The environmental impact of unhealthy foods
| November 20, 2019
If you aren't that concerned about your health, at least think of the planet.
A recent study conducted jointly by the University of Minnesota and Oxford University shows how nutritious food and healthier diets impact the environment positively.
If most were to adopt a healthy diet, there would not only be positive health outcomes, but the environmental impact of food production would decrease as well. The study echoes recent UN recommendations that suggest that we should eat more plant-based foods, which will lead to sustainable farming and limit worsening climate change.
Researchers studied the consumption of 15 different food groups to see different health and environmental outcomes. Healthier and sustainable food choices can prevent environmental degradation.
Foods that have the lowest ecological impacts include whole-grain cereals, nuts, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and olive oil — all foods associated with improved health outcomes. On the other hand, foods with the negative environmental impacts include various red meats, processed or otherwise. These are also foods that lead to several health conditions and risks.
If you aren't that concerned about the planet, then at least think of your health.
Another study conducted by the University of Michigan in partnership with Tulane University shows how climate-friendly diets that lead to lower carbon footprints are much healthier for the human body as well. The study used real-world data about what Americans are eating and compared foods’ nutritional value with their climate impact.
It, too, stated that eating less red meat, foods that are high in saturated fat, and dairy will lead to good health. Along with that, these diets contribute to a larger share of greenhouse gas emissions since food production is a significant contributor to climate change.
The junk food addiction that has gripped us over the last few decades has had an adverse effect on both health and the environment. We know it's bad for our health, but we still opt for it. You only have to go to a regular food court to see which stall has more lines: fast food or the salad bar.
Eating junk food threatens the environment in so many ways that we may not even be aware of it. The transportation, packaging, and emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) during the preparation of fast foods, along with the high percentage of wastage involved in junk food, are too high for us to ignore. The adoption of traditional farming, a reduction of fuel consumption and a healthier diet will all help combat this issue to a large extent.
It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that unhealthy foods are bad for the environment. The very nature of fast food is unhealthy. It came into being as a necessity because we lead fast and busy lives.
However, the processes are not natural, and the ingredients aren’t healthy in most cases. Sustainable and healthier diets seek to optimize natural and human resources. They have a low environmental impact because they try to protect biodiversity and ecosystems, contribute to food security, and aim to offer a healthy planet for future generations.
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