There are many reasons people choose to cut meat out of their diet: health trends, diet goals, environmental reasons, to name a few. While plant-based diets have been growing in popularity, only two percent of the American population is vegetarian, although many people adopt the diet for a short period of time. Whether they are adopting the diet for health reasons, for the animals or for the environment, there are many benefits to adopting a plant-based diet — including the opportunity to heal our bodies and the planet.
Healing Our Bodies
Most American adults eat about twice the daily recommended amount of protein per day.The correlation between this number and the heightened levels of chronic illness in the United States is no coincidence. While humans are capable of consuming meat, our bodies cannot handle regularly consuming large amount of meat without it taking a toll on our digestive tracts. This is why a meatless diet has been proven to decrease a person’s chances of developing chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.
Most Americans consume an excess of meat and a shortage of fruits and vegetables, which is why diet is such a major part of preventative health care. Taking care of your body and making sure you are getting your daily recommended servings of fruits, vegetables, vitamins and minerals helps ensure that your body is getting the fuel it needs to run healthily. While it is common to live on a diet that does not meet your body’s needs, people’s bodies would perform better and more efficiently if they were receiving what they need to thrive.
Diet is often an important aspect of holistic health that is addressed when individuals look for alternative approaches to medicine to improve their health. Holistic health values the body and mind, as people are unable to live happy and healthy lives when either of these areas are suffering. Holistic care can transform your approach to healing, which can also heighten your level of compassion for the world around you. For the small portion of people who are on plant-based diets due to ethical reasons, a vegan lifestyle can help settle the conscience.
Healing the Planet
Animal agriculture is widely recognized as one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gases, environmental pollution, and in general consumes many of our planet’s resources. When looking at overall contributions to greenhouse gases (GHG), the farming of animals for human consumption contributes 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, which is a larger percentage than all methods of transportation combined.
However, a newer and more controversial study claims that livestock and their byproducts account for 51 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. According to a report by Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang of Worldwatch Institute, “…replacing livestock products with better alternatives would be the best strategy for reversing climate change. In fact, this approach would have far more rapid effects on GHG emissions and their atmospheric concentrations—and thus on the rate the climate is warming—than actions to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.”
Studies like these are the reason behind the rise of global campaigns like Meatless Monday, which was an FDA recommendation during WWI in an attempt to support the troops and help feed starving people. In the last 15 years, with the help of environmental studies and government support, Meatless Mondays has become a widespread environmental effort to reduce the environmental impact of animal agriculture and to reduce meat consumption closer to the recommended amount.
Campaigns like Meatless Monday aim to improve public health by encouraging the public to square out their meals by substituting their overconsumption of meat with more fruits and veggies, of which most Americans do not eat enough. Eating balanced meals is a positive step towards better health which can help prevent illness, and will also help reduce your overall environmental impact. The growing trend of plant-based diets is a data based shift aimed at healing our bodies and the planet through better eating and more consideration to how we use our resources.
Written by Avery Phillips for EarthTalk.
Featured image provided by Anna Pelzer