By: Corey Howard, MD, FACP
Have you ever wondered how your diet really affects your health? Is there any evidence that changing your diet to a more plant based one will help? Well, the answer as you might have guessed is yes to both of these very common questions. In fact, a study about 100 years ago published in the New York Times suggested that eating red meat had an association with increased risks of cancers. Yet, Americans consume almost double the amount of red meat than they did when that study was published. With that increase in red meat consumption, and other factors that are diet related as well, we have seen a massive rise in cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack rates, obesity as well as a dramatic rise in many other chronic illnesses. People from countries that typically have a low rate of cancer, let’s say Japan where the rate of colon cancer is low, have a incredible increase in cancer when they move to the U.S. and yes this has been linked to the consumption of the standard American diet (SAD) and red meat consumption.
Is there a reason to eat a plant based diet? The information that is available may feel overwhelming and somewhat contradictory if you try to get this data from the news or social media. Even a simple internet search asking the questions: “Should we eat less red meat?” or “Should we eat more vegetables?”, yields 25 million and 21 million results repectively. How is it possible for anyone to sift through all of that and come up with an answer that you can understand? Let’s apply the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Silly). Here is a better question: “Should I eat more vegetables?” While this question yields over 27 million results and the answer is a resounding YES. Studies from all over the world show that increasing the number of vegetables and plant based products into your diet decrease the risks of many chronic and harmful diseases.
A large study from Loma Linda (in California) where there are more people who live over 100 than anywhere else in the United States, revealed that vegetarian diets were associated with fewer deaths from all causes when compared to other diet types. A British study from 2013 looked at people who consumed a typical British diet for decades but switched to a vegetarian diet. They found that those who ate a vegetarian diet, even for less than 5 years, had a decrease in death from heart disease . This information gives us insight that there can be reversal of risk of disease when you change your dietary habits.
What is it about plants that are helpful? Plants contain phytochemicals, antioxidants, fiber, minerals, vitamins, healthy fats and trace elements that are needed by your body to run its complicated machinery. If your body runs out of some of these nutrients it has to make choices. The choices go like this: “Should I send the nutrients (let’s say a trace element) that are present to the brain to help you think more clearly or should I send it to your heart to keep you alive?” While that may seem too simple, this occurs every second of every day. Your body has 37 trillion cells so you can just imagine how complicated things can get. Luckily, you do not have to make those choices each moment. However, you do need to give the body the necessary nutrients for long lasting energy and optimal health. Those nutrients are found in plant based foods and you need to supply the body with a wide variety of them regularly. It is not good to eat the same thing all of the time because you may deprive your body of some of these important and essential nutrients thus potentially increasing your risks of many diseases.
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February 21st -12-5pm
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February 5 | 12pm and 6pm,
February 16 | 12pm and 6pm.
Your dietary habits play a large role in achieving optimal health. It is important to eat a wide variety of plant based products to help your body run it’s complicated systems. My suggestion to get started: Add just one more serving of vegetables to your diet per week. You can do this easily. Set a goal that you can achieve and stick to it. Healthy habits lead to a better life. Until next time.
About Corey Howard, MD, FACP
Dr. Howard practices Lifestyle Medicine in Naples. He is a fellowship trained gastroenterologist and board certified in Internal Medicine as well as Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. He has also obtained Professional Certification in Plant Based Cooking. He has regular seminars and courses to teach how to live a better life through healthy habits.
To contact Dr. Howard go to: www.physicianslifecenters.com or email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org