A question that is often asked by people approaching a holistic lifestyle, is whether it is necessary to become vegetarian or vegan. I believe that there are many benefits to such an approach, but I also understand that giving up animal based products can be off putting to many. For that reason, I don’t believe in strongly forcing people to give up meat completely if they are not ready to do so. I would, however, recommend experimenting with eating more plant-based foods, and meat-free meals as the benefits are many.
I will talk here about some of these benefits, and why they can lead to a healthier, more conscious existence for you and the planet. After all, holistic means whole, and we are not separate from our environment, as much as it would appear that way at times.
Let’s start with the health benefits. So much has been written about what constitutes a healthy diet, that it can be extremely confusing to most people. There are so many conflicting ideas, that it often feels like it is designed to intentionally confuse people.
At Pingala, we follow Ayurvedic principles, which do not deal in blanket statements and diets. No two people are exactly the same, and food that is beneficial to one person can be damaging to another.
In the case of animal products, however, there is growing evidence showing predominantly plant-based diets lead to less disease and generally better health overall. I don’t always put great stock in studies, and tend to trust my own instincts and listen to my own body to see how it reacts to anything that I consume. In my experience, plant-based foods make me feel lighter and more energised, improving digestion, and greatly reducing and even eliminating pain. Conversely, when I eat animal products I feel heavier and my digestion is more sluggish. I also have more pain in my joints.
What about protein?
It is my belief that the notion that we need to consume meat to get adequate levels of protein is a myth. One need only look at some of our nearest relatives in the animal kingdom, the primates, to see that they follow a predominantly plant-based diet. Those mighty gorillas, packed with dense muscle, are 100% vegan. That is because protein does not come purely from meat, but from amino acids, the building blocks of protein, which occur abundantly in plants.
We need to move beyond the idea that a plant-based diet is somehow deficient in some way, as this is just not borne out by the research.
I cannot overstate the effect that the consumption of animal products has on the environment. There are many resources available regarding this including books, articles and documentaries, but suffice to say that by far the greatest source of CO2 emissions on the planet is from processing animals for food. A reduction in animal consumption will do wonders for the environment, far beyond reducing the use of cars or not leaving the tap running. Not that you should not strive to be more conscious in your daily habits regarding the environment and your movement on the planet, these things are to be commended, but to be conscious of everything else you do while consuming vast amounts of meat is like worrying about a burning candle while your house is on fire.
Will I miss meat?
The good thing is, there are so many delicious vegetarian and vegan recipes, that you are unlikely to miss meat in the long-term. Also, the health benefits are noticeable, so it is easier to stay motivated and make the transition when you can feel the benefit it is having. Even if you don’t fully transition away from meat immediately, just reducing your consumption of animal-based products is extremely beneficial for you and the environment. Also, as you consume more plant-based foods, that is what you will want to eat more of.
People wishing to make the transition to a more plant-based diet can begin by simply incorporating some meat-free meals into their diet. Initially it can help to use meat substitutes, but I would advise caution here, as some of these products can contain processed and unnatural ingredients. Check the labels and use your better judgment.
The most important thing is to make the transition at a rate that suits you.
A couple of useful and informative documentaries about this issue are:
Forks Over Knives: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1567233/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
The Game Changers: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7455754/?ref_=tt_sims_tt
At Pingala we offer classes and one-to-one sessions regarding how to make the transition, as well as how to make delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes. Make a booking here.