So maybe you’re already pretty healthy. Maybe you’d like to lose a few pounds but you don’t have any serious medical problems like high blood pressure or diabetes…yet. Maybe you’re still young and beautiful with your whole life ahead of you without a care in the world. I was there once, too. In that case, you may not think that plant-based nutrition is necessary for you.

Well, what we know is this…

Diet is probably THE most important influence on health. Optimal eating is associated with increased life expectancy and a dramatic reduction in lifetime risk of all chronic disease. Conversely, poor dietary habits (high in animal foods and highly refined carbohydrates) is the leading causes of premature death and chronic disease. While there have been no rigorous, long-term studies comparing contenders for the best diet, the weight of evidence strongly supports an overall pattern of healthful eating which includes lots of minimally processed foods close to nature… predominantly plants. (Katz, Meller. 2014)

We also know that…

What we eat matters in the context of the environment. Even small changes in what we buy and eat can add up to real environmental benefits, including reducing our exposure to toxic chemicals and reducing our personal carbon footprint. Animal foods are more likely to harbor higher levels of toxic chemicals than fruits and vegetables because many of the pesticides and other pollutants that accumulate in the environment are fat loving chemicals that get sequestered in the fat of the animals flesh, milk and eggs that we then consume. These foods also arrive to our plates after extensive processing that requires more energy and release more global warming emissions into the air.

The “carbon footprint” of hamburger, for example, includes all of the fossil fuels that that went into producing the fertilizer and pumping the irrigation water to grow the corn that fed the cow, and may also include emissions that result from converting forest land to grazing land. Meat from ruminant animals (cows, goats, and sheep) has a particularly large carbon footprint because of the methane (a potent global warming gas) released from the animals’ digestion and manure. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that if all Americans eliminated just one quarter- pound serving of beef per week, the reduction in global warming gas emissions would be equivalent to taking four to six million cars off the road.

And lastly, we know this…

Our food choices impact both human and planetary health. What we eat impacts our health directly but it also impacts the environment around us upon which our health ultimately depends. In the face of climate change and a degrading environment, our health will suffer from extreme heat, agricultural failures leading to food shortages, issues with water quantity and quality, and emerging infectious diseases like the Zika virus.

So, whether it’s for you or for those you love; for the health of humans or the health of the planet, take the advice that Michael Pollan has given us all…Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants.