New Research Says Vegetarian Diets Could Actually Be Worse for the Planet

New Research Says Vegetarian Diets Could Actually Be Worse for the Planet

Vegetarian Diets Plan

If you are suggested to drink beer instead of water then does it mean that water is not important or unnecessary and beer has substituted water? Weird question right, but the point is to understand the importance of complete information.

Among the most dangerous things is incomplete knowledge and therefore one should not develop a perception about anything without looking both sides of the coin (means event, statement or situation). Many people have misinterpreted the findings of a recent study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University which states that consumption of vegetarian diet which includes fruits, vegetables and seafood are exploiting more natural resources and thus causing more “emission per calorie”.

Vegetarian Diets
Vegetarian Diet

Before reaching on any conclusion about any type of diet we should review the highlights of this study once again. Here are the major considerations of this study:

It has considered a typical American diet plan and it has been compared against two types of vegetarian diets plans which are:

  • A diet plan having equal number of calories as compared to American diet plan and meet the daily diet recommendations (for adding vegetable, fruits and fish) of USDA.
  • A diet plan fulfilling all USDA dietary recommendations but containing less calories as compared to American diet plan

What stats say?

  • The comparison with first diet plan shows an increase in use of energy and water by 43 % and 16 % respectively while emission increased by 11%.
  • Next comparison with second diet plan shows an increase in energy use, water consumption and emission by 38%, 10% and 6% respectively.

Highlights of the study

Eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon

If we talk in terms of calories to understand this statement then for example, you will need two pieces of bacon to get 100 calories while you have to consume fourteen tightly packed cup of lettuce to retrieve same amount of calories. Well fourteen is surely a greater number but why will we eat 14 cups of lettuce when we will get 100 calories from few cups of beans, nuts or grain which has lower impact on environment.

Lots of common vegetables require more resources per calorie than you would think. Eggplant, celery and cucumbers look particularly bad when compared to pork or chicken.

It is talking about per calorie but we eat the food as whole then should not it calculate the overall calories. Would you replace your chicken with lettuce or much healthier, nutrient rich and much less resource intensive options like beans and nuts?

Transitioning people from a current US diet to one designed for a “normal” body weight would reduce our use of energy, water, and gas by about 9%.

An average American consumes 3800 calories per day instead of minimum daily requirement of 1800 calories. It means you should cut on everything you eat not just chicken and lettuce. One should try to eat a healthy and nutritionally balanced diet by including wide range of food options (in right proportion) like fruits, veggies, dairy, nuts and fish.

The study was basically concerned about energy use, water consumption and emission. According to the research, vegetarian resources consumes more of energy and water to produce and process but do you know that it takes 106 gallons of water to make just one ounce of beef while 23 gallons are needed for an ounce of almonds.

If you remove your focus from lettuce then you will be able to see that most common plant sources used in human lives around the world are tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers which requires less energy and water to produce as compared to raising cattle to washing and processing their meat and its derived products like burgers and steaks which required more water.

Vegetarian Diet Plan
Vegetarian Diet Plan


There are some drawbacks of the study such as considering per calorie as a parameter to compare a diet which doesn’t make any sense. Another thing is that it is focused only on American diet which clearly can’t be applied on every vegetarian all over the world because American diet is high in seafood and dairy. Many vegetarians don’t eat seafood and vegans totally avoid dairy and dairy products then how can be the findings of this study applicable to vegetarian diet.

Another mistake is that USDA recommendations are taken into consideration which is not appropriate because these are just guidelines not a solid proof of what people are actually eating. Recommendations are only suggestions, it is not necessary that every American following this perfect diet plan. Therefore, rather than going theoretical, the study should have considered a practical approach to get the findings.

Take home message – before giving up on your vegetarian diet, analyze every perspective of finding and think if it is possible in practical life and stop blindly following after the studies and recommendations.