Introduction to the Advantages of a Plant-Based Diet
Our culture and tradition
Cultures influenced by Western Europe (“Western” cultures) have historically been heavily meat and dairy-oriented for various social and political reasons, and have long held the belief that animal consumption is essential for health. Recently, animal consumption in America – and many other countries – has reached record levels, largely a result of aggressive marketing of animal products at very low prices.
This large-scale production of cheap products is made possible by the assembly-line practices of huge intense-confinement animal-agriculture facilities (“factory farms”), along with government-funded subsidies for animal agriculture businesses.ref
For a detailed explanation of the roles of culture, government, politics and big business
in developing America's ideas about nutrition and health, please read
The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet,
Weight Loss and Long-Term Health. T.C. Campbell, PhD and T.M. Campbell, II (Benbella Books,
Our ideas of healthy foods are changing
Western ideas of nutrition are quickly changing due to an abundance of scientific evidence that a lifestyle based on quality plant-based foods can prevent, treat and reverse many major diseases, and greatly improve overall health – while even small amounts of animal products such as meat, dairy and eggs significantly increase our risk for disease. Also, public awareness and concern is growing over the impact of modern factory-style animal farming methods on our health and the environment.ref
Fading stereotypes and myths
There are now many people of all types and backgrounds – including athletes, doctors, scientists, politicians and celebrities – who thrive on plant-based diets. Modern science has dispelled old myths about nutrition – particularly protein, calcium and iron.
Change to a plant-based diet is easier than ever
Transitioning toward a plant-based diet is much easier than most people expect. As with changing any other lifetime habit, many people do it in small steps, finding each new step easier than the last. They feel more encouraged as they begin feeling and looking better.
There is increased social acceptance and respect for people choosing plant-based diets. There are more restaurant options, an abundance of incredible recipes and cookbooks, and ingredients available at most major supermarkets. Rather than feeling they are making sacrifices, most vegetarians find the opposite is true – they discover a new world of flavors and variety, as well as many options similar or nearly identical to “traditional” foods and desserts.
Scientists, doctors and dietitians agree
The American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada say that plant-based
diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits in the
prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Vegetarians also have lower rates
of the following health problems:
- death from heart disease
- blood cholesterol levels
- blood pressure
- type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes
- prostate cancer
- colon cancer
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a nonprofit organization of doctors and others promoting preventive medicine, recommends a quality plant-based diet for the treatment and prevention of many health conditions.ref
Some of the world's populations are known to have extraordinary long, healthy and happy lives. Disease is virtually unknown, even in the oldest persons. Studies have shown that their exceptional health is largely attributed to low-calorie, plant-based, whole foods diets. Genetics are ruled out as a significant factor – when they are exposed to Western-style diets they quickly develop the same diseases common to Westerners.ref