Can a Vegan Diet Help Save the World?
A new study says more people going vegetarian or vegan would slash greenhouse emissions — and save lives
It’s no secret that plant-based diets are better for the planet. Just how much better?
A new analysis from Oxford University researchers found that if everyone on the plant went either vegetarian or vegan, food-related greenhouse gas emissions would be as much as 70 percent lower by 2050 than they will if we continue our current eating ways.
What’s more, if everyone on the planet adopted global dietary guidelines — eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables and legumes, low in meat and sugar and moderate in calories (just enough calories to maintain a healthy body weight) — 5.1 million deaths would be avoided each year.
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“The food system is responsible for more than a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions while unhealthy diets and high body weight are among the greatest contributors to premature mortality,” the authors explain.
A healthier diet full of fruits and vegetables could also help save billions of dollars in healthcare costs, the researchers found.
“Moving to diets with fewer animal-sourced foods would have major health benefits,” the authors write. Dietary shifts could produce savings of $700 billion to $1 trillion per year on healthcare and lost working days, according to the findings.
"We do not expect everybody to become vegan. But climate change impacts of the food system will be hard to tackle and likely require more than just technological changes,” author Marco Springmann, PhD, of the Oxford Martin Program on the Future of Food told Reuters.
If you’re not ready to commit, try being a part-time vegan. Here are some quick tips on how to hop on the “veganish” train.
- If you’re really used to eating a lot of meat, start with Meatless Mondays.
- Add nuts to salad instead of chicken. They’re a nutrient-dense protein source.
- Eliminate one animal product at a time. Karen Cottenden, a self-described vegan coach from London, suggests starting with dairy.
- Swap your burger for a vegetarian burger, such as a portabella mushroom burger.
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