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Has anyone else seen those President’s Choice commercials running lately? You know the ones where they talk about all of those confusing diet dos and don’ts? Eat whole grains. No wait — stay away from carbs. Stick to fats instead. But hang on, don’t eat too much fat! To salt or not to salt? Should we buy organic or splurge on more fruits and veggies?

So. Many. Questions.

Ever since Dr. David Jenkins and his University of Toronto colleagues ranked foods on the glycemic index (figuring out the impact of different foods on our blood sugar) back in 1981, there has been a surge of fad diets ranging from Atkins and South Beach to Paleo and The Zone. Funny to think that one little index caused such a flurry of “professional” advice, given that the study’s original intent was to understand how carbohydrates could help manage diabetes.

Well Jenkins is back and he’s about to change the game again with some extreme advice of his own, as told to the Globe and Mail: give up all meat, cheese, fun and dairy, and embrace the vegan diet.

We told you it was extreme.

Before you protest about the validity of your lean steaks, chicken breasts or wine and cheese nights with the girls, let’s play devil’s advocate and say that his advice is worth considering. After all, this is the same man who has served on international committees and helped the World Health Organization establish nutritional guidelines.

His argument is simple. Studies show that people who stick to a plant-based diet have a lower risk of coronary heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. They have lower cancer rates, lower cholesterol and blood-pressure levels, and tend to be all around thinner. So in short there are actual and superficial reasons to maybe give the diet a whirl. Not to mention all of the positive changes such a diet could have on the planet what with the potential for reduced greenhouse-gas emissions and increased water supply. 

Think going vegan might be for you? There are still a couple of things to consider. Many “processed” vegan products are actually high in salt and preservatives, and really aren’t that much better for you than meat. A more realistic view of your plate would be one filled with beans, nuts, legumes and whole grains. Plus lots and lots of fruits and veggies, of course.

As with any lifestyle change, slow and steady wins the race. If you love fresh, crispy bacon on Sunday mornings, odds are you’re going to crave it (and eventually give in) after a week of depriving yourself of your normal diet. Instead, why not start by limiting your meat and dairy intake to once a day, or a few times a week?

And be sure to keep things interesting by incorporating new recipes, too. Canadian run vegan blog Oh She Glows is a wealth of knowledge for new and longtime vegans alike, as is American-based Healthy Happy Life.

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