If there’s one misconception about the vegan lifestyle that I wish I could clear up, is that it is difficult or complicated. In fact, that’s the main reason I started PlantKind. I want to help people get back to basics and build a solid foundation on simple nutrition and lifestyle habits.
Yet, for one reason or another, many people insist that a simple, plant based diet needs to be some confusing labyrinth fraught with nutritional pitfalls. I cannot tell you how many people ask me what protein powder I use in my smoothie every morning. I can see the look of surprise and consternation on their face when I tell them my smoothie only contains fruit. Just fruit, plain and simple.
People honestly think simple fruit cannot make a meal. Too much sugar, too many carbs, not enough protein, not enough fat, too high on the glycemic index – whatever misconceptions they have essentially complicated things. Most people cannot even tell you where they learned these ideas.
A healthy diet really is simple. Eat a variety of whole plant foods every single day including whole grains, fruit vegetables and beans. Drink lots of water. Get some exercise and plenty of sleep and take your B12.
There is no shortage of people willing to take advantage of the obfuscation of nutrition. Where there is confusion, there are experts waiting to take your money to tell you the “right way”.
Don’t believe me? Nutritional supplements are a multi-billion dollar industry. Protein is the one macronutrient that our culture eats the most of, yet somehow we’ve been convinced that we need to supplement our diets to get even more of it. Because you have no need for all this excess protein, it either has to be excreted or stored as bodyfat. What a scam!
And its more than just protein powder. There is no shortage of pills and powders that people are convinced they need. It’s a wonder we ever survived as a species with all these particularities.
Now consider the diet industry and so-called health authorities. I am embarrassed to call myself a personal trainer every time I hear another trainer tell their client to “be careful” with fruit and whole grains because they “contain sugar”. Do they actually think the obesity epidemic in this country was caused by fruit and whole grain consumption?
Many current diet trends that absolutely defy all common sense, suggesting that bacon and butter are slimming foods. It’s amazing to me that so called “experts” are telling an obese nation that we are that way because we aren’t eating enough butter and bacon. Sounds like the basis of a best selling book right there!
We’ve somehow been taught to believe that there is some sort of magic to sound nutrition, even more so if you are eating a vegan diet. Take your pick of powders, pills and shills – they all have the answers that you apparently don’t. In the end, they get rich, and you don’t get any closer to the healthy life you want to live.
Let’s put it in perspective. The healthiest cultures on earth, the Okinawans and the Seventh Day Adventists of Loma Linda, eat simple diets consisting of whole, plant foods. Contrary to being complicated, a calorically sufficient diet centered around whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans is as simple and nourishing as it gets.
There is no shortage of research to back this up, though those who would try to complicate the matter will tell you otherwise. Research and theory aside, simple plant-based diets are used in practice to prevent and reverse disease. Consider Neal Barnard, MD’s work reversing Type 2 diabetes and Caldwell Esseltyn MD’s work in reversing advanced heart disease. They do this with nothing more than a simple whole-food, plant-based diet.
In other words, it’s all in the food. Simple. Whole. Natural. Nothing fancy, nothing complicated. Don’t get scammed!
But what if you don’t just want to stave off disease. Maybe you’d like to reach the limits of human performance? Last year, I wrote a piece on the Kenyan Runner diet. These amazing athletes push the boundaries of human endurance living on a largely plant based diet of corn, rice, bananas, cabbage and beans. Nothing particularly fancy there.
Even the bodybuilding crowd can thrive on such a simple diet. Robert Cheeke, one of the most well known natural vegan bodybuilders, has sworn off protein powders in favour of natural, whole foods.
I’m not saying that you might never need a certain supplement, or that you’ll never require the services of a dietician or a nutritionist. All I’m saying is that a whole food diet plant based diet will fit the bill the majority of the time. If you are eating enough fruit and starch to meet your caloric needs, eating a variety of greens and vegetables, avoiding refined foods and oils and taking your B12, it’s not likely that you’ll encounter too many problems.
The trick is to make whole plant foods your foundation of health. It’s like building a house. If you want a study structure, you’ve got to focus on making the strongest foundation you can. You have no business fussing with the interior decorating until that base is strong. What good are the frills if your house sinks into the ground!
Stick to the basics. Eat enough calories from whole plant foods. Don’t overthink it and don’t complicate it. My guess is that in most cases, you’ll be amazed at how well your body responds and how great you will feel. Then, is some challenge arises, then you can seek out the advice of someone qualified and knowledgeable to troubleshoot for you.
My guess is that you’ll do just fine!