Do we need climate-friendly food?

Food plays a very important role in climate change. Whether dairy, meat, or other food products are consumed, consistent dietary change can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, cropland and pasture requirements, improve biodiversity protection, and reduce mitigation costs.

The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet and Health Report – a comprehensive scientific review of what constitutes healthy eating from a sustainable food system and the actions that can support and accelerate system transformation food – suggests how, without action, the world may risk falling short of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement, and the next generation would inherit a planet that has been severely degraded and where a large part of the population would suffer from malnutrition and preventable diseases.

This means that a plate of planetary health should be made up by volume of about half of a plate of vegetables and fruits and the other half should be made up of whole grains, vegetable protein sources, vegetable oils unsaturated fats and modest amounts of animal sources of protein. Professor Walter Willett, MD Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health quotes in the EAT-Lancet report: “The transformation to healthy diets by 2050 will require substantial dietary changes. Global consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes will need to double, and consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar will need to be reduced by more than 50%. A diet rich in plant-based foods and with less animal-based foods confers both health and environmental benefits.

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Clearly, switching to a sustainable or climate-friendly diet can be nutritionally sound and economically, ecologically and socially sustainable. It does not disrupt plant growth patterns and allows plants to grow organically, use renewable energy, invest in energy efficient appliances and reduce pollution. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on climate change and land describes plant-based diets as a major opportunity to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

The world-renowned non-profit organization, Climates Network, suggests the climatarian as “a change in diet can save a ton of CO2 equivalents per person per year”. This means that what humans eat has a significant impact on climate, topsoil, pollution and deforestation.

However, increased public awareness of the effect of the food consumed and its production on health and the environment in recent years has led to a growing interest in diets such as climatarian, flexitarian, vegetarian or vegan diets. .

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Manasa Lakshmi Penta, Clinical Dietitian, GITAM Institute of Medical Science and Research, Visakhapatnam, says: “According to the United Nations, beef production is the largest contributor to carbon emissions per kilogram of food, followed by lamb , crustaceans and dairy production, in particular. cheese. On the contrary, nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes produce the least carbon emissions per kilogram of food. A climate diet encourages people to choose foods that have the least environmental impact/footprint and are grown locally. It does not strictly restrict meat and meat products.

According to Penta, a flexible dietary approach can emphasize plant-based foods and dairy while decreasing portions and frequency of meat consumption. “Some vegetarians follow a Lacto-Ovo vegetarian diet, which includes eggs and dairy products in their diet. Although vegan diets produce the least carbon emissions, these products can often be highly processed. transportation of vegan products indirectly contributes to carbon emissions.In addition, vegan diets can be deficient in nutrients such as vitamin B12, iron and zinc which are abundantly available from animal sources.Thus, a carefully planned vegetarian diet under the guidance of a dietary expert can help achieve good health while reducing the carbon footprint related to climate change,” says Penta.

Food consumption not only impacts the body, mind and soul, but also has a great effect on the planet. According to Ayurveda expert Dr. Smita Naram, co-founder of Ayushakti, a platform for Ayurvedic healthcare services and holistic wellness solutions, changing what humans grow and eat will help reduce carbon emissions. and promote sustainable agriculture.

“Following a vegan or vegetarian diet is a great way to help save our planet from the disastrous climate changes we may face. An ancient Ayurvedic diet is all about vegetarian food and is prescribed with one’s doshas in mind. Ayurvedic diet is suggested to keep habits, culture, climate/seasons and is climate friendly, which also means one can be mindful of what one eats, keeping in mind the “effect of the carbon footprint of different foods. Meat and dairy products account for about 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions,” Naram adds.

But can switching to flexible or climate-friendly diets reduce carbon emissions and promote sustainable agriculture? Experts suggest that a climate regime may be the best alternative to save the environment. On a climate diet, there’s nothing else to do but eat healthy, home-cooked foods that aren’t processed, says renowned nutritionist Shweta Shah, who is also the founder of EatFit 24/7 which develops tailor-made diet plans. “Outside of climatearian, flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan diets, it’s very easy to say that sticking to seasonal and local food choices is the best option. But it’s important to make conscious choices and research how and where the food comes from. Be a little aware of the damage that processing, packaging and transport could cause to the environment,” adds Shah.

According to Shah, a climate diet encourages good use of nutritious foods and decreases the consumption of processed foods, which can help stave off lifestyle disorders like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, PCOD, l ‘obesity.

Environmental impact

Food production is a very significant contributor to climate change as it holds nearly a quarter of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Certain foods create more GHGs while foods of animal origin account for two-thirds of all agricultural GHG emissions.

Plant-based foods generally have a much lower environmental impact. Increased agricultural emissions in the form of methane and nitrous oxide, the belching of livestock, and the addition of natural or man-made fertilizers and waste to soils add to global agricultural emissions. From 1990 to 2010, global agricultural emissions increased by 8% and are expected to increase by 15% by 2030, according to a report by the World Resources Institute.

WWF’s report “Bending the Curve: The Restorative Power of Planet-Based Diets” helps individuals and policy makers understand the health and environmental impact of diets. “Dietary changes are happening at the local level, so it’s important to translate the global agenda into actionable analysis at the national level,” says Brent Loken, WWF’s Global Lead Food Scientist and lead author of the report.

“There is no single solution. For example, in some countries there must be a significant reduction in the consumption of animal-source foods, while in others it may need to be increased to address the burdens of under-nutrition. nutrition. Health and the environment must be considered together,” adds Loken.

Healthy diets

A planetary health plate should be composed in volume of about half a plate of vegetables and fruits; the other half, displayed by calorie contribution, should consist primarily of whole grains, vegetable protein sources, unsaturated vegetable oils, and (optionally) modest amounts of animal protein sources.

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