Eating the world healthy again

We should all know by now that eating fruit and vegetables is good for us. Yet a survey done by CSIRO shows that most Australians aren’t getting anywhere near this. If Australia’s Go for 2&5 campaign isn’t working, hopefully research published in PNAS early last year will convince people to eat better for the world.

Currently, the food system creates more than a quarter of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. With our growing population, this percentage will increase. If changes aren’t made to the way we consume food in the world there is a real risk that food prices will sky rocket, or worse.

How do we fix it?

This is where the team from the Future of Food Programme come in. Their recent study looked at four different diets and modelled the impact they would have on health, the environment, and the economy by the year 2050.

There has been heaps of research into how diet affects health and the environment, so what is so special about this one? Well, it’s the first study to look at the effects on a global scale and it is also the first to put a monetary value on dietary changes.

The team looked at 107 regions and 16 food commodities as part of their analysis. The diets investigated were a reference diet based on current eating trends, a “healthy global diet” (HGD) which is similar to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, a vegetarian diet, and a vegan diet. The diets also assume that everyone eats a healthy number of kilojoules to maintain a healthy bodyweight.

The researchers found that the amount of fruit and vegetables eaten worldwide needs to increase by 25% and the amount of red meat eaten needs to reduce by 56% to meet the HGD. There also needs to be a 15% reduction of kilojoules consumed across the world.

Their research showed that transitioning towards a more plant-based diet will reduce global mortality rates by 6-10%, reduce GHG emissions by 29-70%, and save the world over $30 trillion by 2050.

However, the research did show that only the vegan diet could lower GHG emissions enough to keep global temperate increases below 20 Celsius.

But it’s not all bad news according to lead author of the paper, Dr Marco Springmann. He states that the research was not intended to change the way the globe eats but to encourage policy makers to create frameworks for dietary change. If we make small changes to our diets and improve technologies, we could slow global warming.

What can I do?

Simple personal changes, such as taking the pledge to eat meat free once a week, buying locally produced food, and catching public transport or riding a bike to work are a fantastic way to reduce your carbon footprint.

To get you started here are some cheap, simple and delicious vegetarian recipes:

Spaghetti with lentil Bolognese

Chickpea Curry


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