|Posted by Luke Jones on January 29, 2014 at 5:10 AM|
6 REASONS WHY I EAT A WHOLE FOOD PLANT BASED DIET
Originally posted on January 13, 2014
Image from Snapr
Diet can be a sensitive issue. Perhaps the understatement of the year so far…
Instead of just serving its purpose as a fuel to produce energy to keep our bodies functioning, food brings with it a substantial amount of emotional attachment.
We eat for pleasure. We eat as a social tool. We eat to conform to dietary guidelines.
When you start to stray outside the ‘norm’ and contemplate the idea of an alternate way of living, like a vegan or plant based diet; it can generate confusion, sometimes tension, and often a shed load of questions…
Why don’t you eat normal food? Where do you get your protein? DON’T YOU MISS EATING CHICKEN?
My diet has been plant based for the majority of the past 12 months, give or take a month or two. No animal products or processed foods, just lots of fresh fruits and veg, with some legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
These types of questions tend to get thrown towards me quite frequently, and I have often struggled to come up with an answer that I’m satisfied with. One that gently gets my current perspective across, but doesn’t force it onto the person or make them feel bad about their own habits.
So that’s what I’ll try to do here. Everyone has their own reasons for the decisions they make. I’ll share part of my story, and my reasons for adopting a whole food plant based diet.
I’ve never ridden a horse in my life, and I don’t intend on starting with a high one.
The last thing I want to do is preach. I’ll try to keep it brief, but will likely fail. Hopefully I can share a bit of background info on the journey that has led to where I am today, and why being plant based is a decision that resonates with me at this present moment.
Maybe you will be able to relate to what I have to say, and perhaps start making changes yourself.
MY SIX REASONS
1. I feel healthier.
Health was no doubt the main reason I began investigating the plant based diet.
As I’ve mentioned before, during my time at uni I ran myself into the ground. I was combining the high workload with way too much high intensity training, not enough rest and recovery, a diet rich in animal protein, and a mindset that wasn’t geared to dealing with all of this effectively.
This went on for quite a while, and inevitably led to ulcers, fatigue, and gastro-intestinal problems. You can’t keep running your vehicle ragged and not expect it to give in eventually…
I had always been interested in nutrition, but really began looking into a plant based diet after hearing Rich Roll on the Joe Rogan Experience, and later reading his book Finding Ultra.
He talked about the massive transformation he made from an out of shape, sedentary addict to a top ultra endurance athlete, and how the switch to a plant based diet had such a big impact.
The more I researched, the more information I found that resonated with me.
A whole list of chronic conditions such as IBD, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, even cancer; have all been shown to be slowed, prevented, or even reversed by adopting a whole food plant based diet.
After receiving a set of blood test results that suggested a very likely possibility of Crohn’s disease in early December 2012, I decided to make the switch the next day.
It may seem like the change was pretty instantaneous, which in a way it was. But my diet had been growing and evolving for many years prior to that moment. The change was a lot more gradual than it first appears, which is probably why I find it so easy to stick to.
It was a lifestyle change, rather than a new diet plan.
By this time, fruit and veg where already a big part of my life, as were legumes, whole-grains, nuts and seeds. Dairy was already history; I just had to get rid of the meat and eggs, which was a pretty big step to take.
Earlier in my life, I could have been described as a meat lover. Even to the point that if there was no more meat left on my plate, the meal was over. What am I gonna do, eat those veggies all on their own? No thanks.
But for me by this time, the desire for good health was much stronger than the desire to keep eating chicken, so it was a no brainer.
Although my health issues still continue somewhat one year later, the symptoms are definitely much less severe. I feel my problems would be much worse if I hadn’t made the change, and that my compass is now pointing in the right direction, towards a healthier future.
I also realise though that diet is only a part of the overall health picture, and I still have work to do in other areas in order to reach my full potential.
2. I’m a better athlete.
This may sound very cliché, but one noticeable difference I have found since changing to the whole-food plant based way of eating is the amount of energy I now have. Plants are much easier for my body to digest, and I feel less sluggish than before. My joints also feel more mobile and less inflamed.
The health problems had been preventing me from exercising, but my new found energy meant I could train more frequently, so I did initially. Probably a bit too much actually, again I took it to the extreme and probably pushed too hard. I’m still learning.
Regardless, I really believe the dietary switch played a big part in me being able to gain access to a higher level of performance.
