Can Your Diet Save The Planet?

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Climate change and its impact on our food system is a complicated issue, but here are a few things at the crux of it. Extreme weather can delay the planting of certain crops, thereby shortening the time during which food is grown. Weather patterns can also make pests more difficult to control, and therefore, they destroy more of the food that’s grown. The nutrition quality of food is also at stake, meaning that certain crops may supply reduced amounts of vitamins and minerals.

If the idea of leaving our planet and future generations better off isn’t enough to sway you to make some dietary changes, here are some planet-friendly eating practices that will leave you better off, too.

Rely on more plants for protein

Pulses — the term for plant-based proteins, like beans, lentils, and peas — are an incredibly sustainable source of protein. They require less nitrogen fertilizer compared to other crops, and therefore, have a lower carbon footprint. They also require less water to grow, and many types of pulses can grow in dry environments.

They’re not just good for the planet — they’re good for your body, too. Studies suggest that when people replace some of the meat on their menus for these plant-based powerhouses, it has a positive impact on longevity, reduces the risk of diabetes and heart diseases, promotes a healthier weight, and may cause a healthy shift in your gut bacteria.

Eat less meat

You knew this was coming! Both this report and one released earlier this year, the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health, suggest that cutting way down on meat consumption is better for the planet (not to mention your own health). No one’s suggesting you become a vegan or vegetarian (though that can be beneficial), but you can make a dramatic impact by beginning to scale back. Beef and lamb are associated with particularly high carbon emissions, so maybe begin your journey there.

The truth is, while you need protein and the nutrients found in beef and other animal products, you don’t need to get them from those foods, and in fact, we’re collectively better off getting them from plant-based sources. Instead of eating an animal-based protein at each meal, try one plant-based protein meal a day or perhaps, try a meatless day each week — maybe on a Monday when you’re more likely to be in tune with your health. In addition to foods from the pulse family, incorporate single-ingredient whole grains (like quinoa, oats, and brown rice) as well as nuts and seeds into menus. The USDA offers many suggestions for mixing up your protein options with more plants.

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