Obesity is a significant health problem in the world, linked to an increased risk of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer. Obesity can also have a negative effect on energy levels, sleep and self-esteem.
I have recommended many different types of diets to my patients over the years to help them lose weight and promote health. It was frustrating for my patients and for me when most were not successful. I began to wonder if there was lifestyle that could help produce the results we wanted.
A Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet
A few years ago, I read a book called “Eat to Live” that espoused the benefits of eating a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle. I was so encouraged by it’s recommendations and the studies that were used to support it that I began to research the benefits myself. What I found was impressive. There were many studies linking this type of lifestyle to lower rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and cancer. There were also reports of this lifestyle reversing heart disease.
So what is a whole-foods, plant-based lifestyle? A recent article in the scientific Permanente Journal described it as a healthy, plant-based diet that maximizes consumption of nutrient-dense plant foods while minimizing processed foods, oils and animal foods (including dairy products and eggs). Such a diet also encourages eating lots of vegetables (cooked or raw), fruits, beans, peas, lentils, soybeans, seeds and nuts (in smaller amounts), and is generally low in fat.
To put it to the test, I began following this lifestyle. Most mornings I would have a smoothie with fruit, water and greens. Other times I would have steel-cut oatmeal with fruit. For lunches I would have a large salad with lots of vegetables. For dinner I would eat mainly vegetables and legumes in combination with brown rice or quinoa. For snacks I would eat fruit, nuts, seeds and raw vegetables.
Although I was not perfect, I found that after six months I had lost 25 pounds, I slept better and found that my energy levels had also improved. Perhaps most impressive, I felt I could continue this lifestyle for the rest of my life. The food was tasty and varied. I also did not feel like I was starving myself. In fact, I felt like I was eating all the time and was satisfied. It was just that I was eating the right types of foods that were high in nutritious value and low in calories. I continue to try to follow this lifestyle.
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Because of the differences in my life, I began recommending this lifestyle to my patients. For those who followed my advice, I noticed that they also lost significant amounts of weight. I noticed that in most cases it helped lower blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. I was also able to reduce the amount of medications that they were taking as many of their medical problems were better controlled.
More importantly those who began to eat this way mentioned that they just felt better overall.
I am convinced that a whole-foods, plant-based lifestyle is a healthier way to eat that can prevent and even improve or cure disease. I encourage my patients to a 30-day challenge: Try the lifestyle for 30 days and see if it has a positive impact on your life.
If you do have a chronic medical condition, I would encourage you to discuss it with your primary care provider as there may be certain medications or conditions that may need to be adjusted to work well with this lifestyle.