Plant-based diets have gained popularity in recent years as more people become aware of the health, environmental, and ethical benefits of reducing or eliminating meat intake. High-quality research supports the nutritional sufficiency of vegan diets, and a well-planned plant-based diet can easily meet protein needs. Major differences exist between vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based diets, but all focus on reducing the consumption of animal products.

Health Benefits of Plant-Based Diets

Research has shown that plant-based diets can help men achieve optimal health. Men who consume high rates of ultra-processed foods are at a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer. On the other hand, plant-based diets have been linked to numerous health benefits, including improved eye health through the antioxidant lutein found in dark leafy greens. Coconut milk has been found to be the best plant-based milk for liberating lutein from spinach in green smoothies, according to a study by Linköping University in Sweden.

Environmental Benefits of Plant-Based Diets

A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that a plant-based diet is critical in mitigating the worst of the climate crisis. Sustainable, healthy, and “balanced” diets are defined as “plant-based foods, such as those based on coarse grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and animal-sourced food produced in resilient, sustainable, and low-GHG emission systems.” Vegan products require much less land use, less water, cause less pollution, and require similar or less energy usage than animal products.

Challenging the Link Between Meat and Masculinity

One of the barriers to adopting plant-based diets is the cultural and social association between meat and masculinity. However, changing attitudes towards health, environmental sustainability, and animal welfare are challenging this link. Research has emerged about the link between meat consumption and disease, providing men an opportunity to reexamine their relationship with animal products. Participants with the most gender-typical identifications perceived meat as natural, necessary, and nice, but this perception is being challenged by the growing awareness of the benefits of plant-based diets.

Embracing Plant-Based Diets and Sustainable Practices

As more people adopt plant-based diets for health, environmental, or ethical reasons, the manufactured food industry is responding to the demand for meat-free and dairy-free options. Major chains like Chipotle are recognizing the sustainability of plant-based proteins and leaning into it. Sustainable swaps can be made for everyday single-use items, such as using stainless steel straws instead of plastic ones and reusable glass tumblers instead of paper coffee cups. Making homemade vegan milk is better for the planet and can be done easily with a high-speed blender and nut-milk bag or cheesecloth.