Royston, Buntingford & South Cambridgeshire

Week 25 – Choosing a plant-based diet

Hello and welcome to this week’s Giving Tuesday!

We thought we might switch from our hobby reviews this week and take a look at other ways we can improve our mental and physical well-being.

One of these is through lifestyle changes, such as switching to a plant-based diet.

This might sound rather intimidating at first: as if we don’t have enough to do already, managing jobs, homes, children and worries! But, if lifestyle changes are tackled in small, achievable steps, it’s not as bad as we might think.

Vegetarianism through the ages

Plant-based diets aren’t a new concept: Pythagoras (the chap who came up with the Theorem about calculating triangle sizes) adopted an all-plant diet in the 6th Century BC, and other philosophers copied him. This resulted eventually in the 3rd Century book “On Abstinence from Animal Food” written by Porphyry.

Indian Emperor Ashoka, in 304 BC, decreed that his people should abstain from meat eating, as did the Japanese Emperor Tenmu in AD 675.
Leonardo Da Vinci became a vegetarian in the 1400s, and Benjamin Franklin in the 1700s.

These days, almost every menu includes not only vegetarian options but vegan too, and the supermarket shelves are stocked with plant-based alternatives to meat.

Are plant-based foods really better for you?

According to the UK’s nutrition charity, British Nutrition Foundation, eating a plant-based diet has many benefits, but (they hasten to point out) does not necessarily mean excluding all meat and meat products. A diet consisting of mostly plant-based foods, but including meat and meat products is known as ‘flexitarianism’ or ‘casual vegetarianism’.

Studies have indicated that people following a plant-based diet have a reduced risk of heart disease, strokes and type 2 diabetes when compared with other dietary patterns. Recent research also indicates that healthy plant-based diets can have beneficial effects by lowering blood pressure, reducing blood cholesterol and promoting a healthy body weight.

A side-effect of these benefits is that mental health will improve, as the physical body gets healthier. The food choices we make impact our moods, which in turn will impact on our mental and physical health. Click here to take a look at what mental health charity Mind have to say about it.

Plus, there are the environmental concerns: agriculture that focuses on crop production, rather than meat or dairy, is much “greener”, arable farms require less water than a dairy farm, for example, and produces significantly less CO2. There are also animal welfare issues which have recently prompted greater interest in a plant-based lifestyle.

So, eating a plant-based diet is good for your health and the planet.

Making the switch

“OK, but asking my family to eat plant-based food sounds a bit daunting…”.
Yes, it definitely does! Anyone who has a fussy toddler knows how difficult it is to introduce new foodstuffs, let alone persuade a whole family to switch to a new way of eating.

Our inspiring supporter, Pippa, has kindly agreed to talk about how she has found switching her family to a vegan lifestyle. Watch her video here:

If veganism is something you have thought about, or want to know more about, then why not check out some of these online guides:

And, if you’re not quite sure you’re ready to go all the way yet, take a look at the amazing recipes on The Flexiarian website – they’re yummy for your tummy!

We’d really love to know how you get on, so why not send us your favourite vegan, vegetarian or plant-based flexitarian meal? We promise to try it out!

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