Why I Eat Plants
I do so mainly for a similar reason why most people eat animal products: I like plants.
To me, plants are tasty; they ooze natural flavor, are richly textured, and allow for a varied palette of recipes.
Moreover, they are healthy, meet my body’s demands, and help me feel energized.
If I can improve my health as well as that of the planet by eating plants, then that looks like an intelligent choice to me. 🙂
Is Eating Plants Tasty?
To be sure, most restaurants offer scant choices when it comes to plant-only meals (an exception being Asian restaurants, especially Thai). This gives many the impression that a plant-based diet is restrictive. To me, it is most people’s diet that is restrictive instead.
Plant-based cooking allows a broader range of flavors and scents to be considered, with finer distinctions from one ingredient to the next; more independent thought to be put into blending them, enabling greater creativity in developing and interpreting recipes; and deeper enjoyment of meals whose taste and aroma come from natural foods, with a full-body, permeating effect to their dispensation of delight.
It is enough for me to savor the intricately woven build of a raw plants-and-nuts cake, and compare it with my previous desserts, to recognize the freedom and joy that plant-based cooking gives me.
Is Eating Plants Healthy?
The many articles and books that I read on the topic agree with my self-observations: yes, eating the right plants in the right way can be many times over healthier and more nutritious – including the much-debated intake of protein, calcium, and the like – than eating animal products.
The benefits are manifold, ranging from increasing energy and enhancing function across all organ systems – including brain activity and muscle growth – to disease prevention and amelioration, and from restoring the body’s balance in all areas – including weight loss and hormone regulation – to improving mental and emotional well-being.
Yes, what you eat does matter that much, although many other things also matter as much as or more than that, and they all ought to be done simultaneously in order for the beneficial effects to be best achieved (see my article, “My Top Ten Positive Habits”).
Is Eating Plants Ethical?
I don’t know. There are many reasons for me to conclude that it’s more conducive to improving myself and my environment – or at least, harming it less – than eating animal products would be.
For one, cultivating enough plants to feed me takes a lot less space, soil, water, and fertilizer, and causes a lot less pollution, than raising enough animals to do so would. For another, insofar as I know, the suffering of plants being cultivated is a lot less than would be the suffering of animals being raised in order to feed me. And for a third, it simply feels a lot less dignified to me to kill another animal – by proxy or otherwise – than it does to pick up a plant in order to eat it. Maybe I’m biased, but I want to live too 🙂
There are means to further enhance the ethics of plant-eating, for instance, by cultivating on my own the plants that I eat, and I am currently striving to acquire the means of doing so. Ultimately, we can never fully nullify our impact on the environment merely by reducing our consumption (although it goes a long way); at some point, we have to start giving back to the environment as well. You know, plant a tree.
How I Eat Plants
Unlike those who chose a similar eating style strictly because of ethical reasons, I chose it mostly because of my own body’s demands, as a consequence of my evolving tastes. It doesn’t feel like I’m restricting myself at all; on the contrary, I’m discovering more to enjoy every day. I’m not trying to use ingenious recipes to simulate the taste of meat; I’m exploring the brilliant taste that the plants themselves have to offer. And I’m not just “being positive”; I really mean it.
For example, I love spinach. I’d say it’s currently my favorite food. Not because of what I read about it, although I also read many good things about it. But because I honestly like the taste and texture of spinach very much (unlike my wife, whose tastes more closely match those of the common eater in this regard, as summed up in her very descriptive expletive of “bleah!” 🙂 ). I could eat pound upon pound of spinach every day, but I’m afraid of turning green and lending credence to the picture of me as an alien that some have entertained 🙂
Once a day, I take snacks consisting of fruits and nuts, of a crunchy vegetable appetizer, or sometimes even of Tortilla chips (I know, not the healthiest, but not the worst either). Once a week, my wife and I visit a restaurant, frequently our favorite Thai restaurant. Once a month we make a grand dessert, rarely the same, but always enchanting, often consisting of a raw vegan cake, with Vegan Tiramisu currently topping our list of favorites. And once a year, I choose to eat animal products, including some fine meat. I know, I break with the vegan faith, hell wrath upon my unbelieving soul, but I never said I was vegan; I just said I prefer to eat plants.
I use the PlanToEat app to store my favorite recipes, make my weekly meal plan by dragging and dropping them into each day, and auto-generate my shopping list. It makes shopping and finding recipes a breeze. I have my recipes handy on my tablet so that I’m ready to access them, and I memorize my favorites so that I already know what to do when I get cooking, which saves quite a bit of time. That time can instead be spent looking for new yummy recipes to try next week, ensuring that I always eat a variety of foods and never the same from one day to another nor from one week to another.
