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Plant-Based Nutrition For A Healthier Lifestyle

Plant-Based Nutrition For A Healthier Lifestyle
Reasons why a plant-based diet is beneficial for you and the planet 

Going plant-based is a general eating approach. There is no need to count calories or stress about meeting certain macronutrient goals each day. In essence, it’s about eating more foods that are plants or come from plants and fewer animal-based products.[2] Eating more plant-based food has multiple benefits for your health, as well as for the environment. In this article, we will highlight what some of those benefits are and hopefully inspire you to start exploring more plant-based meals.  

Plant-based? What does that mean? 
Eating plant-based food does not mean that you must become vegan. Any small efforts that you make to eat fewer meat products make a difference, and it is important to listen to your body’s needs and nourish it properly. Going plant-based means that your meals are comprised mostly of plants i.e., vegetables, whole grains, and fruits. A plant-based diet also includes beans, seeds, and nuts as sources of various nutrients. [1] 

Benefits for YOU:  
  1. It supports your immune system. The vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants in plants help keep your cells healthy and your body in balance so that your immune system can function at its best. 
  2. Plant foods reduce inflammation. The same tiny phytochemicals and antioxidants that boost your immune system also go around your body neutralizing toxins from pollution, processed food, bacteria, viruses and more.  
  3. A plant-based diet helps maintain a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is an important thing you can do to reduce your risk for cancer. Excess weight causes inflammation and hormonal imbalance. If you are overweight or obese, your risk is higher for 12 different types of cancer including colorectal, post-menopausal breast, uterine, esophageal, kidney and pancreatic cancers. 
  4. Plants are high in fiber. Fiber is present in all unprocessed plant foods. If you eat more fiber, you access a whole host of benefits. 
  5. A plant-based diet also has been shown to reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some mental health illnesses. [1] 
 
Benefits for the PLANET: 
Meat and dairy products affect the climate almost as much as all the world’s cars, buses, boats and airplanes combined. In 2016, meat, dairy products, and animal feed production accounted for 13 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions, while the transport sector accounted for 15 percent. [5] People who only eat plant-based, make a big contribution to the environment, but so does anyone who cuts down on meat and dairy products and chooses a diet with greater care. [5]. What we eat is one of the biggest contributors to our individual carbon footprint and going plant-based can ease our burden on the planet. [3]

1. Reduces fossil fuel emissions 
Meat requires a lot of processing before it is suitable for human consumption, and meat processing requires a lot of energy. It takes about 31.5 kilowatt-hours of energy to produce one pound of beef—a little under the amount of energy your fridge uses to run for a whole month. Plant-based sources of protein, like beans and nuts, require much less processing and are therefore much more energy-efficient than meat. Making the switch to plant-based saves energy consumption and reduces fossil fuel emissions. [3]

2. It preserves our water resources 
Many studies have shown that livestock farming consumes a significant amount of water to produce meat. For instance, 13.500 liters of water are used to produce 1kg of beef meat whereas 238 liters of water are required to produce 1kg of corn. In addition to consuming a lot of water to produce meat, livestock farming also pollutes water sources because the waste produced by the livestock ends up in waterways. [4]

3. It preserves nature and the diversity of species 
In 2016, Greenpeace revealed in its study “Amazon: an inestimable ecological heritage in danger” that cattle farming was responsible for 63% of the Amazon rainforest destruction. The Amazon rainforest is destroyed to allow soy cultivation, soy produced to feed the livestock from which meat is produced.  Adopting a vegan diet preserves nature’s territory that is crucial for our survival. [4] 

There are many reasons to choose plant-based foods over meat products. It may be a big change for many, but a tip is to start by making small changes. Have fun while exploring new recipes and get your friends and family involved in the process. Plant-based food is not only good for you and the planet, but it also tastes good, so enjoy! 
 

Author: Luyolo Mazomba-Karlsson, Region Västerbotten

Sources:  

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HADEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.