Walk the streets of Toronto and you’ll find many establishments serving a couple of meat-free options or a full-on plant-based menu. The city is even home to a growing all-vegan commercial block called Vegandale, a safe space for vegans and vegan-curious people. There are at least two plant-based restaurants and one vegan retailer on the block, and it’s set on expanding to accommodate a growing local community of plant-based individuals. Cruelty-free establishments popping up left and right, such as Velvet Lane Cakes, certainly lead one to ask: are plant-based diets the way forward?
The benefits of ditching meat
Veganism was initially seen as a passing trend like the Atkins or South Beach diets. But unlike these fads, there’s a growing body of research to support a plant-based diet as a healthy and long-term solution to society’s major health problems.
A study involving 6,000 participants in the Netherlands discovered that plant proteins reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease compared to animal proteins. This is because plant-based ingredients lack low-density lipoprotein cholesterol – commonly referred to as bad cholesterol. Furthermore, findings by the Duke-NUS Medical School linked eating meat with a higher risk of diabetes. Eliminating meat from one’s diet is associated with lower risks of developing diabetes, reduced fat storage, and an overall lower mortality rate.
Plant-based nutrition also promotes a more ethically and environmentally-conscious way of life, as it also mitigates farming’s destructive effects. Climate change activists will tell you that animal agriculture is the second largest contributor to human-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions— equivalent to 14.5% of global GHG emissions. Farming animals also contributes to massive deforestation, resource depletion, pollution, and biodiversity loss on our planet.
Transitioning to a plant-based diet
1. Start with one meal. Going completely plant-based is a huge change, so it’s best to start small. For example, instead of having your usual meat sandwich for lunch, try a delicious avocado toast with tofu scramble. Swap out your usual afternoon snack for a healthy serving of Goodfood Smoothies blended with nut milk. Find alternatives for your favorite dishes, like lentil burgers for your usual beef patty. You can also try out vegan cheeses from Daiya and other brands so you won’t be tempted to gorge on animal products.
2. Don’t panic over protein. It’s a common misconception that plant-based diets are protein-deficient. However, Hannah Blanton listed five of the most protein-rich vegetables in a recent post, all of which are delicious and versatile ingredients. Our ‘How To Incorporate Plant-Based Protein Into Your Diet’ article also gave further examples of plant-based sources of protein, such as beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, and grains.
3. Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. Eating fresh produce ensures that you’re getting your daily intake of essential vitamins and minerals. One way to check this is if you have healthy glowing skin. A list of fruits and their nutrients from Pretty Me highlights that some of the most essential nutrients, such as vitamins A, C & E, can be found in simple ingredients like apples, avocados, lemons, and strawberries. Not only will the diet help you feel light on the inside, it will also help you look radiant on the outside.
4. Try different restaurants. Going plant-based doesn’t just mean eating a combination of salads. Mirieta Selimovska’s 6 tips for dining as a vegan emphasized the importance of researching and planning ahead when going out. Nowadays, it’s easier to go plant-based without running out of options.
5. Educate yourself. One trick to help you stick with this diet of the future is to continue learning about the impact of your eating habits. Read about how the food on your plate affects your body as well as our environment. Find like-minded individuals or groups who can share their experiences and tips with you. We guarantee that you’re not alone in this major lifestyle change!