Food is the foundation of health. But if you ask your doctor about nutrition, they probably won’t be able to help you much.
In fact, the average physician in the U.S. gets less than 20 hours of coursework in nutrition. In medical school, doctors are mainly trained to focus on treatment – not on prevention.
Considering the more than 672,000 Americans who died last year from diet-fueled disease, this omission would be considered malpractice if it wasn’t so widespread as to be taken for granted.
But what if your doctors and other medical professionals could answer your nutrition questions and help you avoid disease and illness by teaching you how to live a healthy, plant-powered life?
At several Kaiser Permanente Medical Centers in California, this vision is starting to become a reality. Doctors, nurses, and other staff are learning about plant-powered eating so they can pass along the information to their patients. Some of the medical staff are even adopting plant-powered diets long-term.
“If I’m trying to teach my patients how to eat, I need to be doing the same thing,” registered nurse Tammy Bargain told ABC30. By following a plant-based diet, she lost 14 pounds. And now, she helps staff and patients make the switch.
The medical center offers classes, free support groups, and 21-day challenges. By encouraging small steps, dietitian Judy Meadows says, “We’re seeing stress reduction, we’re seeing weight loss, we’re seeing less sick days, [and] healthier families at home.”
And this isn’t the first time Kaiser Permanente, the largest healthcare organization in the U.S., has focused on plant-powered eating.
In 2013, Kaiser Permanente published a nutritional update for physicians, which advised doctors to recommend plant-based diets, “to all their patients, especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity.”
They list the health benefits of a plant-based diet as:
- Lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
- Reversal or prevention of heart disease and diabetes.
- Longer life.
- Healthier weight.
- Lower risk of developing cancer and diabetes.
- May slow the progression of certain types of cancer.
- Improved symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Fewer medications.
- Lower food costs.
They add that plant-based diets are also good for the environment. Plus, plant-based eating can be a tasty, affordable, and enjoyable way to eat.
What kind of plant-based diet is Kaiser talking about? On Facebook, they say a plant-based diet, “emphasizes plant foods in their whole, unprocessed form, such as vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, nuts, whole grains, and small amounts of healthy fats.”
Kaiser also offers online educational materials to help their members, such as:
The company is even sponsoring farmer’s markets at their medical facilities.
Health care still has a long way to go. Most of Kaiser’s 18,000 physicians and 51,000 nurses are, like the vast majority of their colleagues, fundamentally ignorant about nutrition. But the times are changing. And Kaiser is bringing hope – and health – to a growing number of people.