There’s a saying that food is medicine. Like medicine, the right foods, in the right doses, can make us feel better, stronger and improve our overall health and well-being. Whether the goal is weight loss, improving heart health or boosting energy levels, there are options for those seeking a different way of living and eating.
Betty Fujikawa, a long-time Kaiser Permanente member, chose to follow a plant-based diet to achieve better health now and in the future. A plant-based diet involves eating plant foods in their whole, unprocessed form, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, lentils, seeds and whole grains. It does not include animal products, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy.
“I have a family history of heart disease so I knew I was at risk and needed to reevaluate my eating habits and lifestyle to protect my health,” says Fujikawa. In just one year, she has experienced tremendous changes in her health. Her first priority was to bring down her cholesterol, which she did within just two months of following the diet. (Her cholesterol dropped 63 points from 256 to 193.) She also lost 15 pounds, which she describes as a “nice bonus” of the diet and noticed higher energy levels after a long day at work.
“Before I would come home from work feeling tired and wanting to be a couch potato. Now I come home and still have energy to go on a walk. It was nice to be able to break that cycle,” she says.
Many clinical providers also support the plant-based lifestyle. “It is an area of nutrition that has definitely shown to be healthier and help with chronic health conditions,” says Turusew Gedebu-Wilson, a registered dietitian at Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center, who follows a plant-based lifestyle and teaches a monthly plant-based nutrition class at the West Los Angeles Medical Center. “You actually can replace pills and medicines with fruits and vegetables,” Gedebu-Wilson says.
She has seen the positive impact of this lifestyle not only on herself, but also on her patients. “Plant-based eating helps manage blood sugars, can lower cholesterol, blood pressure and helps with weight loss,” she says. “It’s a lifestyle that engages you in being more mindful about what you eat and to think about the sources of your food. It is also good for the environment”.
Adopting a plant-based lifestyle also has its challenges. “It’s helpful to make small changes first and have a support network in place,” Gedebu-Wilson says, adding that she got into the plant-based lifestyle gradually, after being a vegetarian first.
Fujikawa also experienced challenges in adjusting to the lifestyle at first. “It was not easy in the beginning. I had to learn a new way of eating, new cooking techniques, new recipes, and how to adjust when eating at restaurants,” she says. “But because the results were so astounding I was excited to keep going. The benefits far outweigh the challenges.”
The next plant-based nutrition class is being offered to Kaiser Permanente members at the Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center on February 15 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. Members can call 323-298-3300 to sign up for the class.
You can also learn more about the plant-based lifestyle here: https://share.kaiserpermanente.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/The-Plant-Based-Diet-booklet.pdf