Planting a New Year's resolution

Are you still sticking to your New Year’s resolution?

Kind of? Well, I last stepped on the scale three days ago. But you know what: Tomorrow is a new day. 

But may I suggest adding another one? One that will halve your risk of heart attack, mostly by lowering your blood pressure, cholesterol, sugar and reducing inflammation.

Studies suggest it may also reduce your risk of many cancers, especially colon, prostate, and breast. They, my friend, are currently among the top five causes of cancer deaths in the U.S. Many health effects like lowering blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol are apparent in days to weeks. I’m going to stop now because you get the point.

So what is this new New Year’s resolution? A plant-based diet.

Wait, wait, hear me out. I’m not turning you into a vegetarian or vegan. If you are one, still hear me out. There are good and bad plant-based diets. Let’s figure this out together.

Plant-based diets come in many forms: Mediterranean diet, DASH diet, portfolio diet, etc.

In my experience, most people underestimate how much plant their doctors want to see on their plates. A salad here, a smoothie there isn’t going to cut it. According to the CDC, only 1 in 10 Americans eats enough vegetables each day.

How do you know if you eat enough plant? I recommend:

First, count fiber. Fiber, roughage or bulk, is one of the most important ingredients in a plant-based diet. Unlike vitamins, which we only need trace amount of, we need a lot of fiber. The current recommendation is 22 to 34 grams a day depending on sex and age. Average fiber intake in the U.S. is a woefully low 10g to 15g a day. It helps to get a rough idea of your daily fiber intake. You can look up fiber content in the Nutrition Facts label or play with one of many online fiber calculators.

But fiber added to highly processed foods may not be as good as fiber from natural whole foods. So eating an apple is probably better than a cup of sugary cereal fortified with fiber. By the way, most fiber is in the skin of the fruit (apple with skin has 5g of fiber, without 1.4g). If you can, eat the whole fruit, skin and all.

Second, what about proteins or other nutrients like iron, calcium? You have little to worry about if you eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts and beans and whole grains – and more beans and whole grains.

Third, oils are not all equal. Most vegetable oils are very healthy. But coconut and palm oil are high in saturated fat. Unless you’re making the Best Thai Coconut Soup, use them sparingly.

Finally, do consider eating less red meat and processed meat. By all means, enjoy every bite of your medium rare sirloin steak – just occasionally.  

I always knew eating healthier is good for us and the Earth, but I was surprised by how much. Project Drawdown ranks 80 sustainable ways to reduce greenhouse gases. A plant-rich diet is No. 3. It reduces greenhouse gases more than electrical cars and trains, LED lights bulbs, and recycling combined.

Here's to our and Earth's health ... definitely starting tomorrow.

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Volume 14, Issue 2, Posted 10:06 AM, 01.18.2022