When people think of veganism or vegetarianism, they often think of Liberals and Hippies.
My name is Monica Aggarwal and I am a cardiologist in the deep South.
Practicing cardiology is really interesting here. The patients are lovely, kind, interested and curious. Often my patients are gun-toting, conservative, Trump loving people.
I have a prevention clinic here where I see many people from all over South Georgia and Florida. Patients often tell me that they grew up eating meat and potatoes and never really ate vegetables.
In my clinic, I focus on plant based nutrition, meditation, yoga, stress management. I talk to patients about the importance of plants and why eating plants increases their fiber, brings down their cholesterol, opens up their blood vessels, reduces their blood sugars, brings down their blood pressure and decreases their risk of dying.
I don’t focus on getting people to go vegan because I don’t care so much about that. That isn’t as important as getting people to just eat more plants. There are people who have had bypass surgery or stents put in or who have so much chest pain that they can’t get around their yards without discomfort. There are those who are 30 years old and have poorly controlled diabetes. My youngest stent patient….31 years old. My youngest bypass patient…36 years old. No longer is eating meat and refined foods a life choice. We have to remember that the people who are eating red meat, high saturated fat, processed foods and the “Standard American Diet” are getting more obesity, diabetes, heart disease and are dying. I often tell people this. I also tell them there are choices to change their course, change their outcome. I also ask people how much eating the same way and doing the same thing that they have been doing for years is worth to them? And how sometimes just small changes can open up their worlds. I spend hours teaching patients about how to eat. I make them grocery lists. And do you know what? People change. Because no one wants to be sick. NO ONE. So people are changing and the South is changing.
We have a plant based menu at University of Florida where I work that I created. The dietary staff resisted this movement for months. They told me that I didn’t understand the South because I am from the North. They said that people in the South don’t want to change. They like the foods that they like. I said and continue to say that “they underestimate the South. The South will change like everyone changes because no one wants to be sick.” It took over a year to turn the hospital administration to my side. Since we have debuted our menu, we are getting so much press. Patients are demanding the menu. Since our debut of plant based menu items into our hospital cafeteria over the last week or two, we have had over 65 orders of just one of the plant based menu items.
So to those who think plant based nutrition is for Hippies and Liberals. Think again. We in the South are changing and healing. We in the South are not looking back. #Justeatmoreplants
Monica Aggarwal, MD