Happy Friday! I’m back with another post about the v-word. Veganism, that is. And today I want to talk about the mental and physical benefits of a plant-based diet. I’ll also be posting a quick and easy recipe that I put together and made for the first time last night. Spoiler alert: It was SO GOOD. But I’ll get to that later.
So as I was brainstorming for this post, I was making a list of all the benefits I could think of off the top of my head. Let me tell you, that list was LONG. So I picked the ones I felt were important to get across to someone who is skeptical about eating this way. I also have ONE negative, which I’ll talk about after the good stuff.
First and foremost, one of the big benefits of eating a vegan diet is that, if done correctly, you will have SO MUCH energy. On days that I eat well (not junk-yes there is a TON of vegan junk food) I feel so vibrant and have enough energy to get through my day. To give you an idea, my day usually consists of waking up early to walk my dog for 30-45 minutes, getting ready for work while getting Michael and my meals ready for the day, working 8.5 hours, taking a 2 mile walk at lunch, another 1-2 mile walk after work with my pooch, working out and/or practicing yoga for 1 hour, cooking dinner, sometimes teaching more yoga at the gym, picking up the inevitable clutter that builds up throughout the house on a typical day, and then I maybe watch tv for an hour before finally going to sleep. Just thinking about it makes me tired! And the truth is we are all busy pretty much ALL THE TIME so wouldn’t it be great to have more energy to get through it all??? I will admit that I have a matcha tea latte to get me going in the morning, so I still love my caffeine. 😊
Number 2 on my list is NO HEAVY FEELING after eating. Since vegan food is very fruit-and-veggie-heavy, there’s not much to weigh you down after a meal. Now of course if you eat a lot of faux meat or cheese you may still feel very full. But most of my meals leave me feeling satisfied but not heavy. In fact, I could probably go for a run pretty quickly after eating just about anything. It’s why many ultra runners who fuel their runs with whole foods will eat fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans (all vegan). They can eat and keep running without a lot of digestive upset. So fueling your day with these kinds of foods will keep you feeling light!
Maybe I should’ve put this next one first on the list because it’s likely an attractive benefit for most folks…FAT/WEIGHT LOSS! Vegan diets tend to naturally be low in fat and cholesterol, especially yucky saturated fats, and also low in calories. So while you may not even be counting calories or watching what you eat, the weight will come off. Your body fat percentage will drop. Who doesn’t want to hear that?? And the best thing about it is that you can eat MORE! As I said previously, a vegan diet is naturally lower in calories and they are not laden with saturated fat and all that extra protein so you can actually eat more food and still lose weight!
I don’t really see why I’d need to go further after that last one, but I will. 😊 A well-rounded, plant-based diet is nutrient-rich. While I’d recommend that everyone-vegan, vegetarian, omnivore-take a multivitamin, you will be eating much more nutrient-rich food at every meal. So instead of those types of foods being an after thought or an add-on to your meals, they will be the main event, which means a healthier you! Not to mention, the flavor! Whoever said vegan food was bland and boring clearly never ATE vegan meals! Seriously, I never ate food this flavorful and colorful when I was eating a typical American diet. It’s SO good. Rich and nutrients AND bursting with flavor…do you really need me to go on??
Either way, I will! Another really fantastic benefit is that it is anti-inflammatory. Red meat, dairy, white sugar, fried, fatty foods ALL equal inflammation. Inflammation can harm your gut and your joints, lead to heart disease and cancer, sabotage your sleep, AND make it harder to lose weight. The typical foods most Americans eat each day are actually causing more inflammation in the body. If you look up a list of ANTI-inflammatory foods, however, guess what? They’re VEGAN!
Okay, I’m going to talk about one more benefit before moving on. This last one is less about YOU and more about everything around you. I will try not to go into too much detail here, but a plant-based diet is not only super good for you, but also for our planet, and for the BILLIONS of animals killed each year for us to eat. Did you know that 70% of the grain grown in the US is grown to feed livestock? Did you know that approximately 700 TONS of grain could go to feeding HUMANS who don’t have enough to eat? Not to say that if everyone went vegan we could end world hunger but…a whole lot of starving people could have food to eat if it wasn’t all being grown to feed our food. Also, livestock drink more fresh water than just about anything else. Many countries do not even have access to fresh water. If we stopped eating animals and replaced livestock with plants, there would be a lot more water to go around. Not to mention livestock are a HUGE polluter of water. Plant-based proteins can be raised/grown with 8 TIMES less energy than meat-based protein. Plus, all that deforestation, overfishing, and pollution is going to cost us SO much in the long run. Eventually there will not be enough land to raise all the animals “needed” to feed the human population. What then? I could literally go on for an hour about the environmental costs of eating meat, but I’ll stop there for now. If you’d like to know more send an email over to firstname.lastname@example.org and I can give you a plethora of information on the subject. As for the animals, I feel like it’s pretty obvious that not killing BILLIONS in a HORRIFIC (and I mean that) way year after year after year benefits those animals in a tremendous way. Imagine living your life in a dark, damp, cold, cage not even big enough for you to move in. Imagine, as a woman, being forcefully impregnated time after time only to have your baby ripped from you for meat, while that baby’s milk is used to feed others who have NO nutritional need for it whatsoever. Then when you are unable to produce more babies, you’re taken to slaughter. All the animals killed for food have the ability to feel fear and pain, and ALL of them want to live. They fight for their lives until the very last breath, just as you would. None of them give their lives willingly so that you can eat. Trust me when I say you DO NOT need animal products to live a healthy, vibrant life. I and the other 1.6 million vegans in the US are living proof. Live and eat with compassion and you will reap a multitude of benefits!
Now, I said at the beginning of this post that there was one negative, so here it is. As you become immersed in the vegan lifestyle, you learn things. Things about the world and about what humans are capable of that are really quite disturbing. Things you can never unlearn. I won’t go into details because if you make the switch you will find out on your own terms. “Going vegan is like turning a key that unlocks a chest that reveals a dark side of humanity you never knew existed.” – George Martin
That being said, it’s 100% worth it. I’ll never go back. Not for a million dollars.
This post is getting long, but I promised a recipe so here it is!
SWEET POTATO NOODLE TEX MEX BOWL
3 medium sweet potatoes
One bag Gardein Beefless Ground
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup cooked wild rice
1 bunch green onions, chopped
Cherry tomatoes, halved
1 avocado, sliced
Salsa of choice
Cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, chipotle powder, salt, pepper
Cook wild rice according to instructions or in a rice cooker.
Spiralize the sweet potatoes (If you have a spiralizer. If not, I highly recommend this one, or you could just slice the potatoes however you like, but it’s not as fun!)
Heat up a non-stick skillet or use a bit of olive oil if you don’t have one, on medium and cook “swoodles” for 5-7 minutes, until tender. While cooking, add a healthy dash of each spice (I didn’t measure so just use your head!).
In a separate skillet on medium heat, heat up the beefless ground according to package instructions. I seasoned this with the same spices I used for the sweet potatoes.
You can toss the beans in with the “beef,” or just leave at room temperature, which I did, because I’m lazy. Chop the tomatoes and the green onions.
Layer “swoodles” on the bottom of a bowl, then top with ¼ cup of rice, “beef,” beans, green onions, tomatoes, ¼ of an avocado, and as much salsa as your heart desires! Oh, and ENJOY!
*You can add additional toppings such as vegan cheese or sour cream, corn, or whatever else you like. It’s especially delicious with a blue corn tortilla chips,