SFH #41: Eat Mostly Plants 🥬

Why plants and how to get more in your life

When my mom got her nails done every Saturday morning at the corner of Preston and McCallum in Dallas, I'd come with her for the opportunity to get my Big Mac, large fries, and large Hi-C orange drink. 😋 I looked forward to that ritual so much. I can still taste the flavors. Fast-forwarding three decades, I get the same kind of satisfaction and excitement from a large delicious homemade salad or a healthy bowl from Harlow here in Portland.

The journey to go from a typical American kid subsisting on fast food weekly to a 42-year-old who geeks out about fresh greens has many layers. What I want to unpack today is why and how we should focus on plants.

Why?

I've echoed the value of 'real food' a few times now in the first couple of months on here. At the heart of my 'real food' practice are the most nutrient-dense foods (calorie for calorie): plants, especially leafy greens whose seeds have absorbed the soil's nutrients. At this point, I'm sure it's not news to many of you that eating more plants is a pathway to a healthier existence, so I'll hit the highlights below to keep in mind.

  • Plants provide us with phytochemicals and antioxidants that detoxify us from the compounds (toxins) that cause inflammation and disease in our bodies.

  • Plants are high in fiber and keep us regular and promote a healthy microbiome. Fiber helps clean out unwanted bacteria and buildup in our intestines. It also supports stabilizing our blood sugar and lowering our cholesterol.

  • Plants are full of water. Eating more of them helps us sustain hydration on a cellular level. 

  • Plants help our cells fight off infection. At least 70% of our immune system lives in our gut.1 The greater variety of plant foods we consume, the easier it is for our body since each type contains different nutrients and benefits that work in conjunction. 🤺

  • And finally, plant-forward diets can heal us. There is much evidence now that plants can reverse disease in the body.2

How?

  • Start small. Find the plants (vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, and whole unrefined grains) you like. Keep them on hand in your fridge and pantry. Make it a new trend to snack on your favorite plants. Avoid the processed plant-based snacks to start if you can. Eat the whole food version.

  • Get colorful. I think one of the easiest ways to add more plants to your life is by trying to make your meals more artful. Foods with more nutrients, in particular phytochemicals, have brighter colors. Thinking about your plate of food in terms of color will help you be more mindful of getting the benefits listed above.

  • Play with substitutions, whether it's veggie-based crusts in pizza, spiralized zucchini instead of pasta, or jackfruit wraps instead of cold cuts; try some new plant substitutions out to see what you may like.

  • Salads, smoothies, and soups. These three vehicles are easy ways to get a plentiful helping of plants in your life. Play around and get creative. I've taken a lot of inspiration from using The NYT Cooking app. Thanks for the tip, Paige. 😉

  • Reduce the friction for plants. My favorite tip I follow in my day-to-day life. I like to make eating plants super easy by keeping my kitchen stalked with plant foods. I eat what I have on hand, it's that simple. It's an adjustment at first to overhaul the way you grocery shop and stock your fridge. You'll get used to it. My most significant adjustment was learning how to store certain foods to keep them fresh and lasting—plus, I make more trips to the grocery to avoid wasting food and keeping my produce on hand fresh.

Happy plant days ahead!

1

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2515351/

2

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31728489/