The benefits of eating healthy are straightforward, but a recent thorough analysis of our food system and eating habits shows that having a healthy diet is also the best for our planet.
The researchers assessed the health and environmental impacts of 15 foods common in western diets and found fruit, vegetables, beans, and whole grains were best for both avoiding diseases and protecting the climate and water resources. On the other side, the worst offenders are unprocessed and processed red meat, which had the strongest association with a heightened risk of mortality, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.
There were also certain patterns that went against the trend. For instance, while fish is generally touted as a healthy dietary choice, its environmental footprint is on average bigger than that of plant-based products.
Ultimately, the takeaway is that eating lots of plants, whole grains, and olive oil – basically the staples of the Mediterranean diet – isn’t just good for you, it’s also good for the planet. And you don’t have to go vegan to create a cascade of positive health and environmental effects. Swapping one serving a day already makes a difference.