Recently, I have decided to use up the last of the dairy and animal products in my refrigerator and pantry in order to make the switch to a vegan diet. A vegan diet is, essentially, an entirely plant-based diet. While I do have strong political commitments to non-human animal welfare and deep concerns for the environment, my decision to finally make the switch to a vegan diet was out of concern for my own health and well-being on a physical, emotional, and financial level. Over the next few weeks, I would like to share some information about improving your overall health and the nutritional profile of your diet. While veganism is one way to accomplish this, it is not the only way.
It is no secret that America suffers from an obesity epidemic. Despite the fact that we invest heavily in pharmaceutical drugs, Americans have some of the worst health among citizens of the wealthiest 22 countries.(1) The disparity between dollars spent on health care and pharmaceuticals versus actual health is likely the result of a uniquely American approach to medical care. This approach emphasizes the treatment of symptoms over long-term preventative care. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is one of the most important and significant things we can do to prevent disease and other lifestyle-related ailments such as diabetes, fatigue, and, in some cases, depression. It is practically common knowledge that the most healthful habits we can adopt are regular exercise, abstaining from or quitting smoking, eating healthfully, limiting alcohol intake, and maintaining a good body weight.
While most of these habits are quite straightforward and simple to adopt, eating at a level that is optimal for nutrition and health might appear to be a goal that is conceptually obtuse and practically difficult to adopt. This is especially true for those of us who find ourselves immersed in a culture of fad-diets but were raised on the old food pyramid. If we recall, the old pyramid strongly emphasized grains, followed by fruits and vegetables (in almost equal proportion to animal products). This information, coupled with constant conflicting messages about whether or not we should adopt high-protein diets a la Atkins only compounds confusion. The problem with dieting is that it focuses on weight loss sometimes at the expense of health. And, while the USDA’s new “MyPlate” is a huge improvement on the food pyramid, this information is limited by the government’s own financial interest in supporting agricultural business.
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