Everyone asks me "Why did you go plant-based?" And the answer is simple: Health. I want to live my healthiest right now. Everyone thinks it's some big sacrifice, and at first, I thought that too. But when you start to eat more plant-based foods you realize it's easy to do. There are so many versions of nut-based cheese, almond or oat milk and non-dairy creamers, ice creams, meatless burgers and bean and vegetable alternatives that are delicious and healthier for you, the truth is once you start to explore this world the possibilities are endless.
The reasons to go plant-based (or eat more plant-based foods): Health, the planet, and yes animals, for those who think that's obvious and those who prefer not to think about it. Here are the top 3 reasons for going plant-based in 2021. If you want to try it, we've created a 28-day plant that makes it easy, fun, and delicious. It's all laid out here.
First, health. In a year that has seen healthy people felled by an unpredictable virus, our first job is to be healthy. How we do that includes several strategies that allow us to: Stress less, sleep more, exercise daily, and eat the healthiest foods we can find. That last part "healthiest foods we can find" has been up for debate, since the meat lovers will tell you they need animal products for protein, but the truth is when you eat plant-based you get your protein from the same place the animals do: Plants.
1. Number One Reason to Eat Mostly Plant-Based: Your Health
The Mediterranean diet is known to be heart healthy so most people get to that level and think "I'm doing just fine." But doctors including respected cardiologists, will tell you that studies have found the healthiest way to eat is not that (which includes oils and fish and some animal protein) but what they are now calling the Green Mediterranean Diet, which is essentially a diet of whole plant-based foods that is high in antioxidants, rich in fiber, and gets its protein from vegetables and legumes, whole grains like quinoa, fruits, nuts, and seeds.
Why does the American College of Cardiologists (ACC) and The American Heart Association (AHA) continue to recommend both? It’s because “America typically eats crap,” says holistic cardiologist Joel Kahn, MD. “Mediterranean is healthier than a meat-based diet.” In other words, they’re being practical—bad habits, especially bad eating habits, die-hard for many people. Healthcare professionals want to see some improvement. But ultimately, how you choose to care for your heart isn’t up to your cardiologist. It’s up to you, and you can do better by choosing low-fat, plant-based eating.
There are studies upon studies, that show eating a diet high in plant-based foods benefits your health and reduces your risk of disease by delivering more fiber, which keeps blood sugar steady, and your fuel system a healthy blend of carbs and fat. There are even more studies that show to lower your lifetime risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers (including breast, prostate, and ovarian cancers and those linked to hormone-sensitive tumor growth), a diet lower in animal products and higher in plant-based whole food is best. Inflammation has been linked to meat, dairy, and especially processed meats. So ditch the meat and dairy.
Lower inflammation is key if the goal is to avoid chronic diseases, hypertension, and ill-health. To keep inflammation in check eat a whole food plant-based diet full of vegetables, fruit, legumes (think: protein-packed beans), heart-healthy nuts, and seeds. You get plenty of protein in these foods. When you combine these foods with lower oil intake (especially coconut oil which has saturated fat) you can keep your markers for heart disease in check.
In a sweeping research study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the data found that plant-based diets are associated with a lower risk of not just heart disease but of "all causes of mortality" in a general population of middle-aged adults. In other words, everyone can benefit from this way of eating, not just those who have heart disease. When you think you’re eating healthy, you have to ask yourself, “Is my diet the healthiest it could be?” If you aren’t eating mostly plant-based whole foods, new science tells us: You could be doing better, to be your healthiest.
It only takes 4 weeks to see the results of a plant-based diet on your health
It only takes one month to change your body's heart-healthy markers! One month is enough to see significant drops in measurable health indicators like cholesterol, blood pressure and lipids in your blood. In a study of 31 participants following a low-fat whole-food plant-based diet, in just four weeks:
- Significant reductions were observed for high blood pressure
- A drop in serum lipids, often a precursor to plaque and blockage
- A reduction in total medication usage and some took no meds at all
Other cardiovascular risk factors improved: Weight loss, smaller waist circumference, lower resting heart rate, and all blood markers for heart disease.
2. The Second Reason to Go Plant-Based: It's Better for the Planet.
The climate-change deniers can all go live on Mars. For the rest of us, watching the Amazon burn last year, and rain forests routinely get cleared for farming–at a rate of3.5 billion to 7 billion trees per year makes us wonder, What can I do?
Viewing Sir David Attenborough's A Life on Our Planet, makes us believe that anything we can do to reduce our carbon footprint is a good thing. That starts with what we eat. The now 94-year-old plant-based BBC producer and documentary narrator believes that he has stood witness over the decades-long ravaging of our natural wildlife, spaces and, many species, including our own.
How did this broadcaster become a planet hero? Back when he was 28, Attenborough was working for BBC when he convinced his bosses that he should be traveling the world, reporting on animals. Now, Attenborough is looking back at all the exotic trips he has taken only to realize that those lands are no longer the same. “Wherever I went there was wilderness… you could fly for hours over the untouched wilderness." Now, areas that once were vibrant and colorful like the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, "look like a cemetery."
He recently implored his fans to change their diet for the sake of the planet: "We must change our diet. The Planet can't support billions of meat-eaters. If we had a mostly plant-based diet we could increase the yield of the land."
We can choose plant-based proteins over animal ones to minimize the effect of animal agriculture on climate change, since reports have confirmed that raising livestock requires exponential amounts of energy, land, and water (and produces more man-made carbon emissions than any other industry) compared with growing and raising plants. Every time you skip the chicken on your salad and opt for the chickpeas instead, you help the planet.
3. When You Make the Switch You Just Feel Better About .... Everything
I am not one to get all preachy, and I won't here. Everyone gets to live their life by their own mores and values. The only thing I have to say about the ethics of eating plant-based food (or as much of it as you can) is that when I skip meat and dairy and opt for plant-based meals I feel better about my personal choice. The truth is we alllove animals, respect the planet and want to live a long life, as healthily as we can. Once I saw videos of how dairy cows are treated and their young tossed into pens shortly after birth I couldn't unwatch it. So I came to the cheese-free, oat-milk lifestyle for health, and stayed for the fact that I want to eat this way.
We all care about the cause we know as Planet Earth, and when you eat plant-based or as much as you possibly can, you align your consumer decisions with your value system. I won't delve into the unsavory topic of "meat processing plants" formerly known as slaughterhouses, though I respect Sir Paul McCartney and Joaquin Phoenix, Edie Falco, and others in the public eye for raising awareness for the cause of animal welfare and against factory farming. (Farms are not what they used to be; my mother's sister once had a farm down south, that I would visit in my childhood, and the animals there were lovingly fed and cared for. The place most of our meat comes from today does not look anything like that.) On a personal note, I want to think I have tried my best daily to make decisions that I can live with. Eating plant-based, for me, is part of that. If you are tempted to try it out but don't know where to start, this 28-day plan has everything you need to succeed.
Lucy Danziger is the former Editor-in-Chief of SELF magazine, and past president of the American Society of Magazine Editors. She has written several books but now that she is a plant-based eater, is healthier and happier than when she authored books about diet and happiness. Danziger is currently the Editorial Director and Chief Content Officer of The Beet.
The original article was published on the Beet.