A wide range of studies and research has shown that foods harmful to human health are also detrimental to the environment. However, plant-based foods can help reduce carbon footprint. A healthier meal that focuses more on plants and less on meat is healthy and good for the planet.
Foods harmful to our health can also contribute to climate change, loss of animals and certain plant species. But when you make a conscious effort of choosing a sustainable diet, it is helpful for your health and can be positive for the environment.
What Research Reveals
According to research, plant foods such as whole grains, vegetables and legumes are ideally suited for our health and the environment. The worst offenders are animal-based products, particularly red meat. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, dairy products and meat account for about 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions induced by humans. The study also reveals that red meat and dairy contribute 41% and 20% emissions of all the livestock sectors, respectively.
Another interesting study published in a journal called Science showed how livestock plays an enormous footprint on the environment. According to the survey, while meat provides just 18% of calories, dairy offers 37% of protein. Both combined take up around 83% of farmland. And that’s not all. More and more forests are being wiped down, including rainforests, to increase livestock. This alarming rate of deforestation results in a loss of habitat for animals and plants and is also gravely threatening biodiversity. As forests get destroyed, greenhouse gases that are typically absorbed by the canopy of trees in forests also rise.
What You Need To Do
If you’re looking for a sustainable diet with an eye towards the environment, choose plant-based foods over animal-based foods. Cut down your intake of red meat and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Let’s look at seven ways to improve your diet that can also be environmentally friendly.
*Cut red meat from your diet. There is a great environmental cost in producing red meat. In fact, it is one of the top five ecological indicators that is causing greenhouse gas emissions, degrading soil and water resources and disrupting ecosystems. Processed meat is just as bad, not only for the environment but also for your help. Consider replacing red meat with high-quality plant protein.
*Discover nutritious legumes. Legumes such as beans, peas and lentils are the healthiest of foods on the planet and can easily substitute animal protein. Studies revealed how legumes are also excellent for agricultural sustainability. Besides, legumes also provide fiber and B vitamins and play a crucial role in preventing heart disease and certain cancers. Lentils are regarded as the number one climate-friendly protein and can also be great on your diet.
*Choose nutritious whole-grain foods. There are several reasons why refined foods are bad for health. On the other hand, there is an equal number of excellent reasons how unprocessed, whole grains top refined foods. They provide valuable nutrients beneficial to the body and are filled with B vitamins, protein, and minerals. Include wholemeal grains such as wild rice, barley, spelt, buckwheat and whole-wheat in your diet.
*Add mushrooms to your food. Cultivated for centuries, mushrooms offer much to offer. They are bursting with flavor and provide exceptional nutritional value. According to a Food Science and Nutrition study, only one serving of mushrooms in a meal can considerably increase fiber and add several micronutrients that you may not be getting enough from other foods. Besides, you can also benefit from potassium and vitamin D by adding mushrooms to your diet. Regarding environmental impact, mushrooms are climate-friendly, absorb carbon and help reduce greenhouse gases.
*Eight local; eat in season. When buying fresh produce, you may want to look for seasonal foods from local farms that offer direct-to-consumer products. Buying from a farmers’ market not only gives you the benefits of enjoying fresh, pesticide and chemical-free fruits and vegetables, but you also get to support farmers and local agriculture. More importantly, locally grown food is also known to benefit water resources as the water used to produce the food is kept within the watershed and helps cut down on water exports.
*Look for foods lower on the food chain. Foods that are high on the food chain usually require more processing. For example, meat is produced by large industrial animal systems and requires more energy. That leads to more global warming emissions and pollutants that affect air quality.
*Avoid wasting food. Rather than throwing away food scraps, a good way of recycling it is to compose it. You get an opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve soil health, and do away with the need for synthetic fertilizer. Find ways to compose and other approaches to address the food wastage problem.
Ultimately, what we eat matters not only to our body but also to the environment. When planning your meals, buy only what you need to avoid food going to waste. Look for foods with a low environmental impact and positively change you through your food choices.