The longer I have been plant-based, which is almost three years now, the more reasons I find which encourage me to continue this way, and the less interest I have in ever going back. The more conversations I have about the meat, dairy and fish industries, the more sure I become of my choice to live a lifestyle which facilitates peace and greater health. I do believe that conscientiousness is essential to making the right choice. Sustainability and ethics are two subjects which are difficult to disentangle, and there are many valid reasons to become plant-based which derive from both. There are sustainable diets which involve meat, for example, and there is also scope for how ethical a diet is depending on the kind of products a person buys. My point is, it isn’t black and white. It appears to me that the global consciousness is waking up, however, as I see more and more individuals coming to terms with the damaging impacts of the meat industry and instead turning to the healthy advantages of a plant-based diet. Being plant-based has improved my life so much, in ways as varied as the food on my plate, so I’m writing this not shame any particular lifestyle choice but because I’m excited to share my journey with anyone interested in the transition towards eating more plants.
Reasons for becoming plant-based are often less grounded in ethics than those who adopt veganism, which it is important to note, goes beyond diet in that it is a lifestyle. Some people simply feel that not eating animals is the right thing to do, because it doesn’t seem okay to eat the carcass of a living being. From the conversations I have had, a major part of this comes from the mindset that humans and animals are inherently equal, and there is therefore no justification for killing an eating an animal the same way there is no justification for killing and eating a human. It can be, that simple. One thing that I discovered on my journey to becoming plant-based, after I had been a pescatarian (vegetarian who also eats fish) for around 7 years, however, was how much healthier I became and how much better I felt in my body. This is now a major (and sometimes the only) reason for people to adopt a plant-based diet, and is the outlook which appears in documentaries such as Game Changers. These documentaries focus on the benefits of a plant-based diet rather than fears of the abuse occurring in animal industries, which I find to be a more encouraging outlook. It is better to focus on solutions which facilitate hope, for a better future, rather than the fearful aspects of the meat industries. Guilt-tripping tends only to make people want to hide from the truth, it doesn’t go so far as to encourage positive change. For me, eating more plants and less animals is a great thing, in so many ways, so I don’t subscribe to the idea that there is any sacrifice involved but rather so much to gain, for both my body and for my conscience. This is why adopting a hope-over-fear outlook is so important.
Some staples in my plant-based diet: in winter, above and summer, below
The truth is that most the people I know who eat a plant-based diet are healthier than most of the people I know who eat a meat-based diet. In the 2019 documentary Game Changers, James Wilks points out that one of the strongest weight-lifters in the world is plant-based (Patrik Baboumian), as are many of the most successful sportspeople. This is partly because eating more plants lowers cholesterol intake and removes unnecessary fat on the body, improving muscular ability and strength. As such, it is also one of the most straightforward ways of overcoming obesity and heart issues (Colin Campbell goes into this in detail in his bestselling book The China Study, which I find the most informative book on the subject that I have found). Those who eat more fruits and vegetables, particularly in their raw form, are also consuming more nutrients and antioxidants – of which the health benefits are endless. Fruits, veggies and many spices (such as turmeric) are also anti-carcinogenic, helping us avoid some of the biggest health threats in the world today such as cancer and heart disease.
The major health concern with a plant-based diet is where to find vitamin B12, as a B12 deficiency has many adverse health effects, particularly on the functions of the brain, which can be long-term. There are a lot of misconceptions regarding B12, however, as many have been led to believe that it can only be found in animals, but this isn’t true. B12 in its purest form is found in algae such as seaweed, which gradually enters the bodies of animals and then gets consumed by humans when they eat them. The best way to get B12 is therefore to eat it in it’s purest form, which is algae, and this can be bought in most health food shops and added to any meal. As most plant-based eaters are now very aware of the importance of B12 there are also more vegan products which contain it; it is in most Violife vegan ‘cheeses’, for example, yeast flakes, marmite and of course can be taken as a supplement. Supplements in general have been proven by scientists such as Colin Campbell to be a very limited way to gain nutrients so I wouldn’t recommend relying on them for anything (other than adding extra B12, Vitamin D or Zinc to your diet). The body is a complex system and nutrients are equally complex, so it is difficult to see the benefits when you isolate any nutrient, but much better to focus on getting a range of nutrients and anti-oxidants by various fruits and vegetables (in which most nutrients can be found).
Papayas, bananas and oats are some of the cheapest foods I found in Central America
If you’ve read this far then you may have noticed that I have mostly chosen to use the term ‘plant-based’, as opposed to ‘vegan’, which I did so consciously. This is because ‘vegan’ has become loaded to the point of being politicised; it assumes a stereotype, or a group of people, who are all presumed to hold the same beliefs, although this usually isn’t the case. I also don’t believe that things need to be so strictly labelled. For example, someone may consume some animal products but at the same time decide to eat more sustainably, and to consciously consume more organic produce, which would be a great change. This topic does not always need to be so political, as this can end up facilitating greater animosity, and restricting this critical debate. Ignorance is, after all, the major evil here, so it is greater education on this topic that should be encouraged – especially of the kind that encourages positive change.
This brings me to the last two points I want to make, the first being a major misconception about plant-based diets, which is that they are ‘more expensive’. It’s true that quick to heat, man-made products by brands such as Quorn can occasionally be costly, but it isn’t necessary to base a plant-based diet around these. I have met people who only eat raw fruits and vegetables, and in most cases they were impressively strong and healthy. I personally feel stronger and healthier now that I eat a plant-based diet (I also now very rarely experience any skin problems, which I used to have when I ate diary) and I mostly consume fruits, vegetables and legumes. I spend the same on food being vegan than I did when I was veggie, the major difference being that I now spend more time cooking and planning meals. Spending time planning and preparing food is worth it to me, however, as what can be more important than what we consume, and ultimately become? It may take some time to initially look up new recipes, and to find local markets to by fresh produce without breaking the bank, but the benefits are long and deeply felt. For example, I live in a city where avocados are presumed to be very expensive, but know of two places where I can get 4 avocados for a pound (£2), 8 sweet potatoes for a pound, etc. Spending some time to looking around for this has literally paid off, and I have accumulated so many plant-based recipes that I know most of them off the top of my head by now.
Avocados in Autumn at the Open Market in Brighton
So, it is my opinion that there are not many reasons not to eat more plants, if it’s something you’re interested in. There are still many uncertainties left in this conversation, but I can say for sure that becoming vegan has significantly improved my health in a number of ways. For me, it’s one of the best aspects of life at present: I love almost everything about plants, and feel deeply nourished by them. I love animals too, but prefer to cuddle them than to consume them. That’s my opinion and it’s okay if you have a different one; it’s okay if you feel inspired by this and it’s okay if you don’t. Everyone has their own guidance system, and it is a good thing to stop and listen to what that is, because beneath all of the noise, it may be trying to tell you something.
Plants are representative of the miracle of life (Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica)