Plant-Based Diet

Do we eat too much meat, eggs, and dairy?

We would be better off with more of a plant-based diet
We do not eat too much meat, eggs, and dairy
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Started by
Molly Banta

The Issue

Increasingly, many nutritionists are advocating cutting back on meat consumption, with some supporting initiatives like Meatless Monday, and others going so far as advocating veganism. The discussion of animal cruelty, while a major issue for some, is not the only reason many choose to cut back on meat and other animal products. Nutrition, health, and environmental sustainability factors all contribute to the growing debate on whether we should reduce our reliance on meat, eggs, and dairy.

Remaining Questions

5 questions total

Final Thoughts

What people think
Pro: Plant
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    Daisy Banta

    Vegetarians are sprouting up all over. Join the movement!

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    Dara Grossman

    My opinion is based on the question: do we eat too much meat, eggs, and dairy. I do believe that Americans eat more protein than we need. The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) recommends 0.36 grams of protein per pound, which, according to the DRI, is equal to 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man and 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman. There are certain groups of people, including pregnant women, athletes, dieters, and women who are breastfeeding who should discuss their recommended protein intake with their doctors.

    That being said, the average person certainly consumes more protein than needed. Think about it like this: 3 ounces of lean meat/fish protein has about 20 grams of protein, but very few people eat only that 1 serving of 3 ounces. I know that I always buy organic, responsibly raised chicken breasts, and 2 chicken breasts almost always weigh over 1 pound -- that's over 8 ounces per breast!! That means that if you eat the whole chicken breast, which seems like it should be a single serving, you are consuming more than double an actual serving size!

    The evidence presented in this Nia does show that there are health benefits of eating meat, eggs, and dairy, but eating the quantity that most Americans do comes with drawbacks as well including health and ecological issues. In fact, this Nia shows evidence (though mixed) that eggs and diary don't seem to have the impact on cardiovascular health when eaten in moderation and can even have health benefits. It doesn't seem like the evidence proves that red meat, particularly processed red meat, leads to any health benefits and is linked to health/cardiovascular problems.

    While it's clear that eating protein is important for human health, I think that the key is moderation. Do I think that the evidence proves that meat, eggs, and dairy should be given up in favor of a vegan diet? No. I do believe, however, that the average American diet includes more meat, eggs, and dairy than we need -- and that replacing some of our calories in favor of a plant based diet would be beneficial for our overall health and environment.

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    Lea Thali

    The evidence seems to point to the fact that transitioning to more of a plant-based diet may be beneficial for everyone. I am not advocating for a full vegan diet, however. While eggs and dairy have both been shown to be possibly harmful to the cardiovascular system, they can also be a good source of nutrition, but in moderation. The key to most nutrition, in my opinion, is moderation. This is especially important when the production of meat and other animal products has such a huge environmental impact. By cutting back on meat, eggs, and dairy, we can help not only ourselves, but our planet as well.

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    Anoushka Parthasarathi

    Many people have the misconception that if you eat a plant-based diet, you're automatically skimping on protein because all/most protein comes from meat. This, however, is just that--a misconception. There are so many ways to get the protein that you need while still maintaining a plant-based diet: lentils, beans, nuts, spinach, kale, the list can go on. As long as people who eat plant-based diets make sure to have a good amount of these types of food, they can still make sure they get the level of protein that they need.
    Additionally, the Nia references a source that states that the typical moderately active vegan male needs only 2.2-2.6 g of protein per 100 calories and the typical moderately active vegan female needs 2.3-2.8 g of protein per 100 calories. Foods that come from a plant-based diet, especially beans, have roughly this much and therefore are able to provide people with the amount protein that they need to stay healthy.
    People who say that a plant-based diet isn't as healthy as a non plant-based diet due to an apparent lack of protein are mistaken because a plant-based vegan or vegetarian diet can be just as healthy, and in some cases even healthier, than a meat-based diet.

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    Karan Shah

    Leaning towards a plant based diet would be beneficial for people for a number of reasons. First and foremost, studies show that people who follow plant based diets are 3 times less prone to cardiovascular issues than are those who follow even moderate meat/egg/dairy diets. Meat eggs and dairy significantly increase the risks of heart issues and should, therefore, be limited and enjoyed in great moderation. This has to do with the types of protein in the different types of food and how they affect cholesterol levels.
    Studies also show that plant based diets can be attributed to better weight management. People with plant based diets gain less weight yearly and are able to lose weight more effectively than those with plant based diets.
    The environment also benefits from plant based diets because plant based foods require far less water to maintain and supply to the world than do meat eggs and dairy.
    The components of a plant based diet are ultimately healthier and more efficient sources of nutrition than meat eggs and dairy.

