Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock as of late, you’ve probably read the headlines about how the plant-based diet (PBD) has the potential to save the world. It is a lofty claim and one that will require an enormous shift from traditional and cultural dietary norms. Researchers have had plenty of time to test this theory and as such, the cumulative data may indicate that the theory may in fact be true. Unfortunately, huge resistance persists regarding reducing or eliminating animal protein, while most can agree that consumption levels in America have become egregious. The rise in popularity of the Ketogenic diet is promising for its role in longevity and disease management but doubles down on the need for increased animal protein. (For the vegetarian or vegan, being Keto is extremely limiting making it extra challenging to stick to).
It seems like nutrition recommendations change every other day, each new trend carrying hope for curing or reversing disease. As health seekers struggle to keep up with the science, one resounding truth remains – the all or nothing approach to eating doesn’t work for today’s busy lifestyle. The downside of following these trends is that it prevents us from truly achieving and maintaining health goals while also threatening diversity in agriculture, an integral component to a healthy food system. One reliable method of preventing disease is to embrace the PBD as much as possible within any nutrition framework, making it the default eating behavior above all else. If not for the many benefits of potent phytochemicals, anti-inflammatory properties and vitamin and nutrient-rich components of the diet, consider the environmental benefits as compelling enough reason to reduce reliance on animal protein.
Americans Projected to Eat More Meat in 2018 Than Ever Before in U.S. History
While the thought of giving up eating meat instills panic in many people, it’s critical to consider the impact that the disproportionate reliance on animal protein has had on the planet. An article by Carol Smith at the United Nations University wrote that as income increased over the last 50 years, the shift to meat consumption and “junk food” calories increased along with it, now comprising up to 40 percent of all food purchasing domestically. Research suggests that if dietary consumption continues on this trajectory, purchasing of meat, sugar and junk food calories could reach upwards of 80 percent by 2025.
Additionally, 80 million animals and 60 percent of grazing land are being cultivated today to keep up with demand for the predominant animal protein diet. It has been written that animals consume up to 15 pounds of feed to produce just one pound of consumable meat. This triggers the need for additional land to be converted to raise livestock achieved through the destruction of native lands that are then turned into monocrop agriculture and cultivated using intensified agricultural practices. These methods contribute anywhere from 24-30 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions today. When we consider this perspective, we can probably all agree that the environment would benefit if more of the population ate less meat.
The Science Still Favors the PBD
Regardless of new research on the health implications of burning dietary fat as a primary fuel source, PBD’s can still hold their own as an effective, evidence-based approach to disease management. A systematic review from 2017 illustrates significant reductions of up to 25 percent in heart disease and 8 percent positive reduction of cancer rates in people who eat vegetarian. For strict vegans, a greater positive effect is achieved with a 23 percent reduction in rates of cancer. Additionally, the epidemic of Type 2 Diabetes is posing a herculean global threat and is the direct result of erroneous dietary recommendations recommending a shift to increased carbohydrates and reliance on processed, fast foods. An easy answer to the growing epidemic is the PBD and a return to cooking meals from scratch as was done in previous decades of our history. The truth is that studies demonstrating the potential of the PBD as a viable means to reduce the incidence of Type 2 Diabetes continue to grow and supportive argument in favor of the PBD has never been stronger.
Instead of Bacon, Start the Day with a Complete Plant-Based Protein
Navitas Organics provides convenient, delicious nutrition options that support a commitment to the PBD. In 2017, we launched protein powders that serve as both meal replacements and smoothie bases to add to virtually any fruit or vegetable blend. With 12 grams of complete plant protein comprised of pea, pumpkin, sunflower, flax and Hemp Seeds, as well as 6 billion CFUs of probiotics, they're the perfect way to achieve balance at the start of the day. Each also have the amazing Greens blend – a combination of Wheatgrass, kale, spinach and spirulina that offers more antioxidants, anti-flammatory and nutrient benefits than five servings of vegetables. I am proud to say that our Navitas Organics Essential Blends are without a doubt a shining favorite of our family among all of the products we’ve launched to date. While my personal favorite is the Vanilla & Greens, the Cacao & Greens and our new Protein & Greens (which contains 20 grams of plant protein) are the perfect plant-based breakfast to complement a busy lifestyle. It’s no surprise that everyone from our young children to grandparents have adopted the Essential Blends as a breakfast favorite.
Whatever your dietary goals, it’s best to stick with nutrition advice that is accessible and works for your lifestyle. The stricter and more limiting the diet, the less likely it is to produce long-term benefits and adherence. By adopting a sensible approach to eating that predominantly favors plants over animal sources, disease prevention and management is assured but will also help alleviate the burden that our current animal production practices are having on precious environmental resources. While the PBD may not be the only approach to disease care, it’s certainly a proven, evidence-based approach that will withstand the test of time.
Want to learn more on this subject? Read "3 Ways a Plant-Based Diet Supports a Healthy Body and Planet"