Unless you live under a large rock, you will know that plant-based anything is BIG business right now. Think Beyond Burger or Daiya vegan cheese. Companies are cashing in on the public’s change to a vegan lifestyle. Buy why? Because people are aware of the environmental impact that farming livestock has on the planet. People don’t want to feel responsible for widespread animal cruelty and global warming. But what about the health benefits?
Contrary to animal products, plant foods contain no cholesterol and most don’t contain saturated fat. Although the body makes its own cholesterol, too much dietary cholesterol and saturated fat from animal sources can lead to fatty deposits in blood vessels. Over a long period of time, these fatty deposits can block the blood vessels, leading to a worst case scenario of a heart attack or a stroke or maybe death.
At the same time, the body becomes inflamed. Systemic inflammation is the root of all disease including cardiac disease, liver disease, diabetes and cancer. So, when people find out this information many are changing to a plant-based diet because they are not keen on coming down with a case of DEATH.
Despite this, universities are still teaching that meat, dairy and fish are part of a healthy diet. When I was doing my Masters in Nutrition (2017-2018), I was not taught that a plant-based diet was the best for health. I went to a mainstream university and was taught that a balanced diet included meat and dairy products. I was already plant based at the time and I encountered opposition from some of my professors when I didn’t subscribe to the government guidelines for health. However, I also encountered other professors who shared my view that a plant based diet was very beneficial to health.
So, what is a whole foods plant-based diet? What do you eat? It may be easier to explain what you don’t eat. You don’t eat any animal products at all and you don’t eat highly processed food.
This means you don’t eat meat, seafood, poultry, dairy, eggs, processed sugars, honey and oil. What you DO eat is an enormously wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and pluses, nuts and seeds. Of course, you are not just sitting around munching on carrots and wheat berries. I LOVE cooking and with plant-based nutrition, the variety of meals is endless. Some of my favorite meals include chilli, shepherds pie, spaghetti arrabiata, mac and cheese – so many yummy things. I’ll be doing some cooking videos with those recipes in the near future.
“I couldn’t give up all my favorite foods”. I hear you.
Whilst I would love the entire world to be plant-based, if you cannot completely commit to this way of healthy eating then start small and take things one day at a time. There is no need to be overwhelmed. Firstly, look for the things you already eat that fit the bill.
For breakfast, how about oatmeal and berries or avocado and tomato on sourdough toast? Not weird, just yummy and nutritious. If whipping up scrambled tofu seems out of your comfort zone, just stick with the basics.
Next time you go to buy milk, try a plant based milk. You might not like first the one you try, but keep trying till you find one that you love. I make my own plant milk every couple of days. Its cheaper and yummier than the store bought milks and it has no fillers or preservatives.
“But what about protein?”, you ask.
Despite what the meat and dairy industry have been telling us for years, we can get enough protein from plant sources and it is high quality protein. Plant based protein is free from hormones and antibiotics, and organic produce is free from pesticides. As long as you eat a variety of plant foods you will be fine.
What plant foods have protein in them? Almost all of them have some amount of protein, but the most concentrated sources come from legumes and whole grains. Nuts and seeds are also high in protein, but high in fat too, so should be eaten in moderation. One of my favorite protein facts is that broccoli has almost as much protein than steak, calorie for calorie!
It is scary and strange to contemplate changing the way you eat. Eating is tied to our emotions, our families, our customs. It’s a big art of our lives.
But, if the way you are eating now id not serving you, if your body is not in optimal health, then perhaps it is time for a change.
Head on over to my Nutrition Advice page and see how I can help you regain your health and start living your life to the full.