Let food be thy medicine and medicine by thy food — Hippocrates
I’ve been researching diet and nutrition for a full year as part of my desire to enhance the Health element of my Wheel of Life.
I avoided a lot of meat, junk food, and fast food, and leaned towards fruits, vegetables, and grains because they made me feel better.
Though I admittedly overindulged in rich food and wine when traveling and on special occasions, I always knew how to course-correct.
This was the extent of my diet, and it took sifting through a lot of confusing and conflicting information to conclude that this sort of lax, semi-healthy approach to eating only marginally reduced my risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
So I switched, cold-turkey, to a new approach after gathering my own data. The following outlines why and how.
First, what exactly is a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet is one in which your food source is based on whole and fresh plants, fruits, legumes, seeds, and grains with very little or no animal products.
I like this definition because it’s straightforward with none of the stigma that comes with popular terms like vegan and vegetarian.
The popular terms may stress the elimination or reduction of animal products, but don’t necessarily encourage eating fruits and vegetables in their whole form or the restriction of refined, factory-produced foods.
When it comes to your personal health as well as the health of the overall environment, the plant-based diet may be one of the best ways of eating you can adopt.
My rationale for switching
Even though I felt pretty good in my mind and body, I knew there were areas of improvement.
However, my motivation to change was mostly driven from witnessing so many loved ones struggle with and succumb to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
What bothers me most about my personal observations and the staggering rates at which Americans — and other societies who adopt Western diets — are dying from these diseases, is the refusal to believe these are lifestyle diseases that are preventable and perhaps even reversible with the right diet.
Research that influenced my decision
I have no other ulterior motive with my transition to a plant-based diet. I’ve never been one for following lifestyle fads and, admittedly, my altruism towards livestock animals wasn’t, until recently, pronounced enough to give up meat.
My decision was based solely on the research. Scientific studies from reputable institutions provide overwhelming proof that meat (including fish and chicken), dairy, and processed foods contribute to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other top causes of death.
These studies also show that eating more fresh, whole, plant foods provide significant protection against these same diseases by substantially decreasing your risk.
Here’s a list of select studies that support a plant-based diet
Research shows that healthy eating may be best achieved via a plant-based diet. This diet has also been shown to be a cost-effective, low-risk method of treating high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. — Southern California Permanente Medical Group
The best foods to eat are the most nutrient-dense foods that contain essential vitamins and minerals as well as naturally-occurring phytonutrients and other substances that protect against cancer, heart disease, and other chronic conditions. In order of rank, the foods to emphasize in the diet are: vegetables, herbs and spices, fruit, mushrooms, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. — Nutrition Facts (summarized from various sources)
A plant-based diet has all the nutrients (protein, iron, calcium, and essential fatty acids) that humans need with the exception of vitamin B12 (which can be obtained via a supplement) and vitamin D (which can be obtained with adequate sunshine or a supplement). “More than a half-century of creative marketing by the meat, dairy, egg, and fish industries has produced fears surrounding nonexistent deficiencies, which in clinical practice need no patient monitoring by physicians and dietitians.” — Northwest Permanente (Portland, OR)
Nutrition (particularly essential vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids) plays a critical role in controlling and, to some extent, preventing, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, attention deficit disorder, and other mental health issues. — Department of Psychiatry, JSS Medical College, Mysore (India)
Studies supporting the elimination or reduction of animal products
Red and processed meats classified as carcinogenic to humans and the greater the consumption, the greater the risk — World Health Organization
Red meat consumption increases risk of diabetes, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality — Harvard School of Public Health
Drinking milk increases the risk of bone fractures and doubles mortality rates — Uppsala University (Sweden)
Milk is not a necessary foodstuff as calcium and other nutrients are readily available in plants. Dairy consumption may lead to prostate and ovarian cancers, autoimmune diseases, some childhood ailments, and other chronic diseases — Department of Health and Wellness, University of North Carolina (Asheville)
A variety of toxic pollutants are in fish and seafood found across the world’s oceans — Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego
Total meat consumption significantly contributes to weight gain, and chicken causes more weight gain than any other meat — School for Oncology and Developmental Biology, Maastricht University (Netherlands)
Viruses found in chicken could be linked to obesity in humans — Department of Experimental Medicine, Sapienza University of Rome
Like any other person who doesn’t want to change or wants to justify their current beliefs, I tried to find fault in these studies.
However, I couldn’t make sense of the millions in the U.S. and around the world dying from diseases that were rare and obscure just 70 years ago. The correlation between our increased consumption of certain foods and higher rates of these lifestyle diseases is just too obvious to ignore.
My simple strategy for transitioning
My transition thus far has been surprisingly easy. That’s because I refuse to turn diet into doctrine.
I want to be as healthy as I can be and hopefully become an example to loved ones who need it most. But I don’t intend on being a perfectionist or propagandist.
My primary goal is to be mindful of what I eat so I decided to consume 80% whole plant foods and 20% seeds, nuts, and grains with guidance from this grocery list.
If you are interested in learning more about or adopting the plant-based diet, here are a few resources.
Enroll in Effortless Health, my simple but robust health and wellness program designed for busy individuals.
Watch the What the Health documentary for an entertaining and enlightening overview of the meat and dairy industries, and their contribution to dangerous but avoidable lifestyle diseases.
Originally published at ajaedmond.com