Healthy Hospital Foods – Plant Based Options

The number one cause of death in America is NOT heart disease like many people believe. Yes, about 600,000 American’s died from “heart disease” last year which is about the same as the number of American soldiers that died in ALL wars in American history combined. However, we need to think about the cause of heart disease…diet and lifestyle.

According to the Global Burden of Disease Study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the number one cause of preventable death in America is the American diet.

Dean Ornish M.D. has shown 99% of heart disease patients reverse (75%) or halt (24%) their disease at 5 years with plant based diets and lifestyle changes.

Well then it makes sense that the primary approach to improving the health of a person with heart disease would be helping them transition to a heart healthy diet. How is it then that we commonly see hospitals providing patients with foods that are associated with causing heart disease, such as those high in dietary cholesterol and/or saturated fat, sugar and unhealthy oils? Even sometimes I have seen eggs, bacon and sausage given to heart attack patients. Is this not similar to providing a patient with emphysema in the hospital cigarettes on their breakfast tray?

Hospitals follow guidelines from specific associations such as the AHA for their “cardiac diet”. These diets still provide significant dietary cholesterol and saturated fat. Also, when “healthy” meats such as chicken are given, the negative heart health effects of animal protein, TMAO, heme iron and other factors contribute. Why not just offer 100% plant based menu options that are completely free of dietary cholesterol and essentially free of saturated fat without other concerns? The actual foods that have shown not only to prevent heart disease but actually reverse it.

Fortunately, the American Medical Association and the American College of Cardiology have powerful statements on hospital menus stating that plant based menu options should indeed be on hospital menus, should be front and center and promoted to heart disease patients. Unfortunately, they stop short of actually saying unhealthy foods should NOT be given in any circumstances to heart disease patients. Here is what the AMA officially says:

I was fortunate enough to be part of a group of physicians in June 2017 that supported the specific AMA resolution that resulted in this above policy. I presented a statement to the AMA along with Neal Barnard M.D., Kim Williams M.D., Michael Klaper M.D., Terry Mason M.D. and more. It was great to see dozens of physicians speaking in favor of this policy.

Great idea to have these policies in place, however hospitals need to act on them. Thank you Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora for listening and making positive changes. Plant based entrees have been added to the hospital menu and clearly labeled. Now when a patient suffers a cardiac event, we have the ability to teach proper dietary changes immediately moving toward a plant based diet. My next goal is to get the processed meats removed as well as added sugar. Ultimately, I want to make it against hospital policy to ever feed a heart disease patient any animal product. Eventually also refined carbohydrate such a sugar and oils as well…essentially be sure that they are on a whole food plant based diet.

For those of you in the healthcare field, share the AMA an ACC policy statements with your nutrition department and/or administration. Look at PCRM’s Heart Healthy Foods for Hospitals Guide and provide a copy to those involved at your hospital. It is helpful to find a physician advocate to implement these changes. Still need help and are in the Chicagoland area? Contact me and I will do what I can.

Leave a Reply