An ultimate reason to go vegan - at least sometimes
Don’t worry, we will not advocate here for complete veganism, this will not be one of the apocalyptic articles listing all the reasons of why and how to become entirely vegan, without as much as sniffing meat and dairy. But we strongly believe that nowadays, there is one crucial and overwhelming reason for more plant-based alternatives on your plate: the abundance of processed foods.
Do you know what you eat?
We came across a really interesting and adequate comparison recently, and we wish to share it here because it shows the problem in the fun and easy-to-imagine way. A lot of cities are now offering a “blind dinner” experience, where guests are supposed to eat in complete darkness. That way they can taste dishes better and more fully because they are stripped of other impulses - visual and auditory. In such an environment, we are not supposed to see the food but taste it most extremely. The activity of going to such restaurant is generally considered exclusive and, for some, unreachable. At the same time, we do not consider the fact that most of us subject ourselves to such “blind dining” every single day. We dare to say, a lot of us do not even know what ingredients come into meals and products that they consume every day. For a very simple test, try to answer yourself these following questions:
When I shop, do I pay attention to labels?
How many ingredients listed on label of a food item I can easily identify and recognise?
How many weird-sounding positions are there on ingredients list?
How often do I diversify my diet and how often do I actually buy out of habit?
It is a fairly easy test to undertake to understand the way each of us shops and eats. How many products do you have in your fridge right now that have been there for weeks and are still available to be eaten? How does your mayonnaise look so perfect and keeps being fresh for so long? Those are aspects of food that we do not need to bother anymore (unlike our grandparents, who needed to dig a cellar to store their potatoes, meat or dairy and they would still have had to be rather fast to eat the food before it rots). Nowadays, we are happy when the yoghurts stay fresh for a long time and we get rather annoyed when we mistakingly bring one home which has an expiry date already set for next week. This kind of convenience surely does not come for free. We need to think about what we are sacrificing for this miraculous freshness. The producers very broadly tend to add phosphates, chemical elements that keep the products’ freshness and composition in better shape. Now, our organisms are naturally accustomed to intake phosphates as they are present in other, more natural, foods (vegetables, grains etc.) as well in their natural form. However, by adding them artificially to processed foods, the producers force our organisms to intake even 100% more phosphates that we need daily with each meal. That creates a surplus, which is neither healthy nor needed - and most of the times, we don’t even know about it. Not to force you to take our word for it, here is what Michael Greger, M.D. has to say in his amazing book How not to die (a must-read for understanding nutrition and health!):
This kind of interference in our diet and, in effect, the chemical composition in our cells, organs and bones, cannot go unnoticed by our health system. If we ate just one item of highly-processed food in a week or even more rarely, the problem would not be as bothering. Things get complicated when whole families buy nearly exclusively processed foods - which is not that hard to imagine, given their availability and appealing price range. Baked goods, nearly all the supermarket meat, sweet and colourful drinks, processed dairy are all of the most popular foods but all very easy to exist on shelves with various processed additives. And, mind you, we are only mentioning phosphates here - without even bothering to list all the E elements, sugars, fats etc. Sadly, the increase in buying mostly processed foods has been linked with limited income, resulting in more cases of early diabetes, obesity, hidden famine.
What does all this phosphates excess doing to us, you ask? It has the potential to freeze our arteries, kidneys, weaken our bones. Normally, the phosphates are (together with calcium) the building block for our bones and in a normal scenario, it is a highly necessary and needed element to intake. But in such abundance, the bones cannot take it all in - therefore, its excess builds up in kidneys that may eventually stop working, in arteries which can finally get stuck and lead to myocardial infarctions. Again, if processed foods constitute just a fraction of your diet and are more of a guilty pleasure rather than a majority of your fridge, you should be all good. However, if the diet lacks diversification, products tend to be consumed in a loop and we give our organism only processed food and very little pure elements - we cannot expect remarkable results.
The solution lies in consciousness as well as knowledge and dedication. Nowadays, when we have much less time and patience, we want our meals quick and easy, and we wish our local supermarket to cater for exactly all of our needs. If we could go an extra mile to ensure produce from more natural and trusted sources, if we could limit intake of processed foods marked with loads of E-elements, unknown chemical ingredients and be careful with items that just look too fake to be real (and come on, some of them really do) - we are sure our body and overall health would benefit greatly.
How to make sure you treat your body a little bit better?
Read the labels. Educate yourself on artificial ingredients and chose those products that have a few of them as possible.
Buy locally and seasonally. Spongy bread in a place where pastries are not a thing? Thank no to it.
Eat different things. Don’t make your breakfast only about toast with cheese or jam, even one type of muesli with milk or mylk. Always try to differentiate and look for more options and, what follows, more excitement about your meals. Or! "Eat the rainbow" - a long-praised sign of a healthy and diversified diet!
Try to think of alternatives to protein - supermarket meat is not the only product that can provide you with it and, frankly speaking, one of the worst ones. If you need to eat meat, try to find a local butcher or a regional-selection shop that sells mostly what is produced around you. Those are not that hard to find and prices do not get tragically higher.
Find enjoyment in preparing your food. If something is too easy to make because it’s a powder that you need to mix with water or other liquid, if the box says “ready-made” or “5-min…” anything, maybe skip it and choose the real thing instead.
The effects of our diet are rarely visible at once, sometimes they are noticeable after years of ill-informed choices and incorrect nutrition - but that can already be too late. We are living in times when we have statistically the largest chances of surviving until old age, relatively low mortality because of diseases and low child mortality. We are living in times of plenty, age of abundance and we should feel privileged about it - but we do not need to take all for granted. Food companies are doing all they can to sell us more stuff, but they are not in the business of our health. That is another industry, pharmacological one, which takes over for what we broke with the incorrect treatment of our organisms. In this time of cheap, abundant options, we need to keep ourselves informed and, above all else, as healthy as we can.