Benefits of Plant-Based Nutrition
1. IT CUTS OUT THE “MIDDLEMAN”.
Many people don’t realize that the animals they are eating are really just “middlemen”, since the majority of these animals get their protein from plants, where all protein originates. In fact, most of the largest and strongest animals on the planet, like elephants, rhinos, horses, and gorillas — are herbivores. And they get more than enough protein to build large muscles and maintain good health. Plant protein maximizes efficiency by skipping the middleman.
2. GETTING ENOUGH IS EASY.
Contrary to popular belief, the largest study comparing the nutrient intake of meat-eaters with plant-eaters showed that the average plant-eater not only gets enough protein, but 70% more than they need. Even meat-eaters get roughly half of their protein from plants. This should come as no surprise when you consider that a peanut butter sandwich contains about as much protein as three ounces of beef or three large eggs.
3. PLANT PROTEINS ARE COMPLETE.
Another common myth is that plants are “incomplete” because they don’t contain all of the essential amino acids, and therefore the quality of plant protein is inferior. This is also patently false, since every single plant contains all of the essential amino acids, in varying proportions. While it is true that some plant foods are lower in certain amino acids than others, our bodies break protein down into individual amino acids so that the appropriate proteins can be built at the necessary times. This would explain why, when it comes to gaining strength and muscle mass, research comparing plant and animal protein repeatedly demonstrates that as long as the right amount of amino acids are consumed, the source is irrelevant.
4. THE PLANT “PROTEIN PACKAGE” IS SUPERIOR.
Animals are not only protein middlemen, but very poor ones, removing many of the most beneficial aspects of the plants they consume, like fiber and antioxidants, while concentrating contaminants like pesticides and mercury, and adding highly inflammatory compounds. This helps explain why eating a single hamburger has been shown to increase measures of inflammation by 70%, while also impairing blood flow. Inflammation and impaired blood flow are not only bad for short-term performance, but create even greater problems down the road, setting the stage for heart disease and certain forms of cancer.
While the animal protein package sabotages our efforts to perform and feel our best, the plant protein package does the opposite, since it comes loaded with fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals like vitamin C and carotenoids, which reduce measures of inflammation and improve blood flow. On average, plants have 64 times the antioxidant content of animal foods. Even iceberg lettuce has more antioxidants than salmon or eggs. As a result, switching to a plant-based diet can help reduce measures of inflammation by 29% in just three weeks.
IMPACT ON OUR PLANET
According to researchers from Oxford, meat, dairy, egg and fish farming use 83% of the world’s farmland, yet provide only 18% of the world’s calories.
The reason livestock require so much land is because animals are actually just the “middlemen”, consuming on average six times more protein than they even produce.
And with more than 70 billion animals consumed globally every year, growing animal feed requires vast amounts of land. Which is why the single biggest source of habitat destruction is said to be the livestock sector. For example, in South America, some 70% of former forests in the Amazon are now used to graze cattle, with much of the remainder used to grow feed crops for the cattle. Anti-poaching rangers on the “frontlines” of protecting endangered species see these effects firsthand.
WATER USE AND CONTAMINATION
While rain barrels and low-flush toilets are important, only 4% of humanity’s water usage actually occurs in the home. By contrast, 27% of humanity’s “water footprint” is used to produce animal foods. This is because, once again, animals are the “middlemen”, requiring on average six times more protein than they produce, which requires an immense amount of animal feed, which in turn requires vast amounts of the world’s freshwater.
“25% of the rivers in the world no longer reach the ocean, because we’re taking out so much water to produce feed.”
JOHAN ROCKSTROM, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE STOCKHOLM RESILIENCE CENTRE
Unfortunately, it's not just water depletion that’s an issue, it’s also water contamination. In the United States alone, farm animals produce nearly 50 times more waste per year than America’s human population, polluting rivers, lakes and groundwater across the country. Globally, livestock production is one of the leading causes of water pollution.
SHIFTING AWAY FROM MEAT-BASED DIETS...
Our food choices play a significant role in the biggest environmental challenges of our time. Just as the food we choose to eat is part of the problem, thankfully it is also the solution. For example, in the US, where per capita meat consumption is three times the global average, shifting away from an animal-based diet would reduce agricultural emissions by up to 73%, and save one million liters of water per person, per year. Globally, this would free up 3.1 billion hectares, an area the size of all of Africa, taking pressure off the world's most endangered ecosystems and species.