Full disclosure. When I lecture as a Professor of Cardiology at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, the largest in the United States, I do not begin my talks with “I am a badass vegan.” Although I will probably be wearing an outrageous pair of cowboy boots with hearts or stars, a throwback to my training days at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, I adhere to protocol of avoiding profanity. But it is badass to be a vegan and I am proud to share with you here 3 reasons that a plant-based diet is authentic and relevant.
1. Eating Plant-Based Can Be Super Healthy
Or it cannot. I favor the term whole food, plant based (WFPB) to indicate that a plate filled with raw and cooked vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds provides a diet high in fiber, minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients while avoiding added sugars and processed fats. While an occasional faux hot dog, bologna or chik nugget can keep a weekly menu interesting, abiding by the universal rule “if it grows on a plant eat it, if it is made in a plant skip it” is the path to optimal health while eating plant-based.
What can a person adopting a WFPB diet expect? The best chance at weight control, normal blood pressure, normal cholesterol and blood glucose levels, and a low risk of heart disease, cancer, dementia, and even autoimmune diseases. The largest body of scientific data for the prevention and reversal of heart disease is found in studies examining vegan diets and outcome (e.g. Ornish Spectrum Diet, Adventist Health Study, British Vegetarian studies). I routinely recommend WFPN diets with low or no added oils to patients with advanced heart disease or diabetes and have seen many examples of improved energy, reduced need for medications, and even reversal of complications.
If you want to learn more I suggest you go to www.pubmed.com and search vegetarian diets to review thousands of human studies. You will see just how enormous the medical database is for eating plant-based, permitting a badass attitude for sure.
2. Eating Plant-Based is a Mindful Practice
The stress of living in a hyperconnected life, with 24/7 access to the world via a smartphone, has resulted in a movement towards mindfulness to regain control. Yoga, meditation, tai-chi, massage and sauna therapy, grounding, and digital detoxes are all strategies being recommended for the new era of a WiFi life (or WiFi LiFi?). One aspect of mindfulness is an awareness of our food supply and how it is produced.
Over 95 percent of animal products consumed daily are produced in confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) where numbers and throughput are the only parameter of success. Meat, fish, pork and fowl production is an awful enterprise, with veal production being the worst of industries, and is hidden from most of us by laws and regulations. Choosing plant-based acknowledges that the suffering and death of billions of animals yearly to fulfill our desire for ever increasing amounts of dairy, eggs and meat, is simply not acceptable.
While not all of us can influence the world like Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Dalai Lama, every meal and snack can be a vote for kindness (ahimsa) and respect for the rights of animals to live a life free of pain, suffering and cruel death. Nothing is more badass than that.
3. Eating Plant-Based is Kind to Mother Earth
An extension of a life of mindfulness is an awareness that all beings are interconnected in our reliance on a healthy planet for our survival. With over 7 billion residents, moving rapidly to 10 billion and beyond, concerns for water quality and supply, soil erosion, and air purity are frequently discussed by governmental and expert panels. Both the United Nations and the recent recommendations of the USDA food policy guidelines recommend WFPB diets for the preservation of resources on the planet. Choosing a plant-based diet for most or all meals is announcing to the world that you care about the future of our home and that of generations to come. Reducing animal product consumption by practicing Meatless Monday’s, Fishless Friday’s, Turkeyless Tuesdays, and Baconless breakfasts, amongst other meals, is a badass way to declare “I care.”
A life full of meaning can be very powerful and fulfilling. Every day our plates, bowls and wraps offer an opportunity to define our core values of kindness, awareness, and wellness. It is awesome to use our fingers, forks, spoons and knives on a daily basis to indicate our awareness that we can make a difference in our health and that of our home. It is not only an awesome option, it is completely badass.
Lead image source: Spicy Cauliflower Chickpea Burger