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    Jordan Grossman
    Founder of Niaterra News

    This seems to be a story about balance first and foremost — to say "too much" of something isn't helpful without acknowledging that a different person may be have "the right amount."

    Given that, it seem that people who want to lose weight would benefit from more plant-based foods. If you don't need to lose weight, the right balance may be different.

    There's also some evidence that people on plant-based diets live longer.

    It's clear that being less dependent upon animals is better ecologically, but farming animals, at a certain level, is also important ecologically (probably much lower levels will still be fine).

    It's probably the case that most people would be better off reducing their animal food sources in favor of a plant-based diet for both health and ecological reasons, but it isn't going to be a magical cure-all for either area, and doesn't require complete elimination of animal food sources to see good benefits.

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    Molly Banta
    Nia Creator

    The evidence clearly shows that meat, eggs, and dairy are detrimental to the environment in comparison to plant-based products. Similarly, a plant-based diet promotes a healthier heart and weight.

    However, though it may be possible to still get enough protein and macronutrients from a purely plant-based diet, and is healthIER than a diet with significant amounts of meat, eggs, and dairy - I'm not sure meat, eggs, and dairy are detrimental enough to cut them out (or even back) if you were not already inclined to do so.

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    Valerie Williams

    Although an occasional meat eater myself l do worry about the state of our eating habits.
    Having been raised in Europe at a time when we were enduring the second world war, beef for us ( and many more !) was non existent for six or seven years and still strictly rationed for a long time after. My family did not appear appeared to suffer any ill consequences from the lack of meat in our diet We did have access to fresh veg. thanks to my Grandmother and Aunts.
    Although our ancestors were
    "hunters and herders" , the herds they hunted were not full of growth hormones and antibiotics etc. as are todays cattle. Being most people cannot afford the luxury of grass fed beef and the sea also appears to be polluted one hopefully can still find affordable organic veg..!
    PS. l am informed by a well read friend that it is essential for humans to ingest some animal protein. Over a period of time .

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    Satchie Snellings

    This Nia provides evidence that a plant based diet, if done right, can improve health, contribute to weight loss and offer environmental benefits. With these facts in mind, I can confidently say that a plant based diet is a healthy alternative to a meat, egg and dairy based diet. Does this mean that human beings must abandon their carnivores endeavors in favor of a leafy lifestyle? Not necessarily.
    The above articles are in agreement over the increased levels of cholesterol that accompany meat, dairy and egg consumption. The New York Times story on “The Myth of High-Protein Diets” reveals a connection between heart disease and cancer and a metabolite called TMAO, which is found within egg yolks and red meat. Consumers should certainly be aware of these risks when embarking on a meat, egg and dairy based diet.
    On the other hand, a study conducted by the Harvard Chan School of Public Health explains that consuming an egg a day will not put a healthy individual at risk for heart disease. That same individual’s health would in fact be improved by the protein and vitamins found in eggs. This particular example embodies my overall opinion on this issue. A person can certainly consume the necessary amount of protein on a plant-based diet, but if they are healthy then the choice should be theirs. A healthy individual can maintain a meat, egg, and dairy based diet so long as they continue to monitor their cholesterol levels and make sure not to consume too much red meat.
    Alternatively, I do believe that a plant based diet is a smart choice for individuals hoping to improve their health and lose weight. The support stories above explain that vegan diets can be more effective than other diets when it comes to weight loss. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine goes on to say that replacing animal protein with soy protein has been proven to reduce cholesterol levels. Based on this information, I support the shift from a meat, egg, and dairy based diet to a plant-based one in the case of individuals hoping to improve their health through weight loss and lowering their cholesterol levels. In the case of healthy individuals, however, I believe that meat, egg and dairy consumption remains an option.

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    Qiao Xue

    According to this Nia, it has been proved very clearly that a plant-based diet is better for health.
    There is solid evidence to prove that consuming a significant amount of meat, eggs and dairy increase the risk for heart disease and cancer. A plant-based diet not only helps to lose weight, but also provides enough amount of plant proteins that meets human physiological requirements.
    However, there is no evidence to show that we do not need meat, eggs and dairy any more. The problem here is that people consume them too much. A good diet is to keep balance. Therefore, we need both plant and meat, eggs and dairy in proper amount.

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Pro: Animal
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    Aya Abitbul

    We must be wary of extrapolating the benefits of a short-term vegan detox to long-term diet solutions. No research has been conducted indicating real health gains that span a vegetarian's lifetime. If anything, our long-term evolutionary advance as a species suggests that eating meat for millennia has been working for us--we've come this far! Our ancestors were not hunters and herders for no reason, and our capability to digest animal byproducts at all, coupled with all the health benefits we reap from animal-derived vitamins and minerals, leads me to believe we're meant to be eating them.

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