My personal experience was this: I started out eating whole-food plant-based for my health, but I quickly learned so much more about my impact as an individual and what the knock-on effects of my meat-eating habits were. It truly was one of the most important parts of my journey to becoming fully plant-based. Without a doubt, the research is clear that it is better for our health and the health and longevity of our planet if we add in more plant whole-foods, and eat fewer animal products.
So I thought it could be helpful for anyone interested if I broke it all down and linked some interesting articles and research here for you to browse if you’re curious! I’ve done the heavy lifting for you, so make yourself a nice cup of coffee and read through the below at your own pace. A lot of it is upsetting, to say the least, but there is a silver lining at the end, I PROMISE!
Do it for the environment.
Our world is at a very dangerous tipping point. The earth’s temperature is rising, causing extreme havoc everywhere – unpredictable weather patterns, fires, flooding, crop loss, death of coral communities, and loss of our wildlife.
I’m no expert on the Climate Crisis, so here are a couple of articles that I found very informative and helpful:
- This article (“Environmental impacts of food production”) was published in January 2020 and is exceptional. The information the authors give is easy to digest and not overwhelming at all. The authors have conveniently also broken down their article into digestible blog posts highlighting the different topics that they cover (super helpful!!). There are two parts of the article that were particularly eye-opening for me:
- “You want to reduce the carbon footprint of your food? Focus on what you eat, not whether your food is local.” The research here shows that the argument that eating locally produced meat is better than eating avocados that came by boat from California (or even almond milk from almonds grown in California!) does not stand. In the end, eating less meat is still the very best way to reduce your carbon footprint and fight against climate change!
- “Less meat is nearly always better than sustainable meat, to reduce your carbon footprint.” The research here shows that the difference in the amount of emissions in meat from sustainable, “better” farms compared to industrial, “lower quality” farms is negligible. It’s still ultimately better to eat less meat, than focusing on buying “better quality” meat.
- This article from the New York Times I found super insightful. It’s all about our eating habits and climate change. The article gets broken down into commonly asked questions and references all of its answers from scientific papers. It’s also interactive which is always fun.
- This article also from the New York Times is all about climate change and how it will affect our food supply. An interesting one that links back to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report published in 2019.
Do it for your health.
It’s clear that our current food system is not geared toward the health of the population. We’re a culture that relies on processed products, meat from animals that have most likely been raised on a mono-diet of corn/grain and antibiotics, and milk from cows pumped with hormones. There’s a clear disconnect between where our food comes from, how it was made, and us – the consumers who eat it.
* Let me say this as a side note: I completely acknowledge my privilege here. If you are living in a food desert or don’t have the means to purchase fresh, unprocessed whole foods because of the way it is priced in your area, then you do what you can to survive and thrive and I honour and respect that. I am lucky to be living in a city with options for fresh, unprocessed, whole foods and I’m lucky for it. I also know that, in most areas, a whole-food, plant-based diet WITHOUT the superfood frills and special mock-meat products is among the cheapest of diets out there. Do it smartly, and it will repay you not only in health benefits for yourself and the planet but in hard-earned cash too. *
The Western World is becoming sicker as a population and a large part of the cause is our current food system AND our education about nutrition failing us. We are what we eat, but somehow so few of us take this seriously. Adding in more minimally processed plants (fruit, veggies, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds) is good for us. There’s no doubt about it. The research shows that our bodies love these ingredients. So we should and must eat more of them. It’s important to note that I specifically speak to plant-based whole-foods here, with minimal processing involved. Cutting meat and dairy from your diet and substituting it with highly processed mock-meats, chips, candy, deep-fried everything, and oil-based vegan cheeses is not going to give you much of a health benefit. These products do have a place in a vegan diet (I myself eat them too!), but they should be eaten in moderation. The bulk of our diets should be made up of unprocessed, fresh ingredients.
Here are a couple of articles on a plant-based diet and its nutritional benefits. Take the time to read them, they might just be the catalyst to the start of an incredible new journey for you and your family:
- A short and to-the-point article by the Mayo Clinic on how eating more plant-based whole-foods can lower cholesterol, prevent hypertension (high blood pressure), and lower your risk of getting cardiovascular disease and chronic heart disease. (references to scientific studies at the bottom of the article if you want to check them out).
