“Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
– Albert Einstein
I eat mostly plant-based food because doing so is good for my health, good for the planet, and good for animals.
Luckily, I’m not a foodie. So it’s easier for me to eat to live, and not live to eat.
Good for Health
Eating a plant-based diet defends against heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes.
- In 1974 Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai directed the government to undertake most comprehensive cancer study in history, tracking every reported cancer death for 10 years. The study examined the diets, lifestyle, and disease characteristics of 6,500 people in 65 rural Chinese counties. “The major message from the China Study is a plant-food-based diet, mainly cereal grains, vegetables, and fruit, and very little animal food, is always associated with lower mortality of certain cancers, stroke, and coronary heart disease.” Why? The enzymes and hormones found in meat create inflammation and high acid levels, which lead to cancer, stroke and heart disease.
- U.S. and Italian researchers tracked ~6,400 adults during nearly two decades and found that those who ate a diet high in animal proteins during middle age (aged 50 and over) were four times more likely to die of cancer than contemporaries with low-protein diets — a risk factor, if accurate, comparable to smoking. They also were several times more likely to die of diabetes, researchers said.
- The Harvard School of Public Health, oversaw a study that charted the health of a group of nurses over a twenty-year period. The study found that nurses who drank one or more glasses of skim or low-fat milk had a 69 percent increase in ovarian cancer over women who rarely or never drank milk. The study also found nurses who ate yogurt five or more times a week had almost double the ovarian cancer rates of nurses who never ate yogurt.
- Also from the Harvard School of Public Health: consumption of more than two glasses of milk per day was associated with almost twice the risk of advanced and metastatic prostate cancer. Drinking a lot of milk and eating a lot of yogurt leads to higher rates of prostrate and ovarian cancer.
- You’re not just what you eat. You’re what you eat eats too. “Farm animals get 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the United States.” Chickens are fed antibiotics, prozac and painkillers to maximize production and yield.
Good for the Planet
“Livestock production is one of the major causes of the world’s most pressing environmental problems, including global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity.”
– UN Report, “Livestock Impacts on the Environment”
- Because methane is so effective at trapping heat, scientists at the UN now believe that gasses produced by animal agriculture are responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Conversely, the combined fossil fuels (coal, gas, oil, etc.) used to power the automobile, train, and airline industries account for only 13% of greenhouse gas emissions. That means by eating beef, you’re actually contributing to global warming more than you are by driving cars, riding trains, or flying in planes.
- 91% of the rain forest that’s been destroyed has been due to raising livestock.
- A study published by the USDA found that 80% of agricultural land in the US is used either to raise animals or to grow the crops—corn, grain, oats, and so on—to feed them.
- Across the globe, the numbers are just as staggering. According to the United Nations, the land used for grazing “occupies 26% of the Earth’s terrestrial surface, while feed-crop production requires about 33% of all arable land.”
- “If the current world population at 7 billion were to adopt North America’s meat-based diet, it would require four planet earths to support this demand.” —Vancouver Sun
- “According to the USDA, private homes represent about 5 percent of the water consumed in the United States. Animal agriculture, on the hand, represents 55 percent of the water we use.”
- According to the PETA, 660 gallons of water were needed to produce that one single burger. If you buy a pound of ground beef, 1,799 gallons of water were needed to produce that single package. Animals raised for food have to eat as many as 13 pounds of grain to create just one pound of edible flesh. Compare that to 700 gallons to produce 1 pound of cheese; 475 gallons for 1 pound of eggs; 132 gallons for 1 pound of wheat; 119 gallons for 1 pound of potatoes; 108 gallons for 1 pound of rice.
- You could float a battleship on the amount of water that’s needed to raise a single thousand-pound beef cow.
- Animal poop, antibiotics, and chemicals leak into streams, creeks and rivers, and ultimately our drinking water. “Cutting back on meat consumption would protect waterways from pollution caused by fertilizer production, runoff from chemical fertilizer and manure, and soil erosion. Of course, producing more fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts still would require water, but far less than is needed to produce animal products.”
Good for Animals
At grocery store ask: “Am I going to make a selfish choice that causes pain? Or am I going to make a compassionate choice?”
– Russell Simmons
- In the US 10 billion animals are raised and killed every year for food. Animals killed for their meat in America: every minute: 38,000 Every hour: 2.3 million Every day: 55.6 million
- Worldwide 65 billion land animals are killed every year for food (this doesn’t count the billions of marine animals killed every year).
- “The average person will chomp down on 7,000 animals during their life.” – USA Today
- Broiler chickens (those raised for meat): Today, broilers reach the slaughter weight of 5 pounds after just 47 days. To help understand just how unnatural a growth spurt that is, a report by the University of Arkansas says the human equivalent would be a human weighing 350 pounds by the time he or she turned two years old. Despite enjoying a life span of up to fifteen to twenty years in the wild, most broilers are ready to be slaughtered after just six weeks.
- Layer chickens (those raised to lay eggs): Artificially inseminated to start laying eggs after 20 weeks of age. Industrial egg-laying hens have been bred to produce more and faster, laying about 320 eggs over a life span of about 72 weeks, compared with a productive life of around four years in more traditional breeds that lay at a fraction of the rate. In nature, wild hens lay only 10 to 15 eggs annually. Like all birds, they lay eggs only during breeding season and only for the purpose of reproducing. This high intensity of production tends to affect their bones, which can become brittle and easily broken; the birds become stressed – which is why beak clipping is necessary – and listless.
