The good and bad of plant-based eating

A growing number of Filipinos, mostly young adults, are embracing a lifestyle of alternative protein intake, or what is now more popularly known as plant-based eating. It usually stems from a desire to eat healthy, which coexists with a greater general awareness of the need to lead a healthy life.

Another predominant reason is related to the ideological movement to protect the Earth, following the United Nations recommendation for humans to switch to a plant-based diet and alternative sources of protein to reduce methane emissions, which helps curb the global warming.

Whether plant-based diets will become mainstream in people’s lives or cool off to become a niche community of hardcore believers, just like vegetarianism, remains to be seen. However, some critical views of plant-based eating are already emerging that give pause to its health and environmental benefits.

Years ago, before this explosion of plant-based foods, doctors faced with patients sick from overeating meat and its processed derivatives, such as bacon, canned meatloaf, and sausage, were being told to switch to a diet with less fatty meats, more leafy vegetables, and no processed foods. Beans and tofu were often made to substitute for animal meats; sugar and salt were carefully measured. This could get quite tedious.

like real meat

Today, those who watch their diets can simply choose to buy plant-based meats, since more companies are now producing them. However, with the wider variety available, it has become essential to read labels carefully before purchasing. Many plant-based sausages, burgers, or nuggets, for example, are often deep-fried, seasoned with salt, and seasoned with unhealthy ingredients.

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The production of plant-based meats has taken on a certain sophistication, making them taste more palatable, thanks to a series of flavorings, artificial colors and processing aids to make them nearly indistinguishable from real meat.

While feasting on plant-based meats may be healthier than consuming cholesterol-laden beef, pork, lamb, or chicken for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, some dietary values ​​have reportedly been missed. Plant-based meats go through a high level of processing that ultimately removes some of their health values.

These new findings, along with the high cost of plant-based meats, raise questions about the sustainability of this nascent industry.

ultra high processing

As the popularity of plant-based lifestyles increases, the problems associated with commercialization arise. To meet growing demand, companies are turning to ultra-high processing, which scientists warn can lead to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that offset the gains made by reducing mass livestock production.

Producing milk from plants like almonds, soybeans, and coconuts to replace animal milk is another area where ultra-high processing technology cannot be avoided. Additionally, most plant-based milks contain sugar, oil, salt, and thickening and stabilizing agents.

With the marketing of plant-based foods comes the inevitable use of packaging to protect or extend shelf life, not to mention the freezing and refrigeration required to store them.

Today, various companies have invested heavily in the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of plant-based foods. Some of them, like Los Angeles-based Beyond Meat and UK-based Quorn, have global networks that have even reached as far as the Philippines.

Locally, Century Pacific Food and San Miguel Corp. are two of the country’s food conglomerates that have recently ventured into plant-based foods. Both have an expanding presence in the country and compete well with imported brands.

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Follow up

Truly, the production of “modern” plant-based meats has risen to a different level, quite different from the traditional method of pulsing or grinding legumes to produce soy flour or tofu and soy milk that most vegetarians prefer. traditional.

Mindful of this, scientists are issuing cautionary warnings about the need to continually monitor that the benefits of producing meat alternatives for the world’s 8 billion people in the future will not undermine intended environmental and health goals.

The 2022 UN Climate Change Conference or COP27 is drawing to a close this week, and the goals set out in the COP21 Paris Agreement to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, ideally no more than 1.5 °C, continue to be in danger of not being satisfied.

The operational details for the practical implementation of the binding Paris agreement involving 196 countries, colloquially called the Paris Rulebook, were finalized last year during the COP in Glasgow, Scotland, representing an administrative delay of six years.

Among the action plans that nations are expected to draw up are changes in the food sector, in particular the reduction of emissions in agriculture and throughout the food chain. Eating less meat and dairy products, especially from ruminant animals, is a recommended action point.

The UK, for example, aims to reduce consumption of most carbon-intensive foods like beef, lamb and dairy by at least 20% per capita to plant-based options by 2030, and an additional 15% by 2050.

A new study by scientists at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley supports the view that phasing out animal agriculture over the next 15 years would have the same effect as a 68 percent reduction in emissions. of carbon dioxide by the year 2100. This alone represents more than half of the net emission reductions needed to limit global warming to 2°C.

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As the world’s population is cajoled into adopting a plant-based diet in favor of a healthier diet and for the world’s survival, I think about that juicy steak I could have for dinner today. Fortunately, it’s still a treat to enjoy, albeit in moderation.

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