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  1. Exam Room Podcast

  2. Jan 3, 2018

The Incredible Vegan Immune System

What effect does a vegan diet have on the immune system? Good question!

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We’ll explain how fruits and vegetables not only help to fight off a cold, but also how they can help lower your risk of cancer.

“The Weight Loss Champion” Chuck Carroll will also speak with Dr. Charlie Ross who has an incredible story to share. He went from being an emergency room physician to one of the leading advocates for preventative medicine through nutrition after experiencing firsthand the benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet.

And Dr. Neal Barnard reveals the one diet change you must make in order to really boost your immune system and keep your weight down.

On The Show

Inspiration: Dr. Charlie Ross is a former emergency room physician who completely changed the course of his career after radically changing his own life. This man is amazing. He was gobbling down all sorts of quick and unhealthy foods in the nonstop hospital environment until he had an awakening. Now, he teaches other doctors about the disease fighting health benefits of plant-based eating. He also revolutionized his community in Oregon and turned it into one of the few Blue Zones in the world. Many residents are living longer lives than nearly anywhere else on earth. His tireless work and advocacy efforts are second to none.

The best fruits and vegetables to boost the immune system: Dr. Steve Neabore has the answer to the question we’ve always wondered. What should I be eating to avoid getting sick? We’ve long been told that vitamin C is nature’s cure for the common cold. But will popping vitamins have the same effect as eating an orange? Um, no. So what else should we be eating? According to Dr. Neabore, it’s whatever other fruit or vegetable you like. Translation: If a kid doesn’t want to eat their Brussels sprouts, don’t make them! Find something else. Of course, we also have a list of some of the best options. Even more important, the power fruits and veggies go well beyond preventing the sniffles. They also contain a healthy dose of antioxidants which can significantly lower your risk of cancer.

To learn what some of the best options are, check out The Nutrition Rainbow Guide that we discussed on the show.

Fat, oil, achoo! If you want the benefits of olives, eat the olives and not the oil. That’s something that nurse practitioner Gretchen Housel recommends to all of her patients at the Barnard Medical Center. It turns out that researchers have found that fats and oils can lower your immune system. Uh oh. She explains why olive oil isn’t quite as heart healthy as you’d think.

Recipe: Green Goddess Smoothie time! This baby is chock-full of the fruits and veggies that can help keep you healthy and lower your risk of cancer. Plus, the kids love it. Just have some fun and call it The Shrek Smoothie and they’ll guzzle it right down. Health coach and Physicians Committee managing director of nutrition Jill Eckart is back to share the recipe from the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart Program.

About Dr. Charlie Ross

Charles Ross, D.O., a member of the nonprofit Physicians Committee and a former emergency department physician, has firsthand experience with putting a plant-based diet into practice.

Dr. Ross is in his late 60s, takes no medications, and lowered his previously high total cholesterol from 230 mg/dL to a healthy 135 mg/dL after adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet in 2012. Within the first month of making the dietary change, he effortlessly lost 10 pounds. Within a year, Dr. Ross traded a 34-year career of practicing emergency medicine for a new career path: lifestyle medicine. After 5.5 years of making the career switch, he continues to host free biweekly nutrition classes for his primary care patients and the community. More than 700 people have enrolled to learn how to lose weight, eliminate the need for medications to treat type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and elevated cholesterol, and to simply feel better. His former hometown of Roseburg, Ore., is now a Blue Zones community. He is a part-time instructor at the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific Northwest and hopes to set an example for future physicians.

"I no longer work for a living," notes Dr. Ross, who now resides in Westfir, Ore. "I wake up every day eager to hear about how a plant-based diet and a healthful lifestyle is changing and saving lives in our community. What I've found is that if you want your patients to make significant health changes, you have to make them yourself. The prescription started to spread soon after my family, co-workers, neighbors, and friends heard about my experience."

More on Exam Room Podcast

Join us Wednesdays at noon ET for a live Q/A with Dr. Neal Barnard!