More than one good reason for eating mainly plant foods


Malcolm P Forbes, Research Associate, Centre for Research Excellence in Chronic Disease Prevention and Care at James Cook University

Rosemary Stanton. Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at UNSW Australia


The authors do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article. They also have no relevant affiliations.

Meat contains some important nutrients, but it’s not essential for a healthy diet. Many people, especially men in Western countries are, on average, eating too much of it. Despite vested interests that wish to maintain this status quo, which prevails in most Western countries, there are very good reasons to curb your meat consumption.

A large body of evidence suggests vegetarians enjoy lower rates of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and hypertension. A 2013 study of over 70,000 individuals in the United States found a 12% reduction in premature death for vegetarians and studies of healthy long-lived populations all show modest consumption of red meats.

Clearly, advice to favour plant-based foods and reduce meat intake should now be considered part of healthy dietary advice given by doctors and nutritionists. Especially because myths that a vegetarian diet leads to inadequate levels or iron or protein have been dispelled. But a recent report by a US nutrition advisory committee that suggests exactly this has come under fire.

Under attack

The scientific report of the 2015 dietary guidelines advisory committee will form the basis of the latest US dietary guidelines, which will aim to curtail the growing national prevalence of lifestyle diseases.

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