The support for a plant-based diet is undeniably on the rise but as with any health movement, it comes with much skepticism. To help navigate you through credible information supporting this dietary lifestyle, I’m excited to introduce you to my new series, “Plant-based Professionals”.
In this new series we will be diving deep into various health topics with the help of medical professionals who advocate for a plant-based diet. From common myths, valid concerns and flat out new information you may not have known – you will surely learn much from these varying experts.
My first feature on the Plant-based Professionals series is an incredible practitioner, educator and author Dr. Angie Sadeghi. She kindly agreed to help shed some light on common concerns revolving around a plant-based diet. Here’s a little more information about who she is and what she specializes in.
About Dr. Angie
Dr. Angie Sadeghi is a diplomate of both the American Board of Internal Medicine and American Board of Gastroenterology. She has extensive training from the prestigious University of Southern California (USC), and demonstrates exceptional commitment to excellence in treating diseases of digestive tract. She has been featured in three documentaries as a leader in the field of plant-based fitness for health and weight loss and has also co-written a published book called the Trifecta of Health. Dr. Angie was also recently published on the cover of Vegan Health and Fitness Magazine.
Q&A discussing common concerns about a plant-based diet.
Dr. Angie, can you tell us a little bit about your story and how you ended up exploring a plant-based diet?
I grew up eating the standard American diet which is high in saturated fat, cholesterol, refined sugar, and oils. I was obsessed with getting a lot of protein, so I consumed a lot of meat, dairy and eggs. This type of eating lead to my becoming overweight as a teenager, so I tried every fad diet known to mankind. In fact, about 20 years ago, I went on the keto diet, formerly known as the Atkins diet. I had high cholesterol, depression, and debilitating eczema, which required taking medicines most of my life. I had no plans to go plant-based because I had no idea that a plant-based diet could help alleviate these problems.
Incidentally, I was speaking to my friend Sarah who was in the same residency program at the University of Southern California in 2005, and she mentioned she went vegetarian because of the animals. I am a HUGE animal lover, so when I heard that, I decided to also eat a vegetarian diet for moral reasons. Unfortunately, I started consuming even more dairy which caused me to become even more sick.
At that point I thought my problems were all genetic, and that I was going to have to live with it for the rest of my life. About 6 years ago, I heard about the health risks associated with dairy and I decided to go plant-based. Once I started eating a plant-based diet, I started getting healthier and stronger. I even started looking younger. So I have dedicated my life to educating people about the plant-based diet.
When did you know this lifestyle/diet was something you should begin recommending to your patients?
Initially, as a moral vegan I was not going to recommend this diet to my patients, but once I learned about the health benefits, and I witnessed what it did for my life, I started wholeheartedly recommending it to my patients. Since then, I have become 100x more powerful as a practitioner as I help patients treat their diseases with nutrition rather than medicines.
Do you believe that a majority of your patient’s conditions are preventable through diet?
Fortunately, most diseases in the US are lifestyle related rather than due to genetics, which means that a few lifestyle modifications could prevent or even reverse disease.
How does the gut benefit from a plant-based diet as opposed to an animal based one?
The gut cells and the gut microbiome thrive off of fiber as a nutrition source, yet most people obsess about eating a ton of protein. Fiber is an essential nutrient for the gut and it helps keep the lining of the gut healthy to prevent it from becoming permeable, which is the so called “leaky gut.” Fiber is food for the biome! Fiber feeds the health promoting biome, which ferment the fiber and make short-chain fatty acids, which are metabolites that help the entire body thrive.
On the other hand, saturated fat and protein from animals cause inflammation in the gut and the entire body. This is why I tell my patients, “If a certain food doesn’t have fiber, it doesn’t belong in your body.”
Can you get a sufficient amount of protein on a plant-based diet?
YES, absolutely! Unlike popular belief, all plants including legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains have protein. These foods not only contain plenty of protein and essential amino acids to help you thrive, they also contain a lot of micronutrients and antioxidants to help you fight cancer and other diseases.
What do you say to those who claim a vegan/plant-based diet can not provide enough essential nutrients? (calcium, zinc, iron etc)
If you eat a healthy well designed plant-based diet to include vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes, you will get even more micronutrients than a diet rich in dairy and meat. Some animal products such as dairy are rich in calcium, but they also cause allergic reactions, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and heart disease, so they are not healthy. A well designed diet should not focus on getting a single isolated nutrient at the expense of getting sick from other diseases. Another example is eating meat for protein and iron, but getting colon cancer and heart disease. Again, it doesn’t make sense.
The only vitamin deficient in the vegan or plant-based diet is B12, which is synthesized by bacteria. B12 is rich in the soil but when we eat vegetables, we wash the soil and wash away the B12. The dairy and meat industry usually fortify the animals’ feed with B12 supplements, so when you eat animal products, you get B12. Instead of eating animal products to get B12, it would be more intelligent to “cut out the middleman” ie the animal products, and take a B12 supplement daily.
What about Vitamins like A & D? Can these be supplemented in a vegan, whole foods diet?
Vitamin A comes from yellow fruits and vegetables and dark green leafy veggies. Vitamin D comes from the sun, so if you don’t go out in the sun too often, you should supplement with vitamin D. For example, my son doesn’t get out that much, so I give my son calcium and vitamin D fortified soy milk everyday.
Do you believe it’s possible that different blood types may prohibit people from thriving on a meat/dairy free diet?
The blood type diet has been discredited and there is ZERO science to support it. There is absolutely no validity to this diet so it would honestly be a waste of time to discuss any further.
I know people who have attempted a plant-based diet and said they didn’t feel “good” doing so (fatigue, constant hunger etc.). What would you recommend these people do to reconsider?
Great question! First of all, you have to trust that you’re embarking on an awesome journey and eating the absolute healthiest diet on earth. Second of all, just like anything you try, it is difficult in the beginning, so don’t give up. When going plant-based, if you can’t go overnight, consider transitioning into it slowly. Start thinking about what to eat rather than what you can’t eat. Start thinking of which plant-based foods you are going to incorporate into your life that you were not eating previously.
For example, eat more legumes, and different kinds of veggies you haven’t tried etc… Perhaps pick up a cookbook or incorporate plant-based veggie burgers and other products available to help you transition. Consider going to vegan restaurants to get new ideas. Definitely consider learning how to cook tofu and tempeh which are my favorites!!! Once you have incorporated a lot of plant-foods into your diet, then consider eliminating the unhealthy foods:
Step 1- avoid all dairy and processed meat
Step 2- avoid all red meat
Step 3- avoid all chicken and eggs
Step 4- avoid all fish and seafood
Step 5- Become an advocate to help others achieve the best health of their lives!
What is your advice to those who are curious about trying a plant-based diet but don’t know where to start?
I would buy a cookbook and try new recipes, follow plant-based advocates on IG and FB, attend seminars, and listen to podcasts. There are THOUSANDS of resources out there to help you! Remember you’re not alone. One thing is for sure…once people go plant-based, they become extremely excited to help others. Most plant-based people I know in the community are excited to help, so just ask for help!
You can also grab a copy of her newly launched book The Trifecta Of Health here
Special thank you to Dr. Angie for sharing her knowledge with us and stay tuned for our next guest on the series!