“How do you get your protein?”
“Oh, no worries, you eat salad, right?”
“Aren’t you always hungry?”
For those following a plant-based diet, these are familiar questions. And they’re also pretty used to explaining why they follow a diet centered around plant-based foods.
For those not in the know, Forks Over Knives, a well-known, plant-based diet resource, defines a plant-based diet as “centered on whole, unrefined, or minimally refined plant foods that excludes or minimizes meat, dairy products, eggs, and highly refined foods such as bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil.”
There are many reasons that people follow a plant-based diet including health issues, concern for animals and the environment, and weight control. For Sally Lipsky, it was her health.
After receiving a diagnosis and treatment for late-stage cancer, Lipsky noticed an article discussing the relationship between food and disease. A professor at the time, research came naturally to her and she learned more about how foods consumed on a day-to-day basis can have an immediate and lasting impact on health.
“I soon realized that food choices were a powerful tool to help me fend off cancer reoccurrence, thus providing me with a much-needed sense of control and empowerment,” she said. Nearly 15 years after her initial diagnosis, Lipsky remains cancer-free.
Lipsky describes herself as a plant-based educator, author and advocate. A founder of the nonprofit Plant-Based Pittsburgh, Lipsky often makes presentations and teaches classes. She is also the author of Beyond Cancer: The Powerful Effect of Plant-Based Eating as well as numerous articles. She holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition.
Lipsky’s own journey compelled her to educate others. “Unfortunately, the knowledge about plant-based eating is not widespread in our healthcare and educational systems and mass media. I had to dig for this valuable information; other people should not have to,” she said.
Medical studies show that results like Lipsky’s are common. Those who follow plant-based diets are less likely to suffer from cancer reoccurrence, diabetes, health disease and strokes and have healthier weights and longer lifestyles. Eating a plant-based diet also helps the environment. According to the U.S. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), “If everyone in the U.S. ate no meat or cheese just one day a week, it would have the same environmental impact as taking 7.6 million cars off the road.”
And of course, there is the obvious benefit that plant-based diets prevent animal cruelty.
Health reasons also spurred Brittany Jaroudi to begin a plant-based diet. When the then 25-year-old’s bloodwork showed alarming numbers coupled with her high blood pressure, it was a wake-up call. Perhaps even more distressing, she watched her mother and father and other close relatives have their own health struggles. “I felt like I was seeing my future,” she said.
Jaroudi watched the documentary, Forks Over Knives and says that it changed her life. The film tells the story of people who had halted and reversed health issues by adopting a plant-based diet. The movie was so powerful that Jaroudi adopted a plant-based diet immediately—the night before her family’s big Easter dinner.
“I’m Slovakian, so ham is really important at Easter, but I explained to everyone what I was doing even though I wasn’t really sure myself, and I found other things to eat,” she said.
From there, Jaroudi started researching and experimenting with recipes, often converting conventional recipes. Two years ago, she began a YouTube Channel to teach others about her healthy new lifestyle, building a website following shortly after. “I waited until I had shown real strides in my own health, and then I wanted to help others,” she said. Jaroudi’ s blood pressure dropped, her cholesterol numbers greatly improved, and she lost over 80 pounds.
While Jaroudi immediately embraced a plant-based diet, others take small steps, Lipsky said. “Be mindful that plant-based eating can be simple, tasty, and enjoyable. Start with foods and dishes that are familiar and practical for you,” she said.
There are numerous resources for information and recipes. “Connection with and support of others can be key to sustaining a plant-based lifestyle,” said Lipsky. “Customs in society and among family and friends often work against maintaining this lifestyle, so seek others who are committed and supportive of your efforts. Look for resources and communities via meet-ups, Facebook, or other social media sites.”
Both Lipsky and Jaroudi are passionate about educating others about plant-based diets. “I call my website ‘Jaroudi Family’ because I want to share my information to help other families be healthy,” Jaroudi said.
“At grassroots, local levels, we can create vibrant communities of health. The benefits are huge—not just for human health, but also for the health of our planet and animals,” Lipsky said.