Three months after making the change, I took part in an amateur MMA tournament. It was the first time I would compete since having my arm broken in a similar competition three years earlier, so although it was only a small event, it meant quite a lot to me.
I really felt that during the four matches that day, endurance wasn’t an issue. I felt lighter, stronger and more mobile than ever before, and had a great time conquering some of my demons.
3. I can lessen my impact on the planet.
The more I get accustomed to this lifestyle and the more I learn, the more I can start to consider the bigger picture and understand the larger scale impact of the choices we make.
We are in the midst of a climate and energy crisis. The world population is growing exponentially, and with it the strain on our natural resources.
If we were to really examine many of the practices that we take for granted, including farming, we would see that many of them are not sustainable. It takes a hell of a lot more water and energy to produce animal products than it does to produce plants. There’s a pretty cool infographic here that puts things into perspective.
I’ve made a choice to try to minimise my impact on the planet and keep my carbon footprint low, and part of that is trying my best to make the most sustainable food choices.
4. I don’t have to kill anything
We live in a world where there is a total disconnect from the food we have on our plate, and where it has come from. You go to the supermarket to get bacon, sausages, or pork steaks – but never to get some dead pig.
Documentaries such as Earthlings and Food Inc unveil some of the dirty secrets of the meat and dairy industry, how animals are mistreated and forced to live in appalling conditions before they’re sent to their demise.
Organic and free range practices may be a little different, but the destination is the same. I am lucky enough to be able to choose what I eat, and personally don’t want to contribute to the death of other animals if I can help it.
This doesn’t make me better than others. I’ve eaten plenty of meat and dairy in my time. But if I’m not prepared to take an animal’s life myself, I can no longer justify consuming what comes from it.
5. I can control exactly what goes into my body
I like to be able to control what I put into my body, and know that it is health promoting. I know that if I buy organic fruit or veg, or better still, eat the stuff that we grow ourselves on the allotment patch; it will be health promoting.
Unfortunately the same can’t be said if you start involving animal products, and processed foods.
The same people who sit on the board that writes the American Food Pyramid also have a vested interest in the meat and dairy industry. Their livelihoods simply depend on how much of their products they can sell, so the guidelines that we are told to follow have a financial interest behind them.
You need meat for strong muscles. Milk is good for your bones. But do you really?
Or is it all a marketing ploy to get you to buy their products and keep the industry running?
With a plant based diet you can avoid some of the uncertainty, and take your health into your own hands. There is no kale lobby or avocado council. You can be safe in the knowledge that plant foods are pretty good for you, there’s not really a catch or any vested interest.
And by eating whole foods instead of those that have been processed, you’re getting all the nutrients in a nice little package, with nothing missing. You also avoid additives, preservatives, artificial colours and flavourings, and all the other nasty chemicals you don’t need.
5. A lot of evidence points towards us being herbivores
This one I’m not so confident on and would like to learn more about, but I thought I’d put it in anyway.
Many people will argue that we are anatomically designed to eat solely plant foods, especially fruit and veg, rather than animals.
Whether it’s the pH of our stomach acid, the shape of our teeth, the length of our digestive tract, or the enzymes we produce; there is quite a bit of convincing evidence to suggest we are herbivores.
Interestingly our closest relatives the chimpanzees are frugivores, eating predominantly fresh fruit. We also salivate when we see a fresh piece of fruit, but not so much when we look a cow in the eye.
I’m no anthropologist, so all of this is based on speculation and other people’s opinions, but it is an interesting thing to consider, and something I want to look in to more.
So there you go, my six personal reasons. Rounding them all up into a short answer for you:
On a whole food plant based diet:
I feel much healthier. I’m a better athlete. I can lower my carbon footprint. I don’t have to contribute towards killing anything. I can control exactly what I eat. I eat the foods I am designed to (maybe).
The lifestyle may not be for you, and I won’t tell you it definitely is. It’s a choice that resonates with me the most right now and moving towards it would likely help a lot of people, but everyone has to make their own decisions.
Who knows, my views may change over the next few years as I learn and grow; they have many times before. But for now, a whole food plant based diet is the one for me.
Luke Jones is a nutritionist, martial artist, and advocate of a wholefood plant based diet. He is also the creator of Health Room, a blog dedicated to exploring and sharing ideas in health, lifesyle and sustainability. For more information and lots of free articles and advice, visit Health Room, or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.