Kathy Freston is an author and wellness activist. She is the New York Times bestselling author of The Lean, Veganist, and The Quantum Wellness Cleanse.
Robert Piper: You’re an advocate for taking small steps towards becoming a vegan. You call it “leaning in.” Can you explain what you mean by this?
Kathy Freston: For many of us, it’s too difficult to jump in to vegan full on because it’s just so different than the way we grew up eating. But if we take small steps—like replacing cow’s milk with almond or soy milk, or using veggie sausage instead of sausage made from animals—we can keep enjoying the things we grew up loving, just better versions of them. Little by little we discover that we don’t need to eat animal products at all, because there are so many healthier alternatives that taste great. The trick is going easy with yourself so that you can find your way comfortably. Then you’ll stick with it. The goal is progress, not perfection!
RP: Why is it healthier to become vegan?
KF: An abundance of peer-reviewed science is showing that a whole foods, plant-based diet prevents most heart attacks, strokes, and even many kinds of cancer. It gets you to your ideal weight easily and sustainably, reverses Type 2 diabetes, and even fixes erectile dysfunction (because it greatly improves circulation!). You get tons of phytonutrients and antioxidants from plant-based foods, very little saturated fat, and you avoid cholesterol entirely!
RP: Can you explain the best sources of protein?
KF: Protein is in just about everything (even broccoli!), but you get a lot from beans and legumes (black beans, chickpeas, lentils), soy products, nuts and seeds. You know how most people think that eggs are great sources of protein? Well, you only get about six grams from an egg, and about half of that is in the yolk and the other half is in the white. If instead you opt for a cup of lentils, you get a whopping eighteen grams of protein, plus all that fiber that makes you feel full and cleans out your body!
RP: How do you make the best food choices when traveling?
KF: I use apps like VeganExpress or check in with HappyCow.net to see where I can get vegan food wherever I’m going. I also travel with lots of snacks, like Bobo’s rice bars (I have them for breakfast), Clif Builders protein bars, trail mix, and fruit. Actually, I kind of make it a sport to find a health food store or a good restaurant. It’s a great way to familiarize myself with a new city in a really fun way. There is always a Mexican or Thai restaurant wherever I go, and those are two ethnic dining wins for vegan food (black bean burritos and guacamole for Mex, or rice and tofu with veggies for Thai!).
RP: Why is going vegan good for the environment?
KF: The business of raising animals for food (with its continuous heavy waste stream of methane and nitrous oxide—leading global warming gases) is responsible for about 18% of global warming. Some scientists actually say the number is closer to 50%. Also, animal agriculture takes up an incredible 70% of all agricultural land, and a whopping 30% of the land surface of the planet. As a result, farmed animals are probably the biggest cause of slashing and burning the world’s forests. Livestock accounts for most of the water consumed in this country, emits two-thirds of the world’s acid rain-causing ammonia, and is the world’s largest source of water pollution—killing entire river and marine ecosystems, destroying coral reefs, and of course making people sick with contamination on crops.
A veggie burger is sounding great now, isn’t it?
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