Why You Can Live a Long Healthy Life and Heal The World by Eating Healthier

Do you want to live a long healthy life? Do you want to increase the health of our planet at the same time? Then this blogpost is for you!

Martin Gomez Thomsen
Essentials
Food system and health bounderies

Do you want to live a long healthy life?

Do you want to increase the health of our planet at the same time?

Then this blogpost is for you!

On the other hand...

If you want to go before it's your time and couldn't care less about the future you'll leave behind…

Then you cannot sit with us.

Excited to live? I am! Let’s dive in.

What is a healthy and sustainable diet?

If you are more into video, you can start by watching this 2-minute video explaining what a healthy and sustainable diet is and why it is important:

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines healthy diets as:

“diets high in vegetables, fruit and whole grains, with limited intake of saturated fat, trans fats, sugar and salt” [1]
Healhy and sustainable plates
A planetary health plate. (Credit: Mollie Katzen. Source: EAT, Summary Report of the EAT-Lancet Commission)

Now you might be wondering, what is the link between health and sustainability?

What is the connection between a healthy and a sustainable diet?

Many scientist have studied the environmental impacts of different diets, with most agreeing that diets rich in plant-based foods and with fewer foods from animal sources will benefit both your health and the health of the planet. [2]

girl happy

Plant based diets are “win-win” - they are both good for you and for the planet. [2]

Scientist call this diet a “planetary health diet” to show the important link between human health and environmental sustainability. [2]

Food system health and planetary bounderies
Link between food system, health, and planetary bounderies (Source: EAT, Summary Report of the EAT-Lancet Commission)

Despite the name, this is not a specific diet but rather a flexible diet that consists of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and unsaturated oils; includes a low to moderate amount of seafood and poultry; and includes no or a low quantity of red meat, processed meat, added sugar, refined grains, and starchy vegetables. [2]

eggplant rolls

This diet is flexible enough to work for almost anyone no matter their situation, tradition, and dietary preferences.

Flexible

You know what the best part is? It will save you a lot of money to follow a planetary health diet:

  1. Depending on your current food budget you can easily save between 1000-5000$ per year (following a standard American diet) [3,4,5]
  2. You will be sick less, lose less days at work and spend less money on health care. [2]
flowering money

An extra added benefit is that following a planetary health diet will also increase the quality of your life. [2]

Happy girl

Bottom Line

Diets rich in plant-based foods and with fewer foods from animal sources will both benefit your health and the health of the planet.

Why is a healthy and sustainable diet important?

Food is one of the best ways to increase human health and environmental sustainability on Earth. [2]

Yet, food is currently a threat to both people and planet.

Protecting the planet


Our global challenge is not only how to feed a growing population, but also how to provide a healthy diet that can be sustained. [6]

healthy food

Globally, traditional diets (high in quality plant-based foods), have shifted to a more “Western-style” way of eating. A typical Western-style diet is high in calories, processed foods, and animal products. [7,8]

This way of eating is not only unhealthy, but also unsustainable. [9]

Sausages

While the food production has generally kept pace with population growth. We still have more than 820 million people still lack enough food, and many more consume either low-quality diets or too much food. [2]

obese woman

Unhealthy diets now pose a greater risk for people to becoming sick or dying than unsafe sex, alcohol, drugs and tobacco use combined. [2]

death

We need radical transfrmation of the global food system.

Although the whole food system – from farming to transport, cooking and waste disposal - contributes to these problems. Agriculture is the largest cause of global environmental change.

farmer spraying

Changes that include climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, desertification, and damage to coastal reefs and marine ecosystems. [10]

How much does food production impact the climate?

Our food production contributes approximately to 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE), where the livestock sector are responsible for almost half (14.5%) of these emissions [11,12]

Itoccupies about 40% of global land, where livestock uses 30 % of that land [13]

cows grassing

Uses 70% of freshwater [14,15]

faucet

Is the largest factor threatening species with extinction [16]

extinction

Causes nutrient overload (eutrophication) and dead zones in lakes and coastal areas [17]

Has led to almost 60%  of the world fish stocks to be fully fished and 33% overfished – only 7% are underfished [18]

dead fish on the beach

Current food production is already driving climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, and drastic changes in land and water use. [19]

climate change

Without action, today’s children will inherit a degraded planet.

A planet where much of the population will suffer from malnutrition and preventable disease.

Bottom Line

Our current way of eating and food production is not sustainable.
We need to change this to ensure the health of us and the natural ecosystems we depend on.
time for change

The good news? You can change the way food is produced by making better food choices.

The good news is, that a global adoption of the “planetary health diet” would provide major health benefits.

Studies show we can avoid approximately 1 out 4 early adult deaths each year. [2]

girl happy jumping

New findings suggests that agriculture can turn from foe to friend through better practices.

In fact, farming can go from carbon source to carbon sink.

This builds organic matter in soils, raising productivity and resilience to droughts.

Our increasing knowledge about the state of our planet, represents enormous business opportunities. [20]

sustainable money

Opportunities, were we have the power to support the right businesses and improve our situation.