(It would be great if the app also included a nutrient chart auto-generator for the weekly meal plan; I’m still on the lookout for that, but meanwhile, I made my own by adapting Mateljan’s guidelines to a vegan lifestyle. Comment below if you’re interested to receive it 🙂 )
I usually wake up hungry in the early morning, so it’s important to me that my breakfast is fast to cook. Depending on how vigorous my exercise plan for the day is, it may also be important that the breakfast contains plenty of protein and, yes, even fat.
Before I eat anything, though, I would like to and plan to start enjoying a nice cup of matcha green tea with lemon and goji berries, as I once did with normal green tea. (update: it’s 2020, and now I drink warm cashew milk with matcha tea, honey, and royal jelly in the mornings 🙂 )
Examples of recipes include George’s “Quick Boiled Spinach” recipe with my addition of a tablespoon of hemp seeds and generous salting, Ross’s “Coconut Chia Cream Pot” with two dates instead of one (partly made and left to sit in the fridge the previous night). Additional examples are my wife’s recipes assembled from multiple sources, including “Chickpea Bagel With Vegan Cheese, Avocado, And Tomatoes” and “Gluten-Free Tortilla With Hummus, Avocado, Kalamata Olives, Spinach, And Tomatoes“. Any of those take us only five to ten minutes or less to cook.
I like to say thank you to the food I eat with a similar sentiment as some Natives thanked their prey; the heart-felt gratitude adds a subtle layer of emotional nourishment to plant-based meals as well.
Examples of recipes include Ross’s “Tofu With Indian Spinach” with my addition of a couple teaspoons of yellow curry (not red!), or John’s “Morrocan Red Lentil Soup” or one of several other variations of red lentil soup, or a variation on Dana’s Greek Goddess Bowl.
My wife and I often enjoy a lemonade, sometimes with fresh mint, and sometimes even cooled in the fridge, somewhere between lunch and dinner.
It is beautiful to share a family meal where we eat together at the same table and make small talk. Most days my wife and I have dinner before 7 pm, allowing us a small “fast” of about 12 hours before “breaking” fast in the morning, which is close to ideal.
We just drink some tea about an hour before bed, usually Ross’s “Detox Tea“, but sometimes a grated ginger tea with honey that my wife just swoons over.
Examples of recipes include a fresh salad of my own making, using George’s “Mediterranean Lentil Salad” as a template but heavily modified to be vegan and to use chickpeas instead of lentils and additional fresh ingredients, or a broccoli with brown rice recipe to which my wife and I both contributed, based on George’s “4-Minute Broccoli with Feta Cheese and Kalamata Olives“, but heavily modified to use a thicker variant of “Lemon Tahini Dressing” with grated ginger and no oil, as well as some tofu instead of feta cheese.
How I Came To Eat Plants
Due to hypothyroidism in my childhood – which caused me to be over-weight while the condition lasted – I spent well over five years eating according to a rather restrictive diet (not plant-based, which would have been more helpful for my condition, but healthier than average nonetheless).
Now I am grateful for the restriction as well as for the diet since they helped me to cultivate a discipline that now enables me to consciously choose what to eat according to reason, and they also led me to develop an appreciation for healthy food (not to mention having gained its benefit during much of my growth period).
Thanks to that appreciation, after having finished my diet I sought out references for healthy eating, with an interest in cooking healthy meals on my own. Three books best crystalize the influences and define the stages that led to my current eating style; the books of a cook, a medic, and a self-taught “nutritionist”.
The Healthiest Way Of Eating
I was fortunate to have quickly come across George Mateljan’s site “The Healthiest Way of Eating“, and to have purchased his book “World’s Healthiest Foods, 2nd Edition: The Force For Change To Health-Promoting Foods and New Nutrient-Rich Cooking”.
George Mateljan studied the health-enhancing elements of many cultures’ eating styles and combined the research efforts of many other studies with his own in order to identify the healthiest, most nutrient-rich foods in the world, ranging from spinach to wild Alaskan salmon. He then created a means of cooking them that retains as much of their nutrients as feasible as well as synergizes their health-promoting effects while still providing tasty, appealing meals. Finally, he put the resulting recipes together in an eating plan that ensures the intake of well over 100% of the recommended daily dose of each of the body’s essential nutrients.
The information George provides on his site as well as in his book is quite detailed, well-researched and well-referenced. It was invaluable for enabling me to shape my own variant of his weekly plan, which was more suited to my taste, with taste-enhancing yet similarly nutrient-retaining variations on his recipes. And it continues to be a reference for me today, in ensuring that whatever new plans I come across or conceive retain a similar nutrient density and health-promoting effects as I once enjoyed in his.
