The term plant-based first appeared in my vocabulary repertoire two years back and, to me, it became more ubiquitous on social media in 2019. I sincerely wondered what it meant. Now don’t get me wrong. The meaning “plant-based diet” can be easily deciphered from the conjoined word: food made from plants. However, I had never thought much about it until recently; when I realized it was going viral and some folks I know were subscribing to that eating lifestyle – apparently, we are all beginning to accede to the essentiality of consuming clean food.
So, I began to do a little research on the subject: reading articles on plant-based diets and verbal questioning from people. Of course, I was interested in the idea that one can have a diet made purely from plants, plant-derived milk inclusive. However, I was more puzzled as to how one could do without meat – something that should satisfy every “normal” human. I thought to myself that “all will perish someday; whatever you choose to eat”. After catching myself from that line of thinking, remembering that now is not someday, I decided to give the subject another chance, to research further on this subject.
Let me tell you a little about what I found.
The classifications of plant-based diets seem to accommodate a range of approaches and does depend on individual preferences; in the strictest sense – it is called Veganism, where one eats only plant-sourced food. Anyone who chooses to incorporate animal-based products can no more be termed as being vegan; vegetarians are less strict than vegans and do accommodate different animal sources and have different names, e.g. ovo vegetarians (Only plants, but for eggs), Lacto vegetarians (Only plants, no eggs but milk). You can have a combination – like Lacto ovo vegetarians (eggs and milk), the list is endless. For example, I found a new one recently – pescatarian: not eating meat, just fish or shellfish. Terms like this, make me consider if I can make it by keeping up with particular diets. Never mind. Let’s talk more about being vegan.
Achieving good health is not necessarily difficult; it just requires more discipline on our parts. E.g. walking instead of driving, living freely instead of being bitter, replacing a soda drink with water, snacking on carrots in place of a chocolate bar. The good thing is, eating plant-based foods facilitates this – it is good for your health. The drill needed to live a healthy lifestyle automatically begins when you choose what you eat. After all, only a phoney takes a run in the morning and then drinks a bottle of Coca-Cola after sweating from the run. The advantage of having good health means that you’re relatively free of diseases and sicknesses. Heart diseases, certain types of cancers, obesity, weight-loss are relatively less likely to be experienced by vegans.
I also find it worthy of note that this “movement” started with the intention of protecting animals from being harmed and hurt due to ethical grounds. Knowing I’m African, you could easily guess my reaction. ‘These animals were made for us to eat and I have the right to eat whichever I choose.’ Africans have gone as far as exploring almost any kind of animal including rats, dogs, bats and snakes. The renowned Calabar people and Yoruba people in Ondo town, Nigeria are known for eating dogs, it is in fact, a local delicacy. How do I explain to them that avoiding animal butchery and choosing to eat plants is a good way to live without being beaten up?
Let’s delve deeper into this plant-based idea some more. Shall we?
We already established that plant-based meals come from plants. These include all kinds of:
vegetables- tomatoes, onions, green peas, etc
Fruits- Pineapple, avocado, coconut, watermelon, banana, etc
Oils made from plants like vegetable oil, coconut oils
Whole grains- rice, oats,
Butters made from plants and nuts
Plant-based milk – oat milk, tiger nut milk, coconut milk, etc
Other plants-based products not mentioned above
Because these foods are rich in fibre, low in cholesterol and zero animal fat, they make up for a good healthy diet.
However, there are certain problems with eating only plant-based diets, plant-based diets are generally deficient in critical nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, Vitamins D and B12 and chronic deficiency in these could negatively impact various aspects of health including mental and physical health; hence, if you are going to go vegan, you will need to take supplements for these key nutrients and regularly check their levels.
Should I consider changing my eating lifestyle?
I would have responded in the affirmative, but I’ll say a story instead. Once upon a time, I complained leisurely to my beloved mother about the acne on my face. African mothers are naturally baffling in their responses. For example, you ask if you should accept food being offered from a neighbour in their house, she responds positively with a smile, nods her head in affirmation and says a ‘thank you’ to the neighbour; however, on getting home, you get a beating for accepting food from your neighbour. The food she approved you to in the first place!
My mum gave an interesting response concerning the pimples I had. In response, she said “you remember your friend XYZ; all the red-spotted stubborn pimples on her face have disappeared. She has been in a seventh-day school where meat is not allowed. Only fish. (That’s being pescatarian, right?) Now all the pimples are gone.” My younger self walked away confused, thinking to myself, “this is not the answer to my question and if she’s thinking eating fish would solve this, maybe sometime in the future I would consider it”; and forgot about it.
I still have acne today.
Well, should you consider being Vegan?