What are plant-based foods good for?

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Veganism is often cited as being a movement geared towards doing better, so if we boil it down to its core consumables, what are plant-based foods good for, exactly?

Let’s not beat around the bush anymore. We all want to know what impact our food choices have, plant-based or otherwise. From big impacts to personal progress, animal-free consumption has enormous and numerous benefits, so let’s talk about a few of them.

Societal change

what is vegan foodWhy do big brands keep bringing out plant-based versions of their bestselling lines? Because as a group, vegans are growing exponentially and the more of us there are, the fewer people will buy the “traditional” option. That equates to a significant drop in profits, which means we are a valuable commodity and need to be targeted as consumers.

This all sounds very cynical and sad but remember, the more demand there is for the vegan alternatives, the more societal shift is really happening. If a plethora of new faux bacon products hitting the shelves mean that fewer people are buying animal-based products, that’s a good sign that meat and dairy are becoming less of a long-term accepted norm. And that is huge.

Personal health

The scientific evidence is out there, proving that plant-based diets are effective in reducing cholesterol levels, the likelihood of heart disease and that they even make a massive impact on type 2 diabetes. Weight loss isn’t guaranteed, regardless of what the mainstream media purports every January when it peddles our lifestyle as some kind of get-out-of-Christmas-indulgence-free card, though it is possible with just a little effort and moderation.

Yes, you’ll need to supplement vitamin B12, but everything else your body needs can be found in whole foods and treats should never be banned. Just be aware that relying on processed plant-based foods, which can be high in salt and sugar, won’t improve your personal health as much as organic or unprocessed ingredients.

Don’t miss our writer’s account of finding better gut health through a plant-based diet.

Household budgets

veganism expensiveThis is a tricky one. If you decided to adopt a mostly whole foods plant-based diet, you could reasonably expect to see your shopping bill reduce, particularly if you have previously relied on processed or packaged foods. If you are making the switch because you eat meat, you should also see a shopping reduction, but only if you resist falling into the trap of substituting everything for a costly meat-like alternative.

Expensive to develop and often priced on the high side, alt-meats can push your shopping costs through the roof if you’re not careful. On the flip side, fruit and vegetables, brown rice, lentils, tofu and canned pulses are all very cost-effective. It’s true what they say, in that you really do pay for convenience, so this is something to think about carefully.

The environment

Animal agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to climate change due to the enormous carbon emissions it creates. Add to that the staggering amount of deforestation that is attributed to the creation of grazing space for animals raised for slaughter and the environmental impact of meat production is undeniable. Though plenty of companies within the sector try to deny it.

Plant-based foods are a viable way to lessen environmental damage. Creating far fewer carbon emissions, requiring less water and in short, it’s just far more efficient as a food chain. Instead of eating animals, who eat plants, but cutting the animals out of the middle, we can negate that costly step.

Animal rights

veganism animal rightsWe don’t have to explain this one, do we? But let’s take a second to appreciate what an important and emotional point this is. The more we demand plant-based foods, the fewer animals will be farmed, because there is a tasty, kind alternative that’s freely available and satisfies in a similar way.

This reminds us of that silly hypothetical question that so many vegans have been asked. Would we eat a pig if we were stranded on a desert island with only said pig for company/food? Well, let’s turn it around and ask: will omnivores still eat meat if there is a brilliant cruelty-free plant-based alternative on offer?

Read our look at how human and animal rights are intrinsically linked.

What are plant-based foods not good for?

We like to offer fair and constructive overviews of everything but we’ve thought long and hard and cannot think of anything that plant-based foods are not good for. We can’t even make a silly joke about them being bad for meat-eaters, because they’re perfect for omnivores. Tasty, versatile and potentially healthier than their normal choices, these are all bonuses as far as we can tell, so we feel pretty good about our food decisions.

As more plant-based options are developed, we will obviously see an increase in the benefits that they result in. What was unthinkable just five years ago is now easy to find on the supermarket shelves, so who can predict where we will be another five and how we will be eating?

Amy Buxton
Amy Buxton
Amy is a committed ethical vegan, raising a next generation compassionate human with her husband and their beloved dog, Boo. A freelance writer with a background in PR, she decided to use the COVID lockdown period to refocus her client base and has come to The Vegan Review as a senior writer and editor, before moving into her external content director role. "What we should be doing is working at the job of life itself" is Amy's mantra, courtesy of Tom from The Good Life.