Why Should I Consider Adopting a Plant-Based Diet?
There are many good reasons for adopting a plant-based diet! Let’s take a good look at some of the reasons behind why you might want to consider trying this diet.
We now have quite a body of evidence associated with populations around the world that enjoy long lives. Dan Buettner, in his book Blue Zones, and the accompanying National Geographic article, found that long-living populations in different areas shared certain characteristics, and these commonalities have been linked to longer lives in other observational and research studies as well. Characteristics like social support and positive mental outlooks are not related to nutrition, but some major ones are. Although not all of these populations are completely vegetarian, all of them enjoy high intakes of plant foods in their whole and unrefined forms. Whether he was looking at centenarians in sunny Loma Linda, California; in Okinawa, Japan; or Sicily, Italy — eating lots of fruits and vegetables, minimal to no meat consumption, and avoiding health-destroying habits like drinking and smoking were often characteristics of those people living the longest lives.
Quality of Life
But who wants to live to be 100 years old while sick, feeling miserable, and being a burden on family and friends, right? So quality of life is as important a consideration as the length of the life. The good news is that quality of life improves as one moves closer and closer to a completely plant-based diet. In fact, if you look at the top ten causes of death in the United States many other developed and developing countries, each of them not only is fatal, but often causes extended disability and pain. Think about heart disease, cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. Before these diseases kill you they often make you sick and can cause years of feeling ill, no energy, chronic pain, multiple medication regimens, and an overall poorer quality of life. It is now well-proven that the surest way to prevent and even reverse these chronic diseases is through a well-planned plant-based diet. So not only can you live long, you can also enjoy that life for much longer!
Effects on Mood
The Standard American Diet (SAD) is well-named the Sad Diet. High in refined and processed foods with moderate to high intake of these coming from animal sources such as burgers, shakes, and fast food, this diet is well-calculated to disrupt hormones and brain chemicals. Dr. Neil Nedley, designer of the most effective depression recovery program in the United States has noted the close link between diet and levels of “happy hormones” in the brain. In fact, the SAD way of eating actually increases our risk for developing depression and can make it hard to recover. On the other hand, a plant-based diet rich in the precursors needed for brain chemical production can be a powerful tool to overcome both depression and anxiety. You can learn more about lifestyle and its impact on mood in Dr. Nedley’s solidly science-based book, Depression, the Way Out.
Environmental and Animal Impact
There’s no question that we can no longer afford to NOT think about the impact our lifestyle choices make on a global ecosystem. With so many problems affecting our air quality, water quality and even what our soils can grow it’s important to think about the impact our lifestyle choices make on the greater environment around us. Knowing that fresh water is not an unlimited resource behooves us to use it in a more responsible manner and not be wasteful. One gallon of water will go much further toward producing 100 calories of plant food than it will towards producing 100 calories of animal-based food products. One acre of land can produce more protein for human consumption in the form of soybeans than it can in the form of beef or pork, all with less negative impacts on water and air quality. So choosing to eat plant-based is also the environmentally sound choice to make.
Design of the Human Body
When we look at the design of the human body there are many clues about what is the best way to fuel and care for it. In fact, its very complexity speaks to me personally about the evidence for “intelligent design”, or what many Christians refer to as the Creation of the world by a loving and exquisite designer — God. According to the Bible, when God created man, his original diet was completely plant-based. You would think that the designer would know best what was needed for His creation.
But whether that happens to be part of your worldview or not, there are plenty of other reasons to adopt a plant-based diet. One is the length of our digestive system. In general, carnivores like the big cats, for example, are characterized by relatively short digestive systems. The length of a lion’s digestive system is about three times it’s body length. Because of the toxic load involved in the digestion of animal products like meat, it’s better for carnivores’ bodies to not let those dead animals they eat stay in their system for long. They are digested, absorbed, and gotten rid of rather quickly. Humans, on the other hand, have quite a long digestive system, about seven times their body length, just like many other vegetarian mammals! The elephant, a large herbivore, also has a digestive system about seven times it’s body length. This is much better suited to the digestion and absorption of nutrients from plants which are fiber-rich and must be broken down well to get the most benefit out of them.
Even more evidence comes in the design of our mouth, jaws and teeth. Humans are not equipped with the long, sharp, canine teeth needed to tear and shred meat like you see in the mouths of those big cats. Instead we have flat-topped molars more useful for grinding and breaking up plant fibers. Carnivores’ jaws move up and down and they swallow their meat whole. Human jaws move side to side which enable us to chew up our foods.
Yet another is the acid levels found in human stomachs. Carnivores have very high acidity levels in order to kill bacteria that would otherwise make them sick, and to break down unchewed meat. The acidity level of human stomachs is much less, due to the design of our bodies not being intended to eat much, if any meat at all.
Last but not least, calorie for calorie and gram for gram, you can eat more cheaply on a plant-based diet than one that includes any animal products, especially meat. Animal products like meat and cheese are comparatively more expensive, both to produce and to consume.
So there you have it — take YOUR pick of a reason to choose plant-based living!
Dan Buettner, The Blue Zones
Dr. Neil Nedley, Depression the Way Out