Why Plants Are This Summer's "Coolest" Diet

Image Credit: Huffington Post

While the summer heats up, and the layers come off, eating plants will keep you "cool" in a myriad of ways. TheWorld Health Organization, theUnited Nations and a number of scientific publications advocate for and recommend eating a mostly plant-based diet for health reasons, obesity-prevention and weight-management, and for the environment.

1) Amazingly good for your health!

If nothing else, the number one reason to eat plants is that they are amazingly good for your health! They are paramount.

Our ancestors ate a primarily whole-food, unprocessed, plant-based diet (hereinafter plant-based diet). Meat was consumed only on rare occasions and in small doses, as an accompaniment. A plant-based diet contains nearly all the nutrients, fiber, and the vitamins and minerals we need for good health. The nutrient density of plant-based foods is unparalleled. Moreover, the nutrients in plants that we don't even know about yet, contribute to our overall good health, well-being, and longevity.

Just this month, the newest numbers on obesity in the United States were published by the CDC. What they found was an increase in women and in some childhood age groups. This is the first generation of children whose life-expectancy will be shorter than our own, whose quality of life will be worse, and whose health-care expenditures will be higher than ours, no doubt due to chronic disease.

One way to combat these trends is to eat a variety of plant-based foods while simultaneously decreasing our intake of animal-based products. This lifestyle-approach to diet will not only improve our health, but will improve our children's health, wellbeing, and longevity as well.

The coolest thing about a plant-based diet, is that it has been shown to reduce the risk of a nearly every chronic disease, including stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

2) Keeping your weight in check:

In addition to being just plain good for you, plant-based foods are loaded with water. Some fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries, watermelon, cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes, contain as much as 92-96% water! This means they are low in calories, high in flavor, high in nutrients, and very good for your waistline! In fact, studies show that consuming more low-calorie but high-nutrient foods (read: unprocessed plant-foods, fruits and vegetables) is associated with better health and better weight control.

Moreover, the low sodium but high potassium and magnesium content of a plant-based diet helps keep your metabolism, blood pressure, and muscles in good form for all those fun summertime activities! Consuming a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and plant-based proteins (such as legumes, nuts, and seeds), particularly when consumed chilled, will also help keep you feeling cooler on those longer, hotter, summer days.

In addition, we are in the midst of a plant-based social movement! Plant-based eating is all the rage now, it's the "cool" thing to do, so much so, that several vegan and plant-based restaurants/food trucks are popping up.

3) Cooling/Stemming the Global Heat Wave - aka: Global Warming and Climate Change.

Finally, eating more plants in lieu of animal products can save millions of tons of carbon from entering our atmosphere and oceans each year. In the last 150 years, we have nearly doubled the amount of carbon in our atmosphere, with the vast majority of this occurring in the last 50 years. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the 10 hottest years on record have all occurred since 1998, with 2015 being even warmer than 2014. Average global temperatures have increased around .95C (1.7F) since the 1950s-80s, and we are on target to increase global temperatures by 1C (1.8F) - 4C (7.2F) by 2100.

While these figures may not sound alarming, they are, and they will affect the polar regions, our global air conditioner, the most. Stepping outside into 100F weather last week was unpleasant to say the least. I can only imagine what it will be like when 100F temperatures become the "norm."

While transportation and fossil fuel use are the most "well known" contributors of green-house gases; a more insidious and equally damaging contributor to climate change is the animal husbandry sector. In this American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study by Cornell University scientists, the authors found that an animal-based diet consumes significantly more land, water, and energy resources than a primarily plant-based diet, and at the same time contributes vastly to carbon emissions and natural-resources degradation. Another study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrated that transitioning from an animal-based to a plant-based diet could save between 29 and 70% of food-related green-house gas emissions by the year 2050. For even more information, read this or this!

To assist you in your quest to eat more plants this summer, (and beyond), here are a number of recipe and meal planning ideas to keep you feeling
satisfied, healthy, and cool during this "expected-to-be hot" summer.

Breakfast Ideas:
Banana bread
Soy (or other non-dairy) yogurt parfait
Tofu vegetable scramble
Whole-wheat toast with avocado (or hummus), tomato, and onion slices

Lunch or Dinner Ideas:
Pesto edamame pasta
Veggie pizza (cheeseless, or can use Daiya vegan-cheese).
Avocado and Black bean enchiladas - I recommend using corn tortillas as they are a whole-grain.
Farro and chickpea-spiced salad
Thai curry made with coconut milk - look for sustainably grown coconut milk.

Desserts, because we all like a little sweetness in the summer (limit to small bite-sized portions):
Almond milk pudding
Soy Persian "ice cream"
Fruit salad - no need to limit.