Becoming vegan, vegetarian or following a plant-based diet is fast becoming popular. Now, before you start delving into your stack of vegan jokes (we get it, there are some good ones!), you may want to sit back and realise how much of a difference these dietary changes can make.
Not all those following a plant-based diet do so because of the ethics behind eating meat, but many do so because of the positive effect on the environment and the benefits to their health.
The effect on the environment
Much research has been done on our dietary choices and their impact on the environment. This shows that meat and dairy products fuel the climate crisis, while plant-based diets help protect our planet.
When you move from eating meat and other animal products to a plant-based diet, you significantly reduce your carbon footprint, which means making this move will help to mitigate climate change. Don’t take our word for it; this is according to Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change, a report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Studies have demonstrated that a move to plant-based diets rich in pulses, nuts, fruits, and vegetables can substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions, compared to the figures shown in most industrialised countries following their current dietary patterns (in other words, eating meat and animal products).
Another such report was published in The Lancet in 2019, and it concluded that a shift in our diets toward plant-based foods and away from animal products is beneficial and vital for promoting our planet’s health. The report stated that projections show “vegan and vegetarian diets were associated with the greatest reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions.”
Research has shown that a global shift to plant-based diets could reduce mortality and greenhouse gases caused by food production by 10% and 70%, respectively, by 2050, which is a massive reduction and shows that plant-based diets are the way forward.
There have been countless reports on climate change and our environmental effects.
One of which, from the United Nations Environment Programme, stated that “animal products, both meat and dairy, in general, require more resources and cause higher emissions than plant-based alternatives.”
The World Health Organization agrees that “reducing livestock herds would also reduce methane emissions, which is the second largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide.”
We get it, that’s a lot of facts and figures, and it can be overwhelming, but the truth is, you cannot deny the effect your diet has on the environment.
If you’re finding this information hard to visualise, then this statement alone should help you realise what the impact truly is:
The world’s five biggest meat and dairy producers emit more combined greenhouse gases than ExxonMobil, Shell, or BP – the top three oil production companies.
The health benefits of a plant-based diet
In conjunction with the environmental effect, the report mentioned above, Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change, also stated that a plant-based diet would also help improve the individual’s health.
It noted that those who ate a plant-based diet lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and reduced their mortality risk from diet-related noncommunicable conditions, such as obesity. Further studies have shown that it reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease by 16% and your chance of dying from related conditions by a whopping 31%!
Plant-based diets are rich in fibre, vitamins, and minerals, which are vital for your overall health. Studies have also shown that plant-based diets can help lower your blood pressure, reducing your risk of several associated conditions.
Some studies have even shown that a plant-based diet may decrease your risk of cancer, improve your cholesterol and minimise your risk of a stroke.
However, it’s important to note that it’s not just about stopping eating meat and animal products; you also have to ensure that the plant-based foods you’re consuming are healthy. That means choosing whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and healthy oils (such as olive oil), rather than unhealthy plant foods, like refined grains and sugary beverages, which can increase your risk of heart disease.
Well, the data is there and speaks for itself. There can be no denying that a plant-based diet drastically reduces your impact on the environment and significantly benefits your health.
The good news is that there are many options for those choosing a plant-based diet. You no longer have to worry about ‘boring’ food options, as almost all supermarkets provide healthy, enjoyable, tasty vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based options.
If you want to reduce your effect on the environment and improve your health, you don’t have to jump into the deep end – start with making one plant-based meal a week and see how easy it is. You can then increase as you go along!
Enjoy your plant-based journey, and let us know how you get on!