A plant-based diet as a fundamental component of preventative health is gaining increasing momentum in the field of medicine. Doctors and other health care professionals all across the country and around the world have begun to recognize the critical role that a balanced plant-based diet - a regimen that encourages whole, plant-based foods while discouraging meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as refined and highly processed foods - plays in maintaining health and reversing disease.
Kaiser Permanente Takes a Plant-Based Stand
Leading the way is Kaiser Permanente. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente is one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit health plans and the largest managed care agency in the United States, serving 10.1 million members. As an HMO - Health Maintenance Organization - Kaiser has a decided interest in keeping their clients healthy.
To that end, in a 2013 Nutritional Update for Physicians, Kaiser urged physicians and health care providers to recommend plant-based diets to their patients, noting that plant-based diets may be of particular benefit for those with obesity, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and conditions related to cardiovascular disease.
Keeping Health Costs Down
In this nutritional update, Kaiser also acknowledges nationwide concerns about the rising cost of health care, noting that "unhealthy lifestyles are a major contributing factor to disease and the spread of obesity. In a decided intention to helping their patients adopt healthier lifestyles and keep health costs down, Kaiser physicians are advised to promote more cost-effective interventions in the form of lifestyle changes in nutrition and exercise to improve patient health.
Healthy Eating Best Achieved with a Plant-Based Diet
According to the Kaiser directive, physicians too often overlook the potential benefits of good nutrition for correcting disease and slowing the obesity epidemic, and simply write up a prescription.
Changing the cultural mindset from medicating after the fact to patients taking charge of their health through healthy eating and more active living is suggested as a new way to look at the future of health care, which evolve toward a paradigm where the prevention and treatment of disease is centered on another serving of fruits and vegetables rather than a pill or procedure.
A Dietary Shift in the Medical Community
It wasn't long ago that nutrition was given scant by the medical community in general as important to overall health. Now, due to the overwhelming weight of evidence spurred by rising levels of obesity and chronic disease, the opinion of the established medical community has started to shift. Plant-based diets are no longer viewed as a minority option, they are the seen as more than sufficient in important nutrients such as calcium, protein, and other health-protective properties and the foundation of good health.
According to the Kaiser report, the research shows that plant-based diets are cost-effective, low-risk interventions that may lower body mass index, blood pressure, HbA1C, and cholesterol levels, and may reduce the number of medications needed to treat chronic diseases and lower heart disease mortality rates. "Physicians should consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients", the directive continues, "especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity."
More and More Doctors are Coming on Board
Charles Huebner, M.D. and Marcia Shattuck, M.D., are two of a growing number of physicians - beyond those already on board in the Kaiser Community - who are recommending plant-based diets to their patients. Dr.Huebner has been providing arthritis treatment services for over 20 years and has a burgeoning practice in three locations in the northern Michigan area. The Barnard Medical Center opening early 2016 promotes a plant-based diet as foundation of good health. Zoom+, the Portland-based health insurer and operator of neighborhood clinics has rolled out a new primary care model under the direction of Craig McDougall, M.D., that emphasizes food as a means of preventing or reversing chronic disease.
Kaiser Materials for Starting a Plant-Based Diet
Kaiser Permanente has created a downloadable Healthy Living Program booklet outlining the basics of plant-based diet, and additional support materials, The Plant-Based Diet: a Healthier Way to Eat and Simple Steps to Plant-Based Eating to give clients and patients a simple look at the fundamentals of a plant-based diet.
Lani Muelrath, M.A., is an award-winning teacher, author, and top plant-based lifestyle coach. Certified Specialist in Behavior Change and Plant-Based Nutrition, Lani has been featured on CBS TV, ABC TV, Prevention, USA Today, and The Saturday Evening Post. Presenter for Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, Complete Health Improvement Program, and guest lecturer at San Francisco State University, Lani is Associate Faculty at Butte College where her book has been adopted as required text. She is the author of The Plant-Based Journey: A Step-by-Step Guide to Transition to a Healthy Lifestyle and Achieving Your Ideal Weight, recognized by VegNews as Top Media Pick for 2015, and Fit Quickies: 5 Minute Workouts. More from Lani at www.lanimuelrath.com, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
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