Here in a nutshell is my journey to a plant-based diet.
A few years ago, I started putting together the various pieces of attempted solutions to my problems and found that the jigsaw whole depicts a very attractive basket of vegetables. So I changed to a plant-based diet.
For me, growing up with adventurous academic parents meant long holidays in diverse European countries. We drove there, a thousand miles in our trusty Ford Transit motorhome, converted from an empty shell, carpentry by dad and upholstery by mum. Camping holidays high up in the Pyrenees were a favourite: stunning views, wild strawberries, chamois and edelweiss. Clean air, clean water and simple food. Climbing 4500 feet up a path then stopping for local cheese, today’s fresh bread, chocolate and meltwater was the best feast going.
About a year before migrating to a plant-based diet I came across a photo taken in July, 35 years ago, near the border between Spain and France (left) and the same place now (right). The snow has mostly melted.
A bit of checking easily shows there’s a lot less year-round snow in the Pyrenees now. Add in the junk washing up on the beach where we live, and the implication is clear. We’re emitting so much waste and pollution it’s even heating up our giant planet. These examples made the damage real for me. A place I care about is deteriorating.
Animal farming is one of the planet’s main natural resource users and a big polluter. This is an increasingly big jigsaw piece as our planet seems increasingly fragile.
I grew up in Scotland, a country most people associate with golf, wild scenery and Mel Gibson’s Braveheart movie. But growing up there in the 1970’s was different. Scotland was the culinary HQ of deep frying in lard, the saturated fat capital of the universe. Lunch and dinner meant eggs, cheese or meat and meat mostly came as mince, chops or bacon. We ate well, and obesity was nearly unheard of, despite eating lots of sweets (aka candy). Our diet was considered healthy eating in those days.
Roll on the clock. Aged in my late 30’s, a smoker, drinker, health ignorer and with ample work stress. High blood pressure. Whatever. Bought a gym sub, that’ll do. Another couple of years, even more drinking, add copious caffeine, greater work pressure and airports. Oops, intensive care. Wake up call.
That’s when it really hit home. We’re not immortal and our lifestyle can kill us.
Ever watched an upbeat movie to cheer yourself up? Of felt a bit down after a sad ending to a story. The effect of what we see and hear has been known to writers for millennia.
Food’s the same. In a nutshell, food has a health and wellbeing effect — it can kill you or cure you.
Changing diet to plant-based foods saw big drops in my blood pressure, a significantly healthier weight, eczema just disappeared and blood sugar levels returning to completely normal. I sleep better too. My health jigsaw piece is smaller than it was, and my weighing scales thank me for it.
Nutritionfacts.org is a wonderful place to learn more about evidence-based nutrition.
Respect for Animals
One of the big benefits of the internet is the fast and easy sharing of information. Up to the late 1990s significant events could and would be filtered and sanitised by mainstream media to ensure the message fitted in with vested interests. The image of anyone against testing on animals or wearing fur was berated in the media. Any downside of animal agriculture was still off the radar completely.
Fast forward to the 2018 world of social media and ubiquitous smartphones, and it’s not surprising that maltreatment of animals is mainstream. The cute bucolic image of occasional cows and chickens treated like pets is busted. The information is there for all to see.
I’ve had pets most of my life and they live well. Happy, mollycoddled and good friends. No surprise then that I don’t support rearing of animals for food.
Focussing in on my completed puzzle of the basket of vegetables, I found rich detail there, a Dutch master. I remember wondering what vegans ate. Mostly nut loaf and sprouts, it seemed. Discovering the amount of salt, sugar and strong flavourings that go into many meat dishes and most processed food was a surprise. After a while processed foods seemed too salty and a bit ‘plasticky’. As taste buds recover their subtleties in the absence of excess salt and sugar, the plants which might once have been thought a bit bland have taken on an enjoyable depth of taste.
“I remember wondering what vegans ate. Mostly nut loaf and sprouts, it seemed.”
Whilst possibly a cliché, it’s true many plant dishes are incredibly quick and easy to prepare, quicker and easier than many traditional meals. Yet they’re lower in harmful fats and often packed with healthy micronutrients. A well-known and inspiring place to start is Forks Over Knives. There’s an app too so no need to lug the PC into the kitchen.
Another surprise was discovering the grocery bill dropping. In general, fresh vegetables, grains, nice bread and fruit are less expensive than a roast meat and pizza diet, especially if you eat seasonal food when it’s in season.
Variety then is increased since special skills aren’t needed to prepare a bigger range of food. It tastes great, is easy to prepare and costs less.
In a Nutshell
70% of all premature deaths are cased by diet. That’s the top 15 causes of death. Check out How Not To Die: The Role of Diet in Preventing, Arresting, and Reversing Our Top 15 Killers or 70% Of All Deaths In Western World Are From Diet And Lifestyle on YouTube
So there in a nutshell is my journey to a plant-based diet. It’s healthier, tastier, easier and cheaper. Would I go back, nope! Eating is a joy.
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