The Most Important Resolution
Of all possible new year resolutions, one stands out as having the highest potential to radically transform our lives. It affects all parts of life, and properly executing on it lays a foundation that is absolutely necessary to reach our full potential. It’s a simple habit that can maximize the health of our bodies, our minds, make us happier, increase our productivity, and (importantly at this moment) boost our immune system. If we could collectively muster the will to do it, it’d protect the environment and maybe even prevent the next pandemic. I’m talking about consistently eating a whole food, plant based diet.
The leading cause of disease and disability in the United States is dietary factors. Some of the top dietary problems include getting too little whole grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. The number one killer in the US is heart disease—and it can be halted and possibly reversed with a whole food plant based diet. Studies show cancer risk decreasing with higher vegetable and lower meat consumption. It’s now clear that we have more control over whether we get sick than most of us realize. This year, resolve not to die from your own dietary choices.
Most people have experienced depression at some point in their lives. It can destroy your productivity and tank your resolutions. Some percentage of depression cases are surely due to the circumstances of people’s lives, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that poor diet can contribute as well. It may be that the brain just doesn’t function as well when we don’t give it the right fuel. In the western world, where nearly everyone eats an unhealthy diet, how much depression could be avoided? How much productivity is being thrown down the drain? We don’t know the answer, but we do know that eating healthy can improve mood, depression, and productivity. This year, resolve to keep your brain in a healthy state so that you’re as happy and productive as possible.
In the midst of a global pandemic, amongst all the preventative measures we’re told to do (maintain six feet distance, wash your hands, don’t congregate, etc.), there’s one critical piece of advice missing—eat healthy. We’ve all heard that certain pre-existing conditions can contribute to risk of dying from COVID-19. But what’s left out of the conversation is that many of these conditions are preventable and caused by diet. But that’s only half the picture. There is ample evidence that healthy eating boosts the immune system as well. This study shows that pregnant women eating more fruits and vegetables had a reduction in risk of contracting an upper respiratory tract infection (like COVID). This study shows that kale can increase antibody production. There are many more studies in this vein. This means that upping the quality of your diet could help prevent infection in the first place and reduce the severity should you contract it. It could make the difference between life and death. This year, why not reduce your chance of getting sick and maximize your chance of survival?
Viruses are parasites that require hosts to survive. The public health measures we’ve all become so familiar with over the past year revolve around depriving the virus of new human hosts. But viruses are very adaptable and frequently jump between species. In Denmark, a strain of COVID-19 spread through mink farms and crossed over into humans. Swine flu and bird flu had their day as well. Any situation that brings densely packed animal populations and humans into contact provides an opportunity for viruses to make the jump and start another global pandemic. Thus any serious pandemic prevention strategy must address the fact that the packed, filthy conditions of factory farms are an ideal viral breeding ground. It’s not just viruses, factory farms are implicated in the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria as well. There’s no way around it—more meat production means more risk of viral pandemics and bacteria that we can’t kill with antibiotics. This year, resolve to follow the science and do your part to stop the next pandemic.
That’s only part of the problem with livestock. It’s environmentally destructive, and literally unsustainable at the level we eat in the US. If the entire world ate like an average American, there wouldn’t be enough land on the planet to produce that quantity of meat. It accounts for 14.5% of our greenhouse emissions. It’s the top cause of deforestation in the Amazon. All this destruction, so that we can keep eating things that probably cause cancer. Instead of growing crops to feed our livestock, let’s cut out the middle man. This year, resolve to do your part to protect the environment.
A resolution to eat a whole food plant based diet is a resolution to prevent death and disability. It’s a resolution to keep on living our lives and to optimize our experience in it while simultaneously protecting the planet and public health. This year, resolve to do the right thing for your body, your mind, your planet and your fellow man: adopt a whole food, plant-based diet.