One of the myths about being whole food, plant-based is that you have to be vegan. While many practitioners are vegan, many are not. Some have adopted a flexitarian approach to whole food, plant-based eating.
A flexitarian is defined as a vegetarian who eats minimal amounts of animal products. Doing so is right in line with how the Blue Zones populations ate.
The Blue Zones are the five areas in the world where it has been documented that people live the longest and the healthiest. While each Blue Zone population eats differently, commonalities between them show that they each tended to eat whole plant-based foods along with small amounts of animal products as well.
There may be good, scientific basis for this. Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of "The China Study," wrote in that book that, while the evidence is strong for a diet that is 95% whole food, plant-based, he can't make a definitive statement based on science that 100% is any healthier.
Dr. Michael Greger, in his book "How Not to Die," identifies unprocessed animal foods as "yellow light" foods to be limited but not necessarily avoided.
Studies have shown that some nutrients are better gotten from animal-based foods than from plant-based foods. These include vitamin B-12, vitamin D-3, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (DHA/EPA) and vitamin K-2.
Because of that, and because I personally prefer not to take supplements, I added some animal products like wild Alaskan salmon and Pacific sardines to my diet about nine months ago. During this time, I have continued to monitor my blood markers, all of which improved even more.
I now consider myself a whole food, plant-based flexitarian.
You might not be willing to go vegan, but if you can go flexitarian, it would be a huge win for your health. Tom Brady has proven that at even the 80% whole food, plant-based level.
And if most people can do even that much, not only will their health improve, but so will the environment and the welfare of the animal population. A flexitarian approach by a large number of people can have a tremendous impact on both the environment and the welfare of animals. It is a win-win all the way around.
In conclusion, I'm reminded of the words of Michael Pollan, a flexitarian himself, who famously wrote, "Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much." Those seven words sum up, in my opinion, everything we really need to know about how to eat.
They've been my mantra for the last six and a half years, and that has served me well.
J Lanning Smith is a local freelance writer focused on healthy lifestyles.