What actually is “Plant-Based Diet”?

There are various types of diets that we encounter in our life. They change names but when you look deep into them you can see that they are actually similar: Montignac, Atkins, Dukan, Keto… Except one, which is plant based diets such as veganism and vegetarianism. Plant-based diets have been on the rise recently with healthy eating and fitness. Also, with the recent documentaries and environmental problems, people prefer to go on a plant based diet. But what is this diet, and how does it affect our quality of life?

A plant based diet is a diet consisting mostly or entirely of plant based foods. Plant based foods are foods derived from plants with no animal source foods or artificial ingredients. By eating a plant based diet, there is the possibility of developing a positive impact on the environment, on personal health, and economic productivity.

First of all, let’s focus on the effect of eating a plant based diet on the environment. Production of animal protein demands twelve times more land, thirteen times more fossils, and fifteen times more water than the transportation systems. A report published in The Lancet in 2019 concluded that a dietary shift toward plant foods and away from animal products is vital for promoting the health of our planet. The report states that projections for the future show that “vegan and vegetarian diets were associated with the greatest reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions.”  According to a report from the United Nations Environment Program, a global shift to a plant based diet could actually decrease the greenhouse gas emissions caused by food production by 70% by 2050. Wait a minute, how does producing food emit greenhouse gases? Well, the world’s five biggest meat and dairy producers emit a lot more greenhouse gases than the top three oil production companies. In addition, many studies have shown that producing meat consumes a significant amount of water: 2400 gallons of water is used to produce 1 pound (lb) of beef meat whereas 25 gallons of water is required to produce 1 lb of wheat. A plant-based diet requires less water to produce the food as it suppresses all animal-based products. In addition to consuming a lot of water to produce meat, livestock farming also pollutes water sources because the waste produced by the livestock ends up in waterways. Livestock farming causes acid rains due to a high concentration of ammonia in the atmosphere. In consequence, the water sources are getting polluted and the diversity of submarine species decreases. 

Secondly, adopting a plant based diet has a huge impact on personal health. Plant-based diets eliminate animal sources and focus on plant products such as whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and healthy oils. Consuming these unprocessed foods have unexpected effects on our health. Several studies have shown that sticking with a plant based diet can reduce blood pressure and reduce hypertension, heart diseases, and type 2 diabetes. According to a study published in Journal of Hypertension, vegetarians have a 34% lower risk of developing hypertension than meat eaters. Since meat contains saturated fat, eating an excess of it can lead to heart problems. A study published in 2019 in the Journal of American Heart Association found that eating a plant-based diet may reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases by 16 percent and dying of these health conditions by 31 percent. Other than these effects, being on a plant-based diet can prevent a well known and common disease: type 2 diabetes. Journal of Epidemiology and Global Health states, “In 2017, approximately 462 million individuals were affected by type 2 diabetes corresponding to 6.28% of the world’s population (4.4% of those aged 15–49 years, 15% of those aged 50–69, and 22% of those aged 70+), or a prevalence rate of 6059 cases per 100,000. Over 1 million deaths per year can be attributed to diabetes alone, making it the ninth leading cause of mortality. The burden of diabetes mellitus is rising globally, and at a much faster rate in developed regions, such as Western Europe. The gender distribution is equal, and the incidence peaks at around 55 years of age. Global prevalence of type 2 diabetes is projected to increase to 7079 individuals per 100,000 by 2030, reflecting a continued rise across all regions of the world. There are concerning trends of rising prevalence in lower-income countries. Urgent public health and clinical preventive measures are warranted”. It can be concluded that we can change our future by changing the food we put in our bodies. 

Lastly, economically speaking, the financial benefits of more people switching to plant-based diets would be enormous. The global change can influence the economies positively, thereby increasing quality of life. Purchasing and producing dairy and meat products cost more than purchasing and producing plant based product. Also, trying to prevent and cure the health problems caused by meat-based diets, governments use a higher than necessary amount of money for health care. Focusing on healthcare and using most of its monetary resources, governments may compromise in some areas, which eventually decrease the quality of life. In a study done by the University of Oxford, researchers concluded that positive changes could save up to $1,000 billion annually on healthcare and lost working days, with $570 billion being saved as a result of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Notably, out of all 195 countries, it was the United States that would be set to save the most by cutting out the steaks, burgers, and hot dogs. That’s $250 billion in healthcare costs annually (more than the entire European Union and China combined. Lieven Annemans, professor of health economics at Ghent University, said, “Our research demonstrates that increasing plant-based eating is cost-effective, reduces economic costs, such as hospital admissions and doctors’ bills, as well as increasing the number of healthy years people live, and enabling them to continue working”. In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, research showed that if people continue to follow mainstream, animal-based dietary trends rather than shifting to a balanced plant-based diet, it could cost the US between $197 billion and $289 billion per year. The findings also determined that the global economy stands to lose up to $1.6 trillion by 2050. 

To conclude, switching to a plant based diet has numerous benefits. It promotes personal health, sustainability, and quality of life. Even though, for some people, cutting dairy and meat may seem like an impossible job, or they may be reluctant to change their diets and give up these animal products, small steps are enough to make changes. Try cutting animal products for a whole day. Just one day makes a huge impact. Let’s make our future better together, with small steps.


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Jedrzejczak, Antonina. “Is A Plant-Based Diet Actually Legitimate?” Refinery29, 12 Dec. 2017, http://www.refinery29.com/en-us/plant-based-diet-benefits-environment.

Lawler, Moira, and Kelly R. Kennedy. “9 Scientific Benefits of Following a Plant-Based Diet | Everyday Health.” EverydayHealth.Com, 17 Jan. 2020, http://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/scientific-benefits-following-plant-based-diet.

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