How Adventist Health Pushes Patients Toward Plant-Based Diets — And Longer Lives

It won’t come as a shocker to learn that Americans, in general, have horrible diets.

On our plates, healthy plants like green vegetables or legumes are far too often replaced with fast food or extra meat, a trend that can make consumers more susceptible to diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses.

Michael Greger, an expert on dietary science, wants people to take another look at their diets and consider the health impacts. Adventist Medical Center is bringing him to Portland for a free seminar tonight on how dietary changes can make you healthier, live longer and even reduce the number of medications you take.

“We need to boost our intake of healthy plant foods and reduce our dependence on animal-based foods,” Greger said. “People tend to eat poorly because it’s convenient, it’s what’s around them. But you can make the switch. I think the way to do that is to just make fruits and vegetables as convenient as possible to eat.”

Greger suggests keeping a constant supply of chopped, easy-to-get-to plant-based foods in the refrigerator at all times to keep the urge to eat unhealthy snacks at bay.

“It’s just good to always have healthy options,” he said.

Greger is an avid follower of the science of plants as medicine.

“Until recently we just had lab data, but now we have a lot of clinical trials looking at food as medicine,” Greger said.

“For instance, black raspberries, which grow wild in Oregon, there are some amazing clinical trials showing they get rid of oral lesions. You can actually take people with these precancerous lesions and basically paint black raspberries on them and they nearly vanish.”

Gregor said he recommends every day eating at least a handful of berries, as many dark green leafy vegetables as possible, and adding legumes (like beans or lentils) to every meal.

Dr. Anabel Facemire, a cardiologist at Walla Walla General Hospital in Washington, said Greger has inspired her.

Her son had several medical issues when he was small, including ear infections and asthma, which led to a few days in the ER every winter. Then a friend from her son’s preschool suggested she pick up a nutrition book, “Super Immunity” by Joel Fuhrman.

“He really wasn’t a veggie eater, but after I read that, I started to force him to eat more green vegetables and I cut out dairy,” Facemire said. “And after doing that, we went for two weeks, then three months and then a whole year with no infections. I couldn’t believe it. So I thought, what if I also apply this to my patients.”

With that thought, she added nutrition classes to her practice. Facemire said several of her patients were able to cut down on prescription medications after changing their diets.

“I’d say 80 percent of our chronic diseases are actually the result of poor diet,” Facemire said. “I’ve gotten rid of so many (of my patients’) diabetic medications just by suggesting dietary changes. Plants really are medicine. If you look back, a lot of the drugs we have came from plants, but when they’re turned into drugs, those drugs also often come with side effects.”

Facemire learned about Greger, when her husband went to see him speak a few years ago. Her husband switched to a plant based diet after seeing Greger, and found that his blood pressure dropped, she added.

“What he has done with his website, absolutely free, he gives you access to all the nutrition research,” she said. “It’s a fantastic resource both for me and my patients.”

Gregor’s presentation takes place between 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. at Adventist Medical Center Amphitheater, 10123 S.E. Market St., in Portland.