Another January has arrived, and with so much traditional fat-and-sugar-infused eating behind you, you might be hearing the voice of conscience — reminding you that you are what you eat. And, as you meander through errands and warm and welcoming cafes to start the new year, it might seem as if plant-based foods are everywhere. A whole new range of consumers has discovered plant-based items, with appealing selections appearing on grocery stores shelves, restaurant menus, bakeries, pizza places, delis, coffee shops, and burger joints. So, let’s make a prediction for 2022: plant-based foods will not only transcend their current path leading to mainstream acceptance — they’ll become preferred, for lots of reasons.
It’s clear now that production of animal-based proteins has many limitations — environmental degradation, animal welfare, cultural considerations, and health constraints. The replacement of meat by alternative ingredients is fast becoming a norm in many countries around the world, with the numbers and varieties of alternative meat products expanding annually.
People are adopting lots of plant-based foods as part of their regular diets. Infusing plant-based foods is easier, more appealing, and compelling than ever before. Although such products remain a relatively small segment of the $585 billion US packaged food and beverage industry, demand is increasingly annually. Many factors will contribute to this plant-based foods awakening in 2022. Let’s look at some of them and see the evidence in support of the prediction that plant-based eating will surge in 2022.
Time to Eat a Healthier Diet
To maximize what longevity experts call “healthspan,” at least 50% of protein should come from vegetable sources. People like you are starting to assess the corresponding benefits/damages of plant-based eating for human health and the environment. Your personalized diet solutions are likely to point to a middle ground where you identify trade-offs and substitutions you are willing to make; for example, you might decide to eat less processed meat and more seafood.
In fact, the rapid growth of the alternative protein market is posing a threat to the conventional meat industry. That’s because a totality of what you eat on a daily basis combines to determine your health outcomes — whether positive overall health attributes or nutrient deficiencies. In fact, alternative meats are often considered a bridge to other non-animal protein sources. Edamame, tofu, and tempeh are examples of whole-soy products that offer protein and fiber. Across history, beans and rice have combined to produce a complete protein.
Climatarian Focus on Eating
How you eat and what you eat can have a real impact on your intake of nutrients as well as your carbon footprint. How can you adapt your meat-focused diets so you and the Earth are healthier?
The UN says that industrial meat production is one of the most destructive ways in which humans leave their footprint on the planet. Industrial meat is one of the biggest causes of deforestation globally, with the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization finding that, over the past 25 years, forests have been cleared from an area the size of India for cattle ranching. Such alterations of agriculture and forest systems are affecting our current ecosystems and their services and potentially threaten our overall food, water, and livelihood security.
When you follow a climatarian diet, you’re conscious how the foods you eat alter the planet. To do your part to reduce carbon emissions, you can choose lower-carbon, environmentally-friendly options. It means considering the carbon footprint and the emission level of the food you’re buying and about to consume.
A climatarian diet focused on whole plant-based foods can also reduce the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and obesity. 60% of the calories people in the US consume come from processed food products, providing enormous amounts of calories and huge corporate profits — but virtually no nutrition. Instead, eating a climatarian diet can increase your overall vitality, mental health, and longevity.
Prediction: More Men will Make the Move to Plant-Based Eating
Yeah, it’s hard for the guys out there to hear, but men’s meat-heavy diets are responsible for 40% more climate-heating emissions than those of women. Meat-eating in rich countries must be sharply reduced in order to tackle the climate crisis, largely caused by the methane and deforestation associated with cattle. That goal can be aided significantly if more men open up their minds and hearts to flexitarian food selections with more plant-based items. And it’s happening! The Beet says that plant-based diets are increasing in popularity among men who are looking to lead a healthier lifestyle, lose weight, or maximum muscle gains.
Lots of male celebs are promoting plant-based eating. Powerlifting record holder Patrik Baboumian, Olympic silver medalist Dotsie Bausch, ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek, and 7-time Mr. Olympia champion Arnold Schwarzenegger are backing a plant-based way of life on screen, and the case for swapping turkey with tofu has never been quite so compelling. Since 2018’s Netflix show The Game Changers, Tour de France champion Chris Froome, Rocky star Dolph Lundgren, and professional bodybuilder Kai Greene have all switched to a plant based diet.
Men who make the move to plant-based eating need to learn to pay particular attention to their vitamins (B12, D) and minerals (calcium, zinc, iron), protein, and fiber when consuming only plants.
Chemicals, Pesticides, & Plant-Based Eating
It became increasingly clear in 2021 that the largest human impact to the Earth has been the billions of tons of chemicals that we emit and circulate through our normal daily and industrial activities. Those activities include the foods we eat. Consumers like you are more likely than ever to choose products that are toxin-free, lessening the chemical influx in the food chain, water supply, air, and wider environment through informed consumer choice.
Last year, people in the US spent almost $9 billion on pesticides for agricultural use. Widespread pesticide use seriously threatens the health of fish and aquatic life, insects, and mammals, including many endangered species. Instead, agroecology can model a future where farming responds to the climate crisis by phasing out pesticides and maintaining vital biodiversity. It is the integration of ecology in agriculture and agri-food systems, encompassing ecological, economic, and social dimensions. It provides sufficient and healthy diets for a growing population without chemical inputs and with — and not against — nature.
By building organic matter into soils, regenerative agriculture produces stronger yields and nutrient-rich crops. It leads to resiliency — diminishing erosion and runoff, improving water quality on and off the farm, and helping to better withstand climate change impacts like flooding and drought. The transition to agroecology implies development and use of innovations to allow responding to real user needs via new technologies. Agroecology needs your support.
The R&D Prediction that Paid Off
Scientists have found that limiting global warming will be impossible without significant changes to how the world eats. Achieving a food future that has low environmental impacts, contributes to food and nutrition stability, and offers a healthy life for present and future generations is an urgent matter that depends on global collaborative efforts.
Responding to the devastating climate crisis, many companies are working to reduce the significant climate footprint of the animal-farmed meat industry by innovating ways to move to plant-based meat products. A grant from Beyond Foods, a distributor of plant-based meat alternatives, compared the effect of consuming plant-based alternative meat as opposed to animal meat on health factors. Researchers looked at outcomes such as concentration of TMAO (trimethylamine-N-oxide), a gut-flora metabolite that indicates risk for cardiovascular disease, LDL cholesterol, and body weight. All 3 improved with the plant-based alternative foods.
In a recent study, more than half — 52% — of US consumers are eating more plant-based foods and beverages. The number rises to two-thirds — 65% — globally. Almost 60% of respondents said that their change to plant-based food was permanent, or they hoped it was permanent.
How about you? What’s your prediction about plant-based eating for 2022?
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