In a recent study published in Scientific Reports, researchers confirmed that all our nutritional needs can be satisfied without eating meat.

In addition to being nutritionally sound, choosing plant-based alternatives would be more environmentally optimal, and conserve more protein and energy than conventional meat. Faced with our global climate breakdown, biodiversity loss and health epidemic, this study adds to the plethora of scientific research that supports the switch to a plant-based food system.

The study was conducted by a team of nutritionists, physicists and scientists from Harvard University, Harvard College, and New York’s Bard College. Their key finding was that by replacing beef, chicken and pork meat with plant alternatives made from soy, green pepper, squash, buckwheat and asparagus, the nutritional needs of Americans could be fully met. 

The study also found that the replacement of conventional meat with plant-based alternatives would eliminate pasture-land use, lower the area needed for cropland, and save 280 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year. To put this into perspective, if Americans were to cut out meat intake, it would translate to taking 60 million cars off the road. 

Lead researcher of the study, Eshel, and the team wanted to find out what would happen if all Americans stopped eating meat and replaced it with plant protein in the same daily doses. In addition to eliminating a colossal amount of carbon dioxide emissions, their results showed that 29 million hectares of crop land and 6.6 billion kilograms of nitrogen fertiliser would be saved. While food-related water use would rise by 15{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63}, Eshel said that meatless replacements emits 80{85424e366b324f7465dc80d56c21055464082cc00b76c51558805a981c8fcd63} less carbon than conventional meat. 

Scientists concluded that while a complete overhaul of the American food system would be logistically and culturally challenging, going meatless remains the best option that we can take to reduce resource use on a multidimensional level.  

“There’s something empowering about these results, because they offer people a sense of agency in terms of determining their own impact,” said Eshel. 

Indeed, this study could crucially reassure skeptics that ditching meat would not leave people lacking in nutrition, and could help save the planet too. 

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