It is estimated that worldwide about 2 billion people live primarily on a meat-based diet, while 4 billion focus on a plant-based diet. The US food production system, which is a dominant meat-based market with its population of just 300 million, uses about 50% of the total US land area, 80% of its freshwater, and 17% of the fossil energy. Therefore, a vegetarian diet is more ecologically sustainable when compared to a meat-based diet (Pimentel et al., 2003).
While there is increasing scientific support for a move towards a plant-based diet, the shift has certain downsides as well. For non-vegetarians, reducing intake of meat while increasing intake of legumes, whole grains, and the likes tend to result in a deficiency of iron and zinc.
And, although vegetarians have lower iron stores because of low quantities of it in their diets, adverse health effects of lower iron and zinc absorption have not been demonstrated in this group of people (Hunt, 2002). In fact, in some cases shift to a plant-based diet in combination with stress reduction was shown to reduce recurrent prostate cancer (Saxe et al., 2006).
In a trial among individuals with a high level of lipids, it was observed that there were reductions in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), total cholesterol, and blood pressure (Jenkins et al., 2009). A low-carbohydrate plant-based diet is known to lower lipids in the blood, which in turn reduces heart disease risks as well. To stress the advantages of a plant-based diet, it was made sure that the trial and its observations didn’t take during conventional consumption of low-fat food with animal products (Jenkins et al., 2009).
A plant-based diet is a healthier alternative to one laden with meat; It reduces the chances of artery blockage and artery hardening, which are common causes of heart attacks (Tuso et al, 2015; Hu.,2003). It’s been observed that subjects who follow a plant-based diet (especially legumes) have high levels of genistein in their urine. Genistein is also said to help prevent chronic degenerative diseases like cancer tumors (Fotsis et al., 1993).
Clearly, replacing animal protein with plant protein is likely to reduce mortality rates, lower cholesterol levels, and provide higher health benefits.
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