A recent study found that an overall plant-based diet is better for the environment than a diet that includes animal foods, a strong recommendation of a healthy plant-based diet centered around minimally processed plant foods. Health and environmental impact.
People may choose to go plant-based for a number of reasons: health benefits, compassion for animals and dedication to the environment. And a recent research study indicates that following a plant-based diet is, in fact, good for all three factors, although type of plant based diet (i.e. based on processed or whole foods, can make an even bigger difference to human and planetary health. There are many ways to help protect the environment through eating a plant-based diet based on whole foods. This is because whole plant-based foods have a lower environmental impact.
In a study published by Lancet Planet Health Journal, researchers broke down the environmental effects of the diets of more than 60,000 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study II. The participants were all female nurses in the US aged 25 to 42. The researchers excluded participants who already had cancer and heart disease at the start of the study. This was a prospective cohort study, where researchers collected a survey called a food frequency questionnaire to more than 60,000 nurses to fully assess their diet and health outcomes every 4 years from 1991 to 2017. They assessed greenhouse gas emissions, fertilizer production, as well. Land and water use of 156 food items included in the food frequency questionnaire. To complete their environmental assessment, the researchers relied on previously published values from online databases.
The researchers found that animal-based foods, especially red and processed meats, had the most negative impact on the environment compared to both healthy and unhealthy plant-based diets. This means that anyone who chooses to cut down on animal products, no matter what type of plant-based diet they follow, will benefit the environment. However, the study found that there is an added environmental and health benefit to focusing on minimally processed, healthy foods. The group consuming more healthy plant foods, which the researchers defined as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, vegetable oils, tea and coffee, had better health outcomes and less impact on the environment. The group eating the unhealthiest plant-based foods, which was defined in the study as fruit juices, sugar-sweetened beverages, refined grains, potatoes and sweets, reported fewer heart attacks than the group eating more animal-based foods. greenhouse gas emissions. This is because unhealthy plant-based foods use more cropland and fertilizer than healthy plant-based foods. Healthy plant-based foods also reduce rates of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Bottom-line? If you want to benefit both the planet and your health, center your diet around whole, minimally processed plant foods. Plan meals that are rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and legumes (or pulses). That means digging into meals like steamed lentils with brown rice and roasted Brussels sprouts. A whole grain bowl topped with chickpeas, kale, and tomatoes. and stir fry with eggplant and tofu. You can still benefit the environment if you occasionally consume some processed plant foods, but try to limit these in a way that’s realistic for your lifestyle and food preferences.
You can find Health Day’s report on this study here and the original study here Lancet Planet Health Journal here.
Read more research updates on plant-based, sustainable living at:
IPCC report: Dietary changes key to mitigating climate impact
Which diet is worst for the environment?
The many health and environmental effects of food choices
Eat More Plant Protein for Longevity
Written by Adele Seacrest, Dietetic Intern, with Sharon Palmer