But there is nutritional advice based in sound science that’s worth taking: Ten to 15 years of medical evidence supports the recommendation that a plant-based diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods — like the Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins — is beneficial for preventing, treating and reversing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity.
That approach also forms the nutritional foundation of lifestyle medicine, which integrates six pillars of healthy living to achieve good health. People who follow the guidance of a lifestyle medicine team are finding that, combined with the other pillars, this type of diet is an integrated and sustainable way of living that helps you feel and move better.
Conventional diet plans focus on the number of pounds, inches or clothing sizes lost, rather than overall well-being. Lifestyle medicine frames success in a different way. Do you want to climb stairs without feeling knee pain? Be able to pick up your child more easily, or push your grandchild on a swing? Take a walk comfortably each evening after dinner? Your lifestyle medicine team will work with you to define your goals and then create a plan to help you get there.
Lifestyle medicine advocates for a whole-food plant-predominant diet. This means that the majority of your foods should be whole vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds, while minimizing or excluding meat, eggs and dairy. You don't need to be "plant perfect"; you'll learn what ratio works best for you as you begin to make changes and see how you feel.
The "unpackaging" of whole foods that's happened in our society has resulted in higher-than-ever numbers of overweight and obese people and rising rates of prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and lifestyle-related cancers. Examples of this unpackaging include drinking vegetable juice instead of eating the whole vegetable, using protein powder rather than consuming whole beans or taking vitamin C instead of eating an orange.
Lifestyle medicine promotes a whole-food plant-predominant diet. Whole foods contain lots of nutrients that nature intended to be eaten together — many of which we may not yet know about — so you will always derive more benefit from eating all parts of a food instead of its individual components.
Your intestines are chock-full of good bacteria as well as harmful bacterial strains, and balancing them is vital for proper absorption of various substances to make you feel healthy. When the gut bacteria become unbalanced, it can lead to chronic inflammation that can affect multiple parts of your body. You may develop pain in your joints and spine, insulin resistance that leads to type 2 diabetes or cognitive dysfunction that makes you feel foggy-headed.
Scientific evidence supports the benefits of a lifestyle medicine food plan for boosting gut health. One study showed that when people adhered to a whole food plant-predominant diet for even as little as three months, their musculoskeletal pain was better.
If you feel like the kind of person who has tried every diet out there, you may wonder how the lifestyle medicine approach is different. What sets the lifestyle medicine approach to care apart from other types of medicine is that the patient is an active participant in their care and sets individual goals to improve their overall health. Learning this way of eating is a lifestyle choice to move toward improved health and feeling better.
Your dietitian and other members of your lifestyle medicine team are coaches and partners who all communicate the same messages to you. They know that everyone is unique and work with you and each other to help you reach your goals. Time and time again, people who have achieved success through lifestyle medicine report that the team support is what made the difference.
For more information about starting a plant-predominant diet, visit: