Research, Technology

What dietary changes will benefit the entire planet

We have repeatedly said that the productscan both benefit and promote health, and cause various diseases. In other words, by changing your diet, you can help your body - make it stronger, healthier, and more durable. If this motivation is not enough for you, I will say more - by changing your diet, you will help not only yourself, but the entire planet. How is this possible? The fact is that many unhealthy foods, such as red meat, have high environmental costs. By reducing their consumption, the impact on the environment can be significantly reduced. Of course, one person will not fix the situation. But if people reduce their consumption of red meat and meat products even slightly, the positive effect on the planet from this will be difficult to overestimate. This is the conclusion reached by an international group of scientists.

Changing the diet of people will help preserve nature and reduce greenhouse gas emissions

How the environment relates to food consumption

As a result of the production of products, into the atmosphereup to one third of greenhouse gases are emitted per year from the total amount of annual emissions. Greenhouse gases are released into the environment during the process of growing food, cooking, transporting, recycling, etc.

Also, food productionis the cause of major problems with the quantity and quality of water. It often requires the use of herbicides and pesticides that threaten biodiversity. I recently talked about the fact that an increase in arable land leads to the destruction of forests and meadows with all the ensuing consequences.

the number of arable fields on Earth is increasing at a catastrophic rate

But, for many years, researchers andgovernments saw the problem of human health and the "health" of the planet as unrelated to each other. However, it gradually became more and more obvious that the food consumed by people is closely related to the state of the atmosphere and ecosystem. For example, the global demand for beef has increased the demand for soy protein for cattle feed. As a result, huge areas of the Amazon began to be cut down every year, which were turned into fields for growing soybeans.

As a result, scientists decided to combine the studythese two problems and establish a relationship between them. But for this it was necessary to give accurate assessments of how certain products affect human health and the environment.

Identify which foods and how negativelyaffect the planet, it is quite difficult. It took researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute years to figure out the supply chains for crops like cocoa and coffee, even if they come from the same country.

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Over the past few decades, it has still been possibledevelop ways to conduct a product life cycle analysis that takes into account all stages from growing on the farm to delivery to the point of sale. The analysis also takes into account the estimated greenhouse gas emissions and the amount of water used in the production process.

Simultaneously epidemiologists and scientists in the fieldpublic health researchers have investigated the effects of these same foods on human health. Specifically, the University of Michigan team turned dietary risk into an estimate of “Disability Adjusted Life Years” (DALYs). An estimate tells you how much life expectancy someone can lose or gain by changing their diet.

Having hot dogs in your diet takes 35 minutes of your life

The team examined in detail how the selection of certainfood or avoiding them can affect the DALY. To do this, they had to study the nutritional composition of nearly 6,000 foods, from hot dogs and chicken wings to peanut butter sandwiches and beets.

What foods are harmful to the planet and health

The researchers found that consumptiona hot dog can take 35 minutes of your life. Eating most fruits can help you gain a few extra minutes of your life. Sardines cooked in tomato sauce are even healthier - they add 82 minutes of life. But apple pie is almost neutral - it contains a little apples, a little butter, flour and sugar. Details of the study are published in Nature Food.

Sardines in tomato sauce extend life by 82 minutes

According to scientists, the use of largeamounts of red meat are linked to diabetes and heart disease. And replacing large amounts of vegetables can help lower your risk of heart disease. True, it should be borne in mind that all of the above applies to the population as a whole, and not to an individual person. And the life time that is added or subtracted is conditional.

When researchers examined the impact of theseproducts on the environment, an encouraging picture emerged. Many foods that are good for human health are also relatively environmentally friendly. In particular, beans, vegetables (not grown in greenhouses) and some seafood such as catfish have entered the so-called “green” zone.

Convenient meat products not only worsen health, but also the environment

Orange zone foods such as egg milkand vegetables grown in greenhouses have a balanced impact on health and the environment. Red Zone foods, including beef, processed meats, pork and lamb, have negative health and environmental impacts.

This picture persists for mostenvironmental performance, excluding water use. Some foods, including nuts and fruits, are good for your health, but are often grown in water-stressed areas such as California.

How dietary change can stop global warming

For some climatic problems, there isrelatively simple solutions. For example, renewables can already replace most of the energy needed to power buildings and cars.

Consuming fruits and vegetables instead of meat will cut greenhouse gas emissions in half

Food is irreplaceable, but you can change whatwe eat. If everyone on the planet lived on vegetables, the greenhouse gas emissions from the food system could be cut by more than half. According to a recent study, if we eat food consisting of a nutrient suspension grown in a laboratory, and not in soil or water, we could prevent warming by about 1 degree Celsius.

Food choices are personal anddeeply associated with culture, religion, economic issues and more. According to researchers, it is possible to influence the diet of people by informing and providing options. However, it is not necessary for all people to go vegan overnight. Even small changes in culinary preferences can lead to serious positive results. In addition, it is much easier and safer than surviving in the face of global warming.