Green light for
Dr Justine Butler of the health charity,
Vegetarian & Vegan Foundation, explains why the greenest diet is also the healthiest
Unless you've been living in a cave, you’ll know by now that livestock farming is a major cause of greenhouse gases and is at the heart of almost all the planet’s great environmental catastrophes.
If you really want to help save the planet, changing to a plant-based diet is the most effective thing you can do.
And the bonus is – a diet that excludes meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy foods is
also the healthiest! A plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts,
seeds and pulses (peas, beans, lentils and soya foods) provides all the essential nutrients the body needs. It contains no saturated animal fat, animal protein, cholesterol, animal hormones or growth factors. These baddies are linked to a wide range of diseases including some of the UK’s biggest killers – heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and certain cancers.
Statin’ the obvious
The NHS spends more on heart drugs than any other medication – £625 million in 2005. Extraordinary considering that a low-fat, plant-based diet can not only prevent heart disease but also treat it and reverse the damage caused without popping a single pill!
Vegans tend to eat less saturated fat than meat eaters and no cholesterol – two
key ingredients in heart disease. Research from Oxford University suggests that lifelong vegans tend to have a healthier balance of fats which could reduce their risk of heart disease by a whopping 57 per cent – compared with 24 per cent for lifelong vegetarians.
One in three British children carries too much fat and the evidence is that replacing meat and dairy with plant foods is an easy, long-term way to help control weight. A large study comparing over 1,000 vegans with thousands of vegetarians and meat-eaters found that
vegans were slimmer whatever their age. Another report found that less than two
per cent of UK vegans were obese compared to 20 per cent of non-vegans.
Diabetes affects over one million people
in Britain and there is strong evidence linking it to diet. Avoiding meat and dairy can offer protection while a high, complex-carbohydrate, high-fibre vegan diet can reduce the need for medication!
Breast cancer in the UK has increased by 80 per cent since 1971 and now affects
one in nine women. Only 10 per cent of cases can be blamed on genes, with most
being caused by diet and lifestyle.
A review of studies from 40 countries showed a link between meat, milk and cheese and breast cancer. Diets rich in fruit,
vegetables, fibre and folic acid (found in broccoli, asparagus, chick peas and brown rice)
on the other hand can lower the risk. Eating soya foods when young reduces the risk of breast cancer in later life.
One in 14 UK men develop prostate cancer but vegetarians are half as likely to contract it as meat-eaters. Peas, beans, lentils, tomatoes, raisins and dates have been shown to lower prostate cancer risk.
Some scientists suspect hormones in meat and milk are responsible for the increase in these cancers. Dairy farming has intensified drastically over the last few decades and
two thirds of Britain’s milk now comes from pregnant cows – a time when hormone levels are sky-high.
Forget the scare stories about vegan children which the media love to run – both the
American Dietetic Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics are quite
clear that a vegan diet produces normal growth and that children meet or even
exceed recommendations for most nutrients.
Not only can vegan diets be fine for children of all ages but they may reduce
the risk of chronic diseases in later life. It’s an irony that the diet which is trashing the Earth is also trashing our
health – and the solution to both is so simple. Simple and essential!
The VVF can provide all the information you need on going veggie
For tasty recipes, scientifically-referenced reports, information and advice visit
www.vegetarian.org.uk or call 0117 970 5190.