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5 Reasons to Try a V-E-G-A-N Diet

Doc Talk with Dr. Joel Kahn

After eating plant foods for 40 years and practicing cardiology for over 25 years, I believe I have the experience to share with you that adopting a plant based diet, what some call a vegan diet, is the best decision you can make.

Decades ago I shunned meat when I walked into my dormitory cafeteria freshman year of undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan and found the salad bar as my only ally.  Then a decade later when I was in Dallas training to be a cardiologist, I read A Diet for a New America by John Robbins and chose to practice a fully vegan diet as the core of my health maintenance program.

I want to explain why I continue to eat, shop and dine in this manner so many years later in the face of so many options, and why I recommend it to my patients.

V is for Vitality

I eat many chlorophyll-rich vegetables (including some raw and living foods such as sprouts, sea vegetables, and blue and green algaes), which helps me power me through long days with a bounce in my step and a sharp mind. An added benefit is eating a lot of green vegetables rich in chlorophyll help you smell better all day long. Yes, I said smell. I also get a bounty of fiber, phytonutrients, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, due to the rainbow of colors that make up my daily selections. This supplies protective biological pathways with the building blocks needed for optimal health and energy. Spices can enhance my health and add flavor to my plate. As I know I am free of heart disease, I include healthy plant based fats from nuts, seeds and avocados in my diet and will use some extra-virgin olive oil and organic canola oil selectively. Almost any chronic disease can be improved upon by the vitality in plant based menu. The strongest data for any dietary pattern exists for plant based diets. The prevention and reversal of heart disease (the #1 killer of men and women), adult diabetes, obesity, hypertension, psoriasis, autoimmune disorders, and even dementia are all supported by abundant medical research studies.

E is for the Environment

The world's population now exceeds 7 billion persons and by the year 2050, it will exceed 9 billion. Diets rich in meat, eggs and dairy, and the methods required for their production, will simply not be sustainable and will cause serious further damage to our planet promoting climate change. A few years ago, the United Nations Environment Programme called for a shift to a vegan diet for the planet Earth. I vote with my fork and spoon every day by reducing my carbon footprint and protecting the planet for my children and theirs.

G is for Gastronomy  

Vegan diets are anything but boring or bland. Only a few food items are excluded, such as animal meat, animal dairy, and eggs. That leaves thousands of menu offerings from fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, spices, and legumes. I have a favorite restaurant that offers a weekly 3-course vegan gourmet menu and, after nearly 5 years, the selections have never been repeated! Your palate can learn to appreciate the subtleties of flavors never to be found in meals overwhelmed by meat, eggs and dairy. I was so excited about the pleasure of artisanal plant based eating, I opened the largest vegan café and bar between the coasts in suburban Detroit (www.greenspacecafe.com) and you should come visit us.

A is for Animal Rights 

Simply put, the average piece of meat, chicken egg, or dairy product consumed in America is produced through cruel factory farmed methods that favor pain over compassion, and production numbers over quality or cleanliness. I agree with Leonardo da Vinci when he wrote that “the time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men.”

N is for Natural 

Our food chain has been transformed in the last 50 years to a toxic soup of pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, and hormone-treated choices. Food colorings, preservatives, and synthetic “vitamin” enhancements are prevalent. 

The vast number of choices in grocery stores and convenience shops are not farm food, but chemical “frankenfoods” catering to our food addictions but not our health.  A plant based diet can be taken a notch higher on the health ladder by a familiarity with the issues on non-GMO and organic sourcing, but in general, an apple, a bunch of kale, or a pound of flax seeds represent choices closer to the farm, more directly from a plant, and farther from a factory and its toxins.

I feel fortunate that a rather disgusting college cafeteria nearly 40 years ago and a copy of John Robbins’ book over nearly 30 years ago led me to embark on a plant based health journey that has enhanced my life and allowed me to teach so many its virtues to patients.

I have so many examples of sustained weight loss, reversal of heart disease and adult diabetes, and the regaining of control of health destinies by understanding the power of the plate and the fate that is in your fork.

Although we sometimes hide behind the word vegan, as explained here, it is something to embrace, share and promote with the knowledge it is the most scientifically supported eating pattern for health, kindness and environmental concerns.

About Dr. Kahn

After graduating Summa Cum Laude from the University of Michigan, Dr. Kahn now serves as a Clinical Professor of Cardiology at Wayne State University and Founder, the Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity. He opened GreenSpace Cafe in Ferndale, MI along with his son Daniel, the largest plant-based bar and restaurant between the coasts. His first book, The Whole Heart Solution, is now a Public TV special. He can be found at www.drjoelkahn.com.