A planetary diet for health of people and the environment. – South Coast Herald


Our last article introduced the EAT-Lancet commission report, presented in 2019. Compiled by 37 world-class scientists to plot a sustainable future for feeding our growing planetary population, a number of recommendations were made.

These include a shift to incorporating more plant-based foods into our diet – greater diversity, and greater proportion of our diet coming from plants.

Plant foods consist of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes (beans, lentils and peas). Much population-wide research has demonstrated over the years that the longest-lived and healthiest populations live on this type of diet.

Equally, the rapid increase, in mostly western countries, in the incidence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, auto-immune disease, degenerative brain conditions and cancer is associated with a diet heavily dependent upon animal products and ultra-processed foods.

These latter foods are also demanding of natural resources in their production, which leads to unsustainability in the long term.

What can you do to eat healthily and sustainably?

· Choose healthy foods that are produced sustainably, such as grown in your garden, or by supporting local industries.

· Diversify your fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes. There are some 30,000 edible plants in the world. Try out new tastes and ways of food preparation.

Even broccoli has protein. PHOTO PIXABAY

· Many people don’t realize that plants are an excellent source of protein, especially legumes such as dry beans, lentils, peas, chick-peas, and nuts. But even broccoli has protein! Remember the strongest animals in the world, like elephants and rhinos, subsist on plants.

· Go easy on meat consumption – both in frequency and amount. The commission recommended not more than 100g red meat, and 200g poultry and 200g fish per person per week.

· Approach food in moderation – avoid highly processed foods which encourage excess energy intake. Incorporate food into social events, sitting at the table as a family, rather than eating snacks absent-mindedly, eyes riveted to the TV.

· Vote with your plate. As consumers change their purchasing habits, so market forces influence farmers and retailers to change.

· Plan the week ahead. You can do batch cooking – resulting in savings in energy, time and money, rather than buying takeaways and fast-foods.

· Waste not, want not. Left-over foods can be reprocessed, rather than thrown away.

You may feel that your contribution is small, but you can be part of a world-wide movement for change.

Dr Dave Glass
MBChB, FCOG(SA), DipIBLM

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