Q: Why don’t you just say you want people to be vegan?
Vegan vs Plant-Based Terms
We are often asked the question “why don’t you just say you want people to be vegan?” And our simplest answer is: Oreos are vegan. Coconut oil is vegan. Palm oil is vegan.
Vegan just doesn’t work for us. It describes a style of eating that is defined by what you can and can’t eat based on how things are grown/raised. And while this generally features a lot of what we propose in our work and the NEURO plan, it’s not one in the same.
Instead of vegan, we use the term “plant-based.” Do you remember the saying that all squares are rectangles but all rectangles are not squares? That applies here: technically if someone watched the foods we eat and recommend our patients eat, the observer could say we eat a vegan diet. However, plant-based is the more accurate term to use because we also focus on low-sugar and whole food choices.
So while you could fill your pantry–and now probably more easily than ever–with processed vegan foods, like Oreos, chips, processed bars, patties, and snacks, it wouldn’t be much improvement over the non-vegan counterparts at the store. When food is processed from its natural state, vitamins and minerals are removed, fiber is stripped from the food, and you’re left with something that barely resembles food. (Note: the exception to processed food guidelines above is freezing food. In fact, when food is flash frozen it can have less nutrient loss than fresh food that travels across the country–or the world–before hitting the market. This is why buying local becomes something to pay attention to as well.)
And yes! Technically sugar comes from sugar cane, a plant, but it’s another situation where we process away from the natural fiber and make a form of sweetness that hurts our bodies. Sugar is vegan! But we don’t recommend you consume any of this white powder we know as sugar. In fact, science shows that sugar is more addictive than cocaine. Our bodies are evolutionarily designed to crave sweets because sweet signaled an energy source that would help our ancestors out-run a saber-toothed tiger. And while your boss or someone else in your life may seem like a tiger you must fight, you don’t want that sugar rush energy–the quick lift followed by a crash–to give you a quick high.
So, to recap: we don’t say vegan because vegan doesn’t cover what we want you to eat and how we want you to change your diet. Low sugar, whole food, and plant-based all fit the bill.