This was originally written for Pildora, but I feel so passionate about the subject, I decided to repost on my site. 🙂
A plant-based diet can seem impossible, especially if you are accustomed to eating meat on a regular basis. Going plant-based, however, does not mean giving up meat altogether. Environmental researchers actually recommend a “flexitarian” diet, which involves eating meat occasionally. Eating just one or two plant-based meals a week can be essential to combating climate change; soil, air, and water pollution; ocean dead zones; and a multitude of other problems caused by industrial livestock production.
Why is it important?
Working toward a plant-based diet is essential for our environment and our health. How we grow and produce food can be nourishing for our bodies and the planet, yet industrialized animal agriculture is ravaging our environment. There are some startling facts about the meat and dairy industries and how they are destroying our planet on OMD.com.
For instance, animal agriculture contributes 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gases, making it the #2 leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions. Animal agriculture is also the #1 contributor to extinction and biodiversity loss because of the land needed for grazing and growing feed for livestock.
Benefits to the environment
The food industry is responsible for 30 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, and we now know the meat industry makes up 14.5 percent alone. This means switching to a plant-based diet can make one of the greatest reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
By shifting to a more plant-based diet, you can also help preserve animal and plant habitats. Almost a third of arable land is used for animal agriculture — much of it just to feed pigs, cattle, and chickens. On average, beef requires twenty times more land, per gram of protein, than growing beans, and a 2017 study projected that if Americans ate more beans and less beef, we would require 42 percent less cropland.
A plant-based diet also helps to save water. Agriculture accounts for about 70 percent of freshwater use, making it “the world’s largest water-consuming sector.” Did you know just one serving of beef uses 570 gallons of water and 36 square miles of land? If 570 gallons of water for ONE serving of beef doesn’t blow your mind, I’m aren’t sure what will. Animal agriculture is also the leading cause of water pollution and ocean dead zones. This pollution comes from factory farm waste and toxins from manure, which find their way into groundwater, then rivers and oceans, destroying marine ecosystems. These are startling but very real facts that all contribute devastating effects to our environment and to climate change.
Benefits to your health
Plants play a huge role in keeping our bodies healthy. A plant-based diet may reduce the risk of diabetes, keep your heart healthy, lower blood pressure, decrease your risk of cancer, and provide many other health benefits. On top of those major health benefits, plant-based diets are generally higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and lower in unsaturated fats, which can provide for a healthy gut.
Meat, on the other hand, has major health risks, especially processed meat, which the World Health Organization determined to be a carcinogen that “increases one’s risk of colon or rectum cancer by 18 percent.” Meat also carries the highest risk of food-borne illness, with beef listed as the top cause of outbreaks.
A common misconception people have about a plant-based diet is that it lacks protein. This is simply not true. Animal protein is only one of many sources of protein. Quinoa, tofu, lentils, chickpeas, chia and hemp seeds, nuts, and many vegetables all contain substantial amounts of protein. And you won’t believe the variety of meals you can make with each.
In conclusion, if you are passionate about the environment, it’s important to stay hopeful and continue spreading awareness about the horrible effects caused by the meat and dairy industries. I also hope this encourages anyone who has been curious about plant-based eating to try at least one plant-based meal a week, because with that one meal, you can lower greenhouse gas emissions.