvest many health advantages: lower weights, less type 2 diabetes, fewer cancers, less heart disease, less dementia and longer lives. For some people, PBDs do include small amounts of meat and fish, especially lean meats and fish such as salmon or sardines, which are high in omega-3s. PBDs include nuts, olive oil, fruits, berries, beans/legumes and a large amount of green leafy vegetables.

Many people also use plant proteins made to look and feel like meat. These products are available at Target, Meijer, Kroger and most major grocery stores. We recently fed our team at Eskenazi Health West 38th Street “pulled pork” BBQ with coleslaw and breakfast burritos with “egg and meat.” The pulled pork was actually jackfruit from an international grocer, and the burritos were from Target and used seitan and firm tofu as the “egg and meat”. Each was delicious, nutritious and the same or lesser price than the animal versions. Every bit was eaten within seconds by those who are not routinely PBD consumers.

Not only does a PBD offer the healthiest lifestyle and the least chance of disease when compared to other ways of eating, it can be inexpensive and is far kinder to the earth than the standard American diet. A serving of beans can be as little as 11-13 cents. Beans can provide great protein, iron, fiber and potassium. They help produce short chain fatty acids that feed and nurture the intestines. Additionally, the growing and harvesting of beans (and plant based foods in general) generate far less green-house gas emissions than animal food products. PBDs can reduce pollution and ecological damage from animal agriculture.

If you’re not ready to fully transition to a PBD, cut down animal consumption by 10 to 15 percent. With each decrease in meat consumption and each increase in eating PBD foods, we become healthier. We can get all the nutrition we need like protein, iron, minerals and vitamins with a PBD. Vitamin B12 is the one vitamin that is difficult to receive when eating just plants. However, this can be obtained in fortified cereals, nutritional yeast, vitamin supplements and, as I get it, in drinking non-dairy milk made from soy, almonds, oats, cashews or hemp.

Regular exercise combined with a PBD will do more for your health than any known medicine or procedure. It can even REVERSE heart disease. Please accept this prescription for a PBD, for healthy delicious food and improved health. Fill this PBD prescription at your farmacy and know that food IS medicine.

Dr. Palmer MacKie
Medical Director, Eskenazi Health Integrative Pain Program