There are numerous ways that vegan and vegetarian diets can benefit your body, the environment, and the lives of animals. However, due to an array of medical, socioeconomic, and personal reasons, eliminating animal products may not be feasible for everyone. Fortunately, researchers have suggested a more accessible way to reduce worldwide water usage, pollution, emissions, and deforestation—a flexitarian diet.
While this new buzzword may sound like the latest fad diet, it is actually very simple. In a general sense, being a flexitarian just involves eating less meat and fewer animal products. The official amount of meat a flexitarian eats varies between individuals. Some choose to eat meat once a day, while others aim to consume meat only once a month.
The aforementioned researchers have published a study in Nature that is currently the most comprehensive analysis of environmental pressures caused by global food production. These scientists predict that if current behaviors remain the same, the negative impacts our food system has on the environment will increase by approximately 50-90%. Our present approach to feeding the world’s population is resource-intensive and environmentally destructive. Meat production in particular not only requires an enormous amount of water, energy, and space, but it simultaneously increases pollutant and greenhouse gas levels. This study suggests that in addition to technological advancements, a global shift in eating habits to a flexitarian diet would have a significant positive impact on the environment. For example, this change would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50%. In order to actually halve our global emissions, “the average world citizen needs to eat 75% less beef, 90% less pork, and half the number of eggs, while tripling consumption of beans and pulses and quadrupling nuts and seeds.” However, limiting animal product consumption even a little can have a positive impact. Geophysicist Pamela Martin states that reducing meat consumption in the US by just 20% can make a difference.
Food choices are very personal; therefore, it may be difficult to convince the entire world population to reduce their meat consumption. Ultimately, it will require a variety of different approaches to change eating habits including education, taxes, or even subsidies for plant-based foods. The researchers also emphasize that in addition to adapting to flexitarianism, the general public should advocate for change within agricultural industries. The overall process of food production needs to regulate water usage, restrict chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and reduce food waste.
While it is entirely possible to consume enough protein and nutrients from plant-based foods, no major dietary change should be made without first educating yourself or, if necessary, consulting a doctor. A guide published by Healthline provides a useful starting point for those considering becoming flexitarians. In addition to providing general information about the diet, this guide lists foods that are not only delicious but also full of protein and essential nutrients.
Have you considered becoming a flexitarian?
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