Although we have many surgical options and topical treatments, wounds will not heal if the patient is not well nourished. Source
According to this article from Beth Israel Medical Center in NYC, good nutrition helps heal wounds quicker and with less pain, discomfort, and scarring.
The healing process includes three phases all of which need the proper nutrients including adequate calories, protein, and vitamins. Plant-based foods provide an abundance of great nutrients all of which play a role in returning the body to wonderful health.
It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Source
Common questions about vegan diets usually center around protein requirements and worries about deficiencies. Yet, plant-based diets do provide enough protein according to many doctors, scientists, and the American Dietetic Association as per the statement above. Why is this? Here is how the question of getting enough protein might be answered.
First, by switching to a plant-based diet, you are actually bringing down protein intake to healthy levels! There is confusion about the amount of protein needed from any source. The RDA which has been supported since the 1940s suggests that we only need 8-10% of total calories from protein and current calculations confirm this. The RDA statistically represents 98% of the population, not the average. The estimated average requirement (two standard deviations below the RDA) for the amount of protein we need is even less. Plant-based protein provides around 10% of total calories which is at the high end of the daily requirement. Therefore, by eating a WFPB diet, you are getting healthy and sufficient amounts of this nutrient as stated by the ADA. A meat-based diet actually provides higher levels of protein than the RDA which can be remedied simply by changing protein sources.
Second, meat-based protein is actually less valuable for our health compared to plant-based protein! Historically the quality of the animal protein has been wrongly portrayed by not looking at the side-effects. The high biological value of meat protein refers to the fact that its amino acid content is similar to humans which does increase its efficiency of use in the body. However, this level of efficiency may not be entirely desirable since is accelerates growth rates unnecessarily and can initiate and promote cancer. It also delivers unneeded cholesterol and saturated fats which may induce many additional problems.
Third, all nutrients work in symphony with each other! There has been too much value placed on protein as a single nutrient in the diet. By eating a range of plant-based whole foods, you actually receive the full range of amino acids, complex carbohydrates, and anti-oxidants necessary for balanced health along with a wealth of vitamins and minerals which are less abundant in meat products. In fact, many vegetables contain a sufficient amount and range of amino acids individually and, if any one is lacking, the body uses its store of amino acids to build the protein. Further, combining meat and plant proteins actually inhibits the value of the plant nutrients, so even a flexitarian diet is not necessary to achieve protein requirements, although it is a good way for those wanting to become vegan to start. All nutrients working together promote great health and this should be the main focus instead of fixating on just one part of the equation.
So by dismissing plant-proteins because of perceptions that have been created over time about the value of animal-protein and the weakness of plant-protein, one could be risking health and happiness outcomes which research and disease statistics associated with meat-based diets often confirms.
Veganism is not social activism. Veganism is community.
Yes, 70 billion animals will lose their lives this year for food, some even boiled alive in pots.
Yes, 7 out of 10 of the most prevalent chronic diseases have been linked to animal-based diets.
Yes, animals do feel terror, loneliness, and depression.
Yes, colon cancer and breast cancer may be largely preventable through plant-based diets.
Yes, more land is used to grow crops for animals than for humans.
Yes, the solvable problem of malnourishment is still a major dilemma globally and locally in children.
Yes, processed foods are still marketed as being healthy, even though they are not.
Yes, meat is still considered to be the most healthy protein in spite of the mounting health risks.
Yes, animal agriculture is changing the landscape and climate of the planet.
But at the heart of veganism is a binding belief that personal health, longevity, compassion and happiness can all be achieved by eating certain foods and avoiding others and that by joining each other in a common community espousing a harmless way of life, we have the ability to enjoy, sustain, and give deeper meaning to it for our own enrichment as well as for all of the human and non human beings and entities with which we have such long-standing and inter-dependent relationships.
Imagine living in a housing estate where an organic farm is the center of the community instead of a golf course or a town park! Many real estate developers see this as the model of the future according to this article from the Des Moines Register. It takes the concept of urban farming to a new level. Since interest in locally grown food has increased and the farm-to-table concept has been popularized, this living model addresses an expanding need in a nice way!
One can envision an suburban community where the farm is a short walk down the street and families rely on the fresh organic ingredients it provides daily in their cooking. They learn to grow and harvest their own food and cook it as well. As mentioned in previous blog posts, easy access to quality vegetables is a key motivation for eating them. These conservation communities solve this problem in a big way!
Having food grown in your backyard can be exciting, Cleverley said. “There are very few things that are more rewarding than walking into a field and bringing back dinner,” he said. Source
"Farms have become the new golf course," according to a senior fellow at Urban Land Institute in Washington, D.C. who estimates that there are close to 200 such developments nationally now. This is very beneficial for those who want alternatives to the classic development around a golf course, constructed lake, or other resource which is great for occasional leisure but doesn't directly improve the lifestyle of the majority of the people who live there. A gardening community within a metropolitan area will help those who use it potentially eat better and enjoy the food more. For those who already eat healthy and want to utilize the convenience of such a development, it's a fantastic opportunity!
“When I was a kid, almost every farm had a garden. Those are good memories for a lot of people — being in a garden with their grandparents or sitting around a table, shelling peas” with their parents. “People would like to recapture that feeling,” said Cleverley, who will likely help Hubbell develop the plan for the project’s organic farm. Source
One mission of the vegan lifestyle is to conserve energy and use renewable sources to limit environmental degradation as much as possible. The growth of solar and wind power has been helpful in this regard. However, one limitation has been the ability to store electrical energy in a way that is inexpensive, safe, and able to meet growing demand.
