Interview with Heart Healthy Plant-Based Doctor Joel Kahn

interview with joel kahn, md plant based

The following is an interview with Joel Kahn, MD, an Holistic Cardiologist from Detroit and author of The Plant Based Solution.

What initially led you to the plant-based lifestyle?

I am an odd story. I grew up observing Jewish dietary laws of Kosher but it was an omnivore version. My parents had been to the Pritikin Longevity Center so a lentil loaf was not rare at home. When I entered a combined undergraduate-medical program at the University of Michigan in AnnArbor, I found the dormitory cafeteria very restricted on my first day and focused on the salad bar. I never ate animal foods again. So it has been 41 years. I read the book, Diet for a New America by John Robbins early in that transition and I learned the ethical, environmental and health basis for this diet and it cemented it solid. Finally, in 1990, Dean Ornish, MD published the Lifestyle Heart Trial showing reversal of heart disease with a plant diet. As I was a cardiologist by then, it hit me like a brick. Diet and disease reversal, super cool. I was totally in and have never turned back.

Related: Top 20 Plant-Based Health Professionals to Follow

How long have you been plant-based? And was there anything you found to be the biggest obstacle to making the transition?

As I mentioned, 4 decades later, no medications, lab studies optimal, energy for 10 people, and a sense of gratitude for making my footprint on Earth a kind and environmentally small one.  I encourage everyone to join me.

What benefits have you experienced and/or how has being plant-based changed your life? 

I have seen so many plant miracles for the heart, blood sugar, cancer, arthritis, weight, and sexual function.  Viva la Vegetables! For me it has been a stable weight and freedom from the medical system I am part of. I ask patients to eat and live so well that they do not need me anymore. Whether you want to avoid chronic diseases that rob life of joy, or reverse chronic disease, a diet heavy in plants, some raw and some cooked, covering the rainbow in colors, is a solution for many.

Could you share a bit about what you do? 

I am a cardiologist that spent 30 years busting open arteries with balloons and fats. I have hundreds if not thousands of patients walking around because I rushed in at 3AM to crack their plaque open. I did not tire of it but I knew that if someone had reached those people earlier, most would not need that life threatening experience. I was already a student of nutrition so I added on more integrative education in the rest of lifestyle medicine. Now, all I do is preventive care. Early detection, aggressive prevention with the goal of actually reversing years of damage. I so enjoy the challenge of determining a patients “arterial age” and then working to “make them younger by design”.  It can be the best job in the world.

Related: Top 40 Plant-Based Health & Nutrition Books—Part One

interview with joel kahn md vegetable soup

What changes have you noticed in your patients once they go plant-based? How long does it often take to see these changes? 

It is a 3 week transformation if they jump in, not just put a toe in, and results appear. Better bowel movements? Easy. Clearer skin? Easy. Less bloating and digestive issues? Sure. Better brain clarity? Yes too. Weight loss? Need longer than 3 weeks but it may start to happen.  Blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar… and so on. Now the common denominator is a whole food plant diet. Not plant based with chicken and fish, just plant. Always whole like a bean chili, a vegetable soup, quinoa, rice, fruit, nuts. No processed fake pizzas or nuggets. If you give it a fair chance for 21 days, 22 days, 28 days, you will have saved some money and started to regain your health. Your body is just waiting to heal and repair itself when you stop pumping toxic foods in and substitute anti-inflammatory foods from the garden.

Do you have any advice for someone just going plant-based, especially if they are concerned about their heart health? Is there any specific aspect of their diet they should pay more attention to?

The number one mistake if someone is seeking a health miracle is to add junk vegan foods, of which there are so many. Fake pizzas, cakes, ice creams, mayo, cheese and desserts are so nice, on your birthday. Batch cooking of beans, rice, greens, steamed vegetables, grains and such are the key. Take a scoop of basmati rice, a scoop of beans, a pile of greens, some salsa, and so many spices, and you are on your way. Also, do not forget to supplement. You need a daily B12, D3 and a source of omega 3 fatty acids like ground flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and hemp seeds.

Is there anything in particular that seems to help your patients adjust to this way of eating and living?

A support group can seal the deal. In Detroit I co-founded the Plant Based Nutrition Support Group which grew from 2 of us to over 5,000 members. People have companions immediately to walk this journey with even if family and co-workers think they are nuts. By the way, eat nuts.
If a support group does not exist, start one. Until then though, there are online programs, most are free, that can be a crutch. The best known is the 21 Day Kickstart at PCRM.  Another is the 22 Day Challenge.  These can really help people have an actionable plan for success. Long term, take supplements. At least B12. I add D3 and an algae based omega-3 capsule to it in most patients.

What does a typical day of eating look like for you? Do you have a favourite recipe or meal?

My typical day is now 2 meals. Usually I skip breakfast, although there will be warm water with lemon or apple cider vinegar most mornings. Lunch is something I bring to my clinic and can be a salad with walnuts and tempeh. It might be a bean burrito. It might be a lentil soup. Snacks are nuts, seeds or fruit. Dinner is usually at the bar of my restaurant, GreenSpace Cafe, in Ferndale, Michigan. Now we have a second restaurant, GreenSpace & Go, that is another frequent stop. My favorite is “Doc’s Bowl” which is me with a glove going through the kitchen and grabbing various morsels mixed together. It is not for sale, yet, but is a fun aspect of owning restaurants. I drink herbal tea all day long with hibiscus being my favorite. One cup of java in the AM. Some CBD water too.

Related: 4 Important Aspects to Consider When Creating a Healthier You

interview with joel kahn md Tibetan yoga statue

Beyond food, what other aspects do you find essential for healthful living? 

You need purpose and passion. I have too much but it keeps me moving many hours a day. You need love and companionship. I have the joy of a partner Karen, my wife of 37 years (she was with me in 1977 at the dormitory and adopted a plant diet at the same time while in nursing school) and have a great family. You need fitness and flexibility and home practice of the 5 Tibetans yoga flow is my rock. You need gratitude and I start every morning with a few moments of appreciation for the gifts in my life. You need to sweat and my infrared sauna does the job. And you need a sense of humor and I was graced with a good ability to laugh at myself, in front of the mirror or not.

Where can people find you online (or in person)?

I am a very private person except at Instagram and Twitter at @drjkahn and Facebook at Dr Joel Kahn. I also have a  website to suck you in at I am usually at the bar at GreenSpace Cafe talking to my peeps.


It’s always nice to have the perspective of a practising physician.

You certainly don’t need to be perfect on this lifestyle to see positive results. But a focus on whole plant foods is key.


One Response to “Interview with Heart Healthy Plant-Based Doctor Joel Kahn

  • Bravo, Bravo, Doctor! You are a wonderful role model, Dr. Kahn.
    As two seniors, my partner & I have evolved, or, ‘veganized’, to salad days, and created our own ‘species-specific’ Salad-in/Salad-on-ev’rything version, much to the amusement of our carnivorous & pill-eating Australian septuagenarian peers…
    We have needed no medications- cross -my -heart, over the last ten years, and enjoy a life pre-and probiotic, thanks to a daily dose of home-brewed Kombucha, which seems to provide us with all the right ingredients for our microbiomes, including vitamin B12- so we have no need for supplements. I am preparing 3rd Non-Cook Book – please, visit us on and

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