How Healthcare Professionals Can Help Patients Transition to Plant based Diet ?
Those planning on joining Elon Musk’s planned colony on Mars will be giving up a lot: air, trees, friends, family… and meat. Musk’s Mars will be vegan. Elon says his colonists will live in glass domes as they (very) slowly terraform the planet.
During the long interval between that day, Martians will use hydroponic farms powered by solar panels to grow fruits and vegetables. While no one knows if or when life on Mars will become a reality, it’s easy to understand why humans on the red planet would need to be vegan.
It’s simply not sustainable; think of all the feed, oxygen, and water required to raise animals. But, the same arguments can be made for the planet we currently reside on.
And an increasing number of people across the planet are concluding that the best solution for the health of the environment – and their own long-term health – is to switch to a vegan or mostly vegan diet.
What is Mostly Vegan?
‘Mostly vegan’ is an interesting idea. Arnold Schwarzenegger told the media in February 2022 that he’s been 80% vegan for the past 5 years and the result has been a lowering in his bad cholesterol to a degree that his doctor said he “might as well have become a different person.”
Arnold occasionally tucks into a steak or a wiener schnitzel from his Austrian birthplace, but he could soon consider replacing those with any plant-based meat like plant-based steak or an ‘alt-meat’ sausage.
New meat substitutes cropping up all over the place, mostly from high-tech startups, and are providing new options for people who are having trouble with the switch –or who are vegan or vegetarian but miss the taste and texture of meat.
Faux meat already on store shelves is pretty amazing, but over the next couple of years, the technology is set to grow exponentially, to the point that many may not be able to tell the difference between real and alternative meats in some cases.
Why should you switch to a Plant-based diet?
There are two main arguments for switching to a plant-based diet. The first is human health. Numerous studies show the benefits of reducing meat intake – and completely cutting out processed meat. The second argument is related to the environment and sustainability.
This second argument, however, is perhaps appealing to some… but is not necessarily a convincing case closer for a lot of other folks. After all, there are so many issues connected to climate change that giving up meat to save the planet can seem like trying to empty the ocean with a spoon.
But research does show that switching to a plant-based diet is the single biggest thing an individual can do to reduce their carbon footprint. Researchers at Oxford University published a study with this claim and when one thinks about it, it’s not too hard to understand why. Switching from a gas-powered car to an electric car, or even a bicycle is a big deal – but it’s not as big a deal as altering what you consume. The food chain has a longer set of carbon footprint links than even our transportation options.
It may, however, be easier to convince many people of the benefits of moving towards a plant-based diet by emphasizing health issues. Arnold Schwarzenegger is far from some sort of granola-loving hippie
. This body builder-turned-actor-turned-governor-of-California is about as tough a man as our species produces, yet he understands that he will likely live many years longer due to his choice of mostly giving up animal protein.
Healthcare professionals who are attempting to steer their patients away from meat-rich diets should likely use examples like these and approach the issue slowly – not as a black-and-white proposition.
Patients could start by cutting out all processed meats, for example, before moving on to reducing other meats – such as red meat, which is problematic for a variety of reasons – before perhaps using high-tech meat substitutes as a way of gradually moving towards a diet that is 80% or higher plant-based.
It’s not easy to ask someone to alter the way they have lived for decades, but for those whose quality of life – or life itself – depends on it, healthcare professionals must develop strategies that ‘nudge,’ encourage and aid in the transition away from animal protein.