By: Luis Arjona
“We can interpret [a] greener diet in two ways; greener as in more fruits and vegetables, and greener as in better aligned with environment and sustainability. In fact, these two are similar. Plant-based food production is less resource-intensive and better for the planet,” said Nishesh Singh, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist working at Texas Health and Human Services as a Clinical Nutritionist. Singh has an affinity for sharing a wealth of information on his Instagram, blog, and upcoming podcast.
Eating whole foods includes a proclivity for plant-based items. However, Singh asserts that one’s diet does not require the elimination of meats and dairy, but should have a nice balance with more fruits and vegetables. Increasing intake of vegetables, fruits, and whole foods can change one’s life. This would not please many readers, but processed meat is a Group 1 carcinogen (known to cause cancer), and red meat is a Group 2A carcinogen (“probably causes cancer”), warned Singh. He also expresses further caution as meats and dairy are additionally a source of dietary cholesterol. This information is not meant to scare readers, but to educate and inform; “In contrast, whole plant-based foods are full of phytochemicals (antioxidants) that fight cancer and chronic diseases…” said Singh. Balance is vital for a healthier lifestyle. As one is more equipped with information, deciding how to tweak and adjust the fuel for one’s body becomes a way to customize one’s life.
A greener diet is not only beneficial for one’s health, but it offers an opportunity to become more active and enjoy time outdoors. One can begin cultivating a garden and bringing in fresh food from the backyard. The only thing better than farm-to-table is backyard-to-table. Tevin Gray is the owner and operator of Keepers of the Garden CCTX, an urban garden in northwest Corpus Christi. The garden provides an educational experience for locals to learn about the food they consume and enrich their diets with freshly grown produce. To Gray, a green diet “can be looked at as choosing foods that will offer health benefits to your body, as well as a having an impact on the environment.”
Gray also attests to the considerable difference in quality between freshly grown foods versus store-bought. “There is just something special that occurs when you bite into a fresh peach that you picked straight out of the tree, or made a salsa with all of the ingredients from your garden.” Acknowledging the importance of a well-rounded diet, Gray goes on to describe “Blue Zones,” areas around the world where people live the longest. Within these zones, “you will see they have a majority plant-based diet with minimal animal-based protein,” said Gray.
Nourishing the self will be different for everyone. Formulaic advice such as “eat more fruits and vegetables” may sound trite, so Singh recommends starting with minor changes. Increasing the amount of plant-based foods incrementally for consistency is better than significant changes that may not last. The process is about experimentation, and with the help of Gray, experimenting with native plants can make the process rewarding, nutritious, and delicious. He listed a few tasty plants he incorporates in meals, such as Turk’s Cap, Barbados Cherry, and Bee Balm.
Both Singh and Gray enjoy incorporating variety in their diet. Still, Singh believes that what one eats should not be restrictive but balanced. With summer coming to a close soon, the Coastal Bend will be ready to grow again. Staying active and small changes in diet go a long way. So, if one is looking to make some changes to dietary consumption, creating a garden and bringing fresh food from the yard can be a fun, motivational way to pivot to more productive plant-based whole foods.