Good for the planet, good for you: that’s pretty much the message coming from a new American study into the impact of climate-friendly diets.
Research led by Tulane University, and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, examined the eating habits of 16,000 Americans. It revealed those making more plant-based choices – and eating less red meat – had a lower carbon footprint. This is important, because food production is one of the main causes of the climate crisis, meaning individuals can play a big part in tackling it by thinking more about what they consume. To gain a better understanding of the implications, the Tulane team collaborated with experts from the University of Michigan to look at the knock-on effects food choices have. The pair built a database identifying the climate cost of different items and then linked them to a federal survey where citizens revealed what they typically ate over a 24 hour period.
“People whose diets had a lower carbon footprint were eating less red meat and dairy — which contribute to a larger share of greenhouse gas emissions and are high in saturated fat — and consuming more healthful foods like poultry, whole grains and plant-based proteins,” explained lead author Diego Rose, a professor of nutrition and food security at Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.”We can have healthier diets and reduce our food-related emissions. And it doesn’t require the extreme of eliminating foods entirely. For example, if we reduce the amount of red meat in our diets, and replace it with other protein foods such as chicken, eggs, or beans, we could reduce our carbon footprint and improve our health at the same time.”
It follows a study by researchers from Oxford University last year which found that going vegan is the biggest action individuals can take to minimise their impact on the planet.