The Power of Plants

Plant Power

Look, I’m not saying go vegan, or give up your steaks, bacon, burgers, roast chicken… I’m simply pointing out that we feel better when we eat mostly plants. When I created the Ageless Diet I was conscious of making it an omnivore’s delight. I didn’t want it seem mean or pinched or abstemious. I wanted people to fall back in love with REAL food. And, that could include human portions of animal protein… MEAT. What I mean by human portions is how we used to eat meat, how we’ve always eaten since the beginning of humans, until the post World War II boom of industrial farming. Nowadays, we eat way too much meat. This is bad for us, and it’s bad for the health of our planet. It’s also unsustainable. But, this isn’t a lecture. There are smarter people than me giving better talks about why a meat heavy diet is bad for you. You can listen to The New York Times food writer Mark Bittman for a funny and fascinating talk about what’s wrong with the way we eat now (too much meat, too few plants; too much fast food, too little home cooking), and why it’s putting the entire planet at risk. 

What I wanted to write about is how wonderfully rewarding  – on all levels – a mostly plant based diet can be. I’m not vegan. I’m not vegetarian, but I do eat mostly plants. I’d say my diet is 80% plants, and the rest is fish, meat, chicken, eggs, and occasionally bacon in a BLT. What does this mostly plant based diet mean for me? Well, I save money. Legumes – beloved beans! – whole grains, seeds, fresh vegetables, and fresh and frozen fruit are significantly less expensive than a steak. Especially if you’re seeking out better meat, grass-fed, pasture-raised, wild-caught animals. Then you’re really spending some money. Eating more plants means I save money. The food is more varied. Think about it: there are way more plants out there than types of meat we eat. I can make a different kind of salad, bean dish, or whole grain bowl everyday for a month, using wide and varied ingredients. And, often the food tastes better. Yes, I love a good burger, but my death row meal: black beans and rice with a side of sheetcake. I can make vegetable and bean tacos, a big salad, a savory bowl of whole grains, plant protein, fresh, cooked, and fermented vegetables, and all of it tastes satisfying, and really good. The other bonus is that these meals often take less prep than something using animal protein. So I save money, time, and I’m doing my part to limit the damage farming animals does to our environment. But, that’s not even the biggest reasons I eat mostly plants. The 2 top reasons are these: Plants often tastes better, with more complex flavors. And I’m more adventurous when it’s a vegetarian dish with fresh herbs, spices, fats, and sauces. And, the other main season is vanity. I’ve noticed in myself and others a glow. A softer look. Two of my South African friends, who went from committed carnivores to occasional vegans, got that ageless glow. People kept asking if they’d been on  holiday, at a spa. I remember when I waitressed in NYC, and back then I was an actual vegetarian, this Japanese woman, a fellow waitress, asked if I was vegetarian. I said yes, how’d you know. She said, you look soft. (Pretty sure she meant that as a positive.) 

Here in Colorado I’ve two friends who are vegan. My lawyer friend became vegan a couple of years ago for political reasons. And the other, Jen, went vegan a few months ago. because she read the Ageless Diet book for a 4th or 5th time and rediscovered how much she loves cooking vegetarian dishes. The lawyer friend was shocked, since she was doing it for ethical reasons, that her health dramatically improved. It’s wasn’t her goal, but it was a happy side effect. She lost weight (inflammation), ate better and more varied foods, and her skin cleared up. Jen feels stronger and her skin does indeed glow. (And, her side effect is that she has become a supporter of animal rights.) She’s a hair stylist and clients keep asking what her skincare regimen is… just plants and ageless supplements. And, now a new study says that vegetarian diets are more effective for weight loss than a simple calorie restricting diet. “On top of that, dieters who go vegetarian may also boost their metabolism by reducing their muscle fat.”

Adding more plants to your diet energizes you. I had a dinner party yesterday for this lovely young Polish couple. Their diet is mostly meat. And, I served them kielbasa with a side of grilled cauliflower steaks (my vegan friend, Jen, was there too), cabbage slaw, and a big grilled and fresh veg salad with my favorite creamy vinaigrette. The wife could NOT believe how good she felt after dinner. She was used to feeling weighed down and tired. She had so much – too much? – energy, they stayed another few hours (past my old lady bedtime). She kept saying how good she felt. The power of plants, my friends.

 Oh and did I mention your microbiome loves it some plants. And, I’m sure you’ve seen some of the news that the gut – your microbiome – controls more of you than was ever thought possible. Your immune system, your mental health, your weight… and the list goes one. Point is that a healthy gut means a healthy you. And the bacteria in your gut – the good guys – love plants.

Now the challenge. Join me this summer, if you’re on the western hemisphere, when the corn is high and the tomatoes be fresh, and go 80% plant-based. And, then tell me how you feel. Let me know if you need recipes, meal plans, or help figuring out what to eat or cook next. The list is nearly literally endless. 


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About the Author: Tania Van Pelt is the creator of Happiness Series. She is a writer and content creator, working in film, tv, and online. She wrote the popular lifestyle book "Ageless Diet," published in late 2015. And she is currently working on her next book. She also developed a sitcom pilot set in the restaurant business called "Employees Only TV" and is developing another web series comedy about Denver.