New Chinese Dietary Guidelines To Cut Meat Consumption By Half, Slashing Carbon Emissions

This is not the only problem here, as overall health continues to decline from diets that are based largely around meat, causing heart disease, diabetes, and cancer to be at an all-time high. Governments are starting to note the detrimental effects this is causing people and the planet. Because of this, new initiatives are popping up everywhere that aim to reverse or at least slow down this growing problem.

 The U.K. government has recommended citizens consume less dairy, and the Netherlands releaseda new set of dietary guidelines suggesting citizens consume less meat due to sustainability and environmental concerns. Even the U.S. has issued a federal report outlining the benefits of adopting a plant-based diet for health and environmental concerns.

Recently, a monumental announcement has been made: the Chinese government released a new set of dietary guidelines that, if followed, have the potential to see the overall consumption of meat in the country drop by a whopping 50%.

The Chinese Ministry of Health (the government entity responsible for the health guidelines and health-related laws and regulations) is advising the citizens to limit meat intake to only 200 grams per day. At this time, the current consumption of meat and eggs in China is on average 300 grams per day.

The new guidelines were developed by the Chinese Nutrition Society with a goal of reducing obesity rates among its citizens. This couldn’t have come at a better time, considering a recent study found that obesity and other diseases related to diet have been growing in the country, and this could potentially be related to the increasing consumption of meat and dairy products.

How Will This Help?

These new guidelines can definitely benefit public health, but because the population of China is so large, a report from WildAid indicated that if these guidelines are taken seriously by the Chinese population, they would have the potential to reduce China’s greenhouse gas emissions related to meat consumption by an amount that is equal to 1.5% of all global emissions.

It is important that this report has been released, as meat and dairy consumption have been on the rise in rapidly developing countries like China and India. Still, in the U.S. the average amount of meat consumed daily is more than China, at around 384 grams a day. There is hope, however, as Americans are generally eating less meat: 30% are opting out of meat for every meal more frequently and the overall consumption of meat in America has dropped by around one third since the 1970s.

Because China’s population is currently around 1.38 billion, the implications of their new dietary guidelines are huge.

What Most People Are Unaware Of

The production of meat has a tremendous cost on the planet. 45% of the Earth’s landmass is occupied by animal agriculture, and if that wasn’t bad enough, another 33% is used to grow the feed for animal livestock. What’s baffling about this information is that it is still not addressed during the UN climate talks, even though a 2006 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization stated that the livestock business generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined.

In a clip from the increasingly popular documentary, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, (available on Netflix) Dr. Richard Oppenlander, environmental researcher and author of Comfortably Unawarehad this to say:

 “My calculations are that, without using any gas, or oil, or fuel ever again, from this day forward, that we would still exceed our maximum carbon equivalent greenhouse gas emissions…by the year 2030, without the electricity sector or energy sector even factoring into the equation. All simply by raising and eating livestock.”

Yet the main concern is to carpool more, drive less, and use hybrid vehicles, all of which can certainly help, but it won’t help nearly as much as if everyone simply consumed less meat.

So, How Can You Help?

Well, there is the obvious choice that was mentioned above: you could simply choose to consume less meat. I don’t want to tell you to go strict vegetarian or vegan, but something as simple as just consuming less meat can have tremendous benefits for the planet, and your health. There is an initiative called Meatless Mondays that encourages people and families to consider having one meat-free day a week. This is something that no doubt everyone is capable of, and it’s very likely you can even take it farther than this, but it is a great way to get your feet wet, and step into a new dietary realm.

Aside from all of the amazing new advancements with plant-based alternatives to meat and other animal products, there are also many delicious, unique, and simple vegetarian recipes just waiting for you to try out. Sacrificing meat more often can lead to greater health for you, less torture overall to the factory farmed animals, and is likely to lower greenhouse gas emissions and thus potentially save the planet. What have you got to lose?

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7 Things That Happen When You Stop Eating Meat

People go plant-based for lots of reasons. These include losing weight, feeling more energetic, reducing the risk of heart disease, decreasing the number of pills they take … there are dozens of great reasons! For even more inspiration, check out these other benefits you can expect when you go plant-based.

1. You’ll reduce inflammation in your body.
If you are eating meat, cheese, and highly processed foods, chances are you have elevated levels of inflammation in your body. While short-term inflammation (such as after an injury) is normal and necessary, inflammation that lasts for months or years is not. Chronic inflammation has been linked to the development of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases, among other conditions.

In contrast, plant-based diets are naturally anti-inflammatory, because they are high in fiber, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients, and much lower in inflammatory triggers like saturated fat and endotoxins (toxins released from bacteria commonly found in animal foods). Studies have shown that people who adopt plant-based diets can dramatically lower their level of C-reactive protein (CRP), an indicator of inflammation in the body.

2. Your blood cholesterol levels will plummet.
Elevated blood cholesterol is a key risk factor for heart disease and strokes, two of the leading killers in the United States. Saturated fat—primarily found in meat, poultry, cheese, and other animal products—is a major driver of our blood cholesterol levels. Cholesterol in our food also plays a role.

