In a world where ‘diet’ has become something of a dirty word, how do we sift through all the bull excretion and find what actually works?
I’m here today to tell you that the only diet proven to work for virtually any person on Earth is *drum roll* a plant based diet.
I can hear droves of keto keepers, paleo people and low-carb loonies shouting at their screens right now – and that’s okay. I’m not here to bash on these diets. They may well have their benefits in some populations but they do not work for a large majority of people long term – which is vital.
The plant based diet is the only diet with genuine research showing potential reversal of disease and long term reduction in basically all ailments ever. Yet people do not want to try it. But, why? I ask myself this all the time.
There are so many reasons, mostly misconceptions about what the diet entails, how hard it is to maintain (it isn’t) and scepticism about building muscle and keeping fit. These are all myths perpetuated by industries and individuals whose livelihood is directly opposed to the plant based movement.
I want to get this out of the way first and foremost before diving in – I am not a vegan. I will repeat that. I am NOT a vegan. I eat like your run-of-the-mill vegan the majority of the time but nothing is off the table if I want it. This is what plant based means to me and what it should mean to most of us if we want to reap the benefits of this diet in the long run.
WHAT A PLANT BASED DIET IS
I’ll be straight up with you, a plant based diet can be a bit of a minefield when it comes to it’s true definition, but I’m going to keep it simple and opt with ‘a diet that is based mostly on plants’ (not solely on plants). A plant based diet can be a vegan diet if you want it to, but my point is that it doesn’t have to be if you don’t want it to and that’s the beauty of it – it can be tailored to fit anyone & everyone.
I know there may be a lot of vegans getting their pants in a twist over this statement, saying that only a truly vegan diet can be classed as plant based. Not true guys. Just because you don’t eat animal products doesn’t mean you’re automatically plant based.
And let me pose this question to those who are staunch vegans. What is better – a person who eats animal products all the time, or a person who consumes animal products once or twice a month?
Unless someone is in the plant based movement for purely ethical reasons, there is no need to completely shun a bit of chicken, some cheese or a wee glass of milk every now and again. The point is to reduce it as much as possible and load up on the good stuff, aka, plants.
Once you begin to realise how good you feel when you haven’t got animal fats and proteins clogging up your system though, you’ll barely ever want to eat ’em. Trust me!
Just so we’re clear – a plant based diet, for the sake of this guide, is a diet that is mostly plants (85-100%), that’s all there is to it.
WHAT A PLANT BASED DIET ISN’T
There are a lot of misconceptions floating about surrounding what a plant based diet is and isn’t. A plant based diet doesn’t automatically mean vegan, it isn’t a ‘clean eating’ movement and it isn’t a form of orthorexia. You also don’t have to shove kale in your ears and sacrifice sweetcorn to the plant gods.
Some people associate being plant based with the vegan diet, which they can then associate with orthorexia. The blogger ‘The Balanced Blonde‘ wrote a book called ‘Breaking Vegan’ which details her struggles on the topic. This put a lot of people off veganism and thus – a plant based diet.
The simple fact of the matter is though, this woman had orthorexia and unfortunately, a lot of people mistake this eating disorder as an inherent fault of the diet itself, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
This is the simple beauty of the plant based diet though – nothing is actually off the table. It is just a gradual movement away from animal products (to a level you can maintain) and a gradual increase to a more plant-filled way of eating.
The plants are your base. As long as you are eating a generous serving of various ones each day, you can have some junk food now and again.
It is not the dreaded clean eating movement, which can be another trigger for orthorexia. It is a flexible diet that will work for almost 100% of people.
Just so we’re clear, the clean eating movement nor the vegan diet are inherently bad whatsoever, they both have amazing benefits. However, some people with deep lying conditions may feel slightly more triggered on them over the conventional diet, such as The Balanced Blonde.
This is why I believe a plant based diet is the way to go. It loosens restrictions and means you don’t feel as backed into a corner with your food choices (even though there are plenty of vegan options available nowadays).
MY VEGAN STORY
I’ll keep this one brief because nobody really cares, but maybe a quick backstory on me might *connect* us and help you get more from the guide.
I went vegan when I was 19 and stayed as vehement a vegan as you’ll ever find for about 18 months or so. I wouldn’t wear animal products, wouldn’t use any sort of product with a smidgen of animal traces in it, I didn’t eat my beloved Haribo Tangfastics and I even had a pair of vegan Dr Martens! I still own them too, they’re the best boots ever – shoutout to the doc.
But I felt like I was missing out, so when I was 21, I opted to go back to the dark side. It started with just a slither of bratwurst sausage, but then things got messy. At the time I was loving it, shovelling carcasses down my throat left, right and centre, but after, I felt awful. Everyone knows about the meat sweats, right? And everyone knows how lethargic you feel after a big, meat-heavy meal.
Well, I felt like that all the time. Eventually I felt so lethargic and lacking any sort of energy, I decided it was time to ditch it again. But this time, there was one key difference – I was plant based, not vegan. This meant I would never feel like I was missing out and the knowledge that I could eat animal products *if I wanted* meant that I found the diet easier and less stressful than before. It is also the reason I am still plant based now and have barely touched an animal product since.
WHY I STOPPED LABELLING IT
During my research into plant based diets, I came across so many variants that made me laugh. There are things such as ovo-vegetarians (those who eggs but not meat), pollo-vegetarians (those who eat chicken but no other meat) and the dreaded semi-vegetarian.
Why are we so desperate to label every little bit of our life? You’re not pollo-vegetarian, you just eat chicken and veg. You’re not a semi-vegetarian, you just sometimes eat animal products! It is human nature to want to find meaning and belonging, but trying to use your dietary preference as a personality trait really isn’t the way to do it.
Once I stopped labelling myself as a vegan I felt instantly freer. There was no pressure to conform to the dietary standard and I felt like I was making even better choices as a result. This didn’t mean I was scoffing animal products left right and centre (I barely do) but knowing I could took a weight off my shoulders.
As soon as you tell someone you’re a vegan or a ‘pollo-vegetarian’, you are opened up to scrutiny and you feel like your every move is hawked over meticulously by every man and his dog. This pressure not only from external sources – but from yourself – to conform to this way of life can be hugely off-putting for anyone getting into the vegan/plant based movement.
