why plant-based?

This page is solely my opinion about a plant-based lifestyle, although I am heavily citing sources (Medical Journals, doctors, news articles, vegetarian-based organizations, etc.) to back up my opinion.  I feel like I am not voicing anything new here; I am adding voice to a trend that is happily gaining momentum.

Eating plant-based is perhaps best summarized by Michael Pollan in his book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.”  Eating plant-based is not a diet confined by calorie-counting or maintaining intricate journals or weigh-ins, it is not a passing food fad, it is not a restrictive lifestyle.  It is probably the simplest dietary lifestyle:  seek out real, whole foods; eat mindfully and intuitively to fill your nutritional needs; eat mostly plants.

just lettuceDoctors Alona Pulde and Matthew Lederman from the Forks Over Knives family offer a superb plant-based lifestyle definition, reminding us eating plant-based is not a diet of just lettuce, and listing what does form the basis of the lifestyle–plants and vegetables, yes, but also fruits, whole grains, legumes, starches, as well as minimizing or excluding meat and animal products and processed foods, refined foods, etc.

{And just in case you haven’t seen the Forks Over Knives Documentary yet, here’s the official trailer.  It’s definitely worth the 2:11 it takes to watch–and finding and watching the full documentary is worth the lifelong changes it will inspire you to make.  Here’s another great trailer, the PlantPure Nation documentary, founded by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, co-Author of the China Study.  I’m aware of the China Study Naysayers out there, and all the “debunking” that’s happened, but let me put it this way:  go eat meat and fast foods* every day for 20 days, and then eat fresh, whole plant-based foods for 20 days and let me know how you feel at the end.}

fast and whole

*I waited in the fast food drive-thru for about 20 minutes to order these fast food items.  While I waited about 10-15 minutes for the bulgur wheat to soak, I chopped my veggies and sliced a fresh peach I got from a farm stand to make my whole foods dinner.

A PHILOSOPHICAL PERSPECTIVE:  “EAT FOOD.”

When we’re talking about eating food, we want foods to help us feel whole, alive, healthy, and satisfied.  We want foods to fuel our day-to-day routines and quicken recovery time after an illness or physical exertion.
yourbodyisaworkofart-lg{I’m pretty active, so I’m thinking of my back-to-back kickboxing and yoga sessions or running in an event, and having to go on through the rest of my busy day with two boys under the age of five.}

It’s amazing what food–real food–does for your body.  Carole Bartolotto, a Registered Dietician, authored a 2013 Huffington Post Article, the Top 5 Reasons to Eat a Plant-based Diet: health reasons, economical reasons, and animal cruelty cited, among other things.  Study after study has proven reduced meat and animal product consumption is directly linked to reduced heart disease, type II diabetes, hypertension, obesity–all major chronic illnesses that plague the American lifestyle.

Calciuminfographicsmallveggie nutrition

Americans have this misconception that certain nutrients necessary for life are found only in animal products (calcium, iron, protein, to name a few), and the only way to get those nutrients is through meat or animal product consumption.  That belief is simply a myth.  Studies have also proven that a plant-based diet does not lead to anemia or low calcium and protein levels.  That belief is simply a myth.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite, with those following a plant-based lifestyle actually having healthier levels and additional health benefits than those who eat a meat-laden diet.

PLANT-PROTEIN3-2I love how David Simon phrases the American “protein preaching” in Meatonomics, “From a young age, we’re taught [animal protein] fosters health, growth, vitality, virility, and sometimes even weight loss.  The alternative to getting plenty of it, we’re told, could be protein deficiency.  Never mind that the typical American has never had–nor ever will have–protein deficiency and has little idea what its symptoms might be.  We’ve heard of it, we’re scared of it, and whatever the heck it is, we don’t want it.”  We are taught to think plant foods have very little to no protein, at least not enough to support our daily needs, so animal based protein is necessary for life.  Simon points out in reality, “many plant foods contain protein at levels equal to the same or even larger amounts of animal foods.”   The American diet is so protein saturated that we actually consume more than double to recommended daily requirement.  Just in case you need more convincing, here’s a list offering 6 Great Reasons to go plant-based.

meat industry solutions

When we’re talking about eating food, we’re also talking about eating real food.  Food–particularly meat and animal products–is totally different than 20, 30, even 50 years ago.  Due to mass demand (and massive government subsidies), meat and animal products are mass produced in factory farms–they are industrialized and tweaked with hormones and antibiotics and genetically altered.  In fact, due to mass demand, we created the environment that requires hormones and antibiotics and genetic alterations and its “solutions” and repercussions.  Not to mention how “industrialized meat” is treated.  Animal cruelty and meat industry abuse was news when The Jungle was published in 1906; it continues today due to demand–simply for the sake of filling the fast food dollar menus.  {Do you want to know the true cost of a BigMac?}

AN ECOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE:  “NOT TOO MUCH.”