- “Don’t have your grandkids or great-grandkids looking at you the way a kid today would look at segregationist. When they look back at you years from now, be seen in the same light as the abolitionists who fought against slavery, or as a protestor who spoke out against Hitler. Don’t let history count you as one of the sheep who stayed quiet and looked the other way while people around them were being sold in chains or thrown in the ovens.” – Russell Simmons, The Happy Vegan
But What About Protein?
As a former college athlete, this has been a tough hurdle for me to overcome. Even though I’m getting plenty of protein from plant-based foods, I still equate animal protein with muscles, strength and vigor.
But the truth is few of us are weight lifters or olympic athletes – we don’t need the extra protein. Most Americans eat too much protein, which comes with additional potential disease risks. “32 studies were identified. The adverse effects associated with long-term high protein/high meat intake in humans were (a) disorders of bone and calcium homeostasis, (b) disorders of renal function, (c) increased cancer risk, (d) disorders of liver function, and (e) precipitated progression of coronary artery disease.”
For an active adult, eating enough protein to meet the recommended daily allowance would supply as little as 10% of his or her total daily calories. In comparison, the average American consumes around 16% of his or her daily calories in the form of protein, from both plant and animal sources.
The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, so the average amounts would be 55 grams / day for an average man, 46 grams / day for a woman. As I’m slightly more active, I give myself a slightly higher range – 0.8-1 grams of protein/kilogram guideline.
My ideal weight is 150 lbs = 68 kg = so protein target for me is 0.8-1gram/kilo so 55-68 grams.
My strategy to get this daily amount?
- 3 servings carbs = ~15 grams
- 3 servings vegetables = ~10 grams
- 2 servings nuts & seeds = ~15 grams
- 2 servings beans = 15 grams
- Total = 55 grams
- (optional) 1 scoop protein powder as a supplement = 24 grams
Meat every once in a while is okay – just be thankful to the animal
I also keep a grocery list of protein rich foods for carbs, beans, nuts, vegetables, fruits and spices. I bold what I need, then shop once a week. A full pantry at home helps prevents late night binge eating, which has been the hardest part of sticking to a healthy diet.
Useful Rule of Thumbs for Measurements
- 1 tablespoon = 1 large spoon
- 2 tablespoons = 2 large spoons = 1 ounce = 1/8 of a cup
- 1 cup = 236 ml = one average size coffee cup = 1/2 pint = 8.1 ounces
- 100 grams = 0.1 kilogram = 3.5 ounces
- 1 gallon = 4 quarts = 8 pints = 128 ounces = 256 tablespoons = 768 teaspoons
Meat / Eggs / Dairy Protein List
(High Protein but Comes with Higher Cost)
- 3 ounce Chicken / Steak / Pork – 28 / 26 / 22 grams protein
- 1 egg – 6 grams
- 1 cup skim / 1% / 2% milk = 8 grams
- 6 ounces Greek Yogurt – 17 grams
- 1 cup regular yogurt – 11 grams
Carbs Protein List = 3 servings = ~15 grams
- 1 cup cooked brown rice – 7 grams
- 1 cup white rice – 4 grams
- 1 cup cooked pasta – 8 grams
- 1 cup cooked oatmeal – 6 grams
- 1 cup cooked quinoa – 8 grams
- 1 slice wheat bread – 3 grams
- 1 sweet potato – 2 grams
Vegetable Protein List = 3 servings = ~10 grams
- 1 cup broccoli = 5 grams
- 1 cup cauliflower = 2.4 grams
- 1 cup spinach = 5 grams
- 1 cup red pepper = 3 grams
- 1 cup tomatoes = 2 grams
- 1 medium zucchini = 2.4 grams
- 1 avocado = 4.2 grams
Nuts and Seeds Protein List = 2 servings = ~10 grams
- 1 ounce pumpkin seeds = 9 grams
- 1 ounce peanuts = 7 grams
- 1 ounce cashews = 4 grams
- 2 tablespoons almonds = 4 grams
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter / almond butter / cashew butter = 8 grams
Legumes & Beans Protein List = 2 servings = ~20-30 grams
- 1/2 cup firm tofu = 10 grams
- 1 cup garbanzo beans = 15 grams
- 1 cup white beans = 17 grams
- 1 cup pinto beans = 15 grams
- 1 cup lentils = 18 grams
Drinks Protein List
- 1 cup soy milk = 8 grams
- 1 cup almond milk = 1 gram
- 1 cup beer = 0.8 grams protein
- 1 cup coffee / tea = 0.3 grams / 0.1 gram protein
- Protein Powder = 1 scoop/ serving = ~24 grams
How to Eat More Plant-based Foods
“Realizing that most American families tend to rotate through the same eight or nine meals, step one suggests that you think of three meals you already enjoy that are plant based, like pasta and marinara sauce that could be easily tweaked to whole-grain pasta with some added veggies. Step two asks you to think of three meals you already eat that could be adapted to become a green-light meal, like switching from beef chili to five-bean chili. Step three is my favorite: Discover new healthy options.”
– Michael Gregor, How Not to Die