Today there is a lot of discussion about the benefits of a plant-based diet (or veganism as it used to be called before some very preachy and – let’s face it – slightly insufferable die hards tainted the word with a very negative vibe). And before I launch into my diatribe about why eating mostly plant-based IS the best way to eat – I want to make one thing clear: I eat meat. I come from generations of farmers who raised cattle and pigs and I love me a good hamburger when the occasion to get a really good one arises. BUT as much as I can’t say I’m a total vegan (gasp – that word again!) – I do subscribe to a menu that involves very little meat and instead embrace mostly plant-based meals, like today’s delicious, warming, I-swear-you-won’t-even-miss-the-meat Black Bean and Squash Chili!
There are a few reasons why I haven’t given up meat entirely (mainly that my husband would never live in a vegan house; eggs are the best; and the aforementioned burger love), and I appreciate that most people find the idea of giving up meat entirely completely impossible. So instead I’m going to tell you my top 3 reasons why you should at least limit your consumption of animal products; and when you do eat them choosing the cleanest, most sustainable sources possible! I should mention that this is a massive topic and I’m happy to expand on anything below further or get into more of the health benefits for specific health issues if you’d like. Just let me know in the comments or on Insta!
Ok, here we go….
- You will live longer!
When I was in my nutrition program (at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition for those who are interested) we talked a lot about some of the world’s populations that live the longest. While it’s true the oldest groups of people are small societies that are fairly isolated, thus exposed to no packaged foods and less environmental toxins, they still all shared one common dietary thread: little to no animal protein and a diet based on local, whole plant foods.
This idea (the one that little/no meat means a longer life) has been recently supported by one of the largest studies of vegetarians and vegans to date, whose findings showed that vegans and vegetarians live on average almost eight years longer than the general population, which is similar to the gap between smokers and nonsmokers! Which makes sense when we think of the two biggest causes of death in modern society: heart disease (high cholesterol exacerbated or caused by too much red meat) and cancer (often caused by a low-fiber, inflammatory diet too high in processed foods and animal protein) – both of which can be prevented or in some cases even reversed by a plant-based diet.
Of course Big Ag knows this – but to them profit is apparently more important than our health. Shocker.
- It Will Help Save the Planet
Yep – it’s not just our health that benefits from everyone eating less or no meat. Livestock production accounts for 70 per cent of all agricultural land use, occupies 30 per cent of the planet’s land surface and is responsible for 18 per cent of greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide.
Growing animals for food is also inefficient. It takes about five to seven kilograms of grain to produce one kilogram of beef. Each of those takes energy and water to produce, process, and transport, not to mention that we could feed way more people if we used the land to grow food for human consumption.
The fact is that as global meat consumption increases, so does its climate impact. But we can change that! According to one study the U.S. could achieve between 46 and 74 percent of the reductions necessary to meet its promised emissions goals for 2020 simply by eating beans over beef! And we Canadians can achieve the same.
- Eating Plant Protein is Cheaper!
Factory farmed meat (and dairy) is loaded with inflammatory fats (caused by a steady diet of grain amongst the animals – yes, you are what you eat AND what they eat), antibiotics (which mess up your gut microbiome and are contributing to the rise of antibiotic resistant “super bugs”), and stress hormones (I won’t get into the life of a factory farmed cow…but it ain’t no beach vacation) – which is why it’s SO (I mean soooooooo) important to only eat clean, organic and grass-fed, antibiotic free meat. Which, as you can guess, isn’t cheap. In fact, it’s damn expensive. But guess what’s not expensive?? Beans and legumes! They’re cheap. Like, real cheap. Especially if you buy dried ones and cook them yourself – which is actually the best way to do it so that I can combat your next argument, which is likely “but beans give me gas and stomach upset”. That’s why you have to soak those babies and get rid of the sugars that can cause the upset. Not sure how? Here’s a handy chart. I like to make a really big batch all at once. You can even freeze them after they’re cooked for future meal prep!
Or you can just buy the (BPA free) canned variety and be done with it, which is still wildly cheaper than that grass-fed steak or organic chicken.
There are so many reasons to eat plant-based as much as possible, more than I can go into in one post. But honestly, from clearer skin to more energy to overcoming pretty much any health issue – there are benefits in it for everyone who reduces their meat consumption. I like to say a good place to start is making 1-2 days a week meatless and work your way up from there to 75% or more meals being animal free. Hell, sometimes even the heavy meat eaters need to start at one meal a day being animal-product free. Wherever you need to start, make the changes that work for you and feel good about them. I promise it’ll be well worth it!
And to help get you started – here is that vegan chili recipe I talked about all the way at the beginning of those post (and the likely reason you actually came here in the first place)! Cause I drop both knowledge and flavour bombs around here.
The Natural Blonde
P.s. Husbands will resist. But remind them of their past days of wide leg jeans before you came along – they’ll get on board.
Black Bean and Squash Chili
- 1 Tbsp. coconut or avocado oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 2 cups cubed butternut squash (about one medium or a full bag of organic frozen cubes)
- 1 jalapeno pepper, stem and seeds removed, and diced*
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes*
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 cup canned diced tomatoes (preferably organic BPA free)
- 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 8oz can cooked black beans, drained and rinsed (preferably organic BPA free)
- 2 to 3 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
- juice of 1 lime
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Fresh corn kernels
- Baked tortilla strips (or crumbled chips)
- Diced avocado (Highly recommend!!)
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and pepper and cook until soft. Stir in the garlic, carrots, jalapeno, butternut squash, and another pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables just start to become tender and the onion is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat if necessary so as not to burn the garlic.
Add the chili powder and tomatoes and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the apple cider vinegar and black beans and then add 2 cups of vegetable broth (or enough to cover everything). Simmer until the butternut squash and carrots are tender, 20 to 30 minutes, adding more broth, as needed.
Add a big squeeze of lime. Season to taste with more salt, pepper, and spices to your liking. If your chili is too spicy, stir in a small splash of apple cider vinegar. If it’s too thick, add another cup of broth.
Serve with desired toppings and enjoy! Can be stored for 5-7 days in an airtight container in the fridge.
*If you’re sensitive to spice, start with less, you can always add more. If making this for toddlers or kids you can always add the spice at the end after you’ve set aside a portion of non-spicy chili for them!