Especially with the current political climate, one can’t help but wonder: what can I do to “save” the world? What are lawmakers doing to help save the planet? Since our day to day lives makes it seem like the world is small, we often fall under the impression that we are incapable of making major change. We can’t do anything about the 3 billion people that are malnourished, which is the largest proportion ever recorded according to the World Health Organization (Pimental), right? Or anything about our rapid population growth on already depleted resources? (Pimental) Believe it or not there is a simple choice that we can all make that could, over time, remedy the inevitable consequences our actions: the adoption of a plant-based diet. A plant-based diet is a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, legumes and excludes or minimizes the consumption of meat, dairy and eggs. Adopting and educating ourselves on a plant-based diet makes us more aware of how our personal choices affect the world as a whole: environmentally and health-wise. But are we ready to make this change?
With the recent projection of the United States population doubling within the next 70 years, the sustainability of our practices is put into question. Food production in the United States uses a plethora of natural resources: 50% of our land, 80% of fresh water, and 17% of fossil energies. The tricky part about natural resources is that some are nonrenewable; once they’re used, they’re gone forever. However, production of food is not equal across the board. Analysis by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that production of animal-based products is far less sustainable than plant-based products. Animal-based agriculture uses almost twice as much land area and grain. To put some perspective, the amount of grain fed to the 9 billion livestock in the United States can sufficiently feed roughly 840 million people who lead a plant-based diet. In addition, producing one kilogram of animal protein requires 100 times more fresh water than producing one kilogram of plant protein. The land usage puts also puts a toll on the environment because of rapid soil depletion. 60% of US land is being overgrazed and is subject to accelerated erosion; not to mention that it takes 500 years to replace just one inch of lost soil. Because livestock are being fed low quality grain in efforts to cut costs, this leads to over expenditure of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels like herbicides, nitrogen, gasoline, and diesel can affect our ozone layer and increase air pollution. Choosing to support plant-based industries when you’re buying groceries proves to business executives that there is a demand for it, thus leading to their divestment in animal-based industries.
If helping the environment doesn’t provide enough motivation to make the switch, then the health benefits will. Obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes are three of the most common causes of death in the United States. It is widely recognized that those who lead a plant-based diet weigh less and are less likely to develop diseases. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, there is substantial evidence that indicates that plant-based diets including whole grains, unsaturated fats, an abundance of fruit and vegetables can play an important role in preventing cardiovascular illnesses and other chronic diseases. This claim is reinforced through a study carried out by the American Diabetes Association. Patients with Type II diabetes were randomly selected to follow a new diet regimen: a low-fat plant-based diet or the ADA diet. While both diets provided success, it is clear that the plant-based diet provided the most success. According to the study, 43% of those on a plant-based diet were able to wean off their diabetes medication while only 26% of those on a modified animal-based diet were able to abandon the medicine they once needed to stay alive. In addition, those on the plant-based diet lost twice as much weight, and halved their LDL cholesterol levels. Lastly, blood glucose levels decreased twice as much for those on the plant-based diet rather than the ADA approved diet, which includes animal products. We see too many people, including members of our family, suffer from obesity and other chronic illnesses. Adopting a plant-based diet can be the solution to this epidemic, and can further enhance our quality of life.
Despite the clear benefits of a plant-based diet, there is still an unanswered question: is the world ready for this change? Many cultures promote the mindless consumption of animals, regardless of the ethical and health consequences. It’s imprinted into our brains from birth to death through many mediums. Research conducted in Australia, which shares a similar culture to the United States, sought to determine the amount of interest towards a plant-based diet consumers have. Surveys were randomly sent out across all demographics; these surveys provided information on a plant-based diet and asked questions about the current and prospective dietary habits of the reader. The results showed that over half of the participants were not thinking about making the switch to a plant-based diet, despite the information provided. 16% were thinking about making the switch to a plant-based diet, while 27% had already adopted a plant-based diet. The results of this survey suggest that despite education, our society still disregards the plentiful benefits of a plant-based diet.
A plant-based diet can better the world in ways that we previously may have not considered. The overwhelming amount of research presented shows that a plant-based diet provides numerous benefits to our health and environment. The epidemic of chronic illness due to nutrition have slowly pushed lawmakers to introduce programs like the United States’ “5 a day” program, which promote the consumption of plant foods. Canada changed their FDA food pyramid in 2017 to reflect a plant-based diet as the model diet for Canadians to follow. Small changes are being made across the globe in hopes to better our condition; but it’s up to us to make the choice. Although the world seemingly may not be ready to make this change, it is worthwhile to consider how this simple choice can affect the world around us. If we have the opportunity to better our world, then why wouldn’t we?
Pimental, David, and Pimental, Marcia. “Sustainability of Meat-Based and Plant-Based Diets and the Environment.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 Sept. 2003, academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/78/3/660S/4690010.
This source talks about the sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets, specifically in how they affect the environment. It provides pros and cons to both diets. I’m using it in my report to strengthen my argument as to why the world should go plant-based. This source is reliable since it was reviewed and published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Lea, E J, et al. “Consumers’ Readiness to Eat a Plant-Based Diet.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 9 Nov. 2005, www.nature.com/articles/1602320#author-information.
This source gives an idea as to how interested people are in adopting a plant-based diet. It details a survey that was given randomly to residents in Australia. I’m using this source to argue that despite all the benefits of a plant-based diet, there are a decent amount of people who choose to overlook it. This is a reliable source since it was published and reviewed by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
B, Frank. “Plant-Based Foods and Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: an Overview | The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition | Oxford Academic.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 Sept. 2003, academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/78/3/544S/4689995.
This source details health benefits of a plant-based diet. It claims that a plant-based diet can aid in prevention of cardiovascular disease. I’m using this source to reinforce my point that there are motivating reasons for the world to go plant-based in terms of health. This source is reliable since it was published and reviewed by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Barnard, Neal D., et al. “A Low-Fat Vegan Diet Improves Glycemic Control and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in a Randomized Clinical Trial in Individuals With Type 2 Diabetes.” Diabetes Care, American Diabetes Association, 1 Aug. 2006, care.diabetesjournals.org/content/29/8/1777.short.
This source talks about a study that was done in the United States with patients with type 2 diabetes. The purpose was to highlight that the intervention of a plant-based diet can reverse chronic illnesses. I’m using it in my report to support my claim that there are health benefits to a plant-based diet which is a reason for the world to plant-based. The source is reliable since it was reviewed and published by the American Diabetes Association.