Interview With A Plant-Based Physician

Dr. Mark Sandoval was born in Portland, Oregon, and grew up in Orlando, Florida. He met his wife in college where he was completing a degree in biology while she was completing her nursing degree. They married two weeks after graduation and moved to the jungles of Nicaragua to operate a small clinic practicing jungle medicine. Mark studied medicine at Loma Linda University. He then served as the director of Emergency Medicine and Family Practice at The Community Hospital of Seventh-day Adventists. He and his wife became heavily involved in health education. Throughout this journey, his family, love for God, and sharing of God’s love and health message grew.

In addition to serving as a physician and teacher at Uchee Pines Institute, Dr. Sandoval currently serves as the president of the Institute. I had the privileging of meeting Dr. Sandoval during my time as a student there. Here’s the interview I had with him.

Why did you adopt a plant-based lifestyle?

I was in church one weekend, and the health ministry’s director for the church had the sermon based upon The China Study, by T. Collin Campbell. I was convicted by the research that my consumption of animal foods, especially dairy products, was contributing to my risk of cancer. My wife and I talked about the sermon later that day and decided that we would do a “Daniel challenge,” cutting all animal products out of our diet for 10 days. We went shopping, looked up recipes, and experimented with plant-based meals. It was a bit challenging, but after 10 days, we were still alive. We decided to make it 20 days, and after the 20 days we had a good repertoire of plant-based dishes and dairy substitutes and decided to keep going. We have been plant-based since.

As a lifestyle physician, could you address and provide your thoughts on the protein myth circulating? 

The protein myth is two-fold. First, the myth promotes the idea that people need animal protein in order to be healthy and athletic. Second, the myth promotes the idea that people need excessive amounts of protein in order to be healthy.

The truth is that optimal health can best be achieved with plant protein and with smaller quantities of protein than is generally recommended.

The body uses 20 different amino acids to construct all of the proteins in your body, but only 9 of these amino acids do you need in the diet. The others can be manufactured by the body. A protein source that contains all of the nine essential amino acids is called a complete protein. Animal proteins, soy, and quinoa are examples of complete proteins. Those foods which are deficient in at least one of these essential amino acids is called an incomplete protein. Most of the plant foods are incomplete proteins.

All whole plant foods contain protein, and if you eat a variety of whole plant foods, (fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts/seeds, and seasonings) you will consume all of the essential amino acids that you need to be healthy. In fact, studies indicate that those who exclusively consume plant proteins live longer, develop fewer diseases, have sharper intellects, and perform better in athletics.

What are some other myths you’ve come across about the vegan/plant-based diet?

One myth is that everyone who is on a plant-based diet does so because they are concerned about animal rights. This is true for a sub population of plant-based eaters. But many eat the way that they do because of its obvious health benefits.

Another myth is that if a man eats plant-based, he will end up being less of a “man” than if he eats animal protein. The opposite is true. Those on plant-based diets perform better in athletics, both in the bedroom and in the gym.

How do you incorporate this knowledge into your medical practice as a physician?

I practice lifestyle medicine with select natural remedies in a lifestyle center which offers intensive, residential lifestyle programs. As such, I utilize my personal experience and the science behind plant-based diets to help every one of my patients to maximize their health and longevity through plant-based nutrition. It is a transformative and rewarding work.

What are your thoughts on those who claim that meat-eating is essential?

There is simply no science behind that position. Many humans through the years have lived decades without any animal proteins and have managed to have better health than when they were consuming animal proteins. I have not consumed animal protein for the last 12 years, and I have better health now than I did when I was consuming animal proteins.

Do you have support for your personal views within your medical community?

There is a growing understanding in the medical community that plant-based nutrition is a better option than animal-based nutrition, but the growth is small and slow. Nutrition is not even a part of the vast majority of medical school curriculums, but there is a movement to change that. The American College of Lifestyle Medicine, the Plantrician Project, Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, and other groups are working on spreading this message throughout the medical community, research literature, and medical education.

What are some chronic diseases you’ve seen reversed with a whole foods plant-based diet?

We utilize a whole food, plant-based diet as a part of a larger program, including proper hydration, sunshine exposure, fresh air, exercise, sufficient rest, simple herbs, hydrotherapy, stress management, and spirituality. Utilizing a wholistic approach, I have seen diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, cancer (various types and stages), and other chronic diseases reversed. This is a rewarding work to be involved in. I love my job!

Grace Jauwena
Grace Jauwena

Grace Jauwena is a health coach that focuses on plant-based nutrition and natural remedies. She strives to help others thrive holistically, and is pursuing a doctorate degree in natural medicine. She loves to cook, create recipes, style food, and take photos. In her free time, she explores new foods, hiking trails, and beaches with her husband, and spends time with family and friends.

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