- This study showed that following a whole-food vegan diet for just 16 days can have such a positive effect on your gut microbiome that it, in turn, results in weight loss, change in body composition (a loss in visceral fat which is the fat around a number of your abdominal organs such as the liver, pancreas, and intestines), as well as an increase in insulin sensitivity (a good thing!). By just eating a whole-food, unprocessed plant diet for 16 days you can have marked positive effects on your body. How amazing!
- If you want to get really sciency read this article all about how a plant-based diet can promote a diverse ecosystem of gut microbiota that support overall health.
Do it for the animals.
The way animals are raised and slaughtered on the largest of scales is sickening. And the worst part of it all is that most of us do not make the connection that the piece of sirloin that we bought for dinner, wrapped in plastic on a styrofoam tray, with a beautiful picture of a happy cow in a green field actually comes from a real, living, breathing, heart-beating animal. And that animal was more often than not standing in a sludge of his own (and his thousands of friends’) faeces with no green pasture insight, pumped with antibiotics because, well, living in your own poop can cause an infection or two. Go figure.
Then the slaughterhouse. There’s a saying that goes: “If slaughterhouses were made of glass walls, the entire world would be vegan”. There’s a reason they don’t allow filming in a slaughterhouse. It’s because if you saw it you probably wouldn’t want to touch meat ever again. I personally have been inside abattoirs of pigs, cows, and chickens as a part of my Food Science degree, and let me tell you – it’s tragic.
- Here is an article in The Guardian that I found extremely insightful by Yuval Noah Harari (the author of Sapiens) about industrial farming of animals and the ethics (or lack thereof) behind it: Industrial Farming is One of the Worst Crimes in History.
If you’d like to learn more, the best thing to do would be to watch any of these documentaries. They are all well researched, and show you the real faces behind your steak, burger, bacon rasher, and chicken wing:
So where’s the silver lining?
Now that you’ve been thoroughly and utterly drowned with doom and gloom, I’m here to tell you that you can help to solve all 3 of these problems that we collectively face!
It truly is as simple as ADDING IN more plant-based whole-foods to your diet and EATING LESS meat, dairy, and seafood.
That’s it. So simple. So effective.
Here are a few guidelines that I’ve learned over the years that I think are vital to understand and implement when starting your plant-based journey.
Support One Another + Find Your Community
It’s not an all or nothing approach. Please don’t ever think that. The only way we will ever be able to solve the 3 problems above, is if we come together as humans and support one another in adding in more plants and consuming fewer animal products. And the emphasis really does lie on supporting one another. Changing the way you’ve been eating for your entire life is a difficult thing! I recognize that having done this myself. So it’s crucial to find support either in your family, friends, an online community, or a health coach. Having a hand to hold and someone to share recipes and tips with makes the process a lot less daunting.
‘Adding In’ Whole-Foods
Let’s talk about ADDING IN those veggies. It really is as simple as adding an extra veggie to your dinner plate…TONIGHT! Or add an extra piece of fruit to your breakfast tomorrow! The more you focus on adding plants in, the less you’ll stress about what to replace your meat with. Don’t worry. Replacing can come later. First, start by cultivating the habit of adding fresh fruit and veg to your daily meals. Once your tastebuds get used to the deliciousness of whole-foods, you can start to play with whole grains, beans and pulses, and maybe removing some meat or dairy from the plate. No new habit is formed overnight. It takes 21 days for a habit to stick, and 90 days for a new habit to truly become a part of your life. So take your time and be gentle with yourself.
Remember To Play
Cooking shouldn’t be stressful. In fact, it can be a stress reliever! Enjoy experimenting with new flavours and ingredients. The more you cook, the better you’ll cook. If you can read a recipe, you can cook. So please, please use my blog and follow the recipes! If you do this enough (remember: be gentle and give yourself time for this) you’ll be able to start making tweaks and creating your own recipes and meals on the fly! That’s the goal!
Balance the Whole-Foods + the not-so-Whole-Foods
Lastly, and this is something I will hammer on about forever, remember to focus on whole-foods: fresh fruit and vegetables, beans and pulses, whole grains, spices. If the product you’ve got in your hand in the supermarket has a long list of ingredients that you can’t pronounce, maybe avoid it and find an alternative. This way you’ll be nourishing your body and giving it the best food you can. Of course, life is all about BALANCE, so don’t be hard on yourself. Enjoy something more refined every now and again. But always come back to whole-foods as your home base and you are sure to create a thriving body to support you to live this one precious life well and in abundance.