Dads are really something. They teach us to ride a bike without training wheels, and when we topple, to get right back up and dust ourselves off and try again. They teach us to put our hard-earned money into our savings and the burgers on the grill. To them, eating meat is as much a part of their value system as telling us to "Do the right thing," have integrity, and work hard. But when it comes time for us to teach them something, anything, their heads shake, resistance walls go up, eyes narrow and jaws stiffen, and it's virtually impossible to return the favor.

That's especially true when it comes to diet. You would think that Dads were born with a spatula in their hands. When it comes to food, "traditional" family recipes, and eating meat and dairy multiple times a day, changing their eating habits is hard. Trying to get Dad to love salads, and fill his plate with roasted vegetables, even if he knows it's better for heart-health, is an uphill battle. "Dad, would you like more kale?" is not a question heard at 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. Mine certainly was not. It meant losing him

My dad thought lentil soup was an occasional "health lunch" that he would order at the Yale Club, and it was served with a piping hot fluffy popover best eaten slathered in butter. To him, spinach was a garnish, whereas dinner always involved steak, roast beef, lamb chops, or a burger with cheese, while lunch was usually a ham and cheese sandwich with mayo and mustard, and the day should start with eggs, bacon and buttered whole-wheat toast. Nibbling on cheese was always a good idea, before dinner, with lunch, or just any old time.

Sad Footnote here: My Dad, who had heart disease in his family and himself was a frequent visitor to the heart unit of New York Hospital, was treated to the top medical care that doctors could provide. But doctors can't save you if you don't want to change your diet. When he had a blockage, they put in a stent, and when he fell down (passed out) too many times, they added a pacemaker. They treated his TIAs, or mini-strokes, with medicine such as blood thinners and they treated his elevated cholesterol with statins, as well as beta-blockers for his lack of ability to pump blood fully from his enlarged heart. At one point he took 13 pills a day. Yet my Dad was old school and didn't try to change his diet.

One day, he went into the cold beautiful lake in northern Maine, on Father's Day as a matter of fact. He left us a loving message, and then he drowned. The water was bracing, and it was too much for his heart. He had just turned 82. I wrote a Modern Love Column about it as a way of understanding and reconciling the fact that this amazingly strong, smart man had lived and died by his own decisions since he was loving and intellectual, but stubborn. He would never have changed his diet, even if it would have given him another chapter.

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 that important change. It's worth a try. I would still try to convince my Dad to eat plant-based if I had that option.

Study after study point to meat, dairy and saturated fat as raising heart disease risk

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.

The latest study on saturated fat is unequivocal: Saturated fat causes heart disease

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, avoiding foods that are high in sat fat appear to be a make-or-break factor, according to Dr. Joel Kahn, who wrote about the evils of sat 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, for Your Health

We need you Dad, and we love you, 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 plant-based. 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.

To quote from this vitalstudy: Plant-based diets are the only dietary pattern to have shown reversal of CHD [cardiovascular heart disease]. Additionally, 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. They have also been shown an effective treatment method 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.

Read More: Eating Plant-Based Lowers Your Risk of Heart Disease and Cancer |