The Rise of Plant-Based Diets in the United States
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The Rise of Plant-Based Diets in the United States

Americans are becoming more and more conscious of what they eat. It’s not just about the health aspect of food; it has also become about the ethics behind the food they consume. Google search entries about vegetarian and vegan diets have steadily increased in recent years. But the interest in these diets has not been the same throughout the country. So let’s look at how vegetarian and vegan-curious is today in each state and what this data means.

However, before we jump into this discussion, let’s first talk about the difference between these two plant-based diets.

Vegetarian vs. Vegan

The vegetarian diet avoids meat products like pork, beef, poultry, and fish. Some vegetarians also abstain from animal byproducts such as milk and dairy. On the other hand, vegans abstain from all types of animal food products. Aside from meat, milk, and dairy, they don’t consume honey, eggs, and other food items that use these products such as bread, pastries, and ice cream.

Not all vegetarians and vegans dive right into a new diet when they’re just starting their journey to a healthier lifestyle. Some of them try other types of diets first, like the ketogenic diet, the Atkins diet, and the Paleolithic diet. This slow transition allows people to prepare their bodies and do enough research so that they can more comfortably embrace the plant-based diet lifestyle without relapsing into their old eating habits.

Vegetarian and Vegan-Curious States

Live OWYN looked at how frequently people are searching for the terms “vegetarian” and “vegan” in each state. Based on the increase in Google searches in the past five years, the most vegetarian-curious states are West Virginia (200%), New Mexico (160%), Kansas (140%), Nebraska (100%), Wyoming (88%), North Dakota and Hawaii (both 84%). On the contrary, the states with the least interest in vegetarianism include Montana (-43%), Rhode Island (-41%), Iowa (-31%), Arkansas (-28%), Delaware and Vermont (both -15%).

Meanwhile, the most vegan-curious states are Alabama (500%), South Dakota (333%), Oregon (329%), Wyoming, and Virginia (269%). The least vegan-curious states include North Dakota (-29%), New Hampshire (21%), New Mexico (48%), and Oklahoma (59%).

Notably, there are more states that have lost interest in vegetarianism than veganism. There are 11 states (Montana, Iowa, Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana, Michigan, Florida, Delaware, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Vermont) that had a negative growth in terms of “vegetarian” Google searches in the last five years, while there is only one state (North Dakota) that had a negative growth in terms of “vegan” Google searches in the same time period.

What does this mean?

It’s true that we, as a society, are becoming more conscious about our health and what we eat. But just because people are getting more curious about plant-based diets doesn’t mean that they are actually converting into the lifestyle.

Future studies must be conducted to see how many Americans are full-time vegans and vegetarians and whether each state has enough plant-based establishments to cater to their needs. Moreover, how sustainable are these diets in each state? Do people have access to vegetarian and vegan-friendly ingredients so that they can cook meals at home? These are just some questions that researchers can attempt to answer so that we can have a more specific idea of the status of vegetarianism and veganism in the country.

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