Heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and some kinds of cancer are linked to being overweight or obese and are on the rise in developed countries. Could one local woman’s plant-based dining make all the difference?
Western-style diets are to blame for increasing rates of mental health issues, obesity and obesity-related diseases, according to one local diet expert.
And more and more people are changing their eating habits, shunning fast food in favour of clean eating and macrobiotic diets and veganism, latest figures have shown.
Now one local business has created an on-line organic health food shop and a series of recipes and cookery classes to help transform the way we eat, and improve our health and the environment.
“Astonishingly, veganism has risen 360 per cent in the UK, and 16m people in the US are now vegan. The trend is being driven by the young, and the decisions they are taking will have an impact on society,” said Georgina Richardson, director at the Macrobiotic Shop.
“General consumption of meat and dairy is dropping, because of the health and environment implications. Processed meat has been linked to cancer, for example.”
According to the British Heart Foundation, excess fatty tissue increases blood pressure and worsens cholesterol patterns, putting us at a higher risk of heart disease. It also impacts on the way our bodies deal with glucose, making us more susceptible to Type 2 diabetes.
The dangers of today’s western diet may be better understood thanks to modern medicine, but they have been recognised for decades. Despite its recent popularity, bolstered by a high profile on social media sites like Instagram, plant-based ‘clean eating’ is far from a modern phenomenon.
“Japan underwent rapid change at the start of the 20th century when the country’s diet changed because of western influences. This brought with it many illnesses and social problems,” said Georgina.
“George Ohsawa observed the rapid decline in health and set about creating a popular movement for health.”
It was based on whole grains, such as millet, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa and pearled barley, and fermented products such as miso, tempeh, sauerkraut and pickles. He called it the macrobiotic diet.
“It is based on a plant-based way of eating, taking into consideration the seasons, when the grain grows and what climate it grows in. He believed that if we eat in harmony with nature, our overall well-being improves.
And while Ohsawa founded the diet philosophy at the turn of the 20th Century, it’s relevance has continued on into the 21st. Contemporary nutritional biochemist, Dr T. Colin Campbell, agrees with Ohsawa, noting that whole foods and a plant-based diet is integral to maintaining good health. Rather than rely on nutrient supplementation, he argues, we should be getting our nutrition from a whole foods diet.
But the current shift to a plant-based diet is not only about health or animal rights. Georgina notes that it is a choice that benefits an ailing planet.
“The environment is being severely impacted by the levels of animal agriculture needed to feed a huge rise in population. We are damaging ourselves and future generations in the process.
“As more people are looking to improving their health and be more socially responsible, eating plant-based food is the most direct route.”
Contemporary lifestyles, which are often too busy to afford people much time in the kitchen, as well as the proliferation of junk or convenience food mean many people are no longer cooking meals for themselves, which also has an impact on health. Georgina is working to combat that.
“We run small local classes and one-to-one training on plant-based, macrobiotic and vegan cooking,” she explained. “In our shop and during our cooking classes, we don't use meat and dairy replacements. We use good quality sources of unprocessed grain, protein and seasonal vegetables cooked in a variety of ways to make up nutritionally complete meals that satisfy. For desserts we use complex sugars from whole grains and use plenty of sweet vegetables during a meal to help cut down on extreme sweet cravings.
“People can also browse the selection of ingredients in the shop and receive advice how to use them. And we advertise a selection of macrobiotic courses around the UK and Ireland.”
To find out more about macrobiotic cooking, including easy to follow recipes, visit the Macrobiotic Shop website.