“Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.” — Hippocrates

Mindful eating increases our longevity and improves the quality of our lives. By making healthful dietary choices, we can avoid the toxins associated with animal-based food sources and the decreased nutritional value of all highly processed foods.

The majority of environmental toxins come from the foods we eat, both those derived from animal sources and those that are commercially processed, whether plant or animal. Animals raised for food are treated with hormones and antibiotics to increase the amount of meat produced and to prevent outbreaks of disease. When we eat these “commercially grown” animals, we eat the same toxins the animals eat. We also eat the pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers that are used to grow their food.

At the same time, the commercial processing of food products, whether animal or plant, robs them of their nutritional vigor, while introducing potentially toxic elements that don’t occur in the natural state. Under even the purest conditions, every stage of fortification and preservation lessens the health-promoting benefits of all foods, even plants, which are the most healthful food sources. Research indicates that plant foods with minimal processing offer maximum health benefits.

By choosing to eat mindfully, we can prevent most, if not all, of the illnesses that cause nearly 90 percent of deaths in the United States today. Animal-based diets and those that include highly processed foods lead to a host of health problems, including colon, breast, ovarian and prostate cancers. The incidence of hypertension, stroke, kidney diseases and liver disorders is significantly higher among those who follow a diet that includes animals.

The China Project, a seminal study conducted by an international team of researchers, is the most ambitious and thoroughgoing investigation of its sort. The study established links between animal-based diets and most degenerative diseases plaguing our civilization. The findings showed that “[even] small intakes of animal products were associated with significant increases in degenerative diseases.”

In contrast, a lifestyle that includes plant foods with minimal processing significantly reduces the occurrence of these diseases, and can even reverse the progression of advanced diseases of the heart and blood vessels, which kill more Americans each year than virtually all other illnesses combined.

Plant-based diets increase longevity and improve the quality of daily life. Reported physiological benefits include increased energy levels, stamina and sexual potency, as well as decreased severity of psychosomatic illnesses such as arthritis, asthma and diabetes. Psychological benefits of plant-based nutrition include decreased irritability and anxiety levels, improved clarity of thinking and a greater sense of well-being and equanimity.

Spiritually, plant-based diets help to protect and preserve our planet, with ecological benefits that support conservation of Earth’s water, land and atmosphere. Finally, plant-based diets reflect a moral and ethical commitment to the practice of non-violence and compassion for all living beings, including the animals with whom we share the planet.

Simply put, we are what we eat. A diet that consists of plant foods with minimal processing promotes wellness and longevity, with benefits to our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health, helping us to live longer and happier lives.