by Jennifer Novakovich
Have you been thinking of switching to a plant-based diet but still haven’t fully committed to it? Or maybe you’re curious about why people choose that lifestyle? This article will give you the two reasons why I chose to be vegan, and why I think it’s important for more people to convert to a plant-based diet.
The production of livestock is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, causing more harm than all the motor vehicles in the world combined! Livestock production uses about 30% of the surface of the earth; resulting in forest destruction, overgrazing, spreading deserts, loss of fresh water, and pollution, as well as ammonia waste products which contribute to acid rain. Freshwater shortages are becoming a global problem, with a projected 64% of people, by 2025, living in a ‘water-stressed’ area. In order to produce the same amount of animal protein to vegetable protein, you would need 11 times more fossil fuels and 100 times more water! A meat based diet currently uses 7 times more land than one that is based on plants! Over-fishing and aquaculture are also taking a toll on the environment, straining many marine ecosystems and resulting in a strong reduction of biodiversity.
If we're going to make it as a species, an adequate food supply and intact wilderness are vital. Despite that, we now have an overproduction of food which is unevenly distributed around the world, and this overproduction is ultimately destroying the wilderness. Dramatic shifts to more plant-based diets would be needed in order to maintain our environment. Unfortunately, big companies will continue overexploiting our resources when demand for animal products is so high. North Americans are becoming more and more overweight and chronically ill at the cost of our environment and its survival (and therefore ours) generations from now. I believe that environmental impacts from our diets should be considered just as important as our well-being and good-health—they go hand in hand.
Let's first look at where meat consumption really goes wrong, in terms of health. Cooked or preserved meats increase risks for many cancers, including colorectal, esophageal, larynx, gastric, bladder, prostate, and breast cancer. Processed meat consumption was associated with a 42% increase in heart disease risk for each 50g/day increase in consumption. In the Adventist Health study, it was demonstrated that BMI increased as meat consumption increased. Lastly, epidemiological studies have shown an associated risk of meat consumption with diabetes (probably due to the increasing BMIs).
While meat consumption is associated with a slew of chronic diseases, plant-based diets are consistently associated with better health. A lot of the most common cancers are responsive to both diet and lifestyle; an estimated 60% of cancers are thought to be avoidable. This is easily seen in individuals following a clean, plant-based diet that is characterized by an increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Fruit and vegetable consumption consistently reduces risks for heart disease and other chronic diseases.
A pooled analysis of several cohort studies involving about 76,000 individuals over a decade reported that vegetarians had a 24% reduction in death from heart disease when compared to regular meat eaters. Vegetarians, especially vegans, have significantly lower body weights than the general population; on average, the BMI of vegetarians are 1–2kg/m2 less than omnivores. Epidemiological data suggests that cancer and diabetes rates are both lower in vegetarians. Furthermore, clinical vegetarian dietary interventions have shown significant reductions in fasting blood sugar, although these results may be due to the weight loss of the intervention groups. All in all, it’s easy to see how strong a plant-based diet can be at promoting good health.
And that wraps up the two reasons that convinced me to go vegan; hopefully I've shown you how beneficial a plant-based diet can really be. Do you have any other reasons to switch to a plant-based diet?Fraser GE (1999) Associations between diet and cancer, ischemic heart disease, and all cause mortality in non- Hispanic white California Seventh-day Adventists. Am J Clin Nutr 70, Suppl. 3, 532S–538S.Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Marchie A et al. (2003) Type 2 diabetes and the vegetarian diet. Am J Clin Nutr 78, 3 Suppl., 610S–616S.McEvoy C, Temple N, Woodside J. (2012) Vegetarian diets, low-meat diets and health: a review. Public Health Nutri., 15:12.Heddle JA, Knize MG, Dawod D, and Zhang XB. (2001) A test of the mutagenicity of cooked meats in vivo. Mutagenesis; 16: 103–107.Jian L, Zhang DH, Lee AH, and Binns CW. (2004) Do preserved foods increase prostate cancer risk? Br. J. Cancer; 90: 1792–1795.Joyce A, Dixon S, Comfort J, Hallett J. (2012) Reducing the Environmental Impact of Dietary Choice: Perspectives from a Behavioural and Social Change Approach. J. Env. and Public Health 978672;7.Knize MG, and Felton JS. (2005) Formation and human risk of carcinogenic heterocyclic amines formed from natural precursors in meat. Nutr. Rev.; 63: 158–65.Marlow H, Hayes W, Soret S, Carter R, Schwab E, Sebate J. (2009) Diet and the environment: does what you eat matter? Am J Clin Nutr 89(suppl):1699S–703S.Mirvish SS, Haorah J, Zhou L, Clapper ML, Harrison KL, and Povey AC. (2002) Total Nnitroso compounds and their precursors in hot dogs and in the gastrointestinal tract and feces of rats and mice: possible etiologic agents for colon cancer. J. Nutr.; 132: 3526S–3529S.Xue W, Warshawsky D. (2005) Metabolic activation of polycyclic and heterocyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and DNA damage: a review. Toxicol. Appl. Pharmacol. 2005; 206: 73–93.See this and other articles on Jennifer Novakovich’s website JennovaFoodBlog.com
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