OS6: Dr. Pam Popper – The Power of Plants & Overthrowing Our Broken Healthcare System

If healthcare professionals worked in any other profession they would be living in their car.

~Dr. Pam Popper

Dr. Pam Popper
Dr. Pam Popper in “Forks Over Knives”

Coffee, Cookies & Cheese.

This was the basic, daily diet for Pam Popper (before she was “Dr.” Pam Popper). She was overweight, unhappy and exhausted. She was 38.

And she smoked 4 packs of cigarettes per day.

Now, she is one of the preeminent experts in the expanding field of diet and chronic, western disease.

She works 16-18 hours per day (by choice), owns a yoga studio, teaches, speaks and has appeared in some of the most important, and life affirming (and saving), documentaries of our time.

The change came when she mentioned an article connecting food and disease to a friend, who recommended a book by Dr. John McDougall (an early proponent of the whole-foods, plant-based diet).

This book introduced her to an entirely new paradigm of food, diet and disease and set her on a path which has not only claimed back her health but has converted her into a maverick in the healthcare world.

She, like Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, is now at the forefront of a true revolution. One which advocates eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet, eliminating processed foods (as much as possible) and learning how to tell your doctor, “no”.

In this interview, Dr. Popper most importantly shares with us the urgent need to move away from the standard western diet, embracing a whole-foods, plant-based diet (WFPB).

With no doubt remaining as to the connection between diet and chronic, western disease (cancer, heart disease, etc), Dr. Popper has made it her mission to preach plants from the rooftops while also building her own healthcare system as a counter to the ineffective medical system currently in place.

Specifically, we cover:

  • Her imperfect transition to the WFPB diet
  • The tragedy of medical education and how diet and nutrition is marginalized all in the name of profit
  • How naturopathy, like medicine, is inherently flawed as it fails to fully address the actual causal agent of disease
  • The truth about depression and how treatments don’t work because they don’t address the problem
  • The optimal diet, namely: whole-foods, plant-based with very little fat (+ the importance of carbs)
  • Protein & calcium – clearing up the vast web of confusion
  • Dairy & meat plus their connections to chronic, western disease
  • The new healthcare model she is implementing and how being the “disruptor” has become her life’s mission

Imagine a world where we feel great, eat amazing food, live long empowered lives and rely on doctors only to help us through emergencies (should they arise). In this world, we are healthy, vibrant and strong, effective into our later years, not fearing the specter’s of cancer or heart disease.

Imagine a world where these conditions are distant memories.

This is the world of Dr. Pam Popper. Welcome to her quest.


Pam Popper

Selected Links from the Episode

Dr. Pam’s world:

Films She Appears In:

Other Links:

Show Notes
  • “Coffee, cookies & cheese”, her early relationship to food, diet and her unhealthy eating habits by her mid 30’s [10:32]
  • The health scare that got her attention & initial exposure to the connection between diet/health which led her to Dr. John McDougall [13:39]
  • “I think what I’m supposed to be doing is eating (whole) food” – her imperfect transition to the whole-foods, plant-based diet [16:56]
  • The slowness of heath degeneration and how we slowly get used to not feeling well & how, when we reverse this, it feels amazing soon [19:56]
  • The drawbacks of naturopathy school and her early efforts to enact change with the Wellness Forum [21:50]
  • Specifics on how naturopathy is limited and problematic, “you give me symptoms and I give you stuff” [23:10]
  • On being disliked by both traditional doctors and naturopaths [24:41]
  • The tragedy of medical and health education – how diet is barely (or not even) taught [25:59]
  • The truth about depression and how drugs and other supplements don’t work [27:08]
  • “If healthcare professionals worked in any other profession they would be living in their car” [28:00]
  • The medical industry is ranked #3 in causes of death in the US & how it might even be higher [29:10]
  • How best to evaluate medical findings [31:04]
  • The optimal diet – and it’s 4 core food groups [33:04]
  • The role of treats in the optimal diet [34:32]
  • Why do people change? And how creating a doable plan works best for everyone [35:20]
  • The important rule when eating high fat plant foods – avocado, peanut butter, olives etc. [36:05]
  • How calorie counting is impossible & a very flawed mechanism for eating healthy [37:50]
  • The problem with oils (including “healthy” olive oil) & how it promotes weight gain and arterial damage  (+ her preferred salad dressing & cooking alternatives) [41:44]
  • All things dairy: “everything is wrong about cow’s milk” + connections w/chronic disease [46:55]
  • Meat, portion sizes & our mistaken notions about comparing ourselves to healthy meat-eating populations [49:33]
  • Chronic disease & our common (highly mistaken) beliefs around causation [51:58]
  • How a grassroots effort of change is the only option [53:05]
  • How to manage your doctor [55:05]
  • The many flaws of the medical industry (+ some stunning numbers re statin drugs) [55:25]
  • The history of protein and the reality of how much humans actually need [58:32]
  • The truth about calcium and tracking the connection between bone health and plants [1:01:55]
  • “We’re the disruptor” – her efforts to reform the healthcare system from the outside [1:03:49]
  • A new vision for healthcare and it’s ongoing implementation [1:05:48]
  • Seeds of entrepreneurship in childhood and her background of “possibility thinking” [1:10:59]
  • How the universe lines up when you are doing the right thing [1:13:50]
  • The role of anger as a catalyst for change [1:14:29]
  • The plant-based mob: Pam, Dr’s T. Colin Campbell, Caldwell Esselstyn, Neal Barnard, John McDougall [1:15:30]
  • Her daily food/meal schedule & how she stays fueled between 5am-11pm [1:17:40]
  • Books: “Food Over Medicine” (hers), “China Study”, “Starch Solution” (McDougall) & “Power Foods for the Brain” (Barnard) [1:20:36]
  • Documentaries: Forks Over Knives, Food Choices, Making a Killing, Cowspiracy, Vaxxed, Food Inc. [1:21:58]
  • Best meal: San Francisco at the Millennium Restaurant & Dinner at the Campbell residence made by Karen Campbell [1:23:10]
  • Gut microbe biome and how diet interacts w/gut bacteria [1:26:49]
  • How children learn their tastes, and how some in Europe are changing these to serve greater health [1:27:27]
  • Her email address (and yes she does answer them) & the best way you can serve the mission of the Wellness Forum [1:29:12]
  • How to be an informed patient when interacting with the medical industry (+ the right answer when told something by a doctor) [1:31:00]

Photos: top, from Forks Over Knives; bottom courtesy Dr. Pam Popper

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