THE SCENIC ROUTE
My journey towards whole food plant based definitely didn’t happen overnight like it does for some people. It might have had something to do with the fact that, as a mum of three, what I cook has to be right for more than just me. I’ve never been a big meat eater, but about eight years ago I started to get more curious about the idea of your whole plate being just plants when I read Hugh Fernley Whittingstalls book Veg Everyday. At that stage I had a four year old and a two year old, so I was still cooking meat for them, but I started to eat mainly plant based myself. Dairy was a more gradual process of reduction over the course of the last few years. When I’m asked about food choices I say I’m 'whole food plant based', although I’m probably Vegan I rather the all encompassing more welcoming term of plant based. We’ve gotten a bit obsessed with boxing everyone into categories and we all eat plants to some degree!
I was much slower to introduce the kids to this way of eating. I haven’t taken the step lightly. I have read an enormous amount about kids on plant based, and watched documentaries like What the Health and Forks over Knives. Happy that this is the best way for them too, we’ve all started to mainly eat the same way over the course of the last year. On special family occasions, and diners out, I encourage them to make their own choices. I feel helping them to embrace this way of eating as their own decision is an important part of their journey. And if it’s not part of the journey they choose there is no judgement.
STRAIGHT TO THE SOURCE
What does meat and dairy add to your diet? The obvious answer being protein and calcium. Protein builds and repairs muscles, and calcium gives us strong bones. I’m not disputing that they are definitely essential nutrients, but animals don’t make these nutrients, so where do they get the protein and calcium? They eat it in their plant based diets. Why not cut out the ‘middle man’, so to speak, and go straight to source – eat plants! Not only is it a purer form of protein and calcium but it is more readily absorbed by our bodies. If you are eating a whole food plant based diet – full of a variety of veg, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains – you’ll meet your daily requirement of protein, calcium and all your nutritional requirements everyday, whether you lead a sedentary life or you’re training for a ultra marathon. It’s actually quite easy to over consume protein, leading to increased fat stores and unnecessary strain on the heart and the kidneys.
QUESTION THE NORM
Meat causes inflammation in the system and is much harder for the body to digest. True carnivores have much shorter intestines to ensure the meat moves out of their system before it rots. Our intestine are more like herbivores and our canines are nothing like a carnivores, or in fact other omnivores. The function of cows milk is to create rapid grown in a small calf. When the calf is eating well it naturally weens – it no longer needs rapid cell growth. So why do humans (not even cows) feel we need rapid cell growth throughout our whole lives? This rapid cell growth, which all dairy causes, is what potentially causes problems with cancer patients who consume dairy.
THE WESTERN DIET
We are living longer, but we are sicker and more medicated than ever before, and from an earlier age. We have made great leaps in prevention of death from infections, but through the way we live our lives we have created new health concerns. Our current four main risks, called ‘lifestyle diseases’, are heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity. A plant based diet has been proven to prevent and reverse heart disease, diabetes and obesity, prevent and reduce cell growth in cancer. There are many mixed messages from marketing campaigns created by the agriculture industry to cause confusion. In the hope that they will cause enough doubt to make the public stick with what they’ve been told is right, rather than question it.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE
I have to admit my springboard into plant based was about wanting to feel and look well in myself. As I go along on this exploration I’m learning more about the effects animal agriculture has on our environment – from deforestation to grow grain for livestock; water pollution from livestock; and that 51% of our gas emissions comes from livestock. 40% of the world’s surface is used for agriculture and of that 30% is used to rear animals. We can feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem and think ‘how can one person make a difference’. One burger takes 460 gallons of water, 1.5 acres of land, and the equivalent gas emissions of driving a car twenty miles. An average person on a western diet consumes 7,000 animals in their lifetime – that’s a lot of animals, water, deforestation and gas emissions per person!
WHERE TO NOW
So where do you start if you want to find out more information. Check out the Veganuary website to answer all your questions and get some plantie recipe to get you started. I’ve been doing the plantie thing for a few years now but I still feel I have so much to learn, and as a mum it’s my responsibility to keep delving. So I’ve just signed up to The Happy Pear online Happy Heart Course and look forward to lots more recipe ideas and some inspirational online talks with the Flynn twins. It’s about being well and feeling more inline with nature. Building a sustainable future for the next generation and being healthy and happy.
Ruth Delahunty Yogaru