An Introduction To Plant-Based Nutrition

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I’ve been hopping on the eco train quite a bit lately. Between swearing off fast fashion, and reducing my participation in single-use plastic utensils, I like to fancy myself a bit of an environmental enthusiast. However, there’s one environmental impact that I haven’t discussed yet and that’s food supply - specifically animal agriculture.

The American animal agriculture industry has been under quite a bit of criticism since the release of Cowspiracy, especially for its inhumane treatment of animals. And not only is it inhumane, it’s detrimental to our environment. Animal agriculture produces an incredible volume of air pollutants, such as particulate matter, ozone precursors, and greenhouse gasses [1].

However, it’s difficult to associate adorable, fluffy little chicks we coo over, with the dino nuggets we chow down on at 2 am. It’s also hard to cut out animal products all together when they’re way more affordable due to government subsidies and more convenient. Between breakfast cereal and pre-prepared foods, it’s incredibly difficult to find plant-based substitutes at the same cost of their animal-based counterparts.

Vegetarianism has been around since Pythagoras (I kid you not), but was regarded as a relatively alternative lifestyle until the publication of Frances Moore Lappé’s Diet for a Small Planet in 1971. However, the lifestyle change to a completely vegetarian or vegan diet is difficult when those dino nuggets taste so good. Also, it’s not feasible for everyone - especially those with health problems.

Enter: gradually introducing plant-based diets.

Instead of trying to switch over to the green side in one fell swoop that inevitable ends in failure, making a gradual lifestyle change incorporating more meatless Mondays, and eating lower of the food chain is a much more sustainable way to go over to the green side. It’s all about the little changes, like ordering a tofu stir-fry, rather than the chicken one.

I don’t live a completely plant-based lifestyle, nor do I ever truly think I will make the transition to live one. The food I’ve known to grow and love, and is a part of my identity and culture, is meat-based. However, I don’t think that it’s necessarily a bad thing. Just staying mindful of what we put into our bodies and how it got onto our plates is important.

Going green doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. Any effort, big or small, is better than none at all.

 

Some Advice On eating Green

If you’re hungry, eat more.

Plants-based meals generally have fewer calories than animal-based ones do. So if you’re hungry, just eat more! If your plate is full of vibrant produce, eating that second serving won’t hurt.

Bloating is real

The fiber content in vegetables and fruit is unreal, so let this be a warning to you now. You will bloat. A lot. I sure as heck did. Be sure to drink a lot of water to allow things to, uh, pass through a little easier.

Take a b12 supplement

Especially if you’re going all day without eating any animal products. B12 is a vitamin essential for red blood cell formation, neurological function and DNA synthesis [2]. It’s commonly found in animal products, but is harder to find in plant-based ones. Either a b12 supplement or some nutritional yeast can help combat a b12 deficiency.