When I tell people that I eat a plant based lifestyle they ask me does that look like a rabbit eating grass?
I mean, really….
So, before we can begin to explain the benefits of a Plant Based Lifestyle we need to define it.
What does it mean to be plant based?
‘Based’ meant something that provides the foundation for… in this case your diet.
And plants need to be a very hearty base of your diet.
As The China Study – the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted- reveals (amongst thousands more, easily accessible studies, let alone common sense) without a shadow of a doubt… we need to be eating a predominantly plant- based, nutrient rich diet, upwards of 90% or more if we are going to be healthy.
The reason is, plants are where all the nutrients come from, including protein. Yes, protein!
A plant based nutrient rich diet means you are getting all the nutrients (healthy promoting protein, real food carbohydrate, essential fat, water, fiber, vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals, enzymes etc) that you need to function and perform well, from ALL the nutrient categories and you don’t get what you don’t need (saturated fat, cholesterol etc). This is is what defines a Nutrient Rich whole food!
A plant-based diet is a diet that focuses around plant foods: fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds, with or without the inclusion of animal products i.e. meat, fish, butter, milk, eggs, cheese, gelatin or other animal by-product.
Due to the lack of animal products in a plant-based diet, some people assume it’s the same thing as vegan or vegetarian, but that’s not necessarily true. The difference between “plant-based” and “vegan” may be subtle or vastly different, depending on the context. I find it’s important to understand these distinctions.
Veganism, according to Wikipedia, is “the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, as well as an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of sentient animals. A follower of veganism is known as a vegan.”
Veganism is deeply rooted in animal rights and being a vegan (noun) is a lifestyle choice that involves both politics and personal beliefs (ethics). Vegans not only eschew animal products from their plates but also from their entire life. Leather, fur, wool and silk are not worn.
Products that are tested on animals, such as some cosmetics, are not used. Even products that come from insects such as honey and beeswax are generally not considered vegan or suitable for vegans.
So you can follow a plant based diet without being a vegan.
So now let’s look at why it is better for you and how you might just get started
Six years ago a small Texas publisher released an obscure book written by a father-son research team. The work, based on a series of studies conducted in rural China and Taiwan, challenged the conventional wisdom about health and nutrition by espousing the benefits of a plant-based diet.
To everyone’s surprise, the book, called “The China Study,” has since sold 500,000 copies, making it one of the country’s best-selling nutrition titles. The book focuses on the knowledge gained from the China Study, a 20-year partnership of Cornell University, Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine that showed high consumption of animal-based foods is associated with more chronic disease, while those who ate primarily a plant-based diet were the healthiest.
Then, former President the USA, Bill Clinton even cited the book in explaining how he lost 24 pounds by converting to a plant-based diet in hopes of improving his heart health. The president gave up dairy, switching to almond milk, and says he lives primarily on beans and other legumes, vegetables and fruit, although he will, on rare occasions, eat fish.
When the author of the book was interviewed he revealed some amazing insight. When asked what lead him to write this book he said “I have been in the field for a long time and had a major research program at Cornell. We published a lot of research over the years. My program had a good reputation. I’d finally gotten to a point where we’d discovered a lot of things that were very exciting, things that were provocative. Finally I sat down to write the book, to tell my story. “
And what makes this story unusual, well I’ll let him tell you:
“In the beginning of my career I was teaching nutrition in a very classical sense. Nutrient by nutrient. That’s the way we did research, that’s the way I taught it. I came to believe, after doing the work we did in the Philippines and China, that there was a very different world of understanding nutrition. I ended up with a view now that is almost diametrically opposed to what I had when I started my career.
I was raised on a dairy farm. I milked cows. I went away to graduate school at Cornell University, and I thought the good old American diet is the best there is. The more dairy, meat and eggs we consumed, the better. The early part of my career was focused on protein, protein, protein. It was supposed to solve the world’s ills. But when we started doing our research, we found that when we start consuming protein in excess of the amount we need, it elevates blood cholesterol and atherosclerosis and creates other problems.
