24th August 2016
Why plant-based eating?
We live in an ever-evolving health-bribed society, with increased pressure to eat and live in a specific moral way. We are all aware that as these health expectations leave less room for error, the number of chronic illnesses and obesity-related problems increase. However, this roller coaster of dietary fads are hopefully extinguishing themselves out, with lack of effectiveness and evidence base.
Going ‘vegan’ is one of the newest growing dietary and lifestyle changes people are willing to take on. In the last 10 years, the number of vegans in Britain has increased by three and a half times, to around 542,000 people [Vegan Society]. Though full-on ‘vegan’ labelling may be yet another short-lived fad for some, there is a sufficient base of evidence for increased ‘plant-based eating.’ This does not automatically have to exclude all animal-based products from consumption, but encourages the benefits of increasing, and prioritising, foods derived from plants. Essentially, ‘plant-based eating’ means that at least two-thirds of the diet should be made up of these kinds of foods. By prioritising foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, nuts and seeds, the consumption of processed sugars and saturated fat can be instantly reduced for better long-term health outcomes.
It started modestly with Paul and Stella MacCartney’s Meat Free Monday in 2009, still publicised and shared on social media to this day. This campaign promoted better health, environmental benefits, saving the pennies, as well as the animals.
More recently, Veganuary encouraged people to try being vegan for one month, in the hope that they embraced the enjoyment of plant-based eating and found true compassion for animals. Plant-based sources of protein tend to be low in saturated fats, and sources of essential vitamins and minerals high in fibre. These nutritional benefits help to mitigate some of society’s most severe health problems, which include obesity, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
In 2014, more evidence into the benefits of eating 7-a-day fruits and vegetables came to light (BBC reported this – see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-26818377). Reaching this new 7-a-day goal could not be easier when following a varied plant-based or vegan diet (original paper by Oyebode et al. 2014).
In conclusion, whether you’re a meat-eater, a health-freak, a fitness-fanatic, an animal-lover, someone who is considering going vegetarian or vegan, my message to all is be a plant-based eater. Do what you can, as often as you can and try to meet up to 7-a-day fruits and vegetables (it’s easier than you think, I promise!). By making two-thirds of your diet the good stuff, you could actively be preventing chronic illnesses and keeping your weight at a healthy level (ideally BMI 20-25kg/m2). Think better health, a longer life, happier bank balance, increased awareness of nature’s prosperous produce and of course cruelty-free for animals. Ultimately, if we know that what we are eating on a regular basis is having an effect on our future health, it makes sense to prioritise what is better for us, so let’s make a meal of it!