Plant-based nutrition: Food for thought

Dr. Matthew NagraArticles

When Matthew Nagra, a doctor of naturopathic medicine and avid soccer player looks back at his teens, he’s reminded of just how drastically his health has turned around since
At the time, he had allergies, was overweight and experienced such severe asthma that at one point he had to endure an hour of intensive treatment to prevent his lungs from shutting down.

About 12 years ago, at age 15, Nagra started working with a personal trainer, Grai Beal, who advocated a plant-forward diet. He began to eliminate animal products and processed food. Within weeks Nagra noticed tremendous improvements in his physical and mental health. Over time, he adopted a purely plant-based diet. “I haven’t had asthma since, my allergies got way better, and I started losing weight,” Nagra says. “My energy went through the roof and my mental clarity got a lot better.”

Experiencing the benefits of plant- based eating set the course for Nagra’s career in naturopathic medicine. “After seeing the results I had with diet alone, I wanted to help others do the same,” he says.
Nagra went on to complete a Bachelor’s of Science degree in microbiology before studying for four years at the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine.

A cornerstone of Nagra’s evidence- based practice at Vancouver’s Tonume Integrated Health is helping people shift toward a whole foods, plant-based diet, which can have several health benefits supported by scientific research.
After his own father was diagnosed with heart disease and pre-diabetes, Nagra began digging deeper into the research on plant-based diets. Nagra came across the work of Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr. of the Cleveland Clinic, who has published multiple articles and written a book called Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, which he found fascinating.

Next,Nagra discovered the work of Dr. Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, who has successfully treated patients with type 2 diabetes using a plant-based diet in conjunction with conventional care. This motivated Nagra to continue learning all he can about the science behind diet and disease. “My dad improved his symptoms of heart disease, pre- diabetes, and asthma after making similar diet changes as mine,” Nagra says.While some have questioned whether a plant-based diet can provide adequate nutrition, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the largest group of nutrition experts in the world (with more than 100,000 professionals), issued a peer- reviewed position statement in 2016 stating that well-planned vegan diets “are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood and for athletes.” Nagra comes in for the “well-planned” part.Dr. Nagra helps his patients improve their health with plant-based diets.

Nagra says The Game Changers, a 2019 documentary about plant- based diets for athletes, has pushed this nutritional approach into the mainstream consciousness. “Several people who have seen the movie have come to see me, wanting to make the switch. They are looking for advice on how to do it right.”

If the thought of reducing or giving up meat, poultry, and dairy all at once seems daunting, Nagra says his role as a naturopathic doctor includes helping people make the shift successfully. “Usually a slower transition is easier depending on the individual,” he says. “I can help people determine which foods to eliminate and how to replace them to optimize both taste and nutrient content. I work with what their diet already looks like and help veganize it while focusing primarily on whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. There needs to be some education around it. I help patients do it correctly based on my nine years of research, personal experience and education.”

The start of a new year is an ideal time to overhaul your diet and start making it greener; after all, Veganuary (“vegan January”) is becoming increasingly popular every year, with more people adopting plant-based eating for their own health, for the well-being of animals and to help protect the environment. For 2020, Veganuary organizers are expecting more than 300,000 people to take part.

After doing extensive research on where he wanted to work, Nagra joined Tonume Integrated Health because the clinic’s philosophy aligned with his own core values and always puts patients first, which is further exemplified by the clinic’s fantastic reputation. Nagra and other Tonume practitioners spend time getting to know their patients, taking a holistic approach to their health and wellness.

Among Nagra’s mentors is Dr. Michael Greger, author of New York Times bestsellers How Not To Diet and How Not To Die, and founder of the non-profit Nutritionfacts.org, which provides free evidence-based nutrition information to the public on the topic of diet and health.

Nagra is passionate about helping people improve their health with plant-based diets. He volunteers with Nutritionfacts.org answering viewers questions. Nagra has also worked as a part time teaching assistant at his alma mater, Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine.

In addition to nutrition counselling, Nagra also offers comprehensive health assessments, lab testing, IV nutrient therapies, acupuncture and physical therapies. To make the shift to a plant-based diet and to start experiencing its health benefits, contact Dr. Matthew Nagra at Tonume Integrated Health, 2655 Commercial Drive, 604-428- 1399; or visit tonume.com or drmatthewnagra.com. He’s on Instagram and Facebook.

BY G. MARION JOHNSON
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