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Happy Heart: Plant Based Nutrition

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I have to first begin by saying that this isn’t a new idea to me. I have been battling with the morality of eating meat for most of my adolescence and early adult life. I have gone back and forth from vegetarian crazes, only to come crashing down by the depletion of energy often earned from poorly planned meals. What I lacked, I now realise, was the proper understanding of nutrition. Once upon a time I would have scoffed at the thought. Of course I knew about nutrition! I knew that a salad sandwich was a healthier choice than McDonalds…it was mostly common sense, knowledge that we acquire over the years. But the truth is; there is a big difference between claiming the knowledge of a healthy life and implementing it. Yes, a salad sandwich is healthier than a McDonald’s burger but I knew nothing of combining grains and pulses for complete proteins, choosing whole grains over refined grains to provide healthier energy. I didn’t know anything about processed foods, the poison of GMO, the corruption of the billion-dollar meat industry, or the severity of greenhouse gas emissions from the animal agriculture industry. I knew that heart disease was the leading cause of death in my country, and yet the idea that I could potentially lead myself down that road was not a concern. Those kinds of things happened to other people.

As a result, I have been on close to every diet known to man. I have detoxed, living on lemon water and cold tea; I have tried low carbs; high carbs; low fat; no sugar…I’ve counted calories like a nun counting rosary beads. And what for? What do any of us do it for? Why do new diet books sell like hotcakes (cruel analogy)? I think it’s because we all feel like we are under this constant amount of pressure. It comes from all sides, this weight. It firmly attaches itself to our shoulders and demands that we carry it around wherever we go. Work gets us down, and that adds a little more to the weight. Family troubles, a little bit more. A magazine cover shows us an image of what women and men are ‘supposed’ to like, add some more. Sooner or later we start acknowledging that it is a part of us, rather than a parasite that we have allowed into our hearts. We start to look around, seeing all the things we’re not, all the things we should be, all the things we want to be, all the things we want to do, want to afford, and that pesky weight whispers to us every time we do. “You think you can be like that? Look at you, you aren’t good enough, you’ll never be good enough”. What a joke! We have allowed ourselves to be completely governed not only by politicians with sleazy grins but by a pressure invisible to anyone but the person carrying it. How great would it be to let that rope go, leave that weight behind you and start fresh? How incredible would it be to fill your life only with positive, soul-fulfilling thoughts?

I have come to the wonderful conclusion that health works from the inside out. If you are looking for something that will help you drop two dress sizes by the end of the week, keep looking. But if you are at the end of your tether, if you’re sick of trying to look like someone else, fit into someone else’s clothes…if you’re searching for a way to change your life for the long term, for the better – then welcome! As a wonderful novelist once said, “you do not have a soul, you are a soul, you have a body” (C.S. Lewis). By first nurturing the soul, you can learn to nurture the body. Only when you take care of both, will you be on the way to true health and happiness.

Now, let’s not beat around the bush. I love food. I adore food. I am constantly planning meals and designing recipes. We are so blessed in our society to have access to food whenever we want it, whenever we need it. However, most of us are malnourished. That’s right! We may be living in the land of obesity but our bodies are as malnourished as they would be if we were starving. This is because the choices we make affect our health on astronomical levels. We choose to eat food with little or no nutrition, and then go to the doctor for a prescription to the health problems that start to cripple us. To make up for the lack of nutrition, we buy vitamins and health supplements – anything to avoid eating the foods that might save our lives. As T. Colin Campbell says in his incredible book, The China Study: “everything in food works together to create health or disease. The more we think that a single chemical characterizes a whole food, the more we stray into idiocy”. Campbell goes on to share his incredible findings on the negative effects of animal based protein on our bodies. Suffice to say that there is a reason that the biggest cause of death in our society is heart disease. There is a reason why so many of us are burdened with diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and poor nutrition. Most of us consume animal based protein on a daily basis, and Campbell believes that our poor health and our food choices are no co-incidence. In fact, what we choose to put in our bodies affects our health, happiness and vitality.  But the truth is, for most of us, the idea of giving up animal based products sounds like an absolute nightmare! You may have been eating it your entire life, or scoff at the thought of feeling full on ‘rabbit food’. This is a common attitude and one that I once shared. But in reality, plant based nutrition can be satisfying and incredibly delicious. All it takes is a little bit of planning and a willingness to nourish the body and the soul. You don’t have to give it up all at once, it would actually be unwise. But “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” and even if you try adding a few vegan or vegetarian recipes into your diet a week and slowly work your way towards a goal of long-term heath, your body will be thanking you for it.