Nutritionist Simon Hill says the Key to Eating Healthy is in Plants

In his new book, the Australian author channels his passion to help people eat better. Just like for his wildly successful podcast, Hill’s approach is evidence-based, calm and welcoming. We talked to the qualified nutritionist and all-round nice guy about his journey, how to read food studies right and why perfection is the enemy of good.

Simon Hill of the Plant Proof podcast & author of The Proof is in the Plants - Interview for Antagonist, the digital first pure play vegan media house based in Berlin & NYC
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June 24, 2021

Interview – Ielyzaveta Kachanova
Photos – Penguin

Simon, it’s great to connect. Can you introduce yourself to the readers who might not yet have heard of you and your work?

I’m Simon Hill. I grew up in Melbourne, Australia and now live in Bondi Beach, Sydney. I am a qualified physiotherapist and nutritionist, host an evidence-based nutrition podcast called Plant Proof and just recently published my first book with Penguin, The Proof is in the Plants.

My passion is to help people better understand nutrition science so that we can all make better decisions for our health. I also believe we should be conscious of how our food choices affect the world around us — the planet itself and the animals we share it with.

Simon Hill of the Plant Proof podcast & author of The Proof is in the Plants - Interview for Antagonist, the digital first pure play vegan media house based in Berlin & NYC

Congratulations for the release of your first book. When and how did that journey start for you?

In 2018, I started the Plant Proof Instagram account and shortly after the podcast of the same name, as two channels to share information about the power of plants.

Immediately, I was able to see that people were resonating with the type of evidence-based information I was sharing. More importantly, it was helping them become more informed and empowered. It was this feedback that inspired me to begin putting everything I knew about nutrition onto paper.

“When a study is sponsored by the food industry, ask yourself: is this science or marketing?”

Coincidentally, Penguin reached out to me a few months later and asked if I had thought about writing a book. We teamed up and three years later, The Proof is in the Plants was published — all the evidence to support a plant-based diet as the most optimal diet for human health, planetary health and animal welfare.

It can be hard to navigate the world of research, with papers being financed by the industry — and not everybody has the capacity or simply the desire to get deep into the woods when it comes to the science of nutrition. What are some hands-on tips that you could share?

Great point. It’s exactly why I wrote my book. I also think it’s nice to be able to refer to independent organizations (as opposed to people on social media) that have expert committees which perform reviews of the literature and come up with their own guidelines. All of these clearly recommend plant-based dietary patterns. It’s a consistent finding.

Just look at the Guidelines on the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, a joint project by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, the Diet Guidelines of the American Cancer Society, the Consensus Statement by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists or Canada’s Food Guide.

When a study is sponsored by the food industry, be it the soy industry, the dairy industry or other, the question I ask is “is this science, or marketing”.  That means I approach such science with a degree of caution. But at the same time, I understand that not all industry funded study is flawed. So, it comes down to looking closely at the question the researchers asked, their methodology and findings, and then drawing conclusions from there. It’s not easy but reviewing research is a skill I was taught when studying my Masters in Nutrition.

“Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good.”

Do I expect the average person who’s not trained in nutrition science to be able to make sense of studies? No, I think that’s unrealistic. Just as unrealistic as expecting me to do many things that are outside of my wheelhouse. People are incredibly busy with their own jobs and lives.

In an ideal world, people shouldn’t need a high level of nutritional literacy in order to eat a healthy diet. It should be the default way of eating if our environments were set up correctly. That’s where we need to get to.

Let’s talk about implementing the knowledge. Do you always eat clean, check all the ingredients or do you slack off, too? What’s a good balance?

I eat whole plants for around 80-90% of my calories. Then the other 10-20% is more relaxed. Still plant-based but more processed. For me this is super easy to adhere to and doesn’t feel restrictive. Others may land in a slightly different position. But as I write in my book, I am a big believer that we shouldn’t let perfection be the enemy of good.

Consistency over time is far more important than being perfect in any one day or any one meal. I see it like this: I would rather adopt a diet consisting of 80-90% whole plant foods for the rest of my life than adopt a diet where 100% of my calories are from whole plants that only lasts a year or two.

Thank you for your time and these valuable insights, Simon — and much success with your book release!

Find Simon on Instagram and make sure to subscribe to his podcast — a stunning guest list and an enormous back catalogue of episodes, packed to the brim with nutritional information, await you.

Simon’s Book is out now, find out where to get it here.

We’ll hear more from Simon on Antagonist very soon, so stay tuned.

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