Plant-based diets good for the planet, and for you

accreditation
A plant-based diet has many benefits.
A plant-based diet has many benefits.

A low-carbon diet – one high in vegetables and grains – is good for both your health and the planet, researchers say.

Food production is a major contributor to climate change, so researchers decided to examine the carbon footprint of more than 16 000 Americans' diets.

Lower-carbon diets healthier overall

"People whose diets had a lower carbon footprint were eating less red meat and dairy – which contribute to a larger share of greenhouse gas emissions and are high in saturated fat – and consuming more healthful foods like poultry, whole grains and plant-based proteins," said study author Diego Rose. He's a professor of nutrition and food security at Tulane University, in New Orleans.

The highest-carbon diets accounted for five times the emissions of the lowest-carbon diets. The high-carbon diets had greater amounts of meat, dairy and solid fats, and higher concentrations of total proteins and animal protein foods, the investigators said.

But even though lower-carbon diets were healthier overall, they contained some unhealthy items such as sugars and refined grains, and had lower amounts of important nutrients, such as iron, calcium and vitamin D, likely due to lower consumption of meat and dairy.

The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Total elimination not required

On 16 January, an international panel of experts issued a report in The Lancet that showed the average person's daily diet will need to change drastically during the next three decades to make sure everyone is fed without depleting the planet.

And a study released earlier this year by Rose's team found that 20% of Americans accounted for nearly half of the nation's diet-related greenhouse gas emissions.

The goal of the research is to help the public and policymakers understand that improving diet quality can also help the environment, according to Rose.

"We can have both. We can have healthier diets and reduce our food-related emissions," he said in a Tulane news release.

"And it doesn't require the extreme of eliminating foods entirely. For example, if we reduce the amount of red meat in our diets, and replace it with other protein foods such as chicken, eggs or beans, we could reduce our carbon footprint and improve our health at the same time," Rose explained.

Image credit: iStock

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Zama zama crackdown: What are your thoughts on West Village residents taking the law into their own hands?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Authorities should bring in the army already
11% - 2249 votes
Illegal miners can't be scapegoated for all crime
48% - 9904 votes
What else did we expect without no proper policing
37% - 7535 votes
Vigilante groups are also part of the problem
4% - 748 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
16.66
-1.6%
Rand - Pound
20.10
-1.3%
Rand - Euro
16.92
-1.5%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.55
-0.3%
Rand - Yen
0.12
-0.9%
Gold
1,772.01
-0.2%
Silver
19.97
-0.9%
Palladium
2,146.00
-0.7%
Platinum
929.00
-1.0%
Brent Crude
92.34
-3.0%
Top 40
64,072
-1.0%
All Share
70,886
-0.9%
Resource 10
63,385
-3.1%
Industrial 25
87,077
0.0%
Financial 15
16,163
-0.5%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE