Mark Ruffalo carrying a big grocery bag of green veggies.

Mark Ruffalo Is Vegan. Here’s Why You Should Consider Eating Less Meat, Too

For starters, you might live longer.

A single look at The Hulk is enough to assume the guy goes to town on protein: Protein shakes, lean steak, egg whites, etc. But according to Mark Ruffalo’s vegan habits, meat is off the menu.

In a recent episode of Hot Ones, Ruffalo recounts his first dabble with the vegan diet when shooting Reservation Road and living with co-star Joaquin Phoenix in 2007. “He’s a great cook,” Ruffalo recalls, “He turned me on to vegan cuisine.”

Since then, Ruffalo has used plant-based food to fuel various on-screen transformations—including losing 20 pounds and doing 500 push-ups a day for his role as Dominick in the HBO miniseries I Know This Is True, then gaining 30 pounds to play the role of his twin brother six weeks later.

The actor also encourages his followers to join him for Meatless Mondays, shedding light on the link between climate change and meat production.

Should you consider cutting back on meat like Ruffalo?

Benefits of Eating Less Meat

There are many perks associated with eating less meat. Here are the highlights:

It might help you live longer

According to the American Heart Association, eating less meat decreases the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and many cancers (1). Reducing your chronic disease risk extends your lifespan and healthspan, plain and simple (2, 3).

It might improve gut health

Recent research has linked a diet high in N-glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc), a compound found in red meat, with unfavorable changes in the gut microbiome and inflammation (4). Plant-based, whole foods, on the other hand, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are high in dietary fiber and polyphenols which help to feed and maintain the good bacteria in your gut (5).

It’s better for the planet

Thirty four percent of greenhouse gasses come from the food system, a major share of those coming from meat production, according to a study published in Nature (6). Beef is responsible for eight to 10 times more emissions than chicken production, and over 20 times more than common plant-based alternatives like beans (7). According to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that compared the vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, paleo, and keto diets, the more plant-forward the diet was the least impact it had on the environment (8).

Downsides of Eating Less Meat

Swapping meat for plant-based alternatives needs to be well executed for the biggest benefits. Here’s why:

It can be hard to get enough protein

Few plant-based foods are complete sources of protein, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids your body needs to operate, and build and maintain muscle. Animal-based foods like meat and dairy products on the other hand, are complete. If you’re trying to hit your protein needs with a plant-forward diet, it requires some planning.

According to nutrition researcher Don Layman Ph.D., eating at least 1.6 grams per kg (which is around .75 grams per pound) of protein per day covers for differences in protein quality. “If you’re eating 100 to 120 grams of protein per day from plant or animal sources, you’re probably getting enough,” he said on an episode of The Drive. But if you’re eating 50 grams per day and you’re plant-based, you’ll struggle to get all of the quality amino acids your body needs, he added.

It’s easy to miss out on essential micronutrients

Aside from protein, animal products contain key nutrients that can be hard to get enough of with plant-based foods alone. Plant-based diets may fail to deliver enough vitamin B12, zinc, calcium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids—which are key for thriving health on all fronts (9, 10).

Not all plant foods are healthy

A diet laden with ultra-processed foods—whether plant-based or not—can increase your risk of early death (11). If you’re cutting back on meat, your best bet is to opt for a plant-forward diet that prioritizes whole foods. The green mediterranean diet—which emphasizes foods like fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and heart-healthy fats like fish, olive oil, and avocados—is a good place to start.