Choosing healthy plant-based diets could not only enhance human lifespans and quality of life, but also cut emissions and save the Habitat for endangered species. Jerold Abraham emphasizes on the Importance of a healthy lifestyle in prevention of diseases like Diabetes, cancer, heart diseases, auto-immune diseases and many More, and advocates a whole food plant-based diet. Viki shah talks To him to know how you can be your own doctor with a healthy Plant-based diet.
CAN YOU PLEASE TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR JOURNEY TO PLANT-BASED LIVING?
I am a practising physiotherapist and since 2012, I developed a passion towards lifestyle medicine when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. The day she was diagnosed, the doctors gave her 2 months to live as the disease had spread to other organs and she had developed a massive fungated breast wound. That’s when I began to explore a new world of health and healing. My turning point was a documentary called the “Forks over Knives”, a book named “Blue Zones” and a conversation with Dr. Agatha Thrash. They all spoke about one common thing – The plant-based living and I began to learn more about it. I soon advised my mother to follow a plant-based diet. Though the disease was in its terminal stage, the massive breast wound healed leaving no mark in her body. From her bed ridden state, she got out of her bed and resumed her work as a teacher for the next two years. This experience compelled me to research more and more about plant-based diet. I am now so much convinced that a healthy lifestyle would not only prevent most of the chronic degenerative diseases, but can also help patients manage their diseases and can even reverse many diseases. So now I am all dedicated to teaching my patients about the importance of lifestyle and plant-based living.
WHAT EXACTLY IS PLANT-BASED LIVING?
I would call it the whole food plant-based diet. In Whole Food Plant Based Diet we avoid animal-based products, including meat, milk and milk products, and eggs. This way of eating is based around unprocessed or minimally processed veggies, fruit, leafy greens, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
BASED ON YOUR EXPERIENCES WITH PATIENTS, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE SOME OF THE DIETARY HABITS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO NEGATIVE HEALTH OUTCOMES?
The list of dietary habits that contribute to negative health outcomes is actually big, starting from poor choice of food to a poor pattern of eating. But let me try to explain few of them. Food can be eaten for two reasons. One is for health (mindful eating) and the other is for entertainment (Just to satisfy our tongue and not the remaining part of the body). Our primary reason to eat food should be to promote health. But majority of us all indulge in entertainment eating. That does not do any good to the body, but results in serious negative health outcomes. What I mean by entertainment eating is to eat a lot of sugar, salt, fat, refined and processed food. With this way of eating, we miss out two of the important factors: Fiber and anti-oxidant. Fiber and anti-oxidants play a key role in the prevention of cancer, heart disease and many other lifestyle diseases.
WHAT ARE THE MAJOR MIS-PERCEPTIONS ON NUTRITION AND FOOD THAT EXIST AMONG PEOPLE?
One of the biggest mis-perceptions people have is that carbs are bad for health. Some believe Carbs may cause diabetes and weight gain. But the truth is Carbohydrates are a natural fuel for the human body – muscles & brain. Carbohydrates are glucose, and come from vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes. This is a food that’s loaded with fiber, Vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, protein and the essential fat. Populations whose diets are heavily based on these foods are the healthiest and live the longest. Carbs become unhealthy when they are processed. For example, when potatoes are boiled or cooked, they are very healthy. But when it is fried, it loses all of its nutrients. Not only that, frying or processing it can lead to the formation of carcinogens like acrylamide that’s found in chips and French fries. This applies to all plant-based food. Similarly, whole rice isn’t bad at all. Unfortunately, it is being vilified as the cause of weight gain and diabetes. If one could take whole rice that’d be the best instead of the polished rice. Another common myth I usually come across is that, to get Vitamin B12 you should be eating meat. Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) is a complex cobalt-based organic compound that is produced naturally only by bacteria that ferments most of our food. So, it isn’t the meat that’s the source of B12, it is the fermented food in which we have live microbes that produce B12 in our system.
HOW DO YOU CONVINCE PEOPLE TO SWITCH TO A PLANTBASED DIET?
