I’m excited to announce that I’ll be following a whole food, plant-based diet in 2012 (and hopefully forever). The health benefits and the benefits to our planet are just too great to ignore.
Here are a few highlights from my journey to get here:
In 2009, I spent a year as a pescatarian. I.e., in addition to plant foods, I ate dairy, eggs, and fish. This was primarily a reaction to reading books like Fast Food Nation and seeing the film Food Inc. I wanted to boycott the meat industry and take a stand against animal cruelty.
In 2010, I decided to go back to eating some meat, mostly because I didn’t want to complicate things too much during our family meals and when visiting friends or relatives. I would eat meat when it was served and also eat it when I prepared it for my family (using only organic meat).
This past fall, I went through an elimination diet for a couple of months, which basically meant being vegan for over a month. I felt better than I’d felt in years! Then the holidays hit, and I started eating all the foods that come with the season like lots of meat, dairy, and sweets. I gained six of my seven lost pounds back and (even worse) my stomach is back to giving me trouble.
During my end-of-the-year break, I’ve watched a couple of documentaries reminding me of why eating a plant-based diet is a smart thing to do beyond the animal rights issues:
This documentary features researcher Colin Campbell (author of The China Study), Dr. Esselstyn (conducted clinical study on the beneficial effects of eating a plant-based diet), and over a dozen other people who have discovered the life-saving properties of a plant-based diet.
I had read The China Study a while ago and was convinced by the clear scientific results linking animal protein (e.g. casein, the protein found in cow’s milk) to our western diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune diseases. However, it wasn’t enough to push me over the edge into (near) veganism.
However, this movie pretty much did it. It is powerful and positive. It’s not about “giving up meat,” but rather making healthy choices to beat disease. The thing is, I’d rather not get sick the first place, so I want to start now!
Can you “fix” an autoimmune disease by changing your diet? Joe Cross of Australia wanted to find out. So he spent two months in the US drinking only home-made fruit and vegetable juices. On the way, he met a fat, sick, and nearly dead truck driver from Iowa, who had the exact same disease. (Spoiler alert!) They both manage to turn their lives around and get off the bothersome steroids used for keeping their disease at bay.
I have written about the healing power of food in the past, but I am just wowed every time I encounter these stories. That food can be your medicine – if you put your mind to it. Truly inspiring!
The Benefits of a Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet
Here are just some of the benefits of following a whole food, plant-based diet (according to books I’ve read and documentaries I’ve watched):
- You vote with your money against animal producers who don’t worry too much about the well-being of their animals. (Yes, only if you’re currently eating conventionally-raised meat.)
- Organic plant-based food is safe. You don’t have to repeatedly wash your hands and worry about salmonella and e coli (assuming it’s not grown in the vicinity of a CAFO and getting contaminated).
- Prevents and can actually reverse many of our “western” diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and many others.
- It’s cheaper!
- Growing plants requires less of the earth’s resources than producing meat.
- Less greenhouse gasses emitted from cattle.
- It’s a more sustainable way to eat.
A global shift toward a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change. ~2010 U.N. Report
The Whole Foods Aspect
Just eating a plant-based diet isn’t necessarily healthy in itself. If you eat french fries and potato chips every day, you’re probably not in much better shape than the meat eaters.
This is why it’s important to highlight the “whole foods” aspect of eating a plant-based diet. It’s best to eat the vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes as close to the shape they were when they were harvested. This includes olives and other sources of oil.
Excluding refined sugar is a big part of my individualized plan for healthier, and more sustainable eating. Sugar is everywhere and eliminating it from your diet helps control blood sugar levels and encourages you to eat more whole foods, which better nourish both your brain and body.
I’m super pumped about eating this way and hope that you will consider joining me.
Here’s to a healthy and happy 2012!
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