Healthier health choices always benefit the environment, according to the analysis
Damien Carrington Environment Editor
Monday 28 October 2019 19.00 GMT Last modified on Tuesday 29 October 2019 10.46 GMT
A selection of healthy food
Research has shown that beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables are best for climate and to avoid diseases. Photo: Marilyn Barbon / Scientific
Healthy eating is also always better for the environment, according to the most sophisticated analysis to date.
Poor diets threaten society by causing serious harm to people and the planet, the researchers said, but the latest research could help make better choices.
The analysis assessed the health and environmental effects of 15 common foods in Western diets and found that fruits, vegetables, beans and chlorine are best for preventing disease and protecting climate and water resources. Conversely, eating more red and processed meat causes the worst diseases and contamination.
There were a few foods that bucked the trend. Fish is generally considered a healthy option but has a larger environmental footprint on average than vegetarian diets. Sugar-rich foods, such as biscuits and soft drinks, have a weak effect on the planet but are harmful to health.
The impact of poor diets on health in rich countries is well known, as is the need to reduce the consumption of Western meat in order to address climate collapse and other environmental crises. But this is the first study you study together in detail.
Michael Clarke of the University of Oxford, who led the research, said: “Continuing to eat in the way we threaten communities, through chronic ill health and degradation of the Earth’s climate, ecosystems and water resources.
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“Choosing better and more sustainable diets is one of the main ways people can improve their health and help protect the environment.”
Some agricultural groups argue that heavily produced meat is serious damage to the environment. But replacing any meat with vegetarian food makes the biggest difference, Clark said. “How and where food is produced affects its impact on the environment, but to a much lesser extent than the choice of food,” he said.
“We now know that plant-based diets are mostly healthier and more sustainable than meat-rich diets,” said Marco Springman, who also works at Oxford University and part of the study team. “But sometimes people are still confused.” Which foods to choose. ”
Scientists hope that more detailed information will help consumers, policymakers and food companies make better choices. Researchers are working on new types of food labels to see if information about health and environmental impacts changes people’s choice of food.
The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, evaluated plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, potatoes, refined grains, whole grains, sugar-sweetened beverages and animal foods such as raw and processed red meat, chicken, dairy products, eggs and fish.