Often it is one of the most challenging tasks as people are conditioned to believe medicine is the way to treat an ailment and they find it difficult to change their eating habits that they have been following for years. But as most of the people I come across are my patients, I explain to them about the connection between the disease they suffer and their poor eating choices by sharing the evidence-based researches and case studies of my other patients. Some of the other things that I do to convince them are by sharing my own experience. I was suffering from chronic calcific tendinitis of my right shoulder while I was into bodybuilding. My shoulder pain refused to resolve with all the conventional treatments. My turning point from a hardcore meat eater to plant-based diet was the documentary “Forks over Knives”. When I switched over to plant-based diet, the pain completely disappeared and never came back again. I later understood the shoulder pain was because of my high protein food. So, I convince people by setting an example of leading a healthy lifestyle myself and my passion towards educating them gets the job done.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST BENEFITS FOR YOUR PATIENTS WHEN THEY FOLLOW A PLAN-BASED DIET?
As I said earlier, majority of the patients suffer from lifestyle diseases. No one is aware that a lot of their health issues including spinal disorders and other joint related problems are linked to poor eating habits. So, when they understand the facts and switch to a plant-based diet most of them begin to feel better in about 10 days’ time. They experience improvements in their digestion, energy, clear mind, cholesterol, sugar levels and their overall health.
WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON THE CURRENT STATE OF THE PLANT-BASED NUTRITION MOVEMENT? WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES IT IS STILL FACING?
Much of the world is trending towards plant-based eating and this global shift could be here to stay. This worldwide shift has helped many move away from consuming animal products. This movement is growing bigger every day. Everyone from celebrities to athletes to entire companies including Google and countries as big as China are supporting the movement to eat more plant-based foods. Plant-based eating may not be entirely mainstream yet. But it’s more accepted every day. And this trend is having far-reaching impacts. The biggest challenge is to get the message accepted by more medical professionals and Hospitals. I am sure this will happen too.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON DISEASES THAT CAN BE TREATED BY A PLANT-BASED DIET?
Based on several clinical studies, it is now evident that plantbased diet can help to treat many chronic lifestyle diseases like Diabetes, High cholesterol, Heart disease, Auto-immune disorders, some cancers, Spinal disorders, arthritis and many more.
IS PLANT BASED EATING THE FUTURE OF HEALING AND REVIVING ONE’S BODY?
Yes, without any doubt! Plant-based diet is growing across Asia and other parts of the world. A new dietary guideline is released by the Chinese government and they encourage the nation’s 1.3 billion people to reduce their meat consumption by 50%. Research predicts that China’s vegan market will grow more than 17% between 2015 and 2020. And reports say that in Hong Kong, 22% of the population are practicing some form of a plant-based diet. Mainstream health organizations are recommending a plantbased diet, including, Kaiser Permanente, the largest healthcare organization in the U.S, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee and the American Institute for Cancer Research.
YOUR TOP 5 TIPS FOR SOMEONE GETTING STARTED ON THEIR JOURNEY TO HAVING A HEALTHIER LIFE?
I have actually have eight tips to a healthier life. NEWSTART is how I call it. This is originally a term coined by Ellen G. White – a health reformer.
NEWSTART is an acronym that stands for
NUTRITION – Switch over to Whole food plant-based diet
EXERCISE – Having a proper exercise routine in place
WATER – Drinking adequate amount of quality water everyday
SUNLIGHT – Getting at least half an hour of early morning sunlight
TEMPERANCE – Developing abstinence towards bad things and moderation in good things.
AIR – Breathe fresh whenever possible and avoid smoking.
REST – Get enough rest to your body. Don’t be sleep deprived
TRUST – Develop trust and human connection towards your family members and friends. My Facebook group “Be Your Own Doctor” is based on these health principles.
Jerold Abraham Paulraj is a Physiotherapist from India. He works in NMC specialty hospital as the head of Physiotherapy department and specializes in sports injury and rehabilitation. You can reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org Or call: 0555205042/0552264065