Plant-based Diet: Good for You, Good for the Planet

By Guest Blogger   |  7Comments|

Throughout history, we can identify moments that occur that can only be attributed to a paradigm shift in public opinion. They generally precede government policy. These moments are generally brief but are the harbinger of huge changes in culture and eventually policy.

We are in the midst of a monumental shift in the perception of nutrition and the global benefits that can come from this change. At the core of the change is people want to live well; but they also want to leave something behind for subsequent generations.

The current state of affairs for Americans is abysmal. We are sick. We are the fattest society on Earth.  Eighty percent of our chronic diseases – heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and cancer – can be directly attributed to obesity. More than 35 percent of the adult population and nearly 17 percent of children qualify as obese (Federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, and the Journal of the American Medical Association; January 17, 2012).

We have spent billions of dollars on drugs, surgery and health care. Current estimates put U.S. healthcare spending at approximately 16 percent of Gross Domestic Production. That’s $2.4 trillion. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services expects that the health share of GDP will continue its historical upward trend, reaching 19.5 percent of GDP by 2017.

We have created trillion-dollar industries supported solely by our sickness … and to what avail? What have we accomplished? We are getting nowhere closer to healing anything. In fact, the sicker we get, the bigger the institutions that thrive on our sickness become. It’s a classic Catch-22 situation.

I recently did a study of the Standard & Poor’s 500. The S&P 500 is comprised of the 500 largest American companies and represents 75 percent of the American equity market.

I identified the largest companies in the U.S. that have a majority of their revenue reliant on Food & Beverages, Drugs, Health Care, Consumer and Insurance.

Drugs & Devices =              $1.074 Trillion Market Cap / $809 Billion Revenue

Health Care =                      $91 Billion Market Cap / $245 Billion Revenue

Consumer =                         $973 Billion Market Cap / $502 Billion Revenue

Insurance =                          $152 Billion Market Cap / $246 Billion Revenue

TOTAL 2011 =                      $2,290 Trillion Market Cap / $1,802 Trillion Revenue

The problem for this market is that it is unsustainable. The obesity market is literally “eating” the hand that feeds it. You cannot profit indefinitely by killing off your customers. Meanwhile, we continue to assault our environment in a fashion that is accelerating beyond a point of no return.

I made an interesting observation while reading an essay written by Brian Treanor, from Loyola Marymount University. His focus was on the efforts by environmentalists to make a change. It was David Brower, the founder of the Sierra Club, who made a reference to: “Turn around and step forward.”

The nutrition movement and the green movement are on similar paths and both share similar characteristics.

“Blame it on capitalism, the single pursuit of maximizing profit and unrestrained growth as first principles, pursues technology and development with short-term gains in mind and with little if any substantive concern for the long-term impact on the environment and human well-being.”  (Treanor)

“We cannot escape by forging on, resolutely and regardless, driven by the unmitigated inertia of our outworn habits, until we have forced ourselves over the brink in the ‘giant step for mankind’ nobody needs. When you have reached the edge of an abyss, the only progressive move you can make is to step backward …” (Alwyn Rees, author).  An unknown author then added instead of stepping backwards: “Turn around and step forward.”

There exists an inflection point where the chart turns. It is the point, as a nation, when we face the abyss and turn away … and take a step forward; a step toward our personal well-being and the health of the earth. “This is not a return to the past, but a step toward a different future.”  (Brower, Sierra Club)

Mark Bittman recently commented in the New York Times: “Five years ago, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization published a report called, “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” which maintained that 18 percent of greenhouse gases were attributable to the raising of animals for food. The number was startling. A couple of years later, however, it was suggested that the number was too small. Two environmental specialists for the World Bank, Robert Goodland (the bank’s former lead environmental adviser) and Jeff Anhang, claimed, in an article in “World Watch,” that the number was more like 51 percent. It’s been suggested that the number is extreme, but the men stand by it, as Mr. Goodland wrote to me this week: “All that greenhouse gas isn’t emitted directly by animals.” But according to the most widely used rules of counting greenhouse gases, indirect emissions should be counted when they are large and when something can be done to mitigate or reduce them.”  (source)

The solution is to promote a society that is not dependent on animal protein. This is the moment where two parallel causes can unite. By moving to a plant-based diet, we can step away from the abyss. By eliminating our need for animal protein, we are drastically reducing our carbon footprint. It takes a considerable amount of energy to raise animals for nutrition. The turn and step forward is our new approach toward your own well-being, a life that is well lived and nutritionally sound.

In one simple act, we can embrace two life-changing causes – one cause for you, one cause for everyone.

Last Christmas, I was surrounded by my wife’s family. She had lost 30 pounds in less than six months of starting a plant-based lifestyle. My brother-in-law and mother-in-law lost 50 pounds between them. I had lost 35 pounds in the same period. I observed that we were missing an entire person worth of fat at the table. We were not feeding 115 pounds of excess weight. That’s 730,000 calories a year of unused energy. Apply that 20 percent weight loss across 300 million people. … Imagine the reductions in energy needs. Forget about electric cars and solar panels, about “drill, drill, drill;” forget about it all.

I want to share a little secret. It is very simple and the skeptics among us will doubt its effectiveness based on its simplicity.

