What makes a sustainable diet and who decides?

Examples of healthy and sustainable foods

The need to move towards more sustainable diets and food systems is indisputable. However, it is not an easy task. A holistic view is needed to consider all the factors involved.

The food system is one of the main sectors responsible for environmental degradation. It is currently the world’s largest user of freshwater: agriculture accounts for 70% of the world’s freshwater withdrawals.

Agriculture is also responsible for between 21% and 37% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In addition, it occupies approximately 49-51% of the world’s ice-free land area. Grazing land accounts for 37 % and cropland accounts for approximately 12-14 %. Intensive and unsustainable agricultural practices and pollution can also trigger biodiversity loss.

Food patterns that promote all dimensions of people’s health and well-being; have low environmental pressure and impact; are accessible, affordable, safe and equitable; and are culturally acceptable.

Healthy and sustainable food who

The study reveals that a dietary transformation to a “healthier and more sustainable” diet can prevent at least 20% of premature deaths, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions linked to the food sector by 30%, the loss of wildlife by 46% and reduce the use of agricultural land by 40%.

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This study points to the flexitarian diet, with priority in vegetable products and inclusion of eggs or dairy products, as well as meat consumption on special occasions, to reflect a decrease in premature mortality by 23%, and that, in the case of vegetarian and vegan diets, the parameters would improve.

Together with the document, the organization has reported the launch of a virtual platform that analyzes and compares the environmental and health impacts of different types of diet in 147 countries. It is a tool that allows citizens to assess the impacts of different types of diets on a national scale, through eight indicators of human and environmental health.

Sustainable food project

Surely you know, or have heard around your social circle, that someone has reduced the consumption of meat, has given it up completely, or even those on the more radical side, who have stopped consuming any product that has an animal origin. Vegetarianism in its different aspects seems to be advancing nowadays all over the world, especially in the countries considered developed, and it is doing so at a good pace.

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Fruits and vegetables are good for our health, and most have a low environmental impact. There are exceptions, as some require a lot of resources to transport and keep fresh, so eating them less frequently can increase the sustainability of our diets. Examples include:

Locally grown foods can be a sustainable option, if we choose those in season where we live. The cost of producing or storing local foods beyond their natural growing seasons could be higher than shipping food that is in season elsewhere.

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In general, it takes more resources to produce animal-based proteins (especially beef) compared to plant-based proteins (such as beans, legumes, and some grains). Eating a more plant-based diet also brings health benefits: plant-based foods provide more fiber and have a lower saturated fat content, which may contribute to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.