Whether it is for health, religious, ethical, or environmental reasons, more and more cultures are shifting towards plant-based eating.
Even though North American and European countries have been the most visible vegan activists (and even started the first vegan society in the UK), it is cultures like Latin America, the Mediterranean, India, and China that are leading the newest wave of plant-based eating.
In 2019, 19% of Latin American shoppers say purchasing plant-based food and drinks has become important to them in the past year and between 54% and 72% of people (depending on the country) say they eat meatless meals at least once per week.
While meat was a part of Latin American diet in prehistoric times, the majority of their diet was made of domesticated fruits and vegetables such as avocado, zucchini, carrots, beans, sweet potatoes, and passion fruit.
The tradition of having a heavily plant-based diet has lived on in Latin America, but it is for different reasons now.
Latin American vegans say that eating clean and health is the number one reason they live a plant-based lifestyle.
Eating clean and living a healthy life is so important to Latin Americans that 24% of people surveyed stated they were willing to pay 10% more for plant-based food in the name of health.
Today, a meal in Latin America looks very similar to a meal had by their prehistoric ancestors. Vegetables and beans are the staples of most meals and red meat is only eaten on occasion.
The Latin American diet prioritizes health, family, and socialization.
The Mediterranean Diet has long been touted as one of the best and healthiest diets on the planet, and you shouldn’t be surprised to hear it leans heavily on plant-based foods.
Studies have shown that eating a Mediterranean diet help increase your gut microbiome and assist with health aging and longevity. The healthy fats that are central to the Mediterranean way of eating are shown to reduce blood clotting and lower the risk of stroke and heart failure.
Mediterranean cultures have been eating in a similar way for hundreds of years and in the Middle Ages, their diet began to spread outside of their culture and more cultures began following their eating style.
While many people in the Mediterranean still include fish in their diets, their heavily plant-based dietary tradition has influenced the modern-day vegan diet.
Following a vegetarian or vegan diet is incredibly popular in India because the major religions in the country follow the principle of Ahimsa, which states “that the only way to save one’s own soul is to protect every other soul.”
Treating animals ethically and not eating them is an important part of Indian culture. 90% of Indians surveyed state they eat vegetables on a daily basis while only 6% said the same about meat.
Eating a vegan diet is generally linked to being healthier, but that isn’t the case in India.
India is suffering an obesity epidemic even amongst its plant-based population.
Many foods in India (including plant-based food) is fried and contain heavy sauces, so it is easy for planted-based eaters in India to gain weight following a traditional diet.
China isn’t the first country you think of when you hear the word vegan, but plant-based eating is quickly becoming more and more popular.
Currently, China represents one quarter of the global demand for plant-based meat.
Westernized Chinese food consists of a lot of meat; however, a traditional Chinese diet consist more of vegetables, rice, and soybeans than it does meat.
Over 50 million people in China follow a strict vegetarian diet with the health benefits that come with eating plant-based cited as the most popular reason to remove meat from their diet.
The move towards more plant-based food isn’t only on a personal level in China. The government introduced a plan to cut the country’s meat consumption by 50% by 2030 to reduce the obesity and diabetes problems affecting Chinese citizens.
Meeting this goal would reduce the amount of meat eaten by Chinese people to the same levels that were seen in 1982 before Westernized fast food was introduced to the country.