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Benefits of Plant-Based Diet

Helping employees improve their health through a plant-based dietary intervention is a win-win situation for employees and the company. Who doesn’t want to feel great, increase energy, and maximise productivity in the process?

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Four of the 10 most expensive health conditions for employers are high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes, and chest pain. Businesses worldwide pay a huge toll for these diseases. So as diabetes and heart disease rates are projected to skyrocket in India over the next 10 to 15 years, employers should be in the business of plant-based employee wellness. The story of Hillary and Bruce is just one example of how plant-based interventions in the workplace improve employee health while boosting productivity and morale.

Hillary and Bruce had both genuinely — but unsuccessfully — tried many times to lose weight and improve their overall health when I first met them at GEICO, one of the largest insurance companies in the United States.

My organisation, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, was conducting a clinical research study at GEICO to find out what happens when employers provide cooking demonstrations, nutrition education, and low-fat plant-based meals in the company cafeteria — excluding all meat and dairy products. Hillary and Bruce signed on, and that’s when they finally made a lifesaving change.

Before the study, Bruce was overweight and his cholesterol level was dangerously high. Hillary’s weight was well into obese territory. But after joining our GEICO study, they went from eating hardly any vegetables and a lot of meat and dairy to a completely vegan diet.

Just eight weeks into the 22-week study, Hillary had already lost 80 pounds and Bruce’s cholesterol kept dropping. They also felt more positive and energetic, which improved both their personal and work lives. Their co-workers who followed the same plan lost about 11 pounds on average and missed fewer hours at work.

In another 18-week study we conducted at GEICO, participants who followed a plant-based dietary intervention experienced improvements in productivity, anxiety, depression, and fatigue. Study participants also lost an average of 10 pounds, lowered LDL cholesterol, and improved blood sugar control, if they had type-2 diabetes.

Healthful vegan options, including vegetable hummus sandwiches, seasonal leafy green salads, and black bean chili, were available in employee cafeterias. Because the four-month menu featured a variety of fruits and vegetables, it was rich in vitamins and minerals.

Study participants also chose from healthful carbohydrate-rich foods, including brown rice, steel cut oats, and rye bread, which help regulate serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin helps control mood. Weekly “lunch-and-learn” sessions enabled employees to acquire new cooking skills and learn about disease-fighting foods.

Of course, workplaces worldwide can modify menus based on local preferences and availability of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. In India, cafeterias might chose to serve navratan korma, Punjabi rajma, curry rice, or other Indian-style recipes.

The Physicians Committee has also promoted employees wellness with its vegan office policy since 1985. And now, more and more companies are incorporating vegan nutrition into the workplace. To name a few, Facebook offers employees plant-based nutrition education, Google is working to introduce more vegan options in its cafeterias, and Dropbox has a vegan employee programme.

Helping employees improve their health through a plant-based dietary intervention is a win-win situation for employees and the company. Who doesn’t want to feel great, increase energy, and maximise productivity in the process?

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Magazine 28 April 2018 wellness anniversary special

Neal Barnard

The author is President, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

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