The problem is that we study one nutrient out of context. That’s the way we did research — one vitamin at a time, one mineral, one fat. It was always in a reductionist, narrowly focused way. But I learned that protein is not quite what we thought it was. We’ve distorted our diet seriously through the ages, and we have all the problems we have because of that distortion.
What loomed large for me was that we shouldn’t be thinking in a linear way that A causes B. We should be thinking about how things work together. It’s a very complex biological system. The body is always trying to restore health every microsecond of our lives. How do we furnish the resources for the body to use? In order to try to understand that, we shouldn’t be giving ourselves individual nutrient supplements.
We shouldn’t be trying to discover which gene causes what. But those two areas have become the major focus of research over the years.”
His advice on what we should be eating:
“I don’t use the word “vegan” or “vegetarian.” I don’t like those words. People who chose to eat that way chose to because of ideological reasons. I don’t want to denigrate their reasons for doing so, but I want people to talk about plant-based nutrition and to think about these ideas in a very empirical scientific sense, and not with an ideological bent to it.
The idea is that we should be consuming whole foods. We should not be relying on the idea that genes are determinants of our health. We should not be relying on the idea that nutrient supplementation is the way to get nutrition, because it’s not. I’m talking about whole, plant-based foods. The effect it produces is broad for treatment and prevention of a wide variety of ailments, from cancer to heart disease to diabetes.
We eat 100% plant based, meaning my family, our five grown children and five grandchildren. We all eat this way now. I say the closer we get to a plant-based diet the healthier we are going to be.
It’s not because we have data to show that 100 percent plant-based eating is better than 95 percent. But if someone has been diagnosed with cancer or heart disease, it’s smart to go ahead and do the whole thing. If I start saying you can have a little of this, a little of that, it allows them to deviate off course. Our taste preferences change. We tend to choose the foods we become accustomed to, and in part because we become addicted to them, dietary fat in particular.
If we go to a plant-based diet, at first it might be difficult, but it turns out after a month or two our taste preferences change and we discover new tastes and feel a lot better, and we don’t want to go back. It’s not a religion with me, it’s just that the closer we get to a 100 percent plant-based diet, the better off we’re going to be.”
This study in condjunction with my own work also resulted in me no longer advocating isolated vitamins and minerals, only opening avocating for wholefood plant based supplements like Juice Plus Premium Capsules and Complete Raw Dairy Free Powder and eating a wholefood plant based diet. We eat about 80-90% plant based meaning once or twice a week I might eat eggs or some cottage cheese. But we do not consume meat, fish, dairy products, animal based products and I’m also 100% gluten free.
So what does it look like on a daily basis to be plant based?
What we are saying here in essence is just eat more plants…. Green leafy vegetables, legumes, starchy carbs such as sweet potatoes or root vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and ancient grains.
Here is the day in the life of a plant based lifestyle:
Jam Packed with Greens for ultimate energy but packs a punch for taste too. This beauty covers you nutritionally for the whole day including all your B vitamins.
2. Chai or Earl Grey Tea with Almond Milk and handful of nuts
I usually snack mid morning with a cup of yummy Masala chai tea with some almond milk (though most of my clients start with Oat Milk as an alternative in their tea) and maybe a handful of walnuts or almonds. Shows you don’t have to give up on those comforting habits. Just make a few tweeks.
I call this the Nectar of the Goddess and perfect substitute for yogurt, snack pots and even ice-cream. You can eat it for breakfast or as a snack in the middle of the day or as dessert and it is jammed with protein, essential fats and antioxidants.
5. Hummus & carrots
Hummus is seriously my crack. I mean it, I love it so much and it is literally the glue that binds me together.
And it’s the easiest, healthiest and yummiest snack that even Josh gobbles up.
6. Thai Squash & Pineapple Curry
This is a warming and super quick recipe the whole family can enjoy.
7. Sweet Potato Brownies
Who said you also can’t enjoy some indulgent treats?! These are the most amazing easy to put together yummy brownies that are actually healthy.
Plant based does not mean starving yourself or lacking in flavor, nor does it means spending hours slaving over a hot cooker or oven.
Everything listed above took 15 minutes of less to prepare.