Is Your Diet Good for the Planet?
What you eat impacts the planet. Food production emits 30% of global greenhouse gases and accounts for 70% of freshwater withdrawals. Some foods are worse for the planet. Are your food choices planet-friendly?
10 Worst Foods for the Planet
All foods can be grown with sustainable methods; however, these foods are common culprits of requiring disproportionately more land and water to be grown and produce more greenhouse gases than other foods:
- Palm oil
- Sugar cane
- Soybean oil
*Avocados grown in native areas have low carbon footprints, but not in drought-prone areas that require excessive water.
**Exotic fruit shipped long distances can produce a lot of greenhouse gases.
Is a Plant-Based Diet Worst for the Environment?
According to University of Illinois researchers, the worst producers of greenhouse gases are some of the most popular foods, including animal products, bananas, and coffee. High demand for these foods, causes the conversion of tropical land into agricultural land, and long transport distances create emissions. Food production is the largest stress on biodiversity through habitat destruction, threatening over 70% of birds and mammals listed as threatened with extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The United Nations estimates that 14% of greenhouse gases come from global livestock. It requires intensive amounts of land and water to produce animal foods and creates a lot of greenhouse gases.
Is Plant Protein Better for You and the Planet?
We all need protein, but animals aren’t the most efficient way to get it. Plant proteins are better for the environment, producing them requires less land and water, and produces far less carbon dioxide.
Western diets are meat-centric: typical adults eat 64-88 grams of protein per day, of which 37% is animal meat and meat products. That’s far greater than the 45-55 grams per day, recommended in nutritional guidelines.
Can you get enough protein from plants? According to Registered Dieticians, Lon Ben-Asher of the Pritikin Center, “Broccoli has more protein per calorie than any animal protein source you could ever imagine. We overindulge and over-consume protein – which can lead to chronic disease conditions over time.” “Eating a balance of and variety of foods consistent with the Pritikin Eating Plan (vegetables, fruits, unrefined carbohydrates as well as incorporating more than 1 serving per day of the higher plant-based protein sources such as beans, peas, lentils, edamame, tofu, and tempeh), you can get all the protein your body requires,” explains Lon.
What’s the Most Planet-friendly Diet?
Ground breaking research shows what’s good for the planet, is good for you! The worst foods for human health are packaged foods, red meat, and processed meats – these account for 40% of global mortality (heart disease, type II diabetes, stroke, and cancer). These same foods cause the greatest environmental degradation, according to researchers.
Interestingly, the researchers also found that as you shift towards healthier foods (fish, chicken, dairy, and eggs), lower impacts on the planet occur. The best choice for the planet, the foods with the lowest environmental impact, are some of the healthiest foods for humans.
The few exceptions include sugar which has a low environmental impact but is linked to negative health effects; as well as some plants linked to deforestation, such as palm oil. The most planet-friendly diet, includes more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes while reducing how much red meat, sugar, and refined grains, say experts. Eating this way has major health benefits, too!
10 Best Foods for the Planet (and You!)
- Root vegetables
- Brussel Sprouts
A Plant Diet is Heart Healthy
Eating a mostly plant diet is linked with lower rates of heart disease and death, according to the Journal of the American Heart Association. It doesn’t mean you have to give up everything but plants! The researchers looked at the amount of plants in the diet of over 12,000 middle-aged adults. Those who ate more plants had lower risks of heart disease and death. Those sticking mostly to plant-based diets have a 19% lower risk of heart disease.
5 Health Benefits of Eating More Fruits and Vegetables, Backed by Science
- Less stress
- Lower risk of heart disease
- Lower risk of cancer
- Reduced risk of death
- Weight loss
Is it Healthier to be a Vegan?
If we all went vegan (a plant-only diet), food-related emissions on the planet would drop to 70%, estimates researchers. However, we’re not suggesting you become a vegan. Instead, make a shift towards a healthier lifestyle that scientific evidence shows is good for you, and the planet too!
How to Start a Planet-Friendly Diet
First, ditch the diets – they don’t work. Pritikin experts know what does work: a sustainable eating plan focused on healthy foods for you and the planet. Renowned for its health benefits (published in over 100 clinical studies), the Pritikin Eating Plan concentrates on many of the best food for the planet.
Experience a healthier lifestyle at a luxurious, tropical, health retreat where leading experts offer interactive seminars, excursions, and programs to help you live your healthiest life.
Come Discover a Way of Eating that’s Good for You and the Planet, too!
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- Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science, 2018;360(6392):987-992.
- The relationship between vegetable intake and weight outcomes: a systematic review of cohort studies. Nutrients 2018 Nov; 10(11):1626.
- Effect of increasing fruit and vegetable intake by dietary intervention on nutritional biomarkers and attitudes to dietary change: a randomised trial. Eur J Nutr 2018; 57(5):1855-1872.
- Fruit and vegetable intake is inversely associated with perceived stress across the adult lifespan. Clinical Nutrition 2021 May;40(5):2860-2967.
- Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change co-benefits of dietary change. PNAS 2016 Mar;113(15):4146-4151.
- Multiple health and environmental impacts of food. Proced Nat Acad Sci of USA, 2019 Nov;116 (46): 23357-23362.
- Plant-based diets are associated with a lower risk of incident of cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular disease mortality, and all-cause mortality in a general population of middle-aged adults. J Am Heart Assoc, 2019 Aug;8:e012865.
- Appetite for destruction: summary report. World Wildlife Federation, 2017.
- Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 79 behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks in 188 countries, 1990-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. Lancet 2015 Dec; 386 (10010): 2287-323.
- Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. Lancet, 2019 Jan 16.