Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. - Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food
I love this quote because it’s so very simple and to the point. But why should we be eating mostly plants? Why shouldn’t we be eating high protein animal foods? And while we’re at it, what’s wrong with dairy?
To be fair, if you’re confused about what to eat and what to avoid, you’re not alone. I know that I became increasingly frustrated with the conflicting dietary information that’s available. There’s a lot of confusion surrounding nutrition, and billion-dollar industries, that earn their fortunes through people like you and me eating their junk and taking their medications, aren’t about to help us see through the cloud of bewilderment anytime soon.
In this day and age we are overfed yet undernourished, and people are fatter and sicker and more medicated with pharmaceuticals than ever before. In my opinion there is something terribly wrong when we have entered an age where the probability of children not outliving their parents is greater than ever before. We are literally eating our way to sickness, yet the food that we put on our plates is rarely addressed. There is literally “a pill for every ill”, but is this really the solution to all our ailments?
It seems that every week we are being told about some new miracle diet or super-food that will make us slimmer, healthier, sexier. But do these fads work? And if so, what are the consequences? It’s a well-known fact that ‘diets’ don’t work; maybe you shed the kilos initially, but when you go back to eating as before, you gain back the weight that you lost, with interest. And let's face it, it's not just about the calories. The 195 calories in a sugar-laden doughnut are not the same as the 195 calories in a banana with a handful of almonds. The number might be the same, but the what they do to your body is most definitely not.
So let’s take a moment to look through the haze of hype and craziness. You will find answers.
Many people and medical practitioners are finding that whole-food plant-based nutrition can potentially change your life for the better. Never before has there been so much evidence that supports a whole food, plant-based diet. When I say ‘diet’ I mean a long-term, sustainable lifestyle, not a 2-week, 2-month quickie.
“The treatment effect of a plant-based diet is broad in scope, exceptionally rapid in response and often lifesaving. It cannot be duplicated by animal-based foods, processed foods or drug therapies.” - T. Colin Campbell, PhD
In 2009, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, formerly known as the American Dietetic Association, stated that ‘appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.’ The paper goes on to say that, ‘The results of an evidence-based review showed that a vegetarian diet is associated with a lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease. Vegetarians also appear to have lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes than nonvegetarians. Furthermore, vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index and lower overall cancer rates.’
Doctors, such as Dr Dean Ornish, Dr Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Dr John McDougall, Dr Neal Barnard, Dr Michael Greger and Dr Joel Fuhrman (just to name a few), have consistently shown that a low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables and free of or low in animal protein can:
There is also strong evidence that links high saturated fat consumption with multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases, and studies have shown that osteoporosis is more frequent in countries that consume more animal protein. There is also evidence that milk consumption is a risk factor for both prostate cancer and breast cancer.
A 2012 World Health Organization (WHO) report states the three leading causes of death in Europe as:
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, list the leading causes of death in the U.S.A. as:
Chronic lower respiratory diseases
Studies have shown that these causes of death may be preventable, controllable, or in some cases even reversible, by lifestyle changes.
Years ago this data was not available. Now it is. There is an enormous wealth of information at our fingertips. Since heart disease and cancer have become our leading killers, maybe we should pay more attention to these relatively simple lifestyle changes. At the end of the day, we only have one body, and it has to last us an entire lifetime! :)
Other benefits of following a whole food, plant-based diet are:
Maintaining your ideal body weight
Better elimination (pooping)
All in all, adopting a plant-based lifestyle can truly put you on the road to better health and transform your life. And not only your life, but our planet as well, which is also in desperate need of some T.L.C.
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