This is why ditching the label will be the best thing you do. By just getting on with your diet, you – and only you, can concentrate on what’s truly important – your health and wellbeing.
Michael Pollan put it best when he said ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’ The simplest and most effective dietary advice for all of us to follow if we want to live a life of health and longevity.
So, take the label off, enjoy the bliss of eating your newly found plant based diet and live a stress free life. Just don’t start telling everyone you’re plant based (like I’m doing with this article…).
WHY YOU SHOULD SWITCH: THE BIG 3
You know what a plant based diet is and isn’t, you know a little background on me, but why should you switch? Here’s your 3 main reasons.
First and foremost is your health. You can’t enjoy anything in life if you aren’t healthy, not truly anyway. And you damn well can’t consider the other two reasons if your diet has killed you.
Within the first week or so, the switch may be difficult but you will soon find yourself with bags of energy, a clearer mind and just feeling great at all times. I even managed to give up coffee after the first two weeks of getting on the plant based diet.
As we are all aware, the meat and dairy industry are terrible for not just our health, but our environment too. By easing off on our animal product consumption, we can go some way to helping our planet heal.
There’s no point in discussing what food to eat if the Earth has turned into a toxic wasteland is there? Your life goal should be to take care of your body and your planet – they’re the only two places you have to live in.
Finally – and this may be the reason why a lot of people choose a plant based lifestyle – is ethics. Consuming less animal products means less animal suffering as a whole. The source of people’s food can really weigh on their conscience, so if you are of this school of thought, a plant based diet is definitely the way to go.
If you are dead set against animal suffering, the plant based diet can also act as a good way to ease yourself into the vegan lifestyle in the long run.
These will all be discussed in much more detail in the ‘Benefits’ section below, just in case you thought I was skimming over the holy trifecta a bit.
THE UNDENIABLE TRUTH OF PLANT BASED DIETS
Let’s talk about the undeniable truth of the plant based diet for just a second before we get into the full list of benefits. It is just healthier. Period. No other diet in existence can boast the reversal of disease, the droves of success stories or the hard scientific proof.
A plant based diet is a superior diet and that’s just not up for debate. Providing you eat the right foods while on a plant based diet and don’t fall into a junk food trap, you will feel absolutely amazing until your dying breath – which will probably be when you’re about 257 (lentils are powerful stuff).
BENEFITS OF A PLANT BASED DIET
Now let’s get into the good stuff. Everyone wants to know ‘what’s in it for me?’. Well pretty much everything is in it for you. By making the switch to a plant based diet, you open yourself up to an almost endless list of benefits.
Since the list is about as long as time itself, I’m going to list my favourites. These aren’t all woo-woo claims either folks, this is all backed up by science. Good old science.
LOWERED RISK OF HEART DISEASE
This is the biggie. Heart disease is one of the biggest killers in the Western world and it really needn’t be. Those on a plant based diet have a significantly lower risk of all forms of heart disease, which begs the question – why wouldn’t you eat this way?
LOWERED CANCER RISK
The second biggest benefit of a plant based diet is the lowered risk of all forms of cancer, especially colon cancer. This has a lot to do with the lowered intake of red meat and its associated carcinogens – which have been shown to actually cause cancer by the World Health Organisation.
INCREASED BLOOD FLOW
Blood flow is such an important factor of health in general. It allows nutrients to be shuttled to muscles and helps you feel great at all times. It is also extremely beneficial to the heart and also for the fellas – their erections.
Erectile dysfunction can be an early indicator of heart disease as both are closely linked to blood flow. What’s good for one is good for both – you can thank me later.
REVERSAL OF DIABETES
A diet that can genuinely reverse disease? Damn bloody right.
Although it may not be able to reverse all cases of diabetes, a plant based diet has been shown to be an extremely effective way of managing diabetes and there are countless stories of people even coming off their medications completely. It really is unbelievable that all diabetes sufferers aren’t eating more plants.
Plant based people are happier – according to science.
I can vouch for this though – being plant based gives me so much energy (see below) and makes me feel great all day every day. I know this seems like some sort of JML advert but it does genuinely perk you up and has definitely given me a rosier outlook on life.
This is probably one of the most obvious ones but when you start packing your gob full of nutrient rich plants, you come to have boundless energy.
I can almost guarantee after a big meat or dairy heavy meal, you feel stuffed and lethargic, then that cycle carries on again and again, every day until you simply don’t have any energy to do anything without some form of external input (coffee, tea, energy drinks, etc). No wonder the majority of people have a crippling caffeine addiction by the time they’re 21!
By taking back control of your energy levels, you can break free of that reliance on caffeine and become free to savour and enjoy your coffees without depending on them. I used to drink 2-3 a day just to keep me functioning, now I drink 2-3 a week and that’s only when I get less than 5 hours of sleep or if I just fancy the taste of one.
That’s not some form of weird caffeinated humblebrag by the way, it’s just showcasing how a simple change in your diet can give you boundless, healthy and sustainable energy.
This one might be a selling point for a lot of folks, even though weight & BMI don’t really mean anything. Plant based diet followers are on average, much lighter than those on the Western diet.
I don’t really believe your weight matters too much and don’t personally have a scale at home for this reason. Weight can be distorted by bone and muscle mass so don’t take guidelines too seriously.
But plant based people also hold less fat than those on the Western diet which is the important factor. Being fat is asking for disease, illness and an early death. If you can trim the fat even slightly, you’re on the right track.
This is a bit of a vanity thing but still, bad breath ain’t no joke.
Those who eat meat have a higher chance of bad breath due to the animal protein getting stuck in your teeth and attracting bacteria. By eating a more plant based diet you can avoid this almost completely. You can also floss after each meal to be super careful not to have pungent breath.
LOWERED OSTEOPOROSIS RISK
Considering that the plant based diet is supposedly devoid of calcium, it may come as a surprise that those on this diet have a lowered risk of developing osteoporosis and bone fractures.
Research is now emerging showing that cow’s milk may actually increase the risk of breaks and fractures, contrary to what the dairy industry would have you believe. Countless studies have now shown than the highest consumers of dairy products have the highest rates of osteoporosis, bone breaks and fractures!
This could be down to the protein/calcium balance being thrown out of whack by dairy products which have a higher protein/calcium ratio than that of other plant foods.
