2016’s Top 10 Vegan Moments
December 30, 2016 Dr. Neal Barnard
Plant-based diets had a successful year. In 2016, we saw vegan diets at the Olympics and French Open, prominent scientists and government officials embraced plants, and thanks to an infamous Facebook rant, “Gary” made a name for vegan cheese.
Here are just a few of our favorite plant-based moments from 2016:
1. When the Dietary Guidelines praised vegetarian diets: In January, the government released a new set of Dietary Guidelines for Americans that are the most vegan friendly version yet. The new guidelines strengthen recommendations for Americans to limit cholesterol consumption, specifically list vegetarian and vegan diets as health-promoting, and encourage Americans to consume more fruits and vegetables.
2. When Hellmann’s couldn’t beat vegan mayo, so they joined them: It wasn’t long ago that Hellmann’s sued plant-based company Hampton Creek for producing eggless mayo. That’s why it shocked many when in February, Hellmann’s introduced its own vegan mayo spread. 2016 has seen other food industry giants join the plant-based movement: Tyson Foods, the largest meat processor in the country, invested in vegan meat company Beyond Meat; Yoplait owner General Mills invested in Kite Hill, a vegan cheese and yogurt company; and last February, Ben & Jerry’s debuted its long-awaited line of vegan ice cream flavors.
3. When “Gary” made a name for vegan cheese: Upset by vegan cheeses being called “cheese,” a Facebook user suggested in September that these products be renamed “Gary.” The now infamous rant took the Internet by storm. It wasn’t the only time vegan cheese made headlines this year: Reports show that the vegan cheese industry is expanding, and Los Angeles even hosted its first vegan grilled cheese festival.
4. When experts predicted that going vegan would significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions: In March, a new study revealed that a shift toward a plant-based diet would cut food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent. It was a star-studded issue in 2016, with celebrities like Al Gore, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and James Cameron using their platforms to raise awareness about the links between meat production and climate change.
5. When plants powered Team USA: Weightlifter Kendrick Farris the caught the nation’s attention by lifting a combined 787 pounds in Rio. How does he get his strength? From an all-vegan diet! Beach volleyball player April Ross also made headlines in Rio for winning an Olympic medal on her plant-powered diet. In 2016, other athletes who powered their performances with plants include NFL player Colin Kaepernick, the NBA’s Wilson Chandler, and tennis star Novak Djokovic, who won his first French Open title, earned a career Grand Slam—and opened a vegan restaurant!
6. When plant-based “meats” swept the nation: At the beginning of the year, 55 percent of Americans reported that they planned to opt for more plant-based proteins in 2016. And they did. This year, we’ve seen a vegan burger bar change minds in Colorado, vegan tacos selling out in a bakery in Dallas, and a vegan hot dog stand wowing Nebraska – the country’s leading red-meat producing state. Overall, more than a third of Americans now consume meat alternatives, helping to drive the rapidly growing plant-based protein market.
7. When 100 doctors encouraged Americans to break the meat habit: In July, 100 doctors rallied in front of the White House to urge Americans to “break the meat habit” to improve their health. The doctors caught the attention of millions of people at the same time that a brand new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that eating animal protein increases the risk of early death from cardiovascular disease and cancer, while eating plant protein reduces the risk.
8. When Barnard Medical Center opened its doors: In January 2016, Barnard Medical Center—a primary care facility that emphasizes the power of plant-based nutrition to help fight chronic diseases–proudly opened its doors to patients. Throughout the past year, hundreds of patients have benefited from consultations with physicians and dietitians, support groups, and nutrition education classes.
9. When plants were the key to DJ Khaled’s success: In March, DJ Khaled took to Snapchat to rave about the tasty new foods he was trying on his vegan diet and how he quickly lost weight and gained energy. Other celebrities who sang the praises of plant-based diets in 2016 include Waka Flocka Flame, Miley Cyrus, and Stevie Wonder.
10. When the research concluded that vegan diets are healthy: In December, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics released a position paper summing up the health benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets. The paper concluded that eating plant-based is appropriate for people at all stages of life and that it can promote human health and improve the environment.
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