Just like I never thought I'd be a runner, I never thought I'd go plant based. I've been heading down the vegetarian path for quite some time. I first turned towards vegetarianism in the early 2000s while I was a poor college student. Meat was expensive so I just stopped buying it. I dropped some weight shortly after not eating meat and thought that was a good enough reason to remove it from my diet. I still ate it from time to time, but I usually didn't keep it in my refrigerator. I moved from health reasons to humane reasons after watching a PBS mini-series called Frontier House. I watched the family pig lose its existence in the end of the series for a festive barbecue. Being a huge animal lover and dog owner, it was hard to watch and I stopped eating beef and pork* after that episode. Birds were another species and I didn't care that much about them so I continued to eat them.
Dabbling in vegetarianism for the next ten years I ate mainly plants, fish, chicken and turkey. And yes, every now and then I broke down and ate bacon* (as much as I felt bad for that pig on Frontier House, I still managed to eat bacon from time to time). In May of 2013 I decided to stop eating poultry, and yes, finally bacon. My views moved from ethical motives to health motives. Reading the health hazards of eating poultry turned me off of it completely and for the first time in my life I eliminated poultry from my diet. Dr Michael Greger of NutrtionFacts.org writes:
Based on a study of more than 100,000 people, chicken consumption was associated with double the risk of bladder and pancreatic cancer. Breast cancer survival rates have been found to improve when saturated fat intake (found predominantly in cheese and chicken) is lowered. And poultry has been associated with an increased risk of lymphoma (see also here).
Chicken has also become a high calorie and high fat food. One serving of chicken has over 200 calories today; 100 years ago a serving of chicken had only 16 calories. Cooking chicken until it is well done (to avoid the risk of food poisoning) creates carcinogens that increase the risk of cancer (see also here). And in a survey, TGI Friday’s chicken salad was found to be the most carcinogenic among fast food restaurant chicken dishes.
DAIRY Overdose & Cancer Prevention
After a heavy 2013 holiday season and new year full of heavy creams, cheeses, and dairy based meals, my body was screaming to stop. I spent the day after Christmas laying on the couch in pain only able to drink water and eat a little broccoli at the end of the day. I never wanted to feel that way again. So I thought I'd just cleanse my body for a week and go vegan. I started looking up vegan recipes and from those links I began to read about the health benefits of going plant based. Everything I read kept returning with the same theme: plant based diets can prevent and reverse illnesses, reoccurring ailments, and even aid in cancer defense.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine writes
In 1970, British physician, Dennis Burkitt, observed that a high-fiber diet reduces diseases of the digestive tract. He observed that in countries where diets are high in fiber (that is, plant-based diets), there were fewer cases of colon cancer.
The Cancer Treatment Centers of America writes
The Adventist Health Study supports the idea that plant-based diets rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains and nuts and seeds can help cancer patients and survivors lead healthier lifestyles. The study, conducted by researchers at Loma Linda University, examined the health and the habits of Seventh-day Adventists (35 percent of whom are vegetarian versus 4 percent for the population as a whole) and studied the impact of various diet patterns from 2002 to 2014. From the 12-year-long study, researchers determined that individuals who eat plant-based diets live longer, have fewer instances of cancer, weigh less and have less heart disease. Researchers point to plant protein, omega-3 fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid and micronutrients such as beta-carotene and vitamin C as several of the most beneficial aspects of a plant-based diet.
Throughout my life I've listened to people who are concerned with their weight, their cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, and so on, and the one thing that I continue to read about is how eating a plant based diet helps all of those things.
I've always bruised. A lot. My husband, Tom, used to joke that he could just look at me and I'd bruise. I would get wicked, massive bruises. The kind that when I would run into something or drop something on me I could feel the bruise beginning to form and no matter how much icing I would do, I would be left with a whopper. I knew that since I was a semi-vegetarian I lacked iron and protein in my diet. Now I know I didn't lack it because I was semi-vegetarian, it was because I was eating the wrong foods. I used protein powder and tofu to try and make up animal protein loss, but it wasn't helping with my bruising. When I switched over to a plant based diet in early January 2014 I started reading up on green smoothies for breakfast. Instead of making my usual morning smoothie of tofu, protein powder, spinach, frozen fruit and orange juice, I read about chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and kale.
I began drinking Green Smoothies of pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, apples, pineapple, ginger, kale, and spinach. About two weeks after I had switched over I was moving some very large planter boxes full of wet dirt in my yard. I was trying to lift them down off a three foot retaining wall - they probably weighed between 60 and 70 pounds. I was wiggling them to the edge of the wall and then letting them drop down to the concrete below. As gracefully as I was trying to be, I caught myself on one of them and it slammed into my upper thigh on its way down. The pain shot through me and I knew I would be getting a bruise the size of a softball. I went inside to grab some ice, but I didn't notice any swelling. I iced it for about five minutes and returned to the garden for the rest of the afternoon. I was terrified to look at it later in the day, but was amazed when I did - NO BRUISING! I couldn't believe it. Then I realized I hadn't bruised for at least the past two weeks. Two months later, and I still haven't bruised. And that my friends, is the miracle of those delicious little pumpkin seeds and their amazing iron count. (You can read more about pumpkins seeds HERE and where you can get iron in a plant based diet HERE.)
We live in a very meat-oriented society and its hard to give that up. Its hard socially, emotionally, and we think physically. 'What am I going to eat?' a lot of people ask. I think about it this way, I only ate 3-4 different kinds of meat back in the day, but now I have tons and tons of options with all the different fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains available. In addition to posting new recipes I've created, I'm also making it my challenge to convert good old recipes full of meats and cheeses into healthy plant based options. I've done a couple and I'm quite pleased with how they've come out. It helps to have an open mind and know that everything won't taste exactly like it used to, but I was amazed as how my taste buds have changed. A year ago I didn't like kabocha squash. I roasted it plainly over this past weekend and after taking one bite I thought it was one of the tastiest things I've eaten in a long time. Tastes change and its exciting how much good food is out there once I started to realize it.
Don't Know What To Eat?
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Also check out my PLANT BASED STARTER'S GUIDE here.
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