The secret: Eat plants and step away from the abyss.

Here’s what a plant-based diet has done for me.

On an animal-based diet I was 235 pounds, my total cholesterol was 262 and my blood pressure was 145:110  (December 2010).

I had quadruple bypass surgery on  March 23, 2011.

On a plant-based diet I am 194 pounds, my total cholesterol is 153 and my blood pressure is 105:75 (December 2011).

Ian Welch is an avid runner who lives in Florida with his wife. Their goal is to communicate the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle from an inspirational vantage point.  

Photo credit: jksimpson

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


7 responses to Plant-based Diet: Good for You, Good for the Planet
  1. The problem with our current view of capitalism is that it doesn’t measure all the real costs. If we were to factor in the environmental impact of fossil fuels then wind / solar / hydro are all much more cost competitive. Same goes for “conventional” farming (funny that the word conventional is used to describe mad science farming). Factor in the environmental impact and the healthcare impact and all of these supposed cost savers (fertilizer, pesticides, hormones, etc.) don’t save any money at all. Great post!

  2. I’m eating a vegan diet this month as part of a year-long quest to try 12 new things for 30 days before turning 30 (yeahhhh!!). I have already noticed energy levels being absurdly high and my grocery bill decreasing a little. I do eat more and more often on a plant-based diet, but I know the effects are much less harmful for the environment from research and reading. Maybe if everyone could just aim for 1-3 days to start … :)

    Congrats to you, Ian, on making such a big switch.

  3. A diagnosis of HEPATITIS C caused the change to a plant-based diet. My health recovered and my soul expanded.

    • Hi Jane,
      I read your comment on Kris Carr website regarding your diagnosis of Hep C. Wondering in what ways the plant based diet has helped your treatment? I also have Hep C.
      Thank you,

  4. Hi Kris,

    Outstanding website you have. Enjoying the visit on your site.

    The trillion-dollar industries supported solely by our sicknesses is totally unnecessary.

    In 1998, my heart stopped, and I DIED in a ambulance and was brought back to life after vomiting to death. I’m serious. The cause – Crohn’s Disease, upper GI tract.

    A few years later me, my wife and son did a 180 and started eating a Vegan Diet (a.k.a. . . .the Edenic Diet – read Genesis 1:29 : )

    Within the first year abdominal pains went away and the vomiting stopped cold in its tracks. I had to take it easy so I ate soft plant foods at first (bananas, juicing fruits, veggies, etc.)

    Got much better. Then worked up to eating other fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains that I could not eat before.

    Within my second year on the Vegan Diet, I could eat just about any plant food I wanted. Although I couldn’t eat raw onions or peppers. I had to cook them.

    Now into the third year, most of my symptoms had vanished. Unless serious stressful situations had come about. I work very hard on this issue to relax as much as possible.

    It has been seven years now and I have had no surgery or the use of prescription drugs. Only using the Vegan Diet to correct the digestive problem of my small intestine.

    I am ALSO living proof that the Vegan Diet WORKS!

    It is the original and best diet that the human body SHOULD survive on. My health is probably the best since my teenage years. And I am 52 years old!

    I give all the credit to The Mighty King Jesus. For using my son in leading us to use this diet. There is incredible divine power within this amazing diet.

    I am so glad to hear how it helped you beat cancer. My mother had cervical cancer which went into her liver. Unfortunately, she did not live long after that.

    If I could have gotten her onto this diet, I know it would have saved her life. She was just too stubborn.

    Thank you for sharing your information on this website.

    My hope and prayer is that more people will start to wake up and get on this diet ASAP.

    Before they have a medical condition which FORCES them to make a choice. . . .

    LIFE. . . .or death.

  5. Thank you everyone for sharing your inspiring stories. I suffer from a long history (14 years) of fibromyalgia, than neurological MS type symptoms 6 ears ago. Only diagnosis from rogue docs is Chronic Lyme. Vegan 1.5 years- highly raw now. More energy and sleeping better– neuropathy, numbness still persist, heart palps, etc. Now I’ve been diagnosed with 2 complex ovarian cysts on each of my ovaries and uterine issues. I know there was a gyn issue brewing in hindsight before starting the diet, but it seems to have gotten worse. Not sure if this is hormonal or not. I’m 50. Despite my pristine diet, massage, yoga, exercise, meditation etc etc. I can’t seem to crack the healing code. but still grateful. A bit discouraged since I will now need to surgery. I also have low hemoglobin/hematocrit. Wish I could figure out the secret to health! P.S. I’m very thin. So weight is not my issue.

  6. It just doesn’t make sense to take inside your body the dead, tortured flesh of another being. We can change the world with our pocket books on what we purchase and chose to ingest and use. For so many positive reasons, choosing plant-based food and items is the way to go for those who will open their eyes and hearts- it’s progressive- saves lives, including your own, and will save the planet for us and future generations to reduce: nox oxide/methane- the real green house gases- with the most impact on the earth’s atmosphere- caused in major part by ungulate animals belches and poops- cows, sheep, goats and for pigs- their poops. Plus, all the carbon diox., from animal agribusiness activities. Farm animals also drink mucho water. I love animals, I can no longer eat them, nor ingest their fluids: dairy and instead use plant-based food and materials. Do the same for all of us. Thank you.