Kaiser Embraces the Plant-Based Diet

kaiser-permanente-logoBack in September 2013, the first post on this blog was about Kaiser Permanente advising their doctors to

consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients…encouraging whole, plant-based foods and discouraging meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods.

I believe they want their patients to be healthy, but… given that they are a managed care organization, the more of their patients who eat a plant-based diet, the better their bottom line looks.

Plant-based DietAlong with the recommendation, Kaiser produced this 20-page guide with information about the “New Food Groups” their patients will be eating from, tips for getting started, and sample menus and recipes.

Reading this guide, I thought I was reading any number of books by Drs. Esselstyn, Campbell, McDougall, Barnard or Ornish.

This explanation of the benefits of a plant-based diet read like the list of benefits from Dr. Campbell’s book Whole.

  • Lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar
  • Reversal or prevention of heart disease
  • Longer life
  • Healthier weight
  • Lower risk of cancer and diabetes
  • May slow the progression of certain types of cancer
  • Improved symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
  • Fewer medication
  • Lower food costs
  • Good for the environment

The guide recommends that patients with heart issues stay away from nuts and oils, like Dr. Esselstyn.

What a radical idea – improving health with diet, not pills.

The resources section at the end of the guide points patients to the Forks Over Knives movie and website, and the websites and books of the good doctors listed above. You can download the guide from their website.

Kaiser is my health care provider and the doctor I see there is not necessarily on board with this program. Despite my telling him that I eat a plant-based diet, he suggested I take fish oil to ensure I get enough Omega-3s. He also wanted to make sure that I was getting enough protein. I should have asked him if he ever tells his omnivore patients to eat less.

However, it is great to see the health care establishment embracing plant-based diets for their patients. Whatever the motivation, their patients win.

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Embracing the “V” Word

Make your own at Keep Calm-o-matic

Make your own at Keep Calm-o-matic

I started my whole food, plant-based way of eating after watching the movie Forks Over Knives and reading Dr. Esselstyn‘s book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. A few months later we went to a seminar where Dr. Esselstyn presented and he made the point – as do others like Drs John McDougall and T. Colin Campbell – that they don’t like to refer to their way of eating as vegan. They point out that there are many vegans who are not healthy because they eat too much oil, or nuts, or processed vegan foods. Also, the word vegan is too loaded, they say, and is a turn off to some people.

I went along, telling people I had adopted a whole food, plant-based diet. When pressed, I would say that it was essentially a vegan diet.

But, like Somer McCowan at Vedgedout.com, I’m ready to embrace veganism.

In her post Under the Banner of Veganism. Deprivation Diets, Eating Disorders and Orthorexia she talks about some of the issues related to veganism. She is very passionate about being vegan and makes some good points, but I don’t agree with all of it.

(BTW – for those, like me, who haven’t heard of Orthorexia nervosa, it is an “eating disorder” or “mental disorder” that some doctors and therapists define as characterized by an extreme or excessive preoccupation with avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthy. It is not an officially recognized eating disorder.)

Somer has a wonderful story – how changing her diet cured her Colitis and helped her lose weight and feel great again.

In my diet transition, I originally went plant-based for health reasons. It wasn’t until about 6 months into my journey that I really made the connection that the decision to stop eating animals and their secretions wasn’t only better for my health, but also that I didn’t want to eat them anymore because I love all creatures and I don’t want to contribute to their suffering when I can live a healthy and strong diet by consuming plants.

Her post is:

  • Part rant – how celebs are jumping on the vegan bandwagon, but then quickly jumping off
  • Part scold – why are we vegans dividing ourselves into all these sub-groups? Oil-free, gluten-free, raw, etc. Many times these additional restrictions cause people to give up on being vegan
  • A reminder – veganism is more than a diet, it’s a lifestyle.

Veganism isn’t just some restrictive fad diet. It’s a lifestyle and a belief system. So, if you’re a vegan, I’m asking you to evaluate that belief system and be honest with yourself about your motivations and your goals. Are you in it for the animals or are you in it because you have self-destructive tendencies? …

Being a vegan makes me feel a lot of joy! I love my diet. I eat a more varied, colorful and beautiful diet than I ever did before eschewing animal foods.

I realized that eating a vegan diet has a profound environmental impact for good. It teaches my children compassion and love. Something hopefully that they’ll carry on and teach their children.

All that being said, my vegan diet is mostly oil-, nut- and GMO-free. If that makes me someone with a “restrictive and obsessive dietary lifestyle,” I’m OK with that. I cook and eat for health and my vegan diet works for me and my family.

I don’t see being vegan as a choice between healthy eating and helping animals. I don’t see the vegans I know having self-destructive tendencies. I was bothered by her either or argument.

If you are not vegan or not eating a whole food, plant-based diet right now, maybe the time is right to make the change. If you are eating vegan, but struggling, do what you need to find the right vegan diet for you. Find a meetup or other groups that can support you, find a vegan friendly doctor, and know that you are doing the right thing for your health, the health of the animals, and the health of the planet.

A Man on a Mission

Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD, F.A.C.S.Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn is a man on a mission – to end the epidemic of chronic heart disease in the US and other Western countries by promoting a whole food, plant-based (WFPB), oil free diet.

Esselstyn knows how to set a goal and reach it. As part of the US Olympic rowing team in 1956, his team won the gold medal. After attending medical school he served as a physician in Vietnam, then became a surgeon at the Cleveland clinic, where he worked for 40 years. He is a man driven to succeed. Now he is facing the toughest challenge of his life – changing the eating habits of the American public in order to end heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.

In his book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, Dr. Esselstyn shows how changing the diets of his chronically ill patients reversed their heart disease. Although they were all told by their doctors there was nothing else medicine or procedures could do for them, Dr. Esselstyn’s “prescription” kept them free of heart attacks and stroke for over 25 years and gave them back their strength and health.

Prevent and Reverse Heart DiseaseDr. Esselstyn is featured in the movie Forks Over Knives. His book provides additional information about the research behind his WFPB diet, why oils aren’t heart healthy and how the USDA Dietary Recommendations promote increased disease. His scientifically proven, nutrition-based cure is similar to those advocated by others, including Doctors Colin Campbell, Dean Ornish and John McDougall. All of them have shown the power of these diets to change lives.

Couscous and African Stew

Couscous and African Stew

As powerful as Dr. Esselstyn’s message, the other half of the book is a collection of wonderful recipes from his wife, Ann. They include fabulous soups, stews, salads and main course dishes along with breakfast and dessert items. We have discovered a whole new set of favorites: Sloppy Lentil Joes, Black Bean – Oatmeal Burgers, Couscous and African Stew, and Lentil Loaf served with potatoes and mushroom gravy.

For me, this book, along with the Forks Over Knives movie, changed my life. I lost over 20 pounds, got off of my blood pressure medicine and have more energy than before.

My wife and I had the chance to meet Dr. Esselstyn and his wife at a weekend retreat. They are compassionate, warm and giving of their time and expertise. They are lively, energetic and ready for the challenge of getting as many people as possible to follow their truly heart-healthy way of living and ending coronary heart disease – which Dr. Esselstyn insists, need never exist.