The longer I have been plant-based, almost a year now, the more reasons I have found which encourage me to continue this way, and the less interest I have in ever going back. The more conversations I have with people who support the meat and fish industries the more sure I become of my choice to live a lifestyle which gives me peace of mind and a healthier mind and body. I do believe that being conscious of the decisions we make and being conscious of what we are participating in is most essential. Sustainability and ethics are two subjects which are difficult to separate, and within both are many valid, yet often very different, reasons to become more plant-based.
You can be a sustainable eater and still eat meat and you can be more or less ethical depending on what kind of products you choose to buy, so it’s not black and white. It appears to me that the global consciousness is waking up, however, as I see more and more people realising the damaging affects of the meat industry and looking towards the healthy advantages of a plant-based diet. Being plant-based has improved my life so much, so I’m writing this not shame any lifestyle choice but rather because I’m excited to share my journey with anyone interested or thinking about making a transition towards eating more plants.
Some people, myself included, simply feel that not eating animals is the right thing to do, because it doesn’t seem okay to eat the carcass of a living being. I think this is why a lot of people become vegetarian or vegan in the first place, and for me a major part of this derives from the mindset that humans and animals are inherently equal, therefore there is no justification for killing and eating an animal the same way that there is no justification for killing and eating a human. It is that simple when you break it down.
One thing that I discovered through becoming plant-based, after being vegetarian for around 7 years, however, was how much healthier I became and how much better I felt. This is now a major (and sometimes the only) reason for people to adopt a plant-based diet, and is the outlook which appears in documentaries such as Game Changers. These documentaries focus on the benefits of a plant-based diet rather than the destructive aspects of the animal industry, which I find is more encouraging. I therefore believe it is more effective to focus on hopeful solutions rather than fear-driven shaming when we talk about food and environmental issues in general. Guilt-tripping tends to only make people want to hide from the truth rather than to encourage positive changes. For me, eating more plants and less animals is a great thing in so many ways, so I don’t subscribe to the idea that there is any sacrifice involved but rather so much to gain, for both my body and my conscience. That is why I believe in adopting a hope-over-fear outlook.
Some staples in my plant-based diet: in winter, above and summer, below
The truth is that most the people I know who eat a plant-based diet are healthier than most of the people I know who eat meat. In the documentary Game Changers, James Wilks points out that one of the strongest weight-lifters in the world is plant-based (Patrik Baboumian), as are many of the most successful sportspeople. This is partly because eating more plants lowers cholesterol intake and removes unnecessary fat from the body, improving muscular ability and strength. As such, it is also one of the most straightforward ways to overcome obesity and heart issues (Colin Campbell goes into this in detail in his bestselling book The China Study, which I find the most informative book on the subject of health that I have found so far). People who eat more fruits and vegetables, particularly in their raw form, also consume more nutrients and antioxidants from which the health benefits are endless. Fruits, veggies and many spices such as turmeric are also anti-carcinogenic, helping us to avoid one of the biggest health threats to health in the world today (cancer).
The major health concern with a plant-based diet is where to find vitamin B12, as a B12 deficiency has many adverse health effects, particularly on the functions of the brain, and long-term damage can be caused if you are not consuming enough. There are a lot of misconceptions regarding B12, however, as many have been led to believe that it can only be found in animals, but this isn’t true. B12 in its purest form is found in algae such as seaweed, which gradually enters the bodies of animals and then gets consumed by humans when they eat them. The best way to get B12 is therefore to eat the algae which it comes from and this can be bought in most health food shops and added to any meal. As most plant-based eaters are now very aware of the importance of B12 there are also more vegan products which contain it – it is in most Violife vegan ‘cheeses’, for example, yeast flakes, marmite and of course can be taken as a supplement. Supplements in general have been proven by scientists such as Colin Campbell to be a very limited way to gain nutrients so I wouldn’t recommend relying on them for anything (other than adding extra B12, Vitamin D or Zinc to your diet). The body is a complex system and nutrients are equally complex, so it is difficult to see the benefits when you isolate any nutrient, but much better to focus on getting a range of nutrients and anti-oxidants by various fruits and vegetables (in which most nutrients can be found).
Papayas, bananas and oats are some of the cheapest foods I found in Central America
If you’ve read this far you may have noticed that I have mostly chosen to use the term ‘plant-based’ as opposed to ‘vegan’, which I did consciously. This is because ‘vegan’ has become loaded to the point of being politicised: as such, using the term can feel restrictive and limiting, it boxes you into a stereotype or into a group of people who are all presumed to believe the same things. I also don’t believe that things need to be black or white- for example you may eat animal products but decide to eat more sustainably and consume more organic produce, which is great. It does not need to be so complicated, and the issue doesn’t need to be political, rather it’s common knowledge that eating more plants has many health benefits and is better for the humans and animals of the world. Ignorance is, in my opinion, the major evil here, so educating yourself on the issue is really important and so easy to do now. All of the knowledge that I have personally gained has led me to the conclusion that there really aren’t many reasons not to eat consume plants, and less animals…
Which brings me to the last two points I want to make – one of which being another major misconception about plant-based diets, which is that they are more expensive. It’s true that if you want the freedom of eating a lot of synthetic, man-made products such as Quorn then they can occasionally be costly, but this is not even necessary. I’ve met a lot of people who only eat raw fruits and vegetables and they are all very healthy and strong. I am stronger and healthier now since I became plant-based (I also rarely experience any skin problems now that I longer eat dairy) and I mostly eat fruits, vegetables, legumes and soya. In my personal experience I spend the same on food being vegan than I did being veggie, the major difference being that I now spend more time cooking and planning meals. This is so worth it for me, as what can be more important than what we consume and ultimately become? It is worth taking a bit of time to look up simple vegan meal recipes and find the best markets in your area so you can get the best prices on fruits and veggies. For example I live in a city where avocados are presumed to be very expensive, but know of two places where I can get 4 avocados for a pound ($2), around 8 sweet potatoes for a pound, around 8 big onions for a pound etc. because I took the time to look around.
Avocados in Autumn at the Open Market in Brighton
So, in my opinion, there really aren’t many excuses not to eat more plants if it’s something you’re interested in. Sustainable agriculture is a slightly different topic and not something I’ll pretend to know a lot about (still learning), but what I do know is that we are over-fishing the oceans and destroying the planet through animal agriculture, whilst becoming plant-based has significantly improved my health in numerous ways. For me, my diet one of the best aspects of my life now, I love almost everything about plants (not poison ivy though!!) and feel so nourished and cared for by them. I love animals too, but prefer to cuddle them than eat them. That’s my opinion and it’s okay if you have a different one, it’s okay if you feel inspired by this and it’s okay if you don’t – everyone has their own guidance system, just make sure you follow that and make your choice consciously, rather than eating whatever the marketing and food industry tells you to.
Plants are representative of the miracle of life (Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica)