(WXYZ) — Michigan has always been known for its thriving food industry, but lately, the state’s vegan trend has picked up steam.
A San Diego State University study shows that Michigan ranks 10th in the nation for the number of vegan options.
Charles Lewis, 72, has been on a plant-based diet for over 40 years. He noticed the most significant changes for him include having more energy, focus, and clarity.
What's more, eating veggies also helps Lewis save money.
"If you buy the animal-based, it will probably be 75% more than plant-based," he said.
Paul Shapiro, CEO of The Better Meat Co., says by eating greens, you also help save the planet. "Raising animals for food is a driving force in deforestation, climate change, and so many other problems," said Shapiro. "So, combined with the fact that eating plant-based food is healthy for us and for the planet, it's fueling a surge in demand right now."
The San Diego State University study shows that Michigan has a vegan population of 441 per 1 million people. Shapiro says the state has always been a leader with a growing number of plant-based restaurants, "largely because Morningstar Farms, which is one of the biggest players in the plant-based industry, is based in Michigan," said Shapiro. "Interestingly enough, also, the very first patent on plant-based meat was filled by John Harvey Kellogg from Battle Creek, Michigan."
Data from Arizton Advisory and Intelligence shows that the plant-based meat market will reach $18 billion by 2027. North America has the largest share in the market.
Shapiro thinks the popularity has increased as more black celebrities become vegan or vegetarian. "One of the biggest consumer groups that is into plant-based eating is African American demographic," he said.
Going green comes with a caveat, notes Kristy Stevenson, an Ascension Michigan weight loss clinical dietician.
"Oreo cookies and Lays Potato chips, they are vegan, but they are void of those good healthy nutrients," said Stevenson. "So that’s where we get concerned if someone is going vegan but not eating healthy."
Stevenson agrees that a plant-based diet has many health benefits, but as long as folks make smart choices. Vegetarian-based fast food can also be equally damaging.
"Understand that those products are equal in calories and fat as their beef counterparts, and they are even higher in saturated fat and sodium," said Stevenson.
If you are thinking of transitioning into a plant-based diet, Stevenson recommends making it a gradual process by adding more vegetables to your plate, eliminating processed food, and, once you’ve built your palate, replace animal products with plant-based options.