LESS SECOND HAND HORMONE & ANTIBIOTICS CONSUMPTION
This is more potent now than ever. Our animals are pumped full of steroids to make them bigger and loaded with antibiotics to stop them getting sick. They’re also pumped with a whole lot of other nasties that end up in their bodies when they are killed.
All of these horrible hormones and medications are of course then in our meat, dairy and eggs which is why illness rates are skyrocketing and we have become so resistant to a lot of older treatments.
The only thing you have to worry about on a plant based diet is pesticides which are sometimes sprayed on crops to ward off insects and animals. These can simply be washed off during a good old rinse of your veg.
HOW TO MAKE THE SWITCH TO A PLANT BASED DIET
You don’t just have to jump into a plant based diet head first. You can ease yourself in if you think that is a better way for you to stick to it long term and acclimatise to less animal products.
The tips listed below are designed to take out the hardest parts of the plant based lifestyle with relative ease. They will also help bridge the gap between plant based and animal foods, meaning you’ll barely realise that anything has changed at all.
ADD MORE PLANTS IN
First and foremost, just add some god damn plants in! All you have to do is have your normal meals, but just add in one or two fistfuls of veg. Some broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, peppers, asparagus, WHATEVER – just pack the plate with veg.
Your meals should never be based around the meat on the plate anyway. It should be packed with vegetables, grains, starches, etc then the meat should compliment it. However, as a culture we’ve let ourselves go and that serving of meat has skyrocketed so it is the main part of the meal.
We need to take control back. Pack your plate with the good stuff and try to half the meat serving if possible after a couple of weeks.
This is an extremely easy one to implement. If you’re having cereal, a cup of tea or coffee, just add in some coconut, almond or soy milk instead of cow’s milk. These plant based milks actually taste really good, they’re creamy and each has a unique taste which can sex up your usuals a bit.
It’s also stupidly easy to do as you won’t particularly taste a difference and you’re getting rid of one of the worst offenders when it comes to animal products in the diet.
MEAT FREE MONDAYS
Now we’re stepping it up.
Trying meat free Mondays can give you a real taste of what the plant based diet is all about. It allows you to feel some of the benefits of culling the animal consumption even just after one day.
You’ll probably sleep better, have more energy the day after, won’t be as constipated (so I’ve heard…) and a load of other great benefits that you can feel almost instantly.
It also gives you a chance to experiment with a day’s worth of meat free recipes and it can really open your eyes to the possibilities out there – showing you that meals don’t have to be based around meat in order to taste great.
TRY MEAT REPLACEMENTS
Once you’ve graduated from meat free Mondays, you can start looking into meat replacements long term if you still have those fleshy cravings.
Meat replacements nowadays are brilliant, they’re not like the cardboard gear from back in the day. Linda McCartney has an amazing range of plant based meat alternatives (think sausages, burgers, PIES…) that I’m sure will help even the staunchest carnivore to ease off on the meat.
RESEARCH TASTY RECIPES
The final tip may just be the most important – research some tasty recipes! If you are constantly eating bland foods, you’re more than likely going to cave and go for a McDonald’s after about 4 days.
But, if you have lots of amazing recipes to choose from, you keep everything fresh and you can really explore the amazing plant based dishes that are available to you.
I have listed a few from my favourite plant based chef – the minimalist baker, below. Her site is an fantastic resource for anyone looking for quick but tasty (and very healthy) plant based foods.
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO FOCUS ON WHOLE FOODS
You could eat fries, chips and smoke some doobies and still call yourself plant based but that completely defeats the object of the plant based diet. This is why you should be focusing on a whole foods approach. And if doobies are a staple of your diet… maybe ditch them too and give CBD oil a go instead.
By focusing on whole foods, you reap the full benefits of a plant based diet. You allow yourself to take on the bevy of nutrients that fruit, veggies, whole grains, nuts & legumes can offer (along with a smidgen of organic animal bits if you really fancy it).
As humans, we are always focused on loss. We always zone in on what we don’t have instead of what we can add. This is no different to our diet. We always focus in on what we are taking out of our diet (gluten free, dairy free, grain free, meat free, additive free, sugar free, etc) when in fact, we should be focusing on adding quality nutrition and making that a mainstay first and foremost.
The whole point of a plant based diet is not to restrict you, it is to open you up to a world of abundance and culinary possibilities. By adding in a wide variety of colourful, healthy & tasty whole foods, you will naturally move away from stuffing your face with processed junk as you simply won’t crave it.
You will start to crave the taste and the energy that whole foods give you, which is the whole point of the diet. You have to want to eat this way. If you feel like you are trapped in this way of eating then you’re eventually going to binge and fall off the wagon for good. I know this because I’ve been there.
And that’s why the focus is on abundance and what we can add in, not what we are taking out, limiting or restricting. Focus on getting those whole foods in and naturally, the junk will fall by the wayside.
THE ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS OF A PLANT BASED DIETS
People like to think it’s incredibly hard to get certain nutrients on a plant based diet and use this as an excuse not to try it for themselves or do any sort of research into the topic whatsoever.
In reality, it’s far easier to get these nutrients on a plant based diet than a standard diet. Maybe this is because plant based people are more aware of their dietary intake than most standard dieters but in any case – it is still extremely easy if you know how.
Luckily I do know how – and you will too in a moment. I’ve listed the main offenders that people like to reference when bashing on the plant based way. I’ve also listed exactly how you can get these essential nutrients so you don’t have to worry, my plant consuming apprentice.
This is a myth that just needs to die. Protein is exceptionally easy to come by on a plant based diet.
For starters, you simply don’t need as much protein as you are led to believe by big supplement companies. I weigh around 155lbs and take in about 125g of protein a day. Some say 0.8-1g of protein per lb of bodyweight is optimal but I would say even 0.6g per lb is sufficient for muscle growth. Add to that the high levels of carbs that the plant based diet includes and your athletic performance will be on another level.
My favourite sources of protein are tofu, oats, kidney beans, chickpeas, oats, lentils and quinoa. If I’m running a tad low for the day I’ll throw in a scoop of protein powder for a boost.