Studies consistently show that when people go plant based, their blood cholesterol levels drop by up to 35% . In many cases, the decrease is equal to that seen with drug therapy—with many positive side effects! People who require cholesterol-lowering drugs can further slash their cholesterol levels and cardiovascular risk by adopting a plant-based diet.

Whole-food, plant-based diets reduce blood cholesterol because they tend to be very low in saturated fat and they contain zero cholesterol. Moreover, plant-based diets are high in fiber, which further reduces blood cholesterol levels. Soy has also been shown to play a role in lowering cholesterol, for those who choose to include it.

3. You’ll give your microbiome a makeover.
The trillions of microorganisms living in our bodies are collectively called the microbiome. Increasingly, these microorganisms are recognized as crucial to our overall health: not only do they help us digest our food, but they produce critical nutrients, train our immune systems, turn genes on and off, keep our gut tissue healthy, and help protect us from cancer. Studies have also shown they play a role in obesity, diabetes, atherosclerosis, autoimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and liver disease.

Plant foods help shape a healthy intestinal microbiome. The fiber in plant foods promotes the growth of “friendly” bacteria in our guts. On the other hand, fiber-poor diets (such as those that are high in dairy, eggs, and meat) can foster the growth of disease-promoting bacteria. Landmark studies have shown that when omnivores eat choline or carnitine (found in meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy), gut bacteria make a substance that is converted by our liver to a toxic product called TMAO. TMAO leads to worsening cholesterol plaques in our blood vessels and escalates the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Interestingly, people eating plant-based diets make little or no TMAO after a meat-containing meal, because they have a totally different gut microbiome. It takes only a few days for our gut bacterial patterns to change – the benefits of a plant-based diet start quickly!

4. You’ll change how your genes work.
Scientists have made the remarkable discovery that environmental and lifestyle factors can turn genes on and off. For example, the antioxidants and other nutrients we eat in whole plant foods can change gene expression to optimize how our cells repair damaged DNA. Research has also shown that lifestyle changes, including a plant-based diet, can decrease the expression of cancer genes in men with low-risk prostate cancer. We’ve even seen that a plant-based diet, along with other lifestyle changes, can lengthen our telomeres—the caps at the end of our chromosomes that help keep our DNA stable. This might mean that our cells and tissues age more slowly, since shortened telomeres are associated with aging and earlier death.

5. You’ll dramatically reduce your chances of getting type 2 diabetes.
An estimated 38% of Americans have prediabetes—a precursor to type 2 diabetes. Animal protein, especially red and processed meat, has been shown in study after study to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. In the Adventist population, omnivores have double the rate of diabetes compared with vegans, even accounting for differences in body weight. In fact, in this population, eating meat once a week or more over a 17-year period increased the risk of diabetes by 74%! Similarly, in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and Nurses Health Study, increasing red meat intake by more than just half a serving per day was associated with a 48% increased risk in diabetes over 4 years.

Why would meat cause type 2 diabetes? Several reasons: animal fat, animal-based (heme) iron, and nitrate preservatives in meat have been found to damage pancreatic cells, worsen inflammation, cause weight gain, and impair the way our insulin functions.

You will dramatically lessen your chances of getting type 2 diabetes by leaving animal products off of your plate and eating a diet based in whole plant foods. This is especially true if you eat whole grains, which are highly protective against type 2 diabetes. You read that right: carbs actually protect you from diabetes! Also, a plant-based diet can improve or even reverse your diabetes if you’ve already been diagnosed.

6. You’ll get the right amount—and the right type—of protein.
The average omnivore in the US gets more than 1.5 times the optimal amount of protein, most of it from animal sources.

Contrary to popular perception, this excess protein does not make us stronger or leaner. Excess protein is stored as fat or turned into waste, and animal protein is a major cause of weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, inflammation, and cancer.

On the other hand, the protein found in whole plant foods protects us from many chronic diseases. There is no need to track protein intake or use protein supplements with plant-based diets; if you are meeting your daily calorie needs, you will get plenty of protein. The longest-lived people on Earth, those living in the “Blue Zones,” get about 10% of their calories from protein, compared with the US average of 15-20%.

7. You’ll make a huge impact on the health of our planet and its inhabitants.
Animal agriculture is extremely destructive to the planet. It is the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and is a leading cause of land and water use, deforestation, wildlife destruction, and species extinction. About 2,000 gallons of water are needed to produce just one pound of beef in the U.S. Our oceans are rapidly becoming depleted of fish; by some estimates, oceans may be fishless by 2048. The current food system, based on meat and dairy production, also contributes to world hunger—the majority of crops grown worldwide go toward feeding livestock, not feeding people.

Equally important, animals raised for food are sentient beings who suffer, whether raised in industrial factory farms or in farms labeled “humane.” Eating a plant-based diet helps us lead a more compassionate life. After all, being healthy is not just about the food we eat; it’s also about our consciousness—our awareness of how our choices affect the planet and all of those with whom we share it.

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