Plant-based nutrition: a sustainable diet for optimal health

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Diet choices are now the top cause of death and disability globally. Not only is our diet causing ill health, it is a major factor contributing to climate destruction. A global shift to a predominantly plant-based diet is deemed necessary to preserve both human and planetary health. But what is a healthy plant-based diet? How can it be achieved? What are the benefits? All these questions will be answered in this 6-week course designed for those interested in improving their knowledge and expertise in the field of plant-based nutrition. The course is predominately aimed at health professionals (e.g. doctors, nurses, dieticians, nutritionists, physiotherapists) who would like to incorporate evidence-based nutrition into routine clinical practice. However, the course will also benefit those who are looking to improve their personal nutrition education.

How will the course work?

This is a fully online, 6-week, distance learning course, facilitated and taught by Dr Shireen Kassam. It will require 5-6 hours of study per week and consists of a combination of written material, pre-recorded lectures, quizzes to test learning and a weekly compulsory discussion on a controversial topic. The course can be worked through in your own time but all the content needs to be completed each week. The discussions will be in written forum. There is no live component to the course.

This course has been accredited for 15 CPD hours by the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine (BSLM). Eight of these hours can be counted towards the Diploma in Lifestyle Medicine from the BSLM. At the end of the course students will be issued a certificate of completion from the University. This course is open to those in and outside the UK.

What is the content of the course?

The course will start by discussing the main dietary determinants of disease, disability and death, focussing on data from the United Kingdom and comparing with international data sets. It will discuss different types of nutrition studies and common dietary patterns. The course will review the role of nutrition in promoting optimal health and wellbeing. Key components of a healthy plant-based diet will be covered, including nutrients of abundance and those that are notable for their relative absence. There will then be an in-depth review of the scientific literature supporting the role of plant-based nutrition in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease. This will include cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, dementia, obesity, bone health, women's health and gastrointestinal disorders. In the final week, comparisons will be made with other popular diet patterns, such as 'low-carb' and 'Paleo' diets, and national and international nutrition guidelines will be reviewed with analysis of their strengths and weaknesses. The connection between our diet choices and the impact on the environment will be explored and a model of sustainable farming will be presented.

Here is a breakdown of the topics covered in each week

Week 1

  1. Dietary determinants of disease and disability and the burden of malnutrition
  2. Types of nutrition studies - strengths and weaknesses
  3. Healthy dietary patterns and dietary assessment tools
  4. Metabolism of fat, protein and carbohydrates

Week 2

  1. Components of a whole food plant-based diet
  2. How to ensure a whole food plant-based diet is nutritionally complete
  3. Plant-based diets for pregnancy and children
  4. General overview of the benefits of a plant-based diet for health
  5. Plant-based diets for the prevention and treatment of diabetes

Week 3

  1. The role of plant-based diets in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease 
  2. Plant-based diets in chronic renal failure
  3. The role of plant-based diets in preventing and treating obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Week 4

  1. The role of plant-based diets for cancer prevention, recurrence and survival
  2. The role of plant-based diets for prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal diseases
  3. The impact of diet on mental health and well-being and impact of plant-based diets
  4. How to facilitate behaviour change through coaching

Week 5

  1. The role of diet and exercise in maintaining musculoskeletal health and preventing osteoporosis
  2. The impact of diet and nutrition on Women's health, including endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, menstrual disorders and menopause
  3. The role of diet and lifestyle in preventing dementia and frailty

Week 6

  1. A review of UK and international dietary guidelines - strengths and weaknesses
  2. Popular diet patterns, including 'Paleo' and 'low-carb'
  3. Plant-based diets for athletes
  4. The impact of diet on environmental health and sustainable farming for a plant-based world

Please note the topics listed are correct at the time of publishing, for students starting the course in November 2019. Please note the University cannot guarantee the availability of all topics listed and topics may be subject to change.

The content has been created by 15 plant-based health professionals and experts from the UK. Many have been plant-based themselves for several years and use plant-based nutrition in their clinical practice as part of an overall approach to lifestyle medicine. You will be familiar with many of the lecturers from their prominent social media profiles and include, Dr Shireen KassamDr Gemma NewmanDr Alan Desmond, husband and wife team, Drs Nitu and Rajiv BajekalDr Agnes Electra ChlebinskaDr Miriam Maisel, Dr Alicja Baczynska, Registered Dietitian Samantha GouldDr Sue KenneallyDr Arvind MaheruDr Miriam Martinez-BiargeDr Mahesh ShahMick Walker and Professor Amir Kassam.

Entry requirements

Run by the Faculty of Health & Wellbeing at the University of Winchester, this is the only University-based course of its kind in the UK. It is aimed at and designed for health professionals. Those who are not health professionals can also enrol but they should be aware that the course assumes knowledge of medical terminology and a basic understanding of common chronic diseases. A good command of the English Language is required, both written and oral.

This distance-learning course is delivered via Canvas. Due to government regulations, Instructure (Canvas) prohibits the unauthorised use of its products and services in specific countries and regions. We need to make these restrictions clear to individuals considering this course.  Please see the guidance as documented by Canvas.

Which countries are restricted from using Canvas?

Operating System
  • Windows XP SP3 and newer
  • Mac OSX 10.6 and newer
  • Linux - chrome OS
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 2GHz processor
Bandwidth environments 
  • Minimum of 512kbps (basic DSL)
Adobe flash player is required. JavaScript must be enabled in your browser.
  • Chrome 19

  • Safari 5

  • Firefox 12


The normal fee is £350, but for existing (enrolled) part-time or full-time students, and staff of the University the fee is £150.

Course dates and booking

The next available course begins 19 May 2020, and will repeat every academic term.


For general enquiries please contact the department administrator, for academic/course content enquires please contact

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