Just supplement with this. If you still sometimes eat meat, this won’t be an issue (most likely – although meat eaters can be b12 deficient). If not though, a supplement costs next to nothing and taking a pill once or twice a week will give you your quota.
To be fair, you won’t even need a supplement if you drink fortified milk or eat fortified cereals (or if you ate grass like the cows who give you b12).
Zinc is responsible for healthy hair, nails and sleep, amongst lots of other things. Being deficient is no joke, which is why even though the recommended daily dose is pretty low, I still supplement to get more than triple that, as this can have lots of benefits, mainly just increases in testosterone though.
That said, there are still lots of plant based foods that offer loads of zinc. These are kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, peanut butter, cacao powder, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and oats.
This really baffles me. Apart from red meat, every other main source of iron is plant based. However strange it may seem, people still love trying to bring it up as a reason to not go plant based.
They’re wrong – obviously. The best sources of iron are spinach, lentils, tofu, quinoa, oats, tempeh, pumpkin seeds – the list goes on…and on…and on.
If you’re really in a pickle, you could just cook your foods in a cast iron skillet which transfers some of its iron content to the foods you are cooking. Just how safe this is though I don’t know – although I still use it anyway because of the #aesthetics.
Some people – in fact, most people, believe that you can only get milk from calcium. ‘Gotta drink from a cow’s teet to make my bones grow strong!!!’ Not true. Calcium comes from loads of much healthier sources such as tofu, broccoli, fortified milks and cereals, bok choy and oats.
Some of those probably came as a surprise to you and I must admit, they did to me at first too. But these foods are full of nutrients so it makes sense that a wee bit of calcium had to be in there somewhere too.
Ignore the constant onslaught of advertising from the dairy industry and open your eyes to the fact that there are plant based alternatives to everything.
It’s not just fish and oils that have omegas in them. My favourite sources of omega 3 in particular are hemp seeds, flaxseed and chia seed. These three pack a huge omega punch and are a convenient, tasty way to get them into your diet.
I throw flaxseed and chia into my oats in the morning and the hemp seeds go in an afternoon smoothie – easy.
Since our bodies cannot produce iodine internally, it is essential that we consume enough of it through our diet, which is where scaremongers come in. They will have you believe that a plant based diet simply cannot meet these needs when in fact, it can with ease and it does so by using some of the healthiest foods known to man.
These are potatoes, prunes, strawberries, kelp and cranberries. These are all super easy to work into recipes and are the perfect way to get a huge dose of iodine to keep your body in top condition.
The thing with Vitamin D is that it is extremely hard to come by through diet alone. Eggs have a tiny bit in them but the best food source is actually plant based – mushrooms!
Regardless, just get outdoors in the sun if you can. If you can’t, take a Vitamin D3 (D3 is the most powerful form of vitamin D) supplement.
WHY THIS VERSION OF A PLANT BASED DIET IS FOR EVERYONE
The plant based diet is the optimal diet for health, there’s no two ways about it. The beauty of this diet is that it pleases the masses, in part due to the deep levels of customisation you can enjoy on it.
Vegans can have no animal products in their plant based diet if they want. Vegetarians can have some animal products in their plant based diet if they want. Meat eaters can have a tad more animal products in their plant based diet if they want.
It is this level of tailoring that can allow anyone, no matter their dietary preferences, to create a plan that is fun, easy to stick to and most importantly – effective.
The only requirements are that you cut down the animal products to <15% of your total caloric intake and ramp up them fruits and veggies.
A caveat though – I do recommend consuming as little animal produce as possible if you want the best results. I always find that I feel less ‘clogged up’ when I’m running on that clean, lean, veggie energy.
WHY THIS VERSION MIGHT ANNOY SOME
I know I’ve probably ticked off a lot of people with this article, but at the end of the day, it is for the greater good. Just because I advocate not labelling yourself a vegan/vegetarian doesn’t mean I don’t advocate eating that way.
My diet now is almost what you would class as vegan with the exception of a bit of honey. The only difference is that I know I’m not restricted and if I wanted to eat a cheese butty, I could.
This is what is going to help me – and countless others, stay on the diet long term. This is a million times better than going gung-ho for 12 months then crashing and burning like I did. The whole point of the plant based diet is that people will eventually not even want to eat animal products for the most part because they enjoy eating the plant based way so much. This will lead to huge decreases in overall animal consumption, which is what true vegans and vegetarians want, right?
All I’m saying is don’t bash the plant based way. Encourage those around you to join in and to take their health into their own hands by eating the way humans were meant to.
THE CHINA STUDY
An entire section dedicated to just one study? Believe it or not, yes. The China study has been at the heart of fierce debate between vegans and non vegans ever since it was published in 2005. There has even been books that have tried to disprove it, but despite this, I believe the results – kind of.
The China study is the perfect support for a plant based diet. Since it didn’t exclusively look at vegans, this may well be the best study of its kind that represents a plant based way of living in the real world.
It looked at a 20 year study called the China-Cornell-Oxford project which was conducted predominantly in rural china and observed the relationship between animal product intake and chronic disease (cancers, heart disease, etc).
At the end of the 20 years, they concluded that a diet that was heavy in animal products was also more likely to cause chronic disease in participants – results which were corroborated by multiple other studies at the time.
So, what can we take from the China study? Well, considering by the end of the study, they had over 8,000 statistically significant associations between diet, lifestyle and disease – my guess is quite a lot.
But let’s keep it simple – smash the plants. Now backed up by a wealth of research, a plant based diet was shown to prevent and reverse chronic disease, slow or stop the growth of cancer cells, improve rates of obesity, diabetes and bone disease, amongst others.
The China study really taught us the importance of nutrition for keeping the human body in peak condition. It has also showed us that carbs really are NOT the enemy. As long as those carbs are from whole foods, plant based sources of course.
WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH SAY?
After reading through the China study, it led me down somewhat of a research rabbit hole. If you are into your scientific proof as much as me, you’ll love this section.
If you don’t like your research and would rather just mindlessly scroll through success stories then skip this section you lazy dosser.
Be warned if you do skip though – you’ll be missing out on some extremely interesting work by scientific frontrunners.
COUCH POTATO VEGANS VS WESTERN DIET RUNNERS
This is kind of a novel study but it’s bloody profound, that’s for sure. As plant based people are usually much more slender than their Western diet counterparts, it has been argued that results showing less arterial plaque in the planties is down to this and not the diet itself.
