What if I told you that a world heavyweight boxing legend doesn’t consume meat or any animal products? How about a tennis star who has consistently dominated her competition for a decade? How about an NFL running back who led the league in rushing for multiple seasons? You may not believe it, but Mike Tyson, Serena Williams, and Arian Foster are all vegans, and while you may view this dietary choice as a hurdle to overcome, the athletes themselves claim that they have never felt better.

When looking for protein-rich foods, people usually turn to animal products and meat. While meat is a great source of protein and other nutrients such as vitamin B12 and iron, overconsumption, especially of red meat, has been linked to heart disease, obesity, and various forms of cancer. If you’re wondering what overconsumption looks like, think more than two servings per day. Alternatives such as poultry and fish are certainly healthier options, but plant-based proteins often get overlooked. Certain grains, such as quinoa and brown rice, are packed not only with protein, but also other nutrients that cannot be found in meat– such as fiber– which supports a healthy digestive system. Lentils, nuts, and beans are also high in protein as well as healthy fats, essential for heart and brain health. The easiest way to optimize your nutrition is to practice moderation and variation, as both meat and plant-based foods offer unique benefits. Commons provides plenty of options for both plant based proteins and lean meats in every meal, so achieving a balanced and healthy diet is made easily accessible.

In addition to the health benefits of eating more plant-based foods, a more balanced diet also holds environmental implications. Consider the following: From birth to the time of slaughter, which takes around two years, cows have to be fed, provided water, and cared for. But how much energy goes into that care? It requires as much as 20 pounds of corn in order to produce one pound of edible beef, which essentially means that consuming plant-based alternatives is significantly more environmentally sustainable than consuming meat. Although eating meat in moderation has been a natural part of human life throughout history, factory meat production in the last century has grown to unnatural proportions, exploiting the environment’s resources and fostering a diet centered disproportionately around meat.

While nothing about eating meat is inherently wrong, the way that humans produce and consume meat in today’s society has serious health and environmental consequences. The solution is not necessarily for everyone to go vegan, but rather for all of us to look critically at our own eating habits and make more intentional choices. It’s far too easy to subsist on meat without thinking about the implications of that choice. We hope that you take this into account the next time you’re in Commons. Even if it’s replacing just one meat dish at your next meal, your planet and you body will thank you!