The Starch Solution
After about two years of eating according to George’s guidelines, I started to recognize my body giving signals of preferring the plant-based recipes in my plan over the animal-based ones. I started researching the topic, and came across a movement and community of people that identified as “vegan” and called themselves “vegans”. Curious, I started to try out eating according to what they described as a “vegetarian” style, and I found it more in tune with my body’s demands. My wife also felt likewise, and in fact, recognized her body’s signals even before I did, and that helped quicken my transition also.
The final straw of information that caused me to decide on a plant-based diet came with John McDougal‘s book “The Starch Solution: Eat the Foods You Love, Regain Your Health, and Lose the Weight for Good!”, which was recommended to me by one of the “vegans”. Upon researching the book’s references, its claims seemed to check out. The book was useful for correcting popular misconceptions about the alleged nutritional qualities of animal products, for outlining a simple yet effective solution for weight loss and for the prevention and even curing of certain diseases, for revealing the callousness and profiteering of a small portion of his medical community and the nutritional ignorance of the larger one, and for adding another piece to the puzzle of healthy eating: the importance of starchy foods.
Although I did not particularly enjoy John’s recipes, he did provide useful guidelines to set the ideal proportions of food types in my diet, which for a while consisted mainly of starches (e.g. rice), with a few servings of leafy greens (e.g. broccoli) and a few servings of other vegetables, a couple of servings of fruit, and some nuts and seeds. This, and a lot of water 🙂
The Alkaline Reset Cleanse
I still felt that there was something missing in my diet that was required to make it as healthy as possible. After about a year of eating a more starch-oriented diet, my body once again gave signals, albeit rarer, of something not being quite right. As I was investigating these to derive a trend and theory of what they might be pointing to, luck came to the rescue once again by leading me to Ross Bridgeford’s site “Live Energized“, which pinpointed precisely the foods that I was getting the signals from, and provided an explanation for why they were not perfect. I found his book “The Alkaline Reset Cleanse: The 7-Day Reboot for Unlimited Energy, Rapid Weight Loss, and the Prevention of Degenerative Disease” to be a great lecture on the topic.
Ross’s site and books are somewhat similar to George’s in their focus on research and references (albeit at a smaller scale), including information clarifying the core concepts and applications of the Alkaline diet. They are also somewhat similar to John’s in their dispelling of popular myths concerning the alkaline diet, and outlining of a singular nutritional solution that provides many benefits for a variety of purposes, including the prevention and cure of diseases. They provided me with yet another piece of the puzzle of healthy eating: the importance of easing the body’s preservation of its ph balance through the eating of mostly Alkaline-forming foods (it’s not to change the body’s ph; it’s to make it easier for the body to preserve it, thereby lessening the stress it endures while doing so).
Upon having tried a few of Ross’s recipes – of which I liked most of all his Spinach recipes and his alkaline water and teas -, and eating according to his guidelines and list of Alkaline foods, I did feel a change for the better, with many of the signs of unwellness disappearing, and with my vitality being further enhanced. But then again, it might have been because of the gallon of water per day that I started drinking 🙂
(Concerning water, I first run it through a Berkey filter which a friend of mine kindly brought to me from England, then I pour the water into glass bottles and play them Mozart for a few minutes, then I thank the water before drinking it at regular intervals. The placebo, if nothing else, works wonders for its taste 🙂 )
Currently, I am exploring the world of healthy shakes and cocktails, and am thinking of using them to super-charge my diet with several more so-called “super-foods”. David Wolfe’s book “Superfoods: The Food and Medicine of the Future” sounded like a good starting point, but the commercial hype and occasional nonsense of the book tipped me off. Upon research, I found the author to be dishonest, with at least one of his books confirmed to have been plagiarized, and so I am currently on the look-out for a more reliable source of information on the topic. I think I might just settle on a more traditional book with some simple guidelines on mixing cocktails and figure out the rest on my own. Besides, Mateljan’s Strawberry Smoothie remains an old friend I can always turn to 🙂
I will write more posts on the topic of a healthy diet, including one on my challenge of drinking a gallon a day of water for a month, one sharing several of my own plant-based recipes, and one for the reasons behind my choice to not always strictly follow a plant-based diet, but to make an exception about once a year or so (I’m sure I will get a lot of funny comments from vegan crusaders on that one, which will really help boost my Google rankings; thanks in advance for the helping hand 🙂 ).
So there you have it – how I eat, why I do so, and how I came to do it. Now it’s your turn; how do you take care of your health through food or otherwise; what does your eating style look like; and what were the reasons for your choices? Let me know in the comments below!