Doctor’s orders?

“Let food be thy medicine.”

“You are what you eat.”

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

apple

We’ve heard these sayings before, but step into a doctor’s office and you’ll likely not be guided toward eating well. Doctors are great at things like diagnosing disease, performing surgery, and prescribing drugs. But I’ve learned that very few are trained in nutrition.

A vegetarian friend of mine who was low on iron started eating meat again—on her doctor’s orders! I told her cashews, kidney beans, quinoa, spinach and tempeh are all great sources of iron. Her doctor never told her that—or even recommended a supplement.

The doctor I saw last week for my checkup was just as bad. When he found out I’m vegan, he told me “it’s the riskiest diet.” He then recommended goat’s milk, since I can’t drink cow’s milk. I had to tell him goats are animals and their secretions aren’t vegan!

He told me to be careful because there are certain amino acids that are found only in meat. I said, “you mean protein?” He nodded. I asked him how cows and other herbivores get their protein. He referred me to a nutritionist.

The truth is, plants have protein. Plant proteins are referred to as “incomplete” only because they don’t match our human amino acid profile. But they are not “incomplete” when it comes to fulfilling our dietary needs.

Not all medical schools require training in nutrition, and the ones that do, require only a few hours. I’ve completed the Plant-based Nutrition Certificate program through eCornell, and while that doesn’t make me an expert, it has given me more nutrition training than most doctors have.

I worry for people who trust doctors blindly. For people considering veganism, a doctor’s warning like the one I heard might convince them not to try it. A whole-food, plant-based diet is a healthy choice—and most doctors aren’t aware.

There was a time when doctors recommended cigarettes as a way to relieve nerves. What doctors say about nutrition likely isn’t gospel. I’m on a quest to find a vegan—or nutritionally-aware—doctor.

Until then, here are a few good resources:

Dr. John McDougall
Dr. Michael Greger
Ginny Messina
Plant-Based Dietitian
PCRM

Plant-based Diet 101

I just finished reading a book by Luke Jones. You might recognize that name: I featured Luke in my vegan profile segment recently. Luke runs the site Hero Health Room, a blog about plant-based living, sustainability, mindfulness and exercise.

Plant-based Diet 101

Luke recently published a book called Plant-based Diet 101: The Ultimate Guide to Healthy, Sustainable Eating Habits. I just finished reading it, and I highly recommend it–especially if you’re new to (or considering) a plant-based diet or if you’re a vegan who isn’t eating as healthy as you think you should (after all, cola and cookies can be vegan, but they’re certainly not healthy).

The book is very digestible (pun intended) and covers health basics like what to eat, what to avoid, and whether supplements are necessary. Luke covers costs, health concerns, and even topics like how to eat in restaurants and deal with skeptical friends and family members.

Luke has a great, conversational writing style, which made reading the book feel like a trusted friend was helping me. It’s not preachy nor is it judgmental. Of course I’m a proponent of a plant-based lifestyle and I sometimes want to bash people over the head with my ideas. Luke doesn’t do that. It’s clear that he’s researched the topic well (and has loads of references and resources to support his findings), but he allows readers to make their own decisions. I like how Luke shares a plan for easing into a plant-based diet and sets readers up for success.

The main focus of the book is health and wellness but Luke also addresses the environmental and ethical angles of eating a whole-food, plant-based diet. It’s an excellent primer.

You can download the book from Luke’s site. It’s only $5, making this the most affordable investment in your health that I can think of.

They say steak has vitamins

I was innocently perusing the pages of a women’s health magazine when I came a cross a rather offensive ad. It was a full-page advert that proclaimed: That’s right: Steak has vitamins. How do you like us now?

steak ad crumpled up

Hmm. How ’bout Not At All?

The beef-it’s-what-for-dinner-folks (aka the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association) had the audacity to target a health-conscious demographic who they thought might be eschewing beef for healthier options. The ad bragged that beef has B vitamins.

A 3 oz. flank steak has 158 calories and 25% of the daily value of B6, 23% of B12, 7% riboflavin, and 34% niacin.

So what?

B vitamins are a great source of energy, but potatoes have 31% of B6. Portobello mushrooms have 24% of riboflavin. Peanut butter and passion fruit have loads of niacin. And B12? I’d rather get it from fortified bread, soy milk or a Luna Bar.

When you get your vitamins from plants, you don’t have to deal with bad cholesterol, saturated fats, trans-fatty acids or animal protein. If you’ve read The China Study, you’ll know that animal proteins turn on cancer cells. Plant proteins turn them off.

No amount of sugar-coating by the Beef Board will make me eat meat. My dog is chock-full of vitamins but I won’t eat him. A human cadaver has vitamins, but that’s out of the questions. I eat things (plants), not beings.

I’m not really surprised that the beef industry is duping people. I’m also not surprised that a magazine will accept ridiculous ads (ads pay the bills). I just hope people are smart enough to see through all the bull.

Have you seen and ridiculous ads lately?