So this study set out to put this to bed once and for all – by measuring sedentary vegans against runners who ate a traditional Western diet. These weren’t just any runners either. These were people who ran an average of 48 miles per week. For the past 21 years.
The results were unbelievable – the vegans had lower thickness in their carotid arteries. Considering the fact these people worked out once a week or not at all, this is crazy. And it just goes to show the true power of the plant based diet and what a diet very low in animal products can do for your overall health.
SAVE LIVES, SAVE MONEY & SAVE THE EARTH
There was a study published by Oxford University that compared the three dietary approaches and what effect these would have on the world by 2050 if everybody implemented them.
Within these effect parameters were mortality, environmental health and economy. Greenhouse gases were included too but for the sake of ease, we’ll just lump that in with the environment.
They compared three eating patterns: a Western diet, vegetarian diet and a vegan diet.
While the findings may have to be taken with a pinch of salt, they predicted that the more plant based the diet, the better it was for all three parameters. By 2050, they predicted a 10% decrease in all cause mortality, saving 8.1 million lives per year, along with over a trillion dollars saved on health costs and a 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
SWAP OUT YOUR ANIMAL PROTEIN FOR PLANT PROTEIN
This study looked into how different types of protein affected artery calcification scores. This basically means they measured how animal and plant protein correlated with levels of clogged arteries.
What they found was actually quite astonishing. Out of the 4,500 people in the study, those who consumed a higher ratio of plant based protein were almost 60% less likely to have plaque in the arteries.
This meant that those with the higher plant protein intake had a far lower risk of heart disease when compared to the animal protein participants. Definitely something to bear in mind when putting together a meal plan in the future.
Whilst there are thousands upon thousands of plant based success stories, I thought I’d compile a mini list of high profile names that may shock you. Some of these people have made incredible journeys on their plant based diets and I’ll leave some links for you to check them out more below.
One of my favourite plant based athletes, Brian Turner, initially got into this way of eating because of his severe acne. Believe it or not, being plant based helped Brian’s skin clear up massively and he now barely suffers with any acne whatsoever.
What is most astonishing about Brian though is that he is also a bodybuilder! He fuels his strength and muscle training on a wholly plant based diet – something which so many people think cannot be done.
He is not alone though, there are so many other plant based bodybuilders out there doing amazing things with their physiques such as Derek Simnett, Jon Venus, Torre Washington, Dom Thompson & Nimai Delgado.
Rich is an extremely interesting guy – he has a wildly popular podcast, he is one of the fittest men on earth and he has built himself a hugely successful wellbeing empire.
But what’s funny is that this wasn’t the case until relatively recently. Rich Roll used to be a lawyer who found himself wrapped up in a drugs and alcohol addiction which led him down a dark path involving falling out with colleagues, landing himself in jails and eventually, into rehab.
It was only after discovering the plant based way of living (the day after his 40th birthday) that he found his love of fitness again. Fast forward a decade or so and this formerly overweight, drug addicted, alcoholic has now competed in ultra-marathons, ironman triathlons and just about anything else batshit crazy.
He is an absolute machine and has shown no signs of slowing down. Just a little taster of what a plant based diet can do for you.
We had to have some female representation in here! Venus Williams went plant based to battle her autoimmune disease and it ended up being the best decision she ever made.
After deciding to fuel her game with mostly plants, Venus has said she feels amazing every day on her plan. She has won 4 gold olympic medals and 7 grand slams. Not too shabby for someone fuelled by a few bits of broccoli and a smidgen of tofu is it?
Her main meals consist of greens, smoothies, tofu and the occasional bit of chicken or egg whites. It just goes to show that even the most elite athletes, athletes at the very top of their field, can sustain and improve their performance by making the switch to a plant based diet.
There are just too many plant based miracles to list here but there is an absolute library of them over on the Forks over Knives website. There are stories of people losing hundreds of pounds, beating heart attacks, reversing blindness and lung failure. It is absolutely astonishing what can be accomplished just by changing your dietary intake.
Have a read through a few of these and if they don’t convince you to go plant based, you may just be impossible to sway.
BEST FOODS TO EAT FOR OPTIMAL WELLBEING
Just cutting down on your animal product consumption is going to do wonders for your health but there are definitely some foods that will help you along the way to improving your health even further.
I’ve listed a few below and why they’re so good for you.
My favourite on this list by a mile. I absolutely love mushrooms, but I know they can be a tad marmite with some people. If you do like your shrooms though, you’re in for a treat when it comes to benefits.
They are packed with B vitamins, vitamin D and selenium. Along with this, they have medicinal qualities. They can help fight against tumours and may even help to fight neurological disorders such as Alzheimers.
Is there anything berries can’t do? I bet if you ate enough berries, you’d develop superpowers – although that’s just a theory, science hasn’t quite caught up yet.
But what science has told us so far is that berries can increase good HDL cholesterol, lower blood pressure, increase blood flow, increase energy and for the women – they may even help to preserve bone density during and after menopause.
My favourite food to consume for taste and performance. Pomegranate seeds taste so damn good in smoothies, yoghurts, oatmeal, whatever AND they help boost my performance whenever I need it.
This is because this sweet treat is one of the greatest foods for increasing blood flow along with watermelon. This helps to boost cardiovascular function and can help with erectile strength. Thank you sweet pomegranate.
Hopefully you’ve stopped having childhood nightmares of a big stick of broccoli chasing you down the street now and you’re finally ready to give this children’s arch nemesis a go.
I never understood why kids (and a lot of baby-like adults) don’t like broccoli. When it’s cooked, it’s tender, tasty and incredibly good for you. With a bit of salt on too it tastes unbelievable. So why do we eschew it?
Because of a weird stigma hangover from childhood! Because it’s a textbook joke, a lot of people never grow out of that phase and are missing out on one of the greatest superfoods about.
Broccoli is packed with nutrients and is particularly effective for men looking to flush oestrogen out of their system. It helps to lower the amount of this hormone in the body, meaning there is more free testosterone floating around to be used for making you feel bloody wonderful.
For both males and females though, broccoli is amazing for digestion, producing new cells in the body and for lowering bad cholesterol.
