It looks like "bad" hospital food is getting a makeover, at long last! Last week, the American Medical Association (AMA) - the largest association of physicians - passed a resolution calling on hospitals nationwide to include plant-based meals on their menus. But that's not all they want - they're recommending processed meat be eliminated from hospital trays entirely.
Why no processed meat?
The AMA isn't alone here. In fact, they're joining the World Health Organization by calling out processed meats like pepperoni, ham, bacon, sausage, corned beef, and beef jerky. So what's the deal with processed meat? Well, it's been identified as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1).
Yeah, yeah, yeah....everything causes cancer, right? Well, to put things in perspective, tobacco smoking and asbestos are also both classified as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1). Specifically, processed meat's been lumped in with these two carcinogens based on evidence that eating processed meat causes colorectal cancer. There is also evidence of links with pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.
In fact, the WHO website explains, "according to the most recent estimates by the Global Burden of Disease Project, an independent academic research organization, about 34,000 cancer deaths per year worldwide are attributable to diets high in processed meat."
Why more plant-based meals in hospitals?
But let's not get hung up on what's leaving the menu and instead talk about what's getting added TO hospitals across the country. For the AMA, their call on hospitals to include plants really just comes down to science. Scientific study after scientific study show that healthful, plant-based meals can prevent and even reverse heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
And when you think about it, it makes total sense that the best thing you can do for yourself when you're sick is to move towards foods that heal, not foods that hurt.
A big win for plants!
Proponents of the plant-based lifestyle cried a collective "heck yeah!" over the AMA's recommendations. After all, what good is counseling patients to "eat better" if hospitals and staff aren't practicing what they preach? Providing healthy meal options will allow hospitals to not only promote, but also facilitate, healthy lifestyle changes for their patients suffering from chronic diseases. The results would literally change (and save) lives.
Adding more healthful options isn't just good for patients. James Loomis, M.D., M.B.A., and medical director of the Barnard Medical Center asserts, “hospitals that provide and promote fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans are likely to reduce readmissions, speed recovery times, and measurably improve the long-term health of visitors, patients, and staff.
Let food be thy medicine!
By Ali Brown
Ali is a nutrition and lifestyle writer and editor, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.