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People often look to diets as a mean to change their health and wellbeing. The problems with diets are that they are short-lived. In contrast, a lifestyle is something one carries throughout the life. The goal of this article is to shed some key research notes and point readers to the amazing healing power of plant based foods. By adopting simple changes in our lifestyle, we can impact our lives and that of our loved ones, the environment, as well as put an end to animal cruelty.

There is evidence based research pointing to the great health benefits of a pure whole-food plant-based (WFPB) lifestyle. The “isms” we currently use, seem to have several negetive connotations.

Vegetarianism sounds too religious to many people. Veganism is ascribed to banner-holding peace loving people. You can eat cheese pizza and diet coke all day and be called vegetarian. This is often termed “junk food vegetarian.” An example of a “junk food vegan” is one who consumes endless bags of chips, French fries and diet coke. On the other hand a WFPB lifestyle epitomizes a healthy unprocessed, plant based natural lifestyle.

The term Whole Foods Plant Based was coined in the 1970s by pioneers of this movement like  T. Colin Campbell and Caldwell B. Esselstyn. This style advocates a low fat, high carbohydrate food. This carbohydrate is found in unprocessed foods and does not refer to the refined carbohydrate found in sugar, refined flour etc. Forks over Knives and are hugely popular resources which advocate this lifestyle, defining whole-food, plant-based diets as centered on whole, unrefined, or minimally refined plants. It’s a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes; it excludes or minimizes meat, dairy products, and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil. This method of eating is very healthy for humans, compassionate to animals, sustainable and very environmentally friendly for our planet and eradicates chronic and man-made diseases like heart disease with a very simple technique. The key is in our breakfast, lunch and dinner and not pills.

The Indian way of cooking can be very easily adapted to this lifestyle. The basic premise in the whole plant food approach is use as much fresh plants, fruits and starches as possible. Making a trip to the farmers market every week is a great start. I exclusively buy all my fruits and vegetables from local farmers market. It is great to talk to farmers, meet people and stock up for a week’s worth of vegetables and fruits. If you have to buy more, you could ask for a bulk rate from farmers and cut down costs. I load on a variety of colors and variety. In many recipes, one can bake instead of deep frying.

A typical breakfast will be a fruit smoothie with some combination of dates, fully ripe bananas, fresh turmeric root, and ginger root, some berries (blueberry, or strawberry), mango chunks. I would suggest 2 or 3 ingredients from the above list and to try mix and match variations every day creating a plethora of colors and tastes. These fresh fruits are full of phytonutrients and give a great mood. You can add kale/spinach/basil or any greens you have on hand. Throw in a tomato on some days, other day’s carrot. You can put in some lemon juice on top for an added zest.

Make sure to buy everything fresh and organic as much as possible. You can also make a ginger shot with just ginger, lemon juice and take few teaspoons along with smoothie. This feels much better compared to bagels/bread or sugary cereals. Farmers markets also seasonally have moringa leaves for several weeks which have super powers and can be used as well.

For a typical lunch or dinner one can have rice/chapatti, daal, chana masala, sambhar, rasam, or a variety of vegetable curries. I have stopped buying ice creams or buying frozen desserts. Rather, I invested in a Vitamix and my 12-year old daughter makes delicious desserts. One of my favorites is banana date ice creams. By freezing a dozen fully ripe bananas, and putting few dates, cardamom and blending it in a Vitamix, you can make delicious raw, fully plant based ice cream. There are endless amount of recipes on the Internet. Just search for Fully Raw Kristina one of the most popular advocate for plant based desserts.

People report of so many benefits– weight loss for overweight people, very quick recovery from injuries, energetic, not feeling drowsy, no constipation at all, no acne and shiny skin. I would recommend approaching change slowly, enjoying the food and making small changes one at a time. Often when people move completely from one habit to another, things fall apart. Do your own research.

Touching on the environmental and animal welfare aspects of this lifestyle, a UN Report states that animal agriculture amounts to more greenhouse gas emissions than the sum of all transportations combined.

Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions. There are many plant based startups in Silicon Valley trying to make plant based burgers, mayo and other products. The movie Cowspiracy which delves into the environmental aspect of this topic was an eye opener. Sailesh Rao and his nonprofit Climate Healers are doing an amazing job in tacking this issue in India and rest of the world.

In a summary, whether you are adopting a whole foods plant based lifestyle for yourself, for animals or for the plant earth, it is a win-win situation for all.

Pushkala Raju lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is very passionate about whole food plant based life style and incorporates this into her family’s lifestyle with ease. Her other interests include classical art form of Bharatanatyam and reading historical books.