Want to stop climate change, get healthier, and save money? According to a recent study by University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), you can by choosing to eat healthier. But what does “eat healthier” mean? Well, plainly – a whole foods, plant-based diet.

The standard American diet has become synonymous with unhealthy eating, due to a heavy focus on processed animal products and a low amount of fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, this contributes to a myriad of issues, that are costing Americans. Heart disease, colorectal cancer, and type 2 diabetes are just a small handful of health problems that Americans suffer from as a result of their poor diets. On top of expensive hospital bills that many Americans struggle to keep up with, the United States pays about $3 trillion per year in health care for many illnesses that are related to diet. It seems that much of our dollars are being spent on fixing problems seeded in our food system – but very little is being done to fix how Americans think about food. And it’s not just personal health that’s suffering as a result, but the health of our planet as well. Our food system contributes to 30 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, with most of it coming from the animal agriculture industry.

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The good news is that new research shows we could potentially heal our own health problems, as well as the planets with a simple shift in our diets.

Using data from published meta-analysis, students and researchers at UCSB conducted the study by examining the effects that a diet heavy in plant-based foods has on greenhouse gas emissions derived from the U.S. food system. The study then altered a standard 2,000-calorie diet to double fruit and vegetable intake, replace most meat protein with legumes, and swapped most refined grains with whole grains. Refined sugar intake was not touched, nor was the intake of eggs, fish, dairy, and non-red meat. Then, they estimated the lowered risks of common diet-related diseases in order to arrive at their conclusion. Even with this small change, researchers found that there was a “reduced … relative risk of coronary heart disease, colorectal cancer, and Type 2 diabetes by 20 to 40 percent. Health care costs went down by $77 billion to $93 billion annually and direct greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 222 kilograms to 826 kilograms per person per year.”

While many studies regarding the positive effects that a plant-based diet has on our health and the environment, this is the first time anyone has done a study like this,  according to study director and research professor David Cleveland. Cleveland explains, “People have looked at what effect diets have both on climate and on health, but they’ve never examined the potential to mitigate climate change through the food system and the health care system together.”

As the leading organization at the forefront of the conscious consumerism movement, it is One Green Planet’s view that our food choices have the power to heal our broken food system, pave the way for a truly sustainable future – and as these findings show, have a positive effect on our health and the health care system. Thanks to the #EatForThePlanet campaign, we’ve been able to illustrate that eating plant-based has never been easier or more accessible.

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You can start eating for the planet, and yourself, by doing nothing more than choosing a delicious plant-based meal when you sit down to eat.

You can #EatForThePlanet starting today. Just follow the three simple steps below.

1. Replace: Try to swap animal-based products in your daily diet with vegan alternatives (milk, butter, mayo, cheese, grilled chicken, beef crumbles, sausages, cold cuts, etc.)
2. Embrace: Add plant-based whole foods (local and organic when possible) to your diet like greens, fresh fruits, and vegetables, whole grains, plant proteins like lentils, nuts/seeds, beans, tofu, etc.
3. Moderate: Limit consumption of your favorite meats like beef, lamb, pork, etc.

“The #EatForThePlanet Way is not about restricting your diet, but about changing the way you think about your food choices,” says Zacharias. “When you Eat for the Planet, you make the conscious decision to reduce your negative impact on the world around you.”

Change does not have to be big or immediate. It can be as simple as starting by eating one plant-based meal a day — and we can help with that. Check out our collection of vegan recipes for ideas and follow the #EatForThePlanet campaign for more!

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If you’re looking to cut back on meat and dairy, we highly recommend that you check out the Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone. With over 8,000 vegan recipes (and over 10 new recipes added daily), you’re going to find something you love!

Lead image source:  Mushroom and Beluga Lentil Burger

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