Opinion | Plant-based diets must be society’s future


Photo courtesy of Marco Verch Professional Photographer/Flickr

Senior columnist Andrew Prozorovsky argues that a plant-based lifestyle is the key for the future.

By Andrew Prozorovsky, Senior Columnist

Ten years ago, veganism and plant-based diets were the punchlines of every joke. They were seen as odd, self-isolating fads. But in the last ten years, the world has changed and begun to understand they may have a valid point.

The terminology can be semantical. Veganism, plant-based and whole-foods plant-based (WFPB) all share overlapping territory, but the difference is often embedded in the reason behind choosing the diet and the certain rules specific to each lifestyle. For example, vegans often extend their consumer choices from food to products of all kinds, and therefore refrain from using chapstick with beeswax or clothes made of real leather.

But broadly, those who practice plant-based diets find three large benefits from it: The diets are better for one’s health, better for the environment and better regarding animal ethics. The benefits are so important for the individual and the world that their growing popularity is critical to a sustainable, healthy future.

Plant-based diets are better for the environment. There is ample evidence to support this claim. Livestock farming is resource-intensive. The amount of grain, water and land necessary to grow a cow is exorbitant and unsustainable. Much of the destruction of the rainforests can be attributed to making room for more livestock farming. Cows produce a lot of methane — a greenhouse gas more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide. Likewise, climate change is a serious, existential threat of which livestock farming finds itself at the center.

Plant-based diets are more ethical. This isn’t a sanctimonious posturing. Animal agriculture often means supporting factory farming (CAFOs), which presents a slew of its own ethical issues.

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If one is avoiding corporate farming and buying from “free-range,” “cage-free” “pasture-raised” sources, the diet still requires butchering animals to sustain. Looking for those labels isn’t a bad thing, but they’re often unreliable or misleading. “Free-range” only means that the birds have outdoor access, which in some cases means a “pop hole” or a small two square-foot outdoor space.

But even if one has decided the environment and animal ethics are unimportant, he or she should selfishly consider a plant-based diet for his or her own health. Processed meat is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the World Health Organization. Eating meat and dairy products heighten one’s risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Places where most people eat plant-based, either due to cultural practices or geographic availability, tend to yield healthier individuals who live longer, happier lives. In “Blue Zones,” where life expectancy is irregularly high, plant-based diets are common.

Furthermore, health experts have maintained that while exercise is undoubtedly important, diet is more important with regards to the longevity of life and preserving a fit figure.

Plant-based diets require less and less personal sacrifice as food sciences continue to innovate. Plant-based foods are becoming increasingly indistinguishable from the real thing. Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have done a tremendous job making products that taste like meat, without requiring actual livestock to be raised and slaughtered. Similarly, there are countless dairy substitutes out there these days. Surely, an individual can find a milk substitute he or she finds comparable to dairy milk, even if it isn’t exactly the same.

Moreover, plant-based diets provide more opportunities to support local businesses or CSA (community-supported agriculture). Community-oriented produce farms amazingly sell tons of organic, frequently fresh fruits and vegetables from a small plot of land. Support from those eating plant-based grows the movement and slowly shifts society away from large, corporate agribusiness.

There are other dietary options too, but none quite as useful. Pescetarianism is great because eating fish is healthy in many ways, but the fish industry, both farm-raised and wild-caught, has several problems. Overfishing poses a serious threat to oceans that are now more full of plastic than fish.

There is immense nobility in plant-based diets. I, myself, can do a lot better eating less meat and dairy and buying their substitutes. It’s an admirable, and progressively more achievable, lifestyle that individuals argue provides more energy and better mental health.

For more information, there is a plethora of documentaries on plant-based diets. Some popular choices include “Forks Over Knives,” “What the Health,” “Food, Inc.,” “The Game Changers” and “Cowspiracy” or “Seaspiracy.”

It’s not only that humanity should consider the trendy diets of limiting animal product consumption. It’s that humanity must. It is the 21st century, and all the data indicates the mainstream diet is antiquated and harmful. Perhaps it is time the punchlines start revolving around the relics who refuse to adapt.


Andrew is a senior in LAS.

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