What does plant-based mean?
Plant-based foods come from plants and contain no animal-derived products, including eggs, milk or cheese.
Why try more plant-based foods?
The vast majority of animals are raised on factory farms, sometimes referred to as concentrated or confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). They are routinely confined indoors in spaces so small and barren they cannot freely roam or engage in natural behaviors. Most are bred to grow or produce at unnatural rates in order to yield more meat, milk and eggs—a practice that severely compromises their health and welfare and often leads to painful ailments and increased susceptibility to disease. Animals on factory farms are sometimes subjected to abusive handling by workers who may lack adequate training or are under intense pressure to meet production demands.
In addition to harming animals, factory farming is a major source of pollution, antibiotic abuse, foodborne illness, unjust employment practices and community health crises. Factory farms are primarily located in rural areas, and studies have shown that their health and environmental impacts are disproportionately felt by poorer communities and people of color. Additionally, the huge numbers of animals confined in small spaces creates a breeding ground for disease and pathogens, increasing the risk of zoonotic disease and contributing to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
There are two major ways to help farm animals: buying more humane, welfare-certified animal products instead of conventional products and reducing your overall consumption of animal products in favor of more plant-based foods.
Does eating plant-based really help save lives?
Every food purchase is a vote for how animals should be raised, and we as consumers have the power to show there is no market for farm animal cruelty. By opting to buy more plant-based foods, you’re increasing the demand for such products and reducing the demand for factory-farmed animal products. Eating more plant-based foods can decrease the number of animals raised on factory farms each year, ultimately reducing farm animal suffering. In fact, if everyone stopped eating meat even one day a week it would save billions of animals from being factory farmed.
Plus, incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet can improve your own health, reducing the incidence of health issues like heart disease and hypertension.
So, what can I eat?
Good news! There are tons of simple and nutritious whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains that you can incorporate into your diet. Some plant-based staples include:
Legumes: Lentils and beans (chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans)—these staples are packed with protein!
Grains: Bread, pasta, rice, quinoa, oats
Nuts: Cashews, almonds, walnuts, peanuts
Fruit: Apples, oranges, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, melon, dried fruit (raisins, dates)
Vegetables: Broccoli, mushrooms, peas, green beans, leafy greens (romaine, spinach, kale, arugula), potatoes
Additionally, there are plenty of plant-based meat, egg and dairy alternatives to try, from burgers to ice cream—check out the ever-growing Shop With Your Heart Brand List for some of our favorites. Any products listed with the plant/heart icon are plant-based. Meat alternatives often combine ingredients like mushrooms, lentils, potatoes, soy and wheat with herbs and spices that replicate the texture and flavor of meat. There is also a wide array of dairy (milk, yogurt, etc.) alternatives made from almonds, soy, cashews, oats, hazelnuts, coconuts and hemp. In addition to buying alternatives, you can simply swap in plant-based staples as a replacement, such as replacing eggs with cornstarch, applesauce, bananas or ground flax seeds in your favorite baking recipes.
Whether you choose a routine like Meatless Monday or “Vegan Before 6,” go fully plant-based or just try to reduce the amount of animal products you buy, you are making a major difference for farm animals, the environment and your own health.