Why Everyone Should Eat More Plants

Why Everyone Should Eat More Plants

There is a misconception that eating a plant-based diet is unnatural, the purview of activist radicals and the socially marginalized. Instead, I submit that it is beyond a doubt the most natural, healthy, and advisable thing you can possibly do to optimize your wellness and become bulletproof to Western disease.

Outrageous!

What’s truly outrageous is just how sick we’ve become. We live in the most prosperous nation on Earth, and yet overall we’ve never been more unhealthy. Chronic illness is killing us and bankrupting our economy. One out of every three deaths in the US is caused by heart disease, America’s #1 killer. A close second is cancer, killing one out of every four in the U.S. alone. 70% of Americans are obese or overweight. And by 2030, 50% of Americans will be diabetic or pre-diabetic. Total insanity.

How did we get here? Of course the answer is complex, but the biggest contributor is what we eat. Currently, 94% of the calories consumed by the typical American eating the standard American diet are empty, lacking any true nourishment whatsoever, with only 6% of calories coming from fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and seeds.

Natural has become unnatural. Unnatural has become natural. We’re completely upside down when it comes to food and health. And it’s time for a change.

To right the ship, we must begin by confronting the reality that we’re actually addicted to foods that are killing us. Atop the list are processed foods—soda, snacks, desserts and other packaged items laden with preservatives, saturated fat, sugar, fructose corn syrup, sodium, and other unnatural chemicals. Of course, we all know these foods are bad for us. And yet so many are powerless when it comes to giving them up.

Why?

Because many of these foods are specifically devised to activate the pleasure centers in our brain, enslaving us to habitual poor dietary choices—the very essence of addiction. When combined with our national preference for excessive meat and dairy intake, blood cholesterol escalates, clogging our arteries; our cells become cancerous; and our immune systems spiral out of control in response, creating a state of chronic inflammation. This confluence of factors creates a persistent condition in which our bodies become disease incubators, sentencing us to an almost certain future of chronic illness.

Even more outrageous? Standard operating procedure for treating these common chronic conditions—everything from high cholesterol to erectile dysfunction—is to prescribe medications that treat symptoms rather than address the root cause of the issue. Counsel and guidance to improve diet and exercise have been supplanted by Lipitor, Crestor, Viagra and countless other pharmaceuticals designed to quell the symptoms of every conceivable malady.

Taken as a whole, the aforementioned four conditions (hearth disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes) account for approximately 75% of our current health care costs, to the tune of countless billions of dollars annually. This is simply not sustainable.

And yet the great irony is that so many chronic diseases (exempting certain cancers of course)—in fact 90% of all Western disease—need never exist in the first place.

It’s time to reverse the trend. But how?

Simple. Eat more plants. You might be surprised to learn that a plant-based diet is the only nutritional protocol known to man that has been shown to prevent—and in many cases, actually reverse, these four and many other chronic illnesses that unnecessarily plague us.

In the most simplistic terms, if America flipped the Standard American Diet so that we began getting 94% of our calories from fresh, whole plant-based foods (rather than current levels of 6%), most of our diseases would simply vanish. And our health care crisis would essentially repair itself.

I know it may sound daunting. I can’t imagine life without pizza! How can l possibly live without eggs?

Personally, I cannot emphasize enough how adopting a 100% PlantPower diet revolutionized my life. But I also realize not everyone is ready to jump in with both feet on Day One. I get it. I sympathize.

So I’m here to say, relax. Don’t be afraid. Ease into it. And let go of the idea of perfection. Let it go. This is not about deprivation. Instead, it’s about a willingness to release old ideas you’ve harbored your whole life about what a healthy diet entails. It’s about being open to the adventure of experimentation, exploring and rediscovering whole foods in their natural state. It’s about developing an enhanced connection to and relationship with your body, learning to pay greater attention to the nexus between the foods you eat and how you feel and function. And ultimately, it’s about developing a more acute intuition about what truly serves you, so you can reprogram yourself to make better choices that are in your best long-term interest physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

With each successive step along the path, you’ll begin to notice changes. As your energy levels improve, your preferences will shift from empty calories to foods that actually nourish you. The more whole, plant-foods you incorporate into your routine, the

more likely those unhealthy cravings will subside. And before you know it, that hankering for cheese might just vanish altogether.

Against all odds—and despite being a self-avowed junk-food junkie for most of my life—it happened for me. And I’m here to tell you that it can happen for you, too.

At the end of the day, there is only one rule: eat more plants. Because baby steps move mountains.

I’ll leave you with this: Embracing a plant-based lifestyle didn’t just repair my health. It was the key that unlocked my heart and allowed me to discover, embrace and unleash a better and more authentic version of myself on the world.

I wish only the same experience for you. Because we need more of who you really are.

Peace + Plants,

Rich

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Vegetarians: Facts vs. Myths | Healthy Eats – Food Network Healthy Living Blog

Vegetarians: Myths vs. Facts by Dana Angelo White in Healthy Tips, July 9, 2013

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Vegetarians are often seriously misunderstood. It’s time to debunk some of the most common vegetarian myths!

Myth: Vegetarians don’t get enough protein
Fact: It’s actually pretty easy for vegetarians to meet their needs for protein, even if they choose not to eat eggs and dairy products. Thanks to plant-based proteins like tofu, beans, lentils and what’s found in whole-grains breads and cereals, getting enough protein can be deliciously simple.

Myth: All vegetarians eat the same foods
Fact: Many folks who follow a vegetarian diet still choose to incorporate dairy and eggs (or even fish or chicken) into their meal routine. There’s really no right or wrong when it comes to these choices, and whichever foods they do choose to eat will expose them to important vitamins and minerals. For example, calcium can be found in dairy products like yogurt, milk and cheese, but it’s also in tofu, leafy greens and calcium-fortified orange juice. (Learn more about the types of vegetarian diets.)

Myth: Vegetarian diets are always low in fat
Fact: A well-rounded vegetarian diet includes healthy fats from foods like olive oil, peanut butter, nuts and seeds. But less than healthy foods like french fries and doughnuts fall into the vegetarian category as well. So even vegetarians needs to watch which fats they take in.

Myth: Meat substitutes are better for you than the real thing
Fact: From bacon to ground meat to hot dogs, there’s a veggie imposter for just about every type of meat. While these options may lack animal protein and be low in cholesterol, they’re often made from highly processed ingredients and contain large amounts of sodium and fat (that doesn’t sound so healthy, now does it?).

Myth: Vegetarians are iron-deficient
Fact: It’s possible for both vegetarians and meat-eaters to become iron-deficient, but there are plenty of ways to get iron from plant-based foods like beans, tofu and spinach. Eating these plant foods along with vitamin C-rich foods will enhance iron absorption. (Learn more about getting enough iron in your daily diet.)

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »

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Vegetarians Live Longer Than Meat-Eaters, Study Finds

Vegetarians live longer than meat-eaters, according to a study published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, a Journal of the American Medical Association.

The authors tracked 73,308 members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church for almost six years. The church is known for promoting a vegetarian diet, though not all of its followers adhere to that teaching. Researchers found out what type of diet participants ate, then followed up to find out how many of those participants had died and how.

Vegetarians in the study experienced 12% fewer deaths over the period. Dietary choices appeared to play a big role in protecting the participants from heart disease, from which vegetarians were 19% less likely to die than meat-eaters.

There also appeared to be fewer deaths in the vegetarian group from diabetes and kidney failure.

Caloric intake didn’t seem to matter. The different participant groups generally ate around the same amount of calories daily. Researchers found that the beneficial associations weren’t related to energy intake.

The advantage appeared stronger in men than women, whose diet didn’t seem to make as much of a difference. Eating plant foods didn’t seem to protect participants against cancer, which struck both the vegetarians and non-vegetarians in roughly equal measure.

The paper, written by researchers at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California, is larger and includes a more diverse population than previous research, says lead author Michael Orlich, director of the preventive medicine residency program there. “People are confronted with all sorts of nutritional information, but the bottom line is, ‘How will your diet pattern affect your risk of dying?”’ he says.

Researchers don’t know why a plant-based diet seems to have a protective effect, but one likely reason is the nutrient profile of vegetarian diets, which tend to be higher in fiber and lower in saturated fat. Vegetarians tend to be thinner, another factor known to have an effect on health outcomes, Dr. Orlich says. He adds that the study benefited from examining a group whose rates of alcohol and tobacco use are low.

Of course, just eliminating meat from the plate doesn’t always equal a healthy meal. Vegetarian dishes—for example, a vegetable spring roll—still can be high in fats and calories. And certain meats are healthy.

Loma Linda University is a Seventh-day Adventist institution specializing in health care. The church recommends a diet with “generous use of whole-grain breads, cereals and pastas, a liberal use of fresh vegetables and fruits, a moderate use of legumes, nuts and seeds,” according to a statement on its website. The study published Monday was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

When adopting a vegetarian lifestyle, nutritionists recommend watching closely to make sure the intake of key nutrients is sufficient. These include iron and zinc, frequently found in meat, and calcium and vitamin B12. Roughly 5% of Americans consider themselves to be vegetarians, according to a survey published last year by Gallup.

The Loma Linda researchers used a questionnaire to categorize participants into groups based on their diets.

The categories include nonvegetarians and people considered semi-vegetarians, who eat meat more than once a month but less than once a week. In addition to meat, vegans eliminate dairy and eggs from their diets.

Others eat fish, in addition to the cohort that eats no meat but consumes dairy and eggs. For many of the analyses, the researchers lumped all of these subsets of people together as simply “vegetarians.”

Write to Avery Johnson at avery.johnson