For years, it has been common knowledge that Americans aren’t eating healthily. As obesity and heart disease rates reach extreme levels, the benefits of a plant-based diet are becoming more appealing and increasingly essential in order to prevent illness, reduce carbon emissions and ultimately lead a healthier lifestyle.
Even replacing one serving of meat a day with whole grains or healthy proteins was estimated to reduce diabetes risk by roughly 20 percent, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
Various studies, including the “China Study” by T. Colin Campbell, a comprehensive look at rural China’s diet in comparison to the western diet, have linked a decrease in animal product consumption to a decrease in health problems.
This famous study provides concrete evidence for the conclusion that the closer people came to eating an all plant-based diet, the lower their risk for certain chronic disease adds.
The rate of obesity in young people in America has increased to such an extent that it has been predicted that this generation of children could be the first to live shorter and less healthy lives than their parents.
A diet based largely on meat and dairy not only contributes to the risk of disease, but also contributes to the world’s carbon emissions.
Jessica Hope, a nurse practitioner, medical researcher and vegan activist says that it is for this compelling reason that she chose to alter her diet over a decade ago.
“I happened to come across a surprising article in a newsletter at my grandmother’s house while on vacation 11 years ago,” Hope said. “The article said that the most significant change an individual can make to stop climate change is to stop eating animal products.”
Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation, according to the documentary “Cowspiracy.”
As claimed by a United Nations University article, scientists project that if the current trend continues, greenhouse gas emissions will be up by 80 percent by 2050.
This number could be significantly reduced if more people simply chose a more plant-based lifestyle. “The more people who switch to a plant-based diet, the easier it will be to reduce climate change,” Hope said. “It is a change that every person could make starting immediately.”
Climate change is a leading concern amongst many people, particularly younger people who will live to see more of the devastating effects that it could have on people’s lives if no action is taken.
“When I went vegan, it was for the environment, and since I’m really passionate about slowing down climate change, it was a really easy transition,” said junior Katie Gibson. “I would love if more people could try to be vegan or vegetarian or at least cut down on their consumption of animal products, but I realize that this might not be economically realistic for a lot of people.”
Aside from the health and environmental benefits of adjusting one’s diet, doing so also helps put an end to the animal cruelty currently present in factory farming.
“The harmful effects of a meat-based diet on the environment and the immorality of animal cruelty are two of the major reasons I choose to be vegetarian,” said sophomore Ella Jones. “And for these same reasons, I think more people should adopt a diet where their meat consumption is limited. It’s really easy for an individual to look up the pros of being a vegetarian and see how it’s better for the environment and how many practices of the meat and dairy industries are not ideal.”
Switching to a vegetarian diet is a lifestyle change that many are glad they made. Hope said, “I think most people who stop eating animals feel an enormous weight lifted from them — the guilt of having ‘turned the other cheek’ for so long.”