Why Don't More Healthcare Professionals Recommend a Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet to their Patients?

Perhaps one of the most frustrating questions to many of us is that in the face of truly overwhelming evidence that a whole food, plant-based way of eating should be the gold standard for how people can prevent and in some cases reverse chronic illnesses, why don't more health professionals recognize that and recommend it to their patients? It could be argued, and is often argued that the meat and dairy industry are working diligently to create confusion in the minds of the public. And that's certainly plausible given the fact that the tobacco industry had such stated intentions when it came to research studies evaluating the health effects of tobacco. Big food companies today seem to be employing many of the same practices that the tobacco industry did back in the fifties and sixties. And why not? Those tactics worked well back then. So why wouldn't they work now?

Of course, we know that they do work well now. For every study that says A, there will be another study that says B. And the public, not knowing how to really evaluate scientific studies, or even having the desire to study scientific reports, will either go along with what is reported by this study or that study or they will resign themselves to the idea that nutritional science is confusing and they'll give up trying to figure it out at all. Or they'll become convinced by whichever side makes the most favorable argument. Think about it. If you eat bacon and eggs every morning for breakfast, a hamburger at lunch and a meat-centric dinner, wouldn't you imagine that it will be easier for you to buy into a study that says low carb diets are the healthiest as opposed to a study that says whole plant-based foods are the healthiest? We hear what we want to hear.

And I think in the world of nutritional science that holds true too. Just as Lucky Strike once was able to advertise that "More doctors smoke Luckies" because back then almost all doctors smoked, today's dietitian or nutritional scientist is most likely to be a consumer of meat, dairy and oils themselves. I took a course in nutrition from Vanderbilt University several years ago, and the professor teaching the course said that she believed a whole food, plant-based diet was the healthiest diet to follow, but she herself did not want to do it. And perhaps that's the rub. Just as many doctors at one time, in the face of mounting evidence against smoking, still clung to their cigarettes. Until society itself changed, they did not want to change themselves.

So, if your dietitian doesn't want to change how she eats, what do you think the chances are that she will tell you to do that? Pretty much nil to nonexistent I would suggest. After all, who would I be to tell you that you should quit smoking while I continued to light up every day myself? That would be hypocritical of me (by the way, that was a hypothetical question; I'm not a smoker). And perhaps, your dietitian is confused as well about whether a Paleo diet, the Mediterranean diet or the whole food, plant-based way of eating is the best approach. Many will tell you that each of those diets will work, so take your pick. Or another popular answer is that the best diet is the one you will stick to.

And there's truth in both those statements. Whether you follow a Paleo diet, the Mediterranean diet or the whole food, plant-based way of eating, you will be eating healthier than the average person in the population. So, if you're eating like the average person in a western country today, then making a conscious decision to go one of those three routes will give you significant health benefits. But I truly believe, based on all the research that is out there, and based on the amazing health changes that I have seen in so many people including myself, that eating as close to a whole food, plant-based diet as a person can is the healthiest of all routes. So, why isn't WFPB more popular than the Mediterranean diet or the Paleo diet?

And the answer to that, I believe is in the second answer that you will get from a dietitian. That is, the best diet is the one you can stick to. Many dietitians and doctors don't believe their patients can stick to a whole food, plant-based regimen. And perhaps they believe that because they themselves don't do it. But that's the hurdle that we have to get over.

Of course, having done this for five years now myself, and knowing other people who have been doing it even longer than I have been, it's pretty obvious to me that it's not a diet that's impossible to stick to. It just sounds hard at first, mainly because it's different than what we're used to doing. I came to this way of eating from the low carb world where I ate bacon and eggs every morning for breakfast, cheeseburgers without buns for lunch and my dinners were always something like steak, chicken, pork, etc. Nobody would ever have thought that I could eat whole food, plant-based, least of all me. In fact, when the doctor put me on a statin drug some nine or ten years ago, he said there were two ways to solve my cholesterol issue, but he said he knew I wouldn't do the preferred way, so he was prescribing a statin drug for me. Little did he realize that I could do the preferred way. I just had to have the knowledge first. In a way, I can look back now and say that that doctor sold me short. He made an assumption that was obviously not true. How many times a day, do dietitians and doctors make that same assumption with their patients?

It's important to begin to make inroads with the medical and nutritional industries because with their degrees and licenses and certifications, that's who people listen to. While I don't believe in forcing or browbeating anyone into eating as I do, I do believe that how we all eat has a huge effect on everybody else. How we eat really is about more than our individual health. It also affects our environment. It affects climate change. It affects how much our health insurance premiums cost (just imagine if the insurance industry didn't have to shell out money for so many heart attacks and chemotherapy treatments as they do now). It affects how much we pay in taxes (Medicare and Medicaid are significant drains on the national budget). It affects our productivity as a nation. There's even some evidence that it can affect the amount of violent crime we have in our society.

So, while I don't advocate forcing anyone to eat a particular way, I do advocate getting the word out there. Education and communication is essential. Community involvement is essential. And finding ways to convince our doctors and dietitians is essential. They see the results every day. Recently a friend of mine went to his doctor of 13 years. His doctor told him that both he and his wife were the healthiest and had the best numbers he had seen in either one of them in the past 13 years. Imagine that! They're 13 years older now than they were when they first started going to him, but even being that much older, they're healthier now than they were then.

The doctor acknowledged their WFPB way of eating, but he said he couldn't do it himself. And that is part of why the whole food, plant-based way of eating still needs more fire lit under it. If we could convince more doctors and dietitians to not sell themselves and their patients short, and instead to start to talk more about eating whole food, plant-based, the amazing effect it could have on our nation and the world around us would be more astounding, perhaps, than we can even imagine right now. That's a big dream, but it starts with small steps and discussions. It's time to take those steps.