The 4 Pillars of a Plant-Based Diet

Traditionally Three, but Must be Four

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I recently had an enchanting evening at an all-vegan banquet thrown by Provisions Magazine and the chefs at Webster’s bookstore and cafe. It showcased an absolutely salivating array of plant-based dishes to make any 5-star restaurant blush with envy.

Eating Habits and Personal Choice

But sharing conversation among community members was the highlight. We talked about what personal responsibility is for ourselves and beyond and if our eating habits have an impact. It made me realize how far our public conversation about food and personal choice has come. Now it’s a thing, and we talk about it.

The 3 Traditional Pillars of a Plant-Based Diet

Concerning personal choice, the three compelling arguments that inspire people to adopt a plant-centered (vegan) diet include:

  • the benefits of optimal nutrition,
  • environmental preservation,
  • and compassion towards living beings.

These three pillars of plant-based life encapsulate its power—for personal health, the preservation of natural resources, to limit pollution, and to avoid suffering of both farm animals and those who must process them, all to produce our food. Many people find their way towards veganism through one of these pillars.

The 4th Pillar of a Plant-Based Diet

But as I savored our beet croquettes with cashew cream sauce (to die for!), a fourth, and arguably the most compelling pillar of dietary choice became clear, the one that strengthens the imperative of conscious eating more than the founding three: sustainability.

Eating whole plant foods is the most effective way to sustain our planet and feed people because eating plants conserves water, feeds the soil, reduces greenhouse gas emissions (both methane from cows and carbon dioxide from excess fossil fuel), and guarantees a sustainable food system for generations to come.

Yes, sustainability does conjure up environmental stewardship, but I see it as going much further. Sustainability as its own pillar promotes the health and longevity of people as well as the planet. Sustainability means using resources efficiently, which allows the land, sea, and ecosystems to regenerate for future generations.

A sustainable plant-based diet has the least detrimental impact on biodiversity and rainforests, which are primarily cut down for grazing and growing feed. When it comes to air quality, a sustainable, plant-based diet is the least polluting, and air pollution is a leading cause of disease and death worldwide.

The most inexpensive and immediate solution to the most pressing concern of our time—global warming—is sitting at the table right in front of us: To eat plants.

Save the Planet One Bite at a Time

Now I know this sounds simplistic, as it is government that has the capacity to effect policy changes for a sustainable world. But we the people elect or un-elect those policy-makers, and we vote with both our forks and ballots to demand better behavior, from them and from food-producers.

We must force change on all fronts, and simply have run out of time to dally over the best approach to the problem. It’s time to hit global warming with all the tools available in our global shed. Forget waiting for the magic solution. There isn’t one. We need to multitask here, to convert our energy infrastructure to clean and green, and re-invent our agricultural system to produce the most sustainable food to feed a growing population.

It starts with your habits, and the most effective one is eating. With every bite, you are voting to sustain your health as well as the planet’s or to continue down an unsustainable trajectory towards an uninhabitable Earth. Make each bite count.

Written by Kathy Pollard, MS

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