Being a mindful consumer isn’t just about the type of meat or animal products you are purchasing, it also means you are aware of ecological effects the meat industry has worldwide.  This industry has a staggering effect on water consumption/usage (I’m using Utah’s water data because that’s where I live), land erosion, deforestation, and long-term ecological damage.

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Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 11.16.10 AM

It requires more land, water, and energy–resources that are changing (water, namely, becoming more scarce), and thereby proving that a meat-based diet is just not sustainable, and is economically unwise.  Just an example of this energy (im)balance: We could feed 840 million people who follow a plant-based diet with the grain we feed US livestock.  And check out this graphic describing land and water usage…It seems to me to be less about resource availability than resource management.

Now, I am not anti-farmer, anti-production, or even anti-meat.  We do eat a few meals a month that include meat.  However, I am very mindful about the type of product I spend my money on and who my money is supporting.  Organic, grass-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free, no-rBGH, non-GMO–slap all those labels on to give me a product most similar to a farm-raised, hand-raised product like 100 years ago, that’s all I ask.  Yes, this product is more expensive, but it stretches further as we don’t eat it every day, or even every other day, and by eating “not too much” I know we’re being mindful consumers.

enviornmental reasons

A RELIGIOUS PERSPECTIVE:  “MOSTLY PLANTS.”

I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as the “Mormon” Church.  As much as I’d love to outline all our beliefs and doctrines, share all my stories from serving a mission in Brazil, and send you a copy of The Book of Mormon…this is a food blog.  And as we follow doctrinal dietary practices, this heavily influences my plant-based lifestyle choices, so I am going to address it here.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) follow a law of health called the Word of Wisdom.  This law was given by God through revelation in 1833, and outlines which foods benefit the body and also which substances are harmful to the body (we don’t drink alcohol, coffee, black tea, or use tobacco).

scripturesAs outlined in the Doctrine and Covenants Section 89, fruits and vegetables are good for the body, grains are of the “staff of life”, and meat is to be “used sparingly; only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine“.  We are counseled to eat meat sparingly in Section 89, but to avoid extremes, we are also given the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 49:18 that “whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats is not ordained of God.”

These are principles with a promise; they are given, and when obeyed, we see direct results/blessings.  All those who “remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.  And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.”

President Packer, one of our Church’s Apostles (1924-2015), gave a conference talk about the Word of Wisdom in 1996 (the Church as a whole meets every six months in a General Conference to hear talks given by the Church’s Prophet and other Church leaders for guidance and direction).  He referred to this principle with a promise when saying, “Generally principles are not spelled out in detail.  That leaves you free to find your way with an enduring truth, a principle, as your anchor.”

As far as “principles not spelled out in detail” go, “eat meat sparingly” and “eat mostly plants” is the same thing to me.  I choose to follow this principle by adhering to a plant-based lifestyle, and I have seen the blessings:  I have felt health in my navel and marrow in my bones; I have run and not been wearied; I have walked and not been faint.

We believe we are made of both a spirit and body, and one affects the other.  If our physical bodies are healthy and whole and well, our spirits will be, also.  Beverly Hyatt Neville, a Dietician and Health Educator (who is also LDS), wrote an article for the LDS Church magazine called Nourishing our Bodies and Our Spirits.  She addresses choosing healthy foods, exercising wise dietary judgment, avoiding excess, and subsequently seeing an abundance of blessings.  Susan W. Tanner, a youth auxiliary president about a decade ago, gave a conference talk entitled The Sanctity of the Body.  As our spirits and bodies are so interconnected, we need to keep both clean.  I believe sanctifying my body–keeping it whole and living abundantly–is in part due to eating whole, clean, and fresh.

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