There are so many different diets out there. Many people swear by the Paleo and ketogenic diets, and there are others who believe the diets are unhealthy. What if an eating style was based more on its environmental impact than on its effect on the human body? A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that diets with a lower carbon footprint are generally healthier than diets with a higher carbon footprint.
The Environmental Impact Of Meat
Carbon footprint is a term used to describe the amount of carbon dioxide that is emitted into the air because of the products a person uses. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that makes the planet hotter. For example, the greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and electricity we use make up a part of our carbon footprint. According to the University of Michigan, 83% of each American household’s carbon footprint comes from food production.
The electricity used to refrigerate and cook food accounts for some of the carbon footprint, but most of the emissions come from the way food is raised or grown on a farm and the way it is transported from a farm to a grocery store. Meat and dairy are the most environmentally unfriendly foods because it requires a lot of natural resources to raise an animal. Most farm animals eat plants, so more crops must be grown to raise a farm animal. Animals also consume a lot of water, and the waste from farm animals also presents an environmental problem. Waste from farm animals is often stored in piles or lagoons. These large masses of waste emit greenhouse gases as the waste begins to decompose, and it can contaminate drinking water if the waste gets into the water system
The Environmental Impact Of Plants
Plants were found to have less of an environmental impact. Plants create a carbon footprint because of use of water, emissions from farm equipment, and chemicals like fertilizer used to make them grow. Both plants and meat products have one common problem that accounts for much of their carbon footprint. A crop or animal could be raised in one country and shipped to another country to be sold. Whether transported by plane, truck, or boat, this takes a toll on the environment.
Plants and meat both require the consumption of a lot of natural resources and the emission of a lot of greenhouse gases, which make earth’s temperature rise, into the air. The meat industry requires the production of plants for animals to eat. A person who eats more plants requires the production of less total plants than a person who eats meat and plants. This is better for the environment and the person.
What Should You Eat?
Diets that have more plants the meats and dairy are considered to be more healthy and environmentally friendly. This diet is more environmentally friendly because it requires less use of natural resources, and it emits fewer greenhouse gases. A diet that has more plants is healthier because it cuts out all of the cholesterol and fat that comes along with meat and dairy.
Although there are similar studies out there, this particular study did not suggest that everyone should switch to a vegan or vegetarian diet. The study does suggest that the environment benefits when people eat less meat and dairy. Either way, a balanced diet is necessary. The study found that some people who consumed more plants, causing less greenhouse gas emissions, were less healthy because they eat more processed foods than the meat eaters in the study. Health is all about balance. Whether a person consumes meat or not, it is necessary to eat a variety of natural, nutrient-rich food to maintain a level of health.
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