Quinoa is stupidly nutritious – almost comically so. It is so full of of nutrition goodness that you’d be stupid not to get it in you every day.
People who are worried about consuming grains and gluten – don’t worry. Quinoa is a seed technically and is gluten free. It is a great source of animal-free protein, carbs and fibre too.
In terms of micronutrient content, it is packed with iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium, folate, phosphorous, quercetin and B vitamins.
See, I told you it was stupidly nutritious. This is definitely one health trend that’s here to stay.
Tofu is made in the same way cheese is (using soya milk instead of cow’s milk). It therefore, has all the benefits of soya milk, but with none of the downsides of cow’s milk (cancer, etc).
It is the perfect main ingredient to big, cooked dinners and can act as a meaty central player to base your dish around. The fact that tofu takes on the flavours of everything around it makes it such a versatile ingredient too.
It can be fried, grilled, baked, scrambled – you name it, tofu can do it. This is what makes it such an indispensable weapon of the plant based diet.
Not only is it perfect as a meat substitute in all dishes, it is a genuine health food in its own right. Absolutely packed with protein, all 9 amino acids, iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc & vitamin B1 – this bean curd should be a staple in your diet.
For women – the fact that tofu may reduce your risk of or even help reverse breast cancer too is reason alone to include this one in your diet.
I eat oats every single morning. There’s a reason why they’re a staple in millions of people’s lives – they’re tasty and amazing for your health.
A simple bowl of oats can be loaded with lots of other tasty, healthy foods such as bananas, berries, chia seeds, flaxseed, almond milk, nuts and honey to make it the ultimate bowl of wellbeing.
However, on their own as a standalone health food, oats are the GOAT. Maybe we should start calling them GOATS lmao. Anyway, oats are gluten free (whuuuut), they are packed with vitamins and minerals such as manganese, iron and folate and they are cheap. This makes them the perfect way to start your day.
My recommendation for the optimal plant based morning would be to wake up, go through your morning routine, intermittent fast for the first few hours of the day, then break the fast with a bowl of GOATS, filled up with the other health foods listed above. This won’t spike your blood sugar too much and will give you balanced energy throughout the day without the need for external stimulants like coffee or Red Bull.
If there’s one food that’s associated with the plant based diet, it has to be the humble nay nay.
Packed full of potassium, these little babies are amazing for an energy boost, helping cramped muscles, aiding athletic performance and even protecting your heart.
They are sweet and can be used in virtually any dish. Add them, along with a few dates, into a smoothie for the ultimate sweet treat that has no downside. They also help with digestion which is fantastic when you are eating large, wholesome meals.
Eat ’em raw, fry ’em, steam ’em, bake ’em – the bell pepper is a versatile little bugger. They are tasty and surprisingly dense in nutrients. They also have 200% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C – take that, oranges.
They are also full of B vitamins, folate and antioxidants – all fantastic nutrients for those looking to improve overall health and performance. They are excellent at aiding recovery and they add a lovely dimension to any sort of meal. Maybe just don’t put them in your oats, yeah?
Popeye’s favourite – and with good reason. Spinach is packed with so many vitamins such as Iron, Vitamins A, C & K1, fibre.
It can have profound effects on eye health, cancer prevention and just about anything else you can shake a stick at. It can be eaten raw or cooked and has a great taste. Throw a couple of handfuls in with every cooked meal. It will wilt down so you barely notice it but will give you amazing benefits.
AVOID (MOST OF THE TIME)
Now for some of the foods you should avoid most of the time. I’m not saying eradicate them, but just beware that continuing to consume these foods at the level us humans do, will lead to disease, obesity and early death – probably.
Yes, even olive oil. Oils are tasty and great for cooking but apart from avocado and coconut oil, their nutrient profiles are severely unbalanced.
With the exception of the two mentioned above, oils have a rather low smoking point, which means cooking with them releases cancer causing carcinogens – not the most fun alliteration to read…
Their omega ratios are out of whack too, with far higher levels of 6 than 3, which may cause heart problems further down the line. If you’re going to cook or drizzle oils, then use coconut or avocado. Better yet, use shallow frying with water instead of oil as this is just as effective, but far healthier.
I do believe eggs are pretty healthy to be honest – their yolks are packed with vitamins and powerful hormone precursors but I can’t look past the fact that they are packed with fat and cholesterol.
Now, some may argue that dietary cholesterol doesn’t affect overall cholesterol levels – I certainly have in the past, but is it really a risk you need to take? If it does, then eggs are certainly the biggest offender out of any food type.
If you really are desperate for some eggs though, limit yourself to a few free range, organic ones per week. This reduces the carbon footprint, the animal suffering and potentially, your health risk.
Everyone’s favourite comfort food. Pizza? Cheese on it. Bit of toast? Cheese on it. Seeing your newborn baby for the first time? Let’s put some cheese on it.
It tastes phenomenal but what it does to your arteries isn’t quite up to that same level. Cheese is a good source of calcium but so are many other plant based foods. Weigh this up against the huge saturated fat content, the amount of sodium and exogenous hormones in your average block of the good stuff and the disadvantages are starting to heavily outweigh the benefits.
If you really need that cheese fix, try out some plant based cheeses. You’ll be surprised at just how good they are. Remember, we’re living in the 21st century, progress has been made.
We all know it deep down, meat just ain’t that good for us. It may taste divine but the dead animals we have come to rely on for our culinary pleasure are killing us.
After the world health organisation brought to light their research outlining how red meat in particular, was a direct cause of cancer – it seemed like meat’s days were over.
And they pretty much are. I believe that we should see meat as a luxury, not something that we rely on every day for the bulk of our calories. Listen, I know it’s a great source of protein and does pack some great nutrients but if cigarettes packed the same sort of punch, would you start smoking 50 a day? I doubt it.
You can get your protein from far healthier, sustainable sources that won’t put you in an early grave.
God damn I love bread. But it just isn’t that good for me – so I limit it.
Sounds easy doesn’t it. That’s because it is! How about this: just don’t buy a loaf in your weekly shop. There is the answer to how to eat less bread.
Unfortunately, the bread that most of us consume is full of additives, salt and god knows what else. It’s also got the evil gluten demon floating about in its nutrient makeup. This is responsible for all the bloating and water retention that comes with regular bread intake.
