Are Plants the New Meds?

A cardiologist and professor of medicine weighs in on their incredible healing powers

October 2020

By Dr. Robert Osteld

The future of healthcare is bright. At least it can be if we focus on the underlying causes of diseases, not just their symptoms. Doctors who embrace this idea often call it ‘lifestyle medicine’. It is one of the most important movements in healthcare today and Brightplate is part of it. The company’s innovative approach is based on an ancient foundation: the belief that we should eat more plant-based foods.

I’ve been a cardiologist for nearly twenty years seeing hundreds if not thousands of patients a year. In that time, outside of a medical emergency where someone needs an urgent lifesaving procedure, I’ve never seen anything come close to the breadth and depth of benefits a plant-based diet provides. Some patients literally cry tears of joy because they feel so much better after changing their diet. To be clear, medications are an essential part of a well-balanced treatment plan, but nobody cries tears of joy when I write them a prescription.

Don’t just take my word for it. Hundreds of scientific studies show the benefits of eating more fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains and other plant-based foods. Here are three things I’ve taken away from many years of reading and lecturing on the topic.

First, we’re not victims of our genes. Although genes run in families and are important, so, too, does lifestyle. Accordingly, you may substantially reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke by eating more healthy plant-based foods even if you have a family history of heart attack or stroke. You are the boss of you.

Second, the benefits of a plant-based diet go way beyond lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and improving our cardiovascular health. This way of eating may reduce your risk for, diabetes, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer and many other conditions. It may boost our mood, critical thinking, energy, complexion and stamina (in and out of the bedroom).

Third, the effects kick in fast. For example, blood vessels may begin to relax and dilate within an hour of eating a healthy meal. As such, we have had many patients reduce their blood pressure medication use within just 1-2 weeks. Your body is incredibly resilient. It wants to heal itself. Given the right food healing starts straight away.

If there was a drug that could do half of that it would make billions of dollars a year. Yet such ‘drugs’ already exist in the form of plant-based foods. So why doesn’t every doctor’s visit start with a discussion of diet or lifestyle? I can’t say but I know that I felt like a voice in the wilderness when I started to take lifestyle medicine seriously. Ten years later, there is a growing community of doctors who believe passionately in this approach and we are doing all we can to promote it.

To succeed we must find ways to make small but potentially lifesaving changes easy, affordable and enjoyable. That is where Brightplate comes in. They are focused on removing the barriers – both mental and practical – to sustaining healthy habits. I urge you to make the most of the opportunity this program offers. I think you’ll see the benefits faster than you expect. When you do, I hope you’ll join with me in saying the future is indeed bright.

Dr. Ostfeld is the Director of Preventive Cardiology at Montefiore Health System and a Professor of Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He has an MD. form Yale University School of Medicine and an MSc. from Harvard School of Public Health. He is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology.