How Do You Educate Your Patients About Plant-Based Diets?
Bryan M. Rogoff, OD, MBA, CPHM, FAAO
2020 is the year of eye health, the optometrist, 20/20 vision, and with this near year and decade, people want to start things fresh and strong. As our patients are scheduling appointments for their 20/20 vision and eye care, we should be aware of the 2020 consumer health trends that enable them for this fresh, new start. Technology has changed fitness at home with interactive equipment and new online videos, telemedicine services are available more than ever, “self-care” has been gaining popularity to lower stress with meditation and better sleep, and plant-based diets are in! Plant-based diets, specifically plant-based meats have been around for quite some time, but the new “heme” protein has caught the taste buds of carnivores and our favorite fast-food restaurants have incorporated them in their menus. Burger King, Carl’s Jr., White Castle, Thornton’s, and Dunkin’ Donuts now offer this new “flexitarian” option that has better health benefits. Or does it?
As eye care providers, we understand the growing epidemic of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes from our patients and that the research has linked the consumption of red meat to these diseases.1 Studies also link the consumption of red meat to increasing the risk of mortality and suggest substituting 1 serving per day with fish, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy, and whole grains to lower these risks.2 In 2018, the USDA calculated that the average American had access to 222.4 pounds of red meat and poultry and there has been an increasing demand for meat since 2009.3 Also, a lot of red meat contains sodium nitrate, a preservative to retain the red color, which can damage blood vessels and affect the way our bodies utilize sugar, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.4
Over the years, imitation meats have become more appealing to carnivores with improvements of taste and textures similar to real meat. There are two types of approaches to replacing meat without harming animals: plant-based and cell-based. Plant-based meats utilize soybeans, high-protein vegetables, jackfruit, and genetically modified yeast to create the taste and texture, while cell-based meats use cells from animals like cows, turkeys, fish, and chickens to grow products in Petri dishes.5 Both products aim to create products that are close to, or indistinguishable from, their meat product counterparts. Soy-based and mushroom-based meats started to revolutionize the market with imitation burgers, chicken wings, bacon, sausage, and more that started to transform the vegan craze from an animal rights movement to a lifestyle movement. Last year, sales of plant-based foods outpaced overall grocery sales of 11% and a 2018 Nielsen study found that plant-based food sales grew 30% between 2017 to 2018.5,6 People can now give up consuming meat without feeling like they are giving up meat.
So, are these plant-based alternatives really healthier than actual meat? The answer is yes and no. Consumers that switch from hamburgers to plant-based burgers such as the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat will still get a similar 20 grams of protein as opposed to traditional veggie burgers that have about 9 grams of protein, which is much less.7 However, the sodium content in the Beyond Burger and Impossible burger is about 370-390 milligrams while traditional hamburgers contain about 65-75 milligrams of sodium.7 Additionally, the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat have similar caloric contents and saturated fat to traditional meat hamburgers, mostly from the coconut, sunflower and canola oils.8 These oils are considered Omega-6 fats that can contribute to obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.9 And due to the processing of these plant-based burgers, there are minimal beneficial nutrients that are normally found in the individual vegetable ingredients. Processed foods are also linked to obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.8
Because eye care providers are at the forefront of battling epidemics of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes, it is critical to educate our patients as we are managing their treatments. Nutritional counseling, including diet, hydration consumption, and sleep history in our intake notes are all needed to properly manage these patients and increase their quality of life.
Bryan M. Rogoff, OD, MBA, CPHM has a unique background in areas of holistic eye care, business management and healthcare reform. He specializes in LEAN clinical management and operations, technology implementation, healthcare strategy, and strategic partnerships. Currently, he serves as a consultant for for the FDA, Immediate Past-President & Education Chairperson for the Maryland Optometric Association, Federal Keyperson and Meetings Committee Member for the American Optometric Association, reviewer for the Council on Optometric Practitioner Education and is the Founder of Eye-Exec Consulting, LLC. To contact Bryan, visit www.eye-exec.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be found on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.