What, Why and How of a Plant Based Diet
By Dr. Munish Chawla, M.D.
What? As the name indicates, plant based diet is an eating pattern that focuses on whole plant foods. Foods as they come from the ground or the garden. Items such as green leafy vegetables, rainbow of other starchy and non-starchy vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
Why? A plant based diet supplies our body with all the macronutrients it needs, in the right proportions. It contains optimal amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fat. It is replete with vitamins, minerals, and phyto-nutrients (micronutrients only found in plants). Whole plant foods reduce inflammation and contain crucial antioxidants which keep our bodies healthy, give our skin a youthful glow and slow aging at the cellular level. And, it is the only diet to show reversal of coronary artery disease(atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries that supply blood to the heart) on angiographic images.
How? When you are transitioning from the Standard American Diet, often referred to as the SAD diet, for most of us, the key is to go slow. It takes our mind and body some time to adapt to change, even a change to a healthier eating pattern. When you eat more whole plant foods, you will increase your consumption of fiber, crucial “nutrient” that is not just needed to keep us regular, but one that reduces our risk for colon cancer, diabetes, heart disease and even depression. Processed foods have very little fiber and animal products have no fiber. So, if you are eating the SAD diet focused on processed foods and animal foods, your fiber muscle is weak. As with strength training, when you are out of shape, you start with the lower weights. Similarly, you start with adding fiber or health promoting foods to your body slowly. For a small minority of us, change is not difficult and they prefer to dive in. A great way to dive in is to do a 21 day kick start. There are many available but one that is free and comes with an App, plenty of support and guidance is one offered by PCRM.
Whether you want to take slow and measured steps towards a healthier eating pattern or dive right in, it is always a good idea to educate yourself. Movies such as Forks over Knives, What the Health and Game Changers are a great place to start. Websites such as Plantricianproject.org and Nutritionfacts.org are wonderful resources if you want to dig a little deeper. And, if you like to read, we highly recommend starting with books such as The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and How not to Die by Michael Greger, MD. And, if you need a bit of extra support to help you get started, you can reach out to Lifestyle Docs, a holistic Houston based Lifestyle Medicine practice, which educates, empowers and guides individuals to a healthier lifestyle focusing on a whole food plant based diet.Embee Lifestyle Docs
Houston's First Holistic Lifestyle Medicine Clinic
Bandana Chawwla, MD & Munish Chawla, MD
4500 Bissonnet, Suite 355
Bellaire, TX 77401