In previous years, we used to worry about how your daily diet would affect your health and weight. From the 70s onwards, fitness became the buzz word, along with superfoods and crash diets. But drastic environmental changes have forced us all into thinking harder about the long terms effect that what we grow, nurture and eat is a huge burden on not just our bodies, but on the planet as a whole. It really is a case of maintaining and sustaining foods that encourage us to respect our earth as well as ourselves.
Long term and profound research have made us sit up and think. It is reported that vegetarianism and veganism are the key to longevity. But that’s not all. There are deeper issues to consider, which have been highlighted vigorously over the last few years. The long-term effect on the planet is no longer long term – it is rapidly decreasing due to some farming methods, carbon emissions and transportation which are the main antagonists.
A report in the medical journal, ‘The Lancet’ in 2019, suggests ways of balancing a healthy diet at the same time as improving sustainable food systems. Not an easy task by any means. Based on this, other relevant medical research publications and an element of common sense, some suggestions would be as follows. These changes will also show how it helps our planet:
1. Cut down on meat and dairy products
It is not our place to be dominant in terms of your diet, and certainly not to push vegetarianism/veganism. Your diet is your choice, but if you want to help sustain our environment cutting down is a good start. Vegetarian food has had a bad rap for many years as being ‘tasteless and bland’. It isn’t – just check out some better recipes and make more use of herbs and spices.
Benefits: helps to prevent stomach and digestive complications and potentially long-term serious problems. Less dairy products mean less fat and the problems that arise, such as high cholesterol. The less meat consumed means less land for raising livestock and more for vegetables and grains, that don’t emit any form of poisonous gases or methane. It also enables farmers to have better crop rotation and use of land.
2. Eat local produce
Eating locally – there is nothing better than knowing the provenance of your food, and it is likely to be fresher and more flavoursome than foodstuffs that may have travelled thousands of miles to get to you.
Benefits: fresher food is likely to be tastier. Vast reduction on the carbon footprint and use of chemical preservatives. Just remember it’s not necessarily what you eat, but also where it has come from.
3. Eat pasture-raised meat
If you still want to eat meat, then choose pasture raised. Cattle and livestock roam free, have better sustenance for themselves, which is passed on nutritionally to us. Avoid grain-fed cattle and check if the chicken you buy has been raised naturally (it is popular now for farmers to raise chicken on insects)
Benefits: pasture-raised meat will be antibiotic free, and contain no artificial hormones, which are injected into livestock. Toxin-level will be greatly lowered. There is also a moral side to raising animals this way, in terms of living in much better conditions. Helping towards their health, helps you too.
4. Only eat sustainable fish
With our oceans emptying at a fast rate of knots, the fishing industry is in danger of being almost totally depleted in years to come. There are useful apps that can tell you what fish to eat and in what season. The fish is colour graded to ‘eat as much as you want’ all the way down to ‘avoid’. You can seek this info on websites, but the app is much quicker.
Benefits: ample fish stock to continue for many years. By using the app, you can find out which fish are healthier, in terms of how they are caught and prepared. Fish harvesting needs to be protected and over-harvesting brought to a full stop, to avoid further pollution of our seas and oceans.
Fish and seafood are a nutritious part of a healthy diet, particularly oily fish which is rich in Omega-3, beneficial to many parts of the body such as muscles, cognitive function, eyes and to regulate blood flow and heart rate.
In summary, these are just a few ways of staying healthy and maintaining our planet as it should be. Obviously, omitting meat from your diet would be a wonderful situation for the world, but it’s probably not a practical answer, nor one that would actually happen. Every time somebody changes their diet based on the above principles, will help them and our world to survive.
Written by Bev Walton
Food Writer and Nutritionist, dietician
A chef of over 35 years with experience in all types of cuisine, dietary plans, recipe development, health and nutrition. I have been writing for over 10 years for both magazines, websites and ghostwriting for ebooks, Kindle and fully published books. I have a degree in nutrition and dietetics and work with restaurants and organisations within the healthcare profession. I am also able to take high quality photographs of recipes created. No writing task is too great, and whilst I specialise in the above, I am able to write about any topic you throw at me. Member of the Guild of food writers.