Is the plant-based diet the healthiest for humans and for the planet?
So far, the Mediterranean Diet focusing mainly on whole foods: vegetables and fruits, whole grains, with occasional dairy and fish consumption used to be considered the best diet for health.
But according to new research published in the journal Future Foods, there is no doubt plant-based diet is the most beneficial both for humans and the environment.
Plant-based diets are better for human health
The team of scientists analysed more than 40 studies focusing on the environmental and human health impacts of plant-based diets. They found that plant-based diets generally offer better nutritional profiles than animal products. The studies also show that animal-free diets improve people's health and support healthy weight loss.
"There are increasingly strong reasons to move away from industrial animal agriculture for the good of the environment, animals, our personal health, and public health," the scientists wrote. "Plant-based animal product alternatives represent a highly feasible way to reduce animal product consumption, since they address the core consumer decision drivers of taste, price, and convenience."
The researchers identified specific plant-based diets that offer better health results. For example, diets rich in nutrient-dense foods such as fungi, algae, amino acids, spirulina, antioxidants, and certain vitamins such as B and E can be even more effective improving human health.
Plant-based meat alternatives help reduce animal products consumption
Research author Christopher Bryant, a psychologist at the University of Bath, said in a statement: "Increasingly, we're seeing how plant-based products are able to shift demand away from animal products by appealing to three essential elements consumers want: taste, price, and convenience,"
"This review demonstrates overwhelming evidence that, as well as being far more sustainable compared to animal products in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, water use, and land use, plant-based animal product alternatives also have a wide range of health benefits," he added.
Plant-based diets are better for the environment
A recent study also confirmed that a plant-based diet, also a diet including plant-based meat alternatives, has a lower environmental impact. Plant-based foods require less water and land and can help fight against climate change by reducing greenhouse gases from animal farming, predominantly methane which is responsible for roughly 30% of global warming. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. It has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after it reaches the atmosphere.
Plant-based meat alternatives must be improved
The researchers say there is a potential to improve the category by investing in improving the taste and texture and the cooking method of the meat alternatives.
"There's also enormous potential to innovate with ingredients and processes to improve their nutritional properties—for example, by boosting vitamin content," Bryant concluded.
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