If you pay a bit more, or make it yourself, bread can actually be pretty good though. If you do make it yourself then go ahead and have it every day! But as for the mass produced stuff – steer well clear.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Here are some of the most common questions that are posed to anyone embarking on a plant based diet and are even more prominent if you go completely animal-free (I have had every single one of these questions).
In most cases, I find people are just genuinely interested and actually want to be educated. If they don’t ask though, don’t bring any of these up because it bores people and can actually put them off trying out a plant based diet for themselves.
These FAQ’s may well answer some of your burning questions too. If you do have any other questions though, feel free to comment at the end of the article and I will get back to everyone.
Q: I’VE HEARD THE PLANT BASED DIET IS TOO EXPENSIVE?
A: Absolute nonsense. Unless you’re buying some mad marketing ploys like special coconut milk that’s in a solid gold glass, then the plant based diet is absolutely dirt cheap.
Next time you do the weekly shop, take a look inside your basket and see what the most expensive items are. With the exception of your weekly condom and wine haul, my guess is it’ll be the meat, followed by some form of dairy product (cheese and yoghurt can get rather expensive).
Then take a look at whatever fruit and veg you’ve got in there. Potatoes are cheaper than cheap, apples are practically free and bananas cost 45 times less than an hour’s wage. It’s plainly obvious that going plant based is in fact going to be easier on your pursestrings than a traditional western diet.
Q: ISN’T IT BORING?
A: Not in the slightest. A plant based diet will open you up to so many new recipes and ways of thinking about food. Your palette will no longer be numbed by massive plates of meat and cheese covered in salt and sauce.
You’ll learn new food combos, new cooking techniques, ingenuitive ways of repurposing food and you’ll also get to grips with how to properly flavour and season food – not just lather it in tomato sauce or mayonnaise.
I found after going plant based, I started to cook a lot more different meals, I started to enjoy my cooking again and often made it a social activity instead of just plain old ‘meal prep’ to get me by for the day.
Q: IS SOY SAFE?
A: Ah the plant based staple.
Where the soy/man boobs-esque argument came from is anyone’s guess, but one thing’s for sure – it’s not true. Tofu (the main thing people think of when it comes to soy) is simply the curd of the soybean and is extremely beneficial.
Soy has been a mainstay in Asian diets for thousands of years and believe or not, Asians have the highest average testosterone levels of all continents across the globe. This thoroughly debunks the ‘soy boy’ emasculated male myth that people tend to lean on when criticising plat based folks.
But what about the women? No doubt you’ve heard someone talk about soy causing breast cancer at some point? Well in fact, the opposite is true. Soy has protective benefits against breast cancer. It also protects against prostate cancer and heart disease whilst reducing the risk of cancer recurring in those who have had it previously.
Q: I HEARD ABOUT THIS GUY WHO LOST SO MUCH WEIGHT ON A PLANT BASED DIET THAT HE DIED!!!
A: Weight loss on a plant based diet is almost inevitable. But this weight will be fat weight, trust me. If you keep your calories as high as previously with sufficient protein, you will still drop fat weight even though you are consuming the same calories.
Why this is, I’m not quite sure but I believe it might be to do with getting rid of the hormone and antibiotic filled animal produce and switching to a cleaner way of eating that agrees with your body more. This will reduce your bloating, may cause you to lose some water weight and will help flush your body of animal-carried toxins.
These can be the reason that your body hangs on to extra fat around your belly and hips as fat has preventative properties against toxins in the body. Getting rid of them will help your body shrink these stores as not as much is needed. Sounds a bit pseudoscience-y I know but the last part is definitely verifiable in mainstream science.
A caveat now though. When you make the switch from an animal product heavy diet to a diet rich in plants, you will naturally eat less calories.
Whilst you may be eating the same volume of food, the overall caloric value of these foods will be far lower. 100g of beef and 100g of spinach most certainly do not contain the same amount of calories…
With this in mind, make sure you do your research before setting up your meal plan. You need to be getting enough calories and enough protein. Fats and carbs will look after themselves.
Use an app like Myfitnesspal to help get your calories and protein in check so you don’t become one of those idiots who claims that a plant based diet doesn’t work because they thought a lick of a cucumber and a cube of tempeh would sustain them in the long term.
Q: WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR PROTEIN FROM?
A: Everywhere! However, the main sources are lentils, tofu, chickpeas & kidney beans. There are also lots of secondary and tertiary sources of protein such as oats, sweet potatoes, peanut butter, spinach & protein powders.
If you can get 100g+ of protein in your plant based diet then you are winning. People think this is some impossible task but it really, really isn’t. If it was that hard, you wouldn’t have so many plant based bodybuilders building huge physiques and blowing their animal based competitors out of the water.
Basically, everything adds up. There is an issue that naysayers bring up regularly which is complete protein (a protein made up of all 9 essential amino acids). This is sort of important but in reality, as long as your protein sources are varied throughout the day, you will get the full range of amino acids that your body needs. Don’t sweat it.
Q: WILL I NEED TO INJECT MYSELF WITH NUTRIENTS THAT I’M MISSING OUT ON?
Short answer: No.
Long answer: Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.
But you might have to take some supplements just to protect yourself and fill in any sort of nutritional gaps that may arise.
If your diet is well balanced in terms of your food coming from different, whole food sources, then this shouldn’t be a problem at all. If you are super concerned though, get yourself a b12 supplement or even a multivitamin and then go from there.
Q: MY NEIGHBOUR SAID CARBS WERE EVIL?
Your neighbour hasn’t got a bloody clue then! Carbs are essential for life. Your body’s primary fuel source is Glucose, aka, carbs. Limiting carbs makes you feel absolutely horrible, which is why low carb diets never work long term and are only used in athletes when they are trying to deplete themselves of water quickly.
Some people who love the Ketogenic diet will be screaming at their screens shouting all sorts of obscenities at me but in reality, the keto diet is a fad and always will be a fad. When you look into any sort of supporting research for its long term health benefits, the majority of it is flawed.
Go plant based and save yourself the hassle.
Q: BUT, B12?
This is the big one that anyone who criticises the plant based diet brings up. However, it’s the most easily refuted claim out there. B12 can be taken as a little pill or it can be obtained in fresh water (sort of) and fortified milks.
