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Earth’s Hard-Working Heroes

Feb 28, 2020 03:39AM ● By Annalise Combs
Plants have got to be the hardest-working things on Earth. Certainly, they’re among the most essential. Their importance was demonstrated first in Creation. On the first day, God created light, which is an absolute necessity for plants to grow. On the second day, He divided the sky from the waters. On the third day, He created the seas and the Earth, upon which He placed vegetation. Thus was the beginning of plants. They were here before we were, and in His omniscience, God created them, and all that they need to survive and thrive, in anticipation of our arrival. Plants have supplied most of our needs ever since, and they will forever—unless we somehow manage to destroy them all.

We depend on plants not just as a food source, but as a critical part of Earth’s life support system. They release oxygen into the atmosphere during photosynthesis; they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to keep it in balance (although manmade things threaten their capacity to do so); they provide habitats and food for wildlife; and they regulate the water cycle via transpiration (releasing water vapor from their leaves) and absorption (soaking up groundwater through their roots).

That’s just the environmental stuff. There are also plants’ contributions to the practical aspects of our daily living. They provide all our nonsynthetic medicines and approximately 52 percent of the average American’s calories. As a food source, they are increasingly being proven to facilitate better health outcomes, thus decreasing healthcare costs even as they help blunt global warming.

I adopted a mostly plant-based diet a couple of years ago, and the results were quick and pretty dramatic, like easy weight loss that I wasn’t even trying to accomplish. It continues to help me maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels and clearer, more radiant skin. In fact, when I do eat meat, I can depend on my face breaking out and feeling bloated and sluggish—which tends to keep me on the plant-based path.

If you’re not yet convinced or at least intrigued, read “Thriving on a Plant-Based Diet,” by April Thompson, and our vegan fitness articles in which athletes and a coach testify to the amazing impact of plant-honoring eating. If those don’t make a believer out of you, try a recipe or two from “Meatless Makeover: A Plant-Based Spin on Classic Dishes,” which includes Vegan Popcorn “Chicken”, Walnut Meat Tacos and a mouth-watering Mushroom and Sage Wellington. I can vouch for the tastiness of the traditional-turned-plant-based dishes that I make for myself. Even if you don’t cook, the abundance and availability of frozen, prepared and restaurant offerings make it convenient and easy to improve your quality of life with plant-based nutrition. Make sure to save our North Texas resource guide for vegan and vegetarian meals, foods and cooking classes.

We also pay tribute to one of the most misunderstood plants of our time—hemp, from which over-the-counter CBD products are derived. Although it is pharmaceutically safe, hemp has been controversial because of its family ties. (Think of it as marijuana’s no-buzz cousin.) Like many integrative and complementary treatments, hemp has finally been documented and recognized as having natural health benefits without the side effects of many medical treatments. But that’s not all there is to say about hemp. This crop, which was illegal in the United States for 50 years, is now fueling high hopes among farmers, agricultural researchers, manufacturers and consumers for its use in a host of fiber-based products and its potential to combat climate change. To learn more, don’t miss Julie Peterson’s enlightening article, “Hemp Gets Hot: Meet the Hardest Working Plant on the Planet.”

Be sure to check out all that Natural Awakenings has to offer this month, from pointers on pet diets to the Wise Words of author Ronnie Cummins, founder of the Organic Consumers Association, on the future of regenerative agriculture in sequestering greenhouse gases and the power of growing a movement.

As always, we hope you will find something in this month’s issue that will inspire you to live a greener, healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.

Blessings until next month, 
Bernice
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