Resources for Health Professionals

In their Spring 2013 Journal, America’s largest managed care company and hospital system has taken a bold stand on the superiority of plant-based nutrition to promote health. Kaiser Permanente is the largest HMO in the United States with 182,000 employees, including 17,000 physicians.

"Physicians should consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients… encouraging whole, plant-based foods and discouraging meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods." - Keiser Permanente

In response to the unprecedented public interest in High Fat, Low Carb dietary patterns, the Association for Dietetics in South Africa have released a Summary Statement on Low Carbohydrate Diets for Health and Weight Loss. Some of the main points are:

  • Current best available scientific evidence does not support an extreme low carbohydrate diet for reducing the risk of disease. Low carbohydrate diets may enable some people to lose weight by reducing their total energy intake (measured in kilojoules or calories) and achieving an energy deficit. However, achieving a nutritionally adequate and healthy dietary pattern becomes problematic with extreme low carbohydrate diets that emphasise high fat intake from predominantly animal foods and restrict and eliminate many healthy nutrient- and fibre-rich foods.
  • It is currently recommended that carbohydrates should make up between 45 to 65% of total energy intake and diets with less than 45% of energy from carbohydrates are considered low in carbohydrates, as they fall below this recommendation.
  • There is no universally accepted definition for low carbohydrate diets and popular low carbohydrate diets generally cover a spectrum from extreme restriction (where carbohydrates should be restricted to less than 5% of total energy), to a more moderate restriction, such as 30%. An extreme restriction generally means limiting carbohydrate intake to no more than 25 g per day, i.e. only consuming one medium-sized apple (about 180 g) along with meats, fish and pure fats per day. Any further intake of fruit, vegetables, dairy, nuts, legumes, or grains, would exceed this 25 g per day carbohydrate allowance. The concern is that eliminating such a variety of important foods can lead to an unbalanced and restrictive diet, that is very hard to maintain and can increase risk of disease.
  • Certain dietary patterns are consistently associated with health and reduced risk of obesity and chronic diseases, particularly heart disease and strokes, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. The preferred dietary patterns that are being recommended (internationally and in South Africa) vary in the amounts of carbohydrate, fat and protein, but are consistent in what they have identified as healthy dietary patterns in terms of the foods that are recommended, which includes a variety of whole grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, healthy oils, proteins such as lean meat and seafood, and reduced intake of red and processed meats, salt and sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • The Brazilian Dietary Guidelines 2014 are the most clear - “Natural or minimally processed foods, in great variety, mainly of plant origin, are the basis for diets that are nutritious, delicious, appropriate, and supportive of socially and environmentally sustainable food systems.”

T. Colin Campbell, PhD, author of The China Study, emphasises that "Nutrition should be recognized as the wholistic effect of countless nutrients involving countless diseases working through countless mechanisms. Nutrition must be wholistic: looking at countless nutrients and mechanisms that control many diseases." If you eat a balanced variety of whole, plant-based foods, you will be consuming all the carbohydrates, proteins and fats you need for optimal health. Plant foods contain all nutrients (with the exception of vitamins B12 and D) in the healthiest ratio for your body. Instead of focusing on individual nutrients, a whole food, plant-based diet emphasises the symphonic nutrient composition that’s optimal for human health.

The Plantrician Project defines a whole-foods, plant based diet as "a dietary lifestyle that maximizes the intake of whole, plant-foods and minimizes the intake of processed and animal-derived foods. It’s a diet based on foods-as-grown: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, chickpeas, split peas, lentils, mushrooms, herbs, spices and small amounts of seeds and nuts. Consumption of meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products, and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar and oil are minimised or eliminated."

A whole-food, plant based dietary pattern shares the above sentiments and incorporates the above dietary recommendations. It also mirrors the dietary patterns of the healthiest and longest-lived people and communities in the world, called the Blue Zones.

Recommended Resources

  • The Plantrician Project - Educating and empowering physicians and healthcare practitioners with knowledge about the indisputable benefits of plant-based nutrition, providing the resources they, in turn, can use to inform and inspire their patients to shift from the Western industrialised diet to a life-changing, whole-food, plant-based way of living.
  • Plant Based Research - An online narrative review of peer-reviewed, scientific research papers and educational resources that are relevant to plant-based nutrition. Links to the abstract are included with every article, and links to the free full articles are included when possible.
  • Plant-Based Diets: A Physician's Guide - Explains the benefits of plant-based diets and best practices for doctors. The guide outlines how this diet more effectively prevents and treats disease by lowering intakes of carcinogens, contaminants, saturated fat, dietary cholesterol and other hazardous components found in animal products, as well as increasing antioxidants, phyto-chemicals and other protective nutrients that lower disease risk. Step-by-step advice helps clinicians establish a dialogue about nutrition with their patients and gives them the information they need to help patients transition to a vegan diet.
  • Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets - The objective of this article is to present to physicians an update on plant-based diets. Concerns about the rising cost of health care are being voiced worldwide, even as unhealthy lifestyles are contributing to the spread of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. For these reasons, physicians looking for cost-effective interventions to improve health outcomes are becoming more involved in helping their patients adopt healthier lifestyles. Healthy eating may be best achieved with a plant-based diet, which is defined as a regimen that encourages whole, plant-based foods and discourages meats, dairy products and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods. We present a case study as an example of the potential health benefits of such a diet.Research shows that plant-based diets are cost-effective, low-risk interventions that may lower body mass index, blood pressure, HbA1C, and cholesterol levels. They may also reduce the number of medications needed to treat chronic diseases and lower ischemic heart disease mortality rates. Physicians should consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients, especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease or obesity.
  • Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets - Appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood and for athletes. Plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage. Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer and obesity.

Interviews with leading WFPB experts

Klaus from Plant Based News sat down with Dr. McDougall, Dr. Barnard and Dr. Greger to discuss why more doctors don't recommend a plant-based diet, their take on the difficulties in getting the word out and the future of the movement.

Video Links

  • Convincing Doctors to Embrace Lifestyle Medicine - Dr. Michael Greger - An editorial by the Director of Yale's Prevention Research Center on putting a face on the tragedy of millions suffering and dying from chronic diseases that could be prevented, treated, and reversed if doctors inspired lifestyle changes in their patients.
  • What Diet Should Physicians Recommend? - Dr. Michael Greger - Kaiser Permanente, the largest U.S. managed care organization, publishes patient education materials to help make plant-based diets the “new normal” for patients and physicians.



The medical and/or nutritional information on this website is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please seek medical advice before using diet to treat disease.

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