University scientists are now developing ways to do this with batteries that use plant-based organic chemicals which will make this storage technology more affordable, effective, and safer than using traditional non-organic materials according to this article. This development could make solar and wind even more capable of replacing energy derived from fossil fuels. If this technology is successfully developed and becomes repeatable on an industrial scale, it can increase the use of important renewable energy sources at a time when we need it the most!
Although I sometimes forget about supplementing my vegan diet with vitamin B12, it's always important to remember to do so. As mentioned is this previous post, this vitamin supports brain function and the nervous system. However, in the recent study from Sweden at the University of Gothenburg (in partnership with the NIH) which studied 1,000 men, it was found that older men with lower levels of B12 were more at risk for bone fractures.
Although only the men with serious deficiencies of B12 were to be treated, the main recommendation to prevent bone density loss was to get plenty of exercise, an activity that seems to improve bone strength over time.
Vegans can supplement B12 in their diets with nutritional yeast, fortified non-dairy milk, vegan yogurt, and some tofu products.
Several months ago, I attended a conference unrelated to veganism which served a sit-down lunch in a room separate from the seminar hall. As I walked into the room filled with large round tables covered with white table cloths, I noticed one that had a sign on a small stand in the middle. It was labeled, 'vegetarian.' I thought it was very considerate so I sat down at the empty table and waited to see who else would join me.
Happily, the table filled up quickly with quite a few interesting people. Some were vegan or vegetarian, and others were not but wanted to try to the food. We had a fun lunch and we all shared great stories of food, restaurants, and nutrition. Most interesting of all was the man who sat next to me. He was very kind and told me that he had been suffering from arthritis in his hands for a very long time, so much so, that he had trouble going to work.
After learning that I had been a vegan for a while, he explained that a friend had recommended that he try going vegetarian or vegan to see if that would alleviate his condition. I asked if it worked. With an easy smile, he reached over and picked up my water glass and held it firmly in his hand over my plate. I didn't know what to say until he said that before he switched to a plant-based diet, his hands shook so much that he would have probably spilled the water right onto my food. I re-looked at his hand holding the glass and it was as steady as anyone's. He set the water glass back down and gleamed saying the new diet completely changed his life.
According to this article by Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz, "...a nutritious vegan diet with...a wide variety of veggies and fruits...can ease arthritis pain and help prevent other inflammatory conditions..." In addition, the diet has benefits for achieving a lower body-mass index which is a good way to "control bodywide inflammation."
After lunch, I returned to the seminar hall and felt very good for the man whose symptoms had been alleviated by changing his diet. It was a nice affirmation of the benefits of vegan ingredients and motivated me to share his story!
According to this article from NPR, consumers in Sao Paulo, the capital mega-city, who want organic produce now have more options to find it at local farmers' markets. The city has seen a rise in small markets selling pesticide free vegetables and fruits and the demand has been strong. Brazil has developed one of the world's largest agriculture economies, but also uses "more pesticides per volume of crop than farmers in any other county."
Brazilians are becoming more aware of this trend and are choosing to cook with organic vegetables. Fortunately, they have more locations to find them. The prices appear to be dropping as well.
As mentioned in a previous blog post, cooking healthy frequently depends many times on consistent availability, quality, and access to good produce. The growth of organic markets across that enormous city will likely help residents in this way!
The benefits of veganism are powerful and can potentially alleviate the conditions of those in need. Sometimes all that's needed is a suggestion, a delicious meal, or a positive experience for someone to try it and see for themselves. It's never a waste of time to explain to people what a plant-based diet is and how it helps. The change they may live is always worth the effort. This testimonial from WKSU.org shows what can happen.
Jim Converse has no doubt what would have happened to him if he hadn’t gone vegetarian. “I would have died. My body just collects too much cholesterol.” But changing his diet worked. “I’m still alive. Pretty healthy. Feeling good, yeah, and enjoying it, too.”
Per the article, this individual experienced two heart attacks which he attributed to his diet and then decided to go vegetarian, having been around organic farming for many years. Since adopting a plant-based lifestyle, he's dropped weight and feels good. He manages two farmer's market where the local hospitals are involved by writing prescriptions to buy vegetables called 'Food RX' for patients who suffer from obesity or diabetes. "Some people have lost substantial amounts of weight and they've had real benefits from eating better," explained Converse.
Having seen the health improvements himself and among the visitors of the farmer's market, he often shares diet and cooking tips with the regulars. In fact, a small community of people interested in his style of cooking has grown and bonded from the effort to the point where "most of the regulars know him and many seek his advise."
It's a fine testimonial and inspiring to see how so many people have gained from one person's knowledge and experience with the vegetarian diet! The more this can happen, the better!
Everybody enjoys eating, and when you have a big family meal, pot roast, mashed potatoes and gravy and everything, you just eat it. And that’s the way we ate growing up. I’m kind of losing out on some of the things I really like, but it’s just healthier. And I want to live to be 80.....It’s kind of a spiritual commitment to take care of yourself.
Principal Bob Groff said since Active Learning Elementary School, or P.S. 244, in Flushing, NY, started serving vegetarian fare for breakfast and lunch earlier this year, student health has shown an all-around improvement.
The positive results from PS 244 in New York after it began serving vegetarian food to its students are a wonderful example of how a change in diet can make a difference. Not only are the students more balanced, but also their chances of long term chronic illness are being reduced and they are learning about how to eat well early on, making it easier to sustain throughout life.
As discussed in this previous blog post the school decided to make the switch when they started to offer more vegetarian meals and noticed that students gravitated towards those selections. According to this article research suggest that when schools offer healthy food options, "students will select them, eat them, and improve their diet." The case of PS 244 provides amble support for this observation.
Since the body and mind are so closely interlinked, PS 244 has shown that educating the mind as well as caring for the body through proper nutrition will help students achieve their full potential and gets high marks for the effort!
Make Simple Vegan Meals