This Medical School Becomes First to Offer Plant-Based Nutrition Training

|Updated Nov 4, 2021
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Wayne State University just announced that its School of Medicine will require plant-based nutrition courses as part of its future curriculum, marking it the first medical school to ask future doctors to learn about the health benefits of plant-based nutrition. The new curriculum will require first-year medical students at the Detroit-based University to study plant-based diets and nutrition, which a mounting number of studies indicate is beneficial for reducing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other lifestyle medical conditions.

The medical school released a statement earlier this week, announcing that it considered the rising level of plant-based diets. The school recognized the growing impact that this dietary shift has on the entire population, meaning that medical professionals should understand the benefits and intricacies of a plant-based diet.

Wayne State University developed the new Rooting for Wellness course to give medical students the proper foundation and introduction to nutrition. The college aims to promote a more encompassing understanding regarding nutrition, diseases, and how certain diets can be tied closely to health conditions. The new course will include cooking demonstrations, information about plant-based nutrition sources, and host guest speaker events.

“Advances in preventive medicine have demonstrated the crucial role of whole-food unprocessed plant-based nutrition in reducing disease burden,” the statement reads. “Nutrition education and plant-based nutrition is seldom included in medical curriculum and is thus seldom incorporated into clinical care. Additionally, personal exposure to lifestyle modifications, including nutrition and diet, is associated with a provider’s willingness to recommend lifestyle modifications in clinical encounters.”
The medical school will launch its new course for the upcoming class of medical students, intending to set a precedent among medical institutions within the United States and worldwide. The need for plant-based education has never been so relevant. A recent study conducted by the Good Food Institute found that approximately a third of consumers identify as “mostly vegetarian,” indicating a significant shift towards plant-based diets.

“To our knowledge, this is the first exclusively mandatory plant-based nutritional intervention undertaken at a medical institution in the United States,” the statement continues. “The strategy presented here may serve as a model for similar initiatives at a variety of institutions and settings.”

The renowned physician and best-selling author Dr. Michael Greger discussed the importance of better plant-based education earlier this year. The acclaimed doctor wrote on his website that there is a substantial lack of education regarding nutrition and diet across the entire medical field. Greger empathized that it is essential for a doctor to understand the nuances of diet and plant-based nutrition to properly treat patients.

“In medical school, students may average only 19 total hours of nutrition out of thousands of hours of instruction. And, they’re not even being taught what’s most useful,” Greger wrote. “Yet, how can clinicians put these guidelines into practice without adequate training in nutrition? The key to these transformations was having a physician advocate and increasing education of staff and patients on the benefits of eating more plant-based foods.”

Beyond the medical field, plant-based education is also rising: The world-renowned cooking school Le Cordon Bleu introduced its Diploma in Plant-Based Culinary Arts in January 2020, recognizing the growing demand for exciting and healthy vegan cuisine worldwide. Earlier this year, the school expanded the program to begin offering a plant-based Patisserie certificate, dedicated to teaching chefs how to implement plant-based alternatives and work outside of the traditional animal-based recipes.

“Combining the growing demand for plant-based cooking with the culinary techniques that Le Cordon Bleu is renowned for, our chefs explore the different uses for plant-based ingredients, perfect for anyone who is interested in creating dishes from fresh produce and whole-foods,” Culinary Arts Director Chef Emil Minev said when introducing the diploma.

You may think iron is synonymous with meat, and while animal protein certainly has it, that doesn’t mean you can’t get enough iron if you eat a mainly plant-based diet. In fact, you can, if you know the right foods to choose and how to pair them. The daily recommendation from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for iron intake is 18 milligrams (mg), but not all iron sources are created equal. Here’s what plant-based eaters need to know about iron and which iron-rich foods are best to help reap the benefits.

1. White Mushrooms

1 cup cooked = 3 mg iron (17% daily value (DV))\There are many reasons to eat mushrooms on the regular, but their meaty texture (try a Portobello cap as a meat replacement for a burger!) and ample protein are two of the highlights. Add them to your stir-fry, tacos, or even instead of meat in a faux Bolognese sauce.

2. Lentils

1/2 cup = 3 mg iron (17% DV)You don’t need to eat a huge serving of lentils to get a hearty dose of iron. Just a half-cup provides close to 20% of the iron you need in a day. Just like mushrooms, lentils have a meaty texture that works well in burgers, tacos, or grain bowls.

3. Potatoes

1 medium potato = 2 mg iron (11% DV)The poor potato has gotten such a bad rap. Fear of this carb-rich spud is unwarranted because it’s actually an affordable and delicious source of iron and potassium. So go ahead and have that hash, baked potato, or potato soup and leave the skin on for some added fiber.

4. Cashews

1 ounce = 2 mg iron (11% DV)Most nuts contain iron, but cashews are a standout because they have less fat than some of the other nuts. One ounce of cashews (about 16 to 18 nuts) has 160 calories, 5 grams of protein, and 13 grams of fat. Add a handful of cashews to smoothies, soups, or sauces for some extra creaminess.

5. Tofu

½ cup = 3 mg (15% DV)Not only does tofu have plenty of protein and calcium, but it’s also a good source of iron. It’s very versatile and takes on the flavor of any sauce or marinade, making it a great meat substitute.Keep in mind that you can easily get the iron you need from a plant-based diet.