22 September, 2023

In the last decade, veganism has seen a surge in popularity in the UK, with many adopting the lifestyle to improve their health. This probably comes as little surprise. Many of the vegetables and grains in the vegan diet may help to decrease your risk of breast cancer. 

However, much like any diet, a vegan diet can come in many shapes and forms, and not all are healthy. Plant-based chef and educator Sareta Puri sat down with Breast Cancer UK to spill the beans on the benefits of adopting a whole food plant-based diet. 

“There’s an assumption that I’ve always eaten healthfully because of the work that I do, but that’s far from the case. I grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland, in a working-class home. I was raised singlehandedly by my father from the age of three onwards after my mother died from lung cancer.

“I’m of mixed heritage, with my father hailing from India and my mother being of Scottish descent. Whilst both have a rich history of agriculture, our working-class diet was heavy on freezer food. When my father was hard at work, my sister and I would eat the food that he’d left for us. But we’d also eat potato waffles, crispy pancakes, and anything else we could throw in the oven. The school dinners weren’t very nutritious back then, either.  

“It wasn’t until my father passed away 11 years ago that I really started to reconnect with my Indian heritage. A big part of this also meant shifting toward a whole-food-plant-based diet. In my role as a consultant, I speak to people every day who want to switch to a plant-based diet but aren’t sure where to start. There are so many obstacles, including class and economic background, but I find that one of the biggest ones is education.  

“There are a lot of companies who have jumped on the bandwagon of the plant-based movement. It’s great because it means more options, but the problem is some of these options aren’t always healthy. Plant-based sausages and burgers sound like a nice middle ground for people who come from a meat-eating background, but a lot of the time, these products are highly processed and contain loads of nasty ingredients. 

“For a lot of people, these products represent what it means to eat vegan food. In actual fact, a vegan diet can be baked beans poured on a jacket potato or a fresh lentil soup. That’s why I try to encourage people to explore a whole food plant-based diet specifically. This means focusing your diet around vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. You can use these ingredients as building blocks for all healthy cooking and they are so versatile. Approaching a plant-based diet through whole foods, rather than shop-bought plant-based products, can be a lot cheaper. It also offers you a lot more control over what you put into your body. 

“The loss of my mother (to lung cancer before the age of 40) and my father (who suffered from many health conditions) has definitely framed how I approach my life and my dedication to helping people live healthier lifestyles. 

“Some of the potential health benefits of whole food plant-based include: 

  • Lowering your blood pressure 
  • Decreasing your chance of developing cancer
  • Improving your cholesterol 

“The prospect of changing your diet can seem daunting. I always tell everyone in my classes that they necessarily need to become don’t need to whole food plant-based overnight. I’ve read countless books, held seminars, and written hundreds of recipes, and I can honestly say that I’m still learning.  

“It’s all about the journey. The most important thing is to be open-minded and educate yourself. Any small changes you’re able to make can help you to live a longer, healthier life.” 

If you’re interested in learning some delicious, healthy recipes and more about the whole-plant food-based diet, follow more of Sareta’s work on her website and Instagram page 

Start your journey today by trying our prevention quiz. We’ve also got a handy resource full of information about the benefits of a healthy diet in reducing your risk of breast cancer. 

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