June 19, 2024

Health Minds

Nourishing Minds, Elevating Health

India’s plant-based future pathway to sustainability and health

3 min read

The rising incidence of NCDs globally underscores the urgent need for sustainable preventive and therapeutic strategies. The article highlights the  importance  of looking for sustainable alternatives such as plant-based diets

“Transforming the food industry towards sustainability requires collective action and innovative solutions. At the Plant Based Foods Industry Association (PBFIA), we’re leading the charge towards a healthier and more sustainable future for all.” Sanjay Sethi, Executive Director, PBFIA.

Today, India faces a dual challenge of malnutrition and obesity, affecting people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. The rising incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) globally underscores the urgent need for sustainable preventive and therapeutic strategies. One effective preventive measure is addressing the imbalance of macronutrients in our diets, which significantly contribute to meta-inflammation—a precursor to NCDs. This imbalance often results from excessive refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, and insufficient quality proteins. Similarly, protein, crucial for muscle building, hormone synthesis, and immune regulation, is particularly lacking in the typical Indian diet. Despite the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recommending a daily intake of 0.8-1 gram of protein per kilogram of ideal body weight, the average Indian consumes only about 0.6 grams.1 In light of this, it is important to look for sustainable alternatives such as plant-based diets for us to explore. Plant-based diets have long been a part of human history. In ancient Greece, the philosopher Pythagoras advocated for vegetarianism, both for health benefits and ethical reasons. In India, too, plant-based diets have deep roots, woven into the fabric of cultural and religious practices such as those in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, which emphasise nonviolence and compassion.

Today, plant-based eating is experiencing a resurgence driven by health, environmental, and ethical concerns. In the U.S., the number of people adopting a vegan diet increased by 600 per cent between 2014 and 2018 (2). This trend is reflected globally, including in India, where the plant-based food market is expanding rapidly. According to the PBFIA report, India’s market for plant-based meat is expected to range from US$ 283 million to US$ 880 million, while the plant-based dairy sector is projected to soar around 59 million by 2030. The overall vegan food market in India is anticipated to have a CAGR of 11.32 per cent from 2022 to 2027 (3).

Why India Needs to Embrace Plant-Based Alternatives

India’s burgeoning population and its associated food security challenges necessitate a shift towards more sustainable food systems. A recent study published in the Down to Earth reported India to be having the most ‘zero-food’ children at 6.7 million — almost half of all the zero-food children in the surveys across 92 Low and Middle Income Countries (4). Currently, 70 per cent of Indians consume meat, and the environmental impact of animal agriculture is profound (5).The production of animal-derived products demands significant water, land, and other resources, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and biodiversity loss. Transitioning to plant-based diets can mitigate these environmental impacts while promoting health and ethical consumption.

Environmental Sustainability

Plant-based foods generally require fewer resources to produce compared to animal-based foods. For instance, producing one kilogram of beef requires approximately 15,000 litres of water(6), whereas one kilogram of pulses requires only 50 litres (7). Producing 1 kilogram of pulses requires significantly less water compared to meat production. As per estimates, the water footprint for 1 kilogram of meat is five times higher than that of pulses. Pulses are a sustainable choice due to their low water footprint and nutritional benefits.

The greenhouse gas emissions from livestock farming account for about 14.5 per cent of all human-induced emissions globally, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)(8).  In India, livestock farming contributes significantly to methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas. By reducing the consumption of animal products and increasing the intake of plant-based foods, India can significantly reduce its carbon footprint and contribute to global efforts to combat climate change.

Embracing plant-based proteins isn’t just about our health; it’s a significant step towards a more Sustainable and Healthier planet. At RELSUS, we’re committed to championing a climate-conscious future by promoting high-quality, plant-based proteins. Increasing the global market share of alternative proteins from 2 per cent to 8 per cent by 2030 could reduce emissions equivalent to decarbonising 95 of the aviation industry. Our dietary choices matter in the fight against climate change.” Vineet Singhal, Founder and CEO, RELSUS.

 

References:

(1) Right to Protein, (2) NCBI, (3) ET, (4)  DTE, (5) India Today, (6) The World Counts, (7) FAO, (8) FAO

 

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