Dr. Tushar, gets candid about plant based eating and health!

1) What is the medical evidence that Plant based diet is good for health?

All relevant medical evidence is based on human studies, and never on animals. One must also assess the quality of any study with respect to study design, study population and controls,  funding source, statistical significance, and other factors.  As such there are numerous high quality population based studies, and a few randomized trials, that show strong results regarding plant based foods and health.

Most of the evidence is for prevention. Diabetes type 2 has excellent evidence for prevention;  vegans have half the rates of diabetes compared to the general population. And if they get diabetes, it would be less severe. Cardiovascular disease rates are also lower. People on an extreme low fat, whole food vegan diet have the strongest protection.

There are also lower rates of prostate, breast, colon and a few other cancers. These rates will decrease from 20 to 30 percent compared to omnivores.  Vegan can still get the same cancers, but on a population level, even a 20 percent decrease is significant.  For every hundred people who would suffer from one of these cancers, at least twenty would be spared!

2) A special note on Carbohydrates 

Over the past decades there have been many fad diets touting high protein and fat, and low carbohydrates, such as the paleo diet. Again and again they have shown to increase heart disease and cancer mortality, even if they helped some people lose weight.   Such diets are dangerous. The worst is the Ketogenic diet which has become a craze in India, though not so popular in the western world. There is zero evidence that the Keto diet will decrease rates of cancer or heart disease, but plenty of data to show harm. People like to hear good news about their bad habits of consuming animal products.

Refined grains are shown to be detrimental.  Any sugar, whether white sugar, jaggery, agave are BAD for health; please minimize.  White rice, and white flour in the form of bread or noodles also have a negative impact. Refined grains are not a whole food.

But whole grains are beneficial!  Brown rice, whole wheat, and all of the other amazing grains are very healthful and decrease rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer by 5-10 percent.  Many studies repeatedly show this result.  Moral of this story: eat whole grains, but eat moderate amounts since most of us have low calorie needs since we are not so active.  If you are a farmer doing labour, go ahead and eat more!

3) What illnesses get reversed by going vegan?

On an extremely low fat, whole food, vegan diet we know that we can reverse heart disease to some extent as shown by groundbreaking studies from Ornish and Esselstyn.  Diabetes type 2 can also be reversed by a healthy low fat vegan diet based on whole foods, to some degree, depending on the quality of the diet.

Eat lots of pulses, low to moderate amounts of whole grains, lots of vegetables (eat raw or semi cooked, and not overly cooked).  Fruits are good but eat smaller amounts and those lower in sugar content, especially if diabetic.  Eat very low amounts of fat if you wish to reverse these diseases.  Canola and olive oil are good options.  Avoid coconut and palm oil.  Do not fry foods.  For most of us healthy folks, we may not be as strict, but still be mindful.

4) What are the nutrients that one can get only from plants based foods and not supplements?

The only supplement that people need is vitamin B12. Take 1000 micrograms once or twice a week and you should be just fine.  Alternatively take 10-20 micrograms on a daily basis. There is no other vitamin that is shown to be necessary for all vegans on an ongoing bases.  Use google to find vegan sources of calcium and iron so that you are optimizing these.  There are thousands of phytochemicals and nutrients that supplements can never give you. They are a waste of money except in very specific cases, such as some people who may need iron.

5) Is plant based diet enough for children and pregnant women?

Absolutely!  Please take your vitamin B12 and look up the sources of protein, iron and calcium.  Eat lots of pulses, and add some soy milk to make your diet extra nutritious and higher in protein.

6) Your journey of going a vegan

I have been vegan for eight years, and before that i was 99% vegan for a good 5 years.  My health is amazing and I still participate in regular exercise, trekking and and work long hours.  For my age, my health exceeds that of most peers.

You may also like to read: Your Plant Based / Vegan Pantry Essentials!

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