A Letter to Dad: “Please Eat More Plants, Because We Love You”
Dads are really something. They teach us to ride a bike, drive a car, mix a martini and to put our hard-earned money into our savings account, to put gas in the car and put the burgers on the grill. What they don't often teach us is how to invest in our health.
To them, eating meat is as much a part of their value system as telling us to "Do the right thing," be on time, and work hard. But when it comes time for us to teach them something, anything, their heads shake, the resistance walls go up, eyes narrow, arms cross and jaws stiffen, It's virtually impossible to return the favor.
That's especially true when it comes to the standard American meat-filled diet. You would think that Dads were born with a spatula in their hands. When it comes to "traditional" family recipes and rituals around eating meat and cheese – multiple times a day – changing their eating habits is hard.
Trying to get Dad to love leafy green salads, grain bowls and to fill his dinner plate with heaps of roasted vegetables, even if he knows it's better for heart-health, is an uphill slog. "Dad, would you like more kale?" is not a question heard at many dinner tables across the country. The tiny portions of beans or broccoli Dad does eat would fit on a golf tee.
Not all Dads are willing to listen
My dad thought lentil soup was an occasional "health lunch" to be had on occasion at the Yale Club, and it was always served with a piping hot fluffy popover best eaten slathered in butter. To him, spinach was a garnish, or worse, something stringy and watery to be ignored. Dinner usually involved steak, roast beef, lamb chops, or a burger with cheese, while lunch was a ham and cheese sandwich with mayo and mustard. Never a salad. The day started with eggs, bacon and whole-wheat toast. Nibbling on cheese at sundown was always a good idea, or as a warmup act before dinner, or just any old time. None of this worked out too well for him since he died of heart-related events at 82. Not young by some standards, but not old either.
This letter is to all the dads out there, for whom this message does not arrive too late or fall on deaf ears. Listen to your children if they ask you to change your diet and be healthier. It can happen if you want it to. And kids: Here's how to get Dad to want to make the important change to avoid meat and embrace plant-based proteins from vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. It may be a tough road, but it's worth a try. I would still try to convince my Dad to eat plant-based if I had the chance.
Studies show that saturated fat raises the risk of heart disease
Here's what we now know: It's clearly worth the battle to get our dads to adopt a more plant-based approach to eating. Study after study shows that a diet rich in fiber, consisting mostly of whole plant-based foods is healthier for your heart, your weight, your longevity and wellness–and plant-based eating lowers the risk of death from all causes. This is a message that Dad needs now. On Father's Day, when he is feeling the love, let's deliver it together.
In the most recent news on the link between meat and dairy, which are high in saturated fat, and heart disease, a new study found that a diet high in sat fat raises the risk of heart disease by over 20 percent.
That may not sound like a lot but think of it this way: If everything you do raises or lowers your risk, and half of all Americans have heart disease, those percentages add up to put you in the "has heart disease" camp or the "does not have heart disease" camp.
And while staying active and keeping your weight down can help lower your risk of heart disease, avoiding foods that are high in saturated fat (like red meat) appear to be a make-or-break factor, according to Dr. Joel Kahn, Read his article on saturated fat for The Beet.
So because we really truly love our dads, and we want them to stick around for as long as possible, The Beet has penned an open letter to Dads. We want them to take this the right way. "We want you to change your diet, because we want you to be here for the next chapters of our lives, to teach our kids to ride a bike without training wheels, put their money into savings, be upstanding people." For more on how to talk to Dad, we suggest these talking points:
An Open Letter to Dads on Father's Day. Eat Plant-Based
We love you Dad and we want you to stick around and stay healthy, so we need you to ditch the meat and dairy and start to eat more veggies, fruits, whole grains, seeds and nuts. We are not saying never to eat meat, just make it a rare occasion.
Let's be "plant leaning" or even mostly plant-based, or even plant-based before dinner. If you start you'll see it's delicious and you can still have your favorite foods. But the cheese is from cashews and the ice cream is almond-based and the burgers are meat-free. Plus salads and grains will make you feel so much better and not need a nap after dinner.
Let's do it together. For Father's Day. Don't take our word for it. There is scientific evidence to back this up. Here are the things we want you to know. (Update: Six million Brit dads are going to eat plant-based this father's day. Here's how to ask your dad to be one of them.)
A Plant-Based Diet Lowers the Risk of Heart Disease and Death by All Causes
The latest research study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, shows that plant-based diets are associated with a lower risk of not only heart disease but "all causes of mortality" in a general population of middle-aged adults.
It Only Takes Four Weeks to See Health Results on a Plant-Based Diet
It only takes four weeks (one month!) to change your body's heart-healthy markers! One month is enough to see significant drops in measurable health indicators like cholesterol, blood pressure, and lipids in your blood. In a study of 31 participants following a low-fat whole-food plant-based diet, in just four weeks:
- Significant reductions were observed for high blood pressure
- A drop in serum lipids, often a precursor to plaque and blockage
- A reduction in total medication usage and some took no meds at all
Cooked Meat Raises Blood Pressure and Causes Cancer: Skip the Well-Done BBQ
Eating well-done meat is linked to hypertension. Plus, charred meat also contains chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) that are known cancer carcinogens and caused tumors in the lab. Better than cooking meat at lower chemicals is avoiding it altogether since it contains saturated fats that can increase the risk of heart disease.
Preventing Heart Disease by Choosing More Plants
You can change your health outcome and lower risk of disease by 80 percent, just by living healthy. Genes are like light switches: You can actually turn them on or off depending on your choices. “Healthy lifestyle choices may reduce the risk of myocardial infarction (a heart attack) by more than 80%, with nutrition playing a key role” according to a recent study.
A vegetarian diet reduces cardiovascular disease and risk of death from a heart attack, stroke or other causes related to cardiovascular disease by 40%, the study found.
Plant-based diets are the only dietary pattern to have shown reversal of CHD [cardiovascular heart disease], the study authors concluded. Evidence suggests benefits of vegetarian dietary patterns in both the prevention and the treatment of heart failure and cerebrovascular disease [such as strokes].
Plant-based diets are associated with lower blood pressure, lower blood lipids, and reduced platelet aggregation than non-vegetarian diets and are beneficial in weight management, reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. A plant-based diet has also been shown an effective treatment in diabetes management. Well planned vegetarian diets provide benefits in preventing and reversing atherosclerosis and in decreasing CVD risk factors and should be promoted through dietary guidelines and recommendations.
Okay Dad, that's all you need to know for now. We don't want to bore you. But the takeaway message is this: We love you, and we want you around as long as possible. Please, starting today, eat more plants.