8 Reasons I’m Thankful in Retirement for Adopting a Plant-Based Diet
During my senior year of college in the early 70s, my friend Jennifer and I were hitchhiking from the Tulane campus to Bud’s Broiler, New Orleans’ best burger restaurant. Devouring our juicy burgers at one of Bud’s funky wooden tables, Arlo Guthrie is buzzing The city of New Orleans on the jukebox, beat dinner at Galatoire’s or Commander’s Palace or any other legendary New Orleans restaurant, hands down.
These days, the thought of burgers rarely crosses my mind, because about 6 years after my Bud dates, my new husband Barry and I decided to quit eating meat. For me it was not difficult. Although I grew up on my mother’s fried chicken, southern ham, pork chops and ribs, I never learned to cook meat myself. As a single woman in her twenties, the closest thing to meat was ordering chili at the local restaurant.
We had different reasons for our decision. Reading by Frances Moore Lappé Diet for a small planet, I was appalled to discover that in wealthy countries like the United States, the proportion of grains used for animal feed is around 70%. If all the food crops grown in the world were used directly for humans rather than animals, the global supply would be enough to feed more than half of the humans on earth, not to mention the 828 million people who go hungry every day. .
Barry, meanwhile, had just read Peter Singer’s 1975 exhibition, animal liberation, and was outraged to learn of the cruel treatment meted out to animals in factory farms.
So, armed with the Moosewood Cookbook as my bible, I started making meatless meals. We weren’t vegan, and we didn’t even call ourselves vegetarian, since we occasionally ate fish. Like other non-meat eaters I knew at the time, we relied too heavily on cheese as a transitional food, consuming huge amounts of quiche and other rich, creamy meals, unaware that the products Dairy can be as harmful to the body and the planet as beef.
More than 40 years later, I am grateful for our decision to stop eating meat. Here are eight reasons.
1. I like vegetarian food
Barry and I have a varied and interesting diet, often influenced by Southeast Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. Beans, sesame, lentils, chickpeas, nuts, stir fries, salads, soups, green vegetables, cereals, etc.
Especially black beans. So versatile! Add a dollop of cumin and chopped mango or chutney, and they taste Indian; add orange juice, and they become Brazilian. Add coffee or cocoa, and they taste “haunting,” as one recipe described it.
A friend described the early years of her marriage, when she and her husband were chronically broke, as “the days of rice and beans.” I laughed because I could live on black beans and rice for the rest of my life. During our visit to Cuba, we ate the delicious local version every day, called Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians).
2. Plant-based cooking is creative and fun
I love experimenting and improvising with different foods, and I often make recipes. For example, I recently invented a new soup made with chickpeas, miso or umami paste, coconut milk, cauliflower, carrots, spinach and ginger. In a word, delicious!
Miso is a form of umami which, along with sweet, salty, sour and bitter, is one of the five essential flavors. If you think vegetarian food is boring, try a dish with umami paste – it will wake you up faster than a strong cup of coffee.
When I’m out of ideas, I search for recipes on Meatless Monday, a site that encourages people to cut down on meat, or 101 Cookbooks, one of my favorite vegetarian blogs.
3. A plant-based diet is much healthier
Research shows that a low-meat or meat-free diet reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and even premature death. Three members of my family have had cancer, so I’m happy to do what I can to reduce my risk.
There is also some data to suggest that a vegetarian diet can help with weight loss and weight maintenance. It was true for me. During my teenage years, my weight fluctuated much more than it has since I stopped eating meat.
4. I get a lot of protein without meat
The average omnivore in the United States receives more than 1.5 times the optimal amount of protein, most of it from animal sources. Although vegans need to take a vitamin B12 supplement, Barry and I don’t because we still eat dairy (but nothing like when we started).
5. I am rarely constipated
Because I eat so much fiber, my digestion system is working like a charm. Eating a lot of meat and dairy products, which don’t contain a lot of fiber, can cause constipation. My microbiome seems to be in good shape.
6. Not eating meat helps the environment
Animal agriculture is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. It is also one of the main causes of land and water use, deforestation, wildlife destruction and species extinction. About 2,000 gallons of water are needed to produce a single pound of beef in the United States. And according to Grist, an online environmental newsletter, a pound of cheese requires 10 pounds — about 5 liters — of cow’s milk, which emits the greenhouse gas methane. Not to mention the grains that go into the cow’s diet.
7. It’s economical
Turns out skipping animal protein isn’t just good for my body, it’s good for my budget. Research published in the Environmental Hunger and Nutrition Journalsuggests vegetarians save at least $750 a year.
8. It’s Simple
I can’t keep up with the number of fad diets that promise weight loss, longevity, youthfulness, vitality, etc. The Whole 30, the Paleo Diet, the Keto Diet, the Gluten Free Diet, the Raw Food Diet – it never ends.
I agree with Barry Schwartz, author of The paradox of choice: why more is less, that too many options imprison us instead of liberating us. Limiting my choices and knowing what I eat and what I don’t eat helps me stay calm and sane.
Barry and I are still in the minority. While the number of American adults who identify as vegan or vegetarian is around 10%, I was surprised to read that in 2017 the United States had the second highest per capita meat consumption in the world. world, just behind Hong Kong.
Vegetarians have a reputation for being judgmental, but I don’t feel morally superior to those who eat meat, nor do I judge people for their decisions. As someone with a history of compulsive eating dating back to adolescence, I know firsthand that making decisions about food can be extremely complicated and confusing. People have to find their own way. Also, there are still a lot of unhealthy foods I eat, like crisps, crackers, and cookies. I find it funny when, if I mention to someone that I eat plant-based, they will often say, “I rarely eat meat” or “I only eat meat once or twice a week” , as if I’m worried about my reaction.
But I hardly ever talk about it. Barry and I have been on a plant-based diet for so long that it has become a quietly flowing river in our lives.