Why Sustainable, Plant-Based Foods Are Gaining Traction: Move over, meat: More than half (52%) of Americans are eating more plant-based foods, and plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy continue to fly off grocery store shelves. Reasons to jump on the trend abound. Eating a plant-rich diet can reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, and type II diabetes, and other diseases. Plant-based eating is the most environmentally sustainable way to eat, according to the World Health Organization. And powering your body on plants may help you feel and perform better at work.
Read on to find out how plant-based eating differs from vegetarianism or veganism, what’s driving the trends toward eating more plants, and how plant-based eating at the office may benefit you.
Plant-Based Eating Is Trending: Diets based on plants aren’t new. Plants formed the basis of most prehistoric people’s diets. Meat was a rare treat for our early ancestors, who mostly subsisted on vegetables, fruits, and nuts, according to most anthropologists.
Voluntarily rejecting meat for health, religious, or cultural reasons isn’t new either. Ancient Egyptians ate little meat or fish even though it was available. And 2,000 years ago, the Greek philosopher Pythagoras and the Indian religious leaders Buddha and Mahavira advocated for a meatless lifestyle.
But the modern terms vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based are relatively new. The vegetarian movement started in England in 1847 when the first vegetarian society formed to advocate the health benefits of avoiding meat. It was an offshoot of the temperance movement, which promoted avoiding alcohol to keep the body clean. Most early vegetarians ate dairy and eggs.
The Rise of Plant-Based Eating: Plant-based eating is supported by scientific research. Studies suggest that people who eat primarily plants have lower body weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol, as well as a reduced risk of heart disease and some types of cancer. Plant-based eaters typically consume more fiber, vitamins C and E, potassium, folate, and magnesium than people who eat a standard American diet. (However, people who eat only plants may miss out on some nutrients, especially vitamin B12, if they don’t take supplements or eat fortified food.)
In addition to addressing health reasons and taste, plant-based meat alternatives appeal to environmentally conscious Millennials who don’t want to support the factory-farm system. Each year, we kill 10 billion animals in the US. Nearly all (99%) farm animals in the country live inside giant Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), where animals remain indoors under strictly controlled conditions to minimize costs. Factory farms contribute to environmental problems ranging from deforestation to air and water pollution.
Dairy operations also come with a list of ethical and environmental concerns, making many consumers eager for alternatives to milk and cheese. Americans drink 40% less milk today than they did in 1975.
Plant-Based Eating at Work: It’s not just individual consumers transitioning to plant-based eating. Institutions and businesses are jumping on board too. More than 40 colleges and universities, including Harvard, vowed to increase plant-based protein dishes by 10% in their dining halls.
The future of food is plant-based: The trend doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. And that’s a good thing because plant-based eating outshines the Standard American diet when it comes to animal welfare and the environment. Plus, eating more plants can help you improve your health and may even give you an edge at work. What’s not to love?
You don’t need to become a full-fledged vegan to move plants from the sidelines to the starring role of your diet. But if you’re thinking about ditching all or most animal products, most experts agree the best way is to stick to a balanced diet consisting mostly of whole-food sources of vegetables, fruit, grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Enjoy processed plant-based alternatives to burgers, ice cream, and other junk food only occasionally as a tasty treat. And consider supplementing vitamins B12, K2, D3, and Omega 3 and Zinc to make sure you don’t miss out on any vital nutrients