Studies and recent evidence gathered by the United States Department of Agriculture, world renowned scientists, nutritionists and dietitians have led to a conclusion that the overall health of both Americans and the environment would benefit from effectively promoting a plant based diet. The U.S. dietary guidelines, whose purpose is to encourage a nutritional and healthy lifestyle, impact many Americans. A plant-based diet can provide healthy and nutritional meals that have other benefits as well.
According to one of the extensive scientific reports conducted by the USDA, iron, potassium and fiber are vastly under consumed while sodium and saturated fats, which are often abundant in meat, is over consumed based on the standards for maximum intake.
A plant-based diet would easily incorporate iron, potassium and fiber into a person’s daily life. Nuts, legumes, fruits, grains and vegetables all provide essential nutrients and vitamins to the human body, including the three that are nationally under consumed.
There are unhealthy consequences for a diet saturated with meat. High blood pressure, cancers and heart issues (the latter two being some of America’s biggest health concerns) have been linked with high intakes of meat. A diet based on plants, however, has never been linked to any prominent health issues.
In fact, such diets have been shown to reduce the risks of health issues. The USDA’s reports stated that “dietary patterns rich in vegetables, fruit and whole grains, and lower in animal products and refined carbohydrate, are associated with reduced risk of postmenopausal breast cancer.”
In regards to heart disease, which is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined, the reports confirmed that an inverse relationship was found between myocardial infarction and stroke and the consumption of fruits and vegetables “with significantly larger, positive effects noted above five servings of vegetables and fruits per day.”
A recent set of studies that looked at the relationship between heart disease and a vegetarian diet found that a vegetarian diet reduced the death risk of ischemic heart disease or cardiovascular disease four out of the six studies conducted, according to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Based on the study, if a plant-based diet was adopted by a majority of the 318.9 million Americans, roughly 210.5 million Americans would be living without fear of death from ischemic heart disease or cardiovascular disease.
Diet plays a large role in maintaining a healthy body at any age. A diet heavy in vegetables, fruits, grains nuts and dairy can lead to “decreased risk of fracture and osteoporosis, as well as improved bone mineral density” as a person ages. Even before birth, a mother’s diet can impact life.
Moreover, according to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a “healthy maternal dietary patterns during the preconception period that [is] higher in vegetables, fruits and grains; lower in red and processed meats; and low in sweets [is] associated with lower risk of developing of neural tube defects.”
Not only does a human’s diet impact their health and life, but it also impacts the environment. Agriculture and the meat industry contribute heavily to environmental issues. Methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas, is a large byproduct of animal waste, which is either released directly in the air, runs off into major water ways or seeps into aquifers and taints ground water.
“Global production of food is responsible for 80 percent of deforestation, more than 70 percent of fresh water use, and up to 30 percent of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions. It also is the largest cause of species biodiversity loss,” the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committees said.
By promoting an animal-based diet, you are promoting a world of scarce and depleted sources. In fact, the USDA said, “The capacity to produce adequate food in the future is constrained by land use, declining soil fertility, unsustainable water use and over-fishing of the marine environment.”
There is no way that the planet can sustain the amount of agricultural production based on a mainly meat diet. The German Dietary Guidelines have recognized the need for change and developed a sustainable shopping basket based off of data they gathered. They found that “a focus on decreasing meat consumption … [and] eating more plants and plant-based products would reduce waste, greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and energy intake.”