Moving towards a plant based diet
Whether you are physician, naturopath, Raw Foodie, Paleo, Flexitarian or Vegan, one thing we can all agree on is that more whole, plant-based foods means more antioxidants, nutrients and more vitamins & minerals.
Growing up I had always been active and healthy, but at university I began to develop a few health problems, triggered by overtraining, overworking, and a protein heavy diet. After doctors suggested the possibility of Crohn’s disease, I decided to make some changes. One of the most significant changes was switching to a plant based diet, rich in fruits, veggies, legumes, whole-grains, nuts and seeds. Void of animal products, and containing very little processed foods. The benefits of this diet have continued to surface over the past few years, and here are four key changes that I’ve noticed.
My change in diet has significantly helped with my health problems. I still get issues occasionally, but the symptoms are less severe. And don’t just take my word for it – there are countless stories of people losing massive amounts of weight and reversing crippling illnesses, all centred on the dietary switch. The science is there to back it up too. Many studies suggest that a plant based diet could prevent and in some cases reverse heart disease, cancers, diabetes, and autoimmune conditions. It can also help with allergies, headaches, and digestive issues too. Whole plant foods are more nutrient dense than animal products and processed foods, containing large concentrations of health promoting antioxidants and phytochemicals. They are also lower in saturated fats and cholesterol, both of which are linked to disease.
Switching to a plant based diet has also helped with my recovery from workouts, meaning I can cycle further and lift heavier without getting as sore or inflamed. I’ve also noticed a big change in my energy levels. Plants are an efficient fuel, meaning less energy is spent breaking them down, compared to processed foods and animal products. There are less by-products generated, and more micronutrients available. It’s not just everyday people like me who feel the benefits. Numerous plant-based athletes are thriving in their sports: Rich Roll, Scott Jurek, Venus Williams, and Patrik Baboumian, just to name a few.
We’re facing an environmental emergency, with global temperatures rising and natural resources rapidly being depleted. It’s hard to argue against a plant-based diet in terms of sustainability. It requires significantly less land, energy and water than the standard western meat based diet. Beef cattle production requires an energy input to protein output ratio of 54:1. Estimations of the water required to produce a kilo of beef vary, from 13,000 litres up to 100,000 litres. The water required to produce a kilo of wheat is somewhere between 1,000-2,000 litres.
Some people move towards a plant-based diet for ethical reasons. Roughly 150 billion animals are slaughtered each year for our food consumption, but the fact remains that we don’t have to kill living beings to thrive. Documentaries such as Food Inc and Earthlings highlight the fact that animals are not treated to five star hotels and ocean views. They often live in cramped conditions, and are sometimes pumped with hormones. By choosing to buy and consume animal products, we are supporting these practices. There’s a movement happening. People are waking up and realising the impact of their food choices. You could join them, by simply upping your plant intake, and reducing your consumption of processed foods and animal products. You don’t have to jump in fully to feel the benefits. Start with small, simple changes. Make a gradual movement towards a plant based diet at your own pace, stopping where you’re comfortable. Before you know it, all those small changes will add up to make a big difference.
Vegan chickpea soup recipe…
1.5 cups brown rice/pearl barley
2-3 medium sweet potatoes
1 red Onion
1 can chickpeas
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 tspn cinnamon and 1 tspn cumin
1 tblspn ginger
2 star anise
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Low salt veg stock
How to Make It
Whack the brown rice on to boil. In the meantime, chop your sweet potatoes and onions into chunks. Add the sweet potato to a separate large saucepan or wok to boil in the veg stock, along with star anise. Add in half the ginger, cinnamon, cumin, rosemary and red wine vinegar too. After another 10-15 add in the onion, along with the chickpeas, spinach and the rest of the spices and vinegar. Keep the wok topped up with stock. Ten more minutes and everything should be coming together nicely. The rice should be cooked and so should the soup. Serve with crusty bread.
Luke Jones from hero Health Room. www.herohealthroom.com