Grace Cook ‘21, Sports and Entertainment Editor
The road to a plant-based diet may seem long and arduous, but do not fret; the path is kinder than it appears and gives ample rewards along the way. Once we cross that path, life feels infinitely sweeter. Eating plant-based is one of the healthiest life choices a person can make. Plant-based foods make us feel more energetic, productive, and happy, while eliminating the harmful health risks associated with meat. Most importantly, plant-based meals are satisfying and delicious to eat.
Plant-based diets revolve around the idea that we can choose to derive the majority of our meals from plant sources. There are multiple different types of plant-based diets practiced throughout society; today, we will dive into a plant based lifestyle that does not cut out animal products, but rather reduces our reliance on meat while introducing more vegetables into our daily meals. This may also be referred to as the mediterranean or flexitarian diet. We do not need to abruptly tear meat away from our diets; this is actually dangerous to our health and often ends in frustration. A plant-centered meal can include meat as a garnish, rather than the main course. Eating plant-based helps us shift away from an unhealthy meat dependence. As we become accustomed to eating less meat and more fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and grains, we begin to appreciate our food to a greater extent. Meat becomes infinitely tastier when it is eaten occasionally in the plant-based diet. Over time, eating plant-based improves both our bodies and mindsets.
While small portions of red and processed meat are healthy, constantly consuming them as a main course is extremely harmful to our health. Harvard Health Publishing said that processed meats are filled with additives and chemicals, which dramatically increase the consumer’s risks of getting “heart disease and cancer (especially colon cancer).” Processed foods that are filled with added sugars and saturated fat like chips, desserts, and sodas should also be eaten in moderation and with healthy caution. These treats may be vegetarian, but they are in no way healthy and must not be relied upon in the plant based diet. Heavily processed foods may seem tasty when we eat them, but they make us feel low-energy the rest of the day.
Red meat contains considerably less chemicals; however, it is still consistently associated with multiple health risks. Dr. Frank Hu of Harvard University said that evidence from multiple studies show a link between high intake of red meat and, “a higher risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and premature death.” People with a relatively low intake of red and processed meats, on the other hand, were found by Harvard to have significantly lower health risks.
It is true: meat does provide high amounts of protein that promote muscle growth in our bodies. What many people do not realize is that other non-meat foods contain the same amounts of protein, if not more, than meat. We can get the same essential nutrients found in traditional meat by eating fish, eggs, nuts, and following a plant-based diet. Senior Aiden McCusker loves chickpeas in particular, which are packed with protein. These foods boost our systems, while lacking the harmful qualities of red and processed meats.
Plants offer a more direct source of energy to the consumer. A research study derived from the U.S. National Library of Medicine found that people who eat plant based tend to feel happier and more energetic. English teacher Erica Hoffman can attest to this; she says that she feels “much better when [she is] eating a vegan diet. [Her] energy is higher, [she] sleeps better, and [she feels] sick less frequently.” Eating plants really does make us feel like our best selves.
‘Then what can I eat?’, people may ask. When we have grown up eating meals that revolve around meat, it can be difficult to imagine many dishes that exist without meat. In truth, however, plant based meal combinations are delicious and virtually endless. A vegetarian family favorite of Hoffman’s is “BBQ Sweet Potato Tacos with Pickled Onions from Forks Over Knives,” a place she highly recommends for recipes. McCusker, on the other hand, loves to eat vegetarian ravioli and Impossible meat. Meat substitutes like Impossible meat are an acquired taste, but they can come as a comfort to some when trying to rid meat from the diet.
Other locally recommended plant based meals include flatbreads, rice and dumplings, ceasar salads, grain bowls with roasted veggies, couscous zucchini boats, vegetable noodle stir frys, asparagus alfredo pasta, homemade enchiladas, and fried egg sandwiches. These tasty meals revolve mainly around vegetables and grains. Meat can be added in small amounts as needed. Fruits, yogurts, and smoothies can be added to make a sweet and refreshing side dish or dessert.
Eating plant-based is less difficult—and more satisfying—than it may seem. By focusing on vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, dairy, and eggs, while treating meat in small portions as a luxury, we can boost our bodies and minds to feel healthier, happier, and more energetic. The nutritional plant-based ingredients that people call “superfoods” make us feel superhuman.