While a diet based on whole foods like fruit and veggies, grains, legumes, and nuts is the cornerstone of plant-based living, it shouldn’t be confused with veganism. Plant-based living does not mean the total exclusion of all animal products. Some dairy, meat, eggs, and fish are included in a plant-based diet, consistent with our national dietary guidelines.
Additionally, plant-based doesn’t mean “plant only”, vegan, or vegetarian. The term simply refers to a diet where plants constitute the majority of the food consumed. A vegan approach will exclude all animal products from the diet (including honey) and from any skincare products and clothing, whilst vegetarians exclude meat, fish, and poultry but may consume some animal products such as milk, cheese, and eggs.
Why are more and more people turning towards a plant-based diet?
It’s better for your health and the planet. The main reason people are turning towards plant-based is due to the increased awareness about the environmental impact of our food choices.
Also, the physical and mental health benefits of following a plant-based diet are very clear:
- Researchers from Deakin University found that meeting current Australian Dietary Guidelines, which recommend the majority of our diet comes from plant-based sources, is linked to a 30 per cent lower risk of obesity in both men and women.
- A large-scale study published in Molecular Psychiatry suggests a 33 percent reduction in depression risk when following a “mainly plants” diet, such as the Mediterranean diet.
- Currently, only 1.7% of Australians follow a strictly vegan diet. Environmental, health and animal welfare are key reasons people choose to eat a vegetarian/vegan diet or reduce the meat in their diet.
- Similar to the Mediterranean diet, this flexitarian approach is well known in the Blue Zones, areas of the world where people live the longest, healthiest lives. Meat is consumed 1-2 times a week and is viewed as an important, occasional inclusion in the diet. This is consistent with a plant-based diet.
- We’re also seeing an uplift in the number of people interested in studying our new short course, Food and the Environment as more people want to reduce their impact on the planet.
Why is plant-based a more sustainable way to eat?
The food we choose to eat contributes more to our eco-footprint than our transport and home energy use combined – with meat, eggs, and dairy products being the biggest contributors.
Australians are the sixth biggest consumers of meat in the world after South American countries and the USA with each of us eating on average 95kg of meat per year. This is triple the amount recommended in the Australian Dietary Guidelines and triple the average amount per person globally.
Recently, the EAT- Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health, brought together 30 scientists from around the world and reached a consensus on the most sustainable and healthy diet. Their report published in The Lancet indicated that global consumption of fruit, vegetables, legumes, and nuts will need to double and consumption of meat and sugar will need to decrease by more than 50% in order to transition to a healthy diet for a population of nearly 10 billion by 2050.
If you are thinking about trying out more plant-based diets, check out our recent article on how to eat more sustainably for some more tips and tricks!
- Deakin University, 2021. Study shows health benefits of following Australian dietary guidelines. [online] Available at: <https://www.deakin.edu.au/about-deakin/media-releases/articles/study-shows-health-benefits-of-following-australian-dietary-guidelines> [Accessed 27 April 2021].
- Lassale, C., Batty, G.D., Baghdadli, A. et al. Healthy dietary indices and risk of depressive outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Mol Psychiatry 24, 965–986 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41380-018-0237
- Malek, L., Umberger, W. Distinguishing meat reducers from unrestricted omnivores, vegetarians and vegans: A comprehensive comparison of Australian consumers. Food Quality and Preference 88, (2021). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodqual.2020.104081.
- Willett, W. et al. Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. The Lancet Commissions 393, 10170 (447-492) (2019). https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31788-4