Auckland plant-based physician, Dr Mark Craig, has hit the road to explain the value of plant-based nutrition to as many people as possible.

In a series of five talks around the city over eight days, Dr Craig has been explaining the benefits of whole food eating as he canvases for new patients interested in visiting him at his newly established True South medical practice in Mt Albert.

His next big push comes this weekend when he fronts up at the annual Go Green Expo to be held at the ASB Showgrounds. Dr Craig will speak on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 2pm.

This weekend he will deliver a more tightly packed presentation than his usual 90 minute combo which involves a 30 minute delivery with questions after but, he says, the message this weekend will still be the same.

“Certainly, the talks will be shorter this time, but I will be available at the end of the session and am always happy to talk to anyone with questions,” he said.

We caught the full force of his regular presentation at Ponsonby’s Little Bird café and restaurant earlier in the week,

Over two night’s Dr Craig spoke to near full houses on both evenings and there were plenty of questions and one-on-one discussions afterwards.

“People really are genuinely interested,” he says.”

“I think many have become aware that moving to a more plant-based way of eating results in serious health benefits but are after guidance and assurance about how to make it happen.”

For obvious reasons Dr Craig says he can’t provide a personal consultation at a public meeting but “if anyone is keen to follow up then we can sit down and discuss, in detail, a plan to suit them.”

But isn’t that as simple as telling them to just eat up their vegetables?

“That’s a good start! You must consider that some patients may have specific medical conditions, or they may be on regular medication and it might be unwise to change certain medications immediately if at all.

“Over time medications are often reduced or stopped entirely but that only occurs as part of a monitored plan that shows real benefits.

“Eventually, many patients may move off existing medications altogether but it’s not as simple as just telling them to eat up their vegetables. For instance, certain whole foods, or products they always thought were healthy, might not be good for them at all, such as the very high fat plant foods such as oils and coconut cream. It helps to go through each patients diet and understanding to maximise their nutrition.”

So how do patients react?

“Some are very accepting. Others not so much and a few can be quite resistant but will follow a programme of more healthy eating if they can see what it’s doing. I have a male patient who’s like that.

“In the beginning, when he first came to me, he was eating chicken and fish, but he still couldn’t reduce his cholesterol numbers. He knew a lot about plant-based eating but hadn’t gotten around to fully doing it.

“After talking I think he realised that he wasn’t giving it his best shot. He finally made the change and his numbers changed dramatically. He steadily lost a considerable amount of weight and his LDL (bad cholesterol) reduced 26 per cent.”

Are women more receptive?

“Generally yes! I think they are more aware of the cause and effect that diet has. They know it because they’ve become accustomed to watching their own weight and see how they change over the years
“When children come along, they’re usually the first to make sure the family is eating healthily and often become quite knowledgeable on it. But they also notice how their partners are changing too and many of them are really beginning to realise that the diet just isn’t right.

“Maybe I’m digressing but, I think it’s also why places like Little Bird have now made it onto Metro’s top 50 restaurants list. There is a real change happening. Whole food plant-based meals are becoming mainstream again.

So, its all about diet?

“It’s the food – it’s been the food all along! (along with other important lifestyle factors like exercise, sleep, stress and limiting booze and cigarettes). When I use the word ‘diet’ ít doesn’t mean restricting portions- in fact it’s usually about eating buffer portions but of the right foods, which are lower in calorie density than processed or animal based foods. This is our naturally evolved diet – we have the anatomy, physiology and biochemistry of a frugivore (fruit/ vegetation eater).

“Today though, we like to package things up, so the word ‘diet’ has become a popular term. Of course, diet refers to a lot of different types of eating, many of which I totally disagree with.

“You know, maybe it’s not such a bad term because even our Health Department has come up with its own list of recommended diets.

“I sure don’t want to take anything away from Little Bird but the top 50 isn’t good enough for me. I’m not going to stop until I see whole food plant-based first on that list.

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