By Christopher Wade
(Note: This article has been published in The Outlook, May 2022. Find it on page 14 here.)
As a kid growing up in Texas in the 1970s, I never imagined I would one day stop eating meat. Living in a state where steak and hamburgers were part of everyday meals and football was practically a religion, I took it for granted that meat was just something everybody ate.
Fast forward to the 2020s, and a lot more is known about the health benefits of eating more plants and reducing or eliminating the consumption of meat and other animal products. Many health experts encourage us to base our diets around whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts.
Dr. Kim A. Williams, fellow and past president of the American College of Cardiology, said in an interview last year with the Harvard Health Policy Review, “Plant-based diets are associated with lower rates of obesity and diabetes, high quality of life and longer life expectancy, as well as less hypertension, …heart failure, stroke and death.”
And Dr. Michael Greger, founder of nutritionfacts.org, says in his recent book How Not to Diet, “...whole food, plant-based nutrition is the only diet proven to reverse heart disease in the majority of patients, opening up arteries without drugs or surgery.”
I ate a typical omnivorous diet growing up, and I didn’t really like eating vegetables. Fortunately, my mom always provided healthy food options that I enjoyed, including fresh fruit and whole wheat bread. Looking back on this now, I’m very thankful for my mom’s love and care in feeding our family. She provided the foundation for my lifelong interest in nutrition and health.
After my family moved from Texas to California, I played organized school sports including basketball in junior high and high school. I really enjoyed sports, but back then I didn’t fully appreciate the link between diet and athletic performance.
Today, a growing number of professional athletes are turning to a plant-based diet to gain a competitive edge, including NBA star Chris Paul, tennis stars Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams, ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, and bodybuilder Nimai Delgado.
Paul told Reuters last year, "Playing as many games as I play, ….everything is about recovery. How fast can my body recover? And being plant-based, the recovery changed just like that," he said, snapping his fingers.
Delgado described his diet in an interview with Muscleandfitness.com. “There’s a huge misconception that you can’t build muscle without animal protein,” Delgado said. “The moment people find out I won an overall title without ever eating meat, and did it strictly eating plants, they become very interested.” For more information about athletes performing on plant-based diets, see the documentary The Game Changers.
Nearly a decade ago, my wife Lisa and I decided to stop eating animal products. At first, this new way of eating took a little getting used to. We updated our weekly shopping list and found some easy plant-based recipes to get us started. After a while, eating plant-based became second nature. At the time, there typically weren’t many plant-based options when we went out to eat, but restaurants were usually happy to make some of their dishes without animal products when requested.
In the last few years, more and more restaurants have added plant-based dishes to their menus. A couple of the local restaurants we enjoy include Golden Triangle Cuisine in Los Gatos and Veggie Grill on Saratoga Ave. For a full list of restaurants with plant-based options, visit happycow.net.
Grocery stores also now carry many alternatives to animal products that are made entirely of plants, such as plant-based meats, cheeses, butter, yogurt, and milk. In addition, there are online meal delivery companies such as Veestro and Daily Harvest that ship ready-made, plant-based meals directly to your door.
Now that I’m in my 50s, I still love athletic activities like hiking, biking, strength training, and skiing, and I have found that a whole-food, plant-based diet is really effective for reducing inflammation and recovering quickly. My goal is to stay active and healthy into my later years, and a plant-based diet will help me do just that.
With today’s medical knowledge and the wide variety of plant-based options available in restaurants, grocery stores, and online, there’s never been a better time to eat plant-based.
Christopher Wade is an engineer and a Los Gatos resident. A health and fitness enthusiast, he enjoys exercising, learning about nutrition, and cooking plant-based meals. To learn more about the benefits of a plant-based diet, visit plantbasedadvocates.com.