The Benefits of A Plant Based Diet
Eating a plant-based diet does not necessarily mean embracing a strict vegan lifestyle — one in which you do not consume any animal by-products such as dairy, honey or meat. It does, however, create a plant-based foundation for your diet that you may incorporate small amounts of lean meats, dairy and eggs into.
Since the Industrial Age, the American diet has shifted towards including meat in every meal resulting in a rise in heart disease and various other chronic diseases, as well as an obesity crisis. A plant-based diet provides a heightened overall sense of well-being, is more economical, and lowers your carbon footprint.
Just like how Americans have found themselves eating meat with every meal over time, habits become lifestyles and affect our overall health. The fast moving American culture has defined fast food as essential, making it the norm for at least one meal a day. A plant-based diet encourages a paradigm shift to what some have come to know as the Slow Food Movement. The Slow Food Movement aims to put an end to the obesity epidemic in the United States and focus on growing nutritious food.
Rather than cultivating our vegetables with synthetic fertilizers to grow faster and bigger, resulting in tasteless fruits and vegetables, it instead promotes returning to how our grandparents farmed — organically, slowly, and holistically. It is easy to taste the difference between a slow-grown heirloom tomato and a conventionally grown, fertilizer-infused tomato. If you have been looking for a reason to visit your local farmer’s market, now you have a reason to never miss it again. Adapting a plant-based diet naturally encourages you to eat locally and seasonally to enable you to get the freshest produce available.
Growing fruits and vegetables has a much smaller environmental impact on soil, water and air quality in comparison to raising livestock. The greenhouse emissions from beef and lamb production is 250 times higher than those caused by legumes (i.e. beans, peas and lentils) when compared per gram of protein. These emissions come in the form of methane emitted by cows and carbon emissions by the meat processing plant.
The overgrazing of lands has a negative impact on the soil and 35 percent of grains grown worldwide are simply to feed livestock. By committing to a plant-based diet, you are greatly reducing your environmental impact and contributing to creating a more sustainable food system for the United States.
Whether intentional or not, those who adopt a plant-based diet typically lose unnecessary weight and tend to feel healthier. It is a natural biological response to removing animal fats and bad cholesterol from your daily life. It is important to ensure you are still consuming enough proteins, amino acids and other macro-nutrients to sustain a healthy diet. This will require you to redesign your plate to have it largely contain vegetables and grains with no more than a third of your plate containing meat or dairy.
A general rule of thumb is to include as many different colors on your plate as possible to provide your body with a wide array of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from many different fruits and vegetables. Like any change in diet, this may require you to reassess the contents of your kitchen.
The following are some great ways to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your life:
- Start a garden.
- Take a cooking class and experiment with new recipes.
- Restock your pantry with new and exotic herbs and spices.
- Join your local CSA.
- Switch from cow’s milk to soy, almond, coconut, or cashew milk.
- Substitute portobello mushrooms for beef burgers.
- Try plant-based proteins as meat substitutes in stir-frys and salads.
- Add fruit to salads and cereals.
Becoming a flexitarian (plant-based with little meat consumption) allows you to still eat your favorite foods but in moderation. There are many ways to adapt your favorite recipes to make them more plant-focused and reduce the amount of fat and oils that you are consuming. Consider making the switch to a plant-based diet — your body and the environment will thank you.