As plant-based diets become more popular, there has been a shift in the acceptance of their health benefits among the medical community.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics asserts that eating vegan is “appropriate for all stages of the life-cycle” and that plant-based foods are “healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”
At the Kaiser Permanente Fresno Medical Center in California, they’re taking it one step further by providing doctors, nurses and patients with the tools they need to eat a more plant-based diet.
The medical center is offering cooking demonstrations, nutrition classes and support programs focused on getting healthy and preventing disease through a plant-based diet.
Through this program, medical staff will gain useful skills and knowledge about plant-based eating that they can pass on to their patients, encouraging the entire community to eat healthier and lower the risk of disease. The program even includes a 21-day vegan challenge to help people change their habits.
“Plant-based eating is focusing on eating whole foods, which are fruits and vegetables and beans and avoiding meat and dairy products,” dietitian Judy meadows told abc30. “And the research is showing it reduces inflammation and risks of chronic disease and helps you manage many chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, blood pressure, cancer risk.”
Meadows says real results can be measured in lower numbers for cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight after people take out meat and dairy from their diets.
“As you eat healthier, and you eat real food, you get the enzymes in your body that help you digest the food and you feel better,” she explained. “You have more energy.”
Registered nurse Tammy Barigain is taking on this challenge as a way to help herself and her patients.
“If I’m trying to teach my patients how to eat, I need to be doing the same thing,” Barigian said. “First couple of days were a little challenging, but after that, I really embraced it. And I found new recipes.”
Barigain, who cares for patients with heart problems, says diet is directly related to health.
“So, if you eat a high-saturated fat diet, you’re going to have heart disease sooner or later, so you need to focus on low-saturated fat and eating as many fruits and vegetables as possible,” she said.
Since adopting the plant-based diet herself, she’s lost 14 pounds. “It’s really a choice and it’s a lifestyle,” Meadows explained. “It’s not really a diet that you’re going to end.”
Acknowledging that shifting to a plant-based diet can be challenging, Meadows has committed to helping Kaiser members and staff with their transition.
“The American diet, with all the sugar and fat, is very addicting,” she said. “We are accustomed to that flavor, and when we eat real food, plants, and fruit for dessert, when you go back to those kinds of things, they don’t taste as good.”
Staff members have already discovered one food that makes the change to a plant-based diet more exciting: jackfruit. The “meaty” texture shreds just like pulled pork and makes the perfect meat replacement in many dishes.
These aren’t the first medical personnel to go vegan. These 19 nurses did it and saw the benefits for themselves.
Politicians in Denmark are also trying out a plant-based diet.