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OP-ED: Changing women’s health one plate at a time
May 12, 2015, 05:00 AM By Dr. Debra Shapiro

Dr. Debra Shapiro

As an ob-gyn, my career has been dedicated to women’s health. While my day job as a physician is to ensure the reproductive health of my patients and the health of their newborns, the physician in me is alarmed by how little regard our society has for taking care of our lifelong health. I’m talking about the staggering public health crisis our nation is facing due to chronic preventable disease. It’s a crisis of epidemic proportions that doesn’t need to be addressed in our nation’s delivery or operating rooms, but rather in our dining rooms. During Women’s Health Week, I hope more women — and men — will begin to resolve that crisis by eating more plant-based meals.

Research shows that the majority of what Americans eat today is generally unhealthy. Our diets are too high in saturated fats and refined sugar and carbohydrates, and too low in whole grains and fiber, as well as nutrient dense vegetables and fruit. Smoking, inactivity and hereditary predispositions are of course very important. However, the research clearly indicates that a diet high in meat and dairy is also strongly associated with more heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes and cancer.

Studies also show that animal agriculture is a major contributor of greenhouse gasses that are literally destroying our planet — the greatest public health threat we could ever face. It is estimated that 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions now come from the meat, egg and dairy industries. Both the United Nations and the World Health Organization have advised reducing our overconsumption of meat if we want to avoid planetary disaster with continued global warming. Not to mention the topic that’s on everyone’s mind these days: the production of meat and dairy uses much more water than the production of plant-based protein, and produces much more waste. 

As compassionate people who care about animal welfare as well as human health, many of us are also concerned about the way in which animals are treated in the meat industry. Ninety-nine percent of the animals raised for food in the world come from factory farms, where the industry’s routine standard practices amount to what many of us would call animal abuse. Over and over again, organizations like The Humane Society of the United States expose, through whistle-blowing exposes, animal cruelty on factory farms. Although most of us don’t want to see these conditions, when given the information, most people do want to make more compassionate choices. 

Lastly, we are all aware of the costs of medical care for people suffering from preventable diseases. Heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer are crippling our health care system. As a community, we have a tremendous opportunity to improve our health, to reduce our environmental impact and improve the lives of countless farm animals by eating more meat-free meals or simply taking a once-a-week holiday from meat by enjoying Meatless Mondays. And we can join citizens in many other cities like San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland in promoting Meatless Mondays, hospitals like Kaiser Permanente and entire school districts like Los Angeles and Houston public schools which are encouraging students to swap chicken nuggets with protein-packed three-bean chili even one day a week.

The words of Hippocrates still ring true today, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” A prescription for women — and a healthier community — can be filled at the dinner table: a satisfying, delicious plant-based meal. 

Debra Shapiro, MD is a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist who has been serving the Mills-Peninsula community since 1993. She has been studying the health and environmental benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet for over two years.

 

 

Tags: health, plant, animal, based, crisis, disease,


Other stories from today:

Letter: More housing
Letter: Justice denied
Remember the power of peaceful protesting
 

 
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