There are so many rock star leaders within the whole-food, plant-based movement and so much content out there that it can be a bit overwhelming. To provide a big-picture view and summarize important concepts that will help you achieve your health goals, here are some of my favorite health-promoting and mentality-shifting quotes from nutrition and health experts.
It’s true: The No. 1 killer in the Western world is preventable and even reversible. Heart disease claims more than 600,000 lives per year and is responsible for 1 out of every 4 deaths. The only diet that has been clinically proven to reverse this scourge is a plant-based diet. You can find out more through the works of Caldwell Esselstyn, MD, as well as Dean Ornish, MD.
As one of the titans of lifestyle medicine and plant-based nutrition, Dr. Ornish showed that in patients with heart disease, diet and lifestyle factors alone were responsible for atherosclerotic plaque regression. Our other “conventional” options are surgery and/or prescription drugs. And the kicker: Conventional treatments don’t address the root cause; they simply mitigate signs and symptoms. Pulling a quote from another titan, Dr. Michael Greger: “Treating the cause is not only safer and cheaper but it can work better.”
Doctors are very smart, but they’re also human, and like the rest of us, they can and do make mistakes. Admitting fault is a tough pill to swallow, especially when you’ve been tasked with helping people improve their health. But it must be done to progress personally and as a society. Following the science and adapting current practice to the best available evidence is an evolution more medical professionals need to follow.
Anthony Lim, MD, like many others, once painted all carbs as “evil” and detrimental to health. Why? It was the dogma of the paleo movement he was following. But it wasn’t particularly evidence-based. Some foods with carbs, such as unrefined whole plants, should be encouraged while others, such as foods with refined sugars and flours, should not. We need to be more nuanced with our advice and follow the evidence. The longest-living populations in the world eat predominantly plant-based diets, seen here, here, and here.
Keto diets are hot! But so was the Atkins diet 20 years ago. Over the years, diets die and are reborn, repackaged, slapped with new names, and marketed as new physiology-busting breakthroughs. Zoom out and look at the big picture when your goal is health. Focus on colorful plant foods, focus on fiber and nutrient density, not ketone density. When we focus on obtaining nutrient-dense foods in our diet and eliminating foods with component parts that are known to be detrimental to health, we are setting the stage for a longer and more vibrant life.
The education doctors receive regarding the prevention and reversal of chronic illnesses is woefully inadequate. On average, most doctors receive only 19.6 hours of nutrition training across four years of medical school, according to a report published in Academic Medicine. So when they prescribe pills or procedures, they’re doing what they were taught. What Dr. Bennie and many others have realized is that they can reverse these illnesses and get patients off of pills and see them a lot less often if they teach them the skills necessary to change their diet and lifestyle for good and address the root cause of these diseases.
Our preference for junk food is a learned behavior, and learned behaviors can be unlearned. No one denies that there are many forces pulling us in the wrong direction, but we must take responsibility for our own health and for our food preferences and affirm that there is another way to eat and live. We have complete power over the foods we eat and don’t eat and the sooner we realize that and mobilize resources to make this change possible, the healthier we’re all going to be.
Reductionism, the dominant paradigm in nutritional science, examines minute processes, elements, and functions in isolation. Without the context of the whole, we lose sight of the greater implications of the science and how it fits with existing knowledge. The lifestyle medicine movement has effectively zoomed out to look at the big picture, putting all of the evidence together to provide everyone with the unbiased information they need to prevent and reverse chronic illnesses rather than mitigating symptoms.
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