Can Eating a Plant-Based Diet Save the World?

There are many reasons that people choose to eat a primarily plant-based diet. Some decide to do it for health reasons and others to prevent animal cruelty. But can a plant-based diet help save the world?

Here are some interesting facts about eating plant-based from U.S. News:

  • Roughly 387 million people are living with diabetes, and according to the International Diabetes Federation, that number is expected to soar to nearly 600 million by 2035. Type 2 diabetes is entirely preventable, and plenty of research suggests a plant-based diet can help ward off the disease.
  • Lots of research, including some from the Harvard School of Public Health, suggests a diet loaded with fruits and veggies can lower blood pressure. About 1 in 3 American adults suffers from high blood pressure, meaning they’re at higher risk for heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death in the United States.
  • Harvard researchers tracked the health habits of about 110,000 people for 14 years and found that the higher folks’ intakes of fruits and vegetables, the lower their chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Specifically, people who averaged 8+ servings of fruits and veggies a day were 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack or stroke, compared to those who had less than 1.5 daily servings.
  • Fiber keeps you “regular” by aiding in digestion and preventing constipation. Plus, it may also lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Following a plant-based diet means chowing down on loads of fruits and veggies, which are packed with fiber. Just one cup of raspberries or cooked green peas amounts to 8g of fiber or more, according to the Mayo Clinic.

​Let’s now look at the global impacts of a plant-based diet. In a recent study by Oxford University, Joseph Poore of the Department of Zoology and the School of Geography and Environment found that:

Even a slight change in what we eat can have a big impact on the environment, the study showed. In lieu of a vegan diet, cutting down on animal products by half worldwide and not buying from high-impact producers would achieve 73% of the reduction in emissions of an entirely plant-based diet, according to the researchers. And lessening the consumption of oils, refined sugar, stimulants, and alcohol by a fifth would slash greenhouse gas emissions created by these products by 43%.

​The research also found that:

There are huge differences in the environmental impact of the same types of food. High-impact beef, for instance, produced 12 times more CO2 equivalents and used 50 times more land per 100g of protein than low-impact beef. But compared to pea growers, low-impact beef farmers used 36 times more land and emitted six times more emissions. Meanwhile, high-impact rice created 500% more greenhouse gas emissions than low-impact variants, and a cup of coffee can create as little as 80g of CO2 or as much as 1.3kg, depending on production methods.

What was more interesting was that the study found:

A small number of the producers were responsible for the majority of the environmental impact. For instance, 15% of beef production uses around 950 million hectares of land globally, and creates around 1.3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalents. Beef can create 25,000% higher greenhouse gas emissions and use 11,000% more land than legumes, the study showed.

What the study concluded is that:

Two things that look the same in the shops can have very different impacts on the planet. Food production creates immense environmental burdens, but these are not a necessary consequence of our needs. They can be significantly reduced by changing how we produce and what we consume.

According to Forbes,

  • “Without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75%–an area equivalent to the U.S., China, the European Union and Australia combined–and still feed the world.”
  • “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth.”

It would appear that there is a ton of evidence to suggest that moving to a plant-based diet can save the world from climate change.

Reality Changing Observations:

Q1. What can you do to eat more plant-based food?

Q2. How could you help others understand that the food they eat impacts the environment?

Q3. Why do you believe it is so hard for people to stop eating meat?

Photo by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash

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