A plant-based diet is abstaining from animal products (meat, dairy products, eggs and honey). Raising animals for food uses enormous resources (space, water, food). For every kilo of meat or dairy, many times that amount of plants must be used to feed the animals for those products. 82% of starving children live in countries where food (grain) is fed to animals (source: cowspiracy.com), and the animals are eaten by western countries. It is also bad for the environment. Ruminants contribute immensely to greenhouse gases (methane), not to mention the machinery and fuel that is used to raise, slaughter and transport them. They contribute hugely to deforestation (Species extinction) and is the leading cause of all fresh water pollution (ocean dead zones). And do not forget the cruelty animals have to face every day.
From a different point of view. There exists land that can only be used as grassland. No crop would grow on it. Cows living on pasture metabolize grass and their manure is a free ecological resource that amends the soil which gives you better tasting and healthful vegetables. But we do not need that many cows.
In the end everybody is free to decide what seems right for oneself and the environment. If you want to change something start right in front of your door: local, seasonal products from sustainable farmers who do not use any artificial fertilizer, no monoculture and let their animals live outside.
It is nice to say that we are against cruelty. Most of us are. But how many of us actually take these abstract values and put them into concrete action? I know that many do not want to give up eating animal products. But what about eating less but high-quality animal products? That would already have a big impact!
I have to admit that I used to be very sceptical if eating a plant-based diet is healthy for you. So I did a lot of research and read many scientific studies. If comparing omnivores with people on a plant-based diet it is very important to collect other information as well. Like how much sugar and gluten products one eats for example, how balanced the nutrition is, placebo effects, the impact of stress, representativity of the sample, the design of the study, how much one sleeps and exercises, and other influencing factors. Abstract: It is possible to eat a plant-based diet and stay healthy if you eat balanced and supplement vitamin B12 (every other day).
Some people who started to eat plant-based diet began to notice an entirely new world of foods, of cuisines, textures and flavours. I became sensitized to subtle flavours. It is healthier (e.g. less ingestion of hormones, antibiotic, carcinogens, cholesterol and saturated fats leads to less heart problems, less cancer and better cholesterol level), incredibly satisfying and can be low on the budget.
What we eat is very important to our health (e.g. Campbell & Campbell, 2005). Multiple sclerosis for example is a progressive autoimmune disease of the central nervous system. As usual the medical treatment to slowdown the disease is very expensive and has several adverse effects. According to Swank and Goodwin (2003) by far the most successful treatments for multiple sclerosis are specially designed diets. The common denominator of most of these diets are the avoidance of dairy products, eliminate gluten and eating blueberries, blackberries or blackcurrants (Wood et al., 2012).
I do cook a lot with vegetables (e.g. sweet potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes, pumpkin, spinach, carrots, mushrooms), legumes (e.g. chickpeas, lentil), some gluten free grains (quinoa, millet, buckwheat, amaranth), spices (ginger, turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, clove, garlic, chilli, beetroot extract, black pepper, cardamom, and cumin), nuts, seeds, coconut oil and lemon juice. Spices have many health effects.
It can be inconvenient when eating at restaurants that are not plant-based-friendly or at the homes of friends. But since I do not like to be rigid and I love to try new food I just eat what they cook. I only have to be careful with dairy products. If eating too much I get an attack of sweating and stomach cramps.
- Wood, T. R., Sverdrup, U., Ragnarsdóttir, K. V. & Sverdrup, H. U. (2012). Investigating the root causes of multiple sclerosis using systems analysis and dynamics, developing an integrated treatment strategy. Oral presentation at the System Dynamics Society conference at St. Gallen, Switzerland.
- Swank, R. L. & Goodwin, J. (2003). Review of MS patient survival on a Swank low saturated fat diet. Nutrition, 19, 161-162.
- Campbell, T. C. & Campbell, T. M. (2005). The China Study.