Allow me to enlighten you on the reasons I choose a plant-based diet. Ten years ago, eating only “vegetables” would have seemed unfathomable to me. I am not really sure where I first got the notion to venture into the meatless and less-meat universe, or when I started really caring more about my health – mental and physical. I don’t ever recall meeting anyone vegetarian that immediately changed my mind. Perhaps I began reconsidering meat consumption when I took a job in the local mom-and-pop’s grocery store when I was a senior in high school. I was and still am grateful to have had this job, but I do remember being not-so-thrilled by the slabs of meat that came across my register’s conveyor belt; people never put it in bags and it left such a mess. We’d always laugh if off though, not really thinking about exactly what that was on our registers – it was the blood and bodily fluids of a dead creature.
Perhaps it was when a former friend of mine introduced me to sushi – a new and exciting world of flavors and foods! So much for a girl growing up in the country. And, surprise!, even the fact that some sushi rolls are meatless maybe intrigued me! Maybe it was the vegan friend who introduced me to tofu. Perhaps it was my worldly-minded friend in college who introduced me to Thai food, or my half-Filipino best friend who introduced me to cuisine of the South Pacific. I think it really may have to do with simply discovering just how many different types of food are actually out there in the world and realizing that “delicious” can have more than one definition. I do call myself a “flavor-whore,” as funny as it sounds – I am obsessed with savoring as many complex and unique flavors as I possibly can – even better if all those flavors are in one bite. Being plant-based doesn’t mean that you “can’t” eat this or “can’t” eat that – it’s about the amazing possibilities of what you CAN eat and learn to truly enjoy. As I have said before, “it’s about taking your taste buds on the ride of their life!”
It was tough transitioning at first, because I thought all I could eat was salad; my husband made this same mistake too. Now we can “lol” about it, but it’s a psychological shift that must occur. Meat is NOT the center of my plate – the tofu is my “meat”, the pasta is the main dish, the protein is in the side dish this time, etc. It actually makes me laugh when people, who know that I consume mainly plants, ask me what I eat (assuming it’s carrot sticks and iceberg lettuce), or start going on about the poor little piggies on the chopping block (which is sad/gross), or about how delicious their rare steak was the night before. I won’t lie – we know some meat tastes good. I would be lying if I said it did not. But for health reasons I have chosen to avoid it, and my tastes have changed. I have also chosen to avoid most dairy and eggs. Why dairy? Because I am lactose intolerant! Eggs? Because I think the cholesterol is bad and they were just a little too close to that chicken.
Awareness is probably the biggest reason I have chosen this style of diet; the importance of this choice has been proven to me recently. My husband went in for a check up at the doctor and got a doozy of a blood test performed – just because he is 34, hadn’t had a check up in God knows when and was also curious to see how much this plant based lifestyle is working for him. To our pleasant surprise, his triglyceride level was extremely low, and his other numbers were in the excellent range if not below the charts. I’m not an expert, but I think that’s pretty good. According to WebMD, normal triglyceride levels should be 150 or lower, and “The mean level of triglycerides for American adults age 20 and older is 144.2 mg/dl.”*If that doesn’t speak volumes, not sure what does! Back in May 2012, I had my numbers evaluated too. My Total Cholesterol was 164, LDL 94, HDL 51 and Triglycerides also 94. My choices are validated.
Overall, I am very satisfed with my plant-based choices. I don’t feel like I am missing anything in my diet. Another thing that also amazes me: people question where I get my protein. Plant sources, of course! Trust me, I read The China Study, and that book not only assured me that my choices were true and correct, but not to mention, it scared me to think just how…I don’t know the right word…Conniving? Dishonest? Manipulative? Deceptive? Harmful? SCARY? I just can’t think of one word that fully describes the abomination of the processed food industry and the meat/dairy industries. It’s been proven, by what I see as an unbiased study (The China Study), that animal-based diets are one of the roots of illness (heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, etc.). Many people still don’t believe me and just write me off as “crazy” or some kind of neo-hippie who eats alfalfa sprouts and dandelion greens for breakfast. Although, I love alfalfa sprouts…even as a young child I loved them on sandwiches!
I have been pleasantly surprised to find how interested that my mother is in a plant-based diet. Granted, we didn’t eat much red meat growing up, but we still did consume meat and the occasional fast food. I will give major props to my family for making sure that most of our meals were home cooked on a daily basis, by my hard-working, caring mom. Little did I realize until I ventured into the plant-based world, that those meals of “country vegetables” (“Ewww, no! Not vegetables again, mommy!”) – black eyed peas, boiled okra, fried green tomatoes, with a side of garden fresh peppers, tomatoes and radishes – were actually vegetarian meals! Oh, and can’t forget the amazing, delicious turnip greens. I crave them and make my mother prepare them for me every time I visit Alabama! We were raised in a health-conscious family – we walked the neighborhood almost daily, and my parents, who are now in their 60’s, still do this on a daily basis. It was surprising (and kind of cute) when my mother, during one of our daily phone calls, randomly asked me, “What kind of ‘fake’ cheese can I buy? Where do I get it?” I almost swallowed my tongue, but proceeded to enlighten her about some of my favorite brands like Galaxy Nutritional Foods, Tofutti, and Turtle Mountain. Actually, she has been drinking soy milk, like the Silk brand, for probably 5 years. I know it might be hard for her to make the transition, but AWARENESS is a start. She now enjoys a tofu Eggless Salad Sandwich pretty much every day for lunch with fresh avocado, tomato and whatever other vegetable she feels like putting on it.
“What Your Cholesterol Levels Mean.” Online. July 29, 2011. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/What-Your-Cholesterol-Levels-Mean_UCM_305562_Article.jsp