Some people say that “you are what you eat”. Well… I have been eating toast for breakfast since I was a kid, but I still don’t see the resemblance. I prefer to stick with facts and scientific evidence.
From our ancestor gatherer-hunters to today, we have been feeding off of meat and other animal products. Back in the caveman era, when agriculture didn’t exist and winters put man’s survival skills into practice, crossing an arrow through a deer’s heart was imperative to survive. Thousands of years went by. We have remarkably improved our survival skills and the world’s population has passed the seven billion mark. Now, it is time to find a more sustainable way to live in and off of the Earth. After doing a thorough research covering different factors, I decided to no longer eat animal products. I switched to the plat-based diet—rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains—for health, ethical, and environmental reasons.
Have you ever heard a doctor recommending to reduce the consumption of fruits, vegetables and grains? Probably not. Meat, dairy, and eggs, on the other hand, are high in saturated fats and cholesterol and are often restricted on people’s diets because they promote obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Other two ingredients that you should limit in your menu are hormones and antibiotics, which are injected to livestock in great amounts to maximize productivity. A well-balanced plant-based diet is rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, iron, calcium, and also fiber. Fiber improves the overall function of the body reducing the risks of diabetes, heart failure, and overweight , and according to the American Institute of Cancer Research, it can also protect us against cancer . Personally, and following the recommendations of my father, who is a doctor, I have been monitoring this change on my eating habits with complete yearly blood tests, which have proven that I have physically benefited from substituting animal products with plant-based alternatives!
The ethical factor is related to the conditions in which the animals that are raised for food live in. Can you picture a cowboy on his horse guiding the cattle to graze in the fields, or a farmer cleaning his chicken coops while the sun rises, or even a fisherman taking off his yellow rain suit after a good day’s catch at sea? Unfortunately, these classic trades are becoming obsolete. Nowadays, rising animals for food has turned into Henry Ford’s assembly line. In order to satisfy the demand of our greatly populated twenty-first century world, we have invented factory farming: “a system of rearing livestock using intensive methods, by which poultry, pigs, or cattle are confined indoors under strictly controlled conditions.” Automatic milking machines are connected to cows so many hours per day that their udders get hurt and infected and their bones become decalcified and weak (there is no method to filter the blood and pus that gets mixed into the milk, so they add more antibiotics to our food). Chickens and egg laying hens are confined in such small spaces (67 inches per hen, or seven birds per cage), that their beaks have to be cut off when they are chicks to prevent them from killing each other. Pigs, don’t have it any better, and the same goes for salmon, tilapia and lobster in the fish farming industry. Many eye-opening documentaries, such as Indigestible, Death on a Factory Farm, Earthlings, and Food Inc. show in detail what happens to the animals in these “mass production assembly lines.” Once I learned about this, I found it hard to buy animal products again.
Although the health and ethical detriments of eating animal products are very convincing on their own, what really sold me into changing my diet was the environmental factor.
I consider the environmental aspect the most important one because it directly affects every living being in the planet. Animal products are resource-consumptive foods. To produce, distribute and dispose beef, poultry, pork, fish, eggs and dairy takes a lot of natural resources (water, land, food, electricity, fuel, etc.) and produces tons of contaminating waste  and polluting gases (CO2 and methane among others). As reported by Water Footprint Network, “the production of one kilogram of beef requires 15 thousand liters of water” (3962 gallons). Hard to believe, isn’t it? According to Stanford Woods Institute, “more than two-thirds of all agricultural land is devoted to growing feed for livestock, while only 8 percent is used to grow food for direct human consumption.” They also project that the production of meat will double by 2020 due to the global increase of people’s consumption of meat and population growth . We could cure the world’s hunger if we didn’t have to support 60 billion heads of livestock!. The oceans have been depleted. Millions of acres of forest and jungle have been logged. Entire eco-systems and natural habitats have been compromised or destroyed. Looking at the numbers, I felt the urge to lower my impact on the planet, where my future children and grandchildren will live. Eating lower on the food chain is definitely a great step!
After learning the health, ethical and environmental issues related to the consumption of animal products I thought: “Could I bring Portobello mushrooms instead of beef burgers to Sunday’s barbeque, get avocado and veggie rolls when I go out for sushi, and make scrambled tofu with my breakfast potatoes? Yes! Everything tastes so good and fresh and I can also save some money! I have embraced the plant-based diet almost four years ago and I feel strong and energetic. Also, I am happy for not contributing with the modern factory farming system and for reducing my carbon footprint.
Fortunately, I am not the only one traveling this road. My husband, a pragmatic engineer, got on board since day one. The population of vegetarians and vegans is growing every day, opening a whole new competitive market of meatless and dairy-free products. Celebrities like Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Natalie Portman, Brad Pitt, Carrie Underwood, Usher, Bob Harper, Carl Lewis and even Mike Tyson have already made the shift. I know… it is easier said than done. But why not give it try? One meatless meal per day is a great start! There is a whole new world of delicious foods to discover!. Are you open-minded and adventurous?
 The Phrase Finder. Phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions, in the meaning and origin of the expression “You are what you eat.” Phrases.org. Web: http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/you%20are%20what%20you%20eat.html
 WorldOMeters. “Real Time World Statistics in Current World Population.” World o Meters. Web: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/
 Cheshire, Sara. (28 July 2014). Health, in Light bulb goes on: He lost 100 pounds with plant-based diet. CNN. Web: http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/28/health/irpt-weight-loss-benji-kurtz/
 American Institute for Cancer Research. Reduce Your Cancer Risk, in Get The Facts on Fiber. AICR. Web: http://www.aicr.org/reduce-your-cancer-risk/diet/elements_fiber.html
 Watch Henry Ford, PBS documentary. Web: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/henryford/player/
 Oxford Dictionaries, Language Matters, in Factory Farming. Oxford Dictionaries. Web: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/factory-farming?q=factory+farming
 Read the investigations and personal story of this fourth generation Montana rancher, Howard F. Lyman. MAD COWBOY: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won’t Eat Meat. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998. Print.
 Maryam Rasouli. (22 Sep. 2013). Environmental Awareness, in Factory Farming. World Issues 360. Web: http://www.worldissues360.com/index.php/factory-farming-61/
 Watch Don McCorkell documentary: A River of Waste: The Hazardous Truth About Factory Farms. 2009. Video.
 Water Footprint. Some “Facts and Figures,” in Introduction. Water Footprint Network.Web: http://www.waterfootprint.org/?page=files/home.
 Brooks, Cassandra. Environmental Venture Projects, in Consequences of increased global meat consumption on the global environment — trade in virtual water, energy & nutrients. Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment .Web: https://woods.stanford.edu/environmental-venture-projects/consequences-increased-global-meat-consumption-global-environment
 Bittman, Mark. FAO Yields to Meat Industry Pressure on Climate Change. Robert Goodland. The Opinion Pages. New York Times. July 11, 2012. Web: http://bittman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/11/fao-yields-to-meat-industry-pressure-on-climate-change/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0
 Huff Post Green. 15 Vegan Celebrities Who Have Given Up Animal Products for a Healthier Life. Huffington Post. 1 Dec. 2013.Web: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/01/vegan-celebrities_n_4351908.html
 Get Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s “Veganomicon, The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook” (2007), or visit Greenstraightup.com’s “Green Cuisine.”