This debate has been raging for a little while, with vegan voices clamouring about the benefits of a plant-based diet. The discussion is built around three key arguments; the moral, environmental, and health benefits of switching to a plant-based diet.
The Moral debate:
This one is pretty straight-forward. If you don't need to kill something in order to live, then is it excusable?
The Environmental Debate:
This one is more nuanced. The suggestion is that living on a plant-based diet is better for the planet. The simplest way to look at this is that all life requires energy, and all energy utilised will have a carbon cost. Therefore, food-chains become less efficient the longer they get, with energy lost at each step in the chain. The view is that, by cutting out a stage in our food-chain, eating the plant, not the animal that eats the plant, we would live in a more environmentally friendly way.
The Health Debate:
This is where it gets a bit confusing. Most humans have poor diets. Therefore, any strategy, including going plant-based, that forces us to be more mindful of what we eat will probably benefit your average individual. Plant-based foods are seen as healthful as they are typically more nutrient-dense. That said, eating animal products makes it easier to consume adequate levels of some nutrients. That doesn't mean you can't get these things from a plant-based diet, but, following a brief foray into veganism, I can safely say it is far easier to eat an optimum, health and performance-focused diet if it includes animal products.
This debate is not one-sided; it balances what is best for society against what is best for the individual. If you are looking to eat in a way that supports your health and fitness goals, you may want to increase your consumption of nutrient-dense, plant-based food, but this diet can, and probably should include some animal products. If you want to reduce your reliance on animal products for the ethical reasons outlined in both the moral and green debates, do so. The world benefits when people act more selflessly, so I would encourage everybody to consider what sacrifices they could make and show gratitude for the sacrifices of others.
Nutrition on Jan 08, 2021