Why Choose a plant based diet?
Wondering if your favorite tea falls into that plant-based diet you keep hearing about?
Just in case you’re unfamiliar, a plant-based diet is precisely what it sounds like: eating patterns focused around plant-based foods. This includes more than fruits and vegetables--nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans.
The good news is that the most important part of Avocado Leaf Tea is our Avocado Leaves, harvested from our Grove in southern California. And that’s right--that makes us plant-based. Being a plant-based company is so important to us, and here we’re going to explore the two biggest benefits of going plant-based: your health and the environment.
Let’s first examine the more personal of the two: health. Much nutrition research has evaluated plan-based diets such as the Mediterranean and vegetarian diets, according to Harvard Health Publishing. The Mediterranean diet has a foundation of plant-based foods. It consists of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and pulses(a subsect of the legume family). There’s very little sugar, sodium, processed foods, refined carbs, saturated fats, and fatty or processed meats in the Mediterranean diet. This ranks it “among the healthiest ways to eat,” according to registered dietician and weight-loss expert Samantha Cassetty on TODAY. “It’s a plant-forward diet that doesn’t exclude healthy fats. Seafood, chicken, and meats are eaten, but they are not the center of the plate. And it celebrates the enjoyment of food.”
Around New Years, the Today Show puts out a list of the Top Diets of the Year, and nearly every year, the Mediterranean and Vegetarian diets are near the top of this list. Why is that? Because they are (say it with me!) PLANT-BASED! Their list for 2021 also includes the Flexitarian, DASH, MIND, and Volumetrics diets. And guess what? These are all plant-based too. “With a plant-based diet, you can decide whether or not you want to consume animal products, and the focus is on eating mostly foods that come from plant sources,” said Dr. Christine Kirlew, M.D., an internal medicine physician at Piedmont, in an article for Piedmont Healthcare.
According to Dr. Kirlew, “Regardless of what meal plan you choose, everyone’s diet should ideally consist of 50 percent vegetables.” Hear that?? 50%! So regardless of what diet you’re following, experts say that ideally half of every plate is 50% vegetables, 25% whole grains, and 25% lean protein.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that the average American derives 42% of their energy intake from low-quality carbohydrates (not energy-efficient, calorie dense), and nearly 12% from saturated fats, which increases your levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Unhealthy diet is a major risk factor for disease, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer. In the United States, poor diet was estimated to be the leading cause of death and the third leading cause of disability-adjusted life-year loss, according to a study done by the US Burden of Disease Collaborators in another JAMA publication.
So it’s essential that we take the time to give our diet a little TLC, and ensure we’re taking care of ourselves. Trying to eat more plant-based meals is a pretty simple way to do that. Going plant based isn’t so much a “diet” as it should be a general approach to eating. You don’t have to count calories or stress about macros (unless that’s your thing). It’s simply about eating more plant-based foods.The positives of plants, however, go beyond just your health. Going plant-based also means lowering your ecological-footprint.
And here comes big benefit No.2: the environment. According to Maya Feller, RD, CDN, a dietician based in Brooklyn, New York and author of The Southern Comfort Food Diabetes Cookbook, going plant-based is popular for reasons beyond health. It’s also gaining traction because it can reduce one’s environmental impact. “Whether you are an animal lover, an environmental advocate, or want to live your healthiest life, being plant based is the one underlying thread that seems to be compelling so many of us,” says Feller in an article for Everyday Health.
A plant-based diet can have a seriously positive impact on the environment. Research from the last 20 years shows that meat and dairy products are fueling the climate crisis. According to Climate Nexus, animal agriculture is a huge contributor to human-made greenhouse gas emissions. Animal agriculture results in significant methane and nitrous oxide production. Methane, mainly produced by means of livestock digestion and manure storage, is a gas which has an effect on global warming 28 times higher than carbon dioxide. Nitrous oxide comes from manure storage and the use of fertilizers, and has a global warming potential 265 times higher than carbon dioxide, according to an article published in Animal Frontiers and Oxford Academic Journal.
Animal agriculture is also a leading cause of deforestation, water and air pollution, and biodiversity loss. The United Nations Environment Programme released a report stating that “animal products, both meat and dairy, in general require more resources and cause higher emissions than plant-based alternatives.”
A report published in The Lancet in 2019 concluded that a global shift to a plant-based diet could reduce mortality and greenhouse gases caused by food production by 10% and 70%, respectively, by 2050. Additionally, the World Health Organization said in 2014 that “reducing livestock herds would also reduce emissions of methane, which is the second largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide.”
The world’s five biggest meat and dairy producers emit more combined greenhouse gases than ExxonMobil, Shell, or BP, the top three oil production companies, according to a report by GRAIN and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. The report found that the top beef, pork, poultry, and dairy producers are reaching dangerous levels of greenhouse emissions due to unregulated growth and governmental subsidies. If production remains unregulated, by 2050, meat and dairy farms will account for 80% of budgeted greenhouse gas emissions. It’s not that plants don’t also have an impact. But theirs is minimal compared to that of animal products.
According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, eating 75 grams of beef (your average hamburger) daily for a year contributes greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to driving a car 7,196 miles. That’s driving across the U.S. 2.5 times! However, eating 150 grams of beans (about a third of a can) daily for a year is equivalent to driving a car 93 miles. The same goes for dairy (although not as extreme). A glass of cow’s milk every day for a year equals out to driving a car about 585 miles, while the same amount of almond milk every day is equivalent to driving a car about 130 miles.
Supporting plant-based companies means also lowering your footprint, even when you’re not buying whole foods. There are great plant-based products ranging from meat alternatives to household items such as paper towels, sheets, and soaps.
Good news is, plant-based alternatives are on the rise. By the summer of 2020, plant-based sales more than doubled, with consumers bringing home 14% more meat-free and dairy-free alternatives, according to New Food Magazine.
According to Plant Proteins.Co, as many as 6% of U.S. consumers say they are vegan, a six-fold increase since 2014. The Good Food Institute also writes that U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods is now worth $7 billion, up from $5.5 billion in 2019. Plant-based food sales grew 2.5x faster than total food sales from 2018 to 2020.
It’s clear that plant-based options are becoming more popular, but just because you aren’t ready to commit to going vegan or vegetarian doesn’t mean you can’t try it out! Going plant-based just means emphasizing plants and plant-based foods in your diet, aiming for a plate that’s 50% produce, 25% whole grains, and 25% lean protein. However, if you are ready to start making the switch, check out this great TED Talk by Graham Hill, about his philosophy for eating plant-based in a carnivorous culture: “Why I’m A Weekday Vegetarian.”
Whether you choose to support plant-based for the climate or yourself, know you’re bettering both your body and the planet!