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Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

Joseph Williams, MD, a Pediatric Plastic Surgeon at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, shares his success with sticking to a plant-based diet and the health benefits that come with it.

Dr. Williams, who is also Chief of Plastic Surgery and Director of Clinical Research at Children’s, started following a plant-based diet several years ago. For him, however, there was no movie, political view or “light on the road to Damascus” moment that convinced him to make this lifestyle change.

“Anybody in healthcare has heard messages over and over again about the benefits of a more plant-based diet—less meat and less processed foods—and my transition was a continuation of all that,” Dr. Williams explains. “The ability to stop eating meat, eggs and dairy was not even a big change. I just drew a visible line in the sand.”

Evidence suggests that eating more whole, plant-based foods can lead to a host of health benefits, such as reducing your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. For Dr. Williams, plant-based eating has also made him more aware of what he puts on his plate.

“Does eating a plant-based diet make you slimmer, smarter, more virile, able to work longer hours and jump over tall buildings? No, not for me. But it did make me more mindful of what I was eating, where it was originating from and what it would do to me,” Dr. Williams says. “It also dropped my cholesterol by about 25%, and it definitely made my recovery better. I feel that I am able to bounce back better after a particularly hard stretch.”

Although its benefits are undeniable, many would admit that because of busy schedules, following a plant-based diet can be challenging.

“As a plant-based physician, I think that it is really easy to graze between cases. I need to be aware of what I am eating. Also, if I am hungry and nothing is available, I need to be able to walk away or find a substitute,” Dr. Williams adds. “My advice for fellow physicians is to plan ahead and eat small amounts frequently.”

Dr. Williams continues, “Let your body tell you what you need. I will admit that there are a few times that I really felt I needed some fish protein, and my body responded well. Remember, the diet is for you and nobody else. There is no need for confessionals if you miss the mark.”

What are his final words of advice for anyone considering a plant-based diet?

“Changing what you eat, and especially these kinds of directional changes, is about a process,” he concludes. “Grow into a lifestyle that focuses on plants. Nobody flips a switch and successfully makes changes overnight. There is much that I am still learning.”

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