Benefits of Eating Plants (a Vegetarian’s Take)

This post may seem a bit “out there” to all my meat eating friends, but there’s good reason why I eat the way I do. Obviously plants don’t make up 100% of my diet but they have some huge benefits.

Millions of Americans are making an amazing discovery: cutting meat down or out of the diet has remarkable benefits for individual health and dramatically reduces one’s carbon footprint impact on the environment. Now an agency of the U.S. government is in on the secret as well. With all the meatless food options available now, it is simple and delicious to cook without meat in the diet.

Change for the Better in American Diets?

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee meets every five years to update suggestions and advice for the agencies responsible for national Dietary Guidelines. Noting the fact that American diets are deficient in healthy elements like whole grains and fruits and vegetables, the Advisory Committee also confirmed that the average diet is too heavy in salt and sugar.

The committee recommended a decrease in meat eating for Americans. The new recommendations have ruffled some feathers in the meat industry and among their allies in Congress, though. Grounding the recommendation in the recognized environmental impacts of meat production, the committee faces accusations that it exceeded its boundaries in making recommendations that go beyond individual health and nutrition concerns.

Real Environmental Impacts

While some in industries that rely on animal agriculture object to the committee considering the environmental impacts of the industry, it is a valid point, considering that:

  • Animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gases than all other forms of transportation together
  • One-quarter of Earth’s surface is devoted to raising chickens, pigs, cows and lamb
  • It requires 2500 gallons of water to raise a single beef cow – an amount 50 times greater than the water to take a single shower.   One cow can produce as much as 130 gallons of methane gas per day

The American diet and its heavy animal-product use is a major contributing factor to problems like climate change, deforestation (clearing jungles or forests to raise livestock throughout the world), and greenhouse gas accumulation in the environment.

Outstanding Options Available

The exciting news is that there are so many great options available in the world to replace meat in the diet. The change to healthier eating is easily within reach. The decrease in damaging impacts on the health of the world and of the individual add up as more and more Americans discover the joy of eating plant-strong and healthy.

Shaping the Future of the American Diet

While the recommendations of the committee are not directly enacted into law or policy, they have a powerful voice in the national conversation on nutrition and health. Millions of schoolchildren get lunch daily through programs guided by the official Dietary Guidelines, so the impact of changes in the federal dietary recommendations have a broad reach.

Many people applaud the results of the committee’s new work as a step forward in improving American diets and overall health. With all the great options on the market for plant-based food, people can have their health and eat great, too.