There is no more obvious connection between our bodies and the planet than our daily decisions about the food we choose to consume. Food represents the transfer of the sun’s energy, stored in plants and animals and released into our bodies through our digestive system. We replace billions of cells every day with the food we consume being used as building blocks for our body. It determines the composition of our cell membranes, bone marrow, hormones, blood, skin and hair. By bringing a deeper awareness to our diet, we can attune our unique and delicately balanced digestive system. What we decide to eat speaks volumes about how we view our place in the world. Introducing a plant-based diet can be an effective significant step towards harmony with our body and the place we live in.
As the global population grows so do the demands that our food system puts on the natural environment. Currently 59% of all the land capable of growing crops is used to grow food for livestock. This represents an enormous inefficiency in the way we feed ourselves and places unnecessary demand on the planet’s scarce resources. The equivalent land could be used to grow plants that would feed the human population many times over.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has said that livestock farming is the leading source of climate change, responsible for approximately 7,516 million tons of CO2 emissions per year, or 14.5% of total annual global emissions. The negative environmental impacts of heavy meat consumption are evident. We also need to consider carefully what type of food we consume as our nutrition has a lasting impact on our bodies. A number of studies show that a human diet rich in animal protein increases the production of the growth hormone IGF-1, too much of which may trigger colon, prostate, and breast cancer. The growth in meat consumption, coupled with the worsening environment and resulting diminished quality of food, might also be a reason for the increase in cases of colon and several types of stomach cancer.
If we are serious about addressing climate change, we are going to have to adapt and make changes to our behaviour. One of the simplest ways to do this is by adjusting our intake of animal proteins. In his 2019 book “We are the Weather” the philosopher, Jonathan Safran Froer suggests restricting our intake of animal-based products to just one meal per day.
I believe that everyone can be an agent of change in our world. We don’t need to make radical choices. But by understanding ourselves, our planet and making conscious choices, we can affect change that ripples through our society and brings lasting, positive change for the world.
Whilst veganism is a choice that is unquestionably beneficial for the planet, it shouldn’t be seen as restrictive for those who love to eat well. Eating a vegan diet can open up a whole array of interesting flavours and can help you be more creative in the kitchen, as well as being better for your health. It also presents a lifestyle choice that allows us to connect more deeply with the earth.
There are many inspiring chefs turning their skills to help you create delicious plant-based meals at home. One of my favourites is the British chef, Anna Jones. Her recipes combine flavour and texture to create soulful meals that are both good to eat, and sustainable. Yotam Ottolenghi’s form of middle eastern cooking has a heavy focus on vegetables and his new book Flavour is a true culinary exploration. His vegan version of a classic pasta ragu sauce, enriched with mushrooms and miso is sure to stimulate your taste buds.
I believe that embracing a way of life that values life and nature can also help us make better choices in other areas of our life as we gain a better understanding of our place in the world and our impact on it. So, as we start to see the first signs of spring and the start of a new life cycle, I urge you to consider the way that we take that energy from nature into our bodies and enjoy the wonderful nourishment that a plant-rich diet can offer.