When choosing how I eat, I looked at the data and statistically those who eat a mostly vegetable based diet with some fish live the longest of all diets. Also, a plant based diet is good for the planet by reducing the forest area cleared for pasture and enabling other uses for land currently growing fodder (soy, corn, hay) for intensive livestock operations.
The best diet is the one you can adhere to.
Because we are social animals, when you meet friends and you don‘t eat what everyone else eats, it gets weird quickly. We want to feel like we belong in a group.
But people love to make fun of others, especially vegans. I found that justifying your diet to others by citing environmental reasons is not beneficial. It alienates you more from the group because it implies meat-eaters are actively destroying the planet (or torture animals etc.) and should care more.
This is what radical vegans do.
You don‘t make friends that way (only more vegan friends). Something no one can argue with is taste or health. „I don‘t like the taste.“ works until someone gives you bacon. So I use health reasons to justify my behaviour. It doesn‘t belittle others and caring for your own health is something people can respect. It‘s good for the planet, animals and the future of the human species as a nice side effect.
Obivously I am not a nutritionist and can‘t give you advice on how to eat, but this is what I do and it might be useful for you, so you can make your own decisions.
So what do I eat?
Eat your veggies
Obviously the most important part about eating a plant-based diet is to eat tons of plants. I structure my meals around the Daily Dozen checklist. That way they always tend to look something like this. (It also spells out to be LeGreCruGra … )
Cornerstone of my diet are grains. Mostly wholemeal if possible. Roman gladiators and legionnaires mostly ate barley and they fought lions and tigers. They provide the carbohydrates. Because my metabolism is very fast, I need to eat a lot of these or else I get very grumpy. Also, they are great for your gut.
This could be:
Bread, Couscous, Rice, Potatoes (for the purposes of my diet, I count them as grains), Millet, Quinoa, Barley, Farro, Oats, Corn
All long-lived populations (Blue zones) share legumes as part of their diet. I eat a lot of legumes. They give you the protein and iron and a whole lot of other stuff you need. If you eat them every day, and prepare them correctly, there is no crazy fartonanza happening. My advice here: Don‘t eat undercooked or raw beans ever (same goes for mushroooms). They tend to poke holes into your gut, which is not fun, I‘ve heard.
This could be:
Lentils, Beans, Tofu, Hummus, Peas, Chickpeas… There are endless varieties of beans, you can have them in a salad, in a soup or dhal.
You can make breadspread with it, you can dip you veggies into them etc. I cook them with a pressure cooker, which is a magical device that cuts your cooking time by 75% therefore using less energy etc. My favorite one is the Futura from Hawkins (an Indian company, check out the oldschool engineer in the back doing good old design on a drawing board). Try to get one from your indian friend‘s relatives if you can‘t find a shop near you. Use stainless steel or anodized aluminium so you don‘t get Alzheimers.
You need to eat a lot of vegetables and I try to keep it seasonal here because it‘s cheaper and in line with my (not so) hidden environmental agenda. Just eat as many different ones as you can. Dark green, leafy vegetables are especially good. Iceberg lettuce doesn‘t count as vegetable, it’s more like cardboard nutritionally. Having a salad for lunch with beans in it and two slices of bread basically ticks all boxes.
My favorites: Sweet potato, Carrots, Tomatoes, Pumpkin, spinach, chard, corn salad, cucumber, aubergine, zucchini, lettuce, beetroot …
In addition to all the other vegetables I especially try and include some crucifer into my meals. Broccoli is the best vegetables of them all, so make sure to eat lots of that. They contain all sorts of good minerals and are especially valuable because of sulforaphane, which looks like a cancer killing machine.
Cruciferous (cross-y) vegetables are basically variations of wild mustard (the name refers to the flower which looks like a cross) which smart farmers enlarged in every part to make new vegetables:
Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussel sprout (flower)
Kale, collards, cabbage (white and red), rucola/rocket/arugula (leaf)
Radish, turnip (root)
To get the most sulforaphane for your buck, try sprouting broccoli seeds en masse and eating the sprouts, it‘s a fun thing to do for kids.
Mix as you are
Depending on your metabolism you can mix these four elements as you wish. If you are skinny and can eat as much as you like, like me, have more carbs and legumes and less greens. And if you gain weight easily have more greens and crucifers than grains and legumes.
I try to keep it seasonal here as well, but two or three pieces of fruit a day is what I eat.
Eating a handful of berries is good because of the antioxidants. When in season, I get fresh, otherwise I eat frozen berries.
Funghi are great because they contain nutrients that no plant can synthesize. Also, they look cool, taste good, and some people feel like they are just like meat. Know which ones you can eat and always cook them.
Nuts are really good and contain protein and fat. I try to keep it seasonal here as well and eat unsalted nuts. I give mysef bonus points for thinking ahead and activating them by soaking them in water overnight, which makes them even better.
Linseed and Ferments
Linseed are there for feeding my gut bacteria and the lignans to prevent cancer. I ferment all sorts of things to keep my gut bacteria updated about what‘s going on in the outside world. My palate friends made a beautiful video on Fermentation that has my recipe for Sauerkraut in it.
Twice a month I eat some fish. Mostly for the omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA (which you can also get from eating algae). I like to use fish that is as local as possible, not overfished (MSC) or from aquaculture. In addition, I pay attention to the ratio of Omega-3 to mercury content. The bad thing about fish is all the garbage we have dumped into the oceans and rivers and that get accumulated in the fish. So I tend to eat small fish that don‘t eat other fish (like Sardines, herrings or anchovy) or aquaculture fish (trout or salmon).
It‘s not good for you. But it‘s fun. I don‘t eat chocolate under 80% though. In most cases, the higher the better. Make sure it comes from West Africa and not South America, apparently the soil there has elevated levels of Cadmium, which gets nicely concentrated in all the cocoa fat.
The EU has new maximum levels from 1 January 2019, which get higher with the chocolate concentration ( the higher the % of choco, the more Cadmium they can have), which I find a little discomforting. For dark chocolate, the maximum level of cadmium is at 0.8mg/kg. Based on my weight I could eat 0.45mg Cadmium per week (7µg/kg body weight is the recommended maximum). I would hit that with five 100g bars of dark chocolate a week. Given that cereals and vegetables also contain Cd, the occasional sliver of chocolate sounds okay.
Eating plant based doesn‘t mean leaving out the meat and continuing as usual. Eating lots of vegetables is important because you need to get your nutrients elsewhere.
And, especially when eating fish, you don‘t need to buy a lot of expensive supplements of questionable origin. The noble exception being Vitamin B12, which non meat-eaters need to supplement.
Otherwise your brain turns to mush.
Sunlight, Water and Exercise
To round it up, a daily 15 Minute of sunlight works for Vitamin D, 15 minute intensive of 45 minutes of extensive (walking) exercise daily and a healthy amount of water (or green tea) 1.2 litres – 3.5 litres is what I usually drink. Too much water is also not good. You can also drink green tea at night by the way, just get some Hojicha, which is roasted and has less caffeine.
So, this is what I do, I hope you could take something from it.