Old habits can die.
Now that the title has your attention, this isn’t a piece to bash my fellow Africans. I love you all. I always find that I am greeted with an element of surprise from people who have just met me when they find out that I only consume plant-based foods. Particularly as I am a tall, athletically-built guy. So — no meat, no dairy, no eggs, no fish, and no processed foods. Obviously I wasn’t raised like that, and a hell of a lot of the aforementioned foods that now aren’t on the menu were previously consumed, and often to excess. But I think this article should be considered a positive one, because I’m trying to highlight the importance of making informed choices. Once we know better, we do better — and realising that I could thrive without eating certain foods has had an immeasurably positive impact on my life.
A combination of habit and culture had me eating animal meats for a very, very long time. I don’t say that lightly, but I didn’t know any better! Growing up in a Ghanaian household and being served meats from various different animals (chickens, cows, sheep, pigs) from a young age just seemed…normal. I looked forward to eating chicken at dinner time, and ploughed through eggs at breakfast. It became a habit, and I believe this is the case for the vast majority of us.
I always believed I ate healthy, with whole-grains and vegetables featuring heavily in my diet — however animal-based foods were always the dominant factor at every meal. This is until I was fortunate enough in 2017 to be recommended a documentary entitled What The Health, and everything that I had been taught and exposed to regarding food was turned upside down. The light came on, and considering my African upbringing and the food I was exposed to, it came as a massive shock. But, it armed me with the tools to make choices about what I put on the end of my fork. You too can do the same. So, is it time we educated ourselves, and took a step away from the typical animal-based diet we Africans have grown up with all our lives?
Health-wise, the possibilities of a plant-based diet are endless. It is now well known that a plant-based diet can be extremely beneficial in preventing and even reversing some of the most prevalent chronic health conditions in society today, including Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. In fact, the World Health Organization has categorically stated that red and processed meat increase the risk of cancer in humans. Armed with this type of information, we are surely in a position to consider the effects of the foods our culture has decided for us.
The protein from animal foods? Not entirely necessary when quinoa, beans, seitan and hummus have a complete amino-acid profile. It’s interesting what can happen when you look at things from a different perspective. I found it very interesting to note that the sources we’ve typically gone to for our protein — chicken, beef and pork — are mostly eating grains and grass!
To be honest, If I was told years ago that I would cut out all animal products in 2017, I would have called you a liar. But my improved sleep cycle, energy and fitness levels and new-found desire for cultivating delicious meals have been the by-product of a brilliant decision I made, based on information I never knew existed. So to all my Africans out there, you can live without meat! It is entirely possible to step into a new realm of food, and one that will benefit you in body, mind and spirit. After all, you can’t knock it until you try it!