A plant-based diet – one that omits meat, seafood, dairy, eggs and other animal by-products – offers a host of health and nutritional benefits and is one of the most environmentally friendly choices we can make. Nutritionist, cookery teacher and recipe developer Rohini Bajekal shares practical tips for embracing this way of eating.
Q: What are the main health benefits of following a plant-based diet?
Rohini: According to some studies, a healthy plant-based diet is known to help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 25%, certain cancers by 15% and Type 2 diabetes by at least 50%. This is particularly meaningful since many chronic illnesses are linked to an unhealthy diet. Cutting out meat and animal products also improves our energy levels.
Q: How can eating a plant-based diet help the environment?
Rohini: Animal agriculture is linked to zoonotic diseases, which increase the likelihood of pandemics. In fact, three in four emerging infectious diseases now come from animals, by way of the wildlife trade and factory farms. Our destruction of natural habitats has also brought us into closer contact with wild animals, thereby increasing the risk of zoonotic disease transmission.
In addition, the global food system is a major contributor to the ongoing climate crisis – animal agriculture is the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions, land degradation, water scarcity and the loss of wildlife species.
A study by the University of Oxford found that if veganism were adopted globally, greenhouse gas emissions from food production would be cut by almost half. Avoiding meat and dairy products is therefore the single biggest way to reduce your impact on the environment.