It’s as easy as that and it simply cannot be used as a way to criticise a diet that has cured and even reversed disease, granted higher quality of life to thousands and reduces harm to animals and the environment.
Don’t stress is what I’m trying to say. The whole b12 thing has been blown so far out of proportion that no one even knows what it does or why it’s important anymore. They just know plant based folks DEFINITELY CAN’T GET IT!!! Although that’s a flat out lie so hey ho.
Q: BACON THO?
A: Yeah you’ve got me there, bacon tho is an irrefutable weakness in a plant based diet.
Oh wait, no it’s not.
At the end of the day, if you have a craving for bacon, have some bacon. But once it’s dehydrated you from all the salt in it and has made you feel stuffed and lethargic, you’ll soon learn that it’s not really the fuel that your body needs.
Listen, I’m not saying you can’t have some of that sweet, sweet bacon – you can, but you’ll feel so much better if you looked for alternatives. If you can find a new, plant based comfort food, you will feel so much better. I sometimes go for the meat replacements or even go a bit sweeter and go for a few peanut butter bagels.
Here are some of the most popular and easy to make plant-based dishes out there. I’ll leave some recipe links beneath them too so you can get started on your plant based meals without any effort at all. It’s basically all done for you, all you have to do is cook the god damn thing!
I’ll also include the cooking times of each one so you know which ones you want to invest your clicks in.
HOMEMADE VEGGIE BURGER
CREAMY GARLIC PASTA
TIPS TO SUPERCHARGE YOUR PLANT BASED DIET
These are just a few little tips that will help you feel even better on your plant based journey. I use the below tips to have energy all day and very rarely ever have the need for a coffee, despite waking up at 5am every morning.
I know that all sounds a bit too good to be true but trust me on this one, these tips, plus a plant based diet, will help you develop the lust for life of a young Iggy Pop.
MACA & ASHWAGANDHA
This potent little combo is something I would recommend to anyone.
Let’s start with Maca. Maca is technically a cruciferous vegetable, but is consumed in ground powder form. Some people aren’t sold on Maca’s effectiveness but one thing is for sure – I am.
Maca can boost brain function, energy, stamina, sex drive and potentially even fertility. I must say, after about a week of using Maca I felt the benefits big time. It may well be a placebo but I am certain it’s not. Given that it’s also cheap as chips, you’d be mad not to give it a shot.
Now ashwagandha. This second herb is my favourite. It can also be consumed in ground powder form or taken in extract form (known as KSM-66). Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, which means it helps your body manage stress effectively.
This can be great for men looking to increase testosterone and anyone in general looking to manage stress, anxiety & cortisol naturally.
It can also boost muscular performance, stamina and reduce inflammation in the body which are all things that a plant based diet will help with too, making the introduction of these two herbs into your life one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.
A word of warning though – pregnant & breastfeeding women should give it a miss, just as a precaution.
HERBS AND SPICES IN GENERAL
You should be looking into herbs and spices in general as they are fantastic for you – not to mention they taste absolutely fantastic. Things like turmeric, cumin and oregano will all add a massive kick to meals, but they will give you lots of other health benefits too.
Turmeric especially is fantastic for reducing inflammation in the body, increasing the antioxidant capacity of the body and also lowering the risk of brain diseases. Just be sure to have it with some black pepper as pepper helps turmeric to be absorbed into the blood. Without black pepper, it isn’t absorbed very well at all by the body so bear this in mind.
Without doubt the best way to funnel mounds of nutrients into your body quickly and efficiently, the humble smoothie is the plant based warrior’s secret weapon.
You can throw a whole host of fruits and veggies into a blender and make it taste amazing with a bit of flavouring from protein powder, etc. I usually load up a smoothie with minimum, 3 pieces of fruit, some from of veggie, some herbs and a scoop of protein to get as many nutrients as possible, as easily as possible.
If you’re stuck for ideas, do a bit of research on Google you lazy bugger.
Currently, I don’t use too many supplements as my diet includes a pretty wide variety of plant based foods that meet my nutrient quota for the day.
But if you want somewhere to start, here’s what I’m using:
15mg, 3 times a week
Almond milk enriched with calcium & B12
And that’s it! Of course I use the herbs I mentioned above but I wouldn’t class them as a supplement as I throw them in my smoothies. Using these three has helped eliminate any sort of deficiency I may have.
To be quite honest, you’d probably have far more deficiencies on a normal Western diet so covering these bases doesn’t stress me out at all. I would definitely recommend enriched almond/coconut milk as an alternative to conventional milk to anyone. It basically acts as a supplement with the added nutrients, it tastes great, doesn’t cause any lactose stress and doesn’t contain cancer causing IGF-1.
HOW TO START YOUR PLANT BASED DIET TODAY
Don’t wait until the new year or a new week to start your plant based diet. I find that starting afresh never seems to work for me. If I start say, on a random day, it makes the activity feel normal and I am far less likely to quit after the initial buzz has worn off.
Making something feel like the norm straight off the bat is the best way to keep on with a habit. However, if you feel like you need a fresh start to get motivated for something, then I get that too.
But all I’m saying is don’t make a big deal out of it. You’re not doing some super crazy diet, you’re just beginning to eat like a human should – waking up, if you will.
You can start today by filling your plate with less meat and more veg, eating an extra piece of fruit or even just having a coffee with no milk in. These baby steps on your first day can help ease yourself in for the bigger change further down the line.
We now find ourselves at the end, my plant based warrior. Are you ready to take the plunge and start running on broccoli florets and kale stems?
I hope you are.
Now we just need to guarantee longevity. All you need to do is to NOT LABEL this diet. Don’t go round telling people you are plant based, just eat a ton of fresh food and enjoy your life.
If you feel like you’re getting cravings for some sweet, sweet animal produce then that’s fine. It’s normal and you can totally go and have something. Just make sure it’s what you really want and then don’t beat yourself up after it. That is the whole point of the diet, it’s long term and there are going to be cravings. As long as you keep them cravings satisfied and less than 15% of your total calories then I don’t see a problem, do you?
If you have gotten this far down then I’d just like to say thank you for reading one of the longest articles I’ve ever written and thank you for hopefully viewing this topic with an open mind.
All that’s left to say now is – go plant based.