Fifteen Times Plant-Based Diets Stole the Spotlight in 2015
December 29, 2015 Dr. Neal Barnard
Plant-based diets stole the spotlight in 2015. Top advisors to the U.S. government voted for a vegan diet, a veggie burger was voted “best burger in the world,” and prominent figures from Miley Cyrus and Adele to the president of the American College of Cardiology sang the praises of plant-based diets.
Here are 15 times that veggies took center stage in 2015:
1) When the World Health Organization Declared that Red and Processed Meats Cause Cancer: A large-scale international review published in Lancet Oncology in October concluded that red and processed meats are linked to cancer.
2) When a Veggie Burger Took the Top Prize: Where’s the beef? Not in the best burger in the world, according to GQ Magazine. In November, the magazine crowned New York City’s vegan Superiority Burger as best burger. The veggie burger’s win represents a shift in consumer preferences over the past year. More and more, people are pushing the beef off their plates. At the same time that McDonald’s closed more than 700 stores this year, demand has increased for plant-based fast-food and fast-casual restaurants, like New York’s By Chloe and the West Coast’s Veggie Grill. Even a former McDonald’s CEO has left beef burgers behind: In November, Don Thompson joined the board of a veggie burger start-up company.
3) When Scott Jurek Crossed the Finish Line: In July 2015, ultramarathoner Scott Jurek became the fastest person to ever race through the 2,189-mile-long Appalachian Trail. Fueled entirely by a plant-based diet, he broke the world record by running about 50 miles per day for 46 straight days.
4) When the President of the American College of Cardiology Went Vegan: In July, Kim Williams, M.D., president of the American College of Cardiology, took the stage at the Physicians Committee’s International Conference on Nutrition in Medicine: Heart Disease to explain why he made the switch to a plant-based diet and why he recommends the same for his patients. The evidence that plant-based diets are best for heart health continued to mount in 2015. New studies show that vegetarian diets lower cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of heart attack, reverse angina, and lower the risk of heart disease in obese children.
5) When Beyoncé Was Crazy in Love with Veggies: Beyoncé’s music and fashion choices might create frequent media frenzies, but it was her menu making headlines earlier this year. In January, Queen Bey – inspired by how great she felt after her own 22-day vegan challenge – teamed up with Marco Borges and 22 Days Nutrition to launch a vegan meal delivery service. Also pushing plants into center stage in 2015? Miley Cyrus, Ellie Goulding, Jon Stewart, and Liam Hemsworth all raved about the many benefits of plant-based diets.
6) When Vegan Mayo Went Mainstream: In July, news broke that 7-Eleven made the switch to using vegan mayo in all prepared dishes. It’s one of many reasons why following a plant-based diet became more convenient than ever in 2015. This year brought vegan meatballs to Ikea, veggie sliders to White Castle, and coconut milk to Starbucks. And due to popular demand, Ben & Jerry’s has been hard at work in 2015 creating a line of vegan ice cream, which will hit shelves next year.
7) When U.S. Government Advisors Voted for Plants: In February, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee released a scientific report acknowledging the power of plant-based diets to fight obesity and reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and other common health problems. The report is being used to shape the upcoming 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which not only guides individual choices, but drives food and nutrition policy.
8) When Veggies Rocked the Lunch Line: In September, MUSE School CA became the nation’s first plant-powered K-12 school after debuting an all-vegan menu packed with bean-based chilis and fresh vegetable salads. Along with Meatless Mondays and vegetarian options, school gardens and nutrition education programs have all risen in popularity at schools in the U.S. These trends might explain why a study published in March found that fruit and vegetable intake is on the rise in schools.
9) When Vegetarian Diets Proved Best for Weight Loss: In January, a major meta-analysis conducted by the Physicians Committee and published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that adopting a vegetarian diet causes weight loss, even in the absence of exercise or calorie counting. Another study in July confirmed that compared to diets that contain meat, vegetarian and vegan diets are more effective for weight loss. Superstar singer Adele echoed the same sentiments, crediting her vegetarian diet for her recent weight loss.
10) When a Trucker Found the Road to Good Health: What’s the best way to fuel up? Bobby Andersen, a 45-year-old Mississippi truck driver, made the case for a plant-based diet this July, when his story became national news. After adopting a vegan diet, Andersen lost 65 pounds and dropped all of his medications – all while spending six days a week on the road.
11) When 340,000 Cancer Cases Could Have Been Prevented: The American Institute for Cancer Research states that a healthy diet and other lifestyle changes can prevent an estimated 340,000 cancer cases per year, and new research this year showed that plant-based diets may be protective against certain types of cancer. Vegan diets may reduce the risk of prostate cancer, be best for breast cancer survival, and protect against colorectal cancer.
12) When Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminated the Protein Myth: In December, Arnold Schwarzenegger finally put the protein myth to rest, when he explained that vegetarian diets contain all the protein that bodybuilders and other athletes need. Throughout 2015, many athletes proved his point: Football player David Carter made headlines as the NFL’s “300-pound vegan,” Serena Williams continued to wow crowds with her tennis skills and became The Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year for the fourth time, and NBA star Ben Gordon felt “lighter and faster” after making the switch to a plant-based diet. Sports fans weren’t left out either in 2015. U.S. ballparks and stadiums are championing vegan options, while the “world’s first vegan football team” became the first UK football club to serve an entirely plant-based menu.
13) When the Cleveland Clinic Said Bye Bye to Big Macs: In September, the nation’s top hospital for heart health announced the termination of its contract with McDonald’s, becoming one of at least four hospitals to cut ties with the fast-food chain this year. It’s a sign that hospitals are prioritizing nutrition for patient health. In Connecticut, New Milford Hospital spent 2015 serving fresh salads filled with vegetables grown on the hospital’s rooftop, while Garth Davis, M.D., wrote out prescriptions for fresh fruits and vegetables at the “Farmacy” stand in the lobby at Houston’s Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center.
14) When a Journalist’s Vegan Meals Made Headlines: When prominent food journalist Mark Bittman wrote his last regular column for the New York Times in September, many wondered about his next step. In November, he announced that he would be joining a vegan meal-kit delivery startup. Bittman made the move because he wanted to help save lives, noting that “helping people eat less junk and processed food and fewer animal products will improve their health.”
15) When Vegan Options Took Off at U.S. Airports: Seventy-one percent of restaurants at the busiest U.S. airports now offer at least one healthful plant-based option, according to the 2015 Airport Food Review. From Vegetarian mango stir-fry at Baltimore/Washington International Airport to roasted beet salads with arugula at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, it’s easier than ever for travelers to find healthful options on the fly.
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