What, and how much we eat. Affects what, and how much we produce. [15]

obesity no thank you

We have the power to drive demand for healthier and more sustainable business models and ways of consuming. [20]

By consuming more „sustainable diets‟ – diets that have lower environmental impacts, and are healthier. [15]

“Transformation to healthy diets by 2050 will require substantial dietary shifts. Global consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes will have to double, and consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar will have to be reduced by more than 50%. A diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal source foods confers both improved health and  environmental benefits.”                                                                                    - Prof. Walter Willett MD - Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

It will need a big shift in the way you eat and for the most part, what you eat is one thing you have control over.

So... You can make a decision today.

choice

A decision to improve your health and the health of the planet.

Bottom Line

We have the technology and methods to make our food more healthy and sustainable for you and the planet.

We can reverse the damage done to our precious planet.

You have the power to support the companies that takes your health and the health of planet seriously.

You have the power to change what and how much is produced through what you purchase and what you eat.

You can learn exactly what to do in the blog post that will give you 4 Proven Strategies for Eating Healthier and More Sustainable Without Changing What You Eat.

But before you continue, drop a message to tell us, what you think about the diet that can save you and the planet :)

Keep reading

Sources:


1. Healthy diet [Internet]. [cited 2019 Apr 24]. Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/healthy-diet

2. Willett W, Rockström J, Loken B, Springmann M, Lang T, Vermeulen S, et al. Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. Lancet [Internet]. 2019 Feb 2;393(10170):447–92. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31788-4

3. Lusk JL, Bailey Norwood F. Some Economic Benefits and Costs of Vegetarianism. Agric Resour Econ Rev [Internet]. 2009 Oct [cited 2019 Apr 24];38(2):109–24. Available from: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/agricultural-and-resource-economics-review/article/some-economic-benefits-and-costs-of-vegetarianism/1C2CB85022A54F27504A7DA65576C5C4

4. Lusk JL, Norwood FB. Some vegetarians spend less money on food, others don’t. Ecol Econ [Internet]. 2016 Oct 1;130:232–42. Available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921800915301488

5. USDA ERS - Food Prices and Spending [Internet]. [cited 2019 Apr 24]. Available from: https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/ag-and-food-statistics-charting-the-essentials/food-prices-and-spending/

6. Food systems for healthy and sustainable diets [Internet]. WUR. 2018 [cited 2019 Apr 19]. Available from: https://www.wur.nl/en/show/CDIcourse_Food_systems_2019.htm

7. Popkin BM, Adair LS, Ng SW. Global nutrition transition and the pandemic of obesity in developing countries. Nutr Rev [Internet]. 2012 Jan;70(1):3–21. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00456.x

8. Delgado CL. Rising consumption of meat and milk in developing countries has created a new food revolution. J Nutr [Internet]. 2003 Nov;133(11 Suppl 2):3907S – 3910S. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jn/133.11.3907S

9. Plate and the Planet [Internet]. The Nutrition Source. 2019 [cited 2019 Apr 22]. Available from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sustainability/plate-and-planet/

10. Sustainability [Internet]. The Nutrition Source. 2015 [cited 2019 Apr 22]. Available from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sustainability/

11. Vermeulen SJ, Campbell BM, Ingram JSI. Climate Change and Food Systems. Annu Rev Environ Resour [Internet]. 2012 Nov 21;37(1):195–222. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-environ-020411-130608

12. Tackling climate change through livestock // FAO’s Animal Production and Health Division [Internet]. [cited 2019 Apr 22]. Available from: http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/resources/en/publications/tackling_climate_change/index.htm

13. Foley JA. Global Consequences of Land Use [Internet]. Vol. 309, Science. 2005. p. 570–4. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1111772

14. Water for food, water for life: a comprehensive assessment of water management in agriculture. Choice Reviews Online [Internet]. 2007 Oct 1;45(02):45–0867 – 45–0867. Available from: http://choicereviews.org/review/10.5860/CHOICE.45-0867

15. Garnett T, Appleby MC, Balmford A, Bateman IJ, Benton TG, Bloomer P, et al. What is a sustainable healthy diet? A discussion paper. 2014; Available from: https://cgspace.cgiar.org/handle/10568/35584

16. Tilman D, Clark M, Williams DR, Kimmel K, Polasky S, Packer C. Future threats to biodiversity and pathways to their prevention. Nature [Internet]. 2017 May 31;546(7656):73–81. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature22900

17. Diaz RJ, Rosenberg R. Spreading dead zones and consequences for marine ecosystems. Science [Internet]. 2008 Aug 15;321(5891):926–9. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1156401

18. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2018 The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture: Meeting the sustainable development goals [Internet]. Food & Agriculture Org.; 2018. 227 p. Available from: https://market.android.com/details?id=book-Y3hjDwAAQBAJ

19. Plate and the Planet [Internet]. The Nutrition Source. 2019 [cited 2019 Apr 22]. Available from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sustainability/plate-and-planet/

20. Rockström J. Food, health and sustainability: we become what we eat, and so does Earth. The Guardian [Internet]. 2014 May 27 [cited 2019 Apr 24]; Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/food-health-sustainability-earth-johan-rockstrom