“Plants, plants… succulent plants! I’d never eat meat if they gave me a chance!
A horrible meat eater would smell a lot sweeter and look a lot neater if heeeee…
would eat plants.”
My younger sister came home belting this song about dinosaurs one day from kindergarten. Naturally, I learned the song because she always stole the camcorder spotlight, and I wanted my five minutes of fame. But I think it’s funny that my brain hung onto this verse and forgot (blanked out?) the verse about “meat, glorious meat”.
Disclaimer: If you are like my dear family, and would never see yourself becoming VEGAN or even vegetarian, do not fear - my mission in life is not to MAKE you adapt a whole new way of eating. However, for the improvement of the general health of Canadians and Americans, plants are very, very important. My family thanks me for coaxing them out of having a diet very heavy in meat, and introducing them to a wonderful new vocabulary of plant foods! IN FACT, Dad has asked for veggie burgers for his birthday this year. That, my friends, is a first.
Before I get all “save the Earth” on you, let me keep the carnivores' attention with my personal top four nutritional reasons (followed by one enormous ethical reason) that almost all Canadians and Americans – and most likely YOU – need to consume a more plant-based diet. The plant foods that I’m referring to include green leaf vegetables, legumes (beans, lentils, split peas and chickpeas), whole grains, watery vegetables, starchy vegetables, fortified plant milks (for vitamin D and some calcium), fruits, mushrooms, seeds, nuts, and a touch of natural plant oils.
Reason Number ONE: Get your nutrients on!
All of the foods listed above are high in one or many of the following nutrients: vitamins A, D, E and K, the B vitamins (except for B12, we’ll get to that later), vitamin C, zinc, iron, calcium, protein, energy-providing carbohydrates, unsaturated fats, and most especially fibre. Therefore, there is absolutely NO REASON that an entirely plant-based diet can’t provide all the nutrients that humans need to thrive. However, I am guessing that many of you are not ready to swap every trace of “glorious meat” for lentils, beans and soybeans. Let’s focus on the fact that an immense variety of different foods within the above categories (with or without a small side of animal products) offers your body a wide variety of all the necessary nutrients and leads to longevity and a higher quality of life with aging.
Reason Number TWO: Diets high in animal proteins are associated with chronic disease.
Many studies claim that the less animal foods and the more plant foods a person consumes, the less likely they are to have the diseases or conditions of overweight or obesity, metabolic syndrome, Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease and death from a cardiovascular event or stroke, cancer and death from cancer, and hypertension (high blood pressure). A number of population-based studies have been done on vegetarian and vegan populations. From the statistics of these studies, if the world ate more plants and less animal foods, or at least less meat, there would be significantly less mourning of sudden deaths from cancer and heart disease in this world, and more celebration of vibrant long lives lived.
Reason Number THREE: Being kind to your colon.
The average American/Canadian diet lacks both types of fibre – we need both types of fibre (soluble and insoluble - more on this later) for quality dumps (good poops are very important to good nutrition). For the sake of your bowels, and for prevention of intestinal cancers, make fiber-rich leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, grains and seeds an absolute STAPLE in your diet! However, whenever increasing fibre, be sure to match it with a increase in the glasses of water a day you drink. Or else, I will be prescribing prunes! (No joke.)
Reason Number FOUR: Weight management.
A select few of us need more calories to balance a high activity output. This can be achieved with the select plant foods that are higher in calories, carbs, proteins and fats. For the rest of us who are more focused on portion control, it is SO EASY to find filling plant foods among the leafy greens, whole grains, starchy veggies, and high fiber fruits that can assist with weight management. If you have ever seen the visual of what 200 calories of meat looks like in your stomach as compared to 200 calories of veggies, you know what I’m talking about (veggies fill you up a lot more). I don’t know one Dietitian that wouldn’t drive home the message of filling half your plate with veggies at lunch and supper to get people started on the road to healthier eating and to increase the nutritive value of meals.
Reason Number FIVE: Love your home.
It’s becoming more and more evident that our high consumption of animal products is an enormous contributor to environmental devastation. Fishing boats rake nets through the ocean floor and pull out the desirable catch while discarding the majority of what is brought up. Meat and dairy production use up much more water, land and crops than would the production of an equal amount of plant-based energy. Think about how much water, land, and transportation it would take to grow a garden full of kale, versus how much water, land, transportation, processing, and waste comes from a fully grown and then butchered cow. If you are looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint, this is a big one. Let’s preserve our resources for future generations by shifting our gaze toward the fruit and veggie aisle. Also, by using up less land and resources we will preserve soil quality and nutrition for our great great great grandchildren.
Thank you for reading this post! There is more to come in these posts that will call you a plant-centric kind of thinking. Please do not hesitate to contact me personally if you have comments or questions about plant-based diets, weight loss or management, increasing the nutrient value of your diet, or (insert your pressing nutrition or fitness question here).