Leafy spinach. Quinoa. Black beans. They’re all great plant-based options and may already be a part of your diet.

But have you wondered if eating a completely plant-based diet might be right for you? Though switching to a diet like this may seem like a big change, for many, it’s a major step toward health.

Take Norman Baird for example. At age 72, he had just beat cancer but was still struggling with diabetes when he went in for a follow-up visit with his oncologist at Kaiser Permanente. It was then that his doctor suggested he try a plant-based diet.

“I saw him for a follow-up visit and he said, ‘Cancer isn’t the problem anymore, let’s talk about diet,’” Baird recalls.

Baird had struggled with his weight his entire life and was injecting insulin twice a day as well as taking an oral medication twice daily.

He was open to a change, though, and transitioned to a plant-based diet in February 2016.

Since then he dropped 63 pounds by cutting out animal products and processed foods and instead ate a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and some nuts and seeds.

He also went off his medications and controlled his blood-sugar levels naturally with a combination of diet and exercise.

“I don’t like poking that needle into myself,” he says. “So, it was nice not to have to inject the insulin anymore.”

Prior to making the switch to a plant-based diet, Baird says that he tried just about every diet — but none were successful in helping him reach his goal weight. He was also taking a fistful of medication on a daily basis to control not just his diabetes but also address congestive heart failure.

The plant-based lifestyle also improved his heart health, boosted his energy levels and has become a natural alternative to his medications.

Baird is a great example of why, at Kaiser Permanente, we advocate eating a plant-based diet as the most powerful medicine we have to prevent and even to reverse disease, and help our patients stay as healthy as possible.

For those considering a plant-based diet, you can start by making small changes and including more fruits, veggies and whole grains in your diet, which can make a difference in how you feel and your overall health.

Interested in learning more? To find out how to get started with a plant-based diet, check out thrive.kaiserpermanente.org/thrive-together/eat-healthy/get-the-benefits-of-a-plant-based-diet-in-the-northwest.

(Andrea Ferreiro, DO, practices physiatry at the Kaiser Permanente Sunnybrook Medical Office in Clackamas.)

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