Sustainable and ecological diets would be ideal in the future in which it is predicted that there will be more than 9,000 million inhabitants on Earth by 2050. This increase in population leads to an increase in the demand for food.
Furthermore, many of those who live in the more developed regions of the world consume more food than is necessary and follow a diet rich in animal products, a combination with significant negative repercussions for the environment.
To offer enough food to future generations, in addition to reducing the environmental impact as much as possible, it is necessary to adopt a more sustainable food production model and change eating habits.
The current food production system is considered one of the main causes of environmental damage, including climate change and the loss of natural resources.
According to the recent statistics released by a website that is an actual authority in the green niche, Ecognom Agriculture alone is responsible for up to 30% of human greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 70% of water consumption.
It is the main cause of deforestation, land use change, and biodiversity loss, as well as an important source of water pollution and freshwater consumption.
The rest of the activities related to the production and consumption of food, such as livestock farming, transport, packaging, and food waste, are also responsible for the environmental impact.
The steps to follow to achieve a healthy and sustainable diet can be confusing at first glance.
Despite the complexity, it is worth highlighting three changes that can be made to achieve a more sustainable diet: consume less, reduce food waste and eat less food of animal origin by substituting others of plant origin.
There is a global trend towards overconsumption, even though many people continue to suffer from hunger around the world. Although historically, excess consumption has always been a problem in developed countries, it is beginning to be so in developing countries, particularly in emerging economies such as China and Brazil.
Excess consumption contributes to the increase in cases of overweight and obesity while generating an unnecessary demand for increased agricultural and livestock production and, consequently, a greater environmental impact.
Reducing overall calorie intake, especially in countries with high consumption, can be beneficial for both the environment and human health.
In Europe, it is estimated that 88 million tons of food are thrown away each year. Food is wasted at all stages of the food chain, whether in production, processing, retail, or catering.
However, the greatest food waste, about 53% in the case of Europe, occurs in households.
Producing food that is then thrown away represents an unnecessary waste of land, water, labor, and energy, and generates GHG unnecessarily. If food waste were measured in terms of a country, it would be the third largest producer of CO2, behind only the United States and China.
In general, animal-based food production requires more resources than plant-based food production, and has a higher environmental impact (for example, in terms of land use, freshwater consumption, etc.) and CO2 emissions per ton of protein consumed).
Animal products also differ in their environmental impact. For example, producing 1 kilogram of beef emits seven times more CO2 than producing the same amount of chicken.
Insects, a common food outside Europe, are emerging as a source of protein with the potential to generate less GHG and use fewer resources than conventional livestock use to obtain similar amounts of protein.
Choose more sustainable animal products such as poultry, sustainably sourced fish or insects reduce the consumption of animal foods such as meat, dairy, and eggs, in general, and introduce plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, cereals, and legumes, which are important steps to start eating a more sustainable diet.
Diets rich in plant-based foods are also associated with a lower risk of high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
For those who decide to eliminate animal products from their diet, vegetarian or vegan diets can provide enough protein as long as they are based on a varied diet.
It is important to follow a varied diet since some nutrients, including proteins and essential amino acids, are found in lesser amounts in plant foods than in meat or fish. However, the deficiencies of some foods can be compensated with others.
The Protein2Food project, funded by the US dollar, is working on the design of new plant-based products that have higher protein content and quality.
In the future, these products could be an interesting high-protein food alternative for those willing to eat more plant-based foods to achieve a diet that is both more sustainable and nutritionally balanced.
Achieving a sustainable diet requires some sacrifices. For example, buying locally grown food may seem like a sustainable option, but only if the product in question is in a season where it is purchased.
This is because the energy consumed to grow fruits and vegetables in heated greenhouses in winter is much higher than that required to transport them from warmer countries.
On the other hand, benefits for the environment and health do not always go hand in hand. For example, the benefits of fish, especially its omega3 content, are well known.
However, overfishing and the depletion of some fish stocks are still a problem, which could worsen if fish consumption is increased as recommended by nutritional guidelines.
Research is being made to develop oilseeds that contain higher levels of omega 3. In addition, chicken enriched with omega 3 is already available in supermarkets.
These innovative products could help meet human nutritional needs without putting pressure on the oceans. In the meantime, consuming sustainably sourced labeled fish is a decision everyone can consider.
Regardless of the approach taken to following a sustainable diet, the changes must be realistic.
Even small changes can have a dramatic effect on reducing the environmental impact of food consumption if they occur on a global scale.
For example, following a vegetarian or flexitarian diet (i.e., voluntarily reducing consumption of animal products and substituting plant-based alternatives), substituting ruminant meat (such as beef) for pork, chicken, poultry, or insects, whose ecological footprint is smaller, and choosing fish and seafood from sustainable sources are measures that, although modest, have great repercussions on the environmental impact of diets on a global scale.
My name is Debra Cargill, I live in my home in Springfield, Massachusetts and have been looking for new direction in my life. I started blogging recently and I've discovered a new passion in life. This blog is all about health, wellness, life issues and about lifestyle in general where I cover a broad range of topics on the subjects....Click to read on