A new study has revealed that eating a balanced and healthy diet has a positive impact on our environment. Indirectly it means the more junk and unhealthy food we consume the dirtier our environment becomes. This interesting result has been found by Paul Behrens, a researcher at the University of Leiden, in the Netherlands, who researched how eating habits of people of different high-income nations affect our environment. Many countries have prepared the best possible dietary recommendations for their citizens to help them lead a healthy life.
So Behrens wanted to know how the environment gets affected if the people strictly followed dietary recommendations of their respective countries. The study revealed that if the citizens of 28 high-income nations like the United States, Japan, and Germany eat healthy foods recommended by their respective governments, then the greenhouse gases released due to the food produced for eating would fall by 13% to 25%. Also, the amount of land that those food productions take might come down to almost 17%.
Behrens said, “At-least in high-income countries, a healthier diet leads to a healthier environment. It’s win-win.”
For the research, Behrens and his team took the help of Exiobase, a massive input and output database that represents the entire world’s economy. It helped them to get detailed information about how a different growing kind of food in different parts of the world affects our environment. Behrens stated, “We have the perfect tool to analyze this.
They calculated the greenhouse gas emissions, the amount of land used for food production, pollution due to chemical fertilizers etc. From the data, they even got aware of the environmental impacts of grass-fed cattle in Australia versus grain-fed cattle in North America and England. They were able to figure out the environmental cost of growing and raising different types of food weet and also the cost of machinery used in the food production and also the transportation costs when it reaches to us on our plates.
The data also revealed that some countries produced a particular food item more efficiently than other countries. For example, producing tomatoes in Spain consumes less energy than growing them in England. Excited about the detailed information he got about the dietary impacts on our environment, Behrens said, “It’s superb that we have this information. You can trace the impact of any consumption across the world.
For the study, Behren compared the average diets of people living in 39 countries with the dietary recommendations of their particular country’s government. To get a well-poised situation of diet consumption, kept the calorie counts of both types of diet same and only changed the percentage of various food groups that people eat. He just wanted to how our diets affect the environments specifically in for three parameters-greenhouse gas emissions, land use, and eutrophication. Eutrophication is the addition of nutrients to water sources that can lead to toxic algae blooms and lack of oxygen in the water. The results were uniform but according to Behrens, if the citizens of rich countries start consuming healthy diets recommended by their governments, then this could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution due to fertilizers and land utilization for food production.
Behrens is mostly concerned about meat consumption. Behrens informed that In general, meat is worse than other types of food because every time something eats something else, you get a loss of energy. “Eating any animal is going to have more of an impact compared to other food groups,” he stated. But on the other side of it, the governments of many poor and developing countries like India and Indonesia encourage their people to eat more nutritious and protein-rich food which involves meat, eggs, and fishes. This increases greenhouse gas emission and more utilization of land. So, the latest find could help the governments prepare best possible dietary recommendations for the health benefits of their citizens, and this could eventually lead to our environment getting more better.