There are many trends that come and go within the health and fitness industry, from bulletproof coffees to oil pulling and detox teas. But one trend that is gaining more and more momentum in recent months is the movement towards more plant based eating. In 2018 over 168,500 people signed up to do Veganuary, an increase of 183% from 2017. With an ever increasing number of people turning towards a plant based diet for a number of reasons, is this just a fad that will come and go or is this way of living here to stay?
Whatever position you take on the matter there is no denying that there are obvious benefits of leading a plant based diet as well as some downsides. Firstly, the cost of living a plant based diet is arguably cheaper as fruit, vegetables and pulses are generally more affordable than meat, fish and dairy products. The cost per kg of chicken breast at an average UK supermarket is £6.00 whereas an alternative protein source, chickpeas, are only £2.03 per kg a third of the cost. However, although the staples such as chickpeas and kidney beans are significantly cheaper this isn’t to say that everything on a plant based diet is, for example milk, yoghurt and cheese alternatives are all more expensive. Furthermore, eating a plant based diet may reduce the amount of food waste in your kitchen as meat and fish can go off quicker than vegetables and aren’t as safe to eat past there sell by date, leading to more people throwing them out more frequently.
Over recent years it has become overwhelming apparent that we are slowly causing irreversible damage to the planet. Everyday there is more evidence emerging that suggests that the production, transport, storage, cooking and wastage of food are substantial contributors to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. According to Scarborough (2014) animal products generally have much greater emissions than plant based products per unit weight. With high meat eaters producing, solely from their diet, 7.19 greenhouse gas emissions in kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents per day, whilst a vegan only produced 2.89. Whilst this is a significant difference between the two diets, even just becoming a pescatarian reduces your green house gas emissions to 3.91. Apart from not owning a car, having any children or taking any transatlantic flights, having a plant based diet is the next thing on the list that you can do that will significantly reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. Not only are the toxic gases emitted into the air reduced there is also a dramatic reduction in the amount of water used. Did you know it takes approximately 10,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of meat but only approximately 2,000 liters of water to produce 1kg of wheat.
Another major reason that people are moving towards a plant based diet is due to the increasing awareness of animal cruelty and the effects that the meat and dairy industry can have on the animals life before death. Documentaries such as Cowspiracy and What The Health have had a monumental wave of impact over the past couple of months after being shown on Netflix.
Although there are a number of reasons why people may be reducing their meat and dairy consumption and turning towards a plant based diet including the ones listed above, there are also a number of reasons why people continue to eat meat and dairy which might prevent this lifestyle having a global effect. Eating meat and dairy isn’t unhealthy or bad for you necessarily and for some people it might be the only healthy option available. Health isn’t universally definable and means something different to everyone so if that means eating a plant based diet or a meat based one that is an individual’s decision. However, having said that I do believe that there is a move towards more sustainable eating and food production that might encompass more plant based ways of living. There is an increasing awareness of the benefits that living plant based brings not only to individuals but also to the planet, therefore I do think that the lifestyle will continue to grow as we become more educated. So yes in answer to the question at the beginning I don’t think this lifestyle is a fad and I do think that it is hear to stay.