The publication of this article comes at a time when most of us are either planning, or have made, our annual New Year’s resolutions. The majority of us will predictably make our vows based on health issues: lose weight, stop smoking, eat better, or exercise more. Perhaps in light of recent environmental news, we have chosen to focus on planetary health instead and have made a pledge to eliminate straws or single-use plastics out of a desire to protect our oceans and marine life. Maybe a puppy or furry family member has joined the household this holiday and has inspired a desire to help orphaned animals, work at a shelter or volunteer for a rescue organization.

While any or all of these picks could be heralded as excellent ways to improve your health, the environment and the lives of innocent animals, there is one resolution that could “rule them all” and it is astounding in its simplicity: Eat More Plants. Here are the reasons why…

For Our Health
Dr. Michael Greger is a physician and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition. A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, he makes a compelling argument in his NY Times bestselling book, How Not To Die: Only one way of eating has ever been proven to reverse heart disease in the majority of patients: a diet centered around whole plant foods. If that’s all a whole-food, plant-based diet could do—reverse our number-one killer—shouldn’t that be the default diet until proven otherwise? The fact it may also be effective in preventing, treating, and arresting other leading killers like high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes seems to make the case for plant-based eating simply overwhelming.

The evidence is so strong in fact that Dr. Kim Williams, Past-President of the American College of Cardiology has been famously quoted as saying, “There are two types of cardiologists: vegans and those who haven’t read the data.”

For the last six years Kaiser Permanente, one of the world’s largest managed care organizations in the country, has been advising their 17,000+ physicians to recommend a healthy plant-based diet to their patients as a way to lower their risk of cancer and diabetes, slow the progression of certain types of Cancers, lower cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar and improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

And the benefits of eating predominantly plants extend to athletic performance as well. The recent documentary The Game Changers (produced by James Cameron and other notable celebrities) highlights the science behind the astounding improvements in strength, endurance, speed and recovery that high level, professional athletes have discovered after switching to a vegan diet. Or just ask the Tennessee Titans, who made it to the 2018 NFL playoffs for the first time in a decade with 15 of their players being powered by plants!

For the Environment
The 2019 EAT-Lancet Commission Report brought together 37 world-leading scientists from across the globe to answer the question of whether we can feed a future population of 10 billion people a healthy diet within our planetary boundaries. Their recommendations for a “planetary health diet” is very much based on eating more plants and is described as “symbolically represented by half a plate of fruits, vegetables and nuts. The other half consists of primarily whole grains, plant proteins (beans, lentils, pulses), unsaturated plant oils, modest amounts of meat and dairy, and some added sugars and starchy vegetables.”

And while we are talking about meat and dairy, it is of paramount importance to note that our overindulgence (Americans eat meat in quantities that are double the global average) of animal products is the primary driver of deforestation, water and air pollution, and species extinction. Factory farming is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the exhaust of all transportation (cars, trains, planes, boats) combined.

Growing animals as food uses 56% of our water, with nearly half of the contiguous U.S. devoted to animal agriculture. The futility and waste of growing crops to feed animals when we could be feeding humans instead is attributable for up to 91% of Amazon destruction, with approximately 1-2 acres of land being cleared every second due to our insatiable appetite for animal products.

For the Animals
The meat industry depends, more than anything else, on walls. They prevent journalists and activists from exposing unethical, even criminal acts within. They enable corporations to paint happy, fairytale pictures of their operations that bear no resemblance to the reality of modern-day factory farming. Consider this account from PETA regarding the supposed “humane” slaughter of cows:
After they are unloaded, cows are forced through a chute and shot in the head with a captive-bolt gun meant to stun them. But because the lines move so quickly and many workers are poorly trained, the technique often fails to render the animals insensible to pain. Ramon Moreno, a longtime slaughterhouse worker, told The Washington Post that he frequently has to cut the legs off completely conscious cows. “They blink. They make noises,” he says. “The head moves, the eyes are wide and looking around… They die piece by piece.”

A quick Google search of terms like “ear notching” or “gestation crates” in pigs, or “culling and maceration” of chicks will tell you that these are not humane practices by any means. The traits that make us human, such as compassion, empathy, benevolence, and the ability to speak up and defend those who have no voice are what set us apart from those who rely on us most for their protection.

In Conclusion
We need essential nutrients in order to survive. But if we can get everything we need from plants -and actually thrive in the process- then what we put on our plates can become a conscious decision to reduce suffering and help save the world at the same time. For example, a team of scientists from Loma Linda University, Bard College and Oregon State University, calculated that if every American simply made ONE dietary change – swapping beans for beef – the U.S. could come close to meeting its 2020 greenhouse-gas emission goals.

And this is while still eating all the chicken, pork, eggs and cheese we are currently devouring. With our very next meal, we can begin to alter the course of our declining health and decaying ecosystems. And just as there was “one ring to rule them all” in Tolkien’s epic trilogy, eating more plants could very well be the one resolution you’ll ever need to help unite the common goals of improving quality of life, reducing environmental woes and having more compassion for all living beings – a perfect trifecta of desirable outcomes! And the only tools you need are your knives and forks…

Wishing you a happy, healthy and plant-iful 2020!

Cindi is President and Founder of The Noble Path Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) dedicated to raising awareness on childhood obesity, T2 diabetes and the importance of sound nutrition and lifestyle choices for our youth. For sources and links to the statistics mentioned in this article, please visit our website and search for the article under our blog at www.thenoblepathfoundation.org.

Find the original article here at SanClementeJournal.com

Sources:

Jacobson, Michael F. “Six Arguments For a Greener Diet: How a More Plant-based Diet Could Save Your Health and the Environment. Chapter 4: More and Cleaner Water”. Washington, DC: